These girls had never had a care or an anxiety—when they were hungry they could eat, when they were tired sleep could lull them into dreamless rest—they had never seen any world but the narrow world of Rosebury, the name of the village where they lived. Even romantic Jasmine thought that life at Rosebury, with perhaps a few more books and a few more adventures must form the sum and substance of her existence. Of course there was a large world outside, but even Jasmine had not begun to long for it.
Primrose was sixteen, Jasmine between thirteen and fourteen, and Daisy ten, when a sudden break came to all this quiet and happy routine. Mrs. Mainwaring without any warning or any leave-taking, suddenly died.
The first month of their trouble.
There are mothers and mothers. Mrs. Mainwaring was the kind of mother who could not possibly say a harsh word to her children—she could not be severe to them, she could never do anything but consider them the sweetest and best of human beings. The girls ruled her, and she liked to be ruled by them. After her husband’s death, and after the first agony of his loss had passed away, she sank into a sort of subdued state—she began to live in the present, to be content with the little blessings of each day, to look upon the sunshine as an unmitigated boon, and on the girls’ laughter as the sweetest music. She had been rich in her early married life, but Captain Mainwaring had lost his money, had lost all his large private means, through a bank failure, and before Daisy came into the world Mrs. Mainwaring knew that she was a very poor woman indeed. Before the captain went to India he insured his life for L1000, and after his death Mrs. Mainwaring lived very placidly on her small pension, and for any wants which she required over and above what the pension could supply she drew upon the L1000. She did not care, as a more sensible woman would have done, to invest this little sum as so much capital; no, she preferred to let it lie in the bank, and to draw upon it from time to time, as necessity arose. She had no business friends to advise her, for the few acquaintances she made at Rosebury knew nothing whatever of the value of money. Like many another woman who has been brought up in affluence, neither had Mrs. Mainwaring the faintest idea of how fast a small sum like L1,000 can dwindle. She felt comfortable during the latter years of her life at the knowledge that she had a good balance in the bank. It never occurred to her as a possibility that she who was still fairly young could die suddenly and without warning. This event, however, took place, and the girls were practically unprovided for.