She said no more, but went up to her room, and presently Jeff, moodily puffing at his briar in the porch, heard the notes of her piano overhead. She played softly for some little time, and Jeff’s pipe went out before it was finished—a most rare occurrence with him.
Only when the piano ceased did he awake to the fact, and then half-savagely he knocked out its half-consumed contents and turned inwards.
He found Granny Grimshaw standing in the passage in a listening attitude, and paused to bid her good-night.
“Be you going to bed, Master Jeff?” she said. “My dear, did you ever hear the like? She plays like an angel.”
He smiled somewhat grimly, without replying.
The old woman came very close to him. “Master Jeff, why don’t you go and make love to her? Don’t you know she’s waiting for you?”
“Is she?” said Jeff, but he said it in the tone of one who does not require an answer, and with the words very abruptly he passed her by.
Granny Grimshaw shook her head and sighed, “Ah, dear!” after his retreating form.
It was a few days after this that a letter came for Doris, one morning, bearing the Squire’s crest. Her husband handed it to her at the breakfast-table, and she received it with a flush. After a moment, seeing him occupied with a newspaper, she opened it.
“Dear Doris,” it said. “You asked me to come and see you, but I have not done so as I was not sure if, after all, you meant me to take the invitation literally. We have been friends for so long that I feel constrained to speak openly. For myself, I only ask to go on being your friend, and to serve you in any way possible. But perhaps I can serve you best by keeping away from you. If so, then I will do even that.—Yours ever,
Something within moved Doris to raise her eyes suddenly, and instantly she encountered Jeff’s fixed upon her. The flush in her cheeks deepened burningly. With an effort she spoke:
“Hugh Chesyl wants to know if he may come to see us.”
“I thought you asked him,” said Jeff.
A little quiver of resentment went through her; she could not have said wherefore. “He was not sure if I meant it,” she said.
There was an instant’s silence; then Jeff did an extraordinary thing. He stretched out his hand across the table, keeping his eyes on hers.
“Let me have his letter to answer!” he said.
She made a sharp instinctive movement of withdrawal. “Oh, no!” she said. “No!”
Jeff said nothing; but his face hardened somewhat, and his hand remained outstretched.
Doris’s grey eyes gleamed. “No, Jeff!” she repeated, more calmly, and with the words she slipped Hugh’s envelope into the bosom of her dress. “I can’t give you my letters to answer indeed.”
Jeff withdrew his hand, and began to eat his breakfast in utter silence.