Abruptly he became aware that while he gazed, like a man in a trance, the two young people walked on their way and were on the point of passing beyond reach of eye or ear. He made a sudden involuntary movement as if he would call them back, and for the first time his faithful hiding-place, strained beyond silent endurance, betrayed him with a loud rustle of shaken branches. Ste. Marie shrank back, his heart in his throat. It was too late to retreat now down the tree. The damage was already done. He saw the two young people halt and turn to look, and after a moment he saw the boy come slowly forward, staring. He heard him say:
“What’s up in that tree? There’s something in the tree.” And he heard the girl answer: “It’s only birds fighting. Don’t bother!” But young Arthur Benham came on, staring up curiously until he was almost under the high wall.
Then Ste. Marie’s strange madness, or the hand of Fate, or whatever power it was which governed him on that day, thrust him on to the ultimate pitch of recklessness. He bent forward from his insecure perch over the wall until his head and shoulders were in plain sight, and he called down to the lad below in a loud whisper:
The boy gave a sharp cry of alarm and began to back away. And after a moment Ste. Marie heard the cry echoed from Coira O’Hara. He heard her say:
“Be careful! Be careful, Arthur! Come away! Oh, come away quickly!”
Ste. Marie raised his own voice to a sort of cry. He said:
“Wait! I tell you to wait, Benham! I must have a word with you. I come from your family—from Helen!”
To his amazement the lad turned about and began to run toward where the girl stood waiting; and so, without a moment’s hesitation, Ste. Marie threw himself across the top of the wall, hung for an instant by his hands, and dropped upon the soft turf. Scarcely waiting to recover his balance, he stumbled forward, shouting:
“Wait! I tell you, wait! Are you mad? Wait, I say! Listen to me!”
Vaguely, in the midst of his great excitement, he had heard a whistle sound as he dropped inside the wall. He did not know then whence the shrill call had come, but afterward he knew that Coira O’ Hara had blown it. And now, as he ran forward toward the two who stood at a distance staring at him, he heard other steps and he slackened his pace to look.
A man came running down among the black-boled trees, a strange, squat, gnomelike man whose gait was as uncouth as his dwarfish figure. He held something in his two hands as he ran, and when he came near he threw this thing with a swift movement up before him, but he did not pause in his odd, scrambling run.