Part 7 out of 10
in his voice that warned her that Olive was treading dangerous ground.
She hastened to intervene. "But of course you are going now," she said to
him. "It is bedtime for us all. Good-night! And thank you for walking
home with me!"
Her own tone was perfectly normal. She turned to him with outstretched
hand, but he put it gently aside.
"One minute!" he said. "I should like an answer to my question first. Why
are you so determined to see me out of the house?"
He looked straight at Olive as he spoke, no longer careless of mien, but
implacable as granite.
Olive, however, was wholly undismayed. She was the only one of the
Vicar's children who had never had cause to feel a twinge of fear. "You
had better ask yourself that question," she said, in her cool young
treble. "You probably know the answer better than I do."
Piers' expression changed. For a single instant he looked furious, but he
mastered himself almost immediately. "It's a lucky thing for you that you
are not my little girl," he observed grimly. "If you were, you should
have the slapping of your life to-night. As it is,--well, you have asked
me for an explanation of my presence here, and you shall have one. I am
here in the capacity of escort to Mrs. Denys. Have you any fault to find
Olive returned his look steadily with her cold grey eyes while she
considered his words. She seemed momentarily at a loss for an answer, but
Piers' first remarks were scarcely of a character to secure goodwill or
allay suspicion. She rapidly made up her mind.
"I shall tell Miss Whalley in the morning," she said. "My father said I
was to go to her if anything went wrong." She added, with a malevolent
glance towards Avery, "I suppose you know that Mrs. Denys is under notice
to leave at the end of her month?"
Piers glanced at Avery too--a glance of swift interrogation. She nodded
very slightly in answer.
He looked again at Olive with eyes that gleamed in a fashion that few
could have met without quailing.
"Is she indeed?" he said. "I venture to predict that she will leave
before then. If you are anxious to impart news to Miss Whalley, you may
tell her also that Mrs. Denys is going to be my wife, and that the
marriage will take place--" he looked at Avery again and all the hardness
went out of his face--"just as soon as she will permit."
Dead silence followed the announcement. Avery's face was pale, but there
was a faint smile at her lips. She met Piers' look without a tremor. She
even drew slightly nearer to him; and he, instantly responding, slipped a
swift hand through her arm.
Olive, sternly judicial, stood regarding them in silence, for perhaps a
score of seconds. And then, still undismayed, she withdrew her forces in
good order from the field.
"In that case," she said, with the air of one closing a discussion,
"there is nothing further to be said. I suppose Mrs. Denys wishes to
be Lady Evesham. My father told me she was an adventuress. I see he
She went away with this parting shot, stepping high and holding her
head poised loftily--an absurd parody of the Vicar in his most
Avery gave a little hysterical gasp of laughter as she passed out of
Piers' arm was about her in a moment. He held her against his heart.
"What a charming child, what?" he murmured.
She hid her face on his shoulder. "I think myself she was in the right,"
she said, still half laughing. "Piers, you must go."
"In a moment. Let me hear from your own dear lips first that you are
not--not angry?" He spoke the words softly into her ear. There was only
tenderness in the holding of his arms.
"I am not," she whispered back.
"Nor sorry?" urged Piers.
She turned her face a little towards him. "No, dear, not a bit
He held her more closely but with reverence. "Avery, you don't--love
me, do you?"
"Of course I do!" she said.
"There can't be any 'of course' about it," he declared almost fiercely.
"I've been a positive brute to you. Avery--Avery, I'll never be a brute
to you again."
And there he stopped, for her arms were suddenly about his neck, her lips
raised in utter surrender to his.
"Oh, Piers," she said in a voice that thrilled him through and through,
"do you think I would have less of your love--even if it hurts me? It is
the greatest thing that has ever come into my life."
He held her head between his hands and looked into her eyes of perfect
trust. "Avery! Avery!" he said.
"I mean it!" she told him earnestly. "I have been drawing nearer to you
all the while--in spite of myself--though I tried so hard to hold back.
Piers, my past life is a dream, and this--this is the awaking. You asked
me--a long while ago--if the past mattered. I couldn't answer you then. I
was still half-asleep. But now--now you have worked the miracle--my heart
is awake, dear, and I will answer you. The past is nothing to you or me.
Her words throbbed into the silence of his kiss. He held her long and
closely. Once--twice--he tried to speak to her and failed. In the end he
gave himself up mutely to the rapture of her arms. But his own wild
passion had sunk below the surface. He sought no more than she offered.
"Say good-bye to me now!" she whispered at length; and he kissed her
again closely, lingeringly, and let her go.
She stood in the doorway as he passed into the night, and his last sight
of her was thus, silhouetted against the darkness, a tall, gracious
figure, bending forward to discern him in the dimness.
He went back to his lonely home, back to the echoing emptiness, the
listening dark. He entered again the great hall where Sir Beverley had
been wont to sit and wait for him.
Victor was on the watch. He glided apologetically forward with shining,
observant eyes upon his young master's weary face.
"_Monsieur Pierre_!" he said insinuatingly.
Piers looked at him heavily. "Well?"
"I have put some refreshment for you in the dining-room. It is
more--more comfortable," said Victor, gently indicating the open
door. "Will you not--when you have eaten--go to bed, _mon cher, et
Very wistfully the little man proffered his suggestion. His eyes followed
Piers' movements with the dumb worship of an animal.
"Oh yes, I'll go to bed," said Piers.
He turned towards the dining-room and entered. There was no elation in
his step; rather he walked as a man who carries a heavy burden, and
Victor marked the fact with eyes of keen anxiety.
He followed him in and poured out a glass of wine, setting it before him
with a professional adroitness that did not conceal his solicitude.
Piers picked up the glass almost mechanically, and in doing so caught
sight of some letters lying on the table.
"Oh, damn!" he said wearily. "How many more?"
There were bundles of them on the study writing-table. They poured in by
Victor groaned commiseratingly. "I will take them away, yes?" he
suggested. "You will read them in the morning--when you have slept."
"Yes, take 'em away!" said Piers. "Stay a minute! What's that top one?
I'll look at that."
He took up the envelope. It was addressed in a man's square, firm writing
to "Piers Evesham, Esq., Rodding Abbey."
"Someone who doesn't know," murmured Piers, and slit it open with a sense
of relief. Some of the letters of condolence that he had received had
been as salt rubbed into a wound.
He took out the letter and glanced at the signature: "Edmund Crowther!"
Suddenly a veil seemed to be drawn across his eyes. He looked up with a
sharp, startled movement, and through a floating mist he saw his
grandmother's baffling smile from the canvas on the wall. The blood was
singing in his ears. He clenched his hands involuntarily. Crowther! He
had forgotten Crowther! And Crowther knew--how much?
But he had Crowther's promise of secrecy, so--after all--what had he to
fear? Nothing--nothing! Yet he felt as if a devil were laughing somewhere
in the room. They had caught him, they had caught him, there at the very
gates of deliverance. They were dragging him back to his place of
torment. He could hear the clanking of the chains which he had so nearly
burst asunder, could feel them coiling cold about his heart. For he also
was bound by a promise, the keeping of which meant utter destruction to
all he held good in life.
And not that alone. It meant the rending in pieces of that which was
holy, the trampling into the earth of that sacred gift which had only
now been bestowed upon him. It meant the breaking of a woman's
heart--that of the only woman in the world, the woman he worshipped, body
and soul, the woman who in spite of herself had come to love him also.
He flung up his arms with a wild gesture. The torment was more than he
"No!" he cried. "No!" And it was as if he cried out of the midst of a
burning, fiery furnace. "I'm damned--I'm damned if I will!"
_"Monsieur Pierre! Monsieur Pierre!"_ It was Victor's voice beside him,
full of anxious remonstrance.
He looked round with dazed eyes. His arms fell to his sides. "All right,
my good Victor; I'm not mad," he said. "Don't be scared! Did you ever
hear of a chap called Damocles? He's an ancestor of mine, and history has
a funny fashion of repeating itself. But there'll be a difference this
time all the same. He couldn't eat his dinner for fear of a naked sword
falling on his head. But I'm going to eat mine--whatever happens; and
enjoy it too."
He raised his glass aloft with a reckless laugh. His eyes sought those of
the woman on the wall with a sparkle of bitter humour. He made her a
brief, defiant bow.
"And you, madam, may look on--and smile!" he said.
He drank the wine without tasting it and swung round to depart. And
again, as he went, it seemed to him that somewhere near at hand--possibly
in his own soul--a devil laughed and gibed.
Yet when he lay down at length, he slept for many hours in dreamless,
absolute repose--as a voyager who after long buffeting with wind and tide
has come at last into the quiet haven of his desire.
THE PLACE OF TORMENT
DEAD SEA FRUIT
"I doubt if the County will call," said Miss Whalley, "unless the fact
that Sir Piers is to stand for the division weighs with them. And Colonel
Rose's patronage may prove an added inducement. He probably knows that
the young man has simply married this Mrs. Denys out of pique, since his
own charming daughter would have none of him. I must say that personally
I am not surprised that Miss Rose should prefer marriage with a man of
such sterling worth as Mr. Guyes. Sir Piers may be extremely handsome and
fascinating; but no man with those eyes could possibly make a good
husband. I hear it is to be a very grand affair indeed, dear Mrs.
Lorimer,--far preferable in my opinion to the hole-in-a-corner sort of
ceremony that took place this morning."
"They both of them wished it to be as quiet as possible," murmured Mrs.
Lorimer. "She being a widow and he--poor lad!--in such deep mourning."
"Indecent haste, I call it," pronounced Miss Whalley severely, "with the
earth still fresh on his poor dear grandfather's grave! A May wedding
too! Most unsuitable!"
"He said he was so lonely," pleaded Mrs. Lorimer gently. "And after all
it was what his grandfather wished,--so he told me."
Miss Whalley gave a high-bred species of snort. "My dear Mrs. Lorimer,
that young man would tell you anything. Why, his grandfather was an
inveterate woman-hater, as all the world knows."
"I know," agreed Mrs. Lorimer. "That was really what made it so
remarkable. I assure you, Miss Whalley,--Piers came to me only last night
and told me with tears in his eyes--that just at the last poor Sir
Beverley said to him: 'I believe you've pitched on the right woman after
all, lad. Anyway, she cares for you--more than ordinary. Marry her as
quick as you can--and my blessing on you both!' They were almost the last
words he spoke," said Mrs. Lorimer, wiping her own eyes. "I thought it
was so dear of Piers to tell me."
"No doubt," sniffed Miss Whalley. "He is naturally anxious to secure
your goodwill. But I wonder very much what point of view the dear Vicar
takes of the matter. If I mistake not, he took Mrs. Denys's measure some
"Did he?" said Mrs. Lorimer vaguely.
Miss Whalley looked annoyed. The Vicar's wife obviously lacked sufficient
backbone to quarrel on the subject. She was wont to say that she detested
"I think the Vicar was not altogether surprised," Mrs. Lorimer went on,
in her gentle, conversational way. "You see, Piers had been somewhat
assiduous for some time. I myself, however, did not fancy that dear Avery
wished to encourage him."
"Pooh!" said Miss Whalley. "It was the chance of her life."
A faint flush rose in Mrs. Lorimer's face. "She is a dear girl," she
said. "I don't know what I shall do without her."
"The children are getting older now," said Miss Whalley. "Jeanie ought to
be able to take her place to a very great extent."
"My little Jeanie is not strong," murmured Mrs. Lorimer. "She does what
she can, but her lessons tire her so. She never has much energy left,
poor child. She has not managed to finish her holiday-task yet, and it
occupies all her spare time. I told the Vicar that I really did not think
she was equal to it. But--" the sentence went into a heavy sigh, and
further words failed.
"The Vicar is always very judicious with his children," observed
"He does not err on the side of mercy," said his wife pathetically. "And
he does not seem to realize that Jeanie lacks the vitality of the
others,--though how they ever got through their tasks I can't imagine. It
must have been dear Avery's doing. She is a genius with children. They
all managed it but poor Jeanie. How ever we shall get on without her I
"But she was under notice to go, I am told," observed Miss Whalley.
"Yes,--yes, I know. But I had hoped that the Vicar might relent. You see,
she has been invaluable to us in so many ways. However, I hope when she
comes back that we shall see a great deal of her. She is so good to the
children and they adore her."
"I doubt if she will have much time to bestow upon them if the County
really do decide to accept her," remarked Miss Whalley. "You forget that
she is now Lady Evesham, my dear Mrs. Lorimer, and little likely to
remember old friends now that she has attained the summit of her
"I don't think Avery would forget us if she became a royal princess,"
said Mrs. Lorimer, with a confidence that Miss Whalley found peculiarly
"Ah well, we shall see, we shall see!" she said. "I for one shall be
extremely surprised if she elects to remain on the same intimate footing.
From mother's help at the Vicarage to Lady Evesham of Rodding Abbey is a
considerable leap, and she will be scarcely human if it does not turn
But Mrs. Lorimer merely smiled and said no more. She knew how little
Avery was drawn by pomp and circumstance, but she would not vaunt her
knowledge before one so obviously incapable of understanding. In silence
she let the subject pass.
"And where is the honeymoon to be spent?" enquired Miss Whalley, who was
there to glean information and did not mean to go empty away.
But Mrs. Lorimer shook her head. "Even I don't know that. Piers had a
whim to go just where they fancied. They will call for letters at certain
post-offices on certain days; but he did not want to feel bound to stay
at any particular place. Where they are at the present moment or where
they will spend to-night, I have not the faintest idea. Nobody knows!"
"How extremely odd!" sniffed Miss Whalley. "But young Evesham always was
so ill-balanced and eccentric. Is it true that Dr. Tudor went to the
wedding this morning?"
"Quite true," said Mrs. Lorimer. "I thought it was so kind of him. He
arrived a little late. Avery did not know he was there until it was over.
But he came forward then and shook hands with them both and wished them
happiness. He and young Mr. Guyes, who supported Piers, were the only two
present besides the Eveshams' family solicitor from Wardenhurst and
ourselves. I gave the dear girl away," said Mrs. Lorimer with gentle
pride. "And my dear husband conducted the service so impressively."
"I am sure he would," said Miss Whalley. "But I think it was unfortunate
that so much secrecy was observed. People are so apt to talk
uncharitably. It was really most indiscreet."
Could she have heard the remark which Piers was making at that identical
moment to his bride, she would have understood one of the main reasons
for his indiscretion.
They were sitting in the deep, deep heart of a wood--an enchanted wood
that was heavy with the spring fragrance of the mountain-ash,--and Piers,
the while he peeled a stick with the deftness of boyhood, observed with
much complacence: "Well, we've done that old Whalley chatterbox out of a
treat anyway. Of all the old parish gossips, that woman is the worst. I
never pass her house without seeing her peer over her blind. She always
looks at me with a suspicious, disapproving eye. It's rather a shame, you
know," he wound up pathetically, "for she has only once in her life found
me out, and that was a dozen years ago."
Avery laughed a little. "I don't think she approves of any men except
"Oh yes, she clings like a leech to the skirts of the Church," said Piers
irreverently. "There are plenty of her sort about--wherever there are
parsons, in fact. Of course it's the parsons' fault. If they didn't
encourage 'em they wouldn't be there."
"I don't know that," said Avery, with a smile. "I think you're a little
hard on parsons."
"Do you? Well, I don't know many. The Reverend Stephen is enough for me.
I fight shy of all the rest."
"My dear, how very narrow of you!" said Avery.
He turned to her boyishly. "Don't tell me you want to be a female curate
like the Whalley! I couldn't bear it!"
"I haven't the smallest leaning in that direction," Avery assured him.
"But at the same time, one of my greatest friends is about to enter the
Church, and I do want you to meet and like him."
A sudden silence followed her words. Piers resumed the peeling of his
stick with minute attention. "I am sure to like him if you do," he
remarked, after a moment.
She touched his arm lightly. "Thank you, dear. He is an Australian, and
the very greatest-hearted man I ever met. He stood by me in a time of
great trouble. I don't know what I should have done without him. I hope
he won't feel hurt, but I haven't even told him of my marriage yet."
"We have been married just ten hours," observed Piers, still intent
upon his task.
She laughed again. "Yes, but it is ten days since we became engaged, and
I owe him a letter into the bargain. He wanted to arrange to meet me in
town one day; but he is still too busy to fix a date. He is studying
"What's his name?" said Piers.
"Crowther--Edmund Crowther. He has been a farmer for years in
Queensland." Avery, paused a moment. "It was he who broke the news to me
of my husband's death," she said, in a low voice. "I told you about
"You did," said Piers.
His tone was deliberately repressive, and a little quiver of
disappointment went through Avery. She became silent, and the magic
of the woods closed softly in upon them. Evening was drawing on, and
the long, golden rays of sunshine lay like a benediction over the
The silence between them grew and expanded into something of a barrier.
From her seat on a fallen tree Avery gazed out before her. She could not
see Piers' face which was bent above the stick which he had begun to
whittle with his knife. He was sitting on the ground at her feet, and
only his black head was visible to her.
Suddenly, almost fiercely, he spoke. "I know Edmund Crowther."
Avery's eyes came down to him in astonishment. "You know him!"
"Yes, I know him." He worked furiously at his stick without looking up.
His words came in quick jerks, as if for some reason he wanted to get
them spoken without delay. "I met him years ago. He did me a good
turn--helped me out of a tight corner. A few weeks ago--when I was at
Monte Carlo with my grandfather--I met him again. He told me then that
he knew you. Of course it was a rum coincidence. Heaven only knows what
makes these things happen. You needn't write to him, I will."
He ceased to speak, and suddenly Avery saw that his hands were
trembling--trembling violently as the hands of a man with an ague. She
watched them silently, wondering at his agitation, till Piers, becoming
aware of her scrutiny, abruptly flung aside the stick upon which he had
been expending so much care and leaped to his feet with a laugh that
sounded oddly strained to her ears.
"Come along!" he said. "If we sit here talking like Darby and Joan much
longer, we shall forget that it's actually our wedding-day."
Avery looked up at him without rising, a queer sense of foreboding at
her heart. "Then Edmund Crowther is a friend of yours," she said. "A
He stood above her, and she saw a very strange look in his eyes--almost a
"Quite a close friend," he said in answer. "But he won't be if you waste
any more thought on him for many days to come. I want your thoughts all
Again he laughed, holding out his hands to her with a gesture that
compelled rather than invited. She yielded to his insistence, but with
a curious, hurt feeling as of one repulsed. It was as if he had closed
a door in her face, not violently or in any sense rudely, yet with
such evident intention that she had almost heard the click of the key
in the lock.
Hand in hand they went through the enchanted wood; and for ever after,
the scent of mountain-ash blossom was to Avery a bitter-sweet memory of
that which should have been wholly sweet.
As for Piers, she did not know what was in his mind, though she was
aware for a time of a lack of spontaneity behind his tenderness which
disquieted her vaguely. She felt as if a shadow had fallen upon him,
veiling his inner soul from her sight.
Yet when they sat together in the magic quiet of the spring night in a
garden that had surely been planted for lovers the cloud lifted, and she
saw him again in all the ardour of his love for her. For he poured it
out to her there in the silence, eagerly, burningly,--the worship that
had opened to her the gate of that paradise which she had never more
hoped to tread.
She put her doubts and fears away from her, she answered to his call. He
had awaked the woman's heart in her, and she gave freely, impulsively,
not measuring her gift. If she could not offer him a girl's first
rapture, she could bestow that which was infinitely greater--the deep,
strong love of a woman who had suffered and knew how to endure.
They sat in the dewy garden till in the distant woods the nightingales
began their passion-steeped music, and then--because the ecstasy of the
night was almost more than she could bear--Avery softly freed herself
from her husband's arm and rose.
"Going?" he asked quickly.
He remained seated holding her hand fast locked in his. She looked down
into his upraised face, conscious that her own was in shadow and that she
need not try to hide the tears that had risen inexplicably to her eyes.
"Yes, dear," she answered, with an effort at lightness. "You haven't had
a smoke since dinner. I am going to leave you to have one now."
But he still held her, as if he could not let her go.
She bent to him after a moment with that sweet impulsiveness of hers that
so greatly charmed all who loved her. "What is it, Piers? Don't you want
me to go?"
He caught her other hand in his and held them both against his lips.
"Want you to go!" he muttered almost inarticulately; and then suddenly he
raised his face again to hers. "Avery--Avery, promise me--swear to
me--that, whatever happens, you will never leave me!"
"But, my dearest, haven't I already sworn--only today?" she said,
surprised by his vehemence and his request. "Of course I shall never
leave you. My place is by your side."
"I know! I know!" he said. "But it isn't enough. I want you to promise me
personally, so that--I shall always feel--quite sure of you. You see,
Avery," his words came with difficulty, his upturned face seemed to
beseech her, "I'm not--the sort of impossible, chivalrous knight that
Jeanie thinks me. I'm horribly bad. I sometimes think I've got a devil
inside me. And I've done things--I've done things--" His voice shook
suddenly; he ended abruptly, with heaving breath. "Before I ever met you,
He would have let her go then, but it was her hands that held. She
stooped lower to him, divinely tender, her love seeming to spread all
about him like wings, folding him in.
"My dear," she said softly, "whatever there is of bad in you,--remember,
the best is mine!"
He caught at the words. "The best--the best! You shall always have that,
Avery. But, my darling,--you understand--you do understand--how utterly
unworthy that best is of you? You must understand that before--before--"
Again his voice went into silence; but she saw his eyes glow suddenly,
hotly, in the gloom, and her heart gave a quick hard throb that caught
her breath and held it for the moment suspended, waiting.
He went on after a second, mastering himself with obvious effort. "What
I am trying to say is this. It's easier--or at least not impossible--to
forfeit what you've never had. But afterwards--afterwards--" His hands
closed tightly upon hers again; his voice sounded half-choked. "Avery,
I--couldn't let you go--afterwards," he said.
"But, my own Piers," she whispered, "haven't you said that there is no
reason--no earthly reason--"
He broke in upon her almost fiercely. "There is no reason--none
whatever--I swear it! You said yourself that the past was nothing to you.
You meant it, Avery. Say you meant it!"
"But of course I meant it!" she told him. "Only, Piers, there is no
secret chamber in my life that you may not enter. Perhaps some day, dear,
when you come to realize that I am older than Jeanie, you will open all
your doors to me!"
There was pleading in her voice, notwithstanding its note of banter; but
she did not stay to plead. With the whispered words she stooped and
softly kissed him. Then ere he could detain her longer she gently
released herself and was gone.
He saw her light figure flit ghost-like across the dim stretch of grass
and vanish into the shadows. And he started to his feet as if he would
follow or call her back. But he did neither. Be only stood swaying on his
feet with a face of straining impotence--as of a prisoner wrestling
vainly with his iron bars--until she had gone wholly from his sight. And
then with a stifled groan he dropped down again into his chair and
covered his face.
He had paid a heavy price to enter the garden of his desire; but
already he had begun to realize that the fruit he gathered there was
Dead Sea Fruit.
THAT WHICH IS HOLY
No bells had rung at the young Squire's wedding. It had been conducted
with a privacy which Miss Whalley described as "almost indecent." But
there was no privacy about his return, and Miss Whalley was shocked
afresh at the brazen heartlessness of it after his recent bereavement.
For Sir Piers and his wife motored home at the end of July through a
village decked with flags and bunting and under a triumphant arch that
made Piers' little two-seater seem absurdly insignificant; while the
bells in the church-tower clanged the noisiest welcome they could
compass, and Gracie--home for the holidays--mustered the school-children
to cheer their hardest as the happy couple passed the schoolhouse gate.
Avery would fain have stopped to greet the child, but Piers would not be
"No, no! To-morrow!" he said. "The honeymoon isn't over till after
So they waved and were gone, at a speed which made Miss Whalley wonder
what the local police could be about.
Once past the lodge-gates and Marshall's half-grudging, half-pleased
smile of welcome, the speed was doubled. Piers went like the wind, till
Avery breathlessly cried to him to stop.
"You'll kill us both before we get there!" she protested. In answer to
which Piers moderated the pace, remarking as he did so, "But you would
like to die by my side, what?"
Victor was on the steps to receive them, Victor dancing with impatience
and delight. For his young master's prolonged honeymoon had represented
ten weeks of desolation to him.
Old David was also present, inconspicuous and dignified, waiting to pour
out tea for the travellers.
And Caesar the Dalmatian who had mourned with Victor for his absent deity
now leapt upon him in one great rush of ecstatic welcome that nearly bore
It was a riotous home-coming, for Piers was in boisterous spirits. They
had travelled far that day, but he was in a mood of such restless energy
that he seemed incapable of feeling fatigue.
Avery on her part was thoroughly weary, but she would not tell him so,
and they spent the whole evening in wandering about house and gardens,
discussing the advisability of various alterations and improvements. In
the end Piers awoke suddenly to the fact that she was looking utterly
exhausted, and with swift compunction piloted her to her room.
"What a fool I am!" he declared. "You must be dead beat. Why didn't you
say you wanted to rest?"
"I didn't, dear," she answered simply. "I wanted to be with you."
He caught her hand to his lips. "You are happy with me then?"
She uttered a little laugh that said more than words. "My own boy, you
give me all that the most exacting woman could possibly desire and then
ask me that!"
He laughed too, his arm close about her. "I would give you the world if I
had it. Avery, I hate to think we've come home--that the honeymoon is
over--and the old beastly burdens waiting to be shouldered--" He laid his
forehead against her neck with a gesture that made her fancy he did not
wish her to see his face for the moment. "P'r'aps I'm a heartless brute,
but I never missed the old chap all the time I was away," he whispered.
"It's like being dragged under the scourge again--just when the old scars
were beginning to heal--to come back to this empty barrack."
She slid a quick arm round his neck, all the woman's heart in her
responding to the cry from his.
"The place is full of him," Piers went on; "I meet him at every corner.
I see him in his old place on the settle in the hall, where he used to
wait for me, and--and row me every night for being late." He gave a
broken laugh. "Avery, if it weren't for you, I--I believe I should
"Come and sit down!" said Avery gently. She drew him to a couch, and
they sat down locked together.
During all the ten weeks of their absence he had scarcely even mentioned
his grandfather. He had been gay and inconsequent, or fiercely passionate
in his devotion to her. But of his loss he had never spoken, and vaguely
she had known that he had shut it out of his life with that other grim
shadow that dwelt behind the locked door she might not open. She had not
deemed him heartless, but she had regretted that deliberate shirking of
his grief. She had known that sooner or later he would have to endure the
scourging of which he spoke and that it would not grow the lighter with
And now as she held him against her heart, she was in a sense relieved
that it had come at last, thankful to be there with him while he stripped
himself of all subterfuge and faced his sorrow.
He could not speak much as he sat there clasped in her arms. One or two
attempts he made, and then broke down against her breast. But no words
were needed. Her arms were all he desired for consolation, and if they
waked in him the old wild remorse, he stifled it ere it could take full
Finally, when the first bitterness had passed, they sat and talked
together, and he found relief in telling her of the life he had lived in
close companionship with the old man.
"We quarrelled a dozen times," he said. "But somehow we could neither of
us keep it up. I don't know why. We were violent enough at times. There's
an Evesham devil somewhere in our ancestry, and he has a trick of
cropping up still in moments of excitement. You've met him more than
once. He's a formidable monster, what?"
"I am not afraid of him," said Avery, with her cheek against his
He gave a shaky laugh. "You'd fling a bucket of water over Satan himself!
I love you for not being afraid. But I don't know how you manage it, and
that's a fact. Darling, I'm a selfish brute to wear you out like this.
Send me away when you can't stand any more of me!"
"Would you go?" she said, softly stroking his cheek.
He caught her hand again and kissed it hotly, devouringly, in answer.
"But I mustn't wear you out," he said, a moment later, with an odd
wistfulness. "You mustn't let me, Avery."
She drew her hand gently away from the clinging of his lips. "No, I
won't let you," she said, in a tone he did not understand.
He clasped her to him. "It's because I worship you so," he whispered
passionately. "There is no one else in the world but you. I adore you! I
She closed her eyes from the fiery worship that looked forth from his.
"Piers," she said, "wait, dear, wait!"
"Why should I wait?" he demanded almost fiercely.
"Because I ask you. Because--just now--to be loved like that is more than
I can bear. Will you--can you--kiss me only, once, and go?"
He held her in his arms. He gazed long and burningly upon her. In
the end he stopped and with reverence he kissed her. "I am going,
Avery," he said.
She opened her eyes to him. "God bless you, my own Piers!" she murmured
softly, and laid her cheek for a moment against his sleeve ere he took
his arm away.
As for Piers, he went from her as if he feared to trespass, and her heart
smote her a little as she watched him go. But she would not call him
back. She went instead to one of the great bay windows and leaned against
the framework, gazing out. He was very good to her in all things, but
there were times when she felt solitude to be an absolute necessity. His
vitality, his fevered desire for her, wore upon her nerves. His attitude
towards her was not wholly natural. It held something of a menace to her
peace which disquieted her vaguely. She had a feeling that though she
knew herself to be all he wanted in the world, yet she did not succeed in
fully satisfying him. He seemed to be perpetually craving for something
further, as though somewhere deep within him there burned a fiery thirst
that nothing could ever slake. Her lightest touch seemed to awake it, and
there were moments when his unfettered passion made her afraid.
Not for worlds would she have had him know it. Her love for him was too
deep to let her shrink; and she knew that only by that love did she
maintain her ascendancy, appealing to his higher nature as only true love
can appeal. But the perpetual strain of it told upon her, and that night
she felt tired in body and soul.
The great bedroom behind her with its dark hangings and oak furniture
seemed dreary and unhome-like. She viewed the ancient and immense
four-poster with misgiving and wondered if Queen Elizabeth had ever
slept in it.
After a time she investigated Piers' room beyond, and found it less
imposing though curiously stiff and wholly lacking in ordinary
cheery comfort. Later she discovered the reason for this grim
severity of arrangement. No woman's touch had softened it for close
upon half a century.
She went back to her own room and dressed. Piers had wanted her to have a
maid, but she had refused until other changes should be made in the
establishment. There seemed so much to alter that she felt bewildered. A
household of elderly menservants presented a problem with which she knew
she would find it difficult to deal.
She put the matter gently before Piers that night, but he dismissed it
"You can't turn 'em off of course," he said. "But you can have a dozen
women to adjust the balance if you want 'em."
Avery did not, but she was too tired to argue the point. She let the
They dined together in the oak-panelled dining-room where Piers had so
often sat with his grandfather. The table seemed to stretch away
inimitably into shadows, and Avery felt like a Lilliputian. From the wall
directly facing her the last Lady Evesham smiled upon her--her baffling,
mirthless smile that seemed to cover naught but heartache. She found
herself looking up again and again to meet those eyes of mocking
comprehension; and the memory of what Lennox Tudor had once told her
recurred to her. This was Piers' Italian grandmother whose patrician
beauty had descended to him through her scapegrace son.
"Are you looking at that woman with the smile?" said Piers abruptly.
She turned to him. "You are so like her, Piers. But I wouldn't like you
to have a smile like that. There is something tragic behind it."
"We are a tragic family," said Piers sombrely. "As for her, she ruined
her own life and my grandfather's too. She might have been happy enough
with him if she had tried."
"Oh, Piers, I wonder!" Avery said, with a feeling that that smile
revealed more to her than to him.
"I say she might," Piers reiterated, with a touch of impatience. "He
thought the world of her, just as--just as--" he smiled at her
suddenly--"I do of you. He never knew that she wasn't satisfied until one
fine day she left him. She married again--afterwards, and then died. He
never got over it."
But still Avery had a vagrant feeling of pity for the woman who had been
Sir Beverley's bride. "I expect they never really understood each
other," she said.
Piers' dark eyes gleamed. "Do you know what I would have done if I had
been in his place?" he said. "I would have gone after her and brought her
back--even if I'd killed her afterwards."
His voice vibrated on a deep note of savagery. He poured out a glass of
wine with a hand that shook.
Avery said nothing, but through the silence she was conscious of the hard
throbbing of her heart. There was something implacable, something almost
cruel, about Piers at that moment. She felt as if he had bruised her
without knowing it.
And then in his sudden, bewildering way he left his chair and came to
her, stooped boyishly over her. "My darling, you're so awfully pale
to-night. Have some wine--to please me!"
She leaned her head back against his shoulder and closed her eyes. "I am
a little tired, dear; but I don't want any wine. I shall be all right in
He laid his cheek against her forehead. "I want you to drink a toast with
me. Won't you?"
"We won't drink to each other," she protested, faintly smiling. "It's
too like drinking to ourselves."
"That's the sweetest thing you've ever said to me," he declared. "But we
won't toast ourselves. We'll drink to the future, Avery, and--" he
lowered his voice--"and all it contains. What?"
Her eyes opened quickly, but she did not move. "Why do you say that?"
"What?" he said again very softly.
She was silent.
He reached a hand for his own glass. "Drink with me, sweetheart!" he said
She suffered him to put it to her lips and drank submissively. But in a
moment she put up a restraining hand. "You finish it!" she said, and
pushed it gently towards him.
He took it and held it high. The light gleamed crimson in the wine; it
glowed like liquid fire. A moment he held it so, then without a word he
carried it to his lips and drained it.
A second later there came the sound of splintering glass, and Avery,
turning in her chair, discovered that he had flung it over his shoulder.
She gazed at him in amazement astonished by his action. "Piers!"
But something in his face checked her. "No one will ever drink out of
that glass again," he said. "Are you ready? Shall we go in the garden for
a breath of air?"
She went with him, but on the terrace outside he stopped impulsively.
"Avery darling, I don't mean to be a selfish beast; but I've got to prowl
for a bit. Would you rather go to bed?"
His arm was round her; she leaned against him half-laughing. "Do you
know, dear, that bedroom frightens me with its magnificence! Don't prowl
He bent to her swiftly. "Avery! Do you want me?"
"Just to scare away the bogies," she made answer, with a lightness that
scarcely veiled a deeper feeling. "And when you've done that--quite
thoroughly--perhaps--" She stopped.
"Perhaps--" whispered Piers.
"Perhaps I'll tell you a secret," she said still lightly. "By the way,
dear, I found a letter from Mr. Crowther waiting for me. I put it in your
room for you to read. He writes so kindly. Wouldn't you like him to be
our first visitor?"
There was a moment's silence before Piers made answer.
"To be sure," he said then. "We mustn't forget Crowther. You wrote and
told him everything, I suppose?"
"Yes, everything. He seems very fond of you, Piers. But you must read his
letter. It concerns you quite as much as it does me. There! I am going.
Good-bye! Come up soon!"
She patted his shoulder and turned away. Somehow it had not been easy to
speak of Crowther. She had known that in doing so she had introduced an
unwelcome subject. But Crowther was too great a friend to ignore. She
felt that she had treated him somewhat casually already; for it was only
the previous week that she had written to tell him of her marriage.
Crowther was in town, studying hard for an examination, and she felt
convinced that he would be willing to pay them a visit. She also knew
that for some reason Piers was reluctant to ask him, but she felt that
that fact ought not to influence her. For she owed a debt of gratitude to
Crowther which she could never forget.
But all thought of Crowther faded from her mind when she found herself
once more in that eerie, tapestry-hung bedroom. The place had been
lighted with candles, but they only seemed to emphasize the gloom. She
wondered how often the last Lady Evesham--the warm-blooded, passionate
Italian woman with her love of the sun and all things beautiful--had
stood as she stood now and shuddered at the dreary splendour of her
surroundings. How homesick she must have been, Avery thought to herself,
as she undressed in the flickering candle-light! How her soul must have
yearned for the glittering Southern life she had left!
She thought of Sir Beverley. He must have been very like Piers in his
youth, less fierce, less intense, but in many ways practically the same,
giving much and demanding even more, restless and exacting, but withal so
lovable, so hard to resist, so infinitely dear. All her love for Piers
throbbed suddenly up to the surface. How good he was to her! What would
life be without him? She reproached herself for ingratitude and
discontent. Life was a beautiful thing if only she would have it so.
She knelt down at length by the deep cushioned window-seat and began to
pray. The night was dim and quiet, and as she prayed she gradually
forgot the shadows behind her and seemed to lose herself in the
immensity of its peace. She realized as never before that by her love
she must prevail. It was the one weapon, unfailing and invincible, that
alone would serve her, when she could rely upon no other. She knew that
he had felt its influence, that there were times when he did instinctive
reverence to it, as to that which is holy. She knew moreover that there
was that within him that answered to it as it were involuntarily--a
fiery essence in which his passion had no part which dwelt deep down in
his turbulent heart--a germ of greatness which she knew might blossom
into Love Immortal.
He was young, he was young. He wanted life, all he could get of it. And
he left the higher things because as yet he was undeveloped. He had not
felt that hunger of the spirit which only that which is spiritual can
satisfy. It would come. She was sure it would come. She was watching for
it day by day. His wings were still untried. He did not want to soar. But
by-and-bye the heights would begin to draw him. And then--then they would
soar together. But till that day dawned, her love must be the guardian of
There came a slight sound in the room behind her. She turned
He was close to her. As she started to her feet his arms enclosed her. He
looked down into her eyes, holding her fast pressed to him.
"I didn't mean to disturb you," he said. "But--when I saw you were
praying--I had to come in. I wanted so awfully to know--if you would get
"But, Piers!" she protested.
He kissed her lips. "Don't be angry, Avery! I'm not scoffing. I don't
know enough about God to scoff at Him. Tell me! Do you ever get an
answer, or are you content to go jogging on like the rest of the
She made an effort to free herself. "Do you know, Piers, I can't talk to
you about--holy things--when you are holding me like this."
He looked stubborn. "I don't know what you mean by holy things. I'm not a
believer. At least I don't believe in prayer. I can get all I want
"I wonder!" Avery said.
She was still trying to disengage herself, but as he held her with
evident determination she desisted.
There followed a silence during which her grey eyes met his black ones
steadily, fearlessly, resolutely. Then in a whisper Piers spoke, his lips
still close to hers. "Tell me what you were praying for, sweetheart!"
She smiled a little. "No, dear, not now! It's nothing that's in your
power to give me. Shall we sit on the window-seat and talk?"
But Piers was loath to let her go from his arms. He knelt beside her as
she sat, still holding her.
She put her arm round his neck. "Do you remember your Star of Hope?" she
asked him softly.
"I remember," said Piers, but he did not turn his eyes to the night sky;
they still dwelt upon her.
Avery's face was toward the window. The drapery fell loosely away from
her throat. He stooped forward suddenly and pressed his hot lips upon her
soft white flesh.
A little tremor went through her at his touch; she kept her face
turned from him.
"Have you really got all you want?" she asked after a moment. "Is there
nothing at all left to hope for?"
"Didn't we drink to the future only to-night?" he said.
His arms were drawing her, but still she kept her face turned away. "Did
you mean anything by that?" she asked. "Were you--were you thinking of
He did not at once answer her. He waited till with an odd reluctance she
turned her face towards him. Then, "I was thinking of you," he said.
Her heart gave a quick throb. "Of me?" she questioned below her breath.
"Of you," he said again. "For myself, I have got all I can ever hope for.
But you--you would be awfully happy, wouldn't you, if--"
"If--" murmured Avery.
He stooped again to kiss her white bosom. "And it would be a bond between
us," he said, as if continuing some remark he had not uttered.
She turned more fully to him. "Do we need that?" she said.
"We might--some day," he answered, in a tone that somehow made it
impossible for her to protest. "Anyhow, my darling, I knew,--I guessed.
And I'm awfully glad--for your sake."
She bent towards him. "Not for your own?" she whispered pleadingly.
He laid his head suddenly down upon her knees with a sound that was
almost a groan.
"Piers!" she said in distress.
He was silent for a space, then slowly raised himself. She had a sense
of shock at sight of his face. It looked haggard and grey, as if a
withering hand had touched him and shorn away his youth.
"Avery,--oh, Avery," he said, "I wish I were a better man!"
It was a cry wrung from his soul--the hungry cry which she had longed to
hear, and it sent a great joy through her even though it wrung her own
She bent to him swiftly. "Dearest, we all feel that sometimes. And I
think it is the Hand of God upon us, opening our eyes."
He did not answer or make any response to her words. Only as he clasped
her to him, she heard him sigh. And she knew that, strive as he might to
silence that soul-craving with earthly things, it would beat on
unsatisfied through all. She came nearer to understanding him that night
that ever before.
THE FIRST GUEST
"I am greatly honoured to be your first guest," said Crowther.
"The honour is ours to get you," Avery declared. She sat on the terrace
whither she had conducted him, and smiled at him across the tea-table
with eyes of shining friendship.
Crowther smiled back, thinking to himself how pleasant a picture she
made. She was dressed in white, and her face was flushed and happy, even
girlish in its animation. There was a ring of laughter in her voice when
she talked that was very good to hear. She had herself just brought him
from the station in Piers' little two-seater, and her obvious pleasure at
meeting him still hung about her, making her very fair to see.
"Piers is so busy just now," she told him. "He sent all sorts of
messages. He had to go over to Wardenhurst to see Colonel Rose. The M.P.
for this division retired at the end of the Session, and Piers is to
stand for the constituency. They talk of having the election in October."
"Will he get in?" asked Crowther, still watching her with friendly
appreciation in his eyes.
"Oh, I don't know. I expect so. He gets most things that he sets his
heart on. His grandfather--you knew Sir Beverley?--was so anxious that he
should enter Parliament."
"Yes, I knew Sir Beverley," said Crowther. "He thought the world
"And Piers of him," said Avery.
"Ah! Was it a great blow to him when the old man died?"
"A very great blow," she answered soberly. "That was the main reason for
our marrying so suddenly. The poor boy was so lonely I couldn't bear to
think of him by himself in this great house."
"He was very lucky to get you," said Crowther gravely.
She smiled. "I was lucky too. Don't you think so? I never in my wildest
dreams pictured such a home as this for myself."
A great magnolia climbed the house behind her with creamy flowers that
shed their lemon fragrance all about them. Crowther compared her in his
own mind to the wonderful blossoms. She was so sweet, so pure, yet also
in a fashion so splendid.
"I think it is a very suitable setting for you, Lady Evesham!" he said.
She made a quick, impulsive movement towards him. "Do call me
Avery!" she said.
"Thank you," he answered, with a smile. "It certainly seems more natural.
How long have you been in this home of yours, may I ask?"
"Only a fortnight," she said, laughing. "Our honeymoon took ten weeks.
Piers wanted to make it ten years; but the harvest was coming on, and I
knew he ought to come back and see what was happening. And then Mr.
Ferrars resigned his seat, and it became imperative. But isn't it a
beautiful place?" she ended. "I felt overwhelmed by the magnificence of
it at first, but I am getting used to it now."
"A glorious place," agreed Crowther. "Piers must be very proud of it.
Have you begun to have many visitors yet?"
She shook her head. "No, not many. Nearly all the big people have gone
to Scotland. Piers says they will come later, but I shall not mind them
so much then. I shall feel less like an interloper by that time."
"I don't know why you should feel like that," said Crowther. Avery
smiled. "Well, all the little people think that I set out to catch Piers
for his money and his title."
"Does what the little people think have any weight with you?"
She flushed faintly under the kindly directness of his gaze. "Not really,
I suppose. But one can't quite shake off the feeling of it. There is the
Vicar for instance. He has never liked me. He congratulates me almost
every time we meet."
"Evidently a cad," commented Crowther in his quiet way.
Avery laughed a little. She had always liked this man's plain speech. "He
is not the only one," she said.
"But you have friends--real friends--also?" he questioned.
"Oh yes; indeed! The Vicarage children and their mother are the greatest
friends I have." Avery spoke with warmth. "The children are having tea
down in one of the cornfields now. We must go and see them presently. You
are fond of children, I know."
"I sort of love them," said Crowther with his slow, kind smile. "Ah,
Piers, my lad, are you trying to steal a march on us? Did you think I
He spoke without raising his voice. Avery turned sharply to see her
husband standing on the steps of a room above them. One glimpse she had
of Piers' face ere he descended and joined them, and an odd feeling of
dismay smote her. For that one fleeting moment there seemed, to be
something of the cornered beast in his aspect.
But as he came straight down to Crowther and wrung his hand, his dark
face was smiling a welcome. He was in riding-dress, and looked very
handsome and young.
"How did you know it was I? Awfully pleased to see you! Sorry I couldn't
get back sooner. I've been riding like the devil. Avery explained, did
she?" He threw himself into a chair, and tossed an envelope into her lap.
"An invitation to Ina Rose's wedding on the twenty-third. That's the week
after next. They are sorry they can't manage to call before, hope you'll
understand and go. I said you should do both."
"Thank you, Piers." Avery laid the envelope aside unopened. She did not
feel that he was being very cordial to Crowther. "I am not sure that I
"Oh yes, you will," he rejoined quickly. "You must. It's an order, see?"
His dark eyes laughed at her, but there was more than a tinge of
imperiousness in his manner. "Well, Crowther, how are you? Getting ready
to scatter the Philistines? Don't give me milk, Avery! You know I hate it
at this time of day."
She looked at him in surprise. He had never used that impatient tone
to her before. "I didn't know," she observed simply, as she handed
him his cup.
"Well, you know now," he rejoined with an irritable frown. "Hurry up,
Crowther! I want you to come and see the crops."
Avery was literally amazed by his manner. He had never been so frankly
and unjustifiably rude to her before. She came to the conclusion that
something had happened at the Roses' to annoy him; but that he should
visit his annoyance upon her was a wholly new experience.
He drank his tea, talking hard to Crowther the while, and finally sprang
to his feet as if in a ferment to be gone.
"Won't Lady Evesham come too?" asked Crowther, as he rose.
Avery rose also. "Yes, I have promised the children to join them in the
cornfield," she said.
Piers said nothing; but she had a very distinct impression that he would
have preferred her to remain behind. The wonder crossed her mind if he
were jealous because he could no longer have her exclusively to himself.
They walked down through the park to the farm. It was a splendid August
evening. The reaping was still in progress, and the whirr of the machine
rose slumbrous through the stillness. But of the Vicarage children there
was at first no sign.
Avery searched for them in surprise. She had sent a picnic basket down to
the farm earlier in the afternoon, and she had expected to find them
enjoying the contents thereof in a shady corner. But for a time she
searched in vain.
"They must have gone home," said Piers.
But she did not believe they would have left without seeing her, and she
went to the farm to make enquiries.
Here she heard that the picnic-party had taken place and that the basket
had been brought back by one of the men, but for some reason the children
had evidently gone home early, for they had not been seen since.
Avery wanted to run to the Vicarage and ascertain if all were well, but
Piers vetoed this.
"It's too hot," he said. "And you'll only come in for some row with the
Reverend Stephen. I won't have you go, Avery. Stay with us!"
His tone was peremptory, and Avery realized that his assumption of
authority was intentional. A rebellious spirit awoke within her, but she
checked it. Something had gone wrong, she was sure. He would tell her
presently what it was.
She yielded therefore to his desire and remained with them. They spent a
considerable time in the neighbourhood of the farm, in all of which
Crowther took a keen interest. Avery tried to be interested too, but
Piers' behaviour troubled and perplexed her. He seemed to be all on edge,
and more than once his manner to Crowther also verged upon abruptness.
They were leaving the farm to turn homeward when there came to Avery the
sound of flying feet along the lane outside. She went to the gate, and
beheld Gracie, her face crimson with heat, racing towards her.
Avery moved to meet her, surprised by her sudden appearance. She was
still more surprised when Gracie reached her, flung tempestuous arms
about her, and broke into stormy crying on her breast.
"My dear! My dear! What has happened?" Avery asked in distress.
But Gracie was for the moment quite beyond speech. She hung upon Avery,
crying as if her heart would break.
Piers came swiftly down the path. "Why, Pixie, what's the matter?" he
He put his hand on her shoulder, drawing her gently to lean against
himself, for in her paroxysm of weeping she had thrown herself upon Avery
with childish unrestraint.
"Who's been bullying you, Pixie?" he said.
"Nobody! Nobody!" sobbed Gracie. She transferred herself to his arms
almost mechanically, so overwhelming was her woe. "Oh, it's dreadful!
It's dreadful!" she cried.
He patted her soothingly, his cheek against her fair hair. "Well, what is
it, kiddie? Let's hear! One of the youngsters in trouble, what? Not
Jeanie, I say?"
"No, no, no! It's--Mike." The name came out with a great burst of tears.
"Mike!" Piers looked at Avery, mystified for the moment. "Ah, to be sure!
The dog! Well, what's happened to him? He isn't dead, what?"
"He is! He is!" sobbed Gracie. "He--he has been killed--by--by his
"What!" said Piers again.
Gaspingly she told him the tragic tale. "Father always will have him kept
on the chain, and--and--"
"An infernally cruel thing to do!" broke indignantly from Piers.
"Yes, we--we all said so. And we tried to give him little outings
sometimes to--to make up. But to-day--somehow--we forgot him, and--and he
must have seen us go, and jumped the wall after us. Pat and I went back
afterwards to fetch him, and found him--found him--oh, Piers!" She cried
out in sudden agony and said no more.
"Choked?" said Piers. "Choked with his own chain, poor devil!" He looked
up again at Avery with something unfathomable in his eyes. "Oh, don't cry
so, child!" he said. "A chained creature is happier dead--a thousand
He spoke passionately, so passionately that Gracie's wild grief was
stayed. She lifted her face, all streaming with tears. "Do you think
"Of course I think so," he said. "Life on a chain is misery unspeakable.
No one with any heart could condemn a dog to that! It's the refinement of
cruelty. Don't wish the poor beast back again! Be thankful he's gone!"
The vehemence of his speech was such that it carried conviction even to
Gracie's torn heart. She looked up at him with something of wonder and of
awe. "If only--he hadn't suffered so!" she whispered.
He put his hand on her forehead and smoothed back the clustering hair.
"You poor kid!" he said pityingly. "You've suffered much more than he did
at the end. But it's over. Don't fret! Don't fret!"
Gracie lifted trembling lips to be kissed. He was drying her eyes with
his own handkerchief as tenderly as any woman. He stooped and kissed her.
"Look here! I'll walk home with you," he said. "Avery, you go back with
Crowther! I shan't be late."
Avery turned at once. The sight of Piers soothing the little girl's
distress had comforted her subtly. She felt that his mood had softened.
"Won't you go too?" said Crowther, as she joined him. "Please don't stay
on my account! I am used to being alone, and I can find my own way back."
"Oh no!" she said. "I had better come with you. I shan't be wanted now."
They started to walk back among the shocks of corn; but they had not gone
many yards when Gracie came running after them, reached them, flung her
arms about Avery.
"Good-bye, darling Avery!" she said.
Avery held her close. She was sobbing still, but the first wild anguish
of her grief was past.
"Good-bye, darling!" Avery whispered, after a moment.
Grade's arms tightened. "You think like Piers does?" she murmured. "You
think poor Mikey is happier now?"
Avery paused an instant. The memory of Piers' look as he had uttered the
words: "Choked with his own chain, poor devil!" seemed to grip her heart.
Then: "Yes, dearie," she said softly. "I think as Piers does. I am
glad--for poor Mikey's sake--that his troubles are over."
"Then I'll try and be glad too," sobbed poor Gracie. "But it's very, very
difficult. Pat and I loved him so, and he--he loved us."
"My dear, that love won't die," Avery said gently.
"The gift immortal," said Crowther. "The only thing that counts."
She looked round at him quickly, but his eyes were gazing straight into
the sunset--steadfast eyes that saw to the very heart of things.
"And Life in Death," he added quietly.
THE PRISONER IN THE DUNGEON
Avery was already dressed when she heard Piers enter his room and say a
word to Victor. She stood by her window waiting. It was growing late, but
she felt sure he would come to her.
She heard Victor bustling about in his resilient fashion, and again
Piers' voice, somewhat curt and peremptory, reached her through the
closed door. He was evidently dressing at full speed. She was conscious
of a sense of disappointment, though she kept it at bay, reminding
herself that they must not keep their guest waiting.
But presently, close upon the dinner-hour, she went herself to the door
of her husband's room and knocked.
His voice answered her immediately, but it still held that unwonted
quality of irritation in it. "Oh, Avery, I can't let you in. I'm sorry.
Something--a small, indignant spirit--sprang up within her in response.
"Send Victor away!" she said. "I want to come in."
"I shall be late if I do," he made answer. "I'm horribly late as it is."
But for once Avery's habitual docility was in abeyance. "Send Victor
away!" she reiterated.
She heard Piers utter an impatient word, and then in a moment or two he
raised his voice again. "Come in then! What is it?"
She opened the door with an odd unaccustomed feeling of trepidation.
He was standing in his shirt-sleeves brushing his hair vigorously at the
table. His back was towards her, but the glass reflected his face, and
she saw that his brows were drawn into a single hard black line. His lips
were tightly compressed. He looked undeniably formidable.
"Don't you want me, Piers?" she asked, pausing in the doorway.
His eyes flashed up to hers in the glass, glowing with the smouldering
fire, oddly fitful, oddly persistent. "Come in!" he said, without
turning. "What is it?"
She went forward to him. "Did you go to the Vicarage?" she asked. "Are
they in great trouble?"
She thought she saw relief in his face at her words. "Oh yes," he said.
"Mrs. Lorimer crying as usual, Jeanie trying to comfort her. I did my
best to hearten them up but you know what they are. I say, sit down!"
"No, I am going," she answered gently. "Did you get on all right this
"Oh yes," he said again. "By the way, we must get a wedding-present for
Ina Rose and another for Guyes. You'll come to the wedding, Avery?"
"If you wish it, dear," she said quietly.
He threw down his brushes and turned fully to her. "Avery darling, I'm
sorry I was bearish this afternoon. You won't punish me for it?"
"Punish you, my own Piers!" she said.
"Because I can't stand it," he said recklessly. "There are certain forms
of torture that drive a man crazy. Bear with me--all you can!"
His quick pleading touched her, went straight to her heart. She put her
hands on his shoulders, lifting her face for his kiss. "It's all right,
dear," she said.
"Is it?" he said. "Is it?" He took her face between his hands, gazing
down at her with eyes of passionate craving. "Say you love me!" he urged
her suddenly. "Say it!"
Her heart sank within her. She made a movement as if to withdraw herself;
but he caught her fiercely to him, his hot lips sought and held her own.
She felt as if a flame encompassed her, scorching her, consuming her.
"Say you love me!" he whispered again between those fiery kisses.
"Avery, I must have your soul as well. Do more than bear with me! Want
There was more than passion in the words. They came to her like a cry of
torment. She braced herself to meet his need, realizing it to be greater
than she knew.
"Piers! Piers!" she said. "I am altogether yours. I love you. Don't
you know it?"
He drew a deep, quivering breath. "Yes--yes, I do know it," he said.
"But--but--Avery, I would go through hell for you. You are my religion,
my life, my all. I am not that to you. If--if I were dragged down, you
wouldn't follow me in."
His intensity shocked her, but she would not have him know it. She
sought to calm his agitation though she possessed no key thereto. "My
dear," she said, "you are talking wildly. You don't know what you are to
me, and I can't even begin to tell you. But surely--by now--you can take
me on trust."
He made a curious sound that was half-laugh, half-groan. "You don't know
yourself, Avery," he said.
"But you don't doubt my love, Piers," she protested very earnestly. "You
know that it would never fail you."
"Your love is like the moonlight, Avery," he answered. "It is all
whiteness and purity. But mine--mine is red like the fire that is
under the earth. And though sometimes it scorches you, it never quite
reaches you. You stoop to me, but you can't lift me. You are too far
above. And the moonlight doesn't always reach to the prisoner in the
"All the same dear, don't be afraid that it will ever fail you!" she
He kissed her again, hotly, lingeringly, and let her go. "Perhaps I shall
remind you of that one day," he said.
All through dinner his spirits were recklessly high. He talked
incessantly, playing the host with a brilliant ease that betrayed no sign
of strain. He did not seem to have a care in the world, and Avery
marvelled at his versatility.
She herself felt weary and strangely sick at heart. Those few words of
his had been a bitter revelation to her. She knew now what was wanting
between them. He desired passion from her rather than love. He had no use
for spiritual things. And she,--she knew that she shrank inwardly
whenever she encountered that fierce, untamed desire of his. It fettered
her spirit, it hung upon her like an overpowering weight. She could not
satisfy his wild Southern nature. He crushed her love with the very
fierceness of his possession and ever cried to her for more. He seemed
insatiable. Even though she gave him all she had, he still hungered,
still strove feverishly to possess himself of something further.
She felt worn out, body and soul, and she could not hide it. She was
unspeakably glad when at length the meal was over and she was able to
leave the table.
Crowther opened the door for her, looking at her with eyes of kindly
"You look tired," he said. "I hope you don't sit up late."
She smiled at him. "Oh no! We will make Piers play to us presently, and
then I will say good-night."
"Then we mustn't keep you waiting long," he said. "So Piers is a
musician, is he? I didn't know."
"You had better go to bed, Avery; it's late," said Piers abruptly. "I
can't play to-night. The spirit doesn't move me." He rose from the table
with a careless laugh. "Say good-night to her, Crowther, and let her go!
We will smoke in the garden."
There was finality in his tone, its lightness notwithstanding. Again
there came to Avery the impulse to rebel, and again instinctively she
caught it back. She held out her hand to Crowther.
"I am dismissed then," she said. "Good-night!"
His smile answered hers. He looked regretful, but very kindly. "I am glad
to see Piers takes care of you," he said.
She laughed a little drearily as she went away, making no other response.
Crowther turned back to the table with its shaded candles and gleaming
wine. He saw that Piers' glass was practically untouched.
Piers himself was searching a cabinet for cigars. He found what he
sought, and turned round with the box in his hand.
"I don't know what you generally smoke," he said. "Will you try one of
these? It's a hot night. We may as well have coffee in the garden."
He seemed possessed with a spirit of restlessness, just as he had been on
that night at the Casino in the spring. Crowther, massive and
self-contained, observed him silently.
They went out on to the terrace, and drank their coffee in the dewy
stillness. But even there Piers could not sit still. He prowled to and
fro eternally, till Crowther set down his cup and joined him, pushing a
quiet hand through his arm.
"It's a lovely place you've got here, sonny," he said; "a regular garden
of Paradise. I almost envy you."
"Oh, you needn't do that. There's a serpent in every Eden," said Piers,
with a mirthless laugh.
He did not seek to keep Crowther at arm's length, but neither did he
seem inclined for any closer intimacy. His attitude neither invited nor
repelled confidence. Yet Crowther knew intuitively that his very
indifference was in itself a barrier that might well prove
He walked in silence while Piers talked intermittently of various
impersonal matters, drifting at length into silence himself.
In the western wing of the house a light burned at an upper window, and
Crowther, still quietly observant, noted how at each turn Piers' eyes
went to that light as though drawn by some magnetic force.
Gently at length he spoke. "She doesn't look altogether robust, sonny."
Piers started sharply as if something had pricked him. "What? Avery do
you mean? No, she isn't over and above strong--just now."
He uttered the last two words as if reluctantly, yet as if some measure
of pride impelled him.
Crowther's hand pressed his arm, in mute sympathy. "You are right to
take care of her," he said simply. "And Piers, my lad, I want to tell you
how glad I was to know that you were able to win her after all. I somehow
felt you would."
It was his first attempt to pass that intangible barrier, and it failed.
Piers disregarded the words as if they had not reached him.
"I don't know if I shall let her stay here through the winter," he said.
"I am not sure that the place suits her. It's damp, you know; good
hunting and so on, but a bit depressing in bad weather. Besides I'd
rather have her under a town doctor. The new heir arrives in March," he
said, with a slight laugh that struck Crowther as unconsciously pathetic.
"I'm very pleased to hear it, sonny," said Crowther. "May he be
the first of many! What does Avery think about it? I'll warrant
"Oh yes, she's pleased enough."
"And you, lad?"
"Oh yes, I'm pleased too," said Piers, but his tone lacked complete
satisfaction and he added after a moment, "I'd rather have had her to
myself a bit longer. I'm a selfish brute, you know, Crowther. I want all
I can get--and even that's hardly enough to keep me from starvation."
There was a note of banter in his voice, but there was something else as
well that touched Crowther's kindly heart.
"I don't think Avery is the sort of woman to sacrifice her husband to her
children," he said. "You will always come first, sonny,--if I know her."
"I couldn't endure anything else," said Piers, with sudden fire. "She is
the mainspring of my life."
"And you of hers," said Crowther.
Piers stopped dead in his walk and faced him. "No,--no, I'm not!" he
said, speaking quickly, unrestrainedly. "I'm a good deal to her, but I'm
not that. She gives, but she never offers. If I went off on a journey
round the world to-morrow, she'd see me go quite cheerfully, and she'd
wait serenely till I came back again. She'd never fret. Above all, she'd
never dream of coming to look for me."
The passionate utterance went into a sound that resembled a laugh, but it
was a sound of such bitterness that Crowther was strongly moved.
He put his hand on Piers' shoulder and gave it an admonitory shake. "My
dear lad, don't be a fool!" he said, with slow force. "You're consuming
your own happiness--and hers too. You can't measure a woman's feelings
like that. They are immeasurable. You can't even begin to fathom a
woman's restraint--a woman's reserve. How can she offer when you are
always demanding? As to her love, it is probably as infinitely great, as
infinitely deep, as infinitely selfless, as yours is passionate, and
fierce and insatiable. There are big possibilities in you, Piers; but
you're not letting 'em grow. It would have done you good to have been
kept waiting ten years or more. You're spoilt; that's what's the matter
with you. You got your heart's desire too easily. You think this world is
your own damn playground. And it isn't. Understand? You're put here to
work, not play; to develop yourself, not batten on other people. You won
her like a man in the face of desperate odds. You paid a heavy price for
her. But even so, you don't deserve to keep her if you forget that she
has paid too. By Heaven, Piers, she must have loved you a mighty lot to
have done it!"
He paused, for Piers had made a sharp, involuntary movement as of a man
in intolerable pain. He almost wrenched himself from Crowther's hand, and
walked to the low wall of the terrace. Here he stood for many seconds
quite motionless, gazing down over the quiet garden.
Finally he swung round, and looked at Crowther. "Yes," he said, in an odd
tone as of one repeating something learned by heart. "I've got to
remember that, haven't I? Thanks for--reminding me!" He stopped, seemed
to collect himself, moved slowly forward. "You're a good chap, Crowther,"
he said. "I wonder you've never got married yourself, what?"
Crowther waited for him quietly, in his eyes that look of the man who has
gazed for long over the wide spaces of the earth.
"I never married, sonny," he said, "because I had nothing to offer to the
woman I cared for, and so--she never knew."
"By gad, old chap, I'm sorry," said Piers impulsively.
Crowther held out a steady hand. "I'm happy enough," he said simply.
"I've got--all I want."
"All?" echoed Piers incredulously.
Crowther was smiling. He lifted his face to the night sky. "Yes,--thank
God,--all!" he said.
THE SWORD FALLS
As Miss Whalley had predicted, Ina Rose's wedding was a very grand affair
indeed. Everyone who was anyone attended it, and a good many besides. It
took place in the midst of a spell of sultry weather, during which the
sun shone day after day with brazen strength and the heat was intense.
It was the sort of weather Piers revelled in. It suited his tropical
nature. But it affected Avery very differently. All her customary energy
wilted before it, and yet she was strangely restless also. A great
reluctance to attend the wedding possessed her, wherefore she could not
have said. But for some reason Piers was determined that she should go.
He was even somewhat tyrannical on the subject, and rather than have a
discussion Avery had yielded the point. For Piers was oddly difficult in
those days. Crowther's visit, which had barely run into forty-eight
hours, seemed to have had a disquieting effect upon him. There had
developed a curious, new-born mastery in his attitude towards her, which
she sometimes found it hard to endure. She missed the chivalry of the
early days. She missed the sweetness of his boyish adoration.
She did not understand him, but she knew that he was not happy. He never
took her into his confidence, never alluded by word or sign to the change
which he must have realized that she could not fail to notice. And Avery
on her part made no further effort to open the door that was so
strenuously locked against her. With an aching heart she gave herself to
the weary task of waiting, convinced that sooner or later the nature of
the barrier which he so stubbornly ignored would be revealed to her. But
it was impossible to extend her full confidence to him. Moreover, he
seemed to shrink from all intimate subjects. Instinctively and wholly
involuntarily she withdrew into herself, meeting reserve with reserve.
Since he had become master rather than lover, she yielded him obedience,
and she hid away her love, not deliberately or intentionally, but rather
with the impulse to protect from outrage that which was holy. He was not
asking love of her just then.
She saw but little of him during the day. He was busy on the estate, busy
with the coming election, busy with a hundred and one matters that
evidently occupied his thoughts very fully. The heat seemed to imbue him
with inexhaustible energy. He never seemed tired after the most strenuous
exertion. He never slacked for a moment or seemed to have a moment to
spare till the day was done. He was generally late for meals, and always
raced through them at a speed that Avery was powerless to emulate.
He was late on the day of Ina Rose's wedding, so late that Avery, who had
dressed in good time and was lying on the sofa in her room, began to
wonder if he had after all abandoned the idea of going. But she presently
heard him race into his own room, and immediately there came the active
patter of Victor's feet as he waited upon him.
She lay still, listening, wishing that the wedding were over, morbidly
dreading the heat and crush and excitement which she knew awaited her and
to which she felt utterly unequal.
A quarter of an hour passed, then impetuously, without preliminary, her
door opened and Piers stood on the threshold. He had the light behind
him, for Avery had lowered the blinds, and so seeing him she was
conscious of a sudden thrill of admiration. For he stood before her like
a prince. She had never seen him look more handsome, more patrician, more
tragically like that woman in the picture-frame downstairs who smiled so
perpetually upon them both.
He came to her with his light, athletic tread, stooped, and lifted her
bodily in his arms. He held her a moment before he set her on her feet,
and then in his hot, fierce way he kissed her.
"You beautiful ghost!" he said.
She leaned against him, breathing rather hard. "I wish--I wish we needn't
go," she said.
"Why?" said Piers.
He held her to him, gazing down at her with his eyes of fiery possession
that always made her close her own.
"Because--because it's so hot," she said quiveringly. "There will be no
one I know there. And I--and I--"
"That's just why you are going," he broke in. "Don't you know it will be
your introduction to the County? You've got to find your footing, Avery.
I'm not going to have my wife overlooked by anyone."
"Oh, my dear," she said, with a faint laugh, "I don't care two straws
about the County. They've seen me once already, most of them,--in a ditch
and covered with mud. If they want to renew the acquaintance they can
come and call."
He kissed her again with lips that crushed her own. "We won't stay longer
than we can help," he said. "You ought to go out more, you know. It isn't
good for you to stay in this gloomy old vault all day. We will really get
to work and make it more habitable presently. But I've got such a lot on
hand just now."
"I know," she said quietly. "Please don't bother about me! Lunch is
waiting for us. Shall we go?"
He gave her a quick, keen look, as if he suspected her of trying to
elude him; but he let her go without a word.
They descended to lunch, and later went forth into the blazing sunshine
where the car awaited them. Avery sank back into the corner and closed
her eyes. Her head was aching violently. The sense of reluctance that had
possessed her for so long amounted almost to a premonition of evil.
"Avery!" Her husband's voice, curt, imperious, with just a tinge of
anxiety broke in upon her. "Are you feeling faint or anything?"
She looked at him. He was watching her with a frown between his eyes.
"No, I am not faint," she said. "The heat makes my head ache,
"You ought to see a doctor," he said restlessly. "But not that ass,
Tudor. We'll go up to town to-morrow. Avery," his voice softened
suddenly, "I'm sorry I dragged you here if you didn't want to come."
She put out her hand to him instantly. It was the old Piers who had
spoken, Piers the boy-lover who had won her heart so irresistibly, so
He held the hand tightly, and she thought his face quivered a little as
he said: "I don't mean to be a tyrant, dear. But somehow--somehow, you
know--I can't always help it. A man with a raging thirst will
take--anything he can get."
His eyes were still upon her, and her heart quickened to compassion at
their look. They seemed to cry to her for mercy out of a depth of
suffering that she could not bear to contemplate.
She leaned swiftly towards him. "Piers,--my dear--what is it? What is
it?" she said, under her breath.
But in that instant the look vanished. The old fierce flare of passion
blazed forth upon her, held her burningly, till finally she drew back
before it in mute protest. "So you will forgive me," he said, in a tone
that seemed to contain something of a jeering quality. "We are all human,
what? You're looking better now. Egad, Avery, you're splendid!"
Her heart died within her. She turned her face away, as one ashamed.
The church at Wardenhurst was thronged with a chattering crowd of guests.
Piers and Avery arrived late, so late that they had some difficulty in
finding seats. Tudor, who was present and looking grimly disgusted with
himself, spied them at length, and gave up his place to Avery.
The bride entered almost immediately afterwards, young, lovely, with the
air of a queen passing through her subjects. Dick Guyes at the altar was
shaking with nervousness, but Ina was supremely self-possessed. She even
sent a smile of casual greeting to Piers as she went.
She maintained her attitude of complete _sang-froid_ throughout the
service, and Piers watched her critically with that secret smile at the
corners of his lips which was not good to see.
He did not seem aware of anyone else in the church till the service was
over, and the strains of the Wedding March were crashing through the
building. Then very suddenly he turned and looked at his wife--with that
in his dark eyes that thrilled her to the soul.
A man's voice accosted him somewhat abruptly. "Are you Sir Piers Evesham?
I'm the best man. They want you to sign the register."
Piers started as one rudely awakened from an entrancing dream. An
impatient exclamation rose to his lips which he suppressed rather badly.
He surveyed the man who addressed him with a touch of hauteur.
Avery surveyed him also, and as not very favourably impressed. He was a
small man with thick sandy eyebrows and shifty uncertain eyes. He looked
hard at Piers in answer to the latter's haughty regard, and Avery became
aware of a sudden sharp change in his demeanour as he did so. He opened
his eyes and stared in blank astonishment.
"Hullo!" he ejaculated softly. "You!"
"What do you mean?" demanded Piers.
It was a challenge, albeit spoken in an undertone. He stood like a man
transfixed as he uttered it. There came to Avery a quick hot impulse to
intervene, to protect him from some hidden danger, she knew not what,
that had risen like a serpent in his path. But before she could take any
action, the critical moment was passed. Piers had recovered himself.
He stepped forward. "All right. I will come," he said.
She watched him move away in the direction of the vestry with that free,
proud gait of his, and a great coldness came down upon her, wrapping her
round, penetrating to her very soul. Who was that man with the shifty
eyes? Why had he stared at Piers so? Above all, why had Piers stood with
that stiff immobility of shock as though he had been stabbed in the back?
A voice spoke close to her. "Lady Evesham, come and wait by the door!
There is more air there."
She turned her head mechanically, and looked at Lennox Tudor with eyes
that saw not. There was a singing in her ears that made the crashing
chords of the organ sound confused and jumbled.
His hand closed firmly, sustainingly, upon her elbow.
"Come with me!" he said.
She went with him blindly, unconscious of the curious eyes that
watched her go.
He led her quietly down the church and into the porch. The air from
outside, albeit hot and sultry, was less oppressive than within. She drew
great breaths of relief as it reached her. The icy grip at her heart
seemed to relax.
Tudor watched her narrowly. "What madness brought you here?" he said
presently, as she turned at last and mustered a smile of thanks.
She countered the question. "I might ask you the same," she said.
His eyes contracted behind the shielding glasses. "So you might," he said
briefly. "Well,--I came on the chance of meeting you."
"Of meeting me!" She looked at him in surprise.
He nodded. "Just so. I want a word with you; but it can't be said here.
Give me an opportunity later if you can!"
His hand fell away from her elbow, he drew back. The bridal procession
was coming down the church.
Ina was flushed and laughing. Dick Guyes still obviously nervous, but,
also obviously, supremely happy. They went by Avery into a perfect storm
of rose-leaves that awaited them from the crowd outside. Yet for one
moment the eyes of the bride rested upon Avery, meeting hers almost as if
they would ask her a question. And behind her--immediately behind
His eyes also found Avery, and in an instant with a haughty disregard of
Tudor, he had swept her forward with him, his arm thrust imperially
through hers. They also weathered the storm of rose-leaves, and as they
went Avery heard him laugh,--the laugh of the man who fights with his
back to the wall.
They were among the first to offer congratulations to the bride and
bridegroom, and again Avery was aware of the girl's eyes searching hers.
"I haven't forgotten you," she said, as they shook hands. "I knew you
would be Lady Evesham sooner or later after that day when you kept the
whole Hunt at bay."
Avery felt herself flush. There seemed to her to be a covert insinuation
in the remark. "I was very grateful to you for taking my part," she said.
"It was rather generous certainly," agreed the bride coolly. "Dick, do
get off my train! You're horribly clumsy to-day."
The bridegroom hastened to remove himself to a respectful distance, while
Ina turned her pretty cheek to Piers. "You may salute the bride," she
said graciously. "It's the only opportunity you will ever have."
Piers kissed the cheek as airily as it was proffered, his dark eyes
openly mocking. "Good luck to you, Ina!" he said lightly. "I wish you the
first and best of all that's most worth having."
Her red lips curled in answer. "You are superlatively kind," she said.
Other guests came crowding round with congratulations, and they moved on.
Piers knew everyone there, and presented one after another to his wife
till she felt absolutely bewildered. He did not present the best man, who
to her relief seemed disposed to keep out of their way. She wondered
greatly if anything had passed between him and Piers, though by the
latter at least the incident seemed to be wholly forgotten. He was in his
gayest, most sparkling mood, and she could not fail to see that he was
very popular whichever way he turned. People kept claiming his attention,
and though he tried to remain near her he was drawn away at last by the
Avery looked round her then for a quiet corner where Tudor might
find her if he so desired, but while she was searching she came upon
He joined her immediately, with evident relief. "For Heaven's sake, let
us get away from this gibbering crowd!" he said. "They are like a horde
of painted monkeys. Come alone to the library! I don't think there are
many people there."
Avery accompanied him, equally thankful to escape. They found the
library deserted, and Tudor made her sit down by the window in the most
comfortable chair the room contained.
"You look about as fit for this sort of show as Mrs. Lorimer," he
observed drily. "She had the sense to stay away."
"I couldn't," Avery said.
"For goodness' sake," he exclaimed roughly, "don't let that young ruffian
tyrannize over you! You will never know any peace if you do."
Avery smiled a little and was silent.
"Why are you so painfully thin?" he pursued relentlessly. "What's
the matter with you? When I saw you in church just now I had a
She put out her hand to him. "I am quite all right," she assured him,
still faintly smiling. "I should have sent for you if I hadn't been."