Helena by Mrs. Humphry Ward
A week had passed. Mrs. Friend at ten o'clock in the morning had just been having a heart to heart talk with the landlady of the inn on the subject of a decent luncheon for three persons, and a passable dinner for four. Food at the inn was neither good nor well-cooked, and as criticism, even the mildest, generally led to tears, Mrs. Friend's morning lot, when any guest was expected, was not a happy one. It was a difficult thing indeed to get anything said or settled at all; since the five-year old Bobby was generally scrimmaging round, capturing his mother's broom and threatening to "sweep out" Mrs. Friend, or brandishing the meat-chopper, as a still more drastic means of dislodging her. The little villain, having failed to drown himself, was now inclined to play tricks with his small sister, aged eight weeks; and had only that morning, while his mother's back was turned, taken the baby out of her cradle, run down a steep staircase with her in his arms, and laid her on a kitchen chair, forgetting all about her a minute afterwards. Even a fond mother had been provoked to smacking, and the inn had been filled with howls and roarings, which deadened even the thunder of the swollen stream outside. Then Helena, her fingers in her ears, had made a violent descent upon the kitchen, and carried off the "limb" to the river, where, being given something to do in the shape of damming up a brook that ran into the main stream, he had suddenly developed angelic qualities, and tied himself to Helena's skirts.
There they both were, on the river's pebbly bank, within hail, Helena in a short white skirt with a green jersey and cap. She was alternately helping Bobby to build the dam, and lying with her hands beneath her head, under the shelter of the bank. Moderately fine weather had returned, and the Welsh farmer had once more begun to hope that after all he might get in his oats. The morning sun sparkled on the river, on the freshly washed oak-woods, and on Bobby's bare curly head, as he sat busily playing beside Helena.
What was Helena thinking of? Lucy Friend would have given a good deal to know. On the little table before Lucy lay two telegrams: one signed "Geoffrey" announced that he would reach Bettws station by twelve, and the "Fisherman's Rest" about half an hour later. The other announced the arrival of Lord Buntingford by the evening train. Lord Buntingford's visit had been arranged two or three days before; and Mrs. Friend wished it well over. He was of course coming to talk about plans with his ward, who had now wasted the greater part of the London season in this primitive corner of Wales. And both he and Geoffrey were leaving historic scenes behind them in order to spend these few hours with Helena. For this was Peace Day, when the victorious generals and troops of the Empire, and the Empire's allies, were to salute England's king amid the multitudes of London, in solemn and visible proof that the long nightmare of the war had found its end. Buntingford had naturally no heart for pageants; but Helena had been astonished by Geoffrey's telegram, which had arrived the night before from the Lancashire town he represented in Parliament. As an M.P. he ought surely to have been playing his part in the great show. Moreover, she had not expected him so soon, and she had done nothing to hurry his coming. His telegram had brought a great flush of colour into her face. But she made no other sign.
"Oh, well, we can take them out to see bonfires!" she had said, putting on her most careless air, and had then dismissed the subject. For that night the hills of the north were to run their fiery message through the land, blazoning a greater victory than Drake's; and Helena, who had by now made close friends with the mountains, had long since decided on the best points of view.
Since then Lucy had received no confidences, and asked no questions. A letter had reached her, however; by the morning's post, from Miss Alcott, giving an account of the situation at Beechmark, of the removal of the boy to his father's house, and of the progress that had been made in awakening his intelligence and fortifying his bodily health.
"It is wonderful to see the progress he has made--so far, entirely through imitation and handwork. He begins to have some notion of counting and numbers--he has learnt to crochet and thread beads---poor little lad of fifteen!--he has built not only a tower but something like a house, of bricks--and now his enthusiastic teacher is attempting to teach him the first rudiments of speech, in this wonderful modern way--lip-reading and the like. He has been under training for about six weeks, and certainly the results are most promising. I believe his mother protested to Lord Buntingford that he had not been neglected. Nobody can believe her, who sees now what has been done. Apparently a brain-surgeon in Naples was consulted as to the possibility of an operation. But when that was dropped, nothing else was ever tried, no training was attempted, and the child would have fared very badly, if it had not been for the old bonne--Zelie--who was and is devoted to him. His mother was ashamed of him, and came positively to hate the sight of him.
"But the tragic thing is that as his mind develops, his body seems to weaken. Food, special exercise, massage--poor Lord Buntingford has been trying everything--but with small result. It is pitiful to see him watching the child, and hanging on the doctors. 'Shall we stop all the teaching?' he said to John the other day in despair--'my first object is that he should live,' But it would be cruel to stop the teaching now. The child would not allow it. He himself has caught the passion of it. He seems to me to live in a fever of excitement and joy, as one step follows another, and the door opens a little wider for his poor prisoned soul. He adores his father, and will sit beside him, stroking his silky beard, with his tiny fingers, and looking at him with his large pathetic eyes ... They have taken him to Beechmark, as you know, and given him a set of rooms, where he and his wonderful little teacher, Miss Denison--trained in the Seguin method, they say--and the old bonne Zelie live. The nurse has gone.
"I am so sorry for Lady Cynthia--she seems to miss him so. Of course she goes over to Beechmark a good deal, but it is not the same as having him under her own roof. And she was so good to him! She looks tired of late, and rather depressed. I wonder if her dragoon of a sister has been worrying her. Of course Lady Georgina is enchanted to have got rid of Arthur.
"I am very glad to hear Lord Buntingford is going to Wales. Miss Pitstone has been evidently a great deal on his mind. He said to John the other day that he had arranged everything at Beechmark so that, when you and she came back, he did not think you would find Arthur in the way. The boy's rooms are in a separate wing, and would not interfere at all with visitors. I said to him once that I was sure Miss Helena would be very fond of the little fellow. But he frowned and looked distressed. 'I should scarcely allow her to see him,' he said. I asked why. 'Because a young girl ought to be protected from anything irremediably sad. Life should be always bright for her. And I can still make it bright for Helena--I intend to make it bright.'
"Good-bye, my dear Mrs. Friend. John and I miss you very much."
A last sentence which gave Lucy Friend a quite peculiar pleasure. Her modest ministrations in the parish and the school had amply earned it. But it amazed her that anyone should attach any value to them. And that Mr. Alcott should miss her--why, it was ridiculous!
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Helena, returning to the inn along the river bank, with Bobby clinging to her skirt.
"Take him in tow, please," said Helena through the window. "I am going to walk a little way to meet Geoffrey."
Bobby's chubby hand held her so firmly that he could only be detached from her by main force. He was left howling in Mrs. Friend's grasp, till Helena, struck with compunction, turned back from the bend of the road, to stuff a chocolate into his open mouth, and then ran off again, laughing at the sudden silence which had descended on hill and stream.
Through the intermittent shade and sunshine of the day, Helena stepped on. She had never held herself so erect; never felt so conscious of an intense and boundless vitality. Yet she was quite uncertain as to what the next few hours would bring her. Peter had given a hint--that she was sure; and she was now, it seemed, to be wooed in earnest. On Geoffrey's former visit, she had teased him so continuously, and put so many petty obstacles of all kinds in his way, that he had finally taken his cue from her, and they had parted, in a last whirlwind of "chaff," but secretly angry, with each other or themselves.
"He might have held out a little longer," thought Helena. "When shall I ever get a serious word from her?" thought French.
Slowly she descended the long and winding hill leading to the village. From the few scattered cottages and farms in sight, flags were fluttering out. Groups of school children were scattered along the road, waving little flags and singing. Over the wide valley below her, with its woody hills and silver river, floated great cloud-shadows, chasing and chased by the sun. There were wild roses in the hedges, and perfume in every gust of wind. The summer was at its height, and the fire and sap of it were running full-tilt in Helena's pulses.
Far down the winding road she saw at last a man on a motor bicycle--bare-headed, and long-bodied.
Up he came, and soon was near enough to wave to her, while Helena was still scolding her own emotions. When he flung himself off beside her, she saw at once that he had come in an exultant mood expecting triumph. And immediately something perverse in her--or was it merely the old primeval instinct of the pursued maiden--set itself to baffle him.
"Very nice to see you!" she smiled, as she gave him a passive hand--"but why aren't you in the Mall?"
"My Sovereign had not expressed any burning desire for my presence. Can't we go to-night and feed a bonfire?"
"Several, if you like. I have watched the building of three. But it will rain."
"That won't matter," he said joyously. "Nothing will matter!" And again his ardent look challenged in her the Eternal Feminine.
"I don't agree. I hate a wet mackintosh dripping into my boots, and Cousin Philip won't see any fun in it if it rains."
He drew up suddenly.
"Philip!" he said, with a frown of irritation. "What has Philip to do with it?"
"He arrives to-night by the London train."
He resumed his walk beside her, in silence, pushing his bicycle. Had she done it of malice prepense? No--impossible! He had only telegraphed his own movements to her late on the previous evening, much too late to make any sudden arrangement with Philip, who was coming from an Eastern county.
"He is coming to find out your plans?"
"I suppose so. But I have no plans."
He stole a look at her. Yes--there was change in her, even since they had met last:--a richer, intenser personality, suggested by a new self-mastery. She seemed to him older--and a thought remote. Fears flew through him. What had been passing in her mind since he had seen her last? or in Philip's? Had he been fooled after all by those few wild words from Peter, which had reached him in Lancashire, bidding him catch his opportunity, or rue the loss of it for ever?
She saw the effervescence in him die down, and became gracious at once. Especially because they were now in sight of the inn, and of Lucy Friend sitting in the little garden beside the road. Geoffrey pulled himself together, and prepared to play the game that Helena set him, until the afternoon and the walk she could not deny him, should give him his chance.
The little meal passed gaily, and after it Lucy Friend watched--not without trepidation--Helena's various devices for staving off the crisis. She had two important letters to write; she must go and watch Mr. McCready sketching, as she had promised to do, or the old fellow would never forgive her; and finally she invited the fuming M.P. to fish the preserved water with her, accompanied by the odd-man as gilly. At this Geoffrey's patience fairly broke. He faced her, crimson, in the inn parlour; forgetting Lucy altogether and standing in front of the door, so that Lucy could not escape and could only roll herself in a curtain and look out of the window.
"I didn't come here to fish, Helena--or to sketch--but simply and solely to talk to you! And I have come a long way. Suppose we take a walk?"
Helena eyed him. She was a little pale--but composed.
"At your service. Lead on, Sir Oracle!"
They went out together, Geoffrey taking command, and Lucy watched them depart, across the foot-bridge, and by a green path that would lead them before long to the ferny slopes of the mountain beyond the oak-wood. As Helena was mounting the bridge, a servant of the inn ran out with a telegram which had just arrived and gave it her.
Helena peered at the telegram, and then with a dancing smile thrust it into her pocket without a word.
Her mood, as they walked on, was now, it seemed, eagerly political. She insisted on hearing his own account of his successful speech in the House; she wished to discuss his relations with the Labour party, which were at the moment strained, on the question of Coal Nationalization; she asked for his views on the Austrian Treaty, and on the prospects of the Government. He lent himself to her caprice, so long as they were walking one behind the other through a crowded oak-wood and along a narrow path where she could throw her questions back over her shoulder, herself well out of reach. But presently they came out on a glorious stretch of fell, clothed with young green fern, and running up into a purple crag fringed with junipers. Then he sprang to her side, and Helena knew that the hour had come and the man. There was a flat rock on the slope below the crag, under a group of junipers, and Helena presently found herself sitting there, peremptorily guided by her companion, and feeling dizzily that she was beginning to lose control of the situation, as Geoffrey sank down into the fern beside her.
"At last!" he said, drawing a long breath--"At last!"
He lay looking up at her, his long face working with emotion--the face of an intellectual, with that deep scar on the temple, where a fragment of shrapnel had struck him on the first day of the Somme advance.
"Unkind Helena!" he said, in a low voice that shook--"unkind Helena!"
Her lips framed a retort. Then suddenly the tears rushed into her eyes, and she covered them with her hands.
"I'm not unkind. I'm afraid!"
"Afraid of what?"
"I told you," she said piteously, "I didn't want to marry--I didn't want to be bound!"
"And you haven't changed your mind at all?"
She didn't answer. There was silence a moment. Then she said abruptly:
"Do you want to hear secrets, Geoffrey?"
"I don't know. I expect I guess them."
"What do you guess?" She lifted a proud face. He touched her hand tenderly.
"I guess that when you came here--you were unhappy?"
Her lip trembled.
"I was--very unhappy."
"And now?" he asked, caressing the hand he held.
"Well, now--I've walked myself back into--into common sense. There!--I had it out with myself. I may as well have it out with you! Two months ago I was a bit in love with Cousin Philip. Now, of course, I love him--I always shall love him--but I'm not in love with him!"
"Thank the Lord!" cried French--"since it has been the object of my life for much more than two months to persuade you to be in love with me!"
"I don't think I am--yet," said Helena slowly.
Her look was strange--half repellent. On both sides indeed there was a note of something else than prosperous love-making. On his, the haunting doubt lest she had so far given her heart to Philip that full fruition for himself, that full fruition which youth at its zenith instinctively claims from love and fortune, could never be his. On hers, the consciousness, scarcely recognized till now, of a moment of mental exhaustion caused by mental conflict. She was half indignant that he should press her, yet aware that she would miss the pressure if it ceased; while he, believing that his cause was really won, and urged on by Peter's hints, resented the barriers she would still put up between them.
There was a short silence after her last speech. Then Helena said softly--half laughing:
"You haven't talked philosophy to me, Geoffrey, for such a long time!"
"What's the use?" said Geoffrey, who was lying on his face, his eyes covered by his hands--"I'm not feeling philosophical."
"All the same, you made me once read half a volume of Bergson. I didn't understand much of it, except that--whatever else he is, he's a great poet. And I do know something about poetry! But I remember one sentence very well--Life--isn't it Life?--is 'an action which is making itself, across an action of the same kind which is unmaking itself.' And he compares it to a rocket in a fire-works display rushing up in flame through the falling cinders of the dead rockets."
"Give the cinders a little time to fall, Geoffrey!" she said in a faltering voice.
He looked up ardently.
"Why? It's only the living fire that matters! Darling--let's come to close quarters. You gave a bit of your warm heart to Philip, and you imagined that it meant much more than it really did. And poor Philip all the time was determined--cribbed and cabined--by his past,--and now by his boy. We both know that if he marries anybody it will be Cynthia Welwyn; and that he would be happier and less lonely if he married her. But so long as your life is unsettled he will marry nobody. He remembers that your mother entrusted you to him in the firm belief that, in his uncertainty about his wife, he neither could nor would marry anybody. So that for these two years, at any rate, he holds himself absolutely bound to his compact with her and you."
"And the moral of that is--" said Helena, flushing.
"Marry me!--Nothing simpler. Then the compact falls--and at one stroke you bring two men into port."
The conflict of expressions passing through her features showed her shaken. He waited.
"Very well, Geoffrey--" she said at last, with a long, quivering breath, as though some hostile force rent her and came out.
"If you want me so much--take me!"
But as she spoke she became aware of the lover in him ready to spring. She drew back instantly from his cry of joy, and his outstretched arms.
"Ah, but give me time--dear Geoffrey, give me time! You have my word."
He controlled himself, warned by her agitation, and her pallor.
"Mayn't we tell Philip--when he comes?"
"Yes, we'll tell Philip--and Lucy--to-night. Not a word!--till then." She jumped up--"Are you going to climb that crag before tea? I am!"
She led him breathlessly up its steep side and down again. When they regained the inn, Geoffrey had not even such a butterfly kiss to remember as she had once given him in the lime-walk at Beechmark; and Lucy, trying in her eager affection to solve the puzzle they presented her with, had simply to give it up.
* * * * *
The day grew wilder. Great flights of clouds came up from the west and fought the sun, and as the afternoon declined, light gusts of rain, succeeded by bursts of sunshine, began to sweep across the oak-woods. The landlord of the inn and his sons, who had been mainly responsible for building the great bonfire on Moel Dun, and the farmers in their gigs who stopped at the inn door, began to shake their heads over the prospects of the night. Helena, Lucy Friend, and Geoffrey spent the afternoon chiefly in fishing and wandering by the river. Helena clung to Lucy's side, defying her indeed to leave her, and Geoffrey could only submit, and count the tardy hours. They made tea in a green meadow beside the stream, and immediately afterwards Geoffrey, looking at his watch, announced to Mrs. Friend that he proposed to bicycle down to Bettws to meet Lord Buntingford.
Helena came with him to the inn to get his bicycle. They said little to each other, till, just as he was departing, French bent over to her, as she stood beside his machine.
"Do I understand?--I may tell him?"
"Yes." And then for the first time she smiled upon him; a smile that was heavenly soft and kind; so that he went off in mounting spirits.
Helena retraced her steps to the river-side, where they had left Lucy. She sat down on a rock by Lucy's side, and instinctively Lucy put down some knitting she held, and turned an eager face--her soul in her eyes.
"Lucy--I am engaged to Geoffrey French."
Lucy laughed and cried; held the bright head in her arms and kissed the cheek that lay upon her shoulder. Helena's eyes too were wet; and in both there was the memory of that night at Beechmark which had made them sisters rather than friends.
"And of course," said Helena--"you'll stay with me for ever."
But Lucy was far too happy to think of her own future. She had made friends--real friends--in these three months, after years of loneliness. It seemed to her that was all that mattered. And half guiltily her memory cherished those astonishing words--"Mr. Alcott and I miss you very much."
A drizzling rain had begun when towards eight o'clock they heard the sound of a motor coming up the Bettws road. Lucy retreated into the inn, while Helena stood at the gate waiting.
Buntingford waved to her as they approached, then jumped out and followed her into the twilight of the inn parlour.
"My dear Helena!" He put his arm round her shoulder and kissed her heartily. "God bless you!--good luck to you! Geoffrey has given me the best news I have heard for many a long day."
"You are pleased?" she said, softly, looking at him.
He sat down by her, holding her hands, and revealing to her his own long-cherished dream of what had now come to pass. "The very day you came to Beechmark, I wrote to Geoffrey, inviting him. And I saw you by chance the day after the dance, together, in the lime-walk." Helena's start almost drew her hands away. He laughed. "I wasn't eavesdropping, dear, and I heard nothing. But my dream seemed to be coming true, and I went away in tip-top spirits--just an hour, I think, before Geoffrey found that drawing."
He released her, with an unconscious sigh, and she was able to see how much older he seemed to have grown; the touches of grey in his thick black hair, and the added wrinkles round his eyes,--those blue eyes that gave him his romantic look, and were his chief beauty. But he resumed at once:
"Well, now then, the sooner you come back to Beechmark the better. Think of the lawyers--the trousseau--the wedding. My dear, you've no time to waste!--nor have I. Geoffrey is an impatient fellow--he always was."
"And I shall see Arthur?" she asked him gently.
His look thanked her. But he did not pursue the subject.
Then Geoffrey and Lucy Friend came in, and there was much talk of plans, and a merry dinner a quatre. Afterwards, the rain seemed to have cleared off a little, and through the yellow twilight a thin stream of people, driving or on foot, began to pour past the inn, towards the hills. Helena ran upstairs to put on an oilskin hat and cape over her white dress.
"You're coming to help light the bonfire?" said Geoffrey, addressing Philip.
Buntingford shook his head. He turned to Lucy.
"You and I will let the young ones go--won't we? I don't see you climbing Moel Dun in the rain, and I'm getting too old! We'll walk up the road a bit, and look at the people as they go by. I daresay we shall see as much as the other two."
So the other two climbed, alone and almost in silence. Beside them and in front of them, scattered up and along the twilight fell, were dim groups of pilgrims bent on the same errand with themselves. It was not much past nine o'clock, and the evening would have been still light but for the drizzle of rain and the low-hanging clouds. As it was, those bound for the beacon-head had a blind climb up the rocks and the grassy slopes that led to the top. Helena stumbled once or twice, and Geoffrey caught her. Thenceforward he scarcely let her go again. She protested at first, mountaineer that she was; but he took no heed, and presently the warmth of his strong clasp seemed to hypnotize her. She was silent, and let him pull her up.
On the top was a motley crowd of farmers, labourers and visitors, with a Welsh choir from a neighbouring village, singing hymns and patriotic songs. The bonfire was to be fired on the stroke of ten, by a neighbouring landowner, whose white head and beard flashed hither and thither through the crowd and the mist, as he gave his orders, and greeted the old men, farmers and labourers, he had known for a lifetime. The sweet Welsh voices rose in the "Men of Harlech," "Land of My Fathers," or in the magnificent "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord." And when the moment arrived, and the white-haired Squire, with his three chosen men, fired the four corners of the high-built pile, out rushed the blaze, flaring up to heaven, defying the rain, and throwing its crimson glow on the faces ringed round it. "God Save the King!" challenged the dark, and then, hand in hand, the crowd marched round about the pyramid of fire in measured rhythm, while "Auld Lang Syne," sorrowfully sweet, echoed above the haunted mountain-top where in the infancy of Britain, Celt and Roman in succession had built their camps and reared their watch-towers. And presently from all quarters of the great horizon sprang the answering flames from mountain peaks that were themselves invisible in the murky night, while they sent forward yet, without fail or break, the great torch-race of victory, leaping on, invincible by rain or dark, far into the clouded north.
But Geoffrey's eyes could not tear themselves from Helena. He saw her bathed in light, from top to toe, now gold, now scarlet, a fire-goddess, inimitably beautiful. They danced hand in hand, intoxicated by the music, and by the movement of their young swaying bodies. He felt Helena unconsciously leaning on him, her soft breath on his cheek. Her eyes were his now, and her smiling lips, just parted over her white teeth, tempted him beyond his powers of resistance.
"Come!" he whispered to her, and with a quick turn of the hand he had swung her out of the fiery circle, and drawn her towards the surrounding dark. A few steps and they were on the mountainside again, while behind them the top was still aflame, and black forms still danced round the drooping fire.
But they were safely curtained by night and the rising storm. After the first stage of the descent, suddenly he flung his arms round her, his mouth found hers, and all Helena's youth rushed at last to meet him as he gathered her to his breast.
"Geoffrey--my Tyrant!--let me go!" she panted.
"Are you mine--are you mine, at last?--you wild thing!"
"I suppose so--" she said, demurely. "Only, let me breathe!"
She escaped, and he heard her say with low sweet laughter as though to herself:
"I seem at any rate to be following my guardian's advice!"
"What advice? Tell me! you darling, tell me everything. I have a right now to all your secrets."
Darkness hid her eyes. Hand in hand they went down the hillside, while the Mount of Victory still blazed behind them.
Philip and Lucy were waiting for them. And then, at last, Helena remembered her telegram of the afternoon, and read it to a group of laughing hearers.
"Right you are. I proposed last night to Jennie Dumbarton. Wedding, October--Await reply. PETER."
"He shall have his reply," said Helena. And she wrote it with Geoffrey looking on.
Not quite twenty-four hours later, Buntingford was walking up through the late twilight to Beechmark. After the glad excitement kindled in him by Helena's and Geoffrey's happiness, his spirits had dropped steadily all the way home. There before him across the park, rose his large barrack of a house, so empty, but for that frail life which seemed now part of his own.
He walked on, his eyes fixed on the lights in the rooms where his boy was. When he reached the gate into the gardens, a figure came suddenly out of the shrubbery towards him.
"Philip! We didn't expect you till to-morrow."
He turned back with her, inexpressibly comforted by her companionship. The first item in his news was of course the news of Helena's engagement. Cynthia's surprise was great, as she showed; so also was her relief, which she did not show.
"And the wedding is to be soon?"
"Geoffrey pleads for the first week in September, that they may have time to get to some favourite places of his in France before Parliament meets. Helena and Mrs. Friend will be here to-morrow."
After a pause he turned to her, with another note in his voice:
"You have been with Arthur?"
She gave an account of her day.
"He misses you so. I wanted to make up to him a little."
"He loves you--so do I!" said Buntingford. "Won't you come and take charge of us both, dear Cynthia? I owe you so much already--I would do my best to pay it."
He took her hand and pressed it. All was said.
Yet through all her gladness, Cynthia felt the truth of Georgina's remark--"When he marries it will be for peace--not passion." Well, she must accept it. The first-fruits were not for her. With all his chivalry he would never be able to give her what she had it in her to give him. It was the touch of acid in the sweetness of her lot. But sweet it was all the same.
When she told Georgina, her sister broke into a little laugh--admiring, not at all unkind.
"Cynthia, you are a clever woman! But I must point out that Providence has given you every chance."
Peace indeed was the note of Philip's mood that night, as he paced up and down beside the lake after his solitary dinner. He was, momentarily at least, at rest, and full of patient hope. His youth was over. He resigned it, with a smile and a sigh; while seeming still to catch the echoes of it far away, like music in some invisible city that a traveller leaves behind him in the night. His course lay clear before him. Politics would give him occupation, and through political life power might come to him. But the real task to which he set his most human heart, in this moment of change and reconstruction, was to make a woman and a child happy.