And, as she stood waiting, through her heart, softly, triumphantly, the message came, spoken in the voice she had come to hear through all other voices.
“It is the Star of Hope, Avery; yours—and mine.”
But even as she watched with all her spirit a-quiver with the wonder of it, the vision passed; the star was veiled.
THE DARK HOUR
Avery was very early at the church on the following morning, and had begun the work of decorating even before Miss Whalley appeared on the scene. It was a day of showers and fleeting gleams of sunshine, and the interior of the little building flashed from gloom to brilliance, and from brilliance back to gloom with fitful frequency.
Daffodils and primroses were littered all around Avery, and a certain subdued pleasure was hers as she decked the place with the spring flowers. She was quite alone, for by the Vicar’s inflexible decree all the elder children, with the exception of Olive, were confined to the schoolroom for the morning with their respective tasks.
The magnitude of these tasks had struck dismay to Avery’s heart. She did not privately believe that any one of them could ever be accomplished in the prescribed time. But the day of reckoning was not yet, and she put it resolutely from her mind. It was useless to forestall trouble, and her own burden of toil that day demanded all her energies.
The advent of Miss Whalley, thin and acid, put an end to all enjoyment thereof. She bestowed a cool greeting upon Avery, and came at once to her side to criticize her decoration of the font. Miss Whalley always assumed the direction of affairs on these occasions, and she regarded Avery’s assistance in the place of Mrs. Lorimer’s weak efforts in something of the light of an intrusion.
Avery stood and listened to her suggestions with grave forbearance. She never disputed anything with Miss Whalley, which may have been in part the reason for the latter’s somewhat suspicious attitude towards her.
They were still standing before the font while Miss Whalley unfolded her scheme when there came the sound of feet in the porch, and Lennox Tudor put his head in.
His eyes fell at once upon Avery. He hesitated a moment then entered.
She turned eagerly to meet him. “Oh, how is the Squire this morning? Have you been up to the Abbey yet?”
“The Squire!” echoed Miss Whalley. “Is he ill? I was not aware of it.”
Avery’s eyes were fixed on Tudor’s face, and all in a moment she realized that he had been up all night.
He did not seem to notice Miss Whalley, but spoke to Avery, and to her alone. “I have just come back from the Abbey. The Squire died about an hour ago.”
“The Squire!” said Miss Whalley again, in staccato tones.
Avery said nothing, but she turned suddenly white, so white that Tudor was moved to compunction.