Thereupon he stalked out, slamming the door behind him; the walls shook, and the windows shivered in their frames.
A vast sheet of gauzy cloud was slowly spreading over the western expanse of the sky. Through its silvery meshes the full moon looked down upon the glacier with a grave unconcern. Drifts of cold white mist hovered here and there over the surface of the ice, rising out of the deep blue hollows, catching for an instant the moonbeams, and again gliding away into the shadow of some far-looming peak.
On the little winding path at the end of the glacier stood Maurice, looking anxiously down toward the valley. Presently a pale speck of color was seen moving in the fog, and on closer inspection proved to be that scarlet bodice which in Norway constitutes the middle portion of a girl’s figure. A minute more, and the bodice was surmounted by a fair, girlish face, which looked ravishingly fresh and tangible in its misty setting. The lower portions, partly owing to their neutral coloring and in part to the density of the fog, were but vaguely suggested.
“I have been waiting for you nearly half an hour, down at the river-brink,” called out a voice from below, and its clear, mellow ring seemed suddenly to lighten the heavy atmosphere. “I really thought you had forgotten me.”
“Forgotten you?” cried Maurice, making a very unscientific leap down in the direction of the voice “When did I ever forget you, you ungrateful thing?”
“Aha!” responded Elsie, laughing, for of course the voice as well as the bodice was hers. “Now didn’t you say the edge of the glacier?”
“Yes, but I didn’t say the lower edge. If you had at all been gifted with the intuition proverbially attributed to young ladies in your situation, you would have known that I meant the western edge—in fact here, and nowhere else.”
“Even though you didn’t say it?”
“Even though I did say it.”
Fern was now no longer a resident of the Ormgrass Farm. After the discovery of their true relation, Tharald had shown a sort of sullen, superstitious fear of him, evidently regarding him as a providential Nemesis who had come to avenge the wrong he had done to his absent brother. No amount of friendliness on Maurice’s part could dispel this lurking suspicion, and at last he became convinced that, for the old man’s sake as well as for his own, it was advisable that they should separate. This arrangement, however, involved a sacrifice which our scientist had at first been disposed to regard lightly; but a week or two of purely scientific companionship soon revealed to him how large a factor Elsie had become in his life, and we have seen how he managed to reconcile the two conflicting necessities. The present rendezvous he had appointed with a special intention, which, with his usual directness, he proceeded to unfold to her.
“Elsie dear,” he began, drawing her down on a stone at his side, “I have something very serious which I wish to talk to you about.”