Part 8 out of 12
"Never mind assuring me, child," interrupted Mr. Huntley. "Your aunt
has said nothing to me; and if she had, it would go in at one ear and
out at the other. It is worse business than any complaint that she
Ellen laid down her pencil, and gazed at her father, awe-struck at his
strange tone. "What is it?" she breathed.
But Mr. Huntley did not answer. He remained perfectly still for a few
moments, absorbed in thought: and then, without a word of any sort to
Ellen, turned round to leave the room, took his hat as he passed
through the hall, and left the house.
Can you guess what it was that was troubling Mr. Huntley? Very
probably, if you can put, as the saying runs, this and that together.
Convinced, as he was, that Arthur Channing was not, could not be guilty
of taking the bank-note, yet puzzled by the strangely tame manner in
which he met the charge--confounded by the behaviour both of Arthur and
Constance relating to it--Mr. Huntley had resolved, if possible, to
dive into the mystery. He had his reasons for it. A very disagreeable,
a very improbable suspicion, called forth by the facts, had darted
across his mind; _therefore_ he resolved to penetrate to it. And he set
to work. He questioned Mr. Galloway, he questioned Butterby, he
questioned Jenkins, and he questioned Roland Yorke. He thus became as
thoroughly conversant with the details of the transaction as it was
possible for any one, except the actual thief, to be; and he drew his
own deductions. Very reluctantly, very slowly, very cautiously, were
they drawn, but very surely. The behaviour of Arthur and Constance
could only have one meaning: they were screening the real culprit. And
that culprit must be Hamish Channing.
Unwilling as Mr. Huntley was to admit it, he had no resource but to do
so. He grew as certain of it as he was of his own life. He had loved
and respected Hamish in no measured degree. He had observed the
attachment springing up between him and his daughter, and he had been
content to observe it. None were so worthy of her, in Mr. Huntley's
eyes, as Hamish Channing, in all respects save one--wealth; and, of
that, Ellen would have plenty. Mr. Huntley had known of the trifling
debts that were troubling Hamish, and he found that those debts,
immediately on the loss of the bank-note, had been partially satisfied.
That the stolen money must have been thus applied, and that it had been
taken for that purpose, he could not doubt.
Hamish! It nearly made Mr. Huntley's hair stand on end. That he must be
silent over it, as were Hamish's own family, he knew--silent for Mr.
Channing's sake. And what about Ellen?
_There_ was the sad, very sad grievance. Whether Hamish went wrong, or
whether Hamish went right, it was not of so much consequence to Mr.
Huntley; but it might be to Ellen--in fact, he thought it would be. He
had risen that morning resolved to hint to Ellen that any particular
intimacy with Hamish must cease. But he was strangely undecided about
it. Now that the moment was come, he almost doubted, himself, Hamish's
guilt. All the improbabilities of the case rose up before him in marked
colours; he lost sight of the condemning facts; and it suddenly
occurred to him that it was scarcely fair to judge Hamish so completely
without speaking to him. "Perhaps he can account to me for the
possession of the money which he applied to those debts," thought Mr.
Huntley. "If so, in spite of appearances, I will not deem him guilty."
He went out, on the spur of the moment, straight down to the office in
Guild Street. Hamish was alone, not at all busy, apparently. He was
standing up by the fireplace, his elbow on the mantelpiece, a letter
from Mr. Channing (no doubt the one alluded to in Mrs. Channing's
letter to Constance) in his hand. He received Mr. Huntley with his
cordial, sunny smile; spoke of the good news the letter brought, spoke
of the accident which had caused the delay of the mail, and finally
read out part of the letter, as Constance had to Judith.
It was all very well; but this only tended to embarrass Mr. Huntley. He
did not like his task, and the more confidential they grew over Mr.
Channing's health, the worse it made it for him to enter upon. As
chance had it, Hamish himself paved the way. He began telling of an
incident which had taken place that morning, to the scandal of the
town. A young man, wealthy but improvident, had been arrested for debt.
Mr. Huntley had not yet heard of it.
"It stopped his day's pleasure," laughed Hamish. "He was going along
with his gun and dogs, intending to pop at the partridges, when he got
popped upon himself, instead. Poor fellow! it was too bad to spoil his
sport. Had I been a rich man, I should have felt inclined to bail him
"The effect of running in debt," remarked Mr. Huntley. "By the way,
Master Hamish, is there no fear of a similar catastrophe for you?" he
added, in a tone which Hamish might, if he liked, take for a jesting
"For me, sir?" returned Hamish.
"When I left Helstonleigh in June, a certain young friend of mine was
not quite free from a suspicion of such liabilities," rejoined Mr.
Hamish flushed rosy red. Of all people in the world, Mr. Huntley was
the one from whom he would, if possible, have kept that knowledge, but
he spoke up readily.
"I did owe a thing or two, it can't be denied," acknowledged he. "Men,
better and wiser and richer than I, have owed money before me, Mr.
"Suppose they serve you as they have served Jenner this morning?"
"They will not do that," laughed Hamish, seeming very much inclined to
make a joke of the matter. "I have squared up some sufficiently to be
on the safe side of danger, and I shall square up the rest."
Mr. Huntley fixed his eyes upon him. "How did you get the money to do
Perhaps it was the plain, unvarnished manner in which the question was
put; perhaps it was the intent gaze with which Mr. Huntley regarded
him; but, certain it is, that the flush on Hamish's face deepened to
crimson, and he turned it from Mr. Huntley, saying nothing.
"Hamish, I have a reason for wishing to know."
"To know what, sir?" asked Hamish, as if he would temporize, or avoid
"Where did you obtain the money that you applied to liquidate, or
partially to liquidate, your debts?"
"I cannot satisfy you, sir. The affair concerns no one but myself. I
did get it, and that is sufficient."
Hamish had come out of his laughing tone, and spoke as firmly as Mr.
Huntley; but, that the question had embarrassed him, was palpably
evident. Mr. Huntley said good morning, and left the office without
shaking hands. All his doubts were confirmed.
He went straight home. Ellen was where he had left her, still alone.
Mr. Huntley approached her and spoke abruptly. "Are you willing to give
up all intimacy with Hamish Channing?"
She gazed at him in surprise, her complexion changing, her voice
faltering. "Oh, papa! what have they done?"
"Ellen, did I say 'they!' The Channings are my dear friends, and I hope
ever to call them such. They have done nothing unworthy of my
friendship or of yours. I said Hamish."
Ellen rose from her seat, unable to subdue her emotion, and stood with
her hands clasped before Mr. Huntley. Hamish was far dearer to her than
the world knew.
"I will leave it to your good sense, my dear," Mr. Huntley whispered,
glancing round, as if not caring that even the walls should hear. "I
have liked Hamish very much, or you may be sure he would not have been
allowed to come here so frequently. But he has forfeited my regard now,
as he must forfeit that of all good men."
She trembled excessively, almost to impede her utterance, when she
would have asked what it was that he had done.
"I scarcely dare breathe it to you," said Mr. Huntley, "for it is a
thing that we must hush up, as the family are hushing it up. When that
bank-note was lost, suspicion fell on Arthur."
"Well, papa?" wonderingly resumed Ellen.
"It was not Arthur who took it. It was Hamish. And Arthur is bearing
the stigma of it for his father's sake."
Ellen grew pale. "Papa, who says it?"
"No one _says_ it, Ellen. But the facts leave no room for doubt.
Hamish's own manner--I have just left him--leaves no room for it. He is
Then Ellen's anger, her _straightforwardness_, broke forth. She clasped
her hands in pain, and her face grew crimson. "He is _not_ guilty,
papa. I would answer for it with my own life. How dare they accuse him!
how dare they asperse him? Is he not Hamish Channing?"
Ellen burst into a passionate flood of tears. "Forgive me, papa. If he
has no one else to take his part, I will do it. I do not wish to be
undutiful; and if you bid me never to see or speak to Hamish Channing
again, I will implicitly obey you; but, hear him spoken of as guilty, I
will not. I wish I could stand up for him against the world."
"After that, Miss Ellen Huntley, I think you had better sit down."
Ellen sat down, and cried until she was calm.
Nothing of sufficient consequence to record here, occurred for some
weeks to the Channings, or to those connected with them. October came
in; and in a few days would be decided the uncertain question of the
seniorship. Gaunt would leave the college on the fifth; and on the
sixth the new senior would be appointed. The head-master had given no
intimation whatever to the school as to which of the three seniors
would obtain the promotion, and discussion ran high upon the
probabilities. Some were of opinion that it would be Huntley; some,
Gerald Yorke; a very few, Tom Channing. Countenanced by Gaunt and
Huntley, as he had been throughout, Tom bore on his way, amid much
cabal; but for the circumstance of the senior boy espousing (though not
very markedly) his cause, his place would have been unbearable. Hamish
attended to his customary duties in Guild Street, and sat up at night
as usual in his bedroom, as his candle testified to Judith. Arthur
tried bravely for a situation, and tried in vain; he could get nothing
given to him--no one seemed willing to take him on. There was nothing
for it but to wait in patience. He took the organ daily, and copied, at
home, the cathedral music. Constance was finding great favour with the
Earl of Carrick--but you will hear more about that presently. Jenkins
grew more like a shadow day by day. Roland Yorke went on in his
impulsive, scapegrace fashion. Mr. and Mrs. Channing sent home news,
hopeful and more hopeful, from Germany. And Charley, unlucky Charley,
had managed to get into hot water with the college school.
Thus uneventfully had passed the month of September. October was now
in, and the sixth rapidly approaching. What with the uncertainty
prevailing, the preparation for the examination, which on that day
would take place, and a little private matter, upon which some few were
entering, the college school had just then a busy and exciting time of
Stephen Bywater sat in one of the niches of the cloisters, a pile of
books by his side. Around him, in various attitudes, were gathered
seven of the most troublesome of the tribe--Pierce senior, George
Brittle, Tod Yorke, Fred Berkeley, Bill Simms, Mark Galloway, and
Hurst, who had now left the choir, but not the school. They were
hatching mischief. Twilight overhung the cloisters; the autumn evenings
were growing long, and this was a gloomy one. Half an hour, at the very
least, had the boys been gathered there since afternoon school, holding
a council of war in covert tones.
"Paid out he shall be, by hook or by crook," continued Stephen Bywater,
who appeared to be president--if talking more than his _confreres_
constitutes one. "The worst is, how is it to be done? One can't wallop
"Not wallop him!" repeated Pierce senior, who was a badly disposed boy,
as well as a mischievous one. "Why not, pray?"
"Not to any good," said Bywater. "_I_ can't, with that delicate face of
his. It's like beating a girl."
"That's true," assented Hurst. "No, it won't do to go in for beating;
might break his bones, or something. I can't think what's the good of
those delicate ones putting themselves into a school of this sort. A
parson's is the place for them; eight gentlemanly pupils, treated as a
private family, with a mild usher, and a lady to teach the piano."
The council burst into a laugh at Hurst's mocking tones, and Pierce
senior interrupted it.
"I don't see why he shouldn't--"
"Say she, Pierce," corrected Mark Galloway.
"She, then. I don't see why she shouldn't get a beating if she deserves
it; it will teach her not to try her tricks on again. Let her be
delicate; she'll feel it the more."
"It's all bosh about his being delicate. She's not," vehemently
interrupted Tod Yorke, somewhat perplexed, in his hurry, with the
genders. "Charley Channing's no more delicate than we are. It's all in
the look. As good say that detestable little villain, Boulter, is
delicate, because he has yellow curls. I vote for the beating."
"I'll vote you out of the business, if you show insubordination, Mr.
Tod," cried Bywater. "We'll pay out Miss Charley in some way, but it
shan't be by beating him."
"Couldn't we lock him up in the cloisters, as we locked up Ketch, and
that lot; and leave him there all night?" proposed Berkeley.
"But there'd be getting the keys?" debated Mark Galloway.
"As if we couldn't get the keys if we wanted them!" scoffingly retorted
Bywater. "We did old Ketch the other time, and we could do him again.
_That_ would not serve the young one out, locking him up in the
"Wouldn't it, though!" said Tod Yorke. "He'd be dead of fright before
morning, he's so mortally afraid of ghosts."
"Afraid of what?" cried Bywater.
"Of ghosts. He's a regular coward about them. He dare not go to bed in
the dark for fear of their coming to him. He'd rather have five and
twenty pages of Virgil to do, than he'd be left alone after nightfall."
The notion so tickled Bywater, that he laughed till he was hoarse.
Bywater could not understand being afraid of "ghosts." Had Bywater met
a whole army of ghosts, the encounter would only have afforded him
"There never was a ghost seen yet, as long as any one can remember,"
cried he, when he came out of his laughter. "I'd sooner believe in
Gulliver's travels, than I'd believe in ghosts. What a donkey you are,
"It's Charley Channing that's the donkey; not me," cried Tod, fiercely.
"I tell you, if we locked him up here for a night, we should find him
dead in the morning, when we came to let him out. Let's do it."
"What, to find him dead in the morning!" exclaimed Hurst. "You are a
nice one, Tod!"
"Oh, well, I don't mean altogether dead, you know," acknowledged Tod.
"But he'd have had a mortal night of it! All his clothes gummed
together from fright, I'll lay."
"I don't think it would do," deliberated Bywater. "A whole
night--twelve hours, that would be--and in a fright all the time, if he
_is_ frightened. Look here! I have heard of folks losing their wits
through a thing of the sort."
"I won't go in for anything of the kind," said Hurst. "Charley's not a
bad lot, and he shan't be harmed. A bit of a fright, or a bit of a
whacking, not too much of either; that'll be the thing for Miss
"Tod Yorke, who told you he was afraid of ghosts?" demanded Bywater.
"Oh, I know it," said Tod. "Annabel Channing was telling my sisters
about it, for one thing: but I knew it before. We had a servant once
who told us so, she had lived at the Channings'. Some nurse frightened
him when he was a youngster, and they have never been able to get the
fear out of him since."
"What a precious soft youngster he must have been!" said Mr. Bywater.
"She used to get a ghost and dress it up and show it off to Miss
"Get a ghost, Tod?"
"Bother! you know what I mean," said Tod, testily. "Get a broom or
something of that sort, and dress it up with a mask and wings: and he
is as scared over it now as he ever was. I don't care what you say."
"Look here!" exclaimed Bywater, starting from his niche, as a bright
idea occurred to him. "Let one of us personate a ghost, and appear to
him! That would be glorious! It would give him a precious good fright
for the time, and no harm done."
If the boys had suddenly found the philosopher's stone, it could
scarcely have afforded them so much pleasure as did this idea. It was
received with subdued shouts of approbation: the only murmur of dissent
to be heard was from Pierce senior. Pierce grumbled that it would not
be "half serving him out."
"Yes, it will," said Bywater. "Pierce senior shall be the ghost: he
tops us all by a head."
"Hurst is as tall as Pierce senior."
"That he is not," interrupted Pierce senior, who was considerably
mollified at the honour being awarded to him. "Hurst is not much above
the tips of my ears. Besides, Hurst is fat; and you never saw a fat
"Have you seen many ghosts, Pierce?" mocked Bywater.
"A few; in pictures. Wretched old scarecrows they always are, with a
cadaverous face and lantern jaws."
"That's the reason you'll do so well, Pierce," said Bywater. "You are
as thin as a French herring, you know, with a yard and a half of
Pierce received the doubtful compliment flatteringly, absorbed in the
fine vista of mischief opening before him. "How shall I get myself up,
Bywater?" asked he, complaisantly. "With horns and a tail?"
"Horns and a tail be bothered!" returned Hurst. "It must be like a real
ghost, all white and ghastly."
"Of course it must," acquiesced Bywater.
"I know a boy in our village that they served out like that,"
interposed Bill Simms, who was a country lad, and boarded in
Helstonleigh. "They got a great big turnip, and scooped it out and made
it into a man's face, and put a light inside, and stuck it on a post
where he had to pass at night. He was so frightened that he died."
"Cram!" ejaculated Tod Yorke.
"He did, though," repeated Simms. "They knew him before for an awful
little coward, and they did it to have some fun out of him. He didn't
say anything at the time; didn't scream, or anything of that sort; but
after he got home he was taken ill, and the next day he died. My father
was one of the jury on the inquest. He was a little chap with no father
or mother--a plough-boy."
"The best thing, if you want to make a ghost," said Tod Yorke, "is to
get a tin plate full of salt and gin, and set it alight, and wrap
yourself round with a sheet, and hold the plate so that the flame
lights up your face. You never saw anything so ghastly. Scooped-out
turnips are all bosh!"
"I could bring a sheet off my bed," said Bywater. "Thrown over my arm,
they'd think at home I was bringing out my surplice. And if--"
A wheezing and coughing and clanking of keys interrupted the
proceedings. It was Mr. Ketch, coming to lock up the cloisters. As the
boys had no wish to be fastened in, themselves, they gathered up their
books, and waited in silence till the porter was close upon them. Then,
with a sudden war-whoop, they sprang past him, very nearly startling
the old man out of his senses, and calling forth from him a shower of
The above conversation, puerile and school-boyish as it may seem, was
destined to lead to results all too important; otherwise it would not
have been related here. You very likely may have discovered, ere this,
that this story of the Helstonleigh College boys is not merely a work
of imagination, but taken from facts of real life. Had you been in the
cloisters that night with the boys--and you might have been--and heard
Master William Simms, who was the son of a wealthy farmer, tell the
tale of a boy's being frightened to death, you would have known it to
be a true one, if you possessed any knowledge of the annals of the
neighbourhood. In like manner, the project they were getting up to
frighten Charles Channing, and Charles's unfortunate propensity _to be_
frightened, are strictly true.
Master Tod Yorke's account of what had imbued his mind with this fear,
was a tolerably correct one. Charley was somewhat troublesome and
fractious as a young child, and the wicked nurse girl who attended upon
him would dress up frightful figures to terrify him into quietness. She
might not have been able to accomplish this without detection, but that
Mrs. Channing was at that time debarred from the active superintendence
of her household. When Charley was about two years old she fell into
ill health, and for eighteen months was almost entirely confined to her
room. Judith was much engaged with her mistress and with household
matters, and the baby, as Charley was still called, was chiefly left to
the mercies of the nurse. Not content with frightening him practically,
she instilled into his young imagination the most pernicious stories of
ghosts, dreams, and similar absurdities. But, foolish as _we_ know them
to be, they are not the less horrible to a child's vivid imagination.
At two, or three, or four years old, it is eagerly opening to
impressions; and things, solemnly related by a mother or a nurse,
become impressed upon it almost as with gospel truth. Let the fears
once be excited in this terrible way, and not a whole lifetime can
finally eradicate the evil. I would rather a nurse broke one of my
children's limbs, than thus poison its fair young mind.
In process of time the girl's work was discovered--discovered by
Judith. But the mischief was done. You may wonder that Mrs. Channing
should not have been the first to discover it; or that it could have
escaped her notice at all, for she had the child with her often for his
early religious instruction; but, one of the worst phases of this state
of things is, the shrinking tenacity with which the victim buries the
fears within his own breast. He dare not tell his parents; he is taught
not; and taught by fear. It may not have been your misfortune to meet
with a case of this sort; I hope you never will. Mrs. Channing would
observe that the child would often shudder, as with terror, and cling
to her in an unaccountable manner; but, having no suspicion of the
evil, she attributed it to a sensitive, timid temperament. "What is it,
my little Charley?" she would say. But Charley would only bury his face
the closer, and keep silence. When Martha--that was the girl's name:
not the same Martha who was now living at Lady Augusta's--came for him,
he would go with her willingly, cordially. It was not her he feared. On
the contrary, he was attached to her; she had taught him to be so; and
he looked upon her as a protector from those awful ghosts and goblins.
Well, the thing was in time discovered, but the mischief, I say, was
done. It could not be eradicated. Charles Channing's judgment and good
sense told him that all those bygone terrors were only tricks of that
wretched Martha's: but, overcome the fear, he could not. All
consideration was shown to him; he was never scolded for it, never
ridiculed; his brothers and sisters observed to him entire silence upon
the subject--even Annabel; and Mr. and Mrs. Channing had done reasoning
lovingly with him now. It is not argument that will avail in a case
like this. In the broad light of day, Charley could be very brave;
would laugh at such tales with the best of them; but when night came,
and he was left alone--if he ever was left alone--then all the old
terror rose up again, and his frame would shake, and he would throw
himself on the bed or on the floor, and hide his face; afraid of the
darkness, and of what he might see in it. He was as utterly unable to
prevent or subdue this fear, as he was to prevent his breathing. He
knew it, in the sunny morning light, to be a foolish fear, utterly
without reason: but, in the lonely night, there it came again, and he
could not combat it.
Thus, it is easy to understand that the very worst subject for a ghost
trick to be played upon, was Charley Channing. It was, however, going
to be done. The defect--for it really is a defect--had never transpired
to the College school, who would not have spared their ridicule, or
spared Charley. Reared, in that point, under happier auspices, they
could have given nothing but utter ridicule to the fear. Chattering
Annabel, in her thoughtless communications to Caroline and Fanny Yorke,
had not bargained for their reaching the ears of Tod; and Tod, when the
report did reach his ears, remembered to have heard the tale before;
until then it had escaped his memory.
Charley had got into hot water with some of the boys. Bywater had been
owing him a grudge for weeks, on account of Charley's persistent
silence touching what he had seen the day the surplice was inked; and
now there arose another grudge on Bywater's score, and also on that of
others. There is not space to enter into the particulars of the affair;
it is sufficient to say that some underhand work, touching cribs, came
to the knowledge of one of the under-masters--and came to him through
Not that Charley went, open-mouthed, and told; there was nothing of
that disreputable character--which the school held in especial
dislike--the sneak, about Charles Channing. Charley would have bitten
his tongue out first. By an unfortunate accident Charles was pinned by
the master, and questioned; and he had no resource but to speak out. In
honour, in truth, he could not do otherwise; but, the consequence
was--punishment to the boys; and they turned against him. Schoolboys
are not famous for being swayed by the rules of strict justice; and
they forgot to remember that in Charles Channing's place they would (at
any rate, most of them) have felt bound to do the same. They visited
the accident upon him, and were determined--as you have heard them
express it in their own phrase--to "serve him out."
Leaving this decision to fructify, let us turn to Constance. Lady
Augusta Yorke--good-hearted in the main, liberal natured, swayed by
every impulse as the wind--had been particularly kind to Constance and
Annabel Channing during the absence of their mother. Evening after
evening she would insist upon their spending at her house, Hamish--one
of Lady Augusta's lasting favourites, probably from his good
looks--being pressed into the visit with them by my lady. Hamish was
nothing loth. He had given up indiscriminate evening visiting; and,
since the coolness which had arisen in the manner of Mr. Huntley,
Hamish did not choose to go much to Mr. Huntley's, where he had been a
pretty constant visitor before; and he found his evenings hang somewhat
heavily on his hands. Thus Constance saw a good deal of the Earl of
Carrick; or, it may be more to the purpose to say, the earl saw a good
deal of her.
For the earl grew to like her very much indeed. He grew to think that
if she would only consent to become his wife, he should be the happiest
man in ould Ireland; and one day, impulsive in his actions as was ever
Lady Augusta, he told Constance so, in that lady's presence.
Constance--much as we may regret to hear it of her--behaved in by no
means a dignified manner. She laughed over it. When brought to
understand, which took some little time, that she was actually paid
that high compliment, she laughed in the earl's face. He was as old as
her father; and Constance had certainly regarded him much more in the
light of a father than a husband.
"I do beg your pardon, Lord Carrick," she said, apologetically "but I
think you must be laughing at me."
"Laughing at ye!" said the earl. "It's not I that would do that. I'd
like ye to be Countess of Carrick to-morrow, me dear, if you can only
get over me fifty years and me grey hair. Here's me sister--she knows
that I'd like to have ye. It's you that are laughing at me, Miss
Constance; at me ould locks."
"No, indeed, indeed it is not that," said Constance, while Lady Augusta
sat with an impassive countenance. "I don't know why I laughed. It so
took me by surprise; that was why, I think. Please do not say any more
about it, Lord Carrick."
"Ye could not like me as well as ye like William Yorke? Is that it,
Constance grew crimson. Like him as she liked William Yorke!
"Ye're the nicest girl I have seen since Kathleen Blake," resumed the
straightforward, simple earl. "She promised to have me; she said she
liked me grey hair better than brown, and me fifty years better than
thirty, but, while I was putting the place a bit in order for her, she
went and married a young Englishman. Did ye ever see him,
Augusta?"--turning to his sister. "He is a baronet. He came somewhere
from these parts."
Lady Augusta intimated stiffly that she had not the honour of the
baronet's acquaintance. She thought her brother was making a simpleton
of himself, and had a great mind to tell him so.
"And since Kathleen Blake went over to the enemy, I have not seen
anybody that I'd care to look twice at, till I came here and saw you,
Miss Constance," resumed the earl. "And if ye can only get to overlook
the natural impediments on me side, and not mind me being poor, I'd be
delighted, me dear, if ye'd say the word."
"You are very kind, very generous, Lord Carrick," said Constance, with
an impulse of feeling; "but I can only beg you never to ask me such a
"Ah! well, child, I see ye're in earnest," good-naturedly responded the
earl, as he gave it up. "I was afraid ye'd only laugh at me. I knew I
was too old."
And that was the beginning and the ending of Lord Carrick's wooing.
Scarcely worth recording, you will think. But there was a reason for
The important sixth of October--important to the Helstonleigh College
boys--did not rise very genially. On the contrary, it rose rather
sloppily. A soaking rain was steadily descending, and the streets
presented a continuous scene of puddles. The boys dashed through it
without umbrellas (I never saw one of them carry an umbrella in my
life, and don't believe the phenomenon ever was seen), their clean
surplices on their arms; on their way to attend ten-o'clock morning
prayers in the cathedral. The day was a holiday from school, but not
from morning service.
The college bell was beginning to ring out as they entered the
schoolroom. Standing in the senior's place, and calling over the roll,
was Tom Channing, the acting senior for a few brief hours. Since
Gaunt's departure, the previous day, Tom Channing had been head of the
school; it lay in the custom of the school for him so to be. Would his
place be confirmed? or would he lose it? Tom looked flurried with
suspense. It was not so much being appointed senior that he thought of,
as the disgrace, the humiliation that would be his portion, were he
deposed from it. He knew that he deserved the position; that it was his
by right; he stood first on the rolls, and he had done nothing whatever
to forfeit it. He was the school's best scholar; and--if he was not
always a perfect model for conduct--there was this much to be said in
his favour, that none of them could boast of being better.
The opinion of the school had been veering round for the last few days
in favour of Tom. I do not mean that he, personally, was in better
odour with it--not at all, the snow-ball, touching Arthur, had gathered
strength in rolling--but in favour of his chances of the seniorship.
Not a breath of intimation had the head-master given; except that, one
day, in complaining to Gaunt of the neglect of a point of discipline in
the school, which point was entirely under the control of the senior
boy, he had turned to Tom, and said, "Remember, Channing, it must be
observed for the future."
Tom's heart leaped within him as he heard it, and the boys looked
inquiringly at the master. But the master's head was then buried in the
deep drawer of his desk, hunting for a lost paper. Unless he had spoken
it in forgetfulness--which was not improbable-there could be no doubt
that he looked upon Tom as Gaunt's successor. The school so interpreted
it, and chose to become, amongst themselves, sullenly rebellious. As to
Tom, who was nearly as sanguine in temperament as Hamish, his hopes and
his spirits went up to fever heat.--
One of the last to tear through the street, splashing his jacket, and
splashing his surplice, was Harry Huntley. He, like all the rest, took
care to be in time that morning. There would have been no necessity for
his racing, however, had he not lingered at home, talking. He was
running down from his room, whither he had gone again after breakfast,
to give the finishing brush to his hair (I can tell you that some of
those college gentlemen were dandies), when Mr. Huntley's voice was
heard, calling him into the breakfast-room.
"Harry," said he, "I don't think that I need enjoin you not to suffer
your manner to show triumph towards Tom Channing, should you be
promoted over him to-day."
"I shan't be, papa. Channing will have the seniorship."
"How do you know that?"
"Oh, from something Pye let drop. We look upon it that Channing is as
good as senior."
Mr. Huntley remembered the tenor of the private conversation the master
had held with him, and believed his son would find himself mistaken,
and that he, Harry, would be made senior. That it would be Gerald
Yorke, Mr. Huntley did not believe. "At any rate, Harry, take heed to
what I say," he resumed. "Be very considerate and courteous towards
your friend Channing, if you should obtain it. Do not let me have to
blush for my son's ill feeling."
There was a tone in Mr. Huntley's voice which, to Harry's ears, seemed
to intimate that he did not speak without reason. "Papa, it would not
be fair for me to go up over Channing," he impulsively said.
"No. Comparing your merits together, Channing is the better man of the
Harry laughed. "He is not worse, at all events. Why are you saying
"Because I fancy that you are more likely to be successful than Tom
Channing. I wish I may be mistaken. I would rather he had it; for,
personally, he had done nothing to forfeit it."
"If Harry could accept the seniorship and displace Tom Channing, I
would not care to call him my brother again," interrupted Ellen
Huntley, with a flashing eye.
"It is not that, Ellen; you girls don't understand things," retorted
Harry. "If Pye displaces Tom from the scholarship, he does not do it to
exalt me; he does it because he won't have him at any price. Were I to
turn round like a chivalrous Knight Templar and say I'd not take it,
out of regard to my friend Tom, where would be the good? Yorke would
get hoisted over me, and I should be laughed at for a duffer. But I'll
do as you like, papa," he added, turning to Mr. Huntley. "If you wish
me not to take the honour, I'll resign it in favour of Yorke. I never
expected it to be mine, so it will be no disappointment; I always
thought we should have Channing."
"Your refusing it would do no good to Channing," said Mr. Huntley. "And
I should have grumbled at you, Harry, had you suffered Yorke to slip
over your head. Every one in his own right. All I repeat to you, my
boy, is, behave as you ought to Tom Channing. Possibly I may pay the
college school a visit this morning."
Harry opened his eyes to their utmost width.
"You, papa! Whatever for?"
"That is my business," laughed Mr. Huntley. "It wants only twenty
minutes to ten, Harry."
Harry, at the hint, bounded into the hall. He caught up his clean
surplice, placed there ready for him, and stuck his trencher on his
head, when he was detained by Ellen.
"Harry, boy, it's a crying wrong against Tom Channing. Hamish never did
"_Hamish_" interrupted Harry, with a broad grin. "A sign who you are
thinking of, mademoiselle."
Mademoiselle turned scarlet. "You know I meant to say Arthur, stupid
boy! It's a crying wrong, Harry, upon Tom Channing. Looking at it in
the worst light, _he_ has been guilty of nothing to forfeit his right.
If you can help him to the seniorship instead of supplanting him, be a
brave boy, and do it. God sees all things."
"I shall be late, as sure as a gun!" impatiently returned Harry. And
away he sped through the rain and mud, never slackening speed till he
was in the college schoolroom.
He hung up his trencher, flung his surplice on to a bench, and went
straight up, with outstretched hand, to Tom Channing, who stood as
senior, unfolding the roll. "Good luck to you, old fellow!" cried he,
in a clear voice, that rang through the spacious room. "I hope, with
all my heart, that you'll be in this post for many a day."
"Thank you, Huntley," responded Tom. And he proceeded to call over the
roll, though his cheek burnt at sundry hisses that came, in subdued
tones, from various parts of the room.
Every boy was present. Not a king's scholar but answered to his name;
and Tom signed the roll for the first time. "Channing, acting senior."
Not "Channing, senior," yet. It was a whim of Mr. Pye's that on Sundays
and saints' day--that is, whenever the king's scholars had to attend
service--the senior boy should sign the roll.
They then put on their surplices; and rather damp surplices some of
them were. The boys most of them disdained bags; let the weather be
what it might, the surplices, like themselves, went openly through it.
Ready in their surplices and trenchers, Tom Channing gave the word of
command, and they were on the point of filing out, when a freak took
Pierce senior to leave his proper place in the ranks, and walk by the
side of Brittle.
"Halt!" said Channing. "Pierce senior, take your place."
"I shan't," returned Pierce. "Who is to compel me?" he added with a
mocking laugh. "We are without a senior for once."
"I will," thundered Tom, his face turning white at the implied sneer,
the incipient disobedience. "I stand here as the school's senior now,
whatever I may do later, and I will be obeyed. Return to your proper
There was that in Tom's eye, in Tom's tone, that somehow over-awed Mr.
Pierce; and he walked sheepishly to his own place. There was no
mistaking that Channing would make a firm senior. The boys proceeded,
two and two, decorously through the cloisters, snatching off their
trenchers as they entered the college gates. Tom and Huntley walked
last, Tom bearing the keys. The choir gained, the two branched off
right and left, Huntley placing himself at the head of the boys on the
left, or _cantori_ side; Tom, assuming his place as acting senior, on
the, _decani_. When they should sit next in that cathedral would their
posts be reversed?
The dean was present: also three canons--Dr. Burrows, who was subdean,
Dr. Gardner, and Mr. Mence. The head-master chanted, and in the stall
next to him sat Gaunt. Gaunt had discarded his surplice with his
schoolboy life; but curiosity with regard to the seniorship brought him
amongst them again that day. "I hope you'll keep the place, Channing,"
he whispered to him, as he passed the boys to get to his stall. Arthur
Channing was at his place at the organ.
Ere eleven o'clock struck, service was over, and the boys marched back
again. Not to the schoolroom--into the chapter-house. The examination,
which took place once in three years, was there held. It was conducted
quite in a formal manner; Mr. Galloway, as chapter clerk, being
present, to call over the roll. The dean, the three prebendaries who
had been at service, the head and other masters of the school, all
stood together in the chapter-house; and the king's scholars wearing
their surplices still, were ranged in a circle before them.
The dean took the examination. Dr. Burrows asked a question now and
then, but the dean chiefly took it. There is neither space nor time to
follow it in detail here: and no one would care to read it, if it were
given. As a whole, the school acquitted itself well, doing credit to
its masters. One of the chapter--it was Dr. Gardner, and the only word
he spoke throughout--remarked that the head boy was a sound scholar,
meaning Tom Channing.
The business over, the dean's words of commendation spoken, then the
head-master took a step forward and cleared his throat. He addressed
himself to the boys exclusively; for, what he had to say, had reference
to them and himself alone: it was supposed not to concern the clergy.
As to the boys, those who were of an excitable temperament, looked
quite pale with suspense, now the long-expected moment was come.
Channing? Huntley? Yorke?--which of the three would it be?
"The praise bestowed upon you, gentlemen, by the Dean and Chapter has
been, if possible, more gratifying to myself than to you. It would be
superfluous in me to add a word to the admonition given you by the Very
Reverend the Dean, as to your future conduct and scholarly improvement.
I can only hope, with him, that they may continue to be such as to
afford satisfaction to myself, and to those gentlemen who are
associated with me as masters in the collegiate school."
A pause and a dead silence. The head-master cleared his throat again,
and went on.
"The retirement of William Gaunt from the school, renders the
seniorship vacant. I am sorry that circumstances, to which I will not
more particularly allude, prevent my bestowing it upon the boy whose
name stands first upon the rolls, Thomas Ingram Channing. I regret this
the more, that it is not from any personal fault of Channing's that he
is passed over; and this fact I beg may be most distinctly understood.
Next to Channing's name stands that of Henry Huntley, and to him I
award the seniorship. Henry Huntley, you are appointed senior of
Helstonleigh Collegiate School. Take your place."
The dead silence was succeeded by a buzz, a murmur, suppressed almost
as soon as heard. Tom Channing's face turned scarlet, then became
deadly white. It was a cruel blow. Huntley, with an impetuous step,
advanced a few paces, and spoke up bravely, addressing the master.
"I thank you, sir, for the honour you have conferred upon me, but I
have no right to it, either by claim or merit. I feel that it is but
usurping the place of Channing. Can't you give it to him, please sir,
instead of to me?"
The speech, begun formally and grandly enough for a royal president at
a public dinner, and ending in its schoolboy fashion, drew a smile from
more than one present. "No," was all the answer vouchsafed by Mr. Pye,
but it was spoken with unmistakable emphasis, and he pointed his finger
authoritatively to the place already vacated by Tom Channing. Huntley
bowed, and took it; and the next thing seen by the boys was Mr.
Galloway altering the roll. He transposed the names of Channing and
The boys, bowing to the clergy, filed out, and proceeded to the
schoolroom, the masters following them. Tom Channing was very silent.
Huntley was silent. Yorke, feeling mad with everyone, was silent. In
short, the whole school was silent. Channing delivered the keys of the
school to Huntley; and Mr. Pye, with his own hands, took out the roll
and made the alteration in the names. For, the roll belonging to the
chapter-house was not, as you may have thought, the every-day roll of
the schoolroom. "Take care what you are about, Huntley," said the
master. "A careless senior never finds favour with me."
"Very well, sir," replied Huntley. But he was perfectly conscious, as
he spoke, that his chief fault, as senior, would be that of
carelessness. And Gaunt, who was standing by, and knew it also,
telegraphed a significant look to Huntley. The other masters went up to
Huntley, shook hands, and congratulated him, for that was the custom of
the school; indeed, it was for that purpose only that the masters had
gone into the schoolroom, where they had, that day, no business. Gaunt
followed suit next, in shaking hands and congratulating, and the school
afterwards; Gerald Yorke doing his part with a bad grace.
"Thank you all," said Harry Huntley. "But it ought to have been Tom
Channing." Poor Tom's feelings, during all this, may be imagined.
The king's scholars were slinging their surplices on their arms to
depart, for they had full holiday for the remainder of the day, when
they were surprised by the entrance of Mr. Huntley. He went straight up
to the head-master, nodding pleasantly to the boys, right and left.
"Well, and who is your important senior?" he gaily demanded of the
Mr. Huntley drew in his lips. "For another's sake I am sorry to hear
it. But I can only express my hope that he will do his duty."
"I have just been telling him so," observed the master.
"What brings me here, is this, sir," continued Mr. Huntley to the
master. "Knowing there was a doubt, as to which of the three senior
boys would be chosen, I wished, should it prove to be my son, to speak
a word about the Oxford exhibition, which, I believe, generally
accompanies the seniorship. It falls due next Easter."
"Yes," said Mr. Pye.
"Then allow me to decline it for my son," replied Mr. Huntley. "He will
not need it; and therefore should not stand in the light of any other
boy. I deemed it well, sir, to state this at once."
"Thank you," warmly responded the head-master. He knew that it was an
unselfish, not to say generous, act.
Mr. Huntley approached Tom Channing. He took his hand; he shook it
heartily, with every mark of affection and respect. "You must not allow
this exaltation of Harry to lessen the friendship you and he entertain
for each other," he said, in tones that reached every pair of ears
present--and not one but was turned up to listen. "You are more
deserving of the place than he, and I am deeply sorry for the
circumstances which have caused him to supplant you. Never mind, Tom;
bear on bravely, lad, and you'll outlive vexation. Continue to be
worthy of your noble father; continue to be my son's friend; there is
no boy living whom I would so soon he took pattern by, as by you."
The hot tears rushed into Tom's eyes, and his lip quivered. But that he
remembered where he was, he might have lost his self-control. "Thank
you, sir," he answered, in a low tone.
"Whew!" whistled Tod Yorke, as they were going out. "A fine friend he
is! A thief's brother."
"A thief's brother! A thief's brother!" was the echo.
"But he's not our senior. Ha! ha! that would have been a good joke!
He's not our senior!"
And down the steps they clattered, and went splashing home, as they had
come, they and their surplices, through the wet streets and the rain.
The moon was high in the heavens. Lighting up the tower of the
cathedral, illuminating its pinnacles, glittering through the elm
trees, bringing forth into view even the dark old ivy on the prebendal
houses. A fair night--all too fair for the game that was going to be
played in it.
When the Helstonleigh College boys resolved upon what they were pleased
to term a "lark"--and, to do them justice, they regarded this, their
prospective night's work, in no graver light--they carried it out
artistically, with a completeness, a skill, worthy of a better cause.
Several days had they been hatching this, laying their plans, arranging
the details; it would be their own bungling fault if it miscarried. But
the college boys were not bunglers.
Stripped of its details, the bare plot was to exhibit a "ghost" in the
cloisters, and to get Charley Charming to pass through them. The
seniors knew nothing of the project. Huntley--it was the day following
his promotion--would have stopped it at once, careless as he was. Tom
Channing would have stopped it. Gerald Yorke might or might not; but
Tod had taken care not to tell Gerald. And Griffin, who was burning to
exercise in any way his newly acquired power, would certainly have
stopped it. They had been too wise to allow it to come to the knowledge
of the seniors. The most difficult part of the business had been old
Ketch; but that was managed.
The moonlight shone peacefully on the Boundaries, and the conspirators
were stealing up, by ones and twos, to their place of meeting, round
the dark trunks of the elm trees. Fine as it was overhead, it was less
so under-foot. The previous day, you may remember, had been a wet one,
the night had been wet, and also the morning of the present day.
Schoolboys are not particularly given to reticence, and a few more than
the original conspirators had been taken into the plot. They were
winding up now, in the weird moonlight, for the hour was approaching.
Once more we must pay a visit to Mr. Ketch in his lodge, at his supper
hour. Mr. Ketch had changed his hour for that important meal. Growing
old with age or with lumbago, he found early rest congenial to his
bones, as he informed his friends: so he supped at seven, and retired
betimes. Since the trick played him in the summer, he had taken to have
his pint of ale brought to him; deeming it more prudent not to leave
his lodge and the keys, to fetch it. This was known to the boys, and it
rendered their plans a little more difficult.
Mr. Ketch, I say, sat in his lodge, having locked up the cloisters
about an hour before, sneezing and wheezing, for he was suffering from
a cold, caught the previous day in the wet. He was spelling over a
weekly twopenny newspaper, borrowed from the public-house, by the help
of a flaring tallow candle, and a pair of spectacles, of which one
glass was out. Cynically severe was he over everything he read, as you
know it was in the nature of Mr. Ketch to be. As the three-quarters
past six chimed out from the cathedral clock, his door was suddenly
opened, and a voice called out, "Beer!" Mr. Ketch's ale had arrived.
But the arrival did not give that gentleman pleasure, and he started up
in what, but for the respect we bear him, we might call a fury. Dashing
his one-eyed glasses on the table, he attacked the man.
"What d'ye mean with your 'beer' at this time o' night? It wants a
quarter to seven! Haven't you no ears? haven't you no clock at your
place? D'ye think I shall take it in now?"
"Well, it just comes to this," said the man, who was the brewer at the
public-house, and made himself useful at odd jobs in his spare time:
"if you don't like to take it in now, you can't have it at all, of my
bringing. I'm going up to t'other end of the town, and shan't be back
this side of ten."
Mr. Ketch, with much groaning and grumbling, took the ale and poured it
into a jug of his own--a handsome jug, that had been in the wars and
lost its spout and handle--giving back the other jug to the man. "You
serve me such a imperant trick again, as to bring my ale a quarter of a
hour aforehand, that's all!" snarled he.
The man received the jug, and went off whistling; he had the pleasure
of knowing Mr. Ketch and his temper well. That gentleman closed his
door with a bang, and proceeded to take out his customary bread and
cheese. Not that he had any great love for a bread-and-cheese supper as
a matter of fancy: he would very much have preferred something more
dainty; only, dainties and Mr. Ketch's pocket did not agree.
"They want to be took down a notch, that public--sending out a man's
beer a quarter afore seven, when it ain't ordered to come till seven
strikes. Much they care if it stops a waiting and flattening! Be I a
slave, that I should be forced to swallow my supper afore I want it,
just to please them? They have a sight too much custom, that's what it
He took a slight draught of the offending ale, and was critically
surveying the loaf, before applying to it that green-handled knife of
his, whose elegance you have heard of, when a second summons was heard
at the door--a very timid one this time.
Mr. Ketch flung down the bread and the knife. "What's the reason I
can't get a meal in quiet? Who is it?"
There was no response to this, beyond a second faint tapping. "Come
in!" roared out he. "Pull the string o' the latch."
But nobody came in, in spite of this lucid direction; and the timid
tapping, which seemed to proceed from very small knuckles, was repeated
again. Mr. Ketch was fain to go and open it.
A young damsel of eight or so, in a tattered tippet, and a large
bonnet--probably her mother's--stood there, curtseying. "Please, sir,
Mr. Ketch is wanted."
Mr. Ketch was rather taken to at this strange address, and surveyed the
messenger in astonishment. "Who be you? and who wants him?" growled he.
"Please, sir, it's a gentleman as is waiting at the big green gates,"
was the reply. "Mr. Ketch is to go to him this minute; he told me to
come and say so, and if you didn't make haste he should be gone."
"Can't you speak plain?" snarled Ketch. "Who is the gentleman?"
"Please, sir, I think it's the bishop."
This put Ketch in a flutter. The "big green gates" could only have
reference to the private entrance to the bishop's garden, which
entrance his lordship used when attending the cathedral. That the
bishop was in Helstonleigh, Ketch knew: he had arrived that day, after
a short absence: what on earth could he want with _him_? Never
doubting, in his hurry, the genuineness of the message, Ketch pulled
his door to, and stepped off, the young messenger having already
decamped. The green gates were not one minute's walk from the
lodge--though a projecting buttress of the cathedral prevented the one
from being in sight of the other--and old Ketch gained them, and looked
Where was the bishop? The iron gates, the garden, the white stones at
his feet, the towering cathedral, all lay cold and calm in the
moonlight, but of human sight or sound there was none. The gates were
locked when he came to try them, and he could not see the bishop
He was not likely to see him. Stephen Bywater, who took upon himself
much of the plot's performance--of which, to give him his due, he was
boldly capable--had been on the watch in the street, near the
cathedral, for a messenger that would suit his purpose. Seeing this
young damsel hurrying along with a jug in her hand, possibly to buy
beer for _her_ home supper, he waylaid her.
"Little ninepins, would you like to get threepence?" asked he. "You
shall have it, if you'll carry a message for me close by."
"Little ninepins" had probably never had a whole threepence to herself
in her young life. She caught at the tempting suggestion, and Bywater
drilled into her his instructions, finding her excessively stupid in
the process. Perhaps that was all the better. "Now you mind, you are
_not_ to say who wants Mr. Ketch, unless he asks," repeated he for
about the fifth time, as she was departing to do the errand. "If he
asks, say you think it's the bishop."
So she went, and delivered it. But had old Ketch's temper allowed him
to go into a little more questioning, he might have discovered the
trick. Bywater stealthily followed the child near to the lodge,
screening himself from observation; and, as soon as old Ketch hobbled
out of it, he popped in, snatched the cloister keys from their nail,
and deposited a piece of paper, folded as a note, on Ketch's table.
Then he made off.
Back came Ketch, after a while. He did not know quite what to make of
it, but rather inclined to the opinion that the bishop had not waited
for him. "He might have wanted me to take a errand round to the
deanery," soliloquized he. And this thought had caused him to tarry
about the gates, so that he was absent from his lodge quite ten
minutes. The first thing he saw, on entering, was the bit of paper on
his table. He seized and opened it, grumbling aloud that folks used his
house just as they pleased, going in and out without reference to his
presence or his absence. The note, written in pencil, purported to be
from Joseph Jenkins. It ran as follows:--
My old father is coming up to our place to-night, to eat a bit of
supper, and he says he should like you to join him, which I and Mrs. J.
shall be happy if you will, at seven o'clock. It's tripe and onions.
Now, if there was one delicacy, known to this world, more delicious to
old Ketch's palate than another, it was tripe, seasoned with onions.
His mouth watered as he read. He was aware that it was--to use the
phraseology of Helstonleigh--"tripe night." On two nights in the week,
tripe was sold in the town ready dressed. This was one of them, and
Ketch anticipated a glorious treat. In too great a hurry to cast so
much as a glance round his lodge (crafty Bywater had been deep), not
stopping even to put up the bread and cheese, away hobbled Ketch as
fast as his lumbago would allow him, locking safely his door, and not
having observed the absence of the keys.
"He ain't a bad sort, that Joe Jenkins," allowed he, conciliated beyond
everything at the prospect the invitation held out, and talking to
himself as he limped away towards the street. "He don't write a bad
hand, neither! It's a plain un; not one o' them new-fangled scrawls
that you can't read. Him and his wife have held up their heads a cut
above me--oh yes, they have, though, for all Joe's humbleness--but the
grand folks be a coming to. Old Jenkins has always said we'd have a
supper together some night, him and me; I suppose this is it. I wonder
what made him take and have it at Joe's? If Joe don't soon get better
than he have looked lately--"
The first chime of the cathedral clock giving notice of the hour,
seven! Old Ketch broke out into a heat, and tried to hobble along more
quickly. Seven o'clock! What if, through being late, his share of
supper should be eaten!
Peering out every now and then from the deep shade, cast by one of the
angles of the cathedral, and as swiftly and cautiously drawn back
again, was a trencher apparently watching Ketch. As soon as that
functionary was fairly launched on his way, the trencher came out
completely, and went flying at a swift pace round the college to the
It was not worn by Bywater. Bywater, by the help of the stolen keys,
was safe in the cloisters, absorbed with his companions in preparations
for the grand event of the night. In point of fact, they were getting
up Pierce senior. Their precise mode of doing that need not be given.
They had requisites in abundance, having disputed among themselves
which should be at the honour of the contribution, and the result was
an undue prodigality of material.
"There's seven!" exclaimed Bywater in an agony, as the clock struck.
"Make haste, Pierce! the young one was to come out at a quarter past.
If you're not ready, it will ruin all."
"I shall be ready and waiting, if you don't bother," was the response
of Pierce. "I wonder if old Ketch is safely off?"
"What a stunning fright Ketch would be in, if he came in here and met
the ghost!" exclaimed Hurst. "He'd never think it was anything less
than the Old Gentleman come for him."
A chorus of laughter, which Hurst himself hushed. It would not do for
noise to be heard in the cloisters at that hour.
There was nothing to which poor Charley Channing was more sensitive,
than to ridicule on the subject of his unhappy failing--his propensity
to fear; and there is no failing to which schoolboys are more
intolerant. Of moral courage--that is, of courage in the cause of
right--Charles had plenty; of physical courage, little. Apart from the
misfortune of having had supernatural terror implanted in him in
childhood, he would never have been physically brave. Schoolboys cannot
understand that this shrinking from danger (I speak of palpable
danger), which they call cowardice, nearly always emanates from a
superior intellect. Where the mental powers are of a high order, the
imagination unusually awakened, danger is sure to be keenly perceived,
and sensitively shrunk from. In proportion will be the shrinking dread
of ridicule. Charles Channing possessed this dread in a remarkable
degree; you may therefore judge how he felt, when he found it mockingly
alluded to by Bywater.
On this very day that we are writing of, Bywater caught Charles, and
imparted to him in profound confidence an important secret; a choice
few of the boys were about to play old Ketch a trick, obtain the keys,
and have a game in the cloisters by moonlight. A place in the game, he
said, had been assigned to Charles. Charles hesitated. Not because it
might be wrong so to cheat Ketch--Ketch was the common enemy of the
boys, of Charley as of the rest--but because he had plenty of lessons
to do. This was Bywater's opportunity; he chose to interpret the
"So you are afraid, Miss Charley! Ho! ho! Do you think the cloisters
will be dark? that the moon won't keep the ghosts away? I say, it
_can't_ be true, what I heard the other day--that you dare not be in
the dark, lest ghosts should come and run away with you!"
"Nonsense, Bywater!" returned Charley, changing colour like a conscious
"Well, if you are not afraid, you'll come and join us," sarcastically
returned Bywater. "We shall have stunning good sport. There'll be about
a dozen of us. Rubbish to your lessons! you need not be away from them
more than an hour. It won't be _dark_, Miss Channing."
After this, fearing their ridicule, nothing would have kept Charley
away. He promised faithfully to be in the cloisters at a quarter past
Accordingly, the instant tea was over, he got to his lessons; Tom at
one side of the table--who had more, in proportion, to do than
Charles--he at the other. Thus were they engaged when Hamish entered.
"What sort of a night is it, Hamish?" asked Charles, thinking of the
"Fine," replied Hamish. "Where are they all?"
"Constance is in the drawing-room, giving Annabel her music lesson.
Arthur's there too, I think, copying music."
Silence was resumed. Hamish stood over the fire in thought. Tom and
Charles went on with their studies. "Oh dear!" presently exclaimed the
latter, in a tone of subdued impatience.
Hamish turned his eyes upon him. He thought the bright young face
looked unusually weary. "What is it, Charley, boy?"
"It's this Latin, Hamish. I can't make it come right. And Tom has no
time to tell me."
"Bring the Latin here."
Charles carried his difficulties to Hamish. "It won't come right,"
"Like Mrs. Dora Copperfield's figures, I expect, that wouldn't add up,"
said Hamish, as he cast his eyes over the exercise-book. "Halloa, young
gentleman! what's this! You have been cribbing." He had seen in the
past leaves certain exercises so excellently well done as to leave no
doubt upon the point.
Charles turned crimson. Cribs were particularly objectionable to Mr.
Channing, who had forbidden their use, so far as his sons were
concerned. "I could not help it, Hamish. I used the cribs for about a
week. The desk made me."
"Well," confessed Charley, "there has been a row about the cribbing.
The rest had cribbed, and I had not, and somehow, through that, it came
out to the second master. He asked me a lot of questions, and I was
obliged to tell. It made the desk savage, and they said I must do as
"Which you complied with! Nice young gentlemen, all of you!"
"Only for five or six days, Hamish. You may see that, if you look. I am
doing my lessons on the square, now, as I did before."
"And don't go off the square again, if you please, sir," repeated
Hamish, "or you and I may quarrel. If Mr. Channing is not here, I am."
"You don't know how tyrannical the college boys are."
"Don't I!" said Hamish. "I was a college boy rather longer than you
have yet been, Master Charley."
He sat down to the table and so cleared Charley's difficulties that the
boy soon went on swimmingly, and Hamish left him. "How do you get on,
Tom?" Hamish asked.
"Better than I need," was Tom's answer, delivered somewhat roughly.
"After the injustice done me yesterday, it does not much matter how I
Hamish turned himself round to the fire, and said no more, neither
attempting to console nor remonstrate. Charles's ears were listening
for the quarter past seven, and, the moment it chimed out, he left his
work, took his trencher from the hall, and departed, saying nothing to
He went along whistling, past Dr. Gardner's house, past the deanery;
they and the cathedral tower, rising above them, looked grey in the
moonlight. He picked up a stone and sent it right into one of the elm
trees; some of the birds, disturbed from their roost, flew out,
croaking, over his head. In the old days of superstition it might have
been looked upon as an evil omen, coupled with what was to follow. Ah,
Charley! if you could only foresee what is before you! If Mrs.
Channing, from her far-off sojourn, could but know what grievous ill is
about to overtake her boy!
Poor Charley suspected nothing. He was whistling a merry tune,
laughing, boy-like, at the discomfiture of the rooks, and anticipating
the stolen game he and his friends were about to enjoy on forbidden
ground. Not a boy in the school loved play better than did Master
A door on the opposite side of the Boundaries was suddenly opened, to
give admittance to one who sprung out with a bound. It was Gerald
Yorke: and Charley congratulated himself that they were on opposite
sides; for he had been warned that this escapade was to be kept from
At that moment he saw a boy come forth from the cloisters, and softly
whistle to him, as if in token that he was being waited for. Charley
answered the whistle, and set off at a run. Which of the boys it was he
could not tell; the outline of the form and the college cap were
visible enough in the moonlight; but not the face. When he gained the
cloister entrance he could no longer see him, but supposed the boy had
preceded him into the cloisters. On went Charley, groping his way down
the narrow passage. "Where are you?" he called out.
There was no answer. Once in the cloisters, a faint light came in from
the open windows overlooking the graveyard. A very faint light, indeed,
for the buildings all round it were so high, as almost to shut out any
view of the sky: you must go quite to the window-frame before you could
"I--s-a-a-y!" roared Charley again, at the top of his voice, "where are
you all? Is nobody here?"
There came neither response nor sign of it. One faint sound certainly
did seem to strike upon his ear from behind; it was like the click of a
lock being turned. Charley looked sharply round, but all seemed still
again. The low, dark, narrow passage was behind him; the dim cloisters
were before him; he was standing at the corner formed by the east and
south quadrangles, and the pale burial-ground in their midst, with its
damp grass and its gravestones, looked cold and lonely in the
The strange silence--it was not the silence of daylight--struck upon
Charles with dismay. "You fellows there!" he called out again, in
desperation. "What's the good of playing up this nonsense?"
The tones of his voice died away in the echoes of the cloisters, but of
other answer there was none. At that instant a rook, no doubt one of
the birds he had disturbed, came diving down, and flapped its wings
across the burial-ground. The sight of something, moving there, almost
startled Charles out of his senses, and the matter was not much mended
when he discovered it was only a bird. He turned, and flew down the
passage to the entrance quicker than he had come up it; but, instead of
passing out, he found the iron gate closed. What could have shut it?
There was no wind. And if there had been ever so boisterous a wind, it
could scarcely have moved that little low gate, for it opened inwards.
Charles seized it to pull it open. It resisted his efforts. He tried to
shake it, but little came of that, for the gate was fastened firmly.
Bit by bit stole the conviction over his mind that he was locked in.
Then terror seized him. He was locked in the ghostly cloisters, close
to the graves of the dead; on the very spot where, as idle tales, went,
the monks of bygone ages came out of those recording stones under his
feet, and showed themselves at midnight. Not a step could he take,
round the cloisters, but his foot must press those stones. To be locked
in the cloisters had been nothing (from this point of view) for brave,
grown, sensible men, such as the bishop, Jenkins, and Ketch--and they
had been three in company, besides--but for many a boy it would have
been a great deal; and for Charles Channing it was awful.
That he was alone, he never doubted. He believed--as fully as belief,
or any other feeling could flash into his horrified mind--that Bywater
had decoyed him into the cloisters and left him there, in return for
his refusal to disclose what he knew of the suspicions bearing upon the
damaged surplice. All the dread terrors of his childhood rose up before
him. To say that he was mad in that moment might not be quite correct;
but it is certain that his mind was not perfectly sane. His whole body,
his face, his hair, grew damp in an instant, as of one in mortal agony,
and with a smothered cry, which was scarcely like that of a human
being, he turned and fled through the cloisters, in the vague hope of
finding the other gate open.
It may be difficult for some of you to understand this excessive
terror, albeit the situation was not a particularly desirable one. A
college boy, in these enlightened days, laughs at supernatural tales as
the delusions of ignorance in past ages; but for those who have had the
misfortune to be imbued in infancy with superstition, as was Charles
Channing, the terror still exists, college boys though they may be. He
could not have told (had he been collected enough to tell anything)
what his precise dread was, as he flew through the cloisters. None can
do so, at these moments. A sort of vampire rises in the mind, and they
shrink from it, though they see not what its exact nature may be; but
it is a vampire that can neither be faced nor borne.
Feeling as one about to die; feeling as if death, in that awful moment,
might be a boon, rather than the contrary, Charles sped down the east
quadrangle, and turned into the north. At the extremity of the north
side, forming the angle between it and the west, commenced the narrow
passage similar to the one he had just traversed, which led to the west
gate of entrance. A faint glimmering of the white flagged stones beyond
this gate, gave promise that it was open. A half-uttered sound of
thankfulness escaped him, and he sped on.
Ah! but what was that? What was it that he came upon in the middle of
the north quadrangle, standing within the niches? A towering white
form, with a ghastly face, telling of the dead; a mysterious,
supernatural-looking blue flame lighting it up round about. It came out
of the niche, and advanced slowly upon him. An awful cry escaped from
his heart, and went ringing up to the roof of the cloisters. Oh! that
the good dean, sitting in his deanery close to the chapter-house, could
have heard that helpless cry of anguish!--that Dr. Burrows, still
nearer, could have heard it, and gone forth into the cloisters with the
succour of his presence! No, no; there could be no succour for a spot
supposed to be empty and closed.
Back to the locked gate--with perhaps the apparition following him? or
forward _past_ IT to the open door? Which was it to be? In these
moments there can be no reason to guide the course; but there is
instinct; and instinct took that ill-fated child to the open door.
How he flew past the sight, it is impossible to tell. Had it been right
in front of his path, he never would have passed it. But it had halted
just beyond the niche, not coming out very far. With his poor hands
stretched out, and his breath leaving him, Charles did get by, and made
for the door, the ghost bringing up the rear with a yell, while those
old cloister-niches, when he was fairly gone, grew living with moving
figures, which came out of their dark corners, and shrieked aloud with
Away, he knew not whither--away, as one who is being pursued by an
unearthly phantom--deep catchings of the breath, as will follow undue
bodily exertion, telling of something not right within; wild, low,
abrupt sounds breaking from him at intervals--thus he flew, turning to
the left, which led him towards the river. Anywhere from the dreaded
cloisters; anywhere from the old, grey, ghostly edifice; anywhere in
his dread and agony. He dashed past the boat-house, down the steps,
turning on to the river pathway, and--
Whether the light, hung at the boat-house, deceived his sight--whether
the slippery mud caused him to lose his footing--whether he was running
too quickly and could not stop himself in time--or whether, in his
irrepressible fear, he threw himself unconsciously in, to escape what
might be behind him, will never be known. Certain it is, that the
unhappy boy went plunge into the river, another and a last wild cry
escaping him as the waters closed over his head.
MR. KETCH'S EVENING VISIT.
It were surely a breach of politeness on our part not to attend Mr.
Ketch in his impromptu evening visit! He shuffled along at the very top
of his speed, his mouth watering, while the delicious odour of tripe
and onions appeared to be borne on the air to his olfactory nerves: so
strong is the force of fancy. Arrived at his destination, he found the
shop closed. It was Mrs. Jenkins's custom to close at seven from
October to April; and the shutters had now just been put up. Mr. Ketch
seized the knocker on the shop-door--there was no other entrance to the
house--and brought it down with a force that shook the first-floor
sitting-room, and startled Mr. Harper, the lay clerk, almost out of his
armchair, as he sat before the fire. Mrs. Jenkins's maid, a young
person of seventeen, very much given to blacking her face, opened it.
"Be I in time?" demanded Ketch, his voice shaking.
"In time for what?" responded the girl.
"Why, for supper," said Ketch, penetrating into the shop, which was
lighted by a candle that stood on the counter, the one the girl had
brought in her hand. "Is old Jenkins the bedesman come yet?"
"Old Jenkins ain't here," said she. "You had better go into the
parlour, if you're come to supper."
Ketch went down the shop, sniffing curiously. Sharp as fancy is, he
could not say that he was regaled with the scent of onions, but he
supposed the saucepan lid might be on. For, as was known to Mr. Ketch,
and to other of the initiated in tripe mysteries, it was generally
thought advisable, by good housewives, to give the tripe a boil up at
home, lest it should have become cold in its transit from the vendor's.
The girl threw open the door of the small parlour, and told him he
might sit down if he liked; sh: did not overburden the gentleman with
civility. "Missis'll be here soon," said she.
Ketch entered the parlour, and sat down. There was a fire in the grate,
but no light, and there were not, so far as Ketch could see, any
preparations yet for the entertainment. "They're going to have it
downstairs in the kitchen," soliloquized he. "And that's a sight more
comfortabler. She's gone out to fetch it, I shouldn't wonder!" he
continued, alluding to Mrs. Jenkins, and sniffing again strongly, but
without result. "That's right! she won't let 'em serve her with short
onions, she won't; she has a tongue of her own. I wonder how much beer
He sat on pretty patiently, for him, about half an hour, and then took
the liberty of replenishing the fire from a coal-box that stood there.
Another quarter of an hour was passed much more impatiently, when Ketch
began to grow uneasy and lose himself in all sorts of grave
conjectures. Could she have arrived too late, and found the tripe all
sold, and so had stopped out to supper herself somewhere? Such a thing
as a run on the delicacy had occurred more than once, to Ketch's
certain knowledge, and tardy customers had been sent away disappointed,
to wait in longing anticipations for the next tripe night. He went into
a cold perspiration at the bare idea. And where was old Jenkins, all
this time, that he had not come in? And where was Joe? A pretty thing
to invite a gentleman out to an impromptu supper, and serve him in this
way! What could they mean by it?
He groped his way round the corner of the shop to where lay the kitchen
stairs, whose position he pretty well knew, and called. "Here, Sally,
Betty--whatever your name is--ain't there nobody at home?"
The girl heard, and came forth, the same candle in hand. "Who be you
calling to, I'd like to know? My name's Lidyar, if you please."
"Where's your missis?" responded Ketch, suffering the name to drop into
abeyance. "Is she gone out for the tripe?"
"Gone out for what tripe?" asked the girl. "What be you talking of?"
"The tripe for supper," said Ketch.
"There ain't no tripe for supper," replied she.
"There is tripe for supper," persisted Ketch. "And me and old Jenkins
are going to have some of it. There's tripe and onions."
The girl shook her head. "I dun know nothing about it. Missis is
upstairs, fixing the mustard."
Oh come! this gave a promise of something. Old Ketch thought mustard
the greatest condiment that tripe could be accompanied by, in
conjunction with onions. But she must have been a long time "fixing"
the mustard; whatever that might mean. His spirits dropped again, and
he grew rather exasperated. "Go up and ask your missis how long I be to
wait?" he growled. "I was told to come here at seven for supper, and
now it's a'most eight."
The girl, possibly feeling a little curiosity herself, came up with her
candle. "Master ain't so well to-night," remarked she. "He's gone to
bed, and missis is putting him a plaster on his chest."
The words fell as ice on old Ketch. "A mustard-plaster?" shrieked he.
"What else but a mustard-plaster!" she retorted. "Did you think it was
a pitch? There's a fire lighted in his room, and she's making it
Nothing more certain. Poor Jenkins, who had coughed more than usual the
last two days, perhaps from the wet weather, and whose chest in
consequence was very painful, had been ordered to bed this night by his
wife when tea was over. She had gone up herself, as soon as her shop
was shut, to administer a mustard-plaster. Ketch was quite stunned with
uncertainty. A man in bed, with a plaster on his chest, was not likely
to invite company to supper.
Before he had seen his way out of the shock, or the girl had done
staring at him, Mrs. Jenkins descended the stairs and joined them,
having been attracted by the conversation. She had slipped an old buff
dressing-gown over her clothes, in her capacity of nurse, and looked
rather en deshabille; certainly not like a lady who is about to give an
"He says he's come to supper: tripe and onions," said the girl,
unceremoniously introducing Mr. Ketch and the subject to her wondering
Mrs. Jenkins, not much more famous for meekness in expressing her
opinions than was Ketch, turned her gaze upon that gentleman. "_What_
do you say you have come for?" asked she.
"Why, I have come for supper, that's what I have come for," shrieked
Ketch, trembling. "Jenkins invited me to supper; tripe and onions; and
I'd like to know what it all means, and where the supper is."
"You are going into your dotage," said Mrs. Jenkins, with an amount of
scorn so great that it exasperated Ketch as much as the words
themselves. "You'll be wanting a lunatic asylum next. Tripe and onions!
If Jenkins was to hint at such a thing as a plate of tripe coming
inside my house, I'd tripe him. There's nothing I have such a hatred to
as tripe; and he knows it."
"Is this the way to treat a man?" foamed Ketch, disappointment and
hunger driving him almost into the state hinted at by Mrs. Jenkins.
"Joe Jenkins sends me down a note an hour ago, to come here to supper
with his old father, and it was to be tripe and onions! It _is_ tripe
night!" he continued, rather wandering from the point of argument, as
tears filled his eyes. "You can't deny as it's tripe night."
"Here, Lydia, open the door and let him out," cried Mrs. Jenkins,
waving her hand imperatively towards it. "And what have you been at
with your face again?" continued she, as the candle held by that damsel
reflected its light. "One can't see it for colly. If I do put you into
that mask I have threatened, you won't like it, girl. Hold your tongue,
old Ketch, or I'll call Mr. Harper down to you. Write a note! What
else? He has wrote no note; he has been too suffering the last few
hours to think of notes, or of you either. You _are_ a lunatic, it's my
"I shall be drove one," sobbed Ketch. "I was promised a treat of--"
"Is that door open, Lydia? There! Take yourself off. My goodness, me!
disturbing my house with such a crazy errand!" And, taking old Ketch by
the shoulders, who was rather feeble and tottering, from lumbago and
age, Mrs. Jenkins politely marshalled him outside, and closed the door
"Insolent old fellow!" she exclaimed to her husband, to whom she went
at once and related the occurrence. "I wonder what he'll pretend he has
next from you? A note of invitation, indeed!"
"My dear," said Jenkins, revolving the news, and speaking as well as
his chest would allow him, "it must have been a trick played him by the
young college gentlemen. We should not be too hard upon the poor old
man. He's not very agreeable or good-tempered, I'm afraid it must be
allowed; but--I'd not have sent him away without a bit of supper, my
"I dare say you'd not," retorted Mrs. Jenkins. "All the world knows you
are soft enough for anything. I have sent him away with a flea in his
ear; that's what I have done."
Mr. Ketch had at length come to the same conclusion: the invitation
must be the work of the college gentlemen. Only fancy the unhappy man,
standing outside Mrs. Jenkins's inhospitable door! Deceived, betrayed,
fainting for supper, done out of the delicious tripe and onions, he
leaned against the shutters, and gave vent to a prolonged and piteous
howl. It might have drawn tears from a stone.
In a frame of mind that was not enviable, he turned his steps homeward,
clasping his hands upon his empty stomach, and vowing the most intense
vengeance upon the college boys. The occurrence naturally caused him to
cast back his thoughts to that other trick-the locking him into the
cloisters, in which Jenkins had been a fellow-victim--and he doubled
his fists in impotent anger. "This comes of their not having been
flogged for that!" he groaned.
Engaged in these reflections of gall and bitterness, old Ketch gained
his lodge, unlocked it, and entered. No wonder that he turned his eyes
upon the cloister keys, the reminiscence being so strong within him.
But, to say he turned his eyes upon the cloister keys, is a mere figure
of speech. No keys were there. Ketch stood a statue transfixed, and
stared as hard as the flickering blaze from his dying fire would allow
him. Seizing a match-box, he struck a light and held it to the hook.
The keys were _not_ there.
Ketch was no conjuror, and it never occurred to him to suspect that the
keys had been removed before his own departure. "How had them wicked
ones got in?" he foamed. "Had they forced his winder?--had they took a
skeleton key to his door?--had they come down the chimbley? They were
capable of all three exploits; and the more soot they collected about
'em in the descent, the better they'd like it. He didn't think they'd
mind a little fire. It was that insolent Bywater!--or that young
villain, Tod Yorke!--or that undaunted Tom Channing!--or perhaps all
three leagued together! Nothing wouldn't tame _them_."
He examined the window; he examined the door; he cast a glance up the
chimney. Nothing, however, appeared to have been touched or disturbed,
and there was no soot on the floor. Cutting himself a piece of bread
and cheese, lamenting at its dryness, and eating it as he went along,
he proceeded out again, locking up his lodge as before.
Of course he bent his steps to the cloisters, going to the west gate.
And there, perhaps to his surprise, perhaps not, he found the gate
locked, just as he might have left it himself that very evening, and
the keys hanging ingeniously, by means of the string, from one of the
studded nails, right over the keyhole.
"There ain't a boy in the school but what'll come to be hung!" danced
old Ketch in his rage.
He would have preferred not to find the keys; but to go to the
head-master with a story of their theft. It was possible, it was just
possible that, going, keys in hand, the master might refuse to believe
Away he hobbled, and arrived at the house of the head-master. Check the
first!--The master was not at home. He had gone to a dinner-party. The
other masters lived at a distance, and Ketch's old legs were aching.
What was he to do? Make his complaint to some one, he was determined
upon. The new senior, Huntley, lived too far off for his lumbago; so he
turned his steps to the next senior's, Tom Channing, and demanded to
Tom heard the story, which was given him in detail. He told Ketch--and
with truth--that he knew nothing about it, but would make inquiries in
the morning. Ketch was fain to depart, and Tom returned to the
sitting-room, and threw himself into a chair in a burst of laughter.
"What is the matter?" they asked.
"The primest lark," returned Tom. "Some of the fellows have been
sending Ketch an invitation to sup at Jenkins's off tripe and onions,
and when he arrived there he found it was a hoax, and Mrs. Jenkins
turned him out again. That's what Master Charley must have gone after."
Hamish turned round. "Where _is_ Charley, by the way?"
"Gone after it, there's no doubt," replied Tom. "Here's his exercise,
not finished yet, and his pen left inside the book. Oh yes; that's
where he has gone!"
"Tom, where is Charles?"
"He is not in my pocket," responded Tom Charming, who was buried in his
studies, as he had been for some hours.
"Thomas, that is not the proper way to answer me," resumed Constance,
in a tone of seriousness, for it was from her the question had
proceeded. "It is strange he should run out in the abrupt way you
describe, and remain out so long as this. It is half-past nine! I am
waiting to read."
"The boys are up to some trick to-night with Mr. Calcraft, Constance,
and he is one of them," said Tom. "He is sure to be in soon."
Constance remained silent; not satisfied. A nameless, undefined sort of
dread was creeping over her. Engaged with Annabel until eight o'clock,
when she returned to the general sitting-room, she found Charles
absent, much to her surprise. Expecting him to make his appearance
every moment, the time may have seemed to her long, and his absence all
the more unaccountable. It had now gone on to half-past nine, and still
he was not come in, and his lessons were not done. It was his hour for
Tom had more than usual to do that night, and it was nearly ten when he
rose from his books. Constance watched him put them aside, and stretch
himself. Then she spoke.
"Tom, you must go and find Charles. I begin to feel uneasy. Something
must have happened, to keep him out like this."
The feeling "uneasy" rather amused Tom. Previsions of evil are not apt
to torment schoolboys. "I expect the worst that has happened may be a
battle royal with old Ketch," said he. "However, the young monkey had
no business to cut short his lessons in the middle, and go off in this
way, so I'll just run after him and march him home."
Tom took his trencher and flew towards the cathedral. He fully expected
the boys would be gathered somewhere round it, not a hundred miles from
old Ketch's lodge. But he could not come upon them anywhere. The lodge
was closed, was dark and silent, showing every probability that its
master had retired for the night to sleep away his discomfiture. The
cloisters were closed, and the Boundaries lay calm in the moonlight,
undisturbed by a single footstep. There was no sign of Charles, or of
any other college boy.
Tom halted in indecision. "Where can he have gone to, I wonder? I'm
sure I don't know where to look for him! I'll ask at Yorke's! If
there's any mischief up, Tod's sure to know of it."
He crossed the Boundaries, and rang at Lady Augusta's door. Tod himself
opened it. Probably he thought it might be one of his friends, the
conspirators; certainly he had not expected to find Tom Channing there,
and he looked inclined to run away again.
"Tod Yorke, do you know anything of Charles?"
"Law! how should I know anything of him?" returned Tod, taking courage,
and putting a bold face upon it. "Is he lost?"
"He is not lost, I suppose; but he has disappeared somewhere. Were you
in the game with old Ketch, to-night?"
"What game?" inquired Tod, innocently.
But at this moment Gerald, hearing Tom's voice, came out of the
sitting-room. Gerald Yorke had a little cooled down from his resentment
against Tom. Since the decision of the previous day, nearly all
Gerald's wrath had been turned upon Mr. Pye, because that gentleman had
not exalted him to the seniorship. So great was it, that he had no room
to think of Tom. Besides, Tom was a fellow-sufferer, and had been
passed over equally with himself.
"What's the row?" asked Gerald.
Tom explained, stating what he had heard from Ketch of the trick the
boys had played him; and Charley's absence. Gerald, who really was not
cognizant of it in any way, listened eagerly, making his own comments,
and enjoying beyond everything the account of Ketch's fast in the
supper department. Both he and Tom exploded with mirth; and Tod, who
said nothing, but listened with his hands in his pockets, dancing first
on one leg, then on the other, nearly laughed himself into fits.
"What did they take out the cloister keys for?" demanded Gerald.
"Who's to know?" said Tom. "I thought Tod was sure to be in it."
"Don't I wish I had been!" responded that gentleman, turning up the
whites of his eyes to give earnestness to the wish.
Gerald looked round at Tod, a faint suspicion stealing over him that
the denial was less genuine than it appeared. In point of fact, Mr.
Tod's had been the identical trencher, spoken of as having watched the
effect of the message upon old Ketch. "I say, Tod, you were off
somewhere to-night for about two hours," said Gerald. "I'll declare you
"I know I was," said Tod readily. "I had an appointment with Mark
Galloway, and I went to keep it. If you skinned me alive, Channing, I
couldn't tell you where Miss Charley is, or where he's likely to be."
True enough in the abstract. Tom Channing stopped talking a short time
longer, and then ran home. "Is Charley in yet?" was his first question.
No, Charley was not in; and the household now became seriously
concerned. It was past ten. By leaving his lessons half done, and his
pen inside his exercise-book--of which exercise he had not left many
words to complete; but he had other studies to do--it was evident to
them that he had not gone out intending to remain away. Indeed, if he
wanted to go out in an evening, he always asked leave, and mentioned
where he was going.
"Haven't you found him?" exclaimed Judith, coming forward as Tom
entered. "Where in the world can the child be?"
"Oh, he's safe somewhere," said Tom. "Don't worry your old head, Judy."
"It's fit that somebody should worry their heads," retorted Judith
sharply to Tom. "He never stopped out like this before--never! Pray
Heaven there's no harm come nigh him!"
"Well done, Judy!" was Tom's answer. "Harm! What harm is likely to have
come to him? Helstonleigh has not been shaken by an earthquake
to-night, to swallow him up; and I don't suppose any greedy kite has
descended from the skies and carried him off in her talons. You'll make
a simpleton of that boy till he's twenty!"
Judith--who, truth to say, did look very much after Charley, loved him
and indulged him--wasted no more words on infidel Tom, but went
straight up to Hamish's room, and knocked at the door. Hamish was in
it, at his writing-table as usual, and Judith heard a drawer opened and
shut before he came to her.
"Mr. Hamish, it's very queer about the child!" said Judith. "I don't
half like it."
"What! Has he not come in?"
"No, he's not. And, just to look how he has left his books and his
lessons about, is enough to prove that something or other must have
kept him. I declare my heart's all in a quake! Master Tom has been out,
and can find no traces of him--though it's hard to tell whether he
troubled himself to look much. Boys are as careless one of another as
so many young animals."
"I will come down directly, Judith."
He shut the door, right in front of Judith's inquisitive nose, which
was peering in to ascertain what there might be to see. Judith's
curiosity, in reference to her young master's night employment, had
increased rather than abated. Every night, night after night, as Hamish
came home with the account-books of the office under his arm, and
carried them straight to his bedroom, Judith watched him go up with
jealous eyes. Constance also watched him: watched him in a far more
uneasy frame of mind than could be Judith's. Bringing home those books
now, in Mr. Channing's absence, was only too plain a proof to Constance
that his night work must be connected with them: and a perfectly sick
feeling would rush over her. Surely there could be nothing wrong with
Hamish closed the door, shutting out Judy. She heard him putting things
away: heard a lock turned, and the keys removed. Then he came forth,
and went down with Judith.
The difficulty was, where to look for Charles. It was possible that he
might have gone to the houses of any one of the schoolboys, and be
staying there: if not very likely, still it was by no means impossible.
Tom was despatched to Mr. Pye's, who had some half dozen of the king's
scholars boarding in his house; and thence to other houses in the
neighbourhood. All with the same result; all denied knowledge of
Charles. The college bell struck eleven, the sound booming out in the
silence of the night on their listening ears; and with that sound,
Hamish grew alarmed.
They went out different ways: Hamish, Arthur, Tom, and Judith. Sarah
was excessively anxious to make one of the searching party, but Judith
imperatively ordered her to stop at home and mind her own business.
Judy ran round and about the college, like any one wild; nothing extra
on her shoulders, and the border of her mob-cap flying. But the old red
walls were high, silent, and impenetrable; revealing nothing of Charles
Channing. She stopped at the low wall, extending from the side of the
boat-house to some of the prebendal residences, and glanced over at the
river. The water was flowing tranquilly between its banks, giving no
sign that a young child was drowning, or had been drowned there not
many hours before. "No," said Judy to herself, rejecting the doubt,
which had come over her as improbable, "he can't have got in there. We
should have heard of it."
She turned, and took a survey around. She did not know what to do, or
where to look. Still, cold, shadowy it all lay; the cathedral, the old
houses, the elm trees with their birds, at rest now. "Where _can_ he
have got to?" exclaimed Judith, with a touch of temper.
One thing was certain: it was of no use to wait where she was, and
Judith went herself home again. Just beyond the house of Lady Augusta
Yorke she encountered the head-master, who was walking towards his
home. He said "Good night" to Judith, as he passed her; but she
"We are in a fine way, sir! We can't find Master Charles."
"Not find Master Charles?" repeated Mr. Pye. "How do you mean?"
"Why, it happened in this way, sir," said Judith. "He was at his
lessons, as usual, with Master Tom, and he suddenly gets up and leaves
them, and goes out, without saying a word to nobody. That was at seven,
or a bit later; and he has never come in again."
"He must be staying somewhere," remarked Mr. Pye.
"So we all thought, sir, till it got late. He's not likely to be
staying anywhere now. Who'd keep him till this hour, terrifying of us
all into fits? Ketch--"
"Holloa, Judy! Any luck?"
The interruption came from Tom Channing. He had discerned Judy's cap
from the other side of the Boundaries, and now came running across,
unconscious that her companion was the head-master. Judy went on with
"Ketch, the porter, came to Master Tom an hour or two ago, complaining
that the college boys had been serving him a trick to-night. They had
pretended to invite him out somewhere to supper, and stole his cloister
keys while he was gone. Now, sir, I'd not like to say too much against
that surly-tempered brown bear," went on Judy, "but if he has had
anything to do with keeping the child out, he ought to be punished."
Tom was up now, saw it was the master, and touched his trencher.
"Have you found your brother?" asked the master.
"No, sir. It is very strange where he can have got to."
"What tricks have the boys been playing Ketch, to-night?" resumed Mr.
Pye. "Your servant tells me that he has been round to you to complain
Tom went into a white heat. Judy ought to have kept her mouth shut. It
was not his place to inform against the school, privately, to the
master. "Y--es," he hesitatingly said, for an untruth he would not
"What was the complaint?" continued Mr. Pye. "Could this disappearance
of your brother's be connected with it?"
"No, sir, I don't see that it could," replied Tom.
"You 'don't see!' Perhaps you'll allow me to see, and judge. What had
the boys been doing, Channing?" firmly spoke the master, perceiving his
hesitation. "I _insist_ upon knowing."
Tom was at his wits' ends. He might not defy the master, on the one
hand; on the other, he knew the school would send him to Coventry for
ever and a day, if he spoke; as he himself would have sent any other
boy, in it, doing the same thing. He heartily wished Judy had been in
Asia before she had spoken of it, and her tongue with her.
"Were you in the affair yourself, pray?" asked the master.
"No, sir, indeed I was not; and I do not know a single boy who was. I
have heard nothing of it, except from Ketch."
"Then what is your objection to tell me?"
"Well, sir, you know the rules we hold amongst ourselves," said Tom,
blurting out the truth, in his desperation. "I scarcely dare tell you."
"Yes, you dare, Channing, when I command you to do so," was the
Tom had no resource left; and, very unwillingly, Ketch's details were
drawn from him, bit by bit. The sham invitation, the disappointment
touching the tripe and onions, the missing the cloister keys when he
reached home, and the finding them outside the west door.
"Did he enter the cloisters and examine them?" said the master,
speaking hastily. A possibility had struck him, which had not struck