'There now, you have brought your poor mamma up!' said Sarah, indignantly.
'Mamma, mamma!' and the cold trembling little creature clasped itself upon her neck and bosom, still repeating the dreadful words. She carried him to the fire, warmed him on her lap, caressed and soothed him, as his understanding awoke, telling him that papa was safe in his own room,--he was ill, very ill, and Johnnie must pray for him; but oh! he was alive, safe in his own bed. But as Johnnie nestled to her, repeating, 'Say it again, mamma, I was so frightened! I can't get it out of my head. Oh! is papa safe?' there would come the thought that, with morning, the child might have to hear that he was fatherless.
This dread, and the desire to efface the impression of the terrible dream, induced her, when he had obediently struggled for composure, to tell him that, on condition of perfect stillness, he might come down with her, and have a little glimpse of papa. Wrapping him up, she took him in by the open dressing-room door, to which Arthur's back was turned, trusting to escape observation. but nothing eluded those fever-lighted eyes, and they instantly fell upon the little trembling figure, the quivering face and earnest gaze.
'I hope we have not disturbed you,’ apologized Violet; 'we hoped you would not hear us. Poor Johnnie woke up crying so much at your being ill, that I ventured to bring him to have one look at you, for fear he should not go to sleep again.'
She need not have feared. Even while she spoke Arthur held out his hands, with a countenance that caused Johnnie, with a stifled exclamation of 'Papa! papa!' to spring on the bed, and there he lay, folded closely to his father's breast.
It was but for a moment. Violet had to lift the child hastily away, to be carried off by Sarah, that he might not witness the terrible suffering caused by the exertion and emotion; and yet, when this was passed, she could not repent of what she had done, for one great grief had thus been spared to herself and her boy.
She knew that to discover his son's ardent affection must be a poignant reproach for his neglect and jealousy, and she grieved at once for him and with him; but she could not understand half the feelings of bitter anguish that she perceived in his countenance and gestures. She did not know of his expectation that each ring of the bell might bring the creditors' claims to heap disgrace upon him, nor how painful were the thoughts of her and of the children, totally unprovided for, without claim during his father's lifetime, even on his own scanty portion as a younger son. He could only cast them on the mercy of his father and brother; and what right had he to expect anything from them, after his abuse of their kindness and forbearance? He thought of his neglect of his patient devoted wife, whom he was leaving, with her little ones, to struggle with poverty and dependence; he thought of his children growing up to know him only as the improvident selfish father, who had doomed them to difficulties, and without one tender word or kind look to grace his memory. No wonder he turned, unable to brook the sight of his unconscious babe; and that, when with morning little steps and voices sounded above, such a look of misery came over his face, that Violet hastened to order the children down to the dining-room, out of hearing.
Ere long, however, from the other room, appropriated to the baby, a face peeped in, and Johnnie sprang to her side with earnest whispers: 'Mamma, may I not say my prayers with you! I will not wake papa, but I can't bear it without!' and the tears were in his eyes.