‘No, they attend to their duties,’ he assented generally, desperately just.
‘And you owe it to her that you have seen me.’
‘I do,’ he said, and forthwith courted the lady to be forgiven.
Clotilde was taken from him in a heavy downpour and trailing of mists.
At the foot of the mountain a boy handed her a letter from Alvan—a burning flood, rolled out of him like lava after they had separated on the second plateau, and confided to one who knew how to outstrip pathfarers. She entered her hotel across the lake, and met a telegram. At night the wires flashed ‘Sleep well’ to her; on her awakening, ’Good morning.’ A lengthened history of the day was telegraphed for her amusement. Again at night there was a ‘God guard you!’
‘Who can resist him?’ sighed Clotilde, excited, nervous, flattered, happy, but yearning to repose and be curtained from the buzz of the excess of life that he put about her. This time there was no prospect of his courtship relapsing.
‘He is a wonderful, an ideal lover!’ replied her friend.
‘If he were only that!’ said Clotilde, musing expressively. ’If, dear Englishwoman, he were only that, he might be withstood. But Alvan mounts high over such lovers: he is a wonderful and ideal man: so great, so generous, heroical, giant-like, that what he wills must be.’
The Englishwoman was quick enough to seize an indication difficult to miss—more was expected to be said of him.
‘You see the perfect gentleman in Dr. Alvan,’ she remarked, for she had heard him ordering his morning bath at the hotel, and he had also been polite to her under vexation.
Clotilde nodded hurriedly; she saw something infinitely greater, and disliked the bringing of that island microscope to bear upon a giant. She found it repugnant to hear a word of Alvan as a perfect gentleman. Justly, however, she took him for a splendid nature, and assuming upon good authority that the greater contains the lesser, she supposed the lesser to be a chiselled figure serviceably alive in the embrace.
He was down on the plains to her the second day, and as usual when they met, it was as if they had not parted; his animation made it seem so. He was like summer’s morning sunlight, his warmth striking instantly through her blood dispersed any hesitating strangeness that sometimes gathers during absences, caused by girlish dread of a step to take, or shame at the step taken, when coldish gentlemen rather create these backflowings and gaps in the feelings. She had grown reconciled to the perturbation of his messages, and would have preferred to have him startling and thrilling her from a distance; but seeing him, she welcomed him, and feeling in his bright presence not the faintest chill of the fit of shyness, she took her bravery of heart for a sign that she had reached his level, and might own it by speaking of the practical measures to lead to their union. On one subject sure to be raised against him by her parents, she had a right to be inquisitive: the baroness.