The sea-wall ended not far from Donovan’s camp of mud and cinders, and having got there, Peter thought he would go on and get a cup of tea. He crossed the railway-lines, steered through a great American rest camp, crossed the canal, and entered the camp. It was a cheerless place in winter, and the day was drawing in early with a damp fog. A great French airship was cruising around overhead and dropping down towards her resting-place in the great hangar near by. She looked cold and ghostly up aloft, the more so when her engines were shut off, and Peter thought how chilly her crew must be. He had a hankering after Donovan’s cheery humour, especially as he had not seen him for some time. He crossed the camp and made for the mess-room.
It was lit and the curtains were drawn, and, at the door, he stopped dead at the sound of laughter. Then he walked quickly in. “Caught out, by Jove!” said Donovan’s voice. “You’re for it, Julie.”
A merry party sat round the stove, taking tea. Julie and Miss Raynard were both there, with Pennell and another man from Donovan’s camp. Julie wore furs and had plainly just come in, for her cheeks were glowing with exercise. Pennell was sitting next Miss Raynard, but Donovan, on a wooden camp-seat, just beyond where Julie sat in a big cushioned chair, looked out at him from almost under Julie’s arm, as he bent forward. The other man was standing by the table, teapot in hand.
One thinks quickly at such a time, and Peter’s mind raced. Something of the old envy and almost fear of Donovan that he had had first that day in the hospital came back to him. He had not seen the two together for so long that it struck him like a blow to hear Donovan call her by her Christian name. It flashed across his mind also that she knew that it was his day at the hospital, and that she had deliberately gone out; but it dawned on him equally quickly that he must hide all that.
“I should jolly well think so,” he said, laughing. “How do you do, Miss Raynard? Donovan, can you give me some tea? I’ve come along the sea-wall, and picked up a regular appetite. Are you in the habit of taking tea here, Julie? I thought nurses were not allowed in camps.”
She looked at him quickly, but he missed the meaning of her glance. “Rather,” she said; “I come here for tea about once a week, don’t I, Jack? No, nurses are not allowed in camps, but I always do what’s not allowed as far as possible. And this is so snug and out of the way. Mr. Pennell, you can give me a cigarette now.”