Not only that morning, but every morning for two weeks, did Marco Davos visit Alt-Aussee. He came down from Ischl on the earliest train, and some nights he stopped at the hotel near his new friends. After a few visits he saw little of the father and uncle, and he was not sorry—they were old bores with their archaic anecdotes of dead pianists. Two maniacs on the subject of music, Davos wished them to the devil after he had known them twenty-four hours. His passion had reached the acute key. He could not eat or drink in normal fashion, and no sooner had he left the girl than the sky became sombre, his pulse weakened, and he longed to return to her side to tell her something he had forgotten. He did this several times, and hesitated in his speech, reddened, and left her, stumbling over the grass like a lame man. Never such a crazy wooer, never a calmer maiden. She looked unutterable sentiment, but spoke it not.
When he teased her about her music, she became a statue. She was too timid to play before artists; her only master had been her father. Once more he had heard the piano as he returned unexpectedly, and almost caught her; he saw her at the instrument, but some instinct must have warned her that she was being spied upon. She stopped in the middle of a phrase from a Mendelssohn song, and even to his prejudiced ears her touch had seemed commonplace. Yet he loved her all the more despite her flat refusal to play. The temptation to his excited artistic temperament was removed. He played, often, gloriously. His nerves were steel. This was a cure his doctor had not foreseen. What did it matter, anyhow?—he was near Constantia daily, and the sunshine was royal. Only—why did her relatives absent themselves so obstinately! She told him, with her secret smile, that she had scolded them for talking so much; but when he played they were never far away, she assured him. Nor was the Japanese woman, Cilli—what a name! A nickname given by Constantia in her babyhood. Cilli was a good soul. He hoped so—her goodness was not apparent. She had a sneering expression as he played. He never looked up from the keyboard that he did not encounter her ironical gaze. She was undoubtedly interested. Her intensity of pose proved it; but there was no sympathy in her eyes. And she had a habit of suddenly appearing in door or window, and always behind her mistress. She ended by seriously annoying him, though he did not complain. It was too trivial.
One afternoon he unfolded his novel views on touch. If the action of the modern pianoforte could be made as sensitive in its response as the fingerboard of a fiddle.... Constantia listened with her habitual gravity, but he knew that she was bored. Then he shifted to the subject of fingers. He begged to be allowed the privilege of examining hers. At first she held back, burying her hand in the old Mechlin lace flounce of her sleeves. He coaxed.