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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 19. A Bright Day
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 19. A Bright Day Post by :gananathan Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :3612

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 19. A Bright Day

CHAPTER XIX. A BRIGHT DAY

Last times are always sad to write about and think about, but first times are generally pleasant. Notwithstanding a certain sense of disappointment which certainly did assail the three girls on their entrance into London, notwithstanding the fact which Jasmine only too quickly discovered, that the streets were not paved with gold, nor the air replete with promises, yet there was still something left in that same London air, a sort of mystery and wonder about it. There was still something of untold fascination in the busy and crowded streets, which brought a great sense of delight and exhilaration to the three young adventurers.

Jasmine spoke about the stories which met her at every turn; she felt almost melted to tears at the sight of the sadness in the eyes of some women, and some little children. But again, beautiful ladies driving past in carriages made of almost fairy lightness caused her to laugh with pleasure.

Primrose was more gravely impressed by London than Jasmine. Her emotions were not so keen as her younger sister's, her purpose was far more steadfast; and even in the first few days when the girls gave themselves up to seeing the wonderful sights of the great metropolis she could never forget the real object for which they had come.

Daisy, when she had become reconciled to the smuts and disagreeables, and the slights to which the Pink was exposed all day long in Penelope Mansion, began to enjoy life in a serene but unqualified manner. Each of the girls had her own particular tastes; and these they were by no means slow to express to one another.

Primrose, who intended to study china painting--to make it, in short, a profession--liked to stand opposite some large shop in Oxford Street, and to study and try to carry away in her mind's eye the shape and beauty of the many lovely things displayed in the windows.

Jasmine, who during the first few days had quite made up her mind not to worry at all about the future, did not much care for these gazing fits of Primrose's. She wanted to get into the parks. She exclaimed in ecstasy over the horses, and those picture-galleries which were free to the public quite enchanted her. Daisy frankly admitted that she liked toy-shops, and of all toy-shops those which displayed rows of dolls in their windows the best. Primrose had decided that the three should have one week's holiday, and it was during this week that they began to make a certain first acquaintance with London. "It is the heart of the world," Jasmine was heard to say. "Primrose, it is what we pictured it; in many ways it is even greater than what we pictured it. Oh, don't your cheeks glow, and don't you feel that your eyes are shining when you look down Oxford Street? Yes, it is lovely and grand, and I think we ought to show poor dear Poppy some more of its delights."

Primrose was only too glad to give Poppy all the happiness in her power, and she and Jasmine arranged that they would take the little girl out with them on another expedition before they settled down finally to the great work of their lives.

"We'll spend five shillings," said Primrose, "we must not on any account spend more, but we will be extravagant, and give poor Poppy a real treat with one crown piece."

"We had better ask her to come to-morrow," said Daisy; "five shillings seems a lot of money. Do you think there will be enough over, Primrose, to buy me a tiny, tiny little doll?"

Primrose kissed Daisy, and said she would try somehow to manage the doll, and Jasmine was elected to go downstairs and sound Poppy on the subject of the morrow's treat.

The little maiden had made herself pretty well at home in the Mansion by this time, and she soon discovered Poppy in what was called the back scullery. The ladies had all finished their mid-day meal, and were out. Even Mrs. Flint had sallied forth to a distant market to secure some cheap provisions, and Poppy had the back scullery to herself. She was handling the dinner-plates in a rather clumsy manner, and, after the fashion of a discontented little girl, was sighing over her work, and not doing it properly.

"Oh, let me help you!" said Jasmine, dancing up to her: "I hate washing china, or delf, or whatever you call it, after people have eaten, but I like wiping it if the cloths are clean. Poppy, I have come to you about a most delicious and important scheme."

"Lor, Miss Jasmine," said Poppy, her fingers trembling violently, and the large dish which she was washing nearly slipping out of them. "Lor, miss, you do startle me. I was in the dumps, and you are for all the world like the sun coming out. Why, deary me, the back scullery ain't by no means such a bad sort of place when you're in it, Miss Jasmine."

"It is very damp and gloomy, all the same," answered Jasmine. "I do hope you will be quick, Poppy, in washing up those uninteresting dinner-plates. Now, look here, Primrose and Daisy and I have been making up such a lovely plan. We want to take you out with us to-morrow; we are going to spend five shillings, quite lots of money, you know, and we are going to have dinner out, and perhaps tea out; and we are going a good long way. Can you come with us to-morrow, Poppy?"

"Hold me," said Poppy, suddenly stretching out her hand, "the scullery is damp and close, and my head a-going round. Let's get out into the back yard, Miss Jasmine. Now I can breathe. Oh, didn't I say that London was dazzling, and isn't it you three that has got the hearts of gold. Say it all over again to me, please, Miss Jasmine. What is it we're all a-going to do to-morrow?"

"Oh, what a silly, Poppy, you are," said Jasmine; "why even I do not get as excited as you do. We are going out, and you are coming with us, and we are going to spend five shillings."

Poppy's cheeks flushed a vivid crimson, her eyes sparkled, and her small feet began involuntarily to dance.

"I has set my heart on something beauteous," she said, "and, oh, dear, Miss Jasmine, you will do it, won't you? You won't let none of them biting disappointments with which the air is choke full, as full as it is of smuts, come in the way. If you three darling ladies spend a crown piece, and take me abroad, we'll be on pleasure bent, and on pleasure alone. Say so, do, Miss Jasmine."

"Why, Poppy, of course we are going for pleasure; what do you mean?"

"Only that we won't be going Cathedraling and Towering. I don't say nothing ag'in them places, but when I wants real pleasure, and a crown piece spent on me, I don't go in for no Cathedraling."

Jasmine laughed. "I tell you what," she said, "you shall choose the pleasure yourself, Poppy. It's your treat, and you shall choose. Now, do say what hour you will be ready to start to-morrow, for we want to go early, and have a real long day."

"Let's think," said Poppy. "To-morrow is, yes, to-morrow is Thursday. Cold joint to-morrow, and a salad made with stale lettuce which we gets cheap; potatoes boiled plain and not mashed, and a apple dumpling to follow. The ladies is very particular that their pastry should be light. Miss Slowcum says she can't sleep a bit at night if her pastry is heavy. She called me Sarah Martha Ann the last time I made it, and she looked most vinegary. Yes, Miss Jasmine, the dinner's plain to-morrow, and I'll get up with the daybreak, and do my cleaning. I don't see why Aunt Flint shouldn't let me go with you, miss."

Mrs. Flint, when properly attacked, proved herself quite vulnerable. She was anxious to please the Mainwarings who she hoped would take up their abode with her, for naughty Primrose had by no means divulged her real plans. Accordingly, Poppy was allowed to get her dinner beforehand, and a very happy little quartet left the Mansion soon after eleven o'clock.

They had gone some little distance from Penelope Mansion, and found themselves in a far more cheerful and bright-looking street, before Poppy divulged her plans.

"I has got to choose," she said, "and as I stated distinct to Miss Jasmine yesterday, I don't go in for the glooms of the Tower, nor the solemns of the Cathedral. I'd like to walk from end to end of Oxford Street first, and then I'd like to take a penny boat on the river."

"A penny boat!" exclaimed the three sisters in a breath, "that does sound delightful, and so cheap. Where did you hear of penny boats, Poppy?"

Poppy's face became radiant.

"It was the last charwoman at the Mansion," she answered. "She said that if you wanted a pleasure, and a pleasure cheap, there was nothing in all the world like a penny boat. You sit in it, and there you are, as snug as snug; plenty of room and plenty of company, and plenty of sights. Mrs. Jones said that if there was a pleasure to rest a tired charwoman it was to be found in a penny boat."

"Well, we are not charwomen, but we may as well have a little rest and fun while we can," answered Jasmine. "I think yours is a lovely treat, dear Poppy, and we will try and get into the penny boat as fast as possible."

"I don't know how we are to reach the boats," said Primrose. "I begin to know my way a little about Oxford Street, but how are we to find the river?"

Poppy, however, had made good use of her acquaintance with Mrs. Jones the charwoman. She knew the name as well as the color of the omnibus which would safely convey them near to the pier at Westminster. She also knew, being instructed by Mrs. Jones, that a policeman was the right person to give her information as to where this special omnibus was to be found. She was by no means shy in making her desires known to one of these useful and worthy members of society, and in a short time the four found themselves bowling away in the direction of Westminster, and then, without any insurmountable difficulty, secured comfortable seats on one of the river steamers.

The day was perfect, neither too hot nor too cold, and the summer breezes fanned the young cheeks pleasantly, and raised the youthful spirits to an exhilarating height. Poppy forgot her troubles in Penelope Mansion, her difficulties with regard to the name of Sarah. She forgot the gloom of the back scullery, and the discontented frown quite vanished from her brow. London was again dazzling in her eyes, and her own future was replete with hope.

Primrose also ceased to worry over the anxieties and cares of the future; she ceased to reflect on the plan which was so soon to be carried into execution. Her serene face looked sweet and careless as in the happy days of her mother's lifetime. She leaned back in her seat, gazed at the beauties of the river, and gave herself up to the happiness of the hour.

The two younger girls, being never over anxious and being always more or less full of hope, were to-day only more hopeful and bright than usual. Many people turned to look at the pretty sisters, and to laugh at Poppy's innocent expressions of rapture.

They landed at Battersea, and wandered about the pretty park, and had refreshments in a quaint restaurant, where they really managed to satisfy their hunger at a very moderate charge.

That evening they returned to the Mansion, having kept within the limits of the prescribed five shillings, and each of them declaring that she had never known a happier day.

"But now," said Primrose, addressing her two sisters solemnly, "we must remember that after to-night we have done with pleasure. To-morrow we must seriously set about forming our plans."

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