When they had arrived at the hotel, Colonel Campian proposed that they should come in and have some coffee; but Theodora did not enforce this suggestion; and Lothair, feeling that she might be wearied, gracefully though unwillingly waived the proposal. Remembering that on the noon of the morrow they were to depart, with a happy inspiration, as he said farewell, he asked permission to accompany them to the station.
Lothair walked away with the professor, who seemed in a conservative vein, and graciously disposed to make several concessions to the customs of an ancient country. Though opposed to the land laws, he would operate gradually, and gave Lothair more than one receipt how to save the aristocracy. Lothair would have preferred talking about the lady they had just quitted, but, as he soon found the professor could really give him no information about her, he let the subject drop.
But not out of his own mind. He was glad to be alone and brood over the last two days. They were among the most interesting of his life. He had encountered a character different from any he had yet met, had listened to new views, and his intelligence had been stimulated by remarks made casually, in easy conversation, and yet to him pregnant with novel and sometimes serious meaning. The voice, too, lingered in his ear, so hushed and deep, and yet so clear and sweet. He leaned over his mantel-piece in teeming reverie.
“And she is profoundly religious,” he said to himself; “she can conceive no kind of society without religion. She has arrived at the same conclusion as myself. What a privilege it would be to speak to her on such subjects!”
After a restless night the morrow came. About eleven o’clock Lothair ventured to call on his new friends. The lady was alone; she was standing by the window, reading an Italian newspaper, which she folded up and placed aside when Lothair was announced.
“We propose to walk to the station,” said Theodora; “the servants have gone on. Colonel Campian has a particular aversion to moving with any luggage. He restricts me to this,” she said, pointing to her satchel, in which she had placed the foreign newspaper, “and for that he will not be responsible.”
“It was most kind of you to permit me to accompany you this morning,” said Lothair; “I should have been grieved to have parted abruptly last night.”
“I could not refuse such a request,” said the lady; “but do you know, I never like to say farewell, even for four-and-twenty hours? One should vanish like a spirit.”
“Then I have erred,” said Lothair, “against your rules and principles.”
“Say my fancies,” said the lady, “my humors, my whims. Besides, this is not a farewell. You will come and see us. Colonel Campian tells me you have promised to give us that pleasure.”
“It will be the greatest pleasure to me,” said Lothair; “I can conceive nothing greater.” And then hesitating a little, and a little blushing, he added, “When do you think I might come?”
“Whenever you like,” said the lady; “you will always find me at home. My life is this: I ride every day very early, and far into the country, so I return tamed some two or three hours after noon, and devote myself to my friends. We are at home every evening, except opera nights; and let me tell you, because it is not the custom generally among your compatriots, we are always at home on Sundays.”
Colonel Campian entered the room; the moment of departure was at hand. Lothair felt the consolation of being their companion to the station. He had once hoped it might be possible to be their companion in the train; but he was not encouraged.
“Railways have elevated and softened the lot of man,” said Theodora, “and Colonel Campian views them with almost a religious sentiment. But I cannot read in a railroad, and the human voice is distressing to me amid the whirl and the whistling, and the wild panting of the loosened megatheria who drag us. And then those terrible grottos — it is quite a descent of Proserpine; so I have no resources but my thoughts.”
“And surely that is sufficient,” murmured Lothair.
“Not when the past is expelled,” said the lady.
“But the future,” said Lothair.
“Yes, that is ever interesting, but so vague that it sometimes induces slumber.”
The bell sounded; Lothair handed the lady to her compartment.
“Our Oxford visit,” she said, “has been a great success, and mainly through you.”
The colonel was profuse in his cordial farewells, and it seemed they would never have ended had not the train moved.
Lothair remained upon the platform until it was out of sight, and then exclaimed, “Is it a dream, or shall I ever see her again?”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53