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Tears stole down Sieglinde's face from under her closed eyelids; could it be for her—the sinful, the disobedient, the unfaithful—this peace of which the voice sang? and had she indeed passed through the tempest, and climbed a little way of the sharp path? She longed to know whose voice it was she heard, and whose the arms which held her. · Who are you, kind friend ?' she said at last.
One whom you drove from you once in fear and dread,' the voice answered instantly.
*I do not remember,' Sieglinde said.
• Think again—that Christmas night of the conflict, when the mummers came to the Castle, and your wicked enemy was thero in the disguise of a merchant.'
The whole remembrance flashed upon Sieglinde with the sting of renewed repentance.
Can it be that you are the strange wandering woman who gave me warning that night, and whom I, wretch that I was, permitted them to turn away from my door?'
• If you had not done so then, my child, perhaps you would not have been here to-night, for you know now who I am.' Then it flashed upon Sieglinde.
• You were the special messenger whom my lord promised to send me so long ago, woe to me!' said Sieglinde, clasping her hands. She remembered the chill shrinking that the woman's presence had inspired her with on that fatal night; but now she felt no terror.
May I not see your face?' she whispered lowly, for she felt rather than saw that the figure was veiled still. Then the veil was thrown back, and Sieglinde saw, bending above her, no horrible phantom, but a tender face, with eyes sad indeed, but unutterably sweet.
Sieglindo could only gaze into the depths of those strange eyes, trying to fathom and to learn their patient secret. At last she said
May I know your name?'
My name is Sorrow,' was the low answer, as she hushed Sieglinde to her breast like a wearied child. Sieglinde thought they were like her mother's arms.
CHAPTER XVI. How many were the days which followed Sieglindo's return to the Castle, one can scarcely tell, for there is no record. And the days that follow each other in peaceful order leave no trace behind them like those which mark and sear our lives with the lines of struggle and pain.
For Sieglinde had regained the shelter of her home, and peace beyond all that she had dared to hope, beyond all the deserts of her disloyalty and disobedience. Her friend—now no longer a stranger -led her back, and with what a swelling heart she saw once more the grey towers of her forsaken home rise above the plain, and found that all within was safe, thanks to her trusty Werner, and the vigilance of her retainers, more faithful than their mistress.
Many days Sieglinde lived there, too happy in her old duties, in ordering her household, in relieving the wants of the pilgrims, and in loving preparation for Agathos' return, to desire to wander again.
Many suns rose and set, but her impatience seemed now to have disappeared; the rest seemed more anxious for their lord's coming than she. Her saintly father Guido sighed sometimes, but Sieglinde only smiled like one who possessed some happy secret. Had she received some message from Lord Agathos ? Sometimes Guido could not help watching her anxiously, for some mysterious change seemed growing upon her, some change like that which steals over a landscape when the glow and joy of day fades, and give place to the stiller beauty of the moonlight and shadows of night.
She stole about the Castle, like a shadow herself, and yet with always the same look and smile of peace. Guido saw, with a mixture of gladness and fear, for the chilly autumn winds had come again, and the birds passed overhead southward in thick flocks, darkening the sky as they went, and boding another severe winter.
There was a little song that Sieglinde often sang in these days, when she watched, at sunrise or sunset, from the eastern tower—
O Land! so very far away,
Mine eyes look toward thee all the day.
O Love! so far, and yet so near,
And all thy will for me is dear.'
One day that Guido was sitting among his books and manuscripts, there came Sieglinde's low tap at the door, and as he lifted his head she stood before him, looking at him with clasped hands. The daylight was waning, but there was yet enough to see that there was something remarkable in her face which struck him ; there was a light shining in her wide eyes, as though some inward fire were burning there. She did not speak until he said• Well, my child ?'
I must leave you, dear Father,' said Sieglinde; 'I am going to my lord.'
* You have had a message then ?' Guido said.
· Yes,' she answered, smiling; "and I am to go at once. You will go sou e way with me upon the road, will you not?'
"As far as I can do so, my daughter; but the end must be travelled alone.'
It was an autumn morning, when the little party rode out from
linde rode on her lost in silent thought. as though they sought
the Castle. The mists lay over the distant hills and the river, and the pure purple lights of morning shed a radiance over them, though the sun was hidden behind a veil; the road lay straight away across the level plain as far as the eye could see; the grey expanse seemed only broken by flights of starlings that wheeled in wide circles overhead, losing themselves in the mist; the brown woods, half dismantled of their leaves, stretched away into the sky, melting into shadowy purple.
Sieglinde rode on her faithful Kaiser, beside Guido, who, with his head bent down, seemed lost in silent thought. Sieglinde's eyes were fixed on the most distant point of the horizon, as though they sought to pierce through the mists, and be at her journey's end. Bet ind them rode a few of her most faithful servants, amongst them Odilia and the old warder, Werner. They travelled thus ail that day, Guido sometimes speaking heavenly words of faith and hope to Sieglinde, and she giving him her parting messages and wishes.
Among other things, she said : ‘Father, we have not seen the last of Rudolph and Bertha. Ah, poor Rudolph! You will, I feel sure, see them again one day, though I shall not; and if they ever come as pilgrims to the Castle, pray let them be entertained wiih all possible honour and kindness, and say to them from me that, on this day, when I go to my lord, I thought of them, and shall look on toward meeting them again one day in joy and peace in Wonue Land'
She also said : ‘Like these mists the things of this present life loom round us, and appear gigantic to our eyes, so that we cannot see the true proportion of invisible things, which are yet close to us all the while, in their truth and beauty. And oh, my Father! how often have they held my weak eyes, so that I almost let g" all faith in the eternal things beyond, and had it not been for your help, should perhaps have altogether lost my way in the fogs.'
And Guido answered: That is all past now, dear daughter; faith itself shall be lost in sight.'
They rested at mid-day upon a delightful sward, where the birds were singing with clear melodious notes in the trees; the sun, gleaming throngh the mists, bathed everything in golden light, and Sieglinde's face itself seemed to shine.
• Let us press on, for I am in haste,' she said ; and so they rode forward. The mists have passed,' she said. “Oh, how beautiful the sun is, and how clear the light! and by it I shall see my Lord's face.' And she pressed on so eagerly that the rest were left behind.
The road now ran along a lofty piece of moorland, broken by houlders and great stones, that looked as though they had been broken from the rocks by giants who had passed that way, and left them there to mark their footsteps. The sun was so bright that the heather shone like crimson banners, waving amidst the rocks; and then there broke upon the travellers' happy eyes the blne hills and
peaks of Wonne Land, which seemed now almost near, for they could even make out the towers and spires of Lord Agathos' Castle, glittering like shafts of light in the sun.
Between it and them, however, there lay in reality a great and wide valley, into which the road began slowly to descend, and when they were down, the rocks shut out all the sun, which was now drawing near its setting. In the valley, too, the evening mists were rising quickly, touching all things with chilly fingers, so that the travellers shivered, and drew their cloaks closer round them. The view of Wonne Land was quite gone now, and nothing could be seen but on the one hand the grim dark rocks, which became still higher as the road descended, and on the other, the dim grey valley, stretching away into night.
Sieglinde had ridden forward alone for some distance; her face was set towards the valley's misty expanse. Now she faltered, and came to a standstill, for the road still wound its rough, steep course downward.
It is so dark here, I can scarce see you,' she said to Guido, who came up to her side. She turned to him trembling. •Father, I am afraid.'
"“I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me,” ' Guido answered, as, taking her hand, he guided her through the darkest depth of the valley.
Before them lay a wide marshy expanse, where nothing could be seen but here and there the shadowy forms of osiers and clumps of reeds, rising from out the wreathing fogs, which here were so dense as to be almost suffocating. Strange cries, like the voices of night-birds wheeling overhead, could be heard every now and then, suddenly piercing the silence, which seemed deep and mysterious as death. Riding became here very difficult, for their horses stumbled at every step, and shivered as if with fear. Sieglinde spoke no word, only Guido heard her sigh now and then.
*Courage, courage, dear daughter,' he said. His voice sounded strange in the stillness, speaking now a verse of Scripture, and now her lord's name, to cheer her spirit.
Deeper, deeper they went into the darkness, slower at every step, until at last there was heard a sound like the ring of spurs approaching, and the next moment they saw coming forth from the fog a tall figure on foot in the white armour of Lord Agathos' knights. He drew near to Sieglinde, and spoke to her in a low tone. Sieglinde turned to Guido and the rest, who had come up. “I must say farewell here,' she said. •My Lord orders me to go the rest of the way on foot, as is fitting my unworthiness; but this good knight will guide me. Is my Lord very far away?' she inquired of the knight.
* Not so far perhaps as you think,' he answered with a smile that seemed to light up for a moment the gloomy spot where they stood.
Then kneeling on the ground at Guido's feet, I thank you, Father, Sieglinde said, 'for all your help and care for my soul ; and I beseech your forgiveness for the pain that I have caused you to bear through my waywardness, and your blessing.'
The holy priest lifted his hands over her for the last time, and blessed her solemnly; and then she bid farewell to each of her servants, who were weeping, and last of all she turned to the knight and gave him her hand, for it was now dark. They could but just see her face, which seemed like a pale shadow, yet eagerly hoping; and so like a shadow she glided away from them into the great darkness. For a little while they watched the flutter of her garments and the gleam of the knight's white armour, and then they saw no more, but stood still, trying to pierce the night, with the icy breath of the fog upon their faces. They saw nothing; yet it seemed to them that there was One waiting there in the darkness nearer to them than they had thought, for as they stood gazing, there came to them a cry as of one in sudden rapture or ecstasy, and they thought it was Sieglinde's voice when she saw, and fell at her lord's feet.
And this comforted them; and when at last they turned to go, they saw that Guido's face was rapt, for he only had caught the sound of the song which the knights sing with clash of swords and shouting, when they welcome one home to Wonne Land
* Finished the fight!
For ever, for ever!
For ever, for ever!'
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.