Page:The Saint (1906, G. P. Putnam's Sons).djvu/73

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39
Don Clemente

into French. She wrote to the unknown author in such ardent words of admiration, that Selva, in answering, alluded to his fifty-six years and his white hair. The girl replied that she was aware of both, that she neither offered nor asked for love, she only craved a few lines from time to time. Her letters sparkled with brilliant intellect. They came to Selva when he was passing through a dark crisis, a bitter struggle, which need not be related here. He thought this Maria d'Arxel might prove his saving star. He wrote to her again.

"Do you know what anniversary this is?" asked Maria. "Do you remember?"

Giovanni remembered; it was the anniversary of their first meeting. During the correspondence the two had bared the very depths of their souls to one another in an inexpressible fervour of sincerity, while as yet unacquainted save by means of portraits. After they had exchanged four or five letters, Giovanni asked his unknown correspondent for her likeness; a request she had expected and dreaded. The girl consented on condition of a speedy restitution of the photograph, and was in agony until it was returned, accompanied by some very tender words from her friend. He was charmed with the intellectual, passionate, and youthful face, with the sweetness of the great eyes, with the symmetry of the figure. Then when they had arranged to meet, he coming from the Lake of Como, she