So that her pulses were running fast as she reached Ipscombe, where, in the mild fog, a few groups were standing about, and a few doors were open. And now—there was home!—in front of her. And—Heavens! what had Janet done? Rachel pulled up the horse, and sat enchanted, looking at the farm. For there it lay, pricked out in light, its old Georgian lines against the background of the hill. Every window had a light in it—every blind was drawn up—it was Janet’s illumination for the peace. She had made of the old house “an insubstantial faery place,” and Rachel laughed for pleasure.
Then she drove eagerly on into the dark tunnel of trees that lay between her and the house.
Suddenly a shape rushed out of the hedge into the light of the lamps, and a man laid a violent hand upon the horse’s reins. The horse reared, and Rachel cried out,—
“What are you doing? Let go!”
But the man held the struggling horse, at once coercing and taming it, with an expert hand. A voice!—that sent a sudden horror through Rachel,—
“Sit where you are—hold tight!—don’t be a fool!—he’ll quiet down.”
She sat paralysed; and, still holding the reins, though the trembling horse was now quiet, a man advanced into the light of the left-hand lamp.
“Well—do you know me?” he said quietly.
She struggled for breath and self-control.
“Let those reins alone!—what are you doing here?”
And snatching up her whip, she bent forward. But he made a spring at it, snatched it easily with a laugh, and broke it.
“You know you never were strong enough to get the better of me. Why do you try? Don’t be an idiot. I want to make an appointment with you. You can’t escape me. I’ve watched you for weeks. And see you alone, too. Without that fellow you’re engaged to.”
Her passion rose, in spite of her deadly fear.
“He’ll take care of that,” she said, “and the police. I’m not helpless now—as I used to be.”
“Ah, but you’d better see me. I’ve got a great deal to say that concerns you. I suppose you’ve told that American chap a very pretty story about our divorce? Well, it took me a long time to get to the bottom of it myself. But now I’m—well, disillusioned!”
He came closer, close to the rail of the cart and the lamp, so that she saw clearly the haggard wreck of what once had been Roger Delane, and the evil triumph in his eyes.
“Who stayed the night alone, with Dick Tanner, on his place, when I was safely got rid of?” he said, in a low but clear voice. “And then who played the innocent—who did?”
“Not at all. I’ve got some new evidence now—some quite fresh light on the scene—which may be useful to me. I want money. You seem to have a lot. And I want to be paid back a little of what I’m owed. Oh, I can hold my tongue, if it’s made worth my while. I don’t suppose you’ve told your American young man anything about Dick Tanner—eh?”