A very few steps took us into the great conservatory, or Xanatithlon, where bloomed all manner and species of flowers,
In the midst was a fountain whose three lofty jets sprang into the arch of the great dome and sparkled during the day in the sun-rays as they filtered through the thousands of panes of many-colored glass. Now, however, when the dull roar of the rain falling on all without mingled its tones with the dulcet plash of the fountain, that object of beauty was flashing in the rays of numerous electric images of the Day King.
Intermingled with the myriads of natural flowers were many hundreds wrought in glass so perfectly that only close examination by sense of touch might say which were produced by Flora and which by the artist. These illuminants were suited in kind to the natural flowers of, the plant, tree or vine on which they hung; on the plants there were but few, on the trees, higher above the floor, the number increased, while on the vines that clambered over arches and pillars, or swung pendent between high points overhead were a great multitude, casting throughout this floral paradise a soft, steady glow which was most delightful. '
In the midst of these pleasant environments we seated ourselves on what to the eye seemed a pile of moss-covered rocks with cosy depressions amongst them, very comfortable, since in reality they were easy springs, whereon grew moss originally furnished by silk-worms.
"Sit here, closer to me, my son," said the benign old prince, drawing me down into a hollow beside that occupied by himself.
"Zailm," he began, "I hardly know why I called thee this night; why I waited not for a time. And yet I do know, too; I had a mission to confer upon some one fitted to perform it. There are others more experienced, yet I choose to give it to thee; thou knowest what it is."
Very evident to me was it that this was not what actuated the Astika in his choice, and that it was not for this that he had asked me into the conservatory. He had relapsed into silence, which he presently broke by asking:
Hast thou ever heard that my wife gave me a son, and that both wife and son are taken by death? Aye, one son, and a daughter. Praise unto Incal, I have her yet! But my son,
the pride of my life, is gone unto Navazzamin, the destiny of all mortality. My son, oh, my son!" he sobbed.
When his emotion had somewhat subsided, he resumed:
"Zailm, when I saw thee, at thy first speech with our beloved Rai--four years ago, was it not?--I was astonished at thy likeness to my dead boy, and I loved thee then, Zailm! Many a time have I gone to the Xioquithlon to note thee at work in thy studies. Always have the summonses thou hast received at divers times to attend at this astikithlon had for their prompting motive sight of thee! Yes, sight of thee, lad, sight of thee!" he murmured softly, gently stroking my, curls the while.
"Few days have passed that I have not at some time seen thee, either personally or by naim; yes, I have gone at night and stood by thy window, that I might gladden my heart with the sound of thy voice as thou hast sat reading to thy mother. I have watched thee and been proud of thee, Zailm, for in every way thou hast seemed as my own; thy triumphs in study have made joyful my days, as has also the skill with which thou hast performed governmental commissions, for thou wert as my son! Then come and live here, lad, for I want thee near me, in this mine old age. Together will we float down the stream of life, thou and I! Perchance I go first out across the great ocean of eternity; then will I await thee in the dim land of dreams, where is no more parting, neither pain nor sorrow. Come, Zailm, come!"
To this tender appeal I replied:
"Menax, I have often wondered, during the years of my abode in Caiphul, what meant thy favors to me. Thou hast ever been more kind to me than any other, yet have ever been reserved and distant, yea, more so than others who could not care overmuch what befell me. Now all is plain. I have looked on thee with affection and loving reverence, and treasured thy kindnesses, and acted according to thy few words of advice. Yea, Menax, we will together go hand in hand to the
shadowy land of departed souls, thou for me or I for thee, waiting the other's coming, whichsoever the Harvester of Souls shall first garner."
We arose and tenderly embraced each other. As we parted our clasp, I beheld the only child of the prince, enframed in clustering vines that twined caressingly around her lovely form. As I looked upon her I thought of that other girl, the Saldu to whose story I had so recently listened. Nearly the .same age, neither of them more than a year my junior, but so widely different from each other as types of womanly beauty. It is difficult to describe a person in whom the deepest interest of the heart is centered, and the greater this feeling the more difficult will be the portraiture. At least, it is so in my case.
The reader is aware how the brown-haired, blue-eyed, queenly girl of far away Sald appeared, how delicate her fair complexion, how high-strung and sensitive her nature, yet withal, how cruel! But how can I picture her whom I loved, her with whom the hope of a chance meeting, even at a distance, made a great part of the pleasure I felt in going to the palace of Menax. She whom I had loved and enshrined within my heart nearly as many years as I had resided in Caiphul--how can I describe her?
If the Princess Lolix was on the threshold of womanhood, so was this fair one, the Princess Anzimee. Slight, delicate, womanly, the daughter of a long line of patrician ancestry; my senior and superior in the ranks of study at the Xioquithlon, if my junior in years; I loved her, yet carefully concealed the fact. Each of my friends who reads this will know what I feel when I avow unwillingness to describe Anzimee, and bid each to place in this Poseid life-frame the picture of his own best-loved one.
"Each heart recalled a different name,
But all sang 'Annie Laurie.'"
Prince Menax caught sight of his daughter at nearly the same moment as I did, and a look of mild surprise overspread his face at her presence, when he had supposed the Xanatithlon
deserted. Seeing this expression, the Rainu came forward and, kissing her father, said:
"My father, have I intruded" I heard thee and this--this youth enter, but knew not that thou didst desire privacy, so kept my seat and continued my reading."
"Nay, my pet, thou hast no need of excuse. I am, indeed, rather glad that thou art here. But what, may I ask, wert thou reading? It will not be well for thee to study too hard, and this, I suspect, was, or is, thy meaning when thy word is 'reading.'"
With a sweet smile dancing over her face and lighting her gray eyes, she replied: "Thou wouldst make an excellent reader of the hidden mind! I was indeed studying, but the end justifies the labor. Whosoever shall acquire a deep knowledge of the science of medicine shall be in a position to relieve even, those in the agonies of mortal pain, and to cure those less gravely afflicted. Is it not a work for Incal then, as well as for His children, and is not such an act done for the least of these, something done also for Him?"
Two girls--Lolix of Sald, and Anzimee of Poseid! A wide continent separated their two countries, but a yet greater distance was between the daughters of the two lands. Lolix, with no sympathy for those in pain, no sorrow for those in mortal agony; Anzimee, at the very antipodes of such traits of character.
For a full minute there was silence, while Menax looked at the noble-hearted, dainty speaker. Then, clasping my hands with his right and those of Anzimee with his left, he said:
"My child, unto thee I give a brother, one whom I deem worthy to be such; Zailm, unto thee I give a sister more precious than rubies; and unto Thee, Incal, my God! all the song of praise which fills my breast for Thy blessings to me." Here he dropped the hands that had touched, together for the first time, and lifted his own to heaven.
How the touch of that little hand thrilled me ere it was withdrawn. Was I worthy of all this love? No sin yet stained my fair fame, and I felt at that moment entirely deserving. If
ever it blotted my record, sin was yet to come; but with disquiet I thought of the strange prophecy on that night of long ago; for an instant only this feeling possessed me and then it fled.
I was much given to the habit of analyzing men and motives; it was a second nature, so to speak, to consider every question in every possible aspect. So, even now, I was querying myself as to the meaning of this latest experience. I knew that for Menax, who had so winningly asked me to be his son, I entertained the most profound respect and affection. My life would not have appeared to me too great a price to pay, if for it I could have bestowed commensurate benefit on him; and I loved life, too; there was nothing morbid about my nature, unless exceeding love for ray friends be a sign of morbidness. I dwelt a little upon what my adoption meant socially and politically. Thou needest not be told what it must have been to my ambition thus to be placed in so high a niche as I would thenceforth occupy in Atlan estimation as the legal son of a high councilor, who by marriage was the brother of the Rai. All this time, while considering the situation, I was reserving as a choice sensation the pleasure of examining what was the kind of love I felt for her who was my sister, by adoption only, it is true, but who, herself the pet of inner circles, and the adored of the people of Caiphul, would appear before the world as my sister the moment Rai Gwauxln should officially approve his brother's course.
Ought I to feel pleasure or vexation? I looked at her whom I had dreamed of as my wife in case Incal in His goodness should see fit to grant me exaltation to high places. Could I hope to realize the dream, after this unexpected turn of fortune? If I had come to my high place by a different manner, then I could have hoped for the hand of Anzimee. But now! My great fortune seemed like an apple of Sodom, bitterness to my mouth. For I was her brother, legally, if not by consanguineous ties. There was a chance that things were not so
dark as they seemed, since such adoptions among the lower classes were frequent, yet did not act as a bar to marriage. So, thus again, the sun came from behind the clouds.
The characteristic most marked in the appearance of the girl before me was the simplicity of her attire. That evening, her glory of brown tresses was caught in a loose, unbraided fall at the back of her shapely head by a plain golden clasp, A long, flowing robe clothed her slender, girlish form. No costume could be more artistically, tastefully simple than this colorless, diaphanous fabric, tinged just enough with blue to seem pearly white, Shoulder-tips of pure carmine indicated the wearer's royalty. Her dress was gathered at her throat by a pill made of a golden bar whereon flashed large rubies, grouped about a center of pearls and emeralds, the whole heightening the color of her checks so as to make her seem some lovely human rosebud. Rich as it was quiet, the attire added nothing to the girl's own sweetly dignified loveliness. The pearls, emblem of her rank as a Xioqenu; the emeralds, mark of her not yet having attained political voice; the rubies, gems of royalty, worn only by the Rai, or one of his near relatives. Gwauxln's own sister was Anzimee's mother and the wife of Menax.
Poseid derived her greatness from her educational superiority, a greatness which recognized no sex in its learned ballot-holders. But if Atlantis owed all things to knowledge, it was none the less true that Atl's people of ability would not have been what they were had it not been for their wives, the sisters and the daughters, and more than all, the mothers of our proud land. Our grand social fabric was founded on and built by the efforts of sons and daughters who, for centuries, had respected the lessons inculcated by fond, true, patriotic mothers. Next to that paid to his Creator was the homage which a Poseida accorded to woman. We loved our Rai, and the Astiki; we respected them as much as ever rulers in this world have been respected; but we honored our women more, and Rai and prince, sovereign and subject, were proud to acknowledge the holy influence which made all our glorious land of freedom one great home. America, thou art beloved by me even as was
Poseid. Foremost amongst nations, art thou so because of woman--and Christ. Thou wilt keep in the van because of them, and eclipse all the world beside when the happy karmic day shall have arrived which places woman not below, not above, but by the side of man on the rock of esoteric Christian education, the granite of knowledge and faith, which withstands the winds and storms of ignorance. Built on such foundation, the National house shall not fall; built on other, great shall be the fall of it. Here is wisdom: myriad serpents are in a man; in thee; keep them. Now ye are slaves. Be ye masters instead. But, alas! this Way is narrow; few will to find it.