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30. Tempest Lodge
"What's that?"
"That's the cry of a loon."
"How awful! Do they often cry like that?"
"Not often in the nighttime."
Reuther shuddered.
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.
Their guide had prophesied truly. Heralded by that long cry of the loon, the dawn
began to reveal itself in clearness of perspective and a certain indefinable stir in
the still, shrouded spaces of the woods. Details began to appear where
heretofore all had been mass. Pearl tints proclaimed the east, and presently
these were replaced by a flush of delicate colour deepening into rose, and the
every-day world of the mighty forest was upon them with its night mystery gone.
But not the romance of their errand, or the anxiety which both felt as to its
ultimate fulfilment. This it had been easier to face when they themselves as well
as all about them, were but moving shadows in each other's eyes. Full sight
brought full realisation. However they might seek to cloak the fact, they could no