Her Grace was alone now with her son and heir and the nurse. She bent over the cot and smiled upon Henry Fitzgeorge; he smiled back at her, and even gave an absent-minded crow; but his gaze almost instantly swung back again to the window, through which, deeply and with solemn absorption, he watched the clouds.
She gave him her hand, and he closed his fingers about one of hers; but even that grasp was abstracted, as though he were not thinking of her at all, but was simply behaving like a gentleman.
“I don’t believe he’s realised me a bit, nurse,” she said, turning away from the cot.
“Well, Your Grace, they always take time. It’s early days.”
“But what’s he thinking of all the time?”
“Oh, just nothing, Your Grace.”
“I don’t believe it’s nothing. He’s trying to settle things. This—what it’s all about—what he’s got to do about it.”
“It may be so, Your Grace. All babies are like that at first.”
“His eyes are so old, so grave.”
“He’s a jolly little fellow, Your Grace.”
“He’s very little trouble, isn’t he?”
“Less trouble than any baby I’ve ever had to do with. Got His Grace’s happy temperament, if I may say so.”
“Yes,” the mother laughed. She crossed over to the window and looked down. “That poor woman singing down there. How awful! He’ll be going down to Crole very shortly, Roberts. Splendid air for him there. But the Square’s cheerful. He likes the garden, doesn’t he?”
“Oh, yes, Your Grace; all the children and the fountain. But he’s a happy baby. I should say he’d like anything.”
For a moment longer she looked down into the Square. The discordant voice was giving “Annie Laurie” to the world.
“Good-bye, darling.” She stepped forward, shook the silver and coral rattle. “See what grannie’s given you!” She left it lying near his hand, and, with a little sigh, was gone.
Now, as the sun was setting, the clouds had broken into little pink bubbles, lying idly here and there upon the sky. Higher, near the top of the window, they were large pink cushions, three fat ones, lying sedately against the blue. During three months now Henry Fitzgeorge Strether had been confronted with the new scene, the new urgency on his part to respond to it. At first he had refused absolutely to make any response; behind him, around him, above him, below him, were still the old conditions; but they were the old conditions viewed, for some reason unknown to him, at a distance, and at a distance that was ever increasing. With every day something here in this new and preposterous world struck his attention, and with every fresh lure was he drawn more certainly from his old consciousness. At first he had simply rebelled; then, very slowly, his curiosity had begun to stir. It had stirred at first through food and touch; very pleasant this, very pleasant that.