Page:Our American Holidays - Christmas.djvu/351

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"My mother," said the boy as he caressed her cheek, looking at her dreamily, "I have been with my cousin. Even now he waits below for me. I must bid thee farewell. I must pass from thy face forever."

His lip trembled a little, but he smiled bravely. "For it is the will of God, the Father."

The mother's face went ashen. She tottered and would have fallen but for his slender arm about her.

Her thoughts were whirling in wild confusion, yet she knew that she must decide calmly, wisely, quickly.

Her lips moved, but made no sound.

"Oh, lay Thy wise and gracious hand upon me!" was what she breathed in silence.

Then her voice sounded rich and happy and fresh, as it had always sounded for him.

"His will be done. Thou comest to bid farewell to thy brothers and father?"

"It may not be," he answered. "My lot henceforth is to flee the touch of the world, the unsympathetic eye, the ribald tongue of those like my brothers—the defilement of common life."

The mother pressed him closer.

"Say all that is in thine heart," she murmured. "We will bide here."

They sank down together on the soft, bright turf, facing the brilliance of the west, she holding her child as of old in the hollow of her arm.