“It is here—it is in her soul and mine!” the youth declared, his arm about Arria. “It has prepared us for any trial—even parting.”
“I have so much happiness already,” said the girl. “So much—it will keep me through many years.”
“Then it is the great love, and I thank the gods I have seen it,” said the Lady Claudia. “Who may say where it shall end?” She came near them as she spoke and offered her cheek to the boy. He kissed her, and she went away with tears upon her face.
“Now you are brave and strong with this great love in you,” said Vergilius. “Let it bear you up as I leave the palace. Promise you will not cry out. If you do, my beloved, I shall hear always the sound of mourning when I think of you.”
“Then I shall not weep,” said she, bravely, but with a little quiver in her voice.
She knew the old story of a young man’s love—how often he went away with sweet words, to return, if ever, hardened to stern trials and bloody work, his vows long forgotten.
“For your sake, dear Vergilius, I will be calm,” she added.
“Now sit here,” said he, as he led her to the heap of cushions, “just as I saw you a little time ago. Rest your chin upon your hands. There; now your soul is in your eyes. Let me see only this picture as I go.”
He took a handful of her curls and let them fall upon her shoulders. Then he crowned her with a sprig of vervain from a vase near by.
“I will not weep—I will not weep,” she repeated, her voice trembling as he touched her hair.
He moved backward slowly, as one might leave a queen. Her eyes followed him, and suddenly she rose and flew to his arms again.
“I will not weep—I will not weep,” said she, brokenly. Again he held her to his breast.
“Though you get fame and glory, forget not love,” she whispered.
“Dear one,” he exclaimed, kissing her, “this hour shall be in every day of my life.”
“But with adventures and battles and the praise of kings it is so easy to forget.”
“But with one so noble and so beautiful at home it will be easy to remember. Let us be brave. I am only a woman myself to-day. Help me to be a man.”
He led her again to the cushions, and she sat as before—a picture, now, beyond all art, sublime indeed with love and sorrow and trustfulness and repression. It was that look of abnegation upon her that he remembered.
“I shall not rise nor speak again, dear son of Varro,” said she. “You shall know that my love for you has made me strong. See, dear love. Look at my face and see how brave I am.” Her voice, now calm, had in it some power that touched him deeply. It was the great, new love between men and women—–forerunner of the mighty revolution.
He stood silent, looking down at her. The song of a nightingale rang in the great halls. He turned and brought a lyre that lay on a table near them. She took it in her hands. Then it seemed as if her sorrow fell upon the strings, and in their music was the voice of her soul.