“Very well,” he said. “I’ll take that six months’ trip round the world with you.”
“But you can’t!” protested Piers. “I never seriously thought you could! I only came to you because—” he halted, and a slow, deep flush mounted to his forehead—“because you’ve saved me before,” he said. “And I was so—so horribly near—the edge of the pit this time.”
He spoke with an odd boyishness, and Crowther’s lips relaxed in a smile that had in it something of a maternal quality. “So long as I can help you, you can count on me,” he said.
“You’re the only man in the world who can help me,” Piers said impulsively. “At least—” he smiled himself—“I couldn’t take it from anyone else. But I’m not taking this from you, Crowther. You’ve got your own pet job on hand, and I’m not going to hinder it.”
Crowther was setting his writing-table in order. He did not speak for a few seconds. Then: “I am a man under authority, sonny,” he said. “My own pet job, as you call it, doesn’t count if it isn’t what’s wanted of me. It has waited twenty-five years; it’ll keep—easy—for another six months.”
Piers got up. “I’m a selfish brute if I let you,” he said, irresolutely.
“You can’t help yourself, my son.” Crowther turned calm eyes upon him. “And now just sit down here and write a line home to say what you are going to do!”
He had cleared a space upon the table; he pulled forward a chair.
“Oh, I can’t! I can’t!” said Piers quickly.
But Crowther’s hand was on his shoulder. He pressed him down. “Do it, lad! It’s got to be done,” he said.
And with a docility that sat curiously upon him, Piers submitted. He leaned his head on his hand, and wrote.
THE FALLING NIGHT
“You ought to rest, you know,” said Tudor. “This sort of thing is downright madness for you.”
They were walking together in the February twilight along the long, dark avenue of chestnuts that led to Rodding Abbey. Avery moved with lagging feet that she strove vainly to force to briskness.
“I don’t think I do too much,” she said. “It isn’t good for me to be idle. It makes me—it makes me mope.”
The involuntary falter in the words spoke more eloquently than the words themselves, but she went on after a moment with that same forced briskness to which she was trying to compel her dragging limbs. “I only ran down to the Vicarage after lunch because it is Jeanie’s birthday. It is no distance across the Park. It seemed absurd to go in state.”
“You are not wise,” said Tudor in a tone that silenced all argument.
Avery gave a little sigh and turned from the subject. “I thought Jeanie looking very fragile. Mrs. Lorimer has promised that she may come to me again just as soon as I am able to have her.”
“Ah! Jeanie is a comfort to you?” said Tudor.