“Quite, dear, thank you. You mustn’t think about me any more. Good-bye! Thank you for all your goodness to me!” Mrs. Lorimer clung to her hand for a moment. “I was always prejudiced against mothers’ helps before,” she said ingenuously. “But I find you an immense comfort—an immense comfort. You will try and stay, won’t you, if you possibly can?”
“Yes,” Avery promised. “I will certainly stay—if it rests with me.”
Her lips were very firmly closed as she went out of the room and her grey eyes extremely bright. It had been a strenuous half-hour.
LIFE ON A CHAIN
“Oh, I say, are you going out?” said Piers. “I was just coming to call on you.”
“On me?” Avery looked at him with brows raised in surprised interrogation.
He made her a graceful bow, nearly sweeping the path outside the Vicarage gate with his cap. “Even so, madam! On you! But as I perceive you are not at home to callers, may I be permitted to turn and walk beside you?”
As he suited the action to the words, it seemed superfluous to grant the permission, and Avery did not do so.
“I am only going to run quickly down to the post,” she said, with a glance at some letters she carried.
He might have offered to post them for her, but such a course did not apparently occur to him. Instead he said: “I’ll race you if you like.”
Avery refrained from smiling, conscious of a gay glance flung in her direction.
“I see you prefer to walk circumspectly,” said Piers. “Well, I can do that too. How is Mike? Why isn’t he with you?”
“Mike is quite well, thank you,” said Avery. “And he is kept chained up.”
“What an infernal shame!” burst from Piers. “I’d sooner shoot a dog than keep him on a chain.”
“So would I!” said Avery impulsively.
The words were out before she could check them. It was a subject upon which she found it impossible to maintain her reticence.
Piers grinned triumphantly and thrust out a boyish hand. “Shake!” he said. “We are in sympathy!”
But Avery only shook her head at him, refusing to be drawn. “People—plenty of nice people—have no idea of the utter cruelty of it,” she said. “They think that if a dog has never known liberty, he is incapable of desiring it. They don’t know, they don’t realize, the bitterness of life on a chain.”
“Don’t know and don’t care!” declared Piers. “They deserve to be chained up themselves. One day on a chain would teach your nice people quite a lot. But no one cultivates feeling in this valley of dry bones. It isn’t the thing nowadays. Let a dog whine his heart out on a chain! Who cares? There’s no room for sentimental scruples of that sort. Can’t you see the Reverend Stephen smile at the bare idea of extending a little of his precious Christian pity to a dog?” He broke off with a laugh that rang defiantly. “Now it’s your turn!” he said.