When Nancy came in to me, she had put on her white peignoir, and she had Olaf’s letter in her hand.
“Ducky,” she said, and her voice shook, “I have read it twice—and—I shouldn’t dare to think he was in earnest.”
“I should want to go, Elizabeth.”
“And leave the world behind you?”
“Oh, I haven’t any world. It might be different if mother were alive, or daddy. There’d be only you, Ducky, my dear, dear Ducky.” She caught my hand and held it.
“Anthony would get over it”—sharply. “Wouldn’t he, Elizabeth? You know he would.”
“My dear, I don’t know.”
“But I know. If I hadn’t been in his life, Mimi Sears would have been, just as Bob Needham would have been in my life if it hadn’t been for Anthony. There isn’t any question between Anthony and me of—one woman for one man. You know that, Elizabeth. But with Olaf—if he doesn’t have me, there will be no one else—ever. He—he will go sailing on—alone—”
“My dear, how do you know?”
She flung herself down beside me, a white rose, all fragrance. “I don’t know”—she began to cry. “How silly I am,” she sobbed against my shoulder. “I—I don’t know anything about him, do I, Elizabeth—? But it would be wonderful to be loved—like that.”
All through the night she slept on my arm, with her hand curled in the hollow of my neck as she had slept as a child. But I did not sleep. My mind leaped forward into the future, and I saw my world without her.
* * * * *
Nancy stayed with me through September. Anthony’s holiday was up the day after the garden party, and he went back to Boston, keeping touch with Nancy in the modern way by wire, special delivery, and long-distance telephone.
It was on a stormy night with wind and beating rain that Nancy told me Anthony was insisting that she marry him in December.
“But I can’t, Elizabeth. I am going to write to him to-night.”
“When will it be?”
“Who knows? I—I’m not ready. If he can’t wait—he can let me go.”
She did not stay to listen to my comment on her mutiny—she swept out of the library and sat down at the piano in the other room, making a picture of herself between the tall white candles which illumined the dark mahogany and the mulberry brocades.
I leaned back in my chair and watched her, her white fingers straying over the keys, her thin blue sleeves flowing back from her white arms. Now and then I caught a familiar melody among the chords, and once I was aware of the beat and the swing of the waves in the song which Olaf had once sung.
She did not finish it. She rose and wandered to the window, parting the curtain and looking out into the streaming night.
“It’s an awful storm, Ducky.”
“Yes, my dear. On nights like this I always think of the old days when the men were on the sea, and the women waited.”