Magda made no answer. Characteristically her interest in June Storran had evaporated, pushed aside by something of more personal concern.
“This is the most restful, peaceful spot I’ve ever struck,” she said, leaning back with a sigh of pleasure. “Isn’t it lovely, Gilly? There’s something homelike and friendly about the whole landscape—a sort of intimate feeling. I feel as if I’d known it all for years—and should like to know it for years more! Don’t they say Devon folk always want to come home to die? I’m not surprised.”
“Yes, it’s very beautiful,” agreed Gillian, her gaze resting contentedly on the gracious curves of green and golden fields, broken here and there by stretches of ploughed land glowing warmly red between the ripening corn and short-cropped pasture.
“I believe I could be quite good here, Gillyflower,” pursued Magda reflectively. “Just live happily from one day to the next, breathing this glorious air, and eating plain, simple food, and feeding those adorable fluffy yellow balls Mrs. Storran calls chickens, and churning butter and—”
Gillian’s ringing, whole-hearted laughter checked this enthusiastic epitome of the simple life.
“Never, Magda!” she asserted, shaking her head. “I’m quite expecting you to get bored in about a week and to rush me off to Deauville or somewhere of that ilk. And as to being ’good’—why, it isn’t in you!”
“I’m not so sure.” Magda rose and together they strolled over the grass towards the house, Coppertop skirmishing happily behind them. “I really think I might be good here—if only for the sole reason that there’s no temptation to be anything else”—drily.
As she spoke a gate clicked close at hand. Followed the sound of quick, striding steps, and the next moment a man’s figure rounded the tall yew hedge which skirted the foot of the garden and came towards them.
He was a big giant of a man—at least six foot two in his socks, and proportionately broad and muscular in build. There was something free and bold in his swinging gait that seemed to challenge the whole world. It suggested an almost fierce independence of spirit that would give or take as it chose, but would never brook dictation from any man—or woman either.
Instinctively Magda and Gillian paused, and Magda held out a slim hand, smiling, as he overtook them.
“I’m sure you must be Mr. Storran,” she said.
He halted abruptly and snatched off his cap, revealing a crop of crinkly dark-brown hair thatching a lean sunburnt face, out of which gleamed a pair of eyes as vividly blue as periwinkles.
“Yes, I’m Dan Storran,” he said simply. “Is it Miss Vallincourt?”
Magda nodded and proceeded to introduce Gillian. But Storran’s glance only rested cursorily on Gillian’s soft, pretty face, returning at once to Magda’s as though drawn thither by a magnet.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t meet your train myself to-day,” he said, a note of eager apology in his voice.