They do not answer....
I heard the water stirred!... This way, this way!
[They run to the rock that overlooks the underground.]
ONE OF THE SISTERS.
They are there!...
Yes, yes; at the very bottom of the black water.... They embrace.
They are dead.
No, no; they are alive! they are alive!... See....
THE OTHER SISTERS.
Help! help!... Call!...
They make no effort to save themselves!...
[A corridor, so long that its furthest arches seem to lose themselves in a kind of indoor horizon. The sisters of Palomides wait before one of the innumerable closed doors that open into this corridor. They seem to be guarding it. A little further down, on the opposite side, Astolaine and the Physician converse before another door, also closed.]
[To the Physician.] Nothing has ever happened
until now in this palace, where all things have seemed
to be asleep since my sisters died; and my poor old
father, pursued by a strange restlessness, has fretted
without reason at this calm, which seems, for all that,
the least dangerous form of happiness. Some time
ago,—his reason beginning to totter even
then,—he went up to the top of a high tower;
and as he stretched his arms out timidly toward the
forests and toward the sea, he said to me—smiling
a little fearfully at his words, as if to disarm my
incredulous smile—that he called about us
events which had long been hidden beneath the horizon.
They have come, alas! sooner and more in number than
he expected, and a few days have sufficed for them
to reign in his stead. He has been their first
victim. He fled to the meadows, singing, all
in tears, the evening when he had little Alladine
and luckless Palomides taken down into the crypts.
He has not since been seen. I have had search
made everywhere throughout the country and even on
the sea. He has not been found. At least,
I had hoped to save those he made suffer unwittingly,
for he has always been the tenderest of men and the
best of fathers; but there, too, I think I came too
late. I do not know what happened. They have
not spoken yet. They doubtless must have thought,
hearing the sound of the iron and seeing all at once
the light again, that my father had regretted the
kind of surcease he had granted them, and that some
one came to bring them death. Or else they slipped
as they drew back, upon the rock that overhangs the
lake; and so must have fallen through heedlessness.
But the water is not deep in that spot, and we succeeded
in saving them without difficulty. To-day it is
you alone who can do the rest.
[THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES have drawn nearer.