“Jacques!” she exclaimed, without yet remarking the lion-tamer, and throwing herself on the neck of her lover. “Jacques! it is I—Cephyse!”
That well-known voice, that heart-piercing cry, which came from the bottom of the soul, seemed not unheard by Sleepinbuff. He turned his head mechanically towards the Bacchanal Queen, without opening his eyes, and heaved a deep sigh; his stiffened limbs relaxed, a slight trembling succeeded to the convulsions, and in a few seconds his heavy eyelids were raised with an effort, so as to uncover his dull and wandering gaze. Mute with astonishment, the spectators of this scene felt an uneasy curiosity. Cephyse, kneeling beside her lover, bathed his hands in her tears, covered them with kisses, and exclaimed, in a voice broken by sobs, “It is I—Cephyse—I have found you again—it was not my fault that I abandoned you! Forgive me, forgive—”
“Wretched woman!” cried Morok, irritated at this meeting, which might, perhaps, be fatal to his projects; “do you wish to kill him? In his present state, this agitation is death. Begone!” So saying, he seized Cephyse suddenly by the arm, just as Jacques, waking, as it were, from a painful dream, began to distinguish what was passing around him.
“You! It is you!” cried the Bacchanal Queen, in amazement, as she recognized Morok, “who separated me from Jacques!”
She paused; for the dim eye of the victim, as it rested upon her, grew suddenly bright.
“Cephyse!” murmured Jacques; “is it you?”
“Yes, it is I,” answered she, in a voice of deep emotion; “who have come—I will tell you—”
She was unable to continue, and, as she clasped her hands together, her pale, agitated, tearful countenance expressed her astonishment and despair at the mortal change which had taken place in the features of Jacques. He understood the cause of her surprise, and as he contemplated, in his turn, the suffering and emaciated countenance of Cephyse. he said to her, “Poor girl! you also have had to bear much grief, much misery—I should hardly have known you.”
“Yes,” replied Cephyse, “much grief—much misery—and worse than misery,” she added, trembling, whilst a deep blush overspread her pale features.
“Worse than misery?” said Jacques, astonished.
“But it is you who have suffered,” hastily resumed Cephyse, without answering her lover.
“Just now, I was going to make an end of it—your voice has recalled me for an instant—but I feel something here,” and he laid his hand upon his breast, “which never gives quarter. It is all the same now—I have seen you—I shall die happy.”
“You shall not die, Jacques; I am here—”
“Listen to one, my girl. If I had a bushel of live coal in my stomach, it could hardly burn me more. For more than a month, I have been consuming my body by a slow fire. This gentleman,” he added, glancing at Morok, “this dear friend, always undertook to feed the flame. I do not regret life; I have lost the habit of work, and taken to drink and riot; I should have finished by becoming a thorough blackguard: I preferred that my friend here should amuse himself with lighting a furnace in my inside. Since what I drank just now, I am certain that it fumes like yonder punch.”