I think we must have been standing there on the threshold, we three, for close upon a minute before my father turned his eyes towards me— so far beyond this life was he travelling, and so far had the sound of our entrance to follow and overtake his dying senses.
“Prosper! . . .”
He lifted a hand weakly toward the bandages wrapping his breast. “These—these are of her spinning, lad. This is her bed they have laid me on. . . . Who is it stands there behind your shoulder?”
“It is the Princess, father. You remember the Princess Camilla? Yes, madam”—I turned to the Queen—“it is your daughter I bring— your daughter, and, with your blessing, my wife.”
The Queen, though her daughter knelt, did not offer to embrace her, but lifted two feeble hands over the bowed head as though to bless, while over her hands her gaze still rested on my father.
“We have had brave work, lad,” he panted. “I am sorry you come late for it—but you were bound on your own business, eh?” He turned with a ghost of his old smile. “Nay, child, and you did right; I am not blaming you—The young to the young, and let the dead bury the dead! Kiss me, lad, if you can find room between these plaguey bandages. Your pardon, Dom Basilio: you have done your best, and, if I seem ungrateful, let me make amends and thank you for giving me this last, best hour. . . . Indeed, Dom Basilio, I am a dead man, but your bandages are tying my soul here for a while, where it would stay. Gervase”—he reached out a hand to my uncle, who was past hiding his tears—“Gervase—brother—there needs no talk, no thanks, between you and me. . . .”
I drew back and, touching Dom Basilio by the shoulder, led him to the window. “He has no single wound that in itself would be fatal,” the Trappist whispered; “but a twenty that together have bled him to death. He hacked his way up this stair through half a score of Genoese; at the door here, there was none left to hinder him, and we, having found and followed with the keys, climbed over bodies to find him stretched before it.”
“Emilia!” It was my father’s voice lifted in triumph; and the Queen rose at the sound of it, trembling, and stood by the bed. “Emilia! Ah, love—ah, Queen, bend lower!—the love we loved—there, over the Taravo—it was not lost. . . . It meets in our children—and we—and we—”
The Queen bent.
“O great one—and we in Heaven!” I raised the Princess and led her to the window fronting the dawn. We looked not toward the pillow where their lips met; but into the dawn, and from the dawn into each other’s eyes.
MY MISTRESS RE-ENLISTS ME.
“If all the world were this enchanted isle,
I might forget that every man was vile,
And look on thee, and even love, awhile.”
The Voyage of Sir Scudamor.