“She is a child who never complains,” Avery said. “But both her mother and I thought she was wasting.”
“She is mere skin and bone,” he said. “Now—about her people, Lady Evesham; who is going to tell them? You or I?”
She hesitated. “But I could hardly ask you to do that,” she said.
“You may command me in any way,” he answered. “If I may presume to advise, I should say that the best course would be for me to go to Rodding, see the doctor there, and get him to take me to the Vicarage.”
“Oh, but they mustn’t take her from me!” Avery said. “Let her mother come here! She can’t—she mustn’t—go back home!”
“Exactly what I was going to say,” he returned, in his quiet practical fashion. “To take her back there would be madness. But look here, Lady Evesham, you must have a nurse.”
“Oh, not yet!” said Avery. “I am quite strong now. I am used to nursing. I have—no other call upon me. Let me do this!”
“None?” he said.
His tone re-called her. She coloured burningly. “My husband—would understand,” she said, with difficulty.
He passed the matter by. “Will you promise to send me a message if you find night-nursing a necessity?”
He frowned. “Lady Evesham, you must promise me this in fairness to the child as well as to yourself. Also, you will give me your word that you will never under any circumstances sleep with her.”
She saw that he would have his way, and she yielded both points rather than fight a battle which instinct warned her she could not win.
“Then I will be going,” he said.
He turned back into the room, and again she was aware of his green eyes surveying her closely, critically. But he made no reference whatever to her health, and inwardly she blessed him for his forbearance.
She did not know that as he rode away, he grimly remarked to himself: “The best tonics generally taste the bitterest, and she’ll drink this one to the dregs, poor girl! But it’ll help her in the end.”
THE TIDE COMES BACK
“Give her everything she wants!” How often in the days that followed were those words in Avery’s mind! She strove to fulfil them to the uttermost, but Jeanie seemed to want so little. The only trouble in her existence just then was her holiday-task, and that she steadily refused to relinquish unless her father gave her leave.
A few days after Maxwell Wyndham’s departure there came an agonized letter from Mrs. Lorimer. Olive had just developed scarlet fever, and as they could not afford a nurse she was nursing her herself. She entreated Avery to send her daily news of Jeanie and to telegraph at once should she become worse. She added in a pathetic postscript that her husband found it difficult to believe that Jeanie could be as ill as the great doctor had represented, and she feared he was a little vexed that Maxwell Wyndham’s opinion had been obtained.