The warning hoot of a motor behind her dismayed her not at all.
“Hurry up, Jerry! Don’t let them pass!” she urged.
And Jerry put his whole heart into his pedalling and bore her at the top of his speed.
It was an exciting race, but ending, as such races are bound to end, in the triumph of the motor. The great machine overtook them steadily, surely. For three seconds they were abreast, and Nan hammered her cavalier on the back with her muff in a fever of impatience. Then the motor glided ahead, leaving only the fumes of its petrol to exasperate the already heated Nan.
“Beasts!” she ejaculated tersely, while Jerry became so limp with laughter, that he nearly ceased pedalling altogether.
No further adventure befell them during the five-mile journey. The roads were in excellent condition, and the moon was high and frostily bright.
“It’s been lovely,” Nan declared, as they turned in at her father’s gates. “And you’re a brick, Jerry!”
“How many waltzes shall I get for it?” was Jerry’s prompt rejoinder.
The girl’s gay laugh rang silvery through the frosty air. Jerry had been asking the question at intervals all the afternoon.
“I’ll give you all the extras,” she laughed as she sprang lightly to the ground.
Jerry did not even dismount. His time also was limited.
“Yes?” he called over his shoulder, as he wheeled round and began to ride away. “And?”
“And as many more as I can spare,” cried Nan, and with a wave of her hand turned to enter the house.
The laugh was still on her lips as she mounted the steps. The hall-door stood open, and her father’s voice hailed her from within.
“Hallo, Nan, you scapegrace! What mad-cap trick will you be up to next, I wonder?”
There was a decided note of uneasiness behind the banter of his tone which her quick ear instantly detected. She looked up sharply and in a second, as if at a touch of magic, the laughter all died out of her face.
A man was standing in the glow of the lamp-light slightly behind her father, a man of medium height and immense breadth, with a clean-shaven, heavy-browed face, and sombre eyes that watched her silently.
Nan was ever quick in all her ways, and it was very seldom that she was disconcerted. Between the moment of her reaching the top step and that in which she entered the hall, she flashed from laughing childhood to haughty womanhood. The dignity with which she offered her hand to her husband was in its way superb.
“An unexpected pleasure!” was her icy comment.
He took the hand, looking closely into her eyes. He made no attempt to draw her nearer, and Nan remained at arm’s-length. Yet something in his scrutiny affected her, for a shiver went through her, proudly though she met it.