We went down into the drawing-room after this, and Jill kept me company while Mr. Tudor supped in state, with Clayton and Clarence to wait on him. He came up after a very short interval, and said, half laughing, that his supper had been a most formal affair.
‘By the bye, Miss Garston,’ he observed, as though by an afterthought, ‘I hear you are coming down to Heathfield.’ He stole a glance at Jill as he spoke. She had discarded her Indian muslin and coral necklace as being too grand for the occasion, and wore her ruby velveteen, that always suited her admirably. She looked very nice, and quite at her ease, sitting half-buried in Uncle Brian’s arm-chair, instead of being bolt upright in her corner. She had drawn her big feet carefully under her gown, and was quite a presentable young lady.
I thought Mr. Tudor was rather impressed with the transformation Cinderella in her brown schoolroom frock, with a smutty cheek and rumpled collar, was quite a different person:—presto—change—the young princess in the ruby dress has smooth locks and a thick gold necklace. She has big shining eyes and a happy child’s laugh. Her little white teeth gleam in the lamplight. I do not wonder in the least that Mr. Tudor looks at Jill as he talks to me. It is a habit people have with me.
But I answered him quite graciously.
’Yes, I am coming down to Heathfield the day after to-morrow. I suppose I ought to say Deo volente. I hope you all mean to be good to me, Mr. Tudor, and not laugh at my poor little pretensions.’
‘I shall not laugh, for one,’ he replied, looking me full in the face now with his honest eyes. ’I think it is a good work, Miss Garston. The vicar’—he always called Uncle Max the vicar—’was talking about it up at Gladwyn the other day, and Mr. Hamilton said—’
‘Gladwyn? Is that the name of a house?’ I asked, interrupting Mr. Tudor a little abruptly.
‘To be sure. Have you not heard of Gladwyn?’ And at that he looked a little amused. But I was not fated to hear more of Gladwyn that night, for the next moment Aunt Philippa came bustling into the room, and Sara and Uncle Brian followed her.
THE WHITE COTTAGE
Good-bye is an unpleasant word to say, and I said mine as quickly as possible, but I did not like the remembrance of Jill’s wet cheek that I had kissed: I was haunted by it during the greater part of my brief journey. For some inexplicable reason I had chosen to arrive at Heathfield late in the afternoon; I wanted to slip into my new home in the dusk. I knew that Uncle Max would meet me at the station and look after my luggage, so I should have no trouble, and I hoped that I should wake up among my neighbours the next morning before they knew of my arrival.
When we stopped at some station a little while before we reached Heathfield, the guard put a gentleman in my compartment: I fancied they had not noticed me, for a large black retriever followed him.