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Giovanni, — believe it — though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God's creature, and craves love as its daily food. But my father !- he has united us in this fearful sympathy. Yes; spurn me ! — tread upon me! — kill me ! Oh, what is death, after such words as thine ? But it was not I! Not for a world of bliss would I have done it !”
Giovanni's passion had exhausted itself in its outburst from his lips. There now came across him a sense, mournful, and not without tenderness, of the intimate and peculiar relationship between Beatrice and himself. They stood, as it were, in an utter solitude, which would be made none the less solitary by the densest throng of human life. Ought not, then, the desert of humanity around them to press this insulated pair closer together? If they should be cruel to one another, who was there to be kind to them? Besides, thought Giovanni, might there not still be a hope of his returning within the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice — the redeemed Beatrice - by the hand? Oh, weak, and selfish, and unworthy spirit, that could dream of an earthly union and earthly happiness as possible, after such deep love had been so bitterly wronged as was Beatrice's love by Giovanni’s blighting words ! No, no; there could be no such hope. She must pass heavily, with that broken heart, across the borders - she must bathe her hurts in some fount of Paradise, and forget her grief in the light of immortality - and there be well!
But Giovanni did not know it.
“Dear Beatrice," said he, approaching her, while she shrank away, as always at his approach, but now with a different impulse — “dearest Beatrice, our fate is not yet so desperate. Behold! There is a medicine, potent, as a wise physician has assured me, and almost divine in its efficacy. It is composed of ingredients the most opposite to those by which thy awful father has brought this calamity upon thee and me. It is distilled of blessed herbs. Shall we not quaff it together, and thus be purified from evil?"
“Give it me!” said Beatrice, extending her hand to receive the little silver phial which Giovanni took from his bosom. She added, with a peculiar emphasis, “I will drink — but do thou await the result.”
She put Baglioni's antidote to her lips; and, at the same moment, the figure of Rappaccini emerged from the portal, and came slowly towards the marble fountain. As he drew near, the pale man of science seemed to gaze with a triumphant expression at the beautiful youth and maiden, as might an artist who should spend his life in achieving a picture or a group of statuary, and finally be satisfied with his success. He paused his bent form grew erect with conscious power, he spread out his hand over them, in the attitude of a father imploring a blessing upon his children. But those were the same hands that had thrown poison into the stream of their lives ! Giovanni trembled. Bea
trice shuddered very nervously, and pressed her hand upon her heart.
“My daughter,” said Rappaccini, “thou art no longer lonely in the world ! Pluck one of those precious gems from thy sister shrub, and bid thy bridegroom wear it in his bosom. It will not harm him now! My science, and the sympathy between thee and him, have so wrought within his system, that he now stands apart from common men, as thou dost, daughter of my pride and triumph, from. ordinary
Pass on, then, through the world, most dear to one another, and dreadful to all besides !”
“My father," said Beatrice, feebly, -- and still, as she spoke, she kept her hand upon her heart, "wherefore didst thou inflict this miserable doom upon thy child ?"
“Miserable !” exclaimed Rappaccini. What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvellous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil, and capable of none?"
“I would fain have been loved, not feared,” murmured Beatrice, sinking down upon the ground. “But now it matters not; I am going, father, where the evil, which thou hast striven to mingle with my being, will pass away like a dream — like the fragrance of these poisonous flowers, which will no longer taint my breath among the flowers of Eden. Farewell, Giovanni ! Thy words of hatred are like lead within my heart — but they, too, will fall away as I ascend. Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?"
To Beatrice — so radically had her earthly part been wrought upon by Rappaccini's skill -- as poison had been life, so the powerful antidote was death. And thus the poor victim of man's ingenuity and of thwarted nature, and of the fatality that attends all such efforts of perverted wisdom, perished there, at the feet of her father and Giovanni. Just at that moment, Professor Pietro Baglioni looked forth from the window, and called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed with horror, to the thunder-stricken man of science :
“Rappaccini ! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your experiment?"