After all, it had been a lovely life, and there were worse things than being a sister to Maxwell Sears. Her voice broke a little as she tried to thank him on their last morning.
He wrung her hand. “Say a good word for me with Anne. I don’t know what’s the matter with her.”
Neither did Amy. And if she was Maxwell’s advocate how could she be Murray’s? She flushed a little.
“Anne’s such a child.”
He remembered how he had called her a corking kid. She was more than that to him now. She stood in the doorway in her gray sailor hat and gray cape.
“Anne,” he said, “you must have a last bunch of pansies from the garden. Come out and help me pick them.”
In the garden he asked, “Are you going to kiss me good-bye?”
“No, Max. Please—”
“Then it’s ‘God bless you, dearest.’”
He forgot the pansies and they went back to where the car waited.
Anne’s letter, written from the Eastern Shore, was a long and childish screed. “We have always been beggars on horseback,” she said. “Of course you couldn’t know that, Max. We have gone without bread so that we could be grand and elegant. We have gone without fire so that we could buy our satin gowns for fashionable functions. We went without butter for a year so that Amy could entertain the Strangeways, whom she had met years ago in Europe. I wouldn’t dare tell you what that dinner cost us, but we had a cabinet member or two, and the British Ambassador.
“You wondered why I liked Dickens. Well, I read him so that I could get a good meal by proxy. I used to gloat over the feasts at Wardle’s, and Mr. Stiggins’ hot toast. And when I met you you gave me—everything. Murray Flint thinks that because I am thin and pale I am all spirit, and I’m afraid you have the same idea. You didn’t dream, did you, that I was pale because I hadn’t had enough to eat? And when you told me that you wanted me to be your wife I looked ahead and saw the good food and the roaring fires, and I didn’t think of anything else. I honestly didn’t think of you for a moment, Max.
“There were days, though, when you meant more to me than just that. When we played at the Capitol—that night when we met Lafayette on the stairs! Nobody had ever played with me. But after we went to the farm I was smothered in ease. And I loved it. And I didn’t love you. You were just—the man who gave me things. Do you see what I mean? And when you kissed me on the stairs it was as if I were being kissed by a nice old Santa Claus.
“Everybody saw it but you. I am sure Amy knew—and Winifred Reed. You—you ought to marry Winifred, Max. Perhaps you will. You won’t want me after you read this letter. And Winifred is splendid.
“It was your speech to the men that waked me. I saw how big you were, and I just—shriveled up.