Gillian’s thoughts turned back to the happenings of the last few months. She thought she understood what lay behind Magda’s sudden decision to bury herself in the country.
“Have you taken rooms at this farm?” she asked.
“Yes, I have”—shortly. Then, with one of those sudden flashes of affectionate insight which were part of her essential lovableness, she went on: “Gilly, are you sure you don’t mind? I ought to have asked you first”—remorsefully. “I expect you’ll be bored to death. Perhaps you’d rather not come?”
Gillian’s quiet brown eyes smiled at her reassuringly.
“‘Where thou goest—’” she quoted. “Of course I want to come. I’ve never been to Devonshire. And I know Coppertop will adore the pigs and cows—”
“And cream,” put in Coppertop ruminatively.
“Tell me about the place,” said Gillian. “How did you hear of it?”
“Through the prosaic columns of the Daily Post,” replied Magda. “I didn’t want a place recommended by anyone I knew. That doesn’t cut the connecting line one bit. Probably the people who’ve recommended it to you decide to look you up in their car, just when you think you’re safely buried, and disinter you. I don’t want to be disinterred. I propose to get right away into the country, out of reach of everybody we know, for two months. I shan’t give our address to anyone except Melrose, and he can forward on all letters.” A small amused smile crossed her lips. “Then we can answer them or not, exactly as we feel disposed. It will be heavenly.”
“Still I don’t know where this particular paradise is which you’ve selected,” returned Gillian patiently.
“It’s at the back of beyond—a tiny village in Devonshire called Ashencombe. I just managed to find it on the Ordnance map with a magnifying glass! The farm itself is called Stockleigh and is owned and farmed by some people named Storran. The answer to my letter was signed Dan Storran. Hasn’t it a nice sound—Storran of Stockleigh?”
“And did you engage the rooms on those grounds, may I ask? Because the proprietor’s name ’had a nice sound’?”
Magda regarded her seriously.
“Do you know, I really believe that had a lot to do with it,” she acknowledged.
Gillian went off into a little gale of laughter.
“How like you!” she exclaimed.
The train steamed fussily out of Ashencombe station, leaving Magda, Gillian, and Coppertop, together with sundry trunks and suitcases, in undisputed possession of the extremely amateurish-looking platform. Magda glanced about her with amusement.
“What a ridiculous little wayside place!” she exclaimed. “It has a kind of ‘home-made’ appearance, hasn’t it? You’d hardly expect a real bona fide train to stop here!”
“This your luggage, miss?”
A porter—or, to be accurate, the porter, since Ashencombe boasted but one—addressed her abruptly. From a certain inimical gleam in his eye Magda surmised that he had overheard her criticism.