Lane swerved to the left, and in the gloom of trees, passed by noiselessly. Soon he encountered another car—an open car with shields up—as silent as if empty. But the very silence of it was potent of life. It cried out to the night and to Lane. But it was not the car he had followed.
Again he slipped by, stealthily, yet scornful of his caution. Who cared? He might have shouted his mission to the heavens. Lane passed on. All he caught from the second car was a faint fragrance of smoke, wafted on the gentle summer breeze.
Another black object loomed up—a larger car—the sedan Lane recognized. He did not bolt or hurry. His footsteps made no sound. Crouching a little he slipped round the car to one side. At the instant he reached for the handle of the door, a pang shook him. Alas, that he should be compelled to spy on Lorna! His little sister! He saw her as a curly-headed child, adoring him. Perhaps it might not be Lorna after all. But it was for her sake that he was doing this. The softer moment passed and the soldier intervened.
With one swift turn and jerk he opened the door—then flashed his light. A scream rent the air. In the glaring circle of light Lane saw red hair—green eyes transfixed in fear—white shoulders—white arms—white ringed hands suddenly flung upward. Helen! The blood left his heart in a rush. Swann blinked in the light, bewildered and startled.
“Swann, you’ll have to excuse me,” said Lane, coolly. “I thought you had my sister with you. I’ve spotted her twice with you in this car.... It may not interest you or your—your guest, but I’ll add that you’re damned lucky not to have Lorna here to-night.”
Then he snapped off his flash-light, and slamming the car door, he wheeled away.
Lane left his room and went into the shady woods, where he thought the July heat would be less unendurable, where the fever in his blood might abate. But though it was cool and pleasant there he experienced no relief. Wherever he went he carried the burden of his pangs. And his grim giant of unrest trod in his shadow.
He could not stay long in the woods. He betook himself to the hills and meadows. Action was beneficial for him, though he soon exhausted himself. He would have liked to fight out his battle that day. Should he go on spending his days and nights in a slowly increasing torment? The longer he fought the less chance he had of victory. Victory! There could be none. What victory could be won over a strange ineradicable susceptibility to the sweetness, charm, mystery of a woman? He plodded the fragrant fields with bent head, in despair. Loneliness hurt him as much as anything. And a new pang, the fiercest and most insupportable, had been added to his miseries. Jealousy! Thought of the father of Mel Iden’s child haunted him, flayed him, made him feel himself ignoble and base. There was no help for that. And this fiend of jealousy added fuel to his love. Only long passionate iteration of his assurance of principle and generosity subdued that frenzy and at length gave him composure. Perhaps this had some semblance to victory.