It is, I have learnt, out of the conflict of sensations such as I then underwent that a young man’s brain and morality, supposing him not to lean overmuch to sickly sentiment, becomes gradually enriched and strengthened, and himself shaped for capable manhood. I was partly conscious of a better condition in the morning; and a sober morning it was to me after my long sentinel’s step to and fro. I found myself possessed of one key—whether the right one or not—wherewith to read the princess, which was never possible to me when I was under stress of passion, or of hope or despair; my perplexities over what she said, how she looked, ceased to trouble me. I read her by this strange light: that she was a woman who could only love intelligently—love, that is, in the sense of giving herself. She had the power of passion, and it could be stirred; but he who kindled it wrecked his chance if he could not stand clear in her intellect’s unsparing gaze. Twice already she must have felt herself disillusioned by me. This third time, possibly, she blamed her own fatally credulous tenderness, not me; but it was her third awakening, and could affection and warmth of heart combat it? Her child’s enthusiasm for my country had prepared her for the impression which the waxen mind of the dreamy invalid received deeply; and so, aided by the emotional blood of youth, she gave me place in her imagination, probing me still curiously, as I remembered, at a season when her sedate mind was attaining to joint deliberations with the impulsive overgenerous heart.
Then ensued for her the successive shocks of discernment. She knew the to have some of the vices, many follies, all the intemperateness of men who carve a way for themselves in the common roads, if barely they do that. And resembling common men (men, in a judgement elective as hers, common, however able), I was not assuredly to be separated by her from my associations; from the thought of my father, for example. Her look at him in the lake-palace library, and her manner in unfolding and folding his recent letter to her, and in one or two necessitated allusions, embraced a kind of grave, pitiful humour, beyond smiles or any outward expression, as if the acknowledgement that it was so quite obliterated the wonder that it should be so—that one such as he could exercise influence upon her destiny. Or she may have made her reckoning generally, not personally, upon our human destinies: it is the more likely, if, as I divine, the calm oval of her lifted eyelids contemplated him in the fulness of the recognition that this world, of which we hope unuttered things, can be shifted and swayed by an ignis-fatuus. The father of one now seen through, could hardly fail of being transfixed himself. It was horrible to think of. I would rather have added a vice to my faults than that she should have penetrated him.
Nearing the island, I was reminded of the early morning when I landed on the Flemish flats. I did not expect a similar surprise, but before my rowers had pulled in, the tall beaconhead of old Schwartz notified that his mistress might be abroad. Janet walked with her. I ran up the steps to salute them, and had Ottilia’s hand in mine.