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 mamma?"
"No, darling, why?"
"Did I ever see any kind face, like a mamma’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."
"And where is my old nurse?" said Paul. "Is she dead too? Floy, are we all dead, except you?"
There was a hurry in the room, for an instant—longer, perhaps; but it seemed no more—then all was still again; and Florence, with her face quite colourless, but smiling, held his head upon her arm. Her arm trembled very much.
"Show me that old nurse, Floy, if you please!"
"She is not here, darling. She shall come to-morrow."
"Thank you, Floy!"
Paul closed his eyes with those words, and fell asleep. When he awoke, the sun was high, and the broad day was clear and warm. He lay a little, looking at the windows, which were open, and the curtains rustling in the air, and waving to and fro: then he said, "Floy, is it to-morrow? Is she come?"
Some one seemed to go in quest of her. Perhaps it was Susan. Paul thought he heard her telling him when he had closed his eyes again, that she would soon be back; but he did not open them to see. She kept her word—perhaps she had never been away—but the next thing that happened was a noise of footsteps on the stairs, and then Paul woke—woke mind and body—and sat upright in his bed. He saw them now about him. There was no grey mist before them, as there had been sometimes in the night. He knew them every one, and called them by their names.
"And who is this? Is this my old nurse?" said the child, regarding with a radiant smile, a figure coming in.
Yes, yes. No other stranger would have shed those tears at sight of him, and called him her dear boy, her pretty boy, her own poor blighted child. No other woman would have stooped down by his bed, and taken up his wasted hand, and put it to her lips and breast, as one who had some right to fondle it. No other woman would have so forgotten everybody there but him and Floy, and been so full of tenderness and pity.
"Floy! this is a kind good face!" said Paul. "I am glad to see it again. Don’t go away, old nurse! Stay here."
His senses were all quickened, and he heard a name he knew.
"Who was that, who said 'Walter?'" he asked, looking round. "Some one said Walter. Is he here? I should like to see him very much."