'It's Miss Florence come home from her aunt's, no doubt,' thought Richards, who had never seen the child before. 'Hope I see you well, Miss.'
'Is that my brother?' asked the child, pointing to the Baby.
'Yes, my pretty,' answered Richards. 'Come and kiss him.'
But the child, instead of advancing, looked her earnestly in the face, and said:
'What have you done with my Mama?'
'Lord bless the little creeter!' cried Richards, 'what a sad question! I done? Nothing, Miss.'
'What have they done with my Mama?' inquired the child, with exactly the same look and manner.
'I never saw such a melting thing in all my life!' said Richards, who naturally substituted 'for this child one of her own, inquiring for herself in like circumstances. 'Come nearer here, my dear Miss! Don't be afraid of me.'
'I am not afraid of you,' said the child, drawing nearer. 'But I want to know what they have done with my Mama.'
Her heart swelled so as she stood before the woman, looking into her eyes, that she was fain to press her little hand upon her breast and hold it there. Yet there was a purpose in the child that prevented both her slender figure and her searching gaze from faltering.
'My darling,' said Richards, 'you wear that pretty black frock in remembrance of your Mama.'
'I can remember my Mama,' returned the child, with tears springing to her eyes, 'in any frock.'
'But people put on black, to remember people when they're gone.'
'Where gone?' asked the child.
'Come and sit down by me,' said Richards, 'and I'll tell you a story.'
With a quick perception that it was intended to relate to what she had asked, little Florence laid aside the bonnet she had held in her hand until now, and sat down on a stool at the Nurse's feet, looking up into her face.
'Once upon a time,' said Richards, 'there was a lady - a very good lady, and her little daughter dearly loved her.'
'A very good lady and her little daughter dearly loved her,' repeated the child.
'Who, when God thought it right that it should be so, was taken ill and died.'
The child shuddered.
'Died, never to be seen again by anyone on earth, and was buried in the ground where the trees grow.
'The cold ground?' said the child, shuddering again. 'No! The warm ground,' returned Polly, seizing her advantage, 'where the ugly little seeds turn into beautiful flowers, and into grass, and corn, and I don't know what all besides. Where good people turn into bright angels, and fly away to Heaven!'
The child, who had dropped her head, raised it again, and sat looking at her intently.
'So; let me see,' said Polly, not a little flurried between this earnest scrutiny, her desire to comfort the child, her sudden success, and her very slight confidence in her own powers.' So, when this lady died, wherever they took her, or wherever they put her, she went to GOD! and she prayed to Him, this lady did,' said Polly, affecting herself beyond measure; being heartily in earnest, 'to teach her little daughter to be sure of that in her heart: and to know that she was happy there and loved her still: and to hope and try - Oh, all her life - to meet her there one day, never, never, never to part any more.'
'It was my Mama!' exclaimed the child, springing up, and clasping her round the neck.
'And the child's heart,' said Polly, drawing her to her breast: 'the little daughter's heart was so full of the truth of this, that even when she heard it from a strange nurse that couldn't tell it right, but was a poor mother herself and that was all, she found a comfort in it - didn't feel so lonely - sobbed and cried upon her bosom - took kindly to the baby lying in her lap - and - there, there, there!' said Polly, smoothing the child's curls and dropping tears upon them. 'There, poor dear!'
'Oh well, Miss Floy! And won't your Pa be angry neither!' cried a quick voice at the door, proceeding from a short, brown, womanly girl of fourteen, with a little snub nose, and black eyes like jet beads. 'When it was 'tickerlerly given out that you wasn't to go and worrit the wet nurse.