The General was drawing labored breaths. “Your mother’s picture—?”
“Yes, it has no place here. Do you think for as instant that you can meet her eyes?”
There was a look of fright on the drawn old face. “I am not well, give me the wine.”
Derry reached for the bottle. “He shall not have it.”
Hilda came up to him swiftly. “Can’t you see? He must. Look at him.”
Derry looked and surrendered. Then covered his face with his hands.
* * * * * *
All that night, Derry, trying to pack, with Bronson in agitated attendance, was conscious of the sinister presence of Hilda in the house. There was the opening and shutting of doors, her low orders in the halls, her careful voice at the telephone, and once the sound of her padded steps as she passed Derry’s room on her way to her own. The new doctor came and went. Hilda sent, at Derry’s request, a bulletin of the patient’s condition. The General must be kept from excitement; otherwise there was not reason for alarm.
But Derry was conscious, as the night wore on, and Bronson left him, and he sat alone, of more than the physical evidences of Hilda’s presence; he was aware of the spiritual effect of her sojourn among them. She had stolen from them all something that was fine and beautiful. From Derry his faith in his father. From the General his constancy to his lovely wife. The structure of ideals which Derry’s mother had so carefully reared for the old house had been wrecked by one who had first climbed the stairs in the garb of a sister of mercy.
He saw his father’s future. Hilda, cold as ice, setting his authority aside. He saw the big house, the painted lady smiling no more on the stairs. Hilda’s strange friends filling the rooms, the General’s men friends looking at them askance, his mother’s friends staying away.
Poor old Dad, poor old Dad. All personal feeling was swept away in the thought of what might come to his father. Yet none the less his own path lay straight and clear before him. The time had come for him to go.
Through the Crack
“I will go to the wars! I will go to the wars!” the Tin Soldier cried as loud as he could, and he threw himself from the shelf. . . .
What could have become of him? The old man looked, and the little boy looked. “I shall find him,” the old man said, but he did not find him. For the Tin Soldier had fallen through a crack in the floor, and there he lay as in an open grave.
THE BROAD HIGHWAY
The Doctor’s house in Maryland was near Woodstock, and from the rise of the hill where it stood one could see the buildings of the old Jesuit College, and the river which came so soon to the Bay.