All Amelia could do was sob, knowing that it would take at least two more minutes, and then it would be over.

''You never should have been born, Amelia. Do you know that you make things worse then they already were?'' her aunt questioned, hitting her again. Amelia was scared and shivering now, wishing with all her heart that her parents were here, as they would not have hurt her. She winced as her aunt hit her, wondering what she had done to make her aunt so angry. She had only been trying to teach the maid to read. Was that so wrong? How very cruel her aunt was.

Finally her aunt finished with the beatings, and swept out of the room. Amelia slowly picked herself up, and went to lock the door, then sank to the floor, sobbing.

She hated her aunt, and hated her stepfather. Cursed the day they ever came to this house.

Pulling herself up slowly from the floor, for the beatings hurt, she undid her braid of rosy blonde hair, re-braiding it, and tying it with the rose-colored satin ribbon that had fallen from it when she'd been beaten. Amelia slowly stood up, and dragged herself to the vanity table near her bed, sitting down and bursting into fresh tears again.

There was no one there to help her, no one that might even care for her as her parents did. Her beloved parents, the only people who had ever cared, were dead, and she was all alone.

She looked at the mirror, wanting to break it. And it did break, through nothing at all. She wondered if she had done that. She wondered if she could fix it. And the pieces of the mirror slowly fixed itself back together, until it looked like it had never been broken.

'' Lady Amelia?'' she heard the maid asking. ''Are you all right?''

''Yes.'' she called out. ''I'm fine, Paulina.'' She could hear retreating footsteps outside the door. When there was no more noise, she rose and went to the door, unlocking it, tiptoeing out of it, and snuck along the hallway to her aunt's room.

Her aunt( she could never call her Aunt Darling) had seated herself on an upholstered chair, and Cecil Dent, her stepfather, sat down beside her.

''What shall we do about Amelia?'' her stepfather spoke, and his voice was as always, cold and hard.

Not one shred of sympathy for her.

Her aunt replied, ''There must be some rich, boring, elderly nobleman in London who is looking for a wife. Get her engaged and married in at least a week or two.''

Cecil leant forward and kissed Darling, nodding before he did so.

''Or we could arrange for a nice little accident to befall her, so we could inherit her money.''

Money? Amelia thought, listening. Papa really did leave me something in his will? Then I am an heiress. I must talk to his lawyer in secret. I ought to get back to my room now, before they notice me.

She tiptoed back to her room, and by now, the pain had started to fade. Paulina Murray, her maid, was just coming out of her room, and when she saw her, she let out a quiet scream. With Paulina, everything was quiet, like a mouse.

''Lady Amelia, are you sure you're alright? I'm really very sorry for getting you in trouble. I know you were only trying to help.'' Her voice was just above the level of a normal whisper, and Amelia smiled at her.

''Paulina, would you possibly be able to fetch Papa's lawyer?''

''Frederick Rowe? Yes, why?''

''I heard aunt say Papa left me some money, like Mama told me before she died. I want to find out more. But how can we arrange a visit without my stepfather and aunt finding out?''

''You're visiting Miss Kleinman's tomorrow, aren't you? I could run over to her house and tell her.''

''Really, Paulina? Thank you so much.'' Amelia embraced Paulina lightly, quickly.

Paulina stepped back, and hurried to the back of the house, slipping through the maid's entrance. Miss Kleinman's was only a street away, and she had accompanied Lady Amelia there many times, so she knew the way.

When she had reached there, she knocked upon Miss Kleinman's door, and Miss Kleinman herself opened it.

''Hello, Paulina. Is there anything I can do?''

''Can I come in?'' Paulina requested. ''Lady Amelia has something she wishes you to help her with.''

Miss Kleinman, attired in a pale yellow gown with blue patterning and lace cuffs, beckoned her to come in.

Paulina scurried in, and shut the door fast behind her. ''Lady Amelia wants you to- no, I mean Lady Amelia's coming tomorrow for a visit as planned. She heard her aunt say that her father left Amelia some money, and she wants to talk to her father's lawyer in your house.''

Miss Kleinman nodded. ''I suppose Amelia doesn't want her aunt or stepfather to know, so this is the only way to see the lawyer without both of them knowing.''

''So you have the idea, Miss Kleinman?''

''Tell Amelia she has nothing to worry about.''

Paulina nodded, bid Miss Kleinman good-bye, and returned home, with Miss Kleinman's promise she'd contact the lawyer.

She came into Lady Amelia's room quite out of breath, and told Lady Amelia what she had said to Miss Kleinman, and what Miss Kleinman had told her.

''Thank you so much, Paulina. You're such a good friend.''

Lady Amelia could be so sweet. She herself was only a maid, but Lady Amelia referred to her as friend.

And, she supposed, she could consider Lady Amelia a friend too. Smiling, she gave a quick curtsey, and scurried off to the library to do a bit of dusting.

Amelia's aunt swept in, gowned in black silk with larger then usual bustle and belled, netted sleeves, and her silvery blonde hair swept up in a high braided crown.

''Amelia Rose de Beauvoir, what are you doing standing there? I'm going to pay a social visit to Lady Mckellen's. You should come with me.''

So, Amelia thought, begins my social life. At least tomorrow it won't be with my aunt attending.