The day of the funeral came, and the Easter flowers were all taken away. The Vicarage blinds were drawn, the bell tolled again, and Jeanie, weighed down with a dreadful sense of wickedness, lay face downwards on the schoolroom sofa and wept and wept.
Avery was very anxious about her. The disgrace and punishment of the past few days had told upon her. She was sick with trouble and depression, and Avery could find no means of comforting her. She had meant herself to slip out and to go to the funeral for Piers’ sake, but she felt she could not leave the child. So she sat with her in the darkened room, listening to her broken sobbing, aware that in the solitude of her room Gracie was crying too, and longing passionately to gather together all five of the luckless offenders and deliver them from their land of bondage.
But there was to be no deliverance that day, nor any lightening of the burden. The funeral over, the Vicar returned and sent for each child separately to the study for prayer and admonition. Jeanie was the last to face this ordeal and before it was half over Avery was sent for also to find her lying on the study sofa in a dead faint.
Avery’s indignation was intense, but she could not give it vent. Even the Vicar was a little anxious, and when Avery’s efforts succeeded at length in restoring her, he reprimanded Jeanie severely and reduced her once more to tears of uncontrollable distress.
The long, dreary day came to an end at last, and the thought of a happier morrow comforted them all. But Avery, though she slept that night, was troubled by a dream that came to her over and over again throughout the long hours. She seemed to see Piers, as he had once described himself, a prisoner behind bars; and ever as she looked upon him he strove with gigantic efforts that were wholly vain, to force the bars asunder and come to her. She could not help him, could not even hear his voice. But the agony of his eyes haunted her—haunted her. She awoke at last in anguish of spirit, and slept no more.
With the morning came a general feeling of relief. The Vicar was almost jocose, and Mrs. Lorimer made timid attempts to be mirthful though the parting with her children sorely tried her fortitude.
The boys’ spirits were subdued, but they burst forth uproariously as soon as the station-cab was well outside the gate. Ronald and Julian cheered themselves hoarse, and Pat scuttled off to the back of the house to release Mike from his chain to participate in the great rejoicing.
There was no disguising the fact that everyone was pleased—everyone except Olive who went away to her father’s study which had been left in her especial charge, and locked herself in for a morning of undisturbed reading.
Avery could not feel joyful. The thought of Piers was still with her continually. She had heard so little of him—merely that he had followed his grandfather to the grave supported by the old family solicitor from Wardenhurst, Lennox Tudor, and a miscellaneous throng of neighbours; that he had borne himself without faltering, and had gone back to his solitude with no visible sign of suffering. Only indirectly had she heard this, and she yearned to know more.