Through Hans Ravn, Rafael had learned to value the companionship of his relations; now he had it in perfection. For every word that he said appreciative laughter was ready—it really sparkled round him. When he disagreed with prevailing tastes, prejudices, and morals, they disagreed too. When his precocious intelligence burst upon them, they were always ready to applaud. They even met him half-way—they could foresee the direction of his thoughts. As he was young in years and disposition, and at the same time knew more than most young people, he suited both old and young. Ah! how he prospered in Norway!
His mother went with him everywhere. Her life had at one time appeared to her relations to be most objectless, but how much she had made of it! They respected her persevering efforts to attain the goal, and she became aware of this. In the most elegant toilettes, with her discreet manner and distinguished deportment, she was hurried from party to party, from excursion to excursion, until it became too much for her.
It went too far, too; her taste was offended by it; she grew frightened. But the train of dissipation went on without her, like a string of carriages which bore him along with it while she was shaken off. Her eyes followed the cloud of dust far away, and the roll of the wheels echoed back to her.
Helene—how about Helene? Was she too out in the cold? Far from it. Rafael was as certain that she was with him as that his gold watch was next his heart. The very first day that he arrived he wrote a letter to her. It was not long, he had not time for that, but it was thoroughly characteristic. He received an answer at once; the hostess of the pension brought it to him herself. He was so immensely delighted that the lady, who was related to the Dean and who had noticed the post mark, divined the whole affair—a thing which amused him greatly.
But Helene’s letter was evasive; she evidently knew him too little to dare to speak out.
He never found time to draw the hostess into conversation on the subject, however. He came home late, he got up late, and then there were always friends waiting for him; so that he was not seen in the pension again until he returned to dress for dinner, during which time the carriage waited at the door, for he never got home till the last moment.
When could he write? It would soon all be done with, and then home to Helene!
The business respecting the cement detained him longer than he had anticipated. His mother made complications; not that she opposed the formation of a company, but she raised many difficulties: she should certainly prefer to have the whole affair postponed. He had no time to talk her round, besides, she irritated him. He told it to the hostess.