On the following morning the breakfast at Mannering was a very tame and silent affair. Forest was not in attendance, and the under housemaid, who commonly replaced him when absent, could not explain his non-appearance. He and his wife lived in a cottage beyond the stables, and all that could be said was that he ‘had not come in.’
The Squire also was absent. But as his breakfast habits were erratic, owing to the fact that he slept badly and was often up and working at strange seasons of the night, neither of his daughters took any notice. Elizabeth did not feel inclined to say anything of her own observations in the small hours. If the Squire and Forest had been working at the barricade together, they were perhaps sleeping off their exertions. Or the Squire was already on the spot, waiting for the fray? Meanwhile, out of doors, a thick grey mist spread over the park.
So she sat silent like the other two—(Mrs. Gaddesden was of course in bed)—wondering from time to time when and how she should announce her departure.
Pamela meanwhile was thinking of the letter she would have to write to Desmond about the day’s proceedings, and was impatient to be off as soon as possible for the scene of action. Once or twice it occurred to her to notice that Miss Bremerton was looking rather pale and depressed. But the fact only made Pamela feel prickly. ’If father does get into a row, what does it really matter to her. She’s not responsible!—she’s not one of us!’
Immediately after breakfast, Pamela disappeared. She made her way quietly through the park, where the dank mist still clung to the trees from which the leaf was dropping silently, continuously. The grass was all cobwebs. Every now and then the head of a deer would emerge from the dripping fern only to be swallowed up again in the fog.
Could a motor-plough work in a fog?
Presently, she who knew every inch of the ground and every tree upon it, became aware that she was close to the Chetworth gate. Suddenly the rattle of an engine and some men’s voices caught her ear. The plough, sure enough! The sound of it was becoming common in the country-side. Then as the mist thinned and drifted she saw the thing plain—the puffing engine, one man driving and another following, while in their wake ran the black glistening furrow, where the grass had been.
And here was the gate. Pamela stood open-mouthed. Where were the elaborate defences and barricades of which rumour had been full the night before? The big gate swung idly on its hinges. And in front of it stood two men placidly smoking, in company with the village policeman. Not a trace of any obstruction—no hurdles, no barbed wire, only a few ends of rope lying in the road.
Then, looking round, she perceived old Perley, with a bag of ferrets in his hand, emerging from the mist, and she ran up to him breathlessly.