Magda smiled at him.
“So am I,” she answered.
Gillian was sitting alone in the yew-hedged garden, her slim fingers busy repairing the holes which appeared with unfailing regularity in the heels of Coppertop’s stockings. From the moment he had come to Stockleigh the number and size of the said holes had increased appreciably, for, although five weeks had elapsed since the day of arrival, Coppertop was still revelling whole-heartedly in the incredible daily delights which, from the viewpoint of six years old, attach to a farm.
Day after day found him trotting contentedly in the wake of the stockman, one Ned Honeycott, whom he had adopted as guide, philosopher, and friend, and whom he regarded as a veritable fount of knowledge and the provider of unlimited adventure and entertainment.
It was Honeycott who lifted Coppertop on to the broad back of the steadiest cart-horse; who had taught him how to feed calves by dipping his chubby little hand into a pail of milk and then letting them suck the milk from off his fingers; who beneficently contrived that hardly a load of hay was driven to the great rick without Coppertop’s small person perched proudly aloft thereon, his slim legs dangling and his shrill voice joining with that of the carter in an encouraging “Come-up, Blossom,” to the bay mare as she plodded forward between the shafts.
Gillian experienced no anxiety with regard to Coppertop’s safety while he was in Ned Honeycott’s charge, but she missed the childish companionship, the more so as she found herself frequently alone these days. June Storran was naturally occupied about her house and dairy, while Magda, under Dan Storran’s tutelage, appeared smitten with an extraordinary interest in farm management.
It seemed to Gillian that Magda and Dan were in each other’s company the greater part of the time. Every day Dan had some suggestion or other to make for Miss Vallincourt’s amusement. Either it was: “Would you care to see the hay-loader at work?” Or: “I’ve just bought a couple of pedigree Devon cows I’d like to show you, Miss Vallincourt.” Or, as yesterday: “There’s a pony fair to be held to-morrow at Pennaway Bridge. Would you care to drive in it?” And to each and all of Storran’s suggestions Magda had yielded a ready assent.
So this morning had seen the two of them setting out for Pennaway in Dan’s high dog-cart, while Gillian and June stood together in the rose-covered porch and watched them depart.
“Wouldn’t you like to have gone?” Gillian asked on a sudden impulse.
She regretted the question the instant it had passed her lips, for in the wide-apart blue eyes June turned upon her there was something of the mute, puzzled misery of a dog that has received an unexpected blow.
“I couldn’t spare the time,” she answered hastily. “You see”—the sensitive colour as usual coming and going quickly in her face—“Miss Vallincourt is on a holiday.”