The door was flung open, there were lights, his nurse appeared. He was lying down now, his face towards the wall, and only dry, hard little sobs came from him. Her large red hand was upon his shoulder, but brought no comfort with it. Of what use was she against the three beasts? A poor creature.... He was ashamed that he should cry before her. He bit his lip.
“Dreaming, I suppose, sir,” she said to some one behind her. Another figure came forward. Some one sat down on the edge of the bed, put his arm round Ernest Henry’s body and drew him towards him. For one wild moment Ernest Henry fancied that his friend had, after all, returned. But no. He knew that these were the conditions of this world, not of that other. When he crept close to his friend he was caught up into a soft, rosy comfort, was conscious of nothing except ease and rest. Here there were knobs and hard little buttons, and at first his head was pressed against a cold, slippery surface that hurt. Nevertheless, the pressure was pleasant and comforting. A warm hand stroked his hair. He liked it, jerked his head up, and hit his new friend’s chin.
“Oh, damn!” he heard quite clearly. This was a new sound to Ernest Henry; but just now he was interested in sounds, and had learnt lately quite a number. This was a soft, pleasant, easy sound. He liked it.
And so, with it echoing in his head, his curly head against his father’s shoulder, the bump glistening in the candle-light, the beasts defeated and derided, he tumbled into sleep.
A pleasant sight at breakfast was Ernest Henry, with his yellow curls gleaming from his bath, his bib tied firmly under his determined chin, his fat fingers clutching a large spoon, his body barricaded into a high chair, his heels swinging and kicking and swinging again. Very fine, too, was the nursery on a sunny morning—the fire crackling, the roses on the brown carpet as lively as though they were real, and the whole place glittering, glowing with size and cleanliness and vigour. In the air was the crackling smell of toast and bacon, in a glass dish was strawberry jam, through the half-open window came all the fun of the Square—the sparrows, the carts, the motor-cars, the bells, and horses.... Oh, a fine morning was fine indeed!
Ernest Henry, deep in the business of conveying securely his bread and milk from the bowl—a beautiful bowl with red robins all round the outside of it—to his mouth, laughed at the three beasts. Let them show themselves here in the sunlight, and they’d see what they’d get. Let them only dare!