His form stayed moveless upon the river steps while the wave of realization played.
The experience linked itself with that of the other night when the stony bed of existence, broken, harsh, irregular, had suddenly dissolved into connections myriad wide, deep, and fine.... He had prated with philosophers of oneness. Then what he had prated of had been true! There was a great difference between talking of and touching truth....
But he could not hold the touch. The wings flagged, he fell into the jungle of words. His body turned upon the steps. The caves and dens of his being began to echo with cries and counter-cries.
Hurt? Had she not been hurt at all? But she was hurt—poisoned, ruined, drawn to death! Had she long and wide and living power to heal her own harm? Still was it not there—he would have it there!
Ian Rullock! With a long, inward, violent recoil Alexander shrank into the old caves of himself. All, the magic web of color and fragrance dwindled, came to be a willow basket filled with White Farm flowers placed upon the kirkyard steps.
Ian Rullock had stolen her—Ian, not Alexander, had been her lover, kissed her, clasped her, there in the glen! Ian, the Judas of friendship—thief of a comrade’s bliss—cheat, murderer, mocker, and injurer!
The wave of oneness fled.
Glenfernie, looking like the old laird his father, his cloak wrapped around him, feeling the December air, left the river steps, wandered away through Paris.
But when he was alone with the night he tried to recover the wave. It had been so wonderful. Even the faint, faint echo, the ghostly afterglow, were exquisite; were worth more than anything he yet had owned. He tried to recover the earlier part of the wave, separating it from the later flood that had seemed critical of righteous wrath, just punishment. But it would not come back on those terms.... But yet he wanted it, wanted it, longed for it even while he warred against it.
That was one December. The year made twelve steps and here was December again. With it came to Ian a proffer from the nobleman of the coach across the Seine. Some ancient business, whether of soul or sense, carried him to Rome. Monsieur Ian Rullock—said to be for the moment banished from a certain paradise—might find it in his interest to come with him—say as traveling companion. Ian found it so. Monseigneur was starting at once. Good! let us start.
Ian despatched his servant to the lodging known to be occupied by the laird of Glenfernie. The man had a note to deliver. Alexander took it and read:
am quitting Paris with the Duc
de ——, for Rome.—IAN RULLOCK.
The man gone, Alexander put fire to the missive and burned it, after which he walked up and down, up and down the wide, bare room. When some time had passed he came back to chair and table, inkwell and pen, and a half-written letter. The quill drove on: