“Stop! Who are you? Why do you cry through the woods?”
But the dusk was too thick, the forest too eager. The black figure disappeared. In retrospect it was again as unsubstantial as a phantom. The flakes whispered mockingly. The wind was ironical.
He found his pursuit had led him back to the end of the lake nearest the Cedars. He paused. His triumph was not unmixed with fear. A black figure stood in the open, quite close to him, gazing over the stagnant water that was like a veil for sinister things. He knew now that the woman was flesh and blood, for she did not glide away, and the snow made pallid scars on her black cloak.
He crept carefully forward until he was close behind the black figure.
“Now,” he said, “you’ll tell me who you are and why you cry about the Cedars.”
The woman swung around with a cry. He stepped back, abashed, not knowing what to say, for there was still enough light to disclose to him the troubled face of Katherine, and there were tears in her eyes as if she might recently have expressed an audible grief.
“You frightened me, Bobby.”
Without calculation he spoke his swift thought: “Was it you I saw here before? But surely you didn’t cry in the house the other night and afterward when we followed Carlos!”
The tranquil beauty of her face was disturbed. When she answered her voice had lost something of its music:
“What do you mean?”
“It was you who cried just now? It was you I saw running through the woods?”
“What do you mean?” she asked again. “I have not run. I—I am not your woman in black, if that’s what you think. I happened to pick up this cloak. You’ve seen it often enough before. And I haven’t cried.”
She brushed the tears angrily from her eyes.
“At least I haven’t cried so any one could hear me. I wanted to walk. I hoped I would find you. I thought you had come this way, so I came, too. Why, Bobby, you’re suspecting me of something!”
But the problem of the fugitive figure receded before the more intimate one of his heart. There was a thrill in her desire to find him in the solitude of the forest.
Only the faintest gray survived in the sky above the trees. The shadows were thick about them. The whispering snow urged him to use this moment for his happiness. It wasn’t the thought of Graham that held him back. Last night, under an equal temptation, he might have spoken. To-night a new element silenced him and bound his eager hands. His awakening at the head of the stairs raised an obstacle to self-revelation around which there seemed to exist no path.
“I’m sorry. Let us go back,” he said.
She looked at him inquiringly.
“What is it, Bobby? You are more afraid to-day than you have ever been before. Has something happened I know nothing of?”
He shook his head. He couldn’t increase her own trouble by telling her of that.