"He'll be sorry he sent me; he'll be sorry he listened to Aunt Kathleen," she said to herself."I believe I am more frightened than hurt," said Miss Percival, struggling to sit up, and smiling at Mrs. Freeman, "I'm so awfully sorry that I've lost my[Pg 51] nerve. Where am I? what has happened? I only remember Caspar turning right round and looking at me, and some people shouting, and then the carriage went over, and I cannot recall anything more. But I don't think—no—I am sure I am not seriously hurt."
"My! what a minute!" said Miss Bridget, tossing back her abundant hair, and slipping one firm, dimpled hand inside Janet's arm. "Well, come on, darling," she continued, giving that young lady an affectionate squeeze. "Let's make the most of our precious time. I'm dying to know you all—I think you look so sweet. Who's that love of a girl in gray, who sat next you at supper? She had golden hair, and blue eyes—not like mine, of course, but well enough for English eyes. What's her name, dear?"
"Just play the piece over to me," she said to her master. "I'll do it if you play it over. Yes, that's it—tum, tum, tummy, tum, tum. Oughtn't you to crash the air out a bit there? I think you ought. Yes, that's it—isn't it lovely? Now let me try."The girls took their places at the table—grace was said, and the meal began.
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After a little pause, during which neither mistress nor pupil spoke, the pupil raised her head.
Violet frowned all over her fair, small face, but Olive Moore, a sixth-form girl, was too powerful an individual to be lightly disregarded. She shrugged her shoulders therefore, and walked sulkily away.
"O Janey," exclaimed two of the other girls in a breath, "a committee does sound so absurdly formal.""I did not feel tired, Mrs. Freeman," replied the newcomer in an eager, irrepressible sort of voice. "You put me into my room and told me to go to bed, but I didn't want to go to bed. I have had my supper, thank you, so I don't want any more, but I have been dying with curiosity to see the girls. Are these they? Are these my schoolfellows? I never saw a schoolfellow before. They all look pretty much like other[Pg 13] people. How do you do, each and all of you? I'm Bridget O'Hara. May I sit near you, Mrs. Freeman?"Mrs. Freeman went up to her, and took her hand. "My dear," she said, "I must make you feel my authority. I do this with great pain, for I know you have not had the advantage of the training which many of the girls who live here have received. I would treat you with kindness, Bridget, but you won't receive my kindness. Now I must be severe, but for your good. Until you promise to obey the rules of the school, you must not join your schoolfellows either at work or play. My sister Patience will allow you to sit with her in her sitting room, and your meals will be brought to you there. The length of your punishment rests with yourself, my dear."
"Patience," said Mrs. Freeman, from her end of the supper table, "I think we have all finished. Will you say grace?"