Hugh had been on his way to the village when he saw Everard in his little car. He went to the village because, if he went in the opposite direction, it would take him to the Hall gates, and he did not wish to go there. He did not wish her to see him, to form the idea that he was here loitering about for the purpose of seeing her.
Sooner or later he knew she must be made aware of his presence, then he hoped for an opportunity to explain, but he would not seek it yet. So he made his way to the village, stopped to give pennies to small white-haired children, patted the shaggy dusty heads of vagrant dogs, and finally came to anchor on the seat beside the railed-in stocks.
And there on that same seat sat a small, dark-eyed maiden, whose rusty bicycle reclined against the railings. She had been here yesterday for fifteen minutes or so. He and she had occupied the seat without the exchange of a word, according to English custom.
Hugh looked at her. Because he regarded one woman as the embodiment of all that was perfect and graceful and beautiful, it did not blind him to beauty in others. He saw in this girl what those blinder than he had not yet recognised—the dawning of a wonderful, a radiant and glowing beauty. And because he had a very sincere and honest appreciation of the beautiful, she interested him, and he smiled. He lifted his hat.
The girl stared at him; she started a little as he raised his hat. She gave the slightest inclination of her head. It was not encouraging.
Hugh sat down. He was thinking of the man he had seen a while ago—a clean, honest, open-faced man, a man he felt he could like, and yet by every reason ought to hate.
The girl was studying his profile.
She had the suspicion that is inherent in all shy wild things, and yet, looking at him, she felt that this man was no dangerous animal to be feared and avoided.
Turning suddenly, he caught her glance and smiled.
“You live here?”
“Yet you—oh, I see, you are staying here—”
“No, I live at Little Langbourne.”
He smiled, having no idea where Little Langbourne might be.
They talked—of nothing, of the ducks and geese on the green, of the weather, of the sunshine, of the ancient stocks.
“You are staying here?” she asked.
“Yes, at Mrs. Bonner’s.”
“Oh, then you are an artist?”
“Nothing so ornamental, I am afraid. No—quite a useless person.”
“If you are not an artist, and have no friends here, do you not find it a little dull?”
“Yes, but I am a patient animal. I am waiting, you see.”
Hugh smiled. “For something that may happen, and yet may not. I am waiting in case it does. Of course you don’t understand, little girl, I—I mean—I am sorry,” he apologised. “I was forgetting, thinking of a friend, another girl I know.”