“Certainly not.” Magda stood up suddenly. “I’m quite well amused down here. I don’t propose to leave till our time is up.”
She spoke with unmistakable decision, and Gillian, feeling that it would be useless to urge her further at the moment, went slowly out of the room and upstairs. As she went she could hear Dan’s footstep in the passage below. It sounded tired—quite unlike his usual swinging stride with its suggestion of impetuous force.
But it was not work that had tired Dan Storran that afternoon. When he had quitted the little party gathered beneath the elms, he had started off across the fields, unheeding where he went, and for hours he had been tramping, deaf and blind to the world around him, immersed in the thoughts that had driven him forth.
The full significance of the last few weeks had suddenly come home to him. Till now he had been drifting—drifting unthinkingly, conscious only that life had become extraordinarily full of interest and of a breathless kind of happiness, half sweet, half bitter. Bitter when Magda was not with him, sweet with a maddening sweetness when she was.
He had not stopped to consider what it all meant—why the dull, monotonous round of existence on the farm to which he had long grown accustomed should all at once have come alive—grown vibrant and quick with some new impulse.
But the happenings of to-day had suddenly shown him where he stood. That revealing moment by the river’s edge with Magda, the swift, unreasoning jealousy of Davilof which had run like fire through his veins—jealousy because the other man was so evidently an old acquaintance with prior rights in her which seemed to set him, Dan Storran, quite outside the circle of their intimacy—had startled him into recognition of how far he had drifted.
He loved her—craved for her with every fibre of his being. She was his woman, and beside the tumultuous demand for her of all his lusty manhood the quiet, unexacting affection which he bore his wife was as water is to wine.
And since in Dan’s simple code of ethics a man’s loyalty to his wife occupied a very definite and unassailable position, the realisation came to him fraught with the acme of bitterness and self-contempt. Nor did he propose to yield to the madness in his blood. Hour after hour, as he tramped blindly across country, he thrashed the matter out. This love which had come to him was a forbidden thing—a thing which must be fought and thrust outside his life. For the sake of June he must see no more of Magda. She must go—leave Stockleigh. Afterwards he would tear the very memory of her out of his heart.