SCENE I.—A room in the palace. ABLAMORE discovered. ASTOLAINE stands on the step of a half-open door at the back of the hall.
Father, I have come because a voice that I no longer can resist, commands me to. I told you all that happened in my soul when I met Palomides. He was not like other men.... To-day I come to ask your help ... for I do not know what should be said to him.... I have become aware I cannot love him.... He has remained the same, and I alone have changed, or have not understood.... And since it is impossible for me to love, as I have dreamed of love, him I had chosen among all, it must be that my heart is shut to these things.... I know it to-day.... I shall look no more toward love; and you will see me living on about you without sadness and without unrest.... I feel that I am going to be happy....
Come hither, Astolaine. It is not so that you were wont to speak in the old days to your father. You wait there, on the threshold of a door hardly ajar, as if you were ready to flee; and with your hand upon the key, as if you would close from me forever the secret of your heart. You know quite well I have not understood what you have just said, and that words have no sense when souls are not within reach of each other. Draw nearer still, and speak no more to me, [ASTOLAINE approaches slowly.] There is a moment when souls touch each other, and know all without need that one should move the lips. Draw nearer.... They do not reach each other yet, and their radiance is so slight about us!... [ASTOLAINE stops.] Thou darest not?—Thou knowest too how far one can go?—It is I who must.... [He approaches Astolaine with slow step, then stops and looks long at her.] I see thee, Astolaine....
Father!... [She sobs as she kisses the old man.]
You see well it was useless....
SCENE II.—A chamber in the palace.
Enter ALLADINE and PALOMIDES.
All will be ready to-morrow. We cannot wait longer. He prowls like a madman through the corridors of the palace; I met him even now. He looked at me without a word. I passed; and as I turned, I saw him slyly laugh, shaking his keys. When he perceived that I was looking at him, he smiled at me, making signs of friendship. He must have some secret project, and we are in the hands of a master whose reason begins to totter.... To-morrow we shall be far away.... Yonder there are wonderful countries that resemble thine.... Astolaine has already provided for our flight and for my sisters’....
What has she said?
Nothing, nothing.... You will see everything about my father’s castle,—after days of sea and days of forests—you will see lakes and mountains ... not like these, under a sky that looks like the vault of a cave, with black trees that the storms destroy ... but a sky beneath which there is nothing more to fear,—forests that are always awake, flowers that do not close....