“Listen, prince Aziel,” Elissa said after a while, “the venom with which these black men soak their weapons is very strong, and unless Metem’s salve be good, it may well chance that I shall die. Therefore before I die I wish to say a word to you. What brought you to this place to-night?”
“A letter from yourself, lady.”
“I know it,” she said, “but I did not write that letter; it was a snare, set, as I think, by the king Ithobal, who would do you to death in this way or in that. A messenger of his bribed my waiting-maid to deliver it, and afterwards I learnt the tale from Metem. Then, guessing all, I came hither to try to save you.”
“But how could you guess all, lady?”
“In a strange fashion, Prince.” And in a few words she told him her dream.
“This is marvellous indeed, that you should be warned of my danger by visions,” he said wondering, and half-doubtingly.
“So marvellous, Prince, that you do not believe me,” Elissa answered. “I know well what you think. You think that a woman to whom this very morning you spoke such words as women cannot well forgive, being revengeful laid a plot to murder you, and then, being a woman, changed her mind. Well, it is not so; Metem can prove it to you!”
“Lady, I believe you,” he said, “without needing the testimony of Metem. But now the story grows still more strange, for if you had done me no wrong, how comes it that to preserve me from harm you set your tender flesh between the arrow and one who had reviled you?”
“It was by chance,” she answered faintly. “I learnt the truth and ran to warn you. Then I saw the arrow fly towards your heart, and strove to grasp it, and it pierced me. It was by chance, by such a chance as made me dream your danger.” And she fainted.
AZIEL PLIGHTS HIS TROTH
At first Aziel feared that the poison had done its work, and that Elissa was dead, till placing his hand upon her heart he felt it beating faintly, and knew that she did but swoon. To leave her to seek water or assistance was impossible, since he dared not loose his hold of the bandage about her wrist. So, patiently as he might, he knelt at her side awaiting the return of Metem.
How beautiful her pale face seemed there in the moonlight, set in its frame of dusky hair. And how strange was this tale of hers, of a dream that she had dreamed, a dream which, to save his own, led her to offer her life to the murderer’s arrow. Many would not believe it, but he felt that it was true; he felt that even if she wished it she could not lie to him, for as he had known since first they met, their souls were open to each other. Yes, having thus been warned of his danger, she had offered her life for him—for him who that morning had called her, unjustly so Metem said, “a girl of the groves and a murderess.” How came it that she had done this, unless indeed she loved him as—he loved her?