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Christina walked ever with fear at her elbow. The spring at Westhamptom brought its tide of measles and whooping-cough and scarlatina. Every mother looked anxious.

One day it was Jack Brown who succumbed. Mrs. Brown, harassed and pale, spoke to Christina over the railing.

“Oh! my dear, I'm afraid it's scarlatina.. his throat. Isn't it dreadful? He must go to the hospital, yes, he'll hate it, poor darling, but with all the others what can I do? And Jack is so sensible and unselfish.” She paused, then added:

“Oh! yes, of course you're nervous. I won't keep you talking."

Christina had involuntarily started back at the word scarlatina. She looked with horrified eyes at Mrs. Brown. Her neighbor was used to these events. It was happiness that surprised her rather than misfortune. Christina went back to her house, her skirt draggling a little, her hair wisped by the wind. With frightened eyes she spoke to Theresa.

“Wasn't Master Laurence with Master Jack lately?”

"Well, now I disremember, ma'am; but don't let the thought in on you. God'll protect him surely." Theresa went on sweeping with a cheerful countenance while Christina hurried into the dining-room. There was Laurence building a brick castle round a shabby fur rabbit.

"Old yabbit in prison," he explained briefly. Christina knelt beside him, her eyes shining with love and anxiety.

"Did you play with Jack Brown yesterday, darling?"

"I did; we was in the stick shed making of a shipwreck, mother."

The child got up and put his arms round her.

"I like you, mother,” he said slowly, "very very much. I don't mean to marry nobody n'else but you,

mother, an' we'll live under a little tree in the garden."

Christina clasped him in her arms. He was not a pretty child, but the eager expressive little face shone with devotion.

“You shall, darling. I don't want to marry anybody but you, and we'll live together always and always, won't we?"

He rubbed his cheek against hers; it had the wonderfully soft texture of a child's skin. “Aren't you too hot, darling?” Christina asked with suppressed fear in her voice; “is it just the fire?

“Rather hot, mother.”
“You don't feel ill, do you, Laurence?"
"No, only in my leg where it bumped.”

Christina kissed the place while she warned him to avoid the Browns.

That night she had a wrestle with herself. She would not tell her fears to her husband. She was struggling to attain some ideal of serene and cheerful wifehood. Her mother's example weighed more with her than her vaguely apprehended religion. One mustn't worry a man,” she said, and she changed her dress and smoothed her hair and then felt half indignant with her husband because he failed to detect her anxiety and to give her the chance to tell her fears.

For a week fear lowered his head and lurked in ambush, then pounced upon Christina.

One night when she went to bed she found her son awake. The clothes were tossed back, his eyes were heavy.

“I'm tryin' an' tryin' and I can't sleep, mother. I want water p'ease, dear mother.”

Fear clutched Christina. Her heart failed her. She brought water and watched the flushed child drinking it eagerly.

"Don't go away, mother, promise,” he begged. She sat down beside him, soothing him, arranging the tumbled clothes, repeating the old time-honored

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rhymes, “Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son," “Ding Dong Bell," and the others.

Presently he fell into a troubled sleep. He woke in the night crying bitterly. Christina, who had not slept at all, jumped up and went to him instantly.

"Don't cry, darling; what is it?”

"I don't want to be naughty,” he sobbed. Then sitting up he said:

"I want my yabbit.”

Christina sought for the shabby rabbit and found it under the bed.

"Why! you're shivering, Laurence," she exclaimed.

For a moment she longed to rouse the household, to rush across the passage to her husband's room, to wake Theresa, for she felt in her heart that fear had come to stay. Her treasure was no

safe from danger than any woman's treasure. When she lay down again, it was to stare wide-eyed into the darkness, not daring to move lest the child should wake. Across the silence and dark her soul sought for God in helpless distress, as one in terror tries to unlock the door that keeps him from safety

“Oh! God help me,” she whispered. Her religion was so little formulated, so much an affair of Sunday observance that she felt almost a stranger on this spiritual plane. But her need was her religion. If God was, she argued, He must be near to mothers.

In the morning she went to her husband.

"He's got it,” she said.
“Who's got what, dear?”

Mark looked round with a ludicrously soapy face, his razor in his hand.

“Laurence has scarlatina. The rash isn't out, but his throat is sore and he's feverish."

"Oh, it mayn't be, and if it is ... come, cheer up, little woman, we must keep our hearts up."

Christina had hidden her face in her hands.

"I couldn't bear it if ..." she sobbed.

“Come, come, little woman, why, I've had it and so have millions of children. I'll send Dr. Dickson round. He'll cheer you up ... no doubt it's only just a feverish attack . . . something of the stomach"

The doctor came, a kind, brisk man. In his presence Christina was braced to an attitude of cheerful self-control. Yes, her fears were justified. It was scarlatina, he had a great many cases. There was need for care, but not for anxiety at present. He would give directions.

Then began all the tedious business of isolation and disinfection. Christina shut herself up with her child, facing with what courage she could the days to come. Laurence was in high fever now, parched and miserable, yet fearful that in some way he was blameworthy for his restless, tearful state.

"Am I very naughty, mother?” he asked, as she bent over him, and she in an agony of pity and love answered him with tears, "No, you're only too good, my precious ... oh! if mother could take the pain herself.”

The days and nights that followed blended into one nightmare to the mother, for Laurence went down into the shadow of death.

It seemed to Christina then that time had stopped, that life was concentrated in this poignant anxiety. She did not dare to look beyond it; the future was a curtain that she could not lift, and behind her the past stretched dim and vague. There is in fear some magnifying power that enlarges every detail of daily life. Christina's world was now the room where her child fought for life. It seemed curiously remote from the ordinary world, although so near it; with a sort of wonder she heard the voices of children laughing on the road. The sound of wheels, the rattle of milkcans, snatches of song or talk, reminded her that daily life was going on as usual. She had to remember with an effort,

His eyes

that the whole world did not stand still that had been wrought in her first-born. breathlessly awaiting the issue of life or There had fallen on him that terrible death for one little boy.

gravity which makes of a child a being In those long hours Christina thought infinitely old and solemn. of many things with new realization. were sombre with pain and weariness, She thought of the women all the world his little mouth, which had been so soft over, who, day by day, see their chil- and rosy, was parched with fever, his dren die. She realized her kinship with whole aspect was changed. But he was them in an aching pity. She found that hers. It was always his mother that he sorrow is the master secret of a great wanted, the visible image of God's love freemasonry which binds human hearts in his small world. in every country and in every century. Once into this isolated haunt of fear In imagination dread fulfilled itself; came a visitor, Mr. Ingleby. It did not she saw her child dying, then dead. She seem strange to Christina that he pictured the hearse that would take

should come. She sought for no conaway the little coffin. She would fol- ventional greeting. low. She would never leave him till "I think he will die,” she said under they made her.

her breath. Ah! if she might but go with him Mr. Ingleby looked at her with a sudthrough the valley of death. Life with- den smile. out her child seemed impossible, a des- “Then give him to God; don't let ert of dreary days. Yet no agony could him be dragged from you." be greater than this suspense, this daily No, I can't ... not yet. It was watching for a change SO terrible. like that before, I tried to give up my Sometimes she felt that death would be will . . . and I couldn't." better than this awful fear, and her “It is better when one can. One fits will submitted; at other times her whole into the plan of things. But please God being fought against it, and she prayed he will recover." incoherently, “Save him, save him, He stood looking down at the child, God.”

and Christina knew that he was prayThe people who went and came- ing. It seemed natural that Mr. Ingleby her husband, the doctor, Theresa - should pray. But then he was a man seemed shadows She was bidden to who struck people as peculiar. Perhaps eat and to sleep. She was at there his peculiarity lay in his practical realiwas a charwoman downstairs, and that zation of a spiritual order. He turned Theresa, the ever faithful, would help away from the bed and came to the to nurse Laurence.

window where Christina stood. The simple faith of Theresa was as “I wanted to come,” he said simply; the shadow of trees in a parched land. "we who have suffered, who suffer, are Theresa had the devotion to her mis- all brothers and sisters, and our captain tress and to the child that an Irish is Christ." woman of all women knows how to “Thank you," she answered. “Yes, give. Her service to them was a part nothing will ever seem the same again of her religion.

now that I have realized fear and sorrow." But reality was centered in the cot He took her hand. where Laurence lay. Beside this reality "Life is often worse than death,” he all other things were vague and trivial said. "If your boy has finished his time to the mother. In her love there was here, don't grudge him his freedom, now the passion of pity. It seemed that but . .. but I pray you may keep her heart must break for the change him."

would you

come

or

He went out quickly. Christina felt had for her first-born. She was a just strangely comforted by his visit. He woman, and would have stoutly denied believed in his religion; so did Theresa. any difference in her love for her two They were both full of a strength and children. But there was some quality peace that made them greater than all of pity and anxiety in her love for the outward circumstances. Though Chris- more delicate child that made him tina had developed in her married life, more her own. From the first Rosa though she had struggled upwards was fearless, sturdy, independent. She towards a wider vision, a greater free- dared the things of which Laurence was dom from the shackles of self, she had often afraid. not yet discovered this master secret of "Laurence is a little bit of a muff, the soul, that has been called by one mother,” Mark would say as the boy who knew it, "the peace of God which shrank from bathing and swimming and passeth all understanding.”

daring adventures. The next day she fell into a sleep of “No, no, he's only sensitive and imutter exhaustion, leaving Theresa in aginative. He sees dangers where Rosa charge. The woman was to call her at can't see them." It was to his mother a certain hour, or if any change came. that the boy rushed to confide his little Christina awoke, starting into terrified triumphs over this bogey of fear. wakefulness as was her habit, returning "Mother, I did swing high today, did in one second to the realization of this you see? Higher than Rosa. Mother, troubled life. Theresa was standing by

and watch?" her mistress, tears were streaming down "Mother, I went right up to my waist her face.

in the sea and a big wave came, and I “Oh! ma'am, ma'am, the blessed angel didn't cry at all.” is fast asleep," she cried.

And to these little boasts of the timid Christina clasped the woman's rough child the mother would give a glad aphands. "He's dead . . . you mean proval. "I am proud of you, my brave he's dead," she whispered.

boy." In her heart was the secret “Not at all ... oh! glory be to God knowledge that Laurence that for all His mercies . . . come and see, product of imagination and fear that ma'am, he's in a real good sleep this is called a muff. She knew that he time."

knew it too, and sought in his mother Christina rose and went to the sick- his one champion. It is not the blindroom. She bent over her son, and ness of mother love that makes infinite watched in an ecstasy of relief the tran- excuses, but the divine clear sight which quil rise and fall of his breath.

discerns motives and difficulties where "He's going to live,” she murmured. others do not see them. Then the two

who had "He'll have to go to school presentwatched and feared together, kissed ly," Mark would say; "we must make a with tears on their faces.

man of him." And at the word school

Christina's heart would freeze with the CHAPTER VII.

dread of impending change. Laurence recovered, and the season “Not yet-oh! not for years yet," of fear and sorrow bound him and his was her invariable answer; "he is so mother more closely together. She had little and so delicate. And he's not like fought with death for him and he was other boys; men wouldn't understand the dearer to her for the struggle.

him." The coming of her daughter did not Every saying of her children was reaffect the peculiar tenderness that she corded in her diary; their first letters,

was

women

a

unaware.

their drawings she stored in her desk. Of coming change Christina was all Each evidence of her worth in their

Yet when she looked back eyes was infinitely precious. Laurence, to the days that ended the old order, throwing himself against her, his ardent it seemed to her that they had much eyes upon her face, would say,

of that clear brilliance which often "Promise me you'll marry nobody precedes storm. She had come to but me, mother, when I'm big,” and feel a pleasant security in her happiness. Rosa would run to squeeze her fat little Her life was full of duties and little inperson into the embrace, saying, “Me terests. It followed a routine that too, mother, me too."

seemed as if it might stretch into And then they would quarrel over eternity. her, these two lovers, passionate in their Looking back, it seemed to her that admiration, and jealous for her posses- one December Sunday was the crown sion, and she, knowing how brief must of the old order of things. be their reign, how many her rivals, The day was very mild, as the days would thank God for this little time of so often are before Christmas. Mr. absolute sovereignty.

Ingleby called early to suggest a walk Of change in herself Christina reck- towards the country.

Mark agreed oned little. She had submitted to the readily. On Sunday afternoon he discipline of motherhood gladly. Her missed the little works that his conold self, exacting, capricious and fanci- science forbade him, and he loved to ful, had slipped away from her. What walk out in proud possession of his chilthe conventual system does by careful dren. Christina suggested duties that art, Nature does to every mother who would keep her in the house, but Mr. is willing to obey. Christina had sub- Ingleby would take no refusal. mitted, and all unknowingly been We must all go,” he said; “it is a chastened. That physical discipline, day when every Briton is abroad. the asceticism, the fatigues, the sharp We'll bring mail-carts or anything anguish of birth, the daily care of the you wish for the little one." nursing mother, all these had been hers, Mark looked fondly at the little and she had accepted them cheerfully sturdy daughter who was playing for her children's sake.

near the sofa. She came for the first time to feel a “Rosa can walk very far-can't pity for the woman who had displaced

And if she's tired I'll Mrs. Warwick Brown, and assumed the legal position of wife to the erring He pulled the child to his knee, husband.

smoothing back her curls with a large “Now that she has a child she'll be caressing hand. There shone in his different,” she said, as she discussed the eyes that passion of proud fatherly event with her neighbor.

devotion that some men expend on "Poor little innocent thing, what a their daughters. Christina, looking position and what an inheritance for a at him at this moment, knew that child," sighed Mrs. Vere Brown.

she had at least given him his dearest Yes, who could blame her if she does treasure. In her daughter she had turn out badly?” answered Christina, her own unconscious rival, an object no prescience of the future falling on of worship perfectly satisfactory, beher with the words. But that night cause the worshiper expected but she prayed for the Warwick Brown scant return. baby that grace might prevail against "I'll go with daddy,” said the child. heredity.

“And me with mother," Laurence's

you, Rosa?
carry her."

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