FROM CHAMOUNI TO GENEVA
One morning in September, a month after all this, three persons, a lady and two gentlemen, stood on the upper step of the Couronne hotel, waving farewell with their handkerchiefs to a carriage which had just started from the door and was gayly taking the road to St. Gervais-les-Bains, on the way to Geneva.
A cool purple light stretched along the valley and reached up the mountain side to where the eternal snows begin. The crown of Mont Blanc, muffled in its scarf of cloud, was invisible. The old monarch was in that disdainful mood which sometimes lasts him for months together. From those perilous heights came down a breath that chilled the air and tempered the sunshine falling upon Chamouni, now silent and deserted, for the season was well-nigh over. With the birds, their brothers, the summer tourists had flown southward at the rustling of the first autumnal leaf. Here and there a guide leaned idly against a post in front of one of the empty hotels. There was no other indication of life in the main street save the little group we have mentioned watching the departing carriage.
This carriage, a maroon body set upon red and black wheels, was drawn by four white horses and driven by the marquis. The doctor had prescribed white horses, and he took great credit to himself that morning as he stood on the hotel steps beside Mr. and Mrs. Denham, who followed the retreating vehicle rather thoughtfully with their eyes until it turned a corner of the narrow street and was lost to them.
As the horses slackened their speed at an ascending piece of ground outside the town, Lynde took Ruth’s hand. The color of health had reasserted itself in her cheeks, but her eyes had not lost a certain depth of lustre which they had learned during her illness. The happy light in them illumined her face as she turned towards him.
“I don’t believe a word of it!” cried Lynde. “It is just a dream, a cheating page out of a fairy-book. These horses are simply four white mice transformed. An hour ago, perhaps, this carriage was a pumpkin lying on the hearth of the hotel kitchen. The coachman is a good fairy in thin disguise of overcoat and false mustache. I am doubtful of even you. The whole thing is a delusion. It won’t last, it can’t last! Presently the wicked gnome that must needs dwell in a stalactite cavern somewhere hereabouts will start up and break the enchantment.”
“It will never be broken so long as you love me,” said Ruth softly. She smiled at Lynde’s fancy, though his words had by no means badly expressed her own sense of doubt in respect to the reality of it all.
Here the driver leaned forward, skilfully touching the ear of the off-leader with the tip of his lash, and the carriage rolled away in the blue September weather. And here our story ends—at the very point, if we understand it, where life began for those two.