“My heart is sore indeed,” answered Aziel, “and if you think your words be wise, their medicine does not soothe, Phoenician. You may have laboured for my welfare and for that of the lady Elissa, or, like the huckster that you are, for your own advantage, or for both—I know not, and do not care to know. But this I know, that you, and Issachar also, are striving to snare Fate in a web of sand, and that Fate will be too strong for it and you. I love this woman and she loves me, because such is our destiny, and no barriers which man may build can serve to separate us. Also of this I am assured, that by your plots you draw the evils you would ward away upon the heads of us all, for from them shall spring war, and deaths, and misery.
“For the rest, do not think, Metem and Issachar, that I, whom you betrayed, and the woman you have ruined with a crown of greatness she did not seek, are clay to be moulded at your will. It is another hand than yours which fashioned the vessel of our destiny; nor can you stay our lips from drinking of the pure wine that fills it. Farewell,” and with a grave inclination of the head he left the room.
Metem watched him go, then he turned to Issachar and said:—
“I have earned my hire well, and you must pay the price, but now it troubles me to think that I touched this business. Why it is I cannot say, but it comes upon me that the prince speaks truth, and that no plot of ours can avail to separate these two who were born to each other, although it well may happen that we shall unite them in death alone. Issachar,” he added with fierce conviction, “I will not take your gold, for it is the price of blood! I tell you it is the price of blood!”
“Take it or no, as you will, Phoenician,” answered the Levite; “at least I am well pleased that the promise of it bought your service. Even should the prince Aziel discharge this day’s work with his young life, it is better that he should perish in the body than that he should lose his soul for the bribe of a woman’s passing beauty. Whatever else be lost, that is saved to him, since those sorceress lips of hers are set beyond his reach. An Israelite cannot mate with the oracle of Baaltis, Metem.”
“You say so, Issachar, but I have seen men climb high to pluck such fruit. Yes, I have seen them climb even when they knew that they must fall before the fruit was reached.”
Then he went also, leaving Issachar alone and oppressed with a dread of the future which was none the less real because it could not be defined.
Weak as she was still with recent illness, half-fainting also from the shock of the terrible and unexpected fate which had overtaken her, Elissa was borne in triumph to the palace that now was hers. Around her gilded litter priestesses danced and sang their wild chants, half-bacchanalian and half-religious; before it marched the priests of El, clashing cymbals and crying, “Make way, make way for the new-born goddess! Make way for her whose throne is upon the horned moon!” while all about the multitude of spectators prostrated themselves in worship.