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The Little School-Mothers, Page 2

L. T. Meade

istrue that Harriet could be nasty, and even spiteful, were the occasionto offer. But then it did not offer. When there happen to be in a formtwo girls like the Chetwolds, and three girls like the Amberleys, twosomewhat disagreeable girls have very little chance of making theirpresence felt. Accordingly, no one disputed for the favourite placenear Miss Devigny, and no one rebelled or made nasty remarks when JaneBush secured the last morsel of cream blancmange for herself; no oneeven whispered "Greedy pig!" but everyone was as ladylike and charmingas possible.

  Miss Devigny turned to Miss Sparke, and said, under her breath:

  "I really never saw such well-behaved little girls; they do you greatcredit, Miss Sparke."

  "They are naturally amiable," replied Miss Sparke; "and I only trustthings will continue in as great harmony as at present after RobinaStarling arrives."

  "Do you know anything about the child?" asked Miss Devigny, dropping hervoice and coming closer to the other teacher.

  "Not much, except that she is too troublesome at home to remain thereany longer. Her mother is very far from well, and little Robina hasnever learned obedience. Dear Mrs Burton is not afraid of her on thataccount, however, and she believes that there will be no finerdiscipline for her than making her over, as it were, to the third form."

  "Perhaps so," said Miss Devigny, a little doubtfully; "but I am not sosure on that point," she added.

  The girls were now playing hide-and-seek in the wood, and while the twogovernesses were talking, quite unperceived by them a little head peepedout from amongst a great mass of underwood, and two bright, mischievousblack eyes looked keenly for a minute at Miss Devigny, and then the headpopped back again before anyone could see. The governesses were quiteunaware that one of the most troublesome children in the third form hadoverheard them. This child was no less a person than Jane Bush.

  Jane was a little girl who had never known a mother's care. She hadbeen sent to this nice school when she was ten years of age. She hadbeen at Abbeyfield now for nearly two years. She was a small girl forher age, somewhat stoutly built. She had very black eyes, and shortblack hair, which she always wore like a mop sticking up all over herfunny round head. She was a perfect contrast to her own special friendand ally, Harriet Lane. Harriet was a tall, lanky, pale child. She hadexceedingly light blue eyes, a large mouth, somewhat prominent teeth,and thin, hay-coloured hair. She was not at all pretty. Harriet hadmade up her mind on the subject of her own looks long ago.

  "I must be something," she thought. "If I am not pretty, I must atleast be out of the common. I will make people see that I am awfullyclever. It's just as nice to be clever as to be pretty."

  Perhaps Harriet was more clever than her companions. She certainly didmanage to impress the others with her power of learning French andGerman, with the excellent way in which she studied her "pieces" for thepianoforte, and with her really pretty little drawings, which, in heropinion, were almost works of art.

  Harriet, in her heart of hearts, voted the Chetwolds dull and the threeAmberleys molly-coddles.

  "They are always fussing about their throats or having damp feet orgetting a little bit of a chill," she remarked on one occasion in a verysuperior tone to Jane. "I have no patience with girls who are alwaysthinking of themselves; they just do it to be petted. As to thatVivian, she knows quite well that if she manages to cry a little and puther hand to her throat, she won't have any more lessons for the rest ofthe day."

  "I call Vivian a horrid little cheat, although she is thought such amodel," said Jane.

  "Oh, I hate models," said Harriet. "Give me a naughty girl, bypreference."

  "There are no naughty girls in this school," said Jane; "they are everyone of them as good as good. It's awfully dull," she added. "Even youand I can't be naughty, Harriet; for there's no one to be naughty with."

  These were the sentiments of these two really troublesome young peoplewhen they started on their picnic. In the course of that same evening,when the sun was about to set, and the slight summer breeze had droppedaway, and there was a perfect calm all over nature and a serene paleblue sky overhead, then Jane Bush met Harriet Lane and, clutching her bythe arm, said:

  "Oh, Harry, Harry! What do you think?"

  "I am sure I don't know," said Harriet, who looked taller and more lankythan ever. "I wish you wouldn't get so frightfully excited, Jane. Youquite take my breath away."

  "I have got news for you," said Jane, making her mouth into a round "O,"and forming a trumpet for it with her hand. "News!" she repeated."Wonderful grand news!" and now she managed to shout the words intoHarriet's ear.

  "Don't deafen me," said Harriet. "I can't help it if you have news. Idon't suppose there is anything in your new's," she continued.

  "You are as cross as two sticks, Harry," said Jane; "but you won't bewhen you hear what I have got to say. Come along; I must tell youbefore we start for home, and they are putting the horses to thewaggonettes already. Let's run down this glade. Let's be very quick,or they'll stop us. I see old Sparke coming back as fast as she can,and she'll begin to call us all to the top of that little mound. It isthere we are to wait for the waggonettes. Come--quick!"

  Harriet, although she liked Jane, had a secret sort of contempt for her.She could be naughty, of course, but she was not clever. Harrietadmired nothing but talent. She believed herself to be a sort ofgenius.

  "I don't suppose you have anything to tell me," she repeated; "but I'llcome if you want me to. See, I'll race you--one, two, three! I'll getfirst to that tall tree at the end of the glade."

  In a race with Harriet, Jane was nowhere, for Harriet's legs were solong and she was so light that she flew almost like the wind over theground. She easily reached the meeting-place first, and Jane followedher, panting, red in the face, and a little cross.

  "You did take the wind out of me," she said. "Oh, oh, oh!"

  She pressed her hand to her side.

  "I cannot speak at all for a minute--I--I--can't--tell you my news. Oh,you have winded me--you have!"

  "Don't talk, then," said Harriet, who was leaning comfortably with herback against a tree; while Jane, round as a ball and crimson in theface, panted a little way off. By-and-by, however, Jane got back hervoice.

  "I've found out something about the new 'un," she said, "that birdthing, who will be here to-night. I was hiding down in the brushwood,just by the big oak, and you were all looking for me; but I buriedmyself under a holly tree, and no one could see even a squint of me,however hard one looked. _They_--didn't know I was there."

  "Who do you mean by `they'?" interrupted Harriet.

  "Sparke and Devigny," said Jane. "Oh, of course I am fond of MissDevigny, but I can't be bothered to `Miss' her when I'm in no end of ahurry. Well, they talked, and it was all about the new 'un. _She_ isnot a model; that's one comfort. She is so desperately naughty she hasbeen sent from home--sort of expelled, you know--sort of disgraced forlife; a nice sort of creature to come here! And we're to mould her.What is to `mould' a body, Harriet?"

  "To make them like ourselves, I suppose," said Harriet, whose eyessparkled over this intelligence.

  "That is what Sparke said; she hopes everything for the bird from ourinfluence. Isn't it fun? Isn't it great? I am quite excited! Seehere now: think what larks we'll have with a squint-eyed, hunchbacked,very naughty girl. Oh, won't it be larks!"

  "She may be a nuisance, there is no saying," remarked Harriet.

  "Why, aren't you delighted, Harriet? I am."

  "Can't say," answered Harriet. "I only hope," she added, "that whateverelse she is, she is stupid. I don't want any clever girls in the sameform with me. Now, let's go back, Jane."

  "You don't seem at all obliged to me for telling you such a wonderfulpiece of news," said Jane.

  "I am not. We'd have found it all out for ourselves in no time, and youshould _never_ listen--you know you shouldn't."

  "Oh, Harriet, you won't tell on me--you promise you won't?"

"I? Of course not, silly. Now let's be quick. I hear Sparkieshouting. Let's run back. Oh, I _am_ glad I have got long legs!"

  Book 1--CHAPTER TWO.


  Robina Starling was waiting all by herself in the school parlour. MrsBurton had received her, and had been very nice to the small girl. Shehad talked to her affectionately, and even kissed her, and had herselftaken her to the dormitory where the girls of the third