"It is more than a pity, Bridget," said her governess in a severe tone. "I am sorry to have to open your eyes, my dear child; but in picking any of my roses you have taken an unwarrantable liberty.""Do, my love, and call to me if you do. I would not have that dear girl frightened for the world. I am more vexed than I can say with Hickman."Bridget was evidently not blessed with the bump of order. Valuable rings and bracelets lay, some on the mantelpiece, some on the dressing table; ribbons, scarfs, handkerchiefs, littered the chairs, the chest of drawers, and even the bed. A stray stocking poked its foot obtrusively out of one of the over-packed drawers of the wardrobe. Photographs of friends and of scenery lay face downward on the mantelpiece, and kept company with Bridget's brushes and combs in her dressing-table drawer."Now, let's go on," said Janet, in her calm tones. "Let us try and settle something before the supper bell rings. We must have a committee, that goes without saying. Suppose we four girls form it."
"Do, my love, and call to me if you do. I would not have that dear girl frightened for the world. I am more vexed than I can say with Hickman."
Mrs. Freeman and Miss Patience had driven away in a very smart carriage with a pair of horses to meet her.
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"I think you must mean Dorothy Collingwood," said Janet in her clear, cold English voice. "May I ask if you have ever been at school before, Miss O'Hara?"
"Poor young lady!" said Marshall. "Anyone can see, Miss O'Hara, as you aint accustomed to mean ways; you has your spirit, and I doubt me if anyone can break it. You aint the sort for school—ef I may make bold to say as much, you aint never been brought under. That's the first thing they does at school; under you must go, whether you likes it or not. Oh, dear, there's that bell, and it's for me—I must fly, miss—but I do, humble as I am, sympathize with you most sincere. You try and eat a bit of dinner, miss, do now—and I'll see if I can't get some asparagus for you by and by, and, at any rate, you shall have the tart and the whipped cream.""Spare me, my dear. I really am in too great a hurry to hear a list of your wardrobe. Is it possible that your father sent you to school with all that heap of finery, and nothing sensible to wear?"Tears rolled down her cheeks as she thought of this plan; but, in the first place, she had no idea how to manage it, and, what was a far more serious obstacle, her little sealskin purse, her father's last present, was empty."Am I ever hard to my pupils, my love?"
"We haven't a moment to lose, Dorothy," she said, "I want to speak to you alone before the rest of the committee arrive. That point with regard to Evelyn Percival must be settled. Perhaps your communication can keep, Marshall.""What is that?"
"When will that be?"
"Janet," said Mrs. Freeman, "will you oblige me by showing Miss O'Hara the schoolrooms and common rooms, and introducing her to one or two of her companions? Go, my dear," she continued, "but remember, Bridget, whether you are tired or not, I shall expect you to go to bed to-night at nine o'clock. It is half-past eight now, so you have half an hour to get acquainted with your schoolfellows."
"I know," echoed Janet, a queer angry light filling her eyes for a minute. "Oh, dear! oh, dear! What with our examinations and the Fancy Fair, and all this worry about the new girl, life scarcely seems worth living—it really doesn't."
The common room to which she conducted Miss O'Hara was entirely for the use of the elder girls; the girls of the middle and the lower school had other[Pg 20] rooms to amuse themselves in. But this large, luxuriously furnished apartment was entirely given up to the sixth and fifth-form schoolgirls.