Swiftly the days of that splendid summer flew by. She scarcely knew how she spent them, but she was always in the open air, and almost invariably with Jerry. She missed him considerably when he returned to Oxford, but the hunting season was at hand, and soon engrossed all her thoughts. Old Squire Grimshaw was the master, and Nan and her father followed his hounds three days in every week. People had long since come to acquiesce in the absence of Nan’s husband. Many of them had almost forgotten that the girl was married, since Nan herself so persistently ignored the fact. Gossip upon the subject had died down for lack of nourishment. And Nan pursued her reckless way untrammelled as of yore.
The week before Christmas saw Jerry once more at the Hall. He was as ardent a follower of the hounds as was Nan, and many were the breakneck gallops in which they indulged before a spell of frost put an end to this giddy pastime. Christmas came and went, leaving the lake frozen to a thickness of several inches, leaving Nan and the ever-faithful Jerry cutting figures of extraordinary elaboration on the ice.
The Hunt Ball had been fixed to take place on the sixth of January, and, in preparation for this event, Nan and some of her sisters were busily engaged beforehand in decking the Town Hall of the neighbourhood with evergreens and bunting. Jerry’s assistance in this matter was, of course, invaluable, and when the important day arrived, he and Nan spent the whole afternoon in sliding about the floor to improve the surface.
So absorbing was this occupation that the passage of time was quite unnoticed by either of them till Nan at length discovered to her dismay that she had missed the train by which she had meant to return.
To walk back meant a trudge of five miles. To drive was out of the question, for all the carriages in the place had been requisitioned.
“What in the world shall I do?” she cried. “If I walk back, I shall never have time to dress. Oh, why haven’t I got a motor?”
Jerry slapped his leg with a yell of triumph.
“My dear girl, you have! The very thing! I’ll be your motor and chauffeur rolled into one. My bicycle is here. Come along, and I’ll take you home on the step.”
The idea was worthy of them both. Nan fell in with it with a gay chuckle. It was not the first time that she had indulged in this species of gymnastics with Jerry’s co-operation, though, to be sure, some years had elapsed since the last occasion on which she had performed the feat.
She had not, however, forgotten her ancient prowess, and Jerry was delighted with his passenger. Poised on one foot, and holding firmly to his shoulders, Nan sailed down the High Street in the full glare of the lamps. It was not a dignified mode of progression, but it was very far from being ungraceful.
She wore a little white fur cap on her dark hair, and her pretty face laughed beneath it like the face of a merry child. The danger of her position was a consideration that never occurred to her. She was in her wildest mood, and enjoying herself to the utmost.