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THE ARRANDEL MOTTO.
The schoolroom at Lorne House was neat and silent, as it never was except on Saturday afternoons; but it was not entirely depopulated to-day-holiday though it was—for on a high chair, at a safe distance from the window, was perched one little solitary figure.
A stiff and chilly room it was. The only glinapse of beauty it contained was the wee face that, from afar, peered wistfully out among the bare branches .of that dreary laburnum, which looked as if it could never blossom again out there in the sombre London gardens.
The only glimpses of quaintness or romance were the quick, wayward thoughts which chased each other in the fanciful little head bending now with sudden, brave resolution over an open book. But a real picture did the childish figure make, in spite of the puzzled frown that puckered the low, wide forehead, where the soft brown hair (that fell behind in long, rich, heavy curls) lay short and unparted. “Well, Hester, in punishment as usual ? ”
The door had been opened stealthily, and a short, plump girl of fifteen, with cold, light blue eyes and fair hair, peeped into the room.
"The teachers know whether I'm in punishment as usual, and it doesn't matter to the girls,” said the child, hotly; raising a pair of angry eyes from her book,
“ A nice way to speak of your seniors and superiors. The girls, indeed !” sneered Bella Lane. “The Pet gets a shocking number of punishments, considering what a pet it is. But I suppose it likes them, because its dear schoolmistress gives them. Eh?"
“I hate punishments,” answered the child, her face full of defiance, “ but I hate you more, Bella Lane. Go away.”
“Oh, dear, dear,” laughed Bella, with a shrug of her shoulders. “The Pet in private uses strong language which Miss Berrington would weep to hear. Is it coming with us this afternon?”
“ Yes, if I know this,” Hester answered, going back to her book quickly at the thought.
“ Unless another punishment comes in the way," put in Bella, “and Miss Berrington thinks Madame Tussaud would be bad for you. She thinks you are much too keen after all your pleasures, Hester.”
“She didn't say that to you, Bella," said the child, with a strange tremulous eagerness, half angry, half pleading.
“I was by and heard,” smiled Bella, in enjoyment of the scene, “ you will not like her quite so well now, will you, dear ?”
“If she said it, it is true; and I love her just as well as ever; but she didn't mean you
to tell me, and you are a sly, bad, wicked hypocrite."
“What pretty words the Pet picks up. Does she learn them from her hero brother?”
“Take care how you talk about my only brother," said the child, a sudden brilliant flush rising in her beautiful little face. “Oh, go away, Bella, you make me bad and angry."
“Don't hurry over your task, dear," laughed Bella, retreating slowly, “Madame Tussaud will not be gone if you have to wait for another Saturday ; and we shall not cry ourselves quite ill if you don't come.”
Left alone once more, Hessie forgot her book entirely, and looked out afar through the little twigs of the laburnum to the blue beyond; vaguely wondering what life would be if it were all like this; if there were no dear, dear father and mother to go home to when the holidays came, and no grand young soldier brother to come now and then like a flash of cheery light: vaguely wondering how much Bella's brother loved her; and how it would be to live always with Bella.