“I believe,” she said at last. “It is a new kind—but no more wonderful than the other. The other I have seen, now I have seen this also. Tell me, does it come to any other chair?”
“It was his chair; he died in it,” said Aunt Rachel.
“And you—shall you die in it?”
“As God wills.”
“Has ... other life ... visited it long?”
“Many years; but it is always small; it never grows.”
“To their mothers babes never grow. They remain ever babes.... None other has ever seen it?”
“Except yourself, none. I sit here; presently it creeps into my arms; it is small and warm; I rock, and then... it goes.”
“Would it come to another chair?”
“I cannot tell. I think not. It was his chair.”
Annabel mused. At the other end of the room Flora was now bestowed on Jack, the disreputable sailor. The gipsy’s eyes rested on the bridal party....
“Yet another might see it—”
“No; but yet.... The door does not always shut behind us suddenly. Perhaps one who has toddled but a step or two over the threshold might, by looking back, catch a glimpse.... What is the name of the smallest one?”
“That means ’angel’... Look, the doll who died yesterday is now being married.... It may be that Life has not yet sealed the little one’s eyes. Will you let Annabel ask her if she sees what it is you hold in your arms?”
Again the voice was soft and wheedling....
“No, Annabel,” said Aunt Rachel faintly.
“Will you rock again?”
Aunt Rachel made no reply.
“Rock...” urged the cajoling voice.
But Aunt Rachel only turned the betrothal ring on her finger. Over at the altar Jack was leering at his new-made bride, past decency; and little Angela held the wooden horse’s head, which had parted from its body.
“Rock, and comfort yourself—” tempted the voice.
Then slowly Aunt Rachel rose from her chair.
“No, Annabel,” she said gently. “You should not have spoken. When the snow melts you will go, and come no more; why then did you speak? It was mine. It was not meant to be seen by another. I no longer want it. Please go.”
The swarthy woman turned her almond eyes on her once more.
“You cannot live without it,” she said as she also rose....
And as Jack and his bride left the church on the reheaded horse, Aunt Rachel walked with hanging head from the apartment.
Thenceforward, as day followed day, Aunt Rachel rocked no more; and with the packing and partial melting of the snow the gipsies up at the caravans judged it time to be off about their business. It was on the morning of Christmas Eve that they came down in a body to the Abbey Farm to express their thanks to those who had befriended them; but the bailiff was not there. He and the farm men had ceased work, and were down at the church, practising the carols. Only Aunt Rachel sat, still and knitting, in the black walnut chair; and the children played on the floor.