"I don't believe she's a new schoolgirl at all," cried Ruth; "she's just a visitor come to stay for a day or two with Mrs. Freeman. No schoolgirl that ever[Pg 6] breathed would dare to present such a young lady, grown-up appearance. There, girls, don't let's waste any more time over her; let's turn our attention to the much more important matter of the Fancy Fair.""Oh, lor, miss, you're too good, but there's that bell again; I must run this minute."
She entered the room, then, in a long white embroidered dress, looped up here, there, and everywhere with sky-blue ribbons. It was a charming toilet, and most becoming to its wearer, but absolutely unsuitable for schoolroom work."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."The door was opened, and a neatly dressed servant of the name of Marshall entered, bearing a dinner tray.
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"Well, Marshall is unhappy about her," replied Dorothy. "She said that Bridget would not touch her dinner. I don't exactly know what Mrs. Freeman means to do about her, but the poor girl is a prisoner in Miss Patience's dull little sitting room for the present.""Oh, you darling, what do minutes signify when one loves? There, Dolly, I have fallen in love with you, and that's the fact. You shall come and stay with me at the Castle in the summer, and I'll teach you to fire a gun and to land a salmon. Oh, my dear, what larks we'll have together! I'm so glad you're taking me round this house, instead of that stiff Janet."She did not attempt to rise to her feet, however, and Mrs. Freeman was far too much absorbed to take any further notice of her."No, Bridget, you cannot. You have been sent here to be under my care, and you must remain with me at least until the end of the term."
Such as it was, however, supper was a much-prized institution of Mulberry Court; only the fifth-form and sixth-form girls were allowed to partake of it. To sit up to supper, therefore, was a distinction intensely envied by the lower school. The plain fare sounded to them like honey and ambrosia. They were never tired of speculating as to what went on in the dining room on these occasions, and the idea of sitting up to supper was with some of the girls a more stimulating reason for being promoted to the fifth form than any other which could be offered.
The carriage lay smashed a couple of hundred yards from the gates of the avenue.