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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 27. The Poor Doves
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 27. The Poor Doves Post by :dmindia Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2860

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 27. The Poor Doves

CHAPTER XXVII. THE POOR DOVES

The next morning early Primrose opened her trunk, and unlocking a certain little morocco case, which contained her mother's letter about her lost brother, one or two trinkets which had belonged to that same mother, and Mr. Danesfield's envelope, she took the latter out of the case, and slipped it into her pocket. After breakfast she went round to see Miss Egerton.

"An old friend," she said, "in the village where we lived--I would rather not say his name--gave me this. I believe it contains money. I have a kind of idea that it contains three bank notes for L5 each. I have never opened it, and I never wish to. I meant to return it some day to this kind friend--yes, I know he meant to be very kind. This is what he has written on the outside of the envelope."

Miss Egerton read aloud--"When you want me, use me; don't return me, and never abuse me."

"There must be money here, my dear," she said.

"Yes, I know there is money," said Primrose, "for he wanted to press fifteen pounds on me when I went to say good-bye; but I was too proud to accept it, so now I think he has thought of this way of helping us. We could buy our furniture out of some of that money, Miss Egerton."

"Quite so, dear," said Miss Egerton, in a very cheerful voice. "Give me the letter, Primrose, and I will put it carefully away for you; you need not open it just at this moment. I will order just as little furniture as possible, and have it sent in to-day, and then when the bill comes you shall pay out of this envelope. I should not be surprised if we did our furnishing for seven pounds; I thought of so many nice, cheap little expedients last night. Now go home, dear, and come to me again in the evening, and I will tell you what I have done. I have no doubt I can have your rooms ready by to-morrow; is Daisy pleased at the idea of coming?"

"Yes, she is delighted," said Primrose; "her dear little face quite changed when I spoke about it. I am sure you are right, Miss Egerton, and the change will do her lots of good."

"I mean to make your attics quite charming," said Miss Egerton. "They shall be converted into a kind of beautiful palace for my brave young workers. Yes, Primrose, I admire your spirit, and if I can do anything to aid you three girls to conquer fate, I will."

The moment her school duties were over Miss Egerton went out. She visited certain shops that she knew of--queer little, quaint, out-of-the-way shops--quite pokey little places; but from their depths she managed to extract one or two round tables, one or two easy-chairs, a few brackets, which could be easily converted into book-shelves, a certain sofa, with not too hard a back, a couple of fenders, some fire-irons, some cups and saucers, some dinner plates. These and a few more necessary articles she bought for what would have seemed a ridiculously low figure to any one who was not in her secret. The furniture was all conveyed to her neat little house that afternoon, and there it was absolutely pounced upon by her willing and hard-working servant who washed it, and scrubbed it, and rubbed it, and polished it; and, finally, Miss Egerton purchased bright chintz, and slipped it over the ugly little chairs, and covered up the antiquated old sofa, and that very night a certain amount of her work was got through, and the attics began already to look habitable.

"I mean to do a great deal more," thought Miss Egerton; "fortunately the paper is fresh and the paint clean; but I must put up two or three pictures, and I shall fill these book-shelves with the books I used to love when I was young. My own white sheep-skin rug shall go in front of the fire. Daisy will like to see the Pink curling down into the depths of that sheep-skin. Ah, yes! the girls shall have a good time--a cosy, home-like time--in these rooms, if I can give it to them."

Then Miss Egerton went downstairs to meet Primrose with a smile about her thin lips, and a serene, beautiful light in her kind eyes.

"They are getting ready--the rooms are beginning to look charming, dear," she said. "Oh no, you must not see them yet. It is my fancy not to show them to you until they are quite ready, and I fear that won't be until the day after to-morrow; but to-morrow, Primrose, you and Jasmine and little Daisy may occupy yourselves packing your trunks."

"It all sounds delightful," said Primrose. "You cannot think, Miss Egerton, how cheered we all are at the thought of coming to you. As to Daisy, I simply should not know her--she is a changed child. I told the Doves that we were leaving as I went out this afternoon. They looked rather cross, and Mrs. Dove asked for a week's rent, instead of the usual notice. But I can manage to pay that nicely. I won't stay now, dear Miss Egerton. I'm going round to see Mr. Jones about the plates he was to try and sell for me, and then I shall hurry back to Daisy."

"Take her this fresh egg and this little sponge-loaf for her supper," said Miss Egerton. "Now good-bye, dear. God bless you, dear!"

"It is wonderful what kind friends we girls seem to meet at every turn," thought Primrose to herself, as she hurried down the dirty, sloppy street. "It would be very strange if we did not succeed with so many people wishing us well. Oh! I feel in good spirits to-night. Even if Mr. Jones has not sold the plates I shall not complain."

Mr. Jones assured his industrious pupil when she entered his dark little shop that he had "all but" got a customer for her. The customer was a wealthy old gentleman, who had a passion for collecting china, and, in special, liked the work of beginners. The old gentleman had looked at Primrose's plates, and had said that they were very fine, and had a certain crudity or freshness about them, which, for his part, he took to; and if she had three or four more lessons he felt morally certain that he would purchase her wares.

"He's a splendid customer, but he was most explicit on the point of more lessons, Miss Mainwaring," said Mr. Jones.

"But you have found me so many 'all but' customers who just wished me to have a few more lessons, Mr. Jones," said Primrose, smiling sadly.

"None like the present man--none like the present man, my dear young lady," answered Mr. Jones, rubbing his fat hands softly together. "A man who likes crudity, and calls it freshness, ain't to be found every day of the week, Miss Mainwaring."

Primrose admitted this fact, and, bidding her teacher good evening, without committing herself to any definite promise of taking further lessons, she turned her steps homewards. Even Mr. Jones had scarcely power to depress her to-night. She felt brave and bright, and all her youth made itself manifest in her springing, elastic step. Now that she was about to leave them, she felt horrified at the thought of having lived so long with the Doves. Her sense of relief at the thought of making her home with Miss Egerton was greater than she could express.

She entered the house, and came upstairs singing a gay air under her breath.

At the door of their attics she was met by Jasmine.

"Oh, Primrose! I have been watching for you. I am so glad you have come. I cannot think what is the matter with Daisy."

"With Daisy?" echoed Primrose; "but I left her so bright two hours ago."

"She was bright an hour ago, Primrose; she was sitting on the floor with the Pink in her arms, and laughing and chatting. I put on my bonnet, and left her alone for about ten minutes while I ran round the corner to get what we wanted for our supper, and when I came back she was sitting with her hands straight before her in her lap, and the Pink standing by her side, and looking into her face and mewing and Daisy not taking a scrap of notice, but with her eyes fixed straight in front of her in quite a dreadful way. When I went up to her and touched her, she began to shiver, and then to cry, and then she said, 'oh Jasmine! we can't go away from here--we can't; oh, we can't! We mustn't do it, Jasmine; we must stay here always, always!'"

"Poor little darling!" said Primrose. "She must have had a bad dream; certainly Miss Egerton is right, and her nerves are very much shaken and she wants change as soon as possible. Is she in the bedroom, Jasmine?"

"Yes."

"Will you cook the supper, and I will go to her?"

Jasmine nodded, and Primrose went straight into the other room. Her little sister had once more flown to the Pink for consolation; she was holding the little animal tightly in her arms, and was rocking herself backwards and forwards, and sobbing under her breath.

Primrose knelt down by her.

"What is it, my own little darling?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing, Primrose," said poor little Daisy, raising her tear-stained face; "nothing really, dear Primrose, only I don't like to leave the poor Doves."

"Oh, is that all?" said Primrose, in a very cheerful tone. "Why, Daisy, you did not at all mind leaving them a couple of days ago; but if you are really fond of them you can still see them occasionally, for we are not going far away."

"I don't wish to leave the poor Doves," repeated Daisy, bending down over the Pink, and her tears falling afresh.

"But, Daisy dear, how very funny of you to speak like this! You know, darling, you must allow Jasmine and me to decide for you; we feel that you will be much happier and much more comfortable with Mrs. Egerton. Come, Daisy, these tears are very bad for you in your weak state. Let me wash your face and hands, and take you into the other room to a nice surprise supper sent by Miss Egerton."

But Daisy only shook her head, and bent lower over her cat, and repeated over, and over, and over:

"I can't go away from Mr. and Mrs. Dove."

Poor Primrose became really alarmed at last.

"Daisy," she said, "there must be some reason for this sudden change in your wishes. You were quite delighted at the thought of going to Miss Egerton's an hour ago, when Jasmine was here; Jasmine went out, and when she came back she found you in this state. Did you see anybody while Jasmine was out?"

"N--n--no--I mean--I mean I can't say. Don't ask me, Primrose. Oh, Primrose, I'm such a miserable little girl! but please, please, please don't take me away from the poor Doves."

Daisy cried herself nearly into hysterics, and Primrose had at last to pacify her by assuring her that they were not going away from the Doves just yet.

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