“I will guide you right,” faltered Telie, with anxious voice.
“My good girl,” said the soldier, kindly, but positively, “you must allow me to doubt your ability to do that,—at least, on that path. Here is our road; and we must follow it.”
He resumed it, as he spoke, and Edith, conquered by his arguments, which seemed decisive, followed him; but looking back, after having proceeded a few steps, she saw the baffled guide still lingering on the rejected path, and wringing her hands with grief and disappointment.
“You will not remain behind us?” said Edith, riding back to her: “You see, my cousin is positive: you must surely be mistaken?”
“I am not mistaken,” said the girl, earnestly; “and, oh! he will repent that ever he took his own way through this forest.”
“How can that be? What cause have you to say so?”
“I do not know,” murmured the damsel, in woeful perplexity; “but—but, sometimes, that road is dangerous.”
“Sometimes all roads are so,” said Edith, her patience failing, when she found Telie could give no better reason for her opposition. “Let us continue: my kinsman is waiting us, and we must lose no more time by delay.”
With these words, she again trotted forward, and Telie, after hesitating a moment, thought fit to follow.
But now the animation that had, a few moments before, beamed forth in every look and gesture of the maiden, gave place to dejection of spirits, and even, as Edith thought, to alarm. She seemed as anxious now to linger in the rear as she had been before to preserve a bold position in front. Her eyes wandered timorously from brake to tree, as if in fear lest each should conceal a lurking enemy; and often, as Edith looked back, she was struck with the singularly mournful and distressed expression of her countenance.
These symptoms of anxiety and alarm affected Edith’s own spirits; they did more,—they shook her faith in the justice of her kinsman’s conclusions. His arguments in relation to the road were, indeed, unanswerable, and Telie had offered none to weaken them. Yet why should she betray such distress, if they were upon the right one? and why, in fact, should she not be supposed to know both the right and the wrong, since she had, as she said, so frequently travelled both?
These questions Edith could not refrain asking of Roland, who professed himself unable to answer them, unless by supposing the girl had become confused, as he thought was not improbable, or had, in reality, been so long absent from the forest as to have forgotten its paths altogether: which was likely enough, as she seemed a very simple-minded, inexperienced creature. “But why need we,” he said, “trouble ourselves to find reasons for the poor girl’s opposition? Here are the tracks of our friends, broader and deeper than ever: here they wind down into the hollow; and there, you may see where they have floundered through that vile pool, that is still turbid, where they crossed it. A horrible quagmire! But courage, my fair cousin: it is only such difficulties as these which the road can lead us into.”