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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 30. Voice Of The Prince
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 30. Voice Of The Prince Post by :dmindia Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2808

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 30. Voice Of The Prince

CHAPTER XXX. VOICE OF THE PRINCE

Daisy felt quite certain that the Prince had come. Jasmine greeted her old friend of St. Paul's Cathedral with sparkling eyes and effusive words of welcome. Primrose, too, was very pleased to see any one who brought such a contented look into Daisy's little face, for the child asked herself to sit in his arms, and laying her head on his shoulder, she listened with pleasure to some wonderful fairy stories which he related. While Noel was by, Daisy seemed quite to forget her nervous fancies--she even spoke confidentially of ogres who tried to make themselves friendly, and she asked Arthur, with a very puzzled, anxious face, if a little girl, who was so unfortunate as to have an ogre for a friend, could ever get rid of him.

"Oh, yes; he might turn into an enemy," answered Arthur.

But here poor Daisy shuddered violently, and turned very white.

"No, no," she said; "not into an enemy, never into an enemy, dear Mr. Arthur."

"What matter is it to you, little maid?" answered Arthur cheerily, though he regarded her with very keen observation. "There is no ogre going to trouble you as either friend or enemy; If he does he will have to meet me. I am the Prince, you know, and my mission in life is to slay the wicked ogres."

"Oh! but his poor wife and his children!" half sobbed Daisy; "couldn't you lock him up in a tower, dear Prince?"

Arthur smiled, and gradually managed to lead the child's thoughts into another direction. He was already gaining the greatest possible influence over her, and he managed, on the occasion of his second visit, to coax her to let him carry her across to Miss Egerton's for a couple of hours. Dove met them as Arthur was carrying the child away, and he first scowled, and then smiled obsequiously. Daisy turned deadly white, and Noel felt that she trembled.


"I'm coming back to-night, Mr. Dove," she called out, in a shaky little voice; and Dove answered--

"Pleased to hear it, missy; the attics would be lonesome without you, missy."

"Daisy," whispered Noel, "tell me something--is Dove the ogre?"

"Oh, don't, don't, Mr. Prince!" answered back the child. "No, no, of course not; why, he's only poor Mr. Dove--a friend of mine."

When Daisy reached Miss Egerton's and found herself seated in that lady's cosy little drawing-room, with sponge-cakes _ad libitum to eat, and Noel sitting by and willing to give up all his time to her benefit, she cheered up wonderfully; a faint color came to her white little cheeks, and Miss Egerton, as she passed the open drawing-room door, heard one or two silvery peals of laughter coming from her lips.

"Bless the child!" thought the kind woman; "how much better she is when she is out of that house. What nice influence that good fellow, Arthur, has over her. I do trust the silly little one will soon give up her fancies--for they surely can be nothing but fancies--and come to live with me."

But when the twilight fell Daisy ceased to laugh, the anxious and troubled look returned to her face, and after a time she said to Arthur, in her pretty coaxing way--

"Take me home now, please, Mr. Prince."

Two days afterwards Noel called at the girls' lodgings Daisy alone was in, but to all his entreaties she now turned a deaf ear. No, she did not want to go out; she would rather stay in her own dear, nice old attics; she was never so happy anywhere as in her own attics. She was very fond of Miss Egerton, but she did not think she would like to live with her. Miss Egerton kept a bird, and Daisy had a great dislike to birds.

"Please, Mr. Prince," she said, in conclusion, "stay with me here for an hour or two, and tell me a beautiful story."

Noel was rather clever at making up impromptu stories, and he now proceeded to relate a tale with a moral.

"There was a kind lady who had prepared lovely guest-chambers--beautiful they were, and worthy of a palace."

Here Noel stopped, and looked hard at his little listener.

"Do you know why they were so lovely, little maid?"

"No; please tell me, Mr. Prince. Oh, I am sure this is going to be a real true fairy tale--how delicious!" and Daisy leaned back on her sofa with a sigh of content.

"The rooms were beautiful, Daisy," continued Arthur "because the walls were papered with Goodness and the chairs, and the tables, and the carpets, and the sofas, and the thousand-and-one little knick-knacks, were placed in the rooms by Self-Denial, and the windows were polished very brightly by Love herself, and she kept the key which opened the chamber doors."

"How sweet!" said Daisy.

"Yes; there were two rooms, and they were very sweet. To live there meant to get into an abode of peace. As to ogres, they would fall down dead on the threshold of such rooms. There were only two, and they were up high in a small house, and without the gilding and the glory which I spoke of they would have seemed humble enough, but to those who knew their secret, and what their owner had done for her expected guests, they appeared a very Palace Beautiful. Now, Daisy, I must tell you something so sad. The rooms were ready, but the guests did not arrive. Three guests were expected, but the kind lady who had prepared the rooms, who had papered them with Goodness, and furnished them with Self-Denial, and brightened them with Love, waited and longed for her visitors in vain.

"Two of the visitors were most anxious to come, but one--a little one--although she looked very gentle and had a sweet expression and blue eyes, and seemed quite the sort of little girl who would not willingly hurt a fly, held back. It never entered into her head that she was selfish, and was making two or three people who loved her both anxious and unhappy. She preferred to live in rooms which, by comparison, were like dungeons; for the owners had never put Love into them, and had never thought of Self-Denial in connection with them. There, Daisy-flower, I have done. It seems a pity that the little girl should have been so selfish, does it not?"

"But how does the story end, Mr. Arthur? You have really only just begun."

"I only know the beginning, Daisy," said Noel, as he rose to leave. "I have not an idea whether that Palace Beautiful will ever receive its visitors, whether that kind lady will ever be made happy, or whether that little girl will ever cease to be selfish."

A few moments afterwards Noel went away, and poor Daisy turned her face to the wall and wept.

Of course, the very obvious moral had hit her hard, poor little maid! Oh! if she could really only confide in Arthur--he was so nice and strong, and he looked so contemptuously at Mr. Dove that day when he was carrying Daisy across the road to Miss Egerton's.

"I don't believe he would be afraid of Mr. Dove," she whispered softly, under her breath. "Oh dear! why am I so terribly frightened? Why does he make my heart beat? and why do I shake so when I see him? Well, I'll never tell about his bringing me up the sticky sweetmeats--of course I'll not tell. I promised I wouldn't; it would be dreadful to break one's promise. Of course I know where people go who break their promises. No, I promised Mr. Dove, and I must always, and always, and always keep my word; but I did not promise him that I'd stay here. He wanted me to, and I just had it on the tip of my tongue, for I was dreadfully frightened, but he heard a noise, and he went away. I'm so glad I didn't promise, because the Prince says I should go and live in the Palace Beautiful. He thinks I'm a selfish little girl. Oh dear! how terrified I shall be, but I won't be a selfish little girl, and keep Primrose and Jasmine away from the Palace, and break the kind lady's heart. I must try and write a very private little note to Mr. Dove, and tell him that though I am going away I'll always and always keep my word about the sweeties, and I'll always be his truest of friends, although I do fear him more than anything in the world."

Here Primrose came in, and poor little Daisy roused herself, and tried to talk cheerfully.

"Primrose," she said, "do you mind my writing a letter which nobody is to see?"

Primrose laughed.

"You funny pet!" she said; "if no one is to see the letter why do you trouble to write it?"

"I only mean, Primrose," continued Daisy, "that you are not to see it, nor Jasmine, nor Miss Egerton, nor Mr. Noel. It is to--to somebody; but you are not to be curious, Primrose, nor to ask any questions. It's a most terribly important letter, and when it's written I'm going to put it in the post myself. I'll go out with you, and you must turn your back when I drop it into the pillar-box. You'll be very happy when it's written, Primrose, and I'm doing it for you and Jasmine, and because I won't be a selfish little girl."

Primrose stooped down and kissed Daisy.

"You may write your letter and post it," she said, "and I'll try not to be the least bit curious, Eyebright. Now sit down and write away, you have a nice quiet hour before Jasmine comes in to tea."

"So I have," answered Daisy; "thank you, Primrose. Please don't say anything to me when I'm writing."

Then Daisy in her corner blotted her fingers, and brought a deep flush to her little pale face, and ruined several sheets of note-paper, all of which she carefully tore up to the smallest fragments. At last an epistle, over which she sighed and trembled, and even dropped tears, was finished. It ran as follows:--

"MY DEAR FRIEND, MR. DOVE,--I always and always will be most true to you. I would not be such a wicked little girl as to break my word for anything I'm going always to keep it, and tortures, even the Inquisition, and even the rack, wouldn't get it out of me. Did you ever hear of the rack, Mr. Dove? but perhaps you had better not know. Yes, I'll always keep my word, the word that I promised, and no one shall ever know about you and me and the sticky sweetmeats; but I won't keep the word that I didn't promise. You remember how you wanted me to give you another word that I'd always stay here, and keep Primrose and Jasmine here, instead of letting them go and going with them to the Palace Beautiful. I almost promised you, for you looked so fierce, and your eyes were so bloodshot, and cruel, and terrible, and I'd great work to keep remembering that you were really my friend; but I'm so glad I did not give you that word too, for now I know that I'd have done very wrong. A Prince has come to me, Mr. Dove, and told me I am very selfish to try to keep my sisters out of the Palace Beautiful. He says the walls are covered with Goodness and the furniture is put there by Self-Denial, and the windows are shining because Love has polished them up. He says there's no Love and no Goodness here, and he calls your rooms dungeons. He's a very, very strong Prince, and he kills ogres--he even kills ogres who are friends to little girls. Please, Mr. Dove, this is to say that I'm going away to the Palace Beautiful, and that I'll always keep my word about the sweeties.


"Your true little friend,
DAISY."

Then Daisy fastened her letter, and directed it to Mr. Dove, No. 10, Eden Street, and she asked Primrose for a stamp, and then she and her eldest sister went out, and Primrose turned her back while Daisy dropped the letter into the nearest pillar-box.

The moment this was done the child gave a little skip, and caught Primrose's hand, and squeezed it hard, and said, in an excited voice--

"Now I've done it! I'm not going to be the selfish little girl who breaks people's hearts. Primrose, darling let us hurry back to the dungeons, and put all our things together, so that we may reach the Palace Beautiful to-night."

Poor Primrose, who was not in Daisy's secret, and knew nothing of Arthur Noel's allegory, was conscious of a momentary wild fear that her little sister had taken leave of her senses; but she soon began to see meaning in Daisy's words, and was only too glad to yield to the child's caprice at once.

That very night, therefore, Miss Egerton's nice rooms were occupied, and that good lady laid her head on her own pillow with a light and thankful heart.

Fortunately for Daisy, Dove was out while the packing was going on, and only Mrs. Dove, with a very black scowl on her face, saw the girls drive away in a four-wheeler. She refused to say good-bye to them, and was heard to mutter that the "ongratitude of some folks was past enduring."

"Here, Dove," she said, when late that night her lord and master came in, "those pretty young ladies as you thought so much of--'the attics' I called them, and always will call them--well, they're gone. They had a four-wheeler, and off they've gone, bag and baggage. For my part I ain't sorry, for now that them attics are painted up and cleaned, which they did out of their own money, I may be able to rise my rent. Those young ladies and I couldn't have kept together much longer. Disobliging, I call them--disobliging, and shabby, and mistrustful; it was only this morning I asked Miss Mainwaring for the loan of seven and sixpence, and she up and said, 'I'm sorry I can't oblige you, Mrs. Dove.' Those kind of young ladies don't suit me, and I'm thankful they're gone. Why, Dove, how you do stare!--there's a letter waiting for you on the table."

Dove took up his letter and read it carefully once or twice; after his second reading he put it into his pocket, and turned to his wife--

"They've gone round to Miss Egerton's; isn't that so, my love?"

"Who do you mean by 'they,' Dove?"

"The three young ladies, of course."

"Oh, I suppose so; but I neither know nor care--I wash my hands of them from this day forward!"

"Well, then, look here, Mrs. Dove, my love," said the husband, "I _don't wash my hands of them--no, not by no means. It's all right if they're gone to Miss Egerton's--there are trap-doors in the roof at Miss Egerton's; I know the build of the house. There are trap-doors in the roof, and quarter-day is coming on, Mrs. Dove, my only love!"

"Law, Dove! you have a most startling way of saying them poetic lines," answered his wife.

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