“But there is the money in the bank,” said Jasmine speaking in a more interested tone. “You remember Primrose dear, how whenever mother wanted some money she just wrote a cheque, and we took it down to Mr. Danesfield, and he gave us nice shining gold for it. Sometimes it was ten pounds, sometimes it was five pounds, and sometimes it was only two pounds; but whenever we went to Mr. Danesfield’s bank with mother’s cheque he gave us the money. I suppose, Primrose, you can have a cheque-book now, and Mr. Danesfield can give you the money.”
“Yes,” said Primrose, in a cheerful tone, “I forgot about the money in the bank; mother often told me there was plenty. Even if we can’t quite live on our thirty pounds a year, we can manage with what money dear mamma had in the bank.”
Miss Martineau’s face had become extremely lined and anxious.
“My dears,” she said, “I fear I’ve done a rude thing; I fear I’ve taken a liberty; but the fact is, you are so alone, poor darlings, and Mr. Danesfield is an old friend of mine—and—and—I took the liberty of asking him what your mother’s balance was. He said, my dears—my poor dears—that it was not quite two hundred pounds.”
To the rescue.
Miss Martineau told her news with considerable agitation. She considered it a terrible revelation. It seemed to her a very fearful and disastrous thing that three girls brought up like the Mainwarings, three girls still almost children, should be thrown on the world without any means for their support.
Simple and primitive as their lives had been at Rosebury, they still had been tenderly nurtured and warmly sheltered—no cold blast of unkindness or neglect had visited them—they had been surrounded ever by both love and respect. The love came principally from their mother and from one another, but the respect came from all who knew them. The Mainwaring girls, in their plain dresses and with their unsophisticated manners, looked like ladies, and invariably acted as such.
Soon after making her communication Miss Martineau took her leave; she hurried home, and sitting down in her dingy little parlor, began to think.
“No, thank you, Susan,” she said to her little maid-of-all-work, “I shan’t want any supper to-night. I have been at tea with my dear pupils, the Misses Mainwaring. You may bring the lamp presently, Susan, but not quite yet; it is a pity to waste the daylight, and there is quite another quarter of an hour in which I can see to knit. Yes, give me my knitting-basket; I can get on with Widow Joseph’s mittens.”
“And, if you please, ma’am,” asked Susan, lingering for a moment at the door, “may I ask how, all things considering, the dear young ladies is?”
“On the whole, tranquil, Susan—yes, I may say it with confidence; my dear pupils may be considered in a resigned state of mind.”