It was then that Jeanie seemed to awake, to rise as it were from the depths of reverie. Her eyes widened, grew intense; then suddenly they smiled.
She sought to raise herself, and never knew that it was by Piers’ strength alone that she was lifted. She gave a gasp that was almost a cry, but it was gladness not pain that it expressed.
For a few panting moments she gazed out as one rapt in delight, gazing from a mountain-peak upon a wider view than earthly eyes could compass.
Then eagerly she turned to Piers. “I saw Heaven opened ...” she said, and in her low voice there throbbed a rapture that could not be uttered in words.
She would have said more, but something stopped her. She made a gesture as though she would clasp him round the neck, failed, and sank down in his arms.
He held her closely to him, and so holding her, felt the last quivering breath slip from the little tired body....
THE DESERT ROAD
“That is just where you make a mistake, my good Crowther. You’re an awfully shrewd chap in some ways, but you understand women just about as thoroughly as I understand theology.”
Piers clasped his hands behind his head, and regarded his friend affectionately.
“Do you think so?” said Crowther a little drily.
Piers laughed. “Now I’ve trodden on your pet corn. Bear up, old chap! It’ll soon be better.”
Crowther’s own face relaxed, but he did not look satisfied. “I’m not happy about you, my son,” he said. “I think you’ve missed a big opportunity.”
“You think wrong,” said Piers, unmoved. “I couldn’t possibly have stayed another hour. I was in a false position. So—poor girl!—was she. We buried the hatchet for the kiddie’s sake, but it wasn’t buried very deep. I did my best, and I think she did hers. But—even that last night—we kicked against it. There was no sense in pretending any longer. The game was up. So—I came away.”
He uttered the last words nonchalantly; but if Crowther’s knowledge of women was limited, he knew his own species very thoroughly, and he was not deceived.
“You didn’t see her at all after the little girl died?” he asked.
“Not at all,” said Piers. “I came away by the first train I could catch.”
“And left her to her trouble!” Crowther’s wide brow was a little drawn. There was even a hint of sternness in his steady eyes.
“Just so,” said Piers. “I left her to mourn in peace.”
“Didn’t you so much as write a line of explanation?” Crowther’s voice was troubled, but it held the old kindliness, the old human sympathy.
Piers shook his head, and stared upwards at the ceiling. “Really there was nothing to explain,” he said. “She knows me—so awfully well.”
“I wonder,” said Crowther.
The dark eyes flashed him a derisive glance. “Better than you do, dear old man, though, I admit, I’ve let you into a few of my most gruesome corners. I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t trusted you. You realize that?”