"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.""Please remember——" she began.
"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."[Pg 18]As Dorothy and her companions walked through the wide, cool entrance hall, and turned down the stone passage which led to the supper room, they were quite conscious of the fact that some of the naughtiest and most adventurous imps of the lower[Pg 11] school were hovering round, hanging over banisters or hiding behind doors. A suppressed giggle of laughter proceeded so plainly from the back of one of the doors, that Dorothy could not resist stretching back her hand as she passed, and giving a playful tap on the panels with her knuckles. The suppressed laughter became dangerously audible when she did this, so in mercy she was forced to take no further notice.
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"I have some more things to say. I must get you, Bridget, before you leave this room, to make a promise."
She was beginning to collect her somewhat scattered thoughts, when the door was opened suddenly, and, to her surprise, Mrs. Freeman came into the room.Janet turned at the sound of her name, and came quickly up to her mistress. She looked slight, pale, and almost insignificant beside the full, blooming, luxuriously made girl, who, resting one hand in a [Pg 15]nonchalant manner on the back of her chair, was looking full at her with laughing bright eyes.
"Oh, good gracious me! don't call me Miss O'Hara. I'm Biddy to my friends—Biddy O'Hara, at your service—great fun, too, I can tell you. You ask my father what he thinks of me. Poor old gentleman, I expect he's crying like anything this minute without his Biddy to coddle him. He said I wanted polishing, and so he sent me here. I have never been in England before, and I don't at all know if I will like it. By the way, what's your name? I didn't quite catch it.""I'm very sorry, Marshall," said Dorothy, "but Miss O'Hara has really been very naughty. You have heard, of course, of the carriage accident, and how nearly Miss Percival was hurt. It's kind of you to plead for Miss O'Hara, but she really does deserve rather severe punishment, and Mrs. Freeman is most kind, as well as just. I don't really see how I can interfere."Olive had no inclination to join them. They had taken no notice of her, and she was not sufficiently fascinated by Bridget to run any risk for her sake. She knew that her present proceedings were wrong, but she was not at all brave enough to raise her voice in protest. She walked slowly back to the house, wondering whether she should go and tell Janet, or sink down lazily on a cozy seat and go on with a story book which was sticking out of her pocket.
"But your father cannot pay for your disobedience—for the bad example you have set the little children, for the pain and anxiety you have given me."
Bridget, her hat hanging on her arm, defiance very marked on her brow, came suddenly into view. She was alone, and Mrs. Freeman noticed that Janet and her two companions stopped to look at her as if they rather enjoyed the spectacle. They paused for a moment, stared rudely, then turned their backs on Miss O'Hara.