Meanwhile the frost held, and all Oxford went skating. Constance performed indifferently, and both Nora and Uncle Ewen were bent upon improving her. But there were plenty of cavaliers to attend her, whenever she appeared, either on Port Meadow or the Magdalen flood water; and her sound youth delighted physically in the exercise, in the play of the brisk air about her face, and the alternations of the bright winter day—from the pale blue of its morning skies, hung behind the snow-sprinkled towers and spires of Oxford, down to the red of sunset, and the rise of those twilight mists which drew the fair city gently back into the bosom of the moonlit dark.
But all the time the passionate sense in her watched and waited. The “mere living” was good—“yet was there better than it!”
And on the second afternoon, out of the distance of Magdalen meadow, a man came flying towards her as it seemed on the wings of the wind. Falloden drew up beside her, hovering on his skates, a splendid vision in the dusk, ease and power in every look and movement.
“Let me take you a run with the wind,” he said, holding out his hand. “You shan’t come to any harm.”
Her eyes and her happy flush betrayed her. She put her hand in his, and away they flew, up the course of the Cherwell, through the flooded meadows. It seemed the very motion of gods; the world fell away. Then, coming back, they saw Magdalen Tower, all silver and ebony under the rising moon, and the noble arch of the bridge. The world was all transmuted. Connie’s only hold on the kind, common earth seemed to lie in this strong hand to which she clung; and yet in that touch, that hold, lay the magic that was making life anew.
But soon the wind had risen gustily, and was beating in her face, catching at her breath.
“This is too cold for you!” said Falloden abruptly; and wheeling round, he had soon guided her into a more sheltered place, and there, easily gliding up and down, soul and sense fused in one delight, they passed one of those hours for which there is no measure in our dull human time. They would not think of the past; they shrank from imagining the future. There were shadows and ghosts behind them, and ahead of them; but the sheer present mastered them.
Before they parted, Falloden told his companion that the Orpheus would arrive from Paris the following day with a trio of French workmen to set it up. The electric installation was already in place. Everything would be ready by the evening. The instrument was to be placed behind a screen in the built-out room, once a studio, which Falloden had turned into a library. Otto rarely or never went there. The room looked north, and he, whose well-being hung upon sunshine, disliked it. But there was no other place for the Orpheus in the little cottage, and Falloden who had been getting new and thick curtains for the windows, improving the fire-place, and adding some armchairs, was eagerly hopeful that he could turn it into a comfortable music-room for Otto in the winter evenings, while he—if necessary—read his law elsewhere.