She found herself oppressed by the irony of things. A knight had come to the rescue—but the wrong knight. Why could it not have been Geoffrey who waited in ambush outside the castle, and not a pleasant but negligible stranger? Whether, deep down in her consciousness, she was aware of a fleeting sense of disappointment in Geoffrey, a swiftly passing thought that he had failed her, she could hardly have said, so quickly did she crush it down.
She pondered on the arrival of George. What was the use of his being somewhere in the neighbourhood if she had no means of knowing where she could find him? Situated as she was, she could not wander at will about the countryside, looking for him. And, even if she found him, what then? There was not much that any stranger, however pleasant, could do.
She flushed at a sudden thought. Of course there was something George could do for her if he were willing. He could receive, despatch and deliver letters. If only she could get in touch with him, she could—through him—get in touch with Geoffrey.
The whole world changed for her. The sun was setting and chill little winds had begun to stir the lily-pads, giving a depressing air to the scene, but to Maud it seemed as if all Nature smiled. With the egotism of love, she did not perceive that what she proposed to ask George to do was practically to fulfil the humble role of the hollow tree in which lovers dump letters, to be extracted later; she did not consider George’s feelings at all. He had offered to help her, and this was his job. The world is full of Georges whose task it is to hang about in the background and make themselves unobtrusively useful.
She had reached this conclusion when Albert, who had taken a short cut the more rapidly to accomplish his errand, burst upon her dramatically from the heart of a rhododendron thicket.
“M’lady! Gentleman give me this to give yer!”
Maud read the note. It was brief, and to the point.
“I am staying near the castle at a cottage they call ’the one down by Platt’s’. It is a rather new, red-brick place. You can easily find it. I shall be waiting there if you want me.”
It was signed “The Man in the Cab”.
“Do you know a cottage called ‘the one down by Platt’s’, Albert?” asked Maud.
“Yes, m’lady. It’s down by Platt’s farm. I see a chicken killed there Wednesday week. Do you know, m’lady, after a chicken’s ’ead is cut orf, it goes running licketty-split?”
Maud shivered slightly. Albert’s fresh young enthusiasms frequently jarred upon her.
“I find a friend of mine is staying there. I want you to take a note to him from me.”
“Very good, m’lady.”
“Perhaps it would be as well if you said nothing about this to any of your friends.”
In Lord Marshmoreton’s study a council of three was sitting in debate. The subject under discussion was that other note which George had written and so ill-advisedly entrusted to one whom he had taken for a guileless gardener. The council consisted of Lord Marshmoreton, looking rather shamefaced, his son Percy looking swollen and serious, and Lady Caroline Byng, looking like a tragedy queen.