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His Big Opportunity by Amy Le Feuvre

Part 3 out of 3

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many a lesson from his sickbed. When he was at last able to take his
place in the shop again, Roy's mind was at ease about him.

"I was so afraid he was going to die as long as he stayed in bed," he
confided to Dudley: "I hope no one will ever die that I like, it must be
such a dreadful thing to have them gone. I think I would rather die
first, wouldn't you?"

"We can't all die first," said matter-of-fact Dudley; "somebody must be

"Well, I don't think I shall be," returned Roy, "that's the best of
being weak like I am."

But this assurance brought no comfort to Dudley.

A few more labored letters came from Rob, and then one that stirred the
boys' hearts after he had been about three months away from them. It was
to say that he was going out to India in a draft, and had been allowed
three days to come and say good-bye to his friends.

Roy was almost beside himself with excitement at the prospect of seeing
him again; and when the day came, he insisted upon going to the station
by himself to meet him. Dudley perched on the garden wall awaited their

Rob was certainly improved in appearance. He held himself up bravely,
but a softened light came into his eyes, as Roy, looking whiter and more
fragile than ever, flung himself into his arms, utterly regardless of
all onlookers.

"I'm right glad to see you, Master Roy," said Rob, in a husky voice.

"Oh, Rob, you look so splendid! And you've got to be quite a man! Come
on, I'm going to drive you home, and we shall be all by ourselves. Now
tell me, are you really and truly happy?"

Rob did not answer this question till he was in the trap being driven
homeward; then he said, slowly, "Yes, I'm thinking I like it first-rate,
but 'tis hard in many ways. 'Tis hard to keep straight and do the right,
when most seems to live the other way."

"But most of the soldiers aren't bad, are they?" questioned Roy with
startled eyes.

"They aren't out and out bad--just careless, I reckon, but old Principle
would say they're lacking in principle."

"And is it hard being a soldier? I suppose it must be a little. I came
across a text I thought would just fit you, Rob, the other day. 'Endure
hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.'"

Rob's eyes brightened. He seemed strangely older and graver in his ways,
yet when they drove up in sight of Dudley who slipped down over the
wall, and tumbled himself into the trap with them, he made the boys roar
with laughter with his funny incidents of barrack-room life.

The three days passed only too soon. Innumerable were the questions put
to the young soldier, and Roy's curiosity about a military life was

"Well," he said at last, "I don't think I should be strong enough to be
a soldier, but I'm awfully glad you're one, Rob. And now you've got your
chance in India of doing something grand and getting the Victoria Cross.
The opportunity has come to you, and Dudley and I can't get it, though
we've tried hard. But we have helped to send you out to India to do it,
Rob, so you won't fail us, will you? And then when you come back covered
with medals, you shall live with me and always dress in your uniform, so
we'll look forward and think of that!"

When Rob departed, he had quite a little party of friends to see him off
at the station. Old Hal, the gardener, Ted, the stable-boy, and old
Principle were there, and Miss Bertram and her nephews were with him to
the last.

"He's begun right, and he'll go on like it," announced old Principle,
with emphasis, as the train steamed out of the station, and Rob leaned
out of the window to wave a last farewell to his friends. "'Tis the
beginnin' of life that boys make such a mess of, as a rule!"

Roy's eyes were tearful as he watched the train disappear.

"I've given him to the Queen," he said, gravely, to his aunt; "and no
one can say I'm selfish, for I'd much rather have had him stay with me.
But as I can't do anything grand, he must do it for me!"

The day after Rob left them, the boys had an invitation to spend the day
with Roy's guardian, General Newton. He did not often ask them over to
see him, so it was considered a great treat, and they set off in high
spirits. The groom drove them over, and they were shown into the
general's study at once upon their arrival. He was not by himself;
another grey-haired gentleman was seated there smoking, and the boys
wondered at first who he was, but General Newton soon enlightened them.

"This is a very old chum of mine, boys, who was in my regiment with me
when I first enlisted; he has been a hero in his time, so if you make up
to him he will tell you some wonderful stories. Now, Manning, these boys
are smitten with the 'scarlet fever' at present, as a young friend of
theirs has just enlisted. Tell them something about the Crimea; you had
plenty of ghastly experiences there."

Colonel Manning laughed as he met the boys' admiring gaze, and before
long he was enchanting them by his reminiscences.

"Now will you tell us the very bravest thing that you ever saw any
soldier do?" demanded Roy, with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.

Colonel Manning looked at his little auditor rather thoughtfully.

"I've seen a good many brave deeds done," he said, slowly; "but one
stands out in my memory above and beyond them all."

"Oh, do tell us."

"It was quite a young lad, a recruit that came to join our regiment when
we were in Malta. He was a fair, curly-headed boy, and seemed quite
frightened at the rough life and ways of his comrades. I happened to be
orderly officer one evening, and was going my rounds, when I passed one
of the barrack-rooms just before lights were out. It was in a low
building and the windows were open. The men were noisy, and the first
thing I heard was a volley of oaths from one of the oldest soldiers
there. The corporal in charge instead of reproving him, was joining in,
and there was a great dispute between a lot of them about some small
matter, when this young chap stood up with a flush on his cheeks.
'Comrades,' he cried; 'would any of you allow your mother to be called
evil names in the barrack-room?' His voice rang put so clearly that
there was a hush at once, and they turned to him in wonder. 'You know
you wouldn't,' he went on; 'and you are ill-treating the name of One who
is dearer and nearer to me than any mother--the best Friend I've got. I
tell you, I won't allow you to do it while I am in the room!' I remember
as I stood there and heard him, and saw the men utterly abashed before
the boy, I felt he had a courage that none of us could equal."

"Is that all?" asked Dudley, with disappointment in his tone.

"Did the men stop swearing?" asked Roy.

"As far as I can remember, they did. The corporal rebuked them, and
lights were put out, but that boy was braver than many a hero on the

The boys' faces fell.

"But that was not what we call a brave deed," said Roy, at length. "Of
course it was splendid of him, but it wouldn't get him the Victoria

"No, only a crown of everlasting life, and a word of commendation from
the King of Kings," said the colonel, in a strangely quiet voice; but
Roy's expressive little face kindled at once, and he said no more. They
went into the dining-room to lunch soon, and the boys were too busy
enjoying the good things before them to talk much to their elders. After
it was over General Newton sent them out for a run in the garden. And
then when they came in, he asked them if they would like to come
upstairs to his old picture gallery.

"I am going to take my friend up, and you can come, too."

The boys were delighted; they had often heard of this gallery, but had
never been in it as General Newton kept it locked up, and very rarely
opened it.

"I have some gems amongst the portraits," he said to Colonel Manning as
he unlocked a door in the passage, and led them into a long dusky
corridor; "I will pull up the blinds and then we shall see. They are
mostly ancestors, but one or two are by master hands, and two or three
royal personages are amongst them."

The boys listened eagerly whilst their host pointed out one and another,
with now and then an anecdote connected with them.

"Look," said Roy, delightedly, "there's a fine soldier. He is quite
young, and yet what a lot of medals! and oh, General Newton, isn't that
the Victoria Cross on his coat?"

"Yes, my boy, he served his country well for such a youngster, he
fought in eight battles, and came home without a scratch, though he had
many hair-breadth escapes. In one battle he had two horses shot under
him, and he saved the colors on foot, though he was leading a cavalry

"He was a regular hero!" murmured the admiring boys.

"I don't think he was," said the general, drily. "He had plenty of dash
and go, but no moral courage. He came home after the wars were over, and
broke his mother's heart by becoming a drunkard and a gambler; and he
died an early death from drink and dissipation."

Roy looked very puzzled.

"I thought a brave man must be a good one, and brave and good to the end
of his life."

"A man can face the cannon's mouth better than a friend's ridicule,"
said General Newton; "the young soldier we were hearing about before
dinner had a nobler courage than this poor fellow here."

Roy said no more, but though he listened and looked, the rest of the
time they were in the gallery, his thoughts were with the hero of the
Victoria Cross. He ran back to have one more look at him before they
went downstairs, and gazed up at the bold, frank bearing, and the
laughing mouth of the soldier, with wistful pity in his brown eyes.

"You served your Queen and country, but I expect you left out God," he
said, in a whisper; then he ran on to overtake the others.

After an early tea the boys were packed up in the trap to come home.

"Drive home as quickly as you can," said the general to the groom, "for
rain is not far off, and it will not do to let Master Fitz Roy get a
soaking; he looks as if a breath of wind will blow him away."

"I do hate people talking about me like that," Roy confided to Dudley as
they set off at a brisk rate; "I might just as well be a girl. I often
wonder I wasn't born one for all the good that I shall do in the world."

"That's all stuff," said Dudley, indignantly; "you'll be an awfully
strong man I expect when you grow up, you see if you aren't!"

Roy shook his head, and was unusually silent for some time. They were
driving through the outskirts of a village when down came the rain. The
groom wrapped the boys up as well as he could, and was urging the horse
on, when it suddenly shied and came to a standstill. Looking down, the
groom saw a small child seated in the middle of the road, almost
miraculously preserved from the horse's hoofs.

"Well, here's a go," he muttered; "where on earth does it come from, we
don't want no delay in such a storm as this!"

The boys had sprung down at once from the trap, and were endeavoring to
drag the child away when it burst into roars of fright and anger.

"I want mummy--oh, mummy!"

It was a little girl between three and four. She had been placidly
nursing a doll in the middle of the road, and seemed perfectly oblivious
of wind and rain.

"Where do you live?" asked Roy, but the child only continued to wail for
its mother.

"Here, Master Roy, you'll be wet through. Come back, and let Master
Dudley hoist her up to me. We can't stop all day trying to find out
where she lives. We'll take her back with us for the time."

But this did not please Roy.

"No, we must find her mother; she must come from the village we have
passed. You wait there with the horse, Sanders, and we'll take her

"Let Master Dudley do it, then," said Sanders, crossly, "and you get
into the trap again."

This also Roy refused to do.

"It's an opportunity, isn't it, Dudley? And look she has taken hold of
my hand; you run on in front and ask about her at the first cottage you
come to, and I'll bring her after you."

Sanders grumbled and growled, but the boys did not heed him. Happily the
mother of the child soon appeared, thanked them profusely, and Roy and
Dudley clambered up into the trap again, both wet through.

"You're a heedless, disobedient pair," said the wrathful Sanders, "and
if I'm blamed for your taking to your beds and gettin' rheumaticky fever
and inflammation of the lungs, it won't be my fault, and I shall tell
the missus so!"



Roy was not well for some time after this episode. He had a bad
bronchial attack, and was in the hands of his old nurse again.

"It do seem as if everything conspires to make you a delicate lad," she
said one day; "it beats me how you come through it as well as you do!
But 'tis mostly your thoughtless ways that leads you into trouble."

"I'm sorry," Roy said, cheerfully; "but I expect I'm stronger than I
look. I never shall be much of a fellow, I know; but even with my cork
leg I can do a good deal, can't I?"

"You're worth two of Master Dudley!" ejaculated the fond nurse, but this
assertion was of course questioned.

"I shall never be like Dudley, never! Not in looks, or strength, or
goodness. He is better than I am all round!"

Miss Bertram came into the room at this moment.

"Ah, nurse," she said, in her bright, brisk way; "he is like a cat,
isn't he? Has nine lives, I'm sure. There never was such a boy for
getting into scrapes. I'm in fear whenever he is out of our sight now
that he may never come back again."

"Now, Aunt Judy, you wouldn't have liked me not to have got out to that

"I should like some one else to have done it."

"Yes, I suppose Dudley would have done it," and Roy's tone was a little
sad; "but you see I wanted to help. As he was saying to me this morning,
he will have many more chances than I when he gets bigger and goes out
to India to do good to people. I shall have to stop at home now, for I
shall never be able to ride, he will have all the big opportunities, and
I must be content with the little ones."

"You talk like a little old grandfather, sometimes," said Miss Bertram,
laughing, as she sat down beside him. "You must make the most of David
while he is with you, for I have heard from his stepfather this morning,
and he wishes him sent to school at once."

Roy's eyes opened wide.

"But I shall go too, shan't I, Aunt Judy?"

"I am afraid not just yet. You are not fit to rough it; besides we
couldn't lose both our boys!"

"But I must go if Dudley goes, I must!" and Roy's tone was passionate
now. "I won't have him go away from me--I've lost Rob, and that is bad
enough--You wouldn't take Dudley away from me, too, Aunt Judy!"

"Hush, hush, we will not talk any more about it now. He will not go
till after Easter, and that won't be here yet."

Miss Bertram was sorry she had broached the subject, when she saw Roy's
distress, and going downstairs sent Dudley up to play with him.

Later on when she was sitting with her mother in the drawing-room a
small head appeared. "May I come in, granny?"

It was Dudley, and his round and rosy face was unusually solemn.
Marching in he took up his position on the hearth-rug, his back to the
fire, and with his hands deep in his pockets, he turned his face rather
defiantly toward his grandmother.

"Granny, I'm not going to school without Roy."

"Hoighty-toity! What next, I wonder. Is that the way for little boys to
speak to their elders. You will do what you are told as long as you are
in my house, as your father did before you."

"It is your stepfather's wish," put in Miss Bertram; "you ought to be
willing to obey him."

"Not if he tells me to do something wrong. And I'm sure it would be
quite a wrong thing for me to go away from Roy. We have promised never
to leave each other till we grow up, and we don't mean to break our
promise. And, granny, I'm sure you don't like broken promises. Father
doesn't know about Roy, and he can't understand like I do, and it would
be very wrong of him if he took me away from Roy!"

Mrs. Bertram put on her glasses and inspected her little grandson with
searching eyes.

"That is a most disrespectful speech, Dudley. I shall of course uphold
your father's wishes."

"But, granny, I can't leave Roy. It will break his heart. You don't know
how he frets about his leg. He doesn't say much and is always so
cheerful, but he misses me most awfully even if I'm away for a day. If
he was well and strong, he could get on first-rate, but he wouldn't get
about half so much if I didn't take him. I think he would mope and mope
all by himself. And I don't think we could live without each other. You
won't send me away, will you?"

Tears were filling Dudley's blue eyes, but Mrs. Bertram looked

"In my days, children never thought of arguing with their elders. I
think your aunt and I are as capable of taking care of Roy as you are.
Now leave the room, and do not refer to the matter again."

Then Dudley astonished his grandmother by the first exhibition of
temper that he had ever displayed before her.

"I _won't_ be separated from Roy. If you send me to school, I shall run
away, and I shall write and tell father the reason!"

A stamp of the foot emphasized this passionate speech, and then Dudley
fled from the room, banging the door violently behind him.

As on a former occasion he now took himself and his grief to old
Principle. It was early-closing day in the village, and he found the old
man just locking up his door prepared for a ramble.

"Come along up to the hills with me, laddie," he said, after hearing the
trouble; "there's nothing like fresh air for blowing away a fit of the
dumps. I am going to the cave again--will you come with me?"

"Yes, I will. I've been in an awful temper in granny's room, and banged
her door. I don't think she'll ever forgive me!"

"'Tis like this, Master Dudley," said old Principle, presently, as they
walked over the hills together; "if it's right for you to go, there's
nothing to be said, and you must fall in with it whether you like it or

"But it can't be right for me to leave Roy when he wants me."

"It may be the best thing in the world for him and you, if it is to be.
'Tis a bad principle to determine whether a thing is right or wrong,
according to our liking."

"It's a cruel thing to part us!" said Dudley, doggedly.

"But may be a way will be found out of the difficulty by Master Roy
going with you."

"They say he isn't strong enough. That wetting in the rain has made him
bad again."

"Well now I should ask the good Lord to make him strong enough. There's
time between this and Easter."

Dudley brightened up at once.

"Do you think he might be strong enough? I should be able to take great
care of him, and I would, too. And he's so plucky, that I'm sure the
other boys would be good to him."

The cave was reached, and in the interest of watching excavation going
on Dudley was soon his bright self again.

He came home radiant, with a match-box full of tiny shells for Roy who
was waiting for him in the nursery.

"You have been away a time," he said, wearily: "I'm sure I'm well enough
to go out now. I can't bear the winter. It means so many colds and

"Well, you're going to get better very soon, and look here, old chap! If
you try your very best, perhaps the old doctor will give you leave to
come to school with me after Easter."

Roy's eyes sparkled at the thought.

"Nurse always makes such a molly-coddle of me, and so does granny; but
I'll try as hard as I can to be better."

"And now just look at these! Old Principle says these show that the sea
must have washed up amongst the hills and into his cave hundreds of
years ago, for these belong to salt water fish not river ones. Look at
them! 'Fossils' he calls them, they're shells made out of stone. He told
me I might give you these from him. I thought he would never go back to
his cave again after last December, but he says he feels so much
stronger now; and he is very careful how he digs; he won't let me come
near him while he does it. And he told me he has been busy writing a
paper which he is going to send to some society in London--I forget its
name. He is what you call a discoverer, isn't he?"

Roy nodded, then asked anxiously:

"Dudley, were you rude to granny before you went out? Aunt Judy came to
look for you here, and she said she hoped you were going to beg granny's
pardon for something."

"I'll go now, I had almost forgotten."

And Dudley trotted off to his grandmother's room. She received him
sternly, but he was so abjectly penitent that she soon forgave him, and
he returned to Roy with a relieved mind.

"It's a dreadful thing to have a temper," he remarked, as he sat upon
the nursery table swinging his legs to and fro; "I've given granny an
awful headache by the way I banged her door."

"What was it about?" asked Roy, with interest.

"About school," was the answer; "I told her I wasn't going away from

"I've been thinking of it a lot," said Roy, with a sigh; "but you'll
have to go, and I shall get on pretty well without you. You see a boy
with one leg wouldn't be much good amongst a lot of other boys. They
would only call him a cripple and push him aside. I shouldn't like them
to laugh at me. The only thing for me is a cripple school. Nurse has a
little grandson at one. I don't much care for cripples, those I've seen
seem very poor creatures with no fun in them, but of course I'm one
myself now; only I don't feel like it."

"You're no more a cripple than I am," was Dudley's indignant rejoinder,
"why no one would tell anything was the matter with you to look at you."

"We won't talk any more about it," said Roy, "I'm hungry and I hear tea

But both the little hearts were very full of a possible separation, and
for some days after it lay like a heavy nightmare on them. Then a letter
arrived from Rob which turned the current of their thoughts. It was his
first letter from India, and the boys looked at the foreign stamps and
paper, as if it were the greatest rarity on earth.


"I write to tell you we are safely here
and I am quite well as I hope you are. It is
very hot, but we don't do much work in the
middle of the day and I like the place. I wish
you could see the flowers and the black men
and the funny houses and the colored dresses
of the people. I am getting on, I hope, and
my sergeant told me the other day I might
get the stripe soon if I liked. I will keep a
lookout as you told me for Master Dudley's
father, but they say India is a bigger place
than England, which I don't believe, for we're
the grandest nation in the world, and the biggest
and the best, all of us in the barrack-room
agree to that. I saw a scorpion to-day
which pinches when it catches you and draws
the blood awful. There is a mountain battery
with us now, and they use mules instead of
horses, the hills are higher than those at home
and it's hard work going up. There is not
any fighting yet, but I am ready for it when
it comes, and will do my duty to the Queen
and you. My chum has helped me write this
letter and I hope it pleases you. I am trying
to endure hardness. Good-bye, Master Roy,

"Your faithful ROB.

"God bless you."

"That's a much nicer letter, isn't it?" said Roy, in great delight;
"that is quite as long as the one I sent him. I hope he will get some
fighting soon."

"Supposing if he does, and gets killed?" suggested Dudley.

But Roy put this thought away from him.

"I've known such lots of soldiers in books that come home, that I think
he will. Besides God will take care of him. Do you remember the picture
gallery at the general's the other day, Dudley?"

"Yes, what about it?"

"I was thinking about that soldier there with all his medals who broke
his mother's heart; and then about the soldier boy the general said was
the bravest. I suppose I would rather Rob was properly brave like that,
than do great things in battle; but I should think he might do both,
don't you think so?"

And Dudley nodded, adding, "Rob won't drink or gamble, I'm quite sure."



Easter came, and to the boys' great delight Roy was so much stronger
that it was settled he might accompany Dudley to a private boarding
school for one term. Thanks were due to Miss Bertram for this
arrangement; and she had great difficulty in obtaining her mother's
consent to it.

"I am sure the boys will get on best together; Roy will have a better
chance of growing strong if he is with Dudley than if he is to mope by
himself here. If we find he does not keep well, we can have him home
again; and from all we hear of the school, the boys are most carefully
looked after."

And certainly to judge from Roy's appearance and spirits, this plan
seemed most successful. It was a bright morning in April. The air was
cold but dry, and the old garden was sweet with the scent of hyacinths
and narcissuses. Bright beds of tulips and polyanthuses bordered the
green lawn, and old Hal was surveying the results of his work with pride
and satisfaction. Miss Bertram, in her leather gloves and garden apron,
was busy in and out of the hothouses; and the boys, after scampering
round in every one's way, had at last scrambled up to their favorite
seat on the garden wall.

"This time next week we shall be at school," said Dudley; "how funny we
shall feel!"

"We shan't be able to climb walls there, I suppose."

"On half-holidays, perhaps we shall. It isn't all lessons; old Selby
told us the happiest time of his life was when he was at school."

"I mean to be happy," said Roy, a smile hovering about his lips.

"And so do I," maintained Dudley, stoutly; "but it will be awfully
strange at first. It's like Rob going off to be a soldier. We're going
out 'to see life' nurse says."

"Old Principle wants us to come to tea with him before we go. I saw him
this morning going past our gate. He'll give us some of his good advice
like he did Rob, but I don't mind him, he's such a jolly old chap."

There was silence between them for a few minutes. Dudley was eating a
slice of cake which he had brought out of the house with him, and Roy
was dreamily watching the figures of his aunt and the old gardener
moving about amongst the bright colored flower beds.

"Dudley, we'll always keep friends, won't we?"

"Of course we will."

"But I dare say you'll have a lot of fellows at school who can get about
quicker with you than I can; and I don't want to keep you back. I only
want you to like me still best in your heart."

"Now look here, old chap! You know that I couldn't like any other fellow
better than you. You're much more likely to have a lot of chums than I
am, because you're so clever. Look at Rob; he used to think nothing of
me at all, and I got to think you didn't want me with you, after he

"That was awful rot then, because we two are quite different to any
other people. Only it would be a good thing to have a fresh promise
together; a kind of Bible covenant, you know, before we go to school."

"All right, here goes, then! Let us have your fists--now then, hear me!
I, Dudley Bertram, vow and declare that Fitz Roy Bertram shall continue
to be my dearest and nearest chum from this time forth, forevermore.

Roy grasped Dudley's hands eagerly and earnestly, and repeated his vow
in the same words, perhaps with additional emphasis; then with a sigh of
relief, he turned to chatter of other things.

Shortly after Miss Bertram came up to them with a newspaper in her

"Granny has just sent out this paper to me, boys. She thought you would
like to know that the troops in the place where Rob is, have all been
sent out on some expedition against a rebel chief in the mountains, so
he will have some fighting now."

"Hurrah!" shouted Dudley, "don't I wish I was with him! Does the
newspaper mention his name, Aunt Judy?"

"When shall we have a letter from him?"

"Not for some time yet, because this is telegraphed. It will be all over
before we hear. We must hope and pray that Rob may be kept safely
through it."

Miss Bertram looked grave, and the boys sobered down at once.

"But, Aunt Judy, of course fighting is dreadful, but it is a soldier's
duty, isn't it?"

"And Rob is sure to do his duty."

"Yes, boys, we will hope he will serve his Queen as well as he served us
whilst here. Rob was a good boy: I wish there were more like him."

And Miss Bertram moved away, whilst her little nephews worked off their
excitement at this news, by jumping down from the wall, and performing a
mimic battle in the pine wood outside. Very eagerly and impatiently did
they look for a letter before they went off to school, but none came;
and the last word that Roy said as he was leaving the house was,--

"Mind, Aunt Judy, you send on my letter when it comes as quick as

It was rather an ordeal for both the boys when the last leave-takings of
all at home came. The old nurse wept profusely, and was only comforted
by the assurance that she should go to her charges on the very first
intimation of illness. Mrs. Bertram gave them such warnings against
choosing evil companions, and becoming depraved in principles, that the
boys were quite awed and depressed; and the servants, one and all,
expressed such pity and sympathy for their departure, that Dudley at
last confided to Roy:

"If we were going to prison they couldn't look more shocked and gloomy."

General Newton insisted upon taking them himself to school.

"It looks well," he said to Miss Bertram, a little pompously; "for the
boys to have a man at their back, and I will have a few words with the
principal myself about Roy's delicacy of constitution. It will come with
more force from me than from you."

So the general was allowed to have his way, and by the time the boys
were in the train with a large packet of sandwiches and cakes to while
away the time, their spirits rose, and they declared that going off to
school was "the jolliest thing out."

It was late in the evening when they reached their destination. The
school was not far from the sea, and the clergyman who kept it would
never have more than thirty boarders; his wife, a sweet-faced
gentlewoman, received the boys most kindly, and General Newton came away
satisfied that it would prove a happy home as well as a good training
for the motherless boys.

Dudley and Roy were not long in making themselves at home; their high
spirits made them general favorites amongst the boys; and even Roy did
not feel himself out of place in the playground, whilst in the
schoolroom he proved a quick and intelligent pupil.

"The boys are happy, mother," said Miss Bertram one morning going into
her mother's room and handing her two letters; "and Mrs. Hawthorn has
written most favorably of them both."

"I should think so," said Mrs. Bertram, stiffly, who though sternness
itself to her grandsons was most indignant if any one dared to say a
word against them to her; "they would not be true Bertrams if they were
not favorites with all."

She opened the letters and read--


"It's our hour for home letters. We
like it here awfully. Mrs. Hawthorn is a brick,
she lets me come into the drawing-room with
her whenever I am tired, but I've only been
in once yet because I like to watch the boys
play best. I can bowl at cricket and bat too,
and I give a boy called 'Gnat' twopence a
game to do my runs for me. I'm collecting
birds' eggs. There's a boy here who has got
250 of them. I mean to find a sea gull's nest,
and then he'll swap twenty of his with me for
one gull's, because he has never got one yet.
There is a boy called 'Simple Simon,' he
thinks I am a wonder because I let him run
pins into my cork leg and never cry out. He
does not know it's a sham leg and I shan't tell
him. We should like another hamper very
soon, please. Cook's gingerbread was A1.
Give my love to granny, and tell her I take my
tonic when I go to bed every night. Give my
love to nurse. Tell old Principle Mr. Hawthorn
would like to know such a clever man
and see his cave. Send me Rob's letter
directly it comes, please. We do drill in the

"Your loving nephew



"This is an awfully jolly school. I'd
like you to be one of the boys. We are going
to have a paper chase next Thursday, and I bet
I'll lick some of the chaps at running. Roy
and I sleep in the next beds to each other. I
look after him when he will let me, he is top
of his class and Tom Hunter says he is a plucky
chap. Hunter is captain of the eleven. We
go to bathe every morning down by the sea,
and Hunter says his father is going to give
him a boat of his own in the summer. There
is a jolly tuck shop in the town. We can go
to it every Saturday. There is a boy here
called 'Fishy,' he wants to be my chum but I
like one called 'Cheshire Cat' better, but I
have no chum but Roy. Old Hawthorn only
canes for lies. A boy got caned last night,
and blubbered like a baby before he went in.
I send my love to granny, and all of you. Roy
expects Rob's letter every day.

"Your loving nephew


"P.S. Hunter says our cake has made his
mouth water for the next."



"Roy, Mrs. Hawthorn wants you. She has got some letters for you."

Dudley came up excitedly to Roy, directly after dinner was over one
Saturday afternoon.

"And I say," he continued; "bring them out and let us go down to the
beach to read them together. The tide will be out till the evening."

Roy hastened off, and wondered at Mrs. Hawthorn's grave look.

"Your aunt has sent me some letters to give you, Roy. She has only just
received them herself. They are about your friend in India."

"From Rob?" said Roy, with sparkling eyes. "Oh, I thought he never would
write. How jolly! And I see his writing, that's my letter."

He held out his hand eagerly but Mrs. Hawthorn laid her hand on his
shoulder gently.

"Yes, that was a letter he wrote to you before the fighting. Your aunt
has heard since--from a nurse who nursed him."

Something in her tone frightened Roy.

"Has he been wounded? He is well again, isn't he?"

"He is quite well now," she said, in a hushed voice.

For a minute Roy gazed at her, with horror and doubt dawning in his dark
eyes, then snatching the letters out of her hand he rushed out of the
room; and seizing hold of Dudley in the hall he exclaimed almost

"Dudley, something awful has happened to Rob, let us get away from the
house and read these letters."

He held them tightly in his hand, and would not let Dudley take them
from his grasp, till they reached the beach.

Then sitting down and leaning against an old weather-beaten rock, Roy,
with trembling fingers, first unfolded Rob's letter to himself.


"We are going up to the mountains to-morrow
to fight. The men say it will be stiff
work, driving an old chief from his stronghold.
Some of them don't like it, but I am
ready. I am a better writer now, I hope, so
want to tell you what I never have yet. I do
thank you with all my heart for being so kind
to a homeless lad and taking him in and giving
him a happy home. And I thank you
much more for teaching him to read and write
and giving up your playtime to get him on.
But if I was to thank you for a hundred years,
I couldn't thank you enough for telling me
about my Saviour and showing me the way to
heaven. Every word you ever said is sticking
to me. I mind all our talks, and if I may
have had some rough times in trying to serve
God first, I have been as happy as a king.
And I have found that the Lord has kept me
through the worst times, and I love Him with
all my heart. When I get to heaven I shall
be able to thank you proper. I do feel thankful
to you and Master Dudley. And now
good-bye and God bless you.

"Your faithful ROB forever."

Roy read this through.

"He's all right, Dudley. What did she mean? Why did she look so funny?"

Dudley shook his head.

"I don't know, read what Aunt Judy says."

Roy spread out his aunt's letter, and read it in unfaltering tones to
the end.


"If granny were not really very unwell
I should have come straight off to soften the
blow to you, but I send the letters which I
have just received, and I have asked Mrs.
Hawthorn to explain them to you. You must
be comforted by knowing that our dear Rob
has proved himself a hero and died a hero's
death. I know you would like to see the
nurse's letter written from the hospital, and I
also send you one from the major of his regiment
who used to know me years ago. I know
you will be a brave boy and bear this trouble
like a man. Tell Dudley to write to me by
the first post to tell me you have got the letters

"Your loving aunt,


The letter dropped from Roy's grasp, and he flung himself down on the
beach face foremost.

Dudley sat staring out at the sea without speaking. The blow had fallen
so heavily, and so unexpectedly, that speech was not forthcoming.

At last Roy looked up.

"You read the other letters to me, Dudley," he said, in a choked voice.

And Dudley, with a good deal of hesitation and effort interrupted by
tears, read out as follows:


"I have been asked to write to you
about Robert White who I am sorry to say
was brought into the military hospital the
other day dangerously wounded. He lingered
three days and was perfectly conscious up to
the last. I never saw a braver or more patient
lad. He told me all about your goodness to
him, and his devotion to a little nephew of
yours was most touching. His name was always
on his lips. He asked me to tell you the
circumstances of his death, and added, 'She
will tell Master Roy, I have tried to do my
duty. And I will be waiting now in heaven to
welcome him. I would have liked to be his servant,
but God wants me, and God comes first.'
I heard from his sergeant the details of the
engagement. A small party of them--White
among them--had been ordered to go and
take a certain mountain pass, and their officer
in command was shot just before they reached
it. I wish I could give you the account in the
sergeant's own words as he told it me. I will
try. 'We were marching up in single file, for
the pass was a very narrow one. Through
the clefts round it, we saw projecting the enemy's
bayonets and spears, and we knew it
was certain death for the first one in our
ranks. I led the men, and I tell you, Mum, it
was a cold-blooded way of meeting one's
death, worse than in the fiercest battle fighting
shoulder to shoulder! I pulled myself together,
tried to say a prayer and marched on,
wondering where I should be the next minute,
when suddenly before I knew where I was,
Corporal White had placed himself in front of
me. "You are not ready, sergeant," he said;
"I am, let me take your place." It wasn't time
to stand arguing, but I tell you I felt queer
when I saw the lad stretched for dead under
my feet. We had a sharp skirmish, but we
drove the enemy back, and the first one I
went to look for was White.'

"The sergeant told me this with a sob in
his voice; he added that for months he had
ridiculed White for his religion and tried to
drive it out of him. But he came every morning
to the hospital, and I saw him on his knees
by White's bedside, offering up a prayer that
he might be made a different man.

"And now I must try to give you more details
about White himself. I asked him if I
could do anything for him the last day he was
alive and then he asked me to write to you.
He kept the photo of your little nephew under
his pillow, and more than once he murmured--'God
first, the Queen next, and then Master
Roy--I'll be a faithful servant if I can!'
Toward evening I saw he was sinking. I said
'Are you comfortable, corporal?' and he looked
up with such a radiant smile: 'Safe in the
arms of Jesus,' he murmured, and those were
his last words. From what I have heard from
those who knew him out here, I gather that
his life was a singularly pure and upright one,
and that young as he was he had influenced
more than one careless drinking man to turn
over a new leaf, and be the same as he was. I
am forwarding his Bible and small belongings
by this mail.

"Believe me, dear madam,

"Yours faithfully,

"ROSE SMITH--Sister in Charge."

Roy listened to this with breathless interest, his eyes shining through
his tears.

"Oh, Dudley, how splendid! oh, Rob, you have been a brave soldier, but I
shall never, never see you again!"

Down went the little head and a torrent of tears burst forth; whilst
Dudley laying his curly head against his cousin's joined him in his
weeping. One more letter remained to be read and this was the major's--


"Having heard from you that one of
my men was a protege of yours, I take the
opportunity of saying a word for the poor
young fellow. He has been an exemplary
character since he came into the regiment, and
has, I hear, been a general favorite from his
extreme good nature, in spite of being a religious
lad. His influence was felt by all his
comrades who came in contact with him, and
I feel we have lost a smart and promising soldier.
The sister in the hospital tells me she is
writing particulars of his death. My sergeant
is very much cut up over it.

"With kind regards,

"Believe me, yours truly,

"W.A. ALDRIDGE--Major."

"And that's all," said Dudley, mournfully; "why, I can't believe Rob is
dead--we never knew he was ill."

Roy took up the letter, and read through Rob's again. Then he looked
across the blue ocean in front of him.

"Just read me that bit of the nurse's letter of the fight, Dudley. Can't
you think of him marching up to the enemy?"

Dudley read the desired bit, and then with a deep drawn breath Roy said:

"He acted out the song of the drummer boys, didn't he? He marched on to
meet his death like they did. I wonder how it felt. Could you have put
yourself in front of the sergeant, Dudley?"

"If you had been the sergeant, I could," was the prompt reply.

"But the sergeant hadn't been kind to him. Oh, Rob, Rob."

"Don't cry so, old chap, you'll make yourself ill. He's happy now.
Don't you think we'd better be going in?"

But Roy would not leave the beach till the tea bell sounded, and then he
crept in with such a white, weary face that kind Mrs. Hawthorn put him
straight to bed, and stayed with him listening to his trouble till tired
out and exhausted he fell asleep. When Dudley came to bed he found him
clutching the letters tight in one hand, and muttering in his sleep,
"God first, the Queen next, and then Master Roy!"

Once in the night he was roused by Roy's grasping hold of his

"Dudley, are you asleep?"

"No," was the sleepy answer, "aren't you well?"

"Yes, but I can't sleep. Tell me, was it my fault? Did I send Rob to his
death? I wanted him to go. Did I make him go?"

"Of course you didn't," and Dudley now was wide-awake. "He wanted to go
first, and you didn't like it, don't you remember?"

"Yes, I think he liked going; but if he hadn't heard that song perhaps
he would never have gone, he would never have wanted to be a soldier."

"He did a lot of good out there. I don't think he will be sorry now."

Roy settled down to sleep again comforted; but for the next few days he
seemed quite unable to give his mind to his lessons, and after some
correspondence with Miss Bertram, it was arranged that he and Dudley
should go home from Saturday to Monday. It was a sad home-coming, and
when Roy saw Rob's Bible his grief burst out afresh. The pages showed
how much they had been studied, but no verse was more marked than the
one Roy had given him. "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus

On Sunday evening the boys paid a visit to old Principle. They had been
talking about Rob, when Roy said wistfully,

"Rob used his opportunity when he got it, didn't he? I expect he didn't
know what a hero he was. I wonder if I shall ever get one come to me. I
should like to do something great for God, and great for my country. I
shall never give up wishing for a great opportunity to come to me!"

Then old Principle spoke, and his tone was very solemn:

"'Tis not I that will make you proud and uplifted, laddie, but you have
been given the grandest opportunity that ever a poor mortal could be
given, and you've taken it and made use of it, thank the Lord!"

Both boys gazed up at him with open eyes and mouths.

Dudley said after a minute's thought:

"We've both had some little opportunities, and Roy has had the biggest.
He saved me from drowning, and he went into the cave to fetch you!"

"Those weren't proper opportunities," muttered Roy in scorn, "they
aren't worth remembering; not after what Rob has done."

"Yes, the opportunity I'm talking of was a grander one than them, though
old Principle can't forget he owes his life perhaps to both of you boys'
thought of him. 'Tis what the Lord Himself left His throne in heaven
for," the old man proceeded in the same solemn tones; "'tis the one
thing, the only thing we're told brings joy to the happy ones above; nay
to the Almighty Himself, and 'tis wonderful that He will let us have the
part in it we do!"

"What do you mean?" questioned Roy awed and puzzled by old Principle's

"I mean this, laddie, you had an opportunity of leading an ignorant soul
to the feet of his Saviour; of enlisting a soldier not only in the
Queen's service but in the service of the King of Kings; of being the
means of filling an empty barren soul with a flood of light and
gladness; and of sending out a missionary in the midst of ungodliness
and vice, to turn many from the error of their ways. Is it not a greater
honor to help to save a soul from destruction, than bring glory to
yourself by some feat of physical strength or skill? Thank the Lord on
your knees to-night, that He sent you the opportunity you were always
hankering after; and thank Him He gave you the grace to seize hold of
it, and make use of it for His Glory, not your own!"

Old Principle's burst of eloquence almost startled the boys, and they
received it in silence; but later on, as they were walking home in the
cool of the evening Roy linked his arm in Dudley's and said softly--

"I see it all now. My broken leg and everything. It was when I was too
weak to go out with you, that Rob and I used to talk over these things."

And Dudley replied, with an emphatic nod, "Yes, though you didn't know
it, Rob was your big opportunity."


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