I gazed at this strange girl once more astonished, and saw that her face was lit up with such a light as I had never seen in the eyes of woman.
“Ah,” broke in my uncle, who was watching her, “ah, I love to see thee so, girl; there is the Charmion that I knew and I bred up—not the Court girl whom I like not, draped in silks of Cos and fragrant with essences. Let thy heart harden in this mould—ay, stamp it with the fervid zeal of patriot faith, and thy reward shall find thee. And now cover up that shameless dress of thine and leave us, for it grows late. To-morrow Harmachis shall come, as thou hast said, and so farewell.”
Charmion bowed her head, and, turning, wrapped her dark-hued peplos round her. Then, taking my hand, she touched it with her lips and went without any further word.
“A strange woman!” said Sepa, when she had gone; “a most strange woman, and an uncertain!”
“Methought, my uncle,” I said, “that thou wast somewhat harsh with her.”
“Ay,” he answered, “but not without a cause. Look thou, Harmachis; beware of this Charmion. She is too wayward, and, I fear me, may be led away. In truth, she is a very woman; and, like a restive horse, will take the path that pleases her. She has brain and fire, and she loves our cause; but I pray that the cause come not face to face with her desires, for what her heart is set on that will she do, at any cost she will do it. Therefore I frightened her now while I may: for who can know but that she will pass beyond my power? I tell thee, that in this one girl’s hand lie all our lives: and if she play us false, what then? Alas! and alas! that we must use such tools as these! But it was needful: there was no other way; and yet I misdoubted me. I pray that it may be well; still, at times, I fear my niece Charmion—she is too fair, and the blood of youth runs too warm in those blue veins of hers.
“Ah, woe to the cause that builds its strength upon a woman’s faith; for women are faithful only where they love, and when they love their faithlessness becomes their faith. They are not fixed as men are fixed: they rise more high and sink more low—they are strong and changeful as the sea. Harmachis, beware of this Charmion: for, like the ocean, she may float thee home; or, like the ocean, she may wreck thee, and, with thee, the hope of Egypt!”
OF THE COMING OF HARMACHIS TO THE PALACE; OF HOW HE DREW PAULUS THROUGH THE GATES; OF CLEOPATRA SLEEPING; AND OF THE MAGIC OF HARMACHIS WHICH HE SHOWED HER