"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.""But Mrs. Freeman said——""Couldn't you write to father, Mrs. Freeman, and tell him that I am not happy? Say, 'Biddy is not happy, and she wants to go back to you and the dogs.' If you say that, he'll let me come home fast enough. You might write by the next post, and father, he'd jump on the jaunting-car and drive into Ballyshannon, and send you a wire. If papa wires to you, Mrs. Freeman, the very moment he gets your letter, I may perhaps be home on Sunday."
"We won't discuss the whys nor the wherefores; the fact remains that I do dislike her."
"Well, I'm here," she said; "what is it?" She still used that half-mocking, indifferent voice."Very well, if it must be so, but I shall be very miserable, and misery soon makes me ill."There was a movement of chairs, and a general rising.
"I shan't allow her to be persecuted," said Dorothy, with some firmness. "She's the most innocent creature I ever met in my life. Fancy a girl of her age, who has simply never had a rebuff, who has been petted, loved, made much of all her days, who looks at you with the absolute fearlessness of a baby, and talks out her mind as contentedly and frankly as a bird sings its song. I grant she's an anomaly, but I'm not going to be the one to teach her how cruel the world can be."
Bridget turned and looked at her companion in slow wonder. Janet's remark had the effect of absolutely silencing her; she ate her bacon, munched her toast, and drank off a cup of hot coffee in an amazingly short time, then she jumped up, and shook the crumbs of her meal on to the floor.
"The dogs?" asked Dorothy, interested in spite of herself.
"Well, she's in trouble now," said Dorothy, with a sigh. "I think you are very much mistaken in her, Janet; she's a very original, clever, amusing girl. I find her tiresome at times, and I admit that she's dreadfully naughty, but it's the sort of naughtiness which comes from simply not knowing. The accident last night might have been a dreadful one, and Bridget certainly deserves the punishment she has got; all the same;—I'm very sorry for her."
Bridget was evidently not blessed with the bump of order. Valuable rings and bracelets lay, some on the mantelpiece, some on the dressing table; ribbons, scarfs, handkerchiefs, littered the chairs, the chest of drawers, and even the bed. A stray stocking poked its foot obtrusively out of one of the over-packed drawers of the wardrobe. Photographs of friends and of scenery lay face downward on the mantelpiece, and kept company with Bridget's brushes and combs in her dressing-table drawer.