Primrose’s life was very busy at this time. Certainly nothing could be more irksome than the daily task of reading to poor Mrs. Mortlock, but the fifteen shillings a week which she now earned regularly was a wonderful help to the household purse, and Primrose performed her irksome duties with a cheerful, and even thankful heart. Her anxieties about Daisy were almost laid to rest. Since the child had been moved to Miss Egerton’s house she seemed quite a changed creature. Her old cheerfulness and sweet calm were returning to her. Morning after morning she bade Primrose good-bye with a bright smile on her little face, and however long and dull her day was, she greeted her sister happily at night. What, therefore, was poor Primrose’s consternation to find, on returning home the evening after Jasmine had made arrangements for the publication of her manuscript not only Jasmine, but Miss Egerton and Bridget all surrounding poor little Daisy, who lay on the sofa with a ghastly white face, and burst into nervous troubled weeping whenever she was spoken to.
“We found her in such a queer state,” said Jasmine; but Miss Egerton held up a warning hand.
“Let it rest now, my dear,” she said; “we need not go into the story in Daisy’s presence; she wants perfect quiet. Primrose, she has been longing so for you; will you sit down by her, and hold her hand?”
Daisy opened her eyes when she heard Primrose’s name, and held up a hot little hand to her sister, who clasped it very firmly.
“I want to speak to you all by yourself, Primrose,” she whispered. “Please ask Jasmine, and Miss Egerton, and Bridget to go away. I want to say something most important to you.”
“Leave us for a moment,” said Primrose to the others; and Jasmine went down with Miss Egerton to the sitting-room.
The moment Daisy found herself quite alone with Primrose she raised her head, ceased crying, and looked at her sister with bright feverish eyes, and cheeks that burned.
“Primrose,” she said, “would you think it very, very wrong of me if I did something that wasn’t in itself the very best thing to do, but something that I had to do to prevent a dreadful ogre putting me down into a dark dungeon? Would it be very wrong of me to do a very little thing to prevent it, Primrose?”
“My darling,” said Primrose, “your poor little head must be wandering. I don’t understand what you mean, my dear little one. Of course it would be only right of you to keep away from an ogre, and not to allow one to touch you—but there are no ogres. Daisy love—there never were such creatures. You need not make yourself unhappy about beings that never existed. The fact is, Daisy, you are too much alone, and your little head has got quite full of the idea of fairies. I must ask Mr. Noel not to talk to you in so fanciful a manner.”
“Oh don’t, Primrose, for it is my one and only comfort. Oh! I am glad you think I ought to keep out of the ogre’s power. He is a dreadful, dreadful ogre, and he has tried to get into the Palace, and I am awfully afraid of him.”