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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 17. Escorted By Miss Slowcum
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 17. Escorted By Miss Slowcum Post by :gananathan Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1142

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 17. Escorted By Miss Slowcum


"Within the house at least," remarked Poppy Jenkins, "it ain't what we dreamt of."

She was standing the next morning in the room where the three sisters had slept--it was early, only five o'clock in the morning, but this was Poppy's London hour for rising. Jasmine was sitting up in bed and regarding her earnestly, Primrose was also awake, but Daisy slept like a cherub.

"It ain't what we dreamt of," continued Poppy--"it's work, and it's dirt, and it's dust, and it's smuts. Oh, my word! the smuts is enough to turn one crazy. Nothing is white here, as you calls white in the country--speckled is more the word. No, no. Penelope Mansion is, taking it all in all, a biting disappointment."

"Well Poppy, Penelope Mansion is not the whole of London," said Jasmine, in a rather quavering, but would-be wise voice.

"Yes, but it's the London I has got to do with," answered Poppy Jenkins--"and oh! the worst of all is, that aunt won't have me called by my home name--she speaks of it most bitter as a 'weed.' She says poppies are what are meant in the Scripter by the tares. Don't it sound real awful?--I trembled all over when she told me that. So Sarah I am here, and Sarah Ann, and Sarah Jane, and Sarah Mary the ladies calls me. When they're in a very good humor I'm Sarah Mary, and when they're a bit put out it's Sarah Jane they calls for, and now and then I'm Sarah Ann--then I know I'm in for a scolding. Oh yes, Miss Primrose, London is not what we thought it."

"Never mind," said Primrose sweetly; "you'll always be Poppy to us, dear, and I know the tares were not poppies, so don't you fret--the poppy is a sweet flower, and Poppy is a sweet name for a girl. Why we four are all called after flowers, and we must just be very friendly, and very brave and loving and sweet in this London, and then, perhaps, it won't disappoint us."

"You're real kind, Miss Primrose," said Poppy. "Yes, it's a great ease to me to know as you three are in the house. I won't be so lonesome-like now, and I won't be dreaming that I'm a tare. It's awful to think of yourself as a tare, but I know now that aunt made a mistake. Oh, ain't Miss Daisy beautiful in her sleep? Now look here, you're all tired, and I'll bring you up your breakfasts in bed. You shall have some of mother's fresh eggs and real country butter. I'll run downstairs, and bring you up some breakfast the very first thing."

The girls spent that morning in their room. They unpacked a few of their things, and put their mother's picture on the mantel-piece, and Primrose opened Mr. Danesfield's letter. It contained an enclosure within and on this enclosure was written, in a funny little printing hand, "When you want me, use me; don't return me, and never abuse me."

Primrose's face grew rather red. She read the funny little motto two or three times, then put the enclosure unopened into her trunk.

"I think," she said, looking at Jasmine, "that we will not send this back. I had a queer dream last night. It seemed to me that mother came to me and said, 'Are you not foolish to cast away all your kind friends? Try to remember that true independence is not too proud to lean on others. Primrose, for my sake do not be over proud.' Mr. Danesfield was always a friend of mother's," continued Primrose, "so I will keep his letter until we want it, and will write him a little note to thank him for it."

Then the girls sat down by the open window and looked out into the street. It was a very dull street, and the day was warm and murky, with no sun shining.

"This afternoon we will go out," said Primrose. "I shall speak about it at lunch, and ask Mrs. Flint to allow us to take Poppy with us. I am so sorry Poppy feels dull. Now, girls, we must just make up our minds not to do that--we must keep up brave hearts, and not sigh and look dismal; that would never do. We have elected our own course, and if we are not courageous we shall be beaten. I for one am determined not to be beaten."

"I've always heard," said Jasmine, "that to sigh was very weakening. What I propose is this--that we give each other a fine whenever we are heard sighing, and another much more severe fine if we grumble, and the worst fine of all if we cry. Now, what shall the fines be?"

After a little consideration the girls decided that the fines might as well lead in the direction of their education. Accordingly they marked out for themselves some of the most ponderous passages in "Paradise Lost" to learn by heart, and as a severe punishment they selected little bits of a very incomprehensible book, called Butler's "Analogy." When they had carefully made these selections a rather feeble bell was heard to tinkle in the mansion, and they went downstairs to lunch.

"I hope you are comfortably unpacked now, young ladies?" inquired Mrs. Flint.

"And I trust you have recovered from the fatigues of your long journey?" questioned Mrs. Dredge. "It is a weary way from Devonshire--a long and weary way."

"You speak of it as though it were a kind of disappointment to come from Devonshire to London," remarked Miss Slowcum, "whereas London is _the place for aspiring souls."

"Oh, I'm so delighted to hear you say that!" said Jasmine--"Poppy--I mean Sarah--spoke quite dismally this morning, but I knew she must be wrong."

"The young country servant," responded Miss Slowcum, "Sarah Jane, I think her name is--oh, well, her judgment need scarcely be depended on. Yes, London is the place of places. I have lived here for years, and I ought to know."

"We quite believe you," said Jasmine--"don't we, Primrose?--we have come up here because we quite feel with you; we are going out after lunch to see the beauties of the city."

"May I ask, young ladies, if this is your first visit to the metropolis?" suddenly inquired Mrs. Mortlock.

Primrose answered her "Yes; we have never been here before."

"Then, Mrs. Flint, I put it to you, is it safe to allow these young unfledged birds out into this vast and bewildering place? ought not some one to chaperon them?"

"We thought of asking for Poppy," answered Jasmine.

Here Mrs. Flint frowned at her.

"Allow me to make one request, Miss Jasmine Mainwaring; the young person you speak of is not known here by a name which signifies a tare or a weed. Yes, I shall be pleased to allow Sarah to go out with you this afternoon for a short time, but she knows as little of London as you do. I cannot go myself, as Friday is a busy afternoon. I can, however, give you a map, and if you all keep close together and don't wander too far, and are careful only to inquire of policemen your destination you may get back safely. Don't forget, tea at six."

Here Miss Slowcum, turning her eyes slowly, looked carefully all over the three girls.

"I am most particular," she said; "I never wander abroad without carefully choosing my company, but on the whole I feel satisfied a kindred spirit to my own lurks in your eyes, Miss Jasmine. Permit me, young ladies, to escort you forth this afternoon."

This offer was accepted very gladly, although Jasmine had quickly to remember her fine, or she would have given a very deep sigh when Miss Slowcum pointed a comparison between them. In the delight, however, of going into real London all these minor considerations and discomforts were forgotten.

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