“Did you sleep last night—after?”
She nodded fervently to that.
It was raining really hard now, swishing and dripping out in the darkness, and he whispered:
“Our stars would be drowned to-night.”
“Do you really think we have stars?”
“We might. But mine’s safe, of course; your hair is jolly, Sylvia.”
She gazed at him, very sweet and surprised.
Anna did not receive the boy’s letter in the Tyrol. It followed her to Oxford. She was just going out when it came, and she took it up with the mingled beatitude and almost sickening tremor that a lover feels touching the loved one’s letter. She would not open it in the street, but carried it all the way to the garden of a certain College, and sat down to read it under the cedar-tree. That little letter, so short, boyish, and dry, transported her halfway to heaven. She was to see him again at once, not to wait weeks, with the fear that he would quite forget her! Her husband had said at breakfast that Oxford without ‘the dear young clowns’ assuredly was charming, but Oxford ’full of tourists and other strange bodies’ as certainly was not. Where should they go? Thank heaven, the letter could be shown him! For all that, a little stab of pain went through her that there was not one word which made it unsuitable to show. Still, she was happy. Never had her favourite College garden seemed so beautiful, with each tree and flower so cared for, and the very wind excluded; never had the birds seemed so tame and friendly. The sun shone softly, even the clouds were luminous and joyful. She sat a long time, musing, and went back forgetting all she had come out to do. Having both courage and decision, she did not leave the letter to burn a hole in her corsets, but gave it to her husband at lunch, looking him in the face, and saying carelessly:
“Providence, you see, answers your question.”
He read it, raised his eyebrows, smiled, and, without looking up, murmured:
“You wish to prosecute this romantic episode?”
Did he mean anything—or was it simply his way of putting things?
“I naturally want to be anywhere but here.”
“Perhaps you would like to go alone?”
He said that, of course, knowing she could not say: Yes. And she answered simply: “No.”
“Then let us both go—on Monday. I will catch the young man’s trout; thou shalt catch—h’m!—he shall catch—What is it he catches—trees? Good! That’s settled.”
And, three days later, without another word exchanged on the subject, they started.
Was she grateful to him? No. Afraid of him? No. Scornful of him? Not quite. But she was afraid of herself, horribly. How would she ever be able to keep herself in hand, how disguise from these people that she loved their boy? It was her desperate mood that she feared. But since she so much wanted all the best for him that life could give, surely she would have the strength to do nothing that might harm him. Yet she was afraid.