Lizzie Rose thought wistfully of the days when she worked with her parents in the theatre. There had been times when there was little money, but her mother had always managed it so that she didn't look shabby. Lizzie Rose was a striking child, with her bright hair and transparent complexion. Her parents had taught her to carry herself well and to speak clearly. The Fawrs had not been rich, but they had been loving and comfortable. It had been a happy life.
" 'S'there." Parsefall pointed. "That's the way. Shortcut. Down that alley, and we'll come to Chester Square."
Grisini jerked the wagon forward. Neither he nor Lizzie Rose questioned the boy's knowledge of the streets. Parsefall's sense of direction was unerring. He could find his way even through fog.
The little procession passed through an alley and came out into the square. There was a large garden, surrounded on four sides by tall houses. The garden, with its bare flower beds and iron fencing, was dreary enough on a wet November day, but Lizzie Rose could imagine how pretty it might be in the springtime.
She craned her neck to look up at the houses. They were tall and stately, with columns on either side of the door. The windows were heavily draped, but the rooms beyond them looked warm and bright. Whoever lived here had money enough for fires in every room, and an army of housemaids to stoke them. Lizzie Rose tried to imagine what it would be like to live year-round in a house like this one, with ample coal in winter and a garden in the spring.
" Shall we knock at the front door?" Grisini flung out one arm as if about to declaim poetry. "Shall we ring and present ourselves to the butler? Shall we say to him, 'The children of joy have come!'?" Grisini spread his fingers like the sticks of a fan and touched his middle finger to his breast. " Never forget that we, with our puppets and tambourines, are the children of joy! Let us go forth and bring laughter to the children of woe!"
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall exchanged looks of pure irritation. They knew very well that they would be turned away from the front door. Parsefall jerked his head toward the tradesmen's entrance, a half flight of stairs below the pavement. Lizzie Rose gave the wagon a shove, and Parsefall darted forward so that the two of them could wrestle it down the stairs.
Never, thought Parsefall, surveying the Wintermute drawing room, had he seen a house better stocked with things to steal.
It had not been easy, getting the puppet theatre up to the drawing room. There was an outcry when it was discovered that the caravan was too wide to go through the tradesmen's entrance, and another when the housemaids saw that the wheels were caked with filth from the London streets. Hot water and brushes were fetched so that Lizzie Rose and Parsefall could scrub the caravan clean. While the children scrubbed, Grisini paid his respects to the Wintermute servants, fawning and coaxing by turns. By the time the miniature theatre was parked at one end of the drawing room, Grisini was quite at home, and the butler invited him to take tea in the servants' hall.
Parsefall knew what that meant. Tea meant gin and hot water; he and Lizzie Rose would have to set up the theatre by themselves. He shrugged off his jacket and turned to Lizzie Rose. She was gazing round the drawing room as if it were fairyland.
"It's very grand," she said, almost whispering, "ain't it?"
Parsefall eyed her askance. "You said I mustn't say 'ain't.' "
"So I did." Lizzie Rose smiled at him. " ' Tain't elegant."
Parsefall gave a sniff of disgust and turned away. One of the things that bothered him about Lizzie Rose was the way she was kind to him when he was doing his best to irritate her. He found it unnerving. Parsefall liked things to be fair: eye for eye and tooth for tooth.
Excerpted from Splendors and Glooms by Laura A Schlitz. Copyright © 2012 by Laura A Schlitz. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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