“He’s sleeping beautiful—the lamb. I’ll go down and get a cup o’ tea, and come up, ma’am, when the gong goes.” In the way peculiar to those who have never to initiate, but only to support positions in which they are placed by others, she had adopted for herself the theory that Noel was a real war-widow. She knew the truth perfectly; for she had watched that hurried little romance at Kestrel, but by dint of charity and blurred meditations it was easy for her to imagine the marriage ceremony which would and should have taken place; and she was zealous that other people should imagine it too. It was so much more regular and natural like that, and “her” baby invested with his proper dignity. She went downstairs to get a “cup o’ tea,” thinking: ’A picture they make—that they do, bless his little heart; and his pretty little mother—no more than a child, all said and done.’
Noel had been standing there some minutes in the failing light, absorbed in the face of the sleeping baby, when, raising her eyes, she saw in a mirror the refection of her father’s dark figure by the door. She could hear him breathing as if the ascent of the stairs had tired him; and moving to the head of the cot, she rested her hand on it, and turned her face towards him. He came up and stood beside her, looking silently down at the baby. She saw him make the sign of the Cross above it, and the movement of his lips in prayer. Love for her father, and rebellion against this intercession for her perfect baby fought so hard in the girl’s heart that she felt suffocated, and glad of the dark, so that he could not see her eyes. Then he took her hand and put it to his lips, but still without a word; and for the life of her she could not speak either. In silence, he kissed her forehead; and there mounted in Noel a sudden passion of longing to show him her pride and love for her baby. She put her finger down and touched one of his hands. The tiny sleeping fingers uncurled and, like some little sea anemone, clutched round it. She heard her father draw his breath in; saw him turn away quickly, silently, and go out. And she stayed, hardly breathing, with the hand of her baby squeezing her finger.
When Edward Pierson, afraid of his own emotion, left the twilit nursery, he slipped into his own room, and fell on his knees beside his bed, absorbed in the vision he had seen. That young figure in Madonna blue, with the halo of bright hair; the sleeping babe in the fine dusk; the silence, the adoration in that white room! He saw, too; a vision of the past, when Noel herself had been the sleeping babe within her mother’s arm, and he had stood beside them, wondering and giving praise. It passed with its other-worldliness and the fine holiness which belongs to beauty, passed and left the tormenting realism of life. Ah! to live with only the inner meaning, spiritual and beautifed, in a rare wonderment such as he had experienced just now!