Such was cell VI.
Startle not now! The description of the blind and tongueless wretch just liberated from cell V. may be accepted to break the horror of what is coming.
The two women are grouped close by the aperture; one is seated, the other is half reclining against her; there is nothing between them and the bare rock. The light, slanting upwards, strikes them with ghastly effect, and we cannot avoid seeing they are without vesture or covering. At the same time we are helped to the knowledge that love is there yet, for the two are in each other’s arms. Riches take wings, comforts vanish, hope withers away, but love stays with us. Love is God.
Where the two are thus grouped the stony floor is polished shining-smooth. Who shall say how much of the eight years they have spent in that space there in front of the aperture, nursing their hope of rescue by that timid yet friendly ray of light? When the brightness came creeping in, they knew it was dawn; when it began to fade, they knew the world was hushing for the night, which could not be anywhere so long and utterly dark as with them. The world! Through that crevice, as if it were broad and high as a king’s gate, they went to the world in thought, and passed the weary time going up and down as spirits go, looking and asking, the one for her son, the other for her brother. On the seas they sought him, and on the islands of the seas; to-day he was in this city, to-morrow in that other; and everywhere, and at all times, he was a flitting sojourner; for, as they lived waiting for him, he lived looking for them. How often their thoughts passed each other in the endless search, his coming, theirs going! It was such sweet flattery for them to say to each other, “While he lives, we shall not be forgotten; as long as he remembers us, there is hope!” The strength one can eke from little, who knows till he has been subjected to the trial? Our recollections of them in former days enjoin us to be respectful; their sorrows clothe them with sanctity. Without going too near, across the dungeon, we see they have undergone a change of appearance not to be accounted for by time or long confinement. The mother was beautiful as a woman, the daughter beautiful as a child; not even love could say so much now. Their hair is long, unkempt, and strangely white; they make us shrink and shudder with an indefinable repulsion, though the effect may be from an illusory glozing of the light, glimmering dismally through the unhealthy murk; or they may be enduring the tortures of hunger and thirst, not having had to eat or drink since their servant, the convict, was taken away- that is, since yesterday.
Tirzah, reclining against her mother in half-embrace, moans piteously.