He bowed again, but still followed.
"Do you wish," she said, at last, "to compromise me?"
"I cannot leave you unprotected," said Mauden, getting pale. He, too, had a temper.
"I came here alone, and I presume I can return alone. Please do not make me angry."
Matters were at this unhappy stage when they heard the rumble of wheels. Presently a grocer's cart appeared at the far end of the road.
"I will ask this man to drive me back," said Sophia. Then she gave Mauden a fiery glance. "We shall be the talk of the county!"
"Possibly, too, of London," he observed.
"You should not have exposed me to this," she went on; "it was unkind. Consumption is in my family, and it is well known that consumptives are not responsible for their conduct!" She hailed the grocer with a royal gesture.
"I have walked too far," she said, when he stopped, "will you kindly take me to The Cloisters?"
When she found herself actually seated in the cart, her customary good-humour returned. She lifted her veil and flung an artless smile to heaven.
"How my husband will laugh when I tell him!" she said.
Even months afterwards, Mauden was unable to explain her motive in making this astounding remark at that particular moment. When, however, in later years he confided the whole episode — together, of course, with every other episode of his bachelor career — to the wife of his bosom, (who, for the present,