Still, she sat bent together on the margin of the well. Then she drew off her glove, and felt for something in the leather bag she carried on her wrist. She took it out, and the small object sparkled a little as she held it poised for a moment—as though considering. Then with a rapid movement, she bent over the well, and dropped it into the water. There was a slight splash.
Rachel Henderson raised herself and stood up.
“That’s done with!” she said to herself, with a straightening of all her young frame.
Yet all the way back to London she was tormented by thoughts of what she had declared was “done with”; of scenes and persons, that is, which she was determined to forget, and had just formally renounced for ever by her symbolic action at the well.
“You do seem to have hit on a rather nice spot, Rachel, though lonesome,” said Miss Henderson’s friend and partner, Janet Leighton, as they stood on the front steps of Great End Farm, surveying the scene outside, on an August evening, about a week after she and Rachel had arrived with their furniture and personal belongings to take possession of the farm.
During that week they had both worked hard—from dawn till dark, both outside and in. The harvest was in full swing, and as the dusk was filling, Janet Leighton, who had just returned herself from the fields, could watch the scene going on in the wheat-field beyond the farm-yard, where, as the reaping machine steadily pared away the remaining square of wheat, two or three men and boys with guns lay in wait outside the square for the rabbits as they bolted from their fast lessening shelter. The gold and glow of harvest was on the fields and in the air. At last the sun had come back to a sodden land, after weeks of cold and drenching showers which, welcomed in June, had by the middle of August made all England tremble for the final fate of the gorgeous crops then filling the largest area ever tilled on British soil with their fat promise. Wheat, oats, and barley stood once more erect, roots were saved, and the young vicar of Ipscombe was reflecting as he walked towards Great End Farm that his harvest festival sermon might now after all be rather easier to write than had seemed probable during the foregoing anxious weeks of chill and storm.
Rachel Henderson, who had thrown herself—tired out—into a chair in the sitting-room window, which was wide open, nodded as she caught her friend’s remark and smiled. But she did not want to talk. She was in that state of physical fatigue when mere rest is a positive delight. The sun, the warm air, the busy harvest scene, and all the long hours of hard but pleasant work seemed to be still somehow in her pulses, thrilling through her blood. It was long since she had known the acute physical pleasure of such a day; but her sense of it had conjured up involuntarily recollections of many similar days in a distant scene—great golden spaces, blinding sun, and huge reaping machines, twice the size of that at work in the field yonder. The recollections were unwelcome. Thought was unwelcome. She wanted only food and sleep—deep sleep—renewing her tired muscles, till the delicious early morning came round again, and she was once more in the fields directing her team of workers.