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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 188 pages of information about The Land of Mystery.

CHAPTER XXII.

ARIEL THE BEAUTIFUL.

It will be understood that during the interview described, the three white men stood near the front entrance to the royal apartment with their faces turned toward King Haffgo.

In this position each made good use of his eyes and Fred Ashman’s, from some cause or other, continually wandered to the draped curtains at the right of the ruler, between which he must pass when entering or leaving that part of his residence.

It was while his gaze was used on these curtains that he saw them gently agitated in a way which left no doubt that some person on the other side was the cause.

By and by he discerned part of a dainty hand, and the next minute became aware that a pair of the most beautifully lustrous eyes on which he had ever gazed was peering into the apartment.

It is Ariel,” was his instant thought, “and she as listening to the words that we are speaking.”

The thought had hardly found shape, when one eye, a part of a lovely face and the top of the head were discerned, as the owner, giving rein to her curiosity, ventured upon a little further view of the visitors.

Then, as if conscious of her breach of etiquette, she withdrew, like a flash, from view altogether.

But he knew it was only for a brief interval, and sure enough, the eyes speedily appeared at another portion of the curtains, where the beauteous princess must have believed she was not observed, for she looked steadily at the faces of the visitors, with a depth of interest that it was vain for her to attempt to conceal.

The heart of Fred Ashman gave a flutter, when he realized that the midnight orbs were fastened upon him, and, evidently studying his countenance with more interest than those of his companions.

Feeling a peculiar boldness, because of the strange situation in which he was placed, he deliberately smiled at the unknown one.

She could not have vanished more suddenly had she been snatched away by the hand of some ogre.

A pang shot through Fred’s heart, as he felt that he had driven away the enchantress by his own forwardness.  He reproached himself bitterly for having overreached himself.

But while he was lamenting, he once more discovered the eyes, rivalling the diamonds in the crown of her royal father, slyly viewing him from the other side of the curtain.  This time the fair one took care that no part of her countenance was visible, and the young man was equally guarded for the time, not to betray his sweet knowledge of the other’s scrutiny.

It was at this juncture, that King Haffgo addressed some pointed questions to Ashman who was forced to withdraw his gaze from the marvellously attractive sight, and fasten it upon the rugged and wrinkled countenance of the king of the Murhapas.

But those eyes were in his field of vision, and, even while speaking to the potentate, his glance continually wandered to the orbs which attracted him as the lodestone draws the magnet.

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