The Infant squeaked occasionally, and wailed a little; but on the whole it behaved very well; and, after half-an-hour’s work, having found out the key which enabled him to use chiefly the open strings, Ronnie managed to play right through, very fairly in tune, “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!”
This gave him extraordinary pleasure. It seemed such a certainty of possession, to be able to pick out all the notes for himself.
He longed that Helen might be there to hear.
The Infant of Prague grew dearer to him than ever. He was now mastering it himself, independent of the antics of an old person of a century ago, bowing away in the mirror.
He tried again; and this time he sang the words of the first verse, as he played. His really fine baritone blended well with the richness of the silver strings.
The words had occasionally to wait, suspended as it were in mid-air, while he felt about wildly for the note on the ’cello; but, once found, the note was true and good, and likely to lead more or less easily to the next.
A listener, in the corridor outside, pressed her hands to her breast, uncertain whether she felt the more inclined to laugh or to weep.
Ronnie began his verse again.
“O come ... all ye ... faithful ... joyful and tri ... tri ... tri ... um ... phant ... O come, ye, O come ye, to Beth ... Beth ... Beth ... Be—eth—le—hem!”
He paused, exhausted by the effort of drawing Bethlehem complete, out of the complication of the Infant’s four vibrating strings.
He paused, and, lifting his eyes, looked into the mirror—and saw therein the face of a woman, watching him from beside the door; a lovely face, all smiles, and tears, and tenderness.
At first he gazed, unable to believe his eyes. But, when her eyes met his, and she knew that he saw her, she moved quickly forward, kneeled down beside him, and—it was the face of his wife, all flooded with glad tenderness, which, resting against his shoulder, looked up into his.
She had spoken no word; yet at the first sight of her Ronnie knew that the cloud which had been between them, was between no longer.
“Helen,” he said; “Oh, Helen!”
UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN
Ronnie laid down his bow, and put his right arm round his wife.
He still held the precious Infant of Prague between his knees, his left hand on the ebony finger-board.
“My darling!” Helen said. “So we shall be at home for Christmas after all. How glad I am!”
He looked at her dumbly, and waited.
He felt like the prodigal, who had planned to suggest as his only possible desert, a place among the hired servants, but was so lifted into realisation of sonship by the father’s welcome, that perforce he left that sentence unspoken.