Muriel smiled acquiescence. She felt that everything was right now that Dr. Jim had returned to take the direction of affairs into his own hands. He had come back alone, and he intended to finish his holiday under Nick’s roof. So much he told her before, with an abrupt smile, he thanked her for her care of his little girl and took himself off.
She almost regretted her decision when she came to get up, for the strain was telling upon her more than she had realised. Not since Simla days had she felt so utterly worn out. She was glad of the cup of tea which Dr. Jim sent in to her before she left her room.
Sitting on the cushioned window-seat to drink it, she heard the tread of a horse’s feet along the drive, and with a start she saw Nick come into view round a bend.
Her first impulse was to draw back out of sight, but the next moment she changed her mind and remained motionless. Her heart was suddenly beating very fast.
He was riding very carelessly, the bridle lying on the horse’s neck. The evening sun was shining full in his face, but he did not seem to mind. His head was thrown back. He rode like a returning conqueror, wearied it might be, but triumphant.
Passing into the shadow of the house, he saw her instantly, and the smile that flashed into his face was one of sheer exultation. He dropped the bridle altogether to wave to her.
“Up already? Have you seen old Jim?”
She nodded. It was impossible at the moment not to reflect his smile. “I am coming down soon,” she told him.
“Come now,” said Nick persuasively.
She hesitated. He was slipping from his horse. A groom came up and took the animal from him.
Nick paused below her window, and once more lifted his grinning, confident face.
“I say, Muriel!”
She leaned down a little. “Well?”
“Don’t come if you don’t want to, you know.”
She laughed half-reluctantly, conscious of a queer desire to please him. Olga’s words were running in her brain. He had fed on dust and ashes.
Yet still she hesitated. “Will you wait for me?”
“Till doomsday,” said Nick obligingly.
And drawn by a power that would not be withstood, she went down, still smiling, and joined him in the garden.
THE EAGLE STRIKES
Olga’s recovery, when the crisis of the disease was past, was more rapid than even her father had anticipated; and this fact, combined with a spell of glorious summer weather, made the period of her quarantine very tedious, particularly as Nick was rigidly excluded from the sick-room.
At Olga’s earnest request Muriel consented to remain at Redlands. Daisy had written to postpone her own return to the cottage, having received two or three invitations which she wished to accept if Muriel could still spare her.