Lucas was silent.
“Say, Lucas”—there was more than insistence in his tone this time; it held compulsion—“you aren’t faint-hearted?”
The blue eyes began to smile. “I think not, Boney. But I’ve got to hang on for the present—till you and the boy are married. P’r’aps then—I’ll take the risk.”
Nap looked supercilious. “And if it is not my intention to marry?”
“You must marry, my dear fellow. You’ll never be satisfied otherwise.”
“You think marriage the hall-mark of respectability?” Nap sneered openly.
“I think,” Lucas answered quietly, “that for you marriage is the only end. The love of a good woman would be your salvation. Yes, you may scoff. But—whether you admit it or not—it is the truth. And you know it.”
But Nap had ceased already to scoff; the sneer had gone from his face. He had turned his head keenly as one who listens.
It was nearly a minute later that he spoke, and by that time the humming of an approaching motor was clearly audible.
Then, “It may be the truth,” he said, in a tone as deliberate as his brother’s, “and it may not. But—no good woman will ever marry me, Luke. And I shall never marry—anything else.”
He stooped, offering his shoulder for support. “Another guest, I fancy. Shall we go?”
He added, as they stood a moment before turning, “And if you won’t send for Capper—I shall.”
The brothers were standing together on the steps when Anne alighted from the car, and her first thought as she moved towards them was of their utter dissimilarity. They might have been men of different nationalities, so essentially unlike each other were they in every detail. And yet she felt for both that ready friendship that springs from warmest gratitude.
Nap kept her hand a moment in his grasp while he looked at her with that bold stare of his that she had never yet desired to avoid. On the occasion of her last visit to Baronmead they had not met. She wondered if he were about to upbraid her for neglecting her friends, but he said nothing whatever, leaving it to Lucas to inquire after her health while he stood by and watched her with those dusky, intent eyes of his that seemed to miss nothing.
“I am quite strong again, thank you,” she said in answer to her host’s kindly questioning. “And you, Mr. Errol?”
“I am getting strong too,” he smiled. “I am almost equal to running alone; but doubtless you are past that stage. Slow and sure has been my motto for some years now.”
“It is a very good one,” said Anne, in that gentle voice of hers that was like the voice of a girl.
He heard the sympathy in it, and his eyes softened; but he passed the matter by.
“I hope you have come to stay. Has my mother managed to persuade you?”