“Play that,” she said.
Kathleen frowned. Her delicate white fingers trembled for an instant on the keys. She played one or two bars perforce and very badly; then she dashed the sheet of music in an impetuous way to the floor.
“I can’t,” she said; “it isn’t my style. May I play you something different?”
Miss Spicer was about to refuse, but looking at the girl, whose cheeks were flushed and eyes full of fire, she changed her mind.
“Just this once,” she said; “but you must begin to practice properly. What I call amateur music can’t be allowed here.”
“Will this be allowed?” said Kathleen.
She dashed into heavy chords, played lightly a delicate movement, and then broke into an Irish air, “The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls.” From one Irish melody to another her light fingers wandered. She played with perfect correctness—with fire, with spirit. Soon she forgot herself. When she stopped, tears were running down her cheeks.
“What is music, after all,” she said, looking full into the face of her teacher, “when you are far from the land you love? How can you stand music then? No, I don’t mean to learn music at the Great Shirley School; I can’t. When I am back again at home I shall play ’The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls,’ but I can’t do it justice here. You will excuse me; I can’t. I am sorry if I am rude, but it isn’t in me. Some time, if you have a headache and feel very bad, as my dear father does sometimes, I shall play to you; but I can’t learn as the other girls learn—it isn’t in me.”
Again she put her fingers on the keys of the piano and brought forth a few sobbing, broken-hearted notes. Then she started up.
“I expect you will punish me for this, Miss Spicer, but I am sorry—I can’t help myself.”
Strange to say, Miss Spicer did not punish her. On the contrary, she took her hand and pressed it.
“I won’t ask you to do any more to-day,” she said. “I see you are not like others. I will talk the matter over with you to-morrow.”
“And you will find me unchanged,” said Kathleen. “Thank you, all the same, for your forbearance.”
The poor tired one.
Mrs. Tennant spent the afternoon out shopping. She told the girls at dinner that she would be home for tea, that she expected to be rather tired, and hoped that they would be as good as possible. The boys were always out during the afternoon, and as a rule never returned until after tea; but Alice and Kathleen were expected to be in for this meal. When Mrs. Tennant walked down the street, Kathleen went to the window and looked after her.
“What are you going to do this afternoon?” said Alice, who was lying back in an easy-chair with an open novel in her hand.
“I don’t know,” replied Kathleen. “What a dull hole this is! How can you have grown up and kept well in a place like this?”