"I cannot go, Bridget. Mrs. Freeman would not give me leave, and she would be only annoyed at my making such a foolish proposition.""I'm here, Dolly," she said, in her rather wistful manner."New girl!" exclaimed Katie, "why, she's about the very oldest girl in the school—the oldest and the nicest. She's the head of the school. We call her our queen. She's not like you, Biddy, of course; but she's very nice—awfully nice!"
"Yes, darling, I did. Shall we go into the common room now? I'm dying to see it."
"Sit there, Miss O'Hara, please," said Mrs. Freeman. She tried to suppress a smile, which was difficult. "Girls," she said, addressing the fifth and sixth forms, "girls, this young lady is your new schoolfellow—her name is Bridget O'Hara. I meant to introduce her to you formally to-morrow, but she has taken the matter into her own hands. I am glad you are not tired, Miss O'Hara, for you have had a very long journey.""Well, my dear child," she said, "I suppose you, like all the rest of us, are on tenter hooks for our dear Evelyn's return. From the accounts we received this morning, she seems to be quite well and strong again, and it will be such a comfort to have her back. I don't know how it is, but the school is quite a different place when she is there.""The dogs?" asked Dorothy, interested in spite of herself.
"Oh, how very funny—how—how unpleasant. Did you tell papa about that when he arranged to send me here?"
"How do you do, all of you?" she said. "Well, Janet, good-morning"; she tapped Janet's indignant back with her firm, cool hand, and dropped into her place.After two or three applications the injured girl stirred faintly, a shade of color came into her cheeks, and she opened her eyes.
"Earn it—how? Do you mean pay extra for it? Oh, that can be easily managed—I'll write to papa at once. He has heaps of money, even though he is Irish, and he can deny me nothing. He's paying lots more for me than most of the girls' fathers pay for them. That's why I have a room to myself, and why I am to have riding lessons, and a whole heap of things. But I mean to share all my little comforts with you, you darling. Oh, if the cupboard is to be bought, I'll soon have one. Now let us sit in this cosy, deep seat in the window, and put our arms round one another and talk." The great clock in the stable struck nine."I don't mean that, miss; I mean that perhaps you'd talk to Miss Bridget, and persuade her to do whatever Mrs. Freeman says is right. I don't know what that is, of course, but you has a very kind way, Miss Dorothy,[Pg 71] and ef you would speak to Miss O'Hara, maybe she'd listen to you."The ages of these fifty girls ranged from seventeen to five, but from seventeen down to five on this special hot summer's evening one topic of conversation might have been heard on every tongue.
"But Mrs. Freeman said——"
"But your father cannot pay for your disobedience—for the bad example you have set the little children, for the pain and anxiety you have given me."
"I don't think I shall like school," she said, "but I'll do anything you wish me to do, dearest Dorothy."
But this new girl was not following out any of the old precedents.