Fear had for weeks kept Amy company. Through her nights and days it had stalked, a pale spectre. And now Maxwell was saying: “You’ll be well in a month. Of course you’ll come! There’s room for half a dozen. You three won’t half fill the house.”
It was decided, however, that Ethel must stay in town. Amy had a nervous feeling that with the house closed Murray might slip away from them.
Old Molly Winchell, summing up the situation, said to Murray: “Of course Anne will marry Maxwell Sears. There’s nothing like propinquity.”
Murray, startled, admitted the danger. “It would be an awful thing for Anne.”
“He’s rather a bounder.”
Old Molly Winchell hit him on the arm with her fan. Her eyes twinkled maliciously. “He’s nothing of the sort, and you know it. You’re jealous, Murray.”
Murray’s jealousy was, quite uniquely, not founded on any great depth of love for Anne. His appropriation of the three sisters had been a pretty and pleasant pastime. When he had finally decided upon Anne as the pivotal center of his universe he had contemplated a future in which the other sisters also figured—especially Amy. He had, indeed, not thought of a world without Amy.
Her illness had troubled him, but not greatly. Things had always come to him as he had wanted them, and he was quite sure that if Anne was to be the flame to light his future, Providence would permit Amy to be, as it were, the keeper of the light.
He felt it necessary to warn Anne: “Don’t fall in love with Sears.”
“Don’t be silly, Murray.”
“Is it silly to say that I love you, Anne?”
They were alone in the old library, with its books and bronzes and bag-wigged ancestors. And Murray sat down beside Anne and took her hand in his and said, “I love you, Anne.”
It was a proposal which was not to be treated lightly. In spite of herself, Anne was flattered. Murray had always loomed on her horizon as something of a bore but none the less a person of importance.
She caught her breath quickly. “Please, Murray”—her blushes were bewitching—“I’m too young to think about such things. And I’m not in love with anybody.”
Murray raised her hand to his lips. “Keep yourself for me, little Anne.” He rose and stood looking down at her. “You’re a very charming child,” he said. “Do you know it?”
Anne, gazing at herself in the glass later, wondered if it were true. It was nice of Murray to say it. But she was not in the least in love with Murray. He was too old. And Maxwell was too old. Anne’s dreams of romance had to do with glorified youth. She wanted a young Romeo shouting his passion to the stars!
She packed her bag, however, in high anticipation. Maxwell was a splendid playmate, and she thought of his farm as flowing with milk and honey!
Maxwell wrote to Winifred that he was coming home and bringing guests.