He heard her quick breath. “But I’ve got to face them.”
“But not alone. Anne, do you remember what you said ... this morning? That you were going to pack the days full? And you can’t do that without some one to help you. And Ridgeley won’t help. Anne, let me do it. Let me take you away from here ... away from Ridgeley. We will go where we can hear the temple bells. We’ll ride through the desert ... we’ll set our sails for strange harbors. We’ll love until we forget everything, but the day, the hour,—the moment! And when the time comes for endless dreams....”
“You mustn’t say things like that to me ... you must not...!”
“I must. I want you to have happiness. We’ll crowd more in to a few short months than some people have in a lifetime. And you have a right to it.”
“Would it be happiness?”
“Why not? In a way we are all pushing death ahead of us. Who knows that he will be alive to-morrow? There’s this arm of mine ... there’s every chance that I’ll have trouble with it. And an automobile accident may wreck a honeymoon. You’ve as much time as thousands who are counting on more.”
The lightning flashed and showed the birches writhing.
“But afterward, Christopher, afterward...?”
“Well, if it is Heaven, we’ll have each other. And if it is Hell ... there were Paolo and Francesca ... and if it is sleep, I’ll dream eternally of you! Anne ... Anne, do you love me enough to do it?”
But the storm was upon them—rain and wind, and the thunder a cannonade. Christopher, brought at last to the knowledge of its menace, picked Anne up in his arms, and ran for shelter. When they reached the house, they found Ridgeley there. He was stern. “It was a bad business to keep her out. She’s afraid of storms.”
“Were you afraid?” Christopher asked her, as Ridgeley went to look after the awnings.
“I forgot the storm,” she said, and did not meet his eyes.
Lying awake in her wide bed, Anne thought it over. She was still shaken by Christopher’s vehemence. She had believed him her friend, and had found him her lover—and oh, he had brought back youth to her. If he left her now, how could she stand it—the days with no one but Jeanette Ware, and the soul-shaking knowledge of what was ahead?
And Ridgeley would not care—much. In a week be swallowed up by his work....
She tried to read, but found it difficult. Across each page flamed Christopher’s sentences.... “We’ll ride through the desert.... We’ll set our sails for strange harbors....”
Was that what the old man had meant at the circus.... “What you think is evil—cannot be evil”? Would Christopher give her all that she had hoped of Ridgeley? If she lived to be eighty, she and Ridgeley would—jog. Was Christopher right—“You’ll have more happiness in a few months than some people in a lifetime?”