“Oh!” The faintness was overcoming her again as she tried to stand. She clutched and held his arm. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I—never felt so stupid before.”
“Don’t be in a hurry!” he said. “You can’t help it.”
She sank back against his support again and so remained for a few seconds. He stood like a rock till she opened her eyes once more.
She found his own upon her, but he dropped them instantly. “You are not hurt anywhere, are you?” he said.
She shook her head. “No, it’s nothing. I’ve wrenched my shoulder a little, but it isn’t much.”
“The right. No, really it isn’t serious.” She winced as he touched it with his hand nevertheless.
“Sure?” he said.
He began to feel it very carefully, and she winced again with indrawn breath.
“It’s only bruised,” she said.
“It’s painful, anyhow,” he remarked bluntly. “Well, you must be wet to the skin. You had better come with me to the mill and get dry.”
Doris flushed a little. “Oh, thank you, but really—I don’t want to—to trespass on your kindness. I can quite well walk home—from here.”
“You can’t,” he said flatly. “Anyhow, you are not going to try. You had better let me carry you.”
But Doris drew back at that with swift decision. “Oh no! I am quite well now—I can walk.”
She stood up and he took his foot from the gate. She glanced at the top bar thereof that hung in splinters.
“I’m so sorry,” she murmured apologetically.
He also looked at his damaged property. “Yes, it was a pity you attempted it,” he said.
“I shall know better next time,” she said with a wry smile. “Will it cost much?”
“Well, it can’t be mended for nothing,” said Jeff Ironside. “Things never are.”
Doris considered him for a moment. He was certainly a fine animal, as Hugh Chesyl had said, well made and well put together. She liked the freedom of his pose, the strength of the great bull neck. At close quarters he certainly did not look like an ordinary labourer. He had an air of command that his rough clothes could not hide. There was nothing of the clod-hopper about him albeit he followed the plough. He was obviously a son of the soil, and he would wrest his living therefrom, but he would do it with brain as well as hands. He had a wide forehead above his somewhat sombre eyes.
“I am very sorry,” she said again.
“I am sorry for you,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be as well to get out of this rain? It’s only a step to the mill.”
She turned with docility and looked towards the two horses standing patiently where he had left them on the brown slope of the hill.
“Not that way,” he said. “Come across this field to the road. It is no distance from there.”
Doris began to gather up her skirt. It was wet through and caked with mud. She caught her breath again as she did it. The pain in her shoulder was becoming intense.