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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

But was wholly discountenanced by Eveena


not blame my presumption," she said; "do not think that I am merely soft or weak, if I entreat you to take no further notice of Eunane's mood. I cannot but think that, if you do, you will very soon repent it."

She could not or would not give a reason for her intercession; but some little symptoms I might have seen without observing, some perception of the exceptional character of Eunane's outbreak, or some unacknowledged misgiving accordant with her own, made me more than willing to accept Eveena's wish as a sufficient cause for forbearance. When we assembled at the morning meal Eunane appeared to be conscious of error; at all events, her manner and temper were changed. Watching her closely, I thought that neither shame for an outbreak of unwonted extravagance nor fear of my displeasure would account for her languor and depression. But illness is so rare among a race educated for countless generations on principles scientifically sound and sanitary, inheriting no seeds of disease from their ancestry, and safe from the infection of epidemics long extirpated, that no apprehension of serious physical cause for her changes of temper and complexion entered into my mind. To spare her when she deserved no indulgence was the surest way to call forth Eunane's best impulses; and I was not surprised to find her, soon after the party had dispersed, in Eveena's chamber. That all the amends I could desire had been made and accepted was sufficiently evident.

But Eunane's agitation was so violent and persistent, despite all Eveena's soothing, that I was at last seriously apprehensive of its effect upon the latter. The moment we were alone Eveena said--

"I have never seen illness, but if Eunane is not ill, and very ill, all I have gathered in my father's household from such books as he has allowed me, and from his own conversation, deceives me wholly; and yet no illness of which I have ever heard in the slightest degree resembles this."

"I take it to be," I said, "what on Earth women call hysteria and men temper."

To this opinion, however, I could not adhere when, watching her closely, I noticed the evident lack of spirit and strength with which the most active and energetic member of the household went about her usual pursuits. A terrible suspicion at first entered my mind, but was wholly discountenanced by Eveena, who insisted that there was no conceivable motive for an attempt to injure Eunane; while the idea that mischief designed for others had unintentionally fallen on her was excluded by the certainty that, whatever the nature of her illness, if it were such, it had commenced before our return. Long before evening I had communicated with Esmo, and received from him a reply which, though exceedingly unsatisfactory, rather confirmed Eveena's impression. The latter had taken upon herself the care of the evening meal; but, before we could meet there, my own observation had suggested an alarm I dared not communicate to her--one which a wider experience than hers could neither verify nor dispel. Among symptoms wholly alien, there were one or two which sent a thrill of terror to my heart;--which reminded me of the most awful and destructive of the scourges wherewith my Eastern life had rendered me but too familiar. It was not unnatural that, if carried to a new world, that fearful disease should assume a new form; but how could it have been conveyed? how, if conveyed, could its incubation in some unknown vehicle have been so long? and how had it reached one, and one only, of my household--one, moreover, who had no access to such few relics of my own world as I had retained, of which Eveena had the exclusive charge? All Esmo's knowledge, even were he within reach, could hardly help me here. I dared, of course, suggest my apprehension to no one, least of all to the patient herself. As, towards evening, her languor was again exchanged for the feverish excitement of the previous night, I seized on some petulant word as an excuse to confine her to her room, and, selfishly enough, resolved to invoke the help of the only member of the family who should, and perhaps would, be willing to run personal risk for the sake of aiding Eunane in need and protecting Eveena. I had seen as yet very little of Velna, Eunane's school companion; but now, calling her apart, I told her frankly that I feared some illness of my own Earth had by some means been communicated to her friend.

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