“Allow me to make one request, Miss Jasmine Mainwaring; the young person you speak of is not known here by a name which signifies a tare or a weed. Yes, I shall be pleased to allow Sarah to go out with you this afternoon for a short time, but she knows as little of London as you do. I cannot go myself, as Friday is a busy afternoon. I can, however, give you a map, and if you all keep close together and don’t wander too far, and are careful only to inquire of policemen your destination you may get back safely. Don’t forget, tea at six.”
Here Miss Slowcum, turning her eyes slowly, looked carefully all over the three girls.
“I am most particular,” she said; “I never wander abroad without carefully choosing my company, but on the whole I feel satisfied a kindred spirit to my own lurks in your eyes, Miss Jasmine. Permit me, young ladies, to escort you forth this afternoon.”
This offer was accepted very gladly, although Jasmine had quickly to remember her fine, or she would have given a very deep sigh when Miss Slowcum pointed a comparison between them. In the delight, however, of going into real London all these minor considerations and discomforts were forgotten.
IN ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL.
Miss Slowcum was right in saying that she was very particular with regard to her company. She prided herself on having select taste. She thought it well to assume distant airs to the other inmates of Penelope Mansion—Mrs. Dredge she thought quite beneath her notice, Mrs. Mortlock was slightly more tolerated, but Miss Slowcum never really unbent to either of these ladies. As she said to herself, she could never forget that she came of the Slowcums of ——shire that her father had been Captain Slowcum of the Royal Navy, and that, all things considered, her true position in society was with the county folk. What, therefore, could a lady of such patrician birth have in common with a Mrs. Mortlock or a Mrs. Dredge? Alas! however, Miss Slowcum was poor—she was very poor, and she was a great deal too genteel to work. The terms at Penelope Mansion were by no means high, and in order to live she was obliged to put up with uncongenial company. She was a very tall and angular person—her face was long and thin, her eyes small, her mouth undecided, but in her heart of hearts she was by no means wanting in good nature; and when, the night before, Jasmine, with her charming little face, offered her some of the country flowers, she began to take an interest in the fresh girls who had come to the rather antiquated house in Wright Street.
It was really good-natured of Miss Slowcum to offer to accompany the girls on their first walk in London. She had the greatest horror of ever appearing remarkable and she felt really alarmed at the thought of taking four unsophisticated country lasses abroad. It was bad enough to offer to escort the Mainwarings, who, however gauche they might appear, were undoubtedly ladies, but to take Poppy, alias Sarah, as well, was really trying. Without Poppy, however, the girls refused to stir. There was no help for it, and Miss Slowcum only trusted that their first walk might be short and uneventful.