A shudder went through Pierson, one of those queer sudden shivers, which come from a strange note in a voice, or a new sharp scent or sight.
“My dear, what things you say!”
“But He hasn’t, and it’s time He did. We’d creep, and peep, and see it all for once, as He can’t in His churches. Daddy, oh! Daddy! I can’t bear it any more; to think of them being killed on a night like this; killed and killed so that they never see it all again—never see it—never see it!” She sank down, and covered her face with her arms.
“I can’t, I can’t! Oh! take it all away, the cruelty! Why does it come—why the stars and the flowers, if God doesn’t care any more than that?”
Horribly affected he stood bending over her, stroking her head. Then the habit of a hundred death-beds helped him. “Come, Nollie! This life is but a minute. We must all die.”
“But not they—not so young!” She clung to his knees, and looked up. “Daddy, I don’t want you to go; promise me to come back!”
The childishness of those words brought back his balance.
“My dear sweetheart, of course! Come, Nollie, get up. The sun’s been too much for you.”
Noel got up, and put her hands on her father’s shoulders. “Forgive me for all my badness, and all my badness to come, especially all my badness to come!”
Pierson smiled. “I shall always forgive you, Nollie; but there won’t be—there mustn’t be any badness to come. I pray God to keep you, and make you like your mother.”
“Mother never had a devil, like you and me.”
He was silent from surprise. How did this child know the devil of wild feeling he had fought against year after year; until with the many years he had felt it weakening within him! She whispered on: “I don’t hate my devil.
“Why should I?—it’s part of me. Every day when the sun sets, I’ll think of you, Daddy; and you might do the same—that’ll keep me good. I shan’t come to the station tomorrow, I should only cry. And I shan’t say good-bye now. It’s unlucky.”
She flung her arms round him; and half smothered by that fervent embrace, he kissed her cheeks and hair. Freed of each other at last, he stood for a moment looking at her by the moonlight.
“There never was anyone more loving than you; Nollie!” he said quietly. “Remember my letter. And good night, my love!” Then, afraid to stay another second, he went quickly out of the dark little room....
George Laird, returning half an hour later, heard a voice saying softly: “George, George!”
Looking up, he saw a little white blur at the window, and Noel’s face just visible.
“George, let the goat loose, just for to-night, to please me.”
Something in that voice, and in the gesture of her stretched-out arm moved George in a queer way, although, as Pierson had once said, he had no music in his soul. He loosed the goat.