Her black hair was crowned with a low, compact turban,—a purple and white twist of some fine cottony substance, striped with gold. Round her wide, low brow fitted a band of jewelled gold, three fingers’ breadth, from which at each temple depended a broad, flat chain of woven coral, following the margin of the cheeks and falling loose on the shoulders. A golden serpent coiled round her smooth throat and drooped its head low down in her bosom. Her elastic feet, arched like a dolphin’s back, were sandalled; the bright-colored straps, crossing one another half-way to the knee, set dazzlingly off the clear, dusky whiteness of the skin.
From her shoulders fell a long full robe of purple byssus, over an underdress of white which readied the knee. This tunic was confined at the waist by a hundred-fold girdle, embroidered with rainbow flowers and fastened in a broad knot below the bosom, the low-hanging ends heavy with fringe. The outer robe, with its long drooping sleeves falling open at the elbow, was ample enough wholly to envelop the figure, but was now girded up and one fold brought round and thrust beneath the girdle in front, to give freedom of motion. A rare perfume emanated from her like the evening breath of orange-blossoms.
Balder was no unworthy balance to this picture, though his else stately features showed too much the stimulus of modern thought. He was eminent by culture; she by nature only. But Balder’s culture had not greatened him. Greatness is not of the brain, save as allied to the deep, pure chords which thrill at the base of the human symphony. He might have stood for our age; she, for that more primitive but profounder era which is at once man’s beginning and his goal.
Balder’s eyes could not frankly hold their own against her gaze of awful simplicity. All he had ever done amiss arose and put him to the blush. Nevertheless, he would not admit his inferiority; instead of dropping his eyes he closed the soul behind them, and sharpened them with a shallow, out-striking light. Without understanding the change, she felt it and was troubled. Loftily majestic as were her form and features, she was feminine to the core,—tender and finely perceptive. The incisive masculine gaze abashed her. She raised one hand deprecatingly, and her lips moved, though without sound.
He relented at this, and straightway her expression again shifted, and she smiled so radiantly that Balder almost looked to see whence came the light! The wondrous lines of her face curved and softened; all that was grave vanished. A tree standing in the sober beauty of shadow, when suddenly lit by the sun, changes as she changed; for sunshine is the laughter of the world.