Her honesty appalled him, and he got up and began to pace the gravel walk.
“Do you intend to cross it?” he asked, halting abruptly.
“No, I don’t.... I don’t want to.... Do you think there is any fear of it?”
“My Lord!” he said in despair, “you talk like a child. I’m trying to realise that you women—some of you who appear so primed with doubtful, worldly wisdom—are practically as innocent as the day you married.”
“I don’t know very much about some things, Duane.”
“I notice that,” he said grimly.
She said very gravely: “This is the first time I have ever come very near caring for a man.... I mean since I married.” And she rose and glanced toward the forest.
They stood together for a moment, listening to the distant music, then, without speaking, turned and walked toward the distant flare of light which threw great trees into tangled and grotesque silhouette.
“Tales of the Geneii,” she murmured, fastening her loup; “Fate is the Sultan. Pray God nobody cuts my head off.”
“You are much too amusing,” he said as, side by side, they moved silently on through the pale starlight, like errant phantoms of a vanished age, and no further word was said between them, nor did they look at each other again until, ahead, the road turned silvery under the rays of the Lodge acetylenes, and beyond, the first cluster of brilliant lanterns gleamed among the trees.
“And here we separate,” she said. “Good-bye,” holding out her hand. “It is my first rendezvous. Wish me a little happiness, please.”
“Happiness and—good sense,” he said, smiling. He retained her hand for a second, let it go and, stepping back, saluted her gaily as she passed before him into the blaze of light.
The forest, in every direction, was strung with lighted lanterns; tall torches burning edged the Gray Water, and every flame rippled straight upward in the still air.
Through the dark, mid-summer woodland music of violin, viola, and clarionet rang out, and the laughter and jolly uproar of the dancers swelled and ebbed, with now and then sudden intervals of silence slowly filled by the far noise of some unseen stream rushing westward under the stars.
Glade, greensward, forest, aisles, and the sylvan dancing floor, bounded by garlanded and beribboned pillars, swarmed with a gay company. Torchlight painted strange high lights on silken masks, touching with subdued sparkles the eyes behind the slanting eye-slits; half a thousand lanterns threw an orange radiance across the glade, bathing the whirling throngs of dancers, glimmering on gilded braid and sword hilt, on powdered hair, on fresh young faces laughing behind their masks; on white shoulders and jewelled throats, on fan and brooch and spur and lacquered heel. There was a scent of old-time perfume in the air, and, as Duane adjusted his mask and drew near, he saw that sets were already forming for the minuet.