Bridget wore a white muslin dress with a long train. Her silver girdle was clasped round her waist. She went deliberately up to a rose tree in full flower, and, picking two or three half-opened buds, put them in her girdle."Bridget, do look," said Mrs. Freeman; "you have trodden on that lovely bud!"
Miss O'Hara stooped carelessly to pick it up. "Poor little bud!" she said, laying it on her hand. "But there are such a lot of you—such a lot! Still, it seems a pity to crush your sweetness out."
"Oh, never mind about bed—I'm not the least sleepy."
The common room to which she conducted Miss O'Hara was entirely for the use of the elder girls; the girls of the middle and the lower school had other[Pg 20] rooms to amuse themselves in. But this large, luxuriously furnished apartment was entirely given up to the sixth and fifth-form schoolgirls."And so do I"—"And I"—cried both Ruth and Olive."May I go with the others?" asked Miss O'Hara.
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There are some jealous people who dislike the beautiful because they are beautiful, the good because they are good. Girls with this special character are to be found in every school. Janet May was one of them, but perhaps in the whole of Mulberry Court she was the only person who at this juncture cordially disliked Evelyn Percival.
Small girls are easily influenced, and Bridget and her tribe rushed down the avenue, shouting and whooping as they went."Dolly, I will clap my hands over your rosebud lips[Pg 22] if you utter another word. Come, and let us sit in this deep window-seat and be happy. Would you like to know what papa is doing at the Castle now?"
She used this tongue most frequently on Bridget O'Hara, but for the first time she was met by a wondering, puzzled, good-humored, and non-comprehending gaze.
She looked at her friend with a cool, critical eye.
The period at which this story begins was the middle of the summer term. There were no half-term holidays at the Court, but somehow the influence of holiday time had already got into the air. The young girls had tired themselves out with play, and the older ones lay about in hammocks, or strolled in twos or[Pg 2] threes up and down the wide gravel walk which separated the house from the gardens.
Dorothy, Ruth, and Olive had now come into the schoolroom, and had taken their places by Janet's side. She gave them a quick look, in which considerable aversion to the newcomer was plainly visible, then turned her head and gazed languidly out of the window.