Finally, when the merits of being neighborly had been exhaustively commented upon, the women again made preparation to bid each other good-evening.
“Come over and see us.”
“Yes, thank you, I shall.”
“Come over any time.”
“Yes, I shall, thank you, and you come over. Don’t wait for me. I hardly go any place.”
Mrs. Wilson was moving her broad and well-intentioned person sidewise down the porch steps, which still shone wet in the broad white light of the moon, already looking serenely out through the changeful interstices of the breaking storm clouds. Miss Eastman watched her safely to the bottom step, but I regret to say that she went into the house even before her neighbor had disappeared down the glistening front walk.
Alone at last! She sighed with relief, and in the darkness of the silent house she stole to the door of David’s room that she might listen there with some slight motherly apprehension, and then peep in at the little white figure on the bed, where the moonlight lay asleep.
Behold David, not greatly changed in looks. The cutting away of his curls did not make such a difference in him as Mother had supposed. He was as charming to her; he was as much her own little boy as though no meddlesome hands had even been laid upon him. In size he was quite the same, and, as Mother stood peering in at him, she presently heard a small, far-away voice. In it was the whispered awe of a child who feels the bigness of the night about him and the strangeness of silvery moonbeams on his face.
The queerness of everything was so very big that the little boy’s voice almost got lost in it.
“Yes, David, Mother is here.”
“Are you coming to bed?”
“Do you want me to come?”
“I got trouvers,” he said. But there was no pride in this announcement; there was a touch of disappointment. For how is it possible to have trouvers and at the same time to call babyishly for your mother?
“Yes, David, you have them.” A pause. The little boy was sitting up, with a bare foot held meditatively in his hand. A wee, forlorn figure of a child he was, who seemed to be listening to the silence of the room. And by and by he was asking dispiritedly:—
“You aren’t—you aren’t afraid, are you, Mother?”
“How can I be afraid when I have a soldier-man to look out for me? Are you afraid?”
No, indeed; David was not afraid. He flopped suddenly back upon the bed, and resolutely turned his face to the wall. Mother need not sit by him.
So she went back to her chair and rocked quietly, and thought of a little child who was struggling hard to be more than a little child. Later, as she was preparing to go to bed, she heard the wee, sweet voice of him asking ruefully if she were not—maybe—a little lonesome.
“I’m afraid so, dear,” she reluctantly admitted.