once more to find out from her sore and lonely heart what she really wanted.
THE morning had been misty, verging on frost, but the sun came out while Val was jogging towards the Roehampton Gate, whence he would canter on to the usual tryst. His spirits were rising rapidly. There had been nothing so very terrible in the morning's proceedings beyond the general disgrace of violated privacy. 'If we were engaged!' he thought, 'what happens wouldn't matter.' He felt, indeed, like human society, which kicks and clamours at the results of matrimony, and hastens to get married. And he galloped over the winter-dried grass of Richmond Park, fearing to be late. But again he was alone at the trysting spot, and this second defection on the part of Holly upset him dreadfully. He could not go back without seeing her to-day! Emerging from the Park, he proceeded towards Robin Hill. He could not make up his mind for whom to ask. Suppose her father were back, or her sister or brother were in! He decided to gamble, and ask for them all first, so that if he were in luck and they were not there, it would be quite natural in the end to ask for Holly; while if any of them were in--an 'excuse for a ride' must be his saving grace.
'Only Miss Holly is in, sir.'
'Oh! thanks. Might I take my horse round to the stables? And would you say--her cousin, Mr Val Dartie.'
When he returned she was in the hall, very flushed and shy. She led him to the far end, and they sat down on a wide windowseat.
'I've been awfully anxious,' said Val in a low voice. 'What's the matter?'
'Jolly knows about our riding.'
'Is he in?'
'No; but I expect he will be soon.'
'Then-----!' cried Val, and diving forward, he seized her hand. She tried to withdraw it, failed, gave up the attempt, and looked at him wistfully.