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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 287 pages of information about The Palace Beautiful.

ONE SHOE OFF AND ONE SHOE ON.

“I must see you, Poppy—­I must see you, and I can’t come into the house.  I could not face Mrs. Mortlock, nor Mrs. Dredge, nor Miss Slowcum.  I am a dreadful failure, Poppy, a dreadful, dreadful failure, and I cannot look any one in the face.  Do come out with me, dear Poppy, and at once; for if I can’t speak to you at the present moment my heart will break.”

“They’re teaing just now,” said Poppy, in a reflective tone; “they are all in the dining-room as snug as possible over their high tea.  They have shrimps for tea, and a wonderful new kind of paste that Aunt Flint brought in to-day.  It’s called Gentlemen’s Relish, and eats well on hot toast, and I made a lot.  Oh, my! won’t the ladies go in for it!  Though Miss Slowcum always is so bitter against gentlemen, she will eat their relish, and no mistake.  Well, Miss Jasmine they are all engaged over the pleasures of the social board, and what’s to hinder you and me going down to the back scullery and having our talk there?  You see, miss, if I went out with you I’d have to tidy up a bit first, and that would take time.”

“You are quite sure they won’t hear me, Poppy, if I walk across the hall.  Miss Slowcum is dreadfully curious, and if she heard my step in the hall she would run out even though she was eating Gentlemen’s Relish.  I do not want any one to see me now that I am a failure.”

“Step on this mat,” said Poppy—­“now on this; now make a spring here.  There you are.  Now we’ll be down in my scullery long before Miss Slowcum can get to the dining-room door.  Now, miss, let me put a seat for you.  The scullery ain’t so damp to-day, is it, Miss Jasmine?”

“I don’t know,” said Jasmine, who looked very tired, and almost ill.  “Poppy, dear, I have not brought the one and sixpence.”

“Oh, it don’t matter,” said Poppy.  “One and sixpence never fretted me yet, and it ain’t going to begin.  You’ll pay me when you can, Miss Jasmine, and there ain’t no hurry.”

But Jasmine noticed that Poppy moved her little feet out of sight, and in spite of her brave words Jasmine observed a look of dismay creeping into her bright eyes.

This slight action on Poppy’s part—­this little lurking gleam of disappointment—­were as the proverbial last straw to poor Jasmine.  Her fortitude gave way, and she burst into the bitterest tears she had ever shed.

Poppy was much alarmed, and stood over her dear little lady, and brought her cold water, and tried to comfort her by every means in her power.

When Jasmine had a little recovered herself she told the whole bitter story of her morning’s adventure to Poppy.  That young person’s indignation knew no bounds.

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