So Murray’s eyes rested on Anne with great content as she came and sat beside Molly Winchell.
Other eyes rested on her—Amy’s with quick jealousy. “So now it’s Anne,” she said to herself as she perceived Murray’s preoccupation. Five years ago she had said, “Now it’s Ethel,” as she had seen him turn to the fresher beauty. Before that she had dreamed of herself as loving and beloved. It had been hard to shut her eyes to that vision.
Yet—better Anne than an outsider. Amy had a fierce sense of proprietorship in Murray. If she gave him to Ethel, to Anne, he would be still in a sense hers. With Anne or Ethel she would share his future, partake of his present.
A third pair of eyes surveyed Anne with interest as she sat by Molly.
“Corking kid,” said the owner of the eyes to himself.
His name was Maxwell Sears. He was not in the least like Murray Flint. He was from the Middle West, he was red-blooded, and he cared nothing for the past. He held it as a rather negligible honor that he had a Declaration-signing ancestor. The important things to Maxwell were that he was representing his district in Congress; that he was still young enough to carry his college ideals into politics, and that he had just invested a small portion of the fortune which his father had left him in a model stock farm in Illinois.
For the rest, he was big, broad-shouldered, clean-minded. Now and then he looked up at the stars, and what he saw there swayed him level with the men about him. Because of the stars he called no man a fool, except such as deemed himself wiser than the rest. Because he believed in the people they believed in him. It was that which had elected him. It was that which would elect him again.
“Corking kid,” said Maxwell Sears, with his smiling eyes on Anne.
In the course of the evening Maxwell managed an introduction. He found Anne quaint and charming. That she was reading Dickens amused him. He had thought that no one read Dickens in these days. How did it happen?
She said that she had discovered him for herself—many years ago.
How many years?
Well, to be explicit, ten. She had been eleven when she had found a new world in the fat little books. They had a lot of old books. She loved them all. But Dickens more than any. Didn’t he?
He did. “His heart beat with the heart of the common people. It was that which made him great.”
“Murray hates him.”
“Who is Murray?”
Anne pondered. “Well, he’s a family friend. We girls were brought up on him.”
“Brought up on him?”
“Yes. Anything Murray likes we are expected to like. If he doesn’t like things we don’t.”
“He’s over there by Mrs. Winchell.”
Maxwell looked and knew the type. “But you don’t agree about Dickens?”