Bridget was busy over her work, and was thinking of Jasmine after all in only a very lazy and comfortable fashion when a cab drew up to the door, and Miss Egerton most unexpectedly returned. She was not in the house a moment before she asked for Jasmine.
“She’s just gone out, ma’am,” answered Bridget. “She had a parcel in her hand, and she said she was going out for a run. No, ma’am, I don’t say she’s looking at all particularly well. She’s very white and worried looking, and she is scarcely ever in the house. She says she must improve her mind, and that is why she is out, and she do ask the funniest questions. Just now it was to know what was the sign of a pawnshop.”
“The sign of a pawnshop?” echoed Miss Egerton; “and did you tell her, Bridget?”
“Why, of course, ma’am. She said she wanted to know for the improving of her mind. She had a little parcel in her hand, and she said she would be back again in no time. Shall I get you a cup of tea, ma’am?”
“No, thank you, Bridget. I cannot eat until I find out about Miss Jasmine. I do not like her asking you those questions, Bridget, and I do not like her taking a little parcel with her. The child may be in want or trouble. I must see to it at once. Bridget, have you any idea which is the nearest pawnshop to this?”
“Oh, ma’am, there’s Spiller’s round the corner, and there’s Davidson’s in the main road. Now, Miss Egerton, I am most certain Miss Jasmine wanted to hear about the pawnshop for the sake of improving her mind, and for that reason only. I wish you would stay, ma’am, and have your cup of tea, for you look real tired.”
But Miss Egerton was gone.
She walked quickly down the street, hoping every moment to overtake Jasmine. Miss Egerton had old-fashioned ideas about many things, and nothing could exceed her horror at the thought of this pretty and refined-looking child finding her way alone to a pawnshop.
“Poor little girl!” she said to herself. “She must be really in absolute want. What has she taken to pawn? Oh, dear! this anxiety is terrible—and yet, and yet, how glad I am to know those orphan girls.”
Miss Egerton was very tired, had just returned from the death-bed of her dearest friend, had certainly heaps of worries of her own; but that did not prevent her whole heart from going out to Jasmine with an affection which was almost motherly.
When at last she found the little girl just coming out of Spiller’s pawnshop she laid a trembling hand on her arm.
“Jasmine, oh, my dear child, you have been in there! You have been pawning something.”
Jasmine was in such a depressed state of mind that even Miss Egerton’s unexpected return failed to astonish her. She said, raising two sad eyes to the good lady’s face—
“It was only that old Spanish lace. I always knew it was not worth much. The man only laughed when I asked for Poppy’s wages for it. He has given me ten shillings, and I am going off with it to Poppy to-night. Yes, Miss Egerton, I must, I really must.”