"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?"She was coming at mid-term, which in itself was rather exceptional."Very well, if it must be so, but I shall be very miserable, and misery soon makes me ill."
"I feel quite well," replied Evelyn, "quite well, and disinclined to stay in bed. I want to get up and see all my friends. You don't know how I have been looking forward to this."
"Is she the beautiful girl who was the ringleader? I don't think I ever saw anyone with such presence of mind. She absolutely caught me as I was flung out of the carriage. I felt her arms round me; that was why I was not hurt."Should she run away altogether? Should she walk to Eastcliff and take the next train to London, and then, trusting to chance, and to the kindness of strangers, endeavor to find her way back to the dear and loving shores of the old country, and so back again to the beloved home?"I believe I am more frightened than hurt," said Miss Percival, struggling to sit up, and smiling at Mrs. Freeman, "I'm so awfully sorry that I've lost my[Pg 51] nerve. Where am I? what has happened? I only remember Caspar turning right round and looking at me, and some people shouting, and then the carriage went over, and I cannot recall anything more. But I don't think—no—I am sure I am not seriously hurt."
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"She's not learned, I admit," replied Olive, "but weak! no, she's not weak; no weak character could be so audacious, so fearless, so indifferent to her own ignorance."
Marshall had to be comforted with this rather dubious speech, and Dorothy ran on to join Janet."Yes; you have got to earn it first, however," replied Miss Collingwood, slipping back the pale green panel with a dexterous movement.
"I can't eat, Marshall," she said. "I'm treated shamefully, and the very nicest dinner wouldn't tempt me. You can take it away, for I can't possibly touch a morsel. Oh, dear! oh, dear! how I do wish I were at home again! What a horrid, horrid sort of place school is!"
"Yes, darling, I did. Shall we go into the common room now? I'm dying to see it."
"Now, how old am I?" she asked, stamping her arched foot. "Don't be shy, any of you. Begin at the[Pg 17] eldest, and guess right away. Now then, Miss Collingwood—you see, I know your name—the age of your humble servant, if you please."