“For me? Oh, Jeff!” She left Hector and came to him with both hands outstretched. “Oh, Jeff, I don’t know how to thank you. You are so much too good. What can I say?”
He took the hands and gripped them. His dark eyes looked straight and hard into hers, and a little tremor went through her. She lowered her own instinctively, and in the same instant he let her go. He did not utter a word, and she turned from him in silence with a face on fire.
She made no further effort to express her gratitude.
THE END OF THE PICNIC
Those odd silences of Jeff’s fell very often throughout the day, and they lay upon Doris’s spirit like a physical weight. They rode through autumn woodlands, and picnicked on the side of a hill. The day was warm and sunny, and the whole world shone as through a pearly veil. There were blackberries in abundance, large and ripe, and Doris wandered about picking them during the afternoon while Jeff lounged against a tree and smoked.
He did not offer to join her, but she had a feeling that his eyes followed her wherever she went, and a great restlessness kept her moving. She could not feel at her ease in his vicinity. She wanted very urgently to secure his friendship. She had counted upon that day in his society to do so. But it seemed to be his resolve to hold aloof. He seemed disinclined to commit himself to anything approaching intimacy, and that attitude of his filled her with misgiving. Had he begun to repent of the one-sided bargain, she asked herself? Or could it be that he also was oppressed by shyness? She longed intensely to know.
The sun was sinking low in the sky when at length reluctantly she went back to him. “It’s getting late,” she said. “Don’t you think we ought to go home?”
He was standing in the level sun-rays gazing sombrely down into the valley from which already the mists were beginning to rise.
He turned at her voice, and she knew he looked at her, though she did not meet his eyes. For a moment or two he stood, not speaking, but as though on the verge of speech; and her heart quickened to a nervous throbbing.
Then unexpectedly he turned upon his heel. “Yes. Wait here, won’t you, while I go and fetch the animals?”
He went, and a sharp sense of relief shot through her. She was sure that he had something on his mind; but inexplicably she was thankful that he had not uttered it.
The sun was dropping out of sight behind the opposite hill, and she was conscious of a growing chill in the atmosphere. A cockchafer whirred past her and buried itself in a tuft of grass hard by. In the wood behind her a robin trilled a high sweet song. From the farther side of the valley came a trail of smoke from a cottage bonfire, and the scent of it hung heavy in the evening air.
All these things she knew and loved, and they were to be hers for the rest of her life; yet her heart was heavy within her. She turned and looked after Jeff with a wistful drooping of the lips.