Daisy Dorey and the [UNCENSORED] Patma Prince, Part Two

[ Part I available here. ]

Days and weeks passed.

Spring gave way to Summer.

The old willow tree beside Peabody Estate hung limply in the sweltering heat, her boughs bent in full bloom. It wouldn’t be long before the entire front walk became littered with downy white petals, or so warned Peabody that morning as he peered over his bowl of Mint Crispies.

‘They had better be swept up,’ he sniffed, his long spottled snout curling in disgust. ‘See if you can’t shake a few loose this afternoon once you’ve finished your invisible mending, won’t you?’

The poor little mouseling rose from her bruised knees and nodded meekly. With a practiced flick of her wrist she tossed yet another soiled cloth into a wicker hamper twice her size by the corner of the pantry. It landed atop a teetering pile of its brethren, each of them brimming with the filth of weekly washings. But before she could notice Peabody’s gloating smile she had already fetched herself another and continued to scrub, scrub, scrub away at the half inch of grime beneath the sinks, stoves and countertops.

‘Good girl,’ hummed the armadillo, munching pleasurably as he poured himself a fifth bowl. She tried her best to ignore the little flecks of green that skittered past her elbows.

‘Just a few more days,’ she whispered to herself as her adoptive father split the air with a loud burp. ‘Just a few more days ’til I’m free…’

In her time at the estate Daisy had only managed to clear out the sitting room, drawing room, and two sets of studies before being tasked to the kitchens. It would be another several weeks of elbow strain before she could even begin to tackle the second floor (to say nothing of the appalling state of the bathrooms throughout). But among the worsening sores on her hands and feet and the endlessly prattling Peabody there was a silver ray of hope that lingered: the Grand Pickering Ball was less than a week away!

It was there she might bump into the Twirling Treebody Jenkins! It was there she might greet the Grande-Madame Montblanc! She would waltz with the Whippies! Mingle with Merfolk! Chat up the Countess of Crimsby! And it was there that the Crown Prince of Patma would select his fair bride-to-be.

But would Prince Groopert even notice a mousy little housemaid like herself? Would he favor her over the clamoring crowds of well-heeled suitors and their equally vested parents? Or would he simply pick from among the well-placed? The influential? The who’s-who of the upper crust? In a glittering garden of fresh-faced debutantes would she simply wilt away and disappear from sight? Or would she stand out for all the wrong reasons?

Mr. Peabody had promised her a grand entrance — that she would be the envy of envies in a specially-made dress. But the closer they drew to the day of the Ball the more she began to doubt the armadillo’s sincerity. No matter how much she begged he refused to let her try it on, and after weeks of fruitless pleading she began to doubt there was even a dress to begin with.

‘May I at least see it?’ squeaked Daisy after unloading the last of her neatly folded linens that evening. She removed a canary yellow cleaning glove and wiped her furrowed brow.

‘See what now?’ burbled the pajama’d Johnston Peabody. He was relaxing in his second-favorite armchair and picking at a bit of gunk in his teeth.

‘The… the d-dress,’ she tittered after absorbing a scowl from the ancient Dasypus hybridus.

‘You want to see the dress that badly, do you?’ he croaked, licking a row of his nubby white incisors. ‘Are you absolutely sure?’

Daisy nodded, her button eyes pooling with hope.

The armadillo pried himself from his chair with a loud, squelchy grunt and seized his ivory-handled walking stick.

‘Come with me,’ he grumbled and began to shuffle off toward the old attic stairway.

‘It’s — it’s in the attic?’ Daisy gasped. She had suspected he kept something hidden up there, but the dress?

‘You will see, won’t you, you silly little girl,’ he muttered between clenched teeth as the floorboards squealed their mournful cry.

Daisy tiptoed in his wake, careful not to disturb the many cobwebs that hung along the trim and sconces as they approached the ominous stairway. It coiled like a black snake up to a carpeted landing where stood an unsightly door that made one shiver to look at it.

The armadillo glanced up, snout puffing, and started up the staircase, his old claws clicking their way along the railing as he did so. Daisy followed but soon lost sight of the creature who seemed to be chasing up the steps with surprising speed. She arrived panting, her whiskers twitching in the half light until she spotted her caretaker across the landing.

He stood hunched like a bear while the little mouse hastened to join him. A pair of unlit candelabras failed to reveal the look of loathing that contorted his wizened features, and so Daisy exercised very little caution when she tugged the armadillo’s sleeve.

‘Mister Peabody, sir,’ she whispered, prodding his leathery arm with an ungloved paw, but the armadillo gave her no answer.

Instead, he reached a claw to the pewter knob and gave it a violent twist. The doorjamb clacked and shuddered as the foot-thick door was flung open.

There was blackness ahead.

A terrible smell quickly smothered their senses and Daisy flung out a wrist to protect her cringing nose.

‘This way,’ barked the gray-faced Mister Peabody.

‘B-but wh-where — where are we going — ?’

‘To see your pretty little dress!’ roared the armadillo, and with one mighty thrust of his arm he shunted the little girl through the door’s threshold and heaved it shut with a bang.

The little mouse choked and retched and cried out in fear, pleading through tears and chattering teeth to be released from this strange new prison, but the old armadillo barked for her silence and cackled his way back down the stairway, ambling merrily through the hall towards his sitting room where he would ignore her pleas for the rest of the evening.

A chiming bell sounded. There was someone at the door. And who could it be at this hour, I wonder?

The stately Mister Peabody shuffled down the grand stairway towards the front door where a figure stood tugging the answering bell. Wrapped in his gorgeous lily white robe, the goodly armadillo reached for the door and gave it a wary tug. It scooched open a crack to reveal exactly three tenths of a jewel green grin, wily and toothless.

‘Jasper!’ he cried jovially. ‘How very good to see you!’

The slick-skinned lizard hissed his contentment as the door swung wide and the two clapped arms.

‘Tell me,’ said the purpling Peabody as he ushered the creature in. ‘Did you procure the documents we’ve been looking for?’

‘I have,’ replied Jasper, grinning still more wretchedly. ‘And it looks like all we need now is a willing participant.’

‘Oh, I’ve already taken care of that,’ said Peabody smoothly. ‘She’s just upstairs. Would you care to meet her?’

The lizard’s grin stretched wider still. He flicked his tongue.

‘Would I ever!

[ End of Part II ]

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