never being spoken to, and rarely lifting up its face, that Paul began to wonder languidly, if it were real; and in the night-time saw it sitting there, with fear.
`Floy!' he said. `What is that?'
`There! at the bottom of the bed.'
`There's nothing there, except Papa!'
The figure lifted up its head, and rose, and coming to the beside, said: `My own boy! Don't you know me?'
Paul looked it in the face, and thought, was this his father? But the face so altered to his thinking, thrilled while he gazed, as if it were in pain; and before he could reach out both his hands to take it between them, and draw it towards him, the figure turned away quickly from the little bed, and went out at the door.
Paul looked at Florence with a fluttering heart, but he knew what she was going to say, and stopped her with his face against her lips. The next time he observed the figure sitting at the bottom of the bed, he called to it.
`Don't be so sorry for me, dear Papa! Indeed I am quite happy!'
His father coming and bending down to him--which he did quickly, and without first pausing by the bedside-- Paul held him round the neck, and repeated those words to him several times, and very earnestly; and Paul never saw him in his room again at any time, whether it were day or night, but he called out, `Don't be so sorry for me! Indeed I am quite happy!' This was the beginning of his always saying in the morning that he was a great deal better, and that they were to tell his father so.
How many times the golden water danced upon the wall; how many nights the dark, dark river rolled towards the sea in spite of him; Paul never counted, never sought to know. If their kindness, or his sense of it, could have increased, they were more kind, and he more grateful every day; but whether they were many days or few, appeared of little moment now, to the gentle boy.
One night he had been thinking of his mother, and her picture in the drawing-room down stairs, and thought she must have loved sweet Florence better than his father did, to have held her in her arms when she felt that she was dying--for even he, her brother, who had such dear love for her, could have no greater wish than that. The train of thought suggested to him to inquire if he had ever seen his mother; for he could not remember whether they had told him, yes or no, the river running very fast, and confusing his mind.
`Floy, did I ever see mama?'
`No, darling, why?'
`Did I ever see any kind face, like mama's, looking at me when I was a baby, Floy?'
He asked, incredulously, as if he had some vision of a face before him.
`Oh yes, dear!'
`Your old nurse's. Often.'
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