Page:Ninety-three.djvu/362

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358
NINETY-THREE.

Gauvain was on the bundle of straw on the floor of the dungeon. It was his breath which was heard. He was sound asleep.

Cimourdain went forward with the least possible noise, came close to Gauvain and began to look at him; a mother looking at her sleeping babe would have no more tender and unspeakable fondness in her face. This sight was perhaps too much for Cimourdain; Cimourdain pressed both hands over his eyes, as children do some times, and remained motionless for a moment. Then he knelt down and raised Gauvain's hand gently to his lips.

Gauvain stirred. He opened his eyes, with the vague surprise of one suddenly awakened. The lantern feebly lighted the dungeon. He recognized Cimourdain.

"Ah!" he said, "it is you, my master."

And he added,—

"I was dreaming that death kissed my hand."

Cimourdain shuddered, as we sometimes do at the abrupt invasion of a surge of thoughts; sometimes this tide is so high and so stormy that it seems as if it would drown the soul. Nothing escaped from the depths of Cimourdain's heart. He could only say,—

"Gauvain!"

And they looked at each other; Cimourdain with his eyes full of those flames which burn tears, Gauvain with his gentlest smile.

Gauvain rose on his elbow, and said,—

"This scar which I see on your face is from the sabre cut that you received for me. Yesterday, again; you were in the struggle beside me and on account of me. If Providence had not placed you near my cradle, where should I be to-day? In darkness. If I have any idea of duty, it has come from you. I was born bound. Prejudices are ligatures; you removed these bands from me, you have given me liberty of growth, and of what was only a mummy you made a child once more. You gave a consciousness to the abortion that would otherwise have been. Had it not been for you, I should have grown up a dwarf. I exist through you. I was only a seigneur, you made me a citizen. I was only a citizen, you made me an intellect; you made me fit, as a man, for this earthly life, and, as a soul, for the life celestial. You gave me the key of truth, that I might enter the reality of human life, and the