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THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL.

A STORY FOR GIRLS.

BY

L.T. MEADE,

_Author of "A World of Girls," "Scamp and I," "Daddy's Boy," &c., &c._


NEW YORK:
WM. L. ALLISON CO., PUBLISHERS.




CONTENTS.


I. Early Days

II. The First Month of their Trouble

III. Miss Martineau

IV. To the Rescue

V. The Contents of the Cabinet

VI. Many Visitors

VII. Shortlands

VIII. Thirty Pounds a Year

IX. A Strange Letter and a Proposed Visit to London

X. Ways and Means of Earning a Living

XI. Bread and Butter

XII. They Would Not be Parted

XIII. Mrs. Ellsworthy's Letter

XIV. Quite Contrary

XV. In Spite of Opposition

XVI. Penelope Mansion

XVII. Escorted by Miss Slowcum

XVIII. In St. Paul's Cathedral

XIX. A Bright Day

XX. Getting Lost

XXI. How to Paint China and How to Form Style

XXII. Cross Purposes

XXIII. Dark Days

XXIV. Dove's Joke

XXV. Daisy's Promise

XXVI. A Delightful Plan

XXVII. The Poor Doves

XXVIII. A Startling Discovery

XXIX. A Blessing

XXX. Voice of the Prince

XXXI. A "Continual Reader"

XXXII. Jasmine Begins to Soar

XXXIII. Visiting the Publishers

XXXIV. A Plan

XXXV. Their Quarter's Allowance

XXXVI. _The Joy-Bell_

XXXVII. Endorsing a Cheque

XXXVIII. Daisy's Request

XXXIX. The Journey

XL. A Bitter Disappointment

XLI. Mrs. Dredge to the Rescue

XLII. A New Employment

XLIII. In the Field

XLIV. Too Much for Dove

XLV. The Prince to the Rescue

XLVI. Delivered from the Ogre

XLVII. Almost Defeated

XLVIII. One Shoe Off and One Shoe On

XLIX. Spanish Lace

L. A Dazzling Day

LI. A Letter

LII. "I Love Mrs. Ellsworthy"

LIII. Telegraph Wires

LIV. A Discovery

LV. An Invitation for the Ladies of Penelope Mansion

LVI. A Palace Beautiful




THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL.

_A STORY FOR GIRLS._




CHAPTER I.

EARLY DAYS.


The three girls were called after flowers. This is how it came about:

When Primrose opened her eyes on the world she brought back a little
bit of spring to her mother's heart.

Mrs. Mainwaring had gone through a terrible trouble - a trouble so dark
and mysterious, so impossible to feel reconciled to, that her health
had been almost shattered, and she had almost said good-bye to hope.

The baby came in the spring-time, and the soft, velvety touch of the
little face, and the sight of the round baby limbs, had made Mrs.
Mainwaring smile: had caused her to pluck up heart, and to determine
resolutely to take this new blessing, and to begin to live again.

The baby came in the month of March, just when the primroses were
beginning to open their pale and yet bright blossoms. Mrs. Mainwaring
said that the child was a symbol of spring to her, and she called her
Primrose.

The next girl was born in Italy, in the middle of a rich and brilliant
summer. Flowers were everywhere, and the baby, a black-haired,
dark-eyed little mite, had a starry look about her. She was called
Jasmine, and the name from the very first suited her exactly.

The third and youngest of the sisters also came in the summer, but she
was born in an English cottage. Her mother, who had been rich when
Jasmine was born, was now poor; that is, she was poor as far as money
is concerned, but the three little daughters made her feel rich. She
called the child from the first her little country wild flower, and
allowed Primrose and Jasmine to select her name. They brought in
handfuls of field daisies, and begged to have the baby called after
them.

The three girls grew up in the little country cottage. Their father
was in India, in a very unhealthy part of the country. He wrote home
by every mail, and in each letter expressed a hope that the Government
under which he served would allow him to return to England and to his
wife and children. Death, however, came first to the gallant captain.
When Primrose was ten years old, and Daisy was little more than a
baby, Mrs. Mainwaring found herself in the humble position of an
officer's widow, with very little to live on besides her pension.

In the Devonshire village, however, things were cheap, rents were low,
and the manners of life deliciously fresh and primitive.

Primrose, Jasmine, and Daisy grew up something like the flowers,
taking no thought for the morrow, and happy in the grand facts that
they were alive, that they were perfectly healthy, and that the sun
shone and the sweet fresh breezes blew for them. They were as
primitive as the little place where they lived, and cared nothing at
all for fashionably-cut dresses; or for what people who think
themselves wiser would have called the necessary enjoyments of life.
Mrs. Mainwaring, who had gone through a terrible trouble before the
birth of her eldest girl, had her nerves shattered a second time by
her husband's death; from that moment she was more ruled by her girls
than a ruler to them. They did pretty much what they pleased, and she
was content that they should make themselves happy in their own way.

It was lucky for the girls that they were amiable, and had strength of
character.

Primrose was delightfully matter-of-fact. When she saw that her mother
allowed them to learn their lessons anyhow she made little rules for
herself and her sisters - the rules were so playful and so light that
the others, for mere fun, followed them - thus they insisted on their
mother hearing them their daily tasks; they insisted on going
regularly twice a week to a certain old Miss Martineau, who gave them
lessons on an antiquated piano, and taught them obsolete French.
Primrose was considered by her sisters very wise indeed but Primrose
also thought Jasmine wise, and wise with a wisdom which she could
appreciate without touching; for Jasmine had got some gifts from a
fairy wand, she was touched with the spirit of Romance, and had a
beautiful way of looking at life which her sisters loved to encourage.
Daisy was the acknowledged baby of the family - she was very pretty,
and not very strong, was everybody's darling, and was, of course,
something of a spoilt child.

Primrose had a face which harmonized very well with her quaint, sweet
name; her hair was soft, straight, and yellow, her eyes were light
brown, her skin was fair, and her expression extremely calm, gentle,
and placid. To look at Primrose was to feel soothed - she had a
somewhat slow way of speaking, and she never wasted her words. Jasmine
was in all particulars her opposite. She was dark, with very bright
and lovely eyes; her movements were quick, her expression full of
animation, and when excited - and she was generally in a state of
excitement - her words tumbled out almost too quickly for coherence.
Her cheeks would burn, and her eyes sparkle, over such trivial
circumstances as a walk down a country lane, as blackberry-hunting, as
strawberry-picking - a new story-book kept her awake half the
night - she was, in short, a constant little volcano in this quiet
home, and would have been an intolerable child but for the great
sweetness of her temper, and also for the fact that every one more or
less yielded to her.

Daisy was very pretty and fair - her hair was as yellow as Primrose's,
but it curled, and was more or less always in a state of friz; her
eyes were wide open and blue, and she was just a charming little
child, partaking slightly of the qualities of both her elder sisters.

These girls had never had a care or an anxiety - when they were hungry
they could eat, when they were tired sleep could lull them into
dreamless rest - they had never seen any world but the narrow world of
Rosebury, the name of the village where they lived. Even romantic
Jasmine thought that life at Rosebury, with perhaps a few more books
and a few more adventures must form the sum and substance of her
existence. Of course there was a large world outside, but even Jasmine
had not begun to long for it.

Primrose was sixteen, Jasmine between thirteen and fourteen, and Daisy
ten, when a sudden break came to all this quiet and happy routine.
Mrs. Mainwaring without any warning or any leave-taking, suddenly
died.




CHAPTER II.

THE FIRST MONTH OF THEIR TROUBLE.


There are mothers and mothers. Mrs. Mainwaring was the kind of mother
who could not possibly say a harsh word to her children - she could not
be severe to them, she could never do anything but consider them the
sweetest and best of human beings. The girls ruled her, and she liked
to be ruled by them. After her husband's death, and after the first
agony of his loss had passed away, she sank into a sort of subdued
state - she began to live in the present, to be content with the little
blessings of each day, to look upon the sunshine as an unmitigated
boon, and on the girls' laughter as the sweetest music. She had been
rich in her early married life, but Captain Mainwaring had lost his
money, had lost all his large private means, through a bank failure,
and before Daisy came into the world Mrs. Mainwaring knew that she was
a very poor woman indeed. Before the captain went to India he insured
his life for £1000, and after his death Mrs. Mainwaring lived very
placidly on her small pension, and for any wants which she required
over and above what the pension could supply she drew upon the £1000.
She did not care, as a more sensible woman would have done, to invest
this little sum as so much capital; no, she preferred to let it lie in
the bank, and to draw upon it from time to time, as necessity arose.
She had no business friends to advise her, for the few acquaintances
she made at Rosebury knew nothing whatever of the value of money. Like
many another woman who has been brought up in affluence, neither had
Mrs. Mainwaring the faintest idea of how fast a small sum like £1,000
can dwindle. She felt comfortable during the latter years of her life
at the knowledge that she had a good balance in the bank. It never
occurred to her as a possibility that she who was still fairly young
could die suddenly and without warning. This event, however, took
place, and the girls were practically unprovided for.

Mrs. Mainwaring had never really worked for her children, but a mother
who had worked hard for them, and toiled, and exerted all her strength
to provide adequately for their future, might not perhaps have been
loved so well. She died and her children were broken-hearted. They
mourned for her each after her own fashion, and each according to her
individual character. Primrose retained her calmness and her common
sense in the midst of all her grief; Jasmine was tempestuous and
hysterical, bursting into laughter one minute and sobbing wildly the
next. Little Daisy felt frightened in Jasmine's presence - she did not
quite believe that mother would never come back, and she clung to
Primrose, who protected and soothed her; in short, took a mother's
place to her, and felt herself several years older on the spot.

For a month the girls grieved and shut themselves away from their
neighbors, and refused to go out, or to be in any measure comforted. A
month in the ordinary reckoning is really a very short period of time,
but to these girls, in their grief and misery, it seemed almost
endless. One night Jasmine lay awake from the time she laid her head
on the pillow till the first sun had dawned; then Primrose took
fright, and began to resume her old gentle, but still firm authority.

"Jasmine," she said, "we have got our black dresses - they are made
very neatly, and we have done them all ourselves. Staying in the house
this lovely weather won't bring dear mamma back again; we will have
tea a little earlier than usual, and go for a walk this evening."

Jasmine, whenever she could stop crying, had been longing for a walk,
but had crushed down the desire as something unnatural, and
disrespectful to dear mamma, but of course if Primrose suggested it it
was all right. Her face brightened visibly, and as to Daisy, she sat
down and began to play with the kitten on the spot.

That evening the three desolate young creatures put on their new black
dresses, and went down a long, rambling, charming country lane. The
air was delicious - Jasmine refused to cover her hot little face with a
crape veil - they came back after their ramble soothed and refreshed.
As they were walking up the village street a girl of the name of
Poppy, their laundress's child, stepped out of a little cottage,
dropped a courtesy, and said, in a tone of delight -

"Oh, Miss Mainwaring, I'm glad to see you out; and Miss Jasmine,
darling, the little canary is all reared and ready for you. I took a
sight of pains with him, and he'll sing beautiful before long. Shall I
bring him round in the morning, Miss Jasmine?"

"Yes, of course, Poppy; and I'm greatly obliged to you," answered
Jasmine, in her old bright tones. Then she colored high, felt a good
deal ashamed of herself, and hurried after Primrose, who had pulled
down her crape veil, and was holding Daisy's hand tightly.

That night the sisters all slept well; they were the better for the
fresh air, and also for the thought of seeing Poppy and the canary
which she had reared for Jasmine in the morning.

Sharp to the hour Poppy arrived with her gift; she was a pretty little
village girl, who adored the Misses Mainwaring.

"The bird will want a heap of sunshine," she said; "he's young, and my
mother says that all young things want lots and lots of sun. May I
pull up the blind in the bay window, Miss Primrose; and may I hang
Jimmy's cage just here?"

Primrose nodded. She forgot, in her interest over Jimmy, to remember
that the bay window looked directly on to the village street.

"And please, miss," said Poppy, as she was preparing to return home,
"Miss Martineau says she'll look in this evening, and that she was
glad when she saw you out last night, young ladies, and acting
sensible again."

Primrose had always a very faint color; at Poppy's words it deepened
slightly.

"We've tried to act in a sensible way all through," she said, with
gentle dignity. "Perhaps Miss Martineau does not quite understand. We
love one another very much; we are not going to be foolish, but we
cannot help grieving for our mother."

At these words Jasmine rushed out of the room and Poppy's round eyes
filled with tears.

"Oh, Miss Primrose - ," she began.

"Never mind, Poppy," said Primrose; "we'll see Miss Martineau
to-night. I am glad you told us she was coming."

The neighbors at Rosebury were all of the most sociable type; the
Mainwaring girls knew every soul in the place, and when their mother
died there was quite a rush of sympathy for them, and the little
cottage might have been full from morning till night. Primrose,
however, would not have it; even Miss Martineau, who was their
teacher, and perhaps their warmest friend, was refused admittance. The
neighbors wondered, and thought the girls very extraordinary and a
little stuck-up, and their sympathy, thrown back on themselves, began
to cool.

The real facts of the case, however, were these: Primrose, Jasmine and
Daisy would have been very pleased to see Poppy Jenkins, or old Mrs.
Jones, who sometimes came in to do choring, or even the nice little
Misses Price, who kept a grocery shop at the other end of the village
street; they would also have not objected to a visit from good, hearty
Mrs. Fry, the doctor's wife, but had they admitted any of these
neighbors they must have seen Miss Martineau, and Miss Martineau, once
she got a footing in the house, would have been there morning, noon
and night.

Poor Jasmine would not have at all objected to crying away some of her
sorrow on kind Mrs. Fry's motherly breast; Primrose could have had
some really interesting talk which would have done her good with the
Misses Price; they were very religious people, and their brother was a
clergyman, and they might have said some things which would comfort
the sore hearts of the young girls. Little Daisy could have asked some
of her unceasing questions of Poppy Jenkins, and the three would
really have been the better for the visits and the sympathy of the
neighbors did not these visits and sympathy also mean Miss Martineau.
But Miss Martineau at breakfast, dinner, and tea - Miss Martineau, with
her never-ending advice, her good-natured but still unceasingly
correcting tone, was felt just at first to be unendurable. She was
sincerely fond of the girls, whom she had taught to play incorrectly,
and to read French with an accent unrecognized in Paris, but Miss
Martineau was a worry, was a great deal too officious, and so the
girls shut themselves away from her and from all other neighbors for
the first month after their mother's death.




CHAPTER III.

MISS MARTINEAU.


Primrose was the soul of hospitality; having decided that Miss
Martineau was to be admitted that evening, it occurred to her that she
might as well make things pleasant for this angular, good-humored, and
somewhat hungry personage. Primrose could cook charmingly, and when
dinner was over she turned to her sisters, and said in her usual
rather slow way -

"I am going to make some cream-cakes for tea; and Jasmine, dear, you
might put some fresh flowers in the vases; and Daisy - "; she paused as
she looked at her sister - the child's blue eyes were fixed on her, she
noticed with a pang that the little face was pale, and the dimpled
mouth looked sad.

"Daisy," she said, suddenly, "you can go into the garden, and have a
romp with the Pink."

"The Pink" was Daisy's favorite kitten.

Daisy laughed aloud, Jasmine started up briskly from the dinner-table,
and Primrose, feeling that she had done well, went into the kitchen to
consult with Hannah, the old cook, over the making of the
cream-cakes.

The result of all this was that when Miss Martineau, sharp at four
o'clock (the hours were very primitive at Rosebury), arrived at the
Mainwarings' door, the outward aspect of the house bore no tokens of
violent grief on the part of its inmates - the blinds were drawn up,
not quite to the top, for that would have been ugly, and Jasmine was
full of artistic instincts, but they were drawn up to let in plenty of
sunlight, the white muslin curtains were draped gracefully, some pots
of fresh flowers could be seen on the window-ledge, and a canary in a
rather battered cage hung from a hook above, and disported himself
cheerfully in the sunlight.

Miss Martineau was very old-fashioned in her ideas, and she did not
much like the look of the bay window.

She comforted herself, however, with the reflection that even under
the direst afflictions blinds must be drawn up some time, and that she
would doubtless find the poor dear girls in a state of tempestuous
grief within. She imagined herself soothing Jasmine, holding
Primrose's hand, and allowing Daisy to sit on her knee. Miss Martineau
was most kind-hearted, and would have done anything for the three
girls, whom she dearly loved, only, like many another good-hearted
person, she would wish to do that anything or something in her own
way.

"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?"

"Yes," said Primrose, in her gentle tones. "It does not make us think
less of dear mamma to see people - and - and - we have decided to go on
much as usual now."

"You might have admitted me before, dears," replied Miss Martineau - "I
felt so intensely for you - I could never get you out of my head. I was
a good deal hurt by your refusing to admit me, my dear girls, for in
all respects I would have wished to be a mother to you."

"Please, don't," said Jasmine.

"We _couldn't_ have another mother," said little Daisy, clinging close
to Primrose, and looking up into her sister's sweet face.

Primrose stooped and kissed her.

"You may run into the garden, darling, and take the Pink," she said.

Miss Martineau had no intention of leaving the Mainwarings without
speaking out her mind. It was one of this good lady's essential
privileges to speak out her mind to the younger generation of the
Rosebury world. Who had a better right to do this than she? for had
she not educated most of them? had she not given them of the best of
her French and her music? and was she not even at this present moment
Jasmine's and Daisy's instructress? Primrose she considered her
finished and accomplished pupil. Surely the girls, even though they
had refused to admit her for a month, would turn to her now with full
confidence. She settled herself comfortably in the arm-chair in which
Primrose had placed her, and saying, in her high-pitched and thin
voice -

"Now, my dears, you will take seats close to me - not too close, loves,
for I dislike being crushed, and I have on my Sunday silk. My dear
girls, I want us now to have a really comfortable talk. There is a
great deal that needs discussion, and I think there is nothing like
facing a difficult subject resolutely, and going through it with
system. I approve of your sending Daisy into the garden, Primrose. She
is too young to listen to all that we must go into. I purpose dears,
after the manner of our school-hours, to divide our discourse into
heads - two heads will probably be sufficient for this evening. First,
the severe loss you have just sustained - that we will talk over, and
no doubt mingle our tears together over; take courage, my dear
children, such an unburdening will relieve your young hearts.
Second - Jasmine, you need not get so very red, my dear - second, we
will discuss something also of importance; how are you three dear


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