She could not answer him in words, but her fingers closed upon his. Instantly she felt his answering pressure. A moment later he laid her hand down very gently and left her.
THE STING OF A SCORPION
“Oh, dear, I wish it wasn’t so muddy.” Dot, emerging from old Squinny’s cottage, stood a moment on the edge of the large puddle that was old Squinny’s garden and gazed over the ploughed fields beyond towards the sinking sun. It was the last day in January, and the winter dusk was already creeping up in a curtain of damp mist that veiled everything it touched. She knew it would be dark long before she got home, and the prospect of sliding about in the muddy lanes did not attract her.
“You were an idiot not to bring a lantern,” she told herself severely, as she skirted the edge of the puddle. “You might have known—but you never think!”
Here she reached the garden-gate and lifted it scientifically off its hinges and then back again when she had passed through. Old Squinny’s gate had not opened in the ordinary way within the memory of man. It was stoutly bound to the gate-post by several twists of rusty chain.
A stretch of waste land lay beyond the cottage garden; then came the road and then the fields, brown and undulating in the ruddy western glow. For a second or two Dot considered the homeward path that lay across the fields. She had come by that earlier in the afternoon, and she knew exactly what it had to offer besides the advantage of cutting half a mile from a three-mile trudge. But her knowledge eventually decided her in favour of the road.
“Besides,” as she optimistically remarked to herself, “someone might pass and give me a lift.”
For Dot was not above being seen in a waggon or a tradesman’s cart. She accepted as she was prone to give, promiscuously and with absolute freedom.
But it was no tradesman’s cart that the gods had in store for her that day. Rather was it a chariot of their own that presently swooped as if upon wings swiftly and smoothly down upon the Sturdy wayfarer. Dot herself was scarcely aware of its approach before it had passed and come to a standstill barely half a dozen yards from her.
“Hullo!” cried a boyish voice. “This is luck! Jump in! I’ll soon trundle you home.”
It was Bertie leaning out from the wheel on which his hands rested. In the open seat behind him, propped by cushions, sat a man whom she knew instantly though she had never met him before. He looked at her as she came up to the car with blue eyes as frank and kind as Bertie’s, though not so merry. It was not difficult to see that they were brothers.
“My brother Lucas,” said Bertie, “the one you wanted to know.”
He smiled as he said it for the sheer malicious pleasure of seeing her blush. And Dot’s green-brown eyes shot him a glance of quick indignation.