The Merediths sat, crimson with a shame that even Rosemary’s understanding sympathy could not remove. They sneaked off home, met Jerry at the manse gate and made remorseful confession. A session of the Good-Conduct Club was arranged for next morning.
“Wasn’t Miss West sweet to us to-night?” whispered Faith in bed.
“Yes,” admitted Una. “It is such a pity it changes people so much to be made stepmothers.”
“I don’t believe it does,” said Faith loyally.
“I don’t see why we should be punished at all,” said Faith, rather sulkily. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We couldn’t help being frightened. And it won’t do father any harm. It was just an accident.”
“You were cowards,” said Jerry with judicial scorn, “and you gave way to your cowardice. That is why you should be punished. Everybody will laugh at you about this, and that is a disgrace to the family.”
“If you knew how awful the whole thing was,” said Faith with a shiver, “you would think we had been punished enough already. I wouldn’t go through it again for anything in the whole world.”
“I believe you’d have run yourself if you’d been there,” muttered Carl.
“From an old woman in a cotton sheet,” mocked Jerry. “Ho, ho, ho!”
“It didn’t look a bit like an old woman,” cried Faith. “It was just a great, big, white thing crawling about in the grass just as Mary Vance said Henry Warren did. It’s all very fine for you to laugh, Jerry Meredith, but you’d have laughed on the other side of your mouth if you’d been there. And how are we to be punished? I don’t think it’s fair, but let’s know what we have to do, Judge Meredith!”
“The way I look at it,” said Jerry, frowning, “is that Carl was the most to blame. He bolted first, as I understand it. Besides, he was a boy, so he should have stood his ground to protect you girls, whatever the danger was. You know that, Carl, don’t you?”
“I s’pose so,” growled Carl shamefacedly.
“Very well. This is to be your punishment. To-night you’ll sit on Mr. Hezekiah Pollock’s tombstone in the graveyard alone, until twelve o’clock.”
Carl gave a little shudder. The graveyard was not so very far from the old Bailey garden. It would be a trying ordeal, but Carl was anxious to wipe out his disgrace and prove that he was not a coward after all.