“You know well that I am not so prepared, Sakon. For nothing that the world could give me would I do this sin.”
“Then, Prince, it is best that you should go, for that and no other is the price you must pay if you would win my daughter Elissa. Should you seek to do so by other means, I tell you that neither your high rank nor the power of my rule and friendship, nor pity for your youth and hers, can save you both from death, since to forgive you then would be to bring down the wrath of its outraged gods upon Zimboe. Oh! Prince, for your own sake and for the sake of her whom both you and I love thus dearly, linger no longer in temptation, but turn your back upon it as a brave man should, for so shall my blessing follow you to the grave and your years be filled with honour.”
Aziel covered his eyes with his hand, and thought a while; then he answered:—
“Be it as you will, friend. I go, but I go broken-hearted.”
METEM SELLS IMAGES
Upon reaching the palace, Aziel went to the apartments of Issachar. Finding no keeper at the door, he entered, to discover the old priest kneeling in prayer at the window, which faced towards Jerusalem. So absorbed was he in his devotions that it was not until he had ended them and risen that Issachar saw Aziel standing in the chamber.
“Behold, an answer to my prayer,” he said. “My son, they told me that some fresh danger had overtaken you, though none knew its issue. Therefore it was that I prayed, and now I see you unharmed.” And taking him in his arms, he embraced him.
“It is true that I have been in danger, father,” answered Aziel, and he told him the story of his escape from Ithobal.
“Did I not pray thee not to accompany this embassy?”
“Yes, father, yet I have returned in safety. Listen: I come with tidings which you will think good. Not an hour ago I promised Sakon that I would leave Zimboe, where it seems my presence breeds much trouble.”
“Good tidings, indeed!” exclaimed Issachar, “and never shall I know a peaceful hour until we have seen the last of the towers of this doomed city and its accursed people of devil-worshippers.”
“Yes, good for you, father, but for me most ill, for here I shall leave my youth and happiness. Nay, I know what you think; that this is but some passing fancy bred of the pleasant beauty of a woman, but it is not so. I say that from the moment when first I saw Elissa, she became life of my life, and soul of my soul and that I go hence beggared of joy and hope, and carrying with me a cankering memory which shall eat my heart away. You deem her a witch, one to whom Baaltis has given power to drag the minds of men to their destruction, but I tell you that her only spell is the spell of her love for me, also that she whom you named so grossly is no longer the servant of the demon Baaltis.”