“No,” said Miss Atherton in a very suppressing tone. “I don’t understand impertinent questions, and I expect the schoolgirls to be orderly.—Ah, Ruth Craven! Will you take this young lady under your wing?”
“Didn’t I say we were to be mates, dear?” said Kathleen O’Hara; and as they passed from the great hall, Kathleen’s hand was still fondly linked on Ruth’s arm.
The wild Irish girl.
Lessons went on in their usual orderly fashion. At eleven o’clock there was a break for a quarter of an hour. The girls streamed into the playground. The playground was very large, and was asphalted, and in consequence quite dry and pleasant to walk on. There was a field just beyond, and into this field the girls now strolled by twos and twos. Kathleen O’Hara clung to Ruth Craven’s arm; she kept talking to her and asking her questions.
“You needn’t reply unless you like, pet,” she said. “All I want is just to look into your face. I adore beauty; I worship it more than anything else on earth. I was brought up in the midst of it. I never saw anything uglier than poor old Towser when he broke his leg and cut his upper jaw; but although he was ugly, he was the darling of my heart. He died, and I cried a lot. I can’t quite get over it. Yes, I suppose I am uncivilised, and I never want to be anything else. Do you think I want to copy those nimby-pimby girls over there, or that lot, or that?”
“You had better not point, please, Miss O’Hara,” said Ruth. “They won’t like it.”
“What do I care whether they like it or not?” said Kathleen. “I wasn’t brought here to curry favor with them. What would my darling father say if I told him that I was going to curry favor with the girls of the Great Shirley School? And what would mother say? No, no; I may pick up a few smatterings, or I may not, but there is one thing certain: I mean to make a friend of you, Ruth—yes, a great big bosom friend. You will be fond of me, won’t you?”
“I like you now,” said Ruth. “I know you are kind, and you are very pretty.”
“Why, then, darling,” said Kathleen, “is it the Blarney Stone you have kissed? You have a sweet little voice of your own, although it hasn’t the dear touch of the brogue that I miss so in all the other girls.”
“But you like Miss Tennant don’t you?” said Ruth.
“Oh, yes. Poor little Alice! She’s very reserved and very, very formal, but she’s a good soul, and I won’t worry her. But you are the one my heart has gone out to. Ah! that is the way of Irish hearts. They go straight out to their kindred spirits. You are a kindred spirit of mine, Ruth Craven, and you can’t get away from me, not even if you will.”
The fifteen minutes for recreation came to an end, and the girls returned to the schoolroom. Ruth was in a high class for her age, and was already absorbed in her work. Kathleen drummed with her fingers on her desk and looked round her. Kathleen was in a low class; she was with girls a great deal smaller and younger than herself.