Her Last Lover (Celia E. Gardner, 1893)

I don’t really know what I just read. It started out as your standard love triangle romance, and then…

A long time ago, in the kingdom ruled by Hasisadra, Zillah is one of the royal handmaids. An accident occurs in which she is nearly killed, but Zaidu, a mountain shepherd or something like that, rescues her. The King, as a reward, makes him his shield bearer. Etana, the royal chamberlain, is in love with Zillah and jealous of the attention she shows to Zaidu. He conspires to do away with his rival, but all his plots fail. Eventually, he’s exposed and is executed.

The story seems to have ended earlier than scheduled, but then Zillah meets a new guy — Ramiel — who turns out not to be a guy at all, but an angel. And Zaidu, as it so happens, is a relative of Noah, who has just about put the finishing touches on his ark. From their respective connections, they learn to abandon their former god Ud in favor of Jehovah.

Thunder and lightening! Earthquake! Torrents of rain fall from the sky! Zaidu and Zillah are separated. Zillah and the rest of the royal family scramble up the mountainside to escape the rising water, but one by one they’re picked off until only Zillah is left (Ramiel also appears to announce that he’s being recalled to Heaven). Zaidu miraculously finds Zillah and they hole up together in a cave for a few days, apparently the last people on Earth. And then they die.

I assume the title comes from the Robert Bulwer-Lytton poem Naeniae: “Thy being was but beauty, thy life only rapture, / And, ere both were over, / Or yet one delight had escaped from thy capture, / Death came, — thy last lover, / And found thee”.

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