The sound of voices echoing in the passage from the stables alerted Balian’s children to the fact that their father had evaded their ambush at the front door and taken them by surprise from the rear. With a cry of outrage, John ran across the inner courtyard and flung himself at his father just as the latter reached the kitchen entrance. The little boy collided with his father so hard that the tall man staggered slightly. Then he realized what had hit him and closed his arms around his son like a drowning man his rescuer.
As Maria Zoë watched, her husband seemed to crack, and tears began flooding down his face as he clung to his son. Then Helvis and Margaret and Philip caught up with John, and he let go of John to try to embrace them all. Margaret and Philip were jumping up and down with excitement, while Helvis cuddled up against her father.
Then one of his tears splashed on Helvis’ cheek and she looked up to ask, “Why are you crying, Daddy? Aren’t you glad to see us?”
“Christ!” Balian gasped and broke down altogether.
Maria Zoë gently but firmly pushed her bewildered children apart and took Balian in her own arms. “It’s all right, my love. You’re home safe.”
Balian couldn’t answer, but he held her to him—and the children stood around gazing up at him, silenced and sobered by the sight of their father crying, while the household looked at one another in both concern and sympathy.
Slowly, Balian got hold of himself and released his grasp on Maria Zoë. Taking a deep breath, he turned to Helvis and smiled at her through his wet face, reaching out to stroke her silky curls as he reassured her. “Yes, sweetheart, I’m glad to see you. You see, tears can be a sign of joy as well as sadness.”
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