There was no help for it; Aurora kissed him, and was gone before he could come to himself. How long the interview had lasted (time flies swiftly in such sweet intercourse), or how long he sat there after she left, he could not tell; but when he went out already the dusk was gathering, the sun had gone down, and in the east the as yet pale orb of the moon was rising over the hills. As if in a dream he walked with unsteady steps to the castle stable; his horse had been put back, and the grooms suggested to him that it was better not to attempt the forest at night. But he was determined; he gave them all the coin he had about him, it was not much, but more than they had expected.
They ran beside him to the barrier; advising him as they ran, as he would go, to string his bow and loosen an arrow in the girdle, and above all, not to loiter, or let his horse walk, but to keep him at as sharp a trot as he could. The fact that so many wealthy persons had assembled at the castle for the feast would be sure to be known to the banditti (the outlaws of the cities and the escaped serfs). They were certain to be on the look out for travellers; let him beware.
His ears tingled and his head felt hot, as if the blood had rushed into it (it was the violence of the emotion that he had felt), as he rode from the barrier, hearing, and yet without conscious knowledge of what they said. They watched him up the slope, and saw him disappear from sight under the dark beeches of the forest.
NIGHT IN THE FOREST
At first Felix rode quickly, but his horse stumbling, though accustomed to the woods, warned him to be more careful. The passage of so many horsemen in the last few days had cut up and destroyed the track, which was nothing but a green path, and the covered waggons had of course assisted in rendering it rough and broken. He therefore rode slowly, and giving his horse his head, he picked his way of his own accord at the side of the road, often brushing against the underwood.
Still, indeed, absorbed by the feelings which had almost mastered him in the arbour, and thinking of Aurora, he forgot where he was, till the dismal howling of wood-dogs deep in the forest woke him. It was almost pitch dark under the tall beeches, the highest of the trees preventing the beams of the moon from illuminating the path till later in the night. Like a curtain the thick foliage above shut out the sky, so that no star was visible. When the wood-dogs ceased there was no sound beyond the light fall of the horse’s hoofs as he walked upon the grass. Darkness and silence prevailed; he could see nothing. He spoke to his horse and patted his neck; he stepped a little faster and lifted his head, which he had held low as if making his way by scent.