Chapter XI
 

It was on a day of frosty sunshine, nearly a fortnight later, that Carey dismounted before the door of Crooklands Manor, and asked for its mistress.

He was shown at once into the library, where he found her seated before a great oak bureau with a litter of papers all around her.

She flushed deeply as she rose to greet him. They had not met since the day of her husband's funeral.

"I see you're busy," he said, as he came forward.

"Yes," she assented. "Such stacks of papers that must be examined before they can be destroyed. It's dreary work, and I have been very thankful to have Gwen with me. She has just gone out riding."

"I met her," Carey said. "She was with young Rivers."

"It is a farewell ride," Naomi told him. "She goes back to school to-morrow. Dear child! I shall miss her. Please sit down!"

The colour had ebbed from her face, leaving it very pale. She did not look at Carey, but began slowly to sort afresh a pile of correspondence.

He ignored her request, and stood watching her till at last she laid the packet down.

Then somewhat abruptly he spoke: "I've just come in to tell you my plans."

"Yes?" She took up an old cheque-book, as if she could not bear to be idle, and began to look through it, seeming to search for something.

Again he fell silent, watching her.

"Yes?" she repeated after a moment, bending a little over the book she held.

"They are very simple," he said quietly. "I'm going to a place I know of in the Himalayas where there is a wonderful river that one can punt along all day and all night, and never come to an end."

Again he paused. The fingers that held the memorandum were not quite steady.

"And you have come to say good-bye?" she suggested in her deep, sad voice.

His eyes were turned gravely upon her, but there was a faint smile at the corners of his mouth.

"No," he said in his abrupt fashion. "That isn't in the plan. Good-bye to the rest of the world if you will, but never again to you!"

He drew close to her and gently took the cheque-book out of her grasp.

"I want you to come with me, Naomi," he said very tenderly. "My darling, will you come? I have wanted you--for years."

A great quiver went through her, as though every pulse leapt to the words he uttered. For a second she stood quite still, with her face lifted to the sunlight. Then she turned, without question or words of any sort, as she had turned long ago--yet with a difference--and laid her hand with perfect confidence in his.