“What was it?” he wondered vaguely. He had seen many lovely faces, and many noble women had shown him favour, but why had none of them stirred him thus? Could it be that this stranger Gentile maiden was his soul-mate—she whom he was destined to love above all upon the earth, nay, whom he did already love, and so soon?
“Lady,” he said, taking a step towards her, “lady——” and he paused.
Elissa bowed her dark head till her gold-bedecked and scented hair almost fell upon his feet, but she made no answer.
Then another voice broke upon the silence, a clear, strident voice that said:—
“Prince, forgive me, if for the second time to-day I disturb you; but the guests have gone; your chamber is made ready, and, not knowing the customs of the women of this country, I sought you, little guessing that, at such an hour, I should find you alone with one of them.”
Aziel looked up, although there was no need for him to do so, for he knew that voice well, to see the tall form of the Levite Issachar standing before them, a cold light of anger shining in his eyes.
Elissa saw also, and, with some murmured words of farewell, she turned and went, leaving them together.
THE DREAM OF ISSACHAR
For a moment there was silence, which Aziel broke, saying:—
“It seems to me, Issachar, that you are somewhat over zealous for my welfare.”
“I think otherwise, Prince,” replied the Levite sternly. “Did not your grandsire give you into my keeping, and shall I not be faithful to my trust, and to a higher duty than any which he could lay upon me?”
“Your meaning, Issachar?”
“It is plain, Prince; but I will set it out. The great king said to me yonder in the hall of his golden palace at Jerusalem, ’To others, men of war, I have given charge of the body of my grandson to keep him safe. To you, Issachar the Levite, who have fostered him, I give charge over his soul to keep it safe—a higher task, and more difficult. Guard him, Issachar, from the temptation of strange doctrines and the whisperings of strange gods, but guard him most of all from the wiles of strange women who bow the knee to Baal, for such are the gate of Gehenna upon earth, and those who enter by it shall find their place in Tophet.’”
“Truly my grandsire speaks wisely on this matter as on all others,” answered Aziel, “but still I do not understand.”
“Then I will be more clear, Prince. How comes it that I find you alone with this beautiful sorceress, this worshipper of the she-devil, Baaltis, with whom you should scorn even to speak, except such words as courtesy demands?”
“Is it then forbidden to me,” asked Aziel angrily, “to talk with the daughter of my host, a lady whom I chanced to save from death, of the customs of her country and the mysteries of worship?”