The maid turned and flooded her with the light of the lantern just as she impulsively lifted an alarmed glance to Leonard’s window and as quickly averted it. “Go on,” said the mistress. “I can walk faster if you can.”
The girl quickened her steps, but had not taken a dozen when Isabel stopped again. “Wait, Minnie. Now you can run back, thank you.” She reached for the lantern.
“I—I thought I was to go all the way, and—and bring the lantern back.”
“No, I’ll keep the lantern; but I’ll stay here and throw the light after you till you get in. Run along.”
Minnie tripped away. As she came where they had first halted, a purposely belated good-night softly overtook her; and when she looked back, Isabel, as if by inadvertency, sent the lantern’s beam into her eyes. So too much light sent the maid by the spot unenlightened.
Leonard drew aside lest the beam swing next into his window. But the precaution was wasted; the glare followed Minnie.
Isabel also followed, slowly, a few paces, and then moved obliquely into the roadway and toward the window. Only for a moment the ray swept near her unseen observer, and, lighting up the rain-packed sand close before herself, revealed a line of footprints slanting toward her from Leonard’s own gate.
As the cottage door shut Minnie in, Isabel, reassured by the brightness of the Byingtons’ lower windows, stopped for a furtive instant, and holding in her hand the fellow of the slipper so lately in Ruth’s fingers, exactly fitted it to one of these footprints. Then, with the lantern on her farther side, and every vein surging with fright and shame, she made haste toward the open gateway of the Winslow house.
A short space from it she recoiled with a gesture of dismay and self-repression, and her light shone full upon a man. He stepped from the garden, his form tensely lifted, his face aflame with anger.
But her small figure straightened also, and swiftly muffling the lantern in a fold of her skirt, she exclaimed, audibly only to him, though in words clear-cut as musical notes, “Oh, Arthur Winslow, has it come to this?”
She arrested his resentful answer by the uplift of a hand, which left the lantern again uncovered. “Inside! In the house!” she softly cried, starting on. “Not here! Look!—those upper windows!—we’re in full view of them!”
Quickly she remuffled the lantern, but not in time to hide his motion as he threw out an arm and pushed her rudely back, while he exclaimed, “In full view of them answer me one question!”
It was then that Leonard went hurriedly downstairs.
THE LANTERN QUENCHED
“I will answer you nothing!” murmured Isabel, still facing her husband as she moved round into the garden driveway. “Arthur Winslow, it is you who are on trial, not I!”
“I on trial! God, listen to that!”