His mind, however, was not at all concentrated upon her. He felt, on this afternoon, a new, a fresh interest in things. The carpet before him was a vast country and he did not propose to explore it, but sucking his thumb, stroking the bear’s coat, feeling the firelight upon his face, he felt that now something would occur. He had realised that there was much to explore and that, after all, perhaps there might be more in this strange condition of things than he had only a little time ago considered possible. It was then that he looked up and saw hanging round his mother’s neck a gold chain. This was a long chain hanging right down to her lap; as it hung there, very slowly it swayed from side to side, and as it swayed, the firelight caught it and it gleamed and was splashed with light. His eyes, as he watched, grew rounder and rounder; he had never seen anything so wonderful. He put down the rattle, crawled, with great difficulty because of his long clothes, on to his knees and sat staring, his thumb in his mouth. His mother stayed, watching him. He pointed his finger, crowing. “Come and fetch it,” she said.
He tumbled forward on to his nose and then lay there, with his face raised a little, watching it. She did not move at all, but knelt with her hands straight out upon her knees, and the chain with its large gold rings like flaming eyes swung from hand to hand. Then he tried to move forward, his whole soul in his gaze. He would raise a hand towards the treasure and then because that upset his balance he would fall, but at once he would be up again. He moved a little and breathed little gasps of pleasure.
She bent forward to him, his hand was outstretched. His eyes went up and, meeting hers, instantly the chain was forgotten. That recognition that they had given him before was there now.
With a scramble and a lurch, desperate, heedless in its risks, he was in his mother’s lap. Then he crowed. He crowed for all the world to hear because now, at last, he had become its citizen.
Was there not then, from some one, disregarded and forgotten at that moment, a sigh, lighter than the air itself, half-ironic, half-wistful regret?
Young Ernest Henry Wilberforce, who had only yesterday achieved his second birthday, watched, with a speculative eye, his nurse. He was seated on the floor with his back to the high window that was flaming now with the light of the dying sun; his nurse was by the fire, her head, shadowed huge and fantastic on the wall, nodded and nodded and nodded. Ernest Henry was, in figure, stocky and square, with a head round, hard, and covered with yellow curls; rather light and cold blue eyes and a chin of no mean degree were further possessions. He was wearing a white blouse, a white skirt, white socks and shoes; his legs were fat and bulged above his socks; his cold blue eyes never moved from his nurse’s broad back.