The child lifted her sightless blue eyes wistfully to the faces above her—the faces that she could not see. And she clung the closer.
Jim was swearing, steadily—swearing with a dogged, horrible regularity. Of a sudden he raised his heavy foot and kicked viciously at the child who clung so tenaciously to his other leg. Rose-Marie, powerless to help, closed her eyes—and opened them again almost spasmodically.
“You brute,” she screamed, “you utter brute!”
Lily, who had never, in all of her broken little life, felt an unkind touch, wavered, as the man’s boot touched her slight body. Her sightless eyes clouded, all at once, with tears. And then, with a sudden piercing shriek, she crumpled up—in a white little heap—upon the floor.
AND A MIRACLE
For a moment Rose-Marie was stunned by the child’s unexpected cry. She hung speechless, filled with wonderment, in Jim’s arms. And then, with a wrench, she was free—was running across the floor to the little huddled bundle that was Lily.
“You beast,” she flung back, over her shoulder, as she ran. “You beast! You’ve killed her!”
Jim did not attempt to follow—or to answer. He had wheeled about, and his face was very pale.
“God!” he said, in a tense whisper, “God!” It was the first time that the word, upon his lips, was neither mocking nor profane.
Rose-Marie, with tender hands, gathered the child up from the hard floor. She was not thinking of the miracle that had taken place—she was not thinking of the sound that had come, so unexpectedly, from dumb lips. She only knew that the child was unconscious, perhaps dying. Her trembling fingers felt of the slim wrist; felt almost with apprehension. She was surprised to feel that the pulse was still beating, though faintly.
“Get somebody,” she said, tersely, to Jim. “Get somebody who knows—something!”
Jim’s face was still the colour of ashes. He did not stir—did not seem to have the power to stir.
“Did yer hear her?” he mouthed thickly. “She yelled. I heard her. Did yer hear—”
Rose-Marie was holding Lily close to her breast. Her stern young eyes looked across the drooping golden head into the scared face of the man.
“It was God, speaking through her,” she said. “It was God. And you—you had denied Him—you beast!”
All at once Jim was down upon the floor beside her. The mask of passion had slipped from his face—his shoulders seemed suddenly more narrow—his cruel hands almost futile. Rose-Marie wondered, subconsciously, how she had ever feared him.
“She yelled,” he reiterated, “did yer hear her—”
Rose-Marie clutched the child tighter in her arms.
“Get some one, at once,” she ordered, “if you don’t want her to die—if you don’t want to be a murderer!”