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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGodolphin - Chapter 40. Tivoli...
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Godolphin - Chapter 40. Tivoli... Post by :66034 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2543

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Godolphin - Chapter 40. Tivoli...

CHAPTER XL. TIVOLI.--THE SIREN'S CAVE.--THE CONFESSION


Along the deathly Campagna, a weary and desolate length of way,--through a mean and squalid row of houses--you thread your course; and behold--Tivoli bursts upon you!

"Look--look!" cried Constance, with enthusiasm, as she pointed to the rushing torrent that, through matted trees and cragged precipices, thundered on.

Astonished at the silence of Godolphin, whom scenery was usually so wont to kindle and inspire, she turned hastily round, and her whole tide of feeling was revulsed by the absorbed but intense dejection written on his countenance. "Why," said she, after a short pause, and affecting a playful smile, "why, how provoking is this! In general, not a common patch of green with an old tree in the centre, not a common rivulet with a willow hanging over it, escapes you. You insist upon our sharing your raptures--you dilate on the picturesque--you rise into eloquence; nay, you persuade us into your enthusiasm, or you quarrel with us for our coldness; and now, with this divinest of earthly scenes around us,--when even Lady Charlotte is excited, and Mr. Saville forgets himself, you are stricken into silence and apathy! The reason--if it be not too abstruse?"

"It is here!" said Godolphin, mournfully, and pressing his hand to his heart.

Constance turned aside; she indulged herself with the hope that he alluded to former scenes, and despaired of the future from their remembrance. She connected his melancholy with herself, and knew that, when referred to her, she could dispel it. Inspired by this idea, and exhilarated by the beauty of the morning, and the wonderful magnificence of nature, she indulged her spirits to overflowing. And as her brilliant mind lighted up every subject it touched, now glowing over description, now flashing into remark, Godolphin at one time forgot, and at another more keenly felt, the magnitude of the sacrifice he was about to make. But every one knows that feeling which, when we are unhappy, illumines (if I may so speak) our outward seeming from the fierceness of our inward despair,--that recklessness which is the intoxication of our grief.

By degrees Godolphin broke from his reserve. He seemed to catch the enthusiasm of Constance; he echoed back--he led into new and more dazzling directions--the delighted remarks of his beautiful companion. His mind, if not profoundly learned, at least irregularly rich, in the treasures of old times, called up a spirit from every object. The waterfall, the ruin, the hollow cave--the steep bank crested with the olive--the airy temple, the dark pomp of the cypress grove, and the roar of the headlong Anio,--all he touched with the magic of the past--clad with the glories of history and of legend--and decked ever and anon with the flowers of the eternal Poesy that yet walks, mourning for her children, amongst the vines and waterfalls of the ancient Tibur. And Constance, as she listened to him, entranced, until she herself unconsciously grew silent, indulged without reserve in that, the proudest luxury of love--pride in the beloved object. Never had the rare and various genius of Godolphin appeared so worthy of admiration. When his voice ceased, it seemed to Constance like a sudden blank in the creation.

Godolphin and the young countess were several paces before the little party, and they now took their way towards the Siren's Cave. The path that leads to that singular spot is humid with an eternal spray; and it is so abrupt and slippery, that in order to preserve your footing, you must cling to the bushes that vegetate around the sides of the precipice.

"Let us dispense with our guide," said Godolphin. "I know every part of the way, and I am sure you share with me in dislike to these hackneyed indicators and sign-posts for admiration. Let us leave him to Lady Charlotte and Saville, and suffer me to be your guide to the cavern." Constance readily enough assented, and they proceeded. Saville, by no means liking the difficult and perilous path which was to lead only to a very cold place, soon halted; and suggested to Lady Charlotte the propriety of doing the same. Lady Charlotte much preferred the wit of her companion's conversation to the picturesque. "Besides," as she said, "she had seen the cave before." Accordingly, they both waited for the return of the more adventurous countess and her guide.

Unconscious of the defalcation of her friends, and not--from the attention that every step required--once looking behind, Constance continued. And now, how delightful to her seemed that rugged way, as, with every moment, Godolphin's care--Godolphin's hand became necessary; and he, inspired, inflamed by her company, by her touch, by the softness of her manner, and the devotion of her attention--no, no! not yet was Lucilla forgotten!

And now they stood within the Siren's Cave. From this spot alone you can view that terrible descent of waters which rushes to earth like the coming of a god! The rocks dripped around them--the torrent dashed at their very feet. Down--down, in thunder, for ever and for ever, dashed the might of the maddening element; above, all wrath; below, all blackness;--there, the cataract; here, the abyss. Not a moment's pause to the fury, not a moment's silence to the roar;--forward to the last glimpse of the sun--the curse of labour, and the soul of unutterable strength, shall be upon those waters! The demon, tormented to an eternity, filling his dread dwelling-place with the unresting and unearthly voice of his rage and despair, is the only type meet for the spirit of the cataract.

And there--amidst this awful and tremendous eternity of strife and power--stood two beings whose momentary existence was filled with the master-passion of humanity. And that passion was yet audible there: the nature without coal; I not subdue that within. Even amidst the icy showers of spray that fell around, and would have frozen the veins of others, Godolphin felt the burning at his heart. Constance was indeed utterly lost in a whirl and chaos of awe and admiration, which deprived her of all words. But it was the nature of her wayward lover to be aroused only to the thorough knowledge of his powers and passions among the more unfrequent and fierce excitements of life. A wild emotion now urged him on; something of that turbulent exaggeration of mind which gave rise to a memorable and disputed saying--"If thou stoodest on a precipice with thy mistress, hast thou ever felt the desire to plunge with her into the abyss?--If so--thou hast loved!" No doubt the sentiment is exaggerated, but there are times when love is exaggerated too. And now Constance, without knowing it, had clung closer and closer to Godolphin. His hand at first--now his arm--supported her; and at length, by an irresistible and maddening impulse, he clasped her to his breast, and whispered in a voice which was heard by her even amidst the thunder of the giant waters, "Here, here, my early--my only love, I feel, in spite of myself, that I never utterly, fully, adored you until now!"

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