“You’d better not go this evening,” he said, as convincingly as he knew how; “because the gates will be closed very early, and the Saturday-evening services are of a particularly special nature, quite reserved for those living on the grounds.”
“Rats!” said Theodore, raising his head, and abandoning the search for the bill. “Why don’t you speak out like a man, and say you think I’m too drunk?”
“I don’t think that is a question which need arise between us, Mr. Madden,” murmured Theron, confusedly.
“Oh, don’t you make any mistake! A hell of a lot of questions arise between us, Mr. Ware,” cried Theodore, with a sudden accession of vigor in tone and mien. “And one of ’em is—go away from me, Michael!—one of ’em is, I say, why don’t you leave our girls alone? They’ve got their own priests to make fools of themselves over, without any sneak of a Protestant parson coming meddling round them. You’re a married man into the bargain; and you’ve got in your house this minute a piano that my sister bought and paid for. Oh, I’ve seen the entry in Thurston’s books! You have the cheek to talk to me about being drunk—why—”
These remarks were never concluded, for Father Forbes here clapped a hand abruptly over the offending mouth, and flung his free arm in a tight grip around the young man’s waist. “Come with me, Michael!” he said, and the two men led the reluctant and resisting Theodore at a sharp pace off into the woods.
Theron and Celia stood and watched them disappear among the undergrowth. “It’s the dirty Foley blood that’s in him,” he heard her say, as if between clenched teeth.
The girl’s big brown eyes, when Theron looked into them again, were still fixed upon the screen of foliage, and dilated like those of a Medusa mask. The blood had gone away, and left the fair face and neck as white, it seemed to him, as marble. Even her lips, fiercely bitten together, appeared colorless. The picture of consuming and powerless rage which she presented, and the shuddering tremor which ran over her form, as visible as the quivering track of a gust of wind across a pond, awed and frightened him.
Tenderness toward her helpless state came too, and uppermost. He drew her arm into his, and turned their backs upon the picnic scene.
“Let us walk a little up the path into the woods,” he said, “and get away from all this.”
“The further away the better,” she answered bitterly, and he felt the shiver run through her again as she spoke.
The methodical waltz-music from that unseen dancing platform rose again above all other sounds. They moved up the woodland path, their steps insensibly falling into the rhythm of its strains, and vanished from sight among the trees.
Theron and Celia walked in silence for some minutes, until the noises of the throng they had left behind were lost. The path they followed had grown indefinite among the grass and creepers of the forest carpet; now it seemed to end altogether in a little copse of young birches, the delicately graceful stems of which were clustered about a parent stump, long since decayed and overgrown with lichens and layers of thick moss.