“Good-bye!” Avery said gently.
“Oh, good-bye!” Ina looked at her with eyes half closed. “I won’t get out if you don’t mind. I must be getting back.”
She did not offer her hand, but she did not refuse it when very quietly Avery offered her own. It was not a warm hand-clasp on either side, but neither was it unfriendly.
As she drove away, Ina leaned forward and bowed with an artificial smile on her lips. And Avery saw that she was very pale.
THE PLACE OF REPENTANCE
Like a prince masquerading! How vivid was the picture those words called up to Avery’s mind! The regal pose of the body, the turn of the head, the faultless beauty of the features, and over all, that nameless pride of race, arrogant yet wholly unconscious—the stamp of the old Roman patrician, revived from the dust of ages!
Aloof, yet never out of her ken, that picture hung before her all through the night, the centre-piece of every vision that floated through her weary brain. In the morning she awoke to a definite resolve.
He had left her before she could stay him; but she would go to him now. Whether or not he wanted her,—yes, even with the possibility of seeing him turn from her,—she would seek him out. Yet this once more she would offer to him that love and faith which he had so cruelly sullied. If he treated her with cold contempt, she would yet offer to him all that she had—all that she had. Not because she had forgiven him or in any sense forgotten; but because she must; because neither forgiveness nor forgetfulness came into the matter, but only those white hairs above his temples that urged her, that drove her, that compelled her.
There were no white hairs in her own brown tresses. Could it be that he had really suffered more than she? If so, God pity him! God help him!
For the first time since their parting, the prayer for him that rose from her heart kindled within her a glow that burned as fire from the altar. She had prayed. She had prayed. But her prayers had seemed to come back to her from a void immeasurable that held nought but the echoes of her cry.
But now—was it because she was ready to act as well as to pray?—it seemed to her that her appeal had reached the Infinite. And it was then that she began to learn that prayer is not only a passive asking, but the eager straining of every nerve towards fulfilment.
It seemed useless to go to the Abbey for news. She would master her reluctance and go to Crowther. She was sure that he would be in a position to tell her all there was to know.
Mrs. Lorimer warmly applauded the idea. The continued estrangement of the two people whom she loved so dearly was one of her greatest secret sorrows now. She urged Avery to go, shedding tears over the thought of Piers going unspeeded into the awful dangers of war.