“Mayhap; if they are there,” he said, “ye shall have as many as ye can take hence—if indeed ye would leave me, my brothers.”
“First we must find the chamber,” said I.
“There is but one who can show it to thee—Gagool.”
“And if she will not?”
“Then she must die,” said Ignosi sternly. “I have saved her alive but for this. Stay, she shall choose,” and calling to a messenger he ordered Gagool to be brought before him.
In a few minutes she came, hurried along by two guards, whom she was cursing as she walked.
“Leave her,” said the king to the guards.
So soon as their support was withdrawn, the withered old bundle—for she looked more like a bundle than anything else, out of which her two bright and wicked eyes gleamed like those of a snake—sank in a heap on to the floor.
“What will ye with me, Ignosi?” she piped. “Ye dare not touch me. If ye touch me I will slay you as ye sit. Beware of my magic.”
“Thy magic could not save Twala, old she-wolf, and it cannot hurt me,” was the answer. “Listen; I will this of thee, that thou reveal to us the chamber where are the shining stones.”
“Ha! ha!” she piped, “none know its secret but I, and I will never tell thee. The white devils shall go hence empty-handed.”
“Thou shalt tell me. I will make thee tell me.”
“How, O king? Thou art great, but can thy power wring the truth from a woman?”
“It is difficult, yet will I do so.”
“How, O king?”
“Nay, thus; if thou tellest not thou shalt slowly die.”
“Die!” she shrieked in terror and fury; “ye dare not touch me—man, ye know not who I am. How old think ye am I? I knew your fathers, and your fathers’ fathers’ fathers. When the country was young I was here; when the country grows old I shall still be here. I cannot die unless I be killed by chance, for none dare slay me.”
“Yet will I slay thee. See, Gagool, mother of evil, thou art so old that thou canst no longer love thy life. What can life be to such a hag as thou, who hast no shape, nor form, nor hair, nor teeth—hast naught, save wickedness and evil eyes? It will be mercy to make an end of thee, Gagool.”
“Thou fool,” shrieked the old fiend, “thou accursed fool, deemest thou that life is sweet only to the young? It is not so, and naught thou knowest of the heart of man to think it. To the young, indeed, death is sometimes welcome, for the young can feel. They love and suffer, and it wrings them to see their beloved pass to the land of shadows. But the old feel not, they love not, and, ha! ha! they laugh to see another go out into the dark; ha! ha! they laugh to see the evil that is done under the stars. All they love is life, the warm, warm sun, and the sweet, sweet air. They are afraid of the cold, afraid of the cold and the dark, ha! ha! ha!” and the old hag writhed in ghastly merriment on the ground.