"What is it, my dear?" The head mistress drew herself slightly up, and looked in some surprise at her pupil."The wind dropped as if it were dead. After screeching as if it had the tongues of hundreds of Furies, it was mummer than the timidest mouse that ever crept. The Castle ceased to rock; it was the suddenest and [Pg 42]deadest calm you could possibly imagine. It was miles more frightful than the storm. Just then there came a little puff of a breeze out of the solid stone wall, and out went my candle.""Now, Biddy, go on, Biddy!" exclaimed the children. "We love ghost stories, so do tell us more about the candle.""But your castle isn't half a mile big," said Katie, another small girl. "And you did say your father lived there with you, and, of course, there must have been some servants."
Marshall had to be comforted with this rather dubious speech, and Dorothy ran on to join Janet.
"I'd make it up if I was you, miss," she said.
"That's as bad as the other expression, Bridget."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.Janet bent her fair face again over the open page; a faint flush had risen in each of her cheeks.
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No, there was nothing to be alarmed about. Evelyn was too silly, with her nerves and her fads. Janet stood by the bend of the hill. Her thoughts were so busy that she scarcely troubled herself to listen for the approaching carriage.
"No, my dear," replied the head mistress, in a rather icy voice, "I have never had the pleasure of visiting Ireland."The summer sounds came in to her, for the window of her dull room was open, the birds were twittering in the trees, innumerable doves were cooing; there was the gentle, soft whisper of the breeze, the cackling of motherly hens, the lowing of cows, and, far away beyond and over them, the insistent, ceaseless whisper of the gentle waves on the shore."Oh, my!" exclaimed Miss O'Hara, "that's nothing. Goodness gracious me! what would you think of thirty or forty miles on an Irish jaunting car, all in one day, Mrs. Freeman? That's the sort of thing to make the back ache. Bump, bump, you go. You catch on to the sides of the car for bare life, and as likely as not you're pitched out into a bog two or three times before you get home. Papa and I have often taken our thirty to forty miles' jaunt a day. I can tell you, I have been stiff after those rides. Did you ever ride on a jaunting car, Mrs. Freeman?"
"Yes, Bridget, very nice—go and take your place, my dear. There, beside Janet May. Another morning I hope you will be in time for prayers. Of course, we make all allowances the first day. Take your place directly, breakfast is half over.""Well, Dolly, have you got rid of that horrible incubus of a girl at last? What a trial she will be in the school! She's the most ill-bred creature I ever met in my life. What can Mrs. Freeman mean by taking her in? Of course, she cannot even pretend to be a lady."Janet, accompanied by Olive and Ruth, was pacing slowly backward and forward under some shady trees. Her satellites were devoted to her, and Janet's slender figure was very erect, and her manner somewhat dictatorial. Dorothy Collingwood was not to be seen, she had evidently gone to join Evelyn upstairs. The girls of the middle school were preparing to exert themselves over more than one tennis match. The smaller children were going down to the shore.