“It’s a clear case of hero worship,” he declared. “You’re going to be as bad as I have been.”
“And yet,” she said slowly, “it is his sister of whom I think all the time. Fenella she calls herself, doesn’t she?”
“You like her, too?” Arnold asked eagerly.
“I hate her,” was the low, fierce reply.
Arnold drew a little away.
“You can’t mean it!” he exclaimed. “You can’t really mean that you don’t like her!”
Ruth clutched at his arm as though jealous of his instinctive disappointment.
“I know that it’s brutally ungracious,” she declared. “It’s a sort of madness, even. But I hate her because she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen here in life. I hate her for that, and I hate her for her strength. Did you see her come across the lawn to us to-night, Arnold?”
He nodded enthusiastically.
“You mean in that smoke-colored muslin dress?”
“She has no right to wear clothes like that!” Ruth cried. “She does it so that men may see how beautiful she is. I—well, I hate her!”
There was a silence. Then Ruth rose slowly to her feet. Her tone was suddenly altered, her eyes pleaded with his.
“Don’t take any notice of me to-night, Arnold,” she implored. “It has been such a wonderful day, and I am not used to so much excitement. I am afraid that I am a little hysterical. Do be kind and help me across to my room.”
“Is there any hurry?” he asked. “It hasn’t struck twelve yet.”
“I want to go, please,” she begged. “I shall say foolish things if I stay here much longer, and I don’t want to. Let me go.”
He obeyed her without further question. Once more he supported her with his arms, but she kept her face turned away. When he had reached her door he would have left her, but she still clutched his arm.
“I am foolish,” she whispered, “foolish and wicked to-night. And besides, I am afraid. It is all because I am overtired. Come in with me for one moment, please, and let me be sure that Isaac is all right. Feel how I am trembling.”
“Of course I will come,” he answered. “Isaac can’t be angry with me to-night, anyhow, for my clothes are old and dusty enough.”
He opened the door and they passed across the threshold. Then they both stopped short and Ruth gave a little start. The room was lit with several candles. There was no sign of Isaac, but a middle-aged man, with black beard and moustache, had risen to his feet at their entrance. He glanced at Ruth with keen interest, at Arnold with a momentary curiosity.
“What are you doing here?” Ruth demanded. “What right have you in this room?”
The man did not answer her question.
“I shall be glad,” he said, “if you will come in and shut the door. If you are Miss Ruth Lalonde, I have a few questions to ask you.”