Next came the ceiling. What Felix did to that ceiling, or rather what that ceiling did for Felix, and how it looked when he was through with it is to this very day a topic of discussion among the now scattered inhabitants of “The Avenue.” Masie knew, and so did deaf Auntie Gossburger, who often spent the day with the child. She, with Masie, had been put in charge of the china and glass department, and when the old woman had pulled up from the depths of a barrel first one red cup without a handle and then a dozen or more, and had asked what they were for, Felix had seized them with a cry of joy: “Oil cups! They fit on the tops of these church lamps. I never expected to find these! Mike! Go over to Mr. Pestler’s and tell him to send me a small box of floating night-tapers—the smallest he has. Now, Tootcums, you wait and see!”
And then the step-ladder was moved up, and Mike and one of the Dutchies passed up the lamps to Felix, who drove the hooks into the rafters—twenty-two of them—and then slid down to the floor, taking in the general effect, only to clamber up again to lengthen this chain, or shorten that, so that the whole ceiling, when the cups were filled and the tapers lighted, would be a blaze of red stars hung in a firmament of dull, yellow-washed gold.
The final touch came last. This was both a surprise and a discovery. Hans had found it flattened out on the top of a big, circular table, and was about to tear it loose when Felix, who let nothing escape his vigilant eye, seized its metal handle, whereupon the mass sagged, tilted, straightened, and then rounded out into a superb Chinese lantern of yellow silk, decorated with black dragons, with only one tear in its entire circumference, and that one Auntie Gossburger darned so skilfully that nobody noticed the hole. This, Felix, after much consideration, swung to the rafter immediately over the throne, so that its mellow light should fall directly on the child’s face.
Kling, while these preparations were in progress, was in a state of mind bordering on the pathetic. Felix had made him promise not to come up until the room was finished, but every few hours his head would be thrust up over the edge of the stairs, his eyes screwed up in his fat face, an expression of wonder, not unmixed with anxiety, flitting across his countenance. Then he would back down-stairs, muttering to himself all the time; his chief cause of complaint being the hiding of so many things his customers might want to buy and the displaying of so many others at which they might only want to look!
There was, however, even after the decorations seemed complete, a bare corner to be filled with something neither too big, nor too small, nor too insistent in color or form. Felix went twice over the stock, old and new, twisted and turned, and was about to give up when he suddenly called to Masie, his face lighting under the glow of a fresh inspiration: