Mr. Lorimer glanced at the clock. “She has already had nine hours,” he observed. “I shall give her three more.”
“And then?” said Avery.
His eyes travelled up to her troubled face. “And if by then,” he said deliberately, “she has not come to me to express her penitence, I shall be reluctantly compelled to repeat the punishment.”
“You will drive the child out of her senses if you do!” Avery exclaimed.
He shrugged his shoulders. “My dear Mrs. Denys, permit me to remind you that I have had considerable experience in the upbringing of children.”
“And they are all afraid of you,” Avery said.
He smiled. “In my opinion a little wholesome awe is salutary. No, Mrs. Denys, I cannot listen any further to your persuasion. In fact I fear that in Grace’s case I have so far erred on the side of laxness. She has become very wild and uncontrolled, and—she must be tamed.”
He closed his lips upon the word, and despair entered Avery’s heart. She gripped her self-control with all her might, realizing that the moment she lost it, her strength would be gone.
With a great effort she turned from the subject. “I have a message for you from Mrs. Lorimer,” she said, after a moment, and proceeded to deliver it in a low, steady voice, her eyes upon the fire.
The man in the chair heard it without the movement of a muscle of his face. “I will endeavour to look in upon her presently,” was all the reply he made.
Avery turned to go, but he stopped her with a gesture.
“Mrs. Denys,” he said smoothly, “you forget, I think, that I also had something to say.”
Avery paused. She had forgotten.
He turned his eyes deliberately up to hers, as he leaned back in his chair. “I am sorry to have to tell you,” he said, “that in consequence of your unfortunate zeal in encouraging the children in insubordination, I can no longer look upon you as in any sense a help in my household. I therefore desire that you will take a month’s notice from now. If I can fill your place sooner, I shall dispense with your services earlier.”
Calmly, dispassionately, he uttered the words. Avery stood quite still to hear them. And through her like a stab there ran the thought of the poor little woman upstairs. The pain of it was almost unbearable. She caught her breath involuntarily.
But the next moment she was herself again. She bowed without a word, and turned to go.
She had nearly reached the door ere she discovered that it stood open, and that Lennox Tudor was on the threshold, more grimly strong than she had ever before realized him to be.
He stood back for her to pass, holding the door for her without speaking. And in silence Avery departed.
THE STRAIGHT TRUTH
“Ah, my worthy physician, enter, enter!” was Mr. Lorimer’s bland greeting. “What news of the patient?”