Gracie nodded several times. “Yes, I know it’s wrong, but I don’t care. And I hope he’ll die to-morrow.”
“Hush! Hush!” Avery said.
Whereat Gracie broke into a propitiatory smile. “The things I wish for never happen,” she said.
And Avery departed, wondering if this statement deserved to be treated in the light of an amendment.
THE DAY OF TROUBLE
Lennox Tudor spent hours at the Vicarage that day in close attendance upon Mrs. Lorimer in company with Avery who scarcely left her side. Terrible hours they were, during which they battled strenuously to keep the poor, quivering life in her weary body.
“There is no reason why she shouldn’t pull round,” Tudor assured Avery.
But yet throughout the day she hovered on the verge of collapse.
By night the worst danger was over, but intense weakness remained. She lay white and still, taking notice of nothing. Only once, when Avery was giving her nourishment, did she rouse herself to speak.
“Beg my husband not to be vexed with me!” she whispered. “Tell him there won’t be another little one after all! He’ll be glad to know that.”
And Avery, cut to the heart, promised to deliver the message.
A little later she stole away, leaving the children’s nurse in charge, and slipped up to the schoolroom for some tea. Tudor had gone to see another patient, but had promised to return as soon as possible.
The children were all gathered round the table at which Olive very capably presided. Gracie, looking wan and subdued, sat on the end of Jeanie’s sofa; but she sprang to meet Avery the moment she appeared.
Avery sat down, holding the child’s hand in hers. She glanced round the table as she did so.
“Where is Julian?”
“Upstairs,” said Ronald briefly. “In disgrace.”
Avery felt her heart contract with a sick sense of further trouble in the air. “Has he been there all day?” she asked. Ronald nodded. “And another flogging to-night if he doesn’t apologize. He says he’ll die first.”
“So would I,” breathed Gracie.
At this juncture the door swung open with stately precision, and Mr. Lorimer entered. Everyone rose, according to established custom, with the exceptions of Avery and Jeanie. Gracie’s fingers tightened convulsively upon Avery’s hand, and she turned as white as the table-cloth.
Mr. Lorimer, however, looked over her head as if she did not exist, and addressed Avery.
“Mrs. Denys, be so good as to spare me two minutes in the study!” he said with extreme formality.
“Certainly,” Avery made quiet reply. “I will come to you before I go back to Mrs. Lorimer.”
He raised his brows slightly, as if he had expected a more prompt compliance with his request. And then his eyes fell upon Gracie, clinging fast to Avery’s hand.