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The Rebel of the School
by Mrs. L. T. Meade
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"Come, little Irish colleen," he said. "Come along downstairs. I am going to be chummy with you. Don't be so lonely. Give Alice her room; one-half of it is hers, and she wants to dress to go out."

"Let her take it all," sobbed Kathleen. "I am most miserable. Oh, Garry Owen, Garry Owen! Oh, Land of the Shamrock! Oh, my broken heart!"

She laid her head on David's shoulder and went on sobbing. David felt quite bashful. There was nothing for it but to take out his big and not too clean handkerchief and wipe her tears away.

"Whisper," he said in her ear. "There are stables at the back of the house; they are old, worn-out stables. There is a loft over one, and I keep apples and nuts there. It's the jolliest place. Will you and I go there for an hour or two after supper?"

"Do you mean it?" said Kathleen, her eyes filling with laughter, and the tears still wet on her cheeks.

"Yes, colleen, I mean it, for I want you to tell me all you can about your land of the shamrock."

"Why, then, that I will," she replied. "Wisha, then, David, it's a broth of a boy, you are!" and she kissed him on his forehead. David took her hand and led her into the dining-room. Alice was still there, looking more stormy than ever.

"It's too late now," she said; "the girls have come and gone. I can't go at all now."

"But why, darling?" said Kathleen. "Oh! I wish I had let you in.—She must go, David, the poor dear. It would be cruel to disappoint her.—What dress will you wear?" said Kathleen.

"Let me alone," said Alice.

She rushed upstairs, but Kathleen was even quicker.

"I'm not going to be nasty to you any more," she said. "I have found a friend, and I shall have more friends to-morrow. Kathleen O'Hara would have died long ago but for her friends. I shall be happy when I have got a creelful of them here. Now then, let me help you. No, that isn't the shoe you want; here it is. And gloves—here's a pair, and they're neatly mended. Which hat did you say—the one with the blue scarf round it? Isn't it a pretty one? You put that on. Aunt Katie O'Flynn is going to send me a box of clothes from Dublin, and I will give you some of them. You mustn't say no; I will give you some if you are nice. I am ever so sorry that I kept you out of your part of the room; I won't do it any more. Now you are dressed; that's fine. You won't hate me forever, will you?"

Alice growled something in reply. She had not Kathleen's passionate, quick, impulsive nature—furious with rage one minute, sweet and gentle and affectionate the next. She hated Kathleen for having humiliated and annoyed her; and she went off to Cassandra's house knowing that she would be late, and determined not to say one good word for Kathleen.



CHAPTER V.

WIT AND GENIUS: THE PLAN PROPOUNDED.

While Kathleen was locked in Alice's room, she was writing to her father:

"MY DARLING DADDY.—If ever there was a cold, dreary, abominable land, it is this where they wave the British flag. The ugliness of it would make you sick. The people are as ugly as the country, and they're so stiff and stuck-up. If you suppose for a moment that your wild Irish girl can stand much of this sort of thing, you are fine and mistaken, and you can tell the mother so. I mean to write to Aunt Katie O'Flynn to-morrow and give her a fine piece of my mind. Early in the day, dad, I did not think that I could stay at all; but I have got a plan in my head now, and if I succeed I may at least put up with one term of this detestable school. I won't tell you the plan, for you mightn't approve; in fact, I can guess in advance that you wouldn't approve. Anyhow, it is going to occupy the time and thoughts of your Kathleen. Now I want a good bit of money; not a pound or even five pounds, but more than that. Can you send me a ten-pound note, daddy mine, and say nothing whatever about it to the mother or the retainers at Carrigrohane? And can you let me have it as quick as quick can be? Maybe I will want more before the term is up, or maybe I won't. Anyhow, we will let that lie in the future. Oh, my broth of an old dad, wouldn't I like to hug you this blessed minute? How is everybody at home? How are the mountains? How is the sea? How is the trout-stream? Are those young cousins of mine behaving themselves, the spalpeens? And how are you, my heart of hearts—missing your Kathleen, I doubt not? Well, no more for the present. They're rattling at the door like anything, and there's a detestable boy now whistling 'Garry Owen' right into my heart. You can't imagine what I am feeling. Oh, the omadhaun! he is changing it now into 'St. Patrick's Day,' Wisha, then, daddy! I must stop, for it's more than the heart of woman can stand. Your affectionate daughter,

"KATHLEEN."

This letter was posted by Kathleen herself. After supper she went with David into the old loft over the tumble-down stables. It was not a very safe place of refuge, for the rafters were rotten and might tumble down at any time. Still, the sense of danger made it all, the more interesting to the children. There they sat side by side, and Kathleen told David about her old life. She was very outspoken and affectionate, and very fierce and very wild. To look at her, one would have said there never was any one less reserved; but Kathleen in her heart of hearts was intensely reserved. Her real feelings she never told; her real hopes she never breathed. She talked with high spirits all the time; and although she liked David and was much comforted by his words and his actions, he did not get at the real Kathleen at all.

When Alice came back that evening Kathleen was sound asleep in her little bed, dreaming of Carrigrohane and the old home. She was murmuring some loving words as Alice entered the room.

"Oh, daddy mine, my heart is sore for you," she was saying in a tone which caused Alice to pause and look at her attentively.

"She is the most awful girl I ever heard of," thought Alice. "I am sure she will get us into trouble. I know that those three guineas a week that mother gets for having her are not worth all the mischief she will drag us into. But still, she does look pretty when she is asleep."

Kathleen had very long and very thick eyelashes and nobly arched brows. Her forehead was broad and full and beautifully white. The mischievous, dare-devil expression of her face when awake was softened in her sleep. Alice, who had determined to come very noisily into the room and bang her things about, to take rude possession of her own half of the room—which, after all, was the better half—was softened by the look on the girl's face. She knelt for a moment at her bedside and prayed that God would keep her from quite hating Kathleen. This was a great deal from Alice, who had made up her mind never to be friends with the Irish girl. Then she got into bed and fell asleep.

The next morning, quite early, Kathleen was up. She was accustomed to getting up almost at cock-crow at Carrigrohane, and when Alice opened her eyes, it was to see an empty bed and an empty room.

"I wonder if she's up to mischief?" she thought.

She got up and went to the window. Kathleen was walking across the common. She had no hat on, and no jacket. She was stepping along leisurely, looking up sometimes at the sky, and sometimes pausing as though she was thinking hard.

"She will catch cold and be ill; that will be the next trouble," thought the indignant Alice. She sleepily proceeded with her dressing. It was only half-past seven. The Great Shirley School met at nine. Alice was seldom downstairs until past eight. When she came down this morning she saw, to her amazement, Kathleen helping the very untidy maid-of-all-work to lay the breakfast things. She was dashing about, putting plates and cups and saucers anyhow upon the board.

"Now then, Maria," she said, "shall I run down to the kitchen and bring up the hot bacon and the porridge? I will, with a heart and a half. Oh, you poor girl, how tired you look!"

Maria, whom Alice never noticed, looked with adoring eyes at beautiful Kathleen.

"It isn't right, miss. I ought to be doing my own work," she said. "I am ever so much obliged to you, miss."

"Wisha, then, it is I who like to help you," said Kathleen, "for you look fair beat."

She dashed past Alice, and appeared the next moment in the kitchen.

"Where's the bacon, cook? And where's the bread, and where's the butter, and all the rest of the breakfast? See, woman—see! Give me a tray and I will fill it up and take the things upstairs with my own hands. You think it is beneath me, perhaps; but I am a lady from a castle, and at Carrigrohane Castle we often do this sort of thing when the hands of the poor maids are full to overflowing."

The cook, a sandy-haired and sour-looking woman, began by scowling at Kathleen; but soon the girl's pretty face and merry eyes appeased her. She and Kathleen had almost a quarrel as to who was to carry up the tray, but Kathleen won the day; and when Mrs. Tennant made her appearance, feeling tired and overdone, she was amazed to see Kathleen acting parlor-maid.

"I love it," she said. "If I can help you, you dear, tired, worn one, I shall be only too glad."

"I am sure, mother," said Alice, "it is very good of Kathleen to wish to do the household work; but as she has been sent here to gain some information of another sort, do you think it ought to be allowed?"

"And who will prevent it, darling? That is the question," said Kathleen in her softest voice.

Alice was silent.

"I tell you what," said Kathleen. "When I see you beginning to help your poor, exhausted mother, and running messages for that overworked slavey—I think you call her Maria—then perhaps I'll do less. And when there's some one else to mend the boys' socks, perhaps I won't offer; but until there is, the less you say about such things the better, Miss Alice Tennant."

Ben kicked David under the table, and David kicked him back to stay quiet. Altogether the breakfast was a noisy one.

Kathleen went to school quite prepared to carry out her promise to Susy Hopkins. She had neatly packed the little Irish diamond brooch in a box, and had slipped under it a tiny note:

"Get as many foundation girls as you can to meet me, at whatever place you like to appoint, this evening. I have a plan to propose.—KATHLEEN O'HARA.

"P.S.—You can name the place by pinning a note under my desk. Be sure you all come. The plan is gloryious."

The thought of the note and the plan and the little brooch kept Kathleen in a fairly good humor on her walk to school. There she saw Ruth Craven. She was decidedly angry with Ruth for having, as she said to herself, "snubbed her" the day before. But beauty always had a curious effect on the Irish girl, and when she observed Ruth's really exquisite little face, clear cut as a cameo, with eyes full of expression, and watched the lips ready to break into the gentlest smiles, Kathleen said to herself:

"It is all over with me. She is the only decent-looking colleen I have met in this God-forsaken country. Make up to her I will."

She dashed, therefore, almost rudely through a great mass of incoming girls, and seized Ruth by her shoulder.

"Ruth," she said, "go and talk to Susy Hopkins during recess. She will have something to say, and I want you so badly. You won't refuse me, will you, Ruth?"

"But I don't know what you want," said Ruth.

"Go and talk to Susy Hopkins; she will know. Oh, there she is!"

"Kathleen, Kathleen!" called out Alice. "The school-bell has just rung, and they are opening the doors. Come do come."

"In a jiff," replied Kathleen.

She ran up to Susy.

"This is what I promised," she said; "and there is a note inside. Read it, and give me the answer where I have asked you."

Susy Hopkins, a most ordinary little girl, who had no position of any sort in the school, colored high with delight. Some of the paying girls looked at her in astonishment. Susy walked into the school with her head high in the air; she quite adored Kathleen, for she was making her a person of great distinction.

"We are going to have a glorious time," whispered Susy to Kate Rourke as they made their way to their respective classes.

Susy was small, rather stupid, and absolutely unimportant. Kate was big, black-eyed, impudent. She was jealous of the paying girls of the school; but she treated Susy as some one beneath contempt.

"Don't drag my sleeve," she replied crossly. "And what you do mean by a glorious time? I don't understand you."

"You will presently," said Susy. "And when all is said and done, you will have to remember that you owe it to me. But I have no time to talk now; only meet me, and bring as many of the foundationers as you can collect into the left-hand corner of the playground, just behind the Botanical Laboratory, at recess."

Kate made no answer, unless a toss of her head could have been taken as a reply. Her first impulse was to take no notice of Susy's remarks—little Susy Hopkins, the daughter of a small stationer in the town, a girl who had scarcely scraped through in her examination. It was intolerable that she should put on such airs.

The work of the school began, and all the girls were busy. Kate was clever, and she meant to try for one of the big scholarships. She would get her forty pounds a year when the time came, and go to Holloway College or some other college. She was not a lady by birth; she had not a single instinct of a true lady within her; but she was intensely ambitious. She did not care so much for beauty as for style; she made style her idol. The look that Cassandra wore as she walked quietly across the room, the set of her dress, the still more wonderful set of her head as it was placed on her queenly young shoulders—these were the things that burnt into Kate's soul and made her restless and dissatisfied. She would willingly have given all her father's wealth—and he was quite well-to-do for his class—- to have Cassandra's face, Cassandra's voice, Cassandra's figure. Cassandra was not at all a pretty girl, but her appearance appealed to all the wild ambitions in Kate's soul. She had a jealous contempt of Ruth Craven, who, although a foundation girl, managed to look like a lady; but her envy was centered round Cassandra. As to the Irish girl, she had scarcely noticed her up to the present.

Work went on that morning with much verve and vigor. It was a pleasant morning: the windows were open; the schoolrooms were all well ventilated; the teachers, the best of their kind, were stimulating in their lectures and in their conversation. There was a look of business and animation throughout the whole place: it was like a hive of bees. At last the moment of recess arrived. Kate just raised her head, looked over the shoulders of her companions, and saw Susy Hopkins darting restlessly about, catching one girl by the sleeve, another by the arm, whispering in the ear of a third, flinging her arm round the neck of a fourth; and as she spoke to the girls they looked interested, astonished, and cordial. They moved away to that lonely part of the playground which was situated at the back of the Botanical Laboratory. Kate had made up her mind not to take the least notice of Susy. She was pacing up and down alone; for, most provoking, all her chosen friends had gone off with that young lady. Suddenly she saw Ruth Craven going very quietly by. By all the laws of the foundationers, Ruth ought to speak to her companions in misfortune. Kate rushed up to her.

"What are they all doing there?" she said. "Do you happen to know Susy Hopkins?"

"No," replied Ruth gently. "She came up to me just now and asked me to join her and some other girls at the back of the Laboratory. I don't know that I want to."

"I am curious," said Kate. "Of course, I am no friend of Susy's; she is a most contemptible little wretch; but I may as well know what it is all about. Come with me, won't you?"

Ruth hesitated.

"Come along; we may as well know. There is probably some mischief on foot, and it is only fair that we should be forewarned."

"I don't want to know," said Ruth; but as Kate slipped her hand through her arm and pulled her along, she said resignedly, "Well, if I must I must."

As they strolled across the big playground, Ruth turned and glanced at Cassandra; but Cassandra was busy making friends with Florence, who was very angry with her for her desertion of the day before, and took no notice of Ruth. The Irish girl was nowhere in sight. Ruth sighed and continued her walk with Kate.

The most lonely and most dreary part of the playground was that little portion which was situated at the back of the Laboratory. Nothing grew there; the ground was innocent of grass, and much worn by the tramping of young feet. There were swings and garden-seats and preparations for tennis and other games in the rest of the big playground, but nothing had ever been done at the back of the Laboratory. When the two girls arrived they found five other girls waiting for them. Their names were, of course, Susy Hopkins, who considered herself on this delightful occasion quite the leader; a gentle and refined-looking girl of the name of Mary Rand; Rosy Myers, who was pretty and frivolous, with dark eyes and fair hair; Clara Sawyer, who was renowned for her vulgar taste in dress; and Hannah Johnson, a heavy-looking girl with a scowling brow and a very pronounced jaw. Hannah Johnson was about the plainest girl in the school. When Susy saw Kate Rourke and Ruth Craven she uttered a little scream of delight.

"Now we are complete," she said. "Listen to me, all you girls, for I haven't too long in which to tell you; that horrid bell will ring us back to lessons and dullness in less than no time. The most wonderful, delightful chance is offered to us. I met her yesterday, and she decided to do it. She is a brick of bricks. She will make the most tremendous difference in our lives. You know, although you pretend not to feel it, but you all must know how we foundationers are sat upon and objected to in the school. We bear it as meekly as we can for the sake of our so-called advantages; but if we can be snubbed, we are, and if we can be neglected, we are—although it isn't the teachers we have to complain of, but the girls. Sometimes things are past bearing, and yet we are powerless. There are three hundred paying girls, and there are one hundred foundationers. What chance has one hundred against three?"

"What is the good of bringing all that up, Susy?" said Mary Rand. "We are foundationers, and we ought to be thankful."

"The education is splendid; we ought not to forget that," said Ruth Craven.

Susy turned on Ruth as though she would like to eat her.

"It is all very fine for you," she said. "Just because you happen to be pretty, they take you up. I wonder one of your fine friends doesn't pay for you, and so save your position out and out."

"I wouldn't allow her to," replied Ruth, her eyes flashing fire. "I had much rather be a foundationer. I mean to prove that I am every bit as good as a paying girl. I mean to make you all respect me, so there!"

"That'll do, Spitfire," said Kate Rourke. "The time is passing, and we must get to the bottom of Susy Hopkins's remarkable address.—What's up, Susy? What's up?"

"This," said Susy. "You know the Irish girl who has come to live with the Tennants?"

"Can't say I do," said Kate.

"Well, you will soon. She's a regular out-and-out beauty."

"I know her," cried Ruth Craven. "She is most lovely."

"She's better," said Susy; "she's bewitching. See; she gave me this." Here she pointed proudly to the Irish diamond brooch, which she had stuck in the bosom of her dress. The diamond had been polished, and flashed brightly; the silver setting was also as good as was to be found. The girls crowded round to admire, and "Oh, my!" "Oh, dear!" "Did you ever?" and "Well, I never!" sounded on all sides.

"You will be so set up now, Susan Hopkins, that we won't be able to bear you in the same class," said Clara Sawyer.

"Go on," exclaimed Hannah Johnson—"go on and tell us what you want. Your horrid brooch doesn't interest us. What have you got to say?"

"You are mad with jealousy, and you know it," answered Susy. "Well, I am coming to the great news. The Irish girl's name is Kathleen O'Hara, and she comes from a castle over in the wild west of Ireland. Her father is very rich, and he keeps dogs and horses and carriages and—oh, everything that rich people keep. Compared to the other girls in the school, she is ten times a lady; and she has a true lady's heart. And she has taken a dislike, as far as I can see, to Alice Tennant."

"And I'm sure I'm not surprised," said Rosy Myers.

"Stuck-up thing!" said Clara Sawyer.

"Dirt beneath our feet!" exclaimed Hannah Johnson.

"Well; she doesn't like her either, though she doesn't use that kind of language," continued Susy. "Anyhow, she wants to befriend us—Oh, do let me speak!"—as Kate interrupted with a hasty exclamation. "She thinks that we are just as good as herself. There is no false pride about a real lady, girls; and the end of it is that she has a plan to propose—something for our benefit and for her benefit. See for yourselves; this is her letter. It is in her own beautiful Irish, handwriting. You can read it, only don't tear it all to bits."

The girls did read the letter. They pressed close together, and one peeped over the shoulder of her companion, another stood on tiptoe, while a third tried to snatch the letter from the hand of her fellow; but all managed to read the words: "Get as many foundation girls as you can to meet me, at whatever place you like to appoint, this evening. I have a plan to propose." This letter and the end of the postscript excited the girls; there was no doubt whatever of that. "The plan is gloryious." They laughed at the word, smiled into each others' faces, and stood very close together consulting.

"The old quarry," whispered Rosy.

"That's the place!" exclaimed Mary.

"Let us meet her, we seven by ourselves," was Kate's final suggestion. "We will then know what she wants, and if there is anything in it. We can form a committee, and get other girls to join by degrees. Hurrah! I do say this is fun."

Susy was now quite petted by her companions. The conference hastily ended, and on entering the school Susy pinned a piece of paper under Kathleen's desk, on which she wrote: "The old quarry; nine o'clock this evening. Will meet you at a quarter to nine outside Mrs. Tennant's house."

When Kathleen received the communication her eyes flashed with delighted fire. She thrust the letter into her pocket and proceeded with her work. The Irish girl looked quite happy that day; she had something to interest her at last. Her lessons, too, were by no means distasteful. She had a great deal of quick wit and ready perception. Hitherto she had been taught anyhow, but now she was all keen to receive real instruction. Her intuitions were rapid indeed; she could come to startlingly quick conclusions, and as a rule her guesses were correct rather than otherwise. Kathleen had a passion for music; she had never been properly taught, but the soul of music was in her as much as it was in David Tennant. She had a beautiful melodious voice, which had, of course, not yet come to maturity. Just before the end of the morning she took her first lesson in music. Her mistress was a very amiable and clever woman of the name of Agnes Spicer. Miss Spicer put a sheet of music before her.

"Play that," she said.

Kathleen frowned. Her delicate white fingers trembled for an instant on the keys. She played one or two bars perforce and very badly; then she dashed the sheet of music in an impetuous way to the floor.

"I can't," she said; "it isn't my style. May I play you something different?"

Miss Spicer was about to refuse, but looking at the girl, whose cheeks were flushed and eyes full of fire, she changed her mind.

"Just this once," she said; "but you must begin to practice properly. What I call amateur music can't be allowed here."

"Will this be allowed?" said Kathleen.

She dashed into heavy chords, played lightly a delicate movement, and then broke into an Irish air, "The Harp that once through Tara's Halls." From one Irish melody to another her light fingers wandered. She played with perfect correctness—with fire, with spirit. Soon she forgot herself. When she stopped, tears were running down her cheeks.

"What is music, after all," she said, looking full into the face of her teacher, "when you are far from the land you love? How can you stand music then? No, I don't mean to learn music at the Great Shirley School; I can't. When I am back again at home I shall play 'The Harp that once through Tara's Halls,' but I can't do it justice here. You will excuse me; I can't. I am sorry if I am rude, but it isn't in me. Some time, if you have a headache and feel very bad, as my dear father does sometimes, I shall play to you; but I can't learn as the other girls learn—it isn't in me."

Again she put her fingers on the keys of the piano and brought forth a few sobbing, broken-hearted notes. Then she started up.

"I expect you will punish me for this, Miss Spicer, but I am sorry—I can't help myself."

Strange to say, Miss Spicer did not punish her. On the contrary, she took her hand and pressed it.

"I won't ask you to do any more to-day," she said. "I see you are not like others. I will talk the matter over with you to-morrow."

"And you will find me unchanged," said Kathleen. "Thank you, all the same, for your forbearance."



CHAPTER VI.

THE POOR TIRED ONE.

Mrs. Tennant spent the afternoon out shopping. She told the girls at dinner that she would be home for tea, that she expected to be rather tired, and hoped that they would be as good as possible. The boys were always out during the afternoon, and as a rule never returned until after tea; but Alice and Kathleen were expected to be in for this meal. When Mrs. Tennant walked down the street, Kathleen went to the window and looked after her.

"What are you going to do this afternoon?" said Alice, who was lying back in an easy-chair with an open novel in her hand.

"I don't know," replied Kathleen. "What a dull hole this is! How can you have grown up and kept well in a place like this?"

"Opinions differ with regard to its dullness," said Alice. "I think our home a very pleasant, entertaining place. I wouldn't live in your wild castle for all you could give me."

"Nobody asked you, my dear," said Kathleen, with a saucy nod of her head.

She left the room and went up to what she called her half of the bedroom on the next floor. She knelt down by the window and looked across over the ugly landscape. There were houses everywhere—not a scrap of real country, as she expressed it, to be found. She took out of her pocket the letter which the foundation girls had sent her, and opened and read it.

"The old quarry! I wonder where the old quarry is," she thought. "It must be a good way from here. We have such a place at home, too. I did not suppose one was to be found in this horrid part of the world. I am rather glad there is an old quarry; it was quite nice of little Susy to suggest it, and she will meet me, the little colleen. That is good. What fun! I shall probably have to return through the bedroom window, so I may as well explore and make all in readiness. Dear, dear! I should like David to help me. It isn't the naughtiness that I care about, but it is the fun of being naughty; it is the fun of having a sort of dangerous thing to do. That is the real joy of it. It is the ecstacy of shocking the prim Alice! Oh! there is her step. She's coming up, the creature! Now then, I had best be as mum as I can unless I want to distract the poor thing entirely."

Alice entered the room.

"Do you greatly object to shutting the window?" she said to Kathleen. "I have a slight cold, and the draught will make it worse."

"Why, then, of course, darling," said Kathleen in a hearty voice, as she brought down the window with a bang. "Would you like me to shut the ventilator in the grate?" she then asked.

"No. How silly you are!"

"Is it silly? I thought you had a cold. You are afraid of the draughts. Why are you going out?"

"I want to see a school friend."

"You will be back in time for tea, won't you?"

"Can't say."

"But your mother, the poor tired one, asked you to be back."

"I do wish, Kathleen, that you wouldn't call mother by that ridiculous name. She is no more tired than—than other women are."

"If that is the case," said Kathleen, "I heartily hope that I shall not live to be a woman. I wouldn't like us all to be as fagged as she is—poor, dear, gentle soul! She's overworked, and that's the truth."

Kathleen saw that she was annoying Alice, and proceeded with great gusto to expand her theory with regard to Mrs. Tennant.

"She's in the condition when she might drop any time," she said. "We have had old Irishwomen overworked like that, and all of a sudden they went out like snuffs: that is what happens. What are you putting on your best hat for?"

"That is no affair of yours."

"Oh, hoity-toity, how grand we are! Do you know, Alice, you haven't got at all nice manners. You think you have, but you haven't. We are never rude like that in Ireland. We tell a few lies now and then, but they are only polite lies—the kind that make other people happy. Alice, I should like to know which is best—to be horribly cross, or to tell nice polite lies. Which is the most wicked? I should like to know."

"Then I will tell you," said Alice. "What you call a nice lie is just a very great and awful sin; and if you don't believe me, go to church and listen when the commandments are read."

"In future," said Kathleen very calmly, "now that I really know your views, I will always tell you home truths. You can't blame me, can you?"

Alice deigned no answer. She went downstairs and let herself out of the house.

"And that is the sort of girl I have exchanged for daddy and the mother and the boys," thought the Irish girl. "Oh, dear! oh, dear!"

Kathleen flew downstairs. It was nearly three o'clock; tea was to be on the table at half-past four. Quick as thought she dashed into the kitchen.

"Maria," she said, "and cook, is there anything nice and tasty for tea this evening?"

"Nice and tasty, miss!" said cook. "And what should there be nice and tasty? There's bread, and there's butter—Dorset, second-class Dorset—and there's jam (if there's any left); and that's about all."

"That sort of tea isn't very nourishing, cook, is it? I ask because I want to know," said Kathleen.

"It's the kind we always have at Myrtle Lodge," replied cook. "I don't hold with it, but then it's the way of the missis."

"I have got some money in my pocket," said Kathleen. "I want to have a beautiful, nice tea. Can't you think of something to buy? Here's five shillings. Would that get her a nice tea?"

"A nice tea!" cried Maria. "It would get a beautiful meal; and the poor missis, she would like it."

"Then go out, Maria; do, like a darling. I will open the door for you if anybody calls. Do run round the corner and bring in—Oh! I know what. We'll have sausages—they are delicious—and a little tin of sardines—won't they be good?—and some water-cress, and some shrimps—oh, yes, shrimps! Be quick! And we will put out the best tea-things, and a clean cloth; and it will rest the poor tired one so tremendously when she comes in and sees a good meal on the table."

Both cook and Maria were quite excited. Perhaps they had an eye to the reversion of the tea, the sausages, the sardines, the shrimps, and the water-cress.

Maria went out, and Kathleen stood in the hall. Two or three people arrived during Maria's absence, and Kathleen went promptly to the door and said, "Not at home, ma'am," in a determined voice, and with rather a scowling face, to these arrivals. Some of the visitors left rather important messages, but Kathleen did not remember them for more than a moment after they were delivered. Maria presently came back and the tea-table was laid. Kathleen gave Maria sixpence for the washing of an extra cloth, and the well-spread table looked quite fresh and wonderfully like a school-feast.

When Mrs. Tennant returned (she came in looking very hot and tired), it was to see the room tidy, Kathleen seated in her own special chair cobbling the boys' socks as hard as she could, and an appetizing tea on the table.

"What does this mean?" said Mrs. Tennant.

"It means," said Kathleen, jumping up, "that you are to plant yourself just here, and you are not to stir. Oh, I know you are dead tired. I will take off your shoes, poor dear; I have brought your slippers down on purpose, and you are to have your tea at this little table. Now what will you have? Hot sausages?—They are done to a turn, aren't they, Maria?"

"That they are, miss."

"A nice hot sausage on toast, and a lovely cup of tea with cream in it."

"But—but," said Mrs. Tennant, "what will Alice say?"

"Maria and I don't care twopence what Alice says. This is my tea, and Maria fetched it. Now then, dear tired one, eat and rest."

Mrs. Tennant looked at Kathleen with loving eyes.

"Did you buy these things?" she said.

"That she did, ma'am," cried Maria. "I never did see a more thoughtful young lady."

"My dear child," said Mrs. Tennant, "you are too good."

Kathleen laughed.

"If there is one thing I am, it is not that," she said. "I am not a bit good. I am as wild and naughty and——Oh, but don't let us talk about me. I am so hungry. You know I didn't much like your dinner to-day. I am not fond of those watery stews. Of course, I can eat anything, but I don't specially like them; so if you don't mind I will have a sausage, too, and a plateful of shrimps afterwards, and some sardines. And isn't this water-cress nice? The leaves are not quite so brown as I should like. Oh, we did have such lovely water-cress in the stream at home! Mrs. Tennant, you must come back with me to Carrigrohane some day, and then you will have a real rest."

Mrs. Tennant, feeling very much like a naughty child herself, enjoyed her tea. She and Kathleen laughed over the shrimps, exclaimed at the fun of eating the water-cress, enjoyed the sausages, and each drank four cups of tea. It was when the meal had come to an end that Kathleen said calmly:

"Three or four, or perhaps five, ladies called while Maria was out."

"Who were they, dear?"

"I don't know. They left messages, and I have forgotten them. One lady was dressed in what I should call a very loud style. She was quite old. Her face was all over wrinkles. She was stout, and she wore a short jacket and a big—very big—picture-hat."

"You don't mean," said Mrs. Tennant, "that Mrs. Dalzell has called? She is one of my most important friends. She promised to help me with regard to David's future. What did she say—can't you remember?"

"I am ever so sorry, but I can't. I kept staring at her hat all the time. I don't remember anything about her except that she was old and had wrinkles and a big picture-hat—the sort of hat that Ruth Craven would look pretty in."

Mrs. Tennant began to find the remembrance of her delightful tea a little depressing, for, question Kathleen as she might, she did not remember anything about the ladies except a few fugitive descriptions. As far as Mrs. Tennant could make out, people who were of the greatest importance to her had left messages, and yet none of the messages could be attended to.

"I can't even imagine who the other ladies can be," she said. "But as to Mrs. Dalzell, she must not be neglected; I must go out and see her at once."

"Then you will be more tired than ever, and I have not done a scrap of good."

"You meant very kindly, my dear child, and have given me a delicious and strengthening tea. Only don't do it again, darling, for it is my place to give you tea, not yours to give it to me."



CHAPTER VII.

THE QUEEN AND HER SECRET SOCIETY.

Mrs. Tennant had not been out more than a minute or two before David and Ben came in. Kathleen saw them from the window; she tapped on the window with her knuckles, nodded to them, kissed her hand, and looked radiant with delight. Some boys at the opposite side of the street saw her and burst out laughing. David's face grew red.

"I wish the little Irish girl wouldn't make us figures of fun," said Ben, speaking in an annoyed tone.

The next instant David had opened the door with his latchkey, and Kathleen was waiting for them in the hall.

"Sausages," she said, bringing out the word with great gusto, "and shrimps, and water-cress, and sardines, besides bread-and-butter galore, and nice hot tea. Maria is making fresh tea now in the kitchen. Come along in—do; you must be ravenous."

The boys stared at her. Ben forgot his anger; he was schoolboy enough to thoroughly enjoy the delicious meal which Kathleen had prepared.

When it came to an end David jumped up impatiently.

"Where are you going, Dave?" asked Kathleen in an interested voice. She wanted him to help her. She had hoped that he and she would go away to the old loft together, and talk as they had done the night before. But David was firm.

"I am going to the church," he said, "to practice on the organ. I only get the chance three times a week, and I must not neglect it."

"David hopes to be no end of a swell some day," remarked Ben. "He thinks he can make the instrument speak."

"And so can I," said Kathleen. "May I come with you, Dave?"

"Some day," he replied, looking at her kindly, "but not to-day. I'll be back as soon as I can."

David did not notice her disappointed face; he went out immediately, without even going upstairs first. Ben and Kathleen were now alone. Kathleen looked at him attentively.

"I wonder—" she said slowly.

"What are you staring at me for?" said Ben.

"I have been wondering what sort you are. I have got cousins at home, and they do anything in the world I like. I wonder if you would."

Ben had been very cross with Kathleen when she had knocked to him and David from the dining-room window, but he was not cross now. He was only thirteen, and up to the present no pretty girl had ever taken the slightest notice of him. He was a plain, sandy-haired boy, with a freckled face, a wide mouth, and good-humored blue eyes.

"You make me laugh whenever I look at you," was Kathleen's next candid remark.

"I didn't know that I was so comical," was his answer.

"Perhaps you don't like it."

"I can't say I do."

"Well, this is the Palace of Home Truths," said Kathleen, laughing. "I asked your darling, saintly sister just now which was the most wicked—to tell a polite lie, or a frightfully rude home truth. She said that a polite lie was an awful sin, so in this house I must cleave to the home truths. I could tell you, you know, that you have quite a fascinating smile, and a very taking voice, and a delightful and polished manner; but I prefer to tell you that you are comical, which means that I feel inclined to burst out laughing whenever I look at you."

"Thank you," said Ben, who could be very sulky when he liked. "Then I will take my objectionable presence out of your sight. I have got my lessons to do."

Kathleen raised her brows and gave a slow smile. Ben got as far as the door.

"Benny," she said then in a most seductive whisper.

He turned.

"I am so glad you are in."

"I should not have thought so."

"But I am. It is awfully lonely for a girl like me, who has got dozens of cousins at home, and uncles and aunts and all the rest of the goodly fry, to be stranded. I like David. I am quite smitten with David; and I like you, too. You can be a great friend of mine."

"Oh, I don't mind," said Ben.

He thought it would be very good fun to tell the other fellows about the charming Irish girl who liked him so much.

"I wonder if you'd help me, Ben."

"What can I do?" asked Ben.

"Sit down, and let's be cozy. I will sit in the tired one's chair, and you can sit on that little stool at my feet. Now isn't that nice?"

"Who do you mean by the tired one?"

"Your mother, silly boy, of course."

"It is a very ridiculous name to call her."

"It belongs to the Palace of Home Truths. Your mother is tired, and you—you lazy omadhauns—"

"Well, go on," said Ben. "I see by your manner that you want me to do something. I suppose it's something a little bit—a little bit not quite good."

"It is perfectly good. I'll love you ever so much if you will do it."

"What is it?"

"I am going out this evening. I may not be in until late. If the others are in bed, will you come and unlock the door for me when I throw gravel up at your window? You must tell me which is your window."

"I sleep in the north attic. It doesn't look out on to the street; and I can't—I can't possibly do it."

"You can come down and wait for me in the hall."

"How can I?"

"When the tired one goes to bed, you can come down. She goes to bed at ten, I know, and I shall not be in until about half-past ten. I don't want Dave to know—well, because I don't. I don't want Alice to know, because I dislike Alice very much."

"Really, Kathleen, you ought not to speak like that."

"Well, I do, and I can't help myself. Will you do what I want? Here, do you think you'd like this in your possession?"

As Kathleen spoke she held out a golden sovereign in the palm of her little hand.

"I don't want to be bribed."

"It isn't bribery really; it is paying you for giving me a great convenience. I must go out on important business. I want to help those who are down-trodden and distressed. Will you do what I want, Ben—will you, dear Ben? You know I like you so much. Will you—will you?"

Of course, Ben fought against Kathleen's rather wicked suggestion; of course in the end he yielded. When he finally got up to his attic to thumb over his well-worn lesson-books he had Kathleen's golden sovereign in his pocket. He took it out and looked at it; he turned it round and round and examined it all over. He rubbed it lovingly against his freckled cheek, held it until it got warm in the palm of his hand, and then put it back in his pocket and jingled it against a couple of pennies which were its only companions.

"A whole sovereign," he said to himself—"a whole sovereign, and I never had so much as five shillings of my own in the whole course of my life. Well, she is a little witch. I suppose Dave would beat me black and blue for doing a thing of this sort. But how could I—how could I withstand her?"

Supper at the Tennants' generally consisted of cold pudding, cold meat, bread-and-butter, and a little jam when there happened to be any in the house. It was not a particularly tempting meal, and those who ate it required to have good, vigorous appetites. Kathleen, although she had been brought up in a considerable amount of wasteful splendor, was indifferent to what she ate. She soon jumped up and walked across the little passage into the drawing-room. Ben, looking very red and shamefaced, would not meet her eyes. Ben's face annoyed Kathleen. It did not occur to her for a minute that he would not be faithful to her, but she was afraid that others might notice his extraordinary and perturbed expression. Once, too, he jingled the sovereign in his pocket; she heard him, and wondered why David did not ask him where he had got the money. But no remark was made, and the meal came safely to an end. Kathleen took up the first book she could find and pretended to read.

"I shall feign sleepiness at a quarter to nine," she said to herself, "and go upstairs. I shall be awfully polite and sweet to dear Alice. She never comes to bed before ten, so I shall be quite safe getting out of the house. I can drop from the window, but I should prefer going by the back door; and I don't think Maria will betray me."

Just then Alice strolled into the room. She looked rather nice; she wore a very pretty pink muslin blouse, which suited her well. Her hair was neatly arranged; her face was calm. She stood before Kathleen.

"I wish—" she said suddenly.

Kathleen raised her head.

"And I wish you wouldn't stand between me and the lamp. Don't you see that I am reading?"

"I want you to stop reading. I have something to say."

"Indeed!"

Kathleen longed to be very rude, but she thought of her delightful plan so close at hand, and refrained.

"I must humor her if I can by any possibility keep my temper," was her thought. Then aloud: "What is it you want? I hope you will be very quick, for I am rather sleepy and intend to go to bed soon."

"I hope you won't do it again, that's all."

"Do what again?" asked Kathleen.

"Spend your money on buying food for us. We are not so poor as all that. My mother is paid by your father to give you your meals; your father doesn't expect you to buy them over again."

"Dad always likes me to do what I wish," replied Kathleen calmly.

"Well, don't do it again. It's extremely displeasing both to David and me."

Kathleen laughed.

"Dave gobbled up his sausage and his sardines," she said.

"Don't do it again, that's all."

Kathleen nodded her head, and again buried herself in her book.

"And there is another thing," continued Alice, dropping into a chair by Kathleen's side. "You are very low down in the school. Two of the mistresses spoke to me about you to-day. They don't like to see a great overgrown girl like you in a class with little children; it does neither you nor the school credit. They fear that during this term you may be forced to continue in your present low position; but they earnestly hope that you will work very hard, so as to be removed into a higher form. You ought, after Christmas, to get into a class at least two removes higher up in the school. That is what I came to say. I suppose you have a certain sense of honor, and you don't want your father's money to be thrown away."

"Bedad, then! he has plenty of money, and I don't much care," replied Kathleen.

She lay back in her chair and whistled "Garry Owen" in a most insolent manner.

"If you have really made up your mind not to improve yourself in the very least, mother had better write to Squire O'Hara and suggest that you don't come back after Christmas."

"And Squire O'Hara will decide that point for himself," replied Kathleen. "There are other houses where I can be entertained and fussed over, and regarded as I ought to be regarded, besides the home of Alice Tennant. The fact is this, Alice: you aggravate me; you don't understand me; I am at my worst in your presence. Perhaps I am a bit wild sometimes, but your way would never drive me to work or anything else. I have no real dislike to learning, and if another girl spoke to me as you have done I might be very glad."

"What do you mean?" said poor Alice. "I really and truly, Kathleen, do want to help you. You and I could work every evening together; I could, and would, see you through your lessons. Thus you would very quickly get to the head of your class, and get your removes without trouble at Christmas."

"I suppose you mean to be kind," said Kathleen. "I will think it over. Let me alone now."

She gave a portentous yawn. Ben heard her, came and sat down on an ottoman not far off, and began kicking his legs.

"Benny," said his sister, "if you have done your lessons, you had better go to bed."

"I don't want to go so early. You always treat me as if I were a baby."

"Well, please yourself. I am going upstairs to fetch my books. I have a good hour and a half of hard work to get through before bedtime."

The moment Kathleen and Ben were alone, Ben rushed up to her side and began to whisper.

"It is all as right as possible," he said. "I am going up to bed as usual, and when mother and Alice and Dave are safe in their rooms I'll slip down again. I'll be in the hall. Don't ring when you come back; just walk up the steps and scratch against the door with your knuckles, and I'll hear you and let you in in a trice. I am awfully pleased about that sovereign; it will make me one of the greatest toffs in the school. I'll have more money than any of the other fellows. I'm so excited I can scarcely think of anything else. I know I'm doing wrong, but you did offer me such a tremendous temptation. Now I hear Alice's step. It will be all right, Kathleen; don't you fear."

Kathleen smiled to herself. The rest of her programme was carried out to a nicety. At a quarter to nine she complained of fatigue, bade Mrs. Tennant an affectionate good-night, nodded to Alice, and left the room.

"Be sure you don't lock the door," called Alice after her. "I sha'n't be up for quite an hour, and you will be sound asleep by that time."

"I won't lock it," replied Kathleen gently.

When Kathleen had gone upstairs, Mrs. Tennant turned and spoke to her daughter.

"You know, Alice," she said, "the child is very lovable and kind-hearted—a little barbarian in some senses of the word, but a fine nature—of that I am certain."

"I am so busy to-night, mother," replied Alice. "Can't we defer talking of the charms of Kathleen's character until after I have done my lessons?"

"Of course, dear," said her mother.

She drew her basket of mending towards her, put stitch after stitch into the shabby garments, and thought all the time of Kathleen with her bright face and beautiful, merry eyes.

Meanwhile that young lady, having arranged a bolster in her bed to look as like a human being as possible, put on her hat and jacket and ran downstairs. There was no one in the hall, and she was absolutely daring enough to go out by that door. Mrs. Tennant raised her head when she heard the door gently shut.

"Can that be the post?" she said; but as no one replied, she forgot the circumstance and went on with her mending.

A few doors down the street Susy Hopkins was waiting for Kathleen.

"Oh, there you are!" she said. "We are so excited! There will be about eight of us waiting for you in the old quarry. You are good to come. You don't know what this means in our lives. You are good—you are wonderfully good."

"Where's the quarry?" asked Kathleen. "You have chosen such a funny place. I should not have imagined that a quarry—a dear, romantic quarry—could be found anywhere in this neighborhood."

"Yes, but there is, and a good big one, too. It is about half a mile away, just at the back of Colliers' Buildings. It is the safest place you can possibly imagine, for no one will ever look for us there. Now do be quick; we will find the others before us. You can't think how excited we are."

"Oh, I'm willing to be quick," replied Kathleen. "I am doing all this for you, you know, because I am sorry for the foundationers, and think it so very ridiculous that there should be distinctions made. Why, you are quite as good as the others. They are none of them much to boast of."

"What fun this is!" cried Susy again. "I assure you the paying girls think no end of themselves. They are under the supposition that there never were such fine ladies to be found in the land before. Oh, we will take it out of them, sha'n't we?"

Kathleen made no reply. Presently they reached the opening that led into the quarry. They had to go down a narrow sloping path, and then by a doorway cut in the solid rock. After they had passed through they found themselves in a large circular cavern open to the sky. There was no moon and the night was dark; but one girl had brought a lantern. She opened it and placed it on the ground; a bright shaft of light now fell on several young figures all huddled together. Susy gave a sharp whistle; the girls started to their feet.

"Here we are, girls. See, this is our queen," and she presented Kathleen to the assembled girls.

"Does the queen mind our looking at her face in turns?" said Kate Rourke. "I have not specially noticed you before," she continued, "but after we have each had a good stare we will know what sort of girl you are."

For reply Kathleen herself lifted the lantern and flung the full light upon her radiant and lovely face and figure. The intense light made her golden hair shine, and brought out the delicate perfection of each feature; the merry eyes framed in their dark lashes, the gleaming white teeth, the rosy lips were all apparent. But beyond the mere beauty of feature Kathleen had to a remarkable degree the far more fascinating beauty of expression: her face was capable of almost every shade of emotion, being sorrowful and pathetic one moment, and brimful of irrepressible mirth and roguery the next.

There was a silence amongst the girls until Mary Rand shouted:

"Hip! hip! hurrah!"

The whole eight immediately broke into a ringing cheer.

"Welcome, Queen Kathleen," they said—"welcome;" and they held out their hands and clasped the hands of the Irish girl.

"I am glad," said Kathleen.

"What about?" said Clara Sawyer.

"Why, you have crowned me queen yourselves. Now I can do what I like with you all."

"You certainly can," said Susy Hopkins.—"We are devoted to our queen, aren't we, girls?"

"We have fallen in love with her on the spot," said Rosy Myers.

"I never saw any one quite so lovely before as the queen," said Mary Rand.

"It isn't only that she's lovely, she is so genteel," said Susy Hopkins.

"Aristocratic!" cried Kate.—"Hannah Johnson, you haven't given your opinion yet.—And, Ruth Craven, you haven't given yours."

"I reserve my opinion," said Ruth.

"And I say there's a great deal of humbug and balder-dash in the world," said Hannah Johnson.

Ruth's remark was unexpected, but the girls pooh-poohed Hannah's. Who was Hannah Johnson that she dared to speak so rudely to one so charming and beautiful as Kathleen O'Hara? There was a disconcerting pause, and then Kathleen said:

"Hannah, doubtless you are right. There is plenty of humbug in the world; but I don't think I am one. Now the question is: Shall I be on the side of the foundationers, or shall I be on the side of the paying girls in the Great Shirley School?"

"Indeed, darling," said Rosy Myers, "you shall be on our side. Those horrid, stuck-up paying girls don't want you; and we do. Nothing will induce us to give you up. It is a chance to get a girl like you, so lovely and so sweet and so rich, to be one of us."

"Well, I think I can give you a good time, and I can show those others with their snobbish ways—"

"Hear, hear!" cried the excited girls.

"I can show the others what I think of them. They won't snub me, but perhaps I shall snub them. Well, girls, as we have decided to band together, we must draw up rules; and when they are drawn up we must obey them. I, of course, will be your head; as you have made me queen, that is the natural thing to expect."

"Of course," said Susy.

Kathleen clapped her hands.

"This is going to be a real good secret society," she said. "What fun it all will be!"

The girls laughed, and clustered with more and more friendliness round Kathleen.

"You are our queen," said Kate. "There are eight of us here, and we all swear allegiance to you.—Don't we, girls?"

"Certainly," said Susy.

"Unquestionably," remarked Mary.

"With all my heart," said Rose.

"And mine," echoed Clara.

"And mine," said Kate.

"I will join the others, although I don't approve," said Hannah Johnson, with a somewhat unwilling nod.

"And I am neutral. I don't think I ought to join at all," said Ruth.

"Oh, yes, you will, Ruth. I want you to be my Prime Minister, I want you to be with me in all things."

"I don't know that I can."

"And why should she be your Prime Minister?" said Kate in an ugly voice. "She's no better than the others, and she's very new. Some of us have been at the school for some time. Ruth Craven has only just joined.

"The queen must have her way," said Kathleen, stamping her foot. "The queen must have her way in all particulars, and she wishes to elect Ruth Craven as her Prime Minister—that is, if Ruth will consent."

They were headstrong and big girls, most of them older than Kathleen, but they submitted, for her ways were masterful and her tone full of delicate sympathy.

"I will think it over and let you know," said Ruth. "Of course, I shall not betray you; but you must please understand that I have friends amongst the paying girls of the school. Cassandra Weldon is my friend, and there are others. I will not join nor advocate any plan that annoys or worries them."

The girls looked dubious, and one or two began to speak in discontented voices.

"We must meet again in a couple of days," said Kathleen finally. "By then I shall have drawn up the rules. We can't always meet at night, but we will when it is possible, for this place is so romantic, and so correct for a secret society. Those who are present to-night will be in my Cabinet. I should like if possible to have all the foundation girls on my side, but that must be decided at our next meeting. I am willing to purchase a badge for each girl who joins me; it will be made of silver, and can be worn beneath the dress in the form of a locket."

"Oh, lovely, delicious! There never was such a queen," cried Susy Hopkins.

The little meeting broke up amidst universal applause.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE BOX FROM DUBLIN AND ITS TREASURES.

Kathleen returned quite safely to Myrtle Lodge. Ben was sitting up for her; he opened the door. The hall was quite dark. He held out his hand and drew her in.

"Am not I splendid?" he said. "I have been standing here for half-an-hour, all drenched with perspiration. If mother came down" what wouldn't she say? And as to Alice, she'd be even worse. But a sov.'s worth doing something for. I say! I do feel happy! I never had all that lot of bullion in the whole course of my life before. Are you right now, Kathleen—can you slip upstairs without making any noise? Don't forget that the step just before you reach the upper landing gives a great creak like the report of a pistol; hop over it on to the landing itself, and you are safe. Alice is in bed, snoring like anything; I listened outside the keyhole."

"Thanks," said Kathleen. "I'm awfully obliged to you, Ben. See if I don't do something for you. You are a broth of a boy. What do you say to Carrigrohane in the summer, and a gun all to yourself? I'll teach you how to shoot rabbits and to bring down a bird on the wing."

She brushed her lips against his cheek, and ran lightly upstairs. She escaped the treacherous second step, and entered her bedroom without waking Alice. The bolster carefully manipulated had done its work; it had never occurred to Alice that the form in the bed was anything but the living form of Kathleen O'Hara. She had shaded the light from what she supposed to be the sleeping girl, and got into bed herself feeling tired and sulky. She had dropped asleep immediately.

Kathleen's first step, therefore, towards the formation of a secret society in the Great Shirley School was marked with success. The idea which she had formulated in the old quarry spread like wildfire amongst the foundationers; but Kathleen was determined not to have another meeting for nearly a week. She wished to hear from her father; she wanted to have money in hand.

"They are all poor," she thought. "If I appear just as poor as they are, I shall never be able to keep my exalted position as queen. We cannot have our next meeting until I have drawn up the rules, and I should like Ruth Craven to help me. She has got sense. I don't want the thing to be riotous, nor to do harm in any way. I just want us to have a bit of fun, and to teach the horrid paying girls of the school a lesson."

The thought of her secret society kept Kathleen in a fairly good humor, and she worked at her lessons so well that Alice began to have hopes of her. About a week after her arrival at Myrtle Lodge the box which Aunt Katie O'Flynn was sending from Dublin arrived. It came when the girls were at school. When they returned to early dinner they saw it standing in the front hall.

"Whatever is this, and why is it put here?" said Alice, springing forward to look at the address:

"Miss Kathleen O'Hara, care of Mrs. Tennant, Myrtle Lodge."

"Golloptious!" cried Kathleen. "It's my own. It's my clothes—my sort of a kind of a treasure. Oh, what delicious fun! Now you will see how smart I can be. Maybe there will be something here to fit you, Alice. Wouldn't you like it? We are going to tea to-night to Mrs. Weldon's, and Ruth Craven is to be there. The darling girl—I will give her something. I should love to make her look just as beautiful as she can look. I am not a bit a stingy sort of girl; you know that, Alice. I want to be quite generous with my lovely things."

"Well, do stop talking," said Alice. "I never came across such an inveterate chatterbox. I suppose you'd like to have the box taken up to our room; but I don't think you'll have any time to open it at present. You have promised to come back with me to the school this afternoon, in order that Miss Spicer may give you a special lesson in music."

"Arrah, then, my dear!" cried Kathleen, "it isn't me you'll see at school again to-day. It's gloating and fussing over my clothes I will be—portioning out those I mean to give to others, and trying on the ones that will suit me. You can go to your horrid, stupid lessons if you like, but it won't be Kathleen O'Hara who will accompany you. Perhaps the poor tired one would like to have a pleasant afternoon in my bedroom. Oh, glory be to goodness! we will have a time. Isn't it worth anything to see that blessed trunk? My eyes can almost pierce through the deal and see the lovely garments folded away inside."

Alice took no notice; she marched on to her room. Kathleen followed her.

"The boys shall bring it up for me immediately after dinner," she said. "I sha'n't be going out again until I go to Mrs. Weldon's. I expect people will open their eyes when they see me to-night."

"You must please yourself, of course," said Alice. "For my part, I am extremely sorry that the trunk has come. You were settling down a little, and were not quite so objectionable as at first."

"Thanks awfully, darling," said Kathleen, dropping a mock curtsy.

"Not quite so objectionable," continued Alice in a calm voice. "But now, with all these silly gewgaws, you will be worse titan ever. But please clearly understand that I do not want any of your ornaments."

"Don't trouble yourself, darling; they were not made for you. I force my treasures on nobody."

"I wouldn't wear them if you were to give them. I hope I have some proper pride."

"Pride of the most proper sort," said Kathleen, dancing before her.

"And I do hope, also, that you won't make yourself a merry-andrew or a figure of fun at the Weldons' to-night. It will be in extremely bad taste. We are not going to have a large party—just one or two of the mistresses and little Ruth Craven, who, although she is a foundationer, seems to be a very nice sort of child. It would be in the worst taste possible to wear anything but the simplest clothes."

"All right," said Kathleen. "If I am a chatterbox, you are about the greatest preacher, with the most long-winded sermons, that ever entered a house. You are a perfect plague to me, and that is the truth, Alice Tennant."

Alice poured some water into her basin, washed her hands, and went downstairs.

"Mother," she said, "I am obliged to be out the whole afternoon. The scholarship examination takes place in six weeks now, and if I am to have any chance of getting through I must not idle a single moment. I grieve to say that a box of finery has arrived for Kathleen—most unsuitable, for she has plenty of clothes. I do trust, mother, you will keep her in tow a little this afternoon, and not allow her to make a show of herself."

"You are not very kind to Kathleen," said Mrs. Tennant. "Why shouldn't the child enjoy her pretty things? I like to see girls nicely dressed. It is a great trial to me to be obliged to deny you the ribbons and frills and laces which most girls of your age possess."

"Thanks, mother," answered Alice; "but if you were as Rich as Croesus, I should not wish, while I am a schoolgirl, to dress any better than I do."

"You certainly have a great deal of sense, dear; but don't be too hard on the little girl. Ah! here she comes. Now we must sit down to dinner at once."

During dinner Kathleen's eyes sparkled so brightly, and she looked so merry and mysterious, that both the boys gazed at her in wonder.

"Don't mind me," she said, whispering to David as she bent towards him. "It's in real downright delight I am. I am expecting to have the most wonderful joy all the afternoon that was ever given a girl. Ah, then, it's illegant myself will be when you see me next, boys. And do look at her! I declare she's getting crosser each minute."

"Hush, Kathleen!" said David. "You must not say unkind things."

"Don't trouble to reprove her, David," called out Alice in a calm and lofty tone. "I assure you she doesn't annoy me in the least. Sometimes I think there is a little gnat flying about and trying to sting me, but that's all."

"And a charming metaphor, too," said Kathleen.

She ate her meal soberly, but occasionally a bubble of laughter came to the surface, and her merry eyes glanced from Mrs. Tennant's face to Alice's, and from Alice's to those of the boys. The moment the meal came to an end Kathleen jumped up.

"Now, then, my angels, you come with me," she said, and she caught David by the one hand and Ben by the other, and led her willing slaves into the hall.

"Did you ever see anything like it?" said Alice to her mother. "She will ruin the boys in addition to all her other mischief. Mother, must we keep her long? It is really most disturbing."

"If you would only take poor little Kathleen as she is, you would find her quite agreeable, Alice," was her mother's answer.

"Oh dear, mother! you seem to be just as much infatuated as the others. But never mind. I am off now, and I need not be back in the house until it is time to dress to go to Mrs. Weldon's. I declare that girl is causing me to hate my home. I don't think its fair, whatever you may say to the contrary."

Mrs. Tennant sighed. Alice had always been a little difficult; she was more than difficult at the present moment. But very soon afterwards the welcome bang of the hall door was heard, and the house was free.

"Now for a jolly time," said Kathleen. "Tired one, where are you?"

"Kathleen, you ought not to call me by that name. You ought to be more respectful."

"Arrah, then, darling, I can't; 'tain't in me. I am so fond of you—oh, worra, worra! there's nothing I wouldn't do for you; but I must be as I'm made. You do look tired, and tired you will go on looking until I take you to Carrigrohane to rest you and to feed you with good milk and good fruit and good eggs and good cream.—Now then, boys, lift up that trunk. Be aisy with it, so that you won't hurt it. Take it up to my bedroom and put it on the floor. Maybe there's something in it for you, or maybe there isn't—Mrs. Tennant, acushla! you will come along upstairs with me at once. You can bring your mending basket, and I will pop you into the arm-chair by the window, and we can consult together over the garments. It's fine I'll look when I have them on. Aunt Katie O'Flynn is a woman who has real taste, and I know she is going to dress me up as no other girl ever was dressed before in the Great Shirley School."

Mrs. Tennant could not help laughing. The boys were also in the highest good-humor; Kathleen's mirth was contagious. They went upstairs to the bedroom, and then Ben saucily perched himself on the foot of one of the beds; while David, having brought up a hammer and screwdriver, proceeded to lift the lid of the box, which was firmly nailed down. Under the lid was a lot of tissue-paper. Kathleen went on her knees, lifted it up, uttered a shout, and turned to the boys.

"You make off now," she said.

"No, indeed I won't," said Ben. "I want to see the fun."

"Go, both of you. There will be something nice for you when you come back to tea," said Kathleen.

They looked regretful, but saw nothing for it but to go. Kathleen in a breathless sort of way, scarcely uttering a word, spread out her treasures on the bed. Was there ever such a box? Skirts, bodices, blouses, shirts; an evening dress, an afternoon dress, a morning dress—they seemed simply endless. Then there were frills and ribbons and veils; there were two great, big, very stylish-looking hats, with long plumes; and there was a little toque made of crimson velvet, which Kathleen declared was quite too sweet for anything. There were also dozens of handkerchiefs, dozens of pairs of stockings, and some sweet little slippers all embroidered and fit for the most bewitching feet in the world. Kathleen's cheeks got redder and redder.

"Here's a cargo for you," she said. "Here's something to delight the heart. Now, my dear Mrs. Tennant, let us come and examine everything. Do you think I am utterly selfish, Mrs. Tennant? Do you think I want all these things for myself?"

"I am sure you don't, dear."

"It quite makes me ache with longing to give some of them away. I don't want so many frocks: there are a good dozen here all told. Aunt Katie O'Flynn's the one for extravagance, bless her! and for having a thing done in style, bless her! I should like you to see her. It's splendacious she is entirely when she's dressed up in her best—velvet and feathers and laces and jewels. Why, nothing holds her in bounds; there's nothing she stops at. I have seen her give hundreds of pounds for one little glittering gem. Ah! and here's a ring. Look, Mrs. Tennant."

Kathleen had now opened a small box which was lying at the bottom of the great trunk. There were several treasures in it: a necklet of glittering white stones, another of blue, another of red, and this little ring—a little ring which contained a solitary diamond of the purest water.

"Now I shall look stylish," said Kathleen, and she slipped the ring on the third finger of her left hand.

"My wedding finger too, bedad!" she said.

When the contents of the trunk had been finally explored, Kathleen began to sort her finery. Mrs. Tennant gave advice.

"Some of these things are a little too fine for everyday use," she said. "But some of these blouses are very suitable, and so are these white and gray and pink shirts. And this blue bodice is quite nice for the evening, and so is the skirt belonging to it; but this and this and this—I wouldn't wear these until I went home if I were you, my love."

Kathleen glanced at her. A slight frown came between her brows.

"Don't you see," she said impatiently, "that I want to give away some of these things? Do you see this dozen of blouses, all exactly alike, in this box? These are for the secret society."

"The what, Kathleen?"

"Oh, you musn't tell—it is the most profound secret—but I have joined one. Being an Irish girl, it is quite natural. I sent a line to Aunt Katie to get a dozen of the very prettiest blouses she could. Of course there are a lot more members, but our Cabinet has risen to something like a dozen, so I thought I'd have them handy. Aren't they just sweet?"

As she spoke she took out of the box the palest blue cashmere blouse, most exquisitely trimmed with blue embroidery flecked with pink silk. The blouse had real lace round the neck and cuffs, and must have cost a great deal of money.

"Don't you think Alice would look very nice in one of these?" said Kathleen, gazing with a very earnest face at Mrs. Tennant.

"Pink is more Alice's color. She is too pale for blue," was Mrs. Tennant's reply.

"Well, then, look here. Isn't this a perfect duck? See for yourself. It's a sort of cross between a coral and a rose—oh, so exquisite! And see how it is made, with all these teeny tucks and the embroidery let in between. And the sleeves—aren't they just illegant entirely? Don't you think we might make her wear it?"

"I am sorry, Kathleen, but you are not getting on very well with Alice. I wish it were different. Could you not do something to propitiate her?"

"Wisha, then, darling!" said Kathleen, pausing a moment to consider; "that's just what I can't do. Alice's ways are not my ways, and if I copied her it's kilt I'd be entirely. She never likes to see a smile on my face, and she can't abide to watch me if I dance a step, and she wouldn't take a joke out of me if it was to save her life. To please Alice I'd have to be the primmest of the prim, and always stooping over my horrid lessons, and the end of it there'd be no more of poor Kathleen O'Hara—- it's dead and in her grave she'd be, the creature. Indeed, I'm glad I'm not made on Alice's pattern, even if she is your daughter. I can't aspire to anything so fine and high up even for your sake, darling, and you are one of the sweetest women on God's earth. I couldn't do it—not by no means."

Mrs. Tennant could not help laughing as Kathleen described the sort of girl she would be if she adopted Alice's role.

"But the question is now," said the girl, "what are we to do to make her have some of these pretty things? Mightn't I give the blouse to you first, and you could give it to her? She'd look so sweet in this pink blouse when she went to tea at her chosen friends. She'd be almost pretty if she was nicely dressed. I've got this white one for little Ruth Craven, and I want Alice to have this so badly. Can't you manage it, dear Mrs. Tennant?"

Mrs. Tennant felt tempted. The blouse was very dainty and pretty, and unlike anything she could afford to buy for her only daughter. Kathleen threw her arms round her neck and kissed her.

"You will—you will, dear Mrs. Tennant," she said. "It is yours entirely. You tell her you got it at a cheap sale. Say you went to a jumble sale and bought it; you paid one-and-twopence-halfpenny for it. That's the right figure, isn't it, for the best things at a jumble sale? Tell her it's quite new, and was thrown in promiscuous like."

"But, my darling child, I can't tell her what isn't true. She would wear it if she didn't know it came from you. She would not only wear it, but she would delight in it; but nothing would induce her to take it if she thought you had given it."

"Then don't let's tell her. Besides, it wouldn't be true, for I have given it to you, dear. And now, see, here is something for your sweet self. I wrote to Aunt Katie, and Aunt Katie is so clever. See! come to the glass."

Kathleen had opened a cardboard box, and out of it she took a black velvet bonnet with nodding plumes and a little pink strip of velvet fastened under the brim. This she put with trembling fingers on Mrs. Tennant's head. Mrs. Tennant was in reality not at all old, and she looked quite young and pretty in the new toque.

"You are charming, that's what you are," said Kathleen. "And I can't take it back, for you know perfectly well that it is a wee bit too old for me. You will have to wear it."

"But what will Alice say?"

"Never mind. Don't tell her; just be mum. Say, 'it is mine, and I mean to wear it.' Oh, I'd manage Alice if I happened to be her mother."

"I don't think you would, dear."

"Indeed, but I would. And now I must consider whom I am to give the other things to."

When Kathleen had finally parcelled out her treasures there was not such a great deal left for herself, for this girl and the other who had taken her fancy were all allotted a treasure out of that famous box. And there was a thick albert chain made of solid silver for Ben, and a keyless silver watch for David; and what could boys possibly want more? Kathleen had remembered all her friends, and Aunt Katie O'Flynn was more than willing to carry out her request.

Finally, at the very bottom of the trunk was a little parcel which she refrained from opening while Mrs. Tennant was present. It contained the badges of the new society. Kathleen had decided that they were to call themselves "The Wild Irish Girls," and this title was neatly engraved on the little badges, which were of the shape of hearts. Below the name was the device—a harp with a bit of shamrock trailing round it. The badges were small and exceedingly neat, and there were about sixty of them in all.

"Now then, I can go ahead," thought Kathleen. "What with the finery for my dear, darling chosen ones, and the badges for all the members, I shall do."

She was utterly reckless with regard to expense. Her father was rich, and he did not mind what he spent on his only child. The box seemed to fill up every crevice of her heart, as she expressed it, and it was a very happy girl who dressed to go to the Weldons' that evening. Kathleen was intensely affectionate, and would have done anything in the world to please Mrs. Tennant; but when it came to wearing a very quiet gray dress with a little lace round the collar and cuffs, she begun to demur.

"It can't be done," she thought. "Half of them will be in gray and half of them in brown, and a few old dowdies will perhaps be in black. But I must be gay; it isn't fair to Aunt Katie to be anything else."

She made a wild and scarcely judicious selection. She put on crimson silk stockings, and tucked into her bag a pair of crimson satin shoes. Her dress consisted of a black velvet skirt over a crimson petticoat, and her bodice was of crimson silk very much embroidered and with elbow-sleeves. Round her neck she wore innumerable beads of every possible color, and twisted through her lovely hair were some more beads, which shone as the light fell on them. Altogether it was a very bizarre and fascinating little figure that appeared that evening at the Weldons' hall door. Over her showy dress she wore a long opera-cloak, so that at first her splendors were not fully visible. This gaily dressed little person entered a room full of sober people. The effect was somewhat the same as though a gorgeous butterfly had flown into the room. She lit up the dullness and made a centre of attraction—all eyes were fastened upon her; for Kathleen in her well-made dress, notwithstanding the gayety of its color, looked simply radiant. The mischief in her dark eyes, too, but added to her charm. She glanced with almost maliciousness at Alice, who, in the dowdiest of pale-gray dresses, with her hair rather untidy and her face destitute of color, was standing near one of the windows. And as Alice glanced at Kathleen she felt that she almost hated the Irish girl.



CHAPTER IX.

CONSCIENCE AND DIFFICULTIES.

All the people who knew her were beginning to make a fuss over Ruth Craven. She who had hardly ever been noticed during the early part of her life, who was just her grandfather's darling and her grandmother's idol, was now petted and made much of and fussed over by every one. It was quite an extraordinary thing for the paying girls of the Great Shirley School to be so interested and excited about a foundationer. Cassandra Weldon was not the only girl who had taken Ruth up; some of the best and nicest girls of the school began to patronize her. The fact was that she was very modest and a perfect lady, and it was impossible to feel anything but good-will towards her. The rest of the foundation girls at first determined that they would leave her with her fine friends, but when Kathleen insisted on Ruth's joining the secret society of the Wild Irish Girls, they were obliged to submit.

"We'd do anything in the world for our queen," said Susy Hopkins, talking to another foundation girl one day as they strolled along the road. "It is to-night we are to meet again, and she says she will bring the rules all drawn up, and she will read them to us. There are about thirty of us now, and more and more offer to join every day. The difficulty is that we have got to keep the thing from the knowledge of the teachers and the paying girls of the school. Kathleen is certain that it would be suppressed if it were known; and it must not be known, for it is the biggest lark and the greatest fun we ever had in all our lives."

"Yes," said Rosy Myers; "I feel now quite honored at being a foundation girl."

"She does promise us wonderful things," said Kate Rourke. "She says when the summer comes we shall have all sorts of nice excursions. Of course, we can't do anything special in the daytime, unless sometimes on Saturday, when we have a whole holiday; but at least; she says, the nights are our own and we can do as we like. It really is grand. I suppose it is wicked, but then that makes it rather more fascinating."

"We are in the queen's Cabinet, bless her, the duck!" said Susy Hopkins. "There are a dozen of us now, and there is talk of a sort of livery or badge for the members of the Cabinet; but we'll know all about it when we meet sharp at nine to-night. We are the twelve members of the Cabinet, and there are about twenty girls who are our sort of standing army. It is really most exciting."

The girls talked a little longer and then parted. As Susy Hopkins was running home helter-skelter—for she wanted to get her lessons done in order to be fully in time for the meeting that evening—she met Ruth Craven. Ruth was walking slowly by with her usual demure and sweet expression.

"Hullo!" called out Susy. "We'll meet to-night, sha'n't we?"

"I don't know," said Ruth.

"Aren't you coming? Why, you are sort of Prime Minister to the queen."

"You don't think it right really, do you," said Ruth—"not from the bottom of your heart, I mean?"

"Right or wrong, I mean to enjoy myself," said Susy Hopkins. "I suppose, if you come to analyse it, it is wrong, and not right. But, dear me, Ruth! what fun should we poor girls have if we were too particular on these points?"

"It always seems to me that it is worth while to do right," said Ruth.

"So you say, but I don't quite agree with you. You will come to-night, in any case, won't you?"

"Yes, I will come to-night; but I am not happy about it, and I wish Kathleen—Oh, I know it is very fascinating, and Kathleen is just delightful, but I should not like our teachers to know."

"Of course not," said Susy, staring at her. "They'd soon put a stop to it."

"Are you certain? I know so little about the school."

"Certain? I'm convinced. Why, they'd be furious. I expect we'd be expelled."

"Then that proves it. I didn't know there was any strict rule about it."

"Why, what are you made of, Ruth Craven?"

"I thought," said Ruth, "that when we were not in school we were our own mistresses."

"To a certain extent, of course; but we have what is called the school character to keep up. We have, as it were, to uphold the spirit of the school. Now the spirit of the school is quite against secrecy in any form. Oh dear, why will you drag all this out of me? I'd made up my mind not to think of it, and now you have forced me to say it. Of course you will come to-night. You have to think of Kathleen as well as the school, and she's gone to a fearful lot of expense. You could not by any possibility forsake her, could you?"

"No, of course not," said Ruth very slowly.

She bade Susy good-bye and walked on; her attitude was that of one who was thinking hard.

"Ruth is very pretty," said Susy to herself, "but I don't know that I quite admire her. She is the sort of girl that everybody loves, and I am not one to admire a universal favorite. She is frightfully, tiresomely good, and she's just too pretty; and she's not a bit vain, and she's not a bit puffed up. Oh, she is just right in every way, and yet I feel that I hate her. She has got the sort of conscience that will worry our queen to distraction. Still, once she joins she'll have to obey our rules, and I expect our queen will make them somewhat stringent."

A clock from a neighboring church struck the half-hour. Susy looked up, uttered an exclamation, put wings to her feet, and ran the rest of the way home. Susy's home was in the High Street of the little town of Merrifield. Her mother kept a fairly flourishing stationer's shop, in one part of which was a post-office. Some ladies were buying stamps as Susy dashed through the shop on her way to the family rooms at the back. Mrs. Hopkins was selling stationery to a couple of boys; she looked up as her daughter entered. Susy went into the parlor, where tea was laid on the table. It consisted of a stale loaf, some indifferent butter, and a little jam. The tea, in a pewter teapot, was weak; the milk was sky-blue, and the jug that held it was cracked.

Susy poured out a cup of tea, drank it off at a gulp, snatched a piece of bread-and-butter from the plate, and sat down to prepare her lessons at another table. She had two hours' hard work before her, and it was already nearly six o'clock. The quarry was a little distance away, and she must tidy herself and do all sorts of things. Just then her mother came in.

"Oh, Susy," she said, "I am so glad you have come! I want you to attend to the shop for the next hour. I am sent for in a hurry to my sister's; she has a bad cold, and wants me to call in. I think little Peter is not well; your aunt is afraid he is catching measles. Run into the shop the moment you have finished your tea, like a good child. You can take one of your lesson-books with you if you like. There won't be many customers at this hour."

"Oh, mother, I did really want to work hard at my lessons. They are very difficult, you know, and you promised that when I went to the Great Shirley School you'd never interfere with my lesson hours."

"I did say so, and of course I don't mean to interfere; but this is a special case."

"Can't Tommy go and stand in the shop? If any special customers come in I will attend to them."

"No, Tommy can't. He has a headache and is lying down upstairs. You must oblige me this time, Susy. You can sit up a little longer to-night to finish your lessons if you are much interrupted while I am away."

"You are sure you will not be more than an hour, mother?"

"Oh, certain."

"And I suppose in any case I may shut up the shop at seven o'clock, mayn't I?"

"Shut the shop at seven o'clock!" said Mrs. Hopkins. "You forget that this is Wednesday. We always keep the shop, except the post-office part, open until past nine on Wednesdays; such a lot of people come in for odds and ends on this special night. But I will be back long before nine. Don't on any account shut the shop until I appear."

Susy, feeling cross and miserable, all her bright hopes dashed to the ground, took a couple of books and went into the shop and sat behind the counter. The days were getting short and cold, and as the shop door was opened there was a thorough draught where she was sitting. Her feet grew icy cold; she could scarcely follow the meaning of her somewhat difficult lessons. No customers appeared.

"How stupid I am!" thought the little girl. "This will never do."

She roused herself, and bending forward, propped her book open before her. Presently she heard the clock outside strike seven.

"Mother will be back now, thank goodness!" she thought. "If I work desperately hard, and stop my ears so that I needn't hear a sound, I may have done by nine o'clock."

Just at that moment two ladies came in to ask for a special sort of stationery. Susy, who was never in the least interested in the shop, did not know where to find it. She rummaged about, making a great mess amongst her mother's neat stores; and finally she was obliged to say that she did not know where it was.

"Never mind," said one of the ladies, kindly; "I will come in again next time I am passing. It doesn't matter this evening."

Susy felt vexed; she knew her mother would blame her for sending the ladies away without completing a purchase. And they had scarcely left before she found the box which contained the stationery. She pushed it out of sight on the shelf, and sat down again to her book. Her mother ought to be coming in now. Susy would have to do a lot of exercises; these she could not by any possibility do in the shop. She had also some mathematical work to get through or she would never be able to keep her place in class. Why didn't Mrs. Hopkins return? Half-an-hour went by; three-quarters. It was now a quarter to eight. Susy felt quite distracted. With the exception of the two ladies, there had been no customer in the shop up to the present. The fact was, they did not begin to appear until soon after eight on Wednesday evenings. Then the schoolgirls and schoolboys and many other people of the poorer class used to drop in for penn'orths and ha'p'orths of stationery, for pens, for ink, for sealing-wax, &c.

"Mother must be in soon. I know what I will do," said Susy. "I will open the door of the parlor and sit there. If any one appears I can dash out at once."

No sooner had the thought come to her than she resolved to act on it. She turned on the gas in the parlor—it was already brightly lighted in the shop—and sat down to her work.

"An hour and a quarter before the meeting of the Wild Irish Girls," she said to herself. "Strange, is it not, that I should call myself a Wild Irish Girl when I am a Cockney through and through? Well, whatever happens, I shall be at the meeting."



CHAPTER X.

THE WILD IRISH GIRLS' SOCIETY IS STARTED.

While Susy sat in the parlor a tramp happened to pass the brightly lighted shop. He was weather-beaten and slipshod, and altogether made a most disreputable appearance. A hand was thrust into each of his pockets, and these pockets were destitute of coin. The tramp was hungry and penniless. The little shop with its gay light and tempting articles of stationery, and books and sealing-wax displayed in the window, were quite to the man's taste. He could not see the parlor beyond, nor the peep-hole where Susy was supposed to be able to watch the shop; he only noticed that no one was within. The tramp was in the humor to do something desperate; he entered the shop under the pretense of begging; made straight for the till, pulled it open, and took out a handful of money. He had no time to count his spoils, but leaving the till-drawer still open, he dashed out of the shop.

Now it so happened that Susy, just when the tramp stole in, had gone upstairs to fetch a fresh exercise-book. She noticed nothing amiss on her return, and went tranquilly on with her work. Eight o'clock struck. Susy was in despair.

"I can't possibly fail Kathleen," she said to herself. "She started this splendid idea in order to help me and give me pleasure. I must be at the quarry whatever happens to-night. Something very unusual is detaining mother. I know what I'll do: I'll shut up the shop at half-past eight, leave a little note for mother, and then go to the quarry as fast as I can. I will tell mother that I am due at an important meeting, and she is sure not to question me; mother is always very kind, and gives me as much liberty as she can."

Susy made a great struggle to keep her mind centered on her books, but with all her efforts her thoughts would wander. They wandered to Kathleen and the Wild Irish Girls' Society; they wandered to her other schoolfellows; they wandered to the hardship of having to take care of the shop when she wished to be otherwise employed; and finally they settled themselves on Ruth Craven. She could not help wondering what Ruth would do—whether she would continue to be a valuable aid to the queen of the new society, or whether she would give them up altogether.

"I'd almost like her not to stay with us," thought Susy; "for then perhaps Kathleen would make me her Prime Minister. I'd like that. Kathleen is the dearest, truest, greatest lady I ever came across. She doesn't think anything of birth, nor of those sort of tiresome distinctions; she thinks of you for what you are worth yourself. And she is so splendid to look at, and has such a gallant sort of way. I do admire her just!"

The shop-bell rang. Susy was out in a moment. A woman had called for a penn'orth of paper and an envelope. She put down her penny on the counter, and Susy supplied her from a special box.

"I was in such a taking," said the woman. "I just remembered at the last moment that all the shops were shut. I don't know what I should have done if I hadn't recalled that Mrs. Hopkins kept hers open until nine o'clock. I am obliged to you, little girl. I have to send this letter to my son in India, and I'd miss the mail if it wasn't posted to-night. You couldn't now, I suppose, oblige me with a stamp."

"Of course I can," said Susy, cheerfully. "Mother always keeps a supply of stamps in the till."

She turned to the till as she spoke, and for the first time noticed that the drawer was open.

"How careless of me not to have shut it!" she thought.

It did not occur to her to examine its contents, or to suppose for a single moment that any one had taken money out of it. She provided the woman with a stamp, and then, shut the drawer of the till. It was now half-past eight, and Susy determined to take the bull by the horns and to close the shop without further ado. She sent for the little maid in the kitchen to put up the shutters, and in a minute or two the shop was in darkness and Susy was racing through the remainder of her lessons. It would take her a quarter of an hour, running most of the way, to reach the old quarry, and she must have three or four minutes to dress. She stood up, therefore, at her work, in order, as she expressed it, to save time. She was so occupied when her mother came in.

"Why have you shut the shop?" said Mrs. Hopkins in an annoyed voice. "It is only a very little past half-past eight, and I saw two poor women outside. They wanted a penn'orth of paper each. They said, 'We thought you always kept open until nine o'clock,' Now it will spread all over the place that I shut at half-past eight. Why did you do it, Susy? It's hard enough to make ends meet without adding any more difficulties."

Mrs. Hopkins stood, looking very pale and perplexed, in the parlor. Susy glanced at her mother, and could not help reflecting that the poor woman was fit to drop.

"Do sit down, mother," she said. "I was so distracted; I have to be a good way from here at nine o'clock, I couldn't think whatever kept you. I was obliged to shut the shop. I am sorry."

"Well, never mind. You didn't tell me that you were going out. I wish you wouldn't go out so much in the evening, Susy; it does make it so hard for me. There's no one now to help me with a bit of mending, and all your things are getting so racketed through."

"What kept you, mother?" said Susy, ignoring her mother's speech.

"Oh, it was your aunt. She's in such a taking about little Peter; she's quite certain he's in for measles or something worse. I'm persuaded that it's nothing but a cold. I never saw such a muddle-headed woman as your aunt Bessie. She hadn't a thing handy in the place. I had to stay and see the doctor, and then to fetch the medicine myself, and then put the child to bed. I assure you I haven't sat down since I left."

"And I suppose she never thought of giving you as much as a cup of tea?" said Susy.

"No," answered her mother; then catching sight of the teapot, she added, "You might have had the tea-things removed, Susy. I will make myself a fresh cup."

Susy stood still for a moment. Temptation tugged at her heart. Her mother certainly required if ever a mother did require a daughter. But the Wild Irish Girls—surely they were pining for her in the distance!

"I wish I could help you, mother. I would if I hadn't promised to go out. If you will give me the latchkey I can let myself in. You needn't wait up; I promise to lock up carefully."

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