‘I do! hold your tongue,’ said Joanna, turning sharply on the housekeeper.
‘Do not trouble yourself, dear Probus. Whoever loves flowers has a kindred feeling with me. I love them with all my heart.’ She looked at Joanna, who stood undecided what to say or do. Then, turning to Mrs. Probus, she said, ‘Will you do me a favour, and yield your place to me, nurse? Let me take her round the houses. You do not know the pleasure it gives me to show the flowers to one who can feel towards them like myself.’
‘Very well, my lady,’ said the old woman, ‘but you must not take it amiss—if this young person——’
‘I shall take it greatly amiss,’ interrupted the lady, ‘if she does not admire what I admire. I can see in her bright eyes that she is happy with my pets. Leave us alone together; we shall perfectly understand each other. We flower fanciers have a language of our own, understandable among ourselves, sealed to outsiders.’
When Mrs. Probus was gone, Lady Grace, looking kindly into the girl’s excited face, asked, ‘Will you tell me what is your name?’
‘Joanna!’ repeated Lady Grace. ‘That name is uncommon. It is pretty, very pretty, and quaint. I like it.’
The girl flushed with pleasure and pride.
‘I am glad you like it,’ she said; ‘I never thought a button about my name before. Now I shall like it.’
‘I hope you like Probus,’ said the lady. ‘She was my nurse long, long ago. She used to scold me a little and caress me a great deal.’
‘Please, my lady,’ Joanna spoke timidly, ‘may I go very, very slowly along, because all this is so new and so beautiful that I cannot bear to miss anything. Mrs. Probus walked so fast, and was afraid of staying long anywhere.’
‘I will go as slow as you like, and stop as long as suits you beside any flower. That is a yellow primula; look, under the leaves is white flour, it comes off on your finger, and that gives the plant its Latin name. It has a sweet scent. Whence do you come from, Joanna?’
The girl pointed downwards.
The questioner looked at her with surprise, not understanding the significance of the indication.