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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Rebel Of The School - Chapter 16. Kathleen Takes Ruth To Town
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The Rebel Of The School - Chapter 16. Kathleen Takes Ruth To Town Post by :Softwarepak Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :3169

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The Rebel Of The School - Chapter 16. Kathleen Takes Ruth To Town

CHAPTER XVI. KATHLEEN TAKES RUTH TO TOWN

When Kathleen ran upstairs her heart was bubbling over with the first real fierce anger she had almost ever felt in her life. She was a spirited, daring girl, but she also had a sweet temper. Now her anger was roused. Her heart beat fast; she clenched one of her hands.

"Oh, if I had Alice here, wouldn't I give it to her?" she said to herself. "If I had that detestable Miss Ravenscroft here, wouldn't I give her a piece of my mind? How dare she order me about? Am I not Kathleen O'Hara of Carrigrohane? Is not my father a sort of king in old Ireland? And what is she? I'll prove to her that I defy her. I will go to see Aunt Katie O'Flynn; nothing shall keep me back."

Carried away by the wild wave of passion which consumed her, Kathleen dressed hastily for her expedition. She was indifferent now as to what she wore. She put on the first head-dress which came to hand, buttoned a rough, shabby-looking jacket over her velvet dress, snatched up her purse which lay in a drawer, and without waiting for either gloves or necktie, ran downstairs and out of the house.

"I will go. I haven't the slightest idea how I am to get there, but I will go to Aunt Katie O'Flynn. I shall be in the train and far enough away before they have discovered that I have gone," was her thought.

From Mrs. Tennant's house to the station was the best part of a mile, but Kathleen was fleet of foot and soon accomplished the distance. She was just arriving at the station when she saw Ruth Craven coming to meet her. Ruth had enjoyed her hour with Miss Renshaw, and was altogether in high spirits. Kathleen stopped for a minute.

"Oh, Ruth," she said, "will you come to town with me? It would be so nice if you would. I am going to meet Aunt Katie O'Flynn. It would not be a bit wrong of you to come. Do come--do, Ruthie."

"But I can't in this dress," said Ruth, who felt suddenly very much tempted.

"Of course you can. Why, Aunt Katie is such a darling she'll take us out if we want things and buy them on the spot. And what does dress matter? We'll be back in no time. What time does your grandmother expect you home?"

"Oh, I don't know. I told granny I did not exactly know what time I should be back, but she certainly wouldn't expect me to be out late."

"Never mind; you are doing me a kindness. I must go to see Aunt Katie, and it isn't convenient for the Tennants to go with me. If we go together it won't be a bit remarkable. Do come, Ruthie. You hurt my feelings awfully this morning; you needn't hurt them again."

"Very well," said Ruth. "I don't know London at all, and I should like to go with you."

The two girls now turned into the railway station. Kathleen gave a puzzled glance around her for a minute, then walked boldly up to a porter, asked him to direct her to the proper place to book for London. He showed her the right booking-office, and she secured two first-class single tickets for herself and Ruth. The girls were directed to the right platform, and in process of time found themselves in the train. It so happened that they had a compartment to themselves. Kathleen had now quite got over her burst of anger, and was in the highest spirits.

"This is fun," she said. "It is so awfully nice to have met you! Do you know that Miss Ravenscroft--the Great Unknown, as we Wild Irish Girls call her--had the cheek to send me a letter?"

Ruth looked attentive and grave.

"She wanted me to go and see her at six o'clock. Well, it is half-past six now, and she will have to whistle for me. Ruth, darling, you don't know how pretty you look; and even though you have deserted me, and won't join my darling, beloved society, yet I shall always love you."

Here Kathleen seated herself near Ruth and flung one arm around her waist.

"But," said Ruth, disentangling herself from Kathleen's embrace, "you don't mean that Miss Ravenscroft--Miss _Ravenscroft_--wanted you to go and see her and you didn't go?"

"No, I didn't go. Why should I go? Miss Ravenscroft has nothing whatever to do with me."

"Oh, Kathleen! she is your mistress--the head-mistress of the Great Shirley School."

"Well, and what about that? Aunty--my darling, my own dear, sweet aunt Katie O'Flynn--sent me a telegram to meet her in town. She is at the Hotel Metropole. Ruth, do you know where it is?"

"I haven't the most remote idea."

"Oh, well, we'll get there somehow. Never mind now; don't look so worried. I shall be sorry I asked you to come with me if you look any graver."

"But you make me feel grave, Kathleen," said Ruth. "Oh, Kathleen, I can't tell how you puzzle me. Of course, I know that you are very pretty and fascinating, and that lots and lots of girls love you, and will always love you. You are a sort of queen in the school. Perhaps you are not the greatest queen, but still you are a queen, and you could lead the whole school."

"That would be rather fun," said Kathleen.

"But you'd have to change a good bit. You'd have to be just as fascinating, just as pretty, but different somehow--I mean--"

"Oh, do tell me what you mean, and be quick. We'll be in London before long."

"You wouldn't disobey Miss Ravenscroft if you were to be our real queen."

"Then I'll not be your queen, darling, for I shall disobey Miss Ravenscroft when it comes to a case of obliging her or dear, darling, precious aunty."

Ruth said no more. In her heart of hearts she was very much distressed. She was sorry for her own sake that she had met Kathleen, and that she was going with her to London; but on the other hand she was glad that she was with the girl, who by herself might have got into a serious scrape.

Finally the two found themselves standing, very forlorn and slightly frightened, on one of the big platforms at Charing Cross.

"Now what are we to do?" said Kathleen.

"We must ask the way, of course," was Ruth's answer. "Here is a porter who looks kind."

She went up to the man.

"Have you any luggage in the van, miss?" was the immediate inquiry.

"No," she answered.

Ruth was quietly although shabbily dressed; but she had on gloves, a neat hat, and a neat necktie. Kathleen had on a very shabby coat, a most unsuitable cap of bright-blue velvet on her clustering masses of curls, and no necktie and no gloves.

"What could be the matter with the pretty young lady?" thought the man.

Ruth spoke in her gentle tones.

"We want to go to see a lady at the Hotel Metropole," she said. "Which is the Hotel Metropole?"

"Oh, miss, it is quite close. You have only to go out of the station, take the second turning to your left, walk down Northumberland Avenue, and you'll be there."

"But where is Northumberland Avenue? We don't know anything about London," interrupted Kathleen.

"If you will allow me to put you two ladies into a cab, the cabman will take you to the Hotel Metropole. It's only a step away, but you'd better drive if you don't know your London."

"We have never been in our London before," said Kathleen in a voice of intense pleasure.

They now tripped confidently along by the side of the porter. He took them into the yard outside the station, and called a four-wheeler.

"No, no; one of those two-wheeled things," said the little girl.

A hansom was summoned, and the children were put in. The driver was directed to take them to the Metropole, and they started off.

"Ah!" said Kathleen, looking with great appreciation around her--"ah! the lights--aren't they just lovely? And see--see that water. That must be the Thames. Oh, Ruth, mayn't we stand up in the hansom? We could see ever so much better standing."

"No; sit down," implored Ruth.

"Why? Surely you are not frightened. There never was any sort of conveyance that would frighten me. I wish I might drive that horse instead of the stupid old Jehu on the box. Isn't London a perfect place? Oh, this is lovely, isn't it, Ruth?"

"Thank goodness I'm not always bothered by that dreadful speaking voice inside me that you seem to have got," said Kathleen.

Here the cab drew up with a jerk at the Metropole.

"How much are we to pay you?" asked Kathleen.

The man was honest, and asked the customary shilling. A porter was standing on the steps of the hotel. He flung the doors wide, and the two entered. Presently a man came up and asked Kathleen what she wanted. The hour was just before dinner, and the wide hall of the hotel was full. Both men and women turned and stared at the children. Both were extremely pretty, Kathleen almost startlingly so. But what about the gloveless little hands and the untidy neck and throat?

"Please," said Kathleen, "we have come to see my aunt, Miss O'Flynn. She is here, isn't she?"

The man said he would inquire, and went to the bureau.

"Yes," he said after a minute's pause. "Will you come to the drawing-room, young ladies?"

He conducted the children down some wide passages covered with thick Turkey carpets, opened the folding doors of a great drawing-room, and left them to themselves. There was a minute or two of agonized terror on the part of Ruth, of suspense and rapid heart-beating as far as Kathleen was concerned, and then a deep, mellow, ringing voice was heard, and Miss Katie O'Flynn entered the apartment.

"Why, I never!" she cried. "The top of the morning to you, my honey! God bless you, my darling! Oh, it is joy to kiss your sweet face again!"

A little lady, all smiles and dimples, all curls and necklaces and gay clothing, extended two arms wide and clasped them round Kathleen's neck.

"Ah, aunty!" said Kathleen, "this is good. And I ran away to see you. I did, darling; I did. I have got into the most awful scrape; nobody knows what will happen. See me--without gloves and without a necktie. And this dear little girl, one of my chosen friends, Ruth Craven, has come with me."

"Ah, now, how sweet of her!" said Miss O'Flynn, turning to Ruth.--"Kiss me, my darling. Why, then, you are as welcome as though you were the core of my heart for being so kind to my sweet Kathleen.--Come to the light, Kathleen asthore, and let me look at you. But it isn't as rosy you are as you used to be. It's a bit pale and pulled down you look. Do you like England, my dear? If you don't like it all at all, it's home you will come with me to the old castle and the old country. Now then, children, sit by me and let's have a talk. We'll have a good meal presently, and then I have a bit of a thought in the back of my head which I think will please you both. Sit here anyway for the present, and let us collogue to our hearts' content."

Miss Katie O'Flynn and her two young charges, as she told the girls she considered them, drew a good deal of attention as they sat and talked together. The little lady was not young, but was certainly very fascinating. She had a vivacious, merry smile, the keenest, most brilliant black eyes in the world, and a certain grace and dignity about her which seemed to contrast with her rapid utterances and intensely genial manner.

Dinner was announced, and the three went into the great dining-room. Miss O'Flynn ordered a small table, and they sat down together. Ruth felt unhappy; she keenly desired to go home again. She was more and more certain that she had done wrong to listen to Kathleen's persuasions. But Kathleen was enjoying herself to the utmost. She was an Irish girl again, sitting close to one of her very own. She forgot the dull school and the dreadfully dreary house where she now lived; she absolutely forgot that such a person as Miss Ravenscroft existed; she ceased almost to remember the Society of the Wild Irish Girls. Was she not Kathleen O'Hara, the only daughter of the House of O'Hara, the heiress of her beloved father's old castle? For some day she would be mistress of Carrigrohane Castle; some day she would be a great lady on her own account. Now Kathleen's ideas of what a great lady should be were in themselves very sensible and noble. A great lady should do her utmost to make others happy. She should dispense _largesse in the true sense of the word. She should make as many people as possible happy. Her retainers should feel certain that they dwelt in her heart. She should love the soil of her native land with a passion which nothing could undermine or weaken. The sons of the soil should be her brothers, her kinsmen; the daughters of the soil should be her sisters in the best sense of the word. But not only should the great lady of Carrigrohane love her Irish friends, but men and women, both youths and children, but she should love others who needed her help. There never was a more affectionate, more generous-hearted girl than Kathleen; but of self-control she had little or no knowledge, and those who crossed her will had yet to find that Kathleen would not obey, for she was fearless, defiant, resolute--in short, a rebel born and bred.

Ruth sat silent, perplexed, and anxious in the midst of the gay feast. Kathleen and Aunt Katie O'Flynn laughed and almost shouted in their mirth. Occasionally people turned to glance at the trio--the grave, refined, extremely pretty, but shabbily dressed girl; the radiant child, and the vivacious little lady who might be her mother but who scarcely looked as if she was. It was a curious party for such a room and for such surroundings.

"I think--" said Ruth suddenly. "Forgive me, Kathleen, but I think we ought to be looking out a train to go back by."

"Indeed, and that you won't," said Miss O'Flynn. "You are going to stay with me to-night. Why, do you think I'd let this precious darling child back again in the middle of the night? And you must stay here too--what is your name? Oh, Ruth. I can get you a room here, and you shall have a fire and every comfort."

"I at least must go home," said Ruth. "My grandfather and grandmother will be sitting up for me."

"Oh, nonsense, child!" said Miss O'Flynn. "I can send a commissionaire down to tell your grandfather that I am keeping you for the night."

"Of course, Ruth," said Kathleen. "Don't be silly; it is absurd for you to go on like that. And for my part I should love to stay."

"I am sorry, Kathleen," said Ruth, "but I must go home. Perhaps one of the porters can tell me when there is a train to Merrifield. I must go back, for grandfather would be terrified if I didn't go home. You, of course, must please yourself."

"My dear child, leave it to me," said Miss O'Flynn. "You can't possibly go back--neither you nor my sweet pet Kathleen. Oh, I'll arrange it, dear; don't you be frightened. You couldn't go so late by yourself; it wouldn't be right."

Miss O'Flynn, however, had not come in contact with a character like Ruth's before. She could be as obstinate as a mule. It was in that light Miss O'Flynn chose to consider her conduct.

"I must go," she said. "I can't by any possibility stay."

"Do, Ruth, for my sake," pleaded Kathleen, tears in her eyes.

"No, Kathleen, not even for your sake. And I think," added Ruth, "that you ought to come with me. It would be much better for you to see Miss Ravenscroft in the morning and explain matters to her."

"Nonsense!" said Kathleen, now speaking with decided temper. "That is my affair. I like you very much, Ruth, but you really need not interfere with me."

"I should think not indeed," said Miss O'Flynn. "I know nothing about you, Miss Craven, but you don't understand what a person of consequence my niece is considered in Ireland."

"That may be," replied Ruth; "but at school Kathleen, sweet and dear as she is, has to obey the rules just like any other girl.--Please, Kathleen, do be persuaded and come back with me.--Indeed, Miss O'Flynn, if you will only believe me, it is considered a very grave offence to miss morning school or to be late when nine o'clock strikes; and Kathleen can't be at school in time unless she returns home now."

"I'm not going, so there!" said Kathleen.

"Perhaps some one would tell me when the next train for Merrifield leaves Charing Cross," was Ruth's next remark.

Before any one could reply to her, however, a servant entered and said something in a low tone to Miss O'Flynn.

"Well, now," she said, speaking with eagerness, her face all smiles and dimples, "the way is made plain for you at least, Miss Craven.--Who do you think has come, Kathleen? Why, the lady who has charge of you."

"Mrs. Tennant? Oh, the dear tired one!" cried Kathleen. "She can never be cross, and I like her very much.--Where is the lady?" she added, turning to the waiter.

"She is in the hall, miss."

Kathleen flew out, and before Mrs. Tennant, who was really feeling very angry, could prevent her, had flung her arms round her neck.

"Thank goodness it is you!" said the young girl. "Now don't be angry, for you don't know how to manage it. If it was Alice, wouldn't she be in a tantrum? But you are all right; you haven't an idea of scolding me. I arrived here as safely as a girl could. And what do you think? I brought pretty Ruth Craven with me. She didn't much like it, but here she is; and she's on tenter-hooks to get home, so she can return with you, can't she?"

"You must come too, Kathleen. You annoyed me very much indeed. You gave me a terrible fright. I did not know what might have happened to you, knowing how ignorant you are of London and its ways."

"But I have got a head on my shoulders," laughed Kathleen. "And now that you have come we must have a bit of fun. I want to introduce you to aunty. It is Aunt Katie O'Flynn, you know, the lady who sent me the beautiful, wonderful clothes."

But here Miss O'Flynn herself appeared on the scene. Kathleen did the necessary introducing, and the two ladies moved a little apart to talk together. By-and-by Miss O'Flynn called the two girls to her side.

"Mrs. Tennant is not angry with you now, Kathleen. On the contrary, she loves you very much; and she will take Miss Ruth Craven back with her. I have been trying to induce her to stay here herself, but she won't; and as Ruth is anxious to return home, her escort has come very opportunely. As to you, darling, nothing will induce me to part with you until to-morrow morning."

"But what will you do about school?" said Ruth.

"That can be managed," said Miss O'Flynn. "It isn't the first time that Kathleen and I have got up with the sunrise. We'll get up to-morrow before it, I'm thinking, and take a train, and be in time to have a good breakfast at Mrs. Tennant's.--Then if you, my dear lady, will put up with me until lunch-time, I can see more of my Kathleen, and propound some plans for your pleasure as well as hers. If you must go, Mrs. Tennant, I am afraid you must, for the next train leaves Charing Cross for Merrifield at ten minutes past nine."

Mrs. Tennant looked grave, but it was difficult to resist Miss O'Flynn, and the time was passing. Accordingly she and Ruth left the Hotel Metropole, and the aunt and niece found themselves alone.

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