Then—as though in rebuke of her folly—at midday came a messenger, a boy on a bicycle, with a letter. She took it up to her own room, and read it with fluttering breath—laughing, yet with tears in her eyes.
“My Darling—What an idiot I was last night! This morning I have woke up to a brilliant idea—why I didn’t propose it to you yesterday I can’t imagine! Let us marry before I go. Meet me in London, a week to-day, and let us go into the country, or to the sea, for a blessed forty-eight hours, afterwards. Then you will see me off—and I shall know, wherever I go, that you are my very, very own, and I am yours. I don’t want to hurry you. Take time to think, and write to me to-night, or wire me to-morrow morning. But the very idea that you may say ‘Yes’ makes me the happiest of men. Take time to think—but—all the same—don’t keep me too long waiting!
All day she kept the letter hidden in the loose front of her dress. “I’ll wire to-morrow morning,” she thought. But before that—something had got to happen. Every now and then she would pause in her own work to watch Janet—Janet butter-making, Janet feeding the calves, Janet cooking—for on that homely figure in white cap and apron everything seemed to depend.
The frost had come, and clear skies with it. The day passed in various miscellaneous business, under shelter, in the big barn.
And at night, after supper, Rachel stood on the front steps looking into a wide starry heaven, moonless, cold, and still. Betty and Jenny had just gone up to bed. Janet was in the kitchen, putting the porridge for the morrow’s breakfast which she had just made into the hay-box, which would keep it steaming all night. But she would soon have done work. The moment seemed to have come.
Rachel walked into the kitchen and closed the door behind her. The supper had been cleared away and the table on which they had eaten it shone spotlessly clean and bare. The fire would soon be raked out for the night, and Janet would lay the breakfast before she left the kitchen. Everything was in the neatest possible order, and the brilliant polish of a great stew-pan hanging on the wall particularly caught the eye. Janet was humming to herself—one of the war tunes—when Rachel entered.
“Janet, I want to speak to you.”
Janet looked up—startled. And yet something in her was not startled! She had been strangely expectant all these days. It seemed to her she had already seen Rachel come in like that—had already heard her say those words.
She shut up the hay-box, and came gently forward.
“You’ve nearly done?”
“In a few minutes. If you’ll go into the sitting-room, I’ll join you directly.”
And while she hurried through the rest of her work, her mind was really running forward in prophecy. She more or less knew what she was going to hear. And as she closed the kitchen door behind her there was in her a tremulous sense as though of some sacred responsibility.