“Pardon me! But in these walls lies my world. I can hardly credit all the tales you tell me. Everything here, save that,” and she pointed to the infant, “seems already so lifeless, that in the tomb itself one could scarcely less heed the crimes that are done without.”
Glyndon paused for a few moments, and gazed with strange and mingled feelings upon that face and form, still so young, and yet so invested with that saddest of all repose,—when the heart feels old.
“O Viola,” said he, at last, and in a voice of suppressed passion, “was it thus I ever thought to see you,—ever thought to feel for you, when we two first met in the gay haunts of Naples? Ah, why then did you refuse my love; or why was mine not worthy of you? Nay, shrink not!—let me touch your hand. No passion so sweet as that youthful love can return to me again. I feel for you but as a brother for some younger and lonely sister. With you, in your presence, sad though it be, I seem to breathe back the purer air of my early life. Here alone, except in scenes of turbulence and tempest, the Phantom ceases to pursue me. I forget even the Death that stalks behind, and haunts me as my shadow. But better days may be in store for us yet. Viola, I at last begin dimly to perceive how to baffle and subdue the Phantom that has cursed my life,—it is to brave, and defy it. In sin and in riot, as I have told thee, it haunts me not. But I comprehend now what Mejnour said in his dark apothegms, ‘that I should dread the spectre most when unseen.’ In virtuous and calm resolution it appears,—ay, I behold it now; there, there, with its livid eyes!”—and the drops fell from his brow. “But it shall no longer daunt me from that resolution. I face it, and it gradually darkens back into the shade.” He paused, and his eyes dwelt with a terrible exultation upon the sunlit space; then, with a heavy and deep-drawn breath, he resumed, “Viola, I have found the means of escape. We will leave this city. In some other land we will endeavour to comfort each other, and forget the past.”
“No,” said Viola, calmly; “I have no further wish to stir, till I am born hence to the last resting-place. I dreamed of him last night, Clarence!—dreamed of him for the first time since we parted; and, do not mock me, methought that he forgave the deserter, and called me ‘Wife.’ That dream hallows the room. Perhaps it will visit me again before I die.”
“Talk not of him,—of the demi-fiend!” cried Glyndon, fiercely, and stamping his foot. “Thank the Heavens for any fate that hath rescued thee from him!”
“Hush!” said Viola, gravely. And as she was about to proceed, her eye fell upon the child. It was standing in the very centre of that slanting column of light which the sun poured into the chamber; and the rays seemed to surround it as a halo, and settled, crown-like, on the gold of its shining hair. In its small shape, so exquisitely modelled, in its large, steady, tranquil eyes, there was something that awed, while it charmed the mother’s pride. It gazed on Glyndon as he spoke, with a look which almost might have seemed disdain, and which Viola, at least, interpreted as a defence of the Absent, stronger than her own lips could frame.