“No, I don’t want to stay in bed, Ridgeley. I am going to the circus. I shall follow your prescription—to eat and drink and be merry—”
“I don’t think I have put it quite that way, Anne.”
“You have. Quite. ’Death is death and life is life—so make the most of it.’”
Perhaps she was cruel. But he knew, too, that she was afraid. “My dear,” he said gently, “if you can get any comfort out of your own ideas, it might be better.”
“But you believe they are just my own ideas—you don’t believe they are true?”
“I should like to think they were true.”
“You ought to rest,” said Christopher at the breakfast table.
“I ought not. There are to be no more oughts—ever—”
He nodded as if he understood, leaning elbows on the table.
“I am going to pack the days full”—she went on. “Why not? I shall have only a few months—and then—annihilation—” She flung her question across the table. “You believe that, don’t you?”
He evaded. “We sleep—’perchance to dream.’”
“I don’t want to dream. They might be horrid dreams—”
And then Jeanette came down, and poured their coffee, and asked about the news in the morning paper.
Dressed for her trip to the circus, Anne looked like a girl in her teens—white skirt and short green coat—stout sports shoes and white hat. She wore her silver beads, and Christopher said, “I’m not sure that I would if I were you.”
“In such a crowd.”
But she kept them on.
They motored to the circus grounds, and came in out of the white glare to the cool dimness of the tent as if they had dived from the sun-bright surface of the sea. But there the resemblance ceased. Here was no silence, but blatant noise—roar and chatter and shriek, the beat of the tom-tom, the thin piping of a flute—the crash of a band. But it was the thin piping which Christopher followed, guiding Anne with his hand on her arm.
Following the plaintive note, they came at last to the snake-charmer—an old man in a white turban. The snakes were in a covered basket. He sat with his feet under him and piped.
Christopher spoke to him in a strange tongue. The piping broke off abruptly and the man answered with eagerness. There was a quick interchange of phrases.
“I know his village,” Christopher said; “he is going to show you his snakes.”
A crowd gathered, but the snake-charmer saw only the big man who had spoken to his homesick heart, and the girl with the silver beads. He knew another girl who had had a string of beads like that—and they had brought her luck—a dark-skinned girl, his daughter. Her husband had bestowed the beads on her marriage night, and her first child had been a son.
He put the thin reed to his lips, and blew upon it. The snakes lifted their heads. He drew them up and out of the basket, and put them through their fantastic paces. Then he laid aside his pipe, shut them in their basket, and spoke to Christopher.