Mr. Ellsworthy took a good deal of notice of Primrose, and showed her some of his pet books, and talked to her in a sensible grown-up way. Jasmine and Daisy were young for their years, but Primrose was old, and she liked to ask practical questions. Had she known Mr. Ellsworthy a little better she might have even consulted him as to the best way of laying out thirty pounds per annum, so as to cover all the expenses of three girls who wished to live as ladies; but she was both shy and reserved; and when Mr. Ellsworthy, goaded on by certain looks from his wife, referred to the subject of money, Primrose started aside from it like any frightened young fawn.
The day, the happy day for all three, passed only too quickly, and it was Mrs. Ellsworthy at last who determined to plunge boldly into the heart of the subject which was uppermost in her thoughts.
“Primrose,” she said, taking the elder sister aside, “you must forgive me for speaking plainly to you, dear. I call you Primrose, because you do not seem to me altogether a stranger, and my husband knew your father. I may call you Primrose, may I not, love?”
“Please, do,” said Primrose, with that sweet smile which came only rarely to her quiet face; “I like it—it is my name. When people say Miss Mainwaring I feel—lonely.”
“You are Primrose, then, to me, dear. Now, Primrose, take my hand, and sit quietly in this chair. I am going to confess something to you. I called to see you and your sisters yesterday morning, intending to patronize you.”
“To patronize us—why?” asked Primrose.
Mrs. Ellsworthy laughed in a slightly nervous manner.
“My dear child, we won’t go into the whys and the wherefores. I found I could not do it, that is all. I have not, however, half finished my confession. I called to see you because Miss Martineau asked me to.”
Here Primrose flushed a very rosy pink, and Mrs. Ellsworthy saw a displeased look fill her eyes.
“You must not be angry with Miss Martineau, Primrose. She loves you three girls very much. She is most anxious about you. She—my dear, she told me of your poverty.”
Here Primrose rose from her seat and said, in the quietest tone—
“We are certainly poor, but I don’t think that is anybody’s concern. We don’t mind it ourselves—at least, not much. You see, we have never known riches, and we cannot miss what we have never had. It would be a great pity for people to try to make us discontented. I think it was ill-bred of Miss Martineau to mention our private affairs to you; but still, as we have got to know you through these means, I forgive her. You are a very delightful friend. Mrs. Ellsworthy, I think you must let us go home now—Daisy is not accustomed to being up so late.”
“Of all the tiresome, hard-to-be-understood young people I ever came across, Primrose Mainwaring beats them,” thought Mrs. Ellsworthy to herself; but aloud she said very sweetly—