Mrs. Freeman left her pupil's room, and went downstairs."Evelyn Percival. Doesn't it sound pretty?"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."
Steps—several steps—were heard clattering up the stone stairs of the little tower, and two or three girls of the middle school, with roughly tossed heads and excited faces, burst upon the seclusion of the four sixth-form girls.
Miss Delicia was fussing in and out of the house, and picking fresh strawberries, and nodding to the girls she happened to meet with a kind of suppressed delight.
"I'm sick of the new girl," said Janet; "if you are going to talk about her I shall go into the house; I want to look over my French preparation. M. le Comte is coming to-morrow morning, and he is so frightfully over-particular that I own I'm a little afraid of him."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."Pardon me for disturbing you," she said; "I did not know anyone was in the schoolroom at present."
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Dorothy ran away at once, and Mrs. Freeman walked down the garden in the direction where she had just seen a white dress disappearing."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!"The room was something like a drawing room, with many easy-chairs and tables. Plenty of light streamed in from the lofty windows, and fell upon knickknacks and brackets, on flowers in pots—in short, on the many little possessions which each individual girl had brought to decorate her favorite room.The Fair was the great event to which the girls looked forward, and in the first excitement of such an unusual proceeding each of them worked with a will.
"Will you have some fruit?" she said coldly, laying[Pg 14] a restraining hand as she spoke on the girl's beflowered and embroidered dress.[Pg 23]
"How do you do, Mrs. Freeman?" said Bridget. "I'm afraid I'm a little late; I overslept myself, and then I could not find the right belt for this dress—it ought to be pale blue to match the ribbons, ought it not? But as I could not lay my hand on it, I have put on this silver girdle instead. Look at it, is it not pretty? It is real solid silver, I assure you; Uncle Jack brought it me from Syria, and the workmanship is supposed to be very curious. It's a trifle heavy, of course, but it keeps my dress nice and tight, don't you think so?"
It is not an easy matter to break in a wild colt, and this was the process which had now to take place with regard to the new girl, whose eccentricities and daring, whose curious mixture of ignorance and knowledge, of affectionate sympathy and careless levity, made her at once the adored and detested of her companions.