“It would have done no good to carry them back,” Ridgeley had said, “and they are nice for Anne.” His big hand had patted his wife’s shoulder.
“Oh,” Christopher had been eager, “I want you to hear those temple bells some day, Anne. Why won’t you take her, Dunbar? Next winter—drop your work, and we’ll all go—”
“I’ve a fat chance of going.”
“Haven’t you made money enough?”
“It isn’t money. You know that. But my patients would set up a howl—”
“Let ’em howl. You’ve got a life of your own to live, and so has Anne.”
Dunbar had hesitated for a moment—then, “Anne’s better off here.”
Anne, thinking of these things as she got out of her dinner dress and into a sheer negligee of lace and faint blue, wondered why Ridgeley should think she was better off. She wanted to see the things of which Christopher had told her—to hear the temple bells in the dusk—the beat of the tom-tom on white nights.
She stood at the window looking out at the moon. She decided that she could not sleep. She would go down and get a book that she had left on the table. The men were out-of-doors, on the porch; she heard the murmur of their voices.
The voices were distinct as she stood in the library, and Christopher’s words came to her, “What’s the matter with Anne?”
Then her husband’s technical explanation, the scientific name which meant nothing to her, then the crashing climax, “She can’t get well.”
She gave a quick cry, and when the men got into the room, she was crumpled up on the floor.
Her husband reached her first. “My dear,” he said, “you heard?”
“Yes. Do you mean that I am—going to die, Ridgeley?”
There was, of course, no way out of it. “It means, my dear, that I’ve got to take awfully good care of you. Your heart is bad.”
Christopher interposed. “People live for years with a heart like that.”
But her eyes sought her husband’s. “How long do they live?”
“Many months—perhaps years—without excitement—”
This then had been the reason for his tenderness. He had known that she was going to die, and was sorry. But for ten years she had wanted what he might have given her—what he couldn’t give her now—life as she had dreamed of it.
She drew a quivering breath—“It isn’t quite fair—is it?”
It didn’t seem fair. The two doctors had faced much unfairness of the kind of which she complained. But it was the first time that, for either of them, it had come so close.
They had little comfort to give her, although they attempted certain platitudes, and presently Ridgeley carried her to her room.
She insisted the next morning on going to the circus with Christopher. She had not slept well, and there were shadows under her eyes. The physician in Christopher warred with the man. “You ought to rest,” he said at breakfast. Dunbar had gone to New York in accordance with his usual schedule. There were other lives to think of; and Anne, when he had looked in upon her that morning, had seemed almost shockingly callous.