“But, Boney—Anne Carfax?”
Nap threw up his head with a brief laugh. “Oh, I’m cured of that—quite cured. The paths of perpetual virtue are not for me. I prefer more rapid travelling and a surer goal.”
He stood up, his arms stretched up above his head. “I make you a present of Anne Carfax,” he said lightly. “Not that she is mine to give. But I wouldn’t keep her if she were. We belong to different spheres.”
“And yet—” Lucas said.
“My dear fellow, that’s an old story.” Impulsively Nap cut in, almost fierily. “Do you think the woman is living who could hold me after all this time? I tell you that fire is burnt out. Why rake over the dead ashes?”
“I am looking for the Divine Spark,” Lucas answered quietly.
“And if you found it?” Nap’s words came through smiling lips, and yet they sounded savage.
“If I found it,” very steadily came the answer, “I would blow it to a flame, Boney, for your sake—and hers.”
“For hers?” Something fierce showed in Nap’s eyes. It was as if a goaded animal suddenly looked out of them.
Lucas must have seen it, for on the instant his manner changed.
“We won’t go any further,” he said. “Only, dear fellow, I can’t part with you yet. Let that be understood. I want you.”
“So be it!” said Nap. “I will stay and see you married.”
And with the words he stooped and grasped his brother’s hand for a moment.
“Go on and prosper, Luke,” he said. “It’s high time that you came into your own.”
THE QUEEN’S PARDON
As soon as Anne entered Baronmead that evening she was aware of a difference. Bertie, with a thunderous countenance, came forward to meet her. She had not seen him wear that look in all the months of Nap’s absence.
“The prodigal has returned,” he told her briefly. “P’r’aps you know.”
She did not pretend to misunderstand him. She had schooled herself to face the situation without shrinking.
“Yes, I know,” she said. “I met him at your house an hour ago.”
“At my house!” For a single instant Bertie looked downright murderous, and then the sight of Anne’s pale face made him restrain himself.
“He didn’t stay,” she said rather wearily. “What of Luke? Has he seen him?”
“Can’t understand Luke,” muttered Bertie. “He’s actually pleased. Say, Lady Carfax, would it help any if I were to stop and dine?”
“No,” Anne said, smiling a little. “Go back to Dot, won’t you? She is expecting you.”
She saw that he was glad to follow her suggestion, and she was undoubtedly glad to see him go. He was plainly in an explosive mood.
Mrs. Errol came to her room while she was dressing. But Mrs. Errol had had ample time to compose herself. She showed no agitation, and spoke of Nap’s unexpected arrival as if she were quite indifferent to his comings and goings; but she hovered about Anne with a protecting motherliness that did not need to express itself in words. When they went downstairs she held Anne’s arm very closely.