She was glad when they reached Baronmead at length. It was like going into sudden sunshine to enter Lucas’s presence and feel the warmth of his welcome about her heart. She stayed long talking with him. Here was a friend indeed, a friend to trust, a friend to confide in, a friend to love. He might be “everybody’s own and particular pal,” as Nap had said, but she knew intuitively that this friend of hers kept a corner for her that was exclusively her own, a safe refuge in which she had found shelter for the first time on that night that seemed so long ago when he had held her in his arms and comforted her as though he had been a woman, and which she knew had been open to her ever since.
There was a final rehearsal in the afternoon which went remarkably smoothly. Anne’s part was not a lengthy one, and as soon as it was over she went back to the house in search of Mrs. Errol. She had left directions for her letters to be sent after her, and she found two or three awaiting her in the hall. She picked them up, and passed into the music-room.
Here she found Lucas reading some correspondence of his own.
He looked up with a smile. “Oh, Lady Carfax! I was just thinking of you. I have a letter here from my friend Capper. You remember Dr. Capper?”
“Very well indeed,” she said, stifling a sudden pang at the name.
He lay motionless in his chair, studying her with those shrewd blue eyes that she never desired to avoid. “I believe Capper took you more or less into his confidence,” he said. “It’s a risky thing for a doctor to do, but he is a student of human nature as well as human anatomy. He generally knows what he is about. Won’t you sit down?”
She took the seat near him that he indicated. Somehow the mention of Capper had made her cold. She was conscious of a shrinking that was almost physical from the thought of ever seeing him again.
“Capper wants to have the shaping of my destiny,” Lucas went on meditatively. “In other words, he wants to pull me to pieces and make a new man of me. Sometimes I am strongly tempted to let him try. At other times,” he was looking at her fully, “I hesitate.”
She put her shrinking from her and faced him. “Will you tell me why?”
“Because,” he said slowly, “I have a fear that I might be absent when wanted.”
“But you are always wanted,” she said quickly.
He smiled. “Thank you, Lady Carfax. But that was not my meaning. I think you understand me. I think Capper must have told you. I am speaking with regard to—my brother Nap.”
He spoke the last words very deliberately. He was still looking at her kindly but very intently. She felt the blood rush to her heart. For the first time her eyes fell before his.