“Walk across to the park with me,” he said. “It is scarcely a mile by the downs. The man can go on to the Manor with your things and wait here for me on his way back.”
Anne considered for a moment, but only for a moment. It might make her late for the luncheon hour, but she was convinced that her husband would not return before the evening. And the world was very enchanting that winter day. The very ground was scattered with diamonds!
“Yes, I will come,” she said.
He handed her out, and picked up his discarded skis. His dark face smiled with a certain triumph. The grim lines about his mouth were less apparent than usual. He moved with the elastic swing of well-knit limbs.
And Anne, walking beside him, found it not difficult to thrust her cares a little farther into the sombre background of her mind. The sun shone and the sky was blue, and the ground was strewn with glittering diamonds. She went over the hill with him, feeling that she had snatched one more hour in paradise.
By what magic he cajoled her into trying her skill upon skis Anne never afterwards remembered. It seemed to her later that the exhilarating atmosphere of that cloudless winter day must in some magic fashion have revived in her the youth which had been crushed out of existence so long ago. A strange, irresponsible happiness possessed her, so new, so subtly sweet, that the heavy burden she had borne for so long seemed almost to have shrunk into insignificance. It permeated her whole being like an overpowering essence, so that she forgot the seven dreary years that separated her from her girlhood, forgot the bondage to which she was returning, the constant, ever-increasing anxiety that wrought so mercilessly upon her; and remembered only the splendour of the sunshine that sparkled on the snow, and the ecstasy of the keen clear air she breathed. It was like an enchanting dream to her, a dream through which she lived with all the greater zest because it so soon must pass.
All the pent energies of her vanished youth were in the dream. She could not—for that once she could not—deny them vent.
And Nap, strung to a species of fierce gaiety that she had never seen in him before, urged her perpetually on. He would not let her pause to think, but yet he considered her at every turn. He scoffed like a boy at her efforts to ski, but he held her up strongly while he scoffed, taking care of her with that adroitness that marked everything he did. And while they thus dallied the time passed swiftly, more swiftly than either realised. The sun began to draw to the south-west. The diamonds ceased to sparkle save here and there obliquely. The haze of a winter afternoon settled upon the downs.
Suddenly Anne noticed these things, suddenly the weight of care which had so wonderfully been lifted from her returned, suddenly the shining garment of her youth slipped from her, and left her like Cinderella when the spell of her enchantment was broken.