"So do I, Dorothy, if it comes to that, but Violet must be made to know her place. She is one of those little encroachers without respect of persons, who can become absolute nuisances if they are encouraged. But there, we have said enough about her. Ruth and Janet are going to sit in 'The Lookout' for a little; they want to discuss the subject of the Fancy Fair. Shall we come and join them?""Now, how old would you think? Just you give a guess. Let me stand in front of you, so that you can take a squint at me. Now, then—oh, I say, stop a minute, I see some more girls coming in. Come along, girls, and help Miss May to guess my age. Now, then, now then, I wonder who'll be right? How you do all stare! I feel uncommonly as if I'd like to dance the Irish jig!"In every sense of the word Bridget was unexpected. She had an extraordinary aptitude for arithmetic, and took a high place in the school on account of her mathematics. The word mathematics, however, she had never even heard before. She could gabble French as fluently as a native, but did not know a word of the grammar. She had a perfect ear for music, could sing like a bird, and play any air she once heard, but she could scarcely read music at all, and was refractory and troublesome when asked to learn notes.
Mrs. Freeman always presided at the head of the board, Miss Patience invariably sat at the foot, Miss Delicia wandered about restlessly, helping the girls to milk and fruit, patting her favorites on their backs, bending down to inquire tenderly how this girl's headache was, and if another had come off conqueror in her tennis match. No girl in the school minded or feared Miss Delicia in the least. Unlike her two sisters, who were tall and thin, she was a little body with a round face, rosy cheeks, hair very much crimped, and eyes a good deal creased with constant laughter. No one had ever seen Miss Delicia the least bit cross or the least bit annoyed with anyone. She was invariably known to weep with the sorrowful, and laugh with the gay—she was a great coddler and physicker—thought petting far better than punishment, and play much more necessary for young girls than lessons."Thank God for that, my darling," said Mrs. Freeman. She put her arm round the young girl, kissed her tenderly, and drew her away from Bridget.
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Janet was never known to lose her temper, but she had a sarcastic tongue, and people did not like to lay themselves open to the cutting remarks which often and unsparingly fell from her lips.
Miss Delicia was fussing in and out of the house, and picking fresh strawberries, and nodding to the girls she happened to meet with a kind of suppressed delight.Violet frowned all over her fair, small face, but Olive Moore, a sixth-form girl, was too powerful an individual to be lightly disregarded. She shrugged her shoulders therefore, and walked sulkily away.
A fashionable watering-place called Eastcliff was situated about a mile from Mulberry Court, the old-fashioned house, with the old-world gardens, where the schoolgirls lived. There were about fifty of them in all, and they had to confess that although Mulberry Court was undoubtedly school, yet those who lived in the house and played in the gardens, and had merry games and races on the seashore, enjoyed a specially good time which they would be glad to think of by and by.Marshall reappeared with the asparagus and cherry tart."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."
"Janet," said Mrs. Freeman, "come here for a [Pg 47]moment. I want you to use your young eyes. Do you see any carriage coming down the hill?"