Then twelve o’clock had come, and she had not. Would ’The Girl on the Magpie Horse’ be all he would see of her to-day—that unsatisfying work, so cold, and devoid of witchery? Better have tried to paint her—with a red flower in her hair, a pout on her lips, and her eyes fey, or languorous. Goya could have painted her!
And then, just as he had given her up, she came.
After taking one look at his face, she slipped in ever so quietly, like a very good child. . . . Marvellous the instinct and finesse of the young when they are women! . . . Not a vestige in her of yesterday’s seductive power; not a sign that there had been a yesterday at all—just confiding, like a daughter. Sitting there, telling him about Ireland, showing him the little batch of drawings she had done while she was away. Had she brought them because she knew they would make him feel sorry for her? What could have been less dangerous, more appealing to the protective and paternal side of him than she was that morning; as if she only wanted what her father and her home could not give her—only wanted to be a sort of daughter to him!
She went away demurely, as she had come, refusing to stay to lunch, manifestly avoiding Sylvia. Only then he realized that she must have taken alarm from the look of strain on his face, been afraid that he would send her away; only then perceived that, with her appeal to his protection, she had been binding him closer, making it harder for him to break away and hurt her. And the fevered aching began again—worse than ever—the moment he lost sight of her. And more than ever he felt in the grip of something beyond his power to fight against; something that, however he swerved, and backed, and broke away, would close in on him, find means to bind him again hand and foot.
In the afternoon Dromore’s confidential man brought him a note. The fellow, with his cast-down eyes, and his well-parted hair, seemed to Lennan to be saying: “Yes, sir—it is quite natural that you should take the note out of eyeshot, sir—but I know; fortunately, there is no necessity for alarm—I am strictly confidential.”
And this was what the note contained:
“You promised to ride with me once—you did promise, and you never have. Do please ride with me to-morrow; then you will get what you want for the statuette instead of being so cross with it. You can have Dad’s horse—he has gone to Newmarket again, and I’m so lonely. Please—to-morrow, at half-past two—starting from here. —Nell.”
To hesitate in view of those confidential eyes was not possible; it must be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; and if ‘No,’ it would only mean that she would come in the morning instead. So he said:
“Just say ‘All right!’”
“Very good, sir.” Then from the door: “Mr. Dromore will be away till Saturday, sir.”