“Good evening, Hannah,” she said, as the old cook opened the door; “you have had a sad affliction—a terrible affliction. I hope the dear young ladies are—” Miss Martineau paused for a word, then she said—“tranquil.”
“Oh yes, miss,” answered Hannah. “Walk in, please, Miss Martineau—this way—the young ladies is hoping you’ll take a cup of tea with them, miss.” Miss Martineau found herself the next instant in one of the most cheerful sitting-rooms to be found at Rosebury—it had always been a pretty room—furnished daintily with the odds and ends of rich and choice furniture which had belonged to Mrs. Mainwaring in her wealthy days. Now it was bright with flowers, and the western sun poured in at one angle of the wide bay window. The three girls, in their very simple black dresses, with no crape, came forward in a little group to meet her. In their hearts they were slightly excited and upset, but rather than give way they put on an air of extra cheerfulness. Miss Martineau, fond as she was of them, felt absolutely scandalized—to keep her out of the house for a whole month, and then to admit her in this fashion—such a lot of sunlight—such a heap of flowers, no crape on the black dresses, and Jasmine’s face quite bright and her hair as curly as usual. Miss Martineau began a little set speech, but Jasmine interrupted her.
“Do come, and have some tea,” she said. “Primrose has made some delicious cream-cakes, and we are all so hungry, aren’t we, Eyebright?” turning to her little sister as she spoke.
“Yes,” replied Daisy; “Pink is hungry, too—I chased Pink about fifty times round the garden, and she’s quite starving. May Pink have some cream in a saucer for her tea, Primrose?”
Primrose nodded, took Miss Martineau’s hand, and led her to the place of honor at the table, and sitting down herself, began to pour out the fragrant tea.
If Miss Martineau had a weakness, it was for really good tea and for cream-cakes. She took off her gloves now, arranged her bonnet-strings, put back her veil, and prepared to enjoy herself. Instead of talking common-place condolences, she chatted on little matters of local interest with the sisters. Jasmine took care to supply Miss Martineau with plenty of cream-cakes—Primrose saw that her cup was well replenished. Miss Martineau was poor and very saving, and it occurred to her, as she partook of the Mainwaring’s nice tea, that she might do without much supper by-and-by. This reflection put her into an excellent humor.
When the tea was over Primrose led her to a comfortable seat by the window.
“My dear,” she said, “it is well that I should sit just here, within full view of the street?—your window is, well, a little too like seeing company, my loves, and if my bonnet is seen by passers-by you’ll have everybody calling directly.”
“Oh, we mean to see everybody now,” said Jasmine “we—we—we think it best, don’t we, Primrose?”