“It isn’t that,” said Ruth, “and you know it. It is just this: I can’t belong to two sides. Cassandra Weldon offers me an advantage which I dare not throw away. It is most essential to me to win the sixty-pounds scholarship. If I win it I shall be properly educated. When I leave school I’ll be able to take the position my dear father, had he lived, would have wished for me. I shall be able to support granny and grandfather. You see for yourself, Kathleen, that I can’t refuse it. It isn’t a question of choice; it is a question of necessity. I love you. Kathleen—I will always love you and be faithful to you—but I can’t give up the scholarship.”
“I don’t want you to,” said Kathleen; “but why shouldn’t you belong to me and yet take the scholarship? I don’t want you to be with me all the time. You can go to that horrible, detestable girl when it is necessary, and have your odious coach to post you up. But I want you more than anybody else. Don’t you know how I love you? Can’t you do both? Think it over, Ruth.”
“I have thought it over, and I can’t do it. I would if I could, but it isn’t to be done. It wouldn’t be right to you, nor right to Cassandra.”
“Well, I think you are very mean; I think I hate you.”
Kathleen turned aside. She was impulsive, high-spirited, and defiant, but where her passions were concerned her heart was very soft. She burst into tears now and flung her arms around Ruth’s neck.
“I like a lot of people,” she said—“I like Mrs. Tennant, and even Susy, although she’s not up to much, and two or three other girls—but I only love you. In the whole of England I only love you, and you are going to give me up.”
“No; I will still be your friend.”
“But you have refused to join my society; you have refused to belong to the Wild Irish Girls.”
“I can’t help myself.”
“But you promised.”
“I know I did. I made a mistake. Kathleen, there is no help for it. I shall love you even if I don’t belong to the society. Now there is nothing more to be said.”
Ruth disentangled herself from Kathleen’s embrace, and putting wings to her feet, ran in the direction of the school. Kathleen stood just where she had left her; over her face was passing a rapid and curious change.
“Do I love her any longer?” she said to herself. “Oh, I think—I think I love her still. But she has slighted me. She will be sorry some day. Oh, dear! The only girl in the whole of England that I love has slighted me. She has thrown ridicule upon me. She said that she would be my Prime Minister, and she has resigned everything for that horrible Cassandra. She will be sorry yet; I know she will.”
THE SCHOLARSHIP: TROUBLE IS BREWING.