It was nearly a month after Lucas Errol’s operation that Bertie and his bride came home from their honeymoon and began the congenial task of setting their house in order.
Dot was thoroughly in her element. The minutest details were to her matters of vital importance.
“We must make it comfy,” she said to Bertie, and Bertie fully agreed.
He had relinquished his study of the law, and had resumed his secretarial duties, well aware that Lucas could ill spare him. He was in fact Lucas’s right hand just then, and the burden that devolved upon him was no light one. But he bore it with a cheerful spirit, for Lucas was making progress. Despite his utter helplessness, despite the inevitable confinement to one room, despite the weariness and the irksomeness which day by day were his portion, Lucas was very gradually gaining ground. Already he suffered less severely and slept more naturally.
His last words to Capper at parting had been, “Come again in the spring and complete the cure. I shall be ready for you.”
And Capper had smiled upon him with something approaching geniality and had answered, “You’ll do it, and so shall I. So long then!”
But the months that intervened were the chief stumbling-block, and Capper knew it. He knew that his patient would have to face difficulties and drawbacks that might well dismay the bravest. He knew of the reaction that must surely come when the vitality was low, and progress became imperceptible, and the long imprisonment almost unendurable. He knew of the fever that would lurk in the quickening blood, of the torturing cramp that would draw the unused muscles, of the depression that was its mental counterpart, of the black despair that would hang like a paralysing weight upon soul and body, of the ennui, of the weariness of life, of the piteous weakness that nothing could alleviate.
He had to a certain extent warned Lucas what to expect; but the time for these things had not yet arrived. He was hardly yet past the first stage, and his courage was buoyed up by high hopes as yet undashed. He had faced worse things without blenching, and he had not begun to feel the monotony that Capper had dreaded as his worst enemy.
He took a keen interest in the doings of the young couple at the Dower House, and Dot’s breezy presence was ever welcome.
As for Anne, she went to and fro between Baronmead and the Manor, of which her husband’s will had left her sole mistress, no longer leading a hermit’s life, no longer clinging to her solitude, grave and quiet, but not wholly unhappy. Those few words Capper had spoken on the day of Lucas’s operation had made a marvellous difference to her outlook. They had made it possible for her to break down the prison-walls that surrounded her. They had given her strength to leave the past behind her, all vain regrets and cruel disillusionments, to put away despair and rise above depression. They had given her courage to go on.