This case might be the pretty drawing-room, full of the choice artistic curiosities of a man of cultivation, and presided over by his mother, a woman of much the same bright, keen, alert sweetness of air and countenance: still under sixty, and in perfect health and spirits-as well she might be, having preserved, as well as deserved, the exclusive devotion of her only child during all the years in which her early widowhood had made them all in all to each other. Ten years ago, on his election to a lectureship at one of the London hospitals, the son had set up his name on the brass plate of the door of a comfortable house in a once fashionable quarter of London; she had joined him there, and they had been as happy as affection and fair success could make them. He became lecturer at a hospital, did much for the poor, both within and without its walls, and had besides a fair practice, both among the tradespeople, and also among the literary, scientific, and artistic world, where their society was valued as much as his skill. Mrs. Brownlow was well used to being called on to do the many services suggested by a kind heart in the course of a medical man’s practice, and there was very little within, or beyond, reason that she would not have done at her Joe’s bidding. So she made the arrangement, exciting much gratitude in the heads of the Pomfret House Establishment for Young Ladies; though without seeing little Miss Allen, till, from the Doctor’s own brougham, but escorted only by an elderly maid-servant, there came climbing up the stairs a little heap of shawls and cloaks, surmounted by a big brown mushroom hat.
“Very proper of Joe. He can’t be too particular,-but such a child!” thought Mrs. Brownlow as the mufflings disclosed a tiny creature, angular in girlish sort, with an odd little narrow wedge of a face, sallow and wan, rather too much of teeth and mouth, large greenish-hazel eyes, and a forehead with a look of expansion, partly due to the crisp waves of dark hair being as short as a boy’s. The nose was well cut, and each delicate nostril was quivering involuntarily with emotion-or fright, or both.
Mrs. Brownlow kissed her, made her rest on the sofa, and talked to her, the shy monosyllabic replies lengthening every time as the motherliness drew forth a response, until, when conducted to the cheerful little room which Mrs. Brownlow had carefully decked with little comforts for the convalescent, and with the ornaments likely to please a girl’s eye, she suddenly broke into a little irrepressible cry of joy and delight. “Oh! oh! how lovely! Am I to sleep here? Oh! it is just like the girls’ rooms I always did long to see! Now I shall always be able to think about it.”
“My poor child, did you never even see such a room ?”
“No; I slept in the attic with the maid at old Aunt Mary’s, and always in a cubicle after I went to the asylum. Some of the girls who went home in the holidays used to describe such rooms to us, but they could never have been so nice as this! Oh! oh! Mrs. Brownlow, real lilies of the valley! Put there for me! Oh! you dear, delicious, pearly things! I never saw one so close before!”