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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 16
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    During Yoletta's seclusion, my education was not allowed to suffer, her
    place as instructress having been taken by Edra. I was pleased with this
    arrangement, thinking to derive some benefit from it, beyond what she
    might teach me; but very soon I was forced to abandon all hope of
    communicating with the imprisoned girl through her friend and jailer.
    Edra was much disturbed at the suggestion; for I did venture to suggest
    it, though in a tentative, roundabout form, not feeling sure of my
    ground: previous mistakes had made me cautious. Her manner was a
    sufficient warning; and I did not broach the subject a second time. One
    afternoon, however, I met with a great and unexpected consolation,
    though even this was mixed with some perplexing matters.

    One day, after looking long and earnestly into my face, said my gentle
    teacher to me; "Do you know that you are changed? All your gay spirits
    have left you, and you are pale and thin and sad. Why is this?"

    My face crimsoned at this very direct question, for I knew of that
    change in me, and went about in continual fear that others would
    presently notice it, and draw their own conclusions. She continued
    looking at me, until for very shame I turned my face aside; for if I had
    confessed that separation from Yoletta caused my dejection, she would
    know what that feeling meant, and I feared that any such premature
    declaration would be the ruin of my prospects.

    "I know the reason, though I ask you," she continued, placing a hand on
    my shoulder. "You are grieving for Yoletta--I saw it from the first. I
    shall tell her how pale and sad you have grown--how different from what
    you were. But why do you turn your face from me?"

    I was perplexed, but her sympathy gave me courage, and made me
    determined to give her my confidence. "If you know," said I, "that I am
    grieving for Yoletta, can you not also guess why I hesitate and hide my
    face from you?"

    "No; why is it? You love me also, though not with so great a love; but
    we _do_ love each other, Smith, and you can confide in me?"

    I looked into her face now, straight into her transparent eyes, and it
    was plain to see that she had not yet guessed my meaning.

    "Dearest Edra," I said, taking her hand, "I love you as much as if one
    mother had given us birth. But I love Yoletta with a different love--not
    as one loves a sister. She is more to me than any one else in the world;
    so much is she that life without her would be a burden. Do you not know
    what that means?" And then, remembering Yoletta's words on the hills, I
    added: "Do you not know of more than one kind of love?"

    "No," she answered, still gazing inquiringly into my face. "But I know
    that your love for her so greatly exceeds all others, that it is like a
    different feeling. I shall tell her, since it is sweet to be loved, and
    she will be glad to know it."

    "And after you have told her, Edra, shall you make known her reply to
    me?"

    "No, Smith; it is an offense to suggest, or even to think, such a thing,
    however much you may love her, for she is not allowed to converse with
    any one directly or through me. She told me that she saw you on the
    hills, and that you tried to go to her, and it distressed her very much.
    But she will forgive you when I have told her how great your love is,
    that the desire to look on her face made you forget how wrong it was to
    approach her."

    How strange and incomprehensible it seemed that Edra had so
    misinterpreted my feeling! It seemed also to me that they all, from the
    father of the house downwards, were very blind indeed to set down so
    strong an emotion to mere brotherly affection. I had wished, yet feared,
    to remove the scales from their eyes; and now, in an unguarded moment, I
    had made the attempt, and my gentle confessor had failed to understand
    me. Nevertheless, I extracted some comfort from this conversation; for
    Yoletta would know how greatly my love exceeded that of her own kindred,
    and I hoped against hope that a responsive emotion would at last awaken
    in her breast.

    When the last of those leaden-footed thirty days arrived--the day on
    which, according to my computation, Yoletta would recover liberty before
    the sun set--I rose early from the straw pallet where I had tossed all
    night, prevented from sleeping by the prospect of reunion, and the fever
    of impatience I was in. The cold river revived me, and when we were
    assembled in the breakfast-room I observed Edra watching me, with a
    curious, questioning smile on her lips. I asked her the reason.

    "You are like a person suddenly recovered from sickness," she replied.
    "Your eyes sparkle like sunshine on the water, and your cheeks that were
    so pallid yesterday burn redder than an autumn leaf." Then, smiling, she
    added these precious words: "Yoletta will be glad to return to us, more
    on your account than her own."

    After we had broken our fast, I determined to go to the forest and spend
    the day there. For many days past I had shirked woodcutting; but now it
    seemed impossible for me to settle down to any quiet, sedentary kind of
    work, the consuming impatience and boundless energy I felt making me
    wish for some unusually violent task, such as would exhaust the body and
    give, perhaps, a rest to the mind. Taking my ax, and the usual small
    basket of provisions for my noonday meal, I left the house; and on this
    morning I did not walk, but ran as if for a wager, taking long, flying
    leaps over bushes and streams that had never tempted me before. Arrived
    at the scene of action, I selected a large tree which had been marked
    out for felling, and for hours I hacked at it with an energy almost
    superhuman; and at last, before I had felt any disposition to rest, the
    towering old giant, bowing its head and rustling its sere foliage as if
    in eternal farewell to the skies, came with a mighty crash to the earth.
    Scarcely was it fallen before I felt that I had labored too long and
    violently: the dry, fresh breeze stung my burning cheeks like needles of
    ice, my knees trembled under me, and the whole world seemed to spin
    round; then, casting myself upon a bed of chips and withered leaves, I
    lay gasping for breath, with only life enough left in me to wonder
    whether I had fainted or not. Recovered at length from this exhausted
    condition, I sat up, and rejoiced to observe that half the day--that
    last miserable day--had already flown. Then the thoughts of the
    approaching evening, and all the happiness it would bring, inspired me
    with fresh zeal and strength, and, starting to my feet, and taking no
    thought of my food, I picked up the ax and made a fresh onslaught on the
    fallen tree. I had already accomplished more than a day's work, but the
    fever in my blood and brain urged me on to the arduous task of lopping
    off the huge branches; and my exertions did not cease until once more
    the world, with everything on it, began revolving like a whirligig,
    compelling me to desist and take a still longer rest. And sitting there
    I thought only of Yoletta. How would she look after that long seclusion?
    Pale, and sad too perhaps; and her sweet, soulful eyes--oh, would I now
    see in them that new light for which I had watched and waited so long?

    Then, while I thus mused, I heard, not far off, a slight rustling sound,
    as of a hare startled at seeing me, and bounding away over the withered
    leaves; and lifting up my eyes from the ground, I beheld Yoletta herself
    hastening towards me, her face shining with joy. I sprang forward to
    meet her, and in another moment she was locked in my arms. That one
    moment of unspeakable happiness seemed to out-weigh a hundred times all
    the misery I had endured. "Oh, my sweet darling--at last, at last, my
    pain is ended!" I murmured, while pressing her again and again to my
    heart, and kissing that dear face, which looked now so much thinner than
    when I had last seen it.

    She bent back her head, like Genevieve in the ballad, to look me in the
    face, her eyes filled with tears--crystal, happy drops, which dimmed not
    their brightness. But her face was pale, with a pensive pallor like that
    of the _Gloire de Dijon_ rose; only now excitement had suffused her
    cheeks with the tints of that same rose--that red so unlike the bloom on
    other faces in vanished days; so tender and delicate and precious above
    all tints in nature!

    "I know," she spoke, "how you were grieving for me, that you were pale
    and dejected. Oh, how strange you should love me so much!"

    "Strange, darling--that word again! It is the one sweetness and joy of
    life. And are you not glad to be loved?"

    "Oh, I cannot tell you how glad; but am I not here in your arms to show
    it? When I heard that you had gone to the wood I did not wait, but ran
    here as fast as I could. Do you remember that evening on the hill, when
    you vexed me with questions, and I could not understand your words? Now,
    when I love you so much more, I can understand them better. Tell me,
    have I not done as you wished, and given myself to you, body and soul?
    How thirty days have changed you! Oh, Smith, do you love me so much?"

    "I love you so much, dear, that if you were to die, there would be no
    more pleasure in life for me, and I should prefer to lie near you
    underground. All day long I am thinking of you, and when I sleep you are
    in all ray dreams."

    She still continued gazing into my face, those happy tears still shining
    in her eyes, listening to my words; but alas! on that sweet, beautiful
    face, so full of changeful expression, there was not the expression I
    sought, and no sign of that maidenly shame which gave to Genevieve in
    the ballad such an exquisite grace in her lover's eyes.

    "I also had dreams of you," she answered. "They came to me after Edra
    had told me how pale and sad you had grown."

    "Tell me one of your dreams, darling."

    "I dreamed that I was lying awake on my bed, with the moon shining on
    me; I was cold, and crying bitterly because I had been left so long
    alone. All at once I saw you standing at my side in the moonlight. 'Poor
    Yoletta,' you said, 'your tears have chilled you like winter rain.' Then
    you kissed them dry, and when you had put your arms about me, I drew
    your face against my bosom, and rested warm and happy in your love."

    Oh, how her delicious words maddened me! Even my tongue and lips
    suddenly became dry as ashes with the fever in me, and could only
    whisper huskily when I strove to answer. I released her from my arms and
    sat down on the fallen tree, all my blissful raptures turned to a great
    despondence. Would it always be thus--would she continue to embrace me,
    and speak words that simulated passion while no such feeling touched her
    heart? Such a state of things could not endure, and my passion, mocked
    and baffled again and again, would rend me to pieces, and hurl me on to
    madness and self-destruction. For how many men had been driven by love
    to such an end, and the women they had worshiped, and miserably died
    for, compared with Yoletta, were like creatures of clay compared with
    one of the immortals. And was she not a being of a higher order than
    myself? It was folly to think otherwise. But how had mortals always
    fared when they aspired to mate with celestials? I tried then to
    remember something bearing on this important point, but my mind was
    becoming strangely confused. I closed my eyes to think, and presently
    opening them again, saw Yoletta kneeling before me, gazing up into my
    face with an alarmed expression.

    "What is the matter, Smith, you seem ill?" she said; and then, laying
    her fresh palm on my forehead, added: "Your head burns like fire."

    "No wonder," I returned. "I'm worrying my brains trying to remember all
    about them. What were their names, and what did they do to those who
    loved them--can't you tell me?"

    "Oh, you are ill--you have a fever and may die!" she exclaimed, throwing
    her arms about my neck and pressing her cheek to mine.

    I felt a strange imbecility of mind, yet it seemed to anger me to be
    told that I was ill. "I am not ill," I protested feebly. "I never felt
    better in my life! But can't you answer me--who were they, and what did
    they do? Tell me, or I shall go mad."

    She started up, and taking the small metal whistle hanging at her side,
    blew a shrill note that seemed to pierce my brain like a steel weapon. I
    tried to get up from my seat on the trunk, but only slipped down to the
    ground. A dull mist and gloom seemed to be settling down on everything;
    daylight, and hope with it, was fast forsaking the world. But something
    was coming to us--out of that universal mist and darkness closing around
    us it came bounding swiftly through the wood--a huge gray wolf! No, not
    a wolf--a wolf was nothing to it! A mighty, roaring lion crashing
    through the forest; a monster ever increasing in size, vast and of
    horrible aspect, surpassing all monsters of the imagination--all beasts,
    gigantic and deformed, that had ever existed in past geologic ages; a
    lion with teeth like elephants' tusks, its head clothed as with a black
    thunder-cloud, through which its eyes glared like twin, blood-red suns!
    And she--my love--with a cry on her lips, was springing forth to meet
    it--lost, lost for ever! I struggled frantically to rise and fly to her
    assistance, and rose, after many efforts, to my knees, only to fall
    again to the earth, insensible.
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    Chapter 16
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