“Thank you,” said Jeanie meekly.
He went out with Avery, and the door closed behind them.
Jeanie stole a glance at Piers who was looking decidedly grim.
“Yes,” he said in answer. “I detest him, and he knows it.”
Jeanie looked a little startled. “Oh, do you?” she said.
“Don’t you?” said Piers.
“I—I really don’t know. Isn’t it—isn’t it wrong to detest anyone!” faltered Jeanie.
“Wrong!” said Piers. He frowned momentarily, then as suddenly he smiled. He bent very abruptly and kissed her on the forehead. “Yes, of course it’s wrong,” he said, “for the people who keep consciences.”
“Oh, but—” Jeanie remonstrated, and then something in his face stopped her. She flushed and murmured in confusion, “Thank you for!—for kissing me!”
“Don’t mention it!” said Piers, with a laugh.
“I should like to kiss you if I may,” said Jeanie. “You have been so very kind.”
He bent his face to hers and received the kiss. “You’re a nice little girl,” he said, and there was an odd note of feeling in the words for all their lightness that made Jeanie aware that in some fashion he was moved.
“I don’t think he is quite—quite happy, do you?” she said to Avery that night when the worst of her troubles were over, and she was safely back at the Vicarage.
And Avery answered thoughtfully, “Perhaps—not quite.”
A TALK BY THE FIRE
The Reverend Stephen Lorimer was writing his sermon for the last Sunday in Advent. His theme was eternal punishment and one which he considered worthy of his utmost eloquence. There was nothing mythical or allegorical in that subject in the opinion of the Reverend Stephen. He believed in it most firmly, and the belief afforded him the keenest satisfaction. It was a nerve-shaking sermon. Had it been of a secular nature, it might almost have been described as inhuman, so obviously was it designed to render his hearers afraid to go home in the dark. But since it was not secular, it took the form of a fine piece of inspiration which, from Mr. Lorimer’s point of view at least, could scarcely fail to make the most stubborn heart in his congregation tremble. He pictured himself delivering his splendid rhetoric with a grand and noble severity as impressive as the words he had to utter, reading appreciation—possibly unwilling appreciation—and dawning uneasiness on the upturned faces of his listeners.
Mr. Lorimer did not love his flock; his religion did not take that form. And the flock very naturally as a whole had scant affection for Mr. Lorimer. The flock knew, or shrewdly suspected, that his eloquence was mere sound—not always even musical—and as a consequence its power was somewhat thrown away. His command of words was practically limitless, but words could not carry him to the hearts of his congregation, and he had no other means at his disposal. For this of course he blamed the congregation, which certainly had no right to wink and snigger when he passed.