She did not speak or move, save for a spasmodic shuddering that shook her whole frame.
He bent lower. “Avery, I say, can’t you—for the baby’s sake—anyway consider it?”
She flung out her hands with a cry. “The child is cursed! The child will die!” There was terrible conviction in the words. She lifted a tortured face. “Oh, don’t you see,” she said piteously, “how impossible it is for me? Don’t—don’t say any more!”
“I won’t,” said Tudor.
He took the outflung hands and held them closely, restrainingly, soothingly.
“I won’t,” he said again. “Forgive me for saying so much! Poor girl! Poor girl!”
His lips quivered a little as he said it, but his hold was full of sustaining strength. She grew gradually calmer, and finally submitted to the gentle pressure with which he laid her back in her chair.
“You are always so very good to me,” she said presently. “I sometimes wonder how I ever came to—to—” She stopped herself abruptly.
“To refuse me?” said Tudor quietly. “I always knew why, Lady Evesham. It was because you loved another man. It has been the case for as long as I have known you.”
He turned from her with the words wholly without emotion and took up his stand on the hearth-rug.
“Now may I talk to you about your health?” he said professionally.
She leaned forward slowly. “Dr. Tudor, first will you make me a promise?”
He smiled a little. “I don’t think so. I never do make promises.”
“Just this once!” she pleaded anxiously. “Because it means a great deal to me.”
“Well?” said Tudor.
“It is only—” she paused a moment, breathing quickly—“only that you will not—whatever the circumstances—let Piers be sent for.”
“I can’t promise that,” said Tudor at once.
She clasped her hands beseechingly. “You must—please—you must!”
He shook his head. “I can’t. I will undertake that he shall not come to you against your will. I can’t do more than that.”
“Do you suppose you could keep him out?” Avery said, a note of quivering bitterness in her voice.
“I am quite sure I can,” Tudor answered steadily. “Don’t trouble yourself on that head! I swear that, unless you ask for him, he shall not come to you.”
She shivered again and dropped back in her chair. “I shall never do that—never—never—so long as I am myself!”
“Your wishes—whatever they are—shall be obeyed,” Tudor promised gravely.
And with that gently but very resolutely he changed the subject.
How many times had he paced up and down the terrace? Piers could not have said. He had been there for hours, years, half a lifetime, waiting—waiting eternally for the summons that never came.
Could it have been only that morning that Mrs. Lorimer’s urgent telegram had reached him? Only that morning that he had parted from Crowther for the first time in six months? It seemed aeons ago. And yet here he was in the cold grey dusk, still waiting to be called to his wife’s side.