CHAPTER XXIX
THE VALE OF THE BLUE

AUSTEN himself could not well have defined his mental state as he made his way through the big rooms towards the door, but he was aware of one main desire -- to escape from Fairview. With the odours of the flowers in the tall silver vases on the piano -- her piano! -- the spirit of desire which had so long possessed him, waking and sleeping, returned, -- returned to torture him now with greater skill amidst these her possessions; her volume of Chopin on the rack, bound in red leather and stamped with her initials, which compelled his glance as he passed, and brought vivid to his memory the night he had stood in the snow and heard her playing. So, he told himself, it must always be, for him to stand in the snow -- listening.

He reached the hall, with a vast relief perceived that it was empty, and opened the door and went out. Strange that he should note, first of all, as he paused a moment at the top of the steps, that the very day had changed! The wind had fallen; the sun, well on his course towards the rim of western hills, poured the golden light of autumn over field and forest, while Sawanec was already in the blue shadow; the expectant stillness of autumn reigned, and all unconsciously Austen's blood was quickened -- though a quickening of pain.

The surprise of the instant over, he noticed that his horse was gone, -- had evidently been taken to the stables. And rather than ring the bell and wait in the mood in which he found himself, he took the path through the shrubbery from which he had seen the groom emerge.

-482-

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