Kitty could not speak for a moment, her indignation and disgust were too intense. She felt herself degraded by stooping to ask for evidence as to her own innocence.
Miss Melinda whispered to Miss Richards. Miss Richards looked at Kitty and bade her turn round. Kitty, wondering, obeyed.
“How do you account for the fact that your dress is splashed to the waist with mud?” Miss Richards asked frigidly. “Yesterday was quite fine until after you had all gone home from school, then heavy rain fell.”
Poor Kitty. Here was Nemesis indeed! Two days ago that skirt had been put aside to be brushed, and now, to-day, without giving a thought to the mud on it, she had put it on and worn it. With crimsoning cheeks she wheeled around. “That mud has been there for days, Miss Richards,” she said shamefacedly. “I ought to have brushed it yesterday, but I didn’t, and to-day I forgot it.” But she saw and felt that no one believed her, and Betty, the only one who could have borne out her words, was not there.
“You can all go back to your classes—all but Katherine Trenire,” said Miss Richards, ignoring her speech; and the girls, with looks of sympathy or alarm, filed out, leaving Kitty alone.
“Now, Katherine,” said Miss Richards firmly, “be a sensible, honest girl and tell the truth, and my sister and I will consult together as to the punishment we feel we must inflict. We do not wish to be too severe, but such conduct must be punished. Now, tell us the truth.”
“I have told the truth,” said Kitty proudly, “and I have no more to tell. Lettice can clear me if she likes, so can—the girl who was with her, but I can’t do any more. If you won’t believe me, what can I do?” and suddenly poor Kitty’s proud eyes filled with tears.
Miss Melinda took this as a sign of relenting. She thought confession was coming, and unbent encouragingly. “There, there, that is better, Katherine. Now be advised by us, and get this dreadful load off your mind. You will be so much happier when you have.”
Kitty drove back her tears and her weakness, and her gray eyes grew clear enough to show plainly the hurt and the anger which burnt in her brain as she listened to this insulting cajoling, as she termed it in her own mind.
“How dare you!” she cried indignantly. “How dare you fasten it on to me! I know who the girl was, and she knows that I know, but you want to believe that I did it, and—and you can if you want to. You are both very wicked and unjust, and—and I will never set foot in your house again!” And Kitty, beside herself with indignation, her head very erect, her face white, her eyes blazing, marched out of the room and out of the house, and not even her mud splashes could take from the dignity of her exit.
THOSE DREADFUL STOCKINGS.
Dr. Trenire was extremely annoyed and very indignant when he heard of the inquiry and the result—so indignant that Kitty’s words came true, and she never did set foot within the doors of Hillside again, for her father removed her, and Betty too, from the school at once. Of course Betty could not continue there after all that had happened.