Yes, he had soon begun to watch for that bright little face, and it was hardly to be wondered at; for, particularly come upon against such a background, the face had something of the surprise of an apparition. It seemed all made of light; and when one o’clock had come, and Henry heard the expected footsteps of his little waiting-maid, and the tinkle of the tray she carried, coming up the yard, her entrance was as though some one had carried a lamp into the dark office. Surely it was more like the face of a spirit than that of a little human girl, and you would almost have expected it to shine in the dark. When you got used to the light of it, you realised that the radiance poured from singularly, even disproportionately, large blue eyes, set beneath a broad white brow of great purity, and that what at first had seemed rays of light around her head was a mass of sunny gold-brown hair which glinted even in shadow.
Strange indeed are the vagaries of the Spirit of Beauty! From how many high places will she turn away, yet delight to waste herself upon a slum like this! How fantastic the accident that had brought such a face to flower in such a spot!—and yet hardly more fantastic, he reflected, than that which had sown his own family haphazard where they were. Was it the ironic fate of power to be always a god in exile, turning mean wheels with mighty hands; and was Cinderella the fable of the eternal lot of beauty in this capriciously ordered world?
Yes, what chance wind, blowing all the way from Derbyshire, had set down Mr. Flower with his little garden of girls in this uncongenial spot? For by this Henry had made the acquaintance of the whole family: Mr. and Mrs. Flower and four daughters in all,—all pretty girls, but not one of the others with a face like that,—which was another puzzle. How is it that out of one family one will be chosen by the Spirit of Beauty or genius, and the others so unmistakably left? There could be no doubt as to whom had been chosen here.
One day the step coming up the yard at one o’clock seemed to be different, and when the door opened it was another sister who had brought his lunch that day. Her eldest sister was ill, she explained, and in bed; and it was so for the next day, and again the next. Could it be possible that Henry had watched so eagerly for that little face, that he missed it so much already?
The next morning he bought some roses on his way through town, and begged that they might be allowed to brighten her room; and the next day surely it was the same light little tread once more coming up the yard. Joy! she was better again. She looked pale, he said anxiously, and ventured to say too that he had missed her. As she blushed and looked down, he saw that she wore one of his roses in her bosom.