“Have you any idea what night they choose?”
“I am rather under the impression that this is the night.”
“Then send some one to see, Miss Ravenscroft. One or two of the teachers would be the best. They could go to the quarry to-night and wait there in order to see if the girls arrive. If they do, my orders are that they take no apparent notice of them, but write down the names of all present. If that can be done, and you are successful in finding the girls, we shall have the matter, as it were, in a nutshell, and we shall soon crush this disgraceful rebellion.”
“And what about Kathleen?” asked Miss Ravenscroft.
“There is very little doubt that she will have to be expelled. Such a girl as that is a firebrand in a school, and however rich she may be, and however well-born, the sooner she leaves us the better.”
THE SOCIETY MEETS AT MRS. CHURCH’S COTTAGE.
That evening at about a quarter to eight a band of perfectly silent girls might have been seen walking along the road that led to Mrs. Church’s cottage. They walked as much as possible on the grass, and glided in single file. Each one, as they expressed it, had her heart in her mouth. Occasionally they looked behind them; sometimes they started at an ordinary shadow, thinking that a policeman at least would be waiting for them. The foundationers who called themselves the Wild Irish Girls had very little doubt what it would mean if their scheme was discovered. They knew, of course, that Miss Ravenscroft would be furiously angry, that the governors would have something to say to them, and that they might be dismissed from the school unless they promised to cease to belong to the society. Perhaps there were worse things than that. There was a timid little girl called Janey Ford, who whispered to her friend that the Wild Irish Girls belonged to the rebels in Ireland, and that it might be considered necessary by the government of the country to have them taken up and put into prison. Nobody for a single moment believed Janey Ford’s silly remarks, but nevertheless they gave a sort of thrill to the occasion. It was all delightful, this stealing away in the dark, this pressing one against another as they walked down the little road. And then Kathleen was so fascinating; her eyes were so bright; she was such a valiant sort of leader. If they were men and she was a man, Janey Ford had whispered to her great friend Edith Hart, they would follow her to the death.
“We’d form a crusade for her,” Edith had whispered, back. “She is magnificent.”
And then both girls felt the little heart-shaped lockets round their necks and thought of themselves as heroines.
The entire party, numbering about forty-three in all, arrived at the cottage. Susy suddenly put in her appearance.
“Girls,” she said, “it isn’t at all certain that we are safe. I saw a man going by not ten minutes ago, and he looked suspiciously at the house. Miss Ravenscroft would do anything to catch us; but Aunt Church says that if you go into the yard she doesn’t think you will be seen or heard.—May I take the girls into the yard, Kathleen? And may I take you and Miss O’Flynn into the house to see Aunt Church?”