Then she heard the rapid “tick, tick, tick, tick,” of the little watch, and was comforted. She had not realized before that time could go so fast. Now thirty seconds were gone; then sixty. At this rate it could not be such a very long time before they would be packing their trunks to start home; so Joyce concluded not to make herself unhappy by longing for the family, but to get as much pleasure as possible out of this strange Christmas abroad.
That little watch seemed to make the morning fly. She looked at it at least twenty times an hour. She had shown it to every one in the house, and was wishing that she could take it over to Jules for him to see, when Monsieur Ciseaux’s carriage stopped at the gate. He was on his way to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and had come to ask Joyce to drive with him to bring his sister home.
He handed her into the carriage as if she had been a duchess, and then seemed to forget that she was beside him; for nothing was said all the way. As the horses spun along the road in the keen morning air, the old man was busy with his memories, his head dropped forward on his breast. The child watched him, entering into this little drama as sympathetically as if she herself were the forlorn old woman, and this silent, white-haired man at her side were Jack.
Sister Denisa came running out to meet them, her face shining and her eyes glistening with tears. “It is for joy that I weep,” she exclaimed, “that poor madame should have come to her own again. See the change that has already been made in her by the blessed news.”
Joyce looked down the corridor as monsieur hurried forward to meet the old lady coming towards them, and to offer his arm. Hope had straightened the bowed figure; joy had put lustre into her dark eyes and strength into her weak frame. She walked with such proud stateliness that the other inmates of the home looked up at her in surprise as she passed. She was no more like the tearful, broken-spirited woman who had lived among them so long, than her threadbare dress was like the elegant mantle which monsieur had brought to fold around her.
Joyce had brought a handful of roses to Sister Denisa, who caught them up with a cry of pleasure, and held them against her face as if they carried with them some sweetness of another world.
Madame came up then, and, taking the nun in her arms, tried to thank her for all that she had done, but could find no words for a gratitude so deep, and turned away, sobbing.
They said good-by to Sister Denisa,—brave Little Sister of the Poor, whose only joy was the pleasure of unselfish service; who had no time to even stand at the gate and be a glad witness of other people’s Christmas happiness, but must hurry back to her morning task of dealing out coffee and clean handkerchiefs to two hundred old paupers. No, there were only a hundred and ninety-nine now. Down the streets, across the Loire, into the old village and out again, along the wide Paris road, one of them was going home.