Against her will, in spite of the blaze of sunshine, she shivered.
“Yes,” he said. “But isn’t it better to face him than to run away? Haven’t you always found it so? You kissed him once, Anne. Do you remember? It was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.”
He spoke with a gentleness that amazed her. His eyes held hers, but without compulsion. He was lulling her fear of him to rest, as he alone knew how.
She answered him with quivering lips. “I have wondered since if I did wrong.”
“Then don’t wonder,” he said. “For I was nearer to the God you worship at that moment than I had ever been before. I never believed in Him till then, but that night I wrestled with Him—and got beaten.” He dropped suddenly into his most cynical drawl, so that she wondered if, after all, he were mocking her. “It kind of made an impression on me. I thought it might interest you to know. Have you had enough of this yet? Shall we move on?”
She rose in silence. She was very far from certain, and yet she fancied there had been a ring of sincerity in his words.
As they reached the car she laid her hand for an instant on his arm. “If it did that for you, Nap,” she said, “I do not regret it.”
He smiled in his faint, cynical fashion. “I believe you’ll turn me out a good man some day,” he said. “And I wonder if you will like me any when it’s done.”
“I only want you to be your better self,” she answered gently.
“Which is a myth,” he returned, as he handed her in, “which exists only in your most gracious imagination.”
And with that he pulled the mask over his face once more and turned to the wheel.
THE RETURN TO EARTH
It was nearly two before they reached Bramhurst and drew up before the one ancient inn the place possessed. Upstairs, in a lattice-windowed room with sloping floor and bulging ceiling, a room that was full of the scent of honeysuckle, Anne washed away the dust of the road. Turning to the mirror on the dressing-table when this was over, she stood a moment wide-eyed, startled. Through her mind there swept again the memory of a day that seemed very far away—a day begun in sunshine and ended in storm, a day when she had looked into the eyes of a white-faced woman in the glass and had shrunk away in fear. It was a very different vision that now met her gaze, and yet she had a feeling that there was something in it that remained unaltered. Was it in the eyes that shone from a face so radiant that it might have been the face of a girl?
She could not have said. Only after that one brief glimpse she looked no more.
Descending, she found Nap waiting for her in the oak-beamed coffee-room. He made her sit facing the open window, looking forth upon hill and forest and shallow winding river.
The stout old English waiter who attended to their wants very speedily withdrew.