I shook my head. “It won’t take you long to run up to the Hall and put the car in,” I said. “I’ll cut across the Park and meet you in that wood just below your house—the way that Jervaise and I went last night.”
He looked distressed. He could not understand my unwillingness to go alone, but his sense of what was due to me would not permit him to let me wait for him in the wood.
“But, I can’t see...” he began, and then apparently realising that he was failing either in respect or in hospitality, he continued, “Oh! well, I’ll just run up with you at once; it won’t take us ten minutes, and half an hour one way or the other won’t make any difference.”
I accepted his sacrifice without further protestation; and after he had carefully replaced the tarpaulin over the tonneau of the car, we set off briskly towards the Farm. About a third of a mile farther on we left the highroad for a side road, and another three or four minutes’ walk up the hill brought us to the main entrance to the Farm. I saw, now, that I had come with Jervaise to a side door last night. This front approach was more imposing—up a drive through an avenue of limes. The house seen from this aspect looked very sweet and charming. It was obviously of a date not later than the sixteenth century, and I guessed that the rough-cast probably concealed a half-timber work structure. In front of it was a good strip of carefully kept lawn and flower garden. The whole place had an air of dignity and beauty that I had not expected, and I think Banks must have noticed my surprise, for he said,—
“Not bad, is it? Used to be a kind of dower house once upon a time, they say.”
“Absolutely charming,” I replied. “Now, this is the sort of house I should like to live in.”
“I dare say it’ll be to let before long,” Banks said with a touch of grim humour.
“Not to me, though,” I said.
He laughed. “Perhaps not,” he agreed.
We had paused at the end of the little avenue for me to take in the effect of the house, and as we still stood there, the sound of a man’s voice came to us through the open window of one of the rooms on the ground floor.
“Your father’s home sooner than you expected,” I remarked.
“That’s not the old man,” Banks said in a tone that instantly diverted my gaze from the beauties of the Home Farm.
“Who is it, then?” I asked.
“Listen!” he said. He was suddenly keen, alert and suspicious. I saw him no longer as the gentleman’s servant, the product of the Jervaise estate, but as the man who had knocked about the world, who often preferred to sleep in the open.
“There are two of them there,” he said; “Frank Jervaise and that young fellow Turnbull, if I’m not mistaken.” And even as he spoke he began hurriedly to cross the little lawn with a look of cold anger and determination that I was glad was not directed against myself.