“You may rely on me to do my very best,” Avery said earnestly.
He nodded. “Thank you. I know I may. I always do. Hence my confidence in you. May I give you some more tea?”
He quitted the subject as suddenly as he had embarked upon it. There was something very friendly in his treatment of her. She knew with unquestioning intuition that for the future he would keep strictly within the bounds of friendship unless he had her permission to pass beyond them. And it was this knowledge that emboldened her at parting to say, with her hand in his: “You are very, very good to me. I would like to thank you if I could.”
He pressed her hand with the kindness of an old friend. “No, don’t thank me!” he said, smiling at her in a way that somehow went to her heart. “I shall always be at your service. But I’d rather you took it as a matter of course. I feel more comfortable that way.”
Avery left him at length and trudged home through the mud with a curious feeling of uncertainty in her soul. It was as though she had been vouchsafed a far glimpse of destiny which had been too fleeting for her comprehension.
The preparations that must inevitably precede a departure for an indefinite length of time kept Avery from dwelling overmuch on what had passed on that gusty afternoon when she had taken shelter in the doctor’s house.
Whether or not she believed the rumour concerning Piers she scarcely asked herself. For some reason into which she did not enter she was firmly resolved to exclude him from her mind, and she welcomed the many occupations that kept her thoughts engrossed. No word from him had reached her since that daring letter written nearly three months before, just after his departure. It seemed that he had accepted her answer just as she had meant him to accept it, and that he had nothing more to say. So at least she viewed the matter, not suffering any inward question to arise.
She saw Lennox Tudor several times before the last day arrived. He did not seek her out. It simply came about in the ordinary course of things. He was plainly determined that neither in public nor private should there be any secret sense of embarrassment between them. And for this also she was grateful, liking him for his blunt consideration for her better than she had ever liked him before.
It was on the evening of the day preceding her departure with Jeanie that she ran down in the dusk to the post at the end of the lane with a letter. Her Australian friend had written to propose a visit, and she had been obliged to put him off.
There was a bitter wind blowing, but she hastened along hatless, with a cloak thrown round her shoulders. Past the church with its sheltering yew-trees she ran, intent only upon executing her errand in as short a time as possible.