“Mother, mother, don’t cry. You are bad, you are bad,” he told his father. “You are wicked and bad to make her cry.”
“Have you been in the room all this time?” his father asked.
Mark did not even bother to nod his head, so intent was he upon consoling his mother. She checked her emotion when her son put his arms round her neck, and whispered to him not to speak. It was almost dark in the study now, and what little light was still filtering in at the window from the grey nightfall was obscured by the figure of the Missioner gazing out at the lantern spire of his new church. There was a tap at the door, and Mrs. Lidderdale snatched up the volume that Mark had let fall upon the floor when he emerged from the curtains, so that when Dora came in to light the gas and say that tea was ready, nothing of the stress of the last few minutes was visible. The Missioner was looking out of the window at his new church; his wife and son were contemplating the picture of an impervious Chinaman suspended in a cage where he could neither stand nor sit nor lie.
Mark’s dream from which he woke to wonder if the end of the world was at hand had been a shadow cast by coming events. So far as the world of Lima Street was concerned, it was the end of it. The night after that scene in his father’s study, which made a deeper impression on him than anything before that date in his short life, his mother came to sleep in the nursery with him, to keep him company so that he should not be frightened any more, she offered as the explanation of her arrival. But Mark, although of course he never said so to her, was sure that she had come to him to be protected against his father.
Mark did not overhear any more discussions between his parents, and he was taken by surprise when one day a week after his mother had come to sleep in his room, she asked him how he should like to go and live in the country. To Mark the country was as remote as Paradise, and at first he was inclined to regard the question as rhetorical to which a conventional reply was expected. If anybody had asked him how he should like to go to Heaven, he would have answered that he should like to go to Heaven very much. Cows, sheep, saints, angels, they were all equally unreal outside a picture book.
“I would like to go to the country very much,” he said. “And I would like to go to the Zoological Gardens very much. Perhaps we can go there soon, can we, mother?”
“We can’t go there if we’re in the country.”
Mark stared at her.
“But really go in the country?”
“Yes, darling, really go.”
“Oh, mother,” and immediately he checked his enthusiasm with a sceptical “when?”
“And shall I see cows?”
“And donkeys? And horses? And pigs? And goats?”