Piers’ face showed a momentary surprise. “How on earth do you know?” he said.
“I do know,” Crowther made steadfast reply; but he offered no explanation for his confidence.
Piers thrust out an impulsive hand. “You may be right and you may not; but you’ve been a brick to me, old fellow,” he said, a note of deep feeling in his voice,—“several kinds of a brick, and I’m not likely to forget it. If you ever get into the Church, you’ll be known as the parson who doesn’t preach, and it’ll be a reputation to be proud of.”
Crowther’s answering grip was the grip of a giant. There was a great tenderness in the far-seeing grey eyes as he made reply. “It would be rank presumption on my part to preach to you, lad. You are made of infinitely finer stuff than I.”
“Oh, rats!” exclaimed Piers in genuine astonishment.
But the elder man shook his head with a smile. “No; facts, Piers!” he said. “There are greater possibilities in you than I could ever attain to.”
“Possibilities for evil then,” said Piers, with a very bitter laugh.
Crowther looked him straight in the eyes. “And possibilities for good, my son,” he said. “They grow together, thank God.”
THE OPEN HEAVEN
“It’s much better than learning by heart,” said Jeanie, with her tired little smile. “Somehow, you know, I can’t learn by heart—at least not long things. Father says it is because my brain is deficient. But Mother says hers is just the same, so I don’t mind so much.”
“My dear, it will take you hours to read through all this,” said Avery, surveying with dismay the task which the Vicar had set his small daughter.
“Yes,” said Jeanie. “I am to devote three hours of every day to it. I had to promise I would.” She gave a short sigh. “It’s very good for me, you know,” she said.
“Is it?” said Avery. She smoothed back the brown hair lovingly. “You mustn’t overwork, Jeanie darling,” she said.
“I can’t help it,” said Jeanie quietly. “You see, I promised.”
That she would keep her promise, whatever the cost, was evidently a foregone conclusion; and Avery could say nothing against it.
She left the child to work therefore, and wandered down herself to the shore.
It was June. A soft breeze came over the sea, salt and pure, with the life-giving quality of the great spaces. She breathed it deeply, thankfully, conscious of returning strength.
She and Jeanie had arrived only the week before, and she was sure their visit was going to do wonders for them both. Her own convalescence had been a protracted one, but she told herself as she walked along the beach towards the smiling, evening sea that she was already stronger than her companion. The old lassitude was evidently very heavy upon Jeanie. The smallest exertion seemed to tax her energies to the utmost. She had never shaken off her cough, and it seemed to wear her out.