“Lord, Miss ’Lina, how you talk!” The room was right again now just as, a moment before, it had been wrong. She switched on the electric light, and, in the sudden blaze, caught the last flicker in the child’s eyes of some vision, caught, held, now surrendered.
“’Tis company she’s wanting, poor lamb,” she thought, “all this being alone.... Fair gives one the creeps.”
She heard with relief the opening of the door. Miss Emily came in, hesitated a moment, then walked over to her niece. In her hands she carried a beautiful doll with flaxen hair, long white robes, and the assured confidence of one who is spotless and knows it.
“There, Angelina,” she said. “I oughtn’t to have burnt your doll. I’m sorry. Here’s a beautiful new one.”
Angelina took the spotless one; then with a little thrust of her hand she pushed the half-open window wider apart. Very deliberately she dropped the doll (at whose beauty she had not glanced) out, away, down into the Square.
The doll, white in the dusk, tossed and whirled, and spun finally, a white speck far below, and struck the pavement.
Then Angelina turned, and with a little sigh of satisfaction looked at her aunt.
This is the story of Bim Rochester’s first Odyssey. It is a story that has Bim himself for the only proof of its veracity, but he has never, by a shadow of a word, faltered in his account of it, and has remained so unamazed at some of the strange aspects in it that it seems almost an impertinence that we ourselves should show any wonder. Benjamin (Bim) Rochester was probably the happiest little boy in March Square, and he was happy in spite of quite a number of disadvantages.
A word about the Rochester family is here necessary. They inhabited the largest house in March Square—the large grey one at the corner by Lent Street—and yet it could not be said to be large enough for them. Mrs. Rochester was a black-haired woman with flaming cheeks and a most untidy appearance. Her mother had been a Spaniard, and her father an English artist, and she was very much the child of both of them. Her hair was always coming down, her dress unfastened, her shoes untied, her boots unbuttoned. She rushed through life with an amazing shattering vigour, bearing children, flinging them into an already overcrowded nursery, rushing out to parties, filling the house with crowds of friends, acquaintances, strangers, laughing, chattering, singing, never out of temper, never serious, never, for a moment, to be depended on. Her husband, a grave, ball-faced man, spent most of his days in the City and at his club, but was fond of his wife, and admired what he called her “energy.” “My wife’s splendid,” he would say to his friends, “knows the whole of London, I believe. The people we have in our house!” He would watch, sometimes, the strange, noisy parties, and then would retire to bridge at his club with a little sigh of pride.