Few as were the hours since they first had seen each other, it seemed as though they could hardly know each other better; then why put off the consummation a single hour? Manetho had been right, and Balder marvelled at having required the spur. He knew of no material hindrances; unlimited resources would be his, and these would render easier Gnulemah’s introduction to society. Perhaps (for doubtless Manetho would desire it) they might begin housekeeping in this very house, and thus, by gradual approaches, make their way to life’s realities,—vulgarly so called!
At this moment, Balder’s respect for wealth was many fold greater than ever it had been before. It should be the sword and shield wherewith he would protect the woman of his heart. Gnulemah was not of the kind who need the discipline of poverty; her beauty and goodness would be best nurtured beneath an affluent sun. Wants and inconveniences would rather pain and mystify than educate her. How good was that God who had vouchsafed not only the blessing, but the means of enjoying it!
God gave Balder Helwyse opportunity to prove the soundness of his faith. Labor and poverty awaited him; what else and worse let time show. In anguish, fear, and humiliation had his love been born, but the birth-pangs had been as brief as they were intense. A brave soul’s metal is more severely tried by crawling years of monotonous effort, discord of must with wish, and secret self-suppression and misgiving. Happily life is so ordered that no blow can crush unless dealt from within, nor is any sunshine worth having that shines only from without.
Balder’s eyes were softer than their wont, and there was a tender and sweet expression about his mouth. Never had life been so inestimable a blessing,—never had nature looked so divinely alive. He could imagine nothing gloomy or forbidding; in darkness’s self he would have found germs of light. His love was a panoply against ill of mind or body. He thought he perceived, once for all, the insanity of selfishness and sin.
Suddenly he was conscious through Gnulemah of the same shiver that had visited her in the conservatory that morning. Looking round, he was startled to see, beyond the near benison of her sumptuous face, the tall form of the Egyptian priest. He was not a dozen yards away, advancing slowly towards them. Balder sprang up.
“Our chain,—you have broken it!” exclaimed Gnulemah. It was only a flower chain, but flowers are the bloom and luxury of life.
Manetho came up with a smile.
“Come, my children!” said he. “This chain would soon have faded and fallen apart of itself, but the chain I will forge you is stronger than time and weightier than dandelions. Come!”
Gnulemah picked up the broken links, and they followed him to the house.
The significant part of most life histories is the record of a few detached hours, the rest being consequence and preparation. Helwyse had lived in constant mental and physical activity from childhood up; but though he had speculated much, and ever sought to prove the truth by practice, yet he had failed to create adequate emergencies, and was like an untried sword, polished and keen, but lacking still the one stern proof of use.