Miss Cornelia read into this incident an interest on the part of the captain that made her happy.
“He must be just a little more than usual,” she thought. “And his picture tells the same. The mouth and chin are firm, and the eyes--they are fine.” Mary, the spare bedroom doesn’t seem just the thing. It doesn’t fit, somehow. How about the big, high north room? We have always used it for storing things but we can clean it and put everything in the attic.”
Mary agreed that the plan was an excellent one and was for buying new furnishings. But Miss Cornelia was the wiser of the two. Her’s was the real mother-heart, after all.
“Just a bed and chairs and dresser. We don’t know his tastes. He may have a fish net and a torn old flag and maybe some strange knives. Just a new coat of buff for the walls, and then let him arrange everything to suit himself--Oh Mary, Mary, it can’t be really truly true that he’s coming home!”
The short winter days slipped away and the soft spring skies brooded over the quickening earth and almost before one could catch a sharp breath April was in the land.
Then began a great bustling and baking and stewing, in and about the old white house. Hot, spicy smells floated up from the kitchen, and a soft, clear humming floated down from the big north room. Miss Cornelia patted the pillows and wondered with wistful eyes if anyone had ever sung him to sleep or kissed him good-night. It was all strange and unusual but full of heart-comforting possibilities.
When the great day arrived, she did not go to the station. She could not bring herself to face the idle, curious crowd. But she pressed her face against the rain washed pane and, with wildly beating heart, watched old Henley’s ancient “bus” toil through the mud.
Then, almost before she knew it, she had opened the door, and her face was down against a wet overcoat and a deep voice was saying, “Why--mother! You’re crying!”
“No, I’m not!” she denied. “Stand off and let me look at you.”
She took in every detail while the hazel eyes smiled at her, and a big hand held hers. He turned the hand over with a meditative pucker of his brow and then raised it and kissed it softly squarely in the palm. There was no embarrassment or self-consciousness after that.
“Seems like,” said old Mary, an hour later, smiling from the kitchen door at the gray head and the brown one bent together above an old album, “seems like you’ve been here before and belong.”
The hazel eyes smiled back at her. “And don’t I belong, Mary?”
The ceremony of unpacking a small, hide-covered trunk was the big event of the happy day. Mary smoothed and petted and exclaimed over her Bombay shawl and laid it carefully away.
“But,” protested the boy, “that shawl is for everyday use. You mustn’t put it away like that.”
“Ray,” was the spirited rejoinder, “that shawl is too good for everyday. I’ll wear it to the Sewing Circle on Wednesday afternoons and to church on Sundays. So there!
Ray retired from the encounter laughing and placed in Miss Cornelia’s hands a beautiful little, gem-studded Buddha.
“That was the thing,” he explained, “that I wouldn’t tell you about.”
“But Ray, it must be awfully expensive.”
“I imagine it is,” and his eyes sobered.
“Don’t you know?”
“No, Mother Cornelia.”
She looked at him quickly.
“It was given to me,” he explained slowly, “by a man in India who was grateful to me.”
“Why was he grateful, son?”
“I saved his life.”
She put out her hand quickly as if to draw him from some peril, and then laughed softly at herself.
“I must not be foolish. I have to remember day and night that you face danger or the possibility of danger--and not be foolish.
So they went through the happy hours together.