He started himself into busy frenzies to reach to her, already indifferent to the means, and waxing increasingly reckless as he fed on his agitation. Some faith in her, even the little she deserved, would have arrested him: unhappily he had less than she, who had enough to nurse the dim sense of his fixity, and sank from him only in her heart’s faintness, but he, when no longer flattered by the evidence of his mastery, took her for sand. Why, then, had he let her out of his grasp? The horrid echoed interrogation flashed a hideous view of the woman. But how had he come to be guilty of it? he asked himself again; and, without answering him, his counsellors to that poor wisdom set to work to complete it: Giant Vanity urged Giant Energy to make use of Giant Duplicity. He wrote to Clotilde, with one voice quoting the law in their favour, with another commanding her to break it. He gathered and drilled a legion of spies, and showered his gold in bribes and plots to get the letter to her, to get an interview—one human word between them.
His friend Colonel von Tresten was beside him when he received the enemy’s counter-stroke. Count Walburg and his companion brought a letter from Clotilde—no reply; a letter renouncing him.
Briefly, in cold words befitting the act, she stated that the past must be dead between them; for the future she belonged to her parents; she had left the city. She knew not where he might be, her letter concluded, but henceforward he should know that they were strangers.
Alvan held out the deadly paper when he had read the contents; he smote a forefinger on it and crumpled it in his hand. That was the dumb oration of a man shocked by the outrage upon passionate feeling to the state of brute. His fist, outstretched to the length of his arm, shook the reptile letter under a terrible frown.
Tresten saw that he supposed himself to be perfectly master of his acts because he had not spoken, and had managed to preserve the ordinary courtesies.
‘You have done your commission,’ the colonel said to Count Walburg, whose companion was not disposed to go without obtaining satisfactory assurances, and pressed for them.
Alvan fastened on him. ‘You adopt the responsibility of this?’ He displayed the letter.
Tresten remarked to Count Walburg: ‘These visits are provocations.’
‘They are not so intended,’ said the count, bowing pacifically. His friend was not a man of the sword, and was not under the obligation to accept an insult. They left the letter to do its work.