He paused very definitely for a reply to this. Mr. Lorimer’s mouth was drawn down at the corners, but he looked into the fire with the aloofness of a mind not occupied with mundane things.
Tudor faced him and waited with grim resolution; but several seconds passed ere his attitude seemed to become apparent to the abstracted Vicar. Then with extreme deliberation his eyelids were raised.
“Excuse me, doctor! My thoughts were for the moment elsewhere. Yes, you have my permission to tell her that. And—I agree with you. It seems advisable to remove the elder children from her influence without delay. I shall therefore take steps to do so.”
Tudor nodded with a shrug of the shoulders. It did not matter to him in what garb his advice was dressed, so long as it was followed.
“Very well,” he said. “I am now going to settle Gracie, and I shall tell her you have issued a free pardon all round, and no more will be said to anyone. I was told one of the boys was in hot water too, but you can let him off for once. You’re much more likely to make him ashamed of himself that way.”
Mr. Lorimer resumed his contemplation of the fire without speaking.
Tudor turned to go. He was fairly satisfied that he had established peace for the time being, and he was not ill-pleased with his success.
He told himself as he departed that he had discovered how to deal with the Reverend Stephen. It had never occurred to him to attempt such treatment before.
To Avery later he gave but few details of the interview, but she could not fail to see his grim elation and smiled at it.
“I am to stay then, am I?” she said.
“If you will graciously consent to do so,” said Tudor, with his brief smile.
“I couldn’t do anything else,” she said.
“I’m glad of that,” he said abruptly, “for my own sake.”
And with that very suddenly he turned the subject.
THE ENCHANTED LAND
At ten o’clock that night, Avery went round to bid each child good-night. She found Gracie sleeping peacefully with her bed pushed close to Jeanie’s. The latter was awake and whispered a greeting. On the other side of the room Olive slept the sleep of the just. Avery did not pause by her bed, but went straight to Jeanie, who held her hand for a little and then gently begged her to go to bed herself.
“You must be so tired,” she said.
Avery could not deny the fact. But she had arranged to sleep in Mrs. Lorimer’s room, so she could not look forward to a night without care. She did not tell Jeanie this, however, but presently kissed her tenderly and stole away.
She visited the younger boys, and found them all asleep; then slipped up to the attic in which the elder lads slept.
She heard their voices as she reached the closed door. She knocked softly therefore, and in a moment heard one of them leap to open it.