The girl, panting for breath, watched every movement of the sorceress, but some time elapsed ere the latter suddenly exclaimed, “There he is!” and then, without removing her eyes from the bottom of the vessel, she went on, with faltering accents, as though she was describing a scene close before her eyes. “Two young men-both Greeks, if the dress does not deceive—one is at your right hand, the other at your left. The former is fair-haired; the glance of his eyes is deep and constant. It is he, I think—But no! His image is fading, and you are turning your back upon him. You do it intentionally. No, no, you two are not destined for each other. You think of the one with the waving black hair and beard—of him alone. He is growing more and more distinct—a handsome man, and how his brow shines! Yet his glance—it sees more than that of many others, but, like the rest of his nature, it lacks steadfastness.”
Here she paused, raised her shaking head, looked at Ledscha’s flushed face, and in a grave, warning tone, said: “Many signs of happiness, but also many dark shadows and black spots. If he is the one, child, you must be on your guard.”
“He is,” murmured the girl softly, as if speaking to herself.
But the deaf old crone had read the words from her lips, and while gazing intently at the wine, went on impatiently: “If the picture would only grow more distinct! As it was, so it has remained. And now! The image of the fair man with the deep-blue eyes melts away entirely, and a gray cloud flutters between you and the other one with the black beard. If it would only scatter! But we shall never make any progress in this way. Now pay attention, girl.”
The words had an imperious tone, and with outstretched head and throbbing heart Ledscha awaited the old woman’s further commands.
They came at once and ordered her to confess, as freely and openly as though she was talking to herself, where she had met the man whom she loved, how he had succeeded in snaring her heart, and how he repaid her for the passion which he had awakened.
These commands were so confused and mingled in utterance that any one less familiar with the speaker would scarcely have comprehended what they required of her, but Ledscha understood and was ready to obey.
This reserved, thoroughly self-reliant creature would never have betrayed to any human being what moved her soul and filled it some times with inspiring hope, sometimes with a consuming desire for vengeance; but Ledscha did not shrink from confiding it to the demons who were to help her to regain her composure.
So, obeying a swift impulse, she threw herself on her knees by the old woman’s side. Then, supporting her head with her hands, she gazed at the still glimmering fire, and, as if one memory after another received new life from it, she began the difficult confession: