Read CHAPTER XLIII - SUSAN of A World of Girls The Story of a School , free online book, by L. T. Meade, on ReadCentral.com.

Mrs. Willis came back at a very late hour from Sefton.  The police were confident that they must soon discover both children, but no tidings had yet been heard of either of them.  Mrs. Willis ordered her girls to bed, and went herself to kiss Hester and give her a special “good-night.”  She was struck by the peculiarly unhappy, and even hardened, expression on the poor child’s face, and felt that she did not half understand her.

In the middle of the night Hester awoke from a troubled dream.  She awoke with a sharp cry, so sharp and intense in its sound that had any girl been awake in the next room she must have heard it.  She felt that she could no longer remain close to that little empty cot.  She suddenly remembered that Susan Drummond would be alone to-night:  what time so good as the present for having a long talk with Susan and getting her to clear Annie?  She slipped out of bed, put on her dressing-gown, and softly opening the door, ran down the passage to Susan’s room.

Susan was in bed, and fast asleep.  Hester could see her face quite plainly in the moonlight, for Susan slept facing the window, and the blind was not drawn down.

Hester had some difficulty in awakening Miss Drummond, who, however, at last sat up in bed yawning prodigiously.

“What is the matter?  Is that you, Hester Thornton?  Have you got any news of little Nan?  Has Annie come back?”

“No, they are both still away.  Susy, I want to speak to you.”

“Dear me! what for? must you speak in the middle of the night?”

“Yes, for I don’t want any one else to know.  Oh, Susan, please don’t go to sleep.”

“My dear, I won’t, if I can help it.  Do you mind throwing a little cold water over my face and head?  There is a can by the bedside.  I always keep one handy.  Ah, thanks ­now I am wide awake.  I shall probably remain so for about two minutes.  Can you get your say over in that time?”

“I wonder, Susan,” said Hester, “if you have got any heart ­but heart or not, I have just come here to-night to tell you that I have found you out.  You are at the bottom of all this mischief about Annie Forest.”

Susan had a most phlegmatic face, an utterly unemotional voice, and she now stared calmly at Hester and demanded to know what in the world she meant.

Hester felt her temper going, her self-control deserting her.  Susan’s apparent innocence and indifference drove her half frantic.

“Oh, you are mean,” she said.  “You pretend to be innocent, but you are the deepest and wickedest girl in the school.  I tell you, Susan, I have found you out ­you put that caricature of Mrs. Willis into Cecil’s book; you changed Dora’s theme.  I don’t know why you did it, nor how you did it, but you are the guilty person, and you have allowed the sin of it to remain on Annie’s shoulders all this time.  Oh, you are the very meanest girl I ever heard of!”

“Dear, dear!” said Susan, “I wish I had not asked you to throw cold water over my head and face, and allow myself to be made very wet and uncomfortable, just to be told I am the meanest girl you ever met.  And pray what affair is this of yours?  You certainly don’t love Annie Forest.”

“I don’t, but I want justice to be done to her.  Annie is very, very unhappy.  Oh, Susy, won’t you go and tell Mrs. Willis the truth?”

“Really, my dear Hester, I think you are a little mad.  How long have you known all this about me, pray?”

“Oh, for some time; since ­since the night the essay was changed.”

“Ah, then, if what you state is true, you told Mrs. Willis a lie, for she distinctly asked you if you knew anything about the ‘Muddy Stream,’ and you said you didn’t.  I saw you ­I remarked how very red you got when you plumped out that great lie!  My dear, if I am the meanest and wickedest girl in the school, prove it ­go, tell Mrs. Willis what you know.  Now, if you will allow me, I will get back into the land of dreams.”

Susan curled herself up once more in her bed, wrapped the bed-clothes tightly round her and was, to all appearance, oblivious of Hester’s presence.