“Don’t stay, Hastings,” said Rachel. “I’ll get the horse and cart myself.”
For it was market day at Millsborough, and peace or no peace, she had some business that must be done there.
“Oh, I’ve no call to go, Miss,” said Hastings. “I’d rather stay and look after things.”
His eyes met Janet’s, and she nodded imperceptibly. She was relieved to think of Hastings—good, faithful, unassuming creature!—remaining on guard. The very desertion of the farm-houses on this great day might tempt marauders—especially that thief or madman who had been haunting their own premises. She hoped the police would not forget them either. But Hastings’ offer to stay till the girls came back from the Millsborough crowds and bands at about nine o’clock quite eased her mind. And meanwhile she and Hastings, as had been agreed, kept their anxieties from Rachel.
Rachel went off at twelve o’clock in her khaki suit, driving a spirited young horse in a high cart, which was filled with farm produce. She was to take early dinner with some new friends, and then to go and look at a Jersey cow which Janet coveted, in a farm on the other side of Millsborough.
“Don’t wait tea for me,” she said to Janet, “I shall get some somewhere.” And then with a smile to them both she was off. Janet stood looking after her, lost in a painful uncertainty. “Can’t you let it alone?” Lord Melbourne was accustomed to say suavely to those members of the Cabinet who brought him grievances or scandals that wanted seeing to. One half of Janet’s mind was saying, “Can’t you let it alone?” to the other half.
The daylight had all gone when Rachel at last got into her cart in the yard of the Rose and Thistle at Millsborough and took the reins. But there was a faint moonrise struggling through the mist in which the little town and countryside were shrouded. And in the town, with its laughing and singing crowds, its bright shop windows, its moist, straggling flags, the mist, lying gently over the old houses, the moving people, the flashes and streamers of light, was extraordinarily romantic and beautifying.
Rachel drove slowly through the streets, delighting in the noise and excitement, in the sheer new pleasure of everything, the world—human beings—living—the end of the war. And out among the fields, and in the country road, the November sun was still beautiful; what with the pearly mist, and the purple shapes of the forest-covered hills. She had been much made of in Millsborough. People were anxious to talk to her, to invite her, to do business with her. Her engagement, she perceived, had made her doubly interesting. She was going to be prosperous, to succeed—and all the world smiled upon her.