For eighteen months she had hidden herself so cleverly that he had entirely lost sight of her. When her lawyers communicated with him in the spring they had been careful to give no address. On the whole he had believed her to be still in Canada. She, on the other hand, unless she were a greater fool than he thought her, must have guessed that he would get back to England somehow. Why, the farm had ended in bankruptcy, and what else was there to do but to come home and dun his relations! Yet she had not been afraid to come home herself, and set up in this conspicuous way. She supposed, of course, that she had done with him for good—kicked him off like an old shoe! The rage in his blood set his heart beating to suffocation. Then his cough seized him again. He stifled it as best he could, flattened against the wall, in the shadow of a yew-tree.
The sound, however, was apparently heard, for there were rapid steps across the farm-yard, and a gate opened. “Hallo—who’s there?” The voice was, no doubt, that of the labourer he had seen. Delane slipped noiselessly along the wall, and to the back of the stables, till all was quiet again within the farm.
But outside in the road there were persons approaching. He mounted the hill a little way into the shelter of the trees which covered the steep face of the down, and ran up into the great woods along the crest. Through the gathering dusk he saw the large farm-cart clattering up the lane with several figures in it. The cart carried lamps, which sent shafts of light over the stubbles. There was a sound of talk and laughter, and alongside the cart he saw a man leading a motor-bicycle, and apparently talking to the women in the cart. A man in uniform. The American, no doubt!
The cart drew up at the farm-yard gates, and the old labourer came to open them. Everybody dismounted, except one of the girls, who, standing in the wagon, drove the horses. Then, for a time, Delane could see nothing more. The farm quadrangle had absorbed the party. Occasionally a light flashed, or a voice could be heard calling, or laughter came floating up the hill through an open door or window. But in a little while all was silence.
Delane sat down on a fallen trunk, and watched. All kinds of images were rushing through his brain—wide wheat fields with a blazing sun on the stooks—a small frame house set nakedly on the flat prairie with a bit of untidy garden round it—its living room in winter, with a huge fire, and a woman moving about—the creek behind it, and himself taking horses down to water. They were images of something that had once meant happiness and hope—a temporary break or interlude in a dismal tale which had closed upon it before and after.