With regard to Atossa, Darius had abstained from asking her questions about her seven months of marriage with the usurper. She must have known well enough who the man was, but Darius understood her character well enough to know that she would marry whomsoever she saw in the chief place, and that her counsel and courage would be of inestimable advantage to a ruler. She herself never mentioned the past events to the king, knowing his hatred of lies on the one hand, and that on the other, the plain truth would redound to her discredit. He had given her to understand as much from the first, telling her that he took her for what she was, and not for what she had been. Her mind was at rest about the past, and as for the future, she promised herself her full share in her husband’s success, should he succeed, and unbounded liberty in the choice of his successor, should he fail.
But all these considerations did not tend to clear Zoroaster’s vision in regard to his own future. He saw himself already placed in a position of extreme difficulty between Nehushta and the king. On the other hand, he dreaded lest he should before long fall into disgrace with the king on account of Atossa’s treatment of himself, or incur Atossa’s displeasure through the great favour he received from Darius. He knew the queen to be an ambitious woman, capable of the wildest conceptions, and possessed of the utmost skill for their execution.
He longed to see Nehushta and talk with her at once,—to tell her many things and to warn her of many possibilities; above all, he desired to discuss with her the scene of the previous night and the strangely sudden determination the king had expressed to make her his wife.
But he could not leave his post. His orders had been to await the king in the morning upon the eastern terrace; and there he must abide until it pleased Darius to come forth; and he knew Nehushta would not venture down into that part of the palace. He wondered that the king did not come, and he chafed at the delay as he saw the sun rising higher and higher, and the shadows deepening in the terrace. Weary of waiting he sat down at last upon the chair where Atossa had rested, and folded his hands over his sword-hilt,—resigning himself to the situation with the philosophy of a trained soldier.
Sitting thus alone, he fell to dreaming. As he gazed out at the bright sky, he forgot his life and his love, and all things of the present; and his mind wandered away among the thoughts most natural and most congenial to his profound intellect. His attention became fixed in the contemplation of a larger dimension of intelligences,—the veil of darkness parted a little, and for a time he saw clearly in the light of a Greater Universe.