"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?""Patience," said Mrs. Freeman, from her end of the supper table, "I think we have all finished. Will you say grace?"Ruth Bury was short and dark, but Janet May, her companion, was extremely slim and fair. She would have been a pretty girl but for the somewhat disagreeable expression of her face.
"The precious love, how nicely she talks, and how I love her gentle, refined words. But, darling, I'm not going to bed, for I'm not tired."
"Oh, but I hate self-denial, and that dreadful motto—'No cross, no crown.' I'm like a butterfly—I can't live without sunshine. Papa agrees with me that sunshine is necessary for life."As Dorothy and her companions walked through the wide, cool entrance hall, and turned down the stone passage which led to the supper room, they were quite conscious of the fact that some of the naughtiest and most adventurous imps of the lower[Pg 11] school were hovering round, hanging over banisters or hiding behind doors. A suppressed giggle of laughter proceeded so plainly from the back of one of the doors, that Dorothy could not resist stretching back her hand as she passed, and giving a playful tap on the panels with her knuckles. The suppressed laughter became dangerously audible when she did this, so in mercy she was forced to take no further notice.
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"Yes, what is it?"
"I'm very sorry, Marshall," said Dorothy, "but Miss O'Hara has really been very naughty. You have heard, of course, of the carriage accident, and how nearly Miss Percival was hurt. It's kind of you to plead for Miss O'Hara, but she really does deserve rather severe punishment, and Mrs. Freeman is most kind, as well as just. I don't really see how I can interfere."
"I don't suppose that Evelyn Percival is to rule the school. She is away at present, and we can't wait on her will and pleasure. Let's form our committee, and do without her."
"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."
If Dorothy chose to take the new girl's part, she supposed there was something in her, and would continue to suppose so until she had a conversation with Janet, or anyone else, who happened to have diametrically opposite opinions to Dorothy Collingwood.
"I must break you in gradually, dear," she said. "As this is your first day at school you need not do any lessons, but you must come with me presently to the schoolroom in order that I may find out something about your attainments."