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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Eveena glanced over it and coloured painfully


cannot believe," Eveena answered, taking me, as usual, to the letter, "that you will ever draw the zone too tight. We say that 'anarchy is the worst tyranny.' Laxity which leaves us to quarrel and torment each other, tenderness which encourages disorder and disobedience till they must be put down perforce, is ultimate unkindness. I will not tell you that such indulgence will give you endless trouble, win you neither love nor respect, and probably teach its objects to laugh at you under the veil. You will care more for this--that you would find yourself forced at last to change 'velvet hand for leathern band.' Believe me, my--our comfort and happiness must depend on your grasping the helm at once and firmly; ruling us, and ruling with a strong hand. Otherwise your home will resemble the most miserable of all scenes of discomfort--an ungoverned school; and the most severe and arbitrary household rule is better by far than that. And--forgive me once more--but do not speak as if you would deal one measure with the left hand and another with the right. Surely you do not so misunderstand me as to think I counselled you to treat myself differently from others? 'Just rule only can be gentle.' If you show favouritism at first, you will find yourself driven step by step to do what you will feel to be cruel; what will pain yourself perhaps more than any one else. You may make envy and dislike bite (hold) their tongues, but you cannot prevent their stinging under the veil. Therefore, once
more, you cannot let my interference pass as if none but you knew of it."

"Madonna, if I _am_ to rule such a household, I will rule as absolutely as your autocratic Prince. I will tolerate no criticism and no questions."

"You surely forget," she urged, "that they know my offence, and do not know--must not know--what in your judgment excuses it. Let them once learn that it is possible so to force the springs [bolts] without a sting, it will take a salt-fountain [of tears] to blot the lesson from their memory."

"What would you have, Eveena? Am I to deal unjustly that I may seem just? That course steers straight to disaster. And, had you been in fault, could, I humble you in other eyes?"

"If I feel hurt by any mark of your displeasure, or humbled that it should be known to my equals in your own household," she replied, "it is time I were deprived of the privileges that have rendered me so overweening."

My answer was intercepted by the sound of an electric bell or miniature gong, and a slip of tafroo fell upon the desk. The first words were in that vocal character which I had mastered, and came from Esmo.

"Hysterical folly," he had said. "Mountain air might be fatal; and clear nights are dangerously cold for more than yourselves."

"What does he mean?" I asked, as I read out a formula more studiously occult than those of the Pharmacopoeia.

"That I am unpardonably silly, and that you must not dream of going back to your vessel. The last words, I suppose, warn you how carefully in such a household you need to guard the secrets of the Starlight."

"Well, and what is this in the stylic writing?"

Eveena glanced over it and coloured painfully, the tears gathering in her eyes.

"That," she said, pointing to the first cipher, "is my mother's signature."

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