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the solution of that problem; therefore, the true beginning of the study of history must be with the beginning of sin, not only in this world, but the beginning of sin where sin began. “God in the very wisdom of God, has been present, not only through all the experience of the world, but before ever the world itself was; and there still will He be, after the world as it is, and all human experience, shall have ended forever. “And it is only by the wisdom and the inspiration and the revelation of God, that the knowledge of sin and its origin can be known...” “Come,” said Zamula, “it is the hour of the banquet, come, and we shall soon be where men live in the present, in the seductive loveliness, in the fatal enchantments of Istar's pleasance, men become reckless of the future.” “Is it well to go into temptation?” inquired Abram. “No, but the summons of the High Priestess of the Sun to one of her midnight banquets is a mandate that none dare disregard.” “Then may God deliver us from the subtilty of her charms forever,” said Abram.
In a short time they were passing through the broad avenues, and now almost deserted thoroughfares of Akkad to the palace of Istar.
Abram occupied a place in Zamula's chariot; there was no seat, and both he and Zamula stood erect; the latter using all the force of his slender brown hands to control the spirited prancing of the pair of milk white steeds; Abram with his hand on the shoulder of his companion. Onward they sped under the star lit sky; seemingly with the swiftness of the wind. At last they stopped; before them rose a brilliantly lighted, many pinnacled palace—a great gate stood open, L two servitors possessed themselves of the two prancing steeds, and led them with the chariot into an inner court yard, and the two friends entered a broad, winding avenue through a woodland maze bordered with flowers. On they went for several paces, till at a short bend, directly in front of them glimmered a broad piece of water; and out of the depths, rose the white statue of an unveiled, perfectly formed woman,— a witching marble nymph illumined by electric glamours whose rounded and outstretched arms seemed to beckon them, —whose mouth smiled in mingled malice and sweetness, and round whose looped up tresses sparkled a diadem of sapphire stones.
Strains of music greeted their ears, music played on stringed instruments, it was accompanied by a ringing clash of cymbals. On they went into a rose marbled terrace, surrounded by orange trees; across it they passed,—and soon they were in a grand vestibule built of sparkling red granite,_adorned with wonderful statuary. Suddenly a woman appeared, clad in a gown of shimmering gold, her face was hid by a white veil, only her eyes were seen. It was Istar advancing with gliding, graceful movements to greet them. “Thou art late, Zamula,” she said, with an under current of laughter in her musical tones. “And this,” turning her veiled features toward Abram, who caught a luminous flash of those half hidden brilliant eyes, “This is the unwitting stranger who honored me with so daring a scrutiny this morning, verily thou hast a singularly venturesome spirit of thine own, fair sir, still we must honor courage even though it border on rashness, and I rejoice to see that the wrathful mob of Akkad hath left thee man enough to deserve my welcome. Nevertheless, thou wert guilty of most heinous presumption.” Here she extended her jeweled hand, “Art thou repentant and wilt thou sue for pardon P” Abram approached her and took that fair, soft hand in his own and kissed it. With a touch of lofty merriment he said: “Nay, I seek not forgiveness, rather will I glory in my crime.” “Thou art bold,” she said, in accents of indolent amusement, but in that there is something of the hero.
“Knowest thou not that I am Istar, High Priestess of the Sun? I could have thee slain for that unwise speech,unwise because over hasty and somewhat over familiar: “Yes, I could have thee slain,” and she laughed a rippling little laugh, and said, “Howbeit thou shalt not die this time for thy fool rashness, thy looks are too much in thy favor.” With a careless movement she loosed her veil, and it fell like a soft cloud. She now moved toward the further end of the vestibule, and bade them follow; onward she glided toward what appeared to be a cliff of molten gems sparkling as every point with light and dark violet. Arriving at the foot of this structure, Istar pressed a protruding knob of crystal, and lo-the whole massive structure yawned suddenly open, suspending itself as it were in sparkling festoons of stalactites over the voluptuously magnificent scene disclosed. It was a vast circular hall roofed in by a lofty dome of malachite, from the center of which was suspended a large revolving globe flinging crimson rays on the amber colored carpet below. This dome was supported by tapering crystal-like emerald columns. On one side there were oval shaped casements set wide open to the night, through which the gleam of a lake laden with water lilies could be seen shimmering in the light of the moon. The middle of the hall was occupied with a round table covered with draperies of gold, white and green and heaped with all the accessories of a sumptuous banquet; here were fruit and flowers in profusion; jeweled cups and massive golden dishes carried aloft by slaves, clad in white and scarlet,_ the red glow of poured out wine. And lounging on divans covered with embroidered satin were a company of brilliant looking personages, aristocrats, all young men, eating and drinking, gossiping with occasional bursts of laughter or snatches of songs. Suddenly their noisy voices ceased, and all with one accord turned their heads toward Istar, who now descended the three steps from the platform into the hall, her two visitors following; the rocky screen closing behind them. One young man, merry with wine, cried, “All Hail, Istar, goddess of the morn: we have been lost in the blackness of night; but now the clouds have vanished in the east and our hearts rejoice at the birth of day; Istar invests the heaven and the earth, and in her smile we live.” Istar paid no heed to this tipsy salutation; she stood among her assembled guests who at once surrounded her with eager salutations and gracefully worded flatteries; smiling on them a strange scornful smile, yet bewitchingly sweet, she said little in answer to their greetings, she moved as a queen moves through a crowd of courtiers, her dark head wreathed with jeweled serpents, lifted itself proudly erect. There was a frosty gleam of mockery in her eyes that made them look so lustrous, yet so cold. At the further end of the table was a dais, richly draped in carnation silk, a throne cushioned in black velvet was placed, and above it was a bent arch of pearl, on which was coiled a serpent composed of emeralds. With slow, majestic ease Istar mounted the dais; at the sound of a bell two female servitors appeared and prostrated themselves at her feet and then arose and easily removed her mantle of gold. She was clad in a silvery white gossamer gown clinging and somewhat transparent; her waist was girdled