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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > CHAPTER 12
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 Fulviac passed away that morning into the forest, a of red amid the mournful glooms. Colour and steel streamed after him fantastically. The great cliff, silent and , like a leviathan in the sun.  
Of the daylight and its crown of gold, the girl Yeoland had no deep joy. When she had ended her passion over the pages of her breviary, and mopped her tears with a corner of her gown, she rose to realism, and turned her mood to the cheating of the dues of time.
The hours lagged with enough monotony to a saint; Yeoland was very much a woman. The night had left her a of evil. She had shadows under her eyes, and a constant of thoughts within her brain that made a torture-house, full of prophetic pain. There was her , and she it, seeing that her fingers seemed as ice. As for her , the stitches wandered , things, or lost all method in a of . She threw the banner aside in a at last, and let her broodings have their way.
The forenoon crawled, like a beggar on a dusty high-road in the welt of August. Time seemed to stand and mock her. Hour by hour, she was tortured by the vision of steel falling upon a strong young neck, of a white face lying in a pool of blood, of a dripping carcase and a sweating sword. Though the vision maddened her, what could her weak hands do? The man was , and guarded by men with whom she dared not . Moreover, she remembered the last look in Fulviac's keen eyes.
Towards evening she grew rabid with unrest, fled from the cave by the northern stair, and took amid the tall shadows of the forest. The pine avenues were ever like a church to her, solemn, stately, sympathetic as night. There was to anger, nought to bring , where the croon of the branches like a song.
It was as she played the in this forest , that a strange thought challenged her consciousness under the trees. It was subtle, yet full of an incomprehensible bitterness, that made her heart hasten. Even as she considered it, as a girl gazes at a jewel lying in her palm, the charm flashed magic fire into her eyes. This victim for the sword lay shackled to the wall in the great guard-room. She would go and steal a last glance at him before Fulviac and death returned.
Stairway, , and gallery were behind her. She stood in Fulviac's parlour, where the lamp burnt dimly, and harness on the walls. The door of the room stood ajar. She stole to it, and peered through the crack left by the clumsy hingeing, into the lights and shadows of the room beyond.
At the lower end of a long table the two guards sat , greedily over the board, the of hazard large in their looks. The kept up a continuous patter, by the intent of the gamesters. By the sloping wall of the , palleted on a pile of dirty straw, lay the Lord Flavian of Gambrevault, with his hands shackled to a in the rock. He lay stretched on his side, with his back turned towards the light, so that his face was invisible to the girl behind the door.
She watched the man awhile with a curious and dark-eyed earnestness. There was in the figure, as though Hezekiah-like the man had turned to the bare rock and the comfort despair could give. Once she imagined that she saw a jerking of the shoulders, that hinted at something very womanish. The thought new pity into her, and sent her away from the cranny, trembling.
Yeoland withdrew into Fulviac's room, and thence into the murk of the gallery leading to her bower. A sudden sense of impotence had flooded into her heart; she even for some shock of Fate that might break the very bonds that bound her to her , as to a . On the threshold of her room, a sudden sound brought her to a halt like a hand thrust out of the dark to clutch her throat. She stood listening, like a for thieves, and heard much.
A curse came from the guard-room, the crash of an overturned bench, the kiss of steel. She heard the scream as of one stabbed, a , an indiscriminate scuffling, then----silence. She stood a moment in the dark, listening. The silence was heavy and implacable as the rock above. Fear seized her, a lust to know the worst. She ran down the gallery into Fulviac's room. The door was still ajar; she thrust it open and entered the great cavern.
Her doubts elapsed in an instant. At the long table, a man sat with his head pillowed on his arms. A red curled away over the board, amid the drinking horns, isleting the dice in its course. On the floor lay the second guard, a smudge of from his grey doublet, his arms , his hands clawing in the death-agony. At the end of the table stood the Lord Flavian of Gambrevault, free.
Three cubits of steel had the plot vastly in the passing of a minute. The was like a knot of silk thrust through with a sword. The two stood motionless a moment, staring at each other across the length of the table, like a couple of mutes over a grave. The man was the first to break the silence.
"Madame," he said, with a certain grand air, and a flippant gesture, "suffer me to with you over the tricks of Fortune. But for gross selfishness on my part, I should still be chastening myself for the unjust balancing of our . God wills it, seemingly, that I should continue to be your ."
Despite her woman's wit, the girl was wholly puzzled how to answer him. She was wickedly conscious in her heart of a subtle to Heaven for the sudden baulking of her . The man expected from her, perhaps an outburst of passion. Taking duplicity to her soul, she stood forward on the dais and her chin at him with dutiful .
"Thank my , messire," she said, "for this of fortune."
He came two steps nearer, as though not unminded to talk with her in open field.
"At dawn I might have had you slain," she continued, with some hastening of her tongue; "I confess to having pitied you a little. You are young, a boy, weak and powerless. I gave you life for a day."
The man reddened slightly, glanced at the dead men, and screwed his mouth into a dry smile.
"Most harmless, as you see, madame," he said. "For your magnanimity, I thank you. Deo gratias, I will be as grateful as I may."
She stood considering him out of her dark, long-lashed eyes. The man was good to look upon, ruddy and clean of lip, with eyes that stared straight to the truth, and a pose of the head that spirit. The sunlight of youth played upon his face; yet there was also a certain shadow there, as of wisdom, born of pain. There were faint lines about the mouth and eyes. For all its and ruddy , it was not the face of a boy.
"Messire," she said to him at last.
"He who over long in the wolf's may meet the dam at the door."
He smiled at her, a frank flash of sympathy that was not of gratitude.
"Haste would be graceless," he said to her.
"How so?" she asked him.
"Ha, Madame Yeoland, have I not watched my arms at night before the high altar at Avalon? Have I not sworn to serve women, to keep troth, and to love God? You judge me hardly if you think of me as a butcher and a murderer. For the death of your kinsfolk I hold myself ashamed."
There was a fine light upon his face, a power of truth in his voice that was not hypocritic. The girl stared him over with a certain critical earnestness that boasted a gleam of approval.
"Fair words," she said to him; "you did not speak thus to me last eve."
"Ah!" he cried, beaming on her, "I was cold as a corpse; nor could I , for pride."
"And your ?"
He laughed and held up both hands; the wrists were and .
"It was ever a jest against me," he said, "that I had the hands of a woman, white and meagre............
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