“All right, child; don’t be longer away than you can help.”
Susy left the house. The distance from her mother’s shop to the Cravens’ cottage was a matter of ten minutes’ quick walking. She soon reached her destination, walked up the little path which led to the tiny cottage, and tapped with her fingers on the door. The door was opened for her by old Mrs. Craven. Mrs. Craven was in her Sunday best, and looked a very beautiful and almost aristocratic old lady.
“Do you want my grandchild?” she said, observing Susy’s size and dress.
“Yes; is she within?” asked Susy.
“No, dear; she has gone to church. Would you like to wait in for her, or would you rather go and meet her? She has gone to St. James the Less, the church just around the corner; you know it?”
“Yes, I know it,” said Susy.
“They’ll be coming out now,” said Mrs. Craven, looking up at the eight-day clock which stood in the passage. “If you go and stand by the principal entrance, you are safe to see her.”
“Thank you,” said Susy.
“You are sure you wouldn’t rather wait in the house?”
“No, really. Mother expects me back. My name is Susan Hopkins. My mother keeps the stationer’s shop in the High Street.”
“To be sure,” said Mrs. Craven gently. “I know the shop quite well.”
Susy said good-bye, and then stepped down the little path. What a humble abode the prime favorite, Ruth Craven, lived in! Susy’s own home was a palace in comparison. Ruth lived in a cottage which was little better than a workman’s cottage.
“There can’t be more than two bedrooms upstairs,” thought Susy. “And I wonder if there is a sitting-room? Certainly there can’t be more than one. The old lady looked very nice; but, of course, she is quite a common person. I should love to be Prime Minister to Kathleen O’Hara. And why should there be such a fuss made about Ruth? I only wish the post was mine—shouldn’t I do a lot! Couldn’t I help mother and Tom and all of us? And there is that stupid little Ruth—oh, dear! oh, dear! Well, I suppose I must give her the message.”
She hurried her steps as these last thoughts came to her, and presently she stood outside the principal entrance of the little church. St. James the Less was by no means remarkable for beauty of architecture or adornment of any sort; nevertheless the vicar was a man of great eloquence and earnestness, and in the evenings it was the custom for the little church to be packed.
By-and-by the sermon came to an end, the voluntary rolled forth from the organ, and the crowd of worshippers poured out. Susy stretched out her hand and clutched that of a slim girl who was following in the train of people.
“Ruth, it is me. I have something to say to you.”
Ruth’s face, until Susy touched her, had been looking like a piece of heaven itself, so calm and serene were the eyes, and so beautiful the expression which lingered round her lips. Now she seemed to awaken and pull herself together. She did not attempt to avoid Susy, but slipping out of the crowd of people who were leaving the church, she found herself by the girl’s side.