The doctor thought for a moment.
“Suppose I come back?” he said. “I’ve only one or two unimportant cases to look after. I ought to return before dinner. I’ll take Graham’s place for to-night. It’s time your reactions were better diagnosed. I’ll share your room, and you can go to sleep, assured that you’ll come to no harm, that harm will come to no one through you. I’ll bring some books on the subject. I’ll read them while you sleep. Perhaps I can learn the impulse that makes your body active while your mind’s a blank.”
The idea of the influence of Paredes, which Graham had put into words, slipped back to Bobby. He was, nevertheless, strengthened by the doctor’s promise. To an extent the dread of the night fell from him like a smothering garment. This old man, who had always filled him with discomfort, had become a capable support in his difficult hour. He saw him drive away. He studied his watch, computing the time that must elapse before he could return. He wanted him at the Cedars even though the doctor believed more thoroughly than any one else in the spiritual survival of old passions and the power of the dead to project a physical evil.
He didn’t care to go back to the hall. It would do him good to walk, to force as far as he could from his mind the memory of the ordeal at the grave, the grim, impending atmosphere of the house. And suppose he should accomplish something useful? Suppose he should succeed where Graham had failed?
So he walked toward the stagnant lake. The flakes of snow fell thicker. Already they had gathered in white patches on the floor of the forest. If this weather continued the woods would cease to be habitable for that dark feminine figure through which they had accounted for the mournful crying after Howells’s death, which Graham had tried to identify with the dancer, Maria.
As he passed the neighbourhood of the cemetery; he walked faster. Many yards of underbrush separated him from the little time-devastated city of the dead, but its mere proximity forced on him, as the old room had done, a feeling of a stealthy and intangible companionship.
He stepped from the fringe of trees about the open space in the centre of which the lake brooded. The water received with a destructive indifference the fluttering caresses of the snowflakes. Bobby paused with a quick expectancy. He saw nothing of the woman who had startled him that first evening, but he heard from the thicket a sound like muffled sobbing, and he responded again to the sense of a malevolent regard.
He hid himself among the trees, and in their shelter skirted the lake. The sobbing had faded into nothing. For a long time he heard only the whispers of the snow and the grief of the wind. When he had rounded the lake and was some distance beyond it, however, the moaning reached him again, and through the fast-deepening twilight he saw, as indistinctly as he had before, a black feminine figure flitting among the trees in the direction of the lake. Graham’s theory lost its value. It was impossible to fancy the brilliant, colourful dancer in this black, shadowy thing. He commenced to run in pursuit, calling out: