She took it obediently, but her reluctance was still very manifest. Nick, however, did not appear to notice this.
“Don’t look at it now,” he said. “Wait till I’m not there. Put it away somewhere for the present, and let’s have another gallop.”
She glanced at him as she slipped his gift into her pocket. “Won’t you let me thank you, Nick?” she asked shyly.
“Wait till you’ve seen it,” he returned. “You may not think it worth it. Ready? One! Two! Three!”
In the scamper that followed, the blood surged back to her face, and her spirits rose again; but in her secret heart there yet remained a nameless dread that she was as powerless to define as to expel.
Lady Bassett was still invisible when Muriel returned to the bungalow though breakfast was waiting for them on the verandah. She passed quickly through to her room and commenced hasty preparations for a bath. It had been a good ride, and she realised that, though tired, she was also very hungry.
She slipped Nick’s gift out of the pocket of her riding-habit, but she would not stop to open it then. That should come presently, when she had the whole garden to herself, and all the leisure of the long summer morning before her. She felt that in a sense she owed him that.
But a note that caught her eye lying on the table she paused to open and hastily peruse. The writing was unfamiliar to her—a dashing, impetuous scrawl that excited her curiosity.
“Dear Miss Roscoe,” it ran,—“Don’t think me an unmitigated bore if you can help it. I am wondering if you would have the real kindness to waive ceremony and pay me a visit this afternoon. I shall be quite alone, unless my baby can be considered in the light of a social inducement. I know that Nick contemplates bringing you to see me, and so he shall, if you prefer it. But personally I consider that he would be decidedly de trop. I feel that we shall soon know each other so well that a formal introduction seems superfluous. Let me know your opinion by word of mouth, or if not, I shall understand. Nick, being of the inferior species, could hardly be expected to do so, though I admit that he is more generously equipped in the matter of intellect than most.—Your friend to be,
Muriel laid down the letter with a little smile. Its spontaneous friendliness was like a warm hand clasping hers. Yes, she would go, she decided, as she splashed refreshingly in her bath, and that not for Nick’s sake. She knew instinctively that she was going to discover a close sympathy with this woman who, though an utter stranger to her, yet knew how to draw her as a sister. And Muriel’s longing for such human fellowship had already driven her to extremes.
She had the note in her hand when she finally joined Lady Bassett upon the verandah.