“Ya. I know it, sir,” I replied.“During your last assignment, you shirked your responsibilities and gave everything upona younger lady’s shoulder. Am I right?””Ya. You’re absolutely right. But it went off well and cent percent perfect.”“But we can’t allow this every time. We can’t allow your attention to veer to another matter while on an assignment on behalf of the company, Mr. Corvick.”I left the room in a huff and asked Alexandra if she is ready to fly down with me toEurope. But her reply shocked me: “I can’t endanger my life every time for your whimsicalattitude, sir. My family won’t allow me this luxury.”Without further speaking a single word, I came out of the building in anger.I left the U.S. of America for a long absence and full of brave intentions. It is not aperversion of the truth to pronounce that encounter the direct cause of my departure. If the oralutterance of the person had the privilege of moving me deeply it was especially on his turning itover at leisure, hours and days later, that it appeared to yield me its full meaning and exhibit itsextreme importance. I spent the summer in Switzerland and, having in September begun a newtask, determined not to cross the Alps till I should have made a good start. To this end Ireturned to a quiet corner I knew well, on the edge of the Lake of Geneva: a region and a viewfor which I had an affection that sprang from old associations and was capable of mysteriousrevivals and refreshments. Here I lingered late, till the snow was on the nearer hills, almostdown to the limit to which I could climb when my stint, on the shortening afternoons, wasperformed. The autumn was fine, the lake was blue and my mental faculties took a new form.These felicities, for the time, embroidered my life, which I suffered to cover myself with itsmantle. At the end of two months I felt I had learnt the lesson by heart, had tested and provedits doctrine. Nevertheless I did a very inconsistent thing: before crossing the Alps I wrote to MissAlexandra….she was aware of the perversity of this act, and it was only as a luxury, anamusement, the reward of a strenuous autumn, that she justified it. She had asked of me nosuch favour when, shortly before I left the continent, barely five days after our official dinner party, I went to take leave of her. It was true I had had no ground – I had not named hisintention of absence. I had kept his counsel for want of due assurance: it was that particular visitthat was, the next thing, to settle the matter. I had paid the visit to see how much he really caredfor her, and quick departure, without so much as an explicit farewell, was the sequel to thisenquiry, the answer to which had created within me a deep yearning. When I took the liberty of calling her from Clarence I noted that I owed her an explanation (more than two months later!)for not having told her what I was doing.