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- The Bride of the Nile, Volume 10. - 9/9 -

"What about the victim?"

"Allow me to say no more about it till another time," said the old man. "What good could it do to tell you that now? The first thing is to find the thing that is acceptable to the gods."

"What is it?"

"Speak--do not keep us on the rack!" was shouted on all sides; but he remained inexorable, promising only to call the council together when the right time should come and desiring that the president would proclaim from the balcony that Horapollo knew of a sacrifice which would cause the Nile at last to rise. As soon as the right victim could be found, the people should be invited to give their consent. In the time of their forefathers it had never failed of its effect, so men, women, and children might go home in all confidence, and await the future with new and well-founded hopes.

And this announcement, with which the president mingled his praises of the venerable Horapollo, had a powerful effect. The crowd hallooed with glee, as though they had found new life. "Hail, hail !" was shouted again and again, and it was addressed, not merely to the old man who had promised them deliverance, but also to the Fathers of the city, who felt as if a fearful load had fallen from their souls.

The old man's scheme was, to be sure, not pious nor rightly Christian; but had the power of the Church been in any way effectual? And this having failed they must of their own accord have had recourse to means held reprobate by the priesthood. Magic and the black arts were genuinely Egyptian; and when faith had no power, these asserted themselves and superstition claimed its own. Though Medea had been taken by surprise and imprisoned, this had not been done to satisfy the law, but with a view to secretly utilizing her occult science for the benefit of the community. In such dire need no means were too base; and though the old man himself was horrified at those he proposed he was sure of public approbation if only they had the desired result. If only they could avert the calamity the sin could be expiated, and the Almighty was so merciful!

The bishop had a seat and voice in the council, but Fate itself had saved them from the dilemma of having to meet his remonstrances.

When Horapollo went out into the market-place he was received with acclamations, and as much gratitude as though he had already achieved the deliverance of the people and country.

What had he done?--Whether the work he had set going were to fail or to succeed he could not remain in Memphis, for in either case he would never have peace again. But that did not daunt him; it would certainly be very good for the two women to be removed from the perilous neighborhood of the Arab capital, and he was firmly determined to take them away with him. For his dear Philip, too, nothing could be better than a transplantion into other soil.

At the house of Rufinus he now learnt the fate that had fallen on Paula.

She was out the way, at any rate for the present; still, if she should be released to-morrow or the day after, or even a month hence, she would be as great a hindrance as ever. His plots against her must therefore be carried out. His own isolation provoked him, and what a satisfaction it would be if only he should succeed in stirring up the Egyptian Christians to the heathen deed to which he was endeavoring to prompt them.

If Paula should be condemned to death by the Arabs, the execution of the scheme would be greatly promoted; and now the first point was to ensure the favor of the black Vekeel, for everything depended on his consent.

Joanna and Pulcheria thought him more good-humored and amiable than they had ever known him; his proposal that he and Philippus should join their household was hailed with delight even by little Mary, and the women conducted him all over the house, supporting his steps with affectionate care. All he saw there pleased him beyond measure. Such neatness and comfort could only exist where there was a woman's eye to direct and watch over everything. The rooms on the ground floor, which had been the master's, should be his, and the corresponding wing on the other side could be made ready for Philippus. The dining-room, the large ante- chamber, and the viridarium would be common ground, and the upper story was large enough for the women and any guests. He would move in as soon as he had settled some business he had in hand.

It must be something of a pleasant nature, for as the old man spoke of it his sunken lips mumbled with satisfaction, while his sparkling eyes seemed to say to Pulcheria: "And I have something good in store for you, too, dear child."


Thin-skinned, like all up-starts in authority

The Bride of the Nile, Volume 10. - 9/9

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