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Florence Dombey
by [?]

There never was a child more loving or more lovable than Florence Dombey. There never was a child more ready to respond to loving ministrations than she, more eager to yield herself in docile obedience to a parent’s wish; and to her mother she clung with a desperate affection at variance with her years.

But the sad day came when, clasped in her mother’s arms, the little creature, with her perfectly colorless face, and deep, dark eyes, never moved her soft cheek from her mother’s face, nor looked on those who stood around, nor shed a tear, understanding that soon she would be bereft of that mother’s care and love.

“Mamma!” cried the child at last, sobbing aloud; “Oh, dear mamma! oh, dear mamma!”

Then, clinging fast to that slight spar within her arms, the mother drifted out upon the dark and unknown sea that rolls round all the world, leaving Florence and the new-born baby brother in the father’s care.

Alas for Florence! To that father,–the pompous head of the great firm of Dombey and Son–girls never showed a sufficient justification for their existence, and this one of his own was an object of supreme indifference to him; while upon the tiny boy, his heir and future partner in the firm, he lavished all his interest, centred all his hopes and affection.

After her mother’s death, Florence was taken away by an aunt; and a nurse, named Polly Richards, was secured for baby Paul. A few weeks later, as Polly was sitting in her own room with her young charge, the door was quietly opened, and a dark-eyed little girl looked in.

“It’s Miss Florence, come home from her aunt’s, no doubt,” thought Richards, who had never seen the child before. “Hope I see you well, miss.”

“Is that my brother?” asked the child, pointing to the baby.

“Yes, my pretty,” answered Richards, “come and kiss him.”

But the child, instead of advancing, looked her earnestly in the face, and said:

“What have you done with my mamma?”

“Lord bless the little creetur!” cried Richards. “What a sad question! I done? Nothing, miss.”

“What have they done with my mamma?” cried the child.

“I never saw such a melting thing in all my life!” said Richards. “Come nearer here; come, my dear miss! Don’t be afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” said the child, drawing nearer, “but I want to know what they have done with my mamma.”

“My darling,” said Richards, “come and sit down by me, and I’ll tell you a story.”

With a quick perception that it was intended to relate to what she had asked, little Florence sat down on a stool at the nurse’s feet, looking up into her face.

“Once upon a time,” said Richards, “there was a lady–a very good lady, and her little daughter dearly loved her–who, when God thought it right that it should be so, was taken ill, and died. Died, never to be seen again by anyone on earth, and was buried in the ground where the trees grow.”

“The cold ground,” said the child, shuddering.

“No, the warm ground,” returned Polly, seizing her advantage, “where the ugly little seeds turn into beautiful flowers, and into grass, and into corn, and I don’t know what all besides. Where good people turn into bright angels, and fly away to heaven!”

The child who had drooped her head, raised it again, and sat looking at her intently.

“So; let me see,” said Polly, not a little flurried between this earnest scrutiny, her desire to comfort the child, her sudden success, and her very slight confidence in her own powers. “So, when this lady died, she went to God! and she prayed to Him, this lady did,” said Polly, affecting herself beyond measure, being heartily in earnest, “to teach her little daughter to be sure of that in her heart; and to know that she was happy there, and loved her still; and to hope and try–oh, all her life–to meet her there one day, never, never, never to part any more.”