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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER XX. FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.
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 It was night again, almost a summer's night, so still, so warm and balmy, and in the little hut in the forest of the Landes two children sat very close together; Cecile had bought a candle that day in the village, and this candle, now well sheltered from any possible breeze, was placed, lighted, in the broken-down door of the little hut. It was Cecile's own idea, for she said to Joe that Maurice might come back in the cool night-time, and this light would be sure to guide him. Joe had lit the candle for the little girl, and secured it against any possible overthrow. But as she did so he shook his head sorrowfully.  
Seeing this Cecile reproved him.
"I know Maurice so well," explained the little sister. "He will sleep for hours and hours, and then he will wake and gather flowers and think himself quite close to us all the time. He will never know how time passes, and then the night will come and he will be frightened and want to come back to me and Toby; and when he is frightened this light will guide him."
Joe knowing the truth and seeing how impossible it would be for Maurice to return in the manner Cecile thought, could only groan under his breath, for he dared not tell the truth to Cecile; and this was one of the hardest parts of his present great trouble.
"Missie Cecile," he said, when he had lit the candle and seen that it burned safely; "Missie, yer jest dead beat, you has never sat down, looking fur the little chap the whole, whole day. I'm a great strong fellow, I ain't tired a bit; but ef Missie 'ud lie down, maybe she'd sleep, and I'll stay outside and watch fur little Maurice and take care of the candle."
"But I'd rather watch, too, outside with you, Joe. I'm trying hard, hard not to be anxious. But perhaps if I lie down the werry anxious feel may come. Just let me sit by you, and put my head on your shoulder; perhaps I shall rest so."
"Werry well, Missie," said Joe.
He seemed incapable of enforcing any arguments that night, and in a moment or two the children, with faithful Toby at their feet, were sitting just outside the hut, but where the light of the solitary candle could fall on them. Cecile's head was on Joe's breast, and Joe's strong arm encircled her.
After a long pause, he said in a husky voice:
"I'd like to hear that verse as Missie read to poor Joe last night. I'd like to hear it once again."
"The last verse, Joe?" answered Cecile. "I think I know the last verse by heart. It is this: 'He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me.'"
"My poor old mother," said Joe suddenly. "My poor, poor old mother." Here he covered his face with his hands, and burst into tears.
"But, Joe," said little Cecile in a voice of surprise, "you will soon see your mother now—very soon, I think and hope. As soon as we find Maurice we will go to the Pyrenees, and there we shall see Lovedy and your mother and your good brother Jean. Our little Maurice cannot stay much longer away, and then we will start at once for the Pyrenees."
To this Joe made no answer, and Cecile, who had intended to remain awake all night, in a few moments was asleep, tired out, with her head now resting on Joe's knees.
He covered the pretty head tenderly with his great brown palm, and his black eyes were full of the tenderest love and sorrow as they looked at the little white face.
How could he protect the heart of the child he loved from a sorrow that must break it? Only by sacrificing himself; by sacrificing himself absolutely. Was he prepared to do this?
As he thought and Cecile slept, a great clock from the not far distant village struck twelve. Twe............
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