“Soon—soon!” reiterated Manetho. “Love is a thing of moments more than of years. I know it! Do you stand idle while Gnulemah awaits you? We may die to-morrow!”
“I have no right to hurry her,” said Helwyse in a low voice. “She knows nothing of the world. I would marry her to-morrow—”
“To-morrow! why not to-day? Why wait? that she may learn the falsehoods of society,—to flirt, dress, gossip, crave flattery? Why do you hesitate? Speak out, son of Thor!”
“I have spoken. Do you doubt me? Were it possible, she should be my wife this hour!”
“Oh!” murmured Manetho, the incisiveness of his manner melting away as suddenly as it came; “now have you proved your love. You shall be made one,—one!—to-day. Four-and-twenty years ago this day, I married your parents on this very spot. The anniversary shall become a double one!”
The black eye-sockets of the mummy stared Balder in the face. But at a touch from Manetho, he turned, and saw Gnulemah, bright with beautiful enchantment, in the doorway.
“Yes, to-day!” he said impetuously.
“You shall wed her with that ring!” whispered the victorious tempter in his ear. “Go to her; tell her what marriage is! I will call you soon.”
The lover went, and the woman, coming forward, sweetly met him half-way. But glancing back again before passing out, Balder saw that the priest had vanished; and the lamp, flickering above the mummy’s dry features, wrought them into a shadowy semblance of emotion.
A chamber of the heart.
Manetho neither sank through the granite floor, nor ascended in the smoke of the lamp. He unlocked a door (to the panels of which the clock was affixed, and which it concealed) and let himself into his private study, a room scarce seven feet wide, though corresponding in length and height with the dimensions of the outer temple. Books and papers were kept here, and such other things of a private or valuable nature as Manetho wished should be inaccessible to outsiders. Against the wall opposite the door stood a heavy mahogany table; beside it, a deep-bottomed chair, in which the priest now sat down.
The room was destitute of windows, properly so called. The walls were full twenty feet high; and at a distance of some sixteen feet from the floor, a series of low horizontal apertures pierced the masonry, allowing the light of heaven to penetrate in an embarrassed manner, and hesitatingly to reveal the interior. Viewed from without, these narrow slits would be mistaken for mere architectural indentations. To the inhabitant they were of more importance, contracted though they were; and albeit one could not look out of them, they served as ventilators, and to distinguish between fine and cloudy weather.