Tancred/Chapter LI


Queen of the Ansarey

AWAY, away, Cypros! I can remain no more; my heart beats so.' 'Sweet lady,' replied Cypros, 'it is surprise that agitates you.' 'Is it surprise, Cypros? I did not know it was surprise. Then I never was surprised before.'

'I think they were surprised, sweet lady,' said Cypros, smiling.

'Hush, you are laughing very loud, my Cypros.' 'Is that laughter, sweet lady? I did not know it was laughter. Then I never laughed before.'

'I would they should know nothing either of our smiles or of our sighs, my Cypros.'

She who said this was a girl of eighteen summers; her features very Greek, her complexion radiant, hair dark as night, and eyes of the colour of the violet. Her beautiful countenance, however, was at this moment nearly shrouded by her veil, although no one could possibly behold it, excepting her attendant, younger even than herself, and fresh and fair as a flower.

They were hurrying along a wooden gallery, which led, behind the upper part of the divan occupied by the travellers, to the great square central tower of the quadrangle, which we have already noticed, and as the truth must always, or at least eventually, come out, it shall not be concealed that, availing themselves of a convenient, perhaps irresistible position, the fair fugitives had peeped into the chamber, and had made even minute observations on its inhabitants with impunity. Suddenly, Fakredeen rising from his seat, a panic had seized them and they hurried away.

The gallery led to a flight of steps, and the flight of steps into the first of several chambers without decoration, and with no other furniture than an Eastern apartment always offers, the cushioned seat, which surrounds at least two-thirds of the room. At length they entered a small alcove, rudely painted in arabesque, but in a classic Ionic pattern; the alcove opened into a garden, or rather court of myrtles with a fountain. An antelope, an Angora cat, two Persian greyhounds, were basking on the sunny turf, and there were many birds about, in rude but capacious cages.

'We are safe,' said the lady, dropping on the divan; 'I think we must have been seen.'

'That was clearly impossible,' said Cypros.

'Well, we must be seen at last,' said the lady. 'Heigho! I never shall be able to receive them, if my heart beat so.'

'I would let them wait a few days, sweet lady,' said Cypros, 'and then you would get more used to them.'

'I shall never be more used to them. Besides, it is rude and inhospitable not to see them. Yesterday there was an excuse: they were wearied, or I had a right to suppose they were, with their travelling; and to-day, there ought to be an excuse for not receiving them to-day. What is it, Cypros?'

'I dare say they will be quite content, if to-day you fix the time when you will receive them, sweet lady.'

'But I shall not be content, Cypros. Having seen them once, I wish to see them again, and one cannot always be walking by accident in the gallery.'

'Then I would see them to-day, sweet lady. Shall I send for the noble Keferinis?'

'I wish I were Cypros, and you were—— Hark! what is that?'

' 'Tis only the antelope, sweet lady.'

'I thought it was—— Now tell me, my Cypros, which of these two princes do you think is he who is one of us?'

'Oh, really, sweet lady, I think they are both so handsome!'

'Yet so unlike,' said the lady.

'Well, they are unlike,' said Cypros, 'and yet——'

'And what?'

'The fair one has a complexion almost as radiant as your own, sweet lady.'

'And eyes as blue: no, they are too light. And so, as there is a likeness, you think he is the one?'

'I am sure I wish they were both belonging to us,' said Cypros.

'Ah, me!' said the lady, ' 'tis not the bright-faced prince whom I hold to be one of us. No, no, my Cypros. Think awhile, sweet girl. The visage, the head of the other, have you not seen them before? Have you not seen something like them? That head so proudly placed upon the shoulders; that hair, that hyacinthine hair, that lofty forehead, that proud lip, that face so refined and yet so haughty, does it not recall anything? Think, Cypros; think!'

'It does, sweet lady.'

'Tell me; whisper it to me; it is a name not to be lightly mentioned.'

Cypros advanced, and bending her head, breathed a word in the ear of the lady, who instantly, blushing deeply, murmured with a faint smile, 'Yes.'

'It is he, then,' said Cypros, 'who is one of us.'