“Run down and meet them. Anne’s a corking kid.”
Winifred knew what had happened. Some girl had got hold of Maxwell. It was always the way with men like that—big men; they were credulous creatures where women were concerned, and it would make such a difference to Maxwell’s future if he married the wrong woman.
She decided to go down as soon as she could. She felt that she ought to hurry, but there were things that held her. And so it happened that before she reached the farm Maxwell had asked Anne to marry him. There had been a cool evening when the scent of lilacs had washed in great waves through the open windows. Amy had gone to bed and he and Anne had dined alone with the flare of candles between them, and the rest of the room in pleasant shadow. And then their coffee had been served, and Aunt Mittie, his housekeeper, had asked if there was anything else, and had withdrawn, and he had risen and had walked round to Anne’s place and had laid his hands on her shoulders.
“Little Anne,” he had said, “I should like to see you here always.”
“As my wife.”
She had had a rapturous week at the farm. She had never known anything like it. Aunt Elizabeth, of the Eastern Shore, lived in a sleepy town, and Anne’s other brief vacations had been spent in more or less fashionable resorts. But here was a paradise of plenty; the big wide house, the spreading barns, the opulent garden, the rolling fields, the enchanting creatures who were sheltered by the barns and fed by the fields, and who in return gave payment of yellow cream and warm white eggs, and who lowed at night and cackled in the morning, and whose days were measured by the rising and the setting of the sun.
She loved it all—the purring pussies, the companionable pups, the steady, faithful older dogs, the lambs in the pasture, the good things to eat.
She was glowing with gratitude, and Maxwell was asking insistently, “Won’t you, Anne?”
She had never been so happy, and he was the source of her happiness. Against this background of vivid life the thought of Murray was a pale memory.
So her wistful eyes met Maxwell’s. “It would be lovely—to live here—always.”
Later, when she had started up-stairs with her candle, he had kissed her, leaning over the rail to watch her as she went up, and Anne had gone to sleep tremulous with the thought that her future would lie here in this great house with this fine and kindly man.
Winifred, coming down at last, found that she had come too late. Maxwell told her as they motored up from the station.
“Wish me happiness, Win. I am going to marry little Anne.”
It did not enter his head for a moment that the woman by his side loved him. He had thought that if she ever married him it would be a sort of concession on her part, a sacrifice to her interest in his future. He had a feeling that she would be glad if such a sacrifice were not demanded.