"Please wait one moment, Mrs. Freeman."The ages of these fifty girls ranged from seventeen to five, but from seventeen down to five on this special hot summer's evening one topic of conversation might have been heard on every tongue.
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."Janet!"[Pg 54]
"Well, and our humble school clock ought to make your heart quail if you don't obey it, Bridget. Seriously speaking, it is my duty to counsel you, as a new girl, to go to bed at once."
"I can't share your sorrow," replied Janet. "If her punishment, whatever it is, deprives us of her charming society for a few days, it will be a boon to the entire school. I noticed that she was absent from dinner, and I will own I have not had a pleasanter meal for some time."
"Don't you hear the clock?" exclaimed Dorothy, unconscious relief coming into her tones.
"So it is, Bridget. But you will permit me, an old woman compared to you, to point out a fact—the self-denying people are the happy ones, the selfish are the miserable. Take your own way now in your youth, sip each pleasure as it comes, turn from the disagreeables, trample on those who happen to be in your way, as you did on that rosebud just now, and you will lay up misery for yourself in the future. You will be a very wretched woman when you reach my age."