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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 2. The First Month Of Their Trouble
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 2. The First Month Of Their Trouble Post by :gananathan Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1706

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 2. The First Month Of Their Trouble

CHAPTER II. THE FIRST MONTH OF THEIR TROUBLE

There are mothers and mothers. Mrs. Mainwaring was the kind of mother who could not possibly say a harsh word to her children--she could not be severe to them, she could never do anything but consider them the sweetest and best of human beings. The girls ruled her, and she liked to be ruled by them. After her husband's death, and after the first agony of his loss had passed away, she sank into a sort of subdued state--she began to live in the present, to be content with the little blessings of each day, to look upon the sunshine as an unmitigated boon, and on the girls' laughter as the sweetest music. She had been rich in her early married life, but Captain Mainwaring had lost his money, had lost all his large private means, through a bank failure, and before Daisy came into the world Mrs. Mainwaring knew that she was a very poor woman indeed. Before the captain went to India he insured his life for L1000, and after his death Mrs. Mainwaring lived very placidly on her small pension, and for any wants which she required over and above what the pension could supply she drew upon the L1000. She did not care, as a more sensible woman would have done, to invest this little sum as so much capital; no, she preferred to let it lie in the bank, and to draw upon it from time to time, as necessity arose. She had no business friends to advise her, for the few acquaintances she made at Rosebury knew nothing whatever of the value of money. Like many another woman who has been brought up in affluence, neither had Mrs. Mainwaring the faintest idea of how fast a small sum like L1,000 can dwindle. She felt comfortable during the latter years of her life at the knowledge that she had a good balance in the bank. It never occurred to her as a possibility that she who was still fairly young could die suddenly and without warning. This event, however, took place, and the girls were practically unprovided for.

Mrs. Mainwaring had never really worked for her children, but a mother who had worked hard for them, and toiled, and exerted all her strength to provide adequately for their future, might not perhaps have been loved so well. She died and her children were broken-hearted. They mourned for her each after her own fashion, and each according to her individual character. Primrose retained her calmness and her common sense in the midst of all her grief; Jasmine was tempestuous and hysterical, bursting into laughter one minute and sobbing wildly the next. Little Daisy felt frightened in Jasmine's presence--she did not quite believe that mother would never come back, and she clung to Primrose, who protected and soothed her; in short, took a mother's place to her, and felt herself several years older on the spot.

For a month the girls grieved and shut themselves away from their neighbors, and refused to go out, or to be in any measure comforted. A month in the ordinary reckoning is really a very short period of time, but to these girls, in their grief and misery, it seemed almost endless. One night Jasmine lay awake from the time she laid her head on the pillow till the first sun had dawned; then Primrose took fright, and began to resume her old gentle, but still firm authority.

"Jasmine," she said, "we have got our black dresses--they are made very neatly, and we have done them all ourselves. Staying in the house this lovely weather won't bring dear mamma back again; we will have tea a little earlier than usual, and go for a walk this evening."

Jasmine, whenever she could stop crying, had been longing for a walk, but had crushed down the desire as something unnatural, and disrespectful to dear mamma, but of course if Primrose suggested it it was all right. Her face brightened visibly, and as to Daisy, she sat down and began to play with the kitten on the spot.

That evening the three desolate young creatures put on their new black dresses, and went down a long, rambling, charming country lane. The air was delicious--Jasmine refused to cover her hot little face with a crape veil--they came back after their ramble soothed and refreshed. As they were walking up the village street a girl of the name of Poppy, their laundress's child, stepped out of a little cottage, dropped a courtesy, and said, in a tone of delight--

"Oh, Miss Mainwaring, I'm glad to see you out; and Miss Jasmine, darling, the little canary is all reared and ready for you. I took a sight of pains with him, and he'll sing beautiful before long. Shall I bring him round in the morning, Miss Jasmine?"

"Yes, of course, Poppy; and I'm greatly obliged to you," answered Jasmine, in her old bright tones. Then she colored high, felt a good deal ashamed of herself, and hurried after Primrose, who had pulled down her crape veil, and was holding Daisy's hand tightly.

That night the sisters all slept well; they were the better for the fresh air, and also for the thought of seeing Poppy and the canary which she had reared for Jasmine in the morning.

Sharp to the hour Poppy arrived with her gift; she was a pretty little village girl, who adored the Misses Mainwaring.

"The bird will want a heap of sunshine," she said; "he's young, and my mother says that all young things want lots and lots of sun. May I pull up the blind in the bay window, Miss Primrose; and may I hang Jimmy's cage just here?"

Primrose nodded. She forgot, in her interest over Jimmy, to remember that the bay window looked directly on to the village street.

"And please, miss," said Poppy, as she was preparing to return home, "Miss Martineau says she'll look in this evening, and that she was glad when she saw you out last night, young ladies, and acting sensible again."

Primrose had always a very faint color; at Poppy's words it deepened slightly.

"We've tried to act in a sensible way all through," she said, with gentle dignity. "Perhaps Miss Martineau does not quite understand. We love one another very much; we are not going to be foolish, but we cannot help grieving for our mother."

At these words Jasmine rushed out of the room and Poppy's round eyes filled with tears.

"Oh, Miss Primrose--," she began.

"Never mind, Poppy," said Primrose; "we'll see Miss Martineau to-night. I am glad you told us she was coming."

The neighbors at Rosebury were all of the most sociable type; the Mainwaring girls knew every soul in the place, and when their mother died there was quite a rush of sympathy for them, and the little cottage might have been full from morning till night. Primrose, however, would not have it; even Miss Martineau, who was their teacher, and perhaps their warmest friend, was refused admittance. The neighbors wondered, and thought the girls very extraordinary and a little stuck-up, and their sympathy, thrown back on themselves, began to cool.

The real facts of the case, however, were these: Primrose, Jasmine and Daisy would have been very pleased to see Poppy Jenkins, or old Mrs. Jones, who sometimes came in to do choring, or even the nice little Misses Price, who kept a grocery shop at the other end of the village street; they would also have not objected to a visit from good, hearty Mrs. Fry, the doctor's wife, but had they admitted any of these neighbors they must have seen Miss Martineau, and Miss Martineau, once she got a footing in the house, would have been there morning, noon and night.

Poor Jasmine would not have at all objected to crying away some of her sorrow on kind Mrs. Fry's motherly breast; Primrose could have had some really interesting talk which would have done her good with the Misses Price; they were very religious people, and their brother was a clergyman, and they might have said some things which would comfort the sore hearts of the young girls. Little Daisy could have asked some of her unceasing questions of Poppy Jenkins, and the three would really have been the better for the visits and the sympathy of the neighbors did not these visits and sympathy also mean Miss Martineau. But Miss Martineau at breakfast, dinner, and tea--Miss Martineau, with her never-ending advice, her good-natured but still unceasingly correcting tone, was felt just at first to be unendurable. She was sincerely fond of the girls, whom she had taught to play incorrectly, and to read French with an accent unrecognized in Paris, but Miss Martineau was a worry, was a great deal too officious, and so the girls shut themselves away from her and from all other neighbors for the first month after their mother's death.

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