One of the first people I always saw on returning was Julian. How often he thought of Anne I do not know, but he spoke of her with the greatest effort. He invariably took care to assure himself that she was physically well, but beyond this it would have been a brave person who dared to go. He did not want to hear the details of her life and appearance.
It was with some trepidation, therefore, that a few months after this I came to tell him that Anne was about to return to America. Why she was coming, or for how long, her letter did not say. I only knew that the second Saturday in December would see her among us again. It seemed fair to assume that her stay would not be long. Julian evidently thought so for he arranged to be in the West for three or four weeks.
I went to meet her. The day was cold and rainy, and as soon as I saw her I made up my mind that the crossing had been a bad one, and I was glad no one else had come to the wharf with me. She was standing by the rail, wrapped in a voluminous fur coat—the fashions were slim in the extreme—and her hat was tied on by a blue veil.
I may as well admit that from the moment I heard of her projected return I feared that her real motive for coming, conscious or unconscious, was to see Julian again. So when I told her of his absence I was immensely relieved that she took it as a matter of course.
“I suppose we might have met,” she observed. “As it is, I can go about without any fear of an awkward encounter.” I say I was relieved, but I was also excessively puzzled. Why had Anne come home?
It was a question I was to hear answered in a variety of ways during the next few months, by many of Anne’s friends and partisans; for, as I think I have said, Anne had inspired great attachment since her earliest days. Why had she come home? they exclaimed. Why not, pray? Had she done anything criminal that she was to be exiled? Did I think it pleasant to live abroad on a small income? Even if she could get on without her friends, could they do without her?
The tone of these questions annoyed me not a little when I heard them, which was not for some time. Soon after Anne’s arrival I, too, was called away, and it was not until February that I returned and was met by the carefully set piece—Anne the Victim.
With that ill-advised self-confidence of which I have already made mention, I at once set about demolishing this picture. I told Anne’s friends, who were also mine, that she would thank them very little for their attitude. I found myself painting her life abroad as a delirium of intellect and luxury. I even found myself betraying professional secrets and arguing with total strangers as to the amount of her income.