“O, God pity thee, my Beltane, for thou dost love me yet, even as I love thee—thou lonely man-child! God pity thee, and me also!” and, crying thus, forlorn and desolate, the Duchess Helen rode upon her solitary way.
Then turned Beltane and stumbled on he knew not whither, and betimes he laughed loud and high and betimes he was shaken by great and fierce sobs, yet found he never a tear. Thus, limping painfully, and stumbling anon as one smitten blind, he wandered awhile, and so at length found himself beside the little cave; and throwing himself down within its shadows, tore away the bandages her gentle hands had wrought.
And lying there, it seemed that Fidelis yet lay beneath his arm, the Fidelis who was no Fidelis; and in the shadows he laughed amain—wild laughter that died of a sudden, choked by awful sobs, what time he clenched his hands upon his throbbing ears; yet still, above the sounds of his own anguish, needs must he hear again that forlorn and desolate cry:
“O, God pity thee, Beltane!”
And now followed long hours when demons vile racked him with anguish and mocked him with bitter gibes; a haunted darkness where was fear and doubt and terror of things unknown: yet, in the blackness, a light that grew to a glory wherein no evil thing might be, and in this glory SHE did stand, tall and fair and virginal. And from the depths of blackness, he cried to her in agony of remorse, and from the light she looked down on him with eyes brimful of yearning love and tenderness, for that a gulf divided them. But, across this hateful void she called to him—“O, God pity thee, my Beltane!”
HOW BLACK ROGER TAUGHT BELTANE GREAT WISDOM
A darkness, full of a great quietude, a grateful stillness, slumberous and restful; yet, little by little, upon this all-pervading silence, a sound crept, soft, but distressful to one who fain would sleep; a sound that grew, a sharp noise and querulous. And now, in the blackness, a glimmer, a furtive gleam, a faint glow that grew brighter and yet more bright, hurtful to eyes long used to deeps of gloom; but, with the noise, ever this light grew—from gleam to glow and from glow to dazzling glare; and so, at last, Beltane opened unwilling eyes—eyes that blinked and smarted as they beheld a leaping flame where a fire of twigs crackled merrily against a purple void beyond; beholding all of which, Beltane forthwith shut his eyes again. But those soft deeps wherein he had found so sweet oblivion, that great and blessed quietude were altogether vanished and beyond him to regain; wherefore Beltane felt himself aggrieved and sorrowed within himself, and so, presently oped his reluctant eyes and fell to watching the play of wanton spark and flame. None the less he knew himself yet aggrieved, also he felt a sudden loneliness, wherefore (as was become his custom of late) he called on one ever heedful and swift to answer his call.