But he had seen Vera; and all at once all the old barriers of pride and reserve were broken down! Here was the one woman on earth who realized his dreams, the one woman whom he would wait and toil for, even as Jacob waited and toiled for Rachel!
He had come down to Kynaston to hunt; but hitherto hunting had been very little in his thoughts. He had been down to the vicarage once or twice, he had met her once in the lanes, and he had longed for a glimpse of her daily; as yet he had done nothing else. He opened his letters on this particular morning slowly and abstractedly, tossing them into the fire, one after the other, as he read them, and not paying very much attention to their contents.
There was one, however, from his brother, “I wish you would ask me down to Kynaston for a week or two, old fellow,” wrote Maurice. “I know you would mount me—now I have got rid of all my horses to please you—and I should like a glimpse of the old country. Write and tell me if I shall come down on Monday.”
This letter Sir John did pay attention to. He rose hastily, as though not a moment was to be lost, and answered it:—
“Dear Maurice,—I can’t possibly have you down here yet. My own plans are very uncertain, and if you are going to take your leave after Christmas, you had far better not go away from your work now. If I am still here in January, I shall be delighted if you will come down, and will mount you as much as you like.”
He was happier when he had written and directed this letter.
“I must be alone just now,” he murmured. “I could not bear Maurice’s chatter—it would jar upon me.”
Then he put on his hat and strolled out. He looked in at the stables one minute, and called the head groom to him.
“Wright, did not Mr. Beavan say, when I bought that new bay mare of him, that she had carried a lady to hounds?”
“Yes, Sir John; Miss Beavan rode her last season.”
“Ah, she is a good rider. Well, I wish you would put a side-saddle and a skirt on her, and exercise her this morning. I might want to—to lend her to a lady; but she must be perfectly quiet. You can take her out every day this week.”
Sir John went on his way, leaving the worthy Wright a prey to speculation as to who the mysterious lady might be for whom the bay mare was to be exercised.
His master, meanwhile, bent his steps almost instinctively to the vicarage.
Vera was undergoing a periodical persecution concerning Mr. Gisburne at the hands of old Mrs. Daintree. She was standing up by the table arranging some scarlet berries and some long trails of ivy which the children had brought to her in a vase. Tommy and Minnie stood by watching her intently; Mrs. Daintree sat at a little distance, her lap full of undarned socks, and rated her.
“It is not as if you were a girl who could earn her living in case of need. There is not one single thing you can do.”