Blinded with an exquisite rush of tears, somehow Nancy reached them, and fell on her knees at her husband’s side, and caught her baby to her heart. Three hundred persons heard the sobbing cry she gave, and the flames flung off stars and arrows for more than one pair of sympathetic eyes. But she neither knew nor cared. She knew only that Bert’s arms and the boys’ arms were about her, and that Anne’s thin little cheek was against her hair, and that her hungry lips were devouring the baby’s sweet, bewildered face. She was crying as if there could be no end to her tears, crying happily and trying to laugh as she cried, and as she let the waves of relief and joy sweep over her in a reviving flood.
Bert was in his shirt sleeves, and Priscilla still had on only the short embroidered petticoat that she wore while she slept; her small feet were bare. The boys were grimed with ashes and soot, and Anne was pale and speechless with fright. But they were all together, father, mother, and children, and that was all that mattered in the world—all that would ever count, for Nancy, again.
“Don’t cry, dearest!” said Bert, the tears streaming down his own blackened face. “She’s all right, dear! We’re all here, safe and sound, we’re all right!”
But Nancy cried on, her arms strained about them all, her wet face against her husband’s, and his arm tight across her shoulder.
“Oh, Bert—I ran so! And I didn’t know—I didn’t know what to be afraid of—what to think! And I ran so—!”
“You poor girl—you shouldn’t have done it. But dearest, we’re all right now. What a scare you got—and my God, what a scare I got! But I got to her, Nance—don’t look so, dear. I was in plenty of time, and even if I hadn’t been, Agnes would have got her out. She ran all the way from Ingrams’ and she was only a few minutes after me! It’s all right now, Nance.”
Nancy dried her eyes, swaying back on her knees to face him.
“I was playing cards—Bert, if anything had happened I think I should never have been sane again—”
“I was on the court, you know,” Bert said. “Underhill’s kid came up, on his bicycle. He shouted at me, and I ran, and jumped into the car, Rose following. I met Agnes, running back to the house, with the children—I called out ‘Where’s Priscilla?’ and she shouted back—she shouted back:’ Oh, Mr. Bradley—oh, Mr. Bradley--’” And overcome by the hideous recollection, Bert choked, and began to unbutton and button the top of his daughter’s little petticoat.
“We were all out walkin’,” Ned volunteered eagerly. “And Joe Underbill went by on his bike. And he yelled at us, ’You’d better go home, your house is on fire!’ and Anne began to cry, didn’t you, Anne? So Agnes said a prayer, right out loud, didn’t she, Junior? And then Dad and Mr. Rose went by us in the car on a run— we were way up by Ingrams’—and then Anne and Agnes cried, and I guess we all cried some—”