He joked with her gently through the light repast that followed. And though she scarcely responded, she let him see her gratitude.
Finally, he laid aside all pretence of humour and spoke to her very quietly and gravely of her husband. The doctor thought it advisable to remove him from the Manor with as little delay as possible. He would consult her about it in the morning. His brain was without doubt very seriously affected, and it might take some months to recover. It was essential that he should be taken away from familiar surroundings and people whom he knew.
Anne listened with a whitening face. She asked no questions. Lucas supplied every detail with the precision that characterised most of his utterances. Finally he spoke of her position, advised her strongly to employ an agent for the estate, and promised his help in this or any other matter in which she might care to avail herself of it.
He seemed to take it for granted that she would remain at the head of affairs, and it gradually dawned upon Anne that she could not well do otherwise. Her presence for a time at least seemed indispensable. The responsibility had become hers and she could not at that stage shake it off. Her dream of freedom was over. Of what the future might hold for her she could not even begin to think. But the present was very clearly defined. It remained only for her to “do the work that was nearest” as bravely as she might.
When Lucas ended she leaned forward and gave him her hand. “I wonder what I should have done without you,” she said. “I believe I should have gone mad too.”
“No, no, Lady Carfax!”
She smiled faintly; the tears were standing in her eyes. “Yes, I know. You don’t like to be thanked. But you have been like a mother to me in my trouble, and—I shall always remember it.”
The blue eyes began to twinkle humorously. The hand that held hers closed with a very friendly pressure.
“Well,” drawled the kindly American voice, “I’ll be shot if that isn’t the kindest thing that anyone ever said to me. And I believe you meant it too.”
“Yes, I meant it,” Anne said.
And though she smiled also there was genuine feeling in her words.
THE JESTER’S RETURN
The gradual coming of spring that year was like a benediction after the prolonged rigour of the frost. The lengthening evenings were wrapped in pearly mystery, through which the soft rain fell in showers of blessing upon the waiting earth. To Anne, it was as though a great peace had descended upon all things, quelling all tumult. She had resolutely taken up her new burden, which was so infinitely easier than the old, and she found a strange happiness in the bearing of it. The management of her husband’s estate kept her very fully occupied, so that she had no time for perplexing problems. She took each day as it came, and each day left her stronger.