Her servant was waiting by the car. His figure loomed up through the darkness. “You will come into the house for a few minutes?” he begged hoarsely. She shook her head.
“Why? Our farewells have been spoken. I leave you—so.”
The man had disappeared behind the bonnet of the car. She grasped his hand with both of hers and brushed it lightly with her lips. Then she gilded away. A moment later he was listening to her polite speeches as she leaned out of the coupe. “My dinner was too wonderful,” she said. “Do make my compliments to that dear Robert and his wife. Good luck to you, and don’t rob us poor landowners of every penny we possess in life.”
The car was gone in the midst of his vague little response. He watched the lights go flashing up the hillside, crawling around the hairpin corners, up until it seemed that they had reached the black clouds and were climbing into the heavens. Then he turned back into the house. The world was still a place for dreams.
Tallente sat in the morning train, on his way to town, and on the other side of the bare ridge at which he gazed so earnestly Lady Jane and Segerson had brought their horses to a standstill half way along a rude cart track which led up to a farmhouse tucked away in the valley.
“This is where James Crockford’s land commences,” Segerson remarked, riding up to his companion’s side. “Look around you. I think you will admit that I have not exaggerated.”
She frowned thoughtfully. On every side were evidences of poor farming and neglect. The untrimmed hedges had been broken down in many places by cattle. A plough which seemed as though it had been embedded there for ages, stood in the middle of a half-ploughed field. Several tracts of land which seemed prepared for winter sowing were covered with stones. The farmhouse yard, into which they presently passed, was dirty and untidy. Segerson leaned down and knocked on the door with his whip. After a short delay, a slatternly-looking woman, with tousled fair hair, answered the summons.
“Mr. Crockford in?” Segerson asked.
“You’ll find him in the living room,” the woman answered curtly, with a stare at Lady Jane. “Here’s himself.”
She retreated into the background. A man with flushed face, without collar or tie, clad in trousers and shirt only, had stepped out of the parlour. He stared at his visitors in embarrassment.
“I came over to have a word or two with you on business, Mr. Crockford,” Jane said coldly. “I rather expected to find you on the land.”
The man mumbled something and threw open the door of the sitting room.
“Won’t you come in?” he invited. “There’s just Mr. Pettigrew here—the vet from Barnstaple. He’s come over to look at one of my cows.”
Mr. Pettigrew, also flushed, rose to his feet. Jane acknowledged his greeting and glanced around the room. It was untidy, dirty and close, smelling strongly of tobacco and beer. On the table was a bottle of whisky, half empty, and two glasses.