The Interval before the MarriageALTHOUGH the enchanted house was not more, and the working world had broken into it, and was hammering and crashing and tramping up and down stairs all day long, keeping Diogenes in an incessant paroxysm of barking, from sunrise to sunset--evidently convinced that his enemy had got the better of him at last, and was then sacking the premises in triumphant defiance--there was, at first, no other great change in the method of Florence's life. At night, when the work-people went away, the house was dreary and deserted again; and Florence, listening to their voices echoing through the hall and staircase as they departed, pictured to herself the cheerful homes to which they were returning, and the children who were waiting for them, and was glad to think that they were merry and well pleased to go.
She welcomed back the evening silence as on old friend, but it came now with an altered face, and looked more kindly on her. Fresh hope was in it. The beautiful lady who had soothed and caressed her, in the very room in which her heart had been so wrung, was a spirit of promise to her. Soft shadows of the bright life dawning, when her father's affection should be gradually won, and all, or much should be restored, of what she had lost on the dark day when a mother's love had faded with a mother's last breath on her cheek, moved about her in the twilight and were welcome company. Peeping at the rosy children her neighbours, it was a new and precious sensation to think that they might soon speak together and know each other; when she would not fear, as of old, to show herself before them, lest they should be grieved to see her in her black dress sitting there alone!
In her thoughts of her new mother, and in the love and trust overflowing her pure heart towards her, Florence loved her own dead mother more and more. She had no fear of setting up a rival in her breast. The new flower sprang from the deep-planted and long-cherished root, she knew. Every gentle word that had fallen from the lips of the beautiful lady, sounded to Florence like an echo of the voice long hushed and silent. How could she love that memory less for living tenderness, when it was her memory of all parental tenderness and love!
Florence was, one day, sitting reading in her room, and thinking of the lady and her promised visit soon-- for her book turned on a kindred subject--when, raising her eyes, she saw her standing in the doorway.
`Mama!' cried Florence, joyfully meeting her. `Come again!'
`Not Mama yet,' returned the lady, with a serious smile, as she encircled Florence's neck with her arm.
`But very soon to be,' cried Florence.
`Very soon now, Florence: very soon.'
Edith bent her head a little, so as to press the blooming cheek of Florence against her own, and for some few moments remained thus silent. There was something so very tender in her manner, that Florence was even more sensible of it than on the first occasion of their meeting.
She led Florence to a chair beside her, and sat down: Florence looking in her face, quite wondering at its beauty, and willingly leaving her hand in hers.
`Have you been alone, Florence, since I was here last?'
`Oh yes!' smiled Florence, hastily.
She hesitated and cast down her eyes; for her new Mama was very earnest in her look, and the look was intently and thoughtfully fixed upon her face.
`I--I--am used to be alone,' said Florence. `I don't mind it at all. Di and I pass whole days together, sometimes.' Florence might have said, whole weeks and months.
`Is Di your maid, love?'
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