“Aren’t you?” he said, and by the eager relief of his voice she knew that her silence had been hard to bear.
She put out a hand to him as they walked. “But, Piers, that—is not the way to make me love you.”
“I know—I know,” he said quickly; and then haltingly: “I’ve been—so beastly lonely, Avery. Make allowances for me—forgive me!”
He had not taken her hand; she slipped it into his. “I do,” she said simply. She felt his fingers close tensely, but in a moment they opened again and set her free.
He did not utter another word, merely walked on beside her till they reached the Vicarage gate. She thought he would have left her there, but he did not. They went up the drive together to the porch.
From his kennel at the side of the house Mike barked a sharp challenge that turned into an unmistakable note of welcome as they drew near. Avery silenced him with a reassuring word.
She found the key, and in the darkness of the porch she began to fumble for the lock.
Piers stooped. “Let me!”
She gave him the key, and as she stood up again she noted the brightness of the fanlight over the floor. She thought that she had lowered the light at leaving; she had certainly intended to do so.
Very softly Piers opened the door. It swung noiselessly back upon its hinges, and the full light smote upon them.
In the same instant a slim, white figure came calmly forward through the hall and stopped beneath the lamp.
Olive Lorimer, pale, severe, with fixed, accusing eyes, stood confronting them.
“Mrs. Denys!” she said, in accents of frozen surprise.
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
The encounter was so amazing, so utterly unlooked for, that Avery had a moment of downright consternation. The child’s whole air and expression were so exactly reminiscent of her father that she almost felt as if she stood before the Vicar himself—a culprit caught in a guilty act.
She looked at Olive without words, and Olive looked straight back at her with that withering look of the righteous condemning the ungodly which so often regarded a dumb but rebellious congregation through the Vicar’s stern eyes.
Piers, however, was not fashioned upon timid lines, and he stepped into the hall without the faintest sign of embarrassment.
“Hullo, little girl!” he said. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
The accusing eyes turned upon him. Olive seemed to swell with indignation. “I was in bed long ago,” she made answer, still in those frozen tones. “May I ask what you are doing here, Mr. Evesham?”
“I?” said Piers jauntily. “Now what do you suppose?”
“I cannot imagine,” the child said.
“Not really?” said Piers. “Well, perhaps when you are a little older your imagination will develop. In the meantime, if you are a wise little girl, you will run back to bed and leave your elders to settle their own affairs.”