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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 47. Almost Defeated
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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 47. Almost Defeated Post by :Grroeb9 Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :3505

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The Palace Beautiful: A Story For Girls - Chapter 47. Almost Defeated

CHAPTER XLVII. ALMOST DEFEATED

With the weight of her secret removed Daisy began slowly, very slowly, to mend. The strain she had undergone had been too great for her quickly to recover her strength; but little by little a faint color did return to her white cheeks, she slept more peacefully, and began to eat again.

"There's nothing at all for you to do, Miss Primrose," said Hannah, "but to give up that post of continually screaming out book and newspaper stuff to a deaf old lady."

"She isn't deaf, Hannah," interrupted Primrose. "She wants me to read to her because her sight is very bad."

"Well, well," replied Hannah Martin, in a testy tone, "whether she's deaf or whether she's blind, it ain't no way a fit post for you, Miss Primrose. You've got to stay here now, and take care of that precious little lamb, and you had better send for Miss Jasmine to keep you company."

"I am certainly not going to leave Daisy at present," replied Primrose. "I've got money enough to go on with, but I must go back to town as soon as possible in order to earn enough to return Mr. Noel's money to him. As to Jasmine, do you know, Hannah, she has got quite a nice way of making a little income? You remember how cleverly she always arranged the flowers in our drawing-room at dear Rosebury, and how our mother always asked her to make bouquets for her? It now seems that Jasmine has got rather remarkable taste, and some fine ladies in London are employing her to arrange flowers on their dinner-tables. They pay her very well indeed for this, and the labor is nothing at all."

"Hoot!" said Hannah; "I think it's rather demeaning of herself. Well, Miss Primrose, I suppose the poor dear will want a holiday the same as the rest of you. To tell the truth, Miss Primrose, my old eyes ache to see the darling, she was always such a bonny one."

Primrose smiled.

"When the fine ladies go out of town, Hannah, we will have Jasmine down, and you shall squeeze us all into that nice, cosy little bedroom of yours. What a good thing it was, Hannah; that you did not follow us to London, but that you started this nice shop in the country, for now we three girls can have our change in the country at such small expense."

Tears started to Hannah's eyes.

"I've been always saving up for this, Miss Primrose, and if you will talk of paying me at all, I'll never forgive you; aren't you my nurslings, all three of you, and the only creatures I have got to live for?"

In the meantime while things were mending for Primrose and Daisy, and Daisy was beginning once more to get that soft pink in her cheeks which gave her such a curious and touching likeness to her name-flower, poor little Jasmine, left behind in her Palace Beautiful, was not having quite so good a time.

Jasmine was beset by several worries and anxieties; she was also extremely lonely, for Miss Egerton, owing to the dangerous illness of a near relation, was still absent from home, and Poppy, driven by the dire necessity of earning bread to eat, had been obliged to return, as little maid-of-all-work, to Penelope Mansion.

Jasmine was alone, but she was a brave child, and her strong longing now was to help Primrose, and above all things not to ask for any money from her.

For the first few days after Primrose had gone to the country the poor little girl's resources were very meagre indeed. She had thought that first sovereign she had earned simply inexhaustible, but it was surprising how it melted in her inexperienced grasp, and how very, very little it seemed capable of purchasing.

In her first delight at finding herself capable of earning money she had written an extravagantly hopeful letter to Primrose.

"You need not think at all of me, dear Primrose," she wrote; "keep all the money you can collect to buy nice nourishing things for dear little Daisy. Perhaps I shall become quite famous as an arranger of flowers on great London dinner-tables. If I do get orders, and I think I am sure of them, I shall not only be able to pay my own London expenses, but will save something towards our emergency fund. Oh, Primrose, my heart burns with longings to earn lots of money, and to be great and strong and famous!"

This poor little enthusiastic letter reached Primrose when Daisy was at her worst, and it so happened that it lightened her cares about the little sister alone in London. She felt quite sure that Jasmine was getting plenty of orders, and was earning sufficient money for her own modest wants in the pretty way she spoke of; and in consequence she did not send her any of the money which Daisy had returned to her.

But poor little Jasmine was not receiving orders so fast as Primrose anticipated. One or two other ladies did ask her to dress their dinner-tables for them, and one or two more promised to do so, and then forgot all about it; but no one paid her as well as Mrs. Daintree had done. Noel was out of town, and was unable to interest himself in her behalf, and so it came to pass that the slender purse could not supply the modest needs, and Jasmine was much too proud, and too determined to help herself, to write to Primrose for money.

These were hard days for the little girl--days which were to prove the stuff she was made of to the very uttermost--but doubtless they gave her, as all anxious days of pain bravely borne do, a valuable experience and a depth of character which she could not otherwise have acquired.

The lesson she was to learn, however, was a painful one, and its sharpness was to be felt very quickly.

Jasmine's hope of hopes lay in her beloved manuscript. That story, the first-fruits of her young genius, must surely make her purse bulky, and must wreathe her little brow with laurels. That story, too, was to refund poor Poppy the money she had lent, and was to enable Jasmine to live in comfort during her sister's absence.

One day, about ten days after Primrose had gone to Rosebury, Jasmine stood by the windows of the Palace Beautiful to watch the postman. He was coming up the street, and Jasmine greatly, greatly hoped he would stop at Miss Egerton's and drop into the letter-box, perhaps, a letter from Primrose, and more delightful still, a roll of proofs of her dear story. The postman, however, passed on his way, and gave his loud rat-tat at the doors to right and the doors to left, but neither sounded the bell nor gave his double-knock at Miss Egerton's door. Jasmine sighed deeply, and retiring from the window, sat down to her frugal breakfast. She looked pale, and her eyes were not as bright and starry as usual. Presently she took out her purse and looked at its contents. This was Thursday. She had dressed a dinner-table on Monday, and had received seven and sixpence. Her purse now contained three shillings, and she certainly could not accuse herself of any extravagance in the matter of diet.

"This will never do," she said to herself. "I believe if I do not get any more money I shall be obliged to apply to Primrose, and it was only last night I heard from dear old Rose saying how glad she was that I was able to support myself. She said Daisy's illness had cost a great deal, and we must all economize in every possible manner for some time. Dear darling old Primrose, I will not ask her to help me--I will manage for myself. Now how shall I do it? I am afraid those ladies did not care for the star arrangement of flowers which I made at that last house. I thought them lovely, peeping out through their dark green leaves, but I heard Mrs. Lee whispering to Mrs. Mansell, 'How peculiar! _do you quite like it?' and then Mrs. Mansell said nothing more about my dressing her dinner-table. Her dinner-party was to have been to-day, and she _almost promised to have me when I arrived in the morning. Well, there is no use thinking of that; I cannot swell my purse in that manner this day, that is very evident. Oh, dear! oh, dear! what shall I do?"

Here a sudden thought came to Jasmine. Under its influence her cheeks flushed, and her eyes began to shine.

"Why, of course," she exclaimed; "how very silly of me to forget!--my hundred copies of _The Joy-bell ought to have arrived by now. Yes, of course they ought, and perhaps I shall be able to sell some of them. I have no doubt Mrs. Dredge would buy a couple if Poppy asked her and perhaps Mrs. Mortlock and Miss Slowcum would also like to see my first story in print. Yes, of course, I can sell a few copies. Bridget said she would buy one, and she said she had two cronies who would be sure to take a copy each. Yes, I expect I shall make a few shillings by the sale of _The Joy-bell to-day, and that will keep me going fine. Oh, dear! the very moment I have earned a little money by them I must send a copy down to Daisy. Won't the darling like to show my words of genius to Primrose? I'll run downstairs this minute, and ask Bridget if she has not got a parcel for me."

But alas! no _Joy-bells had arrived for Jasmine, and after the little girl had wondered a great deal, and talked the matter over with Bridget she determined to put on her hat and go off to consult with Poppy.

She was not long finding her way to Penelope Mansion, and Poppy opened the door for her, but greeted her in a sad voice, and looked decidedly depressed.

"I have come about _The Joy-bell_" began Jasmine at once, in an excited voice. "It ought to have come--my hundred copies, you know, and they haven't. I must go to inquire about it at once; and, Poppy, dear, could you come with me?"

Poppy turned very red.

"No, Miss Jasmine, darling, I couldn't," she said, in the meekest voice.

Poppy's tones were so unlike those she usually employed that Jasmine glanced at her in some surprise.

"Why, Poppy, how funny you are!" she exclaimed. "Is anything the matter?"

"Don't you notice it, Miss Jasmine, but I'm a bit low-like," said Poppy. "I has my low fits and my high fits same as t'other folks, and this is a low fit day--that's all, miss."

"Oh! I am so sorry. Poor Poppy! And is the swimming in your head as bad as ever?"

"It's continual, Miss Jasmine. It seems to have become a kind of habit, same as the smuts and the Sarah Janes. A swimming head is most certain the London style of head for a girl like me. Yes, I am sorry I can't go with you, Miss Jasmine, darling, but I can't this morning. I hope you will get safe to the City, miss, and that you will see the editor, and give it to him sharp for not sending you your _Joy-bells_. Oh, my, Miss Jasmine! to think that your beautiful words is in print at last! Most likely the whole of London is flooded by them now, and the editor will be asking you for more of your words of beauty and wisdom. You make a sharp bargain with him, Miss Jasmine, and before you put pen to paper again for him, you get your money down. There's nothing so safe in clinching a bargain as money down. Oh, dear! I wish I could go with you. And, Miss Jasmine, if you could find it convenient to pay me back say one and sixpence of the little loan, I'll be for ever obliged, darling."

At this moment Mrs. Flint's voice was heard calling Poppy, and demanding who she was standing gossiping with. Mrs. Flint's voice sounded quite sharp, and Jasmine guessed that something unusual must have occurred to disturb her, for Mrs. Flint was known on principle never to excite herself.

"What is the matter with her?" she inquired of Poppy, who flushed up at her tones.

"Oh, nothing, miss. She's only a bit put out about the broken boots. There, I must run."

Poppy almost shut the door in Jasmine's face. She was certainly very unlike her usual self.

Jasmine walked down the steps of the Mansion, and slowly, very slowly, went up the street to meet the omnibus which was to convey her Citywards.

She was quite a clever little Londoner now, and knew which were the right omnibuses to take, and, in short, how to find her way about town. She hailed the City omnibus, and hastily and humbly took her place amongst its crowded passengers. She was the unlucky twelfth, and her advent was certainly not hailed with delight. The bright morning had turned to rain, and the passengers, most of them women, were wrapped up in waterproof cloaks. Jasmine, when she entered the omnibus, looked so small, so timid, and unimportant, that no one thought it worth while even to move for her, and at last she was thankful to get a little pin-point of room between two very buxom ladies, who both almost in the same breath desired her not to crowd them, and both also fiercely requested her to keep her wet dress from touching their waterproofs.

At another time Jasmine would have been quite spirited enough to resent the unfriendly behavior of the inmates of the City 'bus; but her interview with Poppy had depressed her greatly, and she had a kind of terrified little fear that she knew the reason of Mrs. Flint's sharp tones, that she could guess why Poppy's bright face should look so dismal, and why she was obliged so earnestly to beg of her to return her one and sixpence.

"She wants her own money--her wages, that she earned with a swimming head and all," thought poor Jasmine. "How selfish of me not to remember before that of course, poor Poppy would want her wages; it is perfectly dreadful to think of her doing without them. Why, of course, Mrs. Flint would be likely to scold her if she went about with her ragged boots when she earns such good wages. Poor, dear, brave Poppy! she would never tell what she did with her money. Well, she must have it all back to-day. Yes, I am determined about that, she shall have it back, to-day."

Jasmine was thinking so hard, and so absorbing was her theme, that she leaned unconsciously against the fat neighbor on her right. This good person immediately pushed her with some vigor into the arms of the portly neighbor on her left, who exclaimed, in a cross voice--

"Lor' sakes! my dear, sit upright, do."

"I hope the young person will soon get out," exclaimed the other neighbor. "I call it downright unconscionable to crowd up Christian women like this. Might I make bold to inquire, miss, when you are thinking of alighting?"

"I am going to Paternoster Row," said Jasmine, in a meek voice. "I do not think I am very far from there now."

"Oh, no, miss! we have only to go down Newgate Street, and there you are. It's a queer place, is Paternoster Row, not that I knows much about it."

"A mighty bookish place," took up the other neighbor "they say they are all bookworms that live there, and that they are as dry as bits of parchment. I shouldn't say that a bright little miss like you had any call to go near such a place."

Jasmine drew herself up, and her face became sunshiny once more.

"You would not think," she began, with an air of modest pride, "that I belong to the booky and the parchmenty people, but I do. I am going down the Row to inquire about one of my publications, perhaps I ought to say my first, so I am anxious about it."

"Lor', who would have thought it!" exclaimed both the ladies, but they instantly fell back and seemed to think it better to leave so alarmedly learned a little girl alone. For the remainder of the ride they talked across Jasmine about the price of onions, and where the cheapest bacon was to be purchased, and they both breathed a sigh of relief when she stepped out into the rain and they could once more expand themselves in the space which she had occupied.

Meanwhile the forlorn little adventurer walked down the narrow path of this celebrated Row. It was still raining heavily, and Jasmine's umbrella had several rents in its canopy. Now that she was so close to her destination she began to feel strangely nervous, and many fears hitherto unknown beset her. Suppose, after all, _The Joy-bell which contained the first portion of her story had not had a large success; suppose, after all, the public were not so delighted with her flowing words. Perhaps the editor would receive her very coldly, and would tell her what a loss her story had been, and how indisposed he felt to go on with it. If this was the case she never, never would have courage to ask him to give her Poppy's wages. If the editor scolded her she felt that she would be incapable of saying a word in her own defence. Nay, she thought it extremely probable that then and there she would burst into tears. Undoubtedly, she was in a very low frame of mind to-day. She, as well as Poppy, had her low fit on, and she greatly trembled for the result of the coming interview. Since that pathetic little last speech of Poppy's about her broken boots Jasmine had quite forgotten how sorely she needed money for herself. Her one and only desire just now was to restore Poppy's money.

"I must do it," she said to herself; "I must do it, and I will. I have made up my mind, and I really need not be so frightened. After all, Poppy and Daisy are both quite sure that I am a genius. Daisy says that I have got the face of a genius, and Poppy was in such great, great delight at my story. It is not likely that they would both be wrong, and Poppy is a person of great discernment. I must cheer up and believe what they told me. I daresay Poppy is right, and London is half-flooded with my story. Ah, here I am at the entrance of the court where the editor of _The Joy-bell lives. How funny it is to be here all alone. I really feel quite like a heroine. Now I am at the office--how queer, how very queer--I do not see any _Joy-bells pressed up against the window. No, not a single one; there are lots of other books and papers, but no _Joy-bells_. Dear, dear! my heart does beat, for I am thinking that perhaps Poppy is right, and that all the copies of _The Joy-bells are bought up; that, of course, is on account of my story." Then Jasmine entered the house, and went into a little office where a red-haired boy was sitting on a high stool before a dirty-looking desk. The boy had a facetious and rather unpleasant face, and was certainly not remarkable for good manners.

"I want to see the editor of _The Joy-bell_," asked Jasmine, in as firm a tone as she could command.

The red-haired boy raised his eyes from a huge ledger which he was pretending to occupy himself over, and said, "Can't see him," in a laconic tone, and dropped his eyes again.

"But why?" asked Jasmine, somewhat indignantly. "I have particular business with him; it is most necessary that I should see him. Pray, let him know that I am here."

"Very sorry," replied the boy, "but can't."

"Why not?"

"'Cause he ain't in town."

"Oh!"

Poor Jasmine fell back a pace or two; then she resumed in a different tone--

"I am very much disappointed; there is a story of mine in _The Joy-bell_, and I wanted to speak to him about it. It was very important, indeed," she added, in so sad a voice that the red-haired boy gazed at her in some astonishment.

"My word," he said, "then you do not know?"

"Don't know what?"

"Why, we has had a funeral here."

"A funeral--oh, dear! oh, dear! is the editor of _The Joy-bell dead?"

Here the red-haired boy burst into a peal of irrepressible laughter.

"Dead! he ain't dead, but _The Joy-bell is; we had her funeral last week."

Poor Jasmine staggered against the wall, and her pretty face became ghastly white.

"Oh, boy," she said, "do tell me about it; how can _The Joy-bell be dead, and have a funeral? Oh, please, don't jest with me, for it's so important."

The genuine distress in her tones touched at last some vulnerable point in the facetious office-boy's breast.

"I'm real sorry for you, miss," he said, "particular as you seems so cut up; but what I tell you is true, and you had better know it. That editor has gone, and _The Joy-bell is decently interred. I was at her birth, and I was at her funeral. She had a short life, and was never up to much. I never guessed she'd hold out as long as she did; but the editor was a cute one, and for a time he bamboozled his authors, and managed to live on them. Yes, _The Joy-bell is in her quiet grave at last, and can't do no more harm to nobody. Lor', miss, I wouldn't take on if I was you, you'd soon get accustomed to it if you had a desk at an office like this. In at the births, and in at the deaths am I, and I don't make no count of one or t'other. Why, now, there was _The Stranger_--which went in for pictorial get up, and was truly elegant--it only lasted six months; and there was _The Ocean Wave_, which did not even live as long. And there was _Merrie Lassie_--oh, their names is legion. We'll have another started in no time. So you must be going, miss? Well, good morning. If I was you, miss, I wouldn't send no more stories to this yere office."

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