When he had packed a handbag and left a note for Flora, he rejoined her in the hall.
It was past seven when they reached their destination, and, taking the station ‘fly,’ drove slowly up to Joyfields, under a showery sky.
When Felix and Nedda reached Tod’s cottage, the three little Trysts, whose activity could never be quite called play, were all the living creatures about the house.
“Where is Mrs. Freeland, Biddy?”
“We don’t know; a man came, and she went.”
“And Miss Sheila?”
“She went out in the mornin’. And Mr. Freeland’s gone.”
Susie added: “The dog’s gone, too.”
“Then help me to get some tea.”
With the assistance of the mother-child, and the hindrance of Susie and Billy, Nedda made and laid tea, with an anxious heart. The absence of her aunt, who so seldom went outside the cottage, fields, and orchard, disturbed her; and, while Felix refreshed himself, she fluttered several times on varying pretexts to the wicket gate.
At her third visit, from the direction of the church, she saw figures coming on the road—dark figures carrying something, followed by others walking alongside. What sun there had been had quite given in to heavy clouds; the light was dull, the elm-trees dark; and not till they were within two hundred yards could Nedda make out that these were figures of policemen. Then, alongside that which they were carrying, she saw her aunt’s blue dress. What were they carrying like that? She dashed down the steps, and stopped. No! If it were he they would bring him in! She rushed back again, distracted. She could see now a form stretched on a hurdle. It was he!
Felix came, startled at that cry, to find his little daughter on the path wringing her hands and flying back to the wicket gate. They were close now. She saw them begin to mount the steps, those behind raising their arms so that the hurdle should be level. Derek lay on his back, with head and forehead swathed in wet blue linen, torn from his mother’s skirt; and the rest of his face very white. He lay quite still, his clothes covered with mud. Terrified, Nedda plucked at Kirsteen’s sleeve.