‘No; I’ve got a room, though not a doll-house,’ Celestina replied. ’It once was a kitchen, but I played with it too much when I was little, and the things got spoilt. So father did it up for me with new paper like a parlour—a best parlour, you know. Not a parlour like you use every day.’
‘I don’t know what a parlour is,’ said Biddy; ’we haven’t got one at the Rectory, and we hadn’t one in London either. We’ve only got a schoolroom, and a dining-room, and a droind-room, and a study for papa, and——’
‘I forgot,’ said Celestina. ’I remember mother told me that they don’t call them parlours in big houses. It’s a drawing-room I mean; only the dolls have their dinner in it, because I haven’t got a dining-room. They haven’t any bedroom either; but I put them to bed in a very nice little basket, with a handkerchief and cotton-wool. It’s very comfortable.’
‘Yes?’ said Bridget, greatly interested, ’and what more? Tell me, please. It sounds so nice.’
‘Sometimes,’ Celestina went on—’sometimes I take them to the country—on the table, you know—and then I build them a house with books. It does very well if it’s only a visit to the country, but it wouldn’t do for a always house, ’cos it has to be cleared away for dinner.’
Biddy’s mouth and eyes were wide open.
‘We have dinner in the dining-room with papa and mamma,’ she said; ’so we don’t need to clear away off the schoolroom table except for tea. That’s in London. I don’t know where we’re to have tea here, when Miss Millet comes back. Don’t you have dinner with your papa and mamma—when they have luncheon, you know?’
In her turn Celestina stared.
‘I don’t know how you mean. We all have dinner in the parlour,’ she said, ‘like—like everybody. But this is our shop,’ she added, stopping and turning so as to face the others. ‘If you please, miss,’ she went on to Rosalys, ‘this is father’s shop. If you’ll come in, he’ll be there.’
Not a little surprised was Mr. Fairchild to see his daughter showing the way in to the three children, whom he rightly and at once guessed to be the new rector’s family. Celestina looked quite composed; though so very quiet and silent a child, she was neither shy nor awkward. She was too little taken up with herself to have the foolish ideas which make so many children bashful and unready: it never entered her head that other people were either thinking of or looking at her. So she was free to notice what she could do and when she was wanted, and her simple kindly little heart was always pleased to render others a service, however small.
‘Father,’ she said in her soft voice; ’it is young Master Vane and the young ladies with a letter for you.’
Mr. Fairchild came forward, out from behind the counter. He made a little bow to Rosalys, who was the foremost of the group, and a little smile brightened his thin face as his eyes rested on hers. Every one was attracted by Alie, and her voice was particularly gentle as she spoke to Mr. Fairchild, for the first thought that darted through her mind was, ‘How very ill he looks, poor man—much worse than papa.’