And again Mrs. Hughs said, “Yes, sir.”
“And about that baby.”
Motionless, where it had been placed against the footrail of the bed, the baby sat with its black eyes closed. The small grey face was curled down on the bundle of its garments.
“It’s a silent gentleman,” Martin muttered.
“It never was a one to cry,” said Mrs. Hughs.
“That’s lucky, anyway. When did you feed it last?”
Mrs. Hughs did not reply at first. “About half-past six last evening, sir.”
“It slept all night; but to-day, of course, I’ve been all torn to pieces; my milk’s gone. I’ve tried it with the bottle, but it wouldn’t take it.”
Martin bent down to the baby’s face, and put his finger on its chin; bending lower yet, he raised the eyelid of the tiny eye....
“It’s dead,” he said.
At the word “dead” Mrs. Hughs, stooping behind him, snatched the baby to her throat. With its drooping head close to her she, she clutched and rocked it without sound. Full five minutes this desperate mute struggle with eternal silence lasted—the feeling, and warming, and breathing on the little limbs. Then, sitting down, bent almost double over her baby, she moaned. That single sound was followed by utter silence. The tread of footsteps on the creaking stairs broke it. Martin, rising from his crouching posture by the bed, went towards the door.
His grandfather was standing there, with Thyme behind him.
“She has left her room,” said Mr. Stone. “Where has she gone?”
Martin, understanding that he meant the little model, put his finger to his lips, and, pointing to Mrs. Hughs, whispered:
“This woman’s baby has just died.”
Mr. Stone’s face underwent the queer discoloration which marked the sudden summoning of his far thoughts. He stepped past Martin, and went up to Mrs. Hughs.
He stood there a long time gazing at the baby, and at the dark head bending over it with such despair. At last he spoke:
“Poor woman! He is at peace.”
Mrs. Hughs looked up, and, seeing that old face, with its hollows and thin silver hair, she spoke:
“He’s dead, sir.”
Mr. Stone put out his veined and fragile hand, and touched the baby’s toes. “He is flying; he is everywhere; he is close to the sun—Little brother!” And turning on his heel, he went out.
Thyme followed him as he walked on tiptoe down stairs which seemed to creak the louder for his caution. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Martin sat on, with the mother and her baby, in the close, still room, where, like strange visiting spirits, came stealing whiffs of the perfume of hyacinths.
STEPHEN’S PRIVATE LIFE
Mr. Stone and Thyme, going out, again passed the tall, white young man. He had thrown away the hand-made cigarette, finding that it had not enough saltpetre to make it draw, and was smoking one more suited to the action of his lungs. He directed towards them the same lack-lustre, jeering stare.