It had been some time since Derrick on his nightly walks homeward had been conscious of the presence of the silent figure; but the very night after the occurrence narrated in the last chapter, he was startled at his first turning into the Knoll Road by recognizing Joan.
There was a pang to him in the discovery. Her silent presence seemed only to widen the distance Fate had placed between them. She was ready to shield him from danger, but she held herself apart from him even in doing so. She followed her own path as if she were a creature of a different world,—a world so separated from his own that nothing could ever bridge the gulf between them.
To-night, Derrick was seized with an intense longing to speak to the girl. He had forborne for her sake before, but to-night he was in one of those frames of mind in which a man is selfish, and is apt to let his course be regulated by his impulse. Why should he not speak, after all? If there was danger for him there was danger for her, and it was absurd that he should not show her that he was not afraid. Why should she interpose her single strength between himself and the vengeance of a man of whom he had had the best in their only encounter? As soon as they had reached the more unfrequented part of the road, he wheeled round suddenly, and spoke.
"Joan," he said.