All that long, silent jog home with Winton in fading daylight, she felt very happy—saturated with air and elation. The trees and fields, the hay-stacks, gates, and ponds beside the lanes grew dim; lights came up in the cottage windows; the air smelled sweet of wood smoke. And, for the first time all day, she thought of Fiorsen, thought of him almost longingly. If he could be there in the cosy old drawing-room, to play to her while she lay back—drowsing, dreaming by the fire in the scent of burning cedar logs—the Mozart minuet, or that little heart-catching tune of Poise, played the first time she heard him, or a dozen other of the things he played unaccompanied! That would be the most lovely ending to this lovely day. Just the glow and warmth wanting, to make all perfect—the glow and warmth of music and adoration!
And touching the mare with her heel, she sighed. To indulge fancies about music and Fiorsen was safe here, far away from him; she even thought she would not mind if he were to behave again as he had under the birch-trees in the rain at Wiesbaden. It was so good to be adored. Her old mare, ridden now six years, began the series of contented snuffles that signified she smelt home. Here was the last turn, and the loom of the short beech-tree avenue to the house—the old manor-house, comfortable, roomy, rather dark, with wide shallow stairs. Ah, she was tired; and it was drizzling now. She would be nicely stiff to-morrow. In the light coming from the open door she saw Markey standing; and while fishing from her pocket the usual lumps of sugar, heard him say: “Mr. Fiorsen, sir—gentleman from Wiesbaden—to see you.”
Her heart thumped. What did this mean? Why had he come? How had he dared? How could he have been so treacherous to her? Ah, but he was ignorant, of course, that she had not told her father. A veritable judgment on her! She ran straight in and up the stairs. The voice of Betty, “Your bath’s ready, Miss Gyp,” roused her. And crying, “Oh, Betty darling, bring me up my tea!” she ran into the bathroom. She was safe there; and in the delicious heat of the bath faced the situation better.
There could be only one meaning. He had come to ask for her. And, suddenly, she took comfort. Better so; there would be no more secrecy from Dad! And he would stand between her and Fiorsen if—if she decided not to marry him. The thought staggered her. Had she, without knowing it, got so far as this? Yes, and further. It was all no good; Fiorsen would never accept refusal, even if she gave it! But, did she want to refuse?
She loved hot baths, but had never stayed in one so long. Life was so easy there, and so difficult outside. Betty’s knock forced her to get out at last, and let her in with tea and the message. Would Miss Gyp please to go down when she was ready?