“Quite right,” said old Mr. Craven.
The color rushed into Ruth’s cheeks. She clasped her grandfather’s hand firmly.
“She thought it right, but something dreadful is going to happen. It will be terribly hard for the girl if she sticks to her resolve, for the governors of the school have presented what they call an ultimatum to her; they have given her from now till Saturday to make up her mind, and if she refuses on Saturday grandfather, she is to be expelled publicly. Her sentence will be proclaimed in the presence of all the school, and she will be watched walking out of the schoolroom and out of the big gates, which will close behind her for ever, and all her chance goes—all her golden prospects. Nevertheless, grandfather, speaking to me from your own heart, ought the girl to betray her companions?”
“Upon my word!” said the old man, who was intensely moved by Ruth’s story. It did not occur to him for one moment that the little girl was talking about herself. “I tell you what, Ruth,” he said; “I must think over it. I pity that poor girl. I don’t think the governors ought to put any girl in such a position.”
“They are sorry, but they say they must. They must get at the truth; they must crush out the insurrection.”
“But it is turning king’s evidence,” said the old man. “I don’t see how a girl is to be expected to betray her companions.”
“That is the position, grandfather. And now I think I will get you your dinner.”
Ruth went out of the room into the little kitchen. For a minute she pressed her hands against her face.
“Grandfather agrees with me,” she said to herself. “I am glad I consulted him. No one ever had a clearer head for business or for right and wrong than grandfather when he is at his best. He was at his best just now. I feel stronger. I won’t betray Kathleen O’Hara.”
RUTH WILL NOT BETRAY KATHLEEN.
Soon after dinner Ruth walked over to Cassandra’s house. Cassandra was so anxious to see her, so determined to use her influence on what she considered the scale of right, that she was waiting for Ruth at the little gate.
“Ah! here you are,” she said. “I am so glad to see you. Mother has gone out for the day; we will have a whole delightful afternoon to ourselves. We can do some good work.”
“Let us,” said Ruth.
She felt feverish and excited. As a rule she was very calm, but now her heart beat too fast. She was thinking of her grandfather, and of what it would mean to him and the old grandmother when she came back on Saturday a disgraced girl, expelled from her high estate, her golden chance snatched from her. Nevertheless she had always been pretty firm, and pretty well resolved to do what she thought right. She was firmer now, and quite resolved.
“Shall we go in at once and set to work?” she said. “I want to read that bit of Tasso over again before Miss Renshaw comes.”