Tudor laid a hand upon him. “Piers, if ever any man had anything to live for, you are that man,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Piers’ eyes, dark as the night through which he had come, looked up at him.
“I mean just that. If you can’t live for your own sake, live for hers! She wants you. It’ll break her heart if you go out now.”
“Great Scott, man! You’re not in earnest!” whispered Piers.
“I am in earnest. I know exactly what I am saying. I don’t talk at random. She loved you. She wants you. You’ve lived for yourself all your life. Now—you’ve got to live for her.”
Tudor’s voice was low and vehement. A faint sparkle came into Piers’ eyes as he heard it.
“By George!” he said softly. “You’re rather a brick, what? But haven’t you thought—what might happen—if—if I went out after all? You used to be rather great—at getting me out of the way.”
“I didn’t realize how all-important you were,” rejoined Tudor, with a bitter smile. “You needn’t go any further in that direction. It leads to a blank wall. You’ve got to live whether you like it or not. I’m going to do all I can to make you live, and you’ll be a hound if you don’t back me up.”
His eyes looked down upon Piers, dominant and piercingly intent. And—perhaps it was mere physical weakness, or possibly the voluntary yielding of a strong will that was in its own way as great as the strength to which it yielded—Piers surrendered with a meekness such as Tudor had never before witnessed in him.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll do—my best.”
And so oddly they entered into a partnership that had for its sole end and aim the happiness of the woman they loved; and in that partnership their rivalry was forever extinguished.
“They say he will never fight again,” said Crowther gravely. “He may live. They think he will live. But he will never be strong.”
“If only I might see him!” Avery said.
“Yes, I know. That is the hardest part. But be patient a little longer! So much depends on it. I was told only this morning that any agitation might be fatal. No one seems to understand how it is that he has managed to live at all. He is just hanging on, poor lad,—just hanging on.”
“I want to help him,” Avery said.
“I know you do. And so you can—if you will. But not by going to him. That would do more harm than good.”
“How else can I do anything?” she said. “Surely—surely he wants to see me!”
She was standing in Crowther’s room, facing him with that in her eyes that moved him to a great compassion.