There was pleading in her voice, notwithstanding its note of banter; but she did not stay to plead. With the whispered words she stooped and softly kissed him. Then ere he could detain her longer she gently released herself and was gone.
He saw her light figure flit ghost-like across the dim stretch of grass and vanish into the shadows. And he started to his feet as if he would follow or call her back. But he did neither. Be only stood swaying on his feet with a face of straining impotence—as of a prisoner wrestling vainly with his iron bars—until she had gone wholly from his sight. And then with a stifled groan he dropped down again into his chair and covered his face.
He had paid a heavy price to enter the garden of his desire; but already he had begun to realize that the fruit he gathered there was Dead Sea Fruit.
THAT WHICH IS HOLY
No bells had rung at the young Squire’s wedding. It had been conducted with a privacy which Miss Whalley described as “almost indecent.” But there was no privacy about his return, and Miss Whalley was shocked afresh at the brazen heartlessness of it after his recent bereavement. For Sir Piers and his wife motored home at the end of July through a village decked with flags and bunting and under a triumphant arch that made Piers’ little two-seater seem absurdly insignificant; while the bells in the church-tower clanged the noisiest welcome they could compass, and Gracie—home for the holidays—mustered the school-children to cheer their hardest as the happy couple passed the schoolhouse gate.
Avery would fain have stopped to greet the child, but Piers would not be persuaded.
“No, no! To-morrow!” he said. “The honeymoon isn’t over till after to-night.”
So they waved and were gone, at a speed which made Miss Whalley wonder what the local police could be about.
Once past the lodge-gates and Marshall’s half-grudging, half-pleased smile of welcome, the speed was doubled. Piers went like the wind, till Avery breathlessly cried to him to stop.
“You’ll kill us both before we get there!” she protested. In answer to which Piers moderated the pace, remarking as he did so, “But you would like to die by my side, what?”
Victor was on the steps to receive them, Victor dancing with impatience and delight. For his young master’s prolonged honeymoon had represented ten weeks of desolation to him.
Old David was also present, inconspicuous and dignified, waiting to pour out tea for the travellers.
And Caesar the Dalmatian who had mourned with Victor for his absent deity now leapt upon him in one great rush of ecstatic welcome that nearly bore him backwards.
It was a riotous home-coming, for Piers was in boisterous spirits. They had travelled far that day, but he was in a mood of such restless energy that he seemed incapable of feeling fatigue.