"Oh! hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! What will my dear dad say when I tell him that? Biddy O'Hara seventeen! Don't I wish I were! Oh, the lovely balls I'd be going to if those were my years! Now, another guess. It's your turn now—you, little brown one there—I haven't caught your name, darling. Is it Anne or Mary? Most girls are called either Anne or Mary."
"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."
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."It wasn't father, it was Aunt Kathleen. She chose my outfit in Paris. Oh, I do think it's lovely. I do feel that it's hard to be crushed on every point.""Nothing," replied Janet. "I—I—shall I run out to the front, Mrs. Freeman, and listen if I can hear the carriage? You can hear it a very long way off from the brow of the hill."
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Bridget O'Hara bestowed upon the four girls who stood before her a lightning glance of quizzical inquiry. She was a tall, fully developed girl, and no one could doubt her claim to beauty who looked at her even for a moment.
Biddy turned, arrested in her gay flight from rosebush to rosebush.
"I'm afraid I have no more time to show you any of the house this evening," answered Janet. "The common room is very much the shape of this one, only without the desks. I have some of my studies to look over, so I must wish you good-evening.""Oh, miss, it's that poor dear young lady.""Why did you speak so sharply to her, Olive?" exclaimed Dorothy. "After all, her curiosity is but natural—I must even own that I share it myself."
"Miss Bridget O'Hara. She aint understood, and she's in punishment, pore dear; shut up in Miss Patience's dull parlor. Mrs. Freeman don't understand her. She aint the sort to be broke in, and if Mrs. Freeman thinks she'll do it, she's fine and mistook. The pore dear is that spirited she'd die afore she'd own herself wrong. Do you think, Miss Collingwood, as she'd touch a morsel of her dinner? No, that she wouldn't! Bite nor sup wouldn't pass her lips, although I tempted her with a lamb chop and them beautiful marrow peas, and asparagus and whipped cream and cherry tart. You can judge for yourself, miss, that a healthy young lady with a good, fine appetite must be bad when she refuses food of that sort!"