“To think,” said Clotilde, coming into the room, “that the last thing the poor little lamb did was to show me his Christmas tree that he was making ready for his uncle!” She pointed to the corner where it stood, decked by awkward boyish hands in its pitiful collection of scraps.
“Poor little fellow!” said madame, with tears in her own eyes. “He has done the best he could. Put it in the closet, Clotilde. Jules would not want it to be seen before Christmas.”
Madame stayed until the doctor had made his visit; then the report that she carried home was that Jules had regained consciousness, and that, as far as could be discovered, his only injury was a broken leg.
Joyce took refuge in the pear-tree. It was not alone because Jules was hurt that she wanted to cry, but because they must have the Noel fete without him. She knew how bitterly he would be disappointed.
A great Discovery.
“Only two more nights till Christmas eve, two more nights, two more nights,” sang Joyce to Jules in a sort of chant. She was sitting beside his bed with a box in her lap, full of little dolls, which she was dressing. Every day since his accident she had been allowed to make him two visits,—one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. They helped wonderfully in shortening the long, tedious days for Jules. True, Madame Greville came often with broths and jellies, Cousin Kate made flying visits to leave rare hothouse grapes and big bunches of violets; Clotilde hung over him with motherly tenderness, and his uncle looked into the room many times a day to see that he wanted nothing.
Jules’s famished little heart drank in all this unusual kindness and attention as greedily as the parched earth drinks in the rain. Still, he would have passed many a long, restless hour, had it not been for Joyce’s visits.
She brought over a photograph of the house at home, with the family seated in a group on the front porch. Jules held it close while she introduced each one of them. By the time he had heard all about Holland’s getting lost the day the circus came to town, and Jack’s taking the prize in a skating contest, and Mary’s setting her apron on fire, and the baby’s sweet little ways when he said his prayers, or played peek-a-boo, he felt very well acquainted with the entire Ware family. Afterward, when Joyce had gone, he felt his loneliness more than ever. He lay there, trying to imagine how it must feel to have a mother and sisters and brothers all as fond of each other as Joyce’s were, and to live in the midst of such good times as always went on in the little brown house.
Monsieur Ciseaux, sitting by his fire with the door open between the two rooms, listened to Joyce’s merry chatter with almost as much interest as Jules. He would have been ashamed to admit how eagerly he listened for her step on the stairs every day, or what longings wakened in his lonely old heart, when he sat by his loveless fireside after she had gone home, and there was no more sound of children’s voices in the next room.