I DO not think that there can be anything in the world happier than the thoughts awakened in a mother's heart at the sight of her child's little shoe. Above all if it is the shoe for special occasions, Sundays, christening, the shoe embroidered even under the sole, a shoe in which the child has not yet taken a step. That shoe is so tiny and graceful, it is so impossible for it to walk, that for the mother it is as if she were seeing her child. She smiles at it, kisses it, talks to it. She wonders if a foot can really be so small; and if the child is not there, the dainty shoe is enough to bring back before her eyes the soft and fragile creature. She imagines she can see him, she does see him, all of him, living, joyful, with his delicate hands, round head, pure lips, untroubled eyes with the whites still tinged with blue. If it is winter, he is there, crawling on the carpet, clambering laboriously on to a stool, and his mother is fearful in case he goes too near the fire. If it is summer, he is creeping about in the yard, in the garden, pulling up grass from between the paving stones, looking innocently at the big dogs, the big horses, quite unafraid, playing with the ornamental shells, the flowers, and making the gardener grumble at finding sand in the flowerbeds and soil on the paths. Everything around him is as smiling, beaming, radiant as himself, down to the breath of wind and the ray of sunlight frolicking in rivalry through his downy curls. The shoe shows the mother all this and makes her heart melt like wax before a fire.
But when the child is lost, these countless images of joy, delight, tenderness crowding round the little shoe become so many objects of horror. The pretty embroidered shoe is now just an instrument of torture everlastingly crushing the mother's heart. It is still the same fibre vibrating, the deepest and most sensitive one; but instead of an angel stroking it, it is a demon who plucks it cruelly.