“Oh, I say!” broke in Piers. “What a perfectly horrible life you’ve had! You don’t mean to say you’re happy, what?”
Avery laughed. “I’m much too busy to think about it. And now I really must run back. I’ve promised to take charge of the babies this afternoon. Good-bye!” She held out her hand to him with frank friendliness, as if she divined the sympathy he did not utter.
He gripped it hard for a moment. “Thanks awfully for being so decent as to tell me!” he said, looking back at her with eyes as frank as her own. “I’m going on down to the home farm. Good-bye!”
He raised his cap, and abruptly strode away. And in the moment of his going Avery found she liked him better than she had liked him throughout the interview, for she knew quite well that he went only in deference to her wish.
She turned to retrace her steps, feeling puzzled. There was something curiously attractive about the young man’s personality, something that appealed to her, yet that she felt disposed to resist. That air of the ancient Roman was wonderfully compelling, too compelling for her taste, but then his boyishness counteracted it to a very great degree. There was a hint of sweetness running through his arrogance against which she was not proof. Audacious he might be, but it was a winning species of audacity that probably no woman could condemn. She thought to herself as she returned to her charges that she had never seen a face so faultlessly patrician and yet so vividly alive. And following that thought came another that dwelt longer in her mind. Deprived of its animation, it would not have been a happy face.
Avery wondered why.
“Hooray! No more horrid sums for a whole month!” Gracie Lorimer’s arithmetic-book soared to the ceiling and came down with a bang while Gracie herself pivoted, not ungracefully, on her toes till sheer giddiness and exhaustion put an end to her rhapsody. Then she staggered to Avery who was darning the family stockings by the window and flung ecstatic arms about her neck.
“Dear Mrs. Denys, aren’t you glad it’s holidays?” she gasped. “We’ll give you such a lovely time!”
“I’m sure you will, dear,” said Avery. “But do mind the needle!”
She kissed the brilliant childish face that was pressed to hers. She and Gracie were close friends. Gracie was eleven, and the prettiest madcap of them all. It was a perpetual marvel to Avery that the child managed to be so happy, for she was continually in trouble. But she seemed to possess a cheery knack of throwing off adversity. She was essentially gay of heart.