“Well, at any rate take some time to think over it.”
“Bless you, I don’t want time to think over it,” cried George. “I know my own mind. It’s the chance I’ve been waiting on for years.”
“Thanks tremendously then, my dear chap,” said Lewis, very ill at ease. “It’s very good of you. I must wire at once to Tommy.”
“I’ll take it down, if you like. I want to try that new mare of yours in the dog-cart.”
When his host had left the room George forgot to light his pipe, but walked instead to the window and whistled solemnly. “Poor old man,” he said softly to himself, “it had to come to this, but I’m hanged if he doesn’t take it like a Trojan.” And he added certain striking comments on the ways of womankind and the afflictions of life, which, being expressed in Mr. Winterham’s curious phraseology, need not be set down.
Alice had gone out after lunch to walk to Gledsmuir, seeking in the bitter cold and the dawning storm the freshness which comes from conflict. All the way down the glen the north wind had stung her cheeks to crimson and blown stray curls about her ears; but when she left the little market-place to return she found a fine snow powdering the earth, and a haze creeping over the hills which threatened storm. A mile of the weather delighted her, but after that she grew weary. When the fall thickened she sought the shelter of a way-side cottage, with the purpose of either sending to Glenavelin for a carriage or waiting for the off-chance of a farmer’s gig.
By four o’clock the snow showed no sign of clearing, but fell in the same steady, noiseless drift. The mistress of the place made the girl tea and dispatched her son to Glenavelin. But the errand would take time, for the boy was small, and Alice, ever impatient, stood drumming on the panes, watching the dreary weather with a dreary heart. The goodwife was standing at the door on the look-out for a passing gig, and her cry brought the girl to attention.
“I see a machine comin’! I think it’s the Etterick dowg-cairt. Ye’ll get a drive in it.”
Alice had gone to the door, and lo! through the thick fall a dog-cart came into view driven by a tall young man. He recognized her at once, and drew up.
“Hullo, Miss Wishart! Storm-stayed? Can I help you?”
The girl looked distrustfully at the very restless horse and he caught her diffidence.
“Don’t be afraid. ’What I don’t know about ’oases ain’t worth knowin’,’” he quoted with a laugh; and leaning forward he prepared to assist her to mount.
There was nothing for it but to accept, and the next minute she found herself in the high seat beside him. Her wraps, sufficient for walking, were scarcely sufficient for a snowy drive, and this, to his credit, the young man saw. He unbuttoned his tweed shooting-cape, and gravely put it round her. A curious dainty figure she made with her face all bright with wind, framed in the great grey cloak.