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Title: Eric
Author: Farrar, F. W. (Frederic William), 1831-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eric" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Team.



ERIC

OR, LITTLE BY LITTLE

A TALE OF ROSLYN SCHOOL

By

FREDERIC W. FARRAR, D.D.

Author of "The Life of Christ," "Julian Home," "St. Winifreds," etc

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

GEORGE A. TRAVER


1902



CONTENTS


PART I

CHAPTER I--CHILDHOOD
CHAPTER II--A NEW HOME
CHAPTER III--BULLYING
CHAPTER IV--CRIBBING
CHAPTER V--THE SECOND TERM
CHAPTER VI--HOME AFFECTIONS
CHAPTER VII--ERIC A BOARDER
CHAPTER VIII--"TAKING UP"
CHAPTER IX--"DEAD FLIES," OR "YE SHALL BE AS GODS"
CHAPTER X--DORMITORY LIFE
CHAPTER XI--ERIC IN COVENTRY
CHAPTER XII--THE TRIAL
CHAPTER XIII--THE ADVENTURE AT THE STACK
CHAPTER XIV--THE SILVER CORD BROKEN
CHAPTER XV--HOME AGAIN


PART II

CHAPTER I--ABDIEL
CHAPTER II--WILDNEY
CHAPTER III--THE JOLLY HERRING
CHAPTER IV--MR. ROSE AND BRIGSON
CHAPTER V--RIPPLES
CHAPTER VI--ERIC AND MONTAGU
CHAPTER VII--THE PIGEONS
CHAPTER VIII--SOWING THE WIND
CHAPTER IX--WHOM THE GODS LOVE DIE YOUNG
CHAPTER X--THE LAST TEMPTATION
CHAPTER XI--REAPING THE WHIRLWIND
CHAPTER XII--THE STORMY PETREL
CHAPTER XIII--HOME AT LAST
CHAPTER XIV--CONCLUSION


ILLUSTRATIONS

BULLYING
ERIC _Vignette on title-page_
SMOKING
ON THE ROCK
OUT OF THE WINDOW
ERIC AND VERNON
HIDING
ERIC ESCAPING FROM THE SHIP _Frontispiece_



ERIC: OR, LITTLE BY LITTLE

PART 1

CHAPTER I

CHILDHOOD

     "Ah dear delights, that o'er my soul
     On memory's wing like shadows fly!
     Ah flowers that Joy from Eden stole,
     While Innocence stood laughing by."--COLERIDGE.

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" cried a young boy, as he capered vigorously
about, and clapped his hands. "Papa and mamma will be home in a week
now, and then we shall stay here a little time, and _then_, and _then_,
I shall go to school."

The last words were enunciated with immense importance, as he stopped
his impromptu dance before the chair where his sober cousin Fanny was
patiently working at her crochet; but she did not look so much affected
by the announcement as the boy seemed to demand, so he again exclaimed,
"And then, Miss Fanny, I shall go to school."

"Well, Eric," said Fanny, raising her matter-of-fact quiet face from her
endless work, "I doubt, dear, whether you will talk of it with quite as
much joy a year hence."

"O ay, Fanny, that's just like you to say so; you're always talking and
prophesying; but never mind, I'm going to school, so hurrah! hurrah!
hurrah!" and he again began his capering,--jumping over the chairs,
trying to vault the tables, singing and dancing with an exuberance of
delight, till, catching a sudden sight of his little spaniel Flo, he
sprang through the open window into the garden, and disappeared behind
the trees of the shrubbery; but Fanny still heard his clear, ringing,
silvery laughter, as he continued his games in the summer air.

She looked up from her work after he had gone, and sighed. In spite of
the sunshine and balm of the bright weather, a sense of heaviness and
foreboding oppressed her. Everything looked smiling and beautiful, and
there was an almost irresistible contagion in the mirth of her young
cousin, but still she could not help feeling sad. It was not merely that
she would have to part with Eric, "but that bright boy," thought Fanny,
"what will become of him? I have heard strange things of schools; oh, if
he should be spoilt and ruined, what misery it would be. Those baby
lips, that pure young heart, a year may work sad change in their words
and thoughts!" She sighed again, and her eyes glistened as she raised
them upwards, and breathed a silent prayer.

She loved the boy dearly, and had taught him from his earliest years.
In most things she found him an apt pupil. Truthful, ingenuous, quick,
he would acquire almost without effort any subject that interested him,
and a word was often enough to bring the impetuous blood to his cheeks,
in a flush, of pride or indignation. He required the gentlest teaching,
and had received it, while his mind seemed cast in such a mould of
stainless honor that he avoided most of the faults to which children are
prone. But he was far from blameless. He was proud to a fault; he well
knew that few of his fellows had gifts like his, either of mind or
person, and his fair face often showed a clear impression of his own
superiority. His passion, too, was imperious, and though it always met
with prompt correction, his cousin had latterly found it difficult to
subdue. She felt, in a word, that he was outgrowing her rule. Beyond a
certain age no boy of spirit can be safely guided by a woman's
hand alone.

Eric Williams was now twelve years old. His father was a civilian in
India, and was returning on furlough to England after a long absence.
Eric had been born in India, but had been sent to England by his parents
at an early age, in charge of a lady friend of his mother. The parting,
which had been agony to his father and mother, he was too young to feel;
indeed the moment itself passed by without his being conscious of it.
They took him on board the ship, and, after a time, gave him a hammer
and some nails to play with. These had always been to him a supreme
delight, and while he hammered away, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, denying
themselves, for the child's sake, even one more tearful embrace, went
ashore in the boat and left him. It was not till the ship sailed that he
was told he would not see them again for a long, long time. Poor child,
his tears and cries were wild when he first understood it; but the
sorrows of four years old are very transient, and before a week was
over, little Eric felt almost reconciled to his position, and had become
the universal pet and plaything of every one on board, from Captain
Broadland down to the cabin boy, with whom he very soon struck up an
acquaintance. Yet twice a day at least, he would shed a tear, as he
lisped his little prayer, kneeling at Mrs. Munro's knee, and asked God
"to bless his dear dear father and mother, and make him a good boy."

When Eric arrived in England, he was intrusted to the care of a widowed
aunt, whose daughter, Fanny, had the main charge of his early teaching.
At first, the wayward little Indian seemed likely to form no accession
to the quiet household, but he soon became its brightest ornament and
pride. Everything was in his favor at the pleasant home of Mrs. Trevor.
He was treated with motherly kindness and tenderness, yet firmly checked
when he went wrong. From the first he had a well-spring of strength,
against temptation, in the long letters which every mail brought from
his parents; and all his childish affections were entwined round the
fancied image of a brother born since he had left India. In his bed-room
there hung a cherub's head, drawn in pencil by his mother, and this
picture was inextricably identified in his imagination with his "little
brother Vernon." He loved it dearly, and whenever he went astray,
nothing weighed on his mind so strongly as the thought, that if he were
naughty he would teach little Vernon to be naughty too when he
came home.

And Nature also--wisest, gentlest, holiest of teachers-was with him in
his childhood. Fairholm Cottage, where his aunt lived, was situated in
the beautiful Vale of Ayrton, and a clear stream ran through the valley
at the bottom of Mrs. Trevor's orchard. Eric loved this stream, and was
always happy as he roamed by its side, or over the low green hills and
scattered dingles, which lent unusual loveliness to every winding of its
waters. He was allowed to go about a good deal by himself, and it did
him good. He grew up fearless and self-dependent, and never felt the
want of amusement. The garden and orchard supplied him a theatre for
endless games and romps, sometimes with no other companion than his
cousin and his dog, and sometimes with the few children of his own age
whom he knew in the hamlet. Very soon he forgot all about India; it only
hung like a distant golden haze on the horizon of his memory. When asked
if he remembered it, he would say thoughtfully, that in dreams and at
some other times, he saw a little child, with long curly hair, running
about in a little garden, near a great river, in a place where the air
was very bright. But whether the little boy was himself or his brother
Vernon, whom he had never seen, he couldn't quite tell.

But above all, it was happy for Eric that his training was religious and
enlightened. With Mrs. Trevor and her daughter, religion was not a
system but a habit--not a theory, but a continued act of life. All was
simple, sweet, and unaffected about their charity and their devotions.
They loved God, and they did all the good they could to those around
them. The floating gossip and ill-nature of the little village never
affected them; it melted away insensibly in the presence of their
cultivated minds; and so friendship with them was a bond of union among
all, and from the vicar to the dairyman every one loved and respected
them, asked their counsel, and sought their sympathy.

They called themselves by no sectarian name, nor could they have told to
what "party" they belonged. They troubled themselves with no theories of
education, but mingled gentle nurture with "wholesome neglect." There
was nothing exotic or constrained in the growth of Eric's character. He
was not one of your angelically good children at all, and knew none of
the phrases of which infant prodigies are supposed to be so fond. He had
not been taught any distinction between "Sunday books" and "week-day"
books, but no book had been put in his way that was not healthy and
genuine in tone. He had not been told that he might use his Noah's ark
on Sunday, because it was "a Sunday plaything," while all other toys
were on that day forbidden. Of these things the Trevors thought little;
they only saw that no child could be happy in enforced idleness or
constrained employment; and so Eric grew up to love Sunday quite as well
as any other day in the week, though, unlike your angelic children, he
never professed to like it better. But to be truthful, to be honest, to
be kind, to be brave, these had been taught him, and he never _quite_
forgot the lesson; nor amid the sorrows of after life did he ever quite
lose the sense--learnt at dear quiet Fairholm--of a present loving God,
of a tender and long-suffering Father.

As yet he could be hardly said to know what school was. He had been sent
indeed to Mr. Lawley's grammar-school for the last half-year, and had
learned a few declensions in his Latin grammar. But as Mr. Lawley
allowed his upper class to hear the little boys their lessons, Eric had
managed to get on pretty much as he liked. Only _once_ in the entire
half-year had he said a lesson to the dreadful master himself, and of
course it was a ruinous failure, involving some tremendous pulls of
Eric's hair, and making him tremble like a leaf. Several things combined
to make Mr. Lawley dreadful to his imagination. Ever since he was quite
little, he remembered hearing the howls which proceeded from the "Latin
school" as he passed by, whilst some luckless youngster was getting
caned; and the reverend pedagogue was notoriously passionate. Then,
again, he spoke so indistinctly with his deep, gruff voice, that Eric
never could and never did syllable a word he said, and this kept him in
a perpetual terror. Once Mr. Lawley had told him to go out, and see what
time it was by the church clock. Only hearing that he was to do
something, too frightened to ask what it was, and feeling sure that even
if he did, he should not understand what the master said, Eric ran out,
went straight to Mr. Lawley's house, and after having managed by
strenuous jumps to touch the knocker, informed the servant "that Mr.
Lawley wanted his man."

"What man?" said the maid-servant, "the young man? or the butler? or is
it the clerk?"

Here was a puzzler! all Eric knew was that he was in the habit of
sending sometimes for one or the other of these functionaries; but he
was in for it, so with a faltering voice he said "the young man" at
hazard, and went back to the Latin school.

"Why have you been so long?" roared Mr. Lawley, as he timidly entered.
Fear entirely prevented Eric from hearing what was said, so he answered
at random, "He's coming, sir." The master, seeing by his scared look
that something was wrong, waited to see what would turn up.

Soon after, in walked "the young man," and coming to the astonished Mr.
Lawley, bowed, scraped, and said, "Master Williams said you sent for
me, sir."

"A mistake," growled the schoolmaster, turning on Eric a look which
nearly petrified him; he quite expected a book at his head, or at best a
great whack of the cane; but Mr. Lawley had naturally a kind heart,
soured as it was, and pitying perhaps the child's white face, he
contented himself with the effects of his look.

The simple truth was, that poor Mr. Lawley was a little wrong in the
head. A scholar and a gentleman, early misfortunes and an imprudent
marriage had driven him to the mastership of the little country
grammar-school; and here the perpetual annoyance caused to his refined
mind by the coarseness of clumsy or spiteful boys, had gradually
unhinged his intellect. Often did he tell the boys "that it was an
easier life by far to break stones by the roadside than to teach them;"
and at last his eccentricities became too obvious to be any longer
overlooked.

The dénouement of his history was a tragic one, and had come a few days
before the time when, our narrative opens. It was a common practice
among the Latin school boys, as I suppose among all boys, to amuse
themselves by putting a heavy book on the top of a door left partially
ajar, and to cry out "Crown him" as the first luckless youngster who
happened to come in received the book thundering on his head. One day,
just as the trap had been adroitly laid, Mr. Lawley walked in
unexpectedly. The moment he entered the school-room, down came an
Ainsworth's Dictionary on the top of his hat, and the boy, concealed
behind the door, unconscious of who the victim was, enunciated with mock
gravity, "Crown him! three cheers."

It took Mr. Lawley a second to raise from his eyebrows the battered hat,
and recover from his confusion; the next instant he was springing after
the boy who had caused the mishap, and who, knowing the effects of the
master's fury, fled with precipitation. In one minute the offender was
caught, and Mr. Lawley's heavy hand fell recklessly on his ears and
back, until he screamed with terror. At last by a tremendous writhe,
wrenching himself free, he darted towards the door, and Mr. Lawley, too
exhausted to pursue, snatched his large gold watch out of his fob, and
hurled it at the boy's retreating figure. The watch flew through the
air;--crash! it had missed its aim, and, striking the wall above the
lintel, fell smashed into a thousand shivers.

The sound, the violence of the action, the sight of the broken watch,
which was the gift of a cherished friend, instantly woke the master to
his senses. The whole school had seen it; they sate there pale and
breathless with excitement and awe. The poor man could bear it no
longer. He flung himself into his chair, hid his face with his hands,
and burst into hysterical tears. It was the outbreak of feelings long
pent up. In that instant all his life passed before him--its hopes, its
failures, its miseries, its madness. "Yes!" he thought, "I am mad."

Raising his head, he cried wildly, "Boys, go, I am mad!" and sank again
into his former position, rocking himself to and fro. One by one the
boys stole out, and he was left alone. The end is soon told. Forced to
leave Ayrton, he had no means of earning his daily bread; and the weight
of this new anxiety hastening the crisis, the handsome proud scholar
became an inmate of the Brerely Lunatic Asylum. A few years afterwards,
Eric heard that he was dead. Poor broken human heart! may he rest
in peace.

Such was Eric's first school and schoolmaster. But although he learnt
little there, and gained no experience of the character of others or of
his own, yet there was one point about Ayrton Latin School, which he
never regretted. It was the mixture there of all classes. On those
benches gentlemen's sons sat side by side with plebeians, and no harm,
but only good, seemed to come from the intercourse. The neighboring
gentry, most of whom had begun their education there, were drawn into
closer and kindlier union with their neighbors and dependents, from the
fact of having been their associates in the days of their boyhood. Many
a time afterwards, when Eric, as he passed down the streets,
interchanged friendly greetings with some young glazier or tradesman
whom he remembered at school, he felt glad that thus early he had learnt
practically to despise the accidental and nominal differences which
separate man from man.



CHAPTER II

A NEW HOME

     "Life hath its May, and all is joyous then;
     The woods are vocal and the flowers breathe odour,
     The very breeze hath, mirth in't."--OLD PLAY.

At last the longed-for yet dreaded day approached, and a letter informed
the Trevors that Mr. and Mrs. Williams would arrive at Southampton on
July 5th, and would probably reach Ayrton the evening after. They
particularly requested that no one should come to meet them on their
landing. "We shall reach Southampton," wrote Mrs. Trevor, "tired, pale,
and travel-stained, and had much rather see you first at dear Fairholm,
where we shall be spared the painful constraint of a meeting in public.
So please expect our arrival at about seven in the evening."

Poor Eric! although he had been longing for the time ever since the news
came, yet now he was too agitated to enjoy. Exertion and expectation
made him restless, and he could settle down to nothing all day, every
hour of which hung most heavily on his hands.

At last the afternoon wore away, and a soft summer evening filled the
sky with its gorgeous calm. Far off they caught the sound of wheels; a
carriage dashed up to the door, and the next moment Eric sprang into his
mother's arms.

"O mother, mother!"

"My own darling, darling boy!"

And as the pale sweet face of the mother met the bright and rosy
child-face, each of them was wet with a rush of ineffable tears. In
another moment Eric had been folded to his father's heart, and locked in
the arms of "little brother Vernon." Who shall describe the emotions of
those few moments? they did not seem like earthly moments; they seemed
to belong not to time, but to eternity.

The first evening of such a scene is too excited to be happy. The little
party at Fairholm retired early, and Eric was soon fast asleep with his
arm round his newfound brother's neck.

Quiet steps entered the little room, and noiselessly the father and
mother sat down by the bedside of their children. Earth could have shown
no scene more perfect in its beauty than that which met their eyes. The
pure moonlight flooded the little room, and showed distinctly the forms
and countenances of the sleepers, whose soft regular breathing was the
only sound that broke the stillness of the July night. The small shining
flower-like faces, with their fair hair--the trustful loving arms folded
round each brother's neck--the closed lids and parted lips made an
exquisite picture, and one never to be forgotten. Side by side, without
a word, the parents knelt down, and with eyes wet with tears of
joyfulness, poured out their hearts in passionate prayer for their young
and beloved boys.

Very happily the next month glided away; a new life seemed opened to
Eric in the world of rich affections which had unfolded itself before
him. His parents--above all, his mother--were everything that he had
longed for; and Vernon more than fulfilled to his loving heart the ideal
of his childish fancy. He was never tired of playing with and
patronising his little brother, and their rambles by stream and hill
made those days appear the happiest he had ever spent. Every evening
(for he had not yet laid aside the habits of childhood) he said his
prayers by his mother's knee, and at the end of one long summer's day,
when prayers were finished, and full of life and happiness he lay down
to sleep, "O mother," he said, "I am so happy--I like to say my prayers
when you are here."

"Yes, my boy, and God loves to hear them."

"Aren't there some who never say prayers, mother?"

"Very many, love, I fear."

"How unhappy they must be! I shall _always_ love to say my prayers."

"Ah, Eric, God grant that you may!"

And the fond mother hoped he always would. But these words often came
back to Eric's mind in later and less happy days--days when that gentle
hand could no longer rest lovingly on his head--when those mild blue
eyes were dim with tears, and the fair boy, changed in heart and life,
often flung himself down with an unreproaching conscience to
prayerless sleep.

It had been settled that in another week Eric was to go to school in
the Isle of Roslyn. Mr. Williams had hired a small house in the town of
Ellan, and intended to stay there for his year of furlough, at the end
of which period Vernon was to be left at Fairholm, and Eric in the house
of the head-master of the school. Eric enjoyed the prospect of all
things, and he hardly fancied that Paradise itself could be happier than
a life at the seaside with his father and mother and Vernon, combined
with the commencement of schoolboy dignity. When the time for the voyage
came, his first glimpse of the sea, and the sensation of sailing over it
with only a few planks between him and the deep waters, struck him
silent with admiring wonder. It was a cloudless day; the line of blue
sky melted into the line of blue wave, and the air was filled with
sunlight. At evening they landed, and the coach took them to Ellan. On
the way Eric saw for the first time the strength of the hills, so that
when they reached the town and took possession of their cottage, he was
dumb with the inrush of new and marvellous impressions.

Next morning he was awake early, and jumping out of bed, so as not to
disturb the sleeping Vernon, he drew up the window-blind, and gently
opened the window. A very beautiful scene burst on him, one destined to
be long mingled with all his most vivid reminiscences. Not twenty yards
below the garden, in front of the house, lay Ellan Bay, at that moment
rippling with golden laughter in the fresh breeze of sunrise. On either
side of the bay was a bold headland, the one stretching out in a series
of broken crags, the other terminating in a huge mass of rock, called
from its shape the Stack. To the right lay the town, with its grey old
castle, and the mountain stream running through it into the sea; to the
left, high above the beach, rose the crumbling fragment of a picturesque
fort, behind which towered the lofty buildings of Roslyn School. Eric
learnt the whole landscape by heart, and thought himself a most happy
boy to come to such a place. He fancied that he should be never tired of
looking at the sea, and could not take his eyes off the great buoy that
rolled about in the centre of the bay, and flashed in the sunlight at
every move. He turned round full of hope and spirits, and, after
watching for a few moments the beautiful face of his sleeping brother,
he awoke him with a boisterous kiss.

That day Eric was to have his first interview with Dr. Rowlands. The
school had already re-opened, and one of the boys in his college cap
passed by the window while they were breakfasting. He looked very happy
and engaging, and was humming a tune as he strolled along. Eric started
up and gazed after him with the most intense curiosity. At that moment
the unconscious schoolboy was to him the most interesting person in the
whole world, and he couldn't realize the fact that, before the day was
over, he would be a Roslyn boy himself. He very much wondered what sort
of a fellow the boy was, and whether he should ever recognise him again,
and make his acquaintance. Yes, Eric, the thread of that boy's destiny
is twined a good deal with yours; his name is Montagu, as you will know
very soon.

At nine o'clock Mr. Williams started towards the school with his son.
The walk led them by the sea-side, over the sands, and past the ruin, at
the foot of which the waves broke at high tide. At any other time Eric
would have been overflowing with life and wonder at the murmur of the
ripples, the sight of the ships passing by the rock-bound bay, and the
numberless little shells, with their bright colors and sculptured
shapes, which lay about the beach. But now his mind was too full of a
single sensation, and when, after crossing a green playground, they
stood by the head-master's door, his heart fluttered, and it required
all his energy to keep down the nervous trembling which shook him.

Mr. Williams gave his card, and they were shown into Dr. Rowlands'
study. He was a kind-looking gentlemanly man, and when he turned to
address Eric, after a few minutes' conversation with his father, the boy
felt instantly reassured by the pleasant sincerity and frank courtesy of
his manner. A short examination showed that Eric's attainments were very
slight as yet, and he was to be put in the lowest form of all, under the
superintendence of the Rev. Henry Gordon. Dr. Rowlands wrote a short
note in pencil, and giving it to Eric, directed the servant to show him
to Mr. Gordon's school-room.

The bell had just done ringing when they had started for the school, so
that Eric knew that all the boys would be by this time assembled at
their work, and that he should have to go alone into the middle of them.
As he walked after the servant through the long corridors and up the
broad stairs, he longed to make friends with him, so as, if possible, to
feel less lonely. But he had only time to get out, "I say, what sort of
a fellow is Mr. Gordon?"

"Terrible strict, Sir, I hear," said the man, touching his cap with a
comic expression, which didn't at all tend to enliven the future pupil.
"That's the door," he continued, "and you'll have to give him the
doctor's note;" and, pointing to a door at the end of the passage, he
walked off.

Eric stopped irresolutely. The man had disappeared, and he was by
himself in the great silent building. Afraid of the sound of his own
footsteps, he ran along the passage, and knocked timidly. He heard a
low, a very low murmur in the room, but there was no answer. He knocked
again a little louder; still no notice; then, overdoing it in his
fright, he gave a very loud tap indeed.

"Come in," said a voice, which to the new boy sounded awful; but
he opened the door, and entered. As he came in every head was
quickly raised, he heard a whisper of "New fellow," and the crimson
flooded his face, as he felt himself the cynosure of some forty
intensely-inquisitive pairs of eyes.

He found himself in a high airy room, with three large windows opening
towards the sea. At one end was the master's throne, and facing it, all
down the room, were desks and benches, along which the boys were sitting
at work. Every one knows how very confusing it is to enter a strange
room full of strange people, and especially when you enter it from a
darker passage. Eric felt dazzled, and not seeing the regular route to
the master's desk, went towards it between two of the benches. As these
were at no great distance from each other, he stumbled against several
legs on his way, and felt pretty sure that they were put out on purpose
to trip him, especially by one boy, who, pretending to be much hurt,
drew up his leg, and began rubbing it, ejaculating _sotto voce_,
"awkward little fool."

In this very clumsy way he at last reached the desk, and presented his
missive. The master's eye was on him, but all Eric had time to observe
was, that he looked rather stern, and had in his hand a book which he
seemed to be studying with the deepest interest. He glanced first at the
note, and then looked full at the boy, as though determined to read his
character at a glance.

"Williams, I suppose?"

"Yes, Sir," said Eric, very low, still painfully conscious that all the
boys were looking at him, as well as the master.

"Very well, Williams, you are placed in the lowest form--the fourth. I
hope you will work well. At present they are learning their Cesar. Go
and sit next to that boy," pointing towards the lower end of the room;
"he will show you the lesson, and let you look over his book. Barker,
let Williams look over you!"

Eric went and sat down at the end of a bench by the boy indicated. He
was a rough-looking fellow, with a shock head of black hair, and a very
dogged look. Eric secretly thought that he wasn't a very nice-looking
specimen of Roslyn school. However, he sate by him, and glanced at the
Cesar which the boy shoved about a quarter of an inch in his direction.
But Barker didn't seem inclined to make any further advances, and
presently Eric asked in a whisper,

"What's the lesson?"

The boy glanced at him, but took no further notice.

Eric repeated, "I say, what's the lesson?"

Instead of answering, Barker stared at him, and grunted,

"What's your name?"

"Eric--I mean Williams."

"Then why don't you say what you mean?"

Eric moved his foot impatiently at this ungracious reception; but as he
seemed to have no redress, he pulled the Cesar nearer towards him.

"Drop that; 't isn't yours."

Mr. Gordon heard a whisper, and glanced that way. "Silence!" he said,
and Barker pretended to be deep in his work, while Eric, resigning
himself to his fate, looked about him.

He had plenty to occupy his attention in the faces round him. He
furtively examined Mr. Gordon, as he bent over his high desk, writing,
but couldn't make our the physiognomy. There had been something reserved
and imperious in the master's manner, yet he thought he should not
dislike him on the whole. With the countenances of his future
schoolfellows he was not altogether pleased, but there were one or two
which thoroughly attracted him. One boy, whose side face was turned
towards him as he sat on the bench in front, took his fancy
particularly, so, tired of doing nothing, he plucked up courage, and
leaning forward whispered, "Do lend me your Cesar for a few minutes."
The boy at once handed it to him with a pleasant smile, and as the
lesson was marked, Eric had time to hurry over a few sentences, when Mr.
Gordon's sonorous voice exclaimed,

"Fourth form, come up!"

Some twenty of the boys went up, and stood in a large semicircle round
the desk. Eric of course was placed last, and the lesson commenced.

"Russell, begin," said the master; and immediately the boy who had
handed Eric his Caesar, began reading a few sentences, and construed
them very creditably, only losing a place or two. He had a frank open
face, bright intelligent fearless eyes, and a very taking voice and
manner. Eric listened admiringly and felt sure he should like him.

Barker was put on next. He bungled through the Latin in a grating
irresolute sort of a way, with several false quantities, for each of
which the next boy took him up. Then he began to construe;--a frightful
confusion of nominatives without verbs, accusatives translated as
ablatives, and perfects turned into prepositions ensued, and after a
hopeless flounder, during which Mr. Gordon left him entirely to himself,
Barker came to a full stop; his catastrophe was so ludicrous, that Eric
could not help joining in the general titter Barker scowled.

"As usual, Barker," said the master, with a curl of the lip. "Hold out
your hand!"

Barker did so, looking sullen defiance, and the cane immediately
descended on his open palm. Six similar cuts followed, during which the
form looked on, not without terror; and Barker, squeezing his hands
tight together, went back to his seat.

"Williams, translate the piece in which Barker has just failed!"

Eric did as he was bid, and got through it pretty well. He had now quite
recovered his ordinary bearing, and spoke out clearly and without
nervousness. He afterwards won several places by answering questions,
and at the end of the lesson was marked about half-way up the form. The
boys' numbers were then taken down in the weekly register, and they went
back to their seats.

On his desk Eric found a torn bit of paper, on which was clumsily
scrawled, "I'll teach you to grin when I'm turned, you young brute."

The paper seemed to fascinate his eyes. He stared at it fixedly, and
augured ominously of Barker's intentions, since that worthy obviously
alluded to his having smiled in form, and chose to interpret it as an
intentional provocation. He felt that he was in for it, and that Barker
meant to pick a quarrel with him. This puzzled and annoyed him, and he
felt very sad to have found an enemy already.

While he was looking at the paper, the great school-clock struck twelve;
and the captain of the form getting up, threw open the folding-doors of
the school-room.

"You may go," said Mr. Gordon; and leaving his seat disappeared by a
door at the further end of the room.

Instantly there was a rash for caps, and the boys poured out in a
confused and noisy stream, while at the same moment the other
school-rooms disgorged their inmates. Eric naturally went out among the
last; but just as he was going to take his cap, Barker seized it, and
flung it with a whoop to the end of the passage, where it was trampled
on by a number of the boys as they ran out.

Eric, gulping down his fury with a great effort, turned to his opponent,
and said coolly, "Is that what you always do to new fellows?"

"Yes, you bumptious young owl, it is, and that too;" and a tolerably
smart slap on the face followed--leaving a red mark on a cheek already
aflame with, anger and indignation,--"should you like a little more?"

He was hurt, both mind and body, but was too proud to cry. "What's that
for?" he said, with flashing eyes.

"For your conceit in laughing at me when I was caned."

Eric stamped. "I did nothing of the kind, and you know it as well as I
do."

"What! I'm a liar, am I? O we shall take this kind of thing out of you,
you young cub--take that;" and a heavier blow followed.

"You brutal cowardly bully," shouted Eric; and in another moment he
would have sprung upon him. It was lucky for him that he did not, for
Barker was three years older than he, and very powerful. Such an attack
would hare been most unfortunate for him in every way. But at this
instant some boys hearing the quarrel ran up, and Russell among them.

"Hallo, Barker," said one, "what's up?"

"Why, I'm teaching this new fry to be less bumptious, that's all."

"Shame!" said Russell, as he saw the mark on Eric's cheek; "what a
fellow you are, Barker. Why couldn't you leave him alone for his first
day, at any rate?"

"What's that to you? I'll kick you too, if you say much."

"Cavè, cavè!" whispered half a dozen voices, and instantly the knot of
boys dispersed in every direction, as Mr. Gordon was seen approaching.
He had caught a glimpse of the scene without understanding it, and
seeing the new boy's red and angry face, he only said, as he passed by,
"What, Williams! fighting already? Take care."

This was the cruellest cut of all. "So," thought Eric, "a nice
beginning! it seems both boys and masters are against me;" and very
disconsolately he walked to pick up his cap.

The boys were all dispersed in the play-ground at different games, and
as he went home he was stopped perpetually, and had to answer the usual
questions, "What's your name? Are you a boarder or a day scholar? What
form are you in?" Eric expected all this, and it therefore did not annoy
him. Under any other circumstances, he would have answered cheerfully
and frankly enough; but now he felt miserable at his morning's
rencontre, and his answers were short and sheepish, his only desire
being to get away as soon as possible. It was an additional vexation to
feel sure that his manner did not make a favorable impression.

Before he had got out of the play ground, Russell ran up to him. "I'm
afraid you won't like this, or think much of us, Williams," he said.
"But never mind. It'll only last a day or two, and the fellows are not
so bad as they seem; except that Barker. I'm sorry you've come across
him, but it can't be helped."

It was the first kind word he had had since the morning, and after his
troubles kindness melted him. He felt half inclined to cry, and for a
few moments could say nothing in reply to Russell's soothing words. But
the boy's friendliness went far to comfort him, and at last, shaking
hands with him, he said--

"Do let me speak to you sometimes, while I am a new boy, Russell."

"O yes," said Russell, laughing, "as much as ever you like. And as
Barker hates me pretty much as he seems inclined to hate you, we are in
the same box. Good bye."

So Eric left the field, and wandered home, like Calchas in the Iliad,
"Sorrowful by the side of the sounding sea." Already the purple mantle
had fallen from his ideal of schoolboy life. He got home later than they
expected, and found his parents waiting for him. It was rather
disappointing to them to see his face so melancholy, when they expected
him to be full of animation and pleasure. Mrs. Williams drew her own
conclusions from the red mark on his cheek, as well as the traces of
tears welling to his eyes; but, like a wise mother, she asked nothing,
and left the boy to tell his own story,--which, in time he did, omitting
all the painful part, speaking enthusiastically of Russell, and only
admitting that he had been a little teased.



CHAPTER III

BULLYING

"Give to the morn of life its natural blessedness." Wordsworth.

Why is it that new boys are almost invariably ill-treated? I have often
fancied that there must be in boyhood a pseudo-instinctive cruelty, a
sort of "wild trick of the ancestral savage," which, no amount of
civilization can entirely repress. Certain it is, that to most boys the
first term is a trying ordeal. They are being tested and weighed. Their
place in the general estimation is not yet fixed, and the slightest
circumstances are seized upon to settle the category under which the boy
is to be classed. A few apparently trivial accidents of his first few
weeks at school often decide his position in the general regard for the
remainder of his boyhood. And yet these are _not_ accidents; they are
the slight indications which give an unerring proof of the general
tendencies of his character and training. Hence much of the apparent
cruelty with which new boys are treated is not exactly intentional. At
first, of course, as they can have no friends worth speaking of, there
are always plenty of coarse and brutal minds that take a pleasure in
their torment, particularly if they at once recognise any innate
superiority to themselves. Of this class was Barker. He hated Eric at
first sight, simply because his feeble mind could only realise one idea
about him, and that was the new boy's striking contrast with his own
imperfections. Hence he left no means untried to vent on Eric his low
and mean jealousy. He showed undisguised pleasure when he fell in form,
and signs of disgust when he rose; he fomented every little source of
disapproval or quarrelling which happened to arise against him; he never
looked at him without a frown or a sneer; he waited for him to kick and
annoy him as he came out of, or went into, the school-room. In fact, he
did his very best to make the boy's life miserable, and the occupation
of hating him seemed in some measure to fill up the vacuity of an
ill-conditioned and degraded mind.

Hatred is a most mysterious and painful phenomenon to the unhappy person
who is the object of it, and more especially if he have incurred it by
no one assignable reason. To Eric it was peculiarly painful; he was
utterly unprepared for it. In his bright joyous life at Fairholm, in the
little he saw of the boys at the Latin school, he had met with nothing
but kindness and caresses, and the generous nobleness of his character
had seemed to claim them as a natural element. "And now, why," he asked
impatiently, "should this bull-dog sort of fellow have set his whole aim
to annoy, vex, and hurt me?" Incapable himself of so mean a spirit of
jealousy at superior excellence, he could not make it out; but such,
was the fact, and the very mysteriousness of it made it more
intolerable to bear.

But it must be admitted that he made matters worse by his own bursts of
passion. His was not the temper to turn the other cheek; but, brave and
spirited as he was, he felt how utterly hopeless would be any attempt on
his part to repel force by force. He would have tried some slight
conciliation, but it was really impossible with such a boy as his enemy.
Barker never gave him even so much as an indifferent look, much less a
civil word. Eric loathed him, and the only good and happy part of the
matter to his own mind was, that conscientiously his only desire was to
get rid of him and be left alone, while he never cherished a particle
of revenge.

While every day Eric was getting on better in form, and winning himself
a very good position with the other boys, who liked his frankness, his
mirth, his spirit, and cleverness, he felt this feud with Barker like a
dark background to all his enjoyment. He even had to manoeuvre daily how
to escape him, and violent scenes were of constant occurrence between
them. Eric could not, and would not, brook his bullying with silence.
His resentment was loud and stinging, and, Ishmaelite as Barker was,
even _his_ phlegmatic temperament took fire when Eric shouted his fierce
and uncompromising retorts in the hearing of the others.

Meanwhile Eric was on the best of terms with the rest of the form, and
such of the other boys as he knew, although, at first, his position as a
home-boarder prevented his knowing many. Besides Russell, there were
three whom he liked best, and respected most--Duncan, Montagu, and Owen.
They were very different boys, but all of them had qualities which well
deserved his esteem. Duncan was the most boyish of boys, intensely full
of fun, good-nature, and vigor; with fair abilities, he never got on
well, because he could not be still for two minutes, and even if, in
some fit of sudden ambition, he got up high in the form, he was sure to
be put to the bottom again before the day was over, for trifling or
talking. But out of school he was the soul of every game; whatever _he_
took up was sure to be done pleasantly, and no party of amusement was
ever planned without endeavoring to secure him as one of the number.

Montagu's chief merit was, that he was such a thorough little gentleman;
"such a jolly little fellow" every one said of him. Without being clever
or athletic, he managed to do very fairly both at work and at the games,
and while he was too exclusive to make many _intimate_ friends,
everybody liked walking about or talking with him. Even Barker,
blackguard as he was, seemed to be a little uneasy when confronted with
Montagu's naturally noble and chivalrous bearing. In nearly all respects
his influence was thoroughly good, and few boys were more
generally popular.

Owen, again, was a very different boy. His merit was a ceaseless
diligence, in which it was doubtful whether ambition or
conscientiousness had the greatest share. Reserved and thoughtful,
unfitted for or indifferent to most games, he was anything but a
favorite with the rest, and Eric rather respected than liked him. When
he first came, he had been one of the most natural butts for Barker's
craving ill-nature, and for a time he had been tremendously bullied. But
gradually his mental superiority asserted itself. He took everything
without tears and without passion, and this diminished the pleasure of
annoying him. One day when Barker had given him an unprovoked kick, he
quietly said,

"Barker, next time you do that, I'll tell Mr. Gordon."

"Sneak! do it if you dare." And he kicked him again; but the moment
after he was sorry for it, for there was a dark look in Owen's eyes, as
he turned instantly into the door of the master's room, and laid a
formal complaint against Barker for bullying.

Mr. Gordon didn't like "telling," and he said so to Owen, without
reserve. An ordinary boy would have broken into a flood of explanations
and palliations, but Owen simply bowed, and said nothing. "He stood
there for justice," and he had counted the cost. Strong-minded and
clear-headed, he calculated correctly that the momentary dislike of his
schoolfellows, with whom he well knew that he never could be popular,
would be less unbearable than Barker's villanous insults. The
consequence was that Barker was caned soundly, although, with some
injustice, Mr. Gordon made no attempt to conceal that he did it
unwillingly.

Of course the fellows were very indignant with Owen for sneaking, as
they called it, and for a week or two he had the keen mortification of
seeing "Owen is a sneak," written up all about the walls. But he was
too proud or too cold to make any defence till called upon, and bore it
in silence. Barker vowed eternal vengeance, and the very day after, had
seized Owen with the avowed intention of "half murdering him." But
before he could once strike him, Owen said in the most chill tone,
"Barker, if you touch me, I shall go straight to Dr. Rowlands." The
bully well knew that Owen never broke his word, but he could not govern
his rage, and first giving Owen a violent shake, he proceeded to thrash
him without limit or remorse.

Pale, but unmoved, Owen got away, and walked straight to Dr. Rowlands'
door. The thing was unheard of, and the boys were amazed at his
temerity, for the doctor was to all their imaginations a regular _Deus
ex machinâ._ That afternoon, again Barker was publicly caned, with the
threat that the next offence would be followed by instant and public
expulsion. This punishment he particularly dreaded, because he was
intended for the army, and he well knew that it might ruin his
prospects. The consequence was, that Owen never suffered from him again,
although he daily received a shower of oaths and curses, which he passed
over with silent contempt.

My dear boy-reader, don't suppose that I want you to imitate Owen in
this matter. I despise a boy who "tells" as much as you do, and it is a
far better and braver thing to bear bullying with such a mixture of
spirit and good humor, as in time to disarm it. But Owen was a peculiar
boy, and remember he had _no_ redress. He bore for a time, until he felt
that he _must_ have the justice and defence, without which it would
have been impossible for him to continue at Roslyn school.

But why, you ask, didn't he tell the monitors? Unfortunately at Roslyn
the monitorial system was not established. Although it was a school of
250 boys, the sixth form, with all their privileges, had no prerogative
of authority. They hadn't the least right to interfere, because no such
power had been delegated to them, and therefore they felt themselves
merely on a par with the rest, except for such eminence as their
intellectual superiority gave them. The consequence was, that any
interference from them would have been of a simply individual nature,
and was exerted very rarely. It would have done Owen no more good to
tell a sixth-form boy, than to tell any other boy; and as he was not a
favorite, he was not likely to find any champion to fight his battles or
maintain his just rights.

All this had happened before Eric's time, and he heard it from his best
friend Russell. His heart clave to that boy. They became friends at once
by a kind of electric sympathy; the first glance of each at the other's
face prepared the friendship, and every day of acquaintance more firmly
cemented it. Eric could not have had a better friend; not so clever as
himself, not so diligent as Owen, not so athletic as Duncan, or so
fascinating as Montagu, Russell combined the best qualities of them all.
And, above all, he acted invariably from the highest principle; he
presented that noblest of all noble spectacles--one so rare that many
think it impossible--the spectacle of an honorable, pure-hearted, happy
boy, who, as his early years speed by, is ever growing in wisdom, and
stature, and favor with God and man.

"Did that brute Barker ever bully you as he bullies me?" said Eric, one
day, as he walked on the sea-shore with his friend.

"Yes," said Russell; "I slept in his dormitory when I first came, and he
has often made me so wretched that I have flung myself on my knees at
night in pretence of prayer, but really to get a little quiet time to
cry like a child."

"And when was it he left off at last?"

"Why, you know, Upton in the fifth is my cousin, and very fond of me; he
heard of it, though I didn't say anything about it, and told Barker that
if ever he caught him at it, he would thrash him within an inch of his
life; and that frightened him for one thing. Besides, Duncan, Montagu,
and other friends of mine began to cut him in consequence, so he thought
it best to leave off."

"How is it, Russell, that fellows stand by and let him do it?"

"You see, Williams," said Russell, "Barker is an enormously strong
fellow, and that makes the younger chaps, whom he fags, look up to him
as a great hero. And there isn't one in our part of the school who can
thrash him. Besides, people never do interfere, you know--at least not
often. I remember once seeing a street-row in London, at which twenty
people stood by, and let a drunken beast of a husband strike his wife
without ever stirring to defend her."

"Well," sighed Eric, "I hope my day of deliverance will come soon, for
I can't stand it much longer, and 'tell' I won't, whatever Owen may do."

Eric's deliverance came very soon. It was afternoon; the boys were
playing at different games in the green playground, and he was waiting
for his turn at rounders. At this moment Barker lounged up, and calmly
snatching off Eric's cap, shied it over Dr. Rowlands' garden wall.
"There, go and fetch that."

"You blackguard!" said Eric, standing irresolutely for a few minutes;
and then with tears in his eyes began to climb the wall. It was not very
high, but boys were peremptorily forbidden to get over it under any
circumstances, and Eric broke the rule not without trepidation. However,
he dropped down on one of Mrs. Rowlands' flower-beds, and got his cap in
a hurry, and clambered back undiscovered.

He thought this would have satisfied his tormentor for one day; but
Barker was in a mischievous mood, so he again came up to Eric, and
calling out, "Who'll have a game at football?" again snatched the cap,
and gave it a kick; Eric tried to recover it, but every time he came up
Barker gave it a fresh kick, and finally kicked it into a puddle.

Eric stood still, trembling with rage, while his eyes lightened scorn
and indignation. "You hulking, stupid, cowardly bully,"--here Barker
seized him, and every word brought a tremendous blow on the head, but
blind with passion Eric went on--"you despicable bully, I won't touch
that cap again, you shall pick it up yourself. Duncan, Russell, here! do
help me against this intolerable brute."

Several boys ran up, but they were all weaker than Barker, who besides
was now in a towering fury, and kicked Eric unmercifully.

"Leave him alone," shouted Duncan, "or by heaven I'll get you a sound
thrashing from some fellow."

"I won't; mind your own business," growled Barker, shaking himself free
from Duncan's hand.

"Barker, I'll never speak to you again from this day," said Montagu,
turning on his heel with a look of withering contempt.

"What do I care? puppy, you want taking down too," was the reply, and
some more kicks at Eric followed.

"Barker, I won't stand this any longer," said Russell; and seizing him
by the arm, he dealt him a swinging blow on the face.

The bully stood in amazement, and dropped Eric, who fell on the turf
nearly fainting, and bleeding at the nose. But now Russell's turn came,
and in a moment Barker, who was twice his weight, had tripped him up,
when he found himself collared in an iron grasp.

There had been an unobserved spectator of the whole scene, in the person
of Mr. Williams himself, and it was his strong hand that now griped
Barker's shoulder. He was greatly respected by the boys, who all knew
his tall handsome figure by sight, and he frequently stood a quiet and
pleased observer of their games. The boys in the playground came
crowding round, and Barker in vain struggled to escape. Mr. Williams
held him firmly, and said in a calm voice, "I have just seen you treat
one of your schoolfellows with the grossest violence. It makes me blush
for you, Roslyn Boys," he continued, turning to the group that
surrounded him, "that you can stand by unmoved, and see such things
done. You know that you despise any one who tells a master, yet you
allow this bullying to go on, and that, too, without any provocation.
Now, mark; it makes no difference that the boy hurt is my own son; I
would have punished this scoundrel, whoever it had been, and I shall
punish him now." With these words he lifted the riding-whip which he
happened to be carrying, and gave Barker one of the most satisfactory
castigations he had ever undergone; the boys declared that Dr. Rowlands'
"swishings" were nothing to it. Mr. Williams saw that the offender was a
tough subject, and determined that he should not soon forget the
punishment he then received. He had never heard from Eric how this boy
had been treating him, but he had heard it from Russell, and now he had
seen one of the worst specimens of it with his own eyes. He therefore
belabored him till his sullen obstinacy gave way to a roar for mercy,
and promises never so to offend again.

At this crisis he flung the boy from him with a "phew" of disgust, and
said, "I give nothing for your word; but if ever you do bully in this
way again, and I see or hear of it, your present punishment shall be a
trifle to what I shall then administer. At present, thank me for not
informing your master." So saying, he made Barker pick up the cap, and,
turning away, walked home with Eric leaning on his arm.

Barker, too, carried himself off with the best grace be could; but it
certainly didn't mend matters when he heard numbers of fellows, even
little boys, say openly, "I'm so glad; serves you right."

From that day Eric was never troubled with personal violence from Barker
or any other boy. But rancor smouldered deep in the mind of the baffled
tyrant, and, as we shall see hereafter, there are subtler means of
making an enemy wretched than striking or kicking him.



CHAPTER IV

CRIBBING

     "Et nos ergo manum forulae subduximus."--Juv. i. 15.

It must not be thought that Eric's year as a home boarder was made up of
dark experiences. Roslyn had a very bright as well as a dark side, and
Eric enjoyed it "to the finger-tips." School-life, like all other life,
is an April day of shower and sunshine. Its joys may be more childish,
its sorrows more trifling than those of after years;--but they are more
keenly felt.

And yet, although we know it to be a mere delusion, we all idealise and
idolise our childhood. The memory of it makes pleasant purple in the
distance, and as we look back on the sunlight of its blue far-off hills,
we forget how steep we sometimes found them.

After Barker's discomfiture, which took place some three weeks after his
arrival, Eric liked the school more and more, and got liked by it more
and more. This might have been easily foreseen, for he was the type of a
thoroughly boyish mind in its more genial and honorable characteristics,
and his round of acquaintances daily increased. Among others, a few of
the sixth, who were also day-scholars, began to notice and walk home
with him. He looked on them as great heroes, and their condescension
much increased his dignity both in his own estimation and that of
his equals.

Now, too, he began to ask some of his most intimate acquaintances to
spend an evening with him sometimes at home. This was a pleasure much
coveted, for no boy ever saw Mrs. Williams without loving her, and they
felt themselves humanised by the friendly interest of a lady who
reminded every boy of his own mother. Vernon, too, now a lively and
active child of nine, was a great pet among them, so that every one
liked Eric who "knew him at home." A boy generally shows his best side
at home; the softening shadows of a mother's tender influence play over
him, and tone down the roughness of boyish character. Duncan, Montagu,
and Owen were special favorites in the home circle, and Mrs. Williams
felt truly glad that her son had singled out friends who seemed, on the
whole, so desirable. But Montagu and Russell were the most frequent
visitors, and the latter became almost like one of the family; he won so
much on all their hearts that Mrs. Williams was not surprised when Eric
confided to her one day that he loved Russell almost as well as be
loved Vernon.

As Christmas approached, the boys began to take a lively interest in the
half-year's prizes, and Eric was particularly eager about them. He had
improved wonderfully, and as both his father and mother prevented him
from being idle, even had he been so inclined, he had soon shown that
he was one of the best in the form. Two prizes were given, half-yearly
to each remove; one for "marks" indicating the boy who had generally
been highest throughout the half year, and the other for the test proofs
of proficiency in a special examination. It was commonly thought in the
form that Owen would get the first of these prizes, and Eric the other;
and towards the approach of the examination, he threw his whole energy
into the desire to win. The desire was not selfish. Some ambition was of
course natural; but he longed for the prize chiefly for the delight
which he knew his success would cause at Fairholm, and still more to his
own family.

During the last week, an untoward circumstance happened, which, while it
increased his popularity, diminished a good deal (as he thought) his
chance of success. The fourth form were learning a Homer lesson, and
Barker, totally unable to do it by his own resources, was trying to
borrow a crib. Eric, much to their mutual disgust, still sat next to him
in school, and would have helped him if he had chosen to ask; but he
never did choose, nor did Eric care to volunteer. The consequence was,
that unless he could borrow a crib, he was invariably turned, and he was
now particularly anxious to get one, because the time was nearly up.

There was a certain idle, good-natured boy, named Llewellyn, who had
"cribs" to every book they did, and who, with a pernicious _bonhommie,_
lent them promiscuously to the rest, all of whom were only too glad to
avail themselves of the help, except the few at the top of the form, who
found it a slovenly way of learning the lesson, which was sure to get
them into worse difficulties than an honest attempt to master the
meaning for themselves. Llewellyn sat at the farther end of the form in
front, so Barker scribbled in the fly-leaf of his book, "Please send us
your Homer crib," and got the book passed on to Llewellyn, who
immediately shoved his crib in Barker's direction. The only danger of
the transaction being noticed, was when the book was being handed from
one bench to another, and as Eric unluckily had an end seat, he had got
into trouble more than once.

On this occasion, just as Graham, the last boy on the form in front,
handed Eric the crib, Mr. Gordon happened to look up, and Eric, very
naturally anxious to screen another from trouble, popped the book under
his own Homer.

"Williams, what are you doing?"

"Nothing, Sir," said Eric, looking up innocently.

"Bring me that book under your Homer."

Eric blushed, hesitated--but at last, amid a dead silence, took up the
book. Mr. Gordon looked at it for a moment, let it fall on the ground,
and then, with an unnecessary affectation of disgust, took it up with
the tongs, and dropped it into the fire. There was a titter round
the room.

"Silence," thundered the master; "this is no matter for laughing. So,
sir, _this_ is the way you get up to the top of the form?"

"I wasn't using it, sir," said Eric.

"Not using it! Why, I saw you put it, open, under your Homer."

"It isn't mine, sir."

"Then whose is it?" Mr. Gordon looked at the fly leaf, but of course no
name was there; in those days it was dangerous to write one's name in a
translation.

Eric was silent.

"Under the circumstances, Williams, I must punish you," said Mr. Gordon.
"Of course I am _bound_ to believe you, but the circumstances are very
suspicious. You had no business with such a book at all. Hold out
your hand."

As yet, Eric had never been caned. It would have been easy for him in
this case to clear himself without mentioning names, but (very rightly)
he thought it unmanly to clamor about being punished, and he felt
nettled at Mr. Gordon's merely official belief of his word. He knew that
he had his faults, but certainly want of honor was not among them.
Indeed, there were only three boys out of the twenty in the form, who
did not resort to modes of unfairness far worse than the use of cribs,
and those three were Russell, Owen, and himself; even Duncan, even
Montagu, inured to it by custom, were not ashamed to read their lesson
off a concealed book, or copy a date from a furtive piece of paper. They
would have been ashamed of it before they came to Roslyn school, but the
commonness of the habit had now made them blind or indifferent to its
meanness. It was peculiarly bad in the fourth form, because the master
treated them with implicit confidence, and being scrupulously honorable
himself, was unsuspicious of others. He was therefore extremely
indignant at this apparent discovery of an attempt to overreach him in
a boy so promising and so much of a favorite as Eric Williams.

"Hold out your hand," he repeated.

Eric did so, and the cane tingled sharply across his palm. He could bear
the pain well enough, but he was keenly alive to the disgrace; he, a boy
at the head of his form, to be caned in this way by a man who didn't
understand him, and unjustly too! He mustered up an indifferent air,
closed his lips tight, and determined to give no further signs. The
defiance of his look made Mr. Gordon angry, and he inflicted in
succession five hard cuts on either hand, each one of which, was more
excruciating than the last.

"Now, go to your seat."

Eric did go to his seat, with all his bad passions roused, and he walked
in a jaunty and defiant kind of way that made the master really grieve
at the disgrace into which he had fallen. But he instantly became a hero
with the form, who unanimously called him a great brick for not telling,
and admired him immensely for bearing up without crying under so severe
a punishment. The punishment _was_ most severe, and for some weeks after
there were dark weals visible across Eric's palm, which rendered the use
of his hands painful.

"Poor Williams," said Duncan, as they went out of school, "how very
plucky of you not to cry."

     "Vengeance deep brooding o'er the _cane_,
       Had locked the source of softer woe;
     And burning pride, and high disdain,
       Forbade the gentler tear to flow,"

said Eric, with a smile.

But he only bore up until he got home, and there, while he was telling
his father the occurrence, he burst into a storm of passionate tears,
mingled with the fiercest invectives against Mr. Gordon for his
injustice.

"Never mind, Eric," said his father; "only take care that you never get
a punishment _justly_, and I shall always be as proud of you as I am
now. And don't cherish this resentment, my boy; it will only do you
harm. Try to forgive and forget."

"But, Papa, Mr. Gordon is so hasty. I have indeed been rather a favorite
of his, yet now he shows that he has no confidence in me. It is a great
shame that he shouldn't believe my word. I don't mind the pain; but I
shan't like him any more, and I'm sure, now, I shan't get the
examination prize."

"You don't mean, Eric, that he will be influenced by partiality in the
matter?"

"No, Papa, not exactly; at least I dare say he won't _intend_ to be. But
it is unlucky to be on bad terms with a master, and I know I shan't
work so well."

On the whole, the boy was right in thinking this incident a misfortune.
Although he had nothing particular for which to blame himself, yet the
affair had increased his pride, while it lowered his self-respect; and
he had an indistinct consciousness that the popularity in his form would
do him as much harm as the change of feeling in his master. He grew
careless and dispirited, nor was it till in the very heat of the final
competition, that he felt his energies fully revived.

Half the form were as eager about the examination as the other half
were indifferent; but none were more eager than Eric. He was much
hindered by Barker's unceasing attempt to copy his papers
surreptitiously; and very much disgusted at the shameless way in which
many of the boys "cribbed" from books, and from each other, or used torn
leaves concealed in their sleeves, or dates written on their wristbands,
and on their nails. He saw how easily much of this might have been
prevented; but Mr. Gordon was fresh at his work, and had not yet learnt
the practical lesson, that to trust young boys to any great extent, is
really to increase their temptations. He _did_ learn the lesson
afterwards, and then almost entirely suppressed the practice, partly by
increased vigilance, and partly by forbidding _any_ book to be brought
into the room during the time of examination. But meanwhile, much evil
had been done by the habitual abuse of his former confidence.

I shall not linger over the examination. At its close, the day before
the breaking-up, the list was posted on the door of the great
school-room, and most boys made an impetuous rush to see the result. But
Eric was too nervous to be present at the hour when this was usually
done, and he had asked Russell to bring him the news.

He was walking up and down the garden, counting the number of steps he
took, counting the number of shrubs along each path, and devising every
sort of means to beguile the time, when he heard hasty steps, and
Russell burst in at the back gate, breathless with haste, and bright
with excitement.

"Hurrah! old fellow," he cried, seizing both Eric's hands; "I never
felt so glad in my life;" and he shook his friend's arms up and down,
laughing joyously.

"Well! tell me," said Eric.

"First, {Owen/Williams} Aequales," "you've got head remove you see, in
spite of your forebodings, as I always said you would; and I
congratulate you with all my heart."

"No?" said Eric, "have I really?--you're not joking? Oh! hurrah!--I must
rush in and tell them;" and he bounded off.

In a second he was back at Russell's side. "What a selfish animal I am!
Where are you placed, Russell?"

"Oh! magnificent; I'm third;--far higher than I expected."

"I'm so glad," said Eric. "Come in with me and tell them. I'm head
remove, mother," he shouted, springing into the parlor where his father
and mother sat.

In the lively joy that this announcement excited, Russell stood by for
the moment unheeded; and when Eric took him by the hand to tell them
that he was third, he hung his head, and a tear was in his eye.

"Poor boy! I'm afraid you're disappointed," said Mrs. Williams kindly,
drawing him to her side.

"Oh no, no! it's not _that_," said Russell, hastily, as he lifted his
swimming eyes towards her face.

"Are you hurt, Russell?" asked Eric, surprised.

"Oh! no; don't ask me; I am only foolish to-day;" and with a burst of
sorrow he flung his arms round Mrs. Williams' neck. She folded him to
her heart, and kissed him tenderly; and when his sobs would let him
speak, he whispered to her in a low tone, "It is but a year since I
became an orphan."

"Dearest child," she said, "look on me as a mother; I love you very
dearly for your own sake as well as Eric's."

Gradually he grew calmer. They made him stay to dinner and spend the
rest of the day there, and by the evening he had recovered all his usual
sprightliness. Towards sunset he and Eric went for a stroll down the
bay, and talked over the term and the examination.

They sat down on a green bank just beyond the beach, and watched the
tide come in, while the sea-distance was crimson with the glory of
evening. The beauty and the murmur filled them with a quiet happiness,
not untinged with the melancholy thought of parting the next day.

At last Eric broke the silence. "Russell, let me always call you Edwin,
and call me Eric."

"Very gladly, Eric. Your coming here has made me so happy." And the two
boys squeezed each other's hands, and looked into each other's faces,
and silently promised that they would be loving friends for ever.



CHAPTER V

THE SECOND TERM

     "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil our vines; for our
     vines have tender grapes."--CANT. ii. 15.

The second term at school is generally the great test of the strength of
a boy's principles and resolutions. During the first term the novelty,
the loneliness, the dread of unknown punishments, the respect for
authorities, the desire to measure himself with his companions--all tend
to keep him right and diligent. But many of these incentives are removed
after the first brush of novelty, and many a lad who has given good
promise at first, turns out, after a short probation, idle, or vicious,
or indifferent.

But there was little comparative danger for Eric, so long as he
continued to be a home boarder, which was for another half-year. On the
contrary, he was anxious to support in his new remove the prestige of
having been head boy; and as he still continued under Mr. Gordon, he
really wished to turn over a new leaf in his conduct towards him, and
recover, if possible, his lost esteem.

His popularity was a fatal snare. He enjoyed and was very proud of it,
and was half inclined to be angry with Russell for not fully sharing his
feelings; but Russell had a far larger experience of school life than
his new friend, and dreaded with all his heart lest "he should follow a
multitude to do evil."

The "cribbing," which had astonished and pained Eric at first, was more
flagrant than even in the Upper Fourth, and assumed a chronic form. In
all the repetition lessons one of the boys used to write out in a large
hand the passage to be learnt by heart, and dexterously pin it to the
front of Mr. Gordon's desk. There any boy who chose could read it off
with little danger of detection, and, as before, the only boys who
refused to avail themselves of this trickery were Eric, Russell,
and Owen.

Eric did _not_ yield to it; never once did he suffer his eyes to glance
at the paper when his turn to repeat came round. But although this was
the case, he never spoke against the practice to the other boys, even
when he lost places by it. Nay more, he would laugh when any one told
him how he had escaped "skewing" (_i.e._ being turned) by reading it
off; and he even went so far as to allow them to suppose that he
wouldn't himself object to take advantage of the master's unsuspicious
confidence.

"I say, Williams," said Duncan, one morning as they strolled into the
school-yard, "do you know your Rep.?"

"No," said Eric, "not very well; I haven't given more than ten minutes
to it."

"Oh, well, never mind it now; come and have a game at racquets? Russel
and Montagu have taken the court."

"But I shall skew."

"Oh no, you needn't, you know. I'll take care to pin it up on the desk
near you."

"Well, I don't much care. At any rate I'll chance it." And off the boys
ran to the racquet-court, Eric intending to occupy the last quarter of
an hour before school-time in learning his lesson. Russell and he stood
the other two, and they were very well matched. They had finished two
splendid games, and each side had been victorious in turn, when Duncan,
in the highest spirits, shouted, "Now, Russell, for the conqueror."

"Get some one else in my place," said Russell; "I don't know my Rep.,
and must cut and learn it."

"O bother the Rep.," said Montagu; "somebody's sure to write it out in
school, and old Gordon'll never see."

"You forget, Montagu, I never condescend to that."

"O ay, I forgot. Well, after all, you're quite right; I only wish I was
as good."

"What a capital fellow he is," continued Montagu, leaning on his racquet
and looking after him, as Russell left the court; "but I say, Williams,
you're not going too, are you?"

"I think I must, I don't know half my lesson."

"O no! don't go; there's Llewellyn; he'll take Russell's place, and we
_must_ have the conquering game."

Again Eric yielded; and when the clock struck he ran into school, hot,
vexed with himself, and certain to break down, just as Russell strolled
in, whispering, "I've had lots of time to get up the Horace, and know
it pat."

Still he clung to the little thistledown of hope that he should have
plenty of time to cram it before the form were called up. But another
temptation awaited him. No sooner was he seated than Graham whispered,
"Williams, it's your turn to write out the Horace; I did last time,
you know."

Poor Eric. He was reaping the fruits of his desire to keep up
popularity, by never denying his complicity in the general cheating.
Everybody seemed to assume now that _he_ at any rate didn't think much
of it, and he had never claimed his real right up to that time of
asserting his innocence. But this was a step further than he had ever
gone before. He drew back--

"My _turn_, what do you mean?"

"Why, you know as well as I do that we all write it out by turns."

"Do you mean to say that Owen or Russell ever wrote it out?"

"Of course not; you wouldn't expect the saints to be guilty of such a
thing, would you?"

"I'd rather not, Graham," he said, getting very red.

"Well, that _is_ cowardly," answered Graham, angrily; "then I suppose I
must do it myself."

"Here, I'll do it," said Eric suddenly; "shy us the paper."

His conscience smote him bitterly. In his silly dread of giving
offence, he was doing what he heartily despised, and he felt most
uncomfortable.

"There," he said, pushing the paper from him in a pet; "I've written it,
and I'll have nothing more to do with it."

Just as he finished they were called up, and Barker, taking the paper,
succeeded in pinning it as usual on the front of the desk. Eric had
never seen it done so carelessly and clumsily before, and firmly
believed, what was indeed a fact, that Barker had done it badly on
purpose, in the hope that it might be discovered, and so Eric be got
once more into a scrape. He was in an agony of apprehension, and when
put on, was totally unable to say a word of his Rep. But low as he had
fallen, he would not cheat like the rest; he kept his eyes resolutely
turned away from the guilty paper, and even refused to repeat the words
which were prompted in his ear by the boys on each side. Mr. Gordon,
after waiting a moment, said--

"Why, Sir, you know nothing about it; you can't have looked at it. Go to
the bottom and write it out five times."

"_Write it out_" thought Eric; "this is retribution, I suppose;" and
covered with shame and vexation, he took his place below the malicious
Barker at the bottom of the form.

It happened that during the lesson the fire began to smoke, and Mr.
Gordon told Owen to open the window for a moment. No sooner was this
done than the mischievous whiff of sea air which entered the room began
to trifle and coquet with the perdulous half sheet pinned in front of
the desk, causing thereby an unwonted little pattering crepitation. In
alarm, Duncan thoughtlessly pulled out the pin, and immediately the
paper floated gracefully over Russell's head, as he sat at the top of
the form, and, after one or two gyrations, fluttered down in the centre
of the room.

"Bring me that piece of paper," said Mr. Gordon, full of vague
suspicion.

Several boys moved uneasily, and Eric looked nervously around.

"Did you hear? fetch me that half sheet of paper."

A boy picked it up and handed it to him. He held it for a full minute in
his hands without a word, while vexation, deep disgust, and rising anger
struggled in his countenance. At last, he suddenly turned full on Eric,
whose writing he recognized, and broke out,

"So, Sir! a second time caught in gross deceit. I should not have
thought it possible. Your face and manners belie you. You have lost my
confidence forever. I _despise_ you."

"Indeed, Sir," said the penitent Eric, "I never meant--"

"Silence--you are detected, as cheats always will be. I shall report you
to Dr. Rowlands."

The next boy was put on, and broke down. The same with the next, and the
next, and the next; Montagu, Graham, Llewellyn, Duncan, Barker, all
hopeless failures; only two boys had said it right--Russell and Owen.

Mr. Gordon's face grew blacker and blacker. The deep undisguised pain
which the discovery caused him was swallowed up in unbounded
indignation. "False-hearted, dishonorable boys," he exclaimed,
"henceforth my treatment of you shall be very different. The whole form,
except Russell and Owen, shall have an extra lesson every half-holiday;
not one of the rest of you will I trust again. I took you for gentlemen.
I was mistaken. Go." And so saying, he waved them to their seats with
imperious disdain.

They went, looking sheepish, and ashamed. Eric, deeply vexed, kept
twisting and untwisting a bit of paper, without raising his eyes, and
even Barker thoroughly repented his short-sighted treachery; the rest
were silent and miserable.

At twelve o'clock two boys lingered in the room to speak to Mr. Gordon;
they were Eric Williams and Edwin Russell, but they were full of very
different feelings.

Eric stepped to the desk first. Mr. Gordon looked up.

"You! Williams, I wonder that you have the audacity to speak to me.
Go--I have nothing to say to you!"

"But, sir, I want to tell you that--"

"Your guilt is only too clear, Williams. You will hear more of this. Go,
I tell you."

Eric's passion overcame him; he stamped furiously on the ground, and
burst out, "I _will_ speak, sir; you have been unjust to me for a long
time, but I will _not_ be--"

Mr. Gordon's cane fell sharply across the boy's back; he stopped, glared
for a moment; and then saying:

"Very well, sir! I shall tell Dr. Rowlands that you strike before you
hear me," he angrily left the room, and slammed the door violently
behind him.

Before Mr. Gordon had time to recover from his astonishment, Russell
stood by him.

"Well, my boy," said the master, softening in a moment, and laying his
hand gently on Russell's head, "what have you to say? You cannot tell
how I rejoice, amid the deep sorrow that this has caused me, to find
that _you_ at least are uncontaminated. But I _knew_, Edwin, that I
could trust you."

"O sir, I come to speak for Eric--for Williams." Mr. Gordon's brow
darkened again, and the storm gathered, as he interrupted vehemently,
"Not a word, Russell; not a word. This is the _second_ time that he has
wilfully deceived me; and this time he has involved others too in his
base deceit."

"Indeed, sir, you wrong him. I can't think how he came to write the
paper, but I _know_ that he did not and would not use it. Didn't you see
yourself, sir, how he turned his head quite another way when he
broke down."

"It is very kind of you, Edwin, to defend him," said Mr. Gordon coldly,
"but at present, at any rate, I must not hear you. Leave me; I feel very
sad, and must have time to think over this disgraceful affair."

Russell went away disconsolate, and met his friend striding up and down,
the passage, waiting for Dr. Rowlands to come out of the library.

"O Eric," he said, "how came you to write that paper?"

"Why, Russell, I did feel very much ashamed, and I would have explained
it, and said so; but that Gordon spites me so. It is such a shame; I
don't feel now as if I cared one bit."

"I am sorry you don't get on with him; but remember you have given him
in this case good cause to suspect. You never crib, Eric, I know, but I
can't help being sorry that you wrote the paper."

"But then Graham asked me to do it, and called me cowardly because I
refused at first."

"Ah, Eric," said Russell, "they will ask you to do worse things if you
yield so easily. I wouldn't say anything to Dr. Rowlands about it, if I
were you."

Eric took the advice, and, full of mortification, went home. He gave his
father a true and manly account of the whole occurrence, and that
afternoon Mr. Williams wrote a note of apology and explanation to Mr.
Gordon. Next time the form went up, Mr. Gordon said, in his most
freezing tones, "Williams, at present I shall take no further notice of
your offence beyond including you in the extra lesson every
half-holiday."

From that day forward Eric felt that he was marked and suspected, and
the feeling worked on him with the worst effects. He grew more careless
in work, and more trifling and indifferent in manner. Several boys now
beat him whom he had easily surpassed before, and his energies were for
a time entirely directed to keeping that supremacy in the games which he
had won by his activity and strength.

It was a Sunday afternoon, towards the end of the summer term, and the
boys were sauntering about in the green playground, or lying on the
banks reading and chatting. Eric was with a little knot of his chief
friends, enjoying the sea breeze as they sat on the grass. At last the
bell of the school chapel began to ring, and they went in to the
afternoon service. Eric usually sat with Duncan and Llewellyn,
immediately behind the benches allotted to chance visitors. The bench in
front of them happened on this afternoon to be occupied by some rather
odd people, viz., an old man with long white hair, and two ladies
remarkably stout, who were dressed with much juvenility, although past
middle age. Their appearance immediately attracted notice, and no sooner
had they taken their seats than Duncan and Llewellyn began to titter.
The ladies' bonnets, which were of white, trimmed with long green leaves
and flowers, just peered over the top of the boys' pew, and excited much
amusement. But Eric had not yet learnt to disregard the solemnity of the
place, and the sacred act in which they were engaged. He tried to look
away, and attend to the service, and for a time he partially succeeded,
although, seated as he was between the two triflers, who were
perpetually telegraphing to each other their jokes, he found it a
difficult task, and secretly he began to be much tickled.

At last the sermon commenced, and Llewellyn, who had imprisoned a
grasshopper in a paper cage, suddenly let it hop out. The first hop took
it to the top of the pew; the second perched it on the shoulder of the
stoutest lady. Duncan and Llewellyn tittered louder, and even Eric could
not resist a smile. But when the lady, feeling some irritation on her
shoulder, raised her hand, and the grasshopper took a frightened leap
into the centre of the green foliage which enwreathed her bonnet, none
of the three could stand it, and they burst into fits of laughter, which
they tried in vain to conceal by bending down their heads and cramming
their handkerchiefs into their mouths. Eric, having once given way,
enjoyed the joke uncontrollably, and the lady made matters worse by her
uneasy attempts to dislodge the unknown intruder, and discover the cause
of the tittering, which she could not help hearing. At last all three
began to laugh so violently that several heads were turned in their
direction, and Dr. Rowlands' stern eye caught sight of their levity. He
stopped short in his sermon, and for one instant transfixed them with
his indignant glance. Quiet was instantly restored, and alarm reduced
them to the most perfect order, although the grasshopper still sat
imperturbable among the artificial flowers. Meanwhile the stout lady had
discovered that for some unknown reason she had been causing
considerable amusement, and, attributing it to intentional ridicule,
looked round, justly hurt. Eric, with real shame, observed the deep
vexation of her manner, and bitterly repented his share in the
transaction.

Next morning Dr. Rowlands, in full academicals, sailed into the
fourth-form room. His entrance was the signal for every boy to rise, and
after a word or two to Mr. Gordon, he motioned them to be seated. Eric's
heart sank within him.

"Williams, Duncan, and Llewellyn, stand out!" said the Doctor. The boys,
with downcast eyes and burning cheeks, stood before him.

"I was sorry to notice," said he, "your shameful conduct in chapel
yesterday afternoon. As far as I could observe, you were making
yourselves merry in that sacred place with the personal defects of
others. The lessons you receive here must be futile indeed, if they do
not teach you the duty of reverence to God, and courtesy to man. It
gives me special pain, Williams, to have observed that you, too, a boy
high in your remove, were guilty of this most culpable levity. You will
all come to me at twelve o'clock in the library."

At twelve o'clock they each received a flogging. The pain inflicted was
not great, and Duncan and Llewellyn, who had got into similar trouble
before, cared very little for it, and went out laughing to tell the
number of swishes they had received, to a little crowd of boys who were
lingering outside the library door. But not so Eric. It was his _first_
flogging, and he felt it deeply. To his proud spirit the disgrace was
intolerable. At that moment he hated Dr. Rowlands, he hated Mr. Gordon,
he hated his schoolfellows, he hated everybody. He had been flogged; the
thought haunted him; he, Eric Williams, had been forced to receive this
most degrading corporal punishment. He pushed fiercely through the knot
of boys, and strode as quick as he could along the playground, angry and
impenitent.

At the gate Russell met him. Eric felt the meeting inopportune; he was
ashamed to meet his friend, ashamed to speak to him, envious of him, and
jealous of his better reputation. He wanted to pass him by without
notice, but Russell would not suffer this. He came up to him and took
his arm affectionately. The slightest allusion to his late disgrace
would have made Eric flame out into passion; but Russell was too kind to
allude to it then. He talked as if nothing had happened, and tried to
turn his friend's thoughts to more pleasant subjects. Eric appreciated
his kindness, but he was still sullen and fretful, and it was not until
they parted that his better feelings won the day. But when Russell said
to him "Good bye, Eric," it was too much for him, and seizing Edwin's
hand, he wrung it hard, and tears rushed to his eyes.

"Dear, good Edwin! how I wish I was like you. If all my friends were
like you, I should never get into these troubles."

"Nay, Eric," said Russell, "you may be far better than I. You have far
batter gifts, if you will only do yourself justice."

They parted by Mr. Williams' door, and Russell walked home sad and
thoughtful; but Eric, barely answering his brother's greeting, rushed up
to his room, and, flinging himself on his bed, sobbed like a child at
the remembrance of his disgrace. They were not refreshing tears; he felt
something hard at his heart, and, as he prayed neither for help nor
forgiveness, it was pride and rebellion, not penitence, that made him
miserable.



CHAPTER VI

HOME AFFECTIONS

     "Keep the spell of home affection.
       Still alive in every heart;
     May its power, with mild direction,
       Draw our love from self apart,
         Till thy children
     Feel that thou their Father art."

     SCHOOL HYMN.

"I have caught such a lot of pretty sea anemones, Eric," said little
Vernon Williams, as his brother strolled in after morning school; "I
wish you would come and look at them."

"O, I can't come now, Verny; I am going out to play cricket with some
fellows directly."

"But it won't take you a minute; do come."

"What a little bore you are. Where are the things?"

"O, never mind, Eric, if you don't want to look at them," said Vernon,
hurt at his brother's rough manner.

"First you ask me to look, and then say 'never mind,'" said Eric
impatiently; "here, show me them."

The little boy brought a large saucer, round which the crimson
sea-flowers were waving their long tentacula in the salt water.

"Oh, ay; very pretty indeed. But I must be off to cricket."

Vernon looked up at his brother sadly.

"You aren't so kind to me, Eric, as you used to be."

"What nonsense! and all because I don't admire those nasty red-jelly
things, which one may see on the shore by thousands any day. What a
little goose you are, Vernon!"

Vernon made no reply, but was putting away his sea-anemones with a sigh,
when in came Russell to fetch Eric to the cricket.

"Well, Verny," he said, "have you been getting those pretty
sea-anemones? come here and show me them. Ah, I declare you've got one
of those famous white plumosa fellows among them. What a lucky little
chap you are!"

Vernon was delighted.

"Mind you take care of them," said Russell. "Where did you find them?"

"I have been down the shore getting them."

"And have you had a pleasant morning?"

"Yes, Russell, thank you. Only it is rather dull being always by myself,
and Eric never comes with me now."

"Naughty Eric," said Russell, playfully. "Never mind, Verny; you and I
will cut him, and go by ourselves."

Eric had stood by during the conversation, and the contrast of Russel's
unselfish kindness with his own harsh want of sympathy, struck him. He
threw his arms round his brother's neck, and said, "We will both go with
you, Verny, next half holiday."

"O, thank you, Eric," said his brother; and the two schoolboys ran out.
But when the next half holiday came, warm and bright, with the promise
of a good match that afternoon, Eric repented his promise, and left
Russell to amuse his little brother, while he went off, as usual, to the
playground.

There was one silent witness of scenes like these, who laid them up
deeply in her heart. Mrs. Williams was not unobservant of the gradual
but steady falling off in Eric's character, and the first thing she
noticed was the blunting of his home affections. When they first came to
Roslyn, the boy used constantly to join his father and mother in their
walks; but now he went seldom or never; and even if he did go, he seemed
ashamed, while with them, to meet any of his schoolfellows. The spirit
of false independence was awake and growing in her darling son. The
bright afternoons they had spent together on the sunny shore, or seeking
for sea-flowers among the lonely rocks of the neighboring
headlands,--the walks at evening and sunset among the hills, and the
sweet counsel they had together, when the boy's character opened like a
flower in the light and warmth of his mother's love,--the long twilights
when he would sit on a stool with his young head resting on her knees,
and her loving hand among his fair hair,--all these things were becoming
to Mrs. Williams memories, and nothing more.

It was the trial of her life, and very sad to bear; the more so because
they were soon to be parted, certainly for years, perhaps for ever. The
time was drawing nearer and nearer; it was now June, and Mr. Williams'
term of furlough ended in two months. The holidays at Roslyn were the
months of July and August, and towards their close Mr. and Mrs. Williams
intended to leave Vernon at Fairholm, and start for India--sending back
Eric by himself as a boarder in Dr. Rowlands' house.

After morning school, on fine days, the boys used to run straight down
to the shore and bathe. A bright and joyous scene it was. They stripped
off their clothes on the shingle that adjoined the beach, and then
running along the sands, would swim out far into the bay till their
heads looked like small dots glancing in the sunshine. This year Eric
had learned to swim, and he enjoyed the bathing more than any
other pleasure.

One day after they had dressed, Russell and he began to amuse themselves
on the sea-shore. The little translucent pools left on the sands by the
ebbing tide always swarm with life, and the two boys found great fun in
hunting audacious little crabs, or catching the shrimps that shuffled
about in the shallow water. At last Eric picked up a piece of wood which
he found lying on the beach, and said, "What do you say to coming
crabfishing, Edwin? this bit of stick will do capitally to thrust
between the rocks in the holes where they lie?"

Russell agreed, and they started to the rocks of the Ness to seek a
likely place for their purpose. The Ness was a mile off, but in the
excitement of their pleasure they were oblivious of time.

The Williams', for the boys' convenience, usually dined at one, but on
this day they waited half an hour for Eric. Since, however, he didn't
appear, they dined without him, supposing that he was accidentally
detained, and expecting him to come in every minute. But two o'clock
came, and no Eric; half-past two, and no Eric; three, but still no Eric.
Mrs. Williams became seriously alarmed, and even her husband
grew uneasy.

Vernon was watching for his brother at the window, and seeing Duncan
pass by, ran down to ask him, "If he knew where Eric was?"

"No," said Duncan; "last time I saw him was on the shore. We bathed
together, and I remember his clothes were lying by mine when I dressed.
But I hav'n't seen him since. If you like we'll go and look for him. I
daresay he's on the beach somewhere."

But they found no traces of him there; and when they returned with this
intelligence, his mother got so agitated that it required all her
husband's firm gentleness to support her sinking spirits. There was
enough to cause anxiety, for Vernon repeatedly ran out to ask the boys
who were passing if they had seen his brother, and the answer always
was, that they had left him bathing in the sea.

Meanwhile our young friends, having caught several crabs, suddenly
noticed by the sun that it was getting late.

"Good gracious, Edwin," said Eric, pulling out his watch, "it's
half-past three; what have we been thinking of? How frightened they'll
be at home;" and running back as fast as they could, they reached the
house at five o'clock, and rushed into the room.

"Eric, Eric," said Mrs. Williams faintly, "where have you been? has
anything happened to you, my child?"

"No, mother, nothing. I've only been crabfishing with Russell, and we
forgot the time."

"Thoughtless boy," said his father, "your mother has been in an agony
about you."

Eric saw her pale face and tearful eyes, and flung himself in her arms,
and mother and son wept in a long embrace. "Only two months," whispered
Mrs. Williams, "and we shall leave you, dear boy, perhaps forever. O do
not forget your love for us in the midst of new companions."

The end of term arrived; this time Eric came out eighth only instead of
first, and, therefore, on the prize day, was obliged to sit among the
crowd of undistinguished boys. He saw that his parents were
disappointed, and his own ambition was grievously mortified. But he had
full confidence in his own powers, and made the strongest resolutions to
work hard the next half-year, when he had got out of "that
Gordon's" clutches.

The Williams' spent the holidays at Fairholm, and now, indeed, in the
prospect of losing them, Eric's feelings to his parents came out in all
their strength. Most happily the days glided by, and the father and
mother used them wisely. All their gentle influence, all their deep
affection, were employed in leaving on the boy's heart lasting
impressions of godliness and truth. He learnt to feel that their love
would encircle him for ever with its heavenly tenderness, and their pure
prayers rise for him night and day to the throne of God.

The day of parting came, and most bitter and heartrending it was. In the
wildness of their passionate sorrow, Eric and Vernon seemed to hear the
sound of everlasting farewells. It is God's mercy that ordains how
seldom young hearts have to endure such misery.

At length it was over. The last sound of wheels had died away; and
during those hours the hearts of parents and children felt the
bitterness of death. Mrs. Trevor and Fanny, themselves filled with
grief, still used all their unselfish endeavors to comfort their dear
boys. Vernon, weary of crying, soon sank to sleep; but not so Eric. He
sat on a low stool, his face buried in his hands, breaking the stillness
every now and then with his convulsive sobs.

"O Aunty," he cried, "do you think I shall ever see them again? I have
been so wicked, and so little grateful for all their love. O, I wish I
had thought at Roslyn how soon I was to lose them."

"Yes, dearest," said Mrs. Trevor, "I have no doubt we shall all meet
again soon. Your father is only going for five years, you know, and that
will not seem very long. And then they will be writing continually to
us, and we to them. Think, Eric, how gladdened their hearts will be to
hear that you and Vernon are good boys, and getting on well."

"O, I _will_ be a better boy, I _will_ indeed," said Eric; "I mean to do
great things, and they shall have nothing but good reports of me."

"God helping you, dear," said his aunt, pushing back his hair from his
forehead, and kissing it softly; "without his help, Eric, we are all
weak indeed."

She sighed. But how far deeper her sigh would have been had she known
the future. Merciful is the darkness that shrouds it from human eyes!



CHAPTER VII

ERIC A BOARDER

     "We were, fair queen,
     Two lads that thought there was no more behind,
     But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
     And to be boy eternal."--WINTER'S TALE, i. 2.

The holidays were over. Vernon was to have a tutor at Fairholm, and Eric
was to return alone, and be received into Dr. Rowlands' house.

As he went on board the steam-packet, he saw numbers of the well-known
faces on deck, and merry voices greeted him.

"Hallo, Williams! here you are at last," said Duncan, seizing his hand.
"How have you enjoyed the holidays? It's so jolly to see you again."

"So you're coming as a boarder," said Montagu, "and to our noble house,
too. Mind you stick up for it, old fellow. Come along, and let's watch
whether the boats are bringing any more fellows; we shall be starting in
a few minutes."

"Ha! there's Russell," said Eric, springing to the gangway, and warmly
shaking his friend's hand as he came on board.

"Have your father and mother gone, Eric?" said Russell, after a few
minutes' talk.

"Yes," said Eric, turning away his head, and hastily brushing his eyes.
"They are on their way back to India."

"I'm so sorry," said Russell; "I don't think anyone has ever been so
kind to me as they were."

"And they loved you, Edwin, dearly, and told me, almost the last thing,
that they hoped we should always be friends. Stop! they gave me
something for you." Eric opened his carpet-bag, and took out a little
box carefully wrapped up, which he gave to Russell. It contained a
pretty silver watch, and inside the case was engraved--"Edwin Russell,
from the mother of his friend Eric."

The boy's eyes glistened with joyful surprise. "How good they are," he
said; "I shall write and thank Mrs. Williams directly we get to Roslyn."

They had a fine bright voyage, and arrived that night. Eric, as a new
comer, was ushered at once into Dr. Rowlands' drawing-room, where the
head master was sitting with his wife and children. His greeting was
dignified, but not unkindly; and, on saying "good night," he gave Eric a
few plain words of affectionate advice.

At that moment Eric hardly cared for advice. He was full of life and
spirits, brave, bright, impetuous, tingling with hope, in the flush and
flower of boyhood. He bounded down the stairs, and in another minute
entered the large room where all Dr. Rowlands' boarders assembled, and
where most of them lived, except the few privileged sixth form, and
other boys who had "studies." A cheer greeted his entrance into the
room. By this time most of the Rowlandites knew him, and were proud to
have him among their number. They knew that he was clever enough to get
them credit in the school, and, what was better still, that he would be
a capital accession of strength to the cricket and football. Except
Barker, there was not one who had not a personal liking for him, and on
this occasion even Barker was gracious.

The room in which Eric found himself was large and high. At one end was
a huge fire-place, and there was generally a throng of boys round the
great iron fender, where, in cold weather, a little boy could seldom
get. The large windows opened on the green playground; and iron bars
prevented any exit through them. This large room, called "the boarders'
room," was the joint habitation of Eric and some thirty other boys; and
at one side ran a range of shelves and drawers, where they kept their
books and private property. There the younger Rowlandites breakfasted,
dined, had tea, and, for the most part, lived. Here, too, they had to
get through all such work as was not performed under direct supervision.
How many and what varied scenes had not that room beheld! had those dumb
walls any feeling, what worlds of life and experience they would have
acquired! If against each boy's name, as it was rudely cut on the oak
panels, could have been also cut the fate that had befallen him, the
good that he had there learnt, the evil that he had there suffered--what
_noble_ histories would the records unfold of honor and success, of
baffled temptations and hard-won triumphs; what _awful_ histories of
hopes blighted and habits learned, of wasted talents and ruined lives!

The routine of school-life was on this wise:--At half-past seven the
boys came down to prayers, which were immediately followed by breakfast.
At nine they went into school, where they continued, with little
interruption, till twelve. At one they dined, and, except on
half-holidays, went into school again from two till five. The lock-up
bell rang at dusk; at six o'clock they had tea--which was a repetition
of breakfast, with leave to add to it whatever else they liked--and
immediately after sat down to "preparation," which lasted from seven
till nine. During this time one of the masters was always in the room,
who allowed them to read amusing books, or employ themselves in any
other quiet way they liked, as soon as ever they had learnt their
lessons for the following day. At nine Dr. Rowlands came in and read
prayers, after which the boys were dismissed to bed.

The arrangement of the dormitories was peculiar. They were a suite of
rooms, exactly the same size, each opening into the other; six on each
side of a lavatory, which occupied the space between them, so that, when
all the doors were open, you could see from one end of the whole range
to the other. The only advantage of this arrangement was, that one
master walking up and down could keep all the boys in order while they
were getting into bed. About a quarter of an hour was allowed for this
process, and then the master went along the rooms putting out the
lights. A few of the "study-boys" were allowed to sit up till ten, and
their bedrooms were elsewhere. The consequence was, that in these
dormitories the boys felt perfectly secure from any interruption. There
were only two ways by which a master could get at them; one up the great
staircase, and through the lavatory; the other by a door at the extreme
end of the range, which led into Dr. Rowlands' house, but was generally
kept locked.

In each dormitory slept four or five boys, distributed by their order in
the school list, so that, in all the dormitories, there were nearly
sixty; and of these a goodly number were, on Eric's arrival, collected
in the boarders' room, the rest being in their studies, or in the
classrooms which some were allowed to use in order to prevent too great
a crowd in the room below.

At nine o'clock the prayer-bell rang. Immediately all the boarders took
their seats for prayers, each with an open Bible before him; and when
the school servants had also come in, Dr. Rowlands read a chapter, and
offered up an extempore prayer. While reading, he generally interspersed
a few pointed remarks or graphic explanations, and Eric learnt much in
this simple way. The prayer, though short, was always well suited to the
occasion, and calculated to carry with it the attention of the
worshippers.

Prayers over, the boys noisily dispersed to their bed rooms, and Eric
found himself placed in a room immediately to the right of the lavatory,
occupied by Duncan, Graham, Llewellyn, and two other boys named Bull and
Attlay, all in the same form with himself They were all tired with their
voyage, and the excitement of coming back to school, so that they did
not talk much that night, and before long Eric was fast asleep,
dreaming, dreaming, dreaming that he should have a very happy life at
Roslyn school, and seeing himself win no end of distinctions, and make
no end of new friends.



CHAPTER VIII

"TAKING UP"


     "We are not worst at once; the course of evil
     Begins so slowly, and from such slight source,
     An infant's hand might stop the breach with clay;
     But let the stream grow wider, and Philosophy--
     Ay, and Religion too--may strive in vain
     To stem the headlong current!"--ANON.

With intense delight Eric heard it announced next morning, when the new
school-list was read, that he had got his remove into the "Shell," as
the form was called which intervened between the fourth and the fifth.
Russell, Owen, and Montagu also got their removes with him, but his
other friends were left for the present in the form below.

Mr. Rose, hiss new master, was in every respect a great contrast with
Mr. Gordon. He was not so brilliant in his acquirements, nor so vigorous
in his teaching, and therefore clever boys did not catch fire from him
so much as from the fourth-form master. But he was a far truer and
deeper Christian; and, with no less scrupulous a sense of honor, and
detestation of every form of moral obliquity, he never yielded to those
storms of passionate indignation which Mr. Gordon found it impossible to
control. Disappointed in early life, subjected to the deepest and most
painful trials, Mr. Rose's fine character had come out like gold from
the flame. He now lived in and for the boys alone, and his whole life
was one long self-devotion to their service and interests. The boys felt
this, and even the worst of them, in their worst moments, loved and
honored Mr. Rose. But he was not seeking for gratitude, which he neither
expected nor required; he asked no affection in return for his
self-denials; he worked with a pure spirit of human and self-sacrificing
love, happy beyond all payment if ever he were instrumental in saving
one of his charge from evil, or turning one wanderer from the error
of his ways.

He was an unmarried man, and therefore took no boarders himself, but
lived in the school-buildings, and had the care of the boys in Dr.
Rowlands' house.

Such was the master under whom Eric was now placed, and the boy was
sadly afraid that an evil report would have reached his ears, and given
him already an unfavorable impression. But he was soon happily
undeceived. Mr. Rose at once addressed him with much kindness, and he
felt that, however bad he had been before, he would now have an
opportunity to turn over a new leaf, and begin again a career of hope.
He worked admirably at first, and even beat, for the first week or two,
his old competitors, Owen and Russell.

From the beginning, Mr. Rose took a deep interest in him. Few could look
at the boy's bright blue eyes and noble face without doing so, and the
more when they knew that his father and mother were thousands of miles
away, leaving him alone in the midst of so many dangers. Often the
master asked him, and Russell, and Owen, and Montagu, to supper with him
in the library, which gave them the privilege of sitting up later than
usual, and enjoying a more quiet and pleasant evening than was possible
in the noisy rooms. Boys and master were soon quite at home with each
other, and in this way Mr. Rose had an opportunity of instilling many a
useful warning without the formality of regular discipline or
stereotyped instruction.

Eric found the life of the "boarders' room" far rougher than he had
expected. Work was out of the question there, except during the hours of
preparation, and the long dark winter evenings were often dull enough.
Sometimes, indeed, they would all join in some regular indoor boys' game
like "baste the bear," or "high-cockolorum;" or they would have amusing
"ghost-hunts," as they called them, after some dressed-up boy among the
dark corridors and staircases. This was good enough fun, but at other
times they got tired of games, and could not get them up, and then
numbers of boys felt the idle time hang heavy on their hands. When this
was the case, some of the worse sort, as might have been expected, would
fill up their leisure with bullying or mischief.

For some time they had a form of diversion which disgusted and annoyed
Eric exceedingly. On each of the long iron-bound deal tables were placed
two or three tallow candles in tin candlesticks, and this was the only
light the boys had. Of course, these candles often, wanted snuffing, and
as snuffers were sure to be thrown about and broken as soon as they
were brought into the room, the only resource was to snuff them with the
fingers, at which all the boys became great adepts from necessity. One
evening Barker, having snuffed the candle, suddenly and slyly put the
smouldering wick unnoticed on the head of a little quiet inoffensive
fellow named Wright, who happened to be sitting next to him. It went on
smouldering for some time without Wright's perceiving it, and at last
Barker, highly delighted, exclaimed--

"I see a chimney," and laughed.

Four or five boys looked up, and very soon every one in the room had
noticed the trick except little Wright himself, who unconsciously wrote
on at the letter he was sending home.

Eric did not like this; but not wishing to come across Barker again,
said nothing, and affected not to have observed. But Russell said
quietly, "There's something on your head, Wright," and the little boy
putting up his hand, hastily brushed off the horrid wick.

"What a shame!" he said, as it fell on his letter, and made a smudge.

"Who told you to interfere?" said Barker, turning fiercely to Russell.
Russell, as usual, took not the slightest notice of him, and Barker,
after a little more bluster, repeated the trick on another boy. This
time Russell thought that every one might be on the look out for
himself, and so went on with his work. But when Barker again chanted
maliciously--

"I see a chimney," every boy who happened to be reading or writing,
uneasily felt to discover this time he was himself the victim or no; and
so things continued for half an hour.

Ridiculous and disgusting as this folly was, it became, when constantly
repeated, very annoying. A boy could not sit down to any quiet work
without constant danger of having some one creep up behind him and put
the offensive fragment of smoking snuff on his head; and neither Barker
nor any of his little gang of imitators seemed disposed to give up their
low mischief.

One night, when the usual exclamation was made, Eric felt sure, from
seeing several boys looking at him, that this time some one had been
treating him in the same way. He indignantly shook his head, and sure
enough the bit of wick dropped off. Eric was furious, and springing up,
he shouted--

"By Jove! I _won't_ stand this any longer."

"You'll have to sit it then," said Barker.

"O, it was _you_ who did it, was it? Then take that;" and, seizing one
of the tin candlesticks, Eric hurled it at Barker's head. Barker dodged,
but the edge of it cut open his eyebrow as it whizzed by, and the blood
flowed fast.

"I'll kill you for that," said Barker, leaping at Eric, and seizing him
by the hair.

"You'll get killed yourself then, you brute," said Upton, Russell's
cousin, a fifth-form boy, who had just come into the room--and he boxed
his ears as a premonitory admonition. "But, I say, young un," continued
he to Eric, "this kind of thing won't do, you snow. You'll get into
rows if you shy candlesticks at fellows' heads at that rate."

"He has been making the room intolerable for the last month by his
filthy tricks," said Eric hotly; "some one must stop him, and I will
somehow, if no one else does."

"It wasn't I who put the thing on your head, you passionate young fool,"
growled Barker.

"Who was it then? How was I to know? You began it."

"You shut up, Barker," said Upton; "I've heard of your ways before, and
when I catch you at your tricks, I'll teach you a lesson. Come up to my
study, Williams, if you like."

Upton was a fine sturdy fellow of eighteen, immensely popular in the
school for his prowess and good looks. He hated bullying, and often
interfered to protect little boys, who accordingly idolised him, and did
anything he told them very willingly. He meant to do no harm, but he did
great harm. He was full of misdirected impulses, and had a great notion
of being manly, which he thought consisted in a fearless disregard of
all school rules, and the performance of the wildest tricks. For this
reason he was never very intimate with his cousin Russell, whom he liked
very much, but who was too scrupulous and independent to please him.
Eric, on the other hand, was just the boy to take his fancy, and to
admire him in return; his life, strength, and pluck, made him a ready
pupil in all schemes of mischief, and Upton, who had often noticed him,
would have been the first to shudder had he known how far his example
went to undermine all Eric's lingering good resolutions, and ruin for
ever the boy of whom he was so fond.

From this time Eric was much in Upton's study, and constantly by his
side in the playground. In spite of their disparity in age and position
in the school, they became sworn friends, though, their friendship was
broken every now and then by little quarrels, which united them all the
more closely after they had not spoken to each other perhaps for a week.

"Your cousin Upton has 'taken up' Williams," said Montagu to Russell one
afternoon, as he saw the two strolling together on the beach, with
Eric's arm in Upton's.

"Yes, I am sorry for it."

"So am I. We shan't see so much of him now."

"O, that's not my only reason," answered Russell, who had a rare habit
of always going straight to the point.

"You mean you don't like the 'taking-up' system."

"No, Montagu; I used once to have fine theories about it. I used to
fancy that a big fellow would do no end of good to one lower in the
school, and that the two would stand to each other in the relation of
knight to squire. You know what the young knights were taught, Monty--to
keep their bodies under, and bring them into subjection; to love God,
and speak the truth always. That sounds very grand and noble to me. But
when a big fellow takes up a little one _you_ know pretty well that
_those_ are not the kind of lessons he teaches"

"No, Russell; you're quite right. It's bad for a fellow in every way.
First of all, it keeps him in an unnatural sort of dependence; then ten
to one it makes him conceited, and prevents his character from really
coming out well. And besides, the young chap generally gets paid out in
kicks and abuse from the jealousy and contempt of the rest; and if his
protector happens to leave, or anything of that kind, woe betide him!"

"No fear for Eric in that line, though," said Russell; "he can hold his
own pretty well against any one. And after all, he is a most jolly
fellow. I don't think even Upton will spoil him; it's chiefly the soft
self-indulgent fellows, who are all straw and no iron, who get spoilt by
being 'taken up.'"

Russell was partly right. Eric learnt a great deal of harm from Upton,
and the misapplied hero-worship led to bad results. But he was too manly
a little fellow, and had too much self-respect, to sink into the
effeminate condition which usually grows on the young delectables who
have the misfortune to be "taken up."

Nor did he in the least drop his old friends, except Owen. A coolness
grew up between the latter and Eric, not unmingled with a little mutual
contempt. Eric sneered at Owen as a fellow who did nothing but grind all
day long, and had no geniality in him; while Owen pitied the love of
popularity which so often led Eric into delinquencies, which he himself
despised. Owen had, indeed, but few friends in the school; the only boy
who knew him well enough to respect and like him thoroughly was Russell,
who found in him the only one who took the same high, ground with
himself. But Russell loved the good in every one, and was loved by all
in return, and Eric he loved most of all, while he often mourned over
his increasing failures.

One day as the two were walking together in the green playground, Mr.
Gordon passed by; and as the boys touched their caps, he nodded and
smiled pleasantly at Russell, but hardly noticed, and did not return
Eric's salute. He had begun to dislike the latter more and more, and had
given him up altogether as one of the reprobates.

"What a surly devil that is," said Eric, when he had passed; "did you
see how he purposely cut me?"

"A surly ...? Oh Eric, that's the first time I ever heard you swear."

Eric blushed. He hadn't meant the word to slip out in Russell's hearing,
though similar expressions were common enough in his talk with other
boys. But he didn't like to be reproved, even by Russell, and in the
ready spirit of self-defence, he answered--

"Pooh, Edwin, you don't call that swearing, do you? You're so strict, so
religious, you know. I love you for it, but then, there are none like
you. Nobody thinks anything of swearing here."

Russell was silent.

"Besides, what can be the harm of it? it means nothing. I was thinking
the other night, and I concluded that you and Owen are the only two
fellows here who don't swear."

Russell still said nothing.

"And, after all, I didn't swear; I only called that fellow a surly
devil."

"O, hush! Eric, hush!" said Russell sadly. "You wouldn't have said so
half-a-year ago."

Eric knew what he meant. The image of his father and mother rose before
him, as they sate far away in their lonely Indian home, thinking of him,
praying for him, centring all their hopes in him. In him!--and he knew
how many things he was daily doing and saying, which would cut them to
the heart. He knew that all his moral consciousness was fast vanishing,
and leaving him a bad and reckless boy.

In a moment, all this passed through his mind. He remembered how shocked
he had been at swearing at first; and even when it became too familiar
to shock him, how he determined never to fall into the habit himself.
Then he remembered how gradually it had become quite a graceful sound in
his ears; a sound of entire freedom and independence of moral restraint;
an open casting off, as it were, of all authority, so that he had begun
to admire it, particularly in Duncan, and above all, in his new hero,
Upton; and he recollected how, at last, an oath had one day slipped out
suddenly in his own words, and how strange it sounded to him, and how
Upton smiled to hear it, though conscience had reproached him bitterly;
but now that he had done it once, it became less dreadful, and gradually
grew common enough, till even conscience hardly reminded him that he was
doing wrong.

He thought of all this, and hung his head. Pride struggled with him for
a moment, but at length he answered, "O Edwin, I fear I am getting
utterly bad; I wish I were more like you," he added, in a low sad tone.

"Dear Eric, I have no right to say it, full of faults as I am myself;
but you will be so much happier, if you try not to yield to all the bad
things round us. Remember, I know more of school than you."

The two boys strolled on silently. That night Eric knelt at his bedside,
and prayed as he had not done for many a long day.



CHAPTER IX

"DEAD FLIES," OR "YE SHALL BE AS GODS"

"In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night." PROV.
vii. 9.

At Roslyn, even in summer, the hour for going to bed was half-past nine.
It was hardly likely that so many boys, overflowing with turbulent life,
should lie down quietly, and get to sleep. They never dreamt of doing
so. Very soon after the masters were gone, the sconces were often
relighted, sometimes in separate dormitories, sometimes in all of them,
and the boys amused themselves by reading novels or making a row. They
would play various games about the bedrooms, vaulting or jumping over
the beds, running races in sheets, getting through the windows upon the
roofs, to frighten the study-boys with sham ghosts, or playing the
thousand other pranks which suggested themselves to the fertile
imagination of fifteen. But the favorite amusement was a bolstering
match. One room would challenge another, and, stripping the covers off
their bolsters, would meet in mortal fray. A bolster well wielded,
especially when dexterously applied to the legs, is a very efficient
instrument to bring a boy to the ground; but it doesn't hurt very much,
even when the blows fall on the head. Hence these matches were excellent
trials of strength and temper, and were generally accompanied with
shouts of laughter, never ending until one side was driven back to its
own room. Many a long and tough struggle had Eric enjoyed, and his
prowess was so universally acknowledged, that his dormitory, No. 7, was
a match for any other, and far stronger in this warfare than most of the
rest. At bolstering, Duncan was a perfect champion; his strength and
activity were marvellous, and his mirth uproarious. Eric and Graham
backed him up brilliantly; while Llewellyn and Attlay, with sturdy
vigor, supported the skirmishers. Bull, the sixth boy in No. 7, was the
only _fainéant_ among them, though he did occasionally help to keep off
the smaller fry.

Happy would it have been for all of them if Bull had never been placed
in No. 7; happier still if he had never come to Roslyn school. Backward
in work, overflowing with vanity at his supposed good looks, of mean
disposition and feeble intellect, he was the very worst specimen of a
boy that Eric had ever seen. Not even Barker so deeply excited Eric's
repulsion and contempt. And yet, since the affair of Upton, Barker and
Eric were declared enemies, and, much to the satisfaction of the latter,
never spoke to each other; but with Bull--much as he inwardly loathed
him--he was professedly and apparently on good terms. His silly love of
universal popularity made him accept and tolerate the society even of
this worthless boy.

Any two boys talking to each other about Bull would probably profess to
like him "well enough," but if they were honest, they would generally
end by allowing their contempt.

"We've got a nice set in No. 7, haven't we?" said Duncan to Eric one
day.

"Capital. Old Llewellyn's a stunner, and I like Attlay and Graham."

"Don't you like Bull then?"

"O yes; pretty well."

The two boys looked each other in the face, then, like the confidential
augurs, burst out laughing.

"You know you detest him," said Duncan.

"No, I don't. He never did me any harm that I know of."

"Him!--well, _I_ detest him."

"Well!" answered Eric, "on coming to think of it, so do I. And yet he is
popular enough in the school. I wonder how that is."

"He's not _really_ popular. I've often noticed that fellows pretty
generally despise him, yet somehow don't like to say so."

"Why do you dislike him, Duncan?"

"I don't know. Why do you?"

"I don't know either."

Neither Eric nor Duncan meant this answer to be false, and yet if they
had taken the trouble to consider, they would have found out in their
secret souls the reasons of their dislike.

Bull had been to school before, and of this school he often bragged as
the acmé of desirability and wickedness. He was always telling boys what
they did at "his old school," and he quite inflamed the minds of such as
fell under his influence by marvellous tales of the wild and wilful
things which he and his former school-fellows had done. Many and many a
scheme of sin and mischief, at Roslyn was suggested, planned, and
carried out on the model of Bull's reminiscences of his previous life.

He had tasted more largely of the tree of the knowledge of evil than any
other boy, and strange to say, this was the secret why the general odium
was never expressed. He claimed his guilty experience so often as a
ground of superiority, that at last the claim was silently allowed. He
spoke from the platform of more advanced iniquity, and the others
listened first curiously, then eagerly to his words.

"Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Such was the temptation
which assailed the other boys in dormitory No. 7; and Eric among the
number. Bull was the tempter. Secretly, gradually, he dropped into their
too willing ears the poison of his polluting acquirements.

In brief, Bull was cursed with a degraded and corrupting mind.

I hurry over a part of my subject inconceivably painful; I hurry over
it, but if I am to perform my self-imposed duty of giving a true picture
of what school life _sometimes_ is, I must not pass it by altogether.

The first time that Eric heard indecent words in dormitory No. 7, he was
shocked beyond bound or measure. Dark though it was, he felt himself
blushing scarlet to the roots of his hair, and then growing pale again,
while a hot dew was left upon his forehead. Bull was the speaker; but
this time there was a silence, and the subject instantly dropped. The
others felt that "a new boy" was in the room; they did not know how he
would take it; they were unconsciously abashed.

Besides, though they had themselves joined in such conversation before,
they did not love it, and on the contrary, felt ashamed of yielding
to it.

Now, Eric, now or never! Life and death, ruin and salvation, corruption
and purity, are perhaps in the balance together, and the scale of your
destiny may hang on a single word of yours. Speak out, boy! Tell these
fellows that unseemly words wound your conscience; tell them that they
are ruinous, sinful, damnable; speak out and save yourself and the rest.
Virtue is strong and beautiful, Eric, and vice is downcast in her awful
presence. Lose your purity of heart, Eric, and you have lost a jewel
which the whole world, if it were "one entire and perfect chrysolite,"
cannot replace.

Good spirits guard that young boy, and give him grace in this his hour
of trial! Open his eyes that he may see the fiery horses and the fiery
chariots of the angels who would defend him, and the dark array of
spiritual foes who throng around his bed. Point a pitying finger to the
yawning abyss of shame, ruin, and despair that even now perhaps is being
cleft under his feet. Show him the garlands of the present and the past,
withering at the touch of the Erinnys in the future. In pity, in pity
show him the canker which he is introducing into the sap of the tree of
life, which shall cause its root to be hereafter as bitterness, and its
blossom to go up as dust.

But the sense of sin was on Eric's mind. How _could_ he speak? was not
his own language sometimes profane? How--how could he profess to reprove
another boy on the ground of morality, when he himself said did things
less ruinous perhaps, but equally forbidden?

For half an hour, in an agony of struggle with himself, Eric lay silent.
Since Bull's last words nobody had spoken. They were going to sleep. It
was too late to speak now, Eric thought. The moment passed by for ever;
Eric had listened without objection to foul words, and the irreparable
harm was done.

How easy it would have been to speak! With the temptation, God had
provided also a way to escape. Next time it came, it was far harder to
resist, and it soon became, to men, impossible.

Ah Eric, Eric! how little we know the moments which decide the destinies
of life. We live on as usual. The day is a common day, the hour a common
hour. We never thought twice about the change of intention, which by one
of the accidents--(accidents!)--of life determined for good or for evil,
for happiness or misery, the color of our remaining years. The stroke of
the pen was done in a moment which led unconsciously to our ruin; the
word was uttered quite heedlessly, on which turned for ever the decision
of our weal or woe.

Eric lay silent. The darkness was not broken by the flashing of an
angel's wing, the stillness was not syllabled by the sound of an angel's
voice; but to his dying day Eric never forgot the moments which passed,
until, weary and self-reproachful, he fell asleep.

Next morning he awoke, restless and feverish. He at once remembered what
had passed. Bull's words haunted him; he could not forget them; they
burnt within him like the flame of a moral fever. He was moody and
petulant, and for a time could hardly conceal his aversion to Bull. Ah
Eric! moodiness and petulance cannot save you, but prayerfulness would;
one word, Eric, at the throne of grace--one prayer before you go down
among the boys, that God in his mercy would wash away, in the blood of
his dear Son, your crimson stains, and keep your conscience and
memory clean.

The boy knelt down for a few minutes, and repeated to himself a few
formal words. Had he stayed longer on his knees, he might have given way
to a burst of penitence and supplication--but he heard Bull's footstep,
and getting up, he ran down stairs to breakfast; so Eric did not pray.

Conversations did not generally drop so suddenly in dormitory No. 7. On
the contrary, they generally flashed along in the liveliest way, till
some one said "Good night;" and then the boys turned off to sleep. Eric
knew this, and instantly conjectured that it was only a sort of respect
for him, and ignorance of the manner in which he would consider it, that
prevented Duncan and the rest from taking any further notice of Bull's
remark. It was therefore no good disburdening his mind to any of them;
but he determined to speak about the matter to Russell in their
next walk.

They usually walked together on Sunday. Dr. Rowlands had discontinued
the odious and ridiculous custom of the younger boys taking their
exercise under a master's inspection. Boys are not generally fond of
constitutionals, so that on the half-holidays they almost entirely
confined their open-air exercise to the regular games, and many of them
hardly left the play-ground boundaries once a week. But on Sundays they
often went walks, each with his favorite friend or companion. When Eric
first came as a boarder, he invariably went with Russell on Sunday, and
many a pleasant stroll they had taken together, sometimes accompanied by
Duncan, Montagu, or Owen. The latter, however, had dropped even this
intercourse with Eric, who for the last few weeks had more often gone
with his new friend Upton.

"Come a walk, boy," said Upton, as they left the dining-room.

"O excuse me to-day, Upton," said Eric, "I'm going with your cousin."

"Oh _very_ well," said Upton, in high dudgeon, and, hoping to make Eric
jealous, he went a walk with Graham, whom he had "taken up" before he
knew Williams.

Russell was rather surprised when Eric came to him and said, "Come a
stroll to Fort Island, Edwin--will you?"

"O yes," said Russell cheerfully; "why, we haven't seen each other for
some time lately! I was beginning to fancy that you meant to drop
me, Eric."

He spoke with a smile, and in a rallying tone, but Eric hung his head,
for the charge was true. Proud of his popularity among all the school,
and especially at his friendship with so leading a fellow as Upton, Eric
had _not_ seen much of his friend since their last conversation about
swearing. Indeed, conscious of failure, he felt sometimes uneasy in
Russell's company.

He faltered, and answered humbly, "I hope you will never drop _me_,
Edwin, however bad I get? But I particularly want to speak to
you to-day."

In an instant Russell had twined his arm in Eric's, as they turned
towards Fort Island; and Eric, with an effort, was just going to begin,
when they heard Montagu's voice calling after them--

"I say, you fellows, where are you off to! may I come with you?"

"O yes, Monty, do," said Russell, "It will be quite like old times; now
that my cousin Horace has got hold of Eric, we have to sing 'When shall
we three meet again?'"

Russell only spoke in fun; but, unintentionally, his words jarred in
Eric's heart. He was silent, and answered in monosyllables, so the walk
was provokingly dull. At last they reached Fort Island, and sat down by
the ruined chapel looking on the sea.

"Why what's the row with you, old boy," said Montagu, playfully shaking
Eric by the shoulder, "you're as silent as Zimmerman on Solitude, and as
doleful as Harvey on the Tombs. I expect you've been going through a
select course of Blair's Grave, Young's Night Thoughts, and Drelincourt
on Death."

To his surprise Eric's head was still bent, and, at last, he heard a
deep suppressed sigh.

"My dear child, what is the matter with you?" said Russell,
affectionately taking his hand, "surely you're not offended at my
nonsense?"

Eric had not liked to speak while Montagu was by, but now he gulped down
his rising emotion, and briefly told them of Bull's vile words the night
before. They listened in silence.

"I knew it must come, Eric," said Russell at last, "and I am so sorry
you didn't speak at the time."

"Do the fellows ever talk in that way in either of your dormitories?"
asked Eric.

"No," said Russell.

"Very little," said Montagu.

A pause followed, during which all three plucked the grass and looked
away.

"Let me tell you," said Russell solemnly; "my father (he is dead now you
know, Eric), when I was sent to school, warned me of this kind of thing.
I had been brought up in utter ignorance of such coarse knowledge as is
forced upon one here, and with my reminiscences of home, I could not
bear even that much of it which was impossible to avoid. But the very
first time such talk was begun in my dormitory I spoke out. What I said
I don't know, but I felt as if I was trampling on a slimy poisonous
adder, and, at any rate, I showed such pain and distress that the
fellows dropped it at the time. Since then I have absolutely refused to
stay in the room if ever such talk is begun. So it never is now, and I
do think the fellows are very glad of it themselves."

"Well," said Montagu, "I don't profess to look on it from the religious
ground, you know, but I thought it blackguardly, and in bad taste, and
said so. The fellow who began it, threatened to kick me for a conceited
little fool, but he didn't; and they hardly ever venture on that
ground now."

"It is more than blackguardly--it is deadly," answered Russell; "my
father said it was the most fatal curse which could ever become rife in
a public school."

"Why do masters never give us any help or advice on these matters?"
asked Eric thoughtfully.

"In sermons they do. Don't you remember Rowlands' sermon not two weeks
ago on Kibroth-Hattaavah? But I for one think them quite right not to
speak to us privately on such subjects, unless we invite confidence.
Besides, they cannot know that any boys talk in this way. After all, it
is only a very few of the worst who ever do."

They got up and walked home, but from day to day Eric put off performing
the duty which Russell had advised, viz.--a private request to Bull to
abstain from his offensive communications, and an endeavor to enlist
Duncan into his wishes.

One evening they were telling each other stories in No. 7. Bull's turn
came, and in his story the vile element again appeared. For a while Eric
said nothing, but as the strain grew worse, he made a faint
remonstrance.

"Shut up there, Williams," said Attlay, "and don't spoil the story."

"Very well. It's your own fault, and I shall shut my ears."

He did for a time, but a general laugh awoke him. He pretended to be
asleep, but he listened. Iniquity of this kind was utterly new to him;
his curiosity was awakened; he no longer feigned indifference, and the
poison flowed deep into his veins. Before that evening was over, Eric
Williams was "a god, knowing good from evil."

O young boys, if your eyes ever read these pages, pause and beware. The
knowledge of evil is ruin, and the continuance in it hell. That little
matter--that beginning of evil,--it will be like the snowflake detached
by the breath of air from the mountain-top, which, as it rushes down,
gains size, and strength, and impetus, till it has swollen to the mighty
and irresistible avalanche that overwhelms garden, and field, and
village, in a chaos of undistinguishable death.

Kibroth-Hattaavah! Many and many a young Englishman has perished there!
Many and many a happy English boy, the jewel of his mother's
heart,--brave, and beautiful, and strong,--lies buried there. Very pale
their shadows rise before us--the shadows of our young brothers who have
sinned and suffered. From the sea and the sod, from foreign graves and
English churchyards, they start up and throng around us in the paleness
of their fall. May every schoolboy who reads this page be warned by the
waving of their wasted hands, from that burning marle of passion, where
they found nothing but shame and ruin, polluted affections, and an
early grave.



CHAPTER X

DORMITORY LIFE

     [Greek: Aspasiae trillistos hepaeluths nux herebennae.]
     HOM.

For a few days after the Sunday walk narrated in the last chapter, Upton
and Eric cut each other dead. Upton was angry at Eric's declining the
honor of his company, and Eric was piqued at Upton's unreasonableness.
In the "taking up" system, such quarrels were of frequent occurrence,
and as the existence of a misunderstanding was generally indicated in
this very public way, the variations of good will between such friends
generally excited no little notice and amusement among the other boys.
But both Upton and Eric were too sensible to carry their differences so
far as others similarly circumstanced; each thoroughly enjoyed the
other's company, and they generally seized an early opportunity for
effecting a reconciliation, which united them more firmly than ever.

As soon as Eric had got over his little pique, he made the first
advances, by writing a note to Upton, which he slipped under his study
door, and which ran as follows:--

"Dear Horace--Don't let us quarrel about nothing. Silly fellow, why
should you be angry with me because for once I wanted to go a walk with
Russell, who, by the bye, is twice as good a fellow as you? I shall
expect you to make it up directly after prayers.--Yours, if you are not
silly, E.W."

The consequence was, that as they came out from prayers, Upton seized
Eric's hand, and slapped him on the back, after which they had a good
laugh over their own foolish fracas, and ran up stairs chattering
merrily.

"There's to be an awful lark in the dormitories tonight," said Eric;
"the doctor's gone to a dinner-party, and we're going to have no end
of fun."

"Are you? Well, if it gets amusing, come to my study and tell me, I'll
come and look on."

"Very well; depend upon it, I'll come." And they parted at the foot of
the study stairs.

It was Mr. Rose's night of duty. He walked slowly up and down the range
of Dormitories until every boy seemed ready to get into bed, and then he
put out all the candles. So long as he was present, the boys observed
the utmost quiet and decorum. All continued quite orderly until he had
passed away through the lavatory, and one of the boys following him as a
scout, had seen the last glimmer of his candle disappear round the
corner at the foot of the great staircase, and heard the library door
close behind him.

After that, particularly as Dr. Rowlands was absent, the boys knew that
they were safe from disturbance, and the occupants of No. 7 were the
first to stir.

"Now for some fun," said Duncan, starting up, and by way of initiative
pitching his pillow at Eric's head.

"I'll pay you out for that when I'm ready," said Eric, laughing; "but
give us a match, first."

Duncan produced some vestas, and no sooner had they lighted their
candle, than several of the dormitory doors began to be thrown open, and
one after another all requested a light, which Duncan and Eric conveyed
to them in a sort of emulous lampadephoria, so that a length all the
twelve dormitories had their sconces lit, and the boys began all sorts
of amusement, some in their night-shirts and others with their trousers
slipped on. Leap-frog was the prevalent game for a time, but at last
Graham suggested theatricals, and they were agreed on.

"But we're making a regular knock-me-down shindy," said Llewellyn;
"somebody must keep cavè."

"O, old Rose is safe enough at his Hebrew in the library; no fear of
disturbing him if we were dancing hippopotami," answered Graham.

But it was generally considered safest to put some one at the top of the
stairs, in case of an unexpected diversion in that direction, and little
Wright consented to go first. He had only to leave the lavatory door
open; and stand at the top of the staircase, and he then commanded for a
great distance the only avenue in which danger was expected. If any
master's candle appeared n the hall, the boys had full three minutes'
warning, and a single loudly-whispered "cave" would cause some one in
each dormitory instantly to "douse the glim," and shut the door; so that
by the time of the adversary's arrival, they would all be (of course)
fast asleep in bed, some of them snoring in an alarming manner. Whatever
noise the master might have heard, it would be impossible to fix it on
any of the sleepers.

So at the top of the stairs stood little Wright, shoeless, and shivering
in his night-gown, but keenly entering into the fun, and not
unconscious of the dignity of his position. Meanwhile the rest were
getting up a scenic representation of Bombastes Furioso, arranging a
stage, piling a lot of beds together for a theatre, and dressing up the
actors in the most fantastic apparel.

The impromptu Bombastes excited universal applause, and just at the end
Wright ran in through the lavatory.

"I say," said the little fellow, "it's jolly cold standing at the top of
the stairs. Won't some one relieve guard?"

"O, I will," answered Eric, good-naturedly; "it's a shame that one
fellow should have all the bother and none of the fun;" and he ran to
take Wright's post.

After watching a minute or two, he felt sure that there was no danger,
and therefore ran up to Upton's study for a change.

"Well, what's up?" said the study-boy, approvingly, as he glanced at
Eric's laughing eyes.

"O, we've been having leap-frog, and then Bombastes Furioso. But I'm
keeping 'cavè' now; only it's so cold that I thought I'd run up to
your study."

"Little traitor; we'll shoot you for a deserting sentinel."

"O no;" said Eric, "it's all serene; Rowley's out, and dear old Rose'd
never dream of supposing us elsewhere than in the arms of Morpheus.
Besides the fellows are making less row now."

"Well! look here! let's go and look on, and I'll tell you a dodge; put
one of the tin washing-basins against the iron door of the lavatory, and
then if any one comes he'll make clang enough to wake dead; and while
he's amusing himself with this, there'll be lots of time to 'extinguish
the superfluous abundance of the nocturnal illuminators.' Eh?"

"Capital!" said Eric, "come along."

They went down and arranged the signal very artistically, leaving the
iron door ajar a little, and then neatly poising the large tin basin on
its edge, so as to lean against it. Having extremely enjoyed this part
of the proceeding, they went to look at the theatricals again, the boys
being highly delighted at Upton's appearance among them.

They at once made Eric take a part in some very distant reminiscences of
Macbeth, and corked his cheeks with whiskers and mustachios to make him
resemble Banquo, his costume being completed by a girdle round his
nightshirt, consisting of a very fine crimson silk handkerchief, richly
broidered with gold, which had been brought to him from India, and which
at first, in the innocence of his heart, he used to wear on Sundays,
until he acquired the sobriquet of "the Dragon." Duncan made a
superb Macbeth.

They were doing the dagger-scene, which was put on the stage in a most
novel manner. A sheet had been pinned from the top of the room, on one
side of which stood a boy with a broken dinner knife, the handle end of
which he was pushing through a hole in the middle of the sheet at the
shadow of Duncan on the other side.

Duncan himself, in an attitude of intensely affected melodrama, was
spouting--

     "Is this a dagger which I see before me?
     The handle towards me now? come, let me clutch thee;"

And he snatched convulsively at the handle of the protruded knife; but
as soon as he nearly touched it, this end was immediately withdrawn, and
the blade end substituted, which made the comic Macbeth instantly draw
back again, and recommence his apostrophe. This scene had tickled the
audience immensely, and Duncan, amid shouts of laughter, was just
drawing the somewhat unwarrantable conclusion that it was

     "A dagger of the mind, a false creation,"

when a sudden grating, followed by a reverbrated clang, produced a dead
silence.

"Cavè," shouted Eric, and took a flying leap into his bed. Instantly
there was a bolt in different directions; the sheet was torn down, the
candles dashed out, the beds shoved aside, and the dormitories at once
plunged in profound silence, only broken by the heavy breathing of
sleepers, when in strode--not Mr. Rose or any of the under
masters--but--Dr. Rowlands himself!

He stood for a moment to survey the scene. All the dormitory doors were
wide open; the sheet which had formed the stage curtain lay torn on the
floor of No. 7; the beds in all the adjoining rooms were in the
strangest positions; and half-extinguished wicks still smouldered in
several of the sconces. Every boy was in bed, but the extraordinary way
in which the bed clothes were huddled about told an unmistakeable tale.

He glanced quickly round, but the moment he had passed into No. 8, he
heard a run, and, turning, just caught sight of Upton's figure vanishing
into the darkness of the lavatory, towards the study stairs.

He said not a word, but stalked hastily through all dormitories, again
stopping at No. 7 on his return.

He heard nothing but the deep snores of Duncan, and instantly fixed on
him as a chief culprit.

"Duncan!"

No reply; but calm stertorous music from Duncan's bed.

"Duncan!" he said, still louder and more sternly, "you sleep soundly,
sir, too soundly; get up directly," and he laid his hand on the
boy's arm.

"Get away, you old donkey," said Duncan sleepily; "'t, aint time to get
up yet. First bell hasn't rung."

"Come, sir, this shamming will only increase your punishment;" but the
imperturbable Duncan stretched himself lazily, gave a great yawn, and
then awoke with such an admirably feigned start at seeing Dr. Rowlands,
that Eric, who had been peeping at the scene from over his bed-clothes,
burst into an irresistible explosion of laughter.

Dr. Rowlands swung round on his heel--"What! Williams! get out of bed,
sir, this instant."

Eric, forgetful of his disguise, sheepishly obeyed; but when he stood on
the floor, he looked so odd in his crimson girdle and corked cheeks,
with Dr. Rowlands surveying him in intense astonishment, that the scene
became overpoweringly ludicrous to Duncan, who now in his turn was
convulsed with a storm of laughter, faintly echoed in stifled titterings
from other beds.

"_Very_ good," said Dr. Rowlands, now thoroughly angry, "you will hear
of this to-morrow;" and he walked away with a heavy step, stopping at
the lavatory door to restore the tin basin to its proper place, and then
mounting to the studies.

Standing in the passage into which the studies opened, he knocked at
one of the doors, and told a boy to summon all their occupants at once
to the library.

Meanwhile, the dormitory-boys were aghast, and as soon as they heard the
doctor's retreating footsteps, began flocking in the dark to No. 7, not
daring to relight their candles.

"Good gracious!" said Attlay, "only to think of Rowley appearing! How
could he have twigged?"

"He must have seen our lights in the window as he came home," said Eric.

"I say, what a row that tin-basin dodge of yours made! What a rage the
Doctor will be in to-morrow?"

"Won't you just catch it!" said Barker to Duncan, but intending the
remark for Eric.

"Just like your mean chaff," retorted Duncan. "But I say, Williams," he
continued, laughing, "you _did_ look so funny in the whiskers."

At this juncture they heard all the study-boys running down stairs to
the library, and, lost in conjecture, retired to their different rooms.

"What do you think he'll do to us?" asked Eric.

"I don't know," said Duncan uneasily; "flog us, for one thing, that's
certain. I'm so sorry about that basin, Eric; but it's no good fretting.
We've had our cake, and now we must pay for it, that's all."

Erie's cogitations began to be unpleasant, when the door opened, and
somebody stole noiselessly in.

"Who's there?"

"Upton. I've come to have a chat. The Doctor's like a turkey-cock in
sight of a red handkerchief. Never saw him in such a rage."

"Why, what's he been saying?" asked Eric, as Upton came and took a seat
on his bed.

"Oh! he's been rowing us like six o'clock," said Upton, "about 'moral
responsibility,' 'abetting the follies of children,' 'forgetting our
position in the school,' and I don't know what all; and he ended by
asking who'd been in the dormitories. Of course I confessed the soft
impeachment, whereon he snorted 'Ha! I suspected so. Very well, Sir, you
don't know how to use a study; you shall be deprived of it till the end
of term.'"

"Did he really, Horace?" said Eric. "And it's all my doing that you've
got into the scrape. Do forgive me."

"Bosh! My dear fellow," said Upton, "it's twice as much my fault as
yours; and, after all, it was only a bit of fun. It's rather a bore
losing the study, certainly; but never mind, we shall see all the more
of each other. Good night; I must be off."

Next morning, prayers were no sooner over than Dr. Rowlands said to the
boys, "Stop! I have a word to say to you"

"I find that there was the utmost disorder in the dormitories yesterday
evening. All the candles were relighted at forbidden hours, and the
noise made was so great that it was heard through the whole building. I
am grieved that I cannot leave you, even for a few hours, without your
taking such advantage of my absence; and that the upper boys, so far
from using their influence to prevent these infractions of discipline,
seem inclined rather to join in them themselves. On this occasion I have
punished Upton, by depriving him of a privilege which he has abused; and
as I myself detected Duncan and Williams, they will be flogged in the
library at twelve. But I now come to the worst part of the proceeding.
Somebody had been reckless enough to try and prevent surprise by the
dangerous expedient of putting a tin basin against the iron door. The
consequence was, that I was severely hurt, and _might_ have been
seriously injured in entering the lavatory. I must know the name of the
delinquent."

Upton and Eric immediately stood up. Dr. Rowlands looked surprised, and
there was an expression of grieved interest in Mr. Rose's face.

"Very well," said the Doctor, "I shall speak to you both privately."

Twelve o'clock came, and Duncan and Eric received a severe caning.
Corporal punishment, however necessary and desirable for some
dispositions, always produced on Eric the worst effects. He burned, not
with remorse or regret, but with shame and violent indignation, and
listened, with a glare in his eye, to Dr. Rowlands' warnings. When the
flogging was over, he almost rushed out of the room, to choke in
solitude his sense of humiliation, nor would he suffer any one for an
instant to allude to his disgrace. Dr. Rowlands had hinted that Upton
was doing him no good; but he passionately resented the suggestion, and
determined, with obstinate perversity, to cling more than ever to the
boy whom he had helped to involve in the same trouble with himself.

Any attempt on the part of masters to interfere in the friendships of
boys is usually unsuccessful. The boy who has been warned against his
new acquaintance not seldom repeats to him the fact that Mr. So-and-so
doesn't like seeing them together, and after that they fancy themselves
bound in honor to show that they are not afraid of continuing their
connection. It was not strange, therefore, that Eric and Upton were
thrown more than ever into each other's society, and consequently, that
Eric, while he improved daily in strength, activity, and prowess,
neglected more and more his school duties and honorable ambitions.

Mr. Rose sadly remarked the failure of promise in his character and
abilities, and did all that could be done, by gentle firmness and
unwavering kindness, to recal his pupil to a sense of duty. One night he
sent for him to supper, and invited no one else. During the evening he
drew out Eric's exercise, and compared it with, those of Russell and
Owen, who were now getting easily ahead of him in marks. Eric's was
careless, hurried, and untidy; the other two were neat, spirited, and
painstaking, and had, therefore, been marked much higher.

"Your exercises _used_ to be far better--I may say incomparably better,"
said Mr. Rose; "what is the cause of this falling off?"

Eric was silent.

Mr. Rose laid his hand gently on his head. "I fear, my boy, you have not
been improving lately. You have got into many scrapes, and are letting
boys beat you in form who are far your inferiors in ability. That is a
very bad _sign_, Eric; in itself it is a discouraging fact, but I fear
it indicates worse evils. You are wasting the golden hours, my boy, that
can never return. I only hope and trust that no other change for the
worse is going on in your character."

And so he talked on till the boy's sorrow was undisguised. "Come," he
said gently, "let us kneel down together before we part."

Boy and master knelt down humbly side by side, and, from a full heart,
the young man poured out his fervent petitions for the child beside him.
Eric's heart seemed to catch a glow from his words, and he loved him as
a brother. He rose from his knees full of the strongest resolutions, and
earnestly promised amendment for the future.

But poor Eric did not yet know his own infirmity. For a time, indeed,
there was a marked improvement; but daily life flowed on with its usual
allurements, and when the hours of temptation came, his good intentions
melted away, so that, in a few more weeks, the prayer, and the vows that
followed it, had been obliterated from his memory without leaving any
traces in his life.



CHAPTER XI

ERIC IN COVENTRY

                     "And either greet him not
     Or else disdainfully, which shall shake him more
     Than if not looked on."--TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, iii. 3.

Upton, expatriated from his study, was allowed to use one of the smaller
class-rooms which were occupied during play-hours by those boys who were
too high in the school for "the boarders' room," and who were waiting to
succeed to the studies as they fell vacant. There were three or four
others with him in this class-room, and although it was less pleasant
than his old quarters, it was yet far more comfortable than the
Pandemonium of the shell and fourth-form boys.

As a general rule, no boys were allowed to sit in any of the class-rooms
except their legitimate occupants. The rule, however, was very generally
overlooked, and hence Eric, always glad of an opportunity to escape from
the company of Barker and his associates, became a constant frequenter
of his friend's new abode. Here they used to make themselves very
comfortable. Joining the rest, they would drink coffee or chocolate, and
amuse themselves over the fire with Punch, or some warlike novel in a
green or yellow cover. One of them very often read aloud to the rest:
and Eric, being both a good reader and a merry, intelligent listener,
soon became quite a favorite among the other boys.

Mr. Rose had often seen him sitting there, and left him unmolested; but
if ever Mr. Gordon happened to come in and notice him, he invariably
turned him out, and after the first offence or two, had several times
set him an imposition. This treatment gave fresh intensity to his now
deeply-seated disgust at his late master, and his expressions of
indignation at "Gordon's spite" were loud and frequent.

One day Mr. Gordon had accidentally come in, and found no one there but
Upton and Eric; they were standing very harmlessly by the window, with
Upton's arm resting kindly on Eric's shoulder as they watched with
admiration the net-work of rippled sunbeams that flashed over the sea.
Upton had just been telling Eric the splendid phrase [Greek: anêrithmon
gelasma pontiôn], which he had stumbled upon in an Aeschylus lesson that
morning, and they were trying which would hit on the best rendering of
it. Eric stuck up for the literal sublimity of "the innumerable laughter
of the sea," while Upton was trying to win him over to "the
many-twinkling smile of ocean." They were enjoying the discussion, and
each stoutly maintaining his own rendering, when Mr. Gordon entered.

On this occasion he was particularly angry; he had an especial dislike
of seeing the two boys together, because he fancied that the younger had
grown more than usually conceited and neglectful, since he had been
under the fifth-form patronage; and he saw in Eric's presence there, a
new case of wilful disobedience.

"Williams, here _again!_" he exclaimed sharply. "Why, sir, you seem to
suppose that you may defy rules with impunity! How often have I told you
that no one is allowed to sit here, except the regular occupants?"

His voice startled the two boys from their pleasant discussion.

"No other master takes any notice of it, sir," said Upton.

"I have nothing to do with other masters, Williams, you will bring me
the fourth Georgic, written out by Saturday morning, for your repeated
disobedience. Upton, I have a great mind to punish you also, for
tempting him to come here."

This was a mistake on Mr. Gordon's part, of which Upton took immediate
advantage.

"I have no power to prevent it, sir, if he wishes it. Besides," he
continued, with annoying blandness of tone, "it would be inhospitable;
and I am too glad of his company."

Eric smiled, and Mr. Gordon frowned. "Williams, leave the room
instantly."

The boy obeyed slowly and doggedly. "Mr. Rose never interferes with me,
when he sees me here," he said as he retreated.

"Then I shall request Mr. Rose to do so in future; your conceit and
impertinence are getting intolerable."

Eric only answered with a fiery glance; the next minute Upton joined him
on the stairs, and Mr. Gordon heard them laughing a little
ostentatiously, as they ran out into the playground together. He went
away full of strong contempt, and from that moment began to look on the
friends as two of the worst boys in the school.

This incident had happened on Thursday, which was a half-holiday, and
instead of being able to join in any of the games, Eric had to spend
that weary afternoon in writing away at the fourth Georgic; Upton
staying in a part of the time to help him a little, by dictating the
lines to him--an occupation not unfrequently interrupted by storms of
furious denunciation against Mr. Gordon's injustice and tyranny; Eric
vowing "that he would pay him out somehow yet."

The imposition was not finished that evening, and it again consumed some
of the next day's leisure, part of it being written between schools in
the forbidden class-room. Still it was not quite finished on Friday
afternoon at six, when school ended, and Eric stayed a few minutes
behind the rest to scribble off the last ten lines; which done, he
banged down the lid of his desk, not locking it, and ran out.

The next morning an incident happened which involved considerable
consequences to some of the actors in my story.

Mr. Rose and several other masters had not a room to themselves, like
Mr. Gordon, but heard their forms in the great hall. At one end of this
hall was a board used for the various school notices, to which there
were always affixed two or three pieces of paper containing
announcements about examinations and other matters of general interest.

On Saturday morning (when Eric was to give up his Georgic), the boys, as
they dropped into the hall for morning school, observed a new notice on
the board, and, thronging round to see what it was, read these words,
written on a half-sheet of paper, attached by wafers to the board--

"GORDON IS A SURLY DEVIL."

As may be supposed, so completely novel an announcement took them all
very much by surprise, and they wondered who had been so audacious as to
play this trick. But their wonder was cut short by the entrance of the
masters, and they all took their seats, without any one tearing down the
dangerous paper.

After a few minutes the eye of the second master, Mr. Ready, fell on the
paper, and, going up, he read it, stood for a moment transfixed with
astonishment, and then called Mr. Rose.

Pointing to the inscription, he said: "I think we had better leave that
there, Rose, exactly as it is, till Dr. Rowlands has seen it. Would you
mind asking him to step in here?"

Just at this juncture Eric came in, having been delayed by Mr. Gordon
while he rigidly inspected the imposition. As he took his seat, Montagu,
who was next him, whispered--

"I say, have you seen the notice-board?"

"No. Why?"

"Why, some fellow has been writing up an opinion of Gordon not very
favorable."

"And serve him right, too, brute!" said Eric, smarting with the memory
of his imposition.

"Well, there'll be no end of a row; you'll see."

During this conversation, Dr. Rowlands came in with Mr. Rose. He read
the paper, frowned, pondered a moment, and then said to Mr. Rose--"Would
you kindly summon the lower school into the hall? As it would be painful
to Mr. Gordon to be present, you had better explain to him how
matters stand."

"Halloa! here's a rumpus!" whispered Montagu; "he never has the lower
school down for nothing."

A noise was heard on the stairs, and in flocked the lower school. When
they had ranged themselves on the vacant forms, there was a dead silence
and hush of expectation.

"I have summoned you all together," said the Doctor, "on a most serious
occasion. This morning, on coming into the school-room, the masters
found that the notice-board had been abused for the purpose of writing
up an insult to one of our number, which is at once coarse and wicked.
As only a few of you have seen it, it becomes my deeply painful duty to
inform you of its purport; the words are these--'Gordon is a surly
devil.'"--A _very_ slight titter followed this statement, which was
instantly succeeded by a sort of thrilling excitement; but Eric, when he
heard the words, started perceptibly, and colored as he caught Montagu's
eye fixed on him.

Dr. Rowlands continued--"I suppose this dastardly impertinence has been
perpetrated by some boy out of a spirit of revenge. I am perfectly
amazed at the unparalleled audacity and meanness of the attempt, and it
may be very difficult to discover the author of it. But, depend upon it,
discover him _we will_, at whatever cost. Whoever the offender may be,
and he must be listening to me at this moment, let him be assured that
he shall _not_ be unpunished. His guilty secret shall be torn from him.
His punishment can only be mitigated by his instantly yielding
himself up."

No one stirred, but during the latter part of this address Eric was so
uneasy, and his cheek burned with such hot crimson, that several eyes
were upon him, and the suspicions of more than one boy were awakened.

"Very well," said the head master, "the guilty boy is not inclined to
confess. Mark, then; if his name has not been given up to me by to-day
week, every indulgence to the school will be forfeited, the next whole
holiday stopped, and the coming cricket-match prohibited."

"The handwriting may be some clue," suggested Mr. Ready. "Would you have
any objection to my examining the note-books of the Shell?"

"None at all. The Shell-boys are to show their books to Mr. Ready
immediately."

The head-boy of the Shell collected the books, and took them to the
desk; the three masters glanced casually at about a dozen, and suddenly
stopped at one. Eric's heart beat loud, as his saw Mr. Rose point
towards him.

"We have discovered a handwriting which remarkably resembles that on the
board. I give the offender one more chance of substituting confession
for detection."

No one stirred; but Montagu felt that his friend was trembling
violently.

"Eric Williams, stand out in the room."

Blushing scarlet, and deeply agitated, the boy obeyed

"The writing on the notice is exactly like yours. Do you know anything
of this shameful proceeding?"

"Nothing, sir," he murmured in a low tone.

"Nothing whatever?"

"Nothing whatever, sir."

Dr. Rowlands' look searched him through and through, and seemed to burn
into his heart. He did not meet it, but hung his head. The Doctor felt
certain from his manner that he was guilty. He chained him to the spot
with his glance for a minute or two, and then said slowly, and with a
deep sigh--

"Very well; I _hope_ you have spoken the truth; but whether you have or
no, we shall soon discover. The school, and especially the upper boys,
will remember what I have said. I shall now tear down the insulting
notice, and put it into your hands, Avonley, as head of the school, that
you may make further inquiries." He left the room, and the boys resumed
their usual avocation till twelve o'clock. But poor Eric could hardly
get through his ordinary pursuits; he felt sick and giddy, until
everybody noticed his strange embarrassed manner, and random answers.

No sooner had twelve o'clock struck, than the whole school broke up into
knots of buzzing and eager talkers.

"I wonder who did it," said a dozen voices at once.

"The writing was undoubtedly Williams'," suggested some.

"And did you notice how red and pale he got when the Doctor spoke to
him, and how he hung his head?"

"Yes; and one knows how he hates Gordon."

"Ay; by the bye, Gordon set him a Georgic only on Thursday, and he has
been swearing at him ever since."

"I noticed that he stayed in after all the rest last night," said
Barker.

"Did he? By Jove, that looks bad."

"Has any one charged him with it?" asked Duncan.

"Yes," answered one of the group: "but he's as proud about it as
Lucifer, and is furious if you mention it to him. He says we ought to
know him better than to think him capable of such a thing."

"And quite right, too," said Duncan. "If he did it, he's done something
totally unlike what one would have believed possible of him."

The various items of evidence were put together, and certainly they
seemed to prove a strong case against Eric. In addition to the
probabilities already mentioned, it was found that the ink used was of a
violet color, and a peculiar kind, which Eric was known to patronise;
and not only so, but the wafers with which the paper had been attached
to the board were yellow, and exactly of the same size with some which
Eric was said to possess. How the latter facts had been discovered,
nobody exactly knew, but they began to be very generally whispered
throughout the school.

In short, the almost universal conviction among the boys proclaimed that
he was guilty, and many urged him to confess it at once, and save the
school from the threatened punishment. But he listened to such
suggestions with the most passionate indignation.

"What!" he said, angrily, "tell a wilful lie to blacken my own innocent
character? Never!"

The consequence was, they all began to shun him. Eric was put into
Coventry. Very few boys in the school still clung to him, and maintained
his innocence in spite of appearances, but they were the boys whom he
had most loved and valued, and they were most vigorous in his defence.
They were Russell, Montagu, Duncan, Owen, and little Wright.

On the evening of the Saturday, Upton had sought out Eric, and said in a
very serious tone, "This is a bad business, Williams. I cannot forget
how you have been abusing Gordon lately, and though I won't believe you
guilty, yet you ought to explain."

"What? even _you_, then suspect me?" said Eric, bursting into proud
tears. "Very well. I shan't condescend to _deny_ it. I won't speak to
you again till you have repented of mistrusting me;" and he resolutely
rejected all further overtures on Upton's part.

He was alone in his misery. Some one, he perceived, had plotted to
destroy his character, and he saw too clearly how many causes of
suspicion told against him. But it was very bitter to think that the
whole school could so readily suppose that he would do a thing which
from his soul he abhorred. "No," he thought, "bad I may be, but I
_could_ not have done such a base and cowardly trick."

Never in his life had he been so wretched. He wandered alone to the
rocks, and watched the waves dashing against them with the rising tide.
The tumult of the weather seemed to relieve and console the tumult of
his heart. He drank in strength and defiance from the roar of the
waters, and climbed to their very edge along the rocks, where every
fresh, rush of the waves enveloped him in white swirls of angry loam.
The look of the green, rough, hungry sea, harmonised with his feelings,
and he sat down and stared into it, to find relief from the torment of
his thoughts.

At last, with a deep sigh, he turned away to go back, and meet the crowd
of suspicious and unkindly companions, and brood alone over his sorrow
in the midst of them. He had not gone many steps, when he caught sight
of Russell in the distance. His first impulse was to run away and
escape; but Russell determined to stop him, and when he came up, said,
"Dear Eric, I have sought you out on purpose to tell you that _I_ don't
suspect you, and have never done so for a moment. I know you too well,
my boy, and be sure that _I_ will always stick to you, even if the whole
school cut you."

"Oh, Edwin, I am _so_ wretched. I needn't tell you that I am quite
innocent of this. What have I done to be so suspected? Why, even your
cousin Upton won't believe me."

"But he does, Eric," said Russell; "he told me so just now, and several
others said the same thing."

A transient gleam passed over Eric's face.

"O, I do so long for home again," he said. "Except you, I have no
friend."

"Don't say so, Eric. This cloud will soon blow over. Depend upon it, as
the Doctor said, we shall discover the offender yet, and the fellows
will soon make you reparation for their false suspicions. And you _have_
one friend, Eric," he continued, pointing reverently upwards.

Eric was overcome; he sat down on the grass and hid his face till the
tears flowed through his closed fingers. Russell sat silent and pitying
beside him, and let Eric's head rest upon his shoulder.

When they got home, Eric found three notes in his drawer. One was from
Mr. Gordon, and ran thus:--

"I have little doubt, Williams, that you have done this act. Believe me,
I feel no anger, only pity for you. Come to me and confess, and I
promise, by every means in my power, to befriend and save you."

This note he read, and then, stamping on the floor, tore it up furiously
into twenty pieces, which he scattered about the room.

Another was from Mr. Rose;

"Dear Eric--I _cannot, will_ not, believe you guilty, although
appearances look very black. You have many faults, but I feel sure that
I cannot be mistaken in supposing you too noble-minded for a revenge so
petty and so mean. Come to me, dear boy, if I can help you in any way. I
_trust you_, Eric, and will use every endeavor to right you in the
general estimation. You are innocent; pray to God for help under this
cruel trial, and be sure that your character will yet be
cleared.--Affectionately yours, WALTER ROSE."

"_P.S._--I can easily understand that just now you will like quiet; come
and sit with me in the library as much as you like."

He read this note two or three times with grateful emotion, and at that
moment would have died for Mr. Rose. The third note was from Owen, as
follows:--

"Dear Williams--We have been cool to each other lately; naturally,
perhaps. But yet I think that it will be some consolation to you to be
told, even by a rival, that I, for one, feel certain of your innocence.
If you want company, I shall be delighted now to walk with you.--Yours
truly, D. OWEN."

This note, too, brought much comfort to the poor boy's lonely and
passionate heart. He put it into his pocket, and determined at once to
accept Mr. Rose's kind offer of allowing him to sit for the present in
the library.

There were several boys in the room while he was reading his notes, but
none of them spoke to him, and he was too proud to notice them, or
interrupt the constrained silence. As he went out he met Duncan and
Montagu, who at once addressed him in the hearing of the rest.

"Ha! Williams," said Duncan, "we have been looking everywhere for you,
dear fellow. Cheer up, you shall be cleared yet. I, for one, and Monty
for another, will maintain your innocence before the whole school."

Montagu _said_ nothing, but Eric understood full well the trustful
kindness of his soft pressure of the hand. His heart was too full to
speak, and he went on towards the library.

"I wonder at your speaking to that fellow," said Bull, as the two new
comers joined the group at the fire-place.

"You will be yourself ashamed of having ever suspected him before long,"
said Montagu warmly; "ay, the whole lot of you; and you are very unkind
to condemn him before you are certain."

"I wish you joy of your _friend_, Duncan," sneered Barker.

"Friend?" said Duncan, firing up; "yes! he is my friend, and I'm not
ashamed of him. It would be well for the school if _all_ the fellows
were as honorable as Williams."

Barker took the hint, and although he was too brazen to blush, thought
it better to say no more.



CHAPTER XII

THE TRIAL

"A plot, a plot, a plot, to ruin all." TENNYSON, _The Princess_.

On the Monday evening, the head boy reported to Dr. Rowlands that the
perpetrator of the offence had not been discovered, but that one boy was
very generally suspected, and on grounds that seemed plausible. "I
admit," he added, "that from the little I know of him he seems to me a
very unlikely sort of boy to do it."

"I think," suggested the Doctor, "that the best way would be for you to
have a regular trial on the subject, and hear the evidence. Do you think
that you can be trusted to carry on the investigation publicly, with
good order and fairness?"

"I think so, sir," said Avonley.

"Very well. Put up a notice, asking all the school to meet by themselves
in the boarders' room tomorrow afternoon at three, and see what you can
do among you."

Avonley did as the Doctor suggested. At first, when the boys assembled,
they seemed inclined to treat the matter as a joke, and were rather
disorderly; but Avonley briefly begged them, if they determined to have
a trial, to see that it was conducted sensibly; and by general consent
he was himself voted into the desk as president. He then got up
and said--

"There must be no sham or nonsense about this affair. Let all the boys
take their seats quietly down the room."

They did so, and Avonley asked, "Is Williams here?"

Looking round, they discovered he was not. Russell instantly went to the
library to fetch him, and told him what was going on. He took Eric's arm
kindly as they entered, to show the whole school that he was not ashamed
of him, and Eric deeply felt the delicacy of his goodwill.

"Are you willing to be tried, Williams," asked Avonley, "on the charge
of having written the insulting paper about Mr. Gordon? Of course we
know very little how these kind of things ought to be conducted, but we
will see that everything done is open and above ground, and try to
manage it properly."

"There is nothing I should like better," said Eric.

He had quite recovered his firm, manly bearing. A quiet conversation
with his dearly loved friend and master had assured him in the
confidence of innocence, and though the color on his cheek had through
excitement sunk into two bright red spots, he looked wonderfully noble
and winning as he stood before the boys in the centre of the room. His
appearance caused a little reaction in his favor, and a murmur of
applause followed his answer.

"Good," said Avonley; "who will prosecute on the part of the school?"

There was a pause. Nobody seemed to covet the office.

"Very well; if no one is willing to prosecute, the charge drops."

"I will do it," said Gibson, a Rowlandite, one of the study boys at the
top of the fifth form. He was a clever fellow, and Eric liked the little
he had seen of him.

"Have you any objection, Williams, to the jury being composed of the
sixth form? or are there any names among them which you wish to
challenge?"

"No," said Eric, glancing round with confidence.

"Well, now, who will defend the accused?"

Another pause, and Upton got up.

"No," said Eric, at once. "You were inclined to distrust me, Upton, and
I will only be defended by somebody who never doubted my innocence."

Another pause followed, and then, blushing crimson, Russell got up. "I
am only a Shell-boy," he said, "but if Eric doesn't mind trusting his
cause to me, I will defend him, since no other fifth-form fellow stirs."

"Thank you, Russell, _I wanted_ you to offer, I could wish no better
defender."

"Will Owen, Duncan, and Montagu help me, if they can?" asked Russell.

"Very willingly," they all three said, and went to take their seats by
him. They conversed eagerly for a few minutes, and then declared
themselves ready.

"All I have got to do," said Gibson, rising, "is to bring before the
school the grounds for suspecting Williams, and all the evidence which
makes it probable that he is the offender. Now, first of all, the thing
must have been done between Friday evening and Saturday morning; and
since the school-room door is generally locked soon after school, it was
probably done in the short interval between six and a quarter past. I
shall now examine some witnesses."

The first boy called upon was Pietrie, who deposed, that on Friday
evening, when he left the room, having been detained a few minutes, the
only boy remaining in it was Williams.

Carter, the school-servant, was then sent for, and deposed, that he had
met Master Williams hastily running out of the room, when he went at a
quarter past six to lock the door.

Examined by Gibson.--"Was any boy in the room when you did lock the
door?"

"No one."

"Did you meet any one else in the passage?"

"No."

Cross-examined by Russell.--"Do boys ever get into the room after the
door is locked?"

"Yes."

"By what means?"

"Through the side windows."

"That will do."

Russell here whispered something to Duncan, who at once left the room,
and on returning, after a few minutes' absence, gave Russell a
significant nod.

Barker was next brought forward, and questioned by Gibson.

"Do you know that Williams is in the habit of using a particular kind of
ink?"

"Yes; it is of a violet color, and has a peculiar smell."

"Could you recognise anything written with it?"

"Yes."

Gibson here handed to Barker the paper which had caused so much trouble.

"Is that the kind of ink?"

"Yes."

"Do you know the handwriting on that paper?"

"Yes; it is Williams' hand."

"How can you tell?"

"He makes his r's in a curious way."

"Turn the paper over. Have you ever seen those kind of wafers before?"

"Yes; Williams has a box of them in his desk."

"Has any other boy, that you are aware of, wafers like those?"

"No."

Cross-examined by Duncan.--"_How_ do you know that Williams has wafers
like those?"

"I have seen him use them."

"For what purpose?"

"To fasten letters."

"I can't help remarking that you seem very well acquainted with what he
does. Several of those who know him best, and have seen him oftenest,
never heard of these wafers. May I ask," he said, "if any one else in
the school will witness to having seen Williams use these wafers?"

No one spoke, and Barker, whose malice seemed to have been changed into
uneasiness, sat down.

Upton was the next witness. Gibson began--"You have seen a good deal of
Williams?"

"Yes," said Upton smiling.

"Have you ever heard him express any opinion of Mr. Gordon?"

"Often."

"Of what kind?"

"Dislike and contempt," said Upton, amidst general laughter.

"Have you ever heard him say anything which implied a desire to injure
him?"

"The other day Mr. Gordon gave him a Georgic as an imposition, and I
heard Williams say that he would like to pay him out."

This last fact was new to the school, and excited a great sensation.

"When did he say this?"

"On Friday afternoon."

Upton had given his evidence with great reluctance, although, being
simply desirous that the truth should come out, he concealed nothing
that he knew. He brightened up a little when Russell rose to
cross-examine him.

"Have you ever known Williams to do any mean act?"

"Never."

"Do you consider him a boy _likely_ to have been guilty on this
occasion?"

"Distinctly the reverse. I am convinced of his innocence."

The answer was given with vehement emphasis, and Eric felt greatly
relieved by it.

One or two other boys were then called on as witnesses to the great
agitation which Eric had shown during the investigation in the
school-room, and then Gibson, who was a sensible, self-contained fellow,
said, "I have now done my part. I have shown that the accused had a
grudge against Mr. Gordon at the time of the occurrence, and had
threatened to be revenged on him; that he was the last boy in the room
during the time when the offence must have been committed; that the
handwriting is known to resemble his, and that the ink and wafers
employed were such as he, and he only, was known to possess. In addition
to all this, his behavior, when the matter was first publicly noticed,
was exactly such as coincides with the supposition of his guilt. I think
you will all agree in considering these grounds of suspicion very
strong; and leaving them to carry their full weight with you, I close
the case for the prosecution."

The school listened to Gibson's quiet formality with a kind of grim and
gloomy satisfaction, and when he had concluded, there were probably few
but Eric's own immediate friends who were not fully convinced of his
guilt, however sorry they might be to admit so unfavorable an opinion of
a companion whom they all admired.

After a minute or two, Russell rose for the defence, and asked, "Has
Williams any objection to his desk being brought, and any of its
contents put in as evidence?"

"Not the least; there is the key, and you will find it in my place in
school."

The desk was brought, but it was found to be already unlocked, and
Russell looked at some of the note-paper which it contained. He then
began--"In spite of the evidence adduced, I think I can show that
Williams is not guilty. It is quite true that he dislikes Mr. Gordon,
and would not object to any open way of showing it; it is quite true
that he used the expressions attributed to him, and that the ink and
wafers are such as may be found in his desk, and that the handwriting is
not unlike his. But is it probable that a boy intending to post up an
insult such as this, would do so in a manner, and at a time so likely to
involve him in immediate detection, and certain punishment? At any rate,
he would surely disguise his usual handwriting. Now, I ask any one to
look at this paper, and tell me whether it is not clear, on the
contrary, that these letters were traced slowly and with care, as would
be the case with an elaborate attempt to imitate?" Russell here handed
the paper to the jury, who again narrowly examined it.

"Now the evidence of Pietrie and Carter is of no use, because Carter
himself admitted that boys often enter the room by the window; a fact to
which we shall have to allude again.

"We admit the evidence about the ink and wafers. But it is rather
strange that Barker should know about the wafers, since neither I, nor
any other friend of Williams, often as we have sat by him when writing
letters, have ever observed that he possessed any like them."

Several boys began to look at Barker, who was sitting very ill at ease
on the corner of a form, in vain trying to appear unconcerned.

"There is another fact which no one yet knows, but which I must mention.
It will explain Williams' agitation when Dr. Rowlands read out the words
on that paper; and, confident of his innocence, I am indifferent to its
appearing to tell against him. I myself once heard Williams use the very
words written on that paper, and not only heard them, but expostulated
with him strongly for the use of them. I need hardly say how very
unlikely it is, that remembering this, he should thus publicly draw my
suspicions on him, if he meant to insult Mr. Gordon, undiscovered. But,
besides myself, there was another boy who accidentally overheard that
expression. That boy was Barker.

"I have to bring forward a new piece of evidence which at least ought to
go for something. Looking at this half-sheet of note-paper, I see that
the printer's name on the stamp in the corner is 'Graves, York.' Now, I
have just found that there is no paper at all like this in Williams'
desk; all the note-paper it contains is marked 'Blakes, Ayrton.'

"I might bring many witnesses to prove how very unlike Williams' general
character a trick of this kind would be. But I am not going to do this.
We think we know the real offender. We have had one trial, and now
demand another. It is our painful duty to prove Williams' innocence by
proving another's guilt. That other is a known enemy of mine, and of
Montagu's, and of Owen's. We therefore leave the charge of stating the
case against him to Duncan, with whom he has never quarrelled."

Russell sat down amid general applause; he had performed his task with a
wonderful modesty and self-possession, which filled every one with
admiration, and Eric warmly pressed his hand.

The interest of the school was intensely excited, and Duncan, after a
minute's pause, starting up, said--"Williams has allowed his desk to be
brought in and examined. Will Barker do the same?"

The real culprit now saw at once that his plot to ruin Eric was
recoiling on himself. He got up, swore and blustered at Russell, Duncan,
and Williams, and at first flatly refused to allow his desk to be
brought. He was, however, forced to yield, and when opened, it was
immediately seen that the note-paper it contained was identical with
that on which the words had been written. At this he affected to be
perfectly unconcerned, and merely protested against what he called the
meanness of trying to fix the charge on him.

"And what have you been doing the whole of the last day or two," asked
Gibson, quietly, "but endeavoring to fix the charge on another?"

"We have stronger evidence against you," said Duncan, confronting him
with an undaunted look, before which his insolence quailed. "Russell,
will you call Graham?"

Graham was called, and put on his honor.

"You were in the sick-room on Friday evening?"

"Yes."

"Did you see any one get into the school-room through the side window?"

"I may as well tell you all about it. I was sitting doing nothing in the
sick-room, when I suddenly saw Barker clamber in to the school-room by
the window, which he left open. I was looking on simply from curiosity,
and saw him search Williams' desk, from which he took out something, I
could not make out what. He then went to his own place, and wrote for
about ten minutes, after which I observed him go up and stand by the
notice board. When he had done this he got out by the window again,
and ran off."

"Didn't this strike you as extraordinary?"

"No; I thought nothing more about it, till some one told me in the
sick-room about this row. I then mentioned privately what I had seen,
and it wasn't till I saw Duncan, half an hour ago, that I thought it
worth while to make it generally known."

Duncan turned an enquiring eye to Barker (who sat black and silent), and
then pulled some bits of torn paper from his pocket, put them together,
and called Owen to stand up. Showing him the fragments of paper, he
asked, "Have you ever seen these before?"

"Yes. On Saturday, when the boys left the schoolroom, I stayed behind to
think a little over what had occurred, feeling convinced that Williams
was _not_ guilty, spite of appearances. I was standing by the empty
fire-place, when these bits of paper caught my eye. I picked them up,
and, after a great deal of trouble, fitted them together. They are
covered apparently with failures in an attempt at forgery, viz., first,
'Gordon is a sur--' and then a stop, as though the writer were
dissatisfied, and several of the words written over again for practice,
and then a number of r's made in the way that Williams makes them."

"There you may stop," said Barker, stamping fiercely; "I did it all."

A perfect yell of scorn and execration followed this announcement.

"What! _you_ did it, and caused all this misery, you ineffable
blackguard!" shouted Upton, grasping him with one hand, while he struck
him with the other.

"Stop!" said Avonley; "just see that he doesn't escape, while we decide
on his punishment."

It was very soon decided by the sixth form that he should run the
gauntlet of the school. The boys instantly took out their handkerchiefs,
and knotted them tight. They then made a double line down each side of
the corridor, and turned Barker loose. He stood stock-still at one end,
while the fellows nearest him thrashed him unmercifully with the heavy
knots. At last the pain was getting severe, and he moved on, finally
beginning to run. Five times he was forced up and down the line, and
five times did every boy in the line give him a blow, which, if it did
not hurt much, at least spoke of no slight anger and contempt. He was
dogged and unmoved to the last, and then Avonley hauled him into the
presence of Dr. Rowlands. He was put in a secure room by himself, and
the next morning was first flogged and then publicly expelled.
Thenceforth he disappears from the history of Roslyn school.

I need hardly say that neither Eric nor his friends took any part in
this retributive act. They sat together in the boarders' room till it
was over, engaged in exciting discussion of the recent event. Most
warmly did Eric thank them for their trustfulness. "Thank you," he said,
"with all my heart, for proving my innocence; but thank you, even more a
great deal, for first believing it."

Upton was the first to join them, and since he had but wavered for a
moment, he was soon warmly reconciled with Eric. They had hardly shaken
hands when the rest came flocking in. "We have all been unjust," said
Avonley; "let's make up for it as well as we can. Three cheers for Eric
Williams!"

They gave, not three, but a dozen, till they were tired; and meanwhile,
every one was pressing round him, telling him how sorry they were for
the false suspicion, and doing all they could to show their regret for
his recent troubles. His genial, boyish heart readily forgave them, and
his eyes were long wet with tears of joy. The delicious sensation of
returning esteem made him almost think it worth while to have under gone
his trial.

Most happily did he spend the remainder of that afternoon, and it was no
small relief to all the Rowlandites in the evening to find themselves
finally rid of Barker, whose fate no one pitied, and whose name no one
mentioned without disgust. He had done more than any other boy to
introduce meanness, quarrelling, and vice, and the very atmosphere of
the rooms seemed healthier in his absence. One boy only forgave him, one
boy only prayed for him, one boy only endeavored to see him for one last
kind word. That boy was Edwin Russell.

After prayers, Mr. Gordon, who had been at Dr. Rowlands' to dinner,
apologised to Eric amply and frankly for his note, and did and said all
that could be done by an honorable man to repair the injury of an unjust
doubt. Eric felt his generous humility, and from thenceforth, though
they were never friends, he and Mr. Gordon ceased to be enemies.

That night Mr. Rose crowned his happiness by asking him and his
defenders to supper in the library. A most bright and joyous evening
they passed, for they were in the highest spirits; and when the master
bade them "good night," he kindly detained Eric, and said to him, "Keep
an innocent heart, my boy, and you need never fear trouble. Only think
if you had been guilty, and were now in Barker's place!"

"O, I _couldn't_ be guilty, sir," said Eric, gaily.

"Not of such a fault, perhaps. But," he added solemnly, "there are many
kinds of temptation, Eric many kinds. And they are easy to fall into.
You will find it no light battle to resist them."

"Believe me, sir, I will try," he answered with humility.

"Jehovah-Nissi!" said Mr. Rose. "Let the Lord be your banner, Eric, and
you will win the victory. God bless you."

And as the boy's graceful figure disappeared through the door, Mr. Rose
drew his arm-chair to the fire, and sat and meditated long. He was
imagining for Eric a sunny future--a future of splendid usefulness, of
reciprocated love, of brilliant fame.



CHAPTER XIII

THE ADVENTURE AT THE STACK

     "Ten cables from where green meadows
     And quiet homes could be seen,
         No greater space
         From peril to peace,
     But the savage sea between!"--EDWIN ARNOLD.

The Easter holidays at Roslyn lasted about ten days, and as most of the
boys came from a distance, they usually spent them at school. Many of
the usual rules were suspended during this time, and the boys were
supplied every day with pocket-money; consequently the Easter holidays
passed very pleasantly, and there was plenty of fun.

It was the great time for excursions all over the island, and the boys
would often be out the whole day long among the hills, or about the
coast. Eric enjoyed the time particularly, and was in great request
among all the boys. He was now more gay and popular than ever, and felt
as if nothing were wanting to his happiness. But this brilliant
prosperity was not good for him, and he felt continually that he cared
far less for the reproaches of conscience than he had done in the hours
of his trial; sought far less for help from God than he had done when he
was lonely and neglected.

He always knew that his great safeguard was the affection of Russell.
For Edwin's sake, and for shame at the thought of Edwin's disapproval,
he abstained from many things into which he would otherwise have
insensibly glided in conformation to the general looseness of the school
morality. But Russell's influence worked on him powerfully, and tended
to counteract a multitude of temptations.

Among other dangerous lessons, Upton had taught Eric to smoke; and he
was now one of those who often spent a part of his holidays in lurking
about with pipes in their mouths at places where they were unlikely to
be disturbed, instead of joining in some hearty and healthy game. When
he began to "learn" smoking, he found it anything but pleasant; but a
little practice had made him an adept, and he found a certain amount of
enjoyable excitement in finding out cozy places by the river, where he
and Upton might go and lounge for an hour to enjoy the forbidden luxury.

In reality he, like most boys, detested the habit; but it seemed a fine
thing to do, and to some, at any rate, it was a refuge from vacuity.
Besides, they had a confused notion that there was something "manly" in
it, and it derived an additional zest from the stringency of the rules
adopted to put it down. So a number of the boys smoked, and some few of
them to such excess as to get them into great mischief, and form a habit
which they could never afterwards abandon.

One morning of the Easter holidays, Eric, Montagu, and Russell started
for an excursion down the coast to Rilby Head. As they passed through
Ellan, Eric was deputed to go and buy Easter eggs and other provisions,
as they did not mean to be back for dinner. In about ten minutes he
caught up the other two, just as they were getting out of the town.

"What an age you've been buying a few Easter eggs," said Russell,
laughing; "have you been waiting till the hens laid?"

"No; they are not the _only_ things I've got."

"Well, but you might have got all the grub at the same shop."

"Ay; but I've procured a more refined article. Guess what it is?"

The two boys didn't guess, and Eric said, to enlighten them, "Will you
have a whiff, Monty?"

"A whiff! Oh! I see you've been wasting your tin on cigars--_alias_,
rolled cabbage-leaves. Oh fumose puer!"

"Well, will you have one?"

"If you like," said Montagu, wavering; "but I don't much care to smoke."

"Well, _I_ shall, at any rate," said Eric, keeping off the wind with his
cap, as he lighted a cigar, and began to puff.

They strolled on in silence; the smoking didn't promote conversation,
and Russell thought he had never seen his friend look so ridiculous, and
entirely unlike himself, as he did while strutting along with the weed
in his mouth. The fact was, Eric didn't guess how much he was hurting
Edwin's feelings, and he was smoking more to "make things look like the
holidays," by a little bravado, than anything else. But suddenly he
caught the expression of Russell's face, and instantly said--

"O, I forgot, Edwin; I know you don't like smoking;" and he instantly
flung the cigar over the hedge, being really rather glad to get rid of
it. With the cigar, he seemed to have flung away the affected manner he
displayed just before, and the spirits of all three rose at once.

"It isn't that I don't _like_ smoking only, Eric, but I think it
wrong--for _us_ I mean."

"O, my dear fellow! surely there can't be any harm in it. Why everybody
smokes."

"It may be all very well for men, although I'm not so sure of that. But,
at any rate, it's wrong and ridiculous in boys. You know yourself what
harm it does in every way."

"O, it's a mere school rule against it. How can it be wrong? Why, I even
know clergymen who smoke."

Montagu laughed. "Well, clergymen ain't immaculate," said he; "but I
never met a man yet who didn't tell you that he was _sorry_ he'd
acquired the habit."

"I'm sure you won't thank that rascally cousin of mine for having taught
you," said Russell; "but seriously, isn't it a very moping way of
spending the afternoon, to go and lie down behind some hay-stack, or in
some frowsy tumble-down barn, as you smokers do, instead of playing
racquets or football?"

"O, it's pleasant enough sometimes," said Eric, speaking rather against
his own convictions.

"As for me, I've nearly left it off," said Montagu, "and I think Rose
convinced me that it was a mistake. Not that he knows that I ever did
smoke; I should be precious sorry if he did, for I know how he despises
it in boys. Were you in school the other day when he caught Pietrie and
Brooking?"

"No."

"Well, when Brooking went up to have his exercise corrected, Rose smelt
that he had been smoking, and charged him with it. Brooking stoutly
denied it, but after he had told the most robust lies, Rose made him
empty his pockets, and there, sure enough, were a pipe and a cigar-case
half full! You _should_ have heard how Rose thundered and lightened at
him for his lying, and then sent him to the Doctor. I never saw him so
terrific before."

"You don't mean to say you were convinced it was wrong because Brooking
was caught, and told lies--do you? _Non sequitur_."

"Stop--not so fast." Very soon after Rose twigged Pietrie, who at once
confessed, and was caned. I happened to be in the library when Rose sent
for him, and Pietrie said mildly that "he didn't see the harm of it."
Rose smiled in his kind way, and said, "Don't see the _harm_ of it! Do
you see any good in it?"

"No, sir."

"Well, isn't it forbidden?"

"Yes, sir."

"And doesn't it waste your money?"

"Yes, sir."

"And tempt you to break rules, and tell lies to screen yourself?"

"Yes, sir," said Pietrie, putting his tail between his legs.

"And don't your parents disapprove it? And doesn't it throw you among
some of the worst boys, and get you into great troubles? Silly child,"
he said, pulling Pietrie's ear (as he sometimes does, you know), "don't
talk nonsense; and remember next time you're caught I shall have you
punished." So off went Pietrie, [Greek: achreian idon] as our friend
Homer says. And your humble servant was convinced."

"Well, well," said Eric laughing, "I suppose you're right. At any rate,
I give in. Two to one ain't fair; [Greek: ards duo o Aerachlaes], since
you're in a quoting humor."

Talking in this way they got to Rilby Head, where they found plenty to
amuse them. It was a splendid headland, rising bluff four hundred feet
out of the sea, and presenting magnificent reaches of rock scenery on
all sides. The boys lay on the turf at the summit, and flung innocuous
stones at the sea-gulls as they sailed far below them over the water,
and every now and then pounced at some stray fish that came to the
surface; or they watched the stately barks as they sailed by on the
horizon, wondering at their cargo and destination; or chaffed the
fishermen, whose boats heaved on the waves at the foot of the
promontory. When they were rested, they visited a copper-mine by the
side of the head, and filled their pockets with bits of bright quartz or
red shining spar, which they found in plenty among the rocks.

In the afternoon they strolled towards home, determining to stop a
little at the Stack on their way. The Stack formed one of the
extremities of Ellan Bay, and was a huge mass of isolated schist,
accessible at low water, but entirely surrounded at high tide. It was a
very favorite resort of Eric's, as the coast all about it was bold and
romantic; and he often went there with Russell on a Sunday evening to
watch the long line of golden radiance slanting to them over the water
from the setting sun--a sight which they often agreed to consider one
of the most peaceful and mysteriously beautiful in nature.

They reached the Stack, and began to climb to its summit. The sun was
just preparing to set, and the west was gorgeous with red and gold.

"We shan't see the line on the waters this evening," said Eric; "there's
too much of a breeze. But look, what a glorious sunset!"

"Yes; it'll be stormy tomorrow," answered Russell, "but come along,
let's get to the top; the wind's rising, and the waves will be
rather grand."

"Ay, we'll sit and watch them; and let's finish our grub; I've got
several eggs left, and I want to get them out of my pocket."

They devoured the eggs, and then stood enjoying the sight of the waves,
which sometimes climbed up the rock almost to their feet, and then fell
back, hissing and discomfited. Suddenly they remembered that it was
getting late, and that they ought to gat home for tea at seven.

"Hallo!" said Russell, looking at his watch, "it's half-past six. We
must cut back as hard as we can. By the bye, I hope the tide hasn't been
coming in all this time."

"Good God!" said Montagu, with a violent start, "I'm afraid it has,
though! What asses we have been, with our waves and sunsets. Let's set
off as hard as we can pelt."

Immediately they scrambled, by the aid of hands and knees, down the
Stack, and made their way for the belt of rock which joined it to the
mainland; but, to their horror, they at once saw that the tide had come
in, and that a narrow gulf of sea already divided them from the shore.

"There's only one way for it," said Eric; "if we're plucky we can jump
that; but we musn't wait till it gets worse. A good jump will take us
_nearly_ to the other side--far enough, at any rate, to let us flounder
across somehow."

As fast as they could they hurried along down to the place where the
momentarily increasing zone of water seemed as yet to be narrowest; and
where the rocks on the other side were lower than those on which they
stood. Their situation was by no means pleasant. The wind had been
rising more and more, and the waves dashed into this little channel with
such violence, that to swim it would have been a most hazardous
experiment, particularly as they could not dive in from the ledge on
which they stood, from their ignorance of the depth of water.

Eric's courage supported the other two. "There's no good _thinking_
about it," said he, "jump we _must_; the sooner the better. We can but
be a little hurt at the worst. Here, I'll set the example."

He drew back a step or two, and sprang out with all his force. He was a
practised and agile jumper, and, to their great relief, he alighted near
the water's edge, on the other side, where, after slipping once or twice
on the wet and seaweed-covered rocks, he effected a safe landing, with
no worse harm than a wetting up to the knees.

"Now then, you too," he shouted; "no time to lose."

"Will you jump first, Monty?" said Russell; "both of you are better
jumpers than I, and to tell the truth I'm rather afraid."

"Then I won't leave you," said Montagu; "we'll both stay here."

"And perhaps be drowned or starved for our pains No, Monty, _you_ can
clear it, I've no doubt."

"Couldn't we try to swim it together, Edwin?"

"Madness! look there." And as he spoke, a huge furious wave swept down
the whole length of the gulf by which they stood, roaring and surging
along till the whole water seethed, and tearing the seaweeds from their
roots in the rock.

"Now's your time," shouted Eric again. "What _are_ you waiting for? For
God's sake, jump before another wave comes."

"Monty, you _must_ jump now," said Russell, "if only to help me when I
try."

Montagu went back as far as he could, which was only a few steps, and
leapt wildly forward. He lighted into deep water, nearly up to his neck,
and at first tried in vain to secure a footing on the sharp slippery
schist; but he stumbled forwards vigorously, and in half a minute, Eric
leaning out as far as he could, caught his hand, and just pulled him to
the other side in time to escape another rush of tumultuous and
angry foam.

"Now, Edwin," they both shouted, "it'll be too late in another minute.
Jump for your life."

Russell stood on the rock pale and irresolute. Once or twice he prepared
to spring, and stopped from fear at the critical instant. In truth, the
leap was now most formidable; to clear it was hopeless; and the fury of
the rock-tormented waves rendered the prospect of a swim on the other
side terrible to contemplate. Once in the grasp of one of those billows,
even a strong man must have been carried out of the narrow channel, and
hurled against the towering sweep of rocks which lay beyond it.

"Oh Edwin, Edwin--dear Edwin--_do_ jump," cried Eric with passionate
excitement. "We will rush in for you."

Russell now seemed to have determined on running the risk; he stepped
back, ran to the edge, missed his footing, and with a sharp cry of pain,
fell heavily forward into the water. For an instant, Eric and Montagu
stood breathless,--but the next instant, they saw Russell's head emerge,
and then another wave foaming madly by, made them run backwards for
their lives, and hid him from their view. When it had passed, they saw
him clinging with both hands, in the desperate instinct of
self-preservation, to a projecting bit of rock, by the aid of which he
gradually drew himself out of the water, and grasping at crevices or
bits of seaweed, slowly and painfully reached the ledge on which they
had stood before they took the leap. He presented a pitiable spectacle;
his face, pale as death, was dabbled with blood; his head drooped on his
breast; his clothes were torn, and streamed with the salt water; his cap
was gone, and the wet hair, which he seemed too exhausted to push aside,
hung over his forehead and eyes. He was evidently dizzy, and in pain;
and they noticed that he only seemed to use one foot.

While he was regaining the ledge, neither of the boys spoke, lest their
voices should startle him, and make him fall; but now, they both cried
out, "Are you hurt, Edwin?"

He did not answer, but supported his pale face on one hand, while he put
the other to his head, from which the blood was flowing fast.

"O Edwin, for the love of God, try once more," said Montagu; "you will
die if you spend the night on that rock."

They could not catch the reply, and called again. The wind and waves
were both rising fast, and it was only by listening intently, that they
caught the faint words, "I can't, my leg is hurt." Besides, they both
saw that a jump was no longer possible; the channel was more than double
the width which it had been when Eric leaped, and from the rapid ascent
of rocks on both sides, it was now far out of depth.

"O God, what can we do," said Montagu, bursting into tears. "We can
never save him; and all but the very top of the Stack is covered at
high tide."

Eric had not lost his presence of mind. "Cheer up, Edwin," he shouted;
"I _will_ get back to you somehow. If I fail, crawl up to the
top again."

Again the wind carried away the reply, and Russell had sunk back on the
rock.

"Monty," said Eric, "just watch for a minute or two. When I have got
across, run to Ellan as hard as you can tear, and tell them that we are
cut off by the tide on the Stack. They'll bring round the life-boat.
It's our only chance."

"What are you going to do?" asked Montagu, terrified. "Why, Eric, it's
death to attempt swimming that. Heavens!" And he drew Eric back hastily,
as another vast swell of water came rolling along, shaking its white
curled mane, like a sea-monster bent on destruction.

"Monty, it's no use," said Eric hastily, tearing off his jacket and
waistcoat; "I'm not going to let Russell die on that ledge of rock. I
shall try to reach him, whatever happens to me. Here; I want to keep
these things dry. Be on the look out; if I get across, fling them over
to me if you can, and then do as I told you."

He turned round; the wave had just spent its fury, and knowing that his
only chance was to swim over before another came, he plunged in, and
struck out like a man. He was a strong and expert swimmer, and as yet
the channel was not more than a dozen yards across. He dashed over with
the speed and strength of despair, and had just time to clutch the rocks
on the other side before the next mighty swirl of the tide swept up in
its white and tormented course. In another minute he was on the ledge by
Russell's side.

He took him tenderly in his arms, and called to Montagu for the dry
clothes. Montagu tied them skilfully with his neck-handkerchief round a
fragment of rock, adding his own jacket to the bundle, and then flung it
over. Eric wrapped up his friend in the clothes, and once more shouted
to Montagu to go on his errand. For a short time the boy lingered,
reluctant to leave them, and then started off at the run. Looking back
after a few minutes, he caught, through the gathering dusk, his last
glimpse of the friends in their perilous situation. Eric was seated
supporting Russell across his knees; when he saw Montagu turn he waved
his cap over his head as a signal of encouragement, and then began to
carry Edwin higher up the rock for safety. It soon grew too dark to
distinguish them, and Montagu at full speed flew to Ellan, which was a
mile off. When he got to the harbor he told some sailors of the danger
in which his friends were, and then ran on to the school. It was now
eight o'clock, and quite dark. Tea was over, and lock-up time long past,
when he stood excited, breathless, and without his jacket, at Dr.
Rowlands' door.

"Good gracious! Master Montagu," said the servant; "what's the matter;
have you been robbed?"

He pushed the girl aside, and ran straight to Dr. Rowlands' study. "O
sir!" he exclaimed, bursting in, "Williams and Russell are on the Stack,
cut off by the tide."

Dr. Rowlands started up hastily. "What! on this stormy night? Have you
raised the alarm?"

"I told the life-boat people, sir, and then ran on."

"I will set off myself at once," said the Doctor, seizing his hat. "But,
my poor boy, how pale and ill you look, and you are wet through too. You
had better change your clothes at once, or go to bed."

"O no, sir," said Montagu, pleadingly; "do take me with you."

"Very well; but you must change first, or you may suffer in consequence.
Make haste, and directly you are dressed, a cup of tea shall be ready
for you down here, and we will start."

Montagu was off in an instant, and only stopped on his way to tell
Duncan and the others of the danger which threatened their companions.
The absence of the three boys from tea and lock-up had already excited
general surmise, and Montagu's appearance, jacketless and wet, at the
door of the boarders' room, at once attracted a group round him. He
rapidly told them how things stood, and, hastening off, left them nearly
as much agitated as himself. In a very short time he presented himself
again before Dr. Rowlands, and when he had swallowed with difficulty the
cup of tea, they sallied out.

It was pitch dark, and only one or two stars were seen at intervals
struggling through the ragged masses of cloud. The wind howled in fitful
gusts, and as their road led by the sea-side, Montagu shuddered to hear
how rough and turbulent the sea was, even on the sands. He stumbled once
or twice, and then the Doctor kindly drew his trembling arm through his
own, and made him describe the whole occurrence, while the servant went
on in front with the lantern. When Montagu told how Williams had braved
the danger of reaching his friend at the risk of his life, Dr. Rowlands'
admiration was unbounded. "Noble boy," he exclaimed, with enthusiasm; "I
shall find it hard to believe any evil of him after this."

They reached Ellan, and went to the boat-house.

"Have you put out the life-boat?" said Dr. Rowlands anxiously.

"Ill luck, sir," said one of the sailors, touching his cap; "the
life-boat went to a wreck at Port Vash two days ago, and she hasn't been
brought round again yet."

"Indeed! but I do trust you have sent out another boat to try and save
those poor boys."

"We've been trying, sir, and a boat has just managed to start; but in a
sea like that it's very dangerous, and it's so dark and gusty that I
doubt it's no use, so I expect they'll put back."

The Doctor sighed deeply. "Don't alarm any other people," he said; "it
will merely raise a crowd to no purpose. Here, George," he continued to
the servant, "give me the lantern; I will go with this boy to the Stack;
you follow us with ropes, and order a carriage from the King's Head.
Take care to bring anything with you that seems likely to be useful."

Montagu and Dr. Rowlands again started, and with difficulty made their
way through the storm to the shore opposite the Stack. Here they raised
the lantern and shouted; but the wind was now screaming with such
violence that they were not sure that they heard any answering shout.
Their eyes, accustomed to the darkness, could just make out the huge
black outline of the Stack rising from the yeast of boiling waves, and
enveloped every moment in blinding sheets of spray. On the top of it
Montagu half thought that he saw something, but he was not sure.

"Thank God, there is yet hope," said the Doctor, with difficulty making
his young companion catch his words amid the uproar of the elements; "if
they can but keep warm in their wet clothes, we may perhaps rescue them
before morning."

Again he shouted to cheer them with his strong voice, and Montagu joined
his clear ringing tones to the shout. This time they fancied that in one
of the pauses of the wind they heard a faint cheer returned, was sound
more welcome, and as they paced up and down they shouted at intervals,
and held up the lantern, to show the boys that friends and help
were near.

Eric heard them. When Montagu left, he had carried Russell to the
highest point of the rock, and there, with gentle hands and soothing
words, made him as comfortable as he could. He wrapped him in every
piece of dry clothing he could find, and held him in his arms, heedless
of the blood which covered him. Very faintly Russell thanked him, and
pressed his hand; but he moaned in pain continually, and at last
fainted away.

Meanwhile the wind rose higher, and the tide gained on the rocks, and
the sacred darkness came down. At first Eric could think of nothing but
storm and sea. Cold, and cruel, and remorseless, the sea beat up,
drenching them to the skin continually with, its clammy spray; and the
storm shrieked round them pitilessly, and flung about the wet hair on
Eric's bare head, and forced him to plant himself firmly, lest the rage
of the gusts should hurl them from their narrow resting-place. The
darkness made everything more fearful, for his eyes could distinguish
nothing but the gulfs of black water glistening here and there with
hissing foam, and he shuddered as his ears caught the unearthly noises
that came to him in the mingled scream of weltering tempest and plangent
wave. It was fearful to be isolated on the black rent rock, and see the
waves gaining on them higher, higher, higher, every moment and he was in
ceaseless terror lest they should be swept away by the violence of the
breakers. "At least," thought he, as he looked down and saw that the
ledge on which they had been standing had long been covered with deep
and agitated waves, "at least I have saved Edwin's life." And he bravely
made up his mind to keep up heart and hope, and weather the comfortless
night with Russell in his arms.

And then his thoughts turned to Russell, who was still unconscious; and
stooping down he kissed fondly the pale white forehead of his friend. He
felt _then_, how deeply he loved him, how much he owed him; and no
mother could have nursed a child more tenderly than he did the fainting
boy. Russell's head rested on his breast, and the soft hair, tangled
with welling blood, stained his clothes. Eric feared that he would die,
his fainting-fit continued so long, and from the helpless way in which
one of his legs trailed on the ground he felt sure that he had received
some dangerous hurt.

At last Russell stirred and groaned. "Where am I?" he said, and half
opened his eyes; he started up frightened, and fell-back heavily. He saw
only the darkness; felt only the fierce wind and salt mist; heard only
the relentless yell of the blast. Memory had no time to wake, and he
screamed and fainted once more.

Poor Eric knew not what to do but to shelter him to the best of his
power, and when he showed any signs of consciousness again, he bent over
him, and said, "Don't you remember, Edwin? We're quite safe. I'm with
you, and Monty's gone for help."

"Oh! I daren't jump," sobbed Russell; "oh mother, I shall be drowned.
Save me! save me! I'm so glad they're safe, mother; but my leg hurts
so." And he moaned again. He was delirious.

"How cold it is, and wet too! where's Eric? are we bathing? run along,
we shall be late. But stop, you're smoking. Dear Eric, don't smoke.
Poor fellow, I'm afraid he's getting spoilt, and learning bad ways. Oh
save him." And as he wandered on, he repeated a prayer for Eric, which
evidently had been often on his lips.

Eric was touched to the heart's core, and in one rapid lightning-like
glance, his memory revealed to him the faultful past, in all its
sorrowfulness. And _he_, too, prayed wildly for help both for soul and
body. Alone on the crag, with the sea tumbling and plashing round them,
growing and gaining so much on their place of refuge, that his terror
began to summon up the image of certain death; alone, wet, hungry, and
exhausted, with the wounded and delirious boy, whose life depended on
his courage, he prayed as he had never prayed before, and seemed to grow
calmer by his prayer, and to feel God nearer him than ever he had done
in the green cricket-field, or the safe dormitories of Roslyn school.

A shout startled him. Lights on the water heaved up and down, now
disappearing, and now lifted high, and at intervals there came the sound
of voices. Thank God! help was near; they were coming in a boat to
save them.

But the lights grew more distant; he saw then disappearing towards the
harbor. Yes! it was of no use; no boat could live in the surf at the
foot of the Stack cliffs, and the sailors had given it up in despair.
His heart sank again, all the more for the glimpse of hope, and his
strength began to give way. Russell's delirium continued, and he grew
too frightened even to pray.

A light from the land. The sound of shouts--yes, he could be sure of
it; it was Dr. Rowlands' voice and Montagu's. He got convinced of this,
and summoned all his strength to shout in return. The light kept moving
up and down on the shore, not a hundred yards off. His fear vanished;
they were no longer alone. The first moment that the tide suffered any
one to reach them they would be rescued. His mind grew calm again, and
he determined to hold up for Russell's sake until help should come; and
every now and then, to make it feel less lonely, he answered the shouts
which came from the friendly voices in the fitful pauses of the storm.

But Dr. Rowlands and Montagu paced up and down, and the master soothed
the boy's fears, and talked to him so kindly, so gently, that Montagu
began to wonder if this really could be the awful head-master, whose
warm strong hand he was grasping, and who was comforting him as a father
might. What a depth of genuine human kindness that stern exterior
concealed! And every now and then, when the storm blew loudest, the
Doctor would stand still for a moment, and offer up a short intense
prayer, or ejaculation, that help and safety might come to his beloved
charge in their exposure and peril.

Six or seven hours passed away; at last the wind began to sink, and the
sea to be less violent. The tide was on the turn. The carriage drove up
with, more men and lights, and the thoughtful servant brought with him
the school surgeon, Dr. Underhay. Long and anxiously did they watch the
ebbing tide, and when it had gone out sufficiently to allow of two
stout planks being laid across the channel, an active sailor ventured
over with a light, and in a few moments stood by Eric's side. Eric saw
him coming, but was too weak and numb to move; and when the sailor
lifted up the unconscious Russell from his knees, Eric was too much
exhausted even to speak. The man returned for him, and lifting him on
his back crossed the plank once more in safety, and carried them both to
the carriage, where Dr. Underhay had taken care to have everything
likely to revive and sustain them. They were driven rapidly to the
school, and the Doctor raised to God tearful eyes of gratitude as the
boys were taken to the rooms prepared for them. Mrs. Rowlands was
anxiously awaiting their arrival, and the noise of wheels was the signal
for twenty heads to be put through the dormitory windows, with many an
anxious inquiry, "Are they safe?"

"Yes, thank God!" called Dr. Rowlands; "so now, boys, shut the windows,
and get to sleep."

Russell was carefully undressed, and put to bed in the Doctor's own
house, and the wound in his head was dressed. Eric and Montagu had beds
provided them in another room by themselves, away from the dormitory:
the room was bright and cheerful, with a blazing fire, and looked like
home and when the two boys had drank some warm wine, and cried for
weariness and joy, they sank to sleep after their dangers and fatigues,
and slept the deep, calm, dreamless sleep of tired children.

So ended the perilous adventure of that eventful night of the Easter
holidays.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SILVER CORD BROKEN

     "Calm on the bosom of thy God,
       Fair spirit, rest thee now!
     E'en while with us thy footsteps trod,
       His seal was on thy brow."--MRS. HEMANS.

They did not awake till noon. Montagu opened his eyes, and at first
could not collect his thoughts, as he saw the carpeted little room, the
bright fire, and the housekeeper seated in her arm-chair before it. But
turning his head, he caught a glimpse of Eric, who was still asleep, and
he then remembered all. He sprang out of bed, refreshed and perfectly
well, and the sound of his voice woke Eric; but Eric was still languid
and weak, and did not get up that day, nor was he able to go to work
again for some days; but he was young and strong, and his vigorous
constitution soon threw off the effects of his fast and exposure.

Their first inquiry was for Edwin. The nurse shook her head sadly. "He
is very dangerously ill."

"Is he?" said they both, anxiously. And then they preserved a deep
silence; and when Montagu, who immediately began to dress, knelt down to
say his prayers, Eric, though unable to get up, knelt also over his
pillow, and the two felt that their young earnest prayers were mingling
for the one who seemed to have been taken while they were left.

The reports grew darker and darker about Edwin, At first it was thought
that the blow on his head was dangerous, and that the exposure to wet,
cold, fear, and hunger, had permanently weakened his constitution; and
when his youth seemed to be triumphing over these dangers, another
became more threatening. His leg never mended; he had both sprained the
knee badly, and given the tibia an awkward twist, so that the least
motion was agony to him.

In his fever he was constantly delirious. No one was allowed to see him,
though many of the boys tried to do so, and many were the earnest
inquiries for him day by day. It then became more fully apparent than
ever, that, although Edwin was among them without being _of_ them, no
boy in the school was more deeply honored and fondly loved than he. Even
the elastic spirits of boyhood could not quite throw off the shadow of
gloom which his illness cast over the school.

Very tenderly they nursed him. All that human kindness could do was done
for him by the stranger hands. And yet not all; poor Edwin had no
father, no mother, hardly any relatives. His only aunt, Mrs. Upton,
would have come to nurse him, but she was an invalid, and he was often
left alone in his delirium and agony.

Alone, yet not alone. There was One with him--always in his thoughts,
always leading, guiding, blessing him unseen--not deserting the hurt
lamb of his flock; one who was once a boy himself, and who, when he was
a boy, did his Father's business, and was subject unto his parents in
the obscure home of the despised village. Alone! nay, to them whose
eyes were opened, the room of sickness and pain was thronged and
beautiful with angelic presences.

Often did Eric, and Upton, and Montagu, talk of their loved friend.
Eric's life seemed absorbed in the thought of him, and in passionate,
unspeakable longings for his recovery. Now he valued more than ever the
sweet remembered hours spent with him; their games, and communnings, and
walks, and Russell's gentle influence, and brave, kindly rebukes. Yet he
must not even see him, must not whisper one word of soothing to him in
his anguish; he could only pray for him, and that he did with a depth
of hope.

At last Upton, in virtue of his relationship, was allowed to visit him.
His delirium had become more infrequent, but he could not yet even
recognise his cousin, and the visits to his sick-room were so sad and
useless, that Upton forbore. "And yet you should hear him talk in his
delirium," he said to Eric; "not one evil word, or bad thought, or
wicked thing, ever escapes him. I'm afraid, Eric, it would hardly be so
with you or me."

"No" said Eric, in a low and humble tone; and guilty conscience brought
the deep color, wave after wave, of crimson into his cheeks.

"And he talks with such affection of you, Eric. He speaks sometimes of
all of us very gently; but you seem to be always in his thoughts, and
every now and then he prays for you quite unconsciously."

Eric turned his head to brush away a tear. "When do you think I shall be
allowed too see him?"

"Not just yet, I fear."

After a week or two of most anxious suspense, Russell's mind ceased to
wander, but the state of his sprain gave more cause for alarm. Fresh
advice was called in, and it was decided that the leg must be amputated.

When Eric was told of this, he burst into passionate complaints. "Only
think, Monty, isn't it hard, isn't it cruel? When we see our brave,
bright Edwin again, he will be a cripple." Eric hardly understood that
he was railing at the providence of a merciful God.

The day for the operation came. When it was over, poor Russell seemed to
amend, and the removal of the perpetual pain gave him relief. They were
all deeply moved at his touching resignation; no murmur, no cry escaped
him; no words but the sweetest thanks for every little office of
kindness done to him. A few days after, he asked Dr. Underhay "if he
might see Eric?"

"Yes, my boy," said the doctor kindly, "you may see him, and one or two
other of your particular friends if you like, provided you don't excite
yourself too much. I trust you will get better now."

So Eric and Montagu were told by Dr. Rowlands that at six they might go
and see their friend. "Be sure," he added, "that you don't startle or
excite him."

They promised, and after school on that beautiful evening of early
summer they went to the sick-room door Stopping, they held their breath,
and knocked very gently. Yes! it was the well-known voice which gave the
answer, but it was faint and low. Full of awe, they softly opened the
door, which admitted them into the presence of the dear companion whom
they had not seen for so long. Since then it seemed as though gulfs far
deeper than the sea had been flowing between him and them.

Full of awe, and hand in hand, they entered the room on tiptoe--the
darkened room where Russell was What a hush and oppression there seemed
to them at first in the dim, silent chamber; what an awfulness in all
the appliances which showed how long and deeply their schoolfellow had
suffered. But all this vanished directly they caught sight of his face.
There he lay, so calm, and weak, and still, with his bright, earnest
eyes turned towards them, as though to see whether any of their
affection for him had ceased or been forgotten!

In an instant they were kneeling in silence by the bed with bowed
foreheads; and the sick boy tenderly put his hands on their heads, and
pushed the frail white fingers through their hair, and looked at them
tearfully without a word, till they hid their faces with their hands,
and broke into deep suppressed sobs of compassion.

"Oh hush, hush!" he said, as he felt their tears dropping on his hands
while they kissed him. "Dear Eric, dear Monty, why should you cry so for
me? I am very happy."

But they caught the outline of his form as he lay on the bed, and had
now for the first time realized that he was a cripple for life; and as
the throng of memories came on them--memories of his skill and fame at
cricket, and racquets, and football--of their sunny bathes together in
sea and river, and all their happy holiday wanderings--they could not
restrain their emotion, and wept uncontrollably. Neither of them could
speak a word, or break the holy silence; and as he patted their heads
and cheeks, his own tears flowed fast in sympathy and self-pity. But he
felt the comforting affection which they could not utter; he felt it in
his loneliness, and it did him good.

The nurse broke in upon the scene, which she feared would agitate Edwin
too much; and with red eyes and heavy hearts the boys left, only
whispering, "We will come again to-morrow, Edwin!"

They came the next day, and many days, and got to talk quite cheerfully
with him, and read to him. They loved this occupation more than any
game, and devoted themselves to it. The sorrow of the sick-room more
than repaid them for the glad life without, when they heard Russell's
simple and heartfelt thanks. "Ah! how good of you, dear fellows," he
would say, "to give up the merry playground for a wretched cripple," and
he would smile cheerfully to show that his trial had not made him weary
of life. Indeed, he often told them that he believed they felt for him
more than he did himself.

One day Eric brought him a little bunch of primroses and violets. He
seemed much better, and Eric's spirits were high with the thoughts and
hopes of the coming holidays. "There, Edwin," he said, as the boy
gratefully and eagerly took the flowers, "don't they make you glad? They
are one of our _three_ signs, you know, of the approaching holidays. One
sign was the first sight of the summer steamer going across the bay;
another was May eve, when these island-fellows light big gorse fires all
over the mountains, and throw yellow marsh-lilies at their doors to keep
off the fairies. Do you remember, Eddy, gathering some last May eve, and
sitting out in the playground till sunset, watching the fires begin to
twinkle on Cronck-Irey and Barrule for miles away? What a jolly talk we
had that evening about the holidays; but my father and mother were here
then, you know, and we were all going to Fairholm. But the third
sign--the first primrose and violet--was always the happiest. You can't
think how I _grabbed_ at the first primrose this year; I found it by a
cave on the Ness. And though these are rather the last than the first,
yet I knew you'd like them, Eddy, so I hunted for them everywhere. And
how much better you're looking too; such shining eyes, and, yes! I
positively declare, quite a ruddy cheek like your old one. You'll soon
be out among us again, that's clear----"

He stopped abruptly: he had been rattling on just in the merry way that
Russell now most loved to hear, but, as he was talking, he caught the
touch of sadness on Russell's face, and saw his long, abstracted, eager
look at the flowers.

"Dear fellow, you're not worse, are you?" he said quickly. "What a fool
I am to chatter so; it makes you ill."

"No, no, Eric, talk on; you can't think how I love to hear you. Oh, how
very beautiful these primroses are! Thank you, thank you, for bringing
them." And he again fixed on them the eager dreamy look which had
startled Eric--as though he were learning their color and shape
by heart.

"I wish I hadn't brought them, though," said Eric, "they are filling
your mind with regrets. But, Eddy, you'll be well by the holidays--a
month hence, you know--or else I shouldn't have talked so gladly
about them."

"No, Eric," said Russell sadly, "these dear flowers are the last spring
blossoms that I shall see--_here_ at least. Yes, I will keep them, for
your sake, Eric, till I die."

"Oh don't talk so," said Eric, shocked and flustered, "why everybody
knows and says that you're getting better."

Russell smiled and shook his head. "No, Eric, I shall die. There stop,
dear fellow, don't cry," said he, raising his hands quietly to Eric's
face; "isn't it better for me so? I own it seemed sad at first to leave
this bright world and the sea--yes, even that cruel sea," he continued
smiling; "and to leave Roslyn, and Upton, and Monty, and, above all, to
leave _you_, Eric, whom I love best in all the world. Yes, remember I've
no home, Eric, and no prospects. There was nothing to be sorry for in
this, so long as God gave me health and strength; but health went for
ever into those waves at the Stack, where you saved my life, dear,
gallant Eric; and what could I do now? It doesn't look so happy to
_halt_ through life. Oh Eric, Eric, I am young, but I am dying--dying,
Eric," he said solemnly, "my brother; let me call you brother; I have no
near relations, you know, to fill up the love in my yearning heart, but
I _do_ love _you_. Kiss me, Eric, as though I were a child, and you a
child. There, that comforts me; I feel as if I _were_ a child again, and
had a dear brother;--and I _shall_ be a child again soon, Eric, in the
courts of a Father's house."

Eric could not speak. These words startled him; he never dreamt
_recently_ of Russell's death, but had begun to reckon on his recovery,
and now life seemed darker to him than ever.

But Russell was pressing the flowers to his lips. "The grass
withereth," he murmured, "the flower fadeth, and the glory of its beauty
perisheth; but--_but_ the word of the Lord endureth for ever." And here
he too burst into natural tears, and Eric pressed his hand, with more
than a brother's fondness, to his heart.

"Oh Eddy, Eddy, my heart is full," he said, "too full to speak to you.
Let me read to you;" and with Russell's arm round his neck he sat down,
beside his pillow, and read to him about "the pure river of water of
life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the
Lamb." At first sobs choked his voice, but it gathered firmness as
he went on.

"In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was
there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded
her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing
of the nations.

"And there shall be no more curse"--and here the reader's musical voice
rose into deeper and steadier sweetness--"but the throne of God and of
the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; and they
shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads."

"And they shall see his face," murmured Russell, "_and they shall see
his face_" Eric paused and looked at him; a sort of rapture seemed to be
lighted in his eyes, as though they saw heavenly things, and his
countenance was like an angel's to look upon. Eric closed the book
reverently, and gazed.

"And now pray for me, Eric, will you?" Eric knelt down, but no prayer
would come; his breast swelled; and his heart beat fast, but emotion
prevented him from uttering a word. But Russell laid his hand on his
head and prayed.

"O gracious Lord God, look down, merciful Father on us, two erring,
weak, sinful boys; look down and bless us, Lord, for the love thou
bearest unto thy children. One thou art taking; Lord, take me to the
green pastures of thy home, where no curse is; and one remains--O Lord!
bless him with the dew of thy blessing; lead and guide him, and keep him
for ever in thy fear and love, that he may continue thine for ever, and
hereafter we may meet together among the redeemed, in the immortal glory
of the resurrection. Hear us, O Father, for thy dear Son's sake.
Amen! Amen!"

The childlike, holy, reverent voice ceased, and Eric rose. One long
brotherly kiss he printed on Russell's forehead, and, full of sorrowful
forebodings, bade him good night.

He asked Dr. Underhay whether his fears were correct. "Yes," he said,
"he may die at any time; he _must_ die soon. It is even best that he
should; besides the loss of a limb, that blow on the head would
certainly affect the brain and the intellect if he lived."

Eric shuddered--a long cold shudder.

The holidays drew on; for Russell's sake, and at his earnest wish, Eric
had worked harder than he ever did before. All his brilliant abilities,
all his boyish ambition, were called into exercise; and, to the delight
of every one, he gained ground rapidly, and seemed likely once more to
dispute the palm with Owen. No one rejoiced more in this than Mr. Rose,
and he often gladdened Russell's heart by telling him about it; for
every day he had a long visit to the sick boy's room, which refreshed
and comforted them both.

In other respects, too, Eric seemed to be turning over a new leaf. He
and Upton, by common consent, had laid aside smoking, and every bad
habit or disobedient custom which would have grieved the dying boy, whom
they both loved so well. And although Eric's popularity, after the
romantic Stack adventure and his chivalrous daring, was at its very
zenith,--although he had received a medal and flattering letter from the
Humane Society, who had been informed of the transaction by Dr.
Rowlands,--although his success both physical and intellectual was
higher than ever,--yet the dread of the great loss he was doomed to
suffer, and the friendship which was to be snapped, overpowered every
other feeling, and his heart was ennobled and purified by contact with
his suffering friend.

It was a June evening, and he and Russell were alone; he had drawn up
the blind, and through the open window the summer breeze, pure from the
sea and fragrant from the garden, was blowing refreshfully into the sick
boy's room. Russell was very, very happy. No doubt, no fear, assailed
him; all was peace and trustfulness. Long and earnestly that evening did
he talk to Eric, and implore him to shun evil ways, striving to lead him
gently to that love of God which was his only support and refuge now.
Tearfully and humbly Eric listened, and every now and then the sufferer
stopped to pray aloud.

"Good night, Eric," he said, "I am tired, _so_ tired. I hope we shall
meet again; I shall give you my desk and all my books, Eric, except a
few for Horace, Owen, Duncan, and Monty. And my watch, that dear watch
your mother, _my_ mother, gave me, I shall leave to Rose as a
remembrance of us both. Good night, brother."

A little before ten that night Eric was again summoned with Upton and
Montagu to Russell's bedside. He was sinking fast; and as he had but a
short time to live, he expressed a desire to see them, though he could
see no others.

They came, and were amazed to see how bright the dying boy looked. They
received his last farewells--he would die that night. Sweetly he blessed
them, and made them promise to avoid all evil, and read the Bible, and
pray to God. But he had only strength to speak at intervals. Mr. Rose,
too, was there; it seemed as though he held the boy by the hand, as
fearlessly now, yea, joyously, he entered the waters of the dark river.

"Oh, I should _so_ like to stay with you, Monty, Horace, dear, dear
Eric, but God calls me. I am going--a long way--to my father and
mother--and to the light. I shall not be a cripple there--nor be in
pain." His words grew slow and difficult. "God bless you, dear fellows;
God bless you, dear Eric; I am going--to God."

He sighed very gently; there was a slight sound in his throat, and he
was dead. A terrible scene of boyish anguish followed, as they kissed
again and again the lifeless brow. But quietly, calmly, Mr. Rose checked
them, and they knelt down with streaming eyes while he prayed.



CHAPTER XV

HOME AGAIN

     "O far beyond the waters
       The fickle feet may roam,
     But they find no light so pure and bright
       As the one fair star of home;
     The star of tender hearts, lady,
       That glows in an English home,"

     F.W.F.

That night when Eric returned to No. 7, full of grief, and weighed down
with the sense of desolation and mystery, the other boys were silent
from sympathy in his sorrow. Duncan and Llewellyn both knew and loved
Russell themselves, and they were awestruck to hear of his death; they
asked some of the particulars, but Eric was not calm enough to tell them
that evening. The one sense of infinite loss agitated him, and he
indulged his paroxysms of emotion unrestrained, yet silently. Reader, if
ever the life has been cut short which you most dearly loved, if ever
you have been made to feel absolutely lonely in the world, then, and
then only, will you appreciate the depth of his affliction.

But, like all affliction, it purified and sanctified. To Eric, as he
rested his aching head on a pillow wet with tears, and vainly sought for
the sleep whose blessing he had never learned to prize before, how
odious seemed all the vice which he had seen and partaken in since he
became an inmate of that little room. How his soul revolted with
infinite disgust from the language which he had heard, and the open
glorying in sin of which he had so often been a witness. The stain and
the shame of sin fell heavier than ever on his heart; it rode on his
breast like a nightmare; it haunted his fancy with visions of guilty
memory, and shapes of horrible regret. The ghosts of buried misdoings,
which he had thought long lost in the mists of recollection, started up
menacingly from their forgotten graves, and made him shrink with a sense
of their awful reality. Behind him, like a wilderness, lay years which
the locust had eaten; the intrusted hours which had passed away, and
been reckoned to him as they past.

And the thought of Russell mingled with all--Russell, as he fondly
imagined him now, glorified with the glory of heaven, crowned, and in
white robes, and with a palm in his hand. Yes, he had walked and talked
with one of the Holy Ones. Had Edwin's death, quenched his human
affections, and altered his human heart? If not, might not he be there
even now, leaning over his friend with the beauty of his invisible
presence? The thought startled him, and seemed to give an awful lustre
to the moonbeam which fell into the room. No; he could not endure such a
presence now, with his weak conscience and corrupted heart; and Eric hid
his head under the clothes, and shut his eyes.

Once more the pang of separation entered like iron into his soul. Should
he ever meet Russell again? What if _he_ had died instead of Edwin,
where would he have been? "Oh, no! no!" he murmured aloud, as the
terrible thought came over him of his own utter unfitness for death, and
the possibility that he might never, never again hear the beloved
accents, or gaze on the cherished countenance of his school friend.

In this tumult of accusing thoughts he fell asleep; but that night the
dew of blessing did not fall for him on the fields of sleep. He was
frightened by unbidden dreams, in all of which his conscience obtruded
on him his sinfulness, and his affection called up the haunting
lineaments of the dear dead face. He was wandering down a path, at the
end of which Russell stood with open arms inviting him earnestly to join
him there; he saw his bright ingenuous smile, and heard, as of old, his
joyous words, and he hastened to meet him; when suddenly the boy-figure
disappeared, and in its place he saw the stern brow, and gleaming
garments, and drawn flaming sword of the Avenger. And then he was in a
great wood alone, and wandering, when the well-known voice called his
name, and entreated him to turn from that evil place; and he longed to
turn,--but, whenever he tried, ghostly hands seemed to wave him back
again, and irresistible cords to drag him into the dark forest, amid the
sound of mocking laughs. Then he was sinking, sinking, sinking into a
gulf, deep and darker even than the inner darkness of a sin-desolated
heart; sinking, helplessly, hopelessly, everlastingly; while far away,
like a star, stood the loved figure in light infinitely above him, and
with pleading hands implored his deliverance, but could not prevail; and
Eric was still sinking, sinking, infinitely, when the agony awoke him
with a violent start and stifled scream.

He could sleep no longer. Whenever he closed his eyes he saw the pale,
dead, holy features of Edwin, and at last he fancied that he was praying
beside his corpse, praying to be more like _him_, who lay there so white
and calm; sorrowing beside it, sorrowing that he had so often rejected
his kind warnings, and pained his affectionate heart. So Eric began
again to make good resolutions about all his future life. Ah! how often
he had done so before, and how often they had failed. He had not yet
learned the lesson which David learned by sad experience; "Then I said,
it is mine own infirmity, _but I will remember the years of the right
hand of the Most High_."

That, too, was an eventful night for Montagu. He had grown of late far
more thoughtful than before; under Edwin's influence he had been laying
aside, one by one, the careless sins of school life, and his tone was
nobler and manlier than it had ever been. Montagu had never known or
heard much about godliness; his father, a gentleman, a scholar, and a
man of the world, had trained him in the principles of refinement and
good taste, and given him a high standard of conventional honor; but he
passed through life lightly, and had taught his son to do the same.
Possessed of an ample fortune, which Montagu was to inherit, he troubled
himself with none of the deep mysteries of life, and

     "Pampered the coward heart
     With feelings all too delicate for use;
     Nursing in some delicious solitude
     His dainty love and slothful sympathies."

But Montagu in Edwin's sick-room and by his death bed; in the terrible
storm at the Stack, and by contact with Dr. Rowlands' earnestness, and
Mr. Rose's deep, unaffected, sorrow-mingled piety; by witnessing Eric's
failures and recoveries; and by beginning to take in his course the same
heartfelt interest which Edwin taught him--Montagu, in consequence of
these things, had begun to see another side of life, which awoke all his
dormant affections and profoundest reasonings. It seemed as though, for
the first time, he began to catch some of

     "The still gad music of humanity,"

and to listen with deep eagerness to the strain. Hitherto, to be well
dressed, handsome, agreeable, rich, and popular, had been to him a
realised ideal of life; but now he awoke to higher and worthier aims;
and once, when Russell, whose intelligent interest in his work exceeded
that of any other boy, had pointed out to him that solemn question of
Euripides--

     "[Greek: Ohiei su tous thanontas o Nichaezate
     Tzuphaes hapasaes metalabontas en bips
     Pepheugenai to theion];"

he fell into a train of reflection, which made a lasting impression upon
his character.

The holidays were approaching. Eric, to escape as much, as possible from
his sorrow, plunged into the excitement of working for the examination,
and rapidly made up for lost ground. He now spent most of his time with
the best of his friends, particularly Montagu, Owen, and Upton; for
Upton, like himself, had been much sobered by sorrow at their loss. This
time he came out _second_ in his form, and gained more than one prize.
This was his first glimpse of real delight since Russell's death; and
when the prize-day came, and he stood with his companions in the
flower-decorated room, and went up amid universal applause to take his
prize-books, and receive a few words of compliment from the governor who
took the chair, he felt almost happy, and keenly entered into the
pleasure which his success caused, as well as into the honors won by his
friends. One outward sign only remained of his late bereavement--his
mourning dress. All the prize-boys wore rosebuds or lilies of the valley
in their button-holes on the occasion, but on this day Eric would not
wear them. Little Wright, who was a great friend of theirs, had brought
some as a present both to Eric and Montagu, as they stood together on
the prize-day morning; they took them with thanks, and, as their eyes
met, they understood each other's thoughts.

"No," said Eric to Wright, "we won't wear these to-day, although we have
both got prizes. Come along I know what we will do with them."

They all three walked together to the little green, quiet churchyard,
where, by his own request, Edwin had been buried. Many a silent visit
had the friends paid to that grave, on which the turf was now green
again, and the daisies had begun to bloom. A stone had just been placed
SACRED TO THE MEMORY

OF

AN ORPHAN,

WHO DIED AT ROSLYN SCHOOL, MAY 1847,

AGED FIFTEEN YEARS.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Is it well with the child? It is well_."

2 KINGS iv. 26.

The three boys stood by the grave in silence and sorrow for a time.

"He would have been the gladdest at our success. Monty," said Eric; "let
us leave the signs of it upon his grave."

And, with reverent hand, scattering over that small mound the choice
rosebuds and fragrant lilies with their green leaves, they turned away
without another word.

The next morning the great piles of corded boxes which crowded the
passage were put on the coach, and the boys, gladly leaving the deserted
building, drove in every sort of vehicle to the steamer. What joyous
triumphant mornings those were! How the heart exulted and bounded with,
the sense of life and pleasure, and how universal was the gladness and
good humor of every one. Never were voyages so merry as those of the
steamer that day, and even the "good-byes" that had to be said at
Southpool were lightly borne. From thence the boys quickly scattered to
the different railways, and the numbers of those who were travelling
together got thinner and thinner as the distance increased. Wright and
one or two others went nearly all the way with Eric, and when he got
down at the little roadside station, from whence started the branch rail
to Ayrton, he bade them merry and affectionate farewell. The branch
train soon started, and in another hour he would be at Fairholm.

It was not till then that his home feelings woke in all their intensity.
He had not been there for a year. At Roslyn the summer holidays were
nine weeks, and the holidays at Christmas and Easter were short, so that
it had not been worth while to travel so far as Fairholm, and Eric had
spent his Christmas with friends in another part of the island. But now
he was once more to see dear Fairholm, and his aunt, his cousin Fanny,
and above all, his little brother. His heart was beating fast with joy,
and his eyes sparkling with pleasure and excitement. As he thrust his
head out of the window, each well-remembered landmark gave him the
delicious sensation of meeting again an old friend. "Ah! there's the
white bridge, and there's the canal, and the stile; and _there_ runs the
river, and there's Velvet Lawn. Hurrah! here we are." And springing out
of the train before it had well stopped, he had shaken hands heartily
with the old coachman, who was expecting him, and jumped up into the
carriage in a moment.

Through the lanes he knew so well, by whose hedgerows he had so often
plucked sorrel and wild roses; past the old church with its sleeping
churchyard; through, the quiet village, where every ten yards he met old
acquaintances who looked pleased to see him, and whom he greeted with
glad smiles and nods of recognition; past the Latin school, from which
came murmurs and voices as of yore (what a man he felt himself now by
comparison!);--by the old Roman camp, where he had imagined such heroic
things when he was a child; through all the scenes so rich with the
memories and associations of his happy childhood, they flew along; and
now they had entered the avenue, and Eric was painfully on the look-out.

Yes! there they were all three--Mrs. Trevor, and Fanny, and Vernon, on
the mound at the end of the avenue; and the younger ones ran to meet
him. It was a joyous meeting; he gave Fanny a hearty kiss, and put his
arm round Vernon's neck, and then held him in front to have a look
at him.

"How tall you've grown, Verny, and how well you look," he said, gazing
proudly at him; and indeed the boy was a brother to be justly proud of.
And Vernon quite returned the admiration as he saw the healthy glow of
Eric's features, and the strong graceful development of his limbs.

And so they quickly joined Mrs. Trevor, who embraced her nephew with a
mother's love: and, amid all that nameless questioning of delightful
trifles, that "blossoming vein" of household talk, which gives such an
incommunicable charm to the revisiting of home, they all three turned
into the house, where Eric, hungry with his travels, did ample justice
to the "jolly spread" prepared for him, luxurious beyond anything he had
seen for his last year at school. When he and Vernon went up to their
room at night--the same little room in which they slept on the night
when they first had met--they marked their heights on the door again,
which showed Eric that in the last year he had grown two inches, a fact
which he pointed out to Vernon with no little exultation. And then they
went to bed, and to a sleep over which brooded the indefinite sensation
of a great unknown joy;--that rare heavenly sleep which only comes once
or twice or thrice in life, on occasions such as this.

He was up early next morning, and, opening his window, leaned out with
his hands among the green vine-leaves which encircled it. The garden
looked beautiful as ever, and he promised himself an early enjoyment of
those currants which hung in ruby clusters over the walls. Everything
was bathed in the dewy balm of summer morning, and he felt very happy
as, with his little spaniel frisking round him, he visited the great
Newfoundland in his kennel, and his old pet the pony in the stable. He
had barely finished his rounds when breakfast was ready, and he once
more met the home-circle from which he had been separated for a year.
And yet over all his happiness hung a sense of change and half
melancholy; they were not changed but _he_ was changed. Mrs. Trevor, and
Fanny, and Vernon were the same as ever, but over _him_, had come an
alteration of feeling and circumstance; an unknown or half-known
_something_ which cast a shadow between them and him, and sometimes made
him half shrink and start as he met their loving looks. Can no
schoolboy, who reads history, understand and explain the feeling which
I mean?

By that mail he wrote to his father and mother an account of Russell's
death, and he felt that they would guess why the letter was so blurred.
"But," he wrote, "I have some friends still; especially Mr. Rose among
the masters, and Monty and Upton among the boys. Monty you know; he is
more like Edwin than any other boy, and I like him very much. You didn't
know Upton, but I am a great deal with him, though he is much older than
I am. He is a fine handsome fellow, and one of the most popular in the
school. I hope you will know him some day."

The very next morning Eric received a letter which he at once recognised
to be in Upton's handwriting He eagerly tore off the envelope,
and read--

"My dearest Eric--I have got bad news to tell you, at least, I feel it
to be bad news for me, and I flatter myself that you will feel it to be
bad news for you. In short, I am going to leave Roslyn, and probably we
shall never meet there again. The reason is, I have had a cadetship
given me, and I am to sail for India in September. I have already
written to the school to tell them to pack up and send me all my books
and clothes.

"I feel leaving very much; it has made me quite miserable. I wanted to
stay at school another year at least; and I will honestly tell you,
Eric, one reason: I'm very much afraid that I've done you, and Graham,
and other fellows, no good; and I wanted, if I possibly could, to undo
the harm I had done. Poor Edwin's death opened my eyes to a good many
things, and now I'd give all I have never to have taught or encouraged
you in wrong things. Unluckily it's too late;--only, I hope that you
already see, as I do, that the things I mean lead to evil far greater
than we ever used to dream of.

"Good-bye now, old fellow! Do write to me soon, and forgive me, and
believe me ever--Your most affectionate, HORACE UPTON."

"P.S.--Is that jolly little Vernon going back to school with you this
time? I remember seeing him running about the shore with my poor cousin,
when you were a home-boarder, and thinking what a nice little chap he
looked. I hope you'll look after him as a brother should, and keep him
out of mischief."

Eric folded the letter sadly, and put it into his pocket; he didn't
often show them his school letters, because, like this one, they often
contained allusions to things which he did not like his aunt to know.
The thought of Upton's leaving him made him quite unhappy, and he wrote
him a long letter by that post, indignantly denying the supposition that
his friendship had ever done him anything but good.

The postscript about Vernon suggested a thought that had often been in
his mind. He could not but shudder in himself, when he thought of that
bright little brother of his being initiated in the mysteries of evil
which he himself had learnt, and sinking like himself into slow
degeneracy of heart and life. It puzzled and perplexed him, and at last
he determined to open his heart, partially at least, in a letter to Mr.
Rose. The master fully understood his doubts, and wrote him the
following reply:--

"My dear Eric--I have just received your letter about your brother
Vernon, and I think that it does you honor. I will briefly give you my
own opinion.

"You mean, no doubt, that, from your own experience, you fear that
Vernon will hear at school many things which will shock his modesty, and
much language which is evil and blasphemous; you fear that he will meet
with many bad examples, and learn to look on God and godliness in a way
far different from that to which he has been accustomed at home. You
fear, in short, that he must pass through the same painful temptations
to which you have yourself been subjected; to which, perhaps, you have
even succumbed.

"Well, Eric, this is all true. Yet, knowing this, I say, by all means
let Vernon come to Roslyn. The innocence of mere ignorance is a poor
thing; it _cannot_, under any circumstances, be permanent, nor is it at
all valuable as a foundation of character. The true preparation for
life, the true basis of a manly character, is not to have been ignorant
of evil, but to have known it and avoided it; not to hare been sheltered
from temptation, but to have passed through it and overcome it by God's
help. Many have drawn exaggerated pictures of the lowness of public
school morality; the best answer is to point to the good and splendid
men that have been trained in public schools, and who lose no
opportunity of recurring to them with affection. It is quite possible to
be _in_ the little world of school-life, and yet not _of_ it. The ruin
of human souls can never be achieved by enemies from without, unless
they be aided by traitors from within. Remember our lost friend; the
peculiar lustre of his piety was caused by the circumstances under which
he was placed. He often told me before his last hour, that he rejoiced
to have been at Roslyn; that he had experienced there much real
happiness, and derived in every way lasting good.

"I hope you have been enjoying your holidays, and that you will come
back with the 'spell of home affection' alive in your heart. I shall
rejoice to make Vernon's acquaintance, and will do for him all I can.
Bring him with you to me in the library as soon as you arrive.--Ever,
dear Eric,

"Affectionately yours,

"WALTER ROSA."

END OF PART I



PART II

"Sed revocare gradum."--VIRGIL.

       *       *       *       *       *

CHAPTER I

ABDIEL

     [Greek: Phtheirousin aethae chraesth' omiliai kakai].--MENANDEB.

A year had passed since the events narrated in the last chapter, and had
brought with it many changes.

To Eric the changes were not for good. The memories of Russell were
getting dim; the resolutions made during his illness had vanished; the
bad habits laid aside after his death had been resumed. AH this took
place very gradually; there were many inward struggles, much occasional
remorse, but the struggles by degrees grew weaker, and remorse lost its
sting, and Eric Williams soon learned again to follow the multitude
to do evil.

He was now sixteen years old, and high in the fifth form, and, besides
this, he was captain of the school eleven. In work he had fallen off and
no one now expected the fulfilment of that promise of genius which he
had given when he first came. But in all school sports he had improved,
and was the acknowledged leader and champion in matters requiring
boldness and courage. His popularity made him giddy; favor of man led
him to forgetfulness of God; and even a glance at his countenance showed
a self-sufficiency and arrogance which ill became the refinement of his
features, and ill replaced the ingenuous modesty of former years.

And Vernon Williams was no longer a new boy. The worst had happened to
him, which Eric in his better moments could have feared. He had fallen
into thoroughly bad hands, and Eric, who should have been his natural
guardian and guide, began to treat him with indifference, and scarcely
ever had any affectionate intercourse with him. It is by no means
unfrequent that brothers at school see but little of each other, and
follow their several pursuits, and choose their various companions, with
small regard to the relationship between them.

Yet Eric could not overlook or be blind to the fact, that Vernon's chief
friend or leader was the most undesirable whom he could have chosen. It
was a new boy named Brigson. This boy had been expelled from one of the
most ill-managed schools in Ireland, although, of course, the fact had
been most treacherously concealed from the authorities at Roslyn; and
now he was let loose, without warning or caution, among the Roslyn boys.
Better for them if their gates had been open to the pestilence! the
pestilence could but have killed the body, but this boy--this fore-front
fighter in the devil's battle--did ruin many an immortal soul. He
systematically, from the very first, called evil good and good evil,
put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. He openly threw aside the
admission of any one moral obligation. Never did some of the Roslyn
boys, to their dying day, forget the deep, intolerable, unfathomable
flood of moral turpitude and iniquity which he bore with him; a flood,
which seemed so irresistible, and the influence of such boys as Montagu
and Owen to stay its onrush seemed as futile as the weight of a feather
to bar the fury of a mountain stream. Eric might have done much, Duncan
might have done much, to aid the better cause, had they tried; but they
resisted at first but faintly, and then not at all, until they too were
swept away in the broadening tide of degeneracy and sin.

Big, burly, and strong, though much younger than he looked (if he stated
his age correctly, which I doubt), Brigson, being low in the school,
naturally became the bully and the Coryphaeus of all the lower
forms--the bully if they opposed him, the Coryphaeus if they accepted
his guidance. A little army of small boys attended him, and were ever
ready for the schemes of mischief to which he deliberately trained them,
until they grew almost as turbulent, as disobedient, and as wicked, as
himself. He taught, both, by precept and example, that towards masters
neither honor was to be recognized, nor respect to be considered due. To
cheat them, to lie to them, to annoy them in every possible way--to
misrepresent their motives, mimic their defects, and calumniate their
actions--was the conduct which he inaugurated towards them; and for the
time that he continued at Roslyn the whole lower school was a
Pandemonium of evil passions and despicable habits.

Every one of the little boys became more or less amenable to his
influence, and among them. Vernon Williams. Had Eric done his duty this
would never have been; but he was half-ashamed to be often with his
brother, and disliked to find him so often creeping to his side. He
flattered himself that in this feeling he was only anxious that Vernon
should grow spirited and independent; but, had he examined himself, he
would have found selfishness at the bottom of it. Once or twice his
manner showed harshness to Vernon, and the little boy both observed and
resented it. Montagu and others noticed him for Eric's sake; but, being
in the same form with Brigson, Vernon was thrown much with him, and
feeling, as he did, deserted and lonely, he was easily caught by the
ascendancy of his physical strength and reckless daring. Before three
months were over, he became, to Eric's intolerable disgust, a ringleader
in the band of troublesome scapegraces, whose increasing numbers were
the despair of all who had the interests of the school at heart.

Unfortunately, Owen was now head of the school, and from his
constitutional want of geniality, he was so little of a boy that he had
no sympathy from the others, and little authority over them. He simply
kept aloof, holding his own way, and retiring into his own tastes and
pursuits, and the society of one or two congenial spirits in the school,
so as in no way to come in contact with the spreading corruption.

Montagu, now Owen's chief friend, was also in the sixth, and fearlessly
expressed at once his contempt for Brigson, and his dread of the evil he
was effecting. Had the monitorial system existed, that contagion could
have been checked at once; but, as it was, brute force the unlimited
authority. Ill indeed are those informed who raise a cry, and join in
the ignorant abuse of that noble safeguard of English schools. Any who
have had personal and intimate experience of how schools work _with_ it
and _without_ it, know what a Palladium it is of happiness and morality;
how it prevents bullying, upholds manliness, is the bulwark of
discipline, and makes boys more earnest and thoughtful, often at the
most critical period of their lives, by enlisting all their sympathies
and interests on the side of the honorable and the just.

Brigson knew at a glance whom he had most to fear; Bull, Attlay,
Llewellyn, Graham, all tolerated or even approved of him. Owen did not
come in his way, so he left him unmolested. To Eric and Duncan he was
scrupulously civil, and by flattery and deference managed to keep
apparently on excellent terms with them. Eric pretended to be ignorant
of the harm he was bringing about, and in answer to the indignant and
measureless invectives of Montagu and others, professed to see in
Brigson a very good fellow; rather wild, perhaps, but still a very
good fellow.

Brigson hated Montagu, because he read on his features the unvarying
glance of withering contempt. He dared not come across him openly, since
Montagu was so high in the school; and besides, though much the bigger
of the two, Brigson was decidedly afraid of him. But he chose sly
methods of perpetual annoyance. He nick-named him "Rosebud;" he talked
_at_ him whenever he had an opportunity; he poisoned the minds of the
gang of youngsters against him; he spread malicious reports about him;
he diminished his popularity, and embittered his feelings, by every
secret and underhand means which, lay in his power.

One method of torment was most successful. As a study-boy, Montagu did
not come to bed till an hour later than _the_ lower part of the school,
and Brigson taught some of the little fellows to play all kinds of
tricks to his bed and room, so that, when he came down, it was with the
certainty of finding everything in confusion. Sometimes his bed would be
turned right on end, and he would have to put it to the ground and
remake it before he could lie down. Sometimes all the furniture in the
room would be thrown about in different corners, with no trace of the
offender. Sometimes he would find all sorts of things put inside the bed
itself. The intolerable part of the vexation was, to be certain that
this was done by Brigson's instigation, or by his own hand, without
having the means of convicting or preventing him. Poor Monty grew very
sad at heart, and this perpetual dastardly annoyance weighed the more
heavily on his spirits, from its being of a kind which peculiarly grated
on his refined taste, and his natural sense of what was gentlemanly
and fair.

One night, coming down, as usual, in melancholy dread, he saw a light
under the door of his room. It struck him that he was earlier than
usual, and he walked up quickly and noiselessly. There they were at it!
The instant he entered, there was a rush through the opposite door, and
he felt convinced that one of the retreating figures was Brigson's. In a
second he had sprung across, so as to prevent the rest from running, and
with heaving breast and flaming eyes, glared at the intruders as they
stood there, sheepish and afraid.

"What!" he said angrily, "so _you_ are the fellows who have had the
cowardice to annoy me thus, night after night, for weeks; you miserable,
degraded young animals!" And he looked at the four or five who had not
made their escape. "What! and _you_ among them," he said with a start,
as he caught the eye of Vernon Williams--"Oh, this is too bad." His tone
showed the deepest sorrow and vexation, and for a moment he said no
more. Instantly Vernon was by him.

"_Do_ forgive me, _do_ forgive me, Montagu," he said; "I really didn't
know it teased you so much."

But Montagu shook him off, and at once recovered himself. "Wretched
boys! let me see what you have been doing to-night. Oh, as usual," he
said, glancing at the complete disorder which they had been effecting.
"Ha! but what is this? So Brigson has introduced another vile secret
among you. Well, he shall rue it!" and he pointed to some small, almost
invisible flakes of a whitish substance scattered here and there over
his pillow. It was a kind of powder, which if once it touched the skin,
caused the most violent and painful irritation.

"By heavens, this is _too_ bad!" he exclaimed, stamping his foot with
anger. "What have I ever done to you young blackguards, that you should
treat me thus? Have I ever been a bully? Have I ever harmed one of you?
And _you_, too, Vernon Williams!"

The little boy trembled and looked ashamed under his noble glance of
sorrow and scorn.

"Well, I _know_ who has put you up to this; but you shall not escape so.
I shall thrash you every one."

Very quietly he suited the action to the word, sparing none. They took
it patiently enough, conscious of richly deserving it; and when it was
over, Vernon said, "Forgive me, Montagu. I am very sorry, and will never
do so again." Montagu, without deigning a reply, motioned them to go,
and then sat down, full of grief, on his bed. But the outrage was not
over for that night, and no sooner had he put out the light than he
became painfully aware that several boys were stealing into the room,
and the next moment he felt a bolster fall on his head. He was out of
bed in an instant, and with a few fierce and indignant blows, had
scattered the crowd of his cowardly assailants, and driven them away. A
number of fellows had set on him in the dark--on _him_, of all others.
Oh, what a change must have happened in the school that this should be
possible! He felt that the contagion of Brigson's baseness had spread
far indeed.

He fought like a lion, and several of the conspirators had reason to
repent their miscalculation in assaulting so spirited an antagonist. But
this did not content him; his blood was up, and he determined to attack
the evil at its source. He strode through his discomfited enemies
straight into Brigson's room, struck a match, and said, "Brigson, get
out of bed this instant."

"Hullo!" grunted Brigson, pretending to be only just awake.

"None of that, you blackguard! Will you take a thrashing?"

"No!" roared Brigson, "I should think not."

"Well, then, take _that_!" he shouted, striking him in the face.

The fight that followed was very short. In a single round Montagu had
utterly thrashed, and stricken to the earth, and forced to beg for
mercy, his cumbrous and brutal opponent. He seemed to tower above him
with a magnificent superiority, and there was a self-controlled passion
about him which gave tremendous energy to every blow. Brigson was
utterly dashed, confounded, and cowed, and took without a word the
parting kick of ineffable contempt which Montagu bestowed on him.

"There," he said to the fellows, who had thronged in from all the
dormitories at the first hint of a fight, "I, a sixth-form fellow, have
condescended to thrash that base coward there, whom all you miserable
lower boys have been making an idol and hero of, and from whom you have
been so readily learning every sort of blackguardly and debasing trick.
But let me tell you and your hero, that if any of you dare to annoy or
lift a finger at me again, you shall do it at your peril. I despise you
all; there is hardly one gentlemanly or honorable fellow left among you
since that fellow Brigson has come here; yes, I despise you, and you
know that you deserve it." And every one of them _did_ shrink before his
just and fiery rebuke.

The scene was not over when the door suddenly opened, and Mr. Rose
appeared. He stood amazed to see Montagu there in his night-shirt, the
boys all round, and Brigson washing his nose, which was bleeding
profusely, at his basin.

Montagu instantly stepped up to him. "You can trust me, sir; may I ask
you kindly to say nothing of this? I have been thrashing some one that
deserved it, and teaching these fellows a lesson."

Mr. Rose saw and allowed for his excited manner. "I can trust you," he
said, "Montagu, and shall take no farther notice of this irregularity.
And now get instantly to your beds."

But Montagu, slipping on his clothes, went straight up to the studies,
and called the upper boys together. He briefly told them what had
occurred, and they rejoiced greatly, binding themselves for the future
to check, if they could, by all fair means, Brigson's pernicious
influence and abominable example.

But it was too late now; the mischief was done.

"O Eric," said Montagu, "why did you not make a stand against all this
before? Your own brother was one of them."

"Little wretch. I'll kick him well for it," said Eric.

"No, no!" said Montagu, "that'll do no good. Try rather to look after
him a little more."

"I hope _you_ will forgive him, and try and rescue him."

"I will do what I can," said Montagu, coldly.

Eric sighed, and they parted.

Montagu had hoped that after this Eric would at least break off all open
connection with Brigson; and, indeed, Eric had meant to do so. But that
personage kept carefully out of his way until the first burst of
indignation against him had subsided, and after a time began to address
Eric as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile he had completely regained
his ascendancy over the lower part of the school, which was not
difficult, because they were wincing under Montagu's contempt, and
mingled no little dislike with it; a dislike which all are too apt to
feel towards those whose very presence and moral superiority are a tacit
rebuke of their own failings. But while Montagu was hated, Eric was at
the zenith of popular favor, a favor which Brigson ostentatiously
encouraged. He was openly flattered and caressed, and if ever he got a
large score at cricket, it was chalked triumphantly over the walls. All
this he was weak enough to enjoy immensely, and it was one of the
reasons why he did not wish to risk his popularity by breaking with
Brigson. So, after a little constraint and coldness, he began to stand
in much the same relation to him as before.

The best-disposed of the upper boys disliked all this very much, and the
sixth and fifth forms began to be split up into two main parties--the
one, headed by Eric, and, to a much less degree, by Duncan, who devoted
themselves to the games and diversions of the school, and troubled
themselves comparatively little about anything else; the other, headed
by Montagu, who took the lead in intellectual pursuits, and endeavored,
by every means in their power, to counteract the pernicious effects of
the spreading immorality.

And so at Roslyn, owing mainly to the wickedness of one depraved boy,
and the weak fear of man which actuated others, all was disunion,
misery, and deterioration. The community which had once been peaceful,
happy, and united, was filled with violent jealousy and heart-burnings;
every boy's hand seemed to be against his neighbor; lying, bad language,
dishonesty, grew fearfully rife, and the few who, like Owen and Montagu,
remained uncontaminated by the general mischief, walked alone and
despondent amid their uncongenial and degraded schoolfellow.



CHAPTER II

WILDNEY

     "That punishment's the best to bear
        That follows soonest on the sin,
      And guilt's a game where losers fare
        Better than those who seem to win."

     COV. PATMORE.

At the beginning of this quarter Eric and Duncan had succeeded to one of
the studies, and Owen shared with Montagu the one which adjoined it.

Latterly the small boys, in the universal spirit of disobedience, had
frequented the studies a good deal, but it was generally understood that
no study-boy might ask any one to be a regular visitor to his room
without the leave of its other occupant.

So one evening Duncan said to Eric, "Do you know little Wildney?"

"You mean that jolly fearless-looking little fellow, with, the great
black eyes, who came at the beginning of the quarter? No, I don't
know him."

"Well, he's a very nice little fellow; a regular devil"

"Humph!" said Eric, laughing; "I shall bring out a new
Duncan-dictionary, in which. [Greek: chezchochezons chos] = very nice
little fellow."

"Pooh!" said Duncan; "you know well enough what I mean; I mean he's not
one of your white-faced, lily-hearted new boys, but has lots of fun
in him."

"Well, what of him?"

"Have you any objection to my asking him to sit in the study when he
likes?"

"Not the least in the world."

"Very well, I'll go and fetch him now. But wouldn't you like to ask your
brother Vernon to come in too whenever he's inclined?"

"No," said Eric, "I don't care. He does come every now and then."

Duncan went to fetch Wildney, and while he was gone, Brie was thinking
_why_ he didn't give Vernon the free run of his study. He would not
admit to himself the true reason, which was, that he had too much ground
to fear that his example would do his brother no good.

Eric soon learned to like Wildney, who was a very bright, engaging,
spirited boy, with a dash of pleasant impudence about him which took
Eric's fancy. He had been one of the most mischievous of the lower
fellows, but, although clever, did little or nothing in school, and was
in the worst repute with the masters. Until he was "taken up" by Eric,
he had been a regular little hero among his compeers, because he was
game for any kind of mischief, and, in the new tone of popular morality,
his fearless disregard of rules made him the object of general
admiration. From this time, however, he was much in the studies, and
unhappily carried with him to those upper regions the temptation to a
deeper and more injurious class of transgressions than had yet
penetrated there.

It was an ill day for General Wildney when he sent his idolised little
son to Roslyn; it was an ill day for Eric when Duncan first asked the
child to frequent their study.

It was past nine at night, and the lower school had gone to bed, but
there was Wildney quietly sitting on Eric's knee by the study fire,
while Duncan was doing some Arnold's verses for him to be shown up
next day.

"Bother these verses," said Duncan, "I shall have a whiff. Do you mind,
Eric?"

"No; not at all."

"Give me a weed, too," said Wildney.

"What! young un--you don't mean to say you smoke?" asked Eric in
surprise.

"Don't I, though? let me show you. Why, a whole lot of us went and
smoked two or three pipes by Riverbend only yesterday."

"Phew!" said Eric, "then I suppose I must smoke too to keep you in
countenance;" and he took a cigar. It was the first time he had touched
one since the day at the Stack. The remembrance made him gloomy and
silent. "Tempora mutantur," thought he, "nos et mutamur in illis."

"Why, how glum you are," said Wildney, patting him on the head.

"O no!" said Eric, shaking off unpleasant memories. "Look," he
continued, pointing out of the window to change the subject, "what a
glorious night it is! Nothing but stars, stars, stars."

"Yes," said Duncan, yawning; "this smoking makes one very thirsty. I
wish I'd some beer."

"Well, why shouldn't we get some?" said Wildney "it would he very
jolly."

"Get some! What! at this time of night?"

"Yes; I'll go now, if you like, to Ellan, and be back before ten."

"Nonsense," said Eric; "it aint worth while."

"I believe you think I'm afraid," said Wildney, laughing, and looking at
Eric with his dark eyes; "and what's more, I believe _you're_ afraid."

"Little whippersnapper!" said Eric, coloring, "as if I was afraid to do
anything _you_ dare do. I'll go with you at once, if you like."

"What are you thinking of?" asked Duncan. "I don't care twopence about
the beer, and I hope you won't go."

"But I will, though," said Eric, a little nettled that Wildney, of all
people, should think him wanting in pluck.

"But how will you get out?"

"Oh, _I'll_ show you a dodge there," said Wildney. "Come along. Have you
a dark lantern?"

"No, but I'll get Llewellyn's."

"Come along then."

So the little boy of twelve took the initiative, and, carrying the dark
lantern, instructed the two study-boys of sixteen in a secret which had
long been known to the lower part of the school.

"Ibant obscuri dubiâ sub luce." He led them quietly down stairs, stole
with them noiselessly past the library door, and took them to a window
in the passage, where a pane was broken.

"Could you get through that?" he whispered to Eric, "if we broke away
the rest of the glass?"

"I don't know. But, then, there's the bar outside."

"Oh, I'll manage that. But will you go and peep through the key-hole of
the library, and see who's there, Duncan?"

"No," said Duncan, bluntly, "no key-holes for me."

"Hush! then _I_ will," and he glided away, while Eric, as quietly as he
could, broke away the glass until it was all removed.

"There's only old Stupid," whispered he, irreverently designating an
under-master named Harley, "and he's asleep before the fire. Now, then,
just lift me up, Eric, will you?"

Eric lifted him, and he removed the nails which fastened the end of the
bar. They looked secure enough, and were nails an inch long driven into
the mortar; but they had been successfully loosened, and only wanted a
little pull to bring them out. In one minute Wildney had unfastened and
pushed down one end of the bar. He then got through the broken pane, and
dropped down outside. Eric followed with some little difficulty, for the
aperture would only just admit his passage; and Duncan, going back to
the study, anxiously awaited their return.

It was a bright moonlight night, and the autumn air was pleasant and
cool. But Eric's first thought, as he dropped on to the ground, was one
of shame that he should suffer his new friend, a mere child, so easily
to tempt him into disobedience and sin. He had hardly thought till then
of what their errand was to be, but now his couldn't help so strongly
disapproving of it, that he was half-inclined to turn back. He did not,
however, dare to suggest this, lest Wildney should charge him with
cowardice, and betray it to the rest. Besides, the adventure had its own
excitement, the stars looked splendid, and the stolen waters were sweet.

"I hope we shan't be seen crossing the play-ground," said Wildney. "My
eye, shouldn't we catch it!"

He was obviously beginning to be afraid, so Eric assumed an air of
nonchalance, and played the part of protector.

"Here, take my arm," he said; and as Wildney grasped it tight, instead
of feeling angry and ashamed at having been misled by one so much his
junior, Eric felt strongly drawn towards him by community of danger and
interest. Beaching Ellan, it suddenly struck him that he didn't know
where they were going to buy the beer. He asked Wildney.

"Oh, I see you're not half up to snuff," said Wildney, whose courage had
risen; "I'll show you."

He led to a little low public-house, whence tipsy songs were booming,
and tapped at a side door three times. As they looked in they saw some
sailors boozing in a dirty tap-room, and enveloped in tobacco-smoke.

The side-door was opened, and a cunning wicked-looking man held up a
light to see who they were.

"Hollo, Billy," said Wildney, confidentially, "all serene; give us two
bottles of beer--on tick, you know."

"Yessir--d'reckly," said the man, with a hateful twinkle of the eyes.
"So you're out for a spree," he continued, winking in a knowing way.
"Won't you walk into the back-parlor while I get them?" And he showed
them into a dingy horrid room behind the house, stale with smoke, and
begrimed with dust.

Eric was silent and disgusted, but Wildney seemed quite at home. The
man soon returned with the beer. "Wouldn't you like a glass of summat
now, young gen'lmen?" he asked, in an insinuating way.

"No, Billy! don't jabber--we must be off. Here open the door."

"Stop, I'll pay," said Eric. "What's the damage?"

"Three shilling, sir," said the man. "Glad to see a new customer, sir."
He pocketed the money, and showed them, out, standing to look after them
with a malicious leer as they disappeared, and jerking his left thumb
over his shoulder.

"Faugh!" said Eric, taking a long breath as they got out again into the
moonlight, "what a poisonous place! Good gracious, Charlie, who
introduced you there?"

"Oh, I don't think much of going _there_" said Wildney, carelessly; "we
go every-week almost."

"We! who?"

"Oh, Brigson and a lot of us. We have a club there which we call the
'Anti-muffs,' and that's our smoking-room."

"And is that horrid beast the landlord?"

"Yes; he was an old school-servant, and there's no harm in him that I
know of."

But Eric only "phewed" again two or three times, and thought of Montagu.

Suddenly Wildney clutched him by the arm, and pulled him into the deep
shadow of a porch, whispering, in a low tone, "Look!"

Under a lamp-post, directly opposite them, stood Mr. Rose! He had heard
voices and footsteps a moment before, and, puzzled at their sudden
cessation in the noiseless street, he was looking round.

"We must run for it," whispered Wildney hastily, as Mr. Rose approached
the porch; and the two boys took to their heels, and scampered away as
hard as they could, Eric helping on Wildney by taking his hand, and
neither of them looking behind. They heard Mr. Rose following them at
first, but soon distanced him, and reached a place where two roads met,
either of which would lead to the school.

"We won't go by the road; I know a short cut by the fields. What fun!"
said Wildney, laughing.

"What an audacious little monkey you are; you know all sorts of dodges,"
said Eric.

They had no time to talk, but with, a speed winged by fear got to the
school, sprang on the buttress beneath the window, effected their
entrance, and vanished after replacing the bar--Eric to his study, and
Wildney to his dormitory.

"Here's a go!" said the latter, as they ran up stairs; "I've smashed one
of the beer-bottles in getting through the window, and my trousers are
deluged with the stuff."

They had hardly separated when Mr. Rose's step was heard on the stairs.
He was just returning from a dinner-party, when the sight of two boys
and the sound of their voices startled Mm in the street, and their
sudden disappearance made him sure that they were Roslyn boys,
particularly when they began to run. He strongly suspected that he
recognised Wildney as one of them, and therefore made straight for his
dormitory, which he entered, just as that worthy had thrust the
beer-stained trousers under his bed. Mr. Rose, walked up quietly to his
bedside, and observed that he was not asleep, and that he still had half
has clothes on. He was going away when he saw a little bit of the
trousers protruding under the mattress, and giving a pull, out they
came, wringing wet with the streams of beer. He could not tell at first
what this imported, but a fragment of the bottle fell out of the pocket
with, a crash on the floor, and he then discovered. Taking no notice of
Wildney's pretended sleep, he said, quietly, "Come to me before
breakfast tomorrow, Wildney," and went down stairs.

Eric came in soon after, and found the little fellow vainly attempting
to appear indifferent, as he related to his admiring auditors the
night's adventure; being evidently rather prouder of the "Erie and I,"
which he introduced every now and then into his story.

"Has he twigged you?"

"Yes."

"And me?"

"I don't know; we shall see to-morrow."

"I hope not," said Eric; "I'm sorry for you, Charlie."

"Can't be cured, must be endured," said Wildney.

"Well, good night! and don't lose heart."

Eric went back to Duncan in the study, and they finished the other
bottle of beer between them, though without much enjoyment, because they
were full of surmises as to the extent of the discovery, and the nature
of the punishment.

Eric went in to tell Montagu of their escapade.

He listened very coldly, and said, "Well, Eric, it would serve you right
to be caught. What business have you to be going out at night, at the
invitation of contemptible small fry, like this little Wildney?"

"I beg you won't speak of any friend of mine in those terms," said Eric,
drawing up haughtily.

"I hope you don't call a bad little boy like Wildney, who'd be no
credit to any one, _your_ friend, Eric?"

"Yes I do, though. He's one of the pluckiest, finest, most promising
fellows in the lower school."

"How I begin to hate that word plucky," said Montagu; "it's made the
excuse here for everything that's wrong, base, and unmanly. It seems to
me it's infinitely more 'plucky' just now to do your duty and not be
ashamed of it."

"You've certainly required _that_ kind of pluck to bear you up lately,
Monty," said Owen, looking up from his books.

"Pluck!" said Montagu, scornfully; "you seem to me to think it consists
in lowering yourself down to the level of that odious Brigson, and
joining hand and glove with the dregs of the school."

"Dregs of the school! Upon my word, you're cool, to speak of any of my
associates in that way," said Eric, now thoroughly angry.

"Associates!" retorted Montagu, hotly; "pretty associates! How do you
expect anything good to go on, when fellows high in the school like you
have such dealings with the refined honorable Brigson, and the exemplary
intellectual Wildney?"

"You're a couple of confounded muffs," shouted Eric, banging the door,
and flinging into his own study again without farther reply.

"Hav'n't you been a little hard on him, considering the row he's in?"
asked Owen.

Montagu's head was resting on his hand as he bent over the table.
"Perhaps I have, indeed. But who could help it, Owen, in the present
state of things? Yes, you're right," he said, after a pause; "_this_
wasn't the time to speak. I'll go and talk to him again. But how utterly
changed he is!"

He found Eric on the stairs going down to bed with an affectation of
noise and gaiety. He ran after him, and said--

"Forgive me my passion and sarcasm, Williams. You know I am apt to
express myself strongly." He could not trust himself to say more, but
held out his hand.

Eric got red, and hesitated for a moment.

"Come, Eric, it isn't _wholly_ my fault, is it, that we are not so warm
to each other as we were when ..."

"Oh, Monty, Monty!" said Eric, softened by the allusion; and warmly
grasped his friend's proffered hand.

"Oh, Eric!"

The two shook hands in silence, and as they left each other they felt
that while things continued thus their friendship could not last. It was
a sad thought for both.

Next morning Wildney received a severe flogging, but gained great
reputation by not betraying his companion, and refusing to drop the
least hint as to their means of getting out, or their purpose in
visiting Ellan. So the secret of the bar remained undiscovered, and when
any boy wanted to get out at night--(unhappily the trick now became
common enough)--he had only to break a pane of glass in that particular
window, which, as it was in the passage, often remained unmended and
undiscovered for weeks.

After the flogging, Mr. Rose said shortly to Eric, "I want to speak to
you."

The boy's heart misgave him as they entered the familiar library.

"I think I suspect who was Wildney's companion."

Eric was silent.

"I have no proof, and shall not therefore act on vague suspicion; but
the boy whom I _do_ suspect is one whose course lately has given me the
deepest pain; one who has violated all the early promise he gave; one
who seems to be going farther and farther astray, and sacrificing all
moral principle to the ghost of a fleeting and most despicable
popularity--to the approval of those whom he cannot himself approve."

Eric still silent.

"Whatever you do _yourself_, Williams"--(it was the first time for two
years that Mr. Rose had called him "Williams," and he winced a
little)--"whatever you do _yourself_, Williams, rests with _you_; but
remember it is a ten-thousandfold heavier and more accursed crime to set
stumbling-blocks in the way of others, and abuse your influence to cause
any of Christ's little ones to perish."

"I wasn't the tempter, however," thought Eric, still silent.

"Well, you seem hardened, and give no sign. Believe me, Williams, I
grieve for you, and that bitterly. My interest in you is no less warm,
though my affection for you cannot be the same. You may go."

"Another friend alienated, and oh, how true a one! He has not asked me
to see him once this term," thought Eric, sadly; but a shout of pleasure
greeted him directly he joined the football in the play-ground, and,
half consoled, he hoped Mr. Rose had heard it, and understood that was
meant for the boy whom he had just been rebuking. "Well, after all," he
thought, "I have _some_ friends still."

Yes, friends, such as they were! Except Duncan, hardly one boy whom he
really respected ever walked with him now. Even little Wright, one of
the very few lower boys who had risen superior to Brigson's temptations,
seemed to keep clear of him as much as he could; and, in absolute
vacuity, he was obliged to associate with fellows like Attlay, and
Graham, and Llewellyn, and Bull.

Even with Bull! All Eric's repugnance for this boy seemed to have
evaporated; they were often together, and, to all appearance, were sworn
friends. Eric did not shrink now from such conversation as was pursued
unchecked in his presence by nearly every one; nay, worse, it had lost
its horror, and he was neither afraid nor ashamed to join in it himself.
This plague-spot had fretted more deeply than any other into the heart
of the school morality, and the least boys seemed the greatest
proficients in unbaring without a blush, its hideous ugliness.



CHAPTER III

"THE JOLLY HERRING"

"Velut unda supervenit undam."--VIRGIL.

The Anti-muffs request the honor of Williams' company to a spread they
are going to have to-morrow evening at half-past four, in their
smoking-room--

A note to this effect was put into Eric's hands by Wildney after
prayers. He read it when he got into his study, and hardly knew whether
to be pleased or disgusted at it.

He tossed it to Duncan, and said, "What shall I do?"

Duncan turned up his nose, and chucked the note into the fire.

"I'd give them that answer, and no other."

"Why?"

"Because, Eric," said Duncan, with more seriousness than was usual with
him, "I can't help thinking things have gone too far lately."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, I'm no saint myself, Heaven knows; but I do think that the
fellows are worse now than I have ever known them--far worse. Your
friend Brigson reigns supreme out of the studies; he has laid down a law
that _no work_ is to be done down stairs ever under any pretence, and
it's only by getting into one of the studies that good little chaps
like Wright can get on at all. Even in the class-rooms there's so much
row and confusion that the mere thought of work is ridiculous."

"Well, there's no great harm in a little noise, if that's all."

"But it isn't all. The talk of nearly the whole school is getting most
blackguardly; shamelessly so. Only yesterday Wildney was chatting with
Vernon up here (you were out, or Vernon would not have been here) while
I was reading; they didn't seem to mind me, and I'm sure you'd have been
vexed to the heart if you'd heard how they talked to each other. At last
I couldn't stand it any longer, and bouncing up, I boxed both their ears
smartly, and kicked them down stairs."

As Eric said nothing, Duncan continued, "And I wish it ended in talk,
but----"

"But I believe you're turning Owenite. Why, bless me, we're only
schoolboys; it'll be lots of time to turn saint some other day."

Eric was talking at random, and in the spirit of opposition. "You don't
want to make the whole school such a muffish set as the rosebuds,
do you?"

There was something of assumed bravado in Eric's whole manner which
jarred on Duncan exceedingly. "Do as you like," he said, curtly, and
went into another study.

Immediately after came a rap at the door, and in walked Wildney, as he
often did after the rest were gone to bed, merely slipping his trousers
over his nightshirt, and running up to the studies.

"Well, you'll come to the Anti-muffs, won't you?" he said.

"To that pestilential place again?--not I."

Wildney looked offended. "Not after we've all asked you? The fellows
won't half like your refusing."

He had touched Eric's weak point.

"Do come," he said, looking up in Eric's face.

"Confound it all," answered Eric, hastily. "Yes, I've no friends, I'll
come, Charlie. Anything to please you, boy."

"That's a brick. Then I shall cut down and tell the fellows. They'll be
no end glad. No friends! why all the school like you." And he scampered
off, leaving Eric ill at ease.

Duncan didn't re-enter the study that evening.

The next day, about half-past four, Eric found himself on the way to
Ellan. As he was starting, Bull caught him up, and said--

"Are you going to the Anti-muffs?"

"Yes; why? are you going too?"

"Yes; do you mind our going together?"

"Not at all."

In fact, Eric was very glad of some one--no matter who--to keep him in
countenance, for he felt consider ably more than half ashamed
of himself.

They went to "The Jolly Herring," as the pot-house was called, and
passed through the dingy beery tap-room into the back parlor, to which
Eric had already been introduced by Wildney. About a dozen boys were
assembled, and there was a great clapping on the table as the two
new-comers entered. A long table was laid down the room, which was
regularly spread for dinner.

"Now then, Billy; make haste with the goose," called Brigson. "I vote,
boys, that Eric Williams takes the chair."

"Hear! hear!" said half a dozen; and Eric, rather against his will,
found himself ensconced at the end of the table, with Brigson and Bull
on either hand. The villainous-low-foreheaded man, whom they called
Billy, soon brought in a tough goose at one end of the table, and some
fowls at the other; and they fell to, doing ample justice to the [Greek:
daiz heisae] while Billy waited on them. There was immense uproar during
the dinner, every one eating as fast, and talking as loud, as he could.

The birds soon vanished, and were succeeded by long rolly-polly
puddings, which the boys called Goliahs; and they, too, rapidly
disappeared. Meanwhile beer was circling only too plentifully.

"Now for the dessert, Billy," called several voices; and that worthy
proceeded to put on the table some figs, cakes, oranges, and four black
bottles of wine. There was a general grab for these dainties, and one
boy shouted, "I say, I've had no wine."

"Well, it's all gone. We must get some brandy--it's cheaper," said
Brigson; and accordingly some brandy was brought in, which the boys
diluted with hot water, and soon despatched.

"Here! before you're all done swilling," said Brigson, "I've got a
health; 'Confound muffs and masters, and success to the anti's.'"

"And their chairman,' suggested Wildney.

"And their chairman, the best fellow in the school," added Brigson.

The health was drunk with due clamor, and Eric got up to thank them.

"I'm not going to spout," he said; "but boys must be boys, and there's
no harm in a bit of fun. I for one have enjoyed it, and am much obliged
to you for asking me; and now I call for a song."

"Wildney! Wildney's song," called several.

Wildney had a good voice, and struck up, without the least bashfulness--

     "Come, landlord, fill the flowing bowl,
       Until it does run overt
     Come, landlord, fill," &c

"Now," he said, "join in the chorus!" The boys, all more or less
excited, joined in heartily and uproariously--

     "For to-night we'll merry merry be!
     For to-night we'll merry merry be!
     For to-night we'll merry merry be!
       To-morrow we'll be sober!"

While Wildney sang, Eric had time to think. As he glanced round the
room, at the flushed faces of the boys, some of whom he could not
recognise in the dusky atmosphere, a qualm of disgust and shame passed
over him. Several of them were smoking, and, with Bull and Brigson
heading the line on each, side of the table, he could not help observing
what a bad set they looked. The remembrance of Russell came back to him.
Oh, if Edwin could have known that he was in such company at such a
place! And by the door stood Billy, watching them all like an evil
spirit, with a leer of saturnine malice on his evil face.

But the bright little Wildney, unconscious of Eric's bitter thoughts,
sang on with overflowing mirth. As Eric looked at him, shining out like
a sunbeam among the rest, he felt something like blood-guiltiness on his
soul, when, he felt that he was sanctioning the young boy's presence in
that degraded assemblage.

Wildney meanwhile was just beginning the next verse, when he was
interrupted by a general cry of "cavé, cavé." In an instant the room was
in confusion; some one dashed the candles upon the floor, the table was
overturned with a mighty crash, and plates, glasses, and bottles rushed
on to the ground in shivers. Nearly every one bolted for the door, which
led through the passage into the street; and in their headlong flight
and selfishness, they stumbled over each other, and prevented all
egress, several being knocked down and bruised in the crush. Others made
for the tap-room; but, as they opened the door leading into it, there
stood Mr. Ready and Mr. Gordon! and as it was impossible to pass without
being seen, they made no further attempt at escape. All this was the
work of a minute. Entering the back parlor, the two masters quickly took
down the names of full half the boys who, in the suddenness of the
surprise, had been unable to make their exit.

And Eric?

The instant that the candles were knocked over, he felt Wildney seize
his hand, and whisper, "This way all serene;" following, he groped his
way in the dark to the end of the room, where Wildney, shoving aside a
green baize curtain, noiselessly opened a door, which at once let them
into a little garden. There they both crouched down, under a lilac tree
beside the house, and listened intently.

There was no need for this precaution; their door remained unsuspected,
and in five minutes the coast was clear. Creeping into the house again,
they whistled, and Billy coming in, told them that the masters had gone,
and all was safe.

"Glad ye're not twigged, gen'lmen," he said; "but there'll be a pretty
sight of damage for all this glass and plates."

"Shut up with your glass and plates," said Wildney. "Here, Eric, we must
cut for it again."

It was the dusk of a winter evening when they got out from the close
room into the open air, and they had to consider which way they would
choose to avoid discovery. They happened to choose the wrong, but
escaped by dint of hard running, and Wildney's old short cut. As they
ran they passed several boys (who having been caught, were walking home
leisurely), and managed to get back undiscovered, when they both
answered their names quite innocently at the roll-call, immediately
after lock up.

"What lucky dogs you are to get off," said many boys to them.

"Yes, it's precious lucky for me," said Wildney. "If I'd been caught at
this kind of thing a second time, I should have got something worse than
a swishing."

"Well, it's all through you I escaped," said Eric, "you knowing little
scamp."

"I'm glad of it, Eric," said Wildney in his fascinating way, "since it
is all through me you went. It's rather too hazardous though; we must
manage better another time."

During tea-time Eric was silent, as he felt pretty sure that none of the
sixth form or other study boys would particularly sympathise with his
late associates. Since the previous evening he had been cool with
Duncan, and the rest had long rather despised him as a boy who'd do
anything to be popular; so he sat there silent, looking as disdainful as
he could, and not touching the tea, for which he felt disinclined after
the recent potations. But the contemptuous exterior hid a self-reproving
heart, and he felt how far more noble Owen and Montagu were than he. How
gladly would he have changed places with them! how much he would have
given to recover some of their forfeited esteem!

The master on duty was Mr. Rose, and after tea he left the room for a
few minutes while the tables were cleared for "preparation," and the
boys were getting out their books and exercises. All the study and
class-room boys were expected to go away during this interval; but Eric,
not noticing Mr. Rose's entrance, sat gossipping with Wildney about the
dinner and its possible consequences to the school.

He was sitting on the desk carelessly, with one leg over the other, and
bending down towards Wildney. He had just told him that he looked like a
regular little sunbeam in the smoking-room of the Jolly Herring, and
Wildney was pretending to be immensely offended by the simile.

"Hush! no more talking," said Mr. Rose, who did everything very gently
and quietly. Eric heard him, but he was inclined to linger, and had
always received such mild treatment from Mr. Rose, that he didn't think
he would take much notice of the delay. For the moment he did not, so
Wildney began to chatter again.

"All study boys to leave the room," said Mr. Rose.

Eric just glanced round and moved slightly; he might have gone away,
but that he caught a satirical look in Wildney's eye, and besides wanted
to show off a little indifference to his old master, with whom he had
had no intercourse since their last-mentioned conversation.

"Williams, go away instantly; what do you mean by staying after I have
dismissed you?" said Mr. Rose sternly.

Every one knew what a favorite Eric had once been, so this speech
created a slight titter. The boy heard it just as he was going out of
the room, and it annoyed him, and called to arms all his proud and
dogged obstinacy. Pretending to have forgotten something, he walked
conceitedly back to Wildney, and whispered to him, "I shan't go if he
chooses to speak like that."

A red flush passed over Mr. Rose's cheek; he took two strides to Eric,
and laid the cane sharply once across his back.

Eric was not quite himself, or he would not have acted as he had done.
His potations, though not deep, had, with the exciting events of the
evening, made his head giddy, and the stroke of the cane, which he had
not felt now for two years, roused him to madness. He bounded up, sprang
towards Mr. Rose, and almost before he knew what he was about, had
wrenched the cane out of his hands, twisted it violently in the middle
until it broke, and flung one of the pieces furiously into the fire.

For one instant, boy and master--Eric Williams and Mr. Rose--stood
facing each other amid breathless silence, the boy panting and
passionate, with his brain swimming, and his heart on fire; the master
pale, grieved, amazed beyond measure, but perfectly self-collected.

"After that exhibition," said Mr. Rose, with cold and quiet dignity,
"you had better leave the room."

"Yes, I had," answered Eric bitterly; "there's your cane." And, flinging
the other fragment at Mr. Rose's head, he strode blindly out of the
room, sweeping books from the table, and overturning several boys in his
way. He then banged the door with all his force, and rushed up into
his study.

Duncan was there, and remarking his wild look and demeanor, asked, after
a moment's awkward silence, "Is anything the matter, Williams?"

"Williams!" echoed Eric with a scornful laugh; "yes, that's always the
way with a fellow when he's in trouble. I always know what's coming when
you begin to leave off calling me by my Christian name."

"Very well, then," said Duncan, good-humoredly, "what's the matter,
Eric?"

"Matter?" answered Brie, pacing up and down the little room with an
angry to-and-fro like a caged wild beast, and kicking everything which
came in his way. "Matter? hang you all, you are all turning against me,
because you are a set of muffs, and----"

"Take care!" said Duncan; but suddenly he caught Eric's look, and
stopped.

"And I've been breaking Rose's cane over his head, because he had the
impudence to touch, me with it, and----"

"Eric, you're not yourself to-night," said Duncan, interrupting, but
speaking in the kindest tone; and taking Eric's hand, he looked him
steadily in the face.

Their eyes met; the boy's false self once more slipped off. By a strong
effort he repressed the rising passion which the fumes of drink had
caused, and flinging him self on his chair, refused to speak again, or
even to go down stairs when the prayer-bell rang.

Seeing that in his present mood there was nothing to be done with him,
Duncan, instead of returning to the study, went after prayers into
Montagu's, and talked with him over the recent events, of which the
boys' minds were all full.

But Eric sat lonely, sulky, and miserable, in his study, doing nothing,
and when Montagu came in to visit him, felt inclined to resent
his presence.

"So!" he said, looking up at the ceiling, "another saint come to cast a
stone at me! Well! I suppose I must be resigned," he continued, dropping
his cheek on his hand again; "only don't let the sermon be long."

But Montagu took no notice of his sardonic harshness, and seated himself
by his side, though Eric pettishly pushed him away.

"Come, Eric," said Montagu, taking the hand which was repelling him; "I
won't be repulsed in this way. Look at me. What? won't you even look? Oh
Eric, one wouldn't have fancied this in past days, when we were so much
together with one who is dead. It's a long long time since we've eyen
alluded to him, but _I_ shall never forget those happy days."

Eric heaved a deep sigh.

"I'm not come to reproach you. You don't give me a friend's right to
reprove. But still, Eric, for your own sake, dear fellow, I can't help
being sorry for all this. I did hope you'd have broken with Brigson
after the thrashing I gave him, for the way in which he treated me. I
don't think you _can_ know the mischief he is doing."

The large tears began to soften the fire of Eric's eye, "Ah!" he said,
"it's all of no use; you're all giving me the cold shoulder, and I'm
going to the bad, that's the long and short of it."

"Oh, Eric! for your own sake, for your parents' sake, for the school's
sake, for all your real friends' sake, don't talk in that bitter
hopeless way. You are too noble a fellow to be made the tool or the
patron of the boys who lead, while they seem to follow you. I _do_ hope
you'll join us even yet in resisting them."

Eric had laid his head on the table, which shook with his emotion. "I
can't talk, Monty," he said, in an altered tone; "but leave me now; and
if you like, we will have a walk to-morrow."

"Most willingly, Eric." And again, warmly pressing his hand, Montagu
returned to his own study.

Soon after, there came a timid knock at Eric's door. He expected Wildney
as usual; a little before, he had been looking out for him, and hoping
he would come, but he didn't want to see him now, so he answered rather
peevishly, "Come in; but I don't want to be bothered to-night."

Not Wildney, but Vernon appeared at the door. "May I come in? not if it
bothers you, Eric," he said, gently.

"Oh, Verny, I didn't know it was you; I thought it would be Wildney. You
_never_ come now."

The little boy came in, and his pleading look seemed to say, "Whose
fault is that?"

"Come here, Verny;" and Eric drew him towards him, and put him on his
knee, while the tears trembled large and luminous in the child's eyes.

It was the first time for many a long day that the brothers had been
alone together, the first time for many a long day that any acts of
kindness had passed between them. Both seemed to remember this, and, at
the same time, to remember home, and their absent parents, and their
mother's prayers, and all the quiet half-forgotten vista of innocent
pleasures, and sacred relationships, and holy affections. And why did
they see each other so little at school? Their consciences told them
both, that either wished to conceal from the other his wickedness and
forgetfulness of God.

They wept together; and once more, as they had not done since they were
children, each brother put his arm round the other's neck, and
remorseful Eric could not help being amazed, how, in his cruel heartless
selfishness, he had let that fair child go so far astray; left him as a
prey to such boys as were his companions in the lower school.

"Eric, did you know I was caught to-night at the dinner?"

"You!" said Brie, with a start and a deep blush. "Good heavens! I didn't
notice you, and should not have dreamt of coming, if I'd known you were
there. Oh, Vernon, forgive me for setting you such, a bad example."

"Yes, I was there, and I was caught."

"Poor boy! but never mind; there are such a lot that you can't get much
done to you."

"It isn't _that_ I care for; I've been flogged before, you know.
But--may I say something?"

"Yes, Vernon, anything you like."

"Well, then,--oh, Eric! I am so, so sorry that you did that to Mr. Rose
to-night. All the fellows are praising you up, of course; but I could
have cried to see it, and I did. I wouldn't have minded if it had been
anybody but Rose."

"But why?"

"Because, Eric, he's been so good, so kind to both of us. You've often
told me about him, you know, at Fairholm, and he's done such, lots of
kind things to me. And only to-night, when he heard I was caught, he
sent for me to the library, and spoke so firmly, yet so gently, about
the wickedness of going to such low places, and about so young a boy as
I am learning to drink, and the ruin of it and--and"--His voice was
choked by sobs for a time,--"and then he knelt down and prayed for me,
so as I have never heard any one pray but mother;--and do you know,
Eric, it was strange, but I thought I _did_ hear our mother's voice
praying for me too, while he prayed, and"--He tried in vain to go on;
but Eric's conscience continued for him; "and just as he had ceased
doing this for one brother, the other brother, for whom he has often
done the same, treated him with coarseness, violence, and insolence."

"Oh, I am utterly wretched, Verny. I hate myself And to think that while
I am like this, they are yet loving and praising me at home. And, oh,
Verny, I was so sorry to hear from Duncan, how you were talking the
other day."

Vernon hid his face on Eric's shoulder; and as his brother stooped over
him, and folded him to his heart, they cried in silence, until wearied
with sorrow, the younger fell asleep; and then Eric carried him tenderly
down stairs, and laid him, still half-sleeping, upon his bed.

He laid him down, and looked at him as he slumbered. The other boys had
not been disturbed by their noiseless entrance, and he sat down on his
brother's bed to think, shading off the light of the candle with his
hand. It was rarely now that Eric's thoughts were so rich with the
memories of childhood, and sombre with the consciousness of sin, as they
were that night, while he gazed on his brother Vernon's face. He did not
know what made him look so long and earnestly; an indistinct sorrow, an
unconjectured foreboding, passed over his mind, like the shadow of a
summer cloud. Vernon was now slumbering deeply; his soft childish curls
fell off his forehead, and his head nestled in the pillow; but there was
an expression of uneasiness on his sleeping features, and the long
eyelashes were still wet with tears.

"Poor child," thought Eric; "dear little Vernon; and he is to be
flogged, perhaps birched, to-morrow."

He went off sadly to bed, and hardly once remembered, that _he_ too
would come in for certain punishment the next day.



CHAPTER IV

MR. ROSE AND BRIGSON

     "Raro antecedentem scelestum
     Deseruit pede Poena claudo."--HOR.

After prayers the next morning Dr. Rowlands spoke to his boarders on the
previous day's discovery, and in a few forcible vivid words set before
them, the enormity of the offence. He ended by announcing that the boys
who were caught would be birched,--"except the elder ones, Bull and
Brigson, who will bring me one hundred lines every hour of the
half-holidays till further notice. There are some," he said, "I am well
aware, who, though present yesterday, were not detected. I am sorry for
it, for _their_ sakes; they will be more likely to sin again. In cases
like this, punishment is a blessing, and impunity a burden." On leaving
the room he bade Eric follow him into his study. Eric obeyed, and stood
before the head-master with downcast eyes.

"Williams," he said, "I have had a great regard for you, and felt a deep
interest in you from the day I first saw you, and knew your excellent
parents. At one time I had conceived great hopes of your future course,
and your abilities seemed likely to blossom into noble fruit. But you
fell off greatly, and grew idle and careless. At last an event happened,
in which for a time you acted worthily of yourself, and which seemed to
arouse you from your negligence and indifference. All my hopes in you
revived; but as I continued to watch your course (more closely, perhaps,
than you supposed), I observed with pain that those hopes must be again
disappointed. It needs but a glance at your countenance to be sure that
you are not so upright or right-minded a boy as you were two years ago.
I can judge only from your outward course; but I deeply fear, Williams,
I deeply fear, that in _other_ respects also you are going the down-hill
road. And what am I to think now, when on the _same_ morning, you and
your little brother _both_ come before me for such serious and heavy
faults? I cannot free you from blame even for _his_ misdoings, for you
are his natural guardian here; I am only glad that you were not involved
with him in that charge."

"Let _me_ bear the punishment, sir, instead of him," said Eric, by a
sudden impulse; "for I misled him, and was there myself."

Dr. Rowlands paced the room in deep sorrow. "You, Williams! on the verge
of the sixth form. Alas! I fear, from this, that the state of things
among you is even worse than I had supposed."

Eric again hung his head.

"No; you have confessed the sin voluntarily, and therefore at present I
shall not notice it; only, let me entreat you to beware. But I must turn
to the other matter. What excuse have you for your intolerable conduct
to Mr. Rose, who, as I know, has shown you from the first the most
unusual and disinterested kindness?"

"I cannot defend myself, sir. I was excited, and could not control my
passion."

"Then you must sit down here, and write an apology, which I shall make
you read aloud before the whole school at twelve to-day."

Eric, with trembling hand, wrote his apology, and Dr Rowlands glanced at
it. "Come to me again at twelve," he said.

At twelve all the school were assembled, and Eric, pale and miserable,
followed the Doctor into the great school-room. The masters stood at one
end of the room, and among them Mr. Rose, who, however, appeared an
indifferent and uninterested spectator of the transaction. Every eye was
fixed on Eric, and every one pitied him.

"We are assembled," said Dr. Rowlands, "for an act of justice. One of
your number has insulted a master publicly, and is ashamed of his
conduct, and has himself written the apology which he will read. I had
intended to add a still severer punishment, but Mr. Rose has earnestly
begged me not to do so, and I have succumbed to his wishes. Williams,
read your apology."

There was a dead hush, and Eric tried once or twice in vain to utter a
word. At last, by a spasmodic effort, he regained his voice, and read,
but in so low and nervous a tone, that not even those nearest him heard
what he was saying.

Dr. Rowlands took the paper from him. "Owing," he said, "to a very
natural and pardonable emotion, the apology has been read in such a way
that you could not have understood it. I will therefore read it myself.
It is to this effect--

"'I, Eric Williams, beg humbly and sincerely to apologise for my
passionate and ungrateful insult to Mr. Rose.'

"You will understand that he was left quite free to choose his own
expressions; and as he has acknowledged his shame and compunction for
the act, I trust that none of you will be tempted to elevate him into a
hero, for a folly which he himself so much regrets. This affair,--as I
should wish all bad deeds to be after they have once been
punished,--will now be forgiven, and I hope forgotten."

They left the room and dispersed, and Eric fancied that all shunned and
looked coldly on his degradation But not so: Montagu came, and taking
his arm in the old friendly way, went a walk with him. It was a
constrained and silent walk, and they were both glad when it was over,
although Montagu did all he could to show that he loved Eric no less
than before. Still it was weeks since they had been much together, and
they had far fewer things in common now than they used to have.

"I'm so wretched, Monty," said Eric at last; "do you think Rose despises
me?"

"I am _sure_ of the contrary. Won't you go to him, Eric, and say all you
feel?"

"Heigh ho! I shall never get right again. Oh, to recover the last two
years!"

"You can redeem them, Eric, by a nobler present. Let the same words
comfort you that have often brought hope to me--'I will restore the
years which the locust hath eaten.'"

They reached the school-door, and Eric went straight to the library. Mr.
Rose was there alone. He received him kindly, as usual, and Eric went up
to the fire-place where he was standing. They had often stood by that
library fire on far different terms.

"Forgive me, sir," was all Eric could say, as the tears rushed to his
eyes.

"Freely, my boy," said Mr. Rose, sadly. "I wish you could feel how fully
I forgive you; but," he added, laying his hand for the last time on
Eric's head, "you have far more, Eric, to forgive yourself. I will not
talk to you, Eric; it would be little good, I fear; but you little know
how much I pity and tremble for you."

While these scenes were being enacted with Eric, a large group was
collected round the fire-place in the boarders' room, and many tongues
were loudly discussing the recent events.

Alas for gratitude! there was not a boy in that group to whom Mr. Rose
had not done many an act of kindness; and to most of them far more than
they ever knew. Many a weary hour had he toiled for them in private,
when his weak frame was harassed by suffering; many a sleepless night
had he wrestled for them in prayer, when, for their sakes, his own many
troubles were laid aside. Work on, Walter Rose, and He who seeth in
secret will reward you openly! but expect no gratitude from those for
whose salvation you, like the great tenderhearted apostle, would almost
be ready to wish yourself accursed.

Nearly every one in that noisy group was abusing Mr. Rose. It had long
been Brigson's cue to do so; he derided him on every opportunity, and
delighted to represent him as hypocritical and insincere. Even his weak
health was the subject of Brigson's coarse ridicule, and the bad boy
paid, in deep hatred, the natural tribute which vice must ever accord to
excellence.

"You see how he turns on his pets if they offend him," said Brigson;
"why, even that old beast Gordon isn't as bad."

"Yes; while poor Eric was reading, Rose reminded me of Milton's
serpent," drawled Bull;

     "Hope elevates and joy brightens his crest."

"He-e-ar! He-e-ar!" said Pietrie; "_vide_ the last fifth form Rep."

"I expect Eric won't see everything so much _couleur de Rose_ now, as
the French frog hath it," remarked Graham.

"It was too bad to stand by and triumph, certainly," observed Wildney.

"I say, you fellows," remonstrated Wright, who, with Vernon, was sitting
reading a book at one of the desks, "all that isn't fair. I'm sure you
all saw how really sorry Rose looked about it; and he said, you know,
that it was merely for the sake of school discipline that he put the
matter in Rowlands' hands."

"Discipline be hanged," shouted Brigson; "we'll have our revenge on him
yet, discipline or no."

"I hope you won't, though," said Vernon; "I know Eric will be sorry if
you do."

"The more muff he. We shall do as we like."

"Well, I shall tell him; and I'm sure he'll ask you not. You know how he
tries to stick up for Rose."

"If you say a word more," said Brigson, unaccustomed to being opposed
among his knot of courtiers, "I'll kick you out of the room; you and
that wretched little fool there with you."

"You may do as you like," answered Wright, quietly, "but you won't go
on like this long, I can tell you."

Brigson tried to seize him, but failing, contented himself with flinging
a big coal at him as he ran out of the room, which narrowly missed
his head.

"I have it!" said Brigson; "that little donkey's given me an idea. We'll
_crust_ Rose to-night."

"To crust," gentle reader, means to pelt an obnoxious person with
crusts.

"Capital!" said some of the worst boys present; "we will."

"Well, who'll take part?"

No one offered. "What! are we all turning sneaks and cowards? Here,
Wildney, won't you? you were abusing Rose just now."

"Yes, I will," said Wildney, but with no great alacrity. "You'll not
have done till you've got us all expelled, I believe."

"Fiddle-stick end! and what if we are? besides, he can't expel half the
school."

First two or three more offered, and then a whole lot, gaining courage
by numbers. So the plot was regularly laid. Pietrie and Graham were to
put out the lights at each end of one table immediately after tea, and
Wildney and Brooking at the other, when the study fellows had gone out.
There would then be only Mr. Rose's candle burning, and the two middle
candles, which, in so large a room, would just give enough light for
their purpose. Then all the conspirators were to throng around the door,
and from it aim their crusts at Mr. Rose's head, Not nearly so many
would have volunteered to join, but that they fancied Mr. Rose was too
gentle to take up the matter with vigor, and they were encouraged by
his quiet leniency towards Eric the night before. It was agreed that no
study-boy should be told of the intention, lest any of them should
interfere.

Many hearts beat fast at tea that night as they observed that numbers of
boys, instead of eating all their bread, were cutting off the crusts,
and breaking them into good-sized bits.

Tea finished, Mr. Rose said grace, and then sat down quietly reading in
his desk. The signal agreed on was the (accidental) dropping of a plate
by Brigson. The study-boys left the room.

Crash!--down fell a plate on the floor, breaking to pieces in the fall.

Instantly the four candles went out, and there was a hurried movement
towards the door, and a murmur of voices.

"Now then," said Brigson, in a loud whisper, "what a funky set you are!
Here goes?"

The master, surprised at the sudden gloom and confusion, had just looked
up, unable to conjecture what was the matter. Brigson's crust caught him
a sharp rap on the forehead as he moved.

In an instant he started up, and ten or twelve more crusts flew by or
hit him on the head, as he strode out of the desk towards the door.
Directly he stirred, there was a rush of boys into the passage, and if
he had once lost his judgment or temper, worse harm might have followed.
But he did not. Going to the door, he said, "Preparation will be in five
minutes; every boy not then in his place will be punished."

During that five minutes the servants had cleared away the tea, full of
wonder; but Mr. Rose paced up and down the room, taking no notice of any
one. Immediately after, all the boys were in their places, with their
books open before them, and in the thrilling silence you might have
heard a pin drop. Every one felt that Mr. Rose was master of the
occasion, and awaited his next step in terrified suspense.

They all perceived how thoroughly they had mistaken their subject. The
ringleaders would have given all they had to be well out of the scrape.
Mr. Rose ruled by kindness, but he never suffered his will to be
disputed for an instant. He governed with such consummate tact, that
they hardly felt it to be government at all, and hence arose their
stupid miscalculation. But he felt that the time was now come to assert
his paramount authority, and determined to do so at once and for ever.

"Some of you have mistaken me," he said, in a voice so strong and stern
that it almost startled them. "The silly display of passion in one boy
yesterday has led you to presume that you may trifle with me. You are
wrong. For Williams' sake, as a boy who has, or at least once _had_,
something noble in him, I left that matter in the Doctor's hands. I
shall _not_ do so to-night. Which of you put out the candles?"

Dead silence. A pause.

"Which of you had the audacity to throw pieces of bread at me?"

Still silence.

"I warn you that I _will_ know, and it will be far worse for the guilty
if I do not know at once." There was unmistakeable decision in the tone.

"Very well. I know many boys who were _not_ guilty because I saw them
in parts of the room where to throw was impossible. I shall now _ask_
all the rest, one by one, if they took any part in this. And beware of
telling me a lie."

There was an uneasy sensation in the room, and several boys began to
whisper aloud, "Brigson! Brigson!" The whisper grew louder, and Mr. Rose
heard it. He turned on Brigson like a lion, and said--

"They call your name; stand out!"

The awkward, big, ungainly boy, with his repulsive countenance, shambled
out of his place into the middle of the room. Mr. Rose swept him with
one flashing glance. "_That_ is the boy," thought he to himself, "who
has been like an ulcer to this school. These boys shall have a good look
at their hero." It was but recently that Mr. Rose knew all the harm
which Brigson had been doing, though he had discovered, almost from the
first, what _sort_ of character he had.

So Brigson stood out in the room, and as they looked at him, many a boy
cursed him in their hearts for evil taught them, such as a lifetime's
struggle could not unteach. And it was _that_ fellow, that stupid,
clumsy, base compound of meanness and malice, that had ruled like a king
among them. Faugh!

"They call your name! Do you know anything of this?"

"No!" said Brigson; "I'll swear I'd nothing to do with it."

"Oh-h-h-h!" the long, intense, deep-drawn expression of disgust and
contempt ran round the room.

"You have told me a lie!" said Mr. Rose, slowly, and with ineffable
contempt. "No words can express my loathing for your false and
dishonorable conduct. Nor shall your lie save you, as you shall find
immediately. Still, you shall escape if you can or dare to deny it
again. I repeat my question--Were you engaged in this?"

He fixed his full, piercing eye on the culprit, whom it seemed to scorch
and wither. Brigson winced back, and said nothing. "As I thought,"
said Mr. Rose.

"Not _one_ boy only, but many, were engaged. I shall call you up one by
one to answer me. Wildney, come here."

The boy walked in front of the desk.

"Were you one of those who threw?"

Wildney, full as he was of dangerous and deadly faults, was no coward,
and not a liar. He knew, or at least feared, that this new scrape might
be fatal to him, but, raising his dark and glistening eyes to Mr. Rose,
he said penitently--

"I didn't throw, sir, but I _did_ put out one of the candles that it
might be done."

The contrast with Brigson was very great; the dark cloud hung a little
less darkly on Mr. Rose's forehead, and there was a very faint murmur
of applause.

"Good! stand back. Pietrie, come up."

Pietrie, too, confessed, and indeed all the rest of the plotters except
Brooking. Mr. Rose's lip curled with scorn as he heard the exclamation
which his denial caused; but he suffered him to sit down.

When Wright's turn came to be asked, Mr. Rose said--"No! I shall not
even ask you, Wright. I know well that your character is too good to be
involved in such an attempt."

The boy bowed humbly, and sat down. Among the last questioned was
Vernon Williams, and Mr. Rose seemed anxious for his answer.

"No," he said at once,--and seemed to wish to add something.

"Go on," said Mr. Rose, encouragingly.

"Oh, sir! I only wanted to say that I hope you won't think Eric knew of
this. He would have hated it, sir, more even than I do."

"Good," said Mr. Rose; "I am sure of it. And now," turning to the
offenders, "I shall teach you never to dare again to be guilty of such
presumption and wickedness as to-night. I shall punish you according to
my notion of your degrees of guilt. Brigson, bring me a cane from
that desk."

He brought it.

"Hold out your hand."

The cane fell, and instantly split up from top to bottom. Mr. Rose
looked at it, for it was new that morning.

"Hah! I see; more mischief; there is a hair in it."

The boys were too much frightened to smile at the complete success of
the trick.

"Who did this? I must be told at once."

"I did, sir," said Wildney, stepping forward.

"Ha! very well," said Mr. Rose, while, in spite of his anger, a smile
hovered at the corner of his lips. "Go and borrow me a cane from
Mr. Harley."

While he went there was unbroken silence.

"Now, sir," said he to Brigson, "I shall flog you."

Corporal punishment was avoided with the bigger boys, and Brigson had
never undergone it before. At the first stroke he writhed and yelled;
at the second he retreated, twisting like a serpent, and blubbering like
a baby; at the third he flung himself on his knees, and, as the strokes
fell fast, clasped Mr. Rose's arm, and implored and besought for mercy.

"_Miserable_ coward," said Mr. Rose, throwing into the word such ringing
scorn that no one who heard it ever forgot it. He indignantly shook the
boy off, and caned him till he rolled on the floor, losing every
particle of self-control, and calling out, "The devil--the devil--the
devil!" ("invoking his patron saint," as Wildney maliciously observed).

"There! cease to blaspheme, and get up," said the master, blowing out a
cloud of fiery indignation. "There, sir. Retribution comes at last,
leaden-footed but iron-handed. A long catalogue of sins is visited on
you to-day, and not only on your shrinking body, but on your conscience
too, if you have one left. Let those red marks betoken that your reign
is ended. Liar and tempter, you have led boys into the sins which you
then meanly deny! And now, you boys, _there_ in that coward, who cannot
even endure his richly-merited punishment, see the boy whom you have
suffered to be your _leader_ for well-nigh six months!"

"Now, sir"--again he turned upon Brigson--"that flogging shall be
repeated with interest on your next offence. At present you will take
each boy on your back while I cane him. It is fit that they should see
where _you_ lead them to."

Trembling violently, and cowed beyond description, he did as he was bid.
No other boy cried, or even winced; a few sharp cuts was all which Mr.
Rose gave them, and even they grew fewer each time, for he was tired,
and displeased to be an executioner.

"And now," he said, "since that disgusting but necessary scene is over,
_never_ let me have to repeat it again."

But his authority was established like a rock from that night forward.
No one ever ventured to dispute it again, or forgot that evening. Mr.
Rose's noble moral influence gained tenfold strength from the respect
and wholesome fear that he then inspired.

But, as he had said, Brigson's reign was over. Looks of the most
unmitigated disgust and contempt were darted at him, as he sat alone and
shunned at the end of the table; and the boys seemed now to loathe and
nauseate the golden calf they had been worshipping. He had not done
blubbering even yet, when the prayer-bell rang. No sooner had Mr. Rose
left the room than Wildney, his dark eyes sparkling with rage, leaped on
the table, and shouted--

"Three groans, hoots, and hisses, for a liar and a coward," a sign of
execration which he was the first to lead off, and which the boys echoed
like a storm.

Astonished at the tumult, Mr. Rose re-appeared at the door. "Oh, we're
not hissing you, sir," said Wildney excitedly; "we're all hissing at
lying and cowardice."

Mr. Rose thought the revulsion of feeling might do good, and he was
striding out again, without a word, when--

"Three times three for Mr. Rose," sang out Wildney.

Never did a more hearty or spontaneous cheer burst from the lips and
lungs of fifty boys than that. The news had spread like wildfire to the
studies, and the other boys came flocking in during the uproar, to join
in it heartily. Cheer after cheer rang out like a sound of silver
clarions from the clear boy-voices; and in the midst of the excited
throng stood Eric and Montagu, side by side, hurrahing more lustily than
all the rest.

But Mr. Rose, in the library, was on his knees, with moving lips and
lifted hands. He coveted the popular applause as little as he had
dreaded the popular opposition; and the evening's painful experiences
had taught him anew the bitter lesson to expect no gratitude, and hope
for no reward, but simply, and contentedly, and unmurmuringly, to work
on in God's vineyard so long as life and health should last.

Brigson's brazen forehead bore him through the disgrace which would have
crushed another. But still he felt that his position at Roslyn could
never be what it had been before, and he therefore determined to leave
at once. By grossly calumniating the school, he got his father to remove
him, and announced, to every one's great delight, that he was going in a
fortnight. On his last day, by way of bravado, he smashed and damaged as
much of the school property as he could, a proceeding which failed to
gain him any admiration, and merely put his father to ruinous expense.

The day after his exposure Eric had cut him dead, without the least
pretence of concealment; an example pretty generally followed throughout
the school.

In the evening Brigson went up to Eric and hissed in his ear, "You cut
me, curse you; but, _never fear, I'll be revenged on you yet_."

"Do your worst," answered Eric, contemptuously, "and never speak to me
again."



CHAPTER V

RIPPLES

     "Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
     And live for ever and for ever."--TENNYSON.

Owen and Montagu were walking by Silverburn, and talking over the
affairs of the school. During their walk they saw Wright and Vernon
Williams in front of them.

"I am so glad to see those two together," said Montagu; "I really think
Wright is one of the best little fellows in the school, and he'll be the
saving of Vernon. He's already persuaded him to leave off smoking and
other bad things, and has got him to work a little harder, and turn over
a new leaf altogether."

"Yes," answered Owen; "I've seen a marvellous improvement in little
Williams lately. I think that Duncan gave him a rough lesson the other
night which did him good, and dear old Rose too has been leading him by
the hand; but the best thing is that, through Wright, he sees less of
Eric's _friend_, that young scapegrace Wildney."

"Yes; that little wretch has a good deal to answer for. What a pity that
Eric spoils him so, or rather suffers himself to be spoilt by him. I'm
glad Vernon's escaped his influence now; he's too fine a boy to be made
as bad as the general run of them. What a brilliant little fellow he is;
just like his brother."

"Just like what his brother _was_," said Owen; "his face, like his
mind, has suffered lately."

"Too true," answered Montagu, with a sigh; "and yet, cool as we now are
in our outward intercourse, he little knows how I love him, and yearn
for the Eric I once knew. Would to God poor Russell had lived, and then
I believe that Williams wouldn't have gone so for wrong."

"Well, I think there's another chance for him now that--that--what name
is bad enough, for that Brigson?--is gone."

"I hope so. But"--he added after a pause--"his works do follow him. Look
there!" He took a large stone and threw it into the Silverburn stream;
there was a great splash, and then ever-widening circles of blue ripple
broke the surface of the water, dying away one by one in the sedges on
the bank. "There," he said, "see how long those ripples last, and how
numerous they are."

Owen understood him. "Poor Williams! What a gleam of new hope there was
in him after Russell's death!"

"Yes, for a time," said Montagu; "heigh ho! I fear we shall never be
warm friends again. We can't be while he goes on as he is doing. And yet
I love him."

A sudden turn of the stream brought them to the place called Riverbend.

"If you want a practical comment on what we've been talking about,
you'll see it there," said Montagu.

He pointed to a party of boys, four or five, all lying on a pleasant
grass bank, smoking pipes. Prominent among them was Eric, stretched at
ease, and looking up at the clouds, towards which curled the puffed
fumes of his meerschaum--a gift of Wildney's. That worthy was beside him
similarly employed.

The two sixth-form boys hoped to pass by unobserved, as they did not
wish for a rencontre with our hero under such circumstances. But they
saw Wildney pointing to them, and, from the fits of laughter which
followed his remarks, they had little doubt that they were the subject
of the young gentleman's wit. This is never a pleasant sensation; but
they observed that Eric made a point of not looking their way, and went
on in silence.

"How very sad!" said Montagu.

"How very contemptible!" said Owen.

"Did you observe what they were doing?"

"Smoking?"

"Worse than that a good deal. They were doing something which, if Eric
doesn't take care, will one day be his ruin."

"What?"

"I saw them drinking. I have little doubt it was brandy."

"Good heavens!"

"It is getting a common practice with some fellows. One of the ripples,
you see, of Brigson's influence."

Before they got home they caught up Wright and Vernon, and walked in
together.

"We've been talking," said Wright, "about a bad matter. Vernon here says
that there's no good working for a prize in his form, because the
cribbing's so atrocious. Indeed, it's very nearly as bad in my form. It
always is under Gordon; he _can't_ understand fellows doing
dishonorable things."

"It's a great bore in the weekly examinations," said Vernon; "every now
and then Gordon will even leave the room for a few minutes, and then out
come dozens of books."

"Well, Wright," said Montagu, "if that happens again next examination,
I'd speak out about it."

"How?"

"Why, I'd get every fellow who disapproves of it to give me his name,
and get up and read the list, and say that you at least have pledged
yourselves not to do it."

"Humph! I don't know how that would answer. They'd half kill me for one
thing."

"Never mind; do your duty. I wish I'd such an opportunity, if only to
show how sorry I am for my own past unfairness."

And so talking, the four went in, and the two elder went to their study.

It was too true that drinking had become a common vice at Roslyn school.
Accordingly, when Eric came in with Wildney about half an hour after,
Owen and Montagu heard them talk about ordering some brandy, and then
arrange to have a "jollification," that evening.

They got the brandy through "Billy." One of Brigson's most cursed
legacies to the school was the introduction of this man to a nefarious
intercourse with the boys. His character was so well known that it had
long been forbidden, under the strictest penalty, for any boy ever to
speak to him; yet, strange to say, they seemed to take a pleasure in
doing so, and just now particularly it was thought a fine thing, a sign
of "pluck" and "anti-muffishness," to be on familiar and intimate terms
with that degraded and villainous scoundrel.

Duncan had made friends again with Eric; but he did not join him in his
escapades and excesses, and sat much in other studies. He had not been
altogether a good boy, but yet there was a sort of rough honesty and
good sense about him, which preserved him from the worst and most
dangerous failings, and his character had been gradually improving as he
mounted higher in the school. He was getting steadier, more diligent,
more thoughtful, more manly; he was passing through that change so
frequent in boys as they grow older, to which Eric was so sad an
exception. Accordingly Duncan, though sincerely fond of Eric, had
latterly disapproved vehemently of his proceedings, and had therefore
taken to snubbing his old friend Wildney, in whose favor Eric seemed to
have an infatuation, and who was the means of involving him in every
kind of impropriety and mischief. So that night Duncan, hearing of what
was intended, sat in the next study, and Eric, with Bull, Wildney,
Graham, and Pietrie, had the room to themselves. Several of them were
lower boys still, but they came to the studies after bed-time, according
to Wildney's almost nightly custom.

A little pebble struck the study window.

"Hurrah!" said Wildney, clapping his hands, "here's the grub."

They opened the window and looked out. Billy was there, and they let
down to him a long piece of cord, to which he attached a basket, and,
after bidding them "Good night, and a merry drink," retired. No sooner
had they shut the window, than he grimaced as usual towards them, and
shook his fist in a sort of demoniacal exultation, muttering, "Oh, I'll
have you all under my thumb yet, you fine young fools!"

Meanwhile the unconscious boys had opened the basket, and spread its
contents on the table. They were, bread, a large dish of sausages, a
tart, beer, and, alas! a bottle of brandy.

They soon got very noisy, and at last uproarious. The snatches of songs,
peals of laughter, and rattle of plates, at last grew so loud that the
other study-boys were afraid lest one of the masters should come up and
catch the revellers. All of them heard every word that was spoken by
Eric and his party as the walls between the rooms were very thin; and
very objectionable much of the conversation was.

"This _won't_ do," said Duncan emphatically, after a louder burst of
merriment than usual; "those fellows are getting drunk; I can tell it to
a certainty from the confused and random way in which some of them
are talking."

"We'd better go in and speak to them," said Montagu; "at any rate,
they've no right to disturb us all night. Will you come?"

"I'll join you," said Owen; "though I'm afraid my presence won't do you
much good."

The three boys went to the door of Eric's study, and their knock could
not at first be heard for the noise. When they went in they found a
scene of reckless disorder; books were scattered about, plates and
glasses lay broken on the floor, beer was spilt on all sides, and there
was an intolerable smell of brandy.

"If you fellows don't care," said Duncan, sharply, "Rose or somebody'll
be coming up and catching you. It's ten now."

"What's that to you?" answered Graham, with an insolent look.

"It's something to me that you nice young men have been making such a
row that none of the rest of us can hear our own voices, and that,
between you, you've made this study in such a mess that I can't
endure it."

"Pooh!" said Pietrie; "we're all getting such saints, that one can't
have the least bit of spree now-a-days."

"Spree!" burst in Montagu indignantly; "fine spree, to make sots of
yourselves with spirits; fine spree, to----"

"Amen!" said Wildney, who was perched on the back of a chair; and he
turned up his eyes and clasped his hands with a mock-heroic air.

"There, Williams," continued Montagu, pointing to the
mischievous-looking little boy; "see that spectacle, and be ashamed of
yourself, if you can. That's what you lead boys to! Are you anxious to
become the teacher of drunkenness?"

In truth, there was good ground for his sorrowful apostrophe, for the
scene was very painful to a high-minded witness.

They hardly understood the look on Eric's countenance; he had been
taking far more than was good for him; his eyes sparkled fiercely, and
though as yet he said nothing, he seemed to be resenting the intrusion
in furious silence.

"How much longer is this interesting lecture to last?" asked Bull, with
his usual insufferable drawl; "for I want to finish my brandy."

Montagu rather looked as if he intended to give the speaker a box on the
ear; but he was just deciding that Bull wasn't worth the trouble, when
Wildney, who had been grimacing all the time, burst into a fit
of laughter.

"Let's turn out these impudent lower-school fellows," said Montagu,
speaking to Duncan. "Here! you go first," he said, seizing Wildney by
the arm, and giving him a swing, which, as he was by no means steady on
his legs, brought him sprawling to the ground.

"By Jove, I won't stand this any longer," shouted Eric, springing up
ferociously. "What on earth do you mean by daring to come in like this?
Do you hear?"

Montagu took no sort of notice of his threatening gesture, for he was
looking to see if Wildney was hurt, and finding he was not, proceeded to
drag him out, struggling and kicking frantically.

"Drop me, you fellow, drop me, I say. I won't go for you," cried
Wildney, shaking with passion. "Eric, why do you let him bully me?"

"You let him go this minute," repeated Eric, hoarsely.

"I shall do no such thing. You don't know what you're about."

"Don't I? Well, then, take _that_, to show whether I do or no!" and
suddenly leaning forward, he struck Montagu a violent back-handed blow
on the mouth.

Everybody saw it, everybody heard it; and it instantly astounded them
into silence. That Montagu should have been struck in public, and that
by Eric--by a boy who had loved him, and whom he had loved--by a boy who
had been his schoolfellow for three years now, and whose whole life
seemed bound to him by so many associations; it was strange, and
sad indeed.

Montagu sprang straight upright; for an instant he took one stride
towards his striker with lifted hand and lightning eyes, while the blood
started to his lips in consequence of the blow. But he stopped suddenly
and his hand fell to his side; by a strong effort of self-control he
contrived to master himself, and sitting down quite quietly on a chair,
he put his white handkerchief to his wounded mouth, and took it away
stained with blood.

No one spoke; and rising with quiet dignity, he went back into his study
without a word.

"Very well," said Duncan; "you may all do as you like; only I heartily
hope now you will be caught. Come, Owen."

"Oh, Williams," said Owen, "you are changed indeed, to treat your best
friend so."

But Eric was excited with drink, and the slave of every evil passion at
that moment. "Serve him right," he said; "what business has he to
interfere with what I choose to do?"

There was no more noise that night. Wildney and the rest slunk off
ashamed and frightened, and Eric, leaving his candle flaring on the
table, went down to his bed-room, where he was very sick. He had neither
strength nor spirit to undress, and flung himself into bed just as was.
When they heard that he was gone, Owen and Duncan (for Montagu was
silent and melancholy) went into his study, put out the candle, and had
only just cleared away, to the best of their power, the traces of the
carouse, when Dr. Rowlands came up stairs on his usual nightly rounds.
They had been lighting brown paper to take away the fames of the brandy,
and the Doctor asked them casually the cause of the smell of burning.
Neither of them answered, and seeing Owen there, in whom he placed
implicit trust, the Doctor thought no more about it.

Eric awoke with a bad headache, and a sense of shame and sickness. When
he got up he felt most wretched, and while washing he thought to
himself, "Ah! that I could thus wash away the memory of last night!" Of
course, after what had occurred, Eric and Montagu were no longer on
speaking terms, and miserable as poor Eric felt when he saw how his blow
had bruised and disfigured his friend's face, he made no advances. He
longed, indeed, from his inmost heart, to be reconciled to him; but
feeling that he had done grievous wrong, he dreaded a repulse, and his
pride would not suffer him to run the risk. So he pretended to feel no
regret, and, supported by his late boon-companions, represented the
matter as occurring in the defence of Wildney, whom Montagu
was bullying.

Montagu, too, was very miserable; but he felt that, although ready to
forgive Eric, he could not, in common self-respect, take the first step
to a reconciliation: indeed, he rightly thought that it was not for
Eric's good that he should do so.

"You and Williams appear never to speak to each other now," said Mr.
Rose. "I am sorry for it, Monty; I think you are the only boy who has
any influence over him."

"I fear you are mistaken, sir, in that. Little Wildney has much more."

"Wildney?" asked Mr. Rose, in sorrowful surprise. "Wildney more
influence than _you_?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah, that our poor Edwin had lived!"

So, with a sigh, Walter Rose and Harry Montagu buried their friendship
for Eric until happier days.



CHAPTER VI

ERIC AND MONTAGU

     "And constancy lives in realms above;
       And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
     And to be wroth with one we love,
       Doth work like madness in the brain.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Each spoke words of high disdain
       And insult to his heart's best brother."

     COLERIDGE'S _Christabel_.

Wright had not forgotten Montagu's advice, and had endeavored to get the
names of boys who wern't afraid to scout publicly the disgrace of
cheating in form. But he could only get one name promised him--the name
of Vernon Williams; and feeling how little could be gained by using it,
he determined to spare Vernon the trial, and speak, if he spoke at all,
on his own responsibility.

As usual, the cribbing at the next weekly examination was well-nigh
universal, and when Mr. Gordon went out to fetch something he had
forgotten, merely saying, "I trust to your honor not to abuse my
absence," books and papers were immediately pulled out with the coolest
and most unblushing indifference.

This was the time for Wright to deliver his conscience; he had counted
the cost, and, rightly or wrongly considering it to be his duty, he had
decided that speak he would. He well knew that his interference would
be attributed to jealousy, meanness, sneaking, and every kind of wrong
motive, since he was himself one of the greatest sufferers from the
prevalent dishonesty; but still he had come to the conclusion that he
_ought_ not to draw back, and therefore he bravely determined that he
would make his protest, whatever happened.

So, very nervously, he rose and said, "I want to tell you all that I
think this cheating very wrong and blackguardly. I don't mind losing by
it myself, but if Vernon Williams loses the prize in the lower fourth,
and any one gets it by copying, I've made up my mind to tell Gordon."

His voice trembled a little at first, but he spoke fast, and acquired
firmness as he went on. Absolute astonishment and curiosity had held the
boys silent with amazement, but by the end of this sentence they had
recovered themselves, and a perfect burst of derision and
indignation followed.

"Let's see if _that'll_ cut short his oration," said Wildney, throwing a
book at his head, which was instantly followed by others from
all quarters.

"My word! we've had nothing but lectures lately," said Brooking. "Horrid
little Owenite saint."

"Saint!--sneak, you mean. I'll teach him," growled Pietrie, and jumping
up, he belabored Wright's head with the Latin grammar out of which he
had just been cribbing.

The whole room was in confusion and hubbub, during which Wright sat
stock still, quietly enduring without bowing to the storm.

Only one boy sympathised with him, but he did so deeply--poor little
penitent Vernon. He felt his position hard because Wright had alluded so
prominently to him, and he knew how much he must be misconstrued, but he
had his brother's spirit, and would not shrink. Amid the tumult he got
up in his seat, and they heard his pleasant, childish voice saying
boldly, "I hope Wright won't tell; but he's the best fellow in the room,
and cribbing _is_ a shame, as he says."

What notice would have been taken of this speech is doubtful, for at the
critical moment Mr. Gordon reappeared, and the whispered cavè caused
instantaneous quiet.

Poor Wright awaited with some dread the end of school; and many an angry
kick and blow he got, though he disarmed malice by the spirit and
heroism with which he endured them. The news of his impudence spread
like wildfire, and not five boys in the school approved of what he had
done, while most of them were furious at his ill-judged threat of
informing Mr. Gordon. There was a general agreement to thrash him after
roll-call that afternoon.

Eric had lately taken a violent dislike to Wright, though he had been
fond of him in better days. He used to denounce him as a disagreeable
and pragmatical little muff, and was as loud as any of them in
condemning his announced determination to "sneak." Had he known that
Wright had acted under Montagu's well-meant, though rather mistaken
advice, he might have abstained from having anything more to do with the
matter, but now he promised to kick Wright himself after the four
o'clock bell.

Four o'clock came; the names were called; the master left the room.
Wright, who perfectly knew what was threatened, stood there pale but
fearless. His indifferent look was an additional annoyance to Eric, who
walked up to him carelessly, and boxing his ears, though without hurting
him, said contemptuously, "Conceited little sneak."

Montagu had been told of the intended kicking, and had determined even
single-handed to prevent it. He did _not_, however, expect that Eric
would have taken part in it, and was therefore unprepared. The color
rushed into his cheeks; he went up, took Wright quietly by the hand, and
said with firm determination, "No one in the school shall touch
Wright again."

"What? no one! just hark to that," said Graham; "I suppose he thinks
himself cock of the school."

Eric quite misunderstood Montagu's proceedings; he took it for a public
challenge. All the Rowlandites were round, and to yield would have
looked like cowardice. Above all, his evil genius Wildney was by, and
said, "How very nice! another dictation lesson!"

A threatening circle had formed round Montagu, but his closed lips, and
flushing brow, and dilated nostrils, betrayed a spirit which made them
waver, and he quietly repeated, "No one shall touch you, Wright."

"They _will_, though," said Eric instantly; "_I_ will, for one, and I
should like to see you prevent me." And so saying he gave Wright another
slight blow.

Montagu dropped Wright's hand and said slowly, "Eric Williams, I have
taken one unexpected blow from you without a word, and bear the marks of
it yet. It is time to show that it was _not_ through cowardice that I
did not return it. Will you fight?"

The answer was not prompt by any means, though every one in the school
knew that Eric was not afraid. So sure was he of this, that, for the
sake of "auld lang syne," he would probably have declined to fight with
Montagu had he been left to his own impulses.

"I have been in the wrong, Montagu, more than once," he answered,
falteringly, "and we have been friends--"

But it was the object of many of the worst boys that the two should
fight--not only that they might see the fun, but that Montagu's
authority, which stood in their way, might be flung aside. So Brooking
whispered in an audible voice--

"Faith! he's showing the white feather."

"You're a liar!" flung in Eric; and turning to Montagu, he said--"There!
I'll fight you this moment."

Instantly they had stripped off their coats and prepared for action. A
ring of excited boys crowded round them. Fellows of sixteen, like
Montagu and Eric, rarely fight, because their battles have usually been
decided in their earlier school-days; and it was also but seldom that
two boys so strong, active, and prominent, took this method of settling
their differences.

The fight began, and at first the popular favor was entirely on the side
of Eric, while Montagu found few or none to back him. But he fought with
a fire and courage which soon won applause; and as Eric, on the other
hand, was random and spiritless, the cry was soon pretty fairly divided
between them.

After a sharp round they paused for breath, and Owen, who had been a
silent and disgusted spectator of such a combat between boys of such
high standing, said with much, feeling--

"This is not a very creditable affair, Montagu."

"It is necessary," was Montagu's laconic reply.

Among other boys who had left the room before the fracas had taken
place, was Vernon Williams, who shrank away to avoid the pain of seeing
his new friend Wright bullied and tormented. But curiosity soon took him
back, and he came in just as the second round began. At first he only
saw a crowd of boys in the middle of the room, but jumping on a desk he
had a full view of what was going on.

There was a tremendous hubbub of voices, and Eric, now thoroughly roused
by the remarks he overheard, and especially by Wildney's whisper that
"he was letting himself be licked," was exerting himself with more vigor
and effect. It was anything but a noble sight; the faces of the
combatants were streaked with blood and sweat, and as the miserable gang
of lower school-boys backed them on with eager shouts of--"Now Eric, now
Eric," "Now Montagu, go it, sixth, form," etc., both of them fought
under a sense of deep disgrace, increased by the recollections which
they shared in common.

All this Vernon marked in a moment, and, filled with pain and vexation,
his said in a voice which, though low, could be heard amid all the
uproar, "Oh Eric, Eric, fighting with Montagu!" There was reproach and
sorrow in the tone, which touched more than one boy there, for Vernon,
spite of the recent change in him, could not but continue a favorite.

"Shut up there, you little donkey," shouted one or two, looking back at
him for a moment.

But Eric heard the words, and knew that it was his brother's voice. The
thought rushed on him how degraded his whole position was, and how
different it might have been. He felt that he was utterly in the wrong,
and Montagu altogether in the right; and from that moment his blows once
more grew feeble and ill-directed. When they again stopped to take rest,
the general shout for Montagu showed that he was considered to have the
best of it.

"I'm getting so tired of this," muttered Eric, during the pause.

"Why, you're fighting like a regular muff," said Graham; "you'll have to
acknowledge yourself thrashed in a minute."

"That I'll _never_ do," he said, once more firing up.

Just as the third round began, Duncan came striding in, for Owen, who
had left the room, told him what was going on. He had always been a
leading fellow, and quite recently his influence had several times been
exerted in the right direction, and he was very much looked up to by all
the boys alike, good or bad. He determined, for the credit of the sixth,
that the fight should not go on, and bursting into the ring, with his
strong shoulders he hurled on each side the boys who stood in his way,
and struck down the lifted arms of the fighters.

"You _shan't_ fight," he said, doggedly, thrusting himself between them;
"so there's an end of it. If you do, you'll both have to fight
me first."

"Shame!" said several of the boys, and the cry was caught up by Bull and
others.

"Shame, is it?" said Duncan, and his lip curled with scorn. "There's
only one way to argue with, you fellows. Bull, if you, or any other boy,
repeat that word, I'll thrash him. Here, Monty, come away from this
disgraceful scene."

"I'm sick enough of it," said Montagu, "and am ready to stop if Williams
is,--provided no one touches Wright."

"I'm sick of it too," said Eric sullenly.

"Then you two shall shake hands," said Duncan.

For one instant--an instant which he regretted till the end of his
life--Montagu drew himself up and hesitated. He had been deeply wronged,
deeply provoked, and no one could blame him for the momentary feeling:
but Eric had observed the gesture, and his passionate pride took the
alarm. "It's come to this, then," he thought; "Montagu doesn't think me
good enough to be shaken hands with."

"Pish!" he said aloud, in a tone of sarcasm; "it may be an awful honor
to shake hands with such an immaculate person as Montagu, but I'm not
proud on the subject;" and he turned away.

Montagu's hesitation was but momentary, and without a particle of anger
or indignation he sorrowfully held out his hand. It was too late; that
moment had done the mischief, and it was now Eric's turn coldly
to withdraw.

"You don't think me worthy of your friendship, and what's the good of
grasping hands if we don't do it with cordial hearts?"

Montagu's lip trembled, but he said nothing, and quietly putting on his
coat, waved back the throng of boys with a proud sweep of his arm, and
left the room with Duncan.

"Come along, Wright," he said.

"Nay, leave him," said Eric with a touch of remorse. "Much as you think
me beneath you, I have honor enough to see that no one hurts him."

The group of boys gradually dispersed, but one or two remained with
Eric, although he was excessively wearied by their observations.

"You didn't fight half like yourself," said Wildney.

"Can't you tell why? I had the wrong side to fight for." And getting up
abruptly, he left the room, to be alone in his study, and bathe his
swollen and aching face.

In a few minutes Vernon joined him, and at the mere sight of him Eric
burst into tears of shame. That evening with Vernon in the study, after
the dinner at the Jolly Herring, had revived all his really warm
affection for his little brother; and as he could no longer conceal the
line he took in the school, they had been often together since then; and
Eric's moral obliquity was not so great as to prevent him from feeling
deep joy at the change for the better in Vernon's character.

"Verny, Verny," he said, as the boy came up and affectionately took his
hand, "it was you who lost me that fight."

"Oh, but, Eric, you were fighting with Montagu."

"Don't you remember the days, Eric," he continued, "when we were
home-boarders, and how kind Monty used to be to me even then, and how
mother liked him, and thought him quite your truest friend, except
poor Russell?"

"I do, indeed. I didn't think then that it would come to this."

"I've always been _so_ sorry," said Vernon, "that I joined the fellows
in playing him tricks. I can't think how I came to do it, except that
I've done such lots of bad things here. But he's forgiven and forgotten
that long ago, and is very kind to me now."

It was true; but Eric didn't know that half the kindness which Montagu
showed to his brother was shown solely for _his_ sake.

"Do you know, I've thought of a plan for making you two friends again?
I've written to Aunt Trevor to ask him to Fairholm with us next
holidays."

"Oh, have you? Good Verny! Yes; _there_ we might be friends. Perhaps
there," he added, half to himself, "I might be more like what I was in
better days."

"But it's a long time to look forward to. Easter hasn't come yet," said
Vernon.

So the two young boys proposed; but God had disposed it otherwise.



CHAPTER VII

THE PIGEONS

     "Et motae ad Lunam trepidabis arundinis umbram."

     Juv. X. 21.

"How awfully dull it is, Charlie," said Eric, a few weeks before Easter,
as he sat with Wildney in his study one holiday afternoon.

"Yes; too late for football, too early for cricket." And Wildney
stretched himself and yawned.

"I suppose this is what they call ennui," said Eric again, after a
pause. "What is to be done, Sunbeam?"

"You _shan't_ call me that, so there's an end of it," said Wildney,
hitting him on the arm.

"By the bye, Eric, you remind me to-morrow's my birth-day, and I've got
a parcel coming this afternoon full of grub from home. Let's go and see
if it's come."

"Capital! We will."

So Eric and Wildney started off to the coach-office, where they found
the hamper, and ordered it to be brought at once to the school, and
carried up to Eric's study.

On opening it they found it rich in dainties, among which were a pair of
fowls and a large plum-cake.

"Hurrah!" said Wildney, "you were talking of nothing to do; I vote we
have a carouse to-morrow."

"Very well; only let's have it _before_ prayers, because we were so
nearly caught last time."

"Ay, and let it be in one of the class-rooms, Eric; not up here, lest
we have another incursion of the 'Rosebuds.' I shall have to cut
preparation, but that don't matter, It's Harley's night, and old Stupid
will never twig."

"Well, whom shall we ask?" said Eric.

"Old Llewellyn for one," said Wildney. "We havn't seen him for an age,
and he's getting too lazy even for a bit of fun."

"Good; and Graham," suggested Eric. He and Wildney regarded their
possessions so much as common property, that he hadn't the least
delicacy in mentioning the boys whom he wanted to invite.

"Yes; Graham's a jolly bird; and Bull?"

"I've no objection; and Pietrie?"

"Well; and your brother Vernon?"

"No!" said Eric, emphatically. "At any rate I won't lead _him_ into
mischief any more."

"Attlay, then; and what do you say to Brooking?"

"No, again," said Eric; "he's a blackguard."

"I wonder you haven't mentioned Duncan," said Wildney.

"Duncan! why, my dear child, you might as well ask Owen, or even old
Rose, at once. Bless you, Charlie, he's a great deal too correct to
come now."

"Well; we've got six already, that's quite enough."

"Yes; but two fowls isn't enough for six hungry boys."

"No, it isn't," said Wildney. He thought a little, and then, clapping
his hands, danced about and said, "Are you game for a _regular_
lark, Eric?"

"Yes; anything to make it less dull. I declare I've very nearly been
taking to work again to fill up the time."

Eric often talked now of work in this slighting way partly as an excuse
for the low places in form to which he was gradually sinking. Everybody
knew that had he properly exerted his abilities he was capable of
beating almost any boy; so, to quiet his conscience, he professed to
ridicule diligence as an unboyish piece of muffishness, and was never
slow to sneer at the "grinders," as he contemptuously called all those
who laid themselves out to win school distinctions.

"Ha, ha!" said Wildney, "that's rather good! No, Eric, it's too late for
you to turn 'grinder' now. I might as well think of doing it myself, and
I've never been higher than five from lag in my form yet."

"Haven't you? But what's the regular lark you hinted at?"

"Why, we'll go and seize the Gordonites' _pigeons_, and make another
dish of them."

"Seize the Gordonites' pigeons! Why, when do you mean?"

"To-night."

Eric gave a long whistle. "But wouldn't it be st--t--?"

"Stealing?" said Wildney, with a loud laugh. "Pooh! '_convey_ the wise
call it.'"

But Eric still looked serious. "Why, my dear old boy," continued
Wildney, "the Gordonites'll be the first to laugh at the trick when we
tell them of it next morning, as of course we will do. There, now, don't
look grumpy. I shall cut away and arrange it with. Graham, and tell you
the whole dodge ready prepared to-night at bed-time."

After lights were put out, Wildney came up to the study according to
promise, and threw out hints about the proposed plan. He didn't tell it
plainly, because Duncan was there, but Duncan caught enough to guess
what was intended, and said, when Wildney had gone--

"Take my advice, and have nothing to do with this, Eric."

Eric had grown very touchy lately about advice, particularly from any
fellow of his own standing; and after the checks he had recently
received, a coolness had sprung up between him and nearly all the
study-boys, which made him more than ever inclined to assert his
independence, and defy and thwart them in every way.

"Keep your advice to yourself, Duncan, till it's asked for," he
answered, roughly. "You've done nothing but _advise_ lately, and I'm
rather sick of it."

"Comme vous voulez," replied Duncan, with a shrug. "Gang your own gait;
I'll have nothing more to do with trying to stop you, since you _will_
ruin yourself."

Nothing more was said in the study that evening, and when Eric went down
he didn't even bid Duncan goodnight.

"Charlie," he said, as he stole on tiptoe into Wildney's dormitory.

"Hush!" whispered Wildney, "the other fellows are asleep. Come and sit
by my bedside, and I'll tell you what we're going to do."

Eric went and sat by him, and he sat up in his bed "First of all,
_you're_ to keep awake till twelve to-night," he whispered; "old
Rowley'll have gone round by that time, and it'll be all safe. Then come
and awake me again, and I'll watch till one, Pietrie till two, and
Graham till three. Then Graham'll awake us all, and we'll dress."

"Very well. But how will you get the key of the lavatory?"

"Oh, I'll manage that," said Wildney, chuckling. "But come again and
awake me at twelve, will you?"

Eric went to his room and lay down, but he didn't take off his clothes,
for fear he should go to sleep. Dr. Rowlands came round as usual at
eleven, and then Eric closed his eyes for a few minutes, till the
head-master had disappeared. After that he lay awake thinking for an
hour, but his thoughts weren't very pleasant.

At twelve he went and awoke Wildney.

"I don't feel very sleepy. Shall I sit with you for your hour, Charlie?"

"Oh, do! I should like it of all things. But douse the glim there; we
shan't want it, and it might give the alarm."

"All right."

So Eric went and sat by his dangerous little friend, and they talked in
low voices until they heard the great school clock strike one. They then
woke Pietrie, and Eric went off to bed again.

At three Graham awoke him, and dressing hastily, he joined the others in
the lavatory.

"Now, I'm going to get the key," said Wildney, "and mean to have a
stomach-ache for the purpose."

Laughing quietly he went up to the door of Mr. Harley's bed-room, which
opened out of the lavatory, and knocked.

No answer. He knocked a little louder. Still no answer. Louder still.

"Bother the fellow," said Wildney; "he sleeps like a grampus. Won't one
of you try to wake him?"

"No," said Graham; "'taint dignified for fifth-form boys to have
stomach-aches."

"Well, I must try again." But it seemed no use knocking, and Wildney at
last, in a fit of impatience, thumped a regular tattoo on the
bed-room door.

"Who's there?" said the startled voice of Mr. Harley.

"Only me, sir!" answered Wildney, in a mild and innocent way.

"What do you want?"

"Please, sir, I want the key of the lavatory. I'm indisposed," said
Wildney again, in a tone of such disciplined suavity, that the others
shook with laughing.

Mr. Harley opened the door about an inch, and peered about suspiciously.

"Oh, well, you must go and awake Mr. Rose. I don't happen to have the
key to-night." And so saying, he shut the door.

"Phew! Here's a go!" said Wildney, recovering immediately. "It'll never
do to awake old Rose. He'd smell a rat in no time."

"I have it," said Pietrie. "I've got an old nail, with which I believe I
can open the lock quite simply. Let's try."

"Quietly and quick, then," said Eric.

In ten minutes he had silently shot back the lock with the old nail, and
the boys were on the landing. They carried their shoes in their hands,
ran noiselessly down stairs, and went to the same window at which Eric
and Wildney had got out before. Wildney had taken care beforehand to
break the pane and move away the glass, so they had only to loosen the
bar and slip through one by one.

It was cold and very dark, and as on the March morning they stood out
in the playground, all four would rather have been safe and harmlessly
in bed. But the novelty and the excitement of the enterprise bore them
up, and they started off quickly for the house at which Mr. Gordon and
his pupils lived, which was about half a mile from the school. They went
arm in arm to assure each other a little, for at first in their fright
they were inclined to take every post and tree for a man in ambush, and
to hear a recalling voice in every sound of wind and wave.

Not far from Mr. Gordon's was a carpenter's shop, and outside of this
there was generally a ladder standing. They had arranged to carry this
ladder with them (as it was only a short one), climb the low garden wall
with it, and then place it against the house, immediately under the
dovecot which hung by the first story-windows. Wildney, as the lightest
of the four, was to take the birds, while the others held the ladder.

Slanting it so that it should be as far from the side of the window as
possible, Wildney ascended and thrust both hands into the cot. He
succeeded in seizing a pigeon with each hand, but in doing so threw the
other birds into a state of such alarm that they fluttered about in the
wildest manner, and the moment his hands were withdrawn, flew out with a
great flapping of hurried wings.

The noise they made alarmed the plunderer, and he hurried down the
ladder as fast as he could. He handed the pigeons to the others, who
instantly wrung their necks.

"I'm nearly sure I heard somebody stir," said Wildney; "we haven't been
half quiet enough. Here! let's crouch down in this corner."

All four shrank up as close to the wall as they could, and held their
breath. Some one was certainly stirring, and at last they heard the
window open. A head was thrust out, and Mr. Gordon's voice asked
sternly--"Who's there?"

He seemed at once to have caught sight of the ladder, and made an
endeavor to reach it; but though he stretched out his arm at full
length, he could not do so.

"We must cut for it," said Eric; "it's quite too dark for him to see us,
or even to notice that we are boys."

They moved the ladder to the wall, and sprang over, one after the other,
as fast as they could. Eric was last, and just as he got to the top of
the wall he heard the back door open, and some one run out into
the yard.

"Run for your lives," said Eric hurriedly; "it's Gordon, and he's
raising the alarm."

They heard footsteps following them, and an occasional shout of
"thieves! thieves!"

"We must separate and run different ways, or we've no chance of escape.
We'd better turn towards the town to put them off the right scent," said
Eric again.

"Don't leave me," pleaded Wildney; "you know I can't run very fast."

"No, Charlie, I won't;" and grasping his hand, Eric hurried him over the
style and through the fields, while Pietrie and Graham took the opposite
direction.

Some one (they did not know who it was, but suspected it to be Mr.
Gordon's servant-man) was running after them, and they could distinctly
hear his footsteps, which seemed to be half a field distant. He carried
a light, and they heard him panting. They were themselves tired, and in
the utmost trepidation; the usually courageous Wildney was trembling all
over, and his fear communicated itself to Eric. Horrible visions of a
trial for burglary, imprisonment in the castle jail, and perhaps
transportation, presented themselves to their excited imaginations, as
the sound of the footsteps came nearer.

"I can't run any further, Eric," said Wildney. "What shall we do? don't
leave me, for heaven's sake."

"Not I, Charlie. We must hide the minute we get t'other side of this
hedge."

They scrambled over the gate, and plunged into the thickest part of a
plantation close by, lying down on the ground behind some bushes, and
keeping as still as they could, taking care to cover over their
white collars.

The pursuer reached the gate, and no longer hearing footsteps in front
of him, he paused. He went a little distance up the hedge on both sides
and held up his light, but did not detect the cowering boys, and at last
giving up the search in despair, went slowly home. They heard him
plodding back over the field, and it was not until the sound of his
footsteps had died away, that Eric cautiously broke cover, and looked
over the hedge. He saw the man's light gradually getting more distant,
and said, "All right now, Charlie. We must make the best of our
way home."

"Are you sure he's gone?" said Wildney, who had not yet recovered from
his fright.

"Quite; come along. I only hope Pietrie and Graham ain't caught."

They got back about half-past four, and climbed in unheard and
undetected through the window pane. They then stole up stairs with
beating hearts, and sat in Eric's room to wait for the other two. To
their great relief they heard them enter the lavatory about ten
minutes after.

"Were you twigged?" asked Wildney eagerly.

"No," said Graham; "precious near it though. Old Gordon and some men
were after us, but at last we doubled rather neatly, and escaped them.
It's all serene, and we shan't be caught."

"Well, we'd best to bed now," said Eric; "and, to my thinking, we should
be wise to keep a quiet tongue in our heads about this affair."

"Yes, we had better tell _no one_." They agreed, and went off to bed
again. So, next morning, they all four got up quite as if nothing had
happened, and made no allusion to the preceding night, although, they
could not help chuckling inwardly a little when the Gordonites came to
morning school, brimful of a story about their house having been
attacked in the night by thieves, who, after bagging some pigeons, had
been chevied by Gordon and the servants. Wildney professed immense
interest in the incident, and asked many questions, which showed that
there was not a shadow of suspicion in any one's mind as to the
real culprits.

Carter, the school servant, didn't seem to have noticed that the
lavatory door was unlocked, and Mr. Harley never alluded again to his
disturbance in the night. So the theft of the pigeons remained
undiscovered, and remains so till this day. If any old Roslyn boy reads
this veracious history, he will doubtless be astounded to hear that the
burglars on that memorable night were Brio, Pietrie, Graham,
and Wildney.



CHAPTER VIII

SOWING THE WIND

     "Praepediuntur
     Crura vacillanti, tardescit lingua, madet mens,
     Nant oculi."

     LUCR. iii. 417.

Next evening, when preparation began, Pietrie and Graham got everything
ready for a carouse in their class-room. Wildney, relying on the chance
of names not being called over (which, was only done in case any one's
absence was observed), had absented himself altogether from the
boarders' room, and helped busily to spread the table for the banquet.
The cook had roasted for them the fowls and pigeons, and Billy had
brought an ample supply of beer and some brandy for the occasion. A
little before eight o'clock everything was ready, and Eric, Attlay, and
Llewellyn were summoned to join the rest.

The fowls, pigeons, and beer had soon vanished, and the boys were in the
highest spirits. Eric's reckless gaiety was kindled by Wildney's
frolicsome vivacity, and Graham's sparkling wit; they were all six in a
roar of perpetual laughter at some fresh sally of fun elicited by the
more phlegmatic natures of Attlay or Llewellyn, and the dainties of
Wildney's parcel were accompanied by draughts of brandy and water, which
were sometimes exchanged for potations of the raw liquor. It was not the
first time, be it remembered, that the members of that young party had
been present at similar scenes, and even the scoundrel Billy was
astonished, and alarmed occasionally at the quantities of spirits and
other inebriating drinks that of late had found their way to the
studies. The disgraceful and deadly habit of tippling had already told
physically on both Eric and Wildney. The former felt painfully that he
was losing his clear-headedness, and that his intellectual tastes were
getting not only blunted but destroyed; and while he perceived in
himself the terrible effects of his sinful indulgence, he saw them still
more indisputably in the gradual coarseness which seemed to be
spreading, like a grey lichen, over the countenance, the mind, and the
manners of his younger companion. Sometimes the vision of a Nemesis
breaking in fire out of his darkened future, terrified his guilty
conscience in the watches of the night; and the conviction of some
fearful Erynnis, some discovery dawning out of the night of his
undetected sins, made his heart beat fast with agony and fear. But he
fancied it too late to repent. He strangled the half-formed resolutions
as they rose, and trusted to the time when, by leaving school, he should
escape, as he idly supposed, the temptations to which he had yielded.
Meanwhile, the friends who would have rescued him had been alienated by
his follies, and the principles which might have preserved him had been
eradicated by his guilt. He had long flung away the shield of prayer,
and the helmet of holiness, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the
word of God; and now, unarmed and helpless, Eric stood alone, a mark for
the fiery arrows of his enemies, while, through the weakened inlet of
every corrupted sense, temptation rushed in upon him perpetually
and unawares.

As the class-room they had selected was in a remote part of the
building, there was little immediate chance of detection. So the
laughter of the party grew louder and sillier; the talk more foolish and
random; the merriment more noisy and meaningless. But still most of them
mingled some sense of caution with their enjoyment, and warned Eric and
Wildney more than once that they must look out, and not take too much
that night for fear of being caught. But it was Wildney's birth-day, and
Eric's boyish mirth, suppressed by his recent troubles, was blazing out
unrestrained. In the riot of their feasting, the caution had been
utterly neglected, and the boys were far from being sober when the sound
of the prayer-bell ringing through the great hall, startled them into
momentary consciousness.

"Good heavens!" shouted Graham, springing up; "there's the prayer-bell;
I'd no notion it was so late. Here, let's shove these brandy bottles and
things into the cupboards and drawers, and then we must run down."

There was no time to lose. The least muddled of the party had cleared
the room in a moment, and then addressed themselves to the more
difficult task of trying to quiet Eric and Wildney, and conduct them
steadily into the prayer-room.

Wildney's seat was near the door, so there was little difficulty in
getting him to his place comparatively unobserved. Llewellyn took him by
the arm, and after a little stumbling, helped him safely to his seat,
where he assumed a look of preternatural gravity. But Eric sat near the
head of the first table, not far from Dr. Rowlands' desk, and none of
the others had to go to that part of the room. Graham grasped his arm
tight, led him carefully down stairs, and, as they were reaching the
door, said to him, in a most earnest and imploring tone--"Do try and
walk sensibly to your place, Eric, or we shall all be caught."

It was rather late when they got down. Everybody was quietly seated, and
most of the Bibles were already open, although the Doctor had not yet
come in. Consequently, the room was still, and the entrance of Graham
and Eric after the rest attracted general notice. Eric had just sense
enough to try and assume his ordinary manner; but he was too giddy with
the fumes of drink to walk straight, or act naturally.

Vernon was sitting next to Wright, and stared at his brother with great
eyes and open lips. He was not the only observer.

"Wright," whispered he, in a timid voice; "just see how Eric walks. What
can be the matter with him? Good gracious, he must be ill!" he said,
starting up, as Eric suddenly made a great stagger to one side, and
nearly fell in the attempt to recover himself.

Wright pulled the little boy down with a firm hand.

"Hush!" he whispered; "take no notice; he's been drinking, Verny, and I
fear he'll be caught."

Vernon instantly sat down, and turned deadly pale. He thought, and he
had hoped, that since the day at the "Jolly Herring," his brother had
abandoned all such practices, for Eric had been most careful to conceal
from him the worst of his failings. And now he trembled violently with
fear for his discovery, and horror at his disgraceful condition.

The sound of Eric's unsteady footsteps had made Mr. Rose quickly raise
his head; but at the same moment Duncan hastily made room for the boy
on the seat beside him, and held out his hand to assist him. It was not
Eric's proper place; but Mr. Rose, after one long look of astonishment,
looked down at his book again, and said nothing.

It made other hearts besides Vernon's ache to see the unhappy boy roll
to his place in that helpless way.

Dr. Rowlands came in, and prayers commenced. When they were finished,
the names were called, and Eric, instead of quietly answering his
"adsum," as he should have done, stood up, with a foolish look, and
said, "Yes, Sir." The head master looked at him for a minute; the boy's
glassy eyes, and jocosely stupid appearance, told an unmistakable tale;
but Dr. Rowlands only remarked, "Williams, you don't look well. You had
better go at once to bed."

It was hopeless for Eric to attempt getting along without help, so
Duncan at once got up, took him by the arm, and with much difficulty
(for Eric staggered at every step) conducted him to his bed-room.

Wildney's condition was also too evident; and Mr. Rose, while walking up
and down the dormitories, had no doubt left on his mind that both Eric
and Wildney had been drinking. But he made no remarks to them, and
merely went to the Doctor to talk over the steps which were to be taken.

"I shall summon the school," said Dr. Rowlands, "on Monday, and by that
time we will decide on the punishment. Expulsion, I fear, is the only
course open to us."

"Is not that a _very_ severe line to take?"

"Perhaps; but the offence is of the worst character I must consider the
matter."

"Poor Williams!" sighed Mr. Rose, as he left the room.

The whole of the miserable Sunday that followed was spent by Eric and
his companions in vain inquiries and futile restlessness. It seemed
clear that two of them at least were detected, and they were
inexpressibly wretched with anxiety and suspense. Wildney, who had to
stay in bed, was even more depressed; his head ached violently, and he
was alone with his own terrified thoughts. He longed for the morrow,
that at least he might have the poor consolation of knowing his fate. No
one came near him all day. Eric wished to do so, but as he could not
have visited the room without express leave, the rest dissuaded him from
asking, lest he should excite further suspicion. His apparent neglect
made poor Wildney even more unhappy, for Wildney loved Eric as much as
it was possible for his volatile mind to love any one; and it seemed
hard to be deserted in the moment of disgrace and sorrow by so close
a friend.

At school the next morning the various masters read out to their forms a
notice from Dr. Rowlands, that the whole school were to meet at ten in
the great schoolroom. The object of the summons was pretty clearly
understood; and few boys had any doubt that it had reference to the
drinking on Saturday night. Still nothing had been _said_ on the subject
as yet; and every guilty heart among those 250 boys beat fast lest _his_
sin too should have been discovered, and he should be called out for
some public and heavy punishment.

The hour arrived. The boys thronging into the great school-room, took
their places according to their respective forms. The masters in their
caps and gowns were all seated on a small semicircular bench at the
upper end of the room, and in the centre of them, before a small table,
sate Dr. Rowlands.

The sound of whispering voices sank to a dead and painful hush. The
blood was tingling consciously in many cheeks, and not even a breath
could be heard in the deep expectation of that anxious and
solemn moment.

Dr. Rowlands spread before him the list of the school, and said, "I
shall first read out the names of the boys in the first-fifth, and
upper-fourth forms."

This was done to ascertain formally whether the boys were present on
whose account the meeting was convened; and it at once told Eric and
Wildney that _they_ were the boys to be punished, and that the others
had escaped.

The names were called over, and an attentive observer might have told,
from the sound of the boys' voices as they answered, which of them were
afflicted with a troubled conscience.

Another slight pause, and breathless hush.

"Eric Williams and Charles Wildney, stand forward."

The boys obeyed. From his place in the fifth, where he was sitting with
his head propped on his hand, Eric rose and advanced; and Wildney, from
the other end of the room, where the younger boys sat, getting up, came
and stood by his side.

Both of them fixed their eyes on the ground, whence they never once
raised them; and in the deadly pallor of their haggard faces, you could
scarcely have recognized the joyous high-spirited friends, whose laugh
and shout had often rung so merrily through the play-ground, and woke
the echoes of the rocks along the shore. Every eye was on them, and
they were conscious of it, though they could not see it--painfully
conscious of it, so that they wished the very ground to yawn beneath
their feet for the moment, and swallow up their shame. Companionship in
disgrace increased the suffering; had either of them been alone, he
would have been less acutely sensible to the trying nature of his
position; but that they, so different in their ages and position in the
school, should thus have their friendship and the results of it
blazoned, or rather branded, before their friends and enemies added
keenly to the misery they felt. So, with eyes bent on the floor, Eric
and Charlie awaited their sentence.

"Williams and Wildney," said Dr. Rowlands in a solemn voice, of which
every articulation thrilled to the heart of every hearer, "you have been
detected in a sin most disgraceful and most dangerous. On Saturday night
you were both drinking, and you were guilty of such gross excess, that
you were neither of you in a fit state to appear among your
companions--least of all to appear among them at the hour of prayer. I
shall not waste many words on an occasion like this; only I trust that
those of your schoolfellows who saw you staggering and rolling into the
room on Saturday evening in a manner so unspeakably shameful and
degrading, will learn from that melancholy sight the lesson which the
Spartans taught their children by exhibiting a drunkard before them--the
lesson of the brutalising and fearful character of this most ruinous
vice. Eric Williams and Charles Wildney, your punishment will be public
expulsion, for which you will prepare this very evening. I am unwilling
that for a single day either of you--especially the elder of
you--should linger, so as possibly to contaminate others with the danger
of so pernicious an example."

Such a sentence was wholly unexpected; it took boys and masters equally
by surprise. The announcement of it caused an uneasy sensation, which
was evident to all present, though no one spoke a word; but Dr. Rowlands
took no notice of it, and only said to the culprits--

"You may return to your seats."

The two boys found their way back instinctively, they hardly knew how.
They seemed confounded and thunderstruck by their sentence, and the
painful accessories of its publicity. Eric leaned over the desk with his
head resting on a book, too stunned even to think; and Wildney looked
straight before him with his eyes fixed in a stupid and
unobserved stare.

Form by form the school dispersed, and the moment he was liberated Eric
sprang away from the boys, who would have spoken to him, and rushed
wildly to his study, where he locked the door. In a moment, however, he
re-opened it, for he heard Wildney's step, and, after admitting him,
locked it once more.

Without a word Wildney, who looked very pale, flung his arms round
Eric's neck, and, unable to bear up any longer, burst into a flood of
tears. Both of them felt relief in giving the reins to their sorrow.

"O my father! my father!" sobbed Wildney at length. "What will he say?
He will disown me, I know; he is so stern always with me when he thinks
I bring disgrace on him."

Eric thought of Fairholm, and of his own far-distant parents, and of the
pang which _his_ disgrace would cause their loving hearts; but he could
say nothing, and only stroked Wildney's dark hair again and again with
a soothing hand.

They sat there long, hardly knowing how the time passed; Eric could not
help thinking how very, very different their relative positions might
have been; how, while he might have been aiding and ennobling the young
boy beside him, he had alternately led and followed him into wickedness
and disgrace. His heart was full of misery and bitterness, and he felt
almost indifferent to all the future, and weary of his life.

A loud knocking at the door disturbed them. It was Carter, the school
servant.

"You must pack up to go this evening, young gentlemen."

"O no! no! no!" exclaimed Wildney; "_cannot_ be sent away like this. It
would break my father's heart. Eric, _do_ come and entreat Dr. Rowlands
to forgive us only this once."

"Yes," said Eric, starting up with sudden energy; "he _shall_ forgive
us--_you_ at any rate. I will not leave him till he does. Cheer up,
Charlie, cheer up, and come along."

Filled with an irresistible impulse, he pushed Carter aside, and sprang
down stairs three steps at a time, with Wildney following him. They went
straight for the Doctor's study, and without waiting for the answer to
their knock at the door, Eric walked up to Dr. Rowlands, who sate
thinking in his arm-chair by the fire, and burst out passionately, "O
sir, forgive us this once."

The Doctor was completely taken by surprise, so sudden was the
intrusion, and so intense was the boy's manner. He remained silent a
moment from astonishment, and then said with asperity--

"Your offence is one of the most dangerous possible. There could be no
more perilous example for the school, than the one you have been
setting, Williams. Leave the room," he added, with an authoritative
gesture, "my mind is made up."

But Eric was too excited to be overawed by the master's manner; an
imperious passion blinded him to all ordinary considerations, and,
heedless of the command, he broke out again--

"O sir, try me but once, _only_ try me. I promise you most faithfully
that I will never again commit the sin. O sir, do, do trust me, and I
will be responsible for Wildney too."

Dr. Rowlands, seeing that in Eric's present mood he must and would be
heard, unless he were ejected by actual force, began to pace silently up
and down the room in perplexed and anxious thought; at last he stopped
and turned over the pages of a thick school register, and found
Eric's name.

"It is not your first offence, Williams, even of this very kind. That
most seriously aggravates your fault."

"O sir! give us one more chance to mend. O, I feel that I _could_ do
such great things, if you will be but merciful, and give me time to
change. O, I entreat you, sir, to forgive us only this once, and I will
never ask again. Let us bear _any_ other punishment but this. O sir," he
said, approaching the doctor in an imploring attitude, "spare us this
one time for the sake of our friends."

The head-master made no reply for a time, but again paced the room in
silence. He was touched, and seemed hardly able to restrain his emotion.

"It was my deliberate conclusion to expel you, Williams. I must not
weakly yield to entreaty. You must go."

Eric wrung his hands in agony. "O, sir, then, if you must do so, expel
me only, and not Charlie, _I_ can bear it, but do not let me ruin him
also. O I implore you, sir, for the love of God do, do forgive him. It
is I who have misled him;" and he flung himself on his knees, and lifted
his hands entreatingly towards the Doctor.

Dr. Rowlands looked at him--at his blue eyes drowned with tears, his
agitated gesture, his pale, expressive face, full of passionate
supplication. He looked at Wildney, too, who stood trembling with a look
of painful and miserable suspense, and occasionally added his wild word
of entreaty, or uttered sobs more powerful still, that seemed to come
from the depth of his heart. He was shaken in his resolve, wavered for a
moment, and then once more looked at the register.

"Yes," he said, after a long pause, "here is an entry which shall save
you this time. I find written here against your name, 'April 3. Risked
his life in the endeavor to save Edwin Russell at the Stack.' That one
good and noble deed shall be the proof that you are capable of better
things. It may be weak perhaps--I know that it will be called weak--and
I do not feel certain that I am doing right; but if I err it shall be on
the side of mercy. I shall change expulsion into some other punishment.
You may go."

Wildney's face lighted up as suddenly and joyously as when a ray of
sun-light gleams for an instant out of a dark cloud.

"O thank you, thank you, sir," he exclaimed, drying his eyes, and
pouring into the words a world of expression, which it was no light
pleasure to have heard. But Eric spoke less impulsively, and while the
two boys were stammering out their deep gratitude, a timid hand knocked
at the door, and Vernon entered.

"I have come, sir, to speak for poor Eric," he said in a low voice, and
trembling with emotion, as, with downcast eyes, he modestly approached
towards Dr. Rowlands, not even observing the presence of the others in
the complete absorption of his feelings. He stood in a sorrowful
attitude, not venturing to look up, and his hand played nervously with
the ribbon of his straw hat.

"I have just forgiven him, my little boy," said the Doctor kindly,
patting his stooping head; "there he is, and he has been speaking
for himself."

"O, Eric, I am so, so glad, I don't know what to say for joy. O Eric,
thank God that you are not to be expelled;" and Vernon went to his
brother, and embraced him with the deepest affection.

Dr. Rowlands watched the scene with moist eyes. He was generally a man
of prompt decision, and he well knew that he would incur by this act the
charge of vacillation. It was a noble self-denial in him to be willing
to do so, but it would have required an iron heart to resist such
earnest supplications, and he was more than repaid when he saw how much
anguish he had removed by yielding to their entreaties.

Once more humbly expressing their gratitude, the boys retired.

They did not know that other influences had been also exerted in their
favor, which, although ineffectual at the time, had tended to alter the
Doctor's intention. Immediately after school Mr. Rose had been strongly
endeavoring to change the Doctor's mind, and had dwelt forcibly on all
the good points in Eric's character, and the promise of his earlier
career. And Montagu had gone with Owen and Duncan to beg that the
expulsion might be commuted into some other punishment. They had failed
to convince him; but, perhaps, had they not thus exerted themselves, Dr.
Rowlands might have been unshaken, though he could not be unmoved by
Vernon's gentle intercession and Eric's passionate prayers.

Wildney, full of joy, and excited by the sudden revulsion of feeling,
only shook Eric's hand with all his might, and then darted out into the
playground to announce the happy news. The boys all flocked round him,
and received the intelligence with unmitigated pleasure. Among them all
there was not one who did not rejoice that Eric and Wildney were yet to
continue of their number.

But the two brothers returned to the study, and there, sorrowful in his
penitence, with his heart still aching with remorse, Eric sat down on a
chair facing the window, and drew Vernon to his side. The sun was
setting behind the purple hills, flooding the green fields and silver
sea with the crimson of his parting rays. The air was fall of peace and
coolness, and the merry sounds of the cricket field blended joyously
with the whisper of the evening breeze. Eric was fond of beauty in every
shape, and his father had early taught him a keen appreciation of the
glories of nature. He had often gazed before on that splendid scene, as
he was new gazing on it thoughtfully with his brother by his side. He
looked long and wistfully at the gorgeous pageantry of quiet clouds,
and passed his arm more fondly round Vernon's shoulder.

"What are you thinking of, Eric? Why, I declare you are crying still,"
said Vernon playfully, as he wiped a tear which had overflowed on his
brother's cheek, "aren't you glad that the Doctor has forgiven you?"

"Gladder, far gladder than I can say, Verny. O Verny, Verny, I hope your
school-life may be happier than mine has been. I would give up all I
have, Verny, to have kept free from the sins I have learnt. God grant
that I may yet have time and space to do better."

"Let us pray together, Eric," whispered his brother reverently, and they
knelt down and prayed; they prayed for their distant parents and
friends; they prayed for their schoolfellows and for each other, and for
Wildney, and they thanked God for all his goodness to them; and then
Eric poured out his heart in a fervent prayer that a holier and happier
future might atone for his desecrated past, and that his sins might be
forgiven for his Saviour's sake.

The brothers rose from their knees calmer and more light-hearted, and
gave each other a solemn affectionate kiss, before they went down again
to the play-ground. But they avoided the rest of the boys, and took a
stroll together along the sands, talking quietly, and happily, and
hoping bright hopes for future days.



CHAPTER IX

WHOM THE GODS LOVE DIE YOUNG

     "Oh is it weed, or fish, or floating hair?
     A tress of maiden's hair,
     Of drowned maiden's hair,
     Above the nets at sea?"--KINGSLEY.

Eric and Wildney were flogged and confined to gates for a time instead
of being expelled, and they both bore the punishment in a manly and
penitent way, and set themselves with all their might to repair the
injury which their characters had received. Eric, especially, seemed to
be devoting himself with every energy to regain, if possible, his long
lost position, and by the altered complexion of his remaining
school-life, to atone in some poor measure for its earlier sins. And he
carried Wildney with him, influencing others also of his late companions
in a greater or less degree. It was not Eric's nature to do things by
halves, and it became obvious to all that his exertions to resist and
abandon his old temptations were strenuous and unwavering. He could no
longer hope for the school distinctions, which would have once lain so
easily within his reach, for the ground lost during weeks of idleness
cannot be recovered by a wish; but he succeeded sufficiently, by dint of
desperately hard work, to acquit himself with considerable credit, and
in the Easter examination came out sufficiently high, to secure his
remove into the sixth form after the holidays.

He felt far happier in the endeavor to fulfill his duty, than he had
ever done during the last years of recklessness and neglect, and the
change for the better in his character tended to restore unanimity and
good will to the school. Eric no longer headed the party which made a
point of ridiculing and preventing industry; and, sharing as he did the
sympathy of nearly all the boys, he was able quietly and unobtrusively
to calm down the jealousies and allay the heartburnings which had for so
long a time brought discord and disunion into the school society.
Cheerfulness and unanimity began to prevail once more at Roslyn, and
Eric had the intense happiness of seeing how much good lay still within
his power.

So the Easter holidays commenced with promise, and the few first days
glided away in innocent enjoyments. Eric was now reconciled again to
Owen and Duncan, and, therefore, had a wider choice of companions more
truly congenial to his high nature than the narrow circle of his late
associates.

"What do you say to a boat excursion to-morrow?" asked Duncan, as they
chatted together one evening.

"I won't go without leave," said Eric; "I should only get caught, and
get into another mess. Besides, I feel myself pledged now to strict
obedience."

"Ay, you're quite right. We'll get leave easily enough though, provided
we agree to take Jim the boatman with us; so I vote we make up a party."

"By the bye, I forgot; I'm engaged to Wildney to-morrow."

"Never mind. Bring him with you, and Graham too, if you like."

"Most gladly," said Eric, really pleased; for he saw by this that Duncan
observed the improvement in his old friends, and was falling in with the
endeavor to make all the boys really cordial to each other, and destroy
all traces of the late factions.

"Do you mind my bringing Montagu?"

"Not at all. Why should I?" answered Eric, with a slight blush. Montagu
and he had never been formally reconciled, nor had they, as yet, spoken
to each other. Indeed Duncan had purposely planned the excursion to give
them an opportunity of becoming friends once more, by being thrown
together. He knew well that they both earnestly wished it, although,
with the natural shyness of boys, they hardly knew how to set about
effecting it. Montagu hung back lest he should seem to be patronising a
fallen enemy, and Eric lest he should have sinned too deeply to
be forgiven.

The next morning dawned gloriously, and it was agreed that they should
meet at Starhaven, the point where they were to get the boat, at ten
o'clock. As they had supposed, Dr. Rowlands gave a ready consent to the
row, on condition of their being accompanied by the experienced sailor
whom the boys called Jim. The precaution was by no means unnecessary,
for the various currents which ran round the island were violent at
certain stages of the tide, and extremely dangerous for any who were not
aware of their general course.

Feeling that the day would pass off very unpleasantly if any feeling of
restraint remained between him and Montagu, Eric, by a strong effort,
determined to "make up with him" before starting, and went into his
study for that purpose after breakfast. Directly he came in, Montagu
jumped up and welcomed him cordially, and when, without any allusion to
the past, the two shook hands with all warmth, and looked the old proud
look into each other's faces, they felt once more that their former
affection was unimpaired, and that in heart they were real and loving
friends. Most keenly did they both enjoy the renewed intercourse, and
they found endless subjects to talk about on their way to Starhaven,
where the others were already assembled when they came.

With Jim's assistance they shoved a boat into the water, and sprang into
it in the highest spirits. Just as they were pushing off they saw Wright
and Vernon running down to the shore towards them, and they waited to
see what they wanted. "Couldn't you take us with you?" asked Vernon,
breathless with his run.

"I'm afraid not, Verny," said Montagu; "the boat won't hold more than
six, will it, Jim?"

"No, sir, not safely."

"Never mind, you shall have my place, Verny," said Eric, as he saw his
brother's disappointed look.

"Then Wright shall take mine," said Wildney.

"O dear no," said Wright, "we wouldn't turn you out for the world.
Vernon and I will take an immense walk down the coast instead, and will
meet you here as we come back."

"Well, good bye, then; off we go;" and with light hearts the boaters and
the pedestrians parted.

Eric, Graham, Duncan, and Montagu took the first turn at the oars, while
Wildney steered. Graham's "crabs," and Wildney's rather crooked
steering, gave plenty of opportunity for chaff, and they were full of
fun as the oar-blades splashed and sparkled in the waves. Then they made
Jim sing them some of his old sailor songs as they rowed, and joined
vigorously in the choruses. They had arranged to make straight for St.
Catherine's Head, and land somewhere near it to choose a place for their
pic-nic. It took them nearly two hours to get there, as they rowed
leisurely, and enjoyed the luxury of the vernal air. It was one of the
sunniest days of early spring; the air was pure and delicious, and the
calm sea breeze, just strong enough to make the sea flame and glister in
the warm sunlight, was exhilarating as new wine. Underneath them the
water was transparent as crystal, and far below they could see the green
and purple sea-weeds rising like a many-colored wood, through which
occasionally they saw a fish, startled by their oars, dart like an
arrow. The sky overhead was a cloudless blue, and as they kept not far
from shore, the clearly cut outline of the coast, with its rocks and
hills standing out in the vivid atmosphere, made a glowing picture, to
which the golden green of the spring herbage, bathed in its morning
sunlight, lent the magic of enchantment. Who could have been otherwise
than happy in such a scene and at such a time? but these were boys with
the long bright holiday before them, and happiness is almost too quiet a
word to express the bounding exultation of heart, the royal and tingling
sense of vigorous life, which made them shout and sing, as their boat
rustled through the ripples, from a mere instinct of inexpressible
enjoyment.

They had each contributed some luxury to the pic-nic, and it made a very
tempting display as they spread it out, under a sunny pebbled cave, by
St. Catherine's Head; although, instead of anything more objectionable,
they had thought it best to content themselves with a very moderate
quantity of beer. When they had done eating, they amused themselves on
the shore; and had magnificent games among the rocks, and in every
fantastic nook of the romantic promontory. And then Eric suggested a
bathe to wind up with, as it was the first day when it had been quite
warm enough to make bathing pleasant.

"But we've got no towels."

"Oh! chance the towels. We can run about till we're dry." So they
bathed, and then getting in the boat to row back again, they all agreed
that it was the very jolliest day they'd ever had at Roslyn, and voted
to renew the experiment before the holidays were over, and take Wright
and Vernon with them in a larger boat.

It was afternoon,--and afternoon still warm and beautiful,--when they
began to row home; so they took it quietly, and kept near the land for
variety's sake, laughing, joking, and talking as merrily as ever.

"I declare I think this is the prettiest or anyhow the grandest bit of
the whole coast," said Eric, as they neared a glen through whose narrow
gorge a green and garrulous little river gambolled down with noisy
turbulence into the sea. He might well admire that glen; its steep and
rugged sides were veiled with lichens, moss, and wild-flowers, and the
sea-birds found safe refuge in its lonely windings, which were colored
with topaz and emerald by the pencillings of nature and the rich
stains of time.

"Yes," answered Montagu, "_I_ always stick up for Avon Glen as the
finest scene we've got about here. But, I say, who's that gesticulating
on the rock there to the right of it? I verily believe it's Wright,
apostrophising the ocean for Vernon's benefit. I only see one of
them though."

"I bet you he's spouting

     'Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean--roll!
     Ten thousand fleets, etc.'"

said Graham laughing.

"What do you say to putting in to shore there?" said Duncan; "it's only
two miles to Starhaven, and I dare say we could make shift to take them
in for that distance. If Jim says anything we'll chuck him overboard."

They rowed towards Avon Glen, and to their surprise Wright, who stood
there alone (for with a pocket telescope they clearly made out that it
_was_ Wright), still continued to wave his arms and beckon them in a
manner which they at first thought ridiculous, but which soon make them
feel rather uneasy. Jim took an oar, and they soon got within two
hundred yards of the beach. Wright had ceased to make signals, but
appeared to be shouting to them, and pointing towards one corner of the
glen; but though they caught the sound of his voice they could not hear
what he said.

"I wonder why Vernon isn't with him," said Eric anxiously; "I hope--why,
what _are_ you looking at, Charlie?"

"What's that in the water there?" said Wildney, pointing in the
direction to which Wright was also looking.

Montagu snatched the telescope out of his hand and looked. "Good God!"
he exclaimed, turning pale; "what can be the matter?"

"O _do_ let me look," said Eric.

"No! stop, stop, Eric, you'd better not, I think; pray don't, it may be
all a mistake. You'd better not--but it looked--nay, you really
_mustn't,_ Eric," he said, and, as if accidentally, he let the telescope
fall into the water, and they saw it sink down among the seaweeds at
the bottom.

Eric looked at him reproachfully. "What's the fun of that, Monty? you
let it drop on purpose."

"O never mind; I'll get Wildney another. I really daren't let you look,
for fear you should _fancy_ the same as I did, for it must be fancy. O
_don't_ let us put in there--at least not all of us."

What _was_ that thing in the water?--When Wright and Vernon left the
others, they walked along the coast, following the direction of the
boat, and agreed to amuse themselves in collecting eggs. They were very
successful, and, to their great delight, managed to secure some rather
rare specimens. When they had tired themselves with this pursuit, they
lay on the summit of one of the cliffs which formed the sides of Avon
Glen, and Wright, who was very fond of poetry, read Vernon a canto of
Marmion with great enthusiasm.

So they whiled away the morning, and when the canto was over, Vernon
took a great stone and rolled it for amusement over the cliff's edge. It
thundered over the side, bounding down till it reached the strand, and a
large black cormorant, startled by the reverberating echoes, rose up
suddenly, and flapped its way with protruded neck to a rock on the
further side of the little bay.

"I bet you that animal's got a nest somewhere near here," said Vernon
eagerly. "Come, let's have a look for it; a cormorant's egg would be a
jolly addition to our collection."

They got up, and looking down the face of the cliff, saw, some eight
feet below them, a projection half hidden by the branch of a tree, on
which the scattered pieces of stick clearly showed the existence of a
rude nest. They could not, however, see whether it contained eggs or no.

"I must bag that nest; it's pretty sure to have eggs in it," said
Vernon, "and I can get at it easy enough." He immediately began to
descend towards the place where the nest was built, but he found it
harder than he expected.

"Hallo," he said, "this is a failure. I must climb up again to
reconnoitre if there isn't a better dodge for getting at it." He reached
the top, and, looking down, saw a plan of reaching the ledge which
promised more hope of success.

"You'd better give it up, Verny," said Wright. "I'm sure it's harder
than we fancied, _I_ couldn't manage it, I know."

"O no, Wright, never say die. Look; if I get down more towards the right
the way's plain enough, and I shall have reached the nest in no time."
Again his descended in a different direction, but again he failed. The
nest could only be seen from the top, and he had lost the right route.

"You must keep more to the right."

"I know," answered Vernon; "but, bother take it, I can't manage it, now
I'm so far down. I must climb up _again_."

"_Do_ give it up, Verny, there's a good fellow. You _can't_ reach it,
and really it's dangerous."

"O no, not a bit of it. My head's very steady, and I feel as cool as
possible. We mustn't give up; I've only to get at the tree, and then I
shall be able to reach the nest from it quite easily."

"Well, do take care, that's a dear fellow."

"Never fear," said Vernon, who was already commencing his third attempt.
This time he got to the tree, and placed his foot on a part of the root,
while with his hands he clung on to a clump of heather. "Hurrah!" he
cried, "it's got two eggs in it, Wright;" and he stretched downwards to
take them. Just as he was doing so, he heard the root on which his foot
rested give a great crack, and with a violent start he made a spring for
one of the lower branches. The motion caused his whole weight to rest
for an instant on his arms;--unable to sustain the wrench, the heather
gave way, and with a wild shriek he fell headlong down the surface of
the cliff.

With, a wild shriek!--but silence followed it.

"Vernon! Vernon!" shouted the terrified Wright, creeping close up to the
edge of the precipice. "O Vernon! for heaven's sake speak!"

There was no answer, and leaning over, Wright saw the young boy
outstretched on the stones three hundred feet below. For some minutes he
was horrorstruck beyond expression, and made wild attempts to descend
the cuff and reach him. But he soon gave up the attempt in despair.
There was a tradition in the school that the feat had once been
accomplished by an adventurous and active boy, but Wright at any rate
found it hopeless for himself. The only other way to reach the glen was
by a circuitous route which led to the entrance of the narrow gorge,
along the sides of which it was possible to make way with difficulty
down the bank of the river to the place where it met the sea. But this
would have taken him an hour and a half, and was far from easy when the
river was swollen with high tide. Nor was there any house within some
distance at which assistance could be procured, and Wright, in a tumult
of conflicting emotions, determined to wait where he was, on the chance
of seeing the boat as it returned from St. Catherine's Head. It was
already three o'clock, and he knew that they could not now be longer
than an hour at most; so with eager eyes he sat watching the headland,
round which he knew they would first come in sight. He watched with wild
eager eyes, absorbed in the one longing desire to catch sight of them;
but the leaden-footed moments crawled on like hours, and he could not
help shivering with agony and fear. At last he caught a glimpse of them,
and springing up, began to shout at the top of his voice, and wave his
handkerchief and his arms in the hope of attracting their attention.
Little thought those blithe merry-hearted boys in the midst of the happy
laughter which they sent ringing over the waters, little they thought
how terrible a tragedy awaited them.

At last Wright saw that they had perceived him, and were putting inland,
and now, in his fright, he hardly knew what to do; but feeling sure that
they could not fail to see Vernon, he ran off as fast as he could to
Starhaven, where he rapidly told the people at a farm-house what had
happened, and asked them to get a cart ready to convey the wounded boy
to Roslyn school.

Meanwhile the tide rolled in calmly and quietly in the rosy evening,
radiant with the diamond and gold of reflected sunlight and transparent
wave. Gradually gently it crept up to the place where Vernon lay; and
the little ripples fell over him wonderingly, with the low murmur of
their musical laughter, and blurred and dimmed the vivid splashes and
crimson streaks upon the white stone on which his head had fallen, and
washed away some of the purple bells and green sprigs of heather round
which his fingers were closed in the grasp of death, and played softly
with his fair hair as it rose, and fell, and floated on their
undulations like a leaf of golden-colored weed, until they themselves
were faintly discolored by his blood. And then, tired with their new
plaything, they passed on, until the swelling of the water was just
strong enough to move rudely the boy's light weight, and in a few
moments more would have tossed it up and down with every careless wave
among the boulders of the glen. And then it was that Montagu's
horror-stricken gaze had identified the object at which they had been
gazing. In strange foreboding silence they urged on the boat, while Eric
at the prow seemed wild with the one intense impulse to verify his
horrible suspicion. The suspicion grew and grew:--it _was_ a boy lying
in the water;--it was Vernon;--he was motionless;--he must have fallen
there from the cliff.

Eric could endure the suspense no longer. The instant that the boat
grated on the shingle, he sprang into the water, and rushed to the spot
where his brother's body lay. With a burst of passionate affection, he
flung himself on his knees beside it, and took the cold hand in his
own--the little rigid hand in which the green blades of grass, and fern,
and heath, so tightly clutched, were unconscious of the tale they told.

"Oh Verny, Verny, darling Verny, speak to me!" he cried in anguish, as
he tenderly lifted up the body, and marked how little blood had flowed.
But the child's head fell back heavily, and his arms hung motionless
beside him, and with a shriek, Eric suddenly caught the look of dead
fixity in his blue open eyes.

The others had come up. "O God, save my brother, save him, save him from
death," cried Eric, "I cannot live without him. Oh God! Oh God! Look!
look!" he continued, "he has fallen from the cliff with his head on this
cursed stone," pointing to the block of quartz, still red with
blood-stained hair; "but we must get a doctor. He is not dead! no, no,
no, he _cannot_ be dead. Take him quickly, and let us row home. Oh God!
why did I ever leave him?"

The boys drew round in a frightened circle, and lifted Vernon's corpse
into the boat; and then, while Eric still supported the body, and
moaned, and called to him in anguish, and chafed his cold pale brow and
white hands, and kept saying that he had fainted and was not dead, the
others rowed home with all speed, while a feeling of terrified anxiety
lay like frost upon their hearts.

They reached Starhaven, and got into the cart with the lifeless boy, and
heard from Wright how the accident had taken place. Few boys were about
the play-ground, so they got unnoticed to Roslyn, and Dr. Underhay, who
had been summoned, was instantly in attendance. He looked at Vernon for
a moment, and then shook his head in a way that could not be mistaken.
Eric saw it, and flung himself with uncontrollable agony on his
brother's corpse. "O Vernon, Vernon, my own dear brother! oh God, then
he is dead." And, unable to endure the blow, he fainted away.

I cannot dwell on the miserable days that followed, when the very sun
in heaven seemed dark to poor Eric's wounded and crushed spirit. He
hardly knew how they went by. And when they buried Vernon in the little
green churchyard by Russell's side, and the patter of the earth upon the
coffin--that most terrible of all sounds--struck his ear, the iron
entered into his soul, and he had but one wish as he turned away from
the open grave, and that was, soon to lie beside his beloved little
brother and to be at rest.



CHAPTER X

THE LAST TEMPTATION

     [Greek: 'Ae d' Atae sthenazae te chai 'aztipos sunecha pasas
     Pollou 'upechpzotheei, phthaneei d' de te pasan ep' aiach
     Blaptous' anthxopous.] Hom Il. ix. 505.

Time, the great good angel, Time, the merciful healer, assuaged the
violence of Eric's grief, which seemed likely to settle down into a
sober sadness. At first his letters to his parents and to Fairholm were
almost unintelligible in their fierce abandonment of sorrow; but they
grew calmer in time,--and while none of his school-fellows ever ventured
in his presence to allude to Vernon, because of the emotion which the
slightest mention of him excited, yet he rarely wrote any letters to his
relations in which he did not refer to his brother's death, in language
which grew at length both manly and resigned.

A month after, in the summer term, he was sitting alone in his study in
the afternoon (for he could not summon up spirit enough to play
regularly at cricket), writing a long letter to his aunt. He spoke
freely and unreservedly of his past errors,--more freely than he had
ever done before,--and expressed not only deep penitence, but even
strong hatred of his previous unworthy courses. "I can hardly even yet
realize," he added, "that I am alone here, and that I am writing to my
aunt Trevor about the death of my brother, my noble, only brother,
Vernon. Oh how my whole soul yearns towards him. I _must_ be a better
boy, I _will_ be better than I have been, in the hopes of meeting him
again. Indeed, indeed, dear aunt, though I have been so guilty, I am
laying aside, with all my might, idleness and all bad habits, and doing
my very best to redeem the lost years. I do hope that the rest of my
time at Roslyn will be more worthily spent than any of it has been
as yet."

He finished the sentence, and laid his pen down to think, gazing quietly
on the blue hills and sunlit sea. A feeling of hope and repose stole
over him;--when suddenly he saw at the door, which was ajar, the leering
eyes and villainously cunning countenance of Billy.

"What do you want?" he said angrily, casting at the intruder a look of
intense disgust.

"Beg pardon, sir," said the man, pulling his hair. "Anything in my line,
sir, to-day?"

"No!" answered Eric, rising up in a gust of indignation. "What business
have you here? Get away instantly."

"Not had much custom from you lately, sir," said the man.

"What do you mean by having the insolence to begin talking to me? If you
don't make yourself scarce at once, I'll--"

"O well," said the man; "if it comes to that, I've business enough.
Perhaps you'll just pay me this debt," he continued, changing his
fawning manner into a bullying swagger. "I've waited long enough."

Eric, greatly discomfited, took the dirty bit of paper. It purported to
be a bill for various items of drink, all of which Eric _knew_ to have
been paid for, and among other things, a charge of £6 for the dinner at
the "Jolly Herring."

"Why, you villain, these have all been paid. What! six pounds for the
dinner! Why Brigson collected the subscriptions to pay for it before it
took place."

"That's now't to me, sir. He never paid me; and as you was the young
gen'lman in the cheer, I comes to you."

_Now_ Eric knew for the first time what Brigson had meant by his
threatened revenge. He saw at once that the man had been put up to act
in this way by some one, and had little doubt that Brigson was the
instigator. Perhaps it might be even true, as the man said, that he had
never received the money. Brigson was quite wicked enough to have
embezzled it for his own purposes.

"Go," he said to the man; "you shall have the money in a week."

"And mind it bean't more nor a week. I don't chuse to wait for my money
no more," said Billy, impudently, as he retired with an undisguised
chuckle, which very nearly made Eric kick him down stairs.

What was to be done? To mention the subject to Owen or Montagu, who were
best capable of advising him, would have been to renew the memory of
unpleasant incidents, which he was most anxious to obliterate from the
memory of all. He had not the moral courage to face the natural
consequences of his past misconduct, and was now ashamed to speak of
what he had not then been ashamed to do. He told Graham and Wildney, who
were the best of his old associates, and they at once agreed that _they_
ought to be responsible for at least a share of the debt. Still, between
them they could only muster three pounds out of the six which were
required, and the week had half elapsed before there seemed any prospect
of extrication from the difficulty; so Eric daily grew more miserable
and dejected.

A happy thought struck him. He would go and explain the source of his
trouble to Mr. Rose, his oldest, his kindest, his wisest friend. To him
he could speak without scruple and without reserve, and from him he knew
that he would receive nothing but the noblest advice and the
warmest sympathy.

He went to him after prayers that night, and told his story.

"Ah, Eric, Eric!" said Mr. Rose; "you see, my boy, that sin and
punishment are twins."

"O but, sir, I was just striving so hard to amend, and it seems cruel
that I should receive at once so sad a check."

"There is only one way that I see, Eric. You must write home for the
money, and confess the truth to them honestly, as you have to me."

It was a hard course for Eric's proud and loving heart to write and tell
his aunt the full extent of his guilt. But he did it faithfully,
extenuating nothing, and entreating her, as she loved him, to send the
money by return of post.

It came, and with it a letter full of deep and gentle affection. Mrs.
Trevor knew her nephew's character, and did not add by reproaches to the
bitterness which she perceived he had endured; she simply sent him the
money, and told him, that in spite of his many failures, "she still had
perfect confidence in the true heart of her dear boy."

Touched by the affection which all seemed to be showing him, it became
more and more the passionate craving of Eric's soul to be worthy of that
love. But it is far, far harder to recover a lost path than to keep in
the right one all along; and by one more terrible fall, the poor erring
boy was to be taught for the last time the fearful strength of
temptation, and the only source in earth and heaven from which
deliverance can come. Theoretically he knew it, but as yet not
practically. Great as his trials had been, and deeply as he had
suffered, it was God's will that he should pass through a yet fiercer
flame ere he could be purified from pride and passion and
self-confidence, and led to the cross of a suffering Saviour, there to
fling himself down in heart-rending humility, and cast his great load of
cares and sins upon Him who cared for him through all his wanderings,
and was leading him back through thorny places to the green pastures and
still waters, where at last he might have rest.

The money came, and walking off straight to the Jolly Herring, he dashed
it down on the table before Billy, and imperiously bade him write a
receipt. The man did so, but with so unmistakable an air of cunning and
triumph that Eric was both astonished and dismayed. Could the miscreant
have any further plot against him? At first he fancied that Billy might
attempt to extort money by a threat of telling Dr. Rowlands; but this
supposition he banished as unlikely since it might expose Billy himself
to very unpleasant consequences. Eric snatched the receipt, and said
contemptuously, "Never come near me again; next time you come up to the
studies I'll tell Carter to turn you out."

"Ho, ho, ho!" sneered Billy. "How mighty we young gents are all of a
sudden. Unless you buy of me sometimes, you shall hear of me again;
never fear, young gen'lman." He shouted out the latter words, for Eric
had turned scornfully on his heel, and was already in the street.
Obviously more danger was to be apprehended from this quarter. At first
the thought of it was disquieting, but three weeks glided away, and
Eric, now absorbed heart and soul in school work, began to remember it
as a mere vague and idle threat. But one afternoon, to his horror, he
again heard Billy's step on the stairs, and again saw the hateful
iniquitous face at the door.

"Not much custom from you lately, sir," said Billy, mockingly. "Anything
in my line to-day."

"Didn't I tell you never to come near me again, you foul villain? Go
this instant, or I'll call Carter;" and, opening the window, he prepared
to put his threat into execution.

"Ho, ho, ho! Better look at summat I've got first." It was a printed
notice to the following effect--

"FIVE POUNDS REWARD.

"WHEREAS some evil-disposed persons stole some pigeons on the evening of
April 6th from the Rev. H. Gordon's premises; the above reward will be
given for any such information as may lead to the apprehension of the
offenders."

Soon after the seizure of the pigeons there had been a rumor that Gordon
had offered a reward of this kind, but the matter had been forgotten,
and the boys had long fancied their secret secure, though at first they
had been terribly alarmed.

"What do you show me that for?" he asked, reddening and then growing
pale again.

Billy's only answer was to pass his finger slowly along the words "Five
pounds reward!"

"Well?"

"I thinks I knows who took them pigeons."

"What's that to me?"

"Ho, ho, ho! that's a good un," was Billy's reply; and he continued to
cackle as though enjoying a great joke.

"Unless you gives me five pound, anyhow, I knows where to get 'em. I
know who them evil-disposed persons be! So I'll give ye another week
to decide."

Billy shambled off in high spirits; but Eric sank back into his chair.
Five pounds! The idea haunted him. How could he ever get them? To write
home again was out of the question. The Trevors, though liberal, were
not rich, and after just sending him so large a sum, it was impossible,
he thought, that they should send him five pounds more at his mere
request. Besides, how could he be sure that Billy would not play upon
his fears to extort further sums? And to explain the matter to them
fully was more than he could endure. He remembered now how easily his
want of caution might have put Billy in possession of the secret, and
he knew enough of the fellow's character to feel quite sure of the use
he would be inclined to make of it. Oh how he cursed that hour of folly!

Five pounds! He began to think of what money he could procure. He
thought again and again, but it was no use; only one thing was clear--he
_had_, not the money, and could not get it. Miserable boy! It was too
late then! for him repentance was to be made impossible; every time he
attempted it he was to be thwarted by some fresh discovery. And, leaning
his head on his open palms, poor Eric sobbed like a child.

Five pounds! And all this misery was to come upon him for the want of
five pounds! Expulsion was _certain_, was _inevitable_ now, and perhaps
for Wildney too as well as for himself. After all his fine promises in
his letters home,--yes, that reminded him of Vernon. The grave had not
closed for a month over one brother, and the other would be _expelled_.
Oh misery, misery! He was sure it would break his mother's heart. Oh how
cruel everything was to him!

Five pounds--he wondered whether Montagu would lend it him, or any other
boy? But then it was late in the quarter, and all the boys would have
spent the money they brought with them from home. There was no chance of
any one having five pounds, and to a master he _dare_ not apply, not
even to Mr. Rose. The offence was too serious to be overlooked, and if
noticed at all, he fancied that, after his other delinquencies, it
_must_, as a matter of notoriety, be visited with expulsion. He could
not face that bitter thought; he could not thus bring open disgrace upon
his father's and his brother's name; this was the fear which kept
recurring to him with dreadful iteration.

By the bye, he remembered that if he had continued captain of the
school eleven, he would have had easy command of the money by being
treasurer of the cricket subscriptions. But at Vernon's death he lost
all interest in cricket for a time, and had thrown up his office, to
which Montagu had been elected by the general suffrage.

He wondered whether there was as much as five pounds of the
cricketing-money left? He knew that the box which contained it was in
Montagu's study, and he also knew where the key was kept. It was merely
a feeling of curiosity--he would go and look.

All this passed through Eric's mind as he sat in his study after Billy
had gone. It was a sultry summer day; all the study-doors were open, and
all their occupants were absent in the cricket-field, or bathing. He
stole into Montagu's study, hastily got the key, and took down the box.

"O put it down, put it down, Eric," said Conscience; "what business have
you with it?"

"Pooh! it is merely curiosity; as if I couldn't trust myself!"

"Put it down," repeated Conscience authoritatively, deigning no longer
to argue or entreat.

Eric hesitated, and did put down the box; but he did not instantly leave
the room. He began to look at Montagu's books, and then out of the
window. The gravel play-ground was deserted, he noticed, for the
cricket-field. Nobody was near, therefore. Well, what of that? he was
doing no harm.

"Nonsense! I _will_ just look and see if there's five pounds in the
cricket-box." Slowly at first he put out his hand, and then, hastily
turning the key, opened the box. It contained three pounds in gold, and
a quantity of silver. He began to count the silver, putting it on the
table, and found that it made up three pounds ten more. "So that,
altogether, there's six pounds ten; that's thirty shillings more than
...and it won't be wanted till next summer term, because all the bats
and balls are bought now. I daresay Montagu won't even open the box
again. I know he keeps it stowed away in a corner, and hardly ever looks
at it, and I can put back the five pounds the very first day of next
term, and it will save me from expulsion."

Very slowly Eric took the three sovereigns and put them in his pocket,
and then he took up one of the heaps of shillings and sixpences which he
had counted, and dropped them also into his trousers; they fell into the
pocket with a great jingle....

"Eric, you are a thief!" He thought he heard his brother Vernon's voice
utter the words thrillingly distinct; but it was conscience who had
borrowed the voice, and, sick with horror, he began to shake the money
out of his pockets again into the box. He was only just in time; he had
barely locked the box, and put it in its place, when he heard the sound
of voices and footsteps on the stairs. He had no time to take out the
key and put it back where he found it, and had hardly time to slip into
his own study again, when the boys had reached the landing.

They were Duncan and Montagu, and as they passed the door, Eric
pretended to be plunged in books.

"Hallo, Eric! grinding as usual," said Duncan, good-humoredly; but he
only got a sickly smile in reply.

"What! are you the only fellow in the studies?" asked Montagu. "I was
nearly sure I heard some one moving about as we came up stairs."

"I don't think there's any one here but me," said Eric, "and I'm going a
walk now."

He closed his books with, a bang, flew down stairs, and away through the
play-ground towards the shore But he could not so escape his thoughts.
"Eric, you are a thief! Eric, you are a thief!" rang in his ear. "Yes,"
he thought; "I am even a thief. Oh, good God, yes, _even_ a _thief_, for
I _had_ actually stolen the money, until I changed my mind. What if they
should discover the key in the box, knowing that I was the only fellow
up stairs? Oh, mercy, mercy, mercy!"

It was a lonely place, and he flung himself, with his face hid in the
coarse grass, trying to cool the wild burning of his brow. And as he
lay, he thrust his hand into the guilty pocket. Good heavens! there was
something still there. He pulled it out; it was a sovereign! Then he WAS
a thief, even actually. Oh, everything was against him; and, starting to
his feet, he flung the accursed gold over the rocks far into the sea.

When he got home he felt so inconceivably wretched that, unable to work,
he begged leave to go to bed at once. It was long before he fell asleep;
but when he did, the sleep was more terrible than the haunted
wakefulness. For he had no rest from tormenting and horrid dreams.
Brigson and Billy, their bodies grown to gigantic proportions, and their
faces fierce with demoniacal wickedness, seemed to be standing over him,
and demanding five pounds on pain of death. Flights of pigeons darkening
the air, settled on him, and flapped about him. He fled from them madly
through the dark midnight, but many steps pursued him. He saw Mr. Rose,
and running up, seized him by the hand, and implored protection. But in
his dream Mr. Rose turned from him with a cold look of sorrowful
reproach. And then he saw Wildney, and cried out to him, "O Charlie,
save me;" but Charlie ran away, saying, "Williams, you are a thief!" and
then a chorus of voices took up that awful cry, voices of expostulation,
voices of contempt, voices of indignation, voices of menace; they took
up the cry, and repeated and re-echoed it; but, most unendurable of all,
there were voices of wailing and voices of gentleness among them, and
his soul died within him as he caught, amid the confusion of condemning
sounds, the voices of Russell and Vernon, and they, too, were saying to
him, in tender pity and agonized astonishment, "Eric, Eric, you are
a thief!"



CHAPTER XI

REAPING THE WHIRLWIND

     "For alas! alas! with me
      The light of life is o'er;
     No more--no more--no more
     (Such language holds the solemn sea
      To the sands upon the shore)
     Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
      Or the stricken eagle soar!"

     EDGAR A. POE.

The landlord of the Jolly Herring had observed during his visits to
Eric, that at mid-day the studies were usually deserted, and the doors
for the most part left unlocked. He very soon determined to make use of
this knowledge for his own purposes, and as he was well acquainted with
the building (in which for a short time he had been a servant), he laid
his plans without the least dread of discovery.

There was a back entrance into Roslyn school behind the chapel, and it
could be reached by a path through the fields without any chance of
being seen, if a person set warily to work and watched his opportunity.
By this path Billy came, two days after his last visit, and walked
straight up the great staircase, armed with the excuse of business with
Eric in case any one met or questioned him. But no one was about, since
between twelve and one the boys were pretty sure to be amusing
themselves out of doors; and after glancing into each of the studies,
Billy finally settled on searching Montagu's (which was the neatest and
best furnished), to see what he could get.

The very first thing which caught his experienced eye was the
cricket-fund box, with the key temptingly in the lock, just where Eric
had left it when the sounds of some one coming had startled him. In a
moment Billy had made a descent on the promising-looking booty, and
opening his treasure, saw, with lively feelings of gratification, the
unexpected store of silver and gold. This he instantly transferred to
his own pocket, and then replacing the box where he had found it,
decamped with the spoil unseen, leaving the study in all other respects
exactly as he had found it.

Meanwhile the unhappy Eric was tossed and agitated with apprehension and
suspense. Unable to endure his misery in loneliness, he had made several
boys to a greater or less degree participators in the knowledge of his
difficult position, and in the sympathy which his danger excited, the
general nature of his dilemma with Billy (though not its special
circumstances) was soon known through the school.

At the very time when the money was being stolen, Eric was sitting with
Wildney and Graham under the ruin by the shore, and the sorrow which lay
at his heart was sadly visible in the anxious expression of his face,
and the deep dejection of his attitude and manner.

The other two were trying to console him. They suggested every possible
topic of hope; but it was too plain that there was nothing to be said,
and that Eric had real cause to fear the worst. Yet though their
arguments were futile, he keenly felt the genuineness of their
affection, and it brought a little alleviation to his heavy mood.

"Well, well; at least _do_ hope the best, Eric," said Graham.

"Yes!" urged Wildney; "only think, dear old fellow, what lots of worse
scrapes we've been in before, and how we've always managed to get out of
them somehow."

"No, my boy; not worse scrapes," answered Eric. "Depend upon it this is
the last for me; I shall not have the chance of getting into another at
_Roslyn_, anyhow."

"Poor Eric! what shall I do if you leave?" said Wildney, putting his arm
round Eric's neck. "Besides it's all my fault, hang it, that you got
into this cursed row."

     "'The curse is come upon, me, cried
     The Lady of Shallott,'

"those words keep ringing in my ears," murmured Eric.

"Well, Eric, if _you_ are sent away, I know I shall get my father to
take me too, and then we'll join each other somewhere. Come, cheer up,
old boy--being sent isn't such a very frightful thing after all."

"No" said Graham; "and besides, the bagging of the pigeons was only a
lark, when one comes to think of it. It wasn't like stealing, you know;
_that_'d be quite a different thing."

Eric winced visibly at this remark, but his companions did not notice
it. "Ah," thought he, "there's _one_ passage of my life which I never
shall be able to reveal to any human soul."

"Come now, Eric," said Wildney, "I've got something to propose. You
shall play cricket to-day; you haven't played for an age, and it's high
time you should. If you don't you'll go mooning about the shore all day,
and that'll never do, for you'll come back glummer than ever."

"No!" said Eric, with a heavy sigh, as the image of Vernon instantly
passed through his mind; "no more cricket for me."

"Nay, but you _must_ play to-day. Come, you shan't say no. You won't say
no to me, will you, dear old fellow?" And Wildney looked up to him with
that pleasant smile, and the merry light in his dark eyes, which had
always been so charming to Eric's fancy.

"There's no refusing you," said Eric with the ghost of a laugh, as he
boxed Wildney's ears. "O you dear little rogue, Charlie, I wish I
were you."

"Pooh! pooh! now you shan't get sentimental again. As if you wern't
fifty times better than me every way. I'm sure I don't know how I shall
ever love you enough, Eric," he added more seriously, "for all your
kindness to me."

"I'm so glad you're going to play, though," said Graham; "and so will
everybody be; and I'm certain it'll be good for you. The game will
divert your thoughts."

So that afternoon Eric, for the first time since Verny's death, played
with the first eleven, of which he had been captain. The school cheered
him vigorously as he appeared again on the field, and the sound lighted
up his countenance with some gleam of its old joyousness. When one
looked at him that day with his straw hat on and its neat light-blue
ribbon, and the cricket dress (a pink jersey and leather belt, with a
silver clasp in front), showing off his well-built and graceful figure,
one little thought what an agony was gnawing like a serpent at his
heart. But that day, poor boy, in the excitement of the game he half
forgot it himself, and more and more as the game went on.

The other side, headed by Montagu, went in first, and Eric caught out
two, and bowled several. Montagu was the only one who stayed in long,
and when at last Eric sent his middle wicket flying with a magnificent
ball, the shouts of "well bowled! well bowled _indeed_," were universal.

"Just listen to that, Eric," said Montagu; "why, you're out-doing every
body to-day, yourself included, and taking us by storm."

"Wait till you see me come out for a duck," said Eric laughing.

"Not you. You're too much in luck to come out with a duck," answered
Montagu. "You see I've already become the Homer of your triumphs, and
vaticinate in rhyme."

And now it was Eric's turn to go in. It was long since he had stood
before the wicket, but now he was there, looking like a beautiful
picture as the sunlight streamed over him, and made his fair hair shine
like gold. In the triumph of success his sorrows were flung to the
winds, and his blue eyes sparkled with interest and joy.

He contented himself with blocking Duncan's balls until his eye was in;
but then, acquiring confidence, he sent them flying right and left. His
score rapidly mounted, and there seemed no chance of getting him out, so
that there was every probability of his carrying out his bat.

"Oh, _well_ hit! _well_ hit! A three'r for Eric," cried Wildney to the
scorer; and he began to clap his hands and dance about with excitement
at his friend's success.

"Oh, well hit! well hit in--deed!" shouted all the lookers on, as Eric
caught the next ball half-volley, and sent it whizzing over the hedge,
getting a sixer by the hit.

At the next ball they heard a great crack, and he got no run, for the
handle of his bat broke right off.

"How unlucky!" he said, flinging down the handle with vexation. "I
believe this was our best bat."

"Oh, never mind," said Montagu; "we can soon get another; we've got lots
of money in the box."

What had come over Eric? if there had been a sudden breath of poison in
the atmosphere he could hardly have been more affected than he was by
Montagu's simple remark. Montagu could not help noticing it, but at the
time merely attributed it to some unknown gust of feeling, and made no
comment. But Eric, hastily borrowing another bat, took his place again
quite tamely; he was trembling, and at the very next ball, he spooned a
miserable catch into Graham's hand, and the shout of triumph from the
other side proclaimed that his innings was over.

He walked dejectedly to the pavilion for his coat, and the boys, who
were seated in crowds about it, received him, of course, after his
brilliant score, with loud and continued plaudits. But the light had
died away from his face and figure, and he never raised his eyes from
the ground.

"Modest Eric!" said Wildney chaffingly, "you don't acknowledge your
honors."

Eric dropped his bat in the corner, put his coat across his arm, and
walked away. As he passed Wildney, he stooped down and whispered again
in a low voice--

     "'The curse has come upon me, cried
     The Lady of Shallott.'"

"Hush, Eric, nonsense," whispered Wildney; "you're not going away," he
continued aloud, as Eric turned towards the school. "Why, there are only
two more to go in!"

"Yes, thank you, I must go."

"Oh, then, I'll come too."

Wildney at once joined his friend. "There's nothing more the matter, is
there?" he asked anxiously, when they were out of hearing of the rest.

"God only knows."

"Well, let's change the subject. You've being playing brilliantly, old
fellow."

"Have I?"

"I should just think so, only you got out in rather a stupid way."

"Ah well! it matters very little."

Just at this moment one of the servants handed Eric a kind note from
Mrs. Rowlands, with whom he was a very great favorite, asking him to tea
that night. He was not very surprised, for he had been several times
lately, and the sweet womanly kindness which she always showed him
caused him the greatest pleasure. Besides, she had known his mother.

"Upon my word, honors _are_ being showered on you!" said Wildney. "First
to get _the_ score of the season at cricket, and bowl out about half the
other side, and then go to tea with the head-master. Upon my word! Why
any of us poor wretches would give our two ears for such distinctions.
Talk of curse indeed! Fiddlestick end!"

But Eric's sorrow lay too deep for chaff, and only answering with a
sigh, he went to dress for tea.

Just before tea-time Duncan, and Montagu strolled in together. "How
splendidly Eric played," said Duncan.

"Yes, indeed. I'm so glad. By the bye, I must see about getting a new
bat. I don't know exactly how much money we've got, but I know there's
plenty. Let's come and see."

They entered his study, and he looked about everywhere for the key.
"Hallo," he said, "I'm nearly sure I left it in the corner of this
drawer, under some other things; but it isn't there now. What can have
become of it?"

"Where's the box?" said Duncan; "let's see if any of my keys will fit
it. Hallo! why _you're_ a nice treasurer, Monty! here's the key _in_
the box!"

"No, is it though?" asked Montagu, looking serious. "Here, give it me; I
hope nobody's been meddling with it."

He opened it quickly, and stood in dumb and blank amazement to see it
empty.

"Phew-w-w-w!" Montagu gave a long whistle.

"By Jove!" was Duncan's only comment.

The boys looked at each other, but neither dared to express what was in
his thoughts.

"A bad, bad business! what's to be done, Monty?"

"I'll rush straight down to tea, and ask the fellows about it. Would you
mind requesting Rose not to come in for five minutes? Tell him there's
a row."

He ran down stairs hastily and entered the tea-room, where the boys were
talking in high spirits about the match, and liberally praising
Eric's play.

"I've got something unpleasant to say," he announced, raising his voice.

"Hush! hush! hush! what's the row?" asked half a dozen at once.

"The whole of the cricket money, some six pounds at least, has vanished
from the box in my study!"

For an instant the whole room was silent; Wildney and Graham
interchanged anxious glances.

"Does any fellow know anything about this?"

All, or most, had a vague suspicion, but no one spoke.

"Where is Williams?" asked one of the sixth form casually.

"He's taking tea with the Doctor," said Wildney.

Mr. Rose came in, and there was no opportunity for more to be said,
except in confidential whispers.

Duncan went up with Owen and Montagu to their study. "What's to be
done?" was the general question.

"I think we've all had a lesson once before not to suspect too hastily.
Still, in a matter like this," said Montagu, "one _must_ take notice of
apparent cues."

"I know what you're thinking of, Monty," said Duncan.

"Well, then, did you hear anything when you and I surprised Eric
suddenly two days ago?"

"I heard some one moving about in your study, as I thought."

"I heard more--though at the time it didn't strike me particularly. I
distinctly heard the jingle of money."

"Well, it's no good counting up suspicious circumstances; we must _ask_
him about it, and act accordingly.'

"Will he come up to the studies again to-night?"

"I think not," said Owen; "I notice he generally goes straight to bed
after he has been out to tea; that's to say, directly after prayers."

The three sat there till prayer-time taciturn and thoughtful. Their
books were open, but they did little work, and it was evident that
Montagu was filled with the most touching grief. During the evening he
drew out a little likeness which Eric had given him, and looked at it
long and earnestly. "Is it possible?" he thought. "Oh Eric! can that
face be the face of a thief?"

The prayer-bell dispelled his reverie. Eric entered with the Rowlands,
and sat in his accustomed place. He had spent a pleasant, quiet evening,
and, little knowing what had happened, felt far more cheerful and
hopeful than he had done before, although he was still ignorant how to
escape the difficulty which threatened him.

He couldn't help observing that as he entered he was the object of
general attention; but he attributed it either to his playing that day,
or to the circumstances in which he was placed by Billy's treachery, of
which he knew that many boys were now aware. But when prayers were over,
and he saw that every one shunned him, or looked and spoke in the
coldest manner, his most terrible fears revived.

He went off to his dormitory, and began to undress. As he sat half
abstracted on his bed doing nothing Montagu and Duncan entered, and he
started to see them, for they were evidently the bearers of some serious
intelligence.

"Eric," said Duncan, "do you know that some one has stolen all the
cricket money?"

"Stolen--what--_all_?" he cried, leaping up as if he had been shot. "Oh,
what new retribution is this?" and he hid his face, which had turned
ashy pale, in his hands.

"To cut matters short, Eric, do you know anything about it?"

"If it is all gone, it is not I who stole it," he said, not lifting his
head.

"Do you know anything about it?"

"No!" he sobbed convulsively. "No, no, no! Yet stop; don't let me add a
lie.... Let me think. No, Duncan!" he said, looking up, "I do _not_ know
who stole it."

They stood silent, and the tears were stealing down Montagu's averted
face.

"O Duncan, Monty, be merciful, be merciful," said Eric. "Don't _yet_
condemn me. _I_ am guilty, not of _this_, but of something as bad. I
admit I was tempted; but if the money really is all gone, it is _not_ I
who am the thief."

"You must know, Eric, that the suspicion against you is very strong, and
rests on some definite facts."

"Yes, I know it must. Yet, oh, do be merciful, and don't yet condemn me.
I have denied it. Am I a liar Monty? Oh Monty, Monty, believe me
in this"

But the boys still stood silent.

"Well, then," he said, "I will tell you all. But I can only tell it to
you, Monty. Duncan, indeed you mustn't be angry; you are my friend, but
not so much as Monty. I can tell him, and him only."

Duncan left the room, and Montagu sat down beside Eric on the bed, and
put his arm round him to support him, for he shook violently. There,
with deep and wild emotion, and many interruptions of passionate
silence, Eric told to Montagu his miserable tale. "I am the most
wretched fellow living," he said; "there must be some fiend that hates
me, and drives me to ruin. But let it all come; I care nothing, nothing,
what happens to me now. Only, dear, dear Monty, forgive me, and love
me still."

"O Eric, it is not for one like me to talk of forgiveness; you were
sorely tempted. Yet God will forgive you if you ask him. Won't you pray
to him to-night? I love you, Eric, still, with all my heart, and do you
think God can be less kind than man? And _I_, too, will pray for you,
Eric. Good night, and God bless you" He gently disengaged himself--for
Eric clung to him, and seemed unwilling to lose sight of him--and a
moment after he was gone.

Eric felt terribly alone. He knelt down and tried to pray, but somehow
it didn't seem as if the prayer came from his heart, and his thoughts
began instantly to wander far away. Still he knelt--knelt even until his
candle had gone out, and he had nearly fallen asleep, thought-wearied,
on his knees. And then he got into bed still dressed. He had been making
up his mind that he could bear it no longer, and would run away to sea
that night.

He waited till eleven, when Dr. Rowlands took his rounds. The Doctor
had been told all the circumstances of suspicion, and they amounted in
his mind to certainty. It made him very sad, and he stopped to look at
the boy from whom he had parted on such friendly terms so short a time
before. Eric did not pretend to be asleep, but opened his eyes, and
looked at the head-master. Very sorrowfully Dr. Rowlands shook his head,
and went away. Eric never saw him again.

The moment he was gone Eric got up. He meant to go to his study, collect
the few presents, which were his dearest mementos of Russell, Wildney,
and his other friends--above all, Vernon's likeness--and then make his
escape from the building, using for the last time the broken pane and
loosened bar in the corridor, with which past temptations had made him
so familiar.

He turned the handle of the door and pushed, but it did not yield. Half
contemplating the possibility of such an intention on Eric's part, Dr.
Rowlands had locked it behind him when he went out.

"Ha!" thought the boy, "then he, too, knows and suspects. Never mind. I
must give up my treasures--yes, even poor Verny's picture; perhaps it is
best I should, for I'm only disgracing his noble memory. But they shan't
prevent me from running away."

Once more he deliberated. Yes, there could be no doubt about the
decision. He _could_, not endure another public expulsion, or even
another birching; he _could_ not endure the cold faces of even his best
friends. No, no! he _could_ not face the horrible phantom of detection,
and exposure, and shame. Escape he must.

After using all his strength in long-continued efforts, he succeeded in
loosening the bar of his bed-room window. He then took his two sheets,
tied them together in a firm knot, wound one end tightly round the
remaining bar, and let the other fall down the side of the building. He
took one more glance round his little room, and then let himself down by
the sheet, hand under hand, until he could drop to the ground. Once
safe, he ran towards Starhaven as fast as he could, and felt as if he
were flying for his life. But when he got to the end of the playground
he could not help stopping to take one more longing, lingering look at
the scenes he was leaving for ever. It was a chilly and overclouded
night, and by the gleams of struggling moonlight, he saw the whole
buildings standing out black in the night air. The past lay behind him
like a painting. Many and many unhappy or guilty hours had he spent in
that home, and yet those last four years had not gone by without their
own wealth of life and joy. He remembered how he had first walked across
that playground, hand in hand with his father, a little boy of twelve.
He remembered his first troubles with Barker, and how his father had at
last delivered him from the annoyances of his old enemy. He remembered
how often he and Russell had sat there, looking at the sea, in pleasant
talk, especially the evening when he had got his first prize and head
remove in the lower fourth; and how, in the night of Russell's death, he
had gazed over that playground from the sick-room window. He remembered
how often he had got cheered there for his feats at cricket and
football, and how often he and Upton in old days, and he and Wildney
afterwards, had walked there on Sundays, arm in arm. Then the stroll to
Port Island, and Barker's plot against him, and the evening at the Stack
passed through his mind; and the dinner at the Jolly Herring, and, above
all, Vernon's death. Oh! how awful it seemed to him now, as he looked
through the darkness at the very road along which they had brought
Verny's dead body. Then his thoughts turned to the theft of the pigeons,
his own drunkenness, and then his last cruel, cruel experiences, and
this dreadful end of the day which, for an hour or two, had seemed _so_
bright on that very spot where he stood. Could it be that this (oh, how
little he had ever dreamed of it)--that this was to be the conclusion of
his school days?

Yes, in those rooms, of which the windows fronted him, there they lay,
all his schoolfellows--Montagu, and Wildney, and Duncan, and all whom he
cared for best. And there was Mr. Rose's light still burning in the
library window; and he was leaving the school and those who had been
with him there so long, in the dark night, by stealth, penniless and
broken-hearted, with the shameful character of a thief.

Suddenly Mr. Rose's light moved, and, fearing discovery or interception,
he roused himself from the bitter reverie and fled to Starhaven through
the darkness. There was still a light in the little sailors' tavern;
and, entering, he asked the woman who kept it, "if she knew of any ship
which was going to sail next morning?"

"Why, your'n is, bean't it, Maister Davey!" she asked, turning to a
rough-looking sailor, who sat smoking in the bar.

"Ees," grunted the man.

"Will you take me on board?" said Eric.

"You be a runaway, I'm thinking?"

"Never mind. I'll come as cabin-boy--anything."

The sailor glanced at his striking appearance and neat dress. "Hardly in
the cabun-buoy line I should say."

"Will you take me?" said Eric. "You'll find me strong and willing
enough."

"Well--if the skipper don't say no. Come along."

They went down to a boat, and "Maister Davey" rowed to a schooner in the
harbor, and took Eric on board.

"There," he said, "you may sleep there for to-night," and he pointed to
a great heap of sailcloth beside the mast.

Weary to death, Eric flung himself down, and slept deep and sound till
the morning, on board the "Stormy Petrel."



CHAPTER XII

THE STORMY PETREL

     "They hadna sailed a league, a league,
      A league, but barely three,
     When the lift grew dark, and the wind grew high,
      And gurly grew the sea."

SIR PATRICK SPENS.

"Hilloa!" exclaimed the skipper with a sudden start, next morning, as he
saw Eric's recumbent figure on the ratlin-stuff, "Who be this
young varmint!"

"Oh, I brought him aboord last night," said Davey; "he wanted to be
cabun-buoy."

"Precious like un _he_ looks. Never mind, we've got him and we'll use
him."

The vessel was under way when Eric woke, and collected his scattered
thoughts to a remembrance of his new position. At first, as the Stormy
Petrel dashed its way gallantly through the blue sea, he felt one
absorbing sense of joy to have escaped from Roslyn. But before he had
been three hours on board, his eyes were opened to the trying nature of
his circumstances, which were, indeed, _so_ trying that _anything_ in
the world seemed preferable to enduring them. He had not been three
hours on board when he would have given everything in his power to be
back again; but such regrets were useless, for the vessel was now
fairly on her way for Corunna, where she was to lake in a cargo
of cattle.

There were eight men belonging to the crew; and as the ship was only a
little trading schooner, these were sailors of the lowest and meanest
grade. They all seemed to take their cue from the captain, who was a
drunken, blaspheming, and cruel vagabond.

This man from the first took a savage hatred to Eric, partly because he
was annoyed with Davey for bringing him on board. The first words he
addressed to him were--

"I say, you young lubber, you must pay your footing."

"I've got nothing to pay with. I brought no money with me."

"Well, then, you shall give us your gran' clothes. Them things isn't fit
for a cabin-boy."

Eric saw no remedy, and making a virtue of necessity, exchanged his good
cloth suit for a rough sailor's shirt and trowsers, not over clean,
which the captain gave him. His own clothes were at once appropriated by
that functionary, who carried them into his cabin. But it was lucky for
Eric that, seeing how matters were likely to go, he had succeeded in
secreting his watch.

The day grew misty and comfortless, and towards evening the wind rose to
a storm. Eric soon began to feel very sick, and, to make his case worse,
could not endure either the taste, smell, or sight of such coarse food
as was contemptuously flung to him.

"Where am I to sleep?" he asked, "I feel very sick."

"Babby," said one of the sailors, "what's your name?"

"Williams."

"Well, Bill, you'll have to get over your sickness pretty soon, _I_ can
tell ye. Here," he added, relenting a little, "Davey's slung ye a
hammock in the forecastle."

He showed the way, but poor Eric in the dark, and amid the lurches of
the vessel, could hardly steady himself down the companion-ladder, much
less get into his hammock. The man saw his condition, and, sulkily
enough, hove him into his place.

And there, in that swinging bed, where sleep seemed impossible, and out
of which, he was often thrown, when the ship rolled and pitched through
the dark, heaving, discolored waves, and with dirty men sleeping round
him at night, until the atmosphere of the forecastle became like poison,
hopelessly and helplessly sick, and half-starved, the boy lay for two
days. The crew neglected him shamefully. It was nobody's business to
wait on him, and he could procure neither sufficient food, nor any
water; they only brought him some grog to drink, which in his weakness
and sickness was nauseous to him as medicine.

"I say, you young cub down there," shouted the skipper to him from the
hatchway, "come up and swab this deck."

He got up, and after bruising himself severely, as he stumbled about to
find the ladder, made an effort to obey the command. But he staggered
from feebleness when he reached the deck, and had to grasp for some
fresh support at every step.

"None of that 'ere slobbering and shamming, Bill. Why, d---- you, what
d'ye think you're here for, eh? You swab the deck, and in five minutes,
or I'll teach you, and be d----d."

Sick as death, Eric slowly obeyed, but did not get through his task
without many blows and curses. He felt very ill--he had no means of
washing or cleaning himself; no brush, or comb, or soap, or clean linen;
and even his sleep seemed unrefreshful when the waking brought no change
in his condition. And then the whole life of the ship was odious to him.
His sense of refinement was exquisitely keen, and now to be called Bill,
and kicked and cuffed about by these gross-minded men, and to hear their
rough, coarse, drunken talk, and sometimes endure their still, more
intolerable familiarities, filled him with deeply-seated loathing.

His whole soul rebelled and revolted from them all, and, seeing his
fastidious pride, not one of them showed him the least glimpse of open
kindness, though he observed that one of them did seem to pity him
in heart.

Things grew worse and worse. The perils which he had to endure at first,
when ordered about the rigging, were what affected him least; he longed
for death, and often contemplated flinging himself into those cold deep
waves which he gazed on daily over the vessel's side. Hope was the only
thing which supported him. He had heard from one of the crew that the
vessel would be back in not more than six weeks, and he made a deeply
seated resolve to escape the very first day that they again anchored in
an English harbor.

The homeward voyage was even more intolerable, for the cattle on board
greatly increased the amount of necessary menial and disgusting work
which fell to his snare, as well as made the atmosphere of the close
little schooner twice as poisonous as before. And to add to his
miseries, his relations with the crew got more and more unfavorable, and
began to reach their climax.

One night the sailor who occupied the hammock next to his heard him
winding up his watch. This he always did in the dark, as secretly and
silently as he could, and never looked at it, except when no one could
observe him; while, during the day, he kept both watch and chain
concealed in his trousers.

Next morning the man made proposals to him to sell the watch, and tried
by every species of threat and promise to extort it from him. But the
watch had been his mother's gift, and he was resolute never to part with
it into such hands.

"Very well, you young shaver, I shall tell the skipper and he'll soon
get it out of you as your footing, depend on it."

The fellow was as good as his word, and the skipper demanded the watch
as pay for Eric's feed, for he maintained that he'd done no work, and
was perfectly useless. Eric, grown desperate, still refused, and the man
struck him brutally on the face, and at the same time aimed a kick at
him, which he vainly tried to avoid. It caught him on the knee-cap, and
put it out, causing him the most excruciating agony.

He now could do no work whatever, not even swab the deck. It was only
with difficulty that he could limp along, and every move caused him
violent pain. He grew listless and dejected, and sat all day on the
vessel's side, eagerly straining his eyes to catch any sight of land, or
gazing vacantly into the weary sameness of sea and sky.

Once, when it was rather gusty weather, all hands were wanted, and the
skipper ordered him to furl a sail.

"I can't," said Eric, in an accent of despair, barely stirring, and not
lifting his eyes to the man's unfeeling face.

"Can't, d---- you. Can't. We'll soon see whether you can or no! You do
it, or _I_ shall have to mend your leg for you;" and he showered down a
storm of oaths.

Eric rose, and resolutely tried to mount the rigging, determined at
least to give no ground he could help to their wilful cruelty. But the
effort was vain, and with a sharp cry of suffering he dropped once
more on deck.

"Cursed young brat! I suppose you think we're going to bother ourselves
with you, and yer impudence, and get victuals for nothing. It's all
sham. Here, Jim, tie him up."

A stout sailor seized the unresisting boy, tied his hands together, and
then drew them up above his head, and strung them to the rigging.

"Why didn't ye strip him first, d---- you?" roared the skipper.

"He's only got that blue shirt on, and that's soon mended," said the
man, taking hold of the collar of the shirt on both sides, and tearing
it open with a great rip.

Eric's white back was bare, his hands tied up, his head hanging, and his
injured leg slightly lifted from the ground. "And now for some rope-pie
for the stubborn young lubber," said the skipper, lifting a bit of rope
as he spoke.

Eric, with a shudder, heard it whistle through the air, and the next
instant it had descended on his back with a dull thump, rasping away a
red line of flesh. Now Eric knew for the first time the awful reality of
intense pain; he had determined to utter no sound, to give no sign; but
when the horrible rope fell on him, griding across his back, and making
his body literally creak under the blow, he quivered like an aspen-leaf
in every limb, and could not suppress the harrowing murmur, "Oh God,
help me, help me."

Again the rope whistled in the air, again it grided across the boy's
naked back, and once more the crimson furrow bore witness to the violent
laceration. A sharp shriek of inexpressible agony rang from his lips, so
shrill, so heart-rending, that it sounded long in the memory of all who
heard it. But the brute who administered the torture was untouched. Once
more, and again, the rope rose and fell, and under its marks the blood
first dribbled, and then streamed from the white and tender skin.

But Eric felt no more; that scream had been the last effort of nature;
his head had dropped on his bosom, and though his limbs still seemed to
creep at the unnatural infliction, he had fainted away.

"Stop, master, stop, if you don't want to kill the boy outright," said
Roberts, one of the crew, stepping forward, while the hot flush of
indignation burned through his tanned and weather-beaten cheek. The
sailors called him "Softy Bob," from that half-gentleness of disposition
which had made him, alone of all the men, speak one kind or consoling
word for the proud and lonely cabin-boy.

"Undo him then, and be--," growled the skipper and rolled off to drink
himself drunk.

"I doubt he's well-nigh done for him already," said Roberts, quickly
untying Eric's hands, round which the cords had been pulled so tight as
to leave two blue rings round his wrists. "Poor fellow, poor fellow!
it's all over now," he murmured soothingly, as the boy's body fell
motionless into his arms, which he hastily stretched to prevent him from
tumbling on the deck.

But Eric heard not; and the man, touched with the deepest pity, carried
him down tenderly into his hammock, and wrapped him up in a clean
blanket, and sat by him till the swoon should be over.

It lasted very long, and the sailor began to fear that his words had
been prophetic.

"How is the young varmint?" shouted the skipper, looking into the
forecastle.

"You've killed him, I think."

The only answer was a volley of oaths; but the fellow was sufficiently
frightened to order Roberts to do all he could for his patient.

At last Eric woke with a moan. To think was too painful, but the raw
state of his back, ulcerated with the cruelty he had undergone, reminded
him too bitterly of his situation. Roberts did for him all that could be
done, but for a week Eric lay in that dark and fetid place, in the
languishing of absolute despair. Often and often the unbidden tears
flowed from very weakness from his eyes, and in the sickness of his
heart, and the torment of his wounded body, he thought that he
should die.

But youth is very strong, and it wrestled with despair, and agony, and
death, and, after a time, Eric could rise from his comfortless hammock.
The news that land was in sight first roused him, and with the help of
Roberts, he was carried on deck, thankful, with childlike gratitude,
that God suffered him to breathe once more the pure air of heaven, and
sit under the canopy of its gold-pervaded blue. The breeze and the
sunlight refreshed him, as they might a broken flower; and, with eyes
upraised, he poured from his heart a prayer of deep unspeakable
thankfulness to a Father in Heaven.

Yes! at last he had remembered his Father's home. There, in the dark
berth, where every move caused irritation, and the unclean atmosphere
brooded over his senses like lead; when his forehead burned, and his
heart melted within him, and he had felt almost inclined to curse his
life, or even to end it by crawling up and committing himself to the
deep cold water which, he heard rippling on the vessel's side; then,
even then, in that valley of the shadow of death, a Voice had come to
him--a still small Voice--at whose holy and healing utterance Eric had
bowed his head, and listened to the messages of God, and learnt his
will; and now, in humble resignation, in touching penitence with solemn
self-devotion, he had cast himself at the feet of Jesus, and prayed to
be helped, and guided, and forgiven. One little star of hope rose in the
darkness of his solitude, and its rays grew brighter and brighter, till
they were glorious now. Yes, for Jesus' sake he was washed, he was
cleansed, he was sanctified, he was justified; he would fear no evil,
for God was with him and underneath were the everlasting arms.

And while he sat there, undisturbed at last, and unmolested by harsh
word or savage blow, recovering health with every breath of the sea
wind, the skipper came up to him, and muttered something half-like
an apology.

The sight of him, and the sound of his voice, made Eric shudder again,
but he listened meekly, and, with no flash of scorn or horror, put out
his hand to the man to shake. There was something touching and noble in
the gesture, and, thoroughly ashamed of himself for once, the fellow
shook the proffered hand, and slunk away.

They entered the broad river at Southpool.

"I must leave the ship when we get to port, Roberts," said Eric.

"I doubt whether you'll let you," answered Roberts, jerking his finger
towards the skipper's cabin.

"Why?"

"He'll be afeard you might take the law on him."

"He needn't fear."

Roberts only shook his head.

"Then I must run away somehow. Will you help me?"

"Yes, that I will."

That very evening Eric escaped from the Stormy Petrel, unknown to all
but Roberts. They were in the dock, and he dropped into the water in the
evening, and swam to the pier, which was only a yard or two distant; but
the effort almost exhausted his strength, for his knee was still
painful, and he was very weak.

Wet and penniless, he knew not where to go, but spent the sleepless
night under an arch. Early the next morning he went to a pawnbroker's,
and raised £2:10s. on his watch, with which money he walked straight to
the railway station.

It was July, and the Roslyn summer holidays had commenced. As Eric
dragged his slow way to the station, he suddenly saw Wildney on the
other side of the street. His first impulse was to spring to meet him,
as he would have done in old times. His whole heart yearned towards him.
It was six weeks now since Eric had seen one loving face, and during all
that time he had hardly heard one kindly word. And now he saw before him
the boy whom he loved so fondly, with whom he had spent so many happy
hours of school-boy friendship, with whom he had gone through so many
schoolboy adventures, and who, he believed, loved him fondly still.

Forgetful for the moment of his condition, Eric moved across the street.
Wildney was walking with his cousin, a beautiful girl, some four years
older than himself, whom he was evidently patronising immensely. They
were talking very merrily, and Eric overheard the word Roslyn. Like a
lightning-flash the memory of the theft, the memory of his ruin came
upon him; he looked down at his dress--it was a coarse blue shirt, which
Roberts had given him in place of his old one, and the back of it was
stained and saturated with blood from his unhealed wounds; his trousers
were dirty, tarred, and ragged, and his shoes, full of holes, barely
covered his feet. He remembered too that for weeks he had not been able
to wash, and that very morning, as he saw himself in a looking-glass at
a shop-window, he had been deeply shocked at his own appearance. His
face was white as a sheet, the fair hair matted and tangled, the eyes
sunken and surrounded with a dark color, and dead and lustreless. No! he
could not meet Wildney as a sick and ragged sailor-boy; perhaps even he
might not be recognised if he did. He drew back, and hid himself till
the merry-hearted pair had passed, and it was almost with a pang of
jealousy that he saw how happy Wildney could be, while _he_ was thus;
but he cast aside the unworthy thought at once. "After all, how is poor
Charlie to know what has happened to me?"



CHAPTER XIII

HOME AT LAST

     "I will arise and go to my father."

     "Ach! ein Schicksal droht,
     Und es droht nicht lange!
     Auf der holden Wange
     Brennt ein böses Roth!"--TIEDGE.

Eric Williams pursued his disconsolate way to the station, and found
that his money only just sufficed to get him something to eat during the
day, and carry him third class by the parliamentary train to
Charlesbury, the little station where he had to take the branch line
to Ayrton.

He got into the carriage, and sat in the far corner, hiding himself from
notice as well as he could. The weary train--(it carried poor people for
the most part, so, of course it could matter but little how tedious or
slow it was!)--the weary train, stopping at every station, and often
waiting on the rail until it had been passed by trains that started four
or five hours after it,--dragged its slow course through the fair
counties of England. Many people got in and out of the carriage, which
was generally full, and some of them tried occasionally to enter into
conversation with him. But poor Eric was too sick and tired, and his
heart was too full to talk much, and he contented himself with civil
answers to the questions put to him, dropping the conversation as soon
as he could.

At six in the evening the train stopped at Charlesbury, and he got down.

"Ticket," said the station-man.

Eric gave it, turning his head away, for the man knew him well from
having often seen him there. It was no use; the man looked hard at him,
and then, opening his eyes wide, exclaimed,

"Well, I never! what, Master Williams of Fairholm, can that be you?"

"Hush, John, hush! yes, I am Eric Williams. But don't say a word, that's
a good fellow; I'm going on to Ayrton this evening."

"Well, sir, I _am_, hurt like to see you looking so ragged and poorly.
Let me give you a bed to-night, and send you on by first train
to-morrow."

"O no, thank you, John. I've got no money, and--"

"Tut, tut, sir; I thought you'd know me better nor that. Proud I'd be
any day to do anything for Mrs. Trevor's nephew, let alone a young
gentleman like you. Well, then, let me drive yon, sir, in my little cart
this evening."

"No, thank you, John, never mind; you are very, very good, but," he
said, and the tears were in his eyes, "I want to walk in alone
to-night."

"Well, God keep and bless you, sir," said the man, "for you look to need
it;" and touching his cap, he watched the boy's painful walk across some
fields to the main road.

"Who'd ha' thought it, Jenny?" he said to his wife. "There's that young
Master Williams, whom we've always thought so noble like, just been
here as ragged as ragged, and with a face the color o' my white
signal flag."

"Lawks!" said the woman; "well, well! poor young gentleman, I'm afeard
he's been doing something bad."

Balmily and beautiful the evening fell, as Eric, not without toil, made
his way along the road towards Ayrton, which was ten miles off. The road
wound through the valley, across the low hills that encircled it,
sometimes spanning or running parallel to the bright stream that had
been the delight of Eric's innocent childhood. There was something
enjoyable at first to the poor boy's eyes, so long accustomed to the
barren sea, in resting once more on the soft undulating green of the
summer fields, which were intertissued with white and yellow flowers,
like a broidery of pearls and gold. The whole scene was bathed in the
exquisite light, and rich with the delicate perfumes of a glorious
evening, which filled the sky over his head with every perfect gradation
of rose and amber and amethyst, and breathed over the quiet landscape a
sensation of unbroken peace. But peace did not remain long in Eric's
heart; each well-remembered landmark filled his soul with recollections
of the days when he had returned from school, oh! how differently; and
of the last time when he had come home with Vernon by his side. "Oh
Verny, Verny, noble little Verny, would to God that I were with you now.
But you are resting, Verny, in the green grave by Russell's side, and
I--oh God, be merciful to me now!"

It was evening, and the stars came out and shone by hundreds, and Eric
walked on by the moonlight. But the exertion had brought on the pain in
his knee, and he had to sit down a long time by the road-side to rest.
He reached Ayrton at ten o'clock, but even then he could not summon up
courage to pass through the town where he was so well known, lest any
straggler should recognise him,--and he took a detour in order to get to
Fairholm. He did not arrive there till eleven o'clock; and then he could
not venture into the grounds, for he saw through the trees of the
shrubbery that there was no light in any of the windows, and it was
clear that they were all gone to bed.

What was he to do? He durst not disturb them so late at night. He
remembered that they would not have heard a syllable of or from him
since he had run away from Roslyn, and he feared the effect of so sudden
an emotion as his appearance at that hour might excite.

So under the star-light he lay down to sleep on a cold bank beside the
gate, determining to enter early in the morning. It was long before he
slept, but at last weary nature demanded her privilege with importunity,
and gentle sleep floated over him like a dark dewy cloud, and the sun
was high in heaven before he woke.

It was about half-past nine in the morning, and Mrs. Trevor, with Fanny,
was starting to visit some of her poor neighbors, an occupation full of
holy pleasure to her kind heart, and in which she had found more than
usual consolation during the heavy trials which she had recently
suffered; for she had loved Eric and Vernon as a mother does her own
children, and now Vernon, the little cherished jewel of her heart, was
dead--Vernon was dead, and Eric, she feared, not dead but worse than
dead, guilty, stained, dishonored. Often had she thought to herself, in
deep anguish of heart, "Our darling little Vernon dead--and Eric fallen
and ruined!"

"Look at that poor fellow asleep on the grass," said Fanny, pointing to
a sailor boy, who lay coiled up on the bank beside the gate. "He has had
a rough bed, mother, if he has spent the night there, as I fear."

Mrs. Trevor had grasped her arm. "What is Flo' doing?" she said,
stopping, as the pretty little spaniel trotted up to the boy's reclining
figure, and began snuffing about it, and then broke into a quick short
bark of pleasure, and fawned and frisked about him, and leapt upon him,
joyously wagging his tail.

The boy rose with the dew wet from the flowers upon his hair; he saw the
dog, and at once began playfully to fondle it, and hold its little
silken head between his hands; but as yet he had not caught sight of
the Trevors.

"It is--oh, good heavens! it is Eric," cried Mrs. Trevor, as she flew
towards him. Another moment and he was in her arms, silent, speechless,
with long arrears of pent-up emotion.

"O my Eric, our poor, lost, wandering Eric--come home; you are forgiven,
more than forgiven, my own darling boy. Yes, I knew that my prayers
would be answered; this is as though we received you from the dead." And
the noble lady wept upon his neck, and Eric, his heart shaken with
accumulated feelings, clung to her and wept.

Deeply did that loving household rejoice to receive back their lost
child. At once they procured him a proper dress, and a warm bath, and
tended him with every gentle office of female ministering hands. And in
the evening, when he told them his story in a broken voice of penitence
and remorse, their love came to him like a sweet balsam, and he rested
by them, "seated, and clothed, and in his right mind."

The pretty little room, fragrant with sweet flowers from the greenhouse,
was decorated with all the refinement of womanly taste, and its glass
doors opened on the pleasant garden. It was long, long since Eric had
ever seen anything like it, and he had never hoped to see it again. "Oh
dearest aunty," he murmured, as he rested his weary head upon her lap,
while he sat on a low stool at her feet, "Oh aunty, you will never know
how different this is from the foul, horrible hold of the 'Stormy
Petrel,' and its detestable inmates."

When Eric was dressed once more as a gentleman, and once more fed on
nourishing and wholesome food, and was able to move once more about the
garden by Fanny's side, he began to recover his old appearance, and the
soft bloom came back to his cheek again, and the light to his blue eye.
But still his health gave most serious cause for apprehension; weeks of
semi-starvation, bad air, sickness, and neglect, followed by two nights
of exposure and wet, had at last undermined the remarkable strength of
his constitution, and the Trevors soon became aware of the painful fact
that he was sinking to the grave, and had come home only to die.

Above all, there seemed to be some great load at his heart which he
could not remove; a sense of shame, the memory of his disgrace at
Roslyn, and of the dark suspicion that rested on his name. He avoided
the subject, and they were too kind to force it on him, especially as he
had taken away the bitterest part of their trial in remembering it, by
explaining to them that he was far from being so wicked in the matter of
the theft as they had at first been (how slowly and reluctantly!) almost
forced to believe.

"Have you ever heard--oh, how shall I put it?--have you ever heard,
aunty, how things went on at Roslyn after I ran away?" he asked, one
evening, with evident effort.

"No, love, I have not. After they had sent home your things, I heard no
more; only two most kind and excellent letters--one from Dr. Rowlands,
and one from your friend, Mr. Rose--informed me of what had happened
about you."

"O, have they sent home my things?" he asked, eagerly. "There are very
few among them that I care about, but there is just one----"

"I guessed it, my Eric, and, but that I feared to agitate you, should
have given it you before;" and she drew out of a drawer the little
likeness of Vernon's sweet childish face.

Eric gazed at it till the sobs shook him, and tears blinded his eyes.

"Do not weep, my boy," said Mrs. Trevor, kissing his forehead. "Dear
little Verny, remember, is in a land where God himself wipes away all
tears from off all eyes."

"Is there anything else you would like?" asked Fanny, to divert his
painful thoughts. "I will get you anything in a moment."

"Yes, Fanny, dear, there is the medal I got for saving Russell's life,
and one or two things which he gave me;--ah, poor Edwin, you never
knew him!"

He told her what to fetch, and when she brought them it seemed to give
him great pleasure to recall his friends to mind by name, and speak of
them--especially of Montagu and Wildney.

"I have a plan to please you, Eric," said Mrs. Tremor. "Shall I ask
Montagu and Wildney here? we have plenty of room for them."

"O, thank you," he said, with the utmost eagerness. "Thank you, dearest
aunt." Then suddenly his countenance fell. "Stop--shall we?--yes, yes, I
am going to die soon, I know; let me see them before I die."

The Trevors did not know that he was aware of the precarious tenure of
his life, but they listened to him in silence, and did not contradict
him; and Mrs. Trevor wrote to both the boys (whose directions Eric
knew), telling them what had happened, and begging them, simply for his
sake, to come and stay with her for a time. She hinted clearly that it
might be the last opportunity they would ever have of seeing him.

Wildney and Montagu accepted the invitation; and they arrived together
at Fairholm on one of the early autumn evenings. They both greeted Eric
with the utmost affection; and he seemed never tired of pressing their
hands, and looking at them again. Yet every now and then a memory of
sadness would pass over his face, like a dark ripple on the clear
surface of a lake.

"Tell me, Monty," he said one evening, "all about what happened after I
left Roslyn."

"Gladly, Eric; now that your name is cleared, there is--"

"My name cleared!" said Eric, leaning forward eagerly. "Did you say
that?"

"Yes, Eric. Didn't you know, then, that the thief had been discovered?"

"No," he murmured faintly, leaning back; "O thank God, thank God! Do
tell me all about it, Monty."

"Well, Eric, I will tell you all from the beginning. You may guess how
utterly astonished we were in the morning, when we heard that you had
run away. Wildney here was the first to discover it, for he went early
to your bed-room----"

"Dear little Sunbeam," interrupted Eric, resting his hand against
Wildney's cheek; but Wildney shook his fist at him when he heard the
forbidden name.

"He found the door locked," continued Montagu, "and called to you, but
there came no answer; this made us suspect the truth, and we were
certain, of it when some one caught sight of the pendent sheet. The
masters soon heard the report, and sent Carter to make inquiries, but
they did not succeed in discovering anything definite about you. Then,
of course, everybody assumed as a certainty that you were guilty, and I
fear that my bare assertion on the other side had little weight."

Eric's eyes glistened as he drank in his friend's story.

"But, about a fortnight after, _more_ money and several other articles
disappeared from the studies, and all suspicion as to the perpetrator
was baffled; only now the boys began to admit that, after all, they had
been premature in condemning you. It was a miserable time; for every one
was full of distrust, and the more nervous boys were always afraid lest
any one should on some slight grounds suspect _them. Still_, things kept
disappearing.

"We found out at length that the time when the robberies were effected
must be between twelve and one, and it was secretly agreed that some one
should be concealed in the studies for a day or two during those hours.
Carter undertook the office, and was ensconced in one of the big
cupboards in a study which had not yet been touched. On the third day he
heard some one stealthily mount the stairs. The fellows were more
careful now, and used to keep their doors shut, but the person was
provided with keys, and opened the study in which Carter was. He moved
about for a little time--Carter watching him through the key-hole, and
prepared to spring on him before he could make his escape. Not getting
much, the man at last opened the cup-board door, where Carter had just
time to conceal himself behind a great-coat. The great-coat took the
plunderer's fancy; he took it down off the peg, and there stood Carter
before him! Billy--for it was he--stood absolutely confounded, as though
a ghost had suddenly appeared; and Carter, after enjoying his
unconcealed terror, collared him, and hauled him off to the police
station. He was tried soon after, and finally confessed that it was he
who had taken the cricket-money too; for which offences he was sentenced
to transportation. So Eric, dear Eric, at last your name was cleared."

"As I always knew it would be, dear old boy," said Wildney.

Montagu and Wildney found plenty to make them happy at Fairholm, and
were never tired of Eric's society, and of his stories about all that
befell him on board the "Stormy Petrel." They perceived a marvellous
change in him. Every trace of recklessness and arrogance had passed
away; every stain of passion had been removed; every particle of
hardness had been calcined in the flame of trial. All was gentleness,
love, and dependence, in the once bright, impetuous, self-willed boy; it
seemed as though the lightning of God's anger had shattered and swept
away all that was evil in his heart and life, and left all his true
excellence, all the royal prerogatives of his character, pure and
unscathed Eric, even in his worst days, was, as I well remember, a
lovable and noble boy; but at this period there must have been something
about him for which to thank God, something unspeakably winning, and
irresistibly attractive. During the day, as Eric was too weak to walk
with them, Montagu and Wildney used to take boating and fishing
excursions by themselves, but in the evening the whole party would sit
out reading and talking in the garden till twilight fell. The two
visitors began to hope that Mrs. Trevor had been mistaken, and that
Eric's health would still recover; but Mrs. Trevor would not deceive
herself with a vain hope, and the boy himself shook his head when they
called him convalescent.

Their hopes were never higher than one evening about a week after their
arrival, when they were all seated, as usual, in the open air, under a
lime-tree on the lawn. The sun was beginning to set, and the rain of
golden sunlight fell over them through the green ambrosial foliage of
the tree whose pale blossoms were still murmurous with bees. Eric was
leaning back in an easy chair, with Wildney sitting on the grass,
cross-legged at his feet, while Montagu, resting on one of the mossy
roots, read to them the "Midsummer Night's Dream," and the ladies were
busy with their work.

"There--stop now," said Eric, "and let's sit out and talk until we see
some of 'the fiery a'es and o'es of light' which he talks of."

"I'd no idea Shakspeare was such immensely jolly reading," remarked
Wildney naïvely. "I shall take to reading him through when I get home."

"Do you remember, Eric," said Montagu, "how Rose used to chaff us in old
days for our ignorance of literature, and how indignant we used to be
when he asked if we'd ever heard of an obscure person called William
Shakspeare?"

"Yes, very well," answered Eric, laughing heartily. And in this strain
they continued to chat merrily, while the ladies enjoyed listening to
their school-boy mirth.

"What a perfectly delicious evening. It's almost enough to make me wish
to live," said Eric.

He did not often speak thus; and it made them sad. But Eric half sang,
half murmured to himself, a hymn with which his mother's sweet voice had
made him familiar in their cottage-home at Ellan:--

     "There is a calm for those who weep,
       A rest for weary pilgrims found;
     They softly lie, and sweetly sleep,
       Low in the ground.

     "The storm that wrecks the winter sky,
       No more disturbs their deep repose,
     Than summer evening's latest sigh
       That shuts the rose."

The two last lines lingered pleasantly in his fancy and he murmured to
himself again, in low tones--

     "Than summer evening's latest sigh
       That shuts the rose."

"Oh hush, hush, Eric!" said Wildney, laying his hand upon his friend's
lips; "don't let's spoil to-night by forebodings."

It seemed, indeed, a shame to do so, for it was almost an awful thing to
be breathing the splendor of the transparent air, as the sun broadened
and fell, and a faint violet glow floated over soft meadow and silver
stream. One might have fancied that the last rays of sunshine loved to
linger over Eric's face, now flushed with a hectic tinge of pleasure,
and to light up sudden glories in his bright hair, which the wind just
fanned off his forehead as he leaned back and inhaled the luxury of
evening perfume, which the flowers of the garden poured on the gentle
breeze. Ah, how sad that such scenes should be so rare and so
short-lived!

"Hark--tirra-la-lirra-lirra!" said Wildney; "there goes the postman's
horn! Shall I run and get the letter-bag as he passes the gate?"

"Yes, do," they all cried; and the boy bounded off full of fun, greeting
the postman with such a burst of merry apostrophe, that the man shook
with laughing at him.

"Here it is at last," said Wildney. "Now, then, for the key. Here's a
letter for me, hurrah!--two for you, Miss Trevor--_what_ people you
young ladies are for writing to each other! None for you, Monty--Oh,
yes! I'm wrong, here's one; but none for Eric."

"I expected none," said Eric sighing; but his eye was fixed earnestly
on one of Mrs. Trevor's letters. He saw that it was from India, and
directed in his father's hand.

Mrs. Trevor caught his look. "Shall I read it aloud to you, dear I Do
you think you can stand it? Remember it will be in answer to ours,
telling them of--"

"Oh, yes, yes," he said, eagerly, "do let me hear it."

With instinctive delicacy Montagu and Wildney rose, but Eric pressed
them to stay. "It will help me to bear what mother says, if I see you by
me," he pleaded.

God forbid that I should transcribe that letter. It was written from the
depths of such sorrow as He only can fully sympathise with, who for
thirty years pitched his tent in the valley of human misery. By the
former mail Mrs. Williams had heard of Verny's melancholy death; by the
next she had been told that her only other child, Eric, was not dead
indeed, but a wandering outcast, marked with the brand of terrible
suspicion. Let her agony be sacred; it was God who sent it, and he only
enabled her to endure it. With bent head, and streaming eyes, and a
breast that heaved involuntarily with fitful sobs, Eric listened as
though to his mother's voice, and only now and then he murmured low to
himself, "O mother, mother, mother--but I am forgiven now. O mother, God
and man have forgiven me, and we shall be at peace again once more."

Mrs. Trevor's eyes grew too dim with weeping, to read it all, and Fanny
finished it. "Here is a little note from your father, Eric, which
dropped out when we opened dear aunt's letter. Shall I read it, too?"

"Perhaps not now, love," said Mrs. Trevor. "Poor Eric is too tired and
excited already."

"Well, then, let me glance it myself, aunty," he said. He opened it,
read a line or two, and then, with a scream, fell back swooning, while
it dropped out of his hands.

Terrified, they picked up the fallen paper; it told briefly, in a few
heartrending words, that, after writing the letter, Mrs. Williams had
been taken ill; that her life was absolutely despaired of, and that,
before the letter reached England, she would, in all human probability,
be dead. It conveyed the impression of a soul resigned indeed, and
humble, but crushed down to the very earth with the load of mysterious
bereavement, and irretrievable sorrow.

"Oh, I have killed her, I have killed my mother!" said Eric, in a hollow
voice, when he came to himself. "O God, forgive me, forgive me!"

They gathered round him; they soothed, and comforted, and prayed for
him; but his soul refused comfort, and all his strength appeared to have
been broken down at once like a feeble reed. At last a momentary energy
returned; his eyes were lifted to the gloaming heaven where a few stars
had already begun to shine, and a bright look illuminated his
countenance. They listened deeply--"Yes, mother," he murmured, in broken
tones, "forgiven now, for Christ's dear sake. O thou merciful God! Yes,
there they are, and we shall meet again. Verny--oh, happy, happy at
last--too happy!"

The sounds died away, and his head fell back; for a transient moment
more the smile and the brightness played over his fair features like a
lambent flame. It passed away, and Eric was with those he dearliest
loved, in the land where there is no more curse.

"Yes, dearest Eric, forgiven and happy now," sobbed Mrs. Trevor; and her
tears fell fast upon the dead boy's face, as she pressed upon it a long,
last kiss.



CHAPTER XIV

CONCLUSION

     "And hath that early hope been blessed with truth?
     Hath he fulfilled the promise of his youth?
     And borne unscathed through danger's stormy field
     Honor's white wreath and virtue's stainless shield?"

     HARROW. A Prize Poem.

The other day I was staying with Montagu. He has succeeded to his
father's estate, and is the best-loved landlord for miles around. He
intends to stand for the county at the next general election, and I
haven't the shadow of a doubt that he will succeed. If he does,
Parliament will have gained a worthy addition. Montagu has the very soul
of honor, and he can set off the conclusions of his vigorous judgment,
and the treasures of his cultivated taste, with an eloquence that rises
to extraordinary grandeur when he is fulminating his scorn at any
species of tyranny or meanness.

It was very pleasant to talk with him about our old school days in his
charming home. We sate by the open window (which looks over his grounds,
and then across one of the richest plains in England) one long summer
evening, recalling all the vanished scenes and figures of the past,
until we almost felt ourselves boys again.

"I have just been staying at Trinity," said I, "and Owen, as I suppose
you know, is doing brilliantly. He has taken a high first class, and
they have already elected him fellow and assistant tutor."

"Is he liked?"

"Yes, very much. He always used to strike me at school as one of those
fellows who are much more likely to be happy and successful as men, than
they had ever any chance of being as boys. I hope the _greatest_ things
of him; but have you heard anything of Duncan lately?"

"Yes, he's just been gazetted as lieutenant. I had a letter from him the
other day. He's met two old Roslyn fellows, Wildney and Upton, the
latter of whom is now Captain Upton; he says that there are not two
finer or manlier officers in the whole service, and Wildney, as you may
easily guess, is the favorite of the mess-room. You know, I suppose,
that Graham is making a great start at the bar."

"Is he? I'm delighted to hear it."

"Yes. He had a 'mauvais sujet' to defend the other day, in the person of
our old enemy, Brigson, who, having been at last disowned by his
relations, is at present a policeman in London."

"On the principle, I suppose, of 'Set a thief to catch a thief,'" said
Montagu, with a smile.

"Yes; but he exemplifies the truth 'chassez le naturel, il revient au
galop' for he was charged with abetting a street fight between two boys,
which very nearly ended fatally. However, he was penitent, and Graham
got him off with wonderful cleverness."

"Ah!" said Montagu, sighing, "there was _one_ who would have been the
pride of Roslyn had he lived Poor, poor Eric!"

We talked long of our loved friend; his bright face, his winning words,
his merry smile, came back to us with the memory of his melancholy fate,
and a deep sadness fell over us.

"Poor boy, he is at peace now," said Montagu; and he told me once more
the sorrowful particulars of his death. "Shall I read you some verses?"
he asked, "which he must have composed, poor fellow, on board the
'Stormy Petrel,' though he probably wrote them at Fairholm afterwards."

"Yes, do."

And Montagu, in his pleasant musical voice, read me, with much feeling,
these lines, written in Eric's boyish hand, and signed with his name.

ALONE, YET NOT ALONE.

     Alone, alone! ah, weary soul,
       In all the world alone I stand,
     With none to wed their hearts to mine,
       Or link in mine a loving hand.

     Ah! I tell me not that I have those
       Who owe the ties of blood and name,
     Or pitying friends who love me well,
       And dear returns of friendship claim.

     I have, I have! but none can heal,
       And none shall see my inward woe,
     And the deep thoughts within me veiled
       No other heart but mine shall know.

     And yet amid my sins and shames
       The shield of God is o'er me thrown
     And, 'neath its awful shade I feel
       Alone,--yet, ah, not all alone!

     Not all alone! and though my life
       Be dragged along the stained earth,
     O God! I feel thee near me still,
       And thank thee for my birth!

     E.W.

Montagu gave me the paper, and I cherish it as my dearest memorial of my
erring but noble schoolboy friend.

Knowing how strong an interest Mr. Rose always took in Eric, I gave him
a copy of these verses when last I visited him at his pleasant vicarage
of Seaford, to which he was presented a year or two ago by Dr. Rowlands,
now Bishop of Roslyn, who has also appointed him examining chaplain. I
sat and watched Mr. Rose while he read them. A mournful interest was
depicted on his face, his hand trembled a little, and I fancied that he
bent his grey hair over the paper to hide a tear. We always knew at
school that Eric was one of his greatest favorites, as indeed he and
Vernon were with all of us; and when the unhappy boy had run away
without even having the opportunity for bidding any one farewell, Mr.
Rose displayed such real grief, that for weeks he was like a man who
went mourning for a son. After those summer holidays, when we returned
to school, Montagu and Wildney brought back with them the intelligence
of Eric's return to Fairholm, and of his death. The news plunged many of
us in sorrow, and when, on the first Sunday in chapel, Mr. Rose alluded
to this sad tale, there were few dry eyes among those who listened to
him. I shall never forget that Sunday afternoon. A deep hush brooded
over us, and before the sermon was over, many a face was hidden to
conceal the emotion which could not be suppressed.

"I speak," said Mr. Rose, "to a congregation of mourners, for one who
but a few weeks back was sitting among you as one of yourselves. But,
for myself, I do _not_ mourn over his death. Many a time have I mourned
for him in past days, when I marked how widely he went astray,--but I do
not mourn now; for after his fiery trials he died penitent and happy,
and at last his sorrows are over for ever, and the dreams of ambition
have vanished, and the fires of passion have been quenched, and for all
eternity the young soul is in the presence of its God. Let none of you
think that his life has been wasted. Possibly, had it pleased heaven to
spare him, he might have found great works to do among his fellow-men,
and he would have done them as few else could. But do not let us fancy
that our work must cease of necessity with our lives. Not so; far rather
must we believe that it will continue for ever; seeing that we are all
partakers of God's unspeakable blessing, the common mystery of
immortality. Perhaps it may be the glorious destiny of very many here to
recognise that truth, more fully when we meet and converse with our dear
departed brother in a holier and happier world."

I have preserved some faint echo of the words he used, but I can give no
conception of the dignity and earnestness of his manner, or the intense
pathos of his tones.

The scene passed before me again as I looked at him, while he lingered
over Eric's verses, and seemed lost in a reverie of thought.

At last he looked up and sighed. "Poor Eric!--But no, I will not call
him poor; after all he is happier now than we. You loved him well," he
continued; "why do you not try and preserve some records of his life?"

The suggestion took me by surprise, but I thought over it, and at once
began to accomplish it. My own reminiscences of Eric were numerous and
vivid, and several of my old schoolfellows and friends gladly supplied
me with other particulars, especially the Bishop of Roslyn, Mr. Rose,
Montagu, and Wildney. So the story of Eric's ruin has been told, and
told as he would have wished it done, with simple truth. Noble Eric! I
do not fear that I have wronged your memory, and you I know would
rejoice to think how sorrowful hours have lost something of their
sorrow, as I wrote the scenes in so many of which we were engaged
together in our school-boy days.

I visited Roslyn a short time ago, and walked for hours along the sands,
picturing in my memory the pleasant faces, and recalling the joyous
tones of the many whom I had known and loved. Other boys were playing by
the sea-side, who were strangers to me and I to them; and as I marked
how wave after wave rolled up the shore, with its murmur and its foam,
each sweeping farther than the other, each effacing the traces of the
last, I saw an emblem of the passing generations, and was content to
find that my place knew me no more.

     Ah me the golden time!--
       But its hours have passed away,
     With the pure and bracing clime,
       And the bright and merry day.

And the sea still laughs to the rosy shells ashore,
       And the shore still shines in the lustre of the wave;
     But the joyaunce and the beauty of the boyish days is o'er,
       And many of the beautiful lie quiet in the grave;--
         And he who comes again
         Wears a brow of toil and pain,
     And wanders sad and silent by the melancholy main.





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