Magda emulated Agag in her progress across the field which intervened between the house and the river, now and then giving vent to a little cry of protest as a particularly prickly thistle or hidden trail of bramble whipped against her bare ankles.
At last from somewhere near at hand came the cool gurgle of running water and, bending her steps in the direction of the sound, two minutes’ further walking brought her to the brink of the river. Further up it came tumbling through the valley, leaping the rocks in a churning torrent of foam, a cloud of delicate up-flung spray feathering the air above it; but here there were long stretches of deep, smooth water where no boulder broke the surface into spume, and quiet pools where fat little trout heedlessly squandered the joyous moments of a precarious existence.
Magda threw off her wrapper and, picking her way across the moss-grown rocks, paused for an instant on the bank, her slender figure, clad in its close-fitting scarlet bathing-suit, vividly outlined against the surrounding green of the landscape. Then she plunged in and struck out downstream, swimming with long, even strokes, the soft moorland water laving her throat like the touch of a satin-smooth hand.
She was heading for a spot she knew of, a quarter of a mile below, where a wooden bridge spanned the river and the sun’s heat poured down unchecked by sheltering trees. Here she proposed to scramble out and bask in the golden warmth.
She had just established herself on a big, sun-warmed boulder when a familiar step sounded on the bridge and Dan Storran’s tall figure emerged into view. He pulled up sharply as he caught sight of her, his face taking on a schoolboy look of embarrassment. Deauville plage, where people bathed in companionable parties and strolled in and out of the water as seemed good to them, was something altogether outside Dan’s ken.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he began, flushing uncomfortably.
Magda waved to him airily.
“You needn’t be. I’m having a sun-bath. You can stay and talk to me if you like. Or are you too busy farming this morning?”
“No, I’m not too busy,” he said slowly.
There was a curious dazzled look in his eyes as they rested on her. Sheathed in the stockingette bathing-suit she wore, every line and curve of her supple body was revealed. Her wet, white limbs gleamed pearl-like in the quivering sunlight. The beauty of her ran through his veins like wine.
“Then come and amuse me!” Magda patted the warm surface of the rock beside her invitingly. “You can give me a cigarette to begin with.”
Storran sat down and pulled out his case. As he held a match for her to light up from, his hand brushed hers and he drew it away sharply. It was trembling absurdly.
He sat silent for a moment or two; then he said with an odd abruptness:
“I suppose you find it frightfully dull down here?”