CHAPTER 7.XVII. The Seventeenth and Last.
Cosi vince Goffredo!
“Ger. Lib.” cant. xx.-xliv.
(Thus conquered Godfrey.)
And Viola was in prayer. She heard not the opening of the door; she saw not the dark shadow that fell along the floor. His power, his arts were gone; but the mystery and the spell known to her simple heart did not desert her in the hours of trial and despair. When Science falls as a firework from the sky it would invade; when Genius withers as a flower in the breath of the icy charnel,—the hope of a child-like soul wraps the air in light, and the innocence of unquestioning Belief covers the grave with blossoms.
In the farthest corner of the cell she knelt; and the infant, as if to imitate what it could not comprehend, bent its little limbs, and bowed its smiling face, and knelt with her also, by her side.
He stood and gazed upon them as the light of the lamp fell calmly on their forms. It fell over those clouds of golden hair, dishevelled, parted, thrown back from the rapt, candid brow; the dark eyes raised on high, where, through the human tears, a light as from above was mirrored; the hands clasped, the lips apart, the form all animate and holy with the sad serenity of innocence and the touching humility of woman. And he heard her voice, though it scarcely left her lips: the low voice that the heart speaks,—loud enough for God to hear!
“And if never more to see him, O Father! Canst Thou not make the love that will not die, minister, even beyond the grave, to his earthly fate? Canst Thou not yet permit it, as a living spirit, to hover over him,—a spirit fairer than all his science can conjure? Oh, whatever lot be ordained to either, grant—even though a thousand ages may roll between us—grant, when at last purified and regenerate, and fitted for the transport of such reunion—grant that we may meet once more! And for his child,—it kneels to Thee from the dungeon floor! To-morrow, and whose breast shall cradle it; whose hand shall feed; whose lips shall pray for its weal below and its soul hereafter!” She paused,—her voice choked with sobs.
“Thou Viola!—thou, thyself. He whom thou hast deserted is here to preserve the mother to the child!”
She started!—those accents, tremulous as her own! She started to her feet!—he was there,—in all the pride of his unwaning youth and superhuman beauty; there, in the house of dread, and in the hour of travail; there, image and personation of the love that can pierce the Valley of the Shadow, and can glide, the unscathed wanderer from the heaven, through the roaring abyss of hell!
With a cry never, perhaps, heard before in that gloomy vault,—a cry of delight and rapture, she sprang forward, and fell at his feet.
He bent down to raise her; but she slid from his arms. He called her by the familiar epithets of the old endearment, and she only answered him by sobs. Wildly, passionately, she kissed his hands, the hem of his garment, but voice was gone.