`My dog, Mama,' said Florence, laughing. `Susan is my maid.'
`And these are your rooms,' said Edith, looking round. `I was not shown these rooms the other day. We must have them improved, Florence. They shall be made the prettiest in the house.'
`If I might change them, Mama,' returned Florence; `there is one up stairs I should like much better.'
`Is this not high enough, dear girl?' asked Edith, smiling.
`The other was my brother's room,' said Florence, `and I am very fond of it. I would have spoken to Papa about it when I came home, and found the workmen here, and everything changing: but--'
Florence dropped her eyes, lest the same look should make her falter again.
`--but I was afraid it might distress him; and as you said you would be here again soon, Mama, and are the mistress of everything, I determined to take courage and ask you.'
Edith sat looking at her, with her brilliant eyes intent upon her face, until Florence raising her own, she, in her turn, withdrew her gaze, and turned it on the ground. It was then that Florence thought how different this lady's beauty was, from what she had supposed. She had thought it of a proud and lofty kind; yet her manner was so subdued and gentle, that if she had been of Florence's own age and character, it scarcely could have invited confidence more.
Except when a constrained and singular reserve crept over her; and then she seemed (but Florence hardly understood this, though she could not choose but notice it, and think about it) as if she were humbled before Florence, and ill at ease. When she had said that she was not her Mama yet, and when Florence had called her the mistress of everything there, this change in her was quick and startling; and now, while the eyes of Florence rested on her face, she sat as though she would have shrunk and hidden from her, rather than as one about to love and cherish her, in right of such a near connexion.
She gave Florence her ready promise, about her new room, and said she would give directions about it herself. She then asked some questions concerning poor Paul; and when they had sat in conversation for some time, told Florence she had come to take her to her own home.
`We have come to London now, my mother and I,' said Edith, `and you shall stay with us until I am married. I wish that we should know and trust each other, Florence.'
`You are very kind to me.' said Florence, `dear Mama. How much I thank you!'
`Let me say now, for it may be the best opportunity,' continued Edith, looking round to see that they were quite alone, and speaking in a lower voice, `that when I am married, and have gone away for some weeks, I shall be easier at heart if you will come home here. No matter who invites you to stay elsewhere, come home here. It is better to be alone then--what I would say is,' she added, checking herself, `that I know well you are best at home, dear Florence.'
`I will come home on the very day, Mama.'
`Do so. I rely on that promise. Now, prepare to come with me, dear girl. You will find me down stairs when you are ready.'
Slowly and thoughtfully did Edith wander alone through the mansion of which she was so soon to be the lady: and little heed took she of all the elegance and splendour it began to display. The same indomitable haughtiness of soul, the same proud scorn expressed in eye and lip, the same fierce beauty, only tamed by a sense of its own little worth, and of the little worth of everything around it, went through the grand saloons and halls, that had got loose among the shady trees, and raged and rent themselves. The mimic roses on the walls and floors were set round with sharp thorns, that tore her breast; in every scrap of
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