“But why, Daddy—” fear showed in her eyes—
“Is he—going away,—Emily?”
“But he mustn’t. Derry, do you hear? He is going to France—and he mustn’t—”
Derry took her trembling hands in his firm clasp. “He must go, you know that, dearest.” His touch steadied her.
He leaned down to her and sang:—
“Jeanne D’Arc, Jeanne D’Arc—
Jeanne D’Arc, la victoire est pour vous.”
Her head went up. The color came back to her cheeks.
“Of course,” she said, and put away childish things that she might measure up to the stature of her lover’s faith in her.
And it was Jean, the Woman, who talked long that night with her father before he went to France.
It snowed hard the next morning. The General, waking, found the day nurse in charge. Bronson came in to get him ready for his breakfast. There was about the old man an air of suppressed excitement. He hurried a little in his preparations for the General’s bath. But everything was done with exactness, and it was not until the General was shaved and sitting up in his gorgeous mandarin robe that Bronson said, “I’d like to go out for an hour or two this morning, if you can spare me, sir—”
“In this snow? I thought you hated snow. You’ve always been a perfect pussy cat about the cold, Bronson.”
“Yes, sir, but this is very important, sir.”
The General ran his eye over the spruce figure.
“And you are all dressed up. I hope you are not going to be married, Bronson.”
It was an old joke between them. Bronson was a pre-destined bachelor, and the General knew it.
But he liked to tease him.
“No, sir. I’ll be back in time to look after your lunch, sir.”
The General had been growing stronger, so that he spent several hours each day in his chair. When Bronson had gone, he rose and moved restlessly about the room. The day nurse cautioned him. “The Doctor doesn’t want you to exert yourself, General Drake.”
He was always courteous, but none the less he meant to have his own way. “Don’t worry, Miss Martin. I’ll take the responsibility.”
He shuffled out into the hall. When she would have followed, he waved her back. “I am perfectly able to go alone,” he told her.
She stood on the threshold watching him. She was very young and she was a little afraid of him. Her eyes, as she looked upon him, saw an obstinate old man in a gay dressing gown. And the man in the gay dressing gown felt old until he faced suddenly his wife’s picture on the stairs.
It had been weeks since he had seen it, and in those weeks much had happened. Her smiling presence came to him freshly, as the spring might come to one housed through a long winter, or the dawn after a dark night.