“Don’t tell me any more!” said Janet peremptorily. “I don’t want to hear it. But you ought to be—quite frank—with him.”
“I know that. Naturally—it was a great shock to him.”
There was something very touching in her attitude. She stood there like a shamefaced boy, in her quasi-male dress; and the contrast between her strong young beauty, and the humility and depression of her manner appealed with singular force to Janet’s mind, so constantly and secretly preoccupied with spiritual things. Rachel seemed to her so much cleverer and more vigorous than herself in all matters of ordinary life. Only in the region of religious experience did Janet know herself the superior. But Rachel had never made any outward sign that she cared in the least to know more of that region, whether in Janet or other people. She had held entirely aloof from it. But self-reproach—moral suffering—are two of the keys that lead to it. And both were evident here. Janet’s heart went out to her friend.
“When is he coming?”
“To-morrow evening. I dare say he’ll give me up.”
Janet marvelled at the absence of self-assertion—the touch of despair—in words and tone. So it had gone as deep as this! She blamed herself for lack of perception. An ordinary love-affair, about to end in an ordinary way—that was how it had appeared to her. And suddenly it seemed to her she had stumbled upon what might be tragedy.
No, no—there should be no tragedy! She put her arms round Rachel.
“My dear, he won’t give you up! As if I hadn’t seen! He worships the ground you tread upon!”
Rachel said nothing. She let her face rest on Janet’s shoulder. When she raised it, it was wet. But she kissed Janet quietly, and went away without another word.
Four grown-ups and a child were gathered in the living-room of Halsey’s cottage. The cottage was old like its tenant and had all the inconveniences of age; but it was more spacious than the modern cottage often is, since it and its neighbours represented a surviving fragment from an old Jacobean house—a house of gentlefolks—which had once stood on the site. Most of the house had been pulled down, but Colonel Shepherd’s grandfather had retained part of it, and turned it into two cottages—known as 1 and 2 Ipscombe Place—which for all their drawbacks were much in demand in the village, and conferred a certain distinction on their occupants. Mrs. Halsey’s living room possessed a Tudor mantelpiece in moulded brick, into which a small modern kitchener had been barbarously fitted; and three fine beams with a little incised ornament ran across the ceiling.