It was not until the camp-meeting broke up, four days later, and Theron with the rest returned to town, that the material aspects of what had happened, and might be expected to happen, forced themselves upon his mind. The kiss was a child of the forest. So long as Theron remained in the camp, the image of the kiss, which was enshrined in his heart and ministered to by all his thoughts, continued enveloped in a haze of sylvan mystery, like a dryad. Suggestions of its beauty and holiness came to him in the odors of the woodland, at the sight of wild flowers and water-lilies. When he walked alone in unfamiliar parts of the forest, he carried about with him the half-conscious idea of somewhere coming upon a strange, hidden pool which mortal eye had not seen before—a deep, sequestered mere of spring-fed waters, walled in by rich, tangled growths of verdure, and bearing upon its virgin bosom only the shadows of the primeval wilderness, and the light of the eternal skies. His fancy dwelt upon some such nook as the enchanted home of the fairy that possessed his soul. The place, though he never found it, became real to him. As he pictured it, there rose sometimes from among the lily-pads, stirring the translucent depths and fluttering over the water’s surface drops like gems, the wonderful form of a woman, with pale leaves wreathed in her luxuriant red hair, and a skin which gave forth light.
With the homecoming to Octavius, his dreams began to take more account of realities. In a day or two he was wide awake, and thinking hard. The kiss was as much as ever the ceaseless companion of his hours, but it no longer insisted upon shrouding itself in vines and woodland creepers, or outlining itself in phosphorescent vagueness against mystic backgrounds of nymph-haunted glades. It advanced out into the noonday, and assumed tangible dimensions and substance. He saw that it was related to the facts of his daily life, and had, in turn, altered his own relations to all these facts.
What ought he to do? What could he do? Apparently, nothing but wait. He waited for a week—then for another week. The conclusion that the initiative had been left to him began to take shape in his mind. From this it seemed but a step to the passionate resolve to act at once.
Turning the situation over and over in his anxious thoughts, two things stood out in special prominence. One was that Celia loved him. The other was that the boy in Gorringe’s law office, and possibly Gorringe, and heaven only knew how many others besides, had reasons for suspecting this to be true.
And what about Celia? Side by side with the moving rapture of thinking about her as a woman, there rose the substantial satisfaction of contemplating her as Miss Madden. She had kissed him, and she was very rich. The things gradually linked themselves before his eyes. He tried a thousand varying guesses at what she proposed to do, and each time reined up his imagination by the reminder that she was confessedly a creature of whims, who proposed to do nothing, but was capable of all things.