She rose, and, leaning on his arm, went into the house. She was shaking and dizzy with the agitation of the last hour. He spoke to the civil farmer-landlord, who conducted them into a neat parlour, with windows opening into the garden at the back of the house. They had admitted much of the evening's fragrance through their open casements before they were hastily closed by the attentive host.
"Tea, directly, for this lady!" The landlord vanished.
"Dearest Ruth, I must go; there is not an instant to be lost. Promise me to take some tea, for you are shivering all over, and deadly pale with the fright that abominable woman has given you. I must go; I shall be back in half an hour--and then no more partings, darling.
He kissed her pale cold face, and went away. The room whirled round before Ruth; it was a dream--a strange, varying, shifting dream--with the old home of her childhood for one scene, with the terror of Mrs. Mason's unexpected appearance for another; and then, strangest, dizziest, happiest of all, there was the consciousness of his love, who was all the world to her, and the remembrance of the tender words, which still kept up their low soft echo in her heart.
Her head ached so much that she could hardly see; even the dusky twilight was a dazzling glare to her poor eyes; and when the daughter of the house brought in the sharp light of the candles, preparatory for tea, Ruth hid her face in the sofa pillows with a low exclamation of pain.
"Does your head ache, miss?" asked the girl, in a gentle, sympathising voice. "Let me make you some tea, miss, it will do you good. Many's the time poor mother's headaches were cured by good strong tea."
Ruth murmured acquiescence; the young girl (about Ruth's own age, but who was the mistress of the little establishment owing to her mother's death) made tea, and brought Ruth a cup to the sofa where she lay. Ruth was feverish and thirsty, and eagerly drank it off, although she could not touch the bread and butter which the girl offered her. She felt better and fresher, though she was still faint and weak.
"Thank you," said Ruth. "Don't let me keep you, perhaps you are busy. You have been very kind, and the tea has done me a great deal of good."