He found Lavendie and Noel in the drawing-room, standing before the portrait which was nearing completion. He looked at it for a long minute, and turned away:
“Don’t you think it’s like me, Daddy?”
“It’s like you; but it hurts me. I can’t tell why.”
He saw the smile of a painter whose picture is being criticised come on Lavendie’s face.
“It is perhaps the colouring which does not please you, monsieur?”
“No, no; deeper. The expression; what is she waiting for?”
The defensive smile died on Lavendie’s lips.
“It is as I see her, monsieur le cure.”
Pierson turned again to the picture, and suddenly covered his eyes. “She looks ‘fey,"’ he said, and went out of the room.
Lavendie and Noel remained staring at the picture. “Fey? What does that mean, mademoiselle?”
“Possessed, or something.”
And they continued to stare at the picture, till Lavendie said:
“I think there is still a little too much light on that ear.”
The same evening, at bedtime, Pierson called Noel back.
“Nollie, I want you to know something. In all but the name, Captain Fort is a married man.”
He saw her flush, and felt his own face darkening with colour.
She said calmly: “I know; to Leila.”
“Do you mean she has told you?”
Noel shook her head.
“I guessed. Daddy, don’t treat me as a child any more. What’s the use, now?”
He sat down in the chair before the hearth, and covered his face with his hands. By the quivering of those hands, and the movement of his shoulders, she could tell that he was stifling emotion, perhaps even crying; and sinking down on his knees she pressed his hands and face to her, murmuring: “Oh, Daddy dear! Oh, Daddy dear!”
He put his arms round her, and they sat a long time with their cheeks pressed together, not speaking a word.
The day after that silent outburst of emotion in the drawing-room was a Sunday. And, obeying the longing awakened overnight to be as good as she could to her father; Noel said to him:
“Would you like me to come to Church?”
“Of course, Nollie.”
How could he have answered otherwise? To him Church was the home of comfort and absolution, where people must bring their sins and troubles—a haven of sinners, the fount of charity, of forgiveness, and love. Not to have believed that, after all these years, would have been to deny all his usefulness in life, and to cast a slur on the House of God.