The pretty village face looks brightly up. Then, seeing how serious my Lady is, looks puzzled and surprised.
“See to the door. Is it shut?”
Yes. She goes to it and returns, and looks yet more surprised.
“I am about to place confidence in you, child, for I know I may trust your attachment, if not your judgment. In what I am going to do, I will not disguise myself to you at least. But I confide in you. Say nothing to any one of what passes between us.”
The timid little beauty promises in all earnestness to be trustworthy.
“Do you know,” Lady Dedlock asks her, signing to her to bring her chair nearer, “do you know, Rosa, that I am different to you from what I am to any one?”
“Yes, my Lady. Much kinder. But then I often think I know you as you really are.”
“You often think you know me as I really am? Poor child, poor child!”
She says it with a kind of scorn—though not of Rosa—and sits brooding, looking dreamily at her.
“Do you think, Rosa, you are any relief or comfort to me? Do you suppose your being young and natural, and fond of me and grateful to me, makes it any pleasure to me to have you near me?”
“I don’t know, my Lady; I can scarcely hope so. But with all my heart, I wish it was so.”
“It is so, little one.”
The pretty face is checked in its flush of pleasure by the dark expression on the handsome face before it. It looks timidly for an explanation.
“And if I were to say to-day, ‘Go! Leave me!’ I should say what would give me great pain and disquiet, child, and what would leave me very solitary.”
“My Lady! Have I offended you?”
“In nothing. Come here.”
Rosa bends down on the footstool at my Lady’s feet. My Lady, with that motherly touch of the famous ironmaster night, lays her hand upon her dark hair and gently keeps it there.
“I told you, Rosa, that I wished you to be happy and that I would make you so if I could make anybody happy on this earth. I cannot. There are reasons now known to me, reasons in which you have no part, rendering it far better for you that you should not remain here. You must not remain here. I have determined that you shall not. I have written to the father of your lover, and he will be here to-day. All this I have done for your sake.”
The weeping girl covers her hand with kisses and says what shall she do, what shall she do, when they are separated! Her mistress kisses her on the cheek and makes no other answer.
“Now, be happy, child, under better circumstances. Be beloved and happy!”
“Ah, my Lady, I have sometimes thought—forgive my being so free— that you are not happy.”
“Will you be more so when you have sent me away? Pray, pray, think again. Let me stay a little while!”