It was in this manner that the girls went away.
They arrived in London in the evening, and after a surprisingly successful search for their luggage at Waterloo, managing not to lose anything, got into a cab, and drove to Penelope Mansion.
Poppy’s aunt boasted of the pleasing name of Flint, and when the girls drove up with their cab piled with luggage to the door of the mansion, Mrs. Flint herself came out to welcome them.
Jasmine, whose excitable temperament had been going through many changes during the journey to town, had now worked herself up into an ardent desire to see Poppy—she jumped out of the cab first of all, and, running up the steps of Penelope Mansion, said eagerly—
“Oh, if you please, Mrs. Flint—I know, of course, you are Mrs. Flint—may I run down to the kitchen, and find Poppy?”
“My niece will come to you presently, Miss Mainwaring,” answered Mrs. Flint.
Somehow Mrs. Flint’s calm and carefully modulated voice had an instant effect in subduing Jasmine. The mistress of Penelope Mansion resembled perhaps more a cushion than a flint—she was fat, round, and short, had a good-humored and unruffled face, and a voice which was always pitched in one key.
“We call my niece Sarah in these premises,” she said; “Poppy signifies nothing whatever but a weed, untidy, straggling, the worry of the farmers. Sarah will see to your comforts presently, young ladies. At the present moment tea is on the table. We tea at six o’clock precisely—we sup at nine. Will you like to go upstairs and wash your hands, or will you come at once with me, and partake with the other inmates of the meal which is now going forward?”
“I don’t like her, but she seems to speak very correct English,” whispered Jasmine to her sister: “I wonder, does everybody in the great city speak like that? I suppose she’ll do as a study in style. I must study style, mustn’t I, if I’m to make money by writing?”
This speech was tumbled into Primrose’s ear with wonderful rapidity, while Mrs. Flint stood gently by, looking most contented and uninterested.
“Hush, Jasmine!” whispered Primrose. “Daisy darling, hold my hand. Thank you very much, Mrs. Flint; we will have some tea now, if you please, and then go at once to our room.”
“Does Poppy—I mean Sarah—wait at the tea-table?” inquired Jasmine, as their hostess led the way up a flight of stairs, and down a passage. “I hope she does—I want to see her so badly.”
“Sarah’s duties at the present moment are in the kitchen,” responded Mrs. Flint, with some graciousness. “Now, young ladies, let me precede you, and introduce you to my guests. Miss Mainwaring, Miss Jasmine and Miss Daisy Mainwaring—Mrs. Mortlock, Mrs. Dredge, Miss Slowcum. Young ladies, will you seat yourselves at the table?”
Mrs. Flint moved to her place at the head of the board; the three girls dropped into seats, and were stared broadly at by Miss Slowcum and Mrs. Mortlock. Mrs. Dredge, however, did not stare, but stretching out one rather plump white hand, took Daisy’s within her own and gave it a little squeeze.