Mrs. Mainwaring had never really worked for her children, but a mother who had worked hard for them, and toiled, and exerted all her strength to provide adequately for their future, might not perhaps have been loved so well. She died and her children were broken-hearted. They mourned for her each after her own fashion, and each according to her individual character. Primrose retained her calmness and her common sense in the midst of all her grief; Jasmine was tempestuous and hysterical, bursting into laughter one minute and sobbing wildly the next. Little Daisy felt frightened in Jasmine’s presence—she did not quite believe that mother would never come back, and she clung to Primrose, who protected and soothed her; in short, took a mother’s place to her, and felt herself several years older on the spot.
For a month the girls grieved and shut themselves away from their neighbors, and refused to go out, or to be in any measure comforted. A month in the ordinary reckoning is really a very short period of time, but to these girls, in their grief and misery, it seemed almost endless. One night Jasmine lay awake from the time she laid her head on the pillow till the first sun had dawned; then Primrose took fright, and began to resume her old gentle, but still firm authority.
“Jasmine,” she said, “we have got our black dresses—they are made very neatly, and we have done them all ourselves. Staying in the house this lovely weather won’t bring dear mamma back again; we will have tea a little earlier than usual, and go for a walk this evening.”
Jasmine, whenever she could stop crying, had been longing for a walk, but had crushed down the desire as something unnatural, and disrespectful to dear mamma, but of course if Primrose suggested it it was all right. Her face brightened visibly, and as to Daisy, she sat down and began to play with the kitten on the spot.
That evening the three desolate young creatures put on their new black dresses, and went down a long, rambling, charming country lane. The air was delicious—Jasmine refused to cover her hot little face with a crape veil—they came back after their ramble soothed and refreshed. As they were walking up the village street a girl of the name of Poppy, their laundress’s child, stepped out of a little cottage, dropped a courtesy, and said, in a tone of delight—
“Oh, Miss Mainwaring, I’m glad to see you out; and Miss Jasmine, darling, the little canary is all reared and ready for you. I took a sight of pains with him, and he’ll sing beautiful before long. Shall I bring him round in the morning, Miss Jasmine?”
“Yes, of course, Poppy; and I’m greatly obliged to you,” answered Jasmine, in her old bright tones. Then she colored high, felt a good deal ashamed of herself, and hurried after Primrose, who had pulled down her crape veil, and was holding Daisy’s hand tightly.
That night the sisters all slept well; they were the better for the fresh air, and also for the thought of seeing Poppy and the canary which she had reared for Jasmine in the morning.