“Charmazel!” answered the penetrating unknown voice; and as it thrilled upon the air like a sob of pain, a dim light began to shine through the gloom, waveringly at first, then more steadily, till it gradually spread wide, illuminating with a pale and spectral light the place in which he found himself,—a place more weird and wondrous than any mystic scene in dream-land. He stumbled forward giddily, utterly bewildered, staring about him like a man in delirium, and speechless with mingled horror and amazement. He was alone—utterly alone in a vast square chamber, the walls and roof of which were thickly patterned and glistening with gold. Squares of gold were set in the very pavement on which he trod, and at the furthest end of the chamber, a magnificent sarcophagus of solid gold, encrusted with thousands upon thousands of jewels, which were set upon it in marvellous and fantastic devices, glittered and flashed with the hues of living fire. Golden cups, golden vases, a golden suit of armor, bracelets and chains of gold intermixed with gems, were heaped up against the walls and scattered on the floor; and a round shield of ivory inlaid with gold, together with a sword in a jewelled sheath, were placed in an upright position against the head of the sarcophagus, from whence all the spectral and mysterious light seemed to emerge. With thickly beating heart and faltering pulses Gervase still advanced, gazing half entranced, half terrified at the extraordinary and sumptuous splendor surrounding him, muttering almost unconsciously as he moved along:
“A king’s sepulchre,—a warrior’s tomb! How came I here?—and why? Is this a trysting-place for love as well as death?—and will she come to me? ...”
He recoiled suddenly with a violent start, for there, like a strange Spirit of Evil risen from the ground, leaning against the great gold sarcophagus, her exquisite form scarcely concealed by the misty white of her draperies, her dark hair hanging like a cloud over her shoulders, and her black eyes aflame with wrath, menace and passion, stood the mysterious Ziska!
Stricken dumb with a ghastly supernatural terror which far exceeded any ordinary sense of fear, he gazed at her, spellbound, his blood freezing, his very limbs stiffening, for now—now she looked like the picture he had painted of her; and Death—Death, livid, tortured and horrible, stared at him skull-wise from the transparent covering of her exquisitely tinted seeming-human flesh. Larger and brighter and wilder grew her eyes as she fixed them on him, and her voice rang through the silence with an unearthly resonance as she spoke and said: