“I could arrange it if you cared to go,” said Hill.
“Could you? How kind of you! But it would mean spending the night at Trelevan, wouldn’t it? I—I think we are too busy for that.” Dot glanced at her brother in some uncertainty.
“Oh, it could be managed,” said Jack, kindly. “Why not? You don’t get much fun in life. If you want to see the mine, and Hill can arrange it, it shall be done.”
“Thank you,” said Dot.
Adela turned towards her. “My dear, do work up a little enthusiasm! You’ve sat like a mute ever since you came in. What’s the matter?”
Dot was on her feet in a moment. This sort of baiting, good-natured though it was, was more than she could bear. “I’ve one or two jobs left in the kitchen,” she said. “I’ll go and attend to them—if no one minds.”
She was gone with the words, Adela’s ringing laugh pursuing her as she closed the door. She barely paused in the kitchen, but fled to her own room. She could not—no, she could not—face the laughter and congratulations that night.
She flung herself down upon her bed and lay there trembling like a terrified creature caught in a trap. Her brain was a whirl of bewildering emotions. She knew not which way to turn to escape the turmoil, or even if she were glad or sorry for the step she had taken. She wondered if Hill would tell Jack and Adela the moment her back was turned, and dreaded to hear the sound of her sister-in-law’s footsteps outside her door.
But no one came, and after a time she grew calmer. After all, though in the end she had made her decision somewhat suddenly, it had not been an unconsidered one. Though she could not pretend to love Fletcher Hill, she had a sincere respect for him. He was solid, and she knew that her future would be safe in his hands. The past was past, and every day took her farther from it. Yet very deep down in her soul there still lurked the memory of that past. In the daytime she could put it from her, stifle it, crowd it out with a multitude of tasks; but at night in her dreams that memory would not always be denied. In her dreams the old vision returned—tender, mocking, elusive—a sunburnt face with eyes of vivid blue that looked into hers, smiling and confident with that confidence that is only possible between spirits that are akin. She would feel again the pressure of a man’s lips on the hollow of her arm—that spot which still bore the tiny mark which once had been a snake-bite. He had come to her in her hour of need, and though he was a fugitive from justice, she would never forget his goodness, his readiness to serve her, his chivalry. And while in her waking hours she chid herself for her sentimentality, yet even so, she had not been able to force herself to cast her brief romance away.