Into this scene of rural tranquillity rode briskly about the middle of the morning Jocelyn Wray and others. The glow on the girl’s cheeks harmonized with the redness of her lips; the sparkling blue eyes mocked at all neutral hues; her gown and an odd ribbon or two waved, as it were, light defiance to motionless things—still leaves and branches, flowers and buds, drowsy and sleeping. Her mount was deep black, with fine arching neck and spirited head; on either side of the head, beneath ears sensitive, delicately pointed, had been fastened a rose, badge of favor from a bunch nestling at the white throat of the young girl. She rode with a grace and rhythmical ease suggestive of large experience in the pastime; the slender, supple figure swayed as if welcoming gladly the swing and the quick rush of air. Sometimes at her side, again just behind, galloped the horse bearing John Steele, and, as they went at a fair pace, preceded and followed by others of a gay party, the eyes of many passers-by turned to regard them.
“By Jove, they’re stunning! It isn’t often you see a man put up like that.”
“Or a girl more the picture of health!”
Unconscious of these and other comments from the usual curious contingent of idlers filling the benches or strolling along the paths, the girl now set a yet swifter gait, glancing quickly over her shoulder at her companion: “Do you like a hard gallop? Shall we let them out?”
His brightening gaze answered; they touched their horses and for some distance raced madly on, passed those in front and left them far behind. Now Steele’s eyes rested on the playing muscles of her superb horse, then lifted to the lithe form of Jocelyn Wray, the straight shoulders, a bit of a tress, disordered, floating rebelliously to the wind.
As abruptly as she had pressed her horse to that inspiring speed, she drew him in to a walk. “Wasn’t that worth coming to the park for?” she said gaily.
He looked at her, at the flowers she readjusted, at the lips, half-parted to her quick breath.
“More than worth it.”
“You see what you missed in the past,” she observed in a tone slightly mocking.
“You were not here to suggest it,” he returned quietly, with gaze only for blue eyes.
She suffered them to linger. “I suppose I should feel nattered that a suggestion from little me—”
“A suggestion from little you would, I fancy, go a long ways with many people.” A spark shone now in the man’s steady look; the girl seemed not afraid of it.
“I am fortunate,” she laughed. “A compliment from Mr. John Steele!”
“Why not say—the truth?” he observed.
She stroked her horse’s glossy neck and smiled furtively at the soft, velvet surface. “The truth?” she replied. “What is it? Where shall we find it? Isn’t it something the old philosophers were always searching for? Plato, and—some of the others we were taught of in school.”