“What?” cried Ronnie. “What?” Then he understood; and, this time, it was no mirage. Ronnie’s desert wanderings were over.
* * * * *
“But don’t you want to see your son?” Helen asked, presently.
Ronnie leapt up.
“See him? Why, of course I do! Oh, come on!... Helen! What does one say to a very young baby?”
Helen followed him upstairs, laughing.
“That entirely depends upon circumstances. One usually says: ‘Did it?’ ‘Is it then?’ or ‘Was it?’ But I almost think present conditions require a more definite statement of fact. I fancy one would say: ’How do you do, baby? I am your papa!’ ... This way, Ronnie, in my own old nurseries. Oh, darling, I am afraid I am going to cry! But you must not mind. They will only be tears of unutterable joy. Think what it will be to me, to see my baby in his father’s arms!”
GOOD-NIGHT TO THE INFANT OF PRAGUE
The last hour of Christmas Eve ticked slowly to its close.
On all around grew that sense of the herald angels, bending over a waiting world, poised upon outstretched wings. The hush had fallen which carries the mind away to the purple hills of Bethlehem, the watching shepherds, the quiet folds, the sudden glory in the sky.
The old Grange was closing its eyes at last, and settling itself to slumber.
One by one the brightly lighted windows darkened; the few remaining lights moved upwards.
The Hollymead Waits had duly arrived, and played their annual Christmas hymns. They had won gold from Ronnie, by ministering to his new-found proud delight in his infant son. The village blacksmith, who played the cornet and also acted spokesman for the band, had closed the selections of angelic music, by exclaiming hoarsely, under cover of the night: “A merry Christmas and a ’appy New Year, to Mrs. West, to Mr. West, and to Master West!”
Ronnie dashed out jubilant. The Waits departed well-content.
Helen said: “You dear old silly!”
“Master West,” wakened by the cornet, also had something to say; but he confided his remarks to his nurse, and was soon hushed back to slumber.
* * * * *
In the studio, the fire burned low.
The reflections in the long mirror, were indefinite and dim.
The Infant of Prague lay forgotten on the floor.
* * * * *
As midnight drew very near, the door of the studio was pushed softly open, and Helen came in, wearing a soft white wrapper; a lighted candle in her hand.
She placed the candle on a table; then, stooping, carefully lifted Ronnie’s ’cello from the floor, laid it in its rosewood case, and stood looking down upon it. Then, smiling, touched its silver strings, with loving fingers.