Minnarose felt so wide awake that it was hard to believe she had been asleep and dreaming. She climbed out of bed and went into the nursery which adjoined her little sleeping-chamber. Amalah-chei was not up yet. She looked through the French doors. A light fall of tiny snowflakes was dusting over the snow that already lay on the ground and the branches, as if the snow were powdering its face for the new morning.
Minnarose could not resist turning the key in the French doors and slipping out, in her robe and slippers, into the lovely snow. She walked down the little garden path, and noticed that there were already footprints in the fresh morning snow. Who had walked down the path so early? Past the big bushes she went, and round the little trees, to the tiny pond at the end of the garden, and for a moment she thought she saw someone dancing on the ice.
But she must have been wrong, for when she blinked, it was Auntie Phelyan, who had seen her and was walking toward her.
“Isn’t the snow lovely?” Minnarose wanted to say, but she didn’t. She knew Auntie Phelyan would make some grumpy reply about its being cold and damp and dangerous and all right for children who have nothing to do but play in it, but perfectly disastrous for grown-ups who have to live in Reality, or something like that. Anyway she was probably in enough trouble for being out in her robe and slippers. So she just said, “Rayati, Auntie,” very quietly and respectfully.
“Rayati, rayati, little Minnarose,” replied Auntie Phelyan. “Isn’t the snow lovely?”
“Oh yes, it is lovely!” agreed Minnarose. “But I didn’t think you would like it much, Auntie.”
“Not like it, child? How could one not like it? It is beautiful.”
“Oh, it is, isn’t it? And Auntie—may I ask you something?”
“Certainly, little snow-maiden. Anything you like.”
“You weren’t—you weren’t just dancing on the pond, were you?”
“Me?” cried Auntie Phelyan. “Dancing on the pond? How can you suggest such a thing, child?”
“Ohh well, I just …”
“You just?… You just?… Well, can you just keep a secret?”
“I was dancing on the pond. Foolish, I know, but how can one forbear? It is so beautiful, and how many opportunities does one have to dance on a pond? Most of the year only the fairies can do it. So when we can, why don’t we?
“Oh, I know what you are thinking: suppose the ice were to break? Well, think of this. If I were to fall in the pond, who could spank me for it? No one, that is who. That is the glory of being grown up, you know.”
Minnarose looked at her aunt in astonishment. This little speech was completely unlike her. Actually, it was unlike just about any grown-up she had ever met, but it was especially unlike Auntie Phelyan.
“But really you shouldn’t be out here in your robe and slippers, you know. Look, your slippers are soaked already. Come along. We’ll get you into your proper shoes and a nice warm coat, and then we can have some fun.”
‘Fun’ was such an curious word to come out of Auntie Phelyan. Minnarose was just a shade surprised that she even knew it. But she found herself bundled back into the nursery, and Auntie Phelyan tried to help her on with her outdoor clothes. She had no idea how to dress a child and Minnarose could have managed far better by herself. But there was no stopping Auntie Phelyan.
Suddenly the door opened and in came Mamala.
“Rose-baby,” said Mamala, “have you by any chance seen Auntie—oh Phelyan-chei, there you are. What are you doing here?”
“I was simply. . .”
“Never mind, dear—you must hear this. It is too important to wait. You remember how you said Altastre was feckless?”
“Yes, yes, I remember and I apologize. It was a very improper thing to say about my sister and your brunette. Do you forgive me?”
“Of course I forgive you. In a way you seemed almost to have been right. But—well, you weren’t.”
“No, no. I wasn’t right. It was quite wrong of me.”
“But Phelyan-chei, that isn’t what I mean. We thought all the money was gone on what you called ‘wild, reckless schemes’ and it is true that the Trans-Aegis Railroad Company was a complete disaster.”
“It was a wonderful idea, linking North Vintesse with the wildlands of Arcadia. But, well, its time had not come.”
“But you see I had a dream. About going up a long, long stairway to see . . .”
“Yes, I know. I had the same dream. It was Minnarose’s dream, I think.”
“Really—did you really both have it too? And did you really meet—her?”
Minnarose was jumping up and down. “Yes, yes, Mamala, we really did!”
“And did you all get a gift from her—a golden key?”
“Yes!” shouted Minnarose.
“Yes, dear, I did,” said Auntie Phelyan.
“Well, after that I awoke. But then I fell asleep again. I dreamed that I went to my room, and in my room was a chest—like a treasure chest in a story. And I knew it had always been there but I didn’t have the key to it. So I tried the gold key and it opened. And it was full of beautiful treasure. . .
“And then I woke up. I didn’t wake up naturally, though. It was a call on my bedside tellie that woke me. And I thought its ringing bell was the jingle of treasure for a moment. But actually it was that nice and terribly dignified Miss Bassing from Bartlett and Bassing.
“Well, she was awfully apologetic. She told me I had been a little under-informed about…”—Mamala stopped and looked for a moment as if she were about to cry—“about my late wife’s affairs. It seems only a portion of her money was in that railroad company. Most of it, it is true. But some was in the Shin-Felestri mining expedition. It seems they didn’t mention that before because it was thought to be another failure. . .”
“Shin-Felestri,” breathed Auntie Phelyan, “you mean . . .”
“Yes dear, the place where they had that phenomenal gold-strike you read to me about from the Morning Letter last week.”
“The biggest gold-strike in a hundred and sixteen years .”
“Yes, that is right. So I asked Miss Bassing if that meant I didn’t have to send Sura-chei away and if I could have Tilly back, and she said ‘you can hire all the staff in every agency in Meltondene if you care to’. Wasn’t that funny of her? Why would I want to do that?”
“Do you mean Amalah-chei is staying, Mamala?” asked Minnarose.
“Yes, darling. You can go tell her if you like.”
So Minnarose rushed to Amalah-chei’s room and hammered on the door and got the biggest hug in a hundred and sixteen years.
And I suppose you are wondering about the other two gold keys. Well, Auntie Phelyan used hers to unlock a golden heart and Minnarose used hers to unlock a golden cupboard.
Inside the cupboard was a Wish Doll. That was all in dream, of course, but when the Star Fairy came (in the usual way) that Nativity, Minnarose had her Wish Doll.
She did not wish for her brunette mother to return as she would have done before, for she remembered what the Star Fairy had told them. Perhaps that was why she could have a Wish Doll now. What she did wish was that all her family would stay together and be happy for always, and Amalah-chei would never go away, and Auntie Phelyan would always be as jolly as she was that wonderful morning in the snow.
And Minnarose, of course, got all her wishes, because a Wish Doll never fails. And Auntie Phelyan was very jolly indeed, for you see, she believed the golden heart was that of Minnarose’s dear Mamala, but in fact it was her own. She looked after Mamala and was very kind to her and they were all very happy together, though it was not till next Nativity that Auntie Phelyan became Minnarose’s new brunette mommy.