“Wife, wife,” said Mr. Nichol, brokingly, “no mortal man could do more for us than Hobart Martine, God bless him!”
“Mrs. Nichol,” began Mr. Kemble, “my wife and Helen both unite in the request that you and your husband bring your son at once to our house; perhaps you would rather meet him in the privacy—”
“Oh, no, no!” she cried, “I cannot wait. Please do not think I am insensible to all this well-meant kindness; but a mother’s heart cannot wait. He’ll know me—me who bore him and carried him on my breast.”
“Mrs. Nichol, you shall see him at once,” said the doctor. “I hope it will be as you say; but I’m compelled to tell you that you may be disappointed. There’s no certainty that this trouble will pass away at once under any one’s influence. You and your husband come with me. Mr. Kemble, I will send Jackson down, and so secure the privacy which you would kindly provide. I will be present, for I may be needed.”
He led the way, the mother following with the impetuosity and abandon of maternal love, and the father with stronger and stranger emotions than he had ever known, but restrained in a manner natural to a quiet, reticent man. They were about to greet one on whom they had once centred their chief hopes and affection, yet long mourned as dead. It is hard to imagine the wild tumult of their feelings. Not merely by words, but chiefly by impulse, immediate action, could they reveal how profoundly they were moved.
With kindly intention, as he opened the door of the apartment, the doctor began, “Mr. Jackson, please leave us a few—”
Mrs. Nichol saw her son and rushed upon him, crying, “Albert, Albert!” It was enough at that moment that she recognized him; and the thought that he would not recognize her was banished. With an intuition of heart beyond all reasoning, she felt that he who had drawn his life from her must know her and respond to nature’s first strong tie.
In surprise, Nichol had risen, then was embarrassed to find an elderly woman sobbing on his breast and addressing him in broken, endearing words by a name utterly unfamiliar. He looked wonderingly at his father, who stood near, trembling and regarding him through tear-dimmed eyes with an affectionate interest, impressive even to his limited perceptions.
“Doctor,” he began over his mother’s head, “what in thunder does all this here mean? Me ‘n’ Jackson was chinnin’ comf’t’bly, when sud’n you uns let loose on me two crazy old parties I never seed ner yeared on. Never had folks go on so ‘bout me befo’. Beats even that Hob’t Ma’tine,” and he showed signs of rising irritation.
“Albert, Albert!” almost shrieked Mrs. Nichol, “don’t you know me—me, your own mother?”
At the half-indignant, incredulous tone, yet more than all at the strange accent and form of this negative, the poor woman was almost beside herself. “Merciful God!” she cried, “this cannot be;” and she sank into a chair, sobbing almost hysterically.