Mrs. Freeman was very particular with regard to tidiness, and the condition of this very pretty room filled her with grave displeasure. The rules with regard to tidy rooms, neatly kept drawers, a place for everything and everything in its place, were most stringent at Mulberry Court, but up to the present rules mattered nothing at all to Bridget O'Hara.Evelyn Percival, the head girl of the school, was now between seventeen and eighteen years of age. She was a rather pale, rather plain girl; her forehead was broad and low, which gave indications of thoughtfulness more than originality; her wide open gray eyes had a singularly sweet expression; they were surrounded by dark eyelashes, and were the best features in a face which otherwise might have appeared almost insignificant.[Pg 54]
On this particular day the world ceases to speak in those gentle and submissive tones. With all its grays and its blacks turned full in view, it says: "You are only an atom; there are millions of other human beings to share my good things as well as my evil. After all, I am not your slave, but your mistress; I have made laws, and you have got to obey them. Up to the present I have treated you as a baby, but now I am going to show you what life really means."
"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?""Oh, I declare, the little dear is huffed about something! Well, then, I'll tell. I'll be fifteen in exactly a month from now! What do you say to that? I'm well grown, am I not, Janet?"
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"Oh, goodness—no, I mustn't—mercy! nor that either; oh, I—I say, Mrs. Freeman, don't let the new dresses be frumpy, or I'll break my heart. I do so adore looking at myself in a lovely dress."
Marshall reappeared with the asparagus and cherry tart."Oh, well; it's all the same," said Olive. "You won't admit the feeling that animates your breast, but I know that it is there, chérie. Now I have got something to confess on my own account—I don't like her either."
"Now, my dear child, will you come into the house with me? I ought to be in the schoolroom now."
Mrs. Freeman could see them as she sat in her sitting room.
"We are not by ourselves when we are together," replied Bridget. "Come along, girls, don't be such little despicable cowards! I'll square it with Mrs.[Pg 44] Freeman. You trust me. Mrs. Freeman will forgive us everything when the queen is coming back. Now, do let's be quick, we haven't a minute to lose!"
"Oh, come at once!" said Violet, "there has been an accident, and Evelyn is hurt. Bridget is with her. Come, come at once!"
"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?"