"O Janey," exclaimed two of the other girls in a breath, "a committee does sound so absurdly formal."
Steps—several steps—were heard clattering up the stone stairs of the little tower, and two or three girls of the middle school, with roughly tossed heads and excited faces, burst upon the seclusion of the four sixth-form girls.
The children disappeared in as frantic haste to be off as they were a few minutes ago to arrive.
"My dear, I must tell you that I am a little anxious. Hickman took that shying horse, Caspar, to bring Evelyn home. I intended Miss Molly to have been sent for her. Dear Evelyn is still so nervous after her bad illness that I would not for the world have her startled in any way. And really, Caspar gets worse and worse. What is the matter, Janet? You have started now."
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"Come, my dears," said Miss Patience to the girls[Pg 29] near her, "let us lose no more valuable time. Please don't scrape your chair in that atrocious way, Alice. Rose, what a poke! Susie, hold back your shoulders. Now, young ladies, come to the schoolroom quietly; quietly, if you please."
Alice, Violet, and several more of the little girls were running and tumbling up the grassy slope.[Pg 49] The moment they saw Mrs. Freeman they ran to her.
She leant back, therefore, in her chair and reflected with a sad sort of pleasure on the sorrow which her father would feel when he learnt that she had almost died of hunger and exhaustion at this cruel school."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."
At the dear old wild Castle in Ireland she had been idolized by everyone, the servants had done her bidding, however extravagant and fanciful that bidding had been. She led her old father where she wished with silken reins. The dogs, the horses, even the cows and the calves, followed Bridget like so many faithful shadows. In short, this wild little girl was the beloved queen of the Castle. To cut her, or show her the smallest incivility, would have been nothing short of high treason.