“‘I always felt somehow as if they were my sisters,’ he said to me. Well, well, God be praised for his mercies.”
AN INVITATION FOR THE LADIES OF PENELOPE MANSION.
“There are limits to all things,” said Mrs. Mortlock; “there’s a time, as the blessed Bible says, to sorrow, and a time to rejoice, and what I say too is, that there is a time when a woman’s patience may be exhausted. Yes, Mrs. Dredge, you may look at me with as round eyes as you please—I know they are round though I can’t see them, but I will say, if it’s my last dying breath, that the moment for my ’continual reader’ to return has arrived. Miss Slowcum, no doubt you’ll corroborate what I say, ma’am.”
“It’s hot weather for young bright flowers to shed their fragrance on the London streets,” replied Miss Slowcum; “it’s the kind of weather when flowers fade. I should imagine, Mrs. Mortlock, that your ‘continual reader’ was doing better for herself in the country.”
Mrs. Mortlock’s face became very red.
“Better for herself, is she?” she said, “and is that all the thanks I get for keeping my post vacant, and living through days the weariness of which none may know. If Miss Primrose Mainwaring is doing better for herself in the country she is welcome to stay there. The post is a good one, a light and an easy one, and I can get many another lass to fill it.”
“I think, ma’am,” said Mrs. Dredge, whose face had grown wonderfully smooth and pleasant of late, “that the dear girls will all be in town this week, and most likely Miss Primrose will come to pay you a visit. Oh, they are nice girls, pretty, elegant girls, just the kind of girls my good man would like to have been papa to. I can’t help shivering, even now when I think of that wicked man Dove, and what a state he put dear little Daisy into.”
“If praises of the Mainwarings is to begin,” answered Mrs. Mortlock in her tartest voice, “what I say is, let me retire. It’s all very well for them as has right to talk well of the absent, but when one of the absent ones is neglecting her duty the lady who has weak eyes feels it. Miss Slowcum, ma’am, have you any objection to moving with me into the drawing-room? I can lend you that pattern you admired so much for tatting if you read me the latest gossip from the evening papers, ma’am.”
Mrs. Mortlock rose from her chair, and, accompanied by Miss Slowcum, left the room. Miss Slowcum took a ladylike interest in all kinds of needlework, and the desire to possess the tatting pattern overcame her great reluctance to read aloud to the very tart old lady.
Mrs. Mortlock placed herself in the most comfortable arm-chair the room afforded, and having secured her victim, began instantly to tyrannize over her.
“Now, Miss Slowcum, read up chirrupy and cheerful please. None of your drawling, by way of genteel voice, for me—I like my gossip crisp. I will say this of that dear girl Primrose Mainwaring, that she did her gossip crisp.”