"She's not learned, I admit," replied Olive, "but weak! no, she's not weak; no weak character could be so audacious, so fearless, so indifferent to her own ignorance."Mrs. Freeman breathed a sigh of relief.Although the booming sound of the great gong filled the air, the supper to which the head girls of the school were now going was a very simple affair. It consisted of milk placed in great jugs at intervals down the long table, of fruit both cooked and uncooked, and large plates of bread and butter.
Such as it was, however, supper was a much-prized institution of Mulberry Court; only the fifth-form and sixth-form girls were allowed to partake of it. To sit up to supper, therefore, was a distinction intensely envied by the lower school. The plain fare sounded to them like honey and ambrosia. They were never tired of speculating as to what went on in the dining room on these occasions, and the idea of sitting up to supper was with some of the girls a more stimulating reason for being promoted to the fifth form than any other which could be offered.
"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?""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?"
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[Pg 66]Dorothy went into her own little cubicle, drew her white dimity walls tight, and, standing before the window, looked out at the summer landscape."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."
No, there was nothing to be alarmed about. Evelyn was too silly, with her nerves and her fads. Janet stood by the bend of the hill. Her thoughts were so busy that she scarcely troubled herself to listen for the approaching carriage.[Pg 54]"Lost whom?" answered Janet in her tart voice.
"I'm afraid I have some unpleasant things to talk about, Miss O'Hara," she said. "But, before I begin, I must distinctly request you to remember that you are a young girl in the presence of the lady who has been appointed by your father to guide, direct, and command you."
She saw the wild landscape, the steep gravel path[Pg 26] which overhung the lake, the old squire with his white hair, and tall but slightly bent figure, pacing up and down, smoking his pipe and surrounded by his dogs. Dorothy fancied how, on most summer evenings, Bridget, impetuous, eager, and beautiful, walked by his side. She wondered how he had brought himself to part with her. She gave a little sigh as she shut the picture away from her mind, and as she laid her head on her pillow, she resolved to be very kind to the new girl.
"I am sorry for you also, my dear. I earnestly desire that you should be a good girl, for the girl is the mother of the woman, and a good girl makes that admirable and priceless treasure—a good woman by and by."
"When she can," replied Bridget. Her hands dropped to her sides. She lowered her eyes; her proud lips were firmly shut.