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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 38. Daisy's Request
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 38. Daisy's Request Post by :Bonuses Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :3444

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 38. Daisy's Request

CHAPTER XXXVIII. DAISY'S REQUEST

Primrose was so anxious to soothe Daisy that she allowed her without a moment's hesitation to have her way. The moment the child felt her hot little fingers clasping the letter with its precious enclosure she became quiet, and ceased to speak. Primrose had undressed her, and placed her in bed, and she now turned her back on her sister, and still clasping the letter tightly, closed her eyes. Primrose hoped she was asleep, and went softly out of the room to talk over matters with Jasmine and Miss Egerton. Miss Egerton could throw no light on the subject of Daisy's queer attack, and when Primrose at last went to bed she had to own that her anxieties with regard to her little sister had returned.

The next morning she was obliged to leave earlier than usual, and rather to Daisy's astonishment, and very much to her relief, said nothing about Mr. Danesfield's letter. Primrose had not forgotten the letter, but she knew she would not be able to go to the bank that day, and she thought it would comfort Daisy to take care of it.

"Jasmine," she said to her second sister, "must you go out this morning? I think it is hardly well to leave Daisy alone."

Jasmine's face clouded over.

"Have you forgotten, Primrose, that Miss Egerton and Mr. Noel were to take me to South Kensington Museum to-day? They arranged that I should go with them quite a week ago, and it would never do to put them off again now. I'll tell you what I'll do, Primrose; I'll take Daisy too; I'll see that she is not over tired, and Mr. Noel will take great care of her; they are very fond of each other."

"Try to arrange it so, then, Jasmine," said Primrose; "for I do not feel happy about her being left."

Primrose went away to spend her day as usual with Mrs. Mortlock, and sat down to her "continual reading" with a heavy heart.

Mrs. Mortlock was losing her sight rapidly--cataract was forming on her eyes, and she could now only dimly see the face and form of her young companion. Primrose, however, always managed to soothe the somewhat irascible old lady, and was already a prime favorite with her.

To-day she took up the newspaper with a heavy heart, and the anxiety which oppressed her made itself felt in a certain weary tone which came into her voice.

Mrs. Mortlock was fond of Primrose, but was never slow in expressing an opinion.

"Crisp up, Miss Mainwaring," she said; "crisp up a little; drawling voices give me the fidgets most terribly. Now, my dear, try to fancy yourself in the House of Commons; read that speech more animated, my love. Ah, that's better!"

Primrose exerted herself, and for a few minutes the reading came up to its usual standard, but then, again, thoughts of Daisy oppressed the young reader, and once more her voice flagged.

"There, my dear, you had better turn to the bits of gossip; they are more in your line, I can see, this morning. Dear, dear, dear! I can't tell what's come to girls these days; they don't seem to find no heart nor pleasure in anything. Now, if there is a girl who, in my opinion, has fallen on her feet, it's you, Miss Mainwaring; for, surely, the handsome salary I allow is earned with next to no trouble. When once a girl can read she can read continual, and that's all I ask of you."

"I'm sorry," said Primrose; "some things at home are troubling me, and I cannot help thinking about them. I shall do better over the gossip."

"That's right, my love! I'd ask you about the home troubles, but my nerves won't stand no worriting. Get on with the gossip, dear, and make your voice chirrupy and perky, as though you saw the spice of it all, and enjoyed it--do."

Just at this moment, while poor Primrose was trying to train her unwilling voice, the door was opened, and Poppy, red in the face, and with her best hat and jacket on, came in.

"Miss Primrose, I'm come to say good-bye, I am. No, Mrs. Mortlock, when about to quit I don't fear you no longer--not all the Sarahs in Europe would have power over me now. I'm going. Aunt Flint and me we has quarrelled, and I has given her fair warning, and I'm going back to my native place, maybe this evening. Never no more will this city of wanities see me. I'm off, Miss Primrose; I leaves Penelope Mansion now, and I go straight away to your place to bid Miss Jasmine and Miss Daisy good-bye."

"For goodness sake, Sarah Matilda Ann!" here interrupted Mrs. Mortlock, speaking with great excitement, "before you go see you bring me up my beef-tea--Mrs. Flint won't give it a thought, and my nerves won't keep up without the nourishment. Run down to the kitchen this minute, Sarah Mary, and bring me up the beef-tea, and a nice little delicate slice of toast, done to a turn, to eat with it. Mind you, don't let the toast get burnt, for if I can't see I can taste, and well know when my toast is burnt."

Poppy was about to give a saucy answer, but a look from Primrose restrained her, and before she left Penelope Mansion she had provided the old lady with her luncheon. Primrose said a few words of farewell and regret, and then Poppy set out, determined to take her chance of finding Jasmine and Daisy at home.

"I'll go back to my own place to-night," she said to herself, "and tell my mother that wanity of wanities is London--my fifteen shillings will just buy me a single third, and I needn't eat nothing until to-morrow morning."

When Poppy arrived at Miss Egerton's she was told by Bridget that Miss Jasmine was out, but that she would find Miss Daisy by herself upstairs. Poppy ran nimbly up the stairs, and knocked at the sitting-room door; there was no answer, and turning the handle, she went in. Daisy was lying with her face downwards on the sofa--sobs and quivers shook her little frame, and for a time she did not even hear Poppy, who bent over her in some alarm.

"Now, Miss Daisy, darling, I'm real glad I has come in--why, what is the matter, missie?"

"Nothing, Poppy; nothing indeed," said Daisy, "except that I'm most dreadfully unhappy. If I was a really quite unselfish little girl I'd go and live in a dungeon, but I couldn't do it--I couldn't, really."

Whatever Poppy was, she was practical--she wasted no time trying to find out what Daisy meant, but bringing some cold water, she bathed the child's face and hands, and then she made her take a drink of milk, and finally, she lifted her off the sofa, and sitting down in an arm-chair, took her in her arms, and laid her head on her breast.

"There now, pretty little dear, you're better, aren't you?"

"My body is better, thank you, Poppy--I like to feel your arms holding me very tight. My mind will never, never be well again, dear Poppy."

"Would it ease it to unburden?" said Poppy. "Sometimes it's a wonderful soother to speak out about what worries one. At Aunt Flint's I used to let fly my worries to the walls for want of a better confidant. You think over about unburdening to me, Miss Daisy. I'll promise to be a safe receptacle."

Daisy shook her head mournfully.

"It would be no use," she said; "even telling now would be no manner of use. Oh, Poppy, I wish I had been strong enough, and I wish so dreadfully I had not minded about the dungeon. If the Prince was here he would say I ought not to live any longer in the Palace Beautiful, and I don't think the rooms do look like the rooms of a palace to-day. Please, Poppy, look round you, and see if you can see any goodness shining on the walls, and if you can see through Love's glass into the street."

"Oh lor! no, Miss Daisy; I'm not so fanciful. The walls is just fairly neat, and the windows, they're just like any other attic windows. Now, missy, you're just fairly worn out, and you shall shut your eyes and go to sleep."

Poor little Daisy was so weary and weak that she absolutely did close her eyes, and comforted and soothed by Poppy's presence, she fell into a short and uneasy doze. She awoke in about an hour, and lay quite still, with her eyes wide open. Poppy said something to her, but she replied, in an imploring tone.

"Please let me think. I had a dream when I was asleep. I did something in the dream, and I think I'll do it now really--only you must let me think Poppy."

"Think, away, pretty little miss," said Poppy: "and while you are worriting your poor little brain over thoughts I'll take it upon me to prepare a bit of dinner for you."

Poppy made some tea, and boiled an egg, and toasted some bread to a light and tempting brown. When the meal was prepared she brought it to Daisy, who said wistfully--

"If I do what I want I must be strong, so I'll eat up that egg, and I'll take some toast, and you must take something too, Poppy."

"Seeing as I can't get no meal till to-morrow morning I'm not inclined to refuse a good offer," said Poppy. "You don't know, missy, as I'm going back to my native 'ome to-night."

"Poppy," said Daisy, suddenly, taking no notice of this remark, "do you know if Mrs. Ellsworthy is a very rich woman?"

"Mrs. Ellsworthy of Shortlands?" said Poppy; "why, in course; ever since I can remember, my mother has said to me, 'Poppy, child, them there Ellsworthys is made of money.'"

"Made of money," repeated Daisy, a little shadowy smile coming to her face; "then they must be really rich. Do you think, Poppy, that Mrs. Ellsworthy is rich enough to give away L17 10_s. to buy the daily bread, and to help a little girl who could not help being selfish out of a dreadful dark dungeon? Mrs. Ellsworthy has always been very kind, and I used to love her when I lived at home, but if I thought she was not really very, very rich, I would not ask her, for that might be putting _her to great trouble. Losing money makes one's heart ache terrible, Poppy, and I would rather bear my own heartache than give it to another person."

"Mrs. Ellsworthy is made of money," repeated Poppy, "and L17 10_s. would be no more than a feather's weight to her. All the same, I can't make out what you're driving at, Miss Daisy."

"I wonder if Mrs. Ellsworthy is at Shortlands now," continued Daisy.

"To be sure she is, Miss Daisy; shall I take her any message when I goes back home?"

"Oh, no, Poppy, thank you very much. Poppy, I wish you had not lent all that money to Jasmine two days ago--you have not any money in your pocket now, have you, Poppy?"

Poppy gave a slight sigh.

"Just the price of a third single to Rosebury, and no more, Miss Daisy, darling."

"Oh, dear me," said Daisy, "it's just exactly that much money which would make me perfectly happy. Must you go to Rosebury to-night, Poppy?"

"Well, missy, I'd do something to make you 'appy, but I don't know where to go if I don't go to my home--to be sure, Aunt Flint would give her eyes to get me back again, but I fears that even for you, Miss Daisy, I can't bear no more of that Sarah game."

"But don't you think you might be able to bear it just for a week, Poppy? If I loved you always and always all the rest of my life, do you think you could bear it just for one little week longer? I'd be sure to let you have the money back again then, dear Poppy."

Poppy gazed hard at the child, who was sitting upright on her sofa, with her cheeks flushed and her eyes shining, and a fitful quiver about her pretty lips.

"What does it all mean?" thought practical Poppy; "it's more than common worries ails the little dear. I'm sure I'd bear Sarah to my dying day to help her, the sweet lamb! I wonder, now, has she lost some of Miss Primrose's money. I know they're short enough of means, the darling ladies, and maybe the child has mislaid some of their money, and is frightened to tell. Dear me, I shouldn't think Miss Primrose would be hard on any one, least of all on a sweet little lamb like that; but there's never no saying, and the child looks pitiful. Well, I'm not the one to deny her."

"Miss Daisy," said Poppy, aloud, "I have got exactly fifteen shillings in my purse, and that's the price of a third single to Rosebury, and no more. It's true enough I meant to go down there to-night, and never to see Aunt Flint again, but it's true also that she'd give her eyes to have me back, and was crying like anything when I said good-bye to her. 'Sarah,' she says, 'it's you that's ongrateful, and you'll find it out, but if you comes back again you shall be forgiven, Sarah,' she says. So I can go back for a week, Miss Daisy, and if you have lost fifteen shillings, why, I can lend it to you, dearie."

"Oh, Poppy, you are a darling!" said little Daisy. "Oh, Poppy, how can I ever, ever thank you? Yes, I have--lost--fifteen shillings. You shall have it back again, Poppy, and Poppy, I will always love you, and always remember that you were the best of good fairies to me, and that you took me out of the power of a terrible ogre."

"All right, Miss Daisy," said Poppy, returning the child's embrace; "here's the fifteen shilling, and welcome. Only I never would have called sweet Miss Primrose an ogre, Miss Daisy."

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