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On the following afternoon Lamberti waited for Cecilia at the Villa Madama, and she came not long after him, with Petersen. He had been to the Palazzo Massimo in the evening, and a glance and a sign had explained to her that all was well. Then they had sat together awhile, talking in a low tone, while the Countess read the newspaper. When Lamberti had given Guido's brave message, they had looked earnestly at each other, and had agreed to tell her mother the truth at once, and to meet on the morrow at the villa, which was Cecilia's own house, after all. For they felt that they must be really alone together, to say the only words that really mattered.
The head gardener had admitted Lamberti to the close garden, by the outer steps, but had not let him into the house, as he had received no orders. When Cecilia came, he accompanied her with the keys and opened wide the doors of the great hall. Cecilia and Lamberti did not look at each other while they waited, and when the man was gone away Cecilia told Petersen to sit down in the court of honour on the other side of the little palace. Petersen went meekly away and left the two to themselves.
They walked very slowly along the path towards the fountain, and past it, to the parapet at the other end, where they had talked long ago. But as they passed the bench, they glanced at it quietly, and saw that it was still in its place. Cecilia had not been at the villa since the afternoon before Guido fell ill, and Lamberti had never come there since the garden party in May.
They stood still before the low wall and looked across the shoulder of the hill. Saving commonplace words at meeting, they had not spoken yet. Cecilia broke the silence at last, looking straight before her, her lids low, her face quiet, almost as if she were in a dream.
"Have we done all that we could do, all that we ought to do for him?" she asked. "Are you sure?"
"We can do nothing more," Lamberti answered gravely.
"Tell me again what he said. I want the very words."
"He said, 'Tell her that it would be a little hard for me to talk with her now, but that she must not think I am not glad that she is going to marry my best friend.' He said those words, and he said he would write to you from the Tyrol. He leaves to-morrow night."
"He has been very generous," Cecilia said softly.
"Yes. He will be your best friend, as he is mine."
She knew that it was true.
"We have done what we can," Lamberti continued presently. "He has given all he has, and we have given him what we could. The rest is ours."
He took her hand and drew her gently, turning back towards the fountain.
"It was like this in the dream," she said, scarcely breathing the words as she walked beside him.
They stood still before the falling water, quite alone and out of sight of every one, in the softening light, and suddenly the girl's heart beat hard, and the man's face grew pale, and they were facing each other, hands in hands, look in look, thought in thought, soul in soul; and they remembered that day when each had learned the other's secret in the shadowy staircase of the palace, and each dreamt again of a meeting long ago in the House of the Vestals; but only the girl knew what she had felt of mingled joy and regret when she had sat alone at night weeping on the steps of the Temple.
There was no veil between them now, as their eyes drew them closer together by slow and delicious degrees. It was the first time, though every instant was full of memories, all ending where this was to begin. Their lips had never met, yet the thrill of life meeting life and the blinding delight of each in the other were long familiar, as from ages, while fresh and untasted still as the bloom on a flower at dawn.
Then, when they had kissed once, they sat down in the old place, wondering what words would come, and whether they should ever need words at all after that. And somehow, Cecilia thought of her three questions, and they all were answered as youth answers them, in one way and with one word; and the answer seemed so full of meaning, and of faith and hope and charity, that the questions need never be asked again, nor any others like them, to the end of her life; nor did she believe that she could ever trouble her brain again about Thus spake Zarathushthra, and the Man who had killed God, and the overcoming of Pity, and the Eternal Return, and all those terrible and wonderful things that live in Nietzsche's mazy web, waiting to torment and devour the poor human moth that tries to fly upward.
But as for Kant's Categorical Imperative, in order to act in such a manner that the reasons for her actions might be considered a universal law, it was only necessary to realise how very much she loved the man she had chosen, and how very much he loved her; for how indeed could it then be possible not to live so as to deserve to be happy?
She had thought of these things during the night and had fallen asleep very happy in realising the perfect simplicity of all science, philosophy, and transcendental reasoning, and vaguely wondering why every one could not solve the problems of the universe as she had.
"Is it all quite true?" she asked now, with a little fluttering wonder. "Shall I wake and hear the door shutting, and be alone, and frightened as I used to be?"
"I should have waked already," he said, "when we were standing there by the fountain. I always did when I dreamt of you."
"So did I. Do you think we really met in our dreams?" She blushed faintly.
"Do you know that you have not told me once to-day that you care for me, ever so little?" he asked.
"I have told you much more than that, a thousand times over, in a thousand ways."
"I wonder whether we really met!"
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