“You really are a very unaccountable person, Mrs. Mortlock,” replied Miss Slowcum. “You begin by abusing Primrose Mainwaring, and then you praise her in the most absurd manner. I hope the refined reading of a cultivated lady is not to be compared to the immature utterances of a school-girl. If that is so, Mrs. Mortlock, even for the sake of the tatting pattern, I cannot consent to waste my words on you.”
“Oh, my good creature,” said Mrs. Mortlock, who by no means wished to be left to solitude and herself, “you read in a very pretty style of your own—obsolete it may be—h’m—I suppose we must expect that—mature it certainly is; yes, my dear, quite mature. If I praise Primrose Mainwaring, and a good girl she was when she was with me—yes, a good, painstaking girl, thankful for her mercies—it’s no disparagement to you, Miss Slowcum. You’re mellow, my dear, and you can’t help being mellow, and Primrose Mainwaring is crisp, and she can’t help being crisp. Oh, goodness gracious me! what sound is that falls on my ear?”
“An old friend’s voice, I hope, Mrs. Mortlock,” said a pleasant girlish tone, and Primrose Mainwaring herself bent down over the old lady and kissed her.
Notwithstanding all her grumbling Mrs. Mortlock had taken an immense fancy to Primrose. She returned her embrace warmly, and even took her hand and squeezed it.
“I’d like to see you, dear,” she said, “but I’m getting blinder and blinder. Have you come back to your continual reading, dear? I hope so, for you do the gossip in a very chirruping style.”
While Mrs. Mortlock was speaking to Primrose Miss Slowcum had taken Daisy in her arms, and covered her sweet little face with kisses, for Miss Slowcum was not all sour and affected, and she had shed some bitter tears in secret over the child’s unaccountable disappearance. Mrs. Dredge and Mrs. Flint had both surrounded Jasmine, who, in a white summer frock, was looking extremely pretty, and was entertaining them with some animated conversation.
“Yes,” said Primrose to Mrs. Mortlock, “I will come to read to you as often as ever I can. I shall know my plans better after to-morrow. We three girls returned to London a couple of days ago, and we received a letter from our kind friend Mrs. Ellsworthy. You don’t know her, perhaps, but she is a very kind friend of ours. She is making some plans for us, but we don’t quite know what they are. She has written us a letter, however, and it is on account of that letter that we have all come to you to-night. She has invited us to come to her to-morrow, and she wants all the friends who were kind to us, and who helped us in every way during our year in London, to come in the evening to hear what the plans are. Even if you can’t see, Mrs. Mortlock, it will amuse you to come, and I hope so much you will do so. I will try to stay close to you myself when you do come, so you need not feel lonely.”