We had heard of a hotel, and the first thing we saw of it we liked. That was a pair of sabots on the mat at the foot of the staircase. Pausing only to remove the dust of travel, we set off to visit our son, walking with timorous haste along the grand old avenue where the school was situated. A little casement window to the left of the wide entrance-door showed a red cross. We looked at it silently, wondering.
[Illustration: The Red Cross in the Window]
In response to our ring the portal opened mysteriously at touch of the unseen concierge, and we entered. A conference with Monsieur le Directeur, kindly, voluble, tactfully complimentary regarding our halting French, followed. The interview over, we crossed the courtyard our hearts beating quickly. At the top of a little flight of worn stone steps was the door of the school hospital, and under the ivy-twined trellis stood a sweet-faced Franciscan Soeur, waiting to welcome us.
[Illustration: Enter M. Le Docteur]
Passing through a tiny outer room—an odd combination of dispensary, kitchen, and drawing-room with a red-tiled floor—we reached the sick-chamber, and saw the Boy. A young compatriot, also a victim of the disease, occupied another bed, but for the first moments we were oblivious of his presence. Raising his fever-flushed face from the pillows, the Boy eagerly stretched out his burning hands.
“I heard your voices,” his hoarse voice murmured contentedly, “and I knew you couldn’t be ghosts.” Poor child! in the semidarkness of the lonely night-hours phantom voices had haunted him. We of the morning were real.
The good Soeur buzzed a mild frenzy of “Il ne faut pas toucher” about our ears, but, all unheeding, we clasped the hot hands and crooned over him. After the dreary months of separation, love overruled wisdom. Mere prudence was not strong enough to keep us apart.
Chief amongst the chaos of thoughts that had assailed us on the reception of the bad news, was the necessity of engaging an English medical man. But at the first sight of the French doctor, as, clad in a long overall of white cotton, he entered the sick-room, our insular prejudice vanished, ousted by complete confidence; a confidence that our future experience of his professional skill and personal kindliness only strengthened.
It was with sore hearts that, the prescribed cinq minutes ended, we descended the little outside stair. Still, we had seen the Boy; and though we could not nurse him, we were not forbidden to visit him. So we were thankful too.
[Illustration: Perpetual Motion]
Our hotel was distinctively French, and immensely comfortable, in that it had gleaned, and still retained, the creature comforts of a century or two. Thus it combined the luxuries of hot-air radiators and electric light with the enchantment of open wood fires. Viewed externally, the building presented that airy aspect almost universal in Versailles architecture. It was white-tinted, with many windows shuttered without and heavily lace-draped within.