“An awful trouble has happened,” she began, breathlessly. “Oh, ladies, you’ll pardon me, but this is no time for standing on ceremony, when my own darling little lady, Miss Daisy Mainwaring, has gone and left her sheltering home.”
“Good gracious! my continual reader’s little sister!” exclaimed Mrs. Mortlock. “Left her home! you must be mistaken, Sarah Jane.”
“No, ma’am, it’s a most sorrowful fact,” said poor Poppy, who looked terribly dejected, and nearly sobbed as she spoke; “the other two dear young ladies has come for me, and I must go back with them. I’m sorry, Aunt Flint, to part again so soon, but this is unexpected, and my duty lies with my young ladies.”
“Your duty lies with your aunt, miss,” here exclaimed the exasperated Mrs. Flint. “Sarah, I was taking your part, but your airs are now past standing. Ladies three, I feel convinced that this story is all a make-up. I don’t believe for a moment the child has gone away. It’s a make-up of Sarah’s, who is turning into a most wicked girl.”
“I don’t believe it,” here exclaimed Miss Slowcum. “Sarah Bertha has spoken the truth, I feel convinced. I had a warning dream last night. I dreamt of white horses, and that always signifies very great trouble. It’s my belief that the poor dear innocent little child has been murdered!”
“Murdered!” almost screamed Mrs. Mortlock. “Miss Slowcum, I’ll thank you to come and take the seat next me, my dear, and tell me all your reasons in full for making this most startling remark. My dear, I don’t object to holding your hand while you’re pouring forth the tale of woe. How and where, Miss Slowcum, did the child meet her death?”
Meanwhile, during this wrangling and fierce disputing, Mrs. Dredge, more kind-hearted than the others, had left the room. She had gone into the hall, where Primrose and Jasmine stood side by side. She had listened to their bewildered and agitated little story, and then asking them to sit down and wait for her, she had returned to the parlor.
“Mrs. Flint,” she said, “I have been talking to the two elder Mainwaring girls; they are in the hall. No, Mrs. Mortlock, you can’t see Miss Primrose at present. The girls are in great trouble, for the little one has gone away, and there seems to be a mystery about it all. Your niece Sarah seems to be the last person who has seen the child, Mrs. Flint, and, of course, Miss Primrose and Miss Jasmine want to talk to her, and she had better go home with them. The friend they live with, a Miss Egerton, left home this very afternoon to spend a week in the country, and so the girls are quite defenceless, and have nobody to consult. That being the case, I’m going back with them also to their lodgings in a four-wheeler. Sarah Ann, go and fetch a four-wheeler this instant, and don’t stand gaping. Mind, a four-wheeler, girl, and don’t bring a hansom on no account near the place. Yes, ladies, it’s my duty to go with the poor orphans, and go I will.”