They tramped along, waterproofed and bare-headed, down the sandy road. The rain swished in Gerda’s golden locks, till they clung dank and limp about her cheeks and neck; it beat on Barry’s glasses, so that he took them off and blinked instead. The trees stormed and whistled in the southerly wind that blew from across Merrow Downs. Barry tried to whistle down it, but it caught the sound from his puckered lips and whirled it away.
Through Merrow they strode, and up onto the road that led across the downs, and there the wind caught them full, and it was as if buckets of water were being flung into their faces. The downs sang and roared; the purple-grey sky shut down on the hill’s shoulder like a tent.
“Lord, what fun,” said Barry, as they gasped for breath.
Gerda was upright and slim as a wand against the buffeting; her white little face was stung into shell-pink; her wet hair blew back like yellow seaweed.
Barry thought suddenly of Nan, who revelled in storms, and quickly shut his mind on the thought. He was schooling himself to think away from Nan, with her wild animal grace and her flashing mind and her cruel, careless indifference.
Gerda would have walked like this forever. Her wide blue eyes blinked away the rain; her face felt stung and lashed, yet happy and cold; her mouth was stiff and tight. She was part of the storm; as free, as fierce, as singing; though outwardly she was all held together and silent, only smiling a little with her shut mouth.
As they climbed the downs, the wind blew more wildly in their faces. Gerda swayed against it, and Barry took her by the arm and half pushed her.
So they reached Newlands Corner, and all southern Surrey stormed below them, and beyond Surrey stormed Sussex, and beyond Sussex the angry, unseen sea.
They stood looking, and Barry’s arm still steadied Gerda against the gale.
Gerda thought “It will end. It will be over, and we shall be sitting at tea. Then Sunday will be over, and on Monday he will go back to town.” The pain of that end of the world turned her cold beneath the glow of the storm. Then life settled itself, very simply. She must go too, and work with him. She would tell him so on the way home, when the wind would let them talk.
They turned their backs on the storm and ran down the hill towards Merrow. Gerda, light as a leaf on the wind, could have run all the way back; Barry, fit and light too, but fifteen years ahead of her, fell after five minutes into a walk.
Then they could talk a little.
“And to-morrow I shall be plugging in town,” sighed Barry.
Gerda always went straight to her point.
“May I come into your office, please, and learn the work?”
He smiled down at her. Splendid child!
“Why, rather. Do you mean it? When do you want to come?”