They loitered homewards, chatting discursively of many things, in a way that made for intimacy. Miss Penny and Graeme, indeed, still did most of the actual speaking, as he remembered afterwards, but Margaret was in no way outside their talk, and if she did not say much it is probable that she listened and thought none the less.
The Coupee afforded Graeme another all-too-short span of delight, while Margaret’s hand throbbed in his and she entrusted herself to his protection.
He took them home by the Windmill, and through the fields and hedge-gaps into the grounds of the Red House, and in his heart’s eye saw Margaret standing once more in the opening of the tall hedge with the morning glory all about her—just as he would remember her all his life.
“Time?” demanded Miss Penny, as they passed along the verandah.
“Then you are half an hour late for your dinner. I propose that we ask Mrs. Carre to serve us all together to-night,” said Miss Penny, “or we may all fare the worse.”
“I shall be delighted,” began Graeme exuberantly, “unless—” and he snapped a glance at Miss Brandt.
“We shall be glad if you will join us,” she said quickly.
“I will be there in two minutes,” he said, and sped up the Red House stairs to make ready.
“I hope to goodness he won’t,” said Miss Penny, as they passed through the hedge. “Now don’t you say a word to me, Margaret Brandt. It was you invited him”
“‘We shall be glad if you will join us.’ If that isn’t an invitation I’d like to know what it is. And I heard you say it with my own two ears,—moi qui vous parle, as we say here.”
“You know perfectly well that I could not possibly do anything else, Hennie. I believe you just did it on purpose. I don’t know what’s come over you.”
“John Graeme. I like him. And after all he’d done for us—that Coupee, and Venus’s Bath, and the Souffleur, and he like to lose his dinner over it all! What could a kind motherly person like me do but suggest—simply suggest, in the vaguest manner possible—”
“Yes?—” as she stopped in a challenging way.
“I merely threw out the suggestion, I say, in the vaguest possible way, that as we were nearly dying of hunger he should allow us to ask Mrs. Carre to let us have our dinner half an hour earlier than usual—”
“And then you struck in, in your usual lordly fashion, and begged him to join us. And I’m bound to say he took it very well, not to say jumped at it.”
“Hennie, you’re a—”
“Yes, I know. And if I live I’ll be a be-a, and perhaps more besides,”—with a cryptic nod.
“Now, what do you mean by that?”
“Wait patiently, my child, and you’ll see.”
“I believe the Sark air is affecting your—whatever you’ve got inside that giddy head of yours.”