Taking his morning prowl along the lanes, he was rewarded by the sight of a grey racing-car at the side of the road. It was empty, but from underneath it protruded a pair of long legs, while beside it stood a girl, at the sight of whom George’s heart began to thump so violently that the long-legged one might have been pardoned had he supposed that his engine had started again of its own volition.
Until he spoke the soft grass had kept her from hearing his approach. He stopped close behind her, and cleared his throat. She started and turned, and their eyes met.
For a moment hers were empty of any recognition. Then they lit up. She caught her breath quickly, and a faint flush came into her face.
“Can I help you?” asked George.
The long legs wriggled out into the road followed by a long body. The young man under the car sat up, turning a grease-streaked and pleasant face to George.
“Can I help you? I know how to fix a car.”
The young man beamed in friendly fashion.
“It’s awfully good of you, old chap, but so do I. It’s the only thing I can do well. Thanks very much and so forth all the same.”
George fastened his eyes on the girl’s. She had not spoken.
“If there is anything in the world I can possibly do for you,” he said slowly, “I hope you will let me know. I should like above all things to help you.”
The girl spoke.
“Thank you,” she said in a low voice almost inaudible.
George walked away. The grease-streaked young man followed him with his gaze.
“Civil cove, that,” he said. “Rather gushing though, what? American, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. I think he was.”
“Americans are the civillest coves I ever struck. I remember asking the way of a chappie at Baltimore a couple of years ago when I was there in my yacht, and he followed me for miles, shrieking advice and encouragement. I thought it deuced civil of him.”
“I wish you would hurry up and get the car right, Reggie. We shall be awfully late for lunch.”
Reggie Byng began to slide backwards under the car.
“All right, dear heart. Rely on me. It’s something quite simple.”
“Well, do be quick.”
“Imitation of greased lightning—very difficult,” said Reggie encouragingly. “Be patient. Try and amuse yourself somehow. Ask yourself a riddle. Tell yourself a few anecdotes. I’ll be with you in a moment. I say, I wonder what the cove is doing at Belpher? Deuced civil cove,” said Reggie approvingly. “I liked him. And now, business of repairing breakdown.”
His smiling face vanished under the car like the Cheshire cat. Maud stood looking thoughtfully down the road in the direction in which George had disappeared.