Sukey got sent out to run an errand in the rain by her boss, and John went with her. Now a storm has come up, Sukey has fallen (but why?? how?? into/out of/off what?? read the book to find out!), and they’ve taken shelter in a barn…
With her pointed chin and narrowed eyes, Miss Grimes looked like a drowned ferret. “You’d better get out of that coat,” she said, shrugging out of her own.
Her kerchief and shoulders were wet and her skirts waterlogged about the hem, but the rest of her appeared essentially dry. Nevertheless, she was damp and cold enough that her nipples showed clearly through her clothes.
She gave him a little shake, hands on his elbows, and undid the buttons of his greatcoat. “Here now. Say something.”
I can see your nipples, he thought. The greatcoat’s fitted sleeves wouldn’t come off unless he removed his gloves. The soaked leather clung to his fingers.
Sukey was examining her own pelisse. Assessing the damage, he supposed, as she lingered on a dry patch in the lining, but then she lifted it up over his head and rubbed his hair dry. He was so startled that he let her.
When the coat went away and he could see again, she was smiling. “It’s a good thing there aren’t any mirrors here. I think you’d have hysterics.”
He sighed and worked his gloves free, spreading them over a bale of hay with his wet greatcoat. There was a hard object in one pocket. He pulled it free, puzzled, and recognized with dismay the slim second volume of Count Julian. He’d slipped it into the coat on Sunday, in case it rained and he needed to linger in church. The edges were soaked, already rippling. He pressed it flat between his hands for a moment before he could resign himself.
He tried to wipe his coat down with his handkerchief, but the square of linen was quickly soaked and the coat little improved. He knew already that the weave would never look as crisp as it had.
“I’m sorry,” Sukey said quietly.
He wasn’t. If she had fallen, without him— “One ought not to fret over trifles.” He could do nothing now for his possessions. What could he do for their health?
Sukey had sat on a bale of hay and tucked her bare feet into her petticoats. Probably that would suffice to warm them. Probably what he was about to do was entirely unnecessary. But he crouched down and drew out one damp foot, cupping it in his bare hands. The other peeped out from beneath her hem as she shifted to look at him. They were so small. Fairy feet, meant to dance in the moonlight.