GWYNPLAINE uttered a cry.
“Is that you, wolf!”
Homo wagged his tail. His eyes sparkled in the dark ness. He was looking earnestly at Gwynplaine.
Then he began to lick his hands again. For a moment Gwynplaine was like a drunken man, so great is the shock of Hope’s mighty return.
Homo! What an apparition! During the last forty-eight hours he had exhausted what might be termed every variety of the thunderbolt. But one was left to strike him-the thunderbolt of joy. And it had just fallen upon him. Certainty, or at least the light which leads to it, regained; the sudden intervention of some mysterious clemency possessed, perhaps, by destiny; life saying, “Behold me!” in the darkest recess of the grave; the very moment in which all expectation has ceased bringing back health and deliverance; a place of safety discovered at the most critical instant in the midst of crumbling ruins Homo was all this to Gwynplaine. The wolf appeared to him in a halo of light.
Meanwhile, Homo had turned round. He advanced a few steps, and then looked back to see if Gwynplaine was following him.
Gwynplaine was doing so. Homo wagged his tail, and went on.
The road taken by the wolf was the slope of the quay of the Effroc stone. This slope shelved down to the Thames; and Gwynplaine, guided by Homo, descended it.
Homo turned his head now and then to make sure that Gwynplaine was behind him.
In some situations of supreme importance nothing approaches so near an omniscient intelligence as the simple instinct of a faithful animal. An animal is a lucid somnambulist.
There are cases in which the dog feels that he should follow his master; others, in which he should precede him. Then the animal takes the direction of sense. His imperturbable scent is a confused power of vision in what is twilight to us. He feels a vague obligation to become a guide. Does he know that there is a dangerous pass, and that he can help his master to surmount it? Probably not. Perhaps he does. In any case, some one knows it for him. As we have already said, it often happens in life that some mighty help which we have held to have come from below has, in reality, come from above. Who knows all the mysterious forms assumed by God? What was this animal? Providence.
Having reached the river, the wolf led down the narrow tongue of land which bordered the Thames.
Without noise or bark he pushed forward on his silent way. Homo always followed his instinct, and did his duty; but with the pensive reserve of an outlaw.
Some fifty paces more, and he stopped. A wooden platform appeared on the right. At the bottom of this platform, which was a kind of wharf on piles, a black mass could be made out, which was a tolerably large vessel. On the deck of the vessel, near the prow, was a glimmer, like the last flicker of a night-light. The wolf, having finally assured himself that Gwyn plaine was there, bounded on to the wharf. It was a long platform, floored and tarred, supported by a network of joists, and under which flowed the river. Homo and Gwynplaine shortly reached the brink.
The ship moored to the wharf was a Dutch vessel, of the Japanese build, with two decks, fore and aft, and between them an open hold, reached by an upright ladder, In which the cargo was laden. There was thus a forecastle and an afterdeck, as in our old river boats, and a space between them ballasted by the freight. The paper boats made by children are of a somewhat similar shape. Under the decks were the cabins, the doors of which opened into the hold and were lighted by glazed portholes. In stowing the cargo a passage was left between the packages of which it consisted. These vessels had a mast on each deck. The foremast was called Paul, the mainmast Peter; the ship being sailed by these two masts, as the Church was guided by her two apostles. A gangway was thrown, like a Chinese bridge, from one deck to the other, over the centre of the hold. In bad weather, both flaps of the gangway were lowered, on the right and left, on hinges, thus making a roof over the hold; so that the ship, in heavy seas, was hermetically closed. These sloops, being of very massive construction, had a beam for a tiller, the strength of the rudder being necessarily proportioned to the height of the vessel. Three men, the skipper and two sailors, with a cabin-boy, sufficed to navigate these ponderous sea-going machines. The decks, fore and aft, were, as we have already said, without bulwarks. The great lumbering hull of this particular vessel was painted black, and on it, visible even in the night, stood out, in white letters, the words, “Vograat,” Rotterdam.
About that time many events had occurred at sea, and among others, the defeat of the Baron de Pointi’s eight ships off Cape Carnero, which had driven the whole French fleet into refuge at Gibraltar; so that the Channel was swept of every man-of-war, and merchant vessels were able to sail backward and forward between London and Rotterdam without a convoy.
The vessel on which was to be read the word “Vograat,” and which Gwynplaine was now close to, lay with her maindeck almost level with the wharf. But one step to descend, and Homo in a bound, and Gwynplaine in a stride, were on board.
The deck was clear, and no stir was perceptible. The passengers, if, as was likely, there were any, were already on board, the vessel being ready to sail, and the cargo stowed, as was apparent from the state of the hold, which was full of bales and cases. But they were, doubtless lying asleep in the cabins below, as the passage was to take place during the night. In such cases the passengers do not appear on deck till they awake the following morning. As for the crew, they were probably having their supper in the men’s cabin, while awaiting the hour fixed for sailing, which was now rapidly approaching. Hence the silence on the two decks connected by the gangway.
The wolf had almost run across the wharf; once on board, he slackened his pace into a discreet walk. He still wagged his tail-no longer joyfully, however; but with the sad and feeble wag of a dog troubled in his mind. Still preceding Gwynplaine, he passed along the afterdeck, and across the gangway.
Gwynplaine, having reached the gangway, perceived a light in front of him. It was the same that he had seen from the shore. There was a lantern on the deck, close to the foremast, by the gleam of which was sketched in black, on the dim background of the night, what Gwynplaine recognised to be Ursus’s old four-wheeled van.
This poor wooden tenement, cart and hut combined, in which his childhood had rolled along, was fastened to the bottom of the mast by thick ropes, of which the knots were visible at the wheels. Having been so long out of service, it had become dreadfully rickety; it leaned over feebly on one side; it had become quite paralytic from disuse; and, moreover, it was suffering from that incurable malady-old age. Mouldy and out of shape, it tottered in decay. The materials of which it was built were all rotten. The iron was rusty, the leather torn, the woodwork worm eaten. There were lines of cracks across the window in front, through which shone a ray from the lantern. The wheels were warped. The lining, the floor, and the axletrees seemed worn out with fatigue. Altogether, it presented an indescribable appearance of beggary and prostration. The shafts, stuck up, looked like two arms raised to heaven. The whole thing was in a state of dislocation. Beneath it was hanging Homo’s chain.
Does it not seem that the law and the will of nature would have dictated Gwynplaine’s headlong rush to throw himself upon life, happiness, love regained ? So they would, except in some case of deep terror such as his. But he who comes forth, shattered in nerve and uncertain of his way, from a series of catastrophes, each one like a fresh betrayal, is prudent even in his joy; hesitates, lest he should bear the fatality of which he has been the victim to those whom he loves; feels that some evil contagion may still hang about him, and advances toward happiness with wary steps. The gates of Paradise reopen; but before he enters he examines his ground.
Gwynplaine, staggering under the weight of his emotion, looked around him, while the wolf went and lay down silently by his chain.
THE step of the little van was down-the door ajar-there was no one inside. The faint light which broke through the pane in front sketched the interior of the caravan vaguely in melancholy chiaro-oscuro. The inscriptions of Ursus, glorifying the grandeur of Lords, showed distinctly on the worn-out boards, which were both the wall without and the wainscot within. On a nail, neat the door, Gwynplaine saw his esclavine and his cape hung up, as they hang up the clothes of a corpse in a dead-house. Just then he had neither waistcoat nor coat on.
Behind the van something was laid out on the deck at the foot of the mast, which was lighted by the lantern. It was a mattress, of which he could make out one corner. On this mattress some one was probably lying, for he could see a shadow move.
Some one was speaking. Concealed by the van, Gwynplaine listened. It was Ursus’s voice. That voice, so harsh in its upper, so tender in its lower, pitch; that voice, which had so often upbraided Gwynplaine, and which had taught him so well. had lost the life and clear ness of its tone. It was vague and low, and melted into a sigh at the end of every sentence. It bore but a confused resemblance to his natural and firm voice of old. It was the voice of one in whom happiness is dead. A voice may become a ghost.
He seemed to be engaged in monologue rather than in conversation. We are already aware, however, that soliloquy was a habit with him. It was for that reason that he passed for a madman.
Gwynplaine held his breath, so as not to lose a word of what Ursus said, and this was what he heard:
“This is a very dangerous kind of craft, because there are no bulwarks to it. If we were to slip, there is nothing to prevent our going overboard. If we have bad weather we shall have to take her below, and that will be dreadful. An awkward step, a fright, and we shall have a rupture of the aneurism. I have seen instances of it. O my God! what is to become of us? Is she asleep? Yes. She is asleep. Is she in a swoon? No. Her pulse is pretty strong. She is only asleep. Sleep is a reprieve. It is the happy blindness. What can I do to prevent people walking about here? Gentlemen, if there be anybody on deck, I beg of you to make no noise. Do not come near us, if you do not mind. You know a person in delicate health requires a little attention. She is feverish, you see. She is very young. ’Tis a little creature who is rather feverish. I put this mattress down here so that she may have a little air. I explain all this so that you should be careful. She fell down exhausted on the mattress as if she had fainted. But she is asleep. I do hope that no one will awake her. I address myself to the ladies, if there are any present. A young girl, it is pitiful! We are only poor mountebanks, but I beg a little kindness, and if there is anything to pay for not making a noise, I will pay it. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Is there any one there? No. I don’t think there is. My talk is mere loss of breath. So much the better. Gentlemen, I thank you, if you are there; and I thank you still more if you are not. Her forehead is all in perspiration. Come, let us take our places in the galleys again. Put on the chain. Misery is come back. We are sinking again. A hand, the fearful hand which we can not see, but the weight of which we feel ever upon us, has suddenly struck us back toward the dark point of our destiny. Be it so. We will bear up. Only I will not have her ill. I must seem a fool to talk aloud like this, when I am alone; but she must feel she has some one near her when she awakes. What shall I do if somebody awakes her suddenly! No noise, in the name of Heaven! A sudden shock which would awake her suddenly would be of no use. It will be a pity if anybody comes by. I believe that every one on board is asleep. Thanks be to Providence for that mercy. Well, and Homo? Where is he, I wonder? In all this confusion I forgot to tie him up. I do not know what I am doing. It is more than an hour since I have seen him. I suppose he has been to look for his supper somewhere ashore. I hope nothing has happened to him. Homo! Homo!”
Homo struck his tail softly on the planks of the deck.
“You are there. Oh! you are there! Thank God for that. If Homo had been lost, it would have been too much to bear. She has moved her arm. Perhaps she is going to awake. Quiet, Homo! The tide is turning. We shall sail directly. I think it will be a fine night. There is no wind: the flag droops. We shall have a good passage. I do not know what moon it is, but there is scarcely a stir in the clouds. There will be no swell. It will be a fine night. Her cheek is pale; it is only weakness! No, it is flushed; it is only the fever? Stay! It is rosy. She is well! I can no longer see clearly. My poor Homo, I no longer see distinctly. So we must begin life afresh. We must set to work again. There are only we two left, you see. We will work for her, both of us! She is our child. Ah! the vessel moves! We are off! Good-by, London! Good-evening! good-night! To the devil with horrible London!”
He was right. He heard the dull sound of the unmooring as the vessel fell away from the wharf. Abaft on the poop a man, the skipper, no doubt just come from below, was standing. He had slipped the hawser and was work ing the tiller. Looking only to the rudder, as befitted the combined phlegm of a Dutchman and a sailor, listening to nothing but the wind and the water, bending against the resistance of the tiller, as he worked it to port or starboard, he looked in the gloom of the afterdeck like a phantom bearing a beam upon its shoulder. He was alone there. So long as they were in the river the other sailors were not required. In a few minutes the vessel was in the centre of the current, with which she drifted without rolling or pitching. The Thames, little disturbed by the ebb, was calm. Carried onward by the tide, the vessel made rapid way. Behind her the black scenery of London was fading in the mist.
Ursus went on talking.
“Never mind, I will give her digitalis. I am afraid that delirium will supervene. She perspires in the palms of her hands. What sin can we have committed in the sight of God? How quickly has all this misery come upon us Hideous rapidity of evil I A stone falls. It has claws. It is the hawk swooping on the lark. It is destiny. There you lie, my sweet child! One comes to London One says: What a fine city! What fine buildings! Southwark is a magnificent suburb. One settles there. But now they are horrid places. What would you have me do there? I am. going to leave. This is the 30th of April. I always distrusted the month of April. There are but two lucky days in April, the 5th and the 27th; and four unlucky ones-the 10th, the 20th, the 29th, and the 30th. This has been placed beyond doubt by the calculations of Cardan. I wish this day were over. Departure is a comfort. At dawn we shall be at Gravesend, and to-morrow evening at Rotterdam. Zounds! I will begin life again in the van. We will draw it, won’t we, Homo?”
A light tapping announced the wolf’s consent.
“If one could only get out of a grief as one gets out of a city ! Homo, we must yet be happy. Alas! there must always be the one who is no more. A shadow remains on those who survive. You know whom I mean, Homo. We were four, and now we are but three. Life is but a long loss of those whom we love. They leave behind them a train of sorrows. Destiny amazes us by a prolixity of unbearable suffering; who then can wonder that the old are garrulous? It is despair that makes the dotard, old fellow! Homo, the wind continues favourable. We can no longer see the dome of St. Paul’s. We shall pass Greenwich presently. That will be six good miles over. Oh! I turn my back forever on those odious capitals, full of priests, of magistrates, and of people. I prefer looking at the leaves rustling in the woods. Her forehead is still in perspiration. I don’t like those great violet veins in her arm. There is fever in them. Oh! all this is killing me. Sleep, my child. Yes; she sleeps.”
Here a voice spoke: an ineffable voice, which seemed from afar, and appeared to come at once from the heights and the depths-a voice divinely fearful, the voice of Dea.
All that Gwynplaine had hitherto felt seemed nothing. His angel spoke. It seemed as though he heard words spoken from another world in a heaven-like trance.
The voice said:
“He did well to go. This world was not worthy of him. Only I must go with him. Father! I am not ill; I heard you speak just now. I am very well, quite well. I was asleep. Father, I am going to be happy.”
“My child,” said Ursus, in a voice of anguish; “what do you mean by that?”
The answer was:
“Father, do not be unhappy.”
There was a pause, as if to take breath, and then these few words, pronounced slowly, reached Gwynplaine:
“Gwynplaine is no longer here. It is now that I am blind. I knew not what night was. Night is absence.”
The voice stopped once more, and then continued:
“I always feared that he would fly away. I felt that he belonged to Heaven. He has taken flight suddenly. It was natural that it should end thus. The soul flies away like a bird. But the nest of the soul is in the height, where dwells the Great Loadstone, who draws all toward Him. I know where to find Gwynplaine. I have no doubt about the way. Father, it is yonder. Later on you will rejoin us, and Homo, too.,’
Homo, hearing his name pronounced, wagged his tail softly against the deck.
“Father!” resumed the voice, “you understand that once Gwynplaine is no longer here, all is over. Even if I would remain, I could not, because one must breathe. We must not ask for that which is impossible. I was with Gwynplaine. It was quite natural, I lived. Now Gwynplaine is no more, I die. The two things are alike: either he must come or I must go. Since he can not come back, I am going to him. It is good to die. It is not at all difficult. Father, that which is extinguished here shall be rekindled elsewhere. It is a heartache to live in this world. It can not be that we shall always be unhappy. When we go to what you call the stars, we shall marry, we shall never part again, and we shall love, love, love; and that is what is God.”
“There, there, do not agitate yourself,” said Ursus.
The voice continued:
“Well, for instance; last year. In the spring of last year we were together and we were happy. How different it is now! I forget what little village we were in, but there were trees, and I heard the linnets singing. We came to London; all was changed. This is no reproach, mind. When one comes to a fresh place, how is one to know anything about it? Father, do you remember that one day there was a woman in the great box; you said: ‘It is a duchess.’ I felt sad. I think it might have been better had we kept to the little towns. Gwynplaine has done right, withal. Now my turn has come. Besides, you have told me yourself that when I was very little my mother died, and that I was lying on the ground with the snow falling upon me, and that he, who was also very little then, and alone, like myself, picked me up, and that it was thus that I came to be alive; so you can not wonder that now I should feel it absolutely necessary to go and search the grave to see if Gwynplaine be in it. Because the only thing which exists in life is the heart; and after life, the soul. You take notice of what I say, father, do you not? What is moving? It seems as if we are in something that is moving, yet I do not hear the sound of the wheels.”
After a pause the voice added:
“I can not exactly make out the difference between yesterday and to-day. I do not complain. I do not know what has occurred; but something must have happened.”
These words, uttered with deep and inconsolable sweetness, and with a sigh which Gwynplaine heard, wound up thus:
“I must go, unless he should return.”
Ursus muttered gloomily: “I do not believe in ghosts.”
He went on:
“This is a ship. You ask why the house moves, it is because we are on board a vessel. Be calm; you must not talk so much. Daughter, if you have any love for me, do not agitate yourself, it will make you feverish. I am so old, I could not bear it if you were to have an illness. Spare me! do not be ill!”
Again the voice spoke:
“What is the use of searching the earth when we can only find in heaven?”
Ursus replied, with a half attempt at authority:
“Be calm. There are times when you have no sense at all. I order you to rest. After all, you can not be expected to know what it is to rupture a blood-vessel. I should be easy if you were easy. My child, do something for me as well. If he picked you up, I took you in. You will make me ill. That is wrong. You must calm yourself, and go to sleep. All will come right. I give you my word of honour, all will come right. Besides, it is very fine weather. The night might have been made on purpose. To-morrow we shall be at Rotterdam, which is a city in Holland, at the mouth of the Reuse.”
“Father,” said the voice, “look here; when two beings have always been together from infancy, their state should not be disturbed, or death must come, and it can not be otherwise. I love you all the same, but I feel that I am no longer altogether with you, although I am as yet not altogether with him.”
“Come’ try to sleep,” repeated Ursus.
The voice answered:
“I shall have sleep enough soon.”
Ursus replied, in trembling tones:
“I tell you that we are going to Holland, to Rotterdam, which is a city.”
“Father,” continued the voice, “I am not ill; if you are anxious about that, you may rest easy. I have no fever. I am rather hot; it is nothing more.”
Ursus stammered out:
“At the mouth of the Meuse-”
“I am quite well, father; but look here! I feel that I am going to die!”
“Do nothing so foolish,” said Ursus. And he added, “Above all, God forbid she should have a shock!”
There was a silence. Suddenly Ursus cried out:
“What are you doing? Why are you getting up? Lie down again, I implore of you.”
Gwynplaine shivered, and stretched out his head.
HE saw Dea. She had just raised herself up on the mattress. She had on a long white dress, carefully closed, and showing only the delicate form of her neck. The sleeves covered her arms, the folds, her feet. The branch-like tracery of blue veins, hot and swollen with fever, were visible on her hands. She was shivering and rocking, rather than reeling, to and fro, like a reed. The lantern threw up its glancing light on her beautiful face. Her loosened hair floated over her shoulders. No tears fell on her cheeks. In her eyes there was fire, and darkness. She was pale, with that paleness which is like the transparency of a divine life in an earthly face. Her fragile and exquisite form was, as it were, blended and interfused with the folds of her robe. She wavered like the flicker of a flame, while, at the same time, she was dwindling into shadow. Her eyes, opened wide, were resplendent. She was as one just freed from the sepulchre; a soul standing in the dawn.
Ursus, whose back only was visible to Gwynplaine, raised his arms in terror. “Oh ! my child Oh! heavens! she is delirious. Delirium is what I feared worst of all. She must have no shock, for that might kill her; yet nothing but a shock can prevent her going mad. Dead or mad! what a situation. O God! what can I do? My child, lie down again.”
Meanwhile, Dea spoke. Her voice was almost indistinct, as if a cloud already interposed between her a,nd earth.
“Father, you are wrong. I am not in the least delirious. I hear all you say to me, distinctly. You tell me that there is a great crowd of people, that they are waiting, and that I must play to-night. I am quite willing. You see that I have my reason; but I do not know what to do, since I am dead, and Gwynplaine is dead. I am coming all the same. I am ready to play. Here I am; but Gwynplaine is no longer here.”
“Come, my child,” said Ursus, “do as I bid you. Lie down again.”
“He is no longer here, no longer here. Oh! how dark
“Dark,” muttered Ursus. “This is the first time she has ever uttered that word!”
Gwynplaine, with as little noise as he could help making as he crept, mounted the step of the caravan, entered it, took from the nail the cape and the esclavine, put the esclavine round his neck, and redescended from the van, still concealed by the projection of the cabin, the rigging, and the mast.
Dea continued murmuring. She moved her lips, and by degrees the murmur became a melody. In broken pauses, and with the interrupted cadences of delirium, her voice broke into the mysterious appeal she had so often addressed to Gwynplaine in “Chaos Vanquished.” She sang, and her voice was low and uncertain as the murmur of the bee,
“Noche, quita te de alli,
El alba canta. . . .”*
“Es menester a cielos ir-
A tu negro
“We must go to heaven.
Take off, I entreat thee,
Thy black cloak.”
Gwynplaine, rising by the side of Ursus, who had suddenly become as though petrified, knelt down before her. “Never,” said Dea, “never shall I hear him again.” She began, wandering, to sing again,
A tu negro
“O ven! ama!
“O, come, and love!
Thou art the soul,
I am the heart.”
A light, as of a star, shone over her pale face, and she tottered. Gwynplaine received her in his arms.
“Alive!” cried Ursus.
Dea repeated “Gwynplaine”; and with her head bowed against Gwynplaine’s cheek, she whispered faintly,
“You have come down to me again; I thank you, Gwynplaine.”
And seated on his knee, she lifted up her head. Wrapt in his embrace, she turned her sweet face toward him, and fixed on him those eyes so full of light and shadow, as though she could see him.
“It is you,” she said.
Gwynplaine covered her sobs with kisses. There are words which are at once words, cries, and sobs, in which all ecstasy and all grief are mingled and burst forth together. They have no meaning, and yet tell all.
“Yes! it is! It is I, Gwynplaine, of whom you are the soul. Do you hear me? I, of whom you are the child, the wife, the star, the breath of life. I, to whom you are eternity. It is I. I am here. I hold you in my anns. I am alive. I am yours. Oh! when I think that in a moment all would have been over-one minute more, but for Homo! I will tell you everything. How near is despair to joyl Dea, we live. Dea, forgive me. Yes. Yours forever. You are right. Touch my forehead. Make sure that it is I. If you only knew-but nothing cap separate us now. I rise out of hell, and ascend into heaven. Am I not with you? You said that I descended. Not so; I reascend. Once more with you! Forever! I tell you forever. Together! We are together! Who would have believed it ? We have found each other again. All our troubles are past. Before us now there is nothing but enchantment. We will renew our happy life, and we will shut the door so fast that misfortune shall never enter again. I will tell you all. You will be astonished. The vessel has sailed. No one can prevent that now. We are on our voyage, and at liberty. We are going to Holland. We will marry. I have no fear about gaining a livelihood. What can hinder it? There is nothing to fear. I adore you!”
“Not so quick!” stammered Ursus.
Dea, trembling, and with the rapture of an angelic touch, passed her hand over Gwynplaine’s profile. He overheard her say to herself, “It is thus that gods are made.”
Then she touched his clothes.
“The esclavine,” she said, “the cape. Nothing changed. All as it was before.”
Ursus, stupefied, delighted, smiling, drowned in tears, looked at them, and addressed an aside to himself:
“I don’t understand it in the least. I am a stupid idiot-I, who saw him carried to the grave! I cry, and I laugh. That is all I know. I am as great a fool as if I were in love myself. But that is just what I am. I am in love with them both. Old fool! Too much emotion. Too much emotion. It is what I was afraid of. No, it is that I wished for. Gwynplaine, be careful of her. Yes, let them kiss! it is no affair of mine. I am but a spectator. What I feel is droll. I am the parasite of their happiness, and I am nourished by it.”
While Ursus was talking to himself, Gwynplaine exclaimed-
“Dea, you are too beautiful! I don’t know where my wits were gone these few last days. Truly, there is but you on earth. I see you again, but as yet I can hardly believe it. In this ship! But tell me, how did it all happen? To what a state have they reduced you. But where is the Green Box? They have robbed you. They have driven you away. It is infamous. Oh! I will avenge you. I will avenge you, Dea. They shall answer for it. I am a peer of England.”
Ursus, as if stricken by a planet full in his breast, drew back, and looked at Gwynplaine attentively.
“It is clear that he is not dead; but can he have gone mad?” and he listened to him doubtfully.
“Be easy, Dea; I will carry my complaint to the House of Lords.”
Ursus looked at him again, and struck his forehead with the tip of his forefinger. Then making up his mind-
“It is all one to me,” he said. “It will be all right, all the same. Be as mad as you like, my Gwynplaine. It is one of the rights of man. As for me, I am happy; but how came all this about ?”
The vessel continued to sail smoothly and fast. The night grew darker and darker. The mists, which came inland from the ocean, were invading the zenith, from which no wind blew them away. Only a few large stars were visible, and they disappeared one after another, so that soon there were none at all, and the whole sky was dark, infinite, and soft. The river broadened until the banks on each side were nothing but two thin brown lines mingling with the gloom. Out of all this shadow rose a profound peace. Gwynplaine, half seated, held Dea in his embrace. They spoke, they cried, they babbled, they murmured in a mad dialogue of joy! How are we to paint thee, O joy!
“My whole happiness!”
“Dea, I am drunk. Let me kiss your feet.”
“Is it you, then, for certain!”
“I have so much to say to you now that I do not know where to begin.”
“O, my wife!”
“Gwynplaine, do not tell me that I am beautiful. It is you who are handsome.”
“I have found you again. I hold you to my heart. This is true. You are mine. I do not dream. Is it possible? Yes, it is. I recover possession of life. If you only knew! I have met with all sorts of adventures, Dea!”
“Gwynplaine, I love you!”
And Ursus murmured,-
“Mine is the joy of a grandfather.”
Homo, having come from under the van, was going from one to the other discreetly, exacting no attention, licking them left and right-now Ursus’s thick shoes, now Gwynplaine’s cape, now Dea’s dress, now the mattress. This was his way of giving his blessing.
They had passed Chatham and the mouth of the Medway. They were approaching the sea. The shadowy serenity of the atmosphere was such that the passage down the Thames was being made without trouble: no manoeuvre was needful, nor was any sailor called on deck. At the other end of the vessel the skipper, still alone, was steering. There was only this man aft. At the bow the lantern lighted up the happy group of beings who, from the depths of misery, had suddenly been raised to happiness by a meeting so unhoped-for.
SUDDENLY Dea, disengaging herself from Gwynplaine’s embrace, arose. She pressed both her hands against her heart, as if to still its throbbings.
“What is wrong with me ?” she said. “There is something the matter. Joy is suffocating. No, it is nothing! That is lucky. Your reappearance, O my Gwynplaine, has given me a blow-a blow of happiness. All this heaven of joy which you have put into my heart has intoxicated me. You being absent, I felt myself dying. The true life which was leaving me you have brought back. I felt as if something was being torn away within me. It is the shadows that have been torn away, and I feel life dawn in my brain-a glowing life, a life of fever and delight. This life which you have just given me is wonderful. It is so heavenly that it makes me suffer somewhat. It seems as though my soul is enlarged, and can scarcely be contained in my body. This life of seraphim, this plenitude, flows into my brain, and penetrates it. I feel like a beating of wings within my breast. I feel strangely, but happy. Gwynplaine, you have been my resurrection. ”
She flushed, became pale, then flushed again, and fell.
“Alas!” said Ursus, “you have killed her.”
Gwynplaine stretched his arms toward Dea. Extremity of anguish coming upon extremity of ecstasy, what a shock! He would himself have fallen, had he not had to support her.
“Dea!” he cried, shuddering, “what is the matter?”
“Nothing,” said she, “I love you!”
She lay in his arms, lifeless, like a piece of linen; her hands were hanging down helplessly.
Gwynplaine and Ursus placed Dea on the mattress. She said, feebly:
“I can not breathe lying down.”
They lifted her up.
“Fetch a pillow.”
“What for? I have Gwynplaine!”
She laid her head on Gwynplaine’s shoulder, who was sitting behind, and supporting her, his eyes wild with grief.
“Oh,” said she, “how happy I am!”
Ursus took her wrist, and counted the pulsation of the artery. He did not shake his head. He said nothing, nor expressed his thoughts except by the rapid movement of his eyelids, which were opening and closing convulsively, as if to prevent a flood of tears from bursting out.
“What is the matter?” asked Gwynplaine.
Ursus placed his ear against Dea’s left side.
Gwynplaine repeated his question eagerly, fearful of the answer.
Ursus looked at Gwynplaine, then at Dea. He was livid. He said:
“We ought to be parallel with Canterbury. The distance from here to Gravesend can not be very great. We shall have fine weather all night. We need fear no attack at sea, because the fleets are all on the coast of Spain. We shall have a good passage.”
Dea, bent, and growing paler and paler, clutched her robe convulsively. She heaved a sigh of inexpressible sadness, and murmured:
“I know what this is; I am dying!”
Gwynplaine rose in terror. Ursus held Dea.
“Diet You die! No; it shall not be! You can not die I Die now! Die at once! It is impossible! God is not ferociously cruel-to give you and to take you back In the same moment. No; such a thing can not be. It would make one doubt in Him. Then, indeed, would everything be a snare-the earth, the sky, the cradles of infants, the human heart, love, the stars. God would be a traitor, and man a dupe. There would be nothing in which to believe. It would be an insult to the creation. Everything would be an abyss. You know not what you say, Dea. You shall live! I command you to live! You must obey me! I am your husband and your master, I forbid you to leave me! Oh, heavens! Oh, wretched Man! No, it can not be; I to remain in the world after you! Why, it is as monstrous as that there should be no sun! Dea! Dea ! recover! It is but a moment of passing pain. One feels a shudder at times and thinks no more about it. It is absolutely necessary that you should get well and cease to suffer. You die! What have I done to you? The very thought of it drives me mad. We belong to each other, and we love each other. You have no reason for going! It would be unjust! Have I committed crimes? Besides, you have forgiven me. Oh, you would not make me desperate-have me become a villain, a madman, drive me to perdition? Dea, I entreat you! I conjure you! I supplicate you! Do not die!
And clinching his hands in his hair, agonised with fear, stifled with tears, he threw himself at her feet.
“My Gwynplaine,” said Dea, “it is no fault of mine.”
There then rose to her lips a red froth, which Ursus wiped away with the fold of her robe, before Gwynplaine, who was prostrate at her feet, could see it.
Gwynplaine took her feet in his hands, and implored her in all kinds of confused words.
“I tell you, I will not have it! You die? I have no strength left to bear it. Die? Yes; but both of us together-not otherwise. You die, my Dea? I will never consent to it! My divinity! my love! Do you understand that I am with you? I swear that you shall live! Oh, but you can not have thought what would become of me after you were gone. If you had an idea of the necessity which you are to me, you would see that it is absolutely impossible! Deal you see I have but you! The most extraordinary things have happened to me. You will hardly believe that I have just explored the whole of life in a few hours! I have found out one thing-that there is nothing in it! You exist! if you did not, the universe would have no meaning. Stay with me! Have pity on me! Since you love me, live on! If I have just found you again, it is to keep you. Wait a little longer; you can not leave me like this, now that we have been together but a few minutes! Do not be impatient! Oh, Heaven, how I suffer! You are not angry with me, are you? You know that I could not help going when the wapentake came for me. You will breathe more easily presently, you will see. Dea, all has been put right. We are going to be happy. Do not drive me to despair, Dea! I have done nothing to you!”
These words were not spoken, but sobbed out. They rose from his breast-now in a lament which might have attracted the dove, now in a roar which might have made lions recoil.
Dea answered him in a voice growing weaker and weaker, and pausing at nearly every word.
“Alas! it is of no use, my beloved! I see that you are doing all you can. An hour ago I wanted to die; now I do not. Gwynplaine-my adored Gwynplaine! how happy we have been! God placed you in my life, and He takes me out of yours. You see, I am going. You will remember the Green Box, won’t you; and poor blind little Dea? You will remember my song? Do not forget the sound of my voice, and the way in which I said, ‘I love you!’ I will come back and tell it to you again, In the night while you are asleep. Yes, we found each other again; but it was too much joy. It was to end at once. It is decreed that I am to go first. I love my father, Ursus, and my brother, Homo, very dearly. You are all so good. There is no air here. Open the window. My Gwynplaine, I did not tell you, but I was jealous of a woman who came one day. You did not even know of whom I speak. Is it not so? Cover my arms, I am rather cold. And Fibi and Vinos, where are they? One comes to love everybody. One feels a friendship for all those who have been mixed up in one’s happiness. We have a kindly feeling toward them for having been present in our Joys. Why has it all passed away? I have not clearly understood what has happened during the last two days. Now I am dying. Leave me in my dress. When I put it on I foresaw that it would be my shroud. I wish to keep it on. Gwynplaine’s kisses are upon it. Oh, what would I not have given to have lived on! What a happy life we led in our poor caravan! How we sang! How I listened to the applause! What joy it was never to be separated from each other! It seemed to me that I was living in a cloud with you: I knew one day from another, although I was blind. I knew that it was morning, because I heard Gwynplaine; I felt that it was night, because I dreamed of Gwynplaine. I felt that I was wrapped up in something, which was his soul. We adored each other so sweetly. It is all fading away; and there will be no more songs. Alas! that I can not live on! You will think of me, my beloved!”
Her voice was growing fainter. The ominous waning, which was death, was stealing away her breath. She folded her thumbs within her fingers, a sign that her last moments were approaching. It seemed as though the first uncertain words of an angel just created were blended with the last failing accents of the dying girl.
“You will think of me, won’t you? It would be very sad to be dead, and to be remembered by no one. I have been wayward at times; I beg pardon of you all. I am sure that, if God had so willed it, we might yet have been happy, my Gwynplaine; for we take up but very little room, and we might have earned our bread together in another land. But God has willed it otherwise. I can not make out in the least why I am dying. I never complained of being blind, so that I can not have offended any one. I should never have asked for anything but always to be blind as I was, by your side. Oh, how sad it is to have to part!”
Her words were more and more inarticulate, evapourating into each other, as if they were being blown away. She had become almost inaudible.
“Gwynplaine,” she resumed, “you will think of me, won’t you? I shall crave it when I am dead.”
And she added:
“Oh, keep me with you!”
Then, after a pause, she said:
“Come to me as soon as you can. I shall be very unhappy without you, even in heaven. Do not leave me long alone, my sweet Gwynplaine! My paradise was here. Above there is only heaven! Oh! I can not breathe! My beloved! My beloved! My beloved!”
“Mercy!” cried Gwynplaine.
“Farewell!” murmured Dea.
And he pressed his mouth to her beautiful icy hands. For a moment it seemed as if she had ceased to breathe. Then she raised herself on her elbows, and an intense splendour flashed across her eyes, and through an ineffable smile her voice rang out clearly:
“Light!” she cried. “I see,”
And she expired. She fell back rigid and motionless on the mattress.
“Dead!” said Ursus.
And the poor old man, as if crushed by his despair, bowed his bald head and buried his swollen face in the folds of the gown which covered Dea’s feet. He lay there in a swoon.
Then Gwynplaine became awful. He arose, lifted his eyes, and gazed into the vast gloom above him. Seen by none on earth, but looked down upon, perhaps, as he stood in the darkness, by some invisible presence, he stretched his hands on high, and said: “I come!”
And he strode across the deck, toward the side of the vessel as if beckoned by a vision.
A few paces off was the abyss. He walked slowly, never casting down his eyes. A smile came upon his face, such as Dea’s had just worn. He advanced straight before him, as if watching something. In his eyes was a light like the reflection of a soul perceived from afar off. He cried out, “Yes!” At every step he was approaching nearer to the side of the vessel. His gait was rigid, his arms were lifted up, his head was thrown back, his eyeballs were fixed. His movement was ghostlike. He advanced without haste and without hesitation, with fatal precision, as though there were before him no yawning gulf and open grave. He murmured: “Be easy. I follow you. I understand the sign that you are making me.” His eyes were fixed upon a certain spot in the sky, where the shadow was deepest. The smile was still upon his face. The sky was perfectly black; there was no star visible in it, and yet he evidently saw one. He crossed the deck. A few stiff ominous steps, and he had reached the very edge.
“I come,” said he, “Dea, behold, I come!”
One step more, there was no bulwark, the void was before him; he strode into it. He fell. The night was thick and dull, the water deep. It swallowed him up. He disappeared calmly and silently. None saw or heard him. The ship sailed on, and the river flowed.
Shortly afterward the ship reached the sea.
When Ursus returned to consciousness, he found that Gwynplaine was no longer with him, and he saw Homo by the edge of the deck baying in the shadow and looking down upon the water.