"I expect I shan't be allowed to talk at all."Miss Patience asked for a blessing on the meal just partaken of in a clear, emphatic voice, and the group of girls began to file out of the room."Now, do let us be sensible," said Janet, turning to her companions. "We have seen all that there is to be seen. However hard we guess we cannot solve the mystery. Either a new companion is coming among us, who, I have no doubt, will be as commonplace as commonplace can be, or Mrs. Freeman is receiving a young lady visitor. Supper will decide the point, and as that is not half an hour away I suppose we can exist for the present without worrying our brains any further."
She sat down presently on the nearest chair and covered her face with her hands. She could only resolve on one thing—she would certainly not yield to Mrs. Freeman's request—nothing would induce her to promise to obey the rules of the school.
"Faix, then, it does, honey. I'm all agog to see this lovely queen. Why has she been absent so long? Doesn't Mrs. Freeman require any lessons of the sweet creature? Oh, then, it's I that would like to be in her shoes, if that's the case."Miss Percival's accident, and Bridget O'Hara's share in it, were the subjects of conversation not only that night, but the next morning.
Ruth clapped her hands."Hurrah! Hurrah! Long may she stay there! Now, do let us drop this tiresome subject. We have only ten minutes to ourselves before the rest of the committee arrive, and that point with regard to Evelyn Percival must be arranged. Come, Dorothy, let us race each other to the Lookout!"In every sense of the word Bridget was unexpected. She had an extraordinary aptitude for arithmetic, and took a high place in the school on account of her mathematics. The word mathematics, however, she had never even heard before. She could gabble French as fluently as a native, but did not know a word of the grammar. She had a perfect ear for music, could sing like a bird, and play any air she once heard, but she could scarcely read music at all, and was refractory and troublesome when asked to learn notes.
An audible titter was heard down the table, and Mrs. Freeman turned somewhat red.[Pg 27]
"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."
"I could not help myself," replied Dorothy. "You know, of course, Janet, what Bridget did last night?"
"But I'm all right to-day," said Evelyn, in her bright voice. "I don't feel any bad effects whatever from my accident. I can't think why I was so stupid as to faint, and give you a fright. I ought really to have more control over my nerves."
She saw the wild landscape, the steep gravel path[Pg 26] which overhung the lake, the old squire with his white hair, and tall but slightly bent figure, pacing up and down, smoking his pipe and surrounded by his dogs. Dorothy fancied how, on most summer evenings, Bridget, impetuous, eager, and beautiful, walked by his side. She wondered how he had brought himself to part with her. She gave a little sigh as she shut the picture away from her mind, and as she laid her head on her pillow, she resolved to be very kind to the new girl.