Mrs. Ellsworthy left her seat, and drew a small easy-chair close to the fire, for though the weather was hot Mrs. Ellsworthy always insisted on indulging in this evening luxury.
Planting herself luxuriously in this chair, the little lady began her narrative.
“Now, Joseph, I will tell you my story. Do you remember that outlandish-looking governess who came up here for a week to try to keep Frankie in order before we sent him to school? Oh, what a blessing it is to have that boy at school! Do you remember Miss Martineau, Joseph?”
“There was an authoress of the name, my love; but surely she died before we came to Shortlands?”
“Joseph, how stupid you are! I mean a dear, obsolete creature in the village. However, it is not the slightest matter whether you remember her or not. She came here again this morning, and begged of me to interest myself in the cause of three destitute orphans who lived in a little house in the village. She spoke most kindly about them, but said they were a little unfinished, and not, in her opinion, very capable; but she described them as pretty and young, and, oh, so appallingly poor! And somehow the good old creature touched my heart, and I said I would certainly help them. I ordered the carriage and drove into the village. I expected to see—well, you know, the sort of girl who is likely to be found in a little village like Rosebury, Joseph—the awkward and shy young miss. I imagined them as being so grateful for my notice; indeed, a little overpowered; for, you know, I don’t know the Rosebury folk. Well, my dear, what do you think I found?”
“It is really difficult to tell, Kate. I should judge, however, from your excited manner and your unusual enthusiasm, that you found young ladies.”
“Joseph, you are a genius. I did. In the funniest, pokiest, queerest little house that you can possibly imagine; I discovered three charming, well-bred girls. The two youngest made friends with me in their shabby little garden. They greeted me, I assure you, with the most delightful frankness and ease. I told them who I was, and they were not the least impressed; on the contrary, the one they called Jasmine—oh! she is a pretty creature—fancied I was dying for some carnations like hers, and the little one holds out hopes that some day I may possess a kitten similar to the one she thrust into my arms. They were as shabbily dressed as possible, but who could look at them, dear pets, and think twice about their dresses? We got on most pleasantly, and found we had many interests in common, for the little one shared my love for animals, and the elder my passion for flowers. On this scene the eldest sister made her appearance. I assure you, Joseph, it is almost too absurd, but it is a fact; she actually contrived to snub me. I read as plainly as possible in those pretty, serene eyes of hers the question, ’How is it that you, who never condescended to know my mother, intrude upon us now, in our loss?’