Sir Beverley was lying back in his chair, gazing straight up at him. Suddenly he reached out a trembling hand.
“You’re a good boy, Piers,” he said. “You may do any damn thing you like.”
Piers’ eyes kindled in swift response. He gripped the extended hand. “You’re a brick, sir!” he said. “Look here! Come along to the billiard-room and have a hundred up! It’ll give you an appetite for dinner.”
He hoisted the old man out of his chair before he could begin to protest. They stood together before the great fire, and Sir Beverley straightened his stiff limbs. He was half a head taller than his grandson.
“What a fellow it is!” he said half laughing. “Why can’t you sit still and be quiet? Don’t you want to read the paper? I’ve done with it.”
“So have I,” said Piers. He swept it up with one hand as he spoke and tossed it recklessly on to the blaze. “Come along, sir! We haven’t much time.”
“Now what did you do that for?” demanded Sir Beverley, pausing. “Do you want to set the house on fire? What did you do it for, Piers?”
“Because I was a fool,” said Piers with sudden, curious vehemence. “A damn fool sir, if you want to know. But it’s done now. Let it burn!”
The paper flared fiercely and crumbled to ashes. Sir Beverley suffered himself to be drawn away.
“You’re a queer fellow, Piers,” he said. “But, taking ’em altogether, I should say there are a good many bigger fools in the world than you.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Piers.
“Mrs. Denys, may I come in?” Jeanie Lorimer’s small, delicate face peeped round the door. “I’ve brought my French exercise to do,” she said half-apologetically. “I thought perhaps you wouldn’t mind.”
“Of course come in, dear child! I like to have you.” The mother’s help paused in her rapid stitching to look up with a smile at the pretty, brown-haired child. “Come close to the light!” she said. “I hope it isn’t a very long one; is it?”
“It is—rather,” Jeanie sighed a sharp, involuntary sigh. “I ought to have done it sooner, but I was busy with the little ones. Is that Gracie’s frock you’re mending? What an awful tear!” She came and stood by Mrs. Denys’s side, speaking in a low, rather monotonous voice. A heavy strand of her hair fell over the work as she bent to look; she tossed it back with another sigh. “Gracie is such a tomboy,” she said. “It’s a pity, isn’t it?”
“My dear, you’re tired,” said Mrs. Denys gently. She put a motherly arm about the slim body that leaned against her, looking up into the pale young face with eyes of kindly criticism.
“A little tired,” said Jeanie.
“I shouldn’t do that exercise to-night if I were you,” said Mrs. Denys. “You will find it easier in the morning. Lie down on the sofa here and have a little rest till supper time!”