When all had gone, leaving us alone, save for the priest Oros and the priestess Papave, who remained in attendance on their mistress, Ayesha, who sat gazing before her with dreaming, empty eyes, seemed to awake, for she rose and said—“A noble chant, is it not, and an ancient? It was the wedding song of the feast of Isis and Osiris at Behbit in Egypt, and there I heard it before ever I saw the darksome Caves of Kor. Often have I observed, my Holly, that music lingers longer than aught else in this changeful world, though it is rare that the very words should remain unvaried. Come, beloved—tell me, by what name shall I call thee? Thou art Kallikrates and yet——”
“Call me Leo, Ayesha,” he answered, “as I was christened in the only life of which I have any knowledge. This Kallikrates seems to have been an unlucky man, and the deeds he did, if in truth he was aught other than a tool in the hand of destiny, have bred no good to the inheritors of his body—or his spirit, whichever it may be—or to those women with whom his life was intertwined. Call me Leo, then, for of Kallikrates I have had enough since that night when I looked upon the last of him in Kor.”
“Ah! I remember,” she answered, “when thou sawest thyself lying in that narrow bed, and I sang thee a song, did I not, of the past and of the future? I can recall two lines of it; the rest I have forgotten—
never weary, clad with splendour for a robe!
Till accomplished be our fate, and the night is rushing down.’
“Yes, my Leo, now indeed we are ‘clad with splendour for a robe,’ and now our fate draws near to its accomplishment. Then perchance will come the down-rushing of the night;” and she sighed, looked up tenderly and said, “See, I am talking to thee in Arabic. Hast thou forgotten it?”
“Then let it be our tongue, for I love it best of all, who lisped it at my mother’s knee. Now leave me here alone awhile; I would think. Also,” she added thoughtfully, and speaking with a strange and impressive inflexion of the voice, “there are some to whom I must give audience.”
So we went, all of us, supposing that Ayesha was about to receive a deputation of the Chiefs of the Mountain Tribes who came to felicitate her upon her betrothal.
THE THIRD ORDEAL
An hour, two hours passed, while we strove to rest in our sleeping place, but could not, for some influence disturbed us.
“Why does not Ayesha come?” asked Leo at length, pausing in his walk up and down the room. “I want to see her again; I cannot bear to be apart from her. I feel as though she were drawing me to her.”
“How can I tell you? Ask Oros; he is outside the door.”
So he went and asked him, but Oros only smiled, and answered that the Hesea had not entered her chamber, so doubtless she must still remain in the Sanctuary.