Page:Court Royal.djvu/144

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she had passed to another and unfamiliar sphere. She had been reared in the midst of manufactured goods, apart from nature; now she was introduced to nature’s best creations. Mrs. Probus was amused at the girl’s expressions of rapture at the beauty of what she saw. Grapes she saw for the first time hanging from the vines, and oranges shining among the glossy leaves of the trees, side by side with silvery flowers. The dwarf apricots and nectarines were still burdened with fruit.

When she saw the flowers her excitement was unbounded. She laughed and cried at once. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkled, hands and feet were in incessant agitation. The primulas, the cyclamen, were in full, delicate bloom. The wax-like camellias, white and crimson, were in flower; chrysanthemums, screened from frost, were in tufts of every colour. The air was scented with white Roman hyacinths.

‘Oh!’ cried Joanna, with hands uplifted, ‘I would that the Barbican and all the world would sink into the ocean, and leave me alone here, to be happy with the flowers, for ever.’

At that moment the door from the next, the orchid house, opened, and Lady Grace Eveleigh appeared, dressed in silvery grey, with a quiet, close bonnet on her head. She looked at the excited girl with a sweet, confidence-inspiring smile, and came forward.

‘Dear alive, my lady!’ exclaimed Mrs. Probus, ‘I am a most unfortunate body to-day. I took the liberty of taking this young woman through the conservatories, without a thought that your ladyship was here. I have been unfortunate, indeed, this afternoon.’

‘Not at all, not at all, Probus,’ said Lady Grace, ‘I am always delighted that others should enjoy our pretty flowers. You like flowers,’ she added, turning to Joanna, her voice soft as the cooing of a dove.

‘I love them,’ said the girl, clasping her hands together.

‘What were you saying as I came in?’ asked Lady Grace.

Joanna answered, half laughing, half crying, ‘I said that I wished the world would sink under the sea and leave me alone with the flowers.’

‘That was rather a selfish wish,’ said Lady Grace. ‘Do you not care that others should share your pleasure?’

‘No, not at all,’ answered Joanna, bluntly.

‘Excuse her, my lady,’ put in Mrs. Probus, with a frightened look, ‘she doesn’t mean really to differ from your ladyship: she doesn’t understand what she says.’