“It means that I must go, that I shall lose all the advantages,” said Ruth.
“It means that and more. It means that in the presence of the whole school you are pronounced unworthy, that you leave the school publicly, being desired to do so by your teacher. It is an unpleasant ceremony, and one which you will never be able to forget; it will haunt you for life, Ruth Craven. I trust, however, my dear child, that such extreme measures will not be necessary. You think now that you are honorable in making yourself a martyr, but it is not so. We who are old must know more than you can possibly know, Ruth, with regard to the benefits of a great establishment like this. Insurrection must be put down with a firm hand. You will see for yourself how right we are, and how wrong and silly and childish you are.—Miss Ravenscroft, a special meeting of the governors will take place in this room on Saturday morning. This is Wednesday. Until then we hope that Ruth Craven will carefully consider her conduct, and be prepared to answer the very vital questions which will be put to her.—You can go, Ruth.”
Ruth left the room.
“An extraordinary child,” said Miss Mackenzie.
“A sweet child, I call her,” said Mrs. Naylor. “What a beautiful face!”
“My dear Mrs. Naylor, does the beauty of Ruth Craven’s face affect this question? She is, in my opinion, extremely silly, and a very naughty child.—Miss Ravenscroft, we leave it to you to bring the little girl to reason. I have known her grandfather ever since he kept a grocer’s shop in the High Street. I have respected him more than any man I ever knew. This child in appearance is one of Nature’s ladies, but we must get her to see things in the right light, and if necessary she must be made an example of. It will be very painful, but it must be done.”
“I will do what I can,” said Miss Ravenscroft; “but from the little I have seen of Ruth, I imagine she would go to the stake before she would betray those who are kind to her. I will, however, confide in Cassandra; she is extremely fond of Ruth, and she may influence her where others fail. I can’t help saying, Miss Mackenzie, that it would be a very terrible thing, and would, I believe much injure the school, if a girl like Ruth were expelled. The other foundationers would feel it; there would be a sense of martyrdom. Sides would be taken for and against her. I trust that this extreme step will not be necessary.”
“If she does not tell us what she knows, it will be not only necessary, but it will be carried into effect, and in my presence,” said Miss Mackenzie. “But now to return to the more immediate business. You say these girls meet in a quarry?”
“I have heard rumors to that effect.”
“Do you think they meet there every night? Are their scandalous proceedings a nightly occurrence?”
“Oh, no; I do not think they meet oftener than once a week.”