"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?""Poor old dear! But wanting Biddy O'Hara to do a thing, and making her do it, are two very different matters. I'll go to bed when I'm tired—papa never expected me to go earlier at home. I declare I feel quite cheerful again now that I have got to know you, Dorothy. Janet is not at all to my taste, but you are. What a pretty name you have, and you have an awfully sweet expression—such a dear, loving kind of look in your eyes. Would you mind very much if I gave you a hug?"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.
"Oh, but I hate self-denial, and that dreadful motto—'No cross, no crown.' I'm like a butterfly—I can't live without sunshine. Papa agrees with me that sunshine is necessary for life."
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"No, no—do forgive me!"
Janet was the heart and soul of everything. She was a girl with a great deal of independence of character; she was not destitute of ambition—she was remarkable for common sense—she was sharp in her manner, downright in her words, and capable, painstaking, and energetic in all she did.
"Are you there, Janet?" said Mrs. Freeman. "Go into the house, and ask Miss Patience to follow me down the road. And see that someone goes for Dr. Hart. Alice, you can come back with me. The rest of the little girls are to go into the playroom, and to stay there until I come to them."
A flash of self-pity filled her eyes, but there was some consolation in reflecting on the fact that no one could force her to eat against her will.
She looked at the merry group on the lawn, and a desire to join them, even though of course she knew she was in no sense one of them, came over her.
"What does Janet mean?" Bridget would whisper to her nearest companion. "Is she saying something awfully clever? I'm sorry that I'm stupid—I don't quite catch her meaning."