They were in the Isle of Wight; comfortably housed, with the sea before their eyes, and the boon of sunshine which Casti had so longed for.
Waymark gave himself wholly to the invalid. He had no impulse to resume literary work; anything was welcome which enabled him to fill up the day and reach the morrow. Whilst Julian lay on the couch, which was drawn up to the fireside, Waymark read aloud anything that could lead them to forget themselves. At other times, Julian either read to himself or wrote verse, which, however, he did not show to his friend. Before springtime came he found it difficult even to maintain a sitting attitude for long. His cough still racked him terribly. Waymark often lay awake in the night, listening to that fearful sound in the next room. At such times he tried to fancy himself in the dying man’s position, and then the sweat of horror came upon his brow. Deeply he sympathised with the misery he could do so little to allay. Yet he was doing what he might to make the end a quiet one, and the consciousness of this brought him many a calm moment.
However it might be in those fearful vigils, Julian’s days did not seem unhappy. He was resigning himself to the inevitable, in the strength of that quiet which sometimes ensues upon despair. Now and then he could even be, to all appearances, light-hearted.
With the early May he had a revival of inspiration. Strangely losing sight of his desperate condition, he spoke once more of beginning the great poem planned long ago. It was living within his mind and heart, he said. Waymark listened to him whilst he unfolded book after book of glorious vision; listened, and wondered.
There was a splendid sunset one evening at this time, and the two watched it together from the room in which they always sat. Seas of molten gold, strands and promontories of jasper and amethyst, illimitable mountain-ranges, cities of unimagined splendour, all were there in that extent of evening sky. They watched it till the vision wasted before the breath of night.
“What shall I read?” Waymark asked, when the lamp was lit.
“Read that passage in the Georgics which glorifies Italy,” Julian replied. “It will suit my mood to-night.”
Waymark took down his Virgil.
“Sed neque Medorum silvae, ditissima terra,
Nec pulcher Ganges atque auro turbibus Hermus
Laudibus Italiae certent, non Bactra, neque Indi,
Totaque turiferis Panchaia pinguis arenis.”
Julian’s eyes glistened as the melody rolled on, and when it ceased, both were quiet for a time.
“Waymark,” Julian said presently, a gentle tremor in his voice, “why do we never speak of her?”
“Can we speak of her?” Waymark returned, knowing well who was meant.
“A short time ago I could not; now I feel the need. It will give me no pain, but great happiness.’,
“That is all gone by,” he continued, with a solemn smile. “To me she is no longer anything but a remembrance, an ideal I once knew. The noblest and sweetest woman I have known, or shall know, on earth.”