Tancred/Chapter LXI

Tancred  (1847)  by Benjamin Disraeli
Chapter LXI. Arrival of the Duke and Duchess


Arrival of the Duke and Duchess

THE crest of the palm tree in the garden of Eva glittered in the declining sun; and the lady of Bethany sat in her kiosk on the margin of the fountain, unconsciously playing with a flower, and gazing in abstraction on the waters. She had left Tancred with her father, now convalescent. They had passed the morning together, talking over the strange events that had occurred since they first became acquainted on this very spot; and now the lady of Bethany had retired to her own thoughts.

A sound disturbed her; she looked up and recognised Tancred.

'I could not refrain from seeing the sun set on Arabia,' he said; 'I had almost induced the noble Besso to be my companion.'

'The year is too old,' said Eva, not very composed.

'They should be midsummer nights,' said Tancred, 'as on my first visit here; that hour thrice blessed!' 'We know not what is blessed in this world,' said Eva, mournfully.

'I feel I do,' murmured Tancred; and he also seated himself on the margin of the fountain.

'Of all the strange incidents and feelings that we have been talking over this day,' said Eva, 'there seems to me but one result; and that is, sadness.'

'It is certainly not joy,' said Tancred.

'There comes over me a great despondency,' said Eva, 'I know not why, my convictions are as profound as they were, my hopes should not be less high, and yet——'

'And what?' said Tancred, in a low, sweet voice, for she hesitated.

'I have a vague impression,' said Eva, sorrowfully, 'that there have been heroic aspirations wasted, and noble energies thrown away; and yet, perhaps,' she added, in a faltering tone, 'there is no one to blame. Perhaps, all this time, we have been dreaming over an unattainable end, and the only source of deception is our own imagination.'

'My faith is firm,' said Tancred; 'but if anything could make it falter, it would be to find you wavering.'

'Perhaps it is the twilight hour,' said Eva, with a faint smile. 'It sometimes makes one sad.'

'There is no sadness where there is sympathy,' said Tancred, in a low voice. 'I have been, I am sad, when I am alone: but when I am with you, my spirit is sustained, and would be, come what might.'

'And yet——' said Eva; and she paused.

'And what?'

'Your feelings cannot be what they were before all this happened; when you thought only of a divine cause, of stars, of angels, and of our peculiar and gifted land. No, no; now it is all mixed up with intrigue, and politics, and management, and baffled schemes, and cunning arts of men. You may be, you are, free from all this, but your faith is not the same. You no longer believe in Arabia.'

'Why, thou to me art Arabia,' said Tancred, advancing and kneeling at her side. 'The angel of Arabia, and of my life and spirit! Talk not to me of faltering faith: mine is intense. Talk not to me of leaving a divine cause: why, thou art my cause, and thou art most divine! O Eva! deign to accept the tribute of my long agitated heart! Yes, I too, like thee, am sometimes full of despair; but it is only when I remember that I love, and love, perhaps, in vain!'

He had clasped her hand; his passionate glance met her eye, as he looked up with adoration to a face infinitely distressed. Yet she withdrew not her hand, as she murmured, with averted head, 'We must not talk of these things; we must not think of them. You know all.'

'I know of nothing, I will know of nothing, but of my love.'

'There are those to whom I belong; and to whom you belong. Yes,' she said, trying to withdraw her hand, 'fly, fly from me, son of Europe and of Christ!'

'I am a Christian in the land of Christ,' said Tancred, 'and I kneel to a daughter of my Redeemer's race. Why should I fly?'

'Oh! this is madness!'

'Say, rather, inspiration,' said Tancred, 'for I will not quit this fountain by which we first met until I am told, as you now will tell me,' he added, in a tone of gushing tenderness, 'that our united destinies shall advance the sovereign purpose of our lives. Talk not to me of others, of those who have claims on you or on myself. I have no kindred, no country, and, as for the ties that would bind you, shall such world-worn bonds restrain our consecrated aim? Say but you love me, and I will trample them to the dust.'

The head of Eva fell upon his shoulder. He impressed an embrace upon her cheek. It was cold, insensible. Her hand, which he still held, seemed to have lost all vitality. Overcome by contending emotions, the principle of life seemed to have deserted her. Tancred laid her reclining figure with gentleness on the mats of the kiosk; he sprinkled her pale face with some drops from the fountain; he chafed her delicate hand. Her eyes at length opened, and she sighed. He placed beneath her head some of the cushions that were at hand. Recovering, she slightly raised herself, leant upon the marble margin of the fountain, and looked about her with a wildered air.

At this moment a shout was heard, repeated and increased; soon the sound of many voices and the tramp of persons approaching. The vivid but brief twilight had died away. Almost suddenly it had become night. The voices became more audible, the steps were at hand. Tancred recognised his name, frequently repeated. Behold a crowd of many persons, several of them bearing torches. There was Colonel Brace in the van; on his right was the Rev. Mr. Bernard; on his left, was Dr. Roby. Freeman and Trueman and several guides and native servants were in the rear, most of them proclaiming the name of Lord Montacute.

'I am here,' said Tancred, advancing from the kiosk, pale and agitated. 'Why am I wanted?'

Colonel Brace began to explain, but all seemed to speak at the same time.

The Duke and Duchess of Bellamont had arrived at Jerusalem.