They walked on, she with her eyes on the ground as though she were thinking out some plan for his benefit—he puzzled and speechless.
“What do you want to do, now the war’s over?” she said at last, with a smile, looking up.
“I suppose I want to settle down—somewhere—on land, if I had the money.”
“Here?—or in Canada?”
“Oh, at home.”
“I thought so. Well, Mr. Dempsey, Captain Ellesborough and I shall be quite ready to help you in any scheme you take up. You understand?”
“That’s awfully kind of you—but—”
“Quite ready,” she repeated. “Let me know what your plans are when you’ve worked them out—and I’ll see what can be done.” Then she stopped. There was a gate near into one of her own fields. Their eyes met—hers absolutely cool and smiling—his wavering and excited.
“You understand?” she repeated.
“Oh, yes—I understand.”
“And you agree?” she added, emphasizing the words.
“Oh, yes, I—I—agree.”
“Well, then, that’s all right—that’s understood. A letter will always find me here. And now I must get back to my work. Good-morning.”
And with a nod, she slipped through the gate, and was half way across the fallow on the other side of it before he had realized that their strange conversation was at an end.
The vicar and his sister Eleanor were sitting at breakfast in the small Georgian house, which, as the vicarage, played a still important part in the village of Ipscombe. The Church may be in a bad way, as her own children declare; revolution may be in sight, as our English Bolshevists love to believe—not too seriously; but meanwhile, if a stranger in any normal English village wants to lay his finger on the central ganglion of its various activities, he will still look for the church and the vicarage—or rectory, as the case may be. If the parson is bad or feeble, the pulse of the village life will show it; and if he is energetic and self-devoted, his position will give him a power in the community—power, tempered of course by the necessary revolts and reactions which keep the currents of life flowing—not to be easily attained by other energetic and self-devoted persons. The parson may still easily make himself a tyrant, but only to find, in the language of the Greek poet, that it was “folly even to wish” to tyrannize.
The vicar had come downstairs that morning in a mood of depression, irritable—almost snappish depression. His sister Eleanor had seldom seen him so unlike himself. Being an affectionate sister, she was sorry for him; though, as she rightly guessed, it was that very news which had brought such great relief of mind to herself which was almost certainly responsible for her brother’s gloom. Miss Henderson was engaged to Captain Ellesborough. There was therefore no question of her becoming Mrs.