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Three Girls from School

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Three Girls from SchoolBy L.T. MeadeIllustrations by Percy TarrantPublished by W and R Chambers, Ltd, London, Edinburgh.This edition dated 1907.

  Three Girls from School, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________THREE GIRLS FROM SCHOOL, BY L.T. MEADE.



  Priscilla Weir, Mabel Lushington, and Annie Brooke were all seatedhuddled up close together on the same low window-sill. The day was aglorious one in the beginning of July. The window behind the girls wasopen, and the softest of summer breezes came in and touched their youngheads, playing with the tumbled locks of hair of different shades,varying from copper-colour to dark, and then to brightest gold.

  Priscilla was the owner of the dark hair; Mabel possessed thecopper-colour, Annie Brooke the gold. All three girls looked much aboutthe same age, which might have been anything from sixteen to eighteen.Priscilla was perhaps slightly the youngest of the trio. She haddark-grey, thoughtful eyes; her face was pale, her mouth firm andresolved. It was a sad mouth for so young a girl, but was also capableof much sweetness. Mabel Lushington was made on a big scale. She wasalready well developed, and the copper in her lovely hair wasaccompanied by a complexion of peachlike bloom, by coral lips, andred-brown eyes. Those lips of hers were, as a rule, full of laughter.People said of Mabel that she was always either laughing or smiling.She was very much liked in the school, for she was at once good-naturedand rich.

  Annie Brooke was small. She was the sort of girl who would be describedas _petite_. Her hair was bright and pretty. She had beautiful handsand feet, and light-blue eyes. But she was by no means sostriking-looking as Mabel Lushington, or so thoughtful and intellectualas Priscilla Weir.

  The post had just come in, and two of the girls had received letters.Priscilla read hers, turned a little paler than her wont, slipped itinto her pocket, and sat very still, Mabel, on the contrary, held herunopened letter in her lap, and eagerly began to question Priscilla.

  "Whom have you heard from? What is the matter with you? Why don't youdivulge the contents?"

  "Yes, do, Priscilla, please," said Annie Brooke, who was the soul ofcuriosity. "You know, Priscilla, you never could have secrets from yourbest friends."

  "I have got to leave school," said Priscilla; "there is nothing more tobe said. My uncle has written; he has made up his mind; he says I am tolearn farming."

  "Farming!" cried the other two. "You--a girl!"

  "Oh, dairy-work," said Priscilla, "and the managing of a farm-housegenerally. If I don't succeed within six months he will apprentice me,he says, to a dressmaker."

  "Oh, poor Priscilla! But you are a lady."

  "Uncle Josiah doesn't mind."

  "What an old horror he must be!" said Annie Brooke.

  "Yes. Don't let us talk about it." Priscilla jumped up, walked acrossthe room, and took a book from its place on the shelf. As she did soshe turned and faced her two companions.

  The room in which the three found themselves was one of the mostbeautiful of the many beautiful rooms at Mrs Lyttelton's school. Thehouse was always called the School-House; and the girls, when askedwhere they were educated, replied with a certain modest pomposity, "AtMrs Lyttelton's school." Those who had been there knew the value of theannouncement, for no school in the whole of England produced such girls:so well-bred, so thoroughly educated, so truly taught those things whichmake for honour, for purity, for a life of good report.

  Mrs Lyttelton had a secret known but to a few: how to develop the verybest in each girl brought under her influence. She knew how to giveliberty with all essential restraints, and how to cultivate ambitionwithout making the said ambition too worldly-minded. She was adored byall the girls, and there were very few who did not shed tears when thetime came for them to leave the School-House.

  The said School-House was situated in the most lovely part of Middlesex,not very far from Hendon. It was quite in the country, and commanded asplendid view. The house was old, with many gables, quaint old windows,long passages, and innumerable rooms. Each girl over fifteen had abedroom to herself in Mrs Lyttelton's school, and each girl over fifteenwho deserved the privilege was accorded the _entree_ to the older girls'sitting-room. Into this room no teacher was allowed to enter withoutpermission. The room as completely belonged to the girls as thoughthere were no teachers in the school. Here they could giveentertainments; here they could conduct debates; here they could loungeand read and chatter and enjoy themselves to their hearts' delight.

  The room wanted for no lack of dainty furnishing. There were cosy nooksin more than one corner; there were easy-chairs galore; and from thelow, old-fashioned windows could be seen the most perfect view of theoutside world.

  Priscilla Weir now turned to look at this view. She had a passionatelove for all beautiful things. There was a dimness before her eyes.From the view she glanced at Mabel Lushington; then she looked at AnnieBrooke.

  Both girls sympathised with her; and yet, not in the way she wanted.She turned abruptly and left the room.

  When the door closed behind her Mabel immediately rose, and as she didso the unopened letter tumbled from her lap. Annie Brooke took it upand handed it to her.

  "How upset she is!" said Annie.

  "Oh yes," replied Mabel; "but I only wish I were in her shoes. Oh, Iknow, of course, Annie, it is jolly here, and Mrs Lyttelton is adarling; but I want to get into the big world I shall be eighteen in amonth, and it seems absurd to keep any girl at school after that age.Aunt Henrietta is in Paris, too, and is going, I believe, to one of theGerman spas by-and-by for gout treatment. Aunt Henrietta spends theentire year in a round of gaieties. I'd just give the world to joinher."

  "And why don't you?" asked Annie. "A great many girls leave school ateighteen."

  "She seems determined that I shall stay on for at least another year.It is quite nonsense. She seems to think I am _not_ clever enough toleave school."

  "Well, you are not specially brilliant, are you, dear Lushie?" askedAnnie in that soft little voice of hers, which could nevertheless beintensely aggravating. "Now, for instance, prize day is close at hand--the day after to-morrow, no less--and what prize is the fair Mabellikely to carry off?"

  "I don't care twopence for prizes," was Mabel's reply; "and I don'tspecially want to be clever, if I can be beautiful. You think I ambeautiful, don't you, Annie?"

  "Oh, my dear, of course there is no denying that," said Annie. Shelooked up with admiration at her friend, and Mabel at that moment, withan added colour in her cheeks and displaying all the charm of her lovelyfigure, seemed to justify the remark.

  "Why don't you read your letter?" said Annie.

  "Oh, it is only from Aunt Henrietta, and she does worry me so by thesort of lecturing tone she has taken up of late. She is a dear, goodold thing--not so very old, either--at least she doesn't think so; butwhen I know how she fritters her time and just lives for pleasure, andpleasure only, it is aggravating to be told that I must be earnest andembrace my opportunities, and endeavour to become really well informed;and that, of course, I must on no account hurry from school, forschool-time is the best time; and all that sort of nonsense. Youunderstand, don't you, Annie?"

  "Yes," said Annie in a low voice, and with a sigh, "I quite understand.I have had a great deal of that myself. Uncle Horace lectures meawfully. I hate being lectured. Don't you?"

  "Loathe and detest it," said Mabel.

  "My plan," said Annie, "is to shut my ears; then the lectures don't seemto matter much. Do you know how to m
anage that?"

  "I am sure I don't," said Mabel. "Being possessed of good hearing, Ihave to listen to words when they are addressed to me, however annoyingthey may happen to be."

  "Oh, well," said Annie, "it is quite easy to cultivate the art ofshutting your ears. It is done in this way. The very moment thelecturer begins, you fix your mind, instantly, on that thing thatcaptivates you most--your next new dress, for instance, or your futurelover, or something else all-absorbing. It is possible to do this andto keep your mind absolutely abstracted, fixed on your own deliciousthoughts, and yet your eyes may be directed to the face of the lecturer.You try it next time, Mabel. The very next time your aunt Henriettabegins to talk to you of the advantages of school, you