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A World of Girls: The Story of a School

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  A World of GirlsBy L.T. MeadePublished by The New York Book Company, New York.This edition dated 1910.

  A World of Girls, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________A WORLD OF GIRLS, BY L.T. MEADE.



  "Me want to see Hetty," said an imperious baby voice.

  "No, no; not this morning, Miss Nan, dear."

  "Me do want to see Hetty," was the quick, impatient reply. And a sturdyindignant little face looked up at Nurse, to watch the effect of thelast decisive words.

  Finding no affirmative reply on Nurse's placid face, the small lipsclosed firmly--two dimples came and went on two very round cheeks--themischievous brown eyes grew full of laughter, and the next moment thelittle questioner had squeezed her way through a slightly open door, andwas toddling down the broad stone stairs and across a landing to Hetty'sroom. The room door was open, so the truant went in. A bed with thebedclothes all tossed about, a half worn-out slipper on the floor, avery untidy dressing-table met her eyes, but no Hetty.

  "Me want Hetty, me do," piped the treble voice, and then the little feetcommenced a careful and watchful pilgrimage, the lips still firmly shut,the dimples coming and going, and the eyes throwing many upward glancesin the direction of Nurse and the nursery.

  No pursuit as yet, and great, great hope of finding Hetty somewhere inthe down-stair regions. Ah, now, how good! those dangerous stairs hadbeen descended, and the little voice calling in shrill tones for Hettyrang out in the wide hall.

  "Let her come to me," suddenly said an answering voice, and a girl ofabout twelve, dressed in deep mourning, suddenly opened the door of asmall study and clasped the little one in her arms.

  "So you have found me, my precious, my dearest! Brave, plucky littleNan, you have got away from Nurse and found me out! Come into thestudy, now, darling, and you shall have some breakfast."

  "Me want a bicky, Hetty," said the baby voice; the round arms claspedHester's neck, but the brown eyes were already travelling eagerly overthe breakfast table in quest of spoil for those rosy little lips.

  "Here are two biscuits, Nan. Nan, look me in the face--here, sit steadyon my knee; you lose me, don't you Nan?"

  "Course me do," said the child.

  "And I'm going away from you, Nan, darling. For months and months Iwon't see anything of you. My heart will be always with you, and Ishall think of you morning, noon, and night. I love no one as I loveyou, Nan. You will think of me, and love me too; won't you, Nan?"

  "Me will," said Nan; "me want more bicky, Hetty."

  "Yes, yes," answered Hester; "put your arms tight round my neck, and youshall have sugar, too. Tighter than that, Nan, and you shall have twolumps of sugar--oh, yes, you shall--I don't care if it makes you sick--you shall have just what you want the last moment we are together."

  Baby Nan was only too pleased to crumple up a crape frill and to smear ablack dress with sticky little fingers for the sake of the sugar whichHetty plied her with.

  "More, Hetty," she said; "me'll skeeze 'oo vedy tight for more."

  On this scene Nurse unexpectedly entered.

  "Well, I never! and so you found your way all downstairs by yourself,you little toddle. Now, Miss Hetty, I hope you haven't been giving theprecious lamb sugar; you know it never does suit the little dear. Oh,fie! baby; and what sticky hands! Miss Hetty, she has crumpled all yourcrape frills."

  "What matter?" said Hester. "I wanted a good hug, and I gave her threeor four lumps. Babies won't squeeze you tight for nothing. There, myNancy, go back to Nurse. Nurse, take her away; I'll break down in aminute if I see her looking at me with that little pout."

  Nurse took the child into her arms.

  "Good-bye, Miss Hester, dear. Try to be a good girl at school. Take myword, missy--things won't be as dark as they seem."

  "Good-bye, Nurse," said Hester hastily. "Is that you, father? are youcalling me?"

  She gathered up her muff and gloves, and ran out of the little studywhere she had been making believe to eat breakfast. A tall,stern-looking man was in the hall, buttoning on an overcoat; a broughamwaited at the door. The next moment Hester and her father were bowlingaway in the direction of the nearest railway station. Nan's littlechubby face had faded from view. The old square grey house, sacred toHester because of Nan, had also disappeared; the avenue even was past,and Hester closed her bright brown eyes. She felt that she was beingpushed out into a cold world, and was no longer in the same snug nestwith Nan. An intolerable pain was at her heart; she did not glance ather father, who during their entire drive occupied himself over hismorning paper. At last they reached the railway station, and just asSir John Thornton was handing his daughter into a comfortablefirst-class carriage, marked "For Ladies only," and was presenting herwith her railway ticket and a copy of the last week's illustratednewspaper, he spoke--

  "The guard will take care of you, Hester. I am giving him fulldirections, and he will come to you at every station, and bring you teaor any refreshment you may require. This train takes you straight toSefton, and Mrs Willis will meet you, or send for you there. Good-bye,my love; try to be a good girl, and curb your wild spirits. I hope tosee you very much improved when you come home at Midsummer. Good-bye,dear, good-bye. Ah, you want to kiss me--well, just one kiss. There--oh, my dear! you know I have a great dislike to emotion in public."

  Sir John Thornton said this because a pair of arms had been flungsuddenly round his neck, and two kisses imprinted passionately on hissallow cheek. A tear also rested on his cheek, but that he wiped away.



  The train moved rapidly on its way, and the girl in one corner of therailway carriage cried silently behind her crape veil. Her tears werevery subdued, but her heart felt sore, bruised, indignant; she hated theidea of school-life before her, she hated the expected restraints andthe probable punishments; she fancied herself going from a free lifeinto a prison, and detested it accordingly.

  Three months before, Hester Thornton had been one of the happiest,brightest, and merriest of little girls in ---shire; but the mother whowas her guardian angel, who had kept the frank and spirited child incheck without appearing to do so, who had guided her by the magicalpower of love and not in the least by that of fear, had met her deathsuddenly by means of a carriage accident, and Hester and baby Nan wereleft motherless. Several little brothers and sisters had come betweenHester and Nan, but from various causes they had all died in theirinfancy, and only the eldest and youngest of Sir John Thornton's familyremained.

  Hester's father was stern, uncompromising. He was a very just andupright man, but he knew nothing of the ways of children, and whenHester in her usual tom-boyish fashion climbed trees and tore herdresses, and rode bare-backed on one or two of his most dangeroushorses, he not only tried a little sharp, and therefore useless,correction, but determined to take immediate steps to have his wild andrather unmanageable little daughter sent to a first-class school.Hester was on her way there now, and very sore was her heart, andindignant her impulses. Father's "good-bye" seemed to her to be thecrowning touch to her unhappiness, and she made up her mind not to begood, not to learn her lessons, not to come home at Midsummer crownedwith honours and reduced to an every-day and pattern little girl. No,she would be the same wild Hetty as of yore: and when father saw thatschool could do nothing for her, that it could never make her into agood and ordinary little girl, he would
allow her to remain at home. Athome there was, at least, Nan to love, and there was mother to remember.

  Hetty was a child of the strongest feelings. Since her mother's deathshe had scarcely mentioned her name. When her father alluded to hiswife, Hester ran out of the room: when the servants spoke of their latemistress, Hester turned pale, stamped her feet, and told them to bequiet.

  "You are not worthy to speak of my mother," she electrified them all oneday by exclaiming. "My mother is an angel now, and you--oh, you are notfit to breathe her name!"

  Only to one person would Hetty ever voluntarily say a word about thebeloved dead mother, and that was to little Nan. Nan said her prayers,as she expressed it, to Hetty now; and Hetty taught her a little phraseto use instead of the familiar "God bless mother." She