It was the evening of the same day, and the fair Elgiva sat alone in her apartment, into which the westering sun was casting his last beams of liquid light; tears had stained her cheeks and reddened her eyes, but she looked beautiful as ever, like the poet’s or painter’s conception of the goddess of love. Around her were numerous evidences of a woman’s delicate tastes, of tastes too in advance of her day. The harp, which Edwy had given her the day of their inauspicious union, stood in one corner of the apartment; richly ornamented manuscripts lay scattered about—not, as usual, legends of the saints, and breviaries, but the writings of the heathen poets, especially those who sang most of love: for she was learned in such lore.
At last the well-known step was heard approaching, and her heart beat violently. Edwy entered, his face bearing the traces of his mental struggle; he threw himself down upon a couch, and did not speak for some few moments. She arose and stood beside him.
“Edwy, my lord, you are ill at ease.”
“I am indeed, Elgiva; oh! if you knew what I have had to endure this day!”
“I know it all, my Edwy; you cannot sacrifice your Elgiva, but she can sacrifice herself.”
“Elgiva! what do you mean?”
“You have to choose between your country and your wife; she has made the choice for you.”
Here she strove violently to repress her emotion.
“Elgiva! you shall never go—never, never—it will break my heart.”
“It will break mine; but better hearts should break than that civil war should desolate our country, or that you should be dethroned.”
“No more of this, Elgiva; you shall not go, I swear it! come weal or woe. Are we not man and wife? Have we not ever been faithful to each other?”
“But this dreadful Church, my Edwy, which crushes men’s affections and rules their intellects with a giant’s strength more fearful than the fabled hammer of Thor. It crushed the sweet mythology of old, with all that ministered to love, and substituted the shaveling, the nun, the monk; it has no sympathy with poor hearts like ours; it is remorseless, as though it never knew pity or fear. You must yield, my Edwy! we must yield!”
“I cannot,” he said; “we will fly the throne together.”
“But where would you go? this Church is everywhere; who would receive an excommunicate man?”
“I cannot help it, Elgiva; say no more, it maddens me. Talk of our early days, before this dark shadow fell upon us.”
She took up her harp, as if, like David, she could thereby soothe the perturbed spirit; but its sweet sounds woke no answer in his breast, and so the night came upon them—night upon the earth, night upon their souls.
Early in the morning she rose, strong in a woman’s affection, while Edwy yet slept, and hastily arrayed herself; she looked around at her poor household gods, at the harp, at the many tokens of his love.