“Thou speakest plainly,” she said, “and thy words are sweet to mine ears—they would be sweet, even were things otherwise than they are, for what woman would not love to see the world’s master at her feet? But things being as they are, why, Antony, what can be so sweet as thy sweet words? The harbour of his rest to the storm-tossed mariner—surely that is sweet! The dream of Heaven’s bliss which cheers the poor ascetic priest on his path of sacrifice—surely that is sweet! The sight of Dawn, the rosy-fingered, coming in his promise to glad the watching Earth—surely that is sweet! But, ah! not one of these, nor all dear delightful things that are, can match the honey-sweetness of thy words to me, O Antony! For thou knowest not—never canst thou know—how drear my life hath been, and empty, since thus it is ordained that in love only can woman lose her solitude! And I have never loved—never might I love—till this happy night! Ay, take me in thy arms, and let us swear a great vow of love—an oath that may not be broken while life is in us! Behold! Antony! now and for ever I do vow most strict fidelity unto thee! Now and for ever I am thine, and thine alone!”
Then Charmion took me by the hand and drew me thence.
“Hast seen enough?” she asked, when we were once more within the chamber and the lamp was lit.
“Yea,” I answered; “my eyes are opened.”
OF THE PLAN OF CHARMION; OF THE CONFESSION OF CHARMION; AND OF THE ANSWER OF HARMACHIS
For some while I sat with bowed head, and the last bitterness of shame sank into my soul. This, then, was the end. For this I had betrayed my oaths; for this I had told the secret of the pyramid; for this I had lost my Crown, my Honour, and, perchance, my hope of Heaven! Could there be another man in the wide world so steeped in sorrow as I was that night? Surely not one! Where should I turn? What could I do? And even through the tempest of my torn heart the bitter voice of jealousy called aloud. For I loved this woman, to whom I had given all; and she at this moment—she was——Ah! I could not bear to think of it; and in my utter agony, my heart burst in a river of tears such as are terrible to weep!
Then Charmion drew near me, and I saw that she, too, was weeping.
“Weep not, Harmachis!” she sobbed, kneeling at my side. “I cannot endure to see thee weep. Oh! why wouldst thou not be warned? Then hadst thou been great and happy, and not as now. Listen, Harmachis! Thou didst hear what that false and tigerish woman said—to-morrow she hands thee over to the murderers!”
“It is well,” I gasped.
“Nay: it is not well. Harmachis, give her not this last triumph over thee. Thou hast lost all save life: but while life remains, hope remains also, and with hope the chance of vengeance.”
“Ah!” I said, starting from my seat. “I had not thought of that. Ay—the chance of vengeance! It would be sweet to be avenged!”