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Temple Bailey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 279 pages of information about The Tin Soldier.

“Oh—­”

“And one of the things I wanted was the picture of your father which hung in your room.  I have taken that.  You can get more of them.  I can’t.  So I have taken it.”

They faced each other, this shining child and this dark woman.

“But—­but it is mine—­Hilda.”

“It is mine now, and if I were you, I shouldn’t make a fuss about it.”

“Hilda, how dare you!” Jean began in the old indignant way, and stopped.  There was something so sinister about it all.  She hated the thought that she and Hilda were alone in the empty house—­

“Hilda, if you go to France, shall you see Daddy?”

“I shall try.  I had a letter from him the other day.  He told me not to come.  But I am going.  There is work to do, and I am going.”

Jean had a stunned feeling, as if there was nothing left to say, as if Hilda were indeed a rock, and words would rebound from her hard surface.

“But after all, you didn’t really care for Daddy—­”

“What makes you say that?”

“You were going to marry the General.”

“Well, I wanted a home.  I wanted some of the things you had always had.  I’m not old, and I am tired of being a machine.”

For just one moment her anger blazed, then she laughed with something of toleration.

“Oh, you’d never understand if I talked a year.  So what’s the use of wasting breath?”

She said “Good-bye” after that, and Jean watched her go, hearing the padded steps—­until the front door shut and there was silence.

After that, with almost a sense of panic, she sped through the empty rooms, finding the papers after a frantic search, and gaining the street with a sense of escape.

Yet even then, it was sometime before her heart beat normally, and always after that when she thought of Hilda, it was against the chill and gloom of the empty house, with that look upon her face of dark resentment.

CHAPTER XXIV

THE SINGING WOMAN

Somewhere in France, Drusilla had found the Captain.  Or, rather, he had found her.  He had come upon her one rainy afternoon, and had not recognized her in her muddy uniform, with a strap under her chin.  Then all at once he had heard her voice, crooning a song to a badly wounded boy whose head lay in her lap.

The Captain had stopped in his tracks.  “Drusilla—­”

The light in her eyes gave him his welcome, but she waved him away.

The boy died in her arms.  When she joined her lover, she was much moved.  “It is not my work to look after the wounded; I carry blankets and things to refugees.  But now and then—­it happens.  A shell burst in the street, and that poor lad—!  He asked me to sing for him—­you see, I have been singing for them as they go through, and he remembered—­”

He was holding both of her hands in his.  “Dear woman, dear woman—­” There were people all about them, but there were no conventions in war times, and nobody cared if he held her hands.

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