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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 28. A Startling Discovery
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 28. A Startling Discovery Post by :dmindia Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2315

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 28. A Startling Discovery

CHAPTER XXVIII. A STARTLING DISCOVERY

All through her dreams that night Daisy sobbed and moaned. Primrose, lying awake by her side, felt more and more alarmed and concerned. What was the matter with her little sister? She felt completely puzzled. The bright little castle in the air she and Jasmine had been building; the cheerful thought of the cosy rooms which the girls were to share together in their friend's house; the dear delight of having furniture of their very own again; all these very healthful and natural dreams were fading and fading, for whenever Primrose even alluded to their leaving their present quarters Daisy clutched her hand, and looked at her with such pleading eyes, and used hurried words of such anguished entreaty, that at last the eldest sister felt obliged to say--

"We will stay where we are, Daisy, until you wish to leave."

Then the poor little thin face relaxed into a wan smile, the lids drooped over the tired blue eyes, and the child slept more peacefully.

When Primrose felt her head, however, it was feverish, and her little hands burned to the touch. She went into the next room and called Jasmine.

"Jasmine," she said, "I am going round to Mrs. Egerton's; I am going to tell her all about Daisy's alarm and terror. I am going to consult her, for I know she means to be a good friend to us. Jasmine, promise me one thing--don't leave Daisy alone while I am out. I cannot in the least understand how it happened, but I feel sure she must have got some fright when you were out last night."

"Oh, she couldn't have," answered Jasmine--"I locked the door after me. I never leave Daisy alone without locking the door. I won't leave her now, of course, Primrose--I will take my little writing table close to her bedside, and if she wakes I can read her a part of my novel."

Primrose gave one or two more directions, and then hurried out, and Jasmine, after she had washed up the breakfast things, and put the little sitting-room perfectly tidy, moved her small writing-table into the bedroom, and sat down by Daisy's side. She was in the scribbling stage of her great work, and with her head bent low, her cheeks flushed, and her fingers much stained with ink, was writing away with great rapidity, when she was startled by some very earnest words from the little sleeper.

"Oh, no, indeed, Mr. Dove--oh no, you may be quite certain. I know where I'd go if I told a lie, of course, Mr. Dove. Yes, yes, you are my friend, and I'm your friend--yes, yes."

"Daisy, do wake up," said Jasmine; "you are talking such rubbish about Mr. Dove, and about telling lies, and Mr. Dove being your friend--open your eyes, Daisy, and let me give you such a nice little breakfast."

"Is that you, Jasmine?" said Daisy--"I thought you were Mr. Dove--I was asleep, and I was dreaming."

"Yes, Eyebright, and talking in your dreams," said Jasmine, stooping down and kissing her.

Daisy held one of Jasmine's hands very tightly.

"Did I say anything, Jasmine--anything that you shouldn't hear--anything about--about sticky sweetmeats, Jasmine?"

"No, you silly pet, not a word. Now sit up in bed, and let me give you your breakfast. Daisy, I really do think my novel is going to be a great success. I am going to put Mr. Dove into it, and Mrs. Dove, and Tommy Dove, and our dear old Poppy, and of course ourselves. One reason why I feel so confident that the novel will be a success is that _all the characters will be sketched from the life."

"But please don't put in about the Doves," said Daisy. "I think they are such dread--I mean, of course, they are my friends, particularly Mr. Dove, he's my real, real friend, but I mean that I don't think they'd come well into a book, Jasmine--I don't think they're book people a bit--book people should be princes and knights and lovely ladies, and there should be no houses, and no attics, only there might be fairy palaces, and all the little girls should be happy, and kept safe from ogres--the little girls in the books shouldn't even have an ogre for a friend. Oh, Jasmine, Jasmine! I'm so very miserable!"

Daisy again broke into weak sobs, and poor Jasmine could scarcely soothe her.

A little before noon Primrose and Miss Egerton, and a tall, grave, kind-looking man, who went by the name of Dr. Griffiths, and was a great friend of Miss Egerton's, came up the stairs.

Both Dove and his wife saw them go, and Dove shook his hand at Dr. Griffiths, as that gentleman walked up the stairs. They all three went into the attics, and the doctor had a long talk with the little patient--he felt her pulse and her head, and looked into her eyes, and tried to induce her to laugh, and did succeed in getting one little startled and half-frightened sound from the child; then he went back into the sitting-room, and had a long talk with Primrose and Miss Egerton. The upshot of this was that Miss Egerton went sorrowfully away, for the doctor absolutely forbade the girls to move from their present quarters for another week or fortnight. At the end of that time he said Daisy would be better, and might have got over the foolish fancy which now troubled her, but for the time being she must be yielded to, and at any risk kept easy in her mind.

Miss Egerton went very sorrowfully away, and upstairs to the rooms she meant to make so pretty.

"There is no special hurry about the furnishing, Bridget," she said to her servant. "Little Miss Daisy is too ill to be moved for the present."

"The men have come round to be paid for the bits of furniture, leastways, ma'am," answered Bridget, "and the foreman from the other shop is standing in the hall, and wants to know if you'll settle with him now, or if he shall call again."

"I'll settle with him now, Bridget. Dear Miss Primrose left some money in my charge yesterday morning, and I can pay the man at once."

One of the rules of Miss Egerton's life was never to leave a bill unpaid for twenty-four hours, if possible--she hated accounts, and always paid ready money for everything. She now ran downstairs, and unlocking her desk, took out Mr. Danesfield's envelope. Primrose had begged of her to open it when the bills came in, and pay for the furniture--Primrose seemed to have an absolute prejudice against unfastening that envelope herself.

Miss Egerton opened it slowly now, smiling as she did so at the quaint inscription on the cover. A folded sheet of paper lay within--she spread the paper before her, expecting to see the three five-pound notes folded within its leaves--blankness and emptiness alone met her view--no money was inside the envelope--the whole thing was a cruel fraud. The poor governess fairly gasped for breath--there lay the bill for six pounds nineteen shillings which she had incurred, making sure that she could meet it out of Primrose's money. Primrose had spoken so confidently about her little nest-egg, and behold, she had not any!--the envelope was a fraud--the girl had been subjected to a cruel practical joke.

Miss Egerton was extremely poor--it was with the utmost difficulty she could make two ends meet. She thought hard for a minute--then her brow cleared, and she rose to her feet.

"Better I than those orphan girls!" she said, under her breath, and then she went to her desk again, and filled in a cheque for the amount.

"I can do without my winter cloak, and my black merino dress will last me for some weeks longer if I sponge it with cold tea, and re-line the tail," she said to herself. "Any little privation is better than to hurt the hearts of the orphan girls."

She paid the man, who signed the receipt, and then she let him out herself. As she did so a young man came hastily up the steps--he had a bright face, and running up to the governess, he seized both her hands in his.

"Oh, Arthur, how glad I am to see you!" said Miss Egerton.

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