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¡¡¡¡"Well, you've told one now," said Agnes stoutly; "for I don't believe my darling Irene ever did such naughty¡ªsuch very naughty¡ªthings."
"Mother was fond of green, and mother is dead," said Bertha.
"Oh, Emmie, it isn't true¡ªit can't be true!" said little Agnes.
"Of course you may, Rosamund. But I am afraid it will be you and Miss Frost alone, for nothing would induce Irene to set foot inside that place. She has always refused, notwithstanding every effort of our dear clergyman to invite her to visit them. I have asked the children here, for they are nice children; but they are too much afraid of her to come. I do not think you will find the visit a success, even if you do induce Irene to accompany you."
"She couldn't now, Aggie. Oh, Lucy, do go away! Leave her to me¡ªleave her to me," said Miss Frost, in the greatest distress.
When Miss Archer left her, having nothing particular to do herself and being most anxious to avoid the strange girls, she went up the avenue, and passing through a wicket-gate near the entrance, walked along by the side of a narrow stream where all sorts of wild flowers were always growing. Here might be seen the blue forget-me-not, the meadow-sweet, great branches of wild honeysuckle, dog-roses, and many other flowers too numerous to mention. As a rule, Lucy loved flowers, as most country girls do; but she had neither eyes nor ears for them to-day. She was thinking of her companions, and how she was to tolerate them. And as she walked she saw in a bend in the road, coming to meet her, a stout, elderly, very plainly dressed woman.
"Yes, that is it," said Rosamund. "For goodness' sake, Laura, don't waste time talking about her. We can say as much as ever we like about the Singletons. I must say I am rather charmed with them."
"I am sure Laura is right," said Annie Millar.