“It has been so delightful,” Ruth murmured. “Now I am going to lie back among these beautiful cushions, and just watch and think.”
The car glided on along the country lane, passing through leafy hamlets, across a great breezy moorland, from the top of which they could see the Thames winding its way into Oxfordshire, a sinuous belt of silver. Then they sped down into the lower country, and Arnold looked at the milestones in some surprise.
“We don’t seem to be getting any nearer to London,” he remarked.
Ruth only shook her head.
“It will come soon enough,” she said, with a little shiver. “It will pass, this, like everything else.”
They had dropped to the level now, and suddenly, without warning, the car swung through a low white gate up along an avenue of shrubs. Arnold leaned forward.
“Where are you taking us?” he asked the driver. “There is some mistake.”
But there was no mistake. A turn of the wheel and the car was slowing down before the front of a long, ivy-covered house, with a lawn as smooth as velvet, and beyond, the soft murmur of the river. Ruth clutched at his arm.
“Arnold!” she exclaimed. “What does this mean? Who lives here?”
“I have no idea,” he answered, “unless—”
The windows in front of the house were all of them open and all of them level with the drive. Through the nearest of them at that moment stepped Fenella. She stood, for a moment, framed in the long French window, hung with clematis,—a wonderful picture even for Arnold, a revelation to Ruth,—in her cool muslin frock, open at the throat, and held together by a brooch with a great green stone. She wore no hat, and her wonderful hair seemed to have caught the sunlight in its meshes. Her eyebrows were a little raised; her expression was a little supercilious, faintly inquisitive. Already she had looked past Arnold. Her eyes were fixed upon the girl by his side.
“I began to think that you were lost,” she said gayly. “Won’t you present me to your friend, Arnold?”
Arnold sprang to his feet. It was significant that, after his first surprise, he spoke to Fenella with his head half turned towards his companion, and an encouraging smile upon his lips.
“I had no idea that we were coming here,” he said. “We should not have thought of intruding. It was your chauffeur who would not even allow us to ask a question.”
“He obeyed my orders,” Fenella replied. “I meant it for a little surprise for you. I thought that it would be pleasant after your drive to have you call here and rest for a short time. You must present me to your friend.”
Arnold murmured a word of introduction. Ruth moved a little in her seat. She lifted herself with her left hand, leaning upon her stick. Fenella’s expression changed as though by magic. Her cool, good-humored, but almost impertinent scrutiny suddenly vanished. She moved to the side of the motor car and held out both her hands.