And between these two stood this variable, sensuous, woman’s nature, so capable both of good and evil. Rachel felt the burden of their virtues too much for her, together with the sting of her own secret knowledge.
In some moments, even, she rebelled against her own passion. She had such a moment of revolt, in this moonlit dark, as her eyes took in the farm, the dim outlines of the farm buildings, the stacks, the new-ploughed furrows. Two months earlier her life had been absorbed in simple, clear, practical ambitions: how to improve her stock—how to grow another bushel to the acre—how and when to build a silo—whether to try electrification: a score of pleasant riddles that made the hours fly. And now this old fever had crept again into her blood, and everything had lost its savour. There were times when she bitterly, childishly, regretted it. She could almost have hated Ellesborough, because she loved him so well; and because of the terror, the ceaseless preoccupation that her love had begun to impose upon her.
Janet, watching her come in, saw that the radiance had departed, and that she crept about again like a tired woman. When, after nine o’clock, they were alone by the fire, again and again it was on the tip of Janet’s tongue to say, “Tell me, who was Dick Tanner?” Then, in a sudden panic fear, lest the words should slip out, and bring something irreparable, she would get up, and make a restless pretence of some household work or other, only to sit down and begin the same inward debate once more. But she said nothing, and Rachel, too, was silent. She sat over the fire, apparently half asleep. Neither of them moved to go to bed till nearly midnight.
Then they kissed each other, and Janet raked out the fire.
“To-morrow!” she said, her eyes on the red glow of the embers, “to-morrow!—Will it be peace?”
And then Rachel remembered that all the civilized world was waiting for the words that would end the war. Somewhere in a French chateau there was a group of men conferring, and on the issue of this night depended the lives of thousands, and the peace of Europe.
Janet raised her clasped hands, and her plain, quiet face shone in the candle-light. She murmured something. Rachel guessed it was a prayer. But her own heart seemed dead and dumb. She could not free it from its load of personal care; she could not feel the patriotic emotion which had suddenly seized on Janet.
The morning broke grey and misty. The two labourers and the girls went about their work—raising their heads now and then to listen. And at eleven came the signal. Out rang the bells from Ipscombe Church tower. Labourers and girls threw down what they were doing, and gathered in the farm-yard round Janet and Rachel, who were waving flags on the steps of the farm-house. Then Rachel gave them all a holiday for the rest of the day, and very soon there was no one left on the farm premises but the two women and the bailiff.