“No, it never means that,” said Mr. Craven gravely and thoughtfully. “But I will tell you what, Ruthie. It does mean sometimes all you have got.”
“Yes,” said Ruth, “I understand.” She rose to her feet. Do you think my father would have come out on the right side of the ledger?”
“Ah, child! when he lay dead on the field of battle he came very much out on the right side, to my thinking. But why that melancholy note in your voice, Ruth? And why are your cheeks so flushed? Is anything the matter?”
“Kiss me,” said Ruth. “I am glad you have said what you did about father. I am more glad than sorry, on the whole, this morning. Good-bye, grandfather.”
She kissed him; then she raised her flower-like head and walked out of the room with a gentle dignity all her own.
“What has come to the little woman?” thought the old man.
But in a minute or two he forgot her, and called to his wife to bring him the account-books.
“Why do you bother yourself about them?” she asked.
“It has come over me,” he replied, “that I have counted things wrong, and that I’ll come out on the right side if I am a bit more careful. Put the books on this little table, and leave me for an hour or two. That’s right, old woman.”
“Very well, old man,” she replied, and she pushed the table towards him, put the account-books thereon, and left the room.
Meanwhile Ruth went slowly to school. She was in good time. There was no need to hurry. The morning was fresh and beautiful; there was a gentle breeze which fanned her face. It seemed to her that if she let her soul go it would mount on that breeze and get up high above the clouds and the temptations of earth.
“I am glad,” she said to herself, “the right side of the ledger means giving up all, and the best of life is to be able to lose it if necessary. I will cling to these two thoughts, and I don’t believe if the worst comes that anything can really hurt me.”
When she got near the school she was met by Mrs. Hopkins. She was amazed to see that good woman, as at that hour she was usually busily engaged in her shop. But Mrs. Hopkins took the bull by the horns and said quietly:
“I came out on purpose to see you, Ruth Craven.”
“Well, and what do you want?” asked Ruth.
“My dear, you are not looking too well.”
“Please do not mind my looks.”
“It is just this, dear. There will be no end of a fuss in the school to-day.”
Ruth did not reply.
“And they will press you hard.”
Still Ruth made no answer.
“You know what it will mean if you tell?”
Ruth’s grave eyes were fixed on Mrs. Hopkins’s face.