And to prevent any mistake which might put Carette to confusion, I did my clumsy best to make a joke of the matter.
“Your stupid was nearly too late, mother, and so Carette rides out with me and back with Monsieur Torode.”
“Under the circumstances it was good of Carette to give you a share, mon gars.”
“Oh, I’m grateful. One’s sheaf is never quite as one would have it, and one takes the good that comes.”
“How glad you must have been to see him back, Mrs. Carre!” said Carette. “You never gave him up, I know.”
“No, I never gave him up,” said my mother quietly.
“I think he ought to have stopped with you all day to-day,” said Carette. “I feel as if I were stealing him.”
“Only borrowing,” smiled my mother. “It is good to be young, and the young have their rights as well as the old. Good luck to you and a fine ride!” and I shook up Gray Robin, and we went on.
“Be very careful if you cross the Coupee, Phil,” she called after us. “There was a fall there the other day, your grandfather was saying, and the path has not been mended yet.”
I waved my hand, and we went on. From a distant field, where they were busy with their hay, my grandfather and Krok saw us passing along the road, and straightened up and shaded their eyes with their hands, and then waved us heaps of good luck, and we jogged on along the road to the Eperquerie.
HOW YOUNG TORODE TOOK THE DEVIL OUT OF BLACK BOY
It was a day of days—a perfect Midsummer Day. The sky was blue without a cloud, the blaze of the gorse was dimming, but the ferns and foxgloves swung in the breeze, the hedgerows laughed with wild roses and honeysuckle, and the air was full of life and sweetness and the songs of larks and the homely humming of bees. And here was I come back from the Florida swamps and all the perils of the seas, jogging quietly along on that moving nosegay Gray Robin, with the arms of the fairest maid in all Sercq round my waist, and the brim of her hat tickling my neck, and her face so close to my shoulder that it was hard work not to turn and kiss it.
My mind was, set to make the most of my good fortune, but the thought of young Torode, and of Carette riding back with him, kept coming upon me like an east wind on a sunny day, and I found myself more tongue-tied than ever I had been with her before, even of late years.
Did she care for this man? Had his good looks, which I could not deny, cast dust in her eyes? Could she be blind to his black humours, which, to me, were more visible even than his good looks?
From what Aunt Jeanne had said, he was by way of being very well off. And perhaps the results of the Miss Maugers’ teachings would incline a girl to consider such things. I thought they probably would. I know they made me feel shy and awkward before her, though I told myself furiously that all that was only a matter of outside polish, and that inside I was as worthy of her as any, and loved her as none other could. But the outside she could see, and the inside she could not, and I could not yet tell her, though I could not but think she must know.