Her name was Nona.
Out of a hundred people who passed her by quite a considerable number would have denied that she was beautiful. Her face was round and saucy rather than oval and classical. Incontestable the striking attraction of her complexion and of her hair; but not beautiful,—quite a number would have said, and did say. Oh, no; pretty, perhaps, in a way, but that’s all.
But her face was much more than beautiful to Sabre.
Until this moment, standing there with his bicycle, she on her beautiful horse, he had not seen her, nor Lord Tybar, for two years. They had been travelling. Now seeing her, thus unexpectedly and thus gallantly environed, his mind, with that astonishing precision of detail and capriciousness of selection with which the mind retains pictures, reproduced certain masculine discussion of her looks at a time when, as Nona Holiday of Chovensbury Court, daughter of Sir Hadden Holiday, M.P. for Tidborough, she had contributed to local gossip by becoming engaged to Lord Tybar.
“Pretty girl, you know,” masculine discussion had said; and Sabre had thought, “Fools!”
“Oh, hardly pretty,” others had maintained; and again “Fools!” he had thought. “Pretty—pretty! Hardly pretty—hardly—!” Furious, he had flung away from them.
The time and the place of the discussion had been when the news of her engagement had just been brought into the clubhouse of the Penny Green Golf Club. He had flung out into the rain which had caused the pavilion to be crowded. Fools! Was she pretty! Did they mean to say they couldn’t see in her face what he saw in her face? And then he thought, “But of course they haven’t loved her. It’s nothing to them what they’ve only just heard, but what she told me herself this morning.... And she knew what it meant to me when she told me.... Although we said nothing. Of course I see her differently.”
He saw her “differently” now after two years of not seeing her, and ten years since that day of gossip at the golf club. Pretty!... Strange how he could always remember that smell of the rain as he had come out of the clubhouse ... and a strange fragrance in the air as now he looked upon her.
Upon the warm and trembling air, as he stood with his bicycle before the horses, were borne to him savour of hay newly turned in the fields about, and of high spring-tide blowing in the hedgerows; and with them delicious essence from the warm, gleaming bodies of the horses, and pungent flavour of the saddlery, and the mare’s sweet breath puffed close to his face in little gusty agitations.
The shining, tingling picture of strength and beauty superbly modelled that the riders and their horses made, seemed, as it were, to arise out of and be suspended shimmering in the heart of the warm incense that he savoured. So when a sorcerer casts spiced herbs upon the flame, and scented vapour uprises, and in the vapour images appear.