“Am I a vision?” She put out a mischievous hand, and pinched him. “But come here, Geoffrey—come up beside me—look! Anybody sitting here could see a good deal of the lake!”
He squeezed in beside her, and true enough, through a natural parting in the branches, which no one could have noticed from outside, the little creek, with their boat in it, was plainly visible, and beyond it the lights on the lawn.
“A jolly good observation post for a sniper!” said Geoffrey, recollections of the Somme returning upon him; so far as he was able to think of anything but Helena’s warm loveliness beside him. Mad thoughts began to surge up in him.
But an exclamation from Helena checked them:
“I say!—there’s something here—in the seat.”
Her hand groped near his. She withdrew it excitedly.
“It’s a scarf, or a bag, or something. Let’s take it to the light. Your woman, Geoffrey!”
She scrambled down, and he followed her unwillingly, the blood racing through his veins. But he must needs help her again through the close-grown branches, and into the boat.
She peered at the soft thing she held in her hand.
“It’s a bag, a little silk bag. And there’s something in it! Light a match, Geoffrey.”
He fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, and obeyed her. Their two heads stooped together over the bag. Helena drew out a handkerchief—torn, with a lace edging.
“That’s not a village woman’s handkerchief!” she said, wondering. “And there are initials!”
He struck another match, and they distinguished something like F.M. very finely embroidered in the corner of the handkerchief. The match went out, and Helena put the handkerchief back into the bag, which she examined in the now full moonlight, as they drifted out of the shadow.
“And the bag itself is a most beautiful little thing! It’s shabby and old, but it cost a great deal when it was new. What a strange, strange thing! We must tell Cousin Philip. Somebody, perhaps, was watching us all the time!”
She sat with her chin on her hands, gazing thoughtfully at French, the bag on her knees. Now that the little adventure was over, and she was begging him to take her back quickly to the house, Geoffrey was only conscious of disappointment and chagrin. What did the silly mystery in itself matter to him or her? But it had drawn a red herring across his track. Would the opportunity it had spoilt ever return?
It was a glorious June morning; and Beechmark, after the ball, was just beginning to wake up. Into the June garden, full of sun but gently beaten by a fresh wind, the dancers of the night before emerged one by one. Peter Dale had come out early, having quarrelled with his bed almost for the first time in his life. He was now, however, fast asleep in a garden-chair under a chestnut-tree. Buntingford, in flannels, and as fresh as though he had slept ten hours instead of three, strolled out through the library window, followed by French and Vivian Lodge.