She was half-laughing, half-crying, as she whispered the words. Bertie’s arms held her so closely that she almost gasped for breath.
“My precious girl!” he said. “My own precious wife! Is it so? You know, I wondered.”
She turned her lips quickly to his. There were tears on her cheeks though she was laughing.
“How bright of you, Bertie! You—you always get there sooner or later, don’t you? And you’re not cross with me any more? You don’t think me very unreasonable about Nap?”
“Oh, damn Nap!” said Bertie, for the second time, with fervour.
“Poor Nap!” said Dot gently.
That evening, when Bertie was at Baronmead, she scribbled a single sentence on a sheet of paper, thrust it into an envelope and directed it to the Phoenix Club, New York.
This done, she despatched a servant to the postoffice with it and sat down before the fire.
“I expect it was wrong of me,” she said. “But somehow I can’t help feeling he ought to know. Anyway”—Dot’s English was becoming lightly powdered with Americanisms, which possessed a very decided charm on her lips—“anyway, it’s done, and I won’t think any more about it. It’s the very last wrong thing I’ll do for—ever so long.” Her eyes grew soft as she uttered this praiseworthy resolution. She gazed down into the fire with a little smile, and gave herself up to dreams.
THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND
“O God, give me rest!”
Painfully the words came through quivering lips, the first they had uttered for hours. Lucas Errol lay, as he had lain for nearly three months, with his face to the ceiling, his body stretched straight and rigid, ever in the same position, utterly helpless and weary unto death.
Day after day he lay there, never stirring save when they made him bend his knees, an exercise upon which the doctor daily insisted, but which was agony to him. Night after night, sleepless, he waited the coming of the day. His general health varied but little, but his weakness was telling upon him. His endurance still held, but it was wearing thin. His old cheeriness was gone, though he summoned it back now and again with piteous, spasmodic effort. Hope and despair were fighting together in his soul, and at that time despair was uppermost. He had set out with a brave heart, but the goal was still far off, and he was beginning to falter. He had ceased to make any progress, and the sheer monotony of existence was wearing him out. The keen, shrewd eyes were dull and listless. At the opening of the door he did not even turn his head.
And yet it was Anne who entered, Anne with the flush of exercise on her sweet face, her hands full of Russian violets.
“See how busy I have been!” she said. “I am not disturbing you? You weren’t asleep?”
“I never sleep,” he answered, and he did not look at her or the violets; he kept his eyes upon the ceiling.