“Why, do!” Muriel said. “I should like it best.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” said Olga, well pleased. “I knew you weren’t stuck-up really. I hate stuck-up people, don’t you? I’m awfully pleased that you like Nick. I simply love him—better almost than any one else. He writes to me sometimes, pages and pages. I never show them to any one, and he doesn’t show mine either. You see, we’re pals. But I can show you his photograph—the one I told you about. It’s just like him—his grin and all. Come up after tea, and I’ll find it.”
And with her arm entwined in Muriel’s she drew her, still talking eagerly, from the room.
NEWS FROM THE EAST
“I have been wondering,” Grange said in his shy, rather diffident way, “if you would care to do any riding while I am here.”
“I?” Muriel looked up in some surprise.
They were walking back from church together by a muddy field-path, and since neither had much to say at any time, they had accomplished more than half the distance in silence.
“I know you do ride,” Grange explained, “and it’s just the sort of country for a good gallop now and then. Daisy isn’t allowed to, but I thought perhaps you—”
“Oh, I should like to, of course,” Muriel said. “I haven’t done any riding since I left Simla. I didn’t care to alone.”
“Ah! Lady Bassett rides, doesn’t she? She is an accomplished horsewoman, I believe?”
“I don’t know,” Muriel’s reply was noticeably curt. “I never rode with her.”
Grange at once dropped the subject, and they became silent again. Muriel walked with her eyes fixed straight before her. But she did not see the brown earth underfoot or the bare trees that swayed overhead in the racing winter wind. She was back again in the heart of the Simla pines, hearing horses’ feet that stamped below her window in the dawning, and a gay, cracked voice that sang.
Her companion’s voice recalled her. “I suppose Daisy will stay here for the summer.”
“I suppose so,” she answered.
Grange went on with some hesitation. “The little chap doesn’t look as if he would ever stand the Indian climate. What will happen? Will she ever consent to leave him with the Ratcliffes?”
“I am quite certain she won’t,” Muriel answered, with unfaltering conviction. “She simply lives for him.”
“I thought so,” Grange said rather sadly. “It would go hard with her if—if—”
Muriel’s dark eyes flashed swift entreaty. “Oh, don’t say it! Don’t think it! I believe it would kill her.”
“She is stronger, though?” he questioned almost sharply.
“Yes, yes, much stronger. Only—not strong enough for that. Captain Grange, it simply couldn’t happen.”
They had reached a gate at the end of the field. Grange stopped before it, and spoke with sudden, deep feeling.