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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 16. Penelope Mansion
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 16. Penelope Mansion Post by :gananathan Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1534

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 16. Penelope Mansion


The last time in the funny little old-fashioned garden, the last loving look at Jasmine's carnations, the last eager chase of the Pink across the little grass-plot, the last farewell said to the room where mother had died, to the cottage where Daisy was born, the final hug from all three to dear old Hannah who vowed and declared that follow them to London she would, and stay in Devonshire any longer she would not, and the girls had left Woodbine Cottage.

Notwithstanding all their obstinacy, and their determination to have their own way, quite a bevy of friends accompanied them to the railway station--Miss Martineau was there, looking prim and starched, but with red rims round her eyes, and her lips only stern because they were so firmly shut, and because she was so determined not to show any emotion--Mrs. Jenkins, Poppy's mother, was also present; she was sending up a great bouquet of wild flowers and some eggs and butter to Poppy; and a lame boy, whom Jasmine had always been kind to, came hobbling on to the platform to bid the young ladies good-bye; and Mr. Danesfield drove up on his trap at the last moment in a violent hurry, and pushed an envelope, which he said contained a business communication, into Primrose's hand. Last of all, just at the very end, Mrs. Ellsworthy arrived panting on the scene; a footman followed her, also hurrying and panting, and he put into the railway carriage a great basket containing hot-house flowers, and grapes, and peaches, and then Mrs. Ellsworthy kissed the girls, giving Primrose and Daisy a hurried salute, but letting her lips linger for a moment on Jasmine's round cheek. During that brief moment two tears dropped from the kind little lady's eyes.

It was in this manner that the girls went away.

They arrived in London in the evening, and after a surprisingly successful search for their luggage at Waterloo, managing not to lose anything, got into a cab, and drove to Penelope Mansion.

Poppy's aunt boasted of the pleasing name of Flint, and when the girls drove up with their cab piled with luggage to the door of the mansion, Mrs. Flint herself came out to welcome them.

Jasmine, whose excitable temperament had been going through many changes during the journey to town, had now worked herself up into an ardent desire to see Poppy--she jumped out of the cab first of all, and, running up the steps of Penelope Mansion, said eagerly--

"Oh, if you please, Mrs. Flint--I know, of course, you are Mrs. Flint--may I run down to the kitchen, and find Poppy?"

"My niece will come to you presently, Miss Mainwaring," answered Mrs. Flint.

Somehow Mrs. Flint's calm and carefully modulated voice had an instant effect in subduing Jasmine. The mistress of Penelope Mansion resembled perhaps more a cushion than a flint--she was fat, round, and short, had a good-humored and unruffled face, and a voice which was always pitched in one key.

"We call my niece Sarah in these premises," she said; "Poppy signifies nothing whatever but a weed, untidy, straggling, the worry of the farmers. Sarah will see to your comforts presently, young ladies. At the present moment tea is on the table. We tea at six o'clock precisely--we sup at nine. Will you like to go upstairs and wash your hands, or will you come at once with me, and partake with the other inmates of the meal which is now going forward?"

"I don't like her, but she seems to speak very correct English," whispered Jasmine to her sister: "I wonder, does everybody in the great city speak like that? I suppose she'll do as a study in style. I must study style, mustn't I, if I'm to make money by writing?"

This speech was tumbled into Primrose's ear with wonderful rapidity, while Mrs. Flint stood gently by, looking most contented and uninterested.

"Hush, Jasmine!" whispered Primrose. "Daisy darling, hold my hand. Thank you very much, Mrs. Flint; we will have some tea now, if you please, and then go at once to our room."

"Does Poppy--I mean Sarah--wait at the tea-table?" inquired Jasmine, as their hostess led the way up a flight of stairs, and down a passage. "I hope she does--I want to see her so badly."

"Sarah's duties at the present moment are in the kitchen," responded Mrs. Flint, with some graciousness. "Now, young ladies, let me precede you, and introduce you to my guests. Miss Mainwaring, Miss Jasmine and Miss Daisy Mainwaring--Mrs. Mortlock, Mrs. Dredge, Miss Slowcum. Young ladies, will you seat yourselves at the table?"

Mrs. Flint moved to her place at the head of the board; the three girls dropped into seats, and were stared broadly at by Miss Slowcum and Mrs. Mortlock. Mrs. Dredge, however, did not stare, but stretching out one rather plump white hand, took Daisy's within her own and gave it a little squeeze.

"Tired, pretty little dear!" she said; "tired and cold. Ah, I know all about it."

"No, she's not cold, she's hot," responded Jasmine; "this is the hottest, closest room I've ever been in. You are Mrs. Dredge, are you not? Please, Mrs. Dredge, can you tell me how near we are to the real glories of the city from here?"

"I don't know, my dear--I fancy a very long way," answered Mrs. Dredge, with a sigh--this sigh was instantly taken up by Mrs. Mortlock and Miss Slowcum, and Miss Slowcum remarked that the situation might certainly be considered the worst in London.

"Ha, ha!" said Mrs. Mortlock, "you will have to come down in your prices after that, Mrs. Flint. Ha, ha! your question was a very leading one, Miss Jasmine Mainwaring."

Poor Jasmine began to feel quite alarmed, and instantly resolved not to open her lips again during tea.

The meal proceeded, and very dull it was; nor was the fare appetizing, for the tea was weak and the bread was stale. The three young faces, so fresh from the country and from home, began to reflect the general dulness. Mrs. Flint always made it a rule never to speak except when obliged--Daisy was nearly asleep, Primrose felt a dreadful lump in her throat, and Jasmine's dark curly head was bent low, and her bright eyes were not seen under their long lashes, for she was very well aware that they were full of tears.

She was a most impulsive creature, however, quick and variable in her moods, unselfish in her character. Suddenly it dawned upon her that it was not fair to the rest of the party that she should be so dull. She had always been considered the sunbeam at home; why should she not try to become the sunbeam of Penelope Mansion?

"I know what will do it," she exclaimed, jumping from her seat, and nearly upsetting her own tea and Daisy's. "Of course, how silly of me!--I know what will alter things directly." Then she flew out of the room, returning the next moment with Mrs. Ellsworthy's great basket of fruit and flowers.

"Primrose," she said, "mightn't we share these with the ladies? They are all quite fresh from the country. Oh yes, of course we may share them. Mrs. Flint, which will you have, some flowers, a bunch of grapes, or a peach?"

Mrs. Flint selected a good-sized bunch of grapes with a placid smile, and a "Thank you, Miss Jasmine"--Mrs. Mortlock also took grapes, Miss Slowcum selected flowers, and Mrs. Dredge partook of a peach with great relish, calling it, as she did so, a "sweet reminiscence of the blooming country."

After this little incident the ladies of Penelope Mansion and the Mainwaring girls became quite friendly; nevertheless the three cried themselves to sleep that night.

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