“And she is in safety, Gilbert?” inquired the Princess Joan, the evening of the day following the execution, lifting her eyes, swimming in tears, to her husband’s face. They were sitting alone in their private apartments, secured from all intruders by a page stationed in the ante-room; and the earl had been relating some important particulars of the preceding day.
“I trust in heaven she is, and some miles ere now on her road to Scotland,” was his answer. “I fear for nothing save for the beautiful mind that fragile shell contains; alas! my Joan, I fear me that has gone forever!”
“Better, oh better, then, that fainting-fit had indeed been death,” she said, “that the thread of life had snapped than twisted thus in madness. Yet thou sayest her purpose seemed firm, her intellect clear, in her intense desire to reach Scotland. Would this be, thinkest thou, were they disordered?”
“I think yes; for hadst thou seen, as I, the expression of countenance, the unearthly calmness with which this desire was enforced, the constant, though unconscious, repetition of words as these, ’to the king, to the king, my path lies there, he bade me seek him; perchance he will be there to meet me,’ thou too wouldst feel that, when that goal is gained, her husband’s message given, sense must fail or life itself depart. But once for a few brief minutes I saw that calmness partly fail, and I indulged in one faint hope she would be relieved by tears. She saw old Dermid gaze on her and weep; she clung to his neck, her features worked convulsively, and her voice was choked and broken, as she said, We must not tarry, Dermid, we must not wait to weep and moan;