Diane! From beyond the wilderness spoke a voice, the luring voice of love. Diane! He was free to seek her; no barrier stood between. He could return to France. Her letter! He drew it forth, his hands trembling like a woman’s. “France is large. If you love me you will find me. . . . I kiss your handsome grey eyes a thousand times.” There was still the delicate odor of vervain—her perfume—clinging to it. Ah, if that terrible old man were not lying again! If he but spoke the truth!
As he strode back and forth his foot struck something. He bent and picked up the object. It was a grey mask with a long curtain. He carried it to the candle-light and inspected it. A grey mask: what was such a thing doing in Quebec? There were no masks in Quebec save those which nature herself gave to man, that ever-changing mask called the human face. A grey mask: what did it recall to him? Ah! Like a bar of light the memory of it returned to him. The mysterious woman of the Corne d’Abondance! But this mask could not be hers, since she was by now in Spain. With a movement almost unconscious he held the silken fabric close to his face and inhaled . . . vervain!
“Monsieur,” said a soft but thrilling voice from the doorway, “will you return to me my mask, which I dropped in this room a few moments ago?”
As he raised his head the woman stopped, transfixed.
“Diane?” leaped from the Chevalier’s lips. He caught the back of a chair to steady himself. He was mad, he knew he was mad; it had come at last, this loosing of reason.
A PAGE FROM MYTHOLOGY BY THE WAY AND A LETTER
A man’s brain can accept only so many blows or surprises at one time; after that he becomes dazed, incapable of lucid thought. At this moment it seemed to the Chevalier that he was passing through some extravagant dream. The marquis was unreal; yonder was a vapor assuming the form of a woman. He stared patiently, waiting for the dream to dissolve.