“I know what it means,” she exclaimed, speaking with sudden fire and passion; “the same thing has been said to me by two different people already to-day. Mr. Danesfield said it after his fashion, Miss Martineau after hers, and now Mrs. Ellsworthy repeats the words. Oh, yes, I know what it means—separation—I will never consent to it!”
Jasmine had been kneeling on the floor and picking up the scattered sheets of Mrs. Ellsworthy’s letter; she now raised her eyes in utter astonishment to her elder sister’s face. Primrose was not accustomed to giving utterance to strong feelings. Primrose’s words were wont to be calm and somewhat measured. Jasmine knew that she herself flew into tempests of grief, or anger, or excitement—she was always being chided for not restraining her feelings—she was always being gently lectured for using too strong expressions. What did Primrose mean by throwing down this kind though somewhat mysterious, letter, and by making use of so ghastly a word as “separation?” Who was going to divide them? Certainly not kind Mrs. Ellsworthy.
“Had we not better hear what she says, even though you don’t seem quite to like her, Primrose?” asked Jasmine, holding up the sheets.
“There are two sheets more, quite full of writing—shall I read them aloud to you and Daisy?”
But Primrose had not got over the excitement which was growing within her all day; she took the letter out of Jasmine’s hands, folded it, and returned it to its envelope.
“I must speak,” she said; “we can finish that letter afterwards—the letter does not greatly matter, after all. Do you know, Jasmine, and do you know, Daisy, that these people who all mean to be so kind, and who, I suppose, really feel good-natured towards us, are trying to take our lives into their own hands? They are not our guardians, but they want to rule us—they say we cannot live on our income, and they will show us how we are to live. Mr. Danesfield will give money, if needed; Miss Martineau will give us heaps and oceans of advice; and Mrs. Ellsworthy will give patronage, and perhaps money too. They mean to be kind, as I said, and they think they ought to guide our lives. Of course, they consider us very young and very ignorant, and so they say they will provide for me in one way, and Jasmine in another, and Daisy in another. Now what I say is this; let us choose our own lives, Jasmine and Daisy; don’t let us do anything rude to our friends, for I know they are our friends, but let us be firm and keep together. These people want to divide us; I say, let us keep together.”
“Of course,” said Jasmine; “is that really what the letter means—separation? Here, give it to me—” She snatched it from her sister, and flung it with energy to the other end of the apartment. Daisy nestled her soft little face up close to her eldest sister’s—Daisy was still feeling things incomprehensible, and was also a little frightened.