Her face became clouded with disappointment, then she spoke again with something of pleading in her tone. "Look, we are not now apart, I hiding in the wood, you seeking, but together, saying the same things. In your language — yours and now mine. But before you came I knew nothing, nothing, for there was only grandfather to talk to. A few words each day, the same words. If yours is mine, mine must be yours. Oh, do you not know that mine is better?"
"Yes, better; but alas! Rima, I can never hope to understand your sweet speech, much less to speak it. The bird that only chirps and twitters can never sing like the organ-bird."
Crying, she hid her face against my neck, murmuring sadly between her sobs: "Never — never!"
How strange it seemed, in that moment of joy, such a passion of tears, such despondent words!
For some minutes I preserved a sorrowful silence, realizing for the first time, so far as it was possible to realize such a thing, what my inability to understand her secret language meant to her — that finer language in which alone her swift thoughts and vivid emotions could be expressed. Easily and well as she seemed able to declare herself in my tongue, I could well imagine that to her it would seem like the merest stammering. As she had said to me once when I asked her to speak in Spanish, "That is not speaking." And so long as she could not commune with me in that better language, which reflected her mind, there would not be that perfect union of soul she so passionately desired.
By and by, as she grew calmer, I sought to say something that would be consoling to both of us. "Sweetest Rima," I spoke, "it is so sad that I can never hope to talk with you in your way; but a greater love than this that is ours we could never feel, and love will make us happy, unutterably happy, in spite of that one sadness. And perhaps, after a while, you will be able to say all you wish in my language, which is also yours, as you said some time ago. When we are back again in the beloved wood, and talk once more under that tree where we first talked, and under the old mora, where you hid yourself and threw down leaves on me, and where you caught the little spider to show me how you made yourself a dress, you shall speak to me in your own sweet tongue, and then try to say the same things in mine.... And in the end, perhaps, you will find that it is not so impossible as you think."
She looked at me, smiling again through her tears, and shook her head a little.
"Remember what I have heard, that before your mother died you were able to tell Nuflo and the priest what her wish was. Can you not, in the same way, tell me why she cried?"
"I can tell you, but it will not be telling you."
"I understand. You can tell the bare facts. I can imagine something more, and the rest I must lose. Tell me, Rima."
Her face became troubled; she glanced away and let her eyes wander round the dim, firelit cavern; then they returned to mine once more.
"Look," she said, "grandfather lying asleep by the fire. So far away from us — oh, so far! But if we were to go out from the cave, and on and on to the great mountains where the city of the sun is, and stood there at last in the midst of great crowds of people, all looking at us, talking to us, it would be just the same. They would be like the trees and rocks and animals — so far! Not with us nor we with them. But we are everywhere alone together, apart — we two. It is love; I know it now, but I did not know it before because I had forgotten what she told me. Do you think I can tell you what she said when I asked her why she cried? Oh no! Only this, she and another were like one, always, apart from the others. Then something came — something came! O Abel, was that the something you told me about on the mountain? And the other was lost for ever, and she was alone in the forests and mountains of the world. Oh, why do we cry for what is lost? Why do we not quickly forget it and feel glad again? Now only do I know what you felt, O sweet mother, when you sat still and cried, while I ran about and played and laughed! O poor mother! Oh, what pain!" And hiding her face against my neck, she sobbed once more.
To my eyes also love and sympathy brought the tears; but in a little while the fond, comforting words I spoke and my caresses recalled her from that sad past to the present; then, lying back as at first, her head resting on my folded cloak, her body partly supported by my encircling arm and partly by the rock we were leaning against, her half-closed eyes turned to mine expressed a tender assured happiness — the chastened gladness of sunshine after rain; a soft delicious languor that was partly passionate with the passion etherealized.
"Tell me, Rima," I said, bending down to her, "in all those troubled days with me in the woods had you no happy moments? Did not something in your heart tell you that it was sweet to love, even before you knew what love meant?"
"Yes; and once — O Abel, do you remember that night, after returning from Ytaioa, when you sat so late talking by the fire — I in the shadow, never stirring, listening, listening; you by the fire with the light on your face, saying so many strange things? I was happy then — oh, how happy! It was black night and raining, and I a plant growing in the dark, feeling the sweet raindrops falling, falling on my leaves. Oh, it will be morning by and by and the sun will shine on my wet leaves; and that made me glad till I trembled with happiness. Then suddenly the lightning would come, so bright, and I would tremble with fear, and wish that it would be dark again. That was when you looked at me sitting in the shadow, and I could not take my eyes away quickly and could not meet yours, so that I trembled with fear."
"And now there is no fear — no shadow; now you are perfectly happy?"
"Oh, so happy! If the way back to the wood was longer, ten times, and if the great mountains, white with snow on their tops, were between, and the great dark forest, and rivers wider than Orinoco, still I would go alone without fear, because you would come after me, to join me in the wood, to be with me at last and always."
"But I should not let you go alone, Rima — your lonely days are over now."
She opened her eyes wider and looked earnestly into my face. "I must go back alone, Abel," she said. "Before day comes I must leave you. Rest here, with grandfather, for a few days and nights, then follow me."
I heard her with astonishment. "It must not be, Rima," I cried. "What, let you leave me — now you are mine — to go all that distance, through all that wild country where you might lose yourself and perish alone? Oh, do not think of it!"
She listened, regarding me with some slight trouble in her eyes, but smiling a little at the same time. Her small hand moved up my arm and caressed my cheek; then she drew my face down to hers until our lips met. But when I looked at her eyes again, I saw that she had not consented to my wish. "Do I not know all the way now," she spoke, "all the mountains, rivers, forests — how should I lose myself? And I must return quickly, not step by step, walking — resting, resting — walking, stopping to cook and eat, stopping to gather firewood, to make a shelter — so many things! Oh, I shall be back in half the time; and I have so much to do."
"What can you have to do, love? — everything can be done when we are in the wood together."
A bright smile with a touch of mockery in it flitted over her face as she replied: "Oh, must I tell you that there are things you cannot do? Look, Abel," and she touched the slight garment she wore, thinner now than at first, and dulled by long exposure to sun and wind and rain.