Ma Grunter’s orphanage had changed a great deal since Daisy Dovetail had been taken there in a sack. The broken-down hovel was now an enormous stone building, with bars on the windows, locks on every door, and space for a hundred children.
Daisy was still there, grown much taller and thinner, but still wearing the overalls in which she’d been kidnapped. She’d sewn lengths onto the arms and legs so they still fit, and patched them carefully when they tore. They were the last thing she had of her home and her father, and so she kept wearing them instead of making herself dresses out of the sacks the cabbages came in, as Martha and the other big girls did.
Daisy had held onto the idea that her father was still alive for several long years after her kidnap. She was a clever girl, and had always known her father didn’t believe in the Ickabog, so she forced herself to believe that he was in a cell somewhere, looking up through the barred window at the same moon she watched every night, before she fell asleep.
Then one night, in her sixth year at Ma Grunter’s, after tucking the Hopkins twins in for the night, and promising them they’d see their mummy and daddy again soon, Daisy lay down beside Martha and looked up at the pale gold disc in the sky as usual, and realised she no longer believed her father was alive. That hope had left her heart like a bird fleeing a ransacked nest, and though tears leaked out of her eyes, she told herself that her father was in a better place now, up there in the glorious heavens with her mother. She tried to find comfort in the idea that, being no longer earthbound, her parents could live anywhere, including in her own heart, and that she must keep their memories alive inside her, like a flame. Still, it was hard to have parents who lived inside you, when all you really wanted was for them to come back, and hug you.
Unlike many of the orphanage children, Daisy retained a clear memory of her parents. The memory of their love sustained her, and every day she helped look after the little ones in the orphanage, and made sure they had the hugs and kindness she was missing herself.
Yet it wasn’t only the thought of her mother and father that enabled Daisy to carry on. She had a strange feeling that she was meant to do something important – something that would change not only her own life, but the fortunes of Cornucopia. She’d never told anyone about this strange feeling, not even her best friend, Martha, yet it was a source of strength. Her chance, Daisy felt sure, would come.
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