Her Hero by Ethel M. Dell
Priscilla's reply to her stepmother's summons, written several days later, was a highly unsatisfactory epistle indeed, in the opinion of its recipient. She found it quite impossible to tear herself away from the country while the fine weather lasted, she wrote. She was enjoying herself immensely, and did not feel that she could ever endure the whole of a London season in one dose again.
It was not a well-thought-out letter, being written in a haste that made itself obvious between the lines. Carfax had hired a motor-car, and was waiting for her. They went miles that day, and when they stopped at last they were in a country that she scarcely knew--a country of barren downs and great sunlit spaces, lonely, immense.
"This is the place," said Carfax quietly, as he helped her to alight.
Priscilla walked a few paces and stood still. She knew exactly why he had chosen it. Her heart was beating wildly. It seemed to dominate all her other faculties. She felt it to be almost more than she could bear.
Those moments of unacknowledged waiting were terrible to her. She knew she had taken an irrevocable step, and her free instinct clamoured loudly against it. It amounted almost to a panic within her.
There came a quiet step on the turf behind her. She did not turn, but the suspense became suddenly unendurable. With a convulsive movement, she made as if she would go on. At the same instant an arm encircled her, checked her, held her closely.
"So, sweetheart!" said Julian Carfax, his voice soothing, womanly, but possessing withal a note of vitality, of purpose, that she had never heard in it before.
She suffered his hold with a faint but desperate cry.
"You don't know me," she said, with a gasping effort. "You don't--" The words failed. He was pressing her to him ever more closely, and she felt his fingers gently fumbling at her veil. With a sudden passionate movement she put up both hands, and threw it back.
"There!" she said, with a sound, half laugh, half sob, and turned herself wholly to him.
The next instant, as his lips pressed hers, all the anguish of doubt that had come upon her was gone like an evil spirit from her soul. She knew only that they stood alone together in a vast space that was filled to the brim with the noonday sunshine. All her heart was flooded with rejoicing. The gates had opened wide for her, and she had entered in.