“I want you to be happy,” he said.
A moment later they parted without further words on either side, he to retrace his steps across the bridge, she to turn wearily in at the iron gate under the dripping trees that led to the Mill House porch.
She heard a man’s step in front of her as she went, and at the porch she found her husband.
“Oh, Jeff!” she said, slightly startled. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“I’ve been looking out for you for some time,” he said. “You must be very wet.”
“Yes, it’s rained nearly all day, hasn’t it? We didn’t have much sport, but I enjoyed it.” Doris slid down into the hands he held up to her. “Why, you are wet too,” she said. “Hadn’t you better change?”
“I’ll take the horse round first,” he said. “Won’t you go in?”
She went in with a feeling of deep depression. Jeff’s armour of reserve seemed impenetrable. With lagging feet she climbed the stairs and entered her sitting-room.
A bright fire was burning there, and the lamp was alight. A little thrill of purely physical pleasure went through her at the sight. She paused to take off her hat, then went forward and stooped to warm her hands at the blaze.
She was certainly very tired. The arm-chair by the hearth was invitingly near. She sank into it with a sigh and closed her eyes.
It must have been ten minutes later that the door, which she had left ajar, was pushed open, and Jeff stood on the threshold.
He was carrying a steaming cup of milk. A moment he paused as if on the verge of asking admittance; then as his eyes fell upon the slight young figure sunk in the chair, he closed his lips and came forward in silence.
A few seconds later, Doris opened her eyes with a start at the touch of his hand on her shoulder.
She sat up sharply. “Oh, Jeff, how you startled me!”
It was the first time she had ever seen him in her little sitting-room, though she had more than once invited him thither. His presence at that moment was for some reason peculiarly disconcerting.
“I am sorry,” he said, in his slow way. “The door was half open, and I saw you were asleep. I don’t think you are wise to sit down in your wet clothes. I have brought you some milk and brandy.”
“Oh, but I never take brandy,” she said, collecting herself with a little smile and rising. “It’s very kind of you, Jeff. But I can’t drink it, really. It would go straight to my head.”
“You must drink it,” said Jeff.
He presented it to her with the words, but Doris backed away half-laughing.
“No, really, Jeff! I’ll go and have a hot bath. That will do quite as well.”
“You must drink this first,” said Jeff.
There was a dogged note in his voice, and at sound of it Doris’s brows went up, and her smile passed.
“I mean it,” said Jeff, setting cup and saucer on the table before her. “I can’t run the risk of having you laid up. Drink it now, before it gets cold!”