“Certainly not, my dear! We are going, by and by, to look for her. The countess very likely has not yet learned of your disappearance; and if she does know that you did not return home last night, she believes you safe with the marquis. She will think you were not allowed to return home in the storm, and will not expect to see you before noon.”
“You are very clever, monsieur. I should never have thought of that! I imagined that mama would be vexed, and when mama is cross she is so disagreeable. At other times, though, she is perfectly lovely! You will see how very beautiful she is, monsieur, for you are coming home with me to tell her how you found me—you are so very kind! How I wish you were my papa!”
The old gentleman was touched by the little one’s artless prattle.
“Well, my dear little maid,” he said tenderly, “we can’t think of showing ourselves on the street in such a costume. Besides, it would frighten your mama to see you so. I am going out to one of the shops to buy you a frock. Tell me, what sort was it Diana took from you?”
“A lovely pink silk, trimmed with lace, with short sleeves,” promptly replied the little maid.
“I shall not forget—a pink silk, trimmed with lace. You need not be afraid to stay alone here. No one will come while I am away.”
“Oh, I am not the least bit afraid. I like to be alone sometimes.”
“There is the doll to keep you company,” suggested the old gentleman, more and more pleased with his affable little visitor.
“Is n’t she lovely!” enthusiastically exclaimed the child. “She slept with me last night, and every time I woke up I kissed her.”
“You shall have her for your own, if you like her so much, my dear.”
“Oh, thank you! Did the doll belong to your dear little daughter who is dead?”
“Yes—yes,” sorrowfully murmured the old gentleman.
“Then I will not play with her, but keep her locked in my little cupboard, and call her Philine. That was the name of my little sister who is dead. Come here, Philine, and sit by me.”
“Perhaps you might like to look at a book while I am away—”
“A book!” interrupted the child, with a merry laugh, clapping her hands. “Why, I am just learning the alphabet, and can’t bring myself to call a two-pronged fork ‘y.’”
“You dear little innocent rogue!” tenderly ejaculated the old gentleman. “Are you fond of flowers?”
He brought from the adjoining room a porcelain flowerpot containing a narcissus in bloom.
“Oh, what a charming flower!” cried the child, admiringly. “How I wish I might pluck just one!”
“Help yourself, my dear,” returned her host, pushing the plant toward her.
The child daintily broke off one of the snowy blossoms, and, with childlike coquetry, fastened it in the trimming of her chemise.
“What is this beautiful flower called, monsieur?”