Something twitched a little on the ground and then lay still.
We rose to our feet together.
“Des,” said my brother unsteadily, “it seems rather like murder.”
“No, Francis,” I whispered back, “it was justice!”
The hands of the clock pointed to a quarter past twelve. Funny, how my eyes kept coming back to that clock! There was a smell of warm gunpowder in the room, and the autumn sunshine, struggling feebly through the window, caught the blue edges of a little haze of smoke that hung lazily in the air by the desk in the corner. How close the room was! And how that clock face seemed to stare at me! I felt very sick....
Lord! What a draught! A gust of icy air was raging in my face. The room was still swaying to and fro....
I was in the front seat of a car beside Francis, who was driving. We were fairly flying along a broad and empty road, the tall poplars with which it was lined scudding away into the vanishing landscape as we whizzed by. The surface was terrible, and the car pitched this way and that as we tore along. But Francis had her well in hand. He sat at the wheel, very cool and deliberate and very grave, still in his officer’s uniform, and his eyes had a cold glint that told me he was keyed up to top pitch.
We slackened speed a fraction to negotiate a turn off to the right down a side road. We seemed to take that corner on two wheels. A thin church spire protruded from the trees in the centre of the group of houses which we were approaching so furiously. The village was all but deserted: everybody seemed to be indoors at their midday meal, but Francis slowed down and ran along the dirty street at a demure pace. The village passed, he jammed down the accelerator and once more the car sprang forward.
The country was flat as a pancake, but presently the fields fell away a bit from the road with boulders and patches of gorse here and there. The next moment we were slackening speed. We drew up by a rough track which led off the road and vanished into a tangle of stunted trees and scrub growing across the yellow face of a sand-pit.
Francis motioned me to get out, and then sprang to the ground himself, leaving the engine throbbing. His face was grey and set.
“Stay here!” he whispered to me. “You’ve got your pistol? Good. If anybody attempts to interfere with you, shoot!” He dashed into the tangle and was swallowed up. I heard a whistle, and a whistle in answer, and a minute later he appeared again helping Monica through the thick undergrowth.
Monica looked as pretty as a picture in her dark green shooting suit and her muffler. She was as excited as a child at its first play.
“A car!” she exclaimed. “Oh, Francis, I’ll sit beside you!”
My brother glanced at his watch.