I grew so furiously red that it burned me. I had not the courage to run, though I could have prayed that she might take me for what I seemed— plainly a lunatic, whooping the lonely peace of the woods into pandemonium—and turn back. But she kept straight on, must inevitably reach the glade and cross it, and I calculated wretchedly that at the rate she was walking, unhurried but not lagging, it would be about thirty seconds before she passed me. Then suddenly, while I waited in sizzling shame, a clear voice rang out from a distance in an answering yodel to mine, and I thanked heaven for its mercies; at least she would see that my antics had some reason.
She stopped short, in a half-step, as if a little startled, one arm raised to push away a thin green branch that crossed the path at shoulder-height; and her attitude was so charming as she paused, detained to listen by this other voice with its musical youthfulness, that for a second I thought crossly of all the young men in the world.
There was a final call, clear and loud as a bugle, and she turned to the direction whence it came, so that her back was toward me. Then Oliver Saffren came running lightly round the turn of the path, near her and facing her.
He stopped as short as she had.
Her hand dropped from the slender branch, and pressed against her side.
He lifted his hat and spoke to her, and I thought she made some quick reply in a low voice, though I could not be sure.
She held that startled attitude a moment longer, then turned and crossed the glade so hurriedly that it was almost as if she ran away from him. I had moved aside with my easel and camp-stool, but she passed close to me as she entered the path again on my side of the glade. She did not seem to see me, her dark eyes stared widely straight ahead, her lips were parted, and she looked white and frightened.
She disappeared very quickly in the windings of the path.
He came on more slowly, his eyes following her as she vanished, then turning to me with a rather pitiful apprehension—a look like that I remember to have seen (some hundreds of years ago) on the face of a freshman, glancing up from his book to find his doorway ominously filling with sophomores.
I stepped out to meet him, indignant upon several counts, most of all upon his own. I knew there was no offence in his heart, not the remotest rude intent, but the fact was before me that he had frightened a woman, had given this very lovely guest of my friends good cause to hold him a boor, if she did not, indeed, think him (as she probably thought me) an outright lunatic! I said:
“You spoke to that lady!” And my voice sounded unexpectedly harsh and sharp to my own ears, for I had meant to speak quietly.
“I know—I know. It—it was wrong,” he stammered. “I knew I shouldn’t— and I couldn’t help it.”