"Ah, but you must not blame Ole-Luk-Oie," he protested. "It is not all the fault of Beatrice Cenci..."
Then Kennaston knew he had unwittingly spoken magic words, for at once, just as he had seen it done in theaters, the girl's face was shown him clearly in a patch of roseate light. It was the face of Ettarre.
"Things happen so in dreams, "he observed. "I know perfectly well I am dreaming, as I have very often known before this that I was dreaming. But it was always against some law to tell the people in my nightmare I quite understood they were not real peop le. "to-day in my daydream, and here again to-night, there is no such restriction; and lovely as you are, I know that you are just a daughter of sub-consciouness or of memory or of jumpy nerves or perhaps, of an improperly digested entree."
"No, I am real Horvendile--but it is I who am dreaming you."
"I had not thought to be part of any woman's dream nowadays.... Why do you call me Horvendile?"
She who bore the face of Ettarre pondered momentarily; and his heart moved with glad adoration.
"Now, by the beard of the prophet! I do not know," the girl said at last.
"The name means nothing to you?"
"I never heard it before. But it seemed natural, somehow--just as it did when you spoke of Ole-Luk-Oie and Beatrise Cenci."
"But Ole-Luk-Oie is the lord and master of all dreams, of course. And that furtive long-dead Roman girl has often troubled my dreams. When I was a boy, you concive, There was in my room at the first boarding-house in which I can remember dieting, a copy of the Guido portrait of Beatrice Cenci--a copy done in oils, a worthless daub, I suppose. But there was evil in the picture--a lurking devilishness, which waited patiently and alertly until I should do what that silent whatever knew I was predestined t o do, and, being malevolent, wanted me to do. I knew nothing then of Beatrice Cenci, mark you, but when I`came to learn about her. That woman was evil, whatever verse-makers may have fabled, I thought for a long while.... To-day I believe the evil eman ated from the person who painted that particular copy. I`do not know who that person was, I never shall know. But the black magic of that person's work was very potent."
And Kennaston looked about him now, to find fog everywhere--impenetrable vapors which vaguely showed pearl-colored radiancies here and there, but no determinable forms of trees or of houses, or of anything save the face of Ettarre, so clearly discerned an d so lovely in that strange separate cloud of roseate light.
"Ah, yes, those little magics"--it was the girl who spoke--"those futile troubling necromancies that are wrought by portraits and unfamiliar rooms and mirrors and all time-worn glittering objects--by running waters and the wind's persistency, and by lonel y summer noons in the forests.... These are the little magics, that have no large power, but how inconsequently do they fret upon men's heart-strings!"
"As if some very feeble force--say, a maimed elf--were trying to attract attention? Yes, I think I understand. It is droll."
"And how droll, too, it is how quickly we communicate our thoughts--even though, if you notice, you are not really speaking, because your lips are not moving at all."
"No, they never do in dreams. One never seems in fact, to use one's mouth--you never actually eat anything, you may also notice, in dreams even though food is very often at hand. I suppose it is because all dream food is akin to the pomegranates of Pers ephone, so that if you taste it you cannot ever return again the the workaday world.... But why, I wonder, are we having the same dream?--it rather savors of Morphean parsimony, don't you think, thus to make one nightmare serve for two people? Or perhap s it is the bit of metal I found this afternoon--"
And the girl nodded. "Yes, it is on account of the sigel of Scoteia. I have the other half, you know."
"What does this mean, Ettarre--?" he began; and reaching forward, was about to touch her, when the universe seemed to fold about him, just as a hand closes....
And Felix Kennaston was sitting at the writing-table in the library, with a gleaming scrap of metal before him; and, as the clock showed, it was bedtime.
"Well, it is undoubtedly quaint how dreams draw sustenance from half-forgotten happinings," he reflected; "to think of my recollecting that weird daub which used to deface my room in Fairhaven! I had forgotten Beatrice entirely. And I certainly never sp oke of her to any human being, except of course Muriel Allardyce.... But I would not be at all suprised if I had involuntarily hypnotized myself, sitting here staring at this shiny piece of lead--you read of such cases. I believe I will put it away, to play with again sometime."