But Anne only smiled, very sadly, and shook her head. It might be true, but she was in no state to judge. She was blinded by present pain. She felt she had given her love to the wrong man, and though it had flourished like a tropical flower in the fiery atmosphere of his passion, it had been burnt away at last by the very sun that had called it into being. And she would love in that way no more for ever. There was only duty left down all the long grey vista of her life.
THE POWER DIVINE
“Well, if this isn’t a pleasure!”
Thus Lucas Errol, sitting on the terrace on a certain hot afternoon early in August, greeted Dot, whose multifarious duties did not permit her to be a very frequent visitor. He smiled at her with that cordiality which even on his worst days was never absent, but she thought him looking very ill.
“Are you sure I shan’t tire you too much?” she asked him, as he invited her to sit down.
“Quite sure, my dear Dot!” he answered. “It does me good to see people. Lady Carfax is coming presently. The mother has gone to fetch her. It will be her last appearance, I am afraid, for the present. She is expecting her husband home to-morrow. But I’m glad you are here first. I was just wishing I could see you.”
“Were you really?” said Dot.
“Yes, really. No, you needn’t look at me like that. I’m telling the truth. I always do, to the best of my ability. Is that chair quite comfortable? Do you mind if I smoke?”
“I don’t mind anything,” Dot said. “And I’m so comfortable that I want to take off my hat and go to sleep.”
“You may do the first,” said Lucas. “But not the second, because I want to talk, and it’s sort of uninteresting not to have an audience, especially when there is something important to be said.”
“Something important!” echoed Dot. “I hope it’s something nice.”
“Oh, quite nice,” he assured her. “It’s to do with Bertie.” He was smiling in his own peculiarly kindly fashion. “By the way, he’s stewing indoors, studying for that exam, which he isn’t going to pass.”
“Not going to pass?” Dot looked up in swift anxiety. “Oh, don’t you think he will?”
Lucas shook his head. “What’s success anyway? I guess the Creator finds the failures just as useful to Him in the long run.”
“But I don’t want him to fail!” she protested.
“In my opinion,” Lucas said slowly, “it doesn’t matter a single red cent, so long as a man does his best. Believe me, it isn’t success that counts. We’re apt to think it’s everything when we’re young. I did myself once—before I began to realise that I hadn’t come to stay.” The shrewd blue eyes smiled at her under their heavy lids. “Now I don’t want to distress you any,” he said, “but I’m going to say something