She spoke breathlessly, as one suddenly plunged into a strong current. Her face was bent over the sprig of rosemary which she was threading in her dress. Her fingers were trembling.
Capper watched her silently.
“Let me!” he said at last.
He took the sprig from her with a hand that was perfectly steady, held it a moment, seemed to hesitate, finally withdrew it and planted it in his own buttonhole.
“I guess I’ll keep it myself,” he said, “with your permission, in memory of a good woman.”
Anne commanded herself and looked up. “Keep it, by all means,” she said. “But do not expect too much from me. No woman is always good. The best of us fail sometimes.”
“But you will do your best when the time comes?” he said, in a tone that was a curious blend of demand and entreaty.
She met his eyes quite fully. “Yes,” she said, “I will do my best.”
“Then I’m not afraid,” said Capper. “We shall pull him through between us. It will be a miracle, of course, but”—a sudden smile flashed across his face, transforming him completely—“miracles happen, Lady Carfax.”
Slowly Anne drew aside the curtain and looked forth into the night, a magic night, soft and wonderful, infinitely peaceful. A full moon shone high in the sky with an immense arc of light around it, many-rayed, faintly prismatic. There was the scent of coming rain in the air, but no clouds were visible. The stars were dim and remote, almost quenched in that flood of moonlight.
Across the quiet garden came the song of a nightingale in one of the shrubberies, now soft and far like the notes of a fairy flute, now close at hand and filling the whole world with music. Anne stood, a silent listener, on the edge of the magic circle.
She had just risen from the piano, where for the past hour or more she had been striving to forget the fever that burned within. Now at last she had relinquished the piteous, vain attempt, and utterly wearied she stood drinking in the spring sweetness.
It was drawing towards midnight, and all but herself had retired. She knew she ought to bolt the window and go to rest also; only she knew, too, that no rest awaited her. The silver peace into which she gazed was like balm to her tired spirit, but yet she could only stand, as it were, upon the edge.
A great longing was upon her, a voiceless, indescribable desire, that made within her so deep a restlessness that no outside influence seemed able to touch it. She leaned her head against the window-frame, conscious of suffering but scarcely aware of thought.
With no effort of hers the events of that afternoon passed before her. She heard again the ardent voice of the friend who had become the lover. He had loved her from the first, it seemed, and she had not known it. Could it be that she had loved him also, all unknowing?