I had put Adela’s bonnet on my head to carry it safely, and was still sitting thinking, when the others burst into the library.
Arthur was first, waving a sheet of paper; but when Adela saw the bonnet, she caught hold of his arm and pushed forward.
“Oh, it’s sweet! Mary, dear, you’re an angel. You couldn’t be better if you were a real milliner and lived in Paris. I’m sure you couldn’t.”
“Mary,” said Arthur, “remove that bonnet, which by no means becomes you, and let Adela take it into a corner and gibber over it to herself. I want you to hear this.”
“You generally do want the platform,” I said, laughing. “Adela, I am very glad you like it. Tomorrow, if I can find a bit of pink tissue-paper, I think I could gum on little pleats round the edge of the strings as a finish.”
I did not mind how gaudily I dressed the part of Weeding Woman now.
“You are good, Mary. It will make it simply perfect; and, kilts don’t you think? Not box pleats?”
“You shall have which you like, dear. Now, Arthur, what is it?”
Arthur shook out his paper, gave it a flap with the back of his hand, as you do with letters when you are acting, and said—“It’s to Mother, and when she gets it, she’ll be a good deal astonished, I fancy.”
When I had heard the letter, I thought so too.
“TO THE QUEEN’S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTIE”—MY DEAR MOTHER, —This is to tell you that we have made you Queen of the Blue Robe, and that your son Christopher is a dwarf, and we think you’ll both be very much pleased when you hear it. He can do as he likes about having a hump back. When you come home we shall give faire flowers into your Highnesse hands—that is, if you’ll do what I’m going to ask you, for nobody can grow flowers out of nothing. I want you to write to John—write straight to him, don’t put it in your letter to Father—and tell him that you have given us leave to have some of the seedlings out of the frames, and that he’s to dig us up a good big clump of daffodils out of the shrubbery—and we’ll divide them fairly, for Harry is the Honestest Root-gatherer that ever came over to us. We have turned the whole of our gardens into a Paradisi in sole Paradisus terrestris, if you can construe that; but we must have something to make a start. He’s got no end of bedding things over—that are doing nothing in the Kitchen Garden and might just as well be in our Earthly Paradise. And please tell him to keep us a tiny pinch of seed at the bottom of every paper when he is sowing the annuals. A little goes a long way, particularly of poppies. And you might give him a hint to let us have a flower-pot or two now and then (I’m sure he takes ours if he finds any of our dead window-plants lying about), and that he needn’t be so mighty mean about the good earth in the potting-shed, or the labels either, they’re dirt cheap. Mind you write straight. If only you let John know that the gardens don’t entirely belong to him, you’ll see that what’s spare from the big garden would more than set us going; and it shall further encourage him to accomplish the remainder, who in praying that your Highnesse may enjoy the heavenly Paradise after the many years fruition of this earthly,
“Submiteth to be, Your Maiestie’s,
“In all humble devotion,
“P.S.—It was Mary’s idea.”
“Well, I know it’s not very well mixed,” said Arthur. “Not half so well as I intended at first. I meant to write it all in the Parkinson style. But then, I thought, if I put the part about John in queer language and old spelling, she mightn’t understand what we want. But every word of the end comes out of the Dedication; I copied it the other day, and I think she’ll find it a puzzlewig when she comes to it.”
After which Arthur folded his paper and put it into an envelope which he licked copiously, and closed the letter with a great deal of display. But then his industry coming to an abrupt end, as it often did, he tossed it to me, saying, “You can address it, Mary;” so I enclosed it in my own letter to thank Mother for the book, and I fancy she did write to our gardener, for he gave us a good lot of things, and was much more good-natured than usual.
After Arthur had tossed his letter to me, he clasped his hands over his head and walked up and down thinking. I thought he was calculating what he should be able to get out of John, for when you. are planning about a garden, you seem to have to do so much calculating. Suddenly he stopped in front of me and threw down his arms. “Mary,” he said, “if Mother were at home, she would despise us for selfishness, wouldn’t she just ?”
“I don’t think it’s selfish to want spare things for our gardens, if she gives us leave,” said I.
“I’m not thinking of that,” said Arthur; “and you’re not selfish, you never are; but she would despise me, and Adela, and Harry, because we’ve taken your game, and got our parts, and you’ve made that preposterous bonnet for Adela to be the Weeding Woman in—much she’ll weed! �”
“I shall weed,” said Adela.
“Oh, yes! You’ll weed,—Groundsel!—and leave Mary to get up the docks and dandelions, and clear away the heap. But, never mind. Here we’ve taken Mary’s game, and she hasn’t even got a part.”
“Yes,” said I, “I have; I have got a capital part. I have only to think of a name.”
“How shall you be dressed? “ asked Adela.
“I don’t know yet,” said I. “I have only just thought of the part.”
“Are you sure it’s a good-enough one?” asked Harry, with a grave and remorseful air; “because, if not, you must take Francis le Vean. Girls are called Frances sometimes.”
I explained, and I read aloud the bit that had struck my fancy.
Arthur got restless half-way through, and took out the Book of Paradise. His letter was on his mind. But Adela was truly delighted.
“Oh, Mary,” she said. “It is lovely. And it just suits you. It suits you much better than being a Queen.”
“Much better,” said I.
“You’ll be exactly the reverse of me,” said Harry. “When I’m digging up, you’ll be putting in.”
“Mary,” said Arthur, from the corner where he was sitting with the Book of Paradise in his lap, “what have you put a mark in the place about honeysuckle for?”
“Oh, only because I was just reading there when James brought the letters.”
“John Parkinson can’t have been quite so nice a man as Alphonse Karr,” said Adela; “not so unselfish. He took care of the Queen’s Gardens, but he didn’t think of making the lanes and hedges nice for poor wayfarers.”
I was in the rocking-chair, and I rocked harder to shake up something that was coming into my head. Then I remembered.
“Yes, Adela, he did—a little. He wouldn’t root up the honeysuckle out of the hedges (and I suppose he wouldn’t let his root-gatherers grub it up, either); he didn’t put it in the Queen’s Gardens, but left it wild outside—”
“To serve their senses that travel by it, or have no garden,” interrupted Arthur, reading from the book, “and, oh, Mary I that reminds me—travel—travellers. I’ve got a name for your part just coming into my head. But it dodges out again like a wire-worm through a three-pronged fork. Travel—traveller—travellers—what’s the common name for the—oh, dear ! the what’s his name that scrambles about in the hedges. A flower—you know?”
“Deadly Nightshade?” said Harry.
“Deadly fiddlestick! �”
“Bryony?” I suggested.
“Oh, no; it begins with C.”
“Clematis?” said Adela.
“Clematis. Right you are, Adela. And the common name for Clematis is Traveller’s Joy. And that’s the name for you, Mary, because you’re going to serve their senses that travel by hedges and ditches and perhaps have no garden.”
“Traveller’s Joy,” said Harry. “Hooray!”
“Hooray!” said Adela, and she waved the Weeding Woman’s bonnet.
It was a charming name, but it was too good for me, and I said so.
Arthur jumped on the rockers, and rocked me to stop my talking. When I was far back, he took the point of my chin in his two hands and lifted up my cheeks to be kissed, saying in his very kindest way, “It’s not a bit too good for you—it’s you all over.”
Then he jumped off as suddenly as he had jumped on, and as I went back with a bounce he cried, “Oh, Mary! give me back that letter. I must put another postscript and another puzzlewig. ‘P.P.S.—Excellent Majesty: Mary will still be our Little Mother on all common occasions, as you wished, but in the Earthly Paradise we call her Traveller’s Joy.’”