“All right,” said Jack; “will you scribble me a list of books to take down? I had meant to have a rest; but I would do a good deal of work to get a reasonable person down at Windlow. I simply daren’t ask my friends there; my father would talk their hindlegs off but he isn’t a bad old bird.”
Mrs. Graves wrote back by return of post that she was delighted to think that Howard was coming. “I am getting an old woman,” she said, “and fond of memories: and what I hear of you from your enthusiastic pupil Jack makes me wish to see my nephew, and proud of him too. This is a quiet house, but I think you would enjoy it; and it’s a real kindness to me to come. I am sure I shall like you, and I am not without hopes that you may like me. You need not tie yourself down to any dates; just come when you can, and go when you must.”
Howard liked the simplicity of the letter, and determined to go down at once. He started two days later. It was a fine spring day, and it was pleasant to glide through the open country all quickening into green. He arrived in the afternoon at the little wayside station. It was in the south-east corner of Somersetshire, and Howard liked the look of the landscape, the steep green downs, with their wooded dingles breaking down into rich undulating plains, dappled with hedgerow trees and traversed by gliding streams. He was met at the station by an old-fashioned waggonette, with an elderly coachman, who said that Mrs. Graves had hoped to come herself, but was not very well, and thought that Mr. Kennedy would prefer an open carriage.
Howard was astonished at the charm of the whole countryside. They passed through several hamlets, with beautiful old houses, built of a soft orange stone, weathering to a silvery grey, with evidences of careful and pretty design in their mullioned windows and arched doorways. The churches, with their great richly carved towers, pierced stone shutters, and clustered pinnacles, pleased him extremely, and he liked the simple and courteous greetings of the people who passed them. He had a sense, long unfamiliar to him, as though he were somehow coming home. The road entered a green valley among the downs. To the left, an outstanding bluff was crowned with the steep turfed bastions of an ancient fort, and as they went in among the hills, the slopes grew steeper, rich with hanging woods and copses, and the edges of the high thickets were white with bleached flints. At last they passed into a hamlet with a church, and a big vicarage among shrubberies; this was Windlow Malzoy, the coachman said, and that was Mr. Sandys’ house. Howard saw a girl wandering about on the lawn—Jack’s sister, he supposed, but it was too far off for him to see her distinctly; five minutes later they drove into Windlow. It lay at the very bottom of the valley; a clear stream ran beneath the bridge.