The conversation drifted to indifferent matters, but Piers’ interest remained keen. It seemed that all his vitality had reawakened at the coming of this slow-speaking man who had looked so long upon the wide spaces of the earth that his vision seemed scarcely adaptable to lesser things. There was that in his personality that caught Piers’ fancy irresistibly. Perhaps it was his utter calmness, his unvarying, rock-like strength. Perhaps it was just the good fellowship that looked out of the steady eyes and sounded in every tone of the leisurely voice. Whatever the cause, his presence had made a vast difference to Piers. His boredom had completely vanished. He even forgot to wonder if there were a letter lying waiting for him inside the hotel.
Crowther excused himself at length and rose to take his leave, whereupon Sir Beverley very abruptly, and to his grandson’s surprise and gratification, invited him to dine with them that night. Piers at once seconded the invitation, and Crowther without haste or hesitation accepted it.
Then, square and purposeful, he went away.
“A white man!” murmured Piers half to himself.
“One who knows his own mind anyhow,” remarked Sir Beverley drily.
He did not ask Piers for the history of their friendship, and Piers, remembering this later, wondered a little at the omission.
A FRIEND’S COUNSEL
When Piers went to dress that night he found two letters laid discreetly upon his table, awaiting perusal.
Victor, busily engaged in laying out his clothes, cast a wicked eye back over his shoulder as his young master pounced upon them, then with a shrug resumed his task, smiling to himself the while.
Both letters were addressed in womanly handwriting, but Piers went unerringly to the one he most desired to read. His hands shook a little as he opened it, but he caught sight of his Christian name at the head of it and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Dear Piers,”—so in clear, decided writing the message ran,—“I have wondered many times if I ought to be angry as well as sorry over that letter of yours. It was audacious, wasn’t it? Only I know so well that you did not mean to hurt me when you wrote it. But, Piers, what I said before, you compel me to say again. This thing must stop. You say you are not a boy, so I shall not treat you as such. But indeed you must take my word for it when I tell you that I shall never marry again.
“I want to be quite honest with you, so you mustn’t think that my two years of married life were by any means idyllic. They were not. The man I married was a failure, but I loved him, and because I loved him I followed him to the world’s end. We were engaged two years before we married. My father disapproved; but when he died I was left lonely, so I followed Eric, whom I had not seen for