“How do you know?”
“She told old Halsey. Well, there’s my road, just ahead. And if you’re going to Moor End, you keep straight on. The moon’s coming up. It won’t be very dark.” And with a careless good-night, the Canadian turned a corner, and disappeared along a road which diverged at a right angle from the main road, and led, as Delane knew, direct to Ipscombe.
He himself walked on, till he found a lane tunnelled through one of the deep woods that on their western side ran down to Great End Farm. In the heart of that wood there was a keeper’s hut, disused entirely since the war. Delane had discovered it, and was quite prepared to spend a night there at a pinch. There was a rude fireplace in it, and some old sacks. With some of the fallen wood lying about, a man could make a fire, and pass a winter night in very tolerable comfort.
He made his way in, managed to prop a sack against the small cobwebbed window, fastened the door with a rusty bolt, and brought out an electric torch he always carried in his pocket.
There was not a house within a long distance. There were no keepers now on Colonel Shepherd’s estate. Darkness—the woods—and the wild creatures in them—were his only companions. Half a mile away, no doubt, Rachel in her smart new parlour was talking to the Canadian fellow.
Tanner! Ye gods! At last he had the clue to it all.
Dempsey did not find Rachel Henderson at home when he called at Great End Farm, after his meeting with his unknown companion on the common.
Ellesborough and Rachel had gone to London for the day. Ellesborough’s duties at the Ralstone camp were in a state of suspended animation, since, in these expectant days before the signing of the armistice, there had been a general slackening, as though by silent and general consent, in the timber felling due to the war throughout the beautiful district in which Millsborough lay. Enough damage had been done already to the great wood-sanctuaries. On one pretext or another men held their hands.
Ellesborough then was free to take time off when he would, and to spend it in love-making. The engagement had been announced, and Ellesborough believed himself a very happy man—with the slight drawbacks that may be imagined.
In the first place—although, as he became better acquainted with Rachel’s varying moods and aspects, he fell more and more deeply under the charm of her temperament—a temperament at once passionate and childish, crude, and subtle, with many signs, fugitive and surprising, of a deep and tragic reflectiveness; he became also more and more conscious of what seemed to him the lasting effects upon her of her miserable marriage. The nervous effects above all; shown by the vague “fears” of which she had spoken to him, on one of their early walks together; and by the gulfs of depression and silence into which she would often fall, after periods of high, even wild spirits.