Read CHAPTER VI - "I AM UNHAPPY" of A World of Girls The Story of a School , free online book, by L. T. Meade, on

Between forty and fifty young girls assembled night and morning for prayers in the pretty chapel which adjoined Lavender House.  This chapel had been reconstructed from the ruins of an ancient priory, on the site of which the house was built.  The walls, and even the beautiful eastern window, belonged to a far-off date.  The roof had been carefully reared in accordance with the style of the east window, and the whole effect was beautiful and impressive.  Mrs. Willis was particularly fond of her own chapel.  Here she hoped the girls’ best lessons might be learned, and here she had even once or twice brought a refractory pupil, and tried what a gentle word or two spoken in these old and sacred walls might effect.  Here, on wet Sundays the girls assembled for service; and here, every evening at nine o’clock, came the vicar of the large parish to which Lavender House belonged, to conduct evening prayers.  He was an old man, and a great friend of Mrs. Willis’, and he often told her that he considered these young girls some of the most important members of his flock.

Here Hester knelt to-night.  It is to be doubted whether in her confusion, and in the strange loneliness which even Mrs. Willis had scarcely removed, she prayed much.  It is certain she did not join in the evening hymn, which, with the aid of an organ and some sweet girl-voices, was beautifully and almost pathetically rendered.  After evening prayers had come to an end, Mrs. Willis took Hester’s hand and led her up to the old, white-headed vicar.

“This is my new pupil, Mr. Everard, or rather I should say, our new pupil.  Her education depends as much on you as on me.”

The vicar held out his hands, and took Hester’s within them, and then drew her forward to the light.

“This little face does not seem quite strange to me,” he said.  “Have I ever seen you before, my dear?”

“No, sir,” replied Hester.

“You have seen her mother,” said Mrs. Willis ­“Do you remember your favorite pupil, Helen Anstey, of long ago?”

“Ah! indeed ­indeed!  I shall never forget Helen.  And are you her child, little one?”

But Hester’s face had grown white.  The solemn service in the chapel, joined to all the excitement and anxieties of the day, had strung up her sensitive nerves to a pitch higher than she could endure.  Suddenly, as the vicar spoke to her, and Mrs. Willis looked kindly down at her new pupil, the chapel seemed to reel round, the pupils one by one disappeared, and the tired girl only saved herself from fainting by a sudden burst of tears.

“Oh, I am unhappy,” she sobbed, “without my mother!  Please, please, don’t talk to me about my mother.”

She could scarcely take in the gentle words which her two friends said to her, and she hardly noticed when Mrs. Willis did such a wonderful thing as to stoop down and kiss a second time the lips of a new pupil.

Finally she found herself consigned to Miss Danesbury’s care, who hurried her off to her room, and helped her to undress and tucked her into her little bed.

“Now, love, you shall have some hot gruel.  No, not a word.  You ate little or no tea to-night ­I watched you from my distant table.  Half your loneliness is caused by want of food ­I know it, my love; I am a very practical person.  Now, eat your gruel, and then shut your eyes and go to sleep.”

“You are very kind to me,” said Hester, “and so is Mrs. Willis, and so is Mr. Everard, and I like Cecil Temple ­but, oh, I wish Annie Forest was not in the school!”

“Hush, my dear, I implore of you.  You pain me by these words.  I am quite confident that Annie will be your best friend yet.”

Hester’s lips said nothing, but her eyes answered “Never” as plainly as eyes could speak.