“It is an unpleasant arrangement, but I do not see any help for it,” she said, addressing her little party as they assembled in the hall; “we must sally forth as though we were a school. You, Miss Jasmine, will have the goodness to walk in front with me. Miss Mainwaring and her youngest sister can immediately follow us, and Sarah, you will please to keep behind.”
“Oh, lor!” ejaculated Poppy, “I thought me and Miss Jasmine was to stay together—it’s what I has been looking forward to through all the toils of the work, and the smuts and the Sarah Janes, and the Sarah Marys this morning. It is another biting. Well, London seems to be made up of them. All right, Miss Slowcum, I’ll keep behind. I suppose there’s nobody to forbid me gazing well into the shop windows. I hope you’ll take us into a gay street, miss, where there are lots of new bonnets and hats to be seen.”
“I’m going to walk with you, Poppy,” said Jasmine; “Miss Slowcum is very kind, but I should not think of walking with any one else. Please, Miss Slowcum will you go in front, with Primrose and Daisy, and Poppy and I will promise to behave very well behind.”
In this order the little party did set out, and in an incredibly short space of time they left the dull region of Penelope Mansion far behind, and found themselves in Oxford Street, and then in Bond Street, and finally walking along Piccadilly towards the Park.
Primrose could always restrain her emotions, but Jasmine and Poppy, notwithstanding their promise to behave well, were certainly guilty of many extravagant exclamations. Jasmine became nearly as excited over the new bonnets as her companion. The picture-shops were marvels of wonder and delight to her, and poor Miss Slowcum was obliged to draw up short on many occasions, or she would have lost the little loiterers, as they stood still to gaze. At last she made a proposition which nearly took her own breath away with the magnitude of its generosity. She would treat the entire party to a drive in the omnibus to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Poppy earnestly begged to be allowed to go with Jasmine on the roof, but this the good lady negatived with horror. She finally ushered her young charges into the seclusion of an omnibus going citywards, and then was conscious of breathing a sigh of relief. Inwardly she made a vow that never again should her good-nature lead her into such a troublesome adventure.
“We must be solemn here, Poppy,” said Jasmine, as they were entering the cathedral; “we must forget the beautiful bonnets, and those dear little tight-fitting jackets, and those muslin dresses. We must forget the little story we made up of imagining ourselves rich enough to buy all these things. Perhaps we may think a very little of one or two of the pictures, but we must forget the vanities now. It has always been one of my dreams to come in here—oh! oh!—Poppy.” Jasmine clasped her companion’s hand, and her excitable little face