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CHAPTER XIII. THE TALISMAN OF AHTKA-Rā.
Kāra found he had only time to dress for a dinner with Mrs. Everingham. Aneth was to be there also, and he must not neglect the intrigue he was conducting to obtain an ascendency over the girl. That was the reason, he told himself, why he was so anxious to attend.

His plans were progressing well at this time. The only adverse element was the obvious infatuation of Gerald Winston for Miss Consinor; but the Egyptian had carefully gauged the depths of the young girl’s character. She was interested in antiquities, and therefore encouraged Winston, who was a noted scholar; but there was no danger in that. Kāra knew more of Egyptology than all the scholars in Cairo, and had often seen Aneth’s face brighten when he told her some strange and interesting bit of unwritten history. To be sure, Winston was her own countryman, and had an advantage in that; yet Mrs. Everingham had once said in his hearing that a handsome foreigner was always fascinating to an Englishwoman, and he had remembered the careless remark and pondered its truth until he had come to believe it.

He had a better argument than any of these in reserve, however. If the Englishman really succeeded{143} in winning Aneth’s love in the end, then Kāra knew how to compel the girl to obedience.

As he left his room he found the dragoman leaning against a pillar of the courtyard.

“Is Nephthys here?” he inquired.

“I suppose so,” answered the dragoman, yawning sleepily. “She was due to arrive this afternoon, wasn’t she?”

Kāra looked at him with sudden suspicion.

“Have you seen her?” he demanded.

“Am I the keeper of your harem?” retorted Tadros, indignantly. “Old Tilga has been hidden in the women’s quarters for hours. Probably she is attending to your Nephthys.”

He eyed his master disdainfully, and Kāra walked on and entered the carriage. He had barely time to join the company at dinner, and Nephthys could wait.

Winston was not present this evening, and the prince found Aneth unusually gracious. She chatted so pleasantly, her manner was so friendly and her clear eyes so sweet and intelligent, that Kāra gave way to the moment’s enchantment and forgot all else in the delight of her society.

Nor did he recover readily from the spell. After returning home he paced the floor for an hour, recalling the English girl’s fair face and every change of its expression. Then he gave a guilty start as a recollection of Hatatcha swept over him, impressing upon his memory his fearful oath.{144}

Kāra’s nature, despite his cold exterior, was fervid in the extreme. He had sworn to hate this girl, yet to-night he loved her passionately. But Hatatcha’s training had not entirely failed. He calmed himself, and examined his danger critically, as an outsider might have done.

To yield to his love for Aneth would mean enslavement by the enemy, a condition from which his judgment instinctively revolted. To steel his heart against her charms would be difficult, but its necessity was obvious. He determined to pursue his plot with relentless hatred, and to raise between the girl and himself as many bars as possible. He scorned his own weakness, and since he knew that it existed, he resolved to conquer it.

Once Hatatcha had said to him: “You are cold, selfish and cruel, and I have made you so.” True; these qualities had been carefully instilled into his nature. He was proud that he possessed them, for he had a mission to fulfil. And if he desired any peace in his future life, that mission must be fully accomplished.

In the morning he went to see Nephthys, and his face brightened as he realized how remarkably beautiful she was. The Orientals generally admire only the form of a woman, being indifferent to the face; but Kāra was modern enough to appreciate beauty of feature, while holding to an extent the Eastern prejudice that a fat and soft form is the chief attraction of the female{145} sex. So he found Nephthys admirable in every way; and if her indifference and perfect subjection to his will in any way annoyed him, he was at this time unaware of the fact. He wished this girl to replace Aneth Consinor in his affection and esteem, and would forgive much in Nephthys if she could manage to bring about this excellent result.

After this he devoted much of his attention to the Nile girl, striving in his association with her to exclude all outside interests. He purchased for her marvelous costumes and hired two Arab maidens to attend her and keep her royally attired. Kāra’s most splendid diamonds and rubies were set by Andalaft in many coronets, brooches and bracelets to deck her person, and many of the wonderful pearls he had brought from the secret tomb were carefully sized and strung to form a necklace for the Egyptian girl’s portly neck.

Nephthys was pleased with these possessions. They drew her from the dull lassitude in which she had existed, and aroused in her breast a womanly exultation that even her mother could never have imagined her able to develop. It............
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