The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there
was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came
into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains. She
glanced mechanically at the house opposite, a stucco house with a
portico, and went to the child's bed.
"Wake up, Philip," she said.
She pulled down the bed-clothes, took him in her arms, and carried
him downstairs. He was only half awake.
"Your mother wants you," she said.
She opened the door of a room on the floor below and took the child
over to a bed in which a woman was lying. It was his mother. She
stretched out her arms, and the child nestled by her side. He did
not ask why he had been awakened. The woman kissed his eyes, and
with thin, small hands felt the warm body through his white flannel
nightgown. She pressed him closer to herself.
"Are you sleepy, darling?" she said.
Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great
distance. The child did not answer, but smiled comfortably. He was
very happy in the large, warm bed, with those soft arms about him.
He tried to make himself smaller still as he cuddled up against his
mother, and he kissed her sleepily. In a moment he closed his eyes
and was fast asleep. The doctor came forwards and stood by the
"Oh, don't take him away yet," she moaned.
The doctor, without answering, looked at her gravely. Knowing she
would not be allowed to keep the child much longer, the woman kissed
him again; and she passed her hand down his body till she came to
his feet; she held the right foot in her hand and felt the five
small toes; and then slowly passed her hand over the left one. She
gave a sob.
"What's the matter?" said the doctor. "You're tired."
She shook her head, unable to speak, and the tears rolled down her
cheeks. The doctor bent down.
"Let me take him."
She was too weak to resist his wish, and she gave the child up. The
doctor handed him back to his nurse.
"You'd better put him back in his own bed."
"Very well, sir." The little boy, still sleeping, was taken away.
His mother sobbed now broken-heartedly.
"What will happen to him, poor child?"
The monthly nurse tried to quiet her, and presently, from
exhaustion, the crying ceased. The doctor walked to a table on the
other side of the room, upon which, under a towel, lay the body of a
still-born child. He lifted the towel and looked. He was hidden from
the bed by a screen, but the woman guessed what he was doing.
"Was it a girl or a boy?" she whispered to the nurse.
The woman did not answer. In a moment the child's nurse came back.
She approached the bed.
"Master Philip never woke up," she said. There was a pause. Then the
doctor felt his patient's pulse once more.
"I don't think there's anything I can do just now," he said. "I'll
call again after breakfast."
"I'll show you out, sir," said the child's nurse.
They walked downstairs in silence. In the hall the doctor stopped.
"You've sent for Mrs. Carey's brother-in-law, haven't you?"
"D'you know at what time he'll be here?"
"No, sir, I'm expecting a telegram."
"What about the little boy? I should think he'd be better out of the
"Miss Watkin said she'd take him, sir."
"She's his godmother, sir. D'you think Mrs. Carey will get over it,
The doctor shook his head.
It was a week later. Philip was sitting on the floor in the
drawing-room at Miss Watkin's house in Onslow gardens. He was an
only child and used to amusing himself. The room was filled with
massive furniture, and on each of the sofas were three big cushions.
There was a cushion too in each arm-chair. All these he had taken
and, with the help of the gilt rout chairs, light and easy to move,
had made an elaborate cave in which he could hide himself from the
Red Indians who were lurking behind the curtains. He put his ear to
the floor and listened to the herd of buffaloes that raced across
the prairie. Presently, hearing the door open, he held his breath so
that he might not be discovered; but a violent hand piled away a
chair and the cushions fell down.
"You naughty boy, Miss Watkin WILL be cross with you."
"Hulloa, Emma!" he said.
The nurse bent down and kissed him, then began to shake out the
cushions, and put them back in their places.
"Am I to come home?" he asked.
"Yes, I've come to fetch you."
"You've got a new dress on."
It was in eighteen-eighty-five, and she wore a bustle. Her gown was
of black velvet, with tight sleeves and sloping shoulders, and the
skirt had three large flounces. She wore a black bonnet with velvet
strings. She hesitated. The question she had expected did not come,
and so she could not give the answer she had prepared.
"Aren't you going to ask how your mamma is?" she said at length.
"Oh, I forgot. How is mamma?"
Now she was ready.
"Your mamma is quite well and happy."
"Oh, I am glad."
"Your mamma's gone away. You won't ever see her any more." Philip
did not know what she meant.
"Your mamma's in heaven."
She began to cry, and Philip, though he did not quite understand,
cried too. Emma was a tall, big-boned woman, with fair hair and
large features. She came from Devonshire and, notwithstanding her
many years of service in London, had never lost the breadth of her
accent. Her tears increased her emotion, and she pressed the little
boy to her heart. She felt vaguely the pity of that child deprived
of the only love in the world that is quite unselfish. It seemed
dreadful that he must be handed over to strangers. But in a little
while she pulled herself together.
"Your Uncle William is waiting in to see you," she said. "Go and say
good-bye to Miss Watkin, and we'll go home."
"I don't want to say good-bye," he answered, instinctively anxious
to hide his tears.
"Very well, run upstairs and get your hat."
He fetched it, and when he came down Emma was waiting for him in the
hall. He heard the sound of voices in the study behind the
dining-room. He paused. He knew that Miss Watkin and her sister were
talking to friends, and it seemed to him--he was nine years
old--that if he went in they would be sorry for him.
"I think I'll go and say good-bye to Miss Watkin."
"I think you'd better," said Emma.
"Go in and tell them I'm coming," he said.
He wished to make the most of his opportunity. Emma knocked at the
door and walked in. He heard her speak.
"Master Philip wants to say good-bye to you, miss."
There was a sudden hush of the conversation, and Philip limped in.
Henrietta Watkin was a stout woman, with a red face and dyed hair.
In those days to dye the hair excited comment, and Philip had heard
much gossip at home when his godmother's changed colour. She lived
with an elder sister, who had resigned herself contentedly to old
age. Two ladies, whom Philip did not know, were calling, and they
looked at him curiously.
"My poor child," said Miss Watkin, opening her arms.
She began to cry. Philip understood now why she had not been in to
luncheon and why she wore a black dress. She could not speak.
"I've got to go home," said Philip, at last.
He disengaged himself from Miss Watkin's arms, and she kissed him
again. Then he went to her sister and bade her good-bye too. One of
the strange ladies asked if she might kiss him, and he gravely gave
her permission. Though crying, he keenly enjoyed the sensation he
was causing; he would have been glad to stay a little longer to be
made much of, but felt they expected him to go, so he said that Emma
was waiting for him. He went out of the room. Emma had gone
downstairs to speak with a friend in the basement, and he waited for
her on the landing. He heard Henrietta Watkin's voice.
"His mother was my greatest friend. I can't bear to think that she's
"You oughtn't to have gone to the funeral, Henrietta," said her
sister. "I knew it would upset you."
Then one of the strangers spoke.
"Poor little boy, it's dreadful to think of him quite alone in the
world. I see he limps."
"Yes, he's got a club-foot. It was such a grief to his mother."
Then Emma came back. They called a hansom, and she told the driver
where to go.
When they reached the house Mrs. Carey had died in--it was in a
dreary, respectable street between Notting Hill Gate and High
Street, Kensington--Emma led Philip into the drawing-room. His uncle
was writing letters of thanks for the wreaths which had been sent.
One of them, which had arrived too late for the funeral, lay in its
cardboard box on the hall-table.
"Here's Master Philip," said Emma.
Mr. Carey stood up slowly and shook hands with the little boy. Then
on second thoughts he bent down and kissed his forehead. He was a
man of somewhat less than average height, inclined to corpulence,
with his hair, worn long, arranged over the scalp so as to conceal
his baldness. He was clean-shaven. His features were regular, and it
was possible to imagine that in his youth he had been good-looking.
On his watch-chain he wore a gold cross.
"You're going to live with me now, Philip," said Mr. Carey. "Shall
you like that?"
Two years before Philip had been sent down to stay at the vicarage
after an attack of chicken-pox; but there remained with him a
recollection of an attic and a large garden rather than of his uncle
"You must look upon me and your Aunt Louisa as your father and
The child's mouth trembled a little, he reddened, but did not
"Your dear mother left you in my charge."
Mr. Carey had no great ease in expressing himself. When the news
came that his sister-in-law was dying, he set off at once for
London, but on the way thought of nothing but the disturbance in his
life that would be caused if her death forced him to undertake the
care of her son. He was well over fifty, and his wife, to whom he
had been married for thirty years, was childless; he did not look
forward with any pleasure to the presence of a small boy who might
be noisy and rough. He had never much liked his sister-in-law.
"I'm going to take you down to Blackstable tomorrow," he said.
The child put his hand in hers, and she pressed it.
"I'm afraid Emma must go away," said Mr. Carey.
"But I want Emma to come with me."
Philip began to cry, and the nurse could not help crying too. Mr.
Carey looked at them helplessly.
"I think you'd better leave me alone with Master Philip for a
"Very good, sir."
Though Philip clung to her, she released herself gently. Mr. Carey
took the boy on his knee and put his arm round him.
"You mustn't cry," he said. "You're too old to have a nurse now. We
must see about sending you to school."
"I want Emma to come with me," the child repeated.
"It costs too much money, Philip. Your father didn't leave very
much, and I don't know what's become of it. You must look at every
penny you spend."
Mr. Carey had called the day before on the family solicitor.
Philip's father was a surgeon in good practice, and his hospital
appointments suggested an established position; so that it was a
surprise on his sudden death from blood-poisoning to find that he
had left his widow little more than his life insurance and what
could be got for the lease of their house in Bruton Street. This was
six months ago; and Mrs. Carey, already in delicate health, finding
herself with child, had lost her head and accepted for the lease the
first offer that was made. She stored her furniture, and, at a rent
which the parson thought outrageous, took a furnished house for a
year, so that she might suffer from no inconvenience till her child
was born. But she had never been used to the management of money,
and was unable to adapt her expenditure to her altered
circumstances. The little she had slipped through her fingers in one
way and another, so that now, when all expenses were paid, not much
more than two thousand pounds remained to support the boy till he
was able to earn his own living. It was impossible to explain all
this to Philip and he was sobbing still.
"You'd better go to Emma," Mr. Carey said, feeling that she could
console the child better than anyone.
Without a word Philip slipped off his uncle's knee, but Mr. Carey
"We must go tomorrow, because on Saturday I've got to prepare my
sermon, and you must tell Emma to get your things ready today. You
can bring all your toys. And if you want anything to remember your
father and mother by you can take one thing for each of them.
Everything else is going to be sold."
The boy slipped out of the room. Mr. Carey was unused to work, and
he turned to his correspondence with resentment. On one side of the
desk was a bundle of bills, and these filled him with irritation.
One especially seemed preposterous. Immediately after Mrs. Carey's
death Emma had ordered from the florist masses of white flowers for
the room in which the dead woman lay. It was sheer waste of money.
Emma took far too much upon herself. Even if there had been no
financial necessity, he would have dismissed her.
But Philip went to her, and hid his face in her bosom, and wept as
though his heart would break. And she, feeling that he was almost
her own son--she had taken him when he was a month old--consoled him
with soft words. She promised that she would come and see him
sometimes, and that she would never forget him; and she told him
about the country he was going to and about her own home in
Devonshire--her father kept a turnpike on the high-road that led to
Exeter, and there were pigs in the sty, and there was a cow, and the
cow had just had a calf--till Philip forgot his tears and grew
excited at the thought of his approaching journey. Presently she put
him down, for there was much to be done, and he helped her to lay
out his clothes on the bed. She sent him into the nursery to gather
up his toys, and in a little while he was playing happily.
But at last he grew tired of being alone and went back to the
bed-room, in which Emma was now putting his things into a big tin
box; he remembered then that his uncle had said he might take
something to remember his father and mother by. He told Emma and
asked her what he should take.
"You'd better go into the drawing-room and see what you fancy."
"Uncle William's there."
"Never mind that. They're your own things now."
Philip went downstairs slowly and found the door open. Mr. Carey had
left the room. Philip walked slowly round. They had been in the
house so short a time that there was little in it that had a
particular interest to him. It was a stranger's room, and Philip saw
nothing that struck his fancy. But he knew which were his mother's
things and which belonged to the landlord, and presently fixed on a
little clock that he had once heard his mother say she liked. With
this he walked again rather disconsolately upstairs. Outside the
door of his mother's bed-room he stopped and listened. Though no one
had told him not to go in, he had a feeling that it would be wrong
to do so; he was a little frightened, and his heart beat
uncomfortably; but at the same time something impelled him to turn
the handle. He turned it very gently, as if to prevent anyone within
from hearing, and then slowly pushed the door open. He stood on the
threshold for a moment before he had the courage to enter. He was
not frightened now, but it seemed strange. He closed the door behind
him. The blinds were drawn, and the room, in the cold light of a
January afternoon, was dark. On the dressing-table were Mrs. Carey's
brushes and the hand mirror. In a little tray were hairpins. There
was a photograph of himself on the chimney-piece and one of his
father. He had often been in the room when his mother was not in it,
but now it seemed different. There was something curious in the look
of the chairs. The bed was made as though someone were going to
sleep in it that night, and in a case on the pillow was a
Philip opened a large cupboard filled with dresses and, stepping in,
took as many of them as he could in his arms and buried his face in
them. They smelt of the scent his mother used. Then he pulled open
the drawers, filled with his mother's things, and looked at them:
there were lavender bags among the linen, and their scent was fresh
and pleasant. The strangeness of the room left it, and it seemed to
him that his mother had just gone out for a walk. She would be in
presently and would come upstairs to have nursery tea with him. And
he seemed to feel her kiss on his lips.
It was not true that he would never see her again. It was not true
simply because it was impossible. He climbed up on the bed and put
his head on the pillow. He lay there quite still.