“Beltane,” said she, “thou didst, upon a time, tell poor Fidelis wherefore thy shameful fetters yet bound thy wrists—so now will thy wife loose them from thee.”
Then, while Beltane, speaking not, watched her downbent head and busy hands, she filed off his fetters one by one, and kissing them, set them aside.
But when she would have risen he prevented her, and with reverent fingers touched the coiled and braided glory of her hair.
“O Helen,” he whispered, “loose me down thy hair.”
“Nay, dear Beltane—”
“My hands are so big and clumsy—”
“Thy hands are my hands!” and she caught and kissed them.
“Let down for me thy hair, beloved, I pray thee!”
“Forsooth my lord and so I will—but—not yet.”
“But the—the hour groweth late, Helen!”
“Nay—indeed—’tis early yet, my lord—nay, as thou wilt, my Beltane, only suffer that I—I leave thee a while, I pray.”
“Must I bide here alone, sweet wife?”
“But indeed I will—call thee anon, my lord.”
“Nay, first—look at me, my Helen!”
Slowly, slowly she lifted her head and looked on him all sweet and languorous-eyed.
“Aye, truly—truly thine eyes are not—a nun’s eyes, Helen. So will I wait thy bidding.” So he loosed her and she, looking on him no more, turned and hasted into the further chamber.
And after some while she called to him very soft and sweet, and he, trembling, arose and entered the chamber, dim-lighted and fragrant.
But now, beholding wherefore she had left him, his breath caught and he stood as one entranced, nor moved, nor spake he a while.
“O Helen!” he murmured at last, “thou art glorious so—and with thy long hair—”
But now, even as he came to her, the Duchess Helen put out the little silver lamp. But in the moonlit dusk she gave her lips to his, and her tender arms were close about him.
“Beltane,” she whispered ’neath his kiss, “dear my lord and husband, here is an end at last of sorrow and heart-break, I pray.”
“Here—my Helen, beginneth—the fulness of life, methinks!”
Now presently upon the stillness, from the court below, stole the notes of a lute and therewith a rich voice upraised in singing:
“O when is the time a maid to kiss?
Tell me this, now tell me this.
’Tis when the day is scarce begun,
’Tis from the setting of the sun.
Is time for kissing ever done,
Tell me this, now tell me this.”