Noel said: “When she’s over those trees, Cyril, let’s go. It’ll be half dark.”
They waited, watching the moon, which crept with infinite slowness up and up, brightening ever so little every minute.
“Now!” said Noel. And Morland rowed across.
They left the boat, and she led the way past an empty cottage, to a shed with a roof sloping up to the Abbey’s low outer wall.
“We can get over here,” she whispered.
They clambered up, and over, to a piece of grassy courtyard, and passed on to an inner court, under the black shadow of the high walls.
“What’s the time?” said Noel.
“Already! Let’s sit here in the dark, and watch for the moon.”
They sat down close together. Noel’s face still had on it that strange look of waiting; and Morland sat obedient, with his hand on her heart, and his own heart beating almost to suffocation. They sat, still as mice, and the moon crept up. It laid a first vague greyness on the high wall, which spread slowly down, and brightened till the lichen and the grasses up there were visible; then crept on, silvering the dark above their heads. Noel pulled his sleeve, and whispered: “See!” There came the white owl, soft as a snowflake, drifting across in that unearthly light, as if flying to the moon. And just then the top of the moon itself looked over the wall, a shaving of silvery gold. It grew, became a bright spread fan, then balanced there, full and round, the colour of pale honey.
“Ours!” Noel whispered.
From the side of the road Noel listened till the sound of the car was lost in the folds of the valley. She did not cry, but passed her hands over her face, and began to walk home, keeping to the shadow of the trees. How many years had been added to her age in those six hours since the telegram came! Several times in that mile and a half she stepped into a patch of brighter moonlight, to take out and kiss a little photograph, then slip it back next her heart, heedless that so warm a place must destroy any effigy. She felt not the faintest compunction for the recklessness of her love—it was her only comfort against the crushing loneliness of the night. It kept her up, made her walk on with a sort of pride, as if she had got the best of Fate. He was hers for ever now, in spite of anything that could be done. She did not even think what she would say when she got in. She came to the avenue, and passed up it still in a sort of dream. Her uncle was standing before the porch; she could hear his mutterings. She moved out of the shadow of the trees, went straight up to him, and, looking in his perturbed face, said calmly: