FLAMES

Janet walked quickly through the darkening country. A power from behind
seemed to be driving her on–a hot, smoky power of uttermost shame. It
was symbolised by the thunder-vapour that curled in the east, a black,
swagging cloud that lumbered towards the sunset over reaches of
heat-washed sky.

She hardly realised how she had won through that interview at Redpale
Farm. The details were dim and jumbled in her memory, like the details
of what has taken place just before an accident or during an illness.
She hoped she had not been undignified, but really did not care very
much about it. The tension which had characterised both her calmness and
her hysteria was gone–her emotions seemed to flop. Unlike so many
women, pride gave her no support in her dreadful hour.

But her feelings were merely relaxed, not subdued, and her loose,
run-down nerves quivered as agonisedly as during their stretch and
strain. The realisation of all she had lost swept over her heart,
engulfing it. The very fields through which she walked were part of this
realisation–it was here, or it was there, that she had stood with
Quentin on such and such a day, or had watched him coming towards her
out of the mist-blurred distance, or seen him go from her, stopping to
raise his arm in farewell, just there, where the foxgloves lifted purple
poles in the ditches of Starswhorne. She could see the thickets of
Furnace Wood, hazed over with heat–they were haunted now, she would
never go near Furnace Wood again. Two ghosts wandered up and down its
heat-baked paths, rustled in the hazels, and stood where the tufted
hedge shut off Furnace Field–loving and dumb. They were not the ghosts
of dead bodies, but of dead selves–of two who walked apart in distant
ways, who would never again meet each other save in memory and in sleep.

A metallic hardness had dropped upon the day. The arch of the sky was
steel, sunless, yet bright with a cold sheen; at the rim it dipped to
copper, hot and sullen, save where in the west two brazen bars sent out
harsh lights to rest on the fields and make them too like brass.

Janet at last reached Sparrow Hall, and as she did so, for the first
time felt physical fatigue. It came upon her in a spasm–she was just
able to stagger into the kitchen, and sink down in her accustomed chair,
every muscle aching and exhausted, her head splitting with pain, and her
body shuddering with a sudden and unaccountable sickness.

For some time she did not move, she just fought with the sheer physical
discomfort of it all. Her head lay on the table, her arms were spread
over the wood, and the collapsed line of her shoulders was of utter
powerlessness and pain. Then two tears rolled slowly from her eyes–they
were part of her physical plight, and for it alone she wept. For the
sorrow of her soul it seemed as if she could only weep dry salt.

Oh, merciful God!–Quentin looked upon her love as his ruin, and turned
from her in panic to another woman. In this other love he would find the
peace and happiness and goodness that Janey had ached and striven for
years to give him; he would learn to forget the wicked Janey Furlonger,
whose love had all but been his perdition, who had brought him to sin
and torture and despair–and now would lie in the background of his
heart, as an evil thing we cover up and pray to forget. This young,
innocent girl would save him from his memories of the woman who had
given more for his sake than Tony Strife would ever dream of giving. He
did not realise her sacrifice–she had given up for his sake the
innocence and purity that were more to her simple soul than life, and
now he turned from her because she had them not.

Then for the first time a convulsion of wrath seized Janey. For the
first time she saw the cruelty and outrage of it all. Her anger blazed
up–against Quentin, against the world, against herself. His last letter
lay on the table. She seized it, and thrust it into the fire. Then she
noticed the box that held his other letters. She seized that too, and
crammed it into the grate. Long tongues of flame shot out, and suddenly
one of them caught her dress–she screamed, flames and smoke seemed to
wrap her round, and in madness she rushed to the door. A man was in the
passage. He grasped her, and held her to him, beating out the flames.

“Quentin!” she shrieked, “Quentin! Quentin!”

“Janey–darling sister! There! it’s all over now. The fire’s out. Are
you much hurt?”

“Quentin! Quentin!”

Leonard picked her up bodily, and carried her into the kitchen, sitting
down by the fire with her on his knee. He began to examine her. Her
skirt was nothing but charred rags, her face and hands were black with
grime, and there was a horrible smell of singed hair, but she did not
seem to be actually burnt. She was trembling from head to feet, her face
hidden against his breast.

“I don’t think you’re really hurt, dear. What a lucky chance I happened
to be there! If I’d done as I said and gone to Cherrygarden, you might
have been burnt to death. How did you do it, Janey?”

“I was burning Quentin’s letters…. Oh, Quentin! Quentin!”

The last dregs of Janey’s self-control were gone. Anxiety, shock, grief,
humiliation, love, despair and sickening, physical fright, all crowded
into a few short hours, had almost deprived her of her reason.

“Quentin! Quentin!” she cried, clinging to Leonard.

She was so tall that he had difficulty in holding her on his knee while
she struggled.

“Janey, I can’t understand, dearest. Who’s Quentin?–not Quentin Lowe?”

“Yes–Quentin Lowe. Lenny, Lenny–he doesn’t love me any more.”

Leonard kissed her smoke-grimed face repeatedly. He was utterly
bewildered.

“He doesn’t love me any more,” she continued, gasping. “He loves Tony
Strife–he’s going to marry her. Lenny, he’s a devil.”

“My darling, can’t you tell me what it is? Did you ever love him?”

“Oh, I loved him! I loved him! I gave up all I had to him. Lenny, he
thinks my love was his ruin … he wants to be happy and good, and he
thinks he can’t be either if he loves me … he says–

‘And throughout all eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.'”

“My poor old Janey, I’m going to carry you upstairs.”

“I can walk,” and she tried to stand, but he had only just time to catch
her.

“I’m going to carry you. Poor, poor Janey–see what a big baby you are.”

He carried her up the rickety stairs, into her room, laying her on the
bed.

“Would you like to undress?”

“No–no–Lenny, don’t leave me.”

He was in despair.

“Janey, dearest, I wish you’d tell me what’s happened. I can’t comfort
you properly when I don’t know. Do you really mean to say that you love
Quentin Lowe?”

“I love him … oh, I love him … but he’s a devil.”

“Did he know?–did he love you?”

“Yes, he loved me … and he made me give up everything for his sake …
and now he’s going to marry another woman … Oh, Lenny, Lenny, I want
Nigel!”

“Janey–don’t–I simply can’t bear this. Don’t give way so–he isn’t
worth it.”

“Oh, I knew you’d say that.”

“I won’t say it if you don’t like it. But don’t be in despair–you’ll
soon feel better–you’ll get over it. And meantime there’s Nigel and
me….”

“Oh, I want Nigel!”

“I’ll wire to him to come down for the week-end, after his concert.”

“Lenny … you’ll never forsake me?”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“I don’t expect–I daren’t—-”

“What do you mean?”

“The disgrace …”

He stared at her in bewilderment.

“Oh, Lenny … I don’t think you understand.”

She had made him understand at last–and in the process had strangely
enough recovered something of her self-control. At first she had thought
his brain could never receive this ghastly new impression; but gradually
she had seen the colour fade from his lips, while a terrible sternness
crept into his eyes; she had seen his hand go up to his forehead with
the swift yet uncertain movement of one who has been smitten.

“My God!”

Leonard stepped back from the bed.

She lay gazing at him like a drowning woman. She saw the stern lines of
his mouth–had girls any right to expect their brothers to forgive them
such things? Yet if Lenny turned from her … if she lost not only
Quentin but the boys….

For a moment there was silence in the little room, with its faded reds
and casement open to the fields.

Then suddenly Leonard sprang forward, stooped, and caught Janey in his
arms, turning her face to his breast.

They clung together in silence, both trembling. The first faint wind of
the evening crept in and ruffled their hair.

“You won’t love me so much now.”

“I will love you more–but, by God! I’ll kill that man!”

“No–no!–Len, no!”

“Hush, dear, don’t get excited again.”

“But you must promise … he–he’s only a boy.”

“Boy be damned! He’s a skunk–he’s a loathly little reptile, that’s all.
He isn’t worthy to sweep out your cinders, and he–oh, God, Janey! I’d
give my life to-morrow for the privilege of wringing his neck to-night.”

“Len, promise me you won’t hurt him–I–I shall die if you do.”

“Well, I’ll promise to leave him alone for the present, because I’ve
got you to look after. I want you to go to sleep, dear. Do you think you
could sleep?”

“I’m sure I couldn’t.”

“You could if I mixed you some nice hot brandy and water. Let me go
downstairs and get some.”

“Oh, Lenny–I’m frightened of being alone.”

“But it won’t take me a minute–the kettle’s on the fire.”

The combined longing for a stimulant and for oblivion was too intense
for Janey to resist.

“You’re sure you won’t be long?”

“Yes–I promise–just down and up again.”

“Then thank you, Len.”

He went down to the kitchen, and mixed a pretty stiff grog–for himself.
Janey had been too over-wrought to notice that her brother was trembling
and flushed, and that there was a strange, drawn look about his face. He
had turned back half-way to Cherrygarden because he felt “queer,” and to
this no doubt she owed her life. In the horror and confusion of the last
half-hour he had forgotten his own illness, but now it was growing upon
him, and he must fight it for her sake. He drank a tumblerful of brandy
and water, then mixed some for Janey, and went upstairs.

He helped her take off her charred skirt and bodice, and wrapped her in
a dressing-gown. He bathed her smoky face and hands, then he pulled a
rug over her, and gave her the brandy. It was a strong dose for a woman,
and in spite of all she had said she was soon asleep.

He sat down beside her and closed his eyes. The soft air fanned him,
and the scents of the little garden steamed up and scattered themselves
in the room.

Janey lay with her head sunk deep in the pillow, her face half-buried in
it, and her breathing came heavily, almost in sobs. Her knees were drawn
up, and her arms crossed on her breast, the hands twisted
together–there was something pathetic and childish in the huddled
attitude.

Leonard thought to himself–

“It’s nearly time for Nigel’s concert–I wonder if he’s thinking of
Janey and me.”

Leonard dozed a little, but he did not sleep. A leaden weariness was in
his limbs, but his heart and brain were horribly active, forbidding
rest. His heart was full of rage, and his brain was full of images–he
could doze only till these last crystallised in dreams, when their
vividness woke him up at once. He woke each time with a start and a
vague feeling of uneasiness and alarm. He feared he was going to be
ill–just when Janey needed him so badly. He must bear up till
to-morrow; by then she would be better, to-night she was helpless
without him. He looked at the cramped figure on the bed, and his throat
tightened with sorrow, shame and rage.

She should be avenged–he swore it. Lowe should be made to realise that
it was not with impunity that one dragged women like Janey into the mud
and then climbed out over their shoulders. He should be made to grovel
to her and implore her forgiveness. Len had not quite settled his course
of action, but he had fixed the results. Lowe was a worm, a miserable,
loathly, little, wriggling worm, and he had slimed a lily–he should
squirm under a decent man’s boot….

The room darkened. The curtains, fluttering in the dusk-wind, were like
ghosts. The line of woods on the horizon became dim, and an owl called
from them suddenly. Then a procession of clouds began to flit solemnly
across the window–driven from the south-west. They were brown against
the bottomless grey, and there was a kind of majestic rhythm in their
march before the wind.

Len rose with a shudder–somehow he could not sit still. He went to the
window and looked out. Then he remembered that he had not shut in the
fowls for the night or stalled the cows. He would have to leave Janey
for a little and attend to the farm. He stepped back and looked at her.
Her bed was in darkness, and all he could see was a long, black mass on
the paleness of the bed-clothes. She was sleeping heavily, with quick,
stertorous breathing, and it was not likely that she would wake for some
time–he had certainly better go now, while she slept so well.

He crept quietly from the room and down the dark stairs. Outside the
breeze puffed healingly upon him, cooling him with a sweet dampness as
he climbed into the stream-field where the cows were pastured. The mists
were too high and clammy for them to be left out at night, and the man
had gone home after milking them. He called to them softly, and great
shadows began to move out of the fogs towards him. The peace of the
twilight and of his work with the calm, milk-smelling beasts, was so
great that, in spite of rage and suffering, a kind of dreamy comfort
came to Len–a quiet he felt only in the fields. He began to whistle as
he drove the cows home before him. Then suddenly the whistling made him
remember Nigel’s concert.

He had meant to send off a second telegram, which Nigel would receive
just before he went on the platform at the Bechstein. The last
shattering hour had made him forget his plan, and he realised that if
his brother was to have his message of good-cheer it must be sent at
once. But how? There was still time, but he could not leave the house,
even on such an errand–and yet his brother must be “bucked up” at all
costs. To-morrow he would send another wire, asking him to come down for
the week-end, but he thought it as well not to risk alarming him
to-night. Len pondered a minute, then suddenly it occurred to him that
he could give his telegram to the postman, who was due to pass Sparrow
Hall on his way back from his round. By a lucky chance there was a
telegraph-form in the house; Len filled it in, and then ran out with it
to the lane.



He looked up at Janey’s window–all was quiet, only the white curtains
fluttered out on the wind; anyhow he would hear if she woke and called
him. The lane was very dark–the sky was still faintly light above it,
but night had fallen between the hedges. He heard footsteps, and saw a
figure coming down Wilderwick hill.

“Hullo, Winkworth!” he cried, “I want you to do something for me.”

He stepped out into the middle of the lane, and at the same time the
figure began to climb the stile into Wilderwick meadows.

“Hi!” shouted Len–he suddenly realised that on fine dry nights the
postman would take the field-path to Dormans.

“Hi!” he shouted, running after him. “Winkworth!–I’ve a—-“.

The words died on his tongue. He had reached the stile, and saw standing
on the further side of it, on the high ground which the darkness had not
reached–with the last of the western light upon his face–Quentin Lowe.

For a moment both men stared at each other, then Lowe moved away. Len
stood stock still, a queer grimace on his features.

“Were you calling me, sir?”

A voice behind him made him start. The postman had come out of the
darkness and stood at his elbow.

“I thought I heard you shout ‘Winkworth’ when I was far up the hill.
Anything you want, Mus’ Furlonger?”

“Yes–yes–would you take this telegram to Dormans, and see it sent off?
Here’s a bob….”

His voice sounded vague, somehow, as if it were a mechanical process
unconnected with his real self. He stood watching the old postman as he
climbed the stile and took the turning for Dormans, where the track
divided. A minute later a figure became silhouetted against the sky on
his right; the path to Cowden and the valley farms dipped abruptly a few
yards beyond the stile, then climbed to the high grounds near Goatsluck
Wood. Quentin Lowe was clearly visible as he hurried away towards
Kent–almost as if he feared pursuit.

Leonard stared after him, his eyes bright with hate and fever. A kind of
delirium was in his brain as he watched that thick-set, slouching
figure, caricatured into a dwarf by his fury and the cheverel light.
Then suddenly he bounded forward.

He forgot all about the illness that was creeping over him, and Janey
alone in the dark house. Or rather, he told himself that he would be up
with Quentin in a minute, and would have settled him in a couple more.
He would drag him back to Sparrow Hall by the scruff of the neck, and
Janey, poor, outraged Janey, should be his judge, and taste triumph even
in her despair.

He climbed the stile and ran up the path, plunging recklessly through
the tall, ghostly buttercups, glowing faintly in the twilight. He had
soon lost the path, a mere borstall, and was trampling the hay-grass,
but he did not slack.

Quentin had for the moment disappeared. The trees of Goatsluck Wood
waved against the sky: Len was conscious of a kind of illusion as he
approached them–it seemed as if they were very far away, then suddenly
he found himself on the tangled rim of the wood, the boughs shuddering
and rustling over him, as he groped his way into the darkness.

He had to run along the hedge till he found the stile, and he realised
that Lowe now had a good start. But he would not stop, nor defer his
vengeance to another, more auspicious, day. Janey would probably not
wake till the next morning–and meantime his blood was up. He was not
quite sure what he should do to Quentin when he overtook him–he was not
worth killing, that would only mean more sorrow for Janey, but he had
ideas of pounding him more or less to a jelly and then dragging him back
to Sparrow Hall and making him kiss the ground at Janey’s feet, and
grovel and slobber for her forgiveness, with other humiliations which he
did not think for a minute his sister would not enjoy.

Meantime he floundered stupidly among the trees. The path was not often
used, and the undergrowth had become tangled across it–branches of ash
and hazel whipped his cheeks, and brambles caught his feet and sent him
stumbling. Once he fell full length, with the soft suck of mud under his
body, and once he had to stop and fight for his breath which had been
knocked out of him by the low bough of an oak. It was very dark in
Goatsluck Wood–like a dark dream. He looked up and saw shuddering
patches of sky, and they intensified the strange dream spell, for he
seemed to be moving through them, tossed by the wind and scorched by
whirling stars.

Then suddenly a meadow swam towards him–another meadow full of
buttercups, all gleaming faintly in the marriage of twilight and
moonlight that revelled over the fields. A soft wind baffed him, and
cooled his lips with little drops of rain. He pounded on through the
buttercups, thought and self-consciousness both almost swallowed up in
the abnormal consciousness of environment that accompanies certain
states of fever. He saw the moon hanging low and yellow in the east, he
saw long, tangled hedges, and tufts of wood–and all round him, in
meadow after meadow, that ceaseless shimmer of buttercups, as the wind
puffed through them and bowed them to the moon.

Then suddenly he saw Quentin Lowe. His pace had slackened, for he had
not seen Furlonger for some minutes, but the next moment he looked over
his shoulder and hurried on again.

“Stop!” cried Leonard.

The figure hunched itself against the wind and plunged on.

“Stop!” gasped Len, and calling up all his strength broke into a run.

Quentin looked back, and saw that he was running. He himself was too
proud to run, but he doubled against the hedge, and changing his
direction, walked towards Langerish, so that Len nearly overran him.

But just in time he saw the short, heavy figure groping along the rim of
the buttercups, and the chase took a southward direction.

Len had not the breath to run far–he wondered vaguely what had winded
him. He came panting after Quentin, always the same distance behind; he
no longer cried “Stop!”–just padded gasping after him.

They skirted the meadow known as Watch Oak, then followed the grass lane
to Golden Pot and the outhouses of Anstiel. Quentin was trying to work
his way back towards Kent and the valley of the hammer ponds, but
Leonard drove him obstinately southwards. He was beginning to gain on
him a little. Quentin could hear his footsteps, and he knew why he was
following him.

A sick dread was creeping up Lowe’s back–he looked round at the
shuddering woods and that strange sky of storm and stars, and he
trembled with the presentiment that he saw them all for the last time.
Furlonger was a great, big, burly brute–and Furlonger would kill him.
Perhaps, after all, he deserved to die–the country through which he
plunged in this horrible death-chase had a reproach in each spinney, a
regret in each field. And yet his heart was stiff with defiance–what
right had the gods to dangle salvation before a man’s eyes, and then
slay him when he grasped it? A sob rose in his throat. The gates of
Paradise had rolled back for him at last–and must he die just inside
them?

His defiance grew. He would not be robbed of his salvation. To grasp it
he had let go more than he dared think. The gods should not mock him
with their gifts–or rather, merchandise. They should not take his awful
price, and then deny the goods. Life should not suddenly turn and smile
on him, and then hurry away. He called after departing Life–“I will not
let thee go except thou bless me….”

He bent his head and began to run.

Then suddenly his mood changed. The power that had steadied his voice
and straightened his back during his terrible interview with Janey, had
not forsaken him now. He loved Tony Strife, and he was too proud in her
love to play the coward. He would not run away from fate. It should not
be said of Tony’s lover that he had died running away. He stopped
abruptly, swung round and faced Furlonger.

Leonard was so surprised at this change of tactics that for a moment he
did not speak. He stood staring at Lowe, his hands clenched, his muscles
taut, his veins boiling and throbbing. The two men faced each other in
the corner of a high field known as Cowsanish. On one side a hedgerow
was whispering with winds, on the other the ground sloped downwards to a
ruined outhouse–then it dipped suddenly, and the distance was full of
mists, through which could be seen blotches of woods and farmhouse
lights. The sky was still wind-swept and scattered with stars.

“What do you want?” asked Lowe at last.

Leonard mumbled a little before he spoke. “To wring your neck.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Furlonger’s mouth was working with passion, and his eyes were
deliriously bright. He really meant to wring Lowe’s neck. He had
forgotten his earlier schemes of vengeance–nothing would suffice him
now but the extreme, the uttermost.

Lowe folded his arms across his chest, and called up all his memories of
Tony.

“You want to kill me,” he said in a struggling voice, “because of what
I’ve done to Janey–but I tell you it’s been a blessing to her as well
as to me. We were both in the mud together, and now I’ve got out it’ll
be easier for her to do so.”

“You’ve blighted her with your damned love!” cried Leonard incoherently,
“she’s half dead, she’s in the mud, she’s in hell. When you got out, as
you call it, you kicked her deeper in.”

“But there’s no good killing me for it.”

“Why?”

Len asked the question almost lamely. He felt giddy and inert, and
Quentin’s words seemed to be trickling past him somehow–it was a
strange feeling he could not quite realise.

“Why?–because you’ll probably be hanged for it, and that won’t do your
sister any good. Besides”–and here his voice quickened suddenly into
passion–“you’ve no right to kill me for grasping my only chance of
salvation.”

“Damn your salvation!–I’m not going to kill you for getting out of the
ditch, but for dragging her into it–Janey, my sister, whose shoes you
aren’t worthy to clean.”

Lowe quailed for a moment. Furlonger’s eyes were blazing, and he
crouched back as if for a spring.

“There’s no good gassing about it,” he said thickly, “if I let you talk,
you’ll talk me stupid. I’m going to wring your neck because you dragged
my Janey into your own beastly hell, and then when you saw the chance,
climbed out over her shoulders, and left her to rot there. She’s ill, I
tell you–she’s half dead–and I’m going to kill you for it.”

Quentin flung a last imploring look at the silent fields with their
waving, whispering grass. The clouds were scattering now, and the sky
blazed with stars. The night was full of the scent of hay…. In a
moment they would be lost in a black, choking whirl, that sky, those
stars–that sweet smell of hay. He sniffed at it. He thought of the huge
mown meadow by Shovelstrode, where only yesterday he and Tony had
lounged and played. He heard the voices of the workers, as they turned
the great swathes, and shook them on their forks, filling the air with
fragrance; he saw Tony in a muslin frock, with the white rose he had
given her in her breast. He saw the sun on the coils of her
mouse-coloured hair–heard her say some little, trivial, slangy thing
that had somehow made him kiss her. He remembered that kiss, so sweet,
so cool, so calm–and, as he drew back his head, the look of her
innocent eyes….

But once more the thought of Tony put courage into him. If he must die
inside the gates of Paradise, he would die worthily of the woman who had
opened them to him. For her sake he would die game–it was the only
thing he had left to do for her now. He would die with a proud face and
a high courage–and his last conscious thought should be of Tony, who,
if only for a few short days, had allowed him to see what love can be
when it comes in white.

He braced himself up, flung back his shoulders, and waited for the
attack.

It came.

Furlonger sprang forward and seized Quentin by the throat. For a moment
they swayed together, Lowe snatching at the other’s hands and struggling
with the frenzy of despair. His eyes bulged, his lips blackened, and
still he fought. Then the darkness began to rush over him–first in
little clouds, then in long, black sweeps.

“Janey!… Janey!” he cried.

He opened his eyes at last. He was lying under the hedge, his cheek
scratched, his hands twisted in the grass. He stirred feebly, then sat
up, still crouching back against the hazel. Furlonger lay prone among
the buttercups, his chin turned up sharply, the moonlight blazing on his
face. Then Lowe remembered how things had happened–how the sickening
grip on his throat had suddenly relaxed, and he had gone crashing
backwards into the brambles, while something fell with a heavy thud at
his feet.

He wondered if Furlonger was dead. He went and looked into his face. The
features were strangely drawn, and there was a look of desperate anxiety
in their contraction. Then suddenly the eyes opened and looked up into
Lowe’s, full of terror and fever.

“What’s happened? Who’s there? Oh, my God!”

Remembrance had come with a spasm of that ghastly face. Leonard sat up
in the grass, and held his hands to his head.

“I’m ill, I think,” he muttered.

He must have fainted–fainted through the stress and horror of it all,
just when his enemy’s breath had nearly sobbed away under his hands.

“You’d better go home,” said Quentin.

Leonard did not speak. He still sat there in a piteous huddle–and then
suddenly tremor after tremor began to go through him. He shuddered from
head to foot, his teeth chattered, and his limbs shook so that he could
not rise.

“I want some water–I want something to drink,” he panted.

Quentin put his hands under his shoulders to help him get up. He felt
quite generously towards him now. He had been snatched by a timely
accident from death, and could afford to pity this poor fellow who had
tried to kill him, but failed.

“Let me help you home.”

“No–by God!”

“Let me–you’re ill.”

“Yes, I was ill when I started after you–or you wouldn’t be alive and
grinning at me now. I was a fool–I should have waited. But look out for
me another day, you skunk!”

The ghastly rigor choked his last words. The look of terror and anxiety
deepened on his face. Then at last he managed to stumble up.

“I–I’m going home,” he stuttered, and felt sick as he realised he would
have to pass again through Goatsluck Wood.

“And you won’t let me go with you?”

“No–I shan’t let myself owe you anything, for I mean to kill you some
day.”

“I advise you not to threaten me–I might be obliged to take proceedings
against you.”

“A pretty mess you’d be in if you did. I suppose you don’t want your new
girl to hear about Janey?”

Quentin flushed.

“If I wasn’t obliged to shield my sister,” continued Len, “I’d tell that
girl myself. But you know my tongue’s tied–besides, I’d rather kill
you.”

“The secret might come out that way too. No, Furlonger, if you are wise
you’ll let me alone.”

He drew back a little as he spoke–the friendly reaction was passing. He
had always hated Janey’s brothers, because he was jealous of her love
for them; and now, though the original reason was gone, he still hated
them for the cause of that reason–for what he believed was the
foundation of Janey’s love, their physical strength and fitness.

However, there was not much of either to be seen in Leonard now. He
swayed pitifully as he stood there facing Quentin, and though his lips
moved, no sounds came past them. Then he turned away. Lowe watched him
stagger across the field. He expected him to fall every minute, except
once, when for some strange reason he expected him to turn back and
confront him again. But he neither fell nor turned. He stumbled blindly
on, then disappeared into the next field.

For a moment or two Quentin stood alone in the great meadow, under the
hurrying sky. The scent of hay no longer blew to him wistfully, but
triumphantly, like the fragrance of festal wine. He spread out his arms,
and stood there in the quivering, scented hush, while the wind cooled
his damp forehead, and ruffled the hair back from it tenderly.

Then he turned homewards from Cowsanish.

But he had not gone far before he altered his direction. He struck again
southwards, through the grass lanes that wind past Old Surrey Hall,
towards Shovelstrode. He would lay his thankfulness, his deliverance,
his redemption, at Tony’s feet–at the feet of the woman who symbolised
them all.