“But what do you mean?” said Kathleen.
“I mean this, my dear, that my husband and I will see you seven back to your home, wherever it is.”
Kathleen burst out laughing; then she looked very grave, and her eyes filled with tears as she said:
“But wouldn’t mother approve of it?”
“If your mother is the least like me she would not approve of it; she would be horrified.”
“I don’t think the lady can see us home,” here remarked Clara Sawyer, “for we live at Merrifield, a good long way from London.”
Again the lady and her husband had a talk together, and then she suggested that they should take the girls back with them to Charing Cross and put them into their train.
“But we thought we’d have a bit of supper,” said Kate Rourke.
“I can get you some things at the railway station; you ought not to wait for supper in town,” said the gentleman in a stern voice.
Then somehow all the girls felt ashamed of themselves, Kathleen slightly more ashamed than the others. They left the theater very slowly, with all the lightsomeness and gladness of heart gone.
Two cabs were secured for the little party, and with their kind protectors they were taken back to Charing Cross. Eventually they got seats in a comfortable carriage, and found themselves going back again to Merrifield.
“Well, it has been a dull sort of thing altogether,” said Clara Sawyer. “What meddlesome people!”
“Don’t!” said Kathleen.
“Don’t what, Kathleen O’Hara? Why should you speak to me in that reproving voice?”
“It isn’t that; only they were like two angels. I know it; I am sure of it. We did an awful thing coming to town; I know we did, and I feel—oh, detestable!”
Kathleen bent her head forward, covered it with her hands, and sat still. No tears shook her little frame, but there was a storm within. To her dying day Kathleen never forgot that return journey. Truly the fun was all over; the dregs of the cup of pleasure were in their mouths, and there was a fear, great, certain, and very terrible, in their hearts. But with all her fears—and they were many—Kathleen thought again and again of the lady who had girls of her own, and of the gentleman who was both stern and chivalrous, who had the manners of a prince and the look of a gentleman. As long as she lived she remembered those two faces, and the words of the lady, and the smile with which she said good-bye. She never learned their names; perhaps she did not want to.
THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LEDGER.
Ruth got up rather earlier than usual on that Saturday morning. She had a dull, stunned kind of feeling round her heart. She was glad of that; she was glad that she was not acutely sorry, or acutely glad, or acutely anxious about anything.
“If I could always be like this, nothing would matter,” she said to herself.