"I wish you'd go away, child!" said Janet in a decidedly cross tone. "What are all you small girls doing out and about at this hour? Surely it's time for you to be in bed. What can Miss Marshall be about not to have fetched you before now?""But Mrs. Freeman wants you to go to bed early to-night."
"Yes, poor old Dandy, who is so lame and so affectionate, and Mustard and Pepper, the dear little snappers, and Lemon. Poor darling, he is a trial; we have called him Lemon because he exactly resembles the juice of that fruit when it's most acrid and disagreeable. Lemon's temper is the acknowledged trial of our kennel, but he loves my father, and always paces up and down with him in the evening on the south walk. Then of course there's Bruin, he's an Irish deerhound, and the darling of my heart, and there's Pilate, the blind watchdog—oh! and Minerva. I think that's about all. We have fox hounds, of course, but they are not let out every day. I see my dear father now looking down at the lake, and talking to the dogs, and thinking of me. O Dolly, Dolly, I'm lonely, awfully lonely! Do pity me—do love me! O Dolly, my heart will break if no one loves me!"
Mrs. Freeman could be austere as well as kind, and Mrs. Freeman was ten times more loved than Miss Delicia.
"After all, what does the Fancy Fair signify—I[Pg 5] mean—oh, don't be shocked, girls—I mean, what does it signify compared to a real living present interest? While we are discussing what is to take place in six weeks' time, Mrs. Freeman and Miss Patience are driving up the avenue with somebody else. Girls, the new inmate of Mulberry Court has begun to put in an appearance on the scene.""What does Janet mean?" Bridget would whisper to her nearest companion. "Is she saying something awfully clever? I'm sorry that I'm stupid—I don't quite catch her meaning.""Well, dear, well! half a mile is a figure of speech. That's a way we have in Ireland—we figure of speech everything; it's much more graphic. Now, to go on. I was running up the stairs with my candle, and the wind rushing after me like mad, and the Castle rocking as if it were in an agony, when—— What do you think happened?"
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"I can't share your sorrow," replied Janet. "If her punishment, whatever it is, deprives us of her charming society for a few days, it will be a boon to the entire school. I noticed that she was absent from dinner, and I will own I have not had a pleasanter meal for some time."
"Don't do that, Bridget," said Miss Patience; "you are disturbing me."Mrs. Freeman went over and drew back the curtains.
"She's not at all impertinent," said Dorothy. "After all, Janet, servants are flesh and blood, like the rest of us, and this poor Marshall, although she's not the wisest of the wise, is a good-natured creature. What do you think she wanted?""No, Bridget, you are to stay here; your dinner will be brought to you." Bridget flushed crimson.On this special night in the mid-term the girls who were ignominiously obliged to retire to their bedrooms felt a sorer sense of being left out than ever.
Dorothy, Ruth, and Olive had now come into the schoolroom, and had taken their places by Janet's side. She gave them a quick look, in which considerable aversion to the newcomer was plainly visible, then turned her head and gazed languidly out of the window.
"I don't think I shall like school," she said, "but I'll do anything you wish me to do, dearest Dorothy."