Thus reassured and thus resolved, I advanced, with a smile of disdain, to meet Margrave and his veiled companion, as they now came from the moonlit copse.
'Well,' I said to him, with an irony that unconsciously mimicked his own, 'have you taken advice with your nurse? I assume that the dark form by your side is that of Ayesha!'
* * Margrave's former nurse and attendant.
The woman looked at me from her sable veil, with her steadfast, solemn eyes, and said, in English, though with a foreign accent: 'The nurse born in Asia is but wise through her love; the pale son of Europe is wise through his art. The nurse says, 'Forbear!' Do you say, 'Adventure'?'
'Peace!' exclaimed Margrave, stamping his foot on the ground. 'I take no counsel from either; it is for me to resolve, for you to obey, and for him to aid. Night is come, and we waste it; move on.'
The woman made no reply, nor did I. He took my arm and walked back to the hut. The barbaric escort followed. When we reached the door of the building, Margrave said a few words to the woman and to the litter bearers. They entered the hut with us. Margrave pointed out to the woman his coffer, to the men the fuel stowed in the outhouse. Both were borne away and placed within the litter. Meanwhile I took from the table, on which it was carelessly thrown, the light hatchet that I habitually carried with me in my rambles.
'Do you think that you need that idle weapon?' said Margrave. 'Do you fear the good faith of my swarthy attendants?'
'Nay, take the hatchet yourself; its use is to sever the gold from the quartz in which we may find it imbedded, or to clear, as this shovel, which will also be needed, from the slight soil above it, the ore that the mine in the mountain flings forth, as the sea casts its waifs on the sands.'
'Give me your hand, fellow laborer!' said Margrave, joyfully. 'Ah, there is no faltering terror in this pulse! I was not mistaken in the man. What rests, but the place and the hour?----I shall live, I shall live!'