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EPILOGUE Christmas Eve, 1918
"Daddy?"

"Yes, my daughter?"

"Think, daddy, think!"

"My dear, I will—if you'll tell me what."

"Tomorrow is Christmas—the first peace Christmas."

"I know."

"And daddy!"

"Well?"

"In the spring I shall be eighteen."

I looked at a tall girl, her cheeks aglow with the frosty crimson which only English winter days can bring. In her hand was a riding crop, and her riding habit sat trim upon her. But it was her grey eyes sparkling fun, and a certain trick of her smile that struck me most. Eyes and smile alike had come straight to her from her mother. "Eighteen," I thought to myself—"her mother's age when I first met her. Was she then a laughing child—a baby like this?"

"Come sit by your daddy tonight, Helen," I said. She flung herself impulsively on a cushion at my feet, her head against my knee.

"Make me comfy."

I drew her closer to me.

"I had the most glorious ride, today, dad. All through the bridle paths past Aldenham and back by King's Langley."

"There are no lanes like our Hertfordshire ones, little girl."

"I feel as if I were alive again, daddy, now the war is over."

We sat looking at the fire together—our thoughts, I knew, as far apart as the poles. Our love was the common bond. Deep Harbor—other Christmas days in England—and that last terrible Christmas day of all—out in California—these and many other things I saw in the firelight.

"And what are you thinking of, Helen?"

Grey eyes looked up at me, smiling a little shyly.

"Do you know what I want for Christmas, dad?"

"Another bull-terrier, dear—or a new saddle?"

She shook her head vigorously.

"So wrong, daddy. Shall I tell you?"

"Please do."

"You promised once—when I should be old enough to understand—to tell me the whole story of you and—mummy dear. I'll soon be eighteen. Won't you tell me this story for my best Christmas present?"

I bent over and kissed her.

"Yes, dear. I'll tell you. Listen, little girl—"

The End


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