The days flew by, and apparently all was harmonious in the little school. Agnes clung more closely than ever to Irene. Irene had considerably altered. She was no longer specially wild. She was so much absorbed in watching Agnes, in seeing that no one else put in any claim with regard to this small girl, that she had no time to think of being mischievous. Besides, she had her lessons to attend to; and lessons under Miss Archer, and Mademoiselle Omont, and, still more, under the different masters who attended to the school, were of the most stimulating character. The child seemed to imbibe knowledge with a rapidity which astonished all those who watched her. She understood the meaning of a thing at a glance, and it was soon perceived that, in addition to her extraordinary and very remarkable beauty, she was also a genius, or almost that, for she had a natural talent for all sorts of things: for music, which she could already play impromptu, bringing out wild melodies on the piano to which her hearers felt they could go on listening for ever. Of course, the mistresses were supposed not to approve of this sort of playing, and tried to tie Irene down to the usual exercises and the different methods for bringing strength to the fingers. Irene did attend to these lessons, but only in a sort of half-hearted way; soon she broke again into those wild melodies which seemed to pierce the heart and get more or less to the soul of the little performer.
The boy obeyed her directions. Whatever she might have thought of him a minute ago, he was indeed no coward. He pulled with all his might and main. Irene did likewise, and in a few minutes' time they were out of the dangerous current, in smooth water. But it was a close shave, and the girl's hands trembled and for a minute she dropped her oar.
"My dear, dear Miss Cunliffe, how had you the courage to go with her in that terrible boat? She actually took you into the current¡ªthat appalling current where one is so powerless¡ªand you escaped!"
"Of course not. It is very selfish of me; but I miss her all the same."
"You won't be long with her, will you?"
"It seems hardly worth while," said Phyllis.