How long she might have wept she could never say, but her tears were suddenly brought to an abrupt termination. When she entered her mother’s room she had not locked the door, and now a voice sounded at her elbow:
“Eh!—my word—dear, dear, deary me! Now, Miss Primrose, to think of you creeping up like this, and ‘worriting’ yourself over the secrets in the little bit of a cabinet. Your poor mamma knew what she was about when she kept that cabinet locked, and for all the good they’ll ever do, she might well have burnt the bits of fallals she kept there. There, darling, don’t spoil your pretty eyes crying over what’s dead and gone, and can never be put right again—never. Shut up the cabinet, Miss Primrose, and put your hair a bit straight, for Mrs. Ellsworthy, from Shortlands, is down in the drawing-room, and wanting to see you most particular ‘bad.’”
Miss Martineau’s plans had been full of directness. Having made up her mind, she wasted no precious moments. The girls must be helped; she could only give them counsel, but others could do more. Miss Martineau determined to go at once to the fountainhead. In short, she would attack the one and only rich person who lived in the neighborhood of Rosebury. Shortlands was a big place, and the Ellsworthys were undoubtedly big people. Money with them was plentiful. They considered themselves county folk; they lived in what the Rosebury people believed to be royal style.
Miss Martineau had for one short blissful week of her life spent the time at Shortlands. She had been sent for in an emergency, to take the place of a nursery governess who was ill. Her French had been of little account in this great house, and her music had not been tolerated. The poor old lady had indeed been rather snubbed. But what of that? She was able to go back to her own intimate friends, and entertain them with accounts of powdered footmen, of richly-dressed London ladies, of a world of fashion which these people believed to be Paradise.
Twice during her week’s sojourn she had been addressed by Mrs. Ellsworthy. No matter; from that day she considered herself one of the great lady’s acquaintances. Miss Martineau could be heroic when she pleased, and there was certainly something of the heroic element about her when she ventured to storm so mighty a citadel at eleven o’clock in the morning.
Her very boldness, however, won her cause. The footman who opened the door might look as supercilious as he pleased, but he was obliged to deliver her messages, and Mrs. Ellsworthy, with a good-humored smile, consented to see her.
Their interview was short, but Miss Martineau, when she launched on her theme, quite forgot that she was poor and her auditor rich. Mrs. Ellsworthy, too, after a few glances into the thin and earnest face of the governess, ceased to think of that antiquated poke bonnet, or the absurdly old-fashioned cut of that ugly mantle.