Zibya bowed profoundly, his outspread hands almost touching the floor in the servility of his obeisance, and backed out of the room as humbly as though he were leaving the presence of royalty.
Now get thee gone, fellow! thou and thy news!" and he nodded a good- humored dismissal to the deferential Zibya, who with his woolly gray head very much on one side stood listening gravely and approvingly to all that was said, " Yet stay! ... has gossip whispered thee the name of the poor virgin self-destined for this evening's sacrifice?"
"No, my lord" responded Zibya promptly "'Tis veiled in deeper mystery than usual. I have inquired of many, but in vain, and even the Chief Flamen of the Outside Court of the Temple, always drunk and garrulous as he is, can tell me naught of the holy victim's title or parentage.
Methinks we have fallen upon evil days! ... maybe the crazed Prophet is right after all, and things are coming to an end!" "Like thy discourse, I hope, Zibya!" observed Sah-luma, yawning and flinging himself lazily back on his velvet couch, "Get hence, and serve thy customers with their cheap news, . . depend upon it, some of them are cursing thee mightily for thy delay!
"Tis a passing fair wench! said he, with a chuckle.. 'That is all I know concerning her ... a passing fair wench! Ah!" and Zibya rolled up the whites of his eyes and sighed in a comically contemplative manner.. "If ever a Flamen deserved expulsion from his office, it is surely yon ancient, crafty, carnal-minded soul! ... so keen a glance for a woman's beauty is not a needful qualification for a servant of the Snake Divine!
"And a sagacious one no doubt!" interrupted Sah-luma coldly, and with a dangerous flash as of steel in his eyes.. "But.. be advised, good Zibya! ... give thine opinion no utterance!" The old negro shrank back nervously, making numerous apologetic gestures, and waited in abashed silence till the Laureate's features regained their wonted soft serenity.
Just then a curious-looking personage entered the apartment, a gray-haired, dwarfish negro, who carried slung across his back a large bundle, consisting of several neatly rolled-up pieces of linen, one of which he presently detached from the rest and set down before the Laureate, who in return gave him a silver coin, at the same time asking jestingly: "Is the news worth paying for to-day, Zibya? or is it the same ill-written, clumsy chronicle of trumpery, common-place events?"
Zibya, slipping the coin he had received into a wide leathern pouch which hung from his girdle, appeared to meditate a moment, then he replied: "If the truth must be told, most illustrious, there is nothing whatever to interest the minds of the cultured.
Theos started, . . Sah-luma listened with placid indifference. "'Tis a case of self-slaughter" pursued Zibya chattily.. "or so say the wise writers who are supposed to know everything, . . self-slaughter committed during a state of temporary insanity! Well, well! I myself would have had a different opinion."