“Good-bye!” he said again, under his breath, and in another moment she heard his soft tread as he went away.
Her heart was throbbing madly; she felt as if it were leaping up and down within her. For a space she lay listening, every nerve upon the stretch. Then at last there came to her the sound of voices raised in farewell, the crunch of wheels below her window, the loud banging of a door. And with a gasp she turned her face into her pillow, and wept for sheer relief.
He had come and gone like an evil dream, and she was left safe in her father’s house.
Three weeks after her wedding, Nan Cradock awoke to the amazing discovery that she was a rich woman; how rich it took her some time to realise, and when it did dawn upon her she was startled, almost dismayed.
Her recovery from the only illness she had ever known was marvellously rapid, and with her return to health her spirits rose to their accustomed giddy height. There was little in her surroundings to remind her of the fact that she was married, always excepting the unwonted presence of these same riches which she speedily began to scatter with a lavish hand. Her life slipped very easily back into its accustomed groove, save that the pinch of poverty was conspicuously absent. The first day of every month brought her a full purse, and for a long time the charm of this novelty went far towards quieting the undeniable sense of uneasiness that accompanied it.
It was only when the novelty began to wear away that the burdened feeling began to oppress her unduly. No one suspected it, not even Mona, who adhered rigorously to her promise, and wrote her weekly report of her sister’s health to her absent brother-in-law long after Nan was fully capable of performing this duty for herself. Mona had always been considered the least feather-brained of the family, and she certainly fulfilled her trust with absolute integrity.
Piet Cradock’s epistles were not quite so frequent, and invariably of the briefest. They were exceedingly formal at all times, and Nan’s heart never warmed at the sight of his handwriting. It was thick and strong, like himself, and she always regarded it with a little secret sense of aversion.
Nevertheless, as time passed, and he made no mention of return, her dread of the future subsided gradually into the back of her mind. It had never been her habit to look forward very far, and she was still little more than a child. Gradually the fact of her marriage began to grow shadowy and unreal, till at length she almost managed to shut it out of her consideration altogether. She had accepted the man upon impulse, dazzled by the glitter of his wealth. To find that he had drifted out of her life, and that the wealth remained, was the most blissful state of affairs that she could have desired.