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The Palace Beautiful: A Story for Girls

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Suzanne Lybarger and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team.





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



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

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

  Mrs. Mainwaring had gone through a terrible trouble--a trouble so darkand mysterious, so impossible to feel reconciled to, that her healthhad 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 thelittle face, and the sight of the round baby limbs, had made Mrs.Mainwaring smile: had caused her to pluck up heart, and to determineresolutely to take this new blessing, and to begin to live again.

  The baby came in the month of March, just when the primroses werebeginning to open their pale and yet bright blossoms. Mrs. Mainwaringsaid that the child was a symbol of spring to her, and she called herPrimrose.

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

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

  The three girls grew up in the little country cottage. Their fatherwas in India, in a very unhealthy part of the country. He wrote homeby every mail, and in each letter expressed a hope that the Governmentunder which he served would allow him to return to England and to hiswife and children. Death, however, came first to the gallant captain.When Primrose was ten years old, and Daisy was little more than ababy, Mrs. Mainwaring found herself in the humble position of anofficer'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 thatthey were alive, that they were perfectly healthy, and that the sunshone and the sweet fresh breezes blew for them. They were asprimitive as the little place where they lived, and cared nothing atall for fashionably-cut dresses; or for what people who thinkthemselves wiser would have called the necessary enjoyments of life.Mrs. Mainwaring, who had gone through a terrible trouble before thebirth of her eldest girl, had her nerves shattered a second time byher husband's death; from that moment she was more ruled by her girlsthan a ruler to them. They did pretty much what they pleased, and shewas content that they should make themselves happy in their own way.

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

  Primrose was delightfully matter-of-fact. When she saw that her motherallowed them to learn their lessons anyhow she made little rules forherself and her sisters--the rules were so playful and so light thatthe others, for mere fun, followed them--thus they insisted on theirmother hearing them their daily tasks; they insisted on goingregularly twice a week to a certain old Miss Martineau, who gave themlessons on an antiquated piano, and taught them obsolete French.Primrose was considered by her sisters very wise indeed but Primrosealso thought Jasmine wise, and wise with a wisdom which she couldappreciate without touching; for Jasmine had got some gifts from afairy wand, she was touched with the spirit of Romance, and had abeautiful 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, sweetname; her hair was soft, straight, and yellow, her eyes were lightbrown, her skin was fair, and her expression extremely calm, gentle,and placid. To look at Primrose was to feel soothed--she had asomewhat slow way of speaking, and she never wasted her words. Jasminewas in all particulars her opposite. She was dark, with very brightand lovely eyes; her movements were quick, her expression full ofanimation, and when excited--and she was generally in a state ofexcitement--her words tumbled out almost too quickly for coherence.Her cheeks would burn, and her eyes sparkle, over such trivialcircumstances as a walk down a country lane, as blackberry-hunting, asstrawberry-picking--a new story-book kept her awake half thenight--she was, in short, a constant little volcano in this quiethome, and would have been an intolerable child but for the greatsweetness of her temper, and also for the fact that every one m
ore orless 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; hereyes were wide open and blue, and she was just a charming littlechild, partaking slightly of the qualities of both her elder sisters.

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

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