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2. The Heart Of A Child
For some weeks after his wife's death Squire Norman was overwhelmed with grief. He
made a brave effort, however, to go through the routine of his life; and succeeded so far
that he preserved an external appearance of bearing his loss with resignation. But within,
all was desolation.
Little Stephen had winning ways which sent deep roots into her father's heart. The little
bundle of nerves which the father took into his arms must have realised with all its senses
that, in all that it saw and heard and touched, there was nothing but love and help and
protection. Gradually the trust was followed by expectation. If by some chance the father
was late in coming to the nursery the child would grow impatient and cast persistent,
longing glances at the door. When he came all was joy.
Time went quickly by, and Norman was only recalled to its passing by the growth of his
child. Seedtime and harvest, the many comings of nature's growth were such
commonplaces to him, and had been for so many years, that they made on him no
impressions of comparison. But his baby was one and one only. Any change in it was not
only in itself a new experience, but brought into juxtaposition what is with what was. The
changes that began to mark the divergence of sex were positive shocks to him, for they
were unexpected. In the very dawn of babyhood dress had no special import; to his
masculine eyes sex was lost in youth. But, little by little, came the tiny changes which
convention has established. And with each change came to Squire Norman the growing
realisation that his child was a woman. A tiny woman, it is true, and requiring more care
and protection and devotion than a bigger one; but still a woman. The pretty little ways,
the eager caresses, the graspings and holdings of the childish hands, the little roguish
smiles and pantings and flirtings were all but repetitions in little of the dalliance of long
ago. The father, after all, reads in the same book in which the lover found his knowledge.
At first there was through all his love for his child a certain resentment of her sex. His old
hope of a son had been rooted too deeply to give way easily. But when the conviction
came, and with it the habit of its acknowledgment, there came also a certain resignation,
which is the halting-place for satisfaction. But he never, not then nor afterwards, quite
lost the old belief that Stephen was indeed a son. Could there ever have been a doubt, the
remembrance of his wife's eyes and of her faint voice, of her hope and her faith, as she
placed her baby in his arms would have refused it a resting-place. This belief tinged all
his after-life and moulded his policy with regard to his girl's upbringing. If she was to be
indeed his son as well as his daughter, she must from the first be accustomed to boyish as
well as to girlish ways. This, in that she was an only child, was not a difficult matter to
accomplish. Had she had brothers and sisters, matters of her sex would soon have found
their own level.
There was one person who objected strongly to any deviation from the conventional rule
of a girl's education. This was Miss Laetitia Rowly, who took after a time, in so far as
such a place could be taken, that of the child's mother. Laetitia Rowly was a young aunt