ACROSS THE WAY VI

“Really, Mr. Barker,” she replied, after a few moments of reflection, “I don’t see how it is possible for me to carry out Mrs. Barker’s wishes. To let the children come half an hour later and go home half an hour earlier than the rest would interfere with the proper conduct of the school. I will do my best to have the ventilation satisfactory, and perhaps I can manage to provide some hot milk for the second one, as her mother desires; but in the matter of the hours, I do not see how I can accommodate Mrs. Barker. To make such an exception would be entirely contrary to my principles.”

Horace Barker smiled inwardly at the suggestion that a school-mistress could have principles which an influential parent might not violate.

“When I say to you that it is Mrs. Barker’s particular desire that her preferences regarding hours should be observed, I am sure that you will interpose no further objection.”

Elizabeth gave a strange little laugh, and her eyes, which were still her most salient feature, snapped noticeably. “It is quite out of the question, Mr. Barker,” she said with decision. “Much as I should like to have your little girls, I cannot consent to break my rules on their account.”

“Mrs. Barker would be very sorry to be compelled to send her children elsewhere,” he said solemnly, with the air of one who utters a dire threat.

“I should be glad to teach your little girls upon the same terms as I do my other pupils,” said Elizabeth, quietly. “But if my regulations are unsatisfactory, you had better send them elsewhere.”

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Horace Barker was a man who prided himself on his deportment. He would no more have condescended to express himself with irate impetuosity than he would have permitted his closely cropped beard to exceed the limits which he imposed upon it. He simply bowed stiffly, and turning to the Misses Barker, who, under the supervision of a nurse, whom they had been taught to address by her patronymic Thompson instead of by her Christian name Bridget, had been open-mouthed listeners to the dialogue, said, “Come, children…” by: Robert Grant (1852-1940)

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