“No,” said Edith, “I want her for company. I shan’t be lonesome looking in her eyes, and I know you will come back if I keep her.”
Arthur understood her meaning, and answered laughingly, “Well, keep her then, as a token that I will surely return,” and pressing a kiss upon the beautiful picture he left the room, while Edith listened with a beating heart, until the sound of his footsteps had died away. Then a sense of dreariness stole over her; the tears gathered in her eyes, and she sought by a one-sided conversation with her picture to drive the loneliness away.
“Pretty Nina! Sweet Nina! Jolly Nina!” she kept repeating, “I guess I used to see you in Heaven, before I came down to the nasty old Asylum. And mother was there, too, with a great long veil of hair, which came below her waist. Where was it?” she asked herself as Nina, her mother and Marie were all mingled confusedly together in her mind; and while seeking to solve the mystery, the darkness deepened in the room, the gas lamps were lighted in the street, and with a fresh shudder of loneliness Edith crept into the bed, and nestling down among her pillows, fell asleep with Nina, pressed lovingly to her bosom.
At a comparatively early hour next morning, the door of her room, which had been left unfastened, was opened, and a chambermaid walked in, starting with surprise at sight of Edith, sitting up in bed, her thick black hair falling over her shoulders, and her large eyes fixed inquiringly upon her.
“An, sure,” she began, “is it a child like you staying here alone the blessed night? Where’s yer folks?”
“I hain’t no folks,” answered Edith, holding fast to the locket, and chewing industriously the bit of gum which Rachel, who knew her taste, had slipped into her pocket at parting.
“Hain’t no folks! How come you here then?” and the girl Lois advanced nearer to the bedside.
“A man brought me,” returned Edith. “He’s gone off now, but will come again to-night.”
“Your father, most likely,” continued the loquacious Lois.
“My father!” and Edith laughed scornfully, “Mr. Arthur ain’t big enough to be anybody’s father—or yes, maybe he’s big enough, for he’s awful tall. But he’s got the teentiest whiskers growing you ever saw,” and Edith’s nose went up contemptuously at Arthur’s darling mustache. “I don’t believe he’s twenty,” she continued, “and little girl’s pa’s must be older than that I guess, and have bigger whiskers.”
“How old are you?” asked Lois, vastly amused at the quaint speeches of the child, who replied, with great dignity,
“Going on ten, and in three years more I’ll be thirteen!”
“Who are you, any way?” asked Lois, her manner indicating so much real interest that Edith repeated her entire history up to the present time, excepting, indeed, the part pertaining to the locket held so vigilantly in her hand.
She had taken a picture belonging to Mr. Arthur, she said, and as Lois did not ask what picture, she was spared any embarrassment upon that point.