“Little darling,” said the lady friend, but nevertheless disappointed. “Lift him up, Jane. I’d like to see him in your arms.”
But she shook her head. She moved away from the cot. Something so precious had been in that smile of her son’s that she would not risk any rebuff.
Henry Fitzgeorge gave the strange lady one last look of disgust.
“If that comes again I’ll bite it,” he said to his Friend.
When these visitors had departed, he lay there remembering those eyes that had looked into his. All that day he remembered them, and it may be that his Friend, as he watched, sighed because the time for launching him had now come, that one more soul had passed from his sheltering arms out into the highroad of fine adventures. How easily they forget! How readily they forget! How eagerly they fling the pack of their old world from off their shoulders! He had seen, perhaps, so many go, thus lustily, upon their way, and then how many, at the end of it all, tired, worn, beaten to their very shadows, had he received at the end!
But it was so. This day was to see Henry Fitzgeorge’s assertions of his independence. The hour when this life was to close, so definitely, so securely, the doors upon that other, had come. The shadow that had been so vast that it had filled the room, the Square, the world, was drawn now into small and human size.
Henry Fitzgeorge was never again to look so old.
As the fine, dim afternoon was closing, he was allowed, for half an hour before sleep, to sprawl upon the carpet in front of the fire. He had with him his rattle and a large bear which he stroked because it was comfortable; he had no personal feeling about it.
His mother came in.
“Let me have him for half an hour, nurse. Come back in half an hour’s time.”
The nurse left them.
Henry Fitzgeorge did not look at his mother.
He had the bear in his arms and was feeling it, and in his mind the warmth from the flickering, jumping flame and the soft, friendly submission of the fur beneath his fingers were part of the same mystery.
His mother had been motoring; her cheeks were flushed, and her dark clothes heightened, by their contrast, her colour. She knelt down on the carpet and then, with her hands folded on her lap, watched her son. He rolled the bear over and over, he poked it, he banged its head upon the ground. Then he was tired with it and took up the rattle. Then he was tired of that, and he looked across at his mother and chuckled.