“Tired, pretty little dear!” she said; “tired and cold. Ah, I know all about it.”
“No, she’s not cold, she’s hot,” responded Jasmine; “this is the hottest, closest room I’ve ever been in. You are Mrs. Dredge, are you not? Please, Mrs. Dredge, can you tell me how near we are to the real glories of the city from here?”
“I don’t know, my dear—I fancy a very long way,” answered Mrs. Dredge, with a sigh—this sigh was instantly taken up by Mrs. Mortlock and Miss Slowcum, and Miss Slowcum remarked that the situation might certainly be considered the worst in London.
“Ha, ha!” said Mrs. Mortlock, “you will have to come down in your prices after that, Mrs. Flint. Ha, ha! your question was a very leading one, Miss Jasmine Mainwaring.”
Poor Jasmine began to feel quite alarmed, and instantly resolved not to open her lips again during tea.
The meal proceeded, and very dull it was; nor was the fare appetizing, for the tea was weak and the bread was stale. The three young faces, so fresh from the country and from home, began to reflect the general dulness. Mrs. Flint always made it a rule never to speak except when obliged—Daisy was nearly asleep, Primrose felt a dreadful lump in her throat, and Jasmine’s dark curly head was bent low, and her bright eyes were not seen under their long lashes, for she was very well aware that they were full of tears.
She was a most impulsive creature, however, quick and variable in her moods, unselfish in her character. Suddenly it dawned upon her that it was not fair to the rest of the party that she should be so dull. She had always been considered the sunbeam at home; why should she not try to become the sunbeam of Penelope Mansion?
“I know what will do it,” she exclaimed, jumping from her seat, and nearly upsetting her own tea and Daisy’s. “Of course, how silly of me!—I know what will alter things directly.” Then she flew out of the room, returning the next moment with Mrs. Ellsworthy’s great basket of fruit and flowers.
“Primrose,” she said, “mightn’t we share these with the ladies? They are all quite fresh from the country. Oh yes, of course we may share them. Mrs. Flint, which will you have, some flowers, a bunch of grapes, or a peach?”
Mrs. Flint selected a good-sized bunch of grapes with a placid smile, and a “Thank you, Miss Jasmine”—Mrs. Mortlock also took grapes, Miss Slowcum selected flowers, and Mrs. Dredge partook of a peach with great relish, calling it, as she did so, a “sweet reminiscence of the blooming country.”
After this little incident the ladies of Penelope Mansion and the Mainwaring girls became quite friendly; nevertheless the three cried themselves to sleep that night.
ESCORTED BY MISS SLOWCUM.
“Within the house at least,” remarked Poppy Jenkins, “it ain’t what we dreamt of.”