“You did not speak!” he said to the woman; “you saw her betrayed to ruin and pollution, and spoke not to save her!—Dumb? the dead might have moved their tongues in such need as this! She will abhor and curse me forever! may you share her curse weighted with mine!—O Gnulemah!”—
Salome cowered and trembled in her satin dress, beneath the burden of that heavy anathema. She had risen that day determined to reveal the secret of her life before night. She had been awaiting a favorable moment, but opportunity or decision still had failed her. Nevertheless, another morning should not find her the same nameless, forsaken creature that she was now.—Manetho had bowed his face upon the altar, and so remained without movement. With one hand fumbling at the bosom of her dress—(the scar of her lover’s blow should be the talisman to recall his allegiance),—Salome made bold to approach him and timidly touch his arm.
“Unhand me! whatever you are,—devil! my time is not yet come!”
He raised a threatening arm, with a gleam of mad ferocity beneath his brows. But the woman did not shrink; the man was her god, and she preferred death at his hands to life without him. Ignorant of the cause of her firmness, it seemed to cow him. He slunk behind the altar, hurriedly unlocked the secret door, and let himself into the study. His haste had left the key in the lock outside. The door slammed together, the spring-bolt caught, and the swathed head of old Hiero Glyphic shook as though the cold of twenty winters had come on him at once.
Left alone, Salome was taken with a panic; she fancied herself deserted in a giant tomb, with dead men gathering about her. She herself was in truth the grisliest spectre there, in her white satin gown and feathers, and the horror of her hideous face. But she took to flight, and the key remained unnoticed in the lock.
We, however, must spend an hour with Manetho in his narrow and prison-like retreat. There is less day and more night between these high-shouldered walls than elsewhere; for though the sun is scarce below the horizon, cobwebs seem to pervade the air, making the evening gray before its time. Yonder seated figure is the nucleus of the gloom. The room were less dark and oppressive, but for him!
Does he mean to spend the night here? He sits at ease, as one who, having labored the day long hard and honestly, finds repose at sundown grateful. Such calm of mind and body argues inward peace—or paralysis!
But Manetho has food for meditation, for his work is still incomplete. Ah, it has been but a sour and anxious work after all! when it is finished, let death come, since Death-in-life will be the sole alternative. Yet will death bring rest to your weariness, think you? Would not Death’s eyes look kindlier on you, if you had used more worthily Death’s brother,—Life? What would you give, Manetho, to see all that you have done undone? if to undo it were possible!