It was when he told Anne of his engagement to Amy that Murray again offered her a home. “There will always be a place for Amy’s sisters, Anne.”
“You are very good, Murray—but I can’t.”
She had said the same thing to Maxwell, who had come hot-footed to tell her that her letter had made no difference in his feeling for her.
“How could you think it, Anne? My darling, you are making a mountain of a molehill!”
She had been tremulous but firm. “I’ve got to have my—self-respect, Max.”
Because he understood men he understood her. And when he had left her he had said to himself with long-drawn breath, “She’s a corking kid.”
And this time there had been no laughter in his eyes.
All that winter Anne worked, a little striving creature, with her head held high!
Maxwell was in town, for Congress had convened. But he had not come to see her. Now and then when there was a night session she went up to the House and sat far back in the Gallery, where, unperceived, she could listen to her lover’s voice. Then she would steal away, a little ghost, down the shadowy stairway; but there were no games now with Lafayette!
Amy and Murray were to be married in June. They had enjoyed a dignified and leisurely engagement, and Amy had bloomed in the sunshine of Murray’s approbation. Anne’s salary had helped a great deal in getting the trousseau together. Most of the salary, indeed, had been spent for that. The table was, as usual, meagre, but Anne had not seemed to care.
She was therefore rather white and thin when, on the day that Congress adjourned, Maxwell came out to Georgetown to see her. It had been a long session, and it was spring.
There were white lilacs in a great blue jar in the Merryman library, and through the long window a glimpse of a thin little moon in a faint green sky.
As he looked at Anne, Maxwell felt a lump in his throat. She had given him her hand and had smiled at him. “How are the kittens?” she had asked in an effort to be gay.
He did not answer her question. He went, rather, directly to the point. “Anne, why wouldn’t you kiss me on that last night?”
She flushed to the roots of her hair. “It—it was because I loved you, Max.”
“I thought so. But you had to prove it to yourself?”
“Anne, that’s why I’ve let you alone all winter—so that you might prove it. But—I can’t go on. It has been an awful winter for me, Anne.”
It had been an awful winter for her. But she had come out of it knowing herself. And even when at last his arms were about her and he was telling her that he would never let her go, she had a plea to make:
“Don’t let me live too softly, Max. Life isn’t a feather bed—You belong to the world. I must go with you toward the big things. But now and then we’ll run back to the farm.”