He looked at her keenly, still biting at the twig between his teeth.
Anne walked for several seconds in silence. At last, “Would it be quite impossible to walk to Rodding now?” she asked.
“Not at all,” said Nap. “It is about eight miles through the woods. We should be benighted, of course. Also I fancy there is a storm coming up. But if you wish to make the attempt—”
“I was only wondering,” she said quietly, “if we could get an evening train to Staps. That, I know, is on the main line. You could put up there, and I could take the night train to town.”
“Oh, quite so,” said Nap. “Shall we have tea before we start?”
They had emerged from the wood and were beginning to climb the hill. The veiled sunlight gave an unreal effect to the landscape. The broom bushes looked ghostly.
Anne gave an uneasy glance around. “I believe you are right about the storm,” she said.
“I generally am right,” observed Nap.
They walked on. “I shouldn’t like to be benighted in the woods,” she said presently.
His scoffing smile showed for an instant. “Alone with me too! Most improper!”
“I was thinking we might miss the way,” Anne returned with dignity. “I wonder—shall we risk it?”
She turned to him as if consulting him, but Nap’s face was to the sky. “That is for you to decide,” he said. “We might do it. The storm won’t break at present.”
“It will be violent when it does,” she said.
He nodded. “It will.”
She quickened her steps instinctively, and he lengthened his stride. The smile had ceased to twitch his lips.
“Have you decided?” he asked her suddenly, and his voice sounded almost stern.
They were nearing the top of the hill. She paused, panting a little. “Yes. I will spend the night here.”
He gave her a glance of approval. “You are a wise woman.”
“I hope so,” said Anne. “I must telegraph at once to Dimsdale and tell him not to expect me.”
Nap’s glance fell away from her. He said nothing whatever.
IN THE FACE OF THE GODS
“Thank the gods, we are the only guests!” said Nap that evening, as they sat down to dine at the table at which they had lunched.
The glare of a lurid sunset streamed across the sky and earth. There was a waiting stillness upon all things. It was the hush before the storm.
An unwonted restlessness had taken possession of Anne. She did not echo his thanksgiving, an omission which he did not fail to note, but upon which he made no comment.
It was in fact scarcely a place for any but day visitors, being some considerable distance from the beaten track. The dinner placed before them was not of a very tempting description, and Anne’s appetite dwindled very rapidly.