“You needn’t look so depressed,” she remarked.
“I was thinking what a pity it is that you should go to Canada,” I returned.
“I want to go,” she said. “I want to feel free and independent; not a chattel of the Jervaises.”
“But—Canada!” I remonstrated.
“You see,” she said, “I could never leave my father and mother. Wherever they go, I must go, too. They’ve no one but me to look after them. And this does, at last, seem, in a way, a chance. Only, I can’t trust myself. I’m too impulsive about things like this. Oh! do you think it might kill my father if he were torn up by the roots? Sometimes I think it might be good for him, and at others I’m horribly afraid.”
“Well, of course, I’ve never seen him...” I began.
“And in any case, you’re prejudiced,” she interrupted me. Her tone had changed again; it was suddenly light, almost coquettish, and she looked at me with a challenging lift of her eyebrows, as if, most astonishingly, she had read my secret adoration of her and defied me to acknowledge it.
“In what way am I prejudiced?” I asked.
“Hush! here’s Brenda coming back,” she said.
I regretted extremely that Brenda should have returned at that moment, but I was tremendously encouraged. Anne seemed in that one sentence to have sanctioned the understanding that I was in love with her. Her warning of the interruption seemed to carry some unspoken promise that I should be given another opportunity.
Anne had not once moved from her original place by the table in the course of that long conversation of ours, and she still stood there, her finger-tips resting on the oak with a powerful effect of poise when Brenda came into the room.
Brenda’s actions were far more vivacious than her friend’s. She came in with an air of youthful exuberance, looked at me with a shade of inquiry, and then sat down opposite Anne.
“I came back over the hill and through the wood,” she said, resting her elbows on the table and her chin on her hands. “It’s a topping evening. Poor Arthur; I wish I could have gone with him. I offered to, but he didn’t want me to come. I’m not sure he didn’t think they might kidnap me if I went too near.” She turned to me with a bright smile as she added, “Could they keep me, Mr. Melhuish; shut me up or something?”
“I’m not quite sure about that,” I said, “but they could arrest—Arthur”—(I could not call him anything else, I found)—“if he ran away with you. On a charge of abduction, you know.”
“They could make it pretty nasty for us all round, in fact,” Brenda concluded.
“I’m afraid they could,” I agreed.
She was looking extraordinarily pretty. The bizarre contrast between her dark eyelashes and her fair hair seemed to find some kind of echo in the combination of health and fragility that she expressed in her movements. She appeared at once vital and delicate without being too highly-strung. I could well understand how the bucolic strain in Arthur Banks was prostrate with admiration before such a rare and exciting beauty.