Tod did not budge. “No,” he said.
Derek turned; his mother was at the other door; at the window, the two girls.
The comedy of this scene, if there be comedy in the face of grief, was for the moment lost on Felix.
‘It’s come,’ he thought. ‘What now?’
Derek had flung himself down at the table and was burying his head in his hands. Sheila went up to him.
“Don’t be a fool, Derek.”
However right and natural that remark, it seemed inadequate.
And Felix looked at Nedda. The blue motor scarf she had worn had slipped off her dark head; her face was white; her eyes, fixed immovably on Derek, seemed waiting for him to recognize that she was there. The boy broke out again:
“It was treachery! We took him in; and now we’ve given him up. They wouldn’t have touched us if we’d got him away. Not they!”
Felix literally heard the breathing of Tod on one side of him and of Kirsteen on the other. He crossed over and stood opposite his nephew.
“Look here, Derek,” he said; “your mother was quite right. You might have put this off for a day or two; but it was bound to come. You don’t know the reach of the law. Come, my dear fellow! It’s no good making a fuss, that’s childish—the thing is to see that the man gets every chance.”
Derek looked up. Probably he had not yet realized that his uncle was in the room; and Felix was astonished at his really haggard face; as if the incident had bitten and twisted some vital in his body.
“He trusted us.”
Felix saw Kirsteen quiver and flinch, and understood why they had none of them felt quite able to turn their backs on that display of passion. Something deep and unreasoning was on the boy’s side; something that would not fit with common sense and the habits of civilized society; something from an Arab’s tent or a Highland glen. Then Tod came up behind and put his hands on his son’s shoulders.
“Come!” he said; “milk’s spilt.”
“All right!” said Derek gruffly, and he went to the door.
Felix made Nedda a sign and she slipped out after him.
Nedda, her blue head-gear trailing, followed along at the boy’s side while he passed through the orchard and two fields; and when he threw himself down under an ash-tree she, too, subsided, waiting for him to notice her.
“I am here,” she said at last.
At that ironic little speech Derek sat up.
“It’ll kill him,” he said.
“But—to burn things, Derek! To light horrible cruel flames, and burn things, even if they aren’t alive!”
Derek said through his teeth:
“It’s I who did it! If I’d never talked to him he’d have been like the others. They were taking him in a cart, like a calf.”
Nedda got possession of his hand and held it tight.