"Please wait one moment, Mrs. Freeman."The smaller girls chatted volubly about the matter, and little Violet Temple, aged ten, and of course one of the small girls, so far forgot herself as to run up to[Pg 3] Dorothy Collingwood, clasp her hand affectionately round the tall girl's arm, and whisper in her impetuous, eager way:
Dorothy turned with her companion; they walked along the wide gravel sweep, then entered a narrow path which wound gradually up-hill. They soon reached a rural tower, which was called by the girls "The Lookout," mounted some steep steps, and found[Pg 4] themselves standing on a little platform, where two other girls were waiting to receive them."What is it, my dear?" The head mistress drew herself slightly up, and looked in some surprise at her pupil."Well, my dear child," she said, "I suppose you, like all the rest of us, are on tenter hooks for our dear Evelyn's return. From the accounts we received this morning, she seems to be quite well and strong again, and it will be such a comfort to have her back. I don't know how it is, but the school is quite a different place when she is there."
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"Janet, I wish you would not speak in that bitter way.""My conduct? What have I done?"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.
"Well, if I must go, and if you really wish it. Come with me to my room, Dorothy. O Dolly, if you would sleep with me to-night!"
"Well, I'm here," she said; "what is it?" She still used that half-mocking, indifferent voice.
"And now," she said, turning to her two sisters, "the question of questions is this: what is to be done with Bridget O'Hara? Is she to continue at Mulberry Court after such a daring act of disobedience? Must the safety of the other scholars be sacrificed to her?"
"Yes, I am sure she has a good deal of physical courage, but that does not alter the fact of her having defied my authority and led the children into mischief."