As the two paused, the girl suddenly sank upon her knees, then threw herself face forward upon the soft green bark which had formed itself above the roots of the ancient mother-tree. Her companion looked down in pained amazement at what he saw. Her body shook with the violence of recurring sobs, or rather gasps of wrath and grief Her hands, with stiffened, claw-like fingers, dug into the moss and tangle of tiny vines, and tore them by the roots. The half-stifled sounds of weeping that arose from where her face grovelled in the leaves were terrible to his ears. He knew not what to say or do, but gazed in resourceless suspense at the strange figure she made. It seemed a cruelly long time that she lay there, almost at his feet, struggling fiercely with the fury that was in her.
All at once the paroxysms passed away, the sounds of wild weeping ceased. Celia sat up, and with her handkerchief wiped the tears and leafy fragments from her face. She rearranged her hat and the braids of her hair with swift, instinctive touches, brushed the woodland debris from her front, and sprang to her feet.
“I’m all right now,” she said briskly. There was palpable effort in her light tone, and in the stormy sort of smile which she forced upon her blotched and perturbed countenance, but they were only too welcome to Theron’s anxious mood.
“Thank God!” he blurted out, all radiant with relief. “I feared you were going to have a fit—or something.”
Celia laughed, a little artificially at first, then with a genuine surrender to the comic side of his visible fright. The mirth came back into the brown depths of her eyes again, and her face cleared itself of tear-stains and the marks of agitation. “I am a nice quiet party for a Methodist minister to go walking in the woods with, am I not?” she cried, shaking her skirts and smiling at him.
“I am not a Methodist minister—please!” answered Theron—“at least not today—and here—with you! I am just a man—nothing more—a man who has escaped from lifelong imprisonment, and feels for the first time what it is to be free!”
“Ah, my friend,” Celia said, shaking her head slowly, “I’m afraid you deceive yourself. You are not by any means free. You are only looking out of the window of your prison, as you call it. The doors are locked, just the same.”
“I will smash them!” he declared, with confidence. “Or for that matter, I have smashed them—battered them to pieces. You don’t realize what progress I have made, what changes there have been in me since that night, you remember that wonderful night! I am quite another being, I assure you! And really it dates from way beyond that—why, from the very first evening, when I came to you in the church. The window in Father Forbes’ room was open, and I stood by it listening to the music next door, and I could just faintly see on the dark window across the alley-way a stained-glass picture of a woman. I suppose it was the Virgin Mary. She had hair like yours, and your face, too; and that is why I went into the church and found you. Yes, that is why.”