He looked round to address Nurse, but her appearance checked him. She was staring into the darkness; he could feel her one-eyed glance pass him, fastening on something beyond. He moved to let the lamplight enter the doorway; and then in the illuminated square that fell on the floor he saw Manetho’s upturned face. The fallen priest lay with one arm doubled under him, the other thrown across his breast. Nurse stared at her broken idol, motionless, with stertorous breathing.
But was Manetho dead? Helwyse, the physician, stepped across the threshold, and stooped to examine the body. The dumb creature followed and lay down, animal-like, close beside the deity of her worship. Presently the physician said,—
“There’s life in him, but he’s hurt internally. We must find a way to move him from here.”
“Life!”—the woman heard, nor cared for more. Her dry fixedness gave way with a gasp, and she broke into hysteric tears, rocking herself backwards and forwards, crooning over the insensible body, or stooping to kiss it. She had no sense nor heed for the lover of her youth.
“Could such a creature have been his wife? even his mistress?” questioned Helwyse of himself. But he spoke out sharply:—
“You must stop this. He must be revived at once. Go and make ready a bed, and I will carry him to it.”
As he spoke, a silent shadow fell across the body, and Gnulemah stood in the doorway. Balder’s first impulse was to motion her away from a spectacle so unsuited to her eyes. But though the shadow made her face inscrutable, the lines of her figure spoke, and not of weak timidity or effeminate consternation. Womanly she was,—instinct with that tender, sensitive power, the marvellous gift of God to woman only, which almost moves the sick man to bless his sickness. A holy gift,—surely the immediate influx of Christ’s spirit. Man knows it not, albeit when he and woman have become more closely united than now, he may attain to share the Divine prerogative. Study nor skill can counterfeit it; but in the true woman it is perfect at the first appeal as at the last.
“He shall have my bed,” said this young goddess Isis; “it is ready, and my lamp is burning.”
Balder stooped to uplift his insensible burden.
“O, not so!—more tenderly than that,” she interposed, softly. A moment’s hesitation, and then she unfastened the golden shoulder-clasp, and shook off her ample mantle. This was Manetho’s litter.
“I will help you carry him.—Why do you-weep, Nurse? he will awake, or Balder would have told us.”
Never, since Diana stooped to earth to love Endymion, was seen a nobler sight than Gnulemah in her simple, clinging tunic, whose heavy golden hem kissed her polished knee, while her round and clear-cut arms were left bare. After the first glance, her lover lowered his eyes, lest he should forget all else in gazing at her. But the blood mounted silently to his cheeks and burned there. As for her,—she trusted Balder more freely than herself.