For the next six weeks Sir Angus spent most of his days at the hospital and Kate's offer to work during the evenings was accepted and soon it became her natural routine. Working in his home lessened the barriers between them, and watching him pace the library as he dictated letters and articles, or sharing a late snack with him in front of the fire, she not only learned more about him as a person, but also became closely involved in every step of his son's progress.
Taking his cue from her own continuing optimism, Sir Angus spoke frequently of Aaron's return home, reiterating time and again that once he was out of the hospital atmosphere he would have a stronger urge to walk.
But Kate's optimism was something she deeply regretted on the day she finally saw Aaron Robertson carried into the house, a male nurse at his side. Gone was the virile, handsome young man she had briefly glimpsed before the accident, rushing along the office corridor. Now he laid sunk back in his chair, his demeanor so apathetic, his arrogant bearing replaced by a depressive slouch that indicated the acceptance of total defeat. Here was no man determined to show that will-power could succeed where medical help had failed; here was only an empty shell with a broken spirit.
Sir Angus, standing at her side, seemed to sense what she was thinking and put it into words. "We were wrong to build up our hopes. It was childish. Aaron is done for."
"You mustn't let him hear you say that!"
"He knows it for himself." Without another word he went across the hall and into the library, leaving Kate to return to the small breakfast-room where she had set up her office.
With Aaron at home, his presence a permanent reminder of his disability, Sir Angus lost the surface calm he had assumed since the accident and his temper, none too good at the best of times, became totally unpredictable. His inability to delegate became even worse and within a matter of weeks he was practically- doing the work of his entire Board.
His collapse, when it came, was as inevitable as evening after day, but its result upon Aaron was totally unexpected. From being an apathetic cripple in a wheelchair, he was suddenly filled with so fierce a determination to walk again that it even drew aremonstrance from me physiotherapist in daily attendance on him.
"There's a limit to the rate one can progress," the young woman complained to Kate one Friday afternoon. "But I can't make him understand that doubling the amount of his exercise won't make him walk in half the time! The most important thing is to progress slowly."
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"I thought perhaps you could talk to him… that he'd listen to you." .
"He barely knows me."
The physiotherapist smiled. "But he knows all about you. Sometimes when he's been sitting by the window he's watched you walking in the garden with Sir Angus. He calls you the little nun."
Kate was startled. "What for?"
"Because he says you always wear dark clothes and look sedate."
Kate's reply was forestalled by the entry of Sir Robert Larkin, Sir Angus's own physician, and she could not help thinking how easily a house invested itself with the air of a hospital once members of the medical profession became regular visitors.
"Don’t looks so depressed, Miss Roberts," the doctor said with a smile. "I only came to tell you to get your pencils sharpened. Another week's rest and Sir Angus will be at work again."
"I didn't think he'd be better as quickly as that," Kate said in relief.
"He'll be as well as he's ever likely to be." There was an inflection in the doctor's voice that signified a deeper meaning, and though etiquette forbade her from directly asking what was wrong, she gave him a questioning look.
"It's not anything specific," Sir Robert said slowly. "But he's pushed himself hard all his life and it's time he slowed down. Matter of fact he should retire."
"He could never do that!" Kate exclaimed. "He'd die first."
"That might well be the choice he'll have to make," Sir Robert retorted. "He's got to take things more slowly. You'd do well to remind him of that next time he asks you to work late!"
After the doctor had left, Kate mulled over his remarks, finding it difficult to conceive of Sir Angus as a man old enough to retire. Hard on this thought came the memory of Aaron Robertson and the physiotherapist's request. Now more than ever it was vital for him to be well enough to take his father's place, and though she doubted whether he would take advice from anyone, let alone herself, she felt duty bound to go and see him.
Apprehension was her main feeling as she entered the large sunny room which he had occupied since his return from hospital. Apart from one meeting, when he had been wheeled into the drawing-room for tea, she had never seen him at such close quarters, and it was a sight that in no way restored her equilibrium. Though his accident had rendered him unable to walk it had not marked him in another way, and looking at him as he sat in his wheelchair it was difficult to believe he was not capable of standing up, coming over to her and throwing her bodily out of the room.
Despite his weeks in hospital his skin had lost only a little of its tan and the warm bronzed colour deepened the grey of his eyes. Though thinner, these only served to increase his look of muscularity and as he leaned back in his wheelchair his shoulders were so broad that they hid the back of it completely. .
There was no mistaking that he was his father's son: the slight curve which gave the nose a commanding quality; the well-shaped mouth with the thin, determined lower lip and the obstinate thrust of the jaw bespoke the same heritage. Even the hair was of identical texture, though whereas Sir Angus was grey, Aaron was still dark. Yet the hair sprang back from the high forehead with the same spring and vitality, giving the head a leonine quality that could not be ignored.
No, even as a cripple, Aaron Robertson was a power not to be denied. "You're an unexpected visitor, Miss Quinn," he said, breaking into her thoughts. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Immediately he spoke Kate's confidence returned, for his voice was only a feeble echo of the strong tones she had expected. Nevertheless her answer parried his question.
"I just came to tell you that I've seen Sir Robert and he's delighted with your father's recovery."
"Sir Robert has already spoken to me personally."
His tone was a dismissal and, assuming she would take it as such, he turned his chair back to face the chains suspended from the ceiling above him and strained upwards to catch at them. As she watched, he lifted himself from the chair, held on to the chains for ten seconds - his body suspended in the air - and then lowered himself back into the seat.
"Wouldn't it be better if you did those exercises when the physiotherapist is here?” she asked.
He turned his head sharply, although surprised she was soil there. "An hour a day won't have me on my legs."
"Nor will overstrained muscles." He glared at her, looking more than ever like Sir Angus's son. "Stop acting as cat’s paw for my physic and leave me to decide what's best!"
"Some decisions are best left to the expert," she retorted.
"And you're an expert too, I suppose?"
"I've been coached by one - as you just said!" Kate admitted with a half-smile.
"At least you're honest," he said bitterly.