Chapter 19: White Roses
While the travellers refreshed, and Mrs President struggled into her best gown,
Josie ran into the garden to gather flowers for the brides. The sudden arrival of
these interesting beings had quite enchanted the romantic girl, and her head was
full of heroic rescues, tender admiration, dramatic situations, and feminine
wonder as to whether the lovely creatures would wear their veils or not. She was
standing before a great bush of white roses, culling the most perfect for the
bouquets which she meant to tie with the ribbon festooned over her arm, and lay
on the toilette tables of the new cousins, as a delicate attention. A step startled
her, and looking up she saw her brother coming down the path with folded arms,
bent head, and the absent air of one absorbed in deep thought.
'Sophy Wackles,' said the sharp child, with a superior smile, as she sucked her
thumb just pricked by a too eager pull at the thorny branches.
'What are you at here, Mischief?' asked Demi, with an Irvingesque start, as he
felt rather than saw a disturbing influence in his day-dream.
'Getting flowers for "our brides". Don't you wish you had one?' answered Josie, to
whom the word 'mischief' suggested her favourite amusement.
'A bride or a flower?' asked Demi calmly, though he eyed the blooming bush as if
it had a sudden and unusual interest for him.
'Both; you get the one, and I'll give you the other.'
'Wish I could!' and Demi picked a little bud, with a sigh that went to Josie's warm
'Why don't you, then? It's lovely to see people so happy. Now's a good time to do
it if you ever mean to. She will be going away for ever soon.'
'Who?' and Demi pulled a half-opened bud, with a sudden colour in his own face;
which sign of confusion delighted little Jo.
'Don't be a hypocrite. You know I mean Alice. Now, Jack, I'm fond of you, and
want to help; it's so interesting--all these lovers and weddings and things, and we
ought to have our share. So you take my advice and speak up like a man, and
make sure of Alice before she goes.'
Demi laughed at the seriousness of the small girl's advice; but he liked it, and
showed that it suited him by saying blandly, instead of snubbing her as usual:
'You are very kind, child. Since you are so wise, could you give me a hint how I'd
better 'speak up', as you elegantly express it?'
'Oh, well, there are various ways, you know. In plays the lovers go down on their
knees; but that's awkward when they have long legs. Ted never does it well,
though I drill him for hours. You could say, "Be mine, be mine!" like the old man
who threw cucumbers over the wall to Mrs Nickleby, if you want to be gay and
easy; or you could write a poetical pop. You've tried it, I dare say.'
'But seriously, Jo, I do love Alice, and I think she knows it. I want to tell her so;
but I lose my head when I try, and don't care to make a fool of myself. Thought
you might suggest some pretty way; you read so much poetry and are so