Anne nodded, very wisely; then, she began to laugh, but this time at herself. “I am talking quite like a book,” she said. “Really, I had no idea I was so clever. But I have thought of this before, Rudolph, and been sorry for those poor women who—who haven’t found the right sort of man to care for.”
“Yes.” Musgrave’s face was alert. “You have been luckier than most, Anne,” he said.
“Lucky!” she cried, and that queer little thrill of happiness woke again in her rich voice. “Ah, you don’t know how lucky I have been, Rudolph! I have never cared for any one except—well, yes, you, a great while ago—and Jack. And you are both good men. Ah, Rudolph, it was very dear and sweet and foolish, the way we loved each other, but you don’t mind—very, very much—do you, if I think Jack is the best man in the world, and by far the best man in the world for me? He is so good to me; he is so good and kind and considerate to me, and, even after all these years of matrimony, he is always the lover. A woman appreciates that, Rudolph; she wants her husband to be always her lover, just as Jack is, and never to give in when she coaxes—because she only coaxes when she knows she is in the wrong—and never, never, to let her see him shaving himself. If a husband observes these simple rules, Rudolph, his wife will be a happy woman; and Jack does. In consequence, every day I live I grow fonder of him, and appreciate him more and more; he grows upon me just as a taste for strong drink might. Without him—without him—” Anne’s voice died away; then she faced Musgrave, indignantly. “Oh, Rudolph!” she cried, “how horrid of you, how mean of you, to come here and suggest the possibility of Jack’s dying or running away from me, or doing anything dreadful like that!”
Colonel Musgrave was smiling, “I?” said he, equably. “My dear madam! if you will reconsider,—”
“No,” she conceded, after deliberation, “it wasn’t exactly your fault. I got started on the subject of Jack, and imagined all sorts of horrible and impossible things. But there is a sort of a something in the air to-night; probably a storm is coming down the river. So I feel very morbid and very foolish, Rudolph; but, then, I am in love, you see. Isn’t it funny, after all these years?” Anne asked with a smile;—“and so you are not to be angry, Rudolph.”
“My dear,” he said, “I assure you, the emotion you raise in me is very far from resembling that of anger.” Musgrave rose and laughed. “I fear, you know, we will create a scandal if we sit here any longer. Let’s see what the others are doing.”
That night, after his guests had retired, Colonel Musgrave smoked a cigarette on the front porch of Matocton. The moon, now in the zenith, was bright and chill. After a while, Musgrave raised his face toward it, and laughed.
“Isn’t it—isn’t it funny?” he demanded, echoing Anne’s query ruefully.