“Don’t move or show surprise. The shade of the window is up, and somebody is looking in from outside. I saw his face reflected in the mirror of my work-box. It isn’t any one I know, but he was looking very fixedly this way and may be looking yet. Now I am going to snatch my work. I don’t think you’re helping me one bit.”
She suited the action to the word; shook her head at Reuther and went back to her old position on the hearth.
“I was afraid of it,” murmured Reuther. “If we take the ride to-morrow, it will not be alone. If, on the other hand, we delay our trip, we may be forestalled in the errand upon which so much depends. We are not the only ones who have heard of the strange young man at Tempest Lodge.”
The answer came with quick decision. “There is but one thing for us to do. I will tell you what it is a little later. Go and sit on the hearth with Miss Weeks, and mind that you laugh and chat as if your minds were quite undisturbed. I am going to have a talk with our host.”
“That’s the cry of a loon.”
“How awful! Do they often cry like that?”
“Not often in the nighttime.”
Mr. Black regarded her anxiously. Had he done wrong to let her join him in this strange ride?
“Shall we go back and wait for broad daylight?” he asked.
“No, no. I could not bear the suspense of wondering whether all was going well and the opportunity being given you of seeing and speaking to him. We have taken such precautions—chosen so late (or should I say so early) a start—that I’m sure we have outwitted the man who is so watchful of us. But if we go back, we cannot slip away from him again; and Oliver will have to submit to an humiliation it is our duty to spare him. And the good judge, too. I don’t care if the loons do cry; the night is beautiful.”
And it was, had their hearts been in tune to enjoy it. A gibbous moon had risen, and, inefficient as it was to light up the recesses of the forest, it illumined the tree-tops and brought out the difference between earth and sky. The road, known to the horses, if not to themselves, extended like a black ribbon under their eyes, but the patches of light which fell across it at intervals took from it the uninterrupted gloom it must have otherwise had. Mr. Sloan, who was at once their guide and host, promised that dawn would be upon them before they reached the huge gully which was the one dangerous feature of the road. But as yet there were no signs of dawn; and to Reuther, as well as to Mr. Black, this ride through the heart of a wilderness in a darkness which might have been that of midnight by any other measure than that of the clock, had the effect of a dream in which one is only sufficiently in touch with past commonplaces to say, “This is a dream and not reality. I shall soon wake.” A night to remember to the end of one’s days; an experience which did not seem real at the time and was never looked back upon as real—and yet, one with which neither of them would have been willing to part.