The fact was, Primrose wanted to be alone—she wanted to think out a problem. She was beginning to be perplexed, and even slightly alarmed. Her alarm was not caused at present by anything in connection with Daisy, for Daisy seemed almost bright and well again; but money matters were not too prosperous with the young housekeeper, the life of independence she had hoped to attain for herself and her sisters seemed to recede from her view day by day—the china-painting brought in no apparent results; Mr. Jones never did anything except “all but” get customers—the quarter’s allowance from Mr. Danesfield looked smaller and more inadequate to Primrose the more her experience in expenses grew, and now something about Miss Egerton added to her cares. It seemed to Primrose that Miss Egerton was holding back something—she had always been frank and open with the girls, but when Primrose asked her how much their furniture had cost, and whether she had opened Mr. Danesfield’s letter to pay for it the good lady’s brow had grown troubled, and she had replied—
“I am busy to-day—I will go fully into the matter presently, Primrose;” but when morning after morning Miss Egerton was still too busy to go into the question, Primrose began to have nameless little fears, and had to scold herself for being fanciful and nervous.
On this afternoon she walked quickly, and without being herself aware of it she presently found herself in the neighborhood of Regent’s Park, and at last not very far from Penelope Mansion. She was thinking hard, and paying little attention to any of the objects that met her eyes, when she was suddenly pulled up short by a round and hearty voice, a fat hand was laid on her shoulder, and she found herself face to face with Mrs. Dredge.
“Well, my dear, how are you, Miss Mainwaring? Oh, yes, I’m delighted to see you. You did give us the slip, you and your pretty sisters. I don’t think Mrs. Flint quite liked it; we all questioned her, me, and Miss Slowcum, and Mrs. Mortlock, and we said, ’At any rate give us their address, Mrs. Flint—we take an interest in them—they are pretty-spoken young ladies, and they were a credit to the establishment.’ But Mrs. Flint only frowned and bit her lips, and colored. Then Mrs. Mortlock put her foot in it as far as Miss Slowcum was concerned, for she said ’I’m sorry the girls from the country have departed, and that they found us so disagreeable that they had to do it unbeknown and quiet, for it was a real pleasure for ancient females like ourselves to have young and bonny creatures about us.’
“Miss Slowcum got very stiff at this, for she apes youth, my dear, in a way that’s past belief, and Mrs. Mortlock had her little fling on purpose. Well, dear, and how are you? You look thin to what you were, and a bit pale. How is that pretty little sister of yours who wanted the cheap lodgings, that was to be so clean you might eat on the floor?”
“We are all fairly well, Mrs. Dredge,” replied Primrose, when she could edge in a word—for Mrs. Dredge was extremely voluble—“we are fairly well, only Daisy has been suffering from cold. We have got clean rooms too, thank you, Mrs. Dredge.”