He felt her, a soft, warm bundle against his breast—little steamy puffs of breath on his chilled face—wide eyes locked with his own. He gave a trembling gasp of laughter and, smiling, kissed the baby's tiny upturned brow. Hot wetness spilled along his cheek and fell cold on the babe's nose. She stiffened in his arms, startled—but not afraid. She trusted him, and nuzzled nearer as he brushed the dampness from her face. Her hands kneaded the coarse stiffness of his vest. Again he bent over her, lips brushing over wisps of golden curls, and whispered:
"Johanna. My angel."
"Benjamin"—Lucy's voice was thick with tears—"Benjamin?"
"Shh—there now—don't cry—"
A smile trembled at his wife's mouth. "You hypocrite!" she said lightly, softly, leaning in to run her thumb along his wet cheek. "Benjamin …sweetums has something for you. A little gift. A go—going-away pre—we wanted—wanted to give it before—"
He drew her nearer with his free arm and she buried her face in his shoulder, grasping tightly with both hands at his shirt, the baby squeezed close but gently between them. Benjamin's face was very white, and his eyes had a bright sort of frightened gleam to them, mirroring his wife's. But there was also a dazed incomprehension to his appearance that she lacked, a look that suggested he hadn't quite fully grasped what was going on, or believed it all to be anything but a nightmare. He was as innocent, as naïve as their poor child, and hadn't for the life of him expected—
"Alright! Out of there! Time's up!"
The prison guard's harsh voice fell jarringly on the couple's ears, and little Johanna whimpered softly. Lucy looked up into her husband's face—she kissed him, slipping into his breast pocket some little odd end. His "going-away present." Even at that moment Benjamin found himself warmed by his wife's little slip of the tongue, and by the angry flush that had spread over her cheeks, and he embraced her firmly, desperately.
"Lucy," he whispered. "I—I'll never forget—"
"Benjamin." She shifted in his arms, clutching the baby to her, her eyes swollen and red. "I love you."
"And I you, Lucy—Lucy!—no please, don't!—Lucy!"
But it was too late. The guards had had enough.
She was gone.
Benjamin slipped to his knees and wept.