Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Eric by Frederic William Farrar

Part 4 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

The two shook hands in silence, and as they left each other they felt
that while things continued thus their friendship could not last. It was
a sad thought for both.

Next morning Wildney received a severe flogging, but gained great
reputation by not betraying his companion, and refusing to drop the
least hint as to their means of getting out, or their purpose in
visiting Ellan. So the secret of the bar remained undiscovered, and when
any boy wanted to get out at night--(unhappily the trick now became
common enough)--he had only to break a pane of glass in that particular
window, which, as it was in the passage, often remained unmended and
undiscovered for weeks.

After the flogging, Mr. Rose said shortly to Eric, "I want to speak to

The boy's heart misgave him as they entered the familiar library.

"I think I suspect who was Wildney's companion."

Eric was silent.

"I have no proof, and shall not therefore act on vague suspicion; but
the boy whom I _do_ suspect is one whose course lately has given me the
deepest pain; one who has violated all the early promise he gave; one
who seems to be going farther and farther astray, and sacrificing all
moral principle to the ghost of a fleeting and most despicable
popularity--to the approval of those whom he cannot himself approve."

Eric still silent.

"Whatever you do _yourself_, Williams"--(it was the first time for two
years that Mr. Rose had called him "Williams," and he winced a
little)--"whatever you do _yourself_, Williams, rests with _you_; but
remember it is a ten-thousandfold heavier and more accursed crime to set
stumbling-blocks in the way of others, and abuse your influence to cause
any of Christ's little ones to perish."

"I wasn't the tempter, however," thought Eric, still silent.

"Well, you seem hardened, and give no sign. Believe me, Williams, I
grieve for you, and that bitterly. My interest in you is no less warm,
though my affection for you cannot be the same. You may go."

"Another friend alienated, and oh, how true a one! He has not asked me
to see him once this term," thought Eric, sadly; but a shout of pleasure
greeted him directly he joined the football in the play-ground, and,
half consoled, he hoped Mr. Rose had heard it, and understood that was
meant for the boy whom he had just been rebuking. "Well, after all," he
thought, "I have _some_ friends still."

Yes, friends, such as they were! Except Duncan, hardly one boy whom he
really respected ever walked with him now. Even little Wright, one of
the very few lower boys who had risen superior to Brigson's temptations,
seemed to keep clear of him as much as he could; and, in absolute
vacuity, he was obliged to associate with fellows like Attlay, and
Graham, and Llewellyn, and Bull.

Even with Bull! All Eric's repugnance for this boy seemed to have
evaporated; they were often together, and, to all appearance, were sworn
friends. Eric did not shrink now from such conversation as was pursued
unchecked in his presence by nearly every one; nay, worse, it had lost
its horror, and he was neither afraid nor ashamed to join in it himself.
This plague-spot had fretted more deeply than any other into the heart
of the school morality, and the least boys seemed the greatest
proficients in unbaring without a blush, its hideous ugliness.



"Velut unda supervenit undam."--VIRGIL.

The Anti-muffs request the honor of Williams' company to a spread they
are going to have to-morrow evening at half-past four, in their

A note to this effect was put into Eric's hands by Wildney after
prayers. He read it when he got into his study, and hardly knew whether
to be pleased or disgusted at it.

He tossed it to Duncan, and said, "What shall I do?"

Duncan turned up his nose, and chucked the note into the fire.

"I'd give them that answer, and no other."


"Because, Eric," said Duncan, with more seriousness than was usual with
him, "I can't help thinking things have gone too far lately."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, I'm no saint myself, Heaven knows; but I do think that the
fellows are worse now than I have ever known them--far worse. Your
friend Brigson reigns supreme out of the studies; he has laid down a law
that _no work_ is to be done down stairs ever under any pretence, and
it's only by getting into one of the studies that good little chaps
like Wright can get on at all. Even in the class-rooms there's so much
row and confusion that the mere thought of work is ridiculous."

"Well, there's no great harm in a little noise, if that's all."

"But it isn't all. The talk of nearly the whole school is getting most
blackguardly; shamelessly so. Only yesterday Wildney was chatting with
Vernon up here (you were out, or Vernon would not have been here) while
I was reading; they didn't seem to mind me, and I'm sure you'd have been
vexed to the heart if you'd heard how they talked to each other. At last
I couldn't stand it any longer, and bouncing up, I boxed both their ears
smartly, and kicked them down stairs."

As Eric said nothing, Duncan continued, "And I wish it ended in talk,

"But I believe you're turning Owenite. Why, bless me, we're only
schoolboys; it'll be lots of time to turn saint some other day."

Eric was talking at random, and in the spirit of opposition. "You don't
want to make the whole school such a muffish set as the rosebuds,
do you?"

There was something of assumed bravado in Eric's whole manner which
jarred on Duncan exceedingly. "Do as you like," he said, curtly, and
went into another study.

Immediately after came a rap at the door, and in walked Wildney, as he
often did after the rest were gone to bed, merely slipping his trousers
over his nightshirt, and running up to the studies.

"Well, you'll come to the Anti-muffs, won't you?" he said.

"To that pestilential place again?--not I."

Wildney looked offended. "Not after we've all asked you? The fellows
won't half like your refusing."

He had touched Eric's weak point.

"Do come," he said, looking up in Eric's face.

"Confound it all," answered Eric, hastily. "Yes, I've no friends, I'll
come, Charlie. Anything to please you, boy."

"That's a brick. Then I shall cut down and tell the fellows. They'll be
no end glad. No friends! why all the school like you." And he scampered
off, leaving Eric ill at ease.

Duncan didn't re-enter the study that evening.

The next day, about half-past four, Eric found himself on the way to
Ellan. As he was starting, Bull caught him up, and said--

"Are you going to the Anti-muffs?"

"Yes; why? are you going too?"

"Yes; do you mind our going together?"

"Not at all."

In fact, Eric was very glad of some one--no matter who--to keep him in
countenance, for he felt consider ably more than half ashamed
of himself.

They went to "The Jolly Herring," as the pot-house was called, and
passed through the dingy beery tap-room into the back parlor, to which
Eric had already been introduced by Wildney. About a dozen boys were
assembled, and there was a great clapping on the table as the two
new-comers entered. A long table was laid down the room, which was
regularly spread for dinner.

"Now then, Billy; make haste with the goose," called Brigson. "I vote,
boys, that Eric Williams takes the chair."

"Hear! hear!" said half a dozen; and Eric, rather against his will,
found himself ensconced at the end of the table, with Brigson and Bull
on either hand. The villainous-low-foreheaded man, whom they called
Billy, soon brought in a tough goose at one end of the table, and some
fowls at the other; and they fell to, doing ample justice to the [Greek:
daiz heisae] while Billy waited on them. There was immense uproar during
the dinner, every one eating as fast, and talking as loud, as he could.

The birds soon vanished, and were succeeded by long rolly-polly
puddings, which the boys called Goliahs; and they, too, rapidly
disappeared. Meanwhile beer was circling only too plentifully.

"Now for the dessert, Billy," called several voices; and that worthy
proceeded to put on the table some figs, cakes, oranges, and four black
bottles of wine. There was a general grab for these dainties, and one
boy shouted, "I say, I've had no wine."

"Well, it's all gone. We must get some brandy--it's cheaper," said
Brigson; and accordingly some brandy was brought in, which the boys
diluted with hot water, and soon despatched.

"Here! before you're all done swilling," said Brigson, "I've got a
health; 'Confound muffs and masters, and success to the anti's.'"

"And their chairman,' suggested Wildney.

"And their chairman, the best fellow in the school," added Brigson.

The health was drunk with due clamor, and Eric got up to thank them.

"I'm not going to spout," he said; "but boys must be boys, and there's
no harm in a bit of fun. I for one have enjoyed it, and am much obliged
to you for asking me; and now I call for a song."

"Wildney! Wildney's song," called several.

Wildney had a good voice, and struck up, without the least bashfulness--

"Come, landlord, fill the flowing bowl,
Until it does run overt
Come, landlord, fill," &c

"Now," he said, "join in the chorus!" The boys, all more or less
excited, joined in heartily and uproariously--

"For to-night we'll merry merry be!
For to-night we'll merry merry be!
For to-night we'll merry merry be!
To-morrow we'll be sober!"

While Wildney sang, Eric had time to think. As he glanced round the
room, at the flushed faces of the boys, some of whom he could not
recognise in the dusky atmosphere, a qualm of disgust and shame passed
over him. Several of them were smoking, and, with Bull and Brigson
heading the line on each, side of the table, he could not help observing
what a bad set they looked. The remembrance of Russell came back to him.
Oh, if Edwin could have known that he was in such company at such a
place! And by the door stood Billy, watching them all like an evil
spirit, with a leer of saturnine malice on his evil face.

But the bright little Wildney, unconscious of Eric's bitter thoughts,
sang on with overflowing mirth. As Eric looked at him, shining out like
a sunbeam among the rest, he felt something like blood-guiltiness on his
soul, when, he felt that he was sanctioning the young boy's presence in
that degraded assemblage.

Wildney meanwhile was just beginning the next verse, when he was
interrupted by a general cry of "cave, cave." In an instant the room was
in confusion; some one dashed the candles upon the floor, the table was
overturned with a mighty crash, and plates, glasses, and bottles rushed
on to the ground in shivers. Nearly every one bolted for the door, which
led through the passage into the street; and in their headlong flight
and selfishness, they stumbled over each other, and prevented all
egress, several being knocked down and bruised in the crush. Others made
for the tap-room; but, as they opened the door leading into it, there
stood Mr. Ready and Mr. Gordon! and as it was impossible to pass without
being seen, they made no further attempt at escape. All this was the
work of a minute. Entering the back parlor, the two masters quickly took
down the names of full half the boys who, in the suddenness of the
surprise, had been unable to make their exit.

And Eric?

The instant that the candles were knocked over, he felt Wildney seize
his hand, and whisper, "This way all serene;" following, he groped his
way in the dark to the end of the room, where Wildney, shoving aside a
green baize curtain, noiselessly opened a door, which at once let them
into a little garden. There they both crouched down, under a lilac tree
beside the house, and listened intently.

There was no need for this precaution; their door remained unsuspected,
and in five minutes the coast was clear. Creeping into the house again,
they whistled, and Billy coming in, told them that the masters had gone,
and all was safe.

"Glad ye're not twigged, gen'lmen," he said; "but there'll be a pretty
sight of damage for all this glass and plates."

"Shut up with your glass and plates," said Wildney. "Here, Eric, we must
cut for it again."

It was the dusk of a winter evening when they got out from the close
room into the open air, and they had to consider which way they would
choose to avoid discovery. They happened to choose the wrong, but
escaped by dint of hard running, and Wildney's old short cut. As they
ran they passed several boys (who having been caught, were walking home
leisurely), and managed to get back undiscovered, when they both
answered their names quite innocently at the roll-call, immediately
after lock up.

"What lucky dogs you are to get off," said many boys to them.

"Yes, it's precious lucky for me," said Wildney. "If I'd been caught at
this kind of thing a second time, I should have got something worse than
a swishing."

"Well, it's all through you I escaped," said Eric, "you knowing little

"I'm glad of it, Eric," said Wildney in his fascinating way, "since it
is all through me you went. It's rather too hazardous though; we must
manage better another time."

During tea-time Eric was silent, as he felt pretty sure that none of the
sixth form or other study boys would particularly sympathise with his
late associates. Since the previous evening he had been cool with
Duncan, and the rest had long rather despised him as a boy who'd do
anything to be popular; so he sat there silent, looking as disdainful as
he could, and not touching the tea, for which he felt disinclined after
the recent potations. But the contemptuous exterior hid a self-reproving
heart, and he felt how far more noble Owen and Montagu were than he. How
gladly would he have changed places with them! how much he would have
given to recover some of their forfeited esteem!

The master on duty was Mr. Rose, and after tea he left the room for a
few minutes while the tables were cleared for "preparation," and the
boys were getting out their books and exercises. All the study and
class-room boys were expected to go away during this interval; but Eric,
not noticing Mr. Rose's entrance, sat gossipping with Wildney about the
dinner and its possible consequences to the school.

He was sitting on the desk carelessly, with one leg over the other, and
bending down towards Wildney. He had just told him that he looked like a
regular little sunbeam in the smoking-room of the Jolly Herring, and
Wildney was pretending to be immensely offended by the simile.

"Hush! no more talking," said Mr. Rose, who did everything very gently
and quietly. Eric heard him, but he was inclined to linger, and had
always received such mild treatment from Mr. Rose, that he didn't think
he would take much notice of the delay. For the moment he did not, so
Wildney began to chatter again.

"All study boys to leave the room," said Mr. Rose.

Eric just glanced round and moved slightly; he might have gone away,
but that he caught a satirical look in Wildney's eye, and besides wanted
to show off a little indifference to his old master, with whom he had
had no intercourse since their last-mentioned conversation.

"Williams, go away instantly; what do you mean by staying after I have
dismissed you?" said Mr. Rose sternly.

Every one knew what a favorite Eric had once been, so this speech
created a slight titter. The boy heard it just as he was going out of
the room, and it annoyed him, and called to arms all his proud and
dogged obstinacy. Pretending to have forgotten something, he walked
conceitedly back to Wildney, and whispered to him, "I shan't go if he
chooses to speak like that."

A red flush passed over Mr. Rose's cheek; he took two strides to Eric,
and laid the cane sharply once across his back.

Eric was not quite himself, or he would not have acted as he had done.
His potations, though not deep, had, with the exciting events of the
evening, made his head giddy, and the stroke of the cane, which he had
not felt now for two years, roused him to madness. He bounded up, sprang
towards Mr. Rose, and almost before he knew what he was about, had
wrenched the cane out of his hands, twisted it violently in the middle
until it broke, and flung one of the pieces furiously into the fire.

For one instant, boy and master--Eric Williams and Mr. Rose--stood
facing each other amid breathless silence, the boy panting and
passionate, with his brain swimming, and his heart on fire; the master
pale, grieved, amazed beyond measure, but perfectly self-collected.

"After that exhibition," said Mr. Rose, with cold and quiet dignity,
"you had better leave the room."

"Yes, I had," answered Eric bitterly; "there's your cane." And, flinging
the other fragment at Mr. Rose's head, he strode blindly out of the
room, sweeping books from the table, and overturning several boys in his
way. He then banged the door with all his force, and rushed up into
his study.

Duncan was there, and remarking his wild look and demeanor, asked, after
a moment's awkward silence, "Is anything the matter, Williams?"

"Williams!" echoed Eric with a scornful laugh; "yes, that's always the
way with a fellow when he's in trouble. I always know what's coming when
you begin to leave off calling me by my Christian name."

"Very well, then," said Duncan, good-humoredly, "what's the matter,

"Matter?" answered Brie, pacing up and down the little room with an
angry to-and-fro like a caged wild beast, and kicking everything which
came in his way. "Matter? hang you all, you are all turning against me,
because you are a set of muffs, and----"

"Take care!" said Duncan; but suddenly he caught Eric's look, and

"And I've been breaking Rose's cane over his head, because he had the
impudence to touch, me with it, and----"

"Eric, you're not yourself to-night," said Duncan, interrupting, but
speaking in the kindest tone; and taking Eric's hand, he looked him
steadily in the face.

Their eyes met; the boy's false self once more slipped off. By a strong
effort he repressed the rising passion which the fumes of drink had
caused, and flinging him self on his chair, refused to speak again, or
even to go down stairs when the prayer-bell rang.

Seeing that in his present mood there was nothing to be done with him,
Duncan, instead of returning to the study, went after prayers into
Montagu's, and talked with him over the recent events, of which the
boys' minds were all full.

But Eric sat lonely, sulky, and miserable, in his study, doing nothing,
and when Montagu came in to visit him, felt inclined to resent
his presence.

"So!" he said, looking up at the ceiling, "another saint come to cast a
stone at me! Well! I suppose I must be resigned," he continued, dropping
his cheek on his hand again; "only don't let the sermon be long."

But Montagu took no notice of his sardonic harshness, and seated himself
by his side, though Eric pettishly pushed him away.

"Come, Eric," said Montagu, taking the hand which was repelling him; "I
won't be repulsed in this way. Look at me. What? won't you even look? Oh
Eric, one wouldn't have fancied this in past days, when we were so much
together with one who is dead. It's a long long time since we've eyen
alluded to him, but _I_ shall never forget those happy days."

Eric heaved a deep sigh.

"I'm not come to reproach you. You don't give me a friend's right to
reprove. But still, Eric, for your own sake, dear fellow, I can't help
being sorry for all this. I did hope you'd have broken with Brigson
after the thrashing I gave him, for the way in which he treated me. I
don't think you _can_ know the mischief he is doing."

The large tears began to soften the fire of Eric's eye, "Ah!" he said,
"it's all of no use; you're all giving me the cold shoulder, and I'm
going to the bad, that's the long and short of it."

"Oh, Eric! for your own sake, for your parents' sake, for the school's
sake, for all your real friends' sake, don't talk in that bitter
hopeless way. You are too noble a fellow to be made the tool or the
patron of the boys who lead, while they seem to follow you. I _do_ hope
you'll join us even yet in resisting them."

Eric had laid his head on the table, which shook with his emotion. "I
can't talk, Monty," he said, in an altered tone; "but leave me now; and
if you like, we will have a walk to-morrow."

"Most willingly, Eric." And again, warmly pressing his hand, Montagu
returned to his own study.

Soon after, there came a timid knock at Eric's door. He expected Wildney
as usual; a little before, he had been looking out for him, and hoping
he would come, but he didn't want to see him now, so he answered rather
peevishly, "Come in; but I don't want to be bothered to-night."

Not Wildney, but Vernon appeared at the door. "May I come in? not if it
bothers you, Eric," he said, gently.

"Oh, Verny, I didn't know it was you; I thought it would be Wildney. You
_never_ come now."

The little boy came in, and his pleading look seemed to say, "Whose
fault is that?"

"Come here, Verny;" and Eric drew him towards him, and put him on his
knee, while the tears trembled large and luminous in the child's eyes.

It was the first time for many a long day that the brothers had been
alone together, the first time for many a long day that any acts of
kindness had passed between them. Both seemed to remember this, and, at
the same time, to remember home, and their absent parents, and their
mother's prayers, and all the quiet half-forgotten vista of innocent
pleasures, and sacred relationships, and holy affections. And why did
they see each other so little at school? Their consciences told them
both, that either wished to conceal from the other his wickedness and
forgetfulness of God.

They wept together; and once more, as they had not done since they were
children, each brother put his arm round the other's neck, and
remorseful Eric could not help being amazed, how, in his cruel heartless
selfishness, he had let that fair child go so far astray; left him as a
prey to such boys as were his companions in the lower school.

"Eric, did you know I was caught to-night at the dinner?"

"You!" said Brie, with a start and a deep blush. "Good heavens! I didn't
notice you, and should not have dreamt of coming, if I'd known you were
there. Oh, Vernon, forgive me for setting you such, a bad example."

"Yes, I was there, and I was caught."

"Poor boy! but never mind; there are such a lot that you can't get much
done to you."

"It isn't _that_ I care for; I've been flogged before, you know.
But--may I say something?"

"Yes, Vernon, anything you like."

"Well, then,--oh, Eric! I am so, so sorry that you did that to Mr. Rose
to-night. All the fellows are praising you up, of course; but I could
have cried to see it, and I did. I wouldn't have minded if it had been
anybody but Rose."

"But why?"

"Because, Eric, he's been so good, so kind to both of us. You've often
told me about him, you know, at Fairholm, and he's done such, lots of
kind things to me. And only to-night, when he heard I was caught, he
sent for me to the library, and spoke so firmly, yet so gently, about
the wickedness of going to such low places, and about so young a boy as
I am learning to drink, and the ruin of it and--and"--His voice was
choked by sobs for a time,--"and then he knelt down and prayed for me,
so as I have never heard any one pray but mother;--and do you know,
Eric, it was strange, but I thought I _did_ hear our mother's voice
praying for me too, while he prayed, and"--He tried in vain to go on;
but Eric's conscience continued for him; "and just as he had ceased
doing this for one brother, the other brother, for whom he has often
done the same, treated him with coarseness, violence, and insolence."

"Oh, I am utterly wretched, Verny. I hate myself And to think that while
I am like this, they are yet loving and praising me at home. And, oh,
Verny, I was so sorry to hear from Duncan, how you were talking the
other day."

Vernon hid his face on Eric's shoulder; and as his brother stooped over
him, and folded him to his heart, they cried in silence, until wearied
with sorrow, the younger fell asleep; and then Eric carried him tenderly
down stairs, and laid him, still half-sleeping, upon his bed.

He laid him down, and looked at him as he slumbered. The other boys had
not been disturbed by their noiseless entrance, and he sat down on his
brother's bed to think, shading off the light of the candle with his
hand. It was rarely now that Eric's thoughts were so rich with the
memories of childhood, and sombre with the consciousness of sin, as they
were that night, while he gazed on his brother Vernon's face. He did not
know what made him look so long and earnestly; an indistinct sorrow, an
unconjectured foreboding, passed over his mind, like the shadow of a
summer cloud. Vernon was now slumbering deeply; his soft childish curls
fell off his forehead, and his head nestled in the pillow; but there was
an expression of uneasiness on his sleeping features, and the long
eyelashes were still wet with tears.

"Poor child," thought Eric; "dear little Vernon; and he is to be
flogged, perhaps birched, to-morrow."

He went off sadly to bed, and hardly once remembered, that _he_ too
would come in for certain punishment the next day.



"Raro antecedentem scelestum
Deseruit pede Poena claudo."--HOR.

After prayers the next morning Dr. Rowlands spoke to his boarders on the
previous day's discovery, and in a few forcible vivid words set before
them, the enormity of the offence. He ended by announcing that the boys
who were caught would be birched,--"except the elder ones, Bull and
Brigson, who will bring me one hundred lines every hour of the
half-holidays till further notice. There are some," he said, "I am well
aware, who, though present yesterday, were not detected. I am sorry for
it, for _their_ sakes; they will be more likely to sin again. In cases
like this, punishment is a blessing, and impunity a burden." On leaving
the room he bade Eric follow him into his study. Eric obeyed, and stood
before the head-master with downcast eyes.

"Williams," he said, "I have had a great regard for you, and felt a deep
interest in you from the day I first saw you, and knew your excellent
parents. At one time I had conceived great hopes of your future course,
and your abilities seemed likely to blossom into noble fruit. But you
fell off greatly, and grew idle and careless. At last an event happened,
in which for a time you acted worthily of yourself, and which seemed to
arouse you from your negligence and indifference. All my hopes in you
revived; but as I continued to watch your course (more closely, perhaps,
than you supposed), I observed with pain that those hopes must be again
disappointed. It needs but a glance at your countenance to be sure that
you are not so upright or right-minded a boy as you were two years ago.
I can judge only from your outward course; but I deeply fear, Williams,
I deeply fear, that in _other_ respects also you are going the down-hill
road. And what am I to think now, when on the _same_ morning, you and
your little brother _both_ come before me for such serious and heavy
faults? I cannot free you from blame even for _his_ misdoings, for you
are his natural guardian here; I am only glad that you were not involved
with him in that charge."

"Let _me_ bear the punishment, sir, instead of him," said Eric, by a
sudden impulse; "for I misled him, and was there myself."

Dr. Rowlands paced the room in deep sorrow. "You, Williams! on the verge
of the sixth form. Alas! I fear, from this, that the state of things
among you is even worse than I had supposed."

Eric again hung his head.

"No; you have confessed the sin voluntarily, and therefore at present I
shall not notice it; only, let me entreat you to beware. But I must turn
to the other matter. What excuse have you for your intolerable conduct
to Mr. Rose, who, as I know, has shown you from the first the most
unusual and disinterested kindness?"

"I cannot defend myself, sir. I was excited, and could not control my

"Then you must sit down here, and write an apology, which I shall make
you read aloud before the whole school at twelve to-day."

Eric, with trembling hand, wrote his apology, and Dr Rowlands glanced at
it. "Come to me again at twelve," he said.

At twelve all the school were assembled, and Eric, pale and miserable,
followed the Doctor into the great school-room. The masters stood at one
end of the room, and among them Mr. Rose, who, however, appeared an
indifferent and uninterested spectator of the transaction. Every eye was
fixed on Eric, and every one pitied him.

"We are assembled," said Dr. Rowlands, "for an act of justice. One of
your number has insulted a master publicly, and is ashamed of his
conduct, and has himself written the apology which he will read. I had
intended to add a still severer punishment, but Mr. Rose has earnestly
begged me not to do so, and I have succumbed to his wishes. Williams,
read your apology."

There was a dead hush, and Eric tried once or twice in vain to utter a
word. At last, by a spasmodic effort, he regained his voice, and read,
but in so low and nervous a tone, that not even those nearest him heard
what he was saying.

Dr. Rowlands took the paper from him. "Owing," he said, "to a very
natural and pardonable emotion, the apology has been read in such a way
that you could not have understood it. I will therefore read it myself.
It is to this effect--

"'I, Eric Williams, beg humbly and sincerely to apologise for my
passionate and ungrateful insult to Mr. Rose.'

"You will understand that he was left quite free to choose his own
expressions; and as he has acknowledged his shame and compunction for
the act, I trust that none of you will be tempted to elevate him into a
hero, for a folly which he himself so much regrets. This affair,--as I
should wish all bad deeds to be after they have once been
punished,--will now be forgiven, and I hope forgotten."

They left the room and dispersed, and Eric fancied that all shunned and
looked coldly on his degradation But not so: Montagu came, and taking
his arm in the old friendly way, went a walk with him. It was a
constrained and silent walk, and they were both glad when it was over,
although Montagu did all he could to show that he loved Eric no less
than before. Still it was weeks since they had been much together, and
they had far fewer things in common now than they used to have.

"I'm so wretched, Monty," said Eric at last; "do you think Rose despises

"I am _sure_ of the contrary. Won't you go to him, Eric, and say all you

"Heigh ho! I shall never get right again. Oh, to recover the last two

"You can redeem them, Eric, by a nobler present. Let the same words
comfort you that have often brought hope to me--'I will restore the
years which the locust hath eaten.'"

They reached the school-door, and Eric went straight to the library. Mr.
Rose was there alone. He received him kindly, as usual, and Eric went up
to the fire-place where he was standing. They had often stood by that
library fire on far different terms.

"Forgive me, sir," was all Eric could say, as the tears rushed to his

"Freely, my boy," said Mr. Rose, sadly. "I wish you could feel how fully
I forgive you; but," he added, laying his hand for the last time on
Eric's head, "you have far more, Eric, to forgive yourself. I will not
talk to you, Eric; it would be little good, I fear; but you little know
how much I pity and tremble for you."

While these scenes were being enacted with Eric, a large group was
collected round the fire-place in the boarders' room, and many tongues
were loudly discussing the recent events.

Alas for gratitude! there was not a boy in that group to whom Mr. Rose
had not done many an act of kindness; and to most of them far more than
they ever knew. Many a weary hour had he toiled for them in private,
when his weak frame was harassed by suffering; many a sleepless night
had he wrestled for them in prayer, when, for their sakes, his own many
troubles were laid aside. Work on, Walter Rose, and He who seeth in
secret will reward you openly! but expect no gratitude from those for
whose salvation you, like the great tenderhearted apostle, would almost
be ready to wish yourself accursed.

Nearly every one in that noisy group was abusing Mr. Rose. It had long
been Brigson's cue to do so; he derided him on every opportunity, and
delighted to represent him as hypocritical and insincere. Even his weak
health was the subject of Brigson's coarse ridicule, and the bad boy
paid, in deep hatred, the natural tribute which vice must ever accord to

"You see how he turns on his pets if they offend him," said Brigson;
"why, even that old beast Gordon isn't as bad."

"Yes; while poor Eric was reading, Rose reminded me of Milton's
serpent," drawled Bull;

"Hope elevates and joy brightens his crest."

"He-e-ar! He-e-ar!" said Pietrie; "_vide_ the last fifth form Rep."

"I expect Eric won't see everything so much _couleur de Rose_ now, as
the French frog hath it," remarked Graham.

"It was too bad to stand by and triumph, certainly," observed Wildney.

"I say, you fellows," remonstrated Wright, who, with Vernon, was sitting
reading a book at one of the desks, "all that isn't fair. I'm sure you
all saw how really sorry Rose looked about it; and he said, you know,
that it was merely for the sake of school discipline that he put the
matter in Rowlands' hands."

"Discipline be hanged," shouted Brigson; "we'll have our revenge on him
yet, discipline or no."

"I hope you won't, though," said Vernon; "I know Eric will be sorry if
you do."

"The more muff he. We shall do as we like."

"Well, I shall tell him; and I'm sure he'll ask you not. You know how he
tries to stick up for Rose."

"If you say a word more," said Brigson, unaccustomed to being opposed
among his knot of courtiers, "I'll kick you out of the room; you and
that wretched little fool there with you."

"You may do as you like," answered Wright, quietly, "but you won't go
on like this long, I can tell you."

Brigson tried to seize him, but failing, contented himself with flinging
a big coal at him as he ran out of the room, which narrowly missed
his head.

"I have it!" said Brigson; "that little donkey's given me an idea. We'll
_crust_ Rose to-night."

"To crust," gentle reader, means to pelt an obnoxious person with

"Capital!" said some of the worst boys present; "we will."

"Well, who'll take part?"

No one offered. "What! are we all turning sneaks and cowards? Here,
Wildney, won't you? you were abusing Rose just now."

"Yes, I will," said Wildney, but with no great alacrity. "You'll not
have done till you've got us all expelled, I believe."

"Fiddle-stick end! and what if we are? besides, he can't expel half the

First two or three more offered, and then a whole lot, gaining courage
by numbers. So the plot was regularly laid. Pietrie and Graham were to
put out the lights at each end of one table immediately after tea, and
Wildney and Brooking at the other, when the study fellows had gone out.
There would then be only Mr. Rose's candle burning, and the two middle
candles, which, in so large a room, would just give enough light for
their purpose. Then all the conspirators were to throng around the door,
and from it aim their crusts at Mr. Rose's head, Not nearly so many
would have volunteered to join, but that they fancied Mr. Rose was too
gentle to take up the matter with vigor, and they were encouraged by
his quiet leniency towards Eric the night before. It was agreed that no
study-boy should be told of the intention, lest any of them should

Many hearts beat fast at tea that night as they observed that numbers of
boys, instead of eating all their bread, were cutting off the crusts,
and breaking them into good-sized bits.

Tea finished, Mr. Rose said grace, and then sat down quietly reading in
his desk. The signal agreed on was the (accidental) dropping of a plate
by Brigson. The study-boys left the room.

Crash!--down fell a plate on the floor, breaking to pieces in the fall.

Instantly the four candles went out, and there was a hurried movement
towards the door, and a murmur of voices.

"Now then," said Brigson, in a loud whisper, "what a funky set you are!
Here goes?"

The master, surprised at the sudden gloom and confusion, had just looked
up, unable to conjecture what was the matter. Brigson's crust caught him
a sharp rap on the forehead as he moved.

In an instant he started up, and ten or twelve more crusts flew by or
hit him on the head, as he strode out of the desk towards the door.
Directly he stirred, there was a rush of boys into the passage, and if
he had once lost his judgment or temper, worse harm might have followed.
But he did not. Going to the door, he said, "Preparation will be in five
minutes; every boy not then in his place will be punished."

During that five minutes the servants had cleared away the tea, full of
wonder; but Mr. Rose paced up and down the room, taking no notice of any
one. Immediately after, all the boys were in their places, with their
books open before them, and in the thrilling silence you might have
heard a pin drop. Every one felt that Mr. Rose was master of the
occasion, and awaited his next step in terrified suspense.

They all perceived how thoroughly they had mistaken their subject. The
ringleaders would have given all they had to be well out of the scrape.
Mr. Rose ruled by kindness, but he never suffered his will to be
disputed for an instant. He governed with such consummate tact, that
they hardly felt it to be government at all, and hence arose their
stupid miscalculation. But he felt that the time was now come to assert
his paramount authority, and determined to do so at once and for ever.

"Some of you have mistaken me," he said, in a voice so strong and stern
that it almost startled them. "The silly display of passion in one boy
yesterday has led you to presume that you may trifle with me. You are
wrong. For Williams' sake, as a boy who has, or at least once _had_,
something noble in him, I left that matter in the Doctor's hands. I
shall _not_ do so to-night. Which of you put out the candles?"

Dead silence. A pause.

"Which of you had the audacity to throw pieces of bread at me?"

Still silence.

"I warn you that I _will_ know, and it will be far worse for the guilty
if I do not know at once." There was unmistakeable decision in the tone.

"Very well. I know many boys who were _not_ guilty because I saw them
in parts of the room where to throw was impossible. I shall now _ask_
all the rest, one by one, if they took any part in this. And beware of
telling me a lie."

There was an uneasy sensation in the room, and several boys began to
whisper aloud, "Brigson! Brigson!" The whisper grew louder, and Mr. Rose
heard it. He turned on Brigson like a lion, and said--

"They call your name; stand out!"

The awkward, big, ungainly boy, with his repulsive countenance, shambled
out of his place into the middle of the room. Mr. Rose swept him with
one flashing glance. "_That_ is the boy," thought he to himself, "who
has been like an ulcer to this school. These boys shall have a good look
at their hero." It was but recently that Mr. Rose knew all the harm
which Brigson had been doing, though he had discovered, almost from the
first, what _sort_ of character he had.

So Brigson stood out in the room, and as they looked at him, many a boy
cursed him in their hearts for evil taught them, such as a lifetime's
struggle could not unteach. And it was _that_ fellow, that stupid,
clumsy, base compound of meanness and malice, that had ruled like a king
among them. Faugh!

"They call your name! Do you know anything of this?"

"No!" said Brigson; "I'll swear I'd nothing to do with it."

"Oh-h-h-h!" the long, intense, deep-drawn expression of disgust and
contempt ran round the room.

"You have told me a lie!" said Mr. Rose, slowly, and with ineffable
contempt. "No words can express my loathing for your false and
dishonorable conduct. Nor shall your lie save you, as you shall find
immediately. Still, you shall escape if you can or dare to deny it
again. I repeat my question--Were you engaged in this?"

He fixed his full, piercing eye on the culprit, whom it seemed to scorch
and wither. Brigson winced back, and said nothing. "As I thought,"
said Mr. Rose.

"Not _one_ boy only, but many, were engaged. I shall call you up one by
one to answer me. Wildney, come here."

The boy walked in front of the desk.

"Were you one of those who threw?"

Wildney, full as he was of dangerous and deadly faults, was no coward,
and not a liar. He knew, or at least feared, that this new scrape might
be fatal to him, but, raising his dark and glistening eyes to Mr. Rose,
he said penitently--

"I didn't throw, sir, but I _did_ put out one of the candles that it
might be done."

The contrast with Brigson was very great; the dark cloud hung a little
less darkly on Mr. Rose's forehead, and there was a very faint murmur
of applause.

"Good! stand back. Pietrie, come up."

Pietrie, too, confessed, and indeed all the rest of the plotters except
Brooking. Mr. Rose's lip curled with scorn as he heard the exclamation
which his denial caused; but he suffered him to sit down.

When Wright's turn came to be asked, Mr. Rose said--"No! I shall not
even ask you, Wright. I know well that your character is too good to be
involved in such an attempt."

The boy bowed humbly, and sat down. Among the last questioned was
Vernon Williams, and Mr. Rose seemed anxious for his answer.

"No," he said at once,--and seemed to wish to add something.

"Go on," said Mr. Rose, encouragingly.

"Oh, sir! I only wanted to say that I hope you won't think Eric knew of
this. He would have hated it, sir, more even than I do."

"Good," said Mr. Rose; "I am sure of it. And now," turning to the
offenders, "I shall teach you never to dare again to be guilty of such
presumption and wickedness as to-night. I shall punish you according to
my notion of your degrees of guilt. Brigson, bring me a cane from
that desk."

He brought it.

"Hold out your hand."

The cane fell, and instantly split up from top to bottom. Mr. Rose
looked at it, for it was new that morning.

"Hah! I see; more mischief; there is a hair in it."

The boys were too much frightened to smile at the complete success of
the trick.

"Who did this? I must be told at once."

"I did, sir," said Wildney, stepping forward.

"Ha! very well," said Mr. Rose, while, in spite of his anger, a smile
hovered at the corner of his lips. "Go and borrow me a cane from
Mr. Harley."

While he went there was unbroken silence.

"Now, sir," said he to Brigson, "I shall flog you."

Corporal punishment was avoided with the bigger boys, and Brigson had
never undergone it before. At the first stroke he writhed and yelled;
at the second he retreated, twisting like a serpent, and blubbering like
a baby; at the third he flung himself on his knees, and, as the strokes
fell fast, clasped Mr. Rose's arm, and implored and besought for mercy.

"_Miserable_ coward," said Mr. Rose, throwing into the word such ringing
scorn that no one who heard it ever forgot it. He indignantly shook the
boy off, and caned him till he rolled on the floor, losing every
particle of self-control, and calling out, "The devil--the devil--the
devil!" ("invoking his patron saint," as Wildney maliciously observed).

"There! cease to blaspheme, and get up," said the master, blowing out a
cloud of fiery indignation. "There, sir. Retribution comes at last,
leaden-footed but iron-handed. A long catalogue of sins is visited on
you to-day, and not only on your shrinking body, but on your conscience
too, if you have one left. Let those red marks betoken that your reign
is ended. Liar and tempter, you have led boys into the sins which you
then meanly deny! And now, you boys, _there_ in that coward, who cannot
even endure his richly-merited punishment, see the boy whom you have
suffered to be your _leader_ for well-nigh six months!"

"Now, sir"--again he turned upon Brigson--"that flogging shall be
repeated with interest on your next offence. At present you will take
each boy on your back while I cane him. It is fit that they should see
where _you_ lead them to."

Trembling violently, and cowed beyond description, he did as he was bid.
No other boy cried, or even winced; a few sharp cuts was all which Mr.
Rose gave them, and even they grew fewer each time, for he was tired,
and displeased to be an executioner.

"And now," he said, "since that disgusting but necessary scene is over,
_never_ let me have to repeat it again."

But his authority was established like a rock from that night forward.
No one ever ventured to dispute it again, or forgot that evening. Mr.
Rose's noble moral influence gained tenfold strength from the respect
and wholesome fear that he then inspired.

But, as he had said, Brigson's reign was over. Looks of the most
unmitigated disgust and contempt were darted at him, as he sat alone and
shunned at the end of the table; and the boys seemed now to loathe and
nauseate the golden calf they had been worshipping. He had not done
blubbering even yet, when the prayer-bell rang. No sooner had Mr. Rose
left the room than Wildney, his dark eyes sparkling with rage, leaped on
the table, and shouted--

"Three groans, hoots, and hisses, for a liar and a coward," a sign of
execration which he was the first to lead off, and which the boys echoed
like a storm.

Astonished at the tumult, Mr. Rose re-appeared at the door. "Oh, we're
not hissing you, sir," said Wildney excitedly; "we're all hissing at
lying and cowardice."

Mr. Rose thought the revulsion of feeling might do good, and he was
striding out again, without a word, when--

"Three times three for Mr. Rose," sang out Wildney.

Never did a more hearty or spontaneous cheer burst from the lips and
lungs of fifty boys than that. The news had spread like wildfire to the
studies, and the other boys came flocking in during the uproar, to join
in it heartily. Cheer after cheer rang out like a sound of silver
clarions from the clear boy-voices; and in the midst of the excited
throng stood Eric and Montagu, side by side, hurrahing more lustily than
all the rest.

But Mr. Rose, in the library, was on his knees, with moving lips and
lifted hands. He coveted the popular applause as little as he had
dreaded the popular opposition; and the evening's painful experiences
had taught him anew the bitter lesson to expect no gratitude, and hope
for no reward, but simply, and contentedly, and unmurmuringly, to work
on in God's vineyard so long as life and health should last.

Brigson's brazen forehead bore him through the disgrace which would have
crushed another. But still he felt that his position at Roslyn could
never be what it had been before, and he therefore determined to leave
at once. By grossly calumniating the school, he got his father to remove
him, and announced, to every one's great delight, that he was going in a
fortnight. On his last day, by way of bravado, he smashed and damaged as
much of the school property as he could, a proceeding which failed to
gain him any admiration, and merely put his father to ruinous expense.

The day after his exposure Eric had cut him dead, without the least
pretence of concealment; an example pretty generally followed throughout
the school.

In the evening Brigson went up to Eric and hissed in his ear, "You cut
me, curse you; but, _never fear, I'll be revenged on you yet_."

"Do your worst," answered Eric, contemptuously, "and never speak to me



"Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And live for ever and for ever."--TENNYSON.

Owen and Montagu were walking by Silverburn, and talking over the
affairs of the school. During their walk they saw Wright and Vernon
Williams in front of them.

"I am so glad to see those two together," said Montagu; "I really think
Wright is one of the best little fellows in the school, and he'll be the
saving of Vernon. He's already persuaded him to leave off smoking and
other bad things, and has got him to work a little harder, and turn over
a new leaf altogether."

"Yes," answered Owen; "I've seen a marvellous improvement in little
Williams lately. I think that Duncan gave him a rough lesson the other
night which did him good, and dear old Rose too has been leading him by
the hand; but the best thing is that, through Wright, he sees less of
Eric's _friend_, that young scapegrace Wildney."

"Yes; that little wretch has a good deal to answer for. What a pity that
Eric spoils him so, or rather suffers himself to be spoilt by him. I'm
glad Vernon's escaped his influence now; he's too fine a boy to be made
as bad as the general run of them. What a brilliant little fellow he is;
just like his brother."

"Just like what his brother _was_," said Owen; "his face, like his
mind, has suffered lately."

"Too true," answered Montagu, with a sigh; "and yet, cool as we now are
in our outward intercourse, he little knows how I love him, and yearn
for the Eric I once knew. Would to God poor Russell had lived, and then
I believe that Williams wouldn't have gone so for wrong."

"Well, I think there's another chance for him now that--that--what name
is bad enough, for that Brigson?--is gone."

"I hope so. But"--he added after a pause--"his works do follow him. Look
there!" He took a large stone and threw it into the Silverburn stream;
there was a great splash, and then ever-widening circles of blue ripple
broke the surface of the water, dying away one by one in the sedges on
the bank. "There," he said, "see how long those ripples last, and how
numerous they are."

Owen understood him. "Poor Williams! What a gleam of new hope there was
in him after Russell's death!"

"Yes, for a time," said Montagu; "heigh ho! I fear we shall never be
warm friends again. We can't be while he goes on as he is doing. And yet
I love him."

A sudden turn of the stream brought them to the place called Riverbend.

"If you want a practical comment on what we've been talking about,
you'll see it there," said Montagu.

He pointed to a party of boys, four or five, all lying on a pleasant
grass bank, smoking pipes. Prominent among them was Eric, stretched at
ease, and looking up at the clouds, towards which curled the puffed
fumes of his meerschaum--a gift of Wildney's. That worthy was beside him
similarly employed.

The two sixth-form boys hoped to pass by unobserved, as they did not
wish for a rencontre with our hero under such circumstances. But they
saw Wildney pointing to them, and, from the fits of laughter which
followed his remarks, they had little doubt that they were the subject
of the young gentleman's wit. This is never a pleasant sensation; but
they observed that Eric made a point of not looking their way, and went
on in silence.

"How very sad!" said Montagu.

"How very contemptible!" said Owen.

"Did you observe what they were doing?"


"Worse than that a good deal. They were doing something which, if Eric
doesn't take care, will one day be his ruin."


"I saw them drinking. I have little doubt it was brandy."

"Good heavens!"

"It is getting a common practice with some fellows. One of the ripples,
you see, of Brigson's influence."

Before they got home they caught up Wright and Vernon, and walked in

"We've been talking," said Wright, "about a bad matter. Vernon here says
that there's no good working for a prize in his form, because the
cribbing's so atrocious. Indeed, it's very nearly as bad in my form. It
always is under Gordon; he _can't_ understand fellows doing
dishonorable things."

"It's a great bore in the weekly examinations," said Vernon; "every now
and then Gordon will even leave the room for a few minutes, and then out
come dozens of books."

"Well, Wright," said Montagu, "if that happens again next examination,
I'd speak out about it."


"Why, I'd get every fellow who disapproves of it to give me his name,
and get up and read the list, and say that you at least have pledged
yourselves not to do it."

"Humph! I don't know how that would answer. They'd half kill me for one

"Never mind; do your duty. I wish I'd such an opportunity, if only to
show how sorry I am for my own past unfairness."

And so talking, the four went in, and the two elder went to their study.

It was too true that drinking had become a common vice at Roslyn school.
Accordingly, when Eric came in with Wildney about half an hour after,
Owen and Montagu heard them talk about ordering some brandy, and then
arrange to have a "jollification," that evening.

They got the brandy through "Billy." One of Brigson's most cursed
legacies to the school was the introduction of this man to a nefarious
intercourse with the boys. His character was so well known that it had
long been forbidden, under the strictest penalty, for any boy ever to
speak to him; yet, strange to say, they seemed to take a pleasure in
doing so, and just now particularly it was thought a fine thing, a sign
of "pluck" and "anti-muffishness," to be on familiar and intimate terms
with that degraded and villainous scoundrel.

Duncan had made friends again with Eric; but he did not join him in his
escapades and excesses, and sat much in other studies. He had not been
altogether a good boy, but yet there was a sort of rough honesty and
good sense about him, which preserved him from the worst and most
dangerous failings, and his character had been gradually improving as he
mounted higher in the school. He was getting steadier, more diligent,
more thoughtful, more manly; he was passing through that change so
frequent in boys as they grow older, to which Eric was so sad an
exception. Accordingly Duncan, though sincerely fond of Eric, had
latterly disapproved vehemently of his proceedings, and had therefore
taken to snubbing his old friend Wildney, in whose favor Eric seemed to
have an infatuation, and who was the means of involving him in every
kind of impropriety and mischief. So that night Duncan, hearing of what
was intended, sat in the next study, and Eric, with Bull, Wildney,
Graham, and Pietrie, had the room to themselves. Several of them were
lower boys still, but they came to the studies after bed-time, according
to Wildney's almost nightly custom.

A little pebble struck the study window.

"Hurrah!" said Wildney, clapping his hands, "here's the grub."

They opened the window and looked out. Billy was there, and they let
down to him a long piece of cord, to which he attached a basket, and,
after bidding them "Good night, and a merry drink," retired. No sooner
had they shut the window, than he grimaced as usual towards them, and
shook his fist in a sort of demoniacal exultation, muttering, "Oh, I'll
have you all under my thumb yet, you fine young fools!"

Meanwhile the unconscious boys had opened the basket, and spread its
contents on the table. They were, bread, a large dish of sausages, a
tart, beer, and, alas! a bottle of brandy.

They soon got very noisy, and at last uproarious. The snatches of songs,
peals of laughter, and rattle of plates, at last grew so loud that the
other study-boys were afraid lest one of the masters should come up and
catch the revellers. All of them heard every word that was spoken by
Eric and his party as the walls between the rooms were very thin; and
very objectionable much of the conversation was.

"This _won't_ do," said Duncan emphatically, after a louder burst of
merriment than usual; "those fellows are getting drunk; I can tell it to
a certainty from the confused and random way in which some of them
are talking."

"We'd better go in and speak to them," said Montagu; "at any rate,
they've no right to disturb us all night. Will you come?"

"I'll join you," said Owen; "though I'm afraid my presence won't do you
much good."

The three boys went to the door of Eric's study, and their knock could
not at first be heard for the noise. When they went in they found a
scene of reckless disorder; books were scattered about, plates and
glasses lay broken on the floor, beer was spilt on all sides, and there
was an intolerable smell of brandy.

"If you fellows don't care," said Duncan, sharply, "Rose or somebody'll
be coming up and catching you. It's ten now."

"What's that to you?" answered Graham, with an insolent look.

"It's something to me that you nice young men have been making such a
row that none of the rest of us can hear our own voices, and that,
between you, you've made this study in such a mess that I can't
endure it."

"Pooh!" said Pietrie; "we're all getting such saints, that one can't
have the least bit of spree now-a-days."

"Spree!" burst in Montagu indignantly; "fine spree, to make sots of
yourselves with spirits; fine spree, to----"

"Amen!" said Wildney, who was perched on the back of a chair; and he
turned up his eyes and clasped his hands with a mock-heroic air.

"There, Williams," continued Montagu, pointing to the
mischievous-looking little boy; "see that spectacle, and be ashamed of
yourself, if you can. That's what you lead boys to! Are you anxious to
become the teacher of drunkenness?"

In truth, there was good ground for his sorrowful apostrophe, for the
scene was very painful to a high-minded witness.

They hardly understood the look on Eric's countenance; he had been
taking far more than was good for him; his eyes sparkled fiercely, and
though as yet he said nothing, he seemed to be resenting the intrusion
in furious silence.

"How much longer is this interesting lecture to last?" asked Bull, with
his usual insufferable drawl; "for I want to finish my brandy."

Montagu rather looked as if he intended to give the speaker a box on the
ear; but he was just deciding that Bull wasn't worth the trouble, when
Wildney, who had been grimacing all the time, burst into a fit
of laughter.

"Let's turn out these impudent lower-school fellows," said Montagu,
speaking to Duncan. "Here! you go first," he said, seizing Wildney by
the arm, and giving him a swing, which, as he was by no means steady on
his legs, brought him sprawling to the ground.

"By Jove, I won't stand this any longer," shouted Eric, springing up
ferociously. "What on earth do you mean by daring to come in like this?
Do you hear?"

Montagu took no sort of notice of his threatening gesture, for he was
looking to see if Wildney was hurt, and finding he was not, proceeded to
drag him out, struggling and kicking frantically.

"Drop me, you fellow, drop me, I say. I won't go for you," cried
Wildney, shaking with passion. "Eric, why do you let him bully me?"

"You let him go this minute," repeated Eric, hoarsely.

"I shall do no such thing. You don't know what you're about."

"Don't I? Well, then, take _that_, to show whether I do or no!" and
suddenly leaning forward, he struck Montagu a violent back-handed blow
on the mouth.

Everybody saw it, everybody heard it; and it instantly astounded them
into silence. That Montagu should have been struck in public, and that
by Eric--by a boy who had loved him, and whom he had loved--by a boy who
had been his schoolfellow for three years now, and whose whole life
seemed bound to him by so many associations; it was strange, and
sad indeed.

Montagu sprang straight upright; for an instant he took one stride
towards his striker with lifted hand and lightning eyes, while the blood
started to his lips in consequence of the blow. But he stopped suddenly
and his hand fell to his side; by a strong effort of self-control he
contrived to master himself, and sitting down quite quietly on a chair,
he put his white handkerchief to his wounded mouth, and took it away
stained with blood.

No one spoke; and rising with quiet dignity, he went back into his study
without a word.

"Very well," said Duncan; "you may all do as you like; only I heartily
hope now you will be caught. Come, Owen."

"Oh, Williams," said Owen, "you are changed indeed, to treat your best
friend so."

But Eric was excited with drink, and the slave of every evil passion at
that moment. "Serve him right," he said; "what business has he to
interfere with what I choose to do?"

There was no more noise that night. Wildney and the rest slunk off
ashamed and frightened, and Eric, leaving his candle flaring on the
table, went down to his bed-room, where he was very sick. He had neither
strength nor spirit to undress, and flung himself into bed just as was.
When they heard that he was gone, Owen and Duncan (for Montagu was
silent and melancholy) went into his study, put out the candle, and had
only just cleared away, to the best of their power, the traces of the
carouse, when Dr. Rowlands came up stairs on his usual nightly rounds.
They had been lighting brown paper to take away the fames of the brandy,
and the Doctor asked them casually the cause of the smell of burning.
Neither of them answered, and seeing Owen there, in whom he placed
implicit trust, the Doctor thought no more about it.

Eric awoke with a bad headache, and a sense of shame and sickness. When
he got up he felt most wretched, and while washing he thought to
himself, "Ah! that I could thus wash away the memory of last night!" Of
course, after what had occurred, Eric and Montagu were no longer on
speaking terms, and miserable as poor Eric felt when he saw how his blow
had bruised and disfigured his friend's face, he made no advances. He
longed, indeed, from his inmost heart, to be reconciled to him; but
feeling that he had done grievous wrong, he dreaded a repulse, and his
pride would not suffer him to run the risk. So he pretended to feel no
regret, and, supported by his late boon-companions, represented the
matter as occurring in the defence of Wildney, whom Montagu
was bullying.

Montagu, too, was very miserable; but he felt that, although ready to
forgive Eric, he could not, in common self-respect, take the first step
to a reconciliation: indeed, he rightly thought that it was not for
Eric's good that he should do so.

"You and Williams appear never to speak to each other now," said Mr.
Rose. "I am sorry for it, Monty; I think you are the only boy who has
any influence over him."

"I fear you are mistaken, sir, in that. Little Wildney has much more."

"Wildney?" asked Mr. Rose, in sorrowful surprise. "Wildney more
influence than _you_?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah, that our poor Edwin had lived!"

So, with a sigh, Walter Rose and Harry Montagu buried their friendship
for Eric until happier days.



"And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
And to be wroth with one we love,
Doth work like madness in the brain.

* * * * *

Each spoke words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother."

COLERIDGE'S _Christabel_.

Wright had not forgotten Montagu's advice, and had endeavored to get the
names of boys who wern't afraid to scout publicly the disgrace of
cheating in form. But he could only get one name promised him--the name
of Vernon Williams; and feeling how little could be gained by using it,
he determined to spare Vernon the trial, and speak, if he spoke at all,
on his own responsibility.

As usual, the cribbing at the next weekly examination was well-nigh
universal, and when Mr. Gordon went out to fetch something he had
forgotten, merely saying, "I trust to your honor not to abuse my
absence," books and papers were immediately pulled out with the coolest
and most unblushing indifference.

This was the time for Wright to deliver his conscience; he had counted
the cost, and, rightly or wrongly considering it to be his duty, he had
decided that speak he would. He well knew that his interference would
be attributed to jealousy, meanness, sneaking, and every kind of wrong
motive, since he was himself one of the greatest sufferers from the
prevalent dishonesty; but still he had come to the conclusion that he
_ought_ not to draw back, and therefore he bravely determined that he
would make his protest, whatever happened.

So, very nervously, he rose and said, "I want to tell you all that I
think this cheating very wrong and blackguardly. I don't mind losing by
it myself, but if Vernon Williams loses the prize in the lower fourth,
and any one gets it by copying, I've made up my mind to tell Gordon."

His voice trembled a little at first, but he spoke fast, and acquired
firmness as he went on. Absolute astonishment and curiosity had held the
boys silent with amazement, but by the end of this sentence they had
recovered themselves, and a perfect burst of derision and
indignation followed.

"Let's see if _that'll_ cut short his oration," said Wildney, throwing a
book at his head, which was instantly followed by others from
all quarters.

"My word! we've had nothing but lectures lately," said Brooking. "Horrid
little Owenite saint."

"Saint!--sneak, you mean. I'll teach him," growled Pietrie, and jumping
up, he belabored Wright's head with the Latin grammar out of which he
had just been cribbing.

The whole room was in confusion and hubbub, during which Wright sat
stock still, quietly enduring without bowing to the storm.

Only one boy sympathised with him, but he did so deeply--poor little
penitent Vernon. He felt his position hard because Wright had alluded so
prominently to him, and he knew how much he must be misconstrued, but he
had his brother's spirit, and would not shrink. Amid the tumult he got
up in his seat, and they heard his pleasant, childish voice saying
boldly, "I hope Wright won't tell; but he's the best fellow in the room,
and cribbing _is_ a shame, as he says."

What notice would have been taken of this speech is doubtful, for at the
critical moment Mr. Gordon reappeared, and the whispered cave caused
instantaneous quiet.

Poor Wright awaited with some dread the end of school; and many an angry
kick and blow he got, though he disarmed malice by the spirit and
heroism with which he endured them. The news of his impudence spread
like wildfire, and not five boys in the school approved of what he had
done, while most of them were furious at his ill-judged threat of
informing Mr. Gordon. There was a general agreement to thrash him after
roll-call that afternoon.

Eric had lately taken a violent dislike to Wright, though he had been
fond of him in better days. He used to denounce him as a disagreeable
and pragmatical little muff, and was as loud as any of them in
condemning his announced determination to "sneak." Had he known that
Wright had acted under Montagu's well-meant, though rather mistaken
advice, he might have abstained from having anything more to do with the
matter, but now he promised to kick Wright himself after the four
o'clock bell.

Four o'clock came; the names were called; the master left the room.
Wright, who perfectly knew what was threatened, stood there pale but
fearless. His indifferent look was an additional annoyance to Eric, who
walked up to him carelessly, and boxing his ears, though without hurting
him, said contemptuously, "Conceited little sneak."

Montagu had been told of the intended kicking, and had determined even
single-handed to prevent it. He did _not_, however, expect that Eric
would have taken part in it, and was therefore unprepared. The color
rushed into his cheeks; he went up, took Wright quietly by the hand, and
said with firm determination, "No one in the school shall touch
Wright again."

"What? no one! just hark to that," said Graham; "I suppose he thinks
himself cock of the school."

Eric quite misunderstood Montagu's proceedings; he took it for a public
challenge. All the Rowlandites were round, and to yield would have
looked like cowardice. Above all, his evil genius Wildney was by, and
said, "How very nice! another dictation lesson!"

A threatening circle had formed round Montagu, but his closed lips, and
flushing brow, and dilated nostrils, betrayed a spirit which made them
waver, and he quietly repeated, "No one shall touch you, Wright."

"They _will_, though," said Eric instantly; "_I_ will, for one, and I
should like to see you prevent me." And so saying he gave Wright another
slight blow.

Montagu dropped Wright's hand and said slowly, "Eric Williams, I have
taken one unexpected blow from you without a word, and bear the marks of
it yet. It is time to show that it was _not_ through cowardice that I
did not return it. Will you fight?"

The answer was not prompt by any means, though every one in the school
knew that Eric was not afraid. So sure was he of this, that, for the
sake of "auld lang syne," he would probably have declined to fight with
Montagu had he been left to his own impulses.

"I have been in the wrong, Montagu, more than once," he answered,
falteringly, "and we have been friends--"

But it was the object of many of the worst boys that the two should
fight--not only that they might see the fun, but that Montagu's
authority, which stood in their way, might be flung aside. So Brooking
whispered in an audible voice--

"Faith! he's showing the white feather."

"You're a liar!" flung in Eric; and turning to Montagu, he said--"There!
I'll fight you this moment."

Instantly they had stripped off their coats and prepared for action. A
ring of excited boys crowded round them. Fellows of sixteen, like
Montagu and Eric, rarely fight, because their battles have usually been
decided in their earlier school-days; and it was also but seldom that
two boys so strong, active, and prominent, took this method of settling
their differences.

The fight began, and at first the popular favor was entirely on the side
of Eric, while Montagu found few or none to back him. But he fought with
a fire and courage which soon won applause; and as Eric, on the other
hand, was random and spiritless, the cry was soon pretty fairly divided
between them.

After a sharp round they paused for breath, and Owen, who had been a
silent and disgusted spectator of such a combat between boys of such
high standing, said with much, feeling--

"This is not a very creditable affair, Montagu."

"It is necessary," was Montagu's laconic reply.

Among other boys who had left the room before the fracas had taken
place, was Vernon Williams, who shrank away to avoid the pain of seeing
his new friend Wright bullied and tormented. But curiosity soon took him
back, and he came in just as the second round began. At first he only
saw a crowd of boys in the middle of the room, but jumping on a desk he
had a full view of what was going on.

There was a tremendous hubbub of voices, and Eric, now thoroughly roused
by the remarks he overheard, and especially by Wildney's whisper that
"he was letting himself be licked," was exerting himself with more vigor
and effect. It was anything but a noble sight; the faces of the
combatants were streaked with blood and sweat, and as the miserable gang
of lower school-boys backed them on with eager shouts of--"Now Eric, now
Eric," "Now Montagu, go it, sixth, form," etc., both of them fought
under a sense of deep disgrace, increased by the recollections which
they shared in common.

All this Vernon marked in a moment, and, filled with pain and vexation,
his said in a voice which, though low, could be heard amid all the
uproar, "Oh Eric, Eric, fighting with Montagu!" There was reproach and
sorrow in the tone, which touched more than one boy there, for Vernon,
spite of the recent change in him, could not but continue a favorite.

"Shut up there, you little donkey," shouted one or two, looking back at
him for a moment.

But Eric heard the words, and knew that it was his brother's voice. The
thought rushed on him how degraded his whole position was, and how
different it might have been. He felt that he was utterly in the wrong,
and Montagu altogether in the right; and from that moment his blows once
more grew feeble and ill-directed. When they again stopped to take rest,
the general shout for Montagu showed that he was considered to have the
best of it.

"I'm getting so tired of this," muttered Eric, during the pause.

"Why, you're fighting like a regular muff," said Graham; "you'll have to
acknowledge yourself thrashed in a minute."

"That I'll _never_ do," he said, once more firing up.

Just as the third round began, Duncan came striding in, for Owen, who
had left the room, told him what was going on. He had always been a
leading fellow, and quite recently his influence had several times been
exerted in the right direction, and he was very much looked up to by all
the boys alike, good or bad. He determined, for the credit of the sixth,
that the fight should not go on, and bursting into the ring, with his
strong shoulders he hurled on each side the boys who stood in his way,
and struck down the lifted arms of the fighters.

"You _shan't_ fight," he said, doggedly, thrusting himself between them;
"so there's an end of it. If you do, you'll both have to fight
me first."

"Shame!" said several of the boys, and the cry was caught up by Bull and

"Shame, is it?" said Duncan, and his lip curled with scorn. "There's
only one way to argue with, you fellows. Bull, if you, or any other boy,
repeat that word, I'll thrash him. Here, Monty, come away from this
disgraceful scene."

"I'm sick enough of it," said Montagu, "and am ready to stop if Williams
is,--provided no one touches Wright."

"I'm sick of it too," said Eric sullenly.

"Then you two shall shake hands," said Duncan.

For one instant--an instant which he regretted till the end of his
life--Montagu drew himself up and hesitated. He had been deeply wronged,
deeply provoked, and no one could blame him for the momentary feeling:
but Eric had observed the gesture, and his passionate pride took the
alarm. "It's come to this, then," he thought; "Montagu doesn't think me
good enough to be shaken hands with."

"Pish!" he said aloud, in a tone of sarcasm; "it may be an awful honor
to shake hands with such an immaculate person as Montagu, but I'm not
proud on the subject;" and he turned away.

Montagu's hesitation was but momentary, and without a particle of anger
or indignation he sorrowfully held out his hand. It was too late; that
moment had done the mischief, and it was now Eric's turn coldly
to withdraw.

"You don't think me worthy of your friendship, and what's the good of
grasping hands if we don't do it with cordial hearts?"

Montagu's lip trembled, but he said nothing, and quietly putting on his
coat, waved back the throng of boys with a proud sweep of his arm, and
left the room with Duncan.

"Come along, Wright," he said.

"Nay, leave him," said Eric with a touch of remorse. "Much as you think
me beneath you, I have honor enough to see that no one hurts him."

The group of boys gradually dispersed, but one or two remained with
Eric, although he was excessively wearied by their observations.

"You didn't fight half like yourself," said Wildney.

"Can't you tell why? I had the wrong side to fight for." And getting up
abruptly, he left the room, to be alone in his study, and bathe his
swollen and aching face.

In a few minutes Vernon joined him, and at the mere sight of him Eric
burst into tears of shame. That evening with Vernon in the study, after
the dinner at the Jolly Herring, had revived all his really warm
affection for his little brother; and as he could no longer conceal the
line he took in the school, they had been often together since then; and
Eric's moral obliquity was not so great as to prevent him from feeling
deep joy at the change for the better in Vernon's character.

"Verny, Verny," he said, as the boy came up and affectionately took his
hand, "it was you who lost me that fight."

"Oh, but, Eric, you were fighting with Montagu."

"Don't you remember the days, Eric," he continued, "when we were
home-boarders, and how kind Monty used to be to me even then, and how
mother liked him, and thought him quite your truest friend, except
poor Russell?"

"I do, indeed. I didn't think then that it would come to this."

"I've always been _so_ sorry," said Vernon, "that I joined the fellows
in playing him tricks. I can't think how I came to do it, except that
I've done such lots of bad things here. But he's forgiven and forgotten
that long ago, and is very kind to me now."

It was true; but Eric didn't know that half the kindness which Montagu
showed to his brother was shown solely for _his_ sake.

"Do you know, I've thought of a plan for making you two friends again?
I've written to Aunt Trevor to ask him to Fairholm with us next

"Oh, have you? Good Verny! Yes; _there_ we might be friends. Perhaps
there," he added, half to himself, "I might be more like what I was in
better days."

"But it's a long time to look forward to. Easter hasn't come yet," said

So the two young boys proposed; but God had disposed it otherwise.



"Et motae ad Lunam trepidabis arundinis umbram."

Juv. X. 21.

"How awfully dull it is, Charlie," said Eric, a few weeks before Easter,
as he sat with Wildney in his study one holiday afternoon.

"Yes; too late for football, too early for cricket." And Wildney
stretched himself and yawned.

"I suppose this is what they call ennui," said Eric again, after a
pause. "What is to be done, Sunbeam?"

"You _shan't_ call me that, so there's an end of it," said Wildney,
hitting him on the arm.

"By the bye, Eric, you remind me to-morrow's my birth-day, and I've got
a parcel coming this afternoon full of grub from home. Let's go and see
if it's come."

"Capital! We will."

So Eric and Wildney started off to the coach-office, where they found
the hamper, and ordered it to be brought at once to the school, and
carried up to Eric's study.

On opening it they found it rich in dainties, among which were a pair of
fowls and a large plum-cake.

"Hurrah!" said Wildney, "you were talking of nothing to do; I vote we
have a carouse to-morrow."

"Very well; only let's have it _before_ prayers, because we were so
nearly caught last time."

"Ay, and let it be in one of the class-rooms, Eric; not up here, lest
we have another incursion of the 'Rosebuds.' I shall have to cut
preparation, but that don't matter, It's Harley's night, and old Stupid
will never twig."

"Well, whom shall we ask?" said Eric.

"Old Llewellyn for one," said Wildney. "We havn't seen him for an age,
and he's getting too lazy even for a bit of fun."

"Good; and Graham," suggested Eric. He and Wildney regarded their
possessions so much as common property, that he hadn't the least
delicacy in mentioning the boys whom he wanted to invite.

"Yes; Graham's a jolly bird; and Bull?"

"I've no objection; and Pietrie?"

"Well; and your brother Vernon?"

"No!" said Eric, emphatically. "At any rate I won't lead _him_ into
mischief any more."

"Attlay, then; and what do you say to Brooking?"

"No, again," said Eric; "he's a blackguard."

"I wonder you haven't mentioned Duncan," said Wildney.

"Duncan! why, my dear child, you might as well ask Owen, or even old
Rose, at once. Bless you, Charlie, he's a great deal too correct to
come now."

"Well; we've got six already, that's quite enough."

"Yes; but two fowls isn't enough for six hungry boys."

"No, it isn't," said Wildney. He thought a little, and then, clapping
his hands, danced about and said, "Are you game for a _regular_
lark, Eric?"

"Yes; anything to make it less dull. I declare I've very nearly been
taking to work again to fill up the time."

Eric often talked now of work in this slighting way partly as an excuse
for the low places in form to which he was gradually sinking. Everybody
knew that had he properly exerted his abilities he was capable of
beating almost any boy; so, to quiet his conscience, he professed to
ridicule diligence as an unboyish piece of muffishness, and was never
slow to sneer at the "grinders," as he contemptuously called all those
who laid themselves out to win school distinctions.

"Ha, ha!" said Wildney, "that's rather good! No, Eric, it's too late for
you to turn 'grinder' now. I might as well think of doing it myself, and
I've never been higher than five from lag in my form yet."

"Haven't you? But what's the regular lark you hinted at?"

"Why, we'll go and seize the Gordonites' _pigeons_, and make another
dish of them."

"Seize the Gordonites' pigeons! Why, when do you mean?"


Eric gave a long whistle. "But wouldn't it be st--t--?"

"Stealing?" said Wildney, with a loud laugh. "Pooh! '_convey_ the wise
call it.'"

But Eric still looked serious. "Why, my dear old boy," continued
Wildney, "the Gordonites'll be the first to laugh at the trick when we
tell them of it next morning, as of course we will do. There, now, don't
look grumpy. I shall cut away and arrange it with. Graham, and tell you
the whole dodge ready prepared to-night at bed-time."

After lights were put out, Wildney came up to the study according to
promise, and threw out hints about the proposed plan. He didn't tell it
plainly, because Duncan was there, but Duncan caught enough to guess
what was intended, and said, when Wildney had gone--

"Take my advice, and have nothing to do with this, Eric."

Eric had grown very touchy lately about advice, particularly from any
fellow of his own standing; and after the checks he had recently
received, a coolness had sprung up between him and nearly all the
study-boys, which made him more than ever inclined to assert his
independence, and defy and thwart them in every way.

"Keep your advice to yourself, Duncan, till it's asked for," he
answered, roughly. "You've done nothing but _advise_ lately, and I'm
rather sick of it."

"Comme vous voulez," replied Duncan, with a shrug. "Gang your own gait;
I'll have nothing more to do with trying to stop you, since you _will_
ruin yourself."

Nothing more was said in the study that evening, and when Eric went down
he didn't even bid Duncan goodnight.

"Charlie," he said, as he stole on tiptoe into Wildney's dormitory.

"Hush!" whispered Wildney, "the other fellows are asleep. Come and sit
by my bedside, and I'll tell you what we're going to do."

Eric went and sat by him, and he sat up in his bed "First of all,
_you're_ to keep awake till twelve to-night," he whispered; "old
Rowley'll have gone round by that time, and it'll be all safe. Then come
and awake me again, and I'll watch till one, Pietrie till two, and
Graham till three. Then Graham'll awake us all, and we'll dress."

"Very well. But how will you get the key of the lavatory?"

"Oh, I'll manage that," said Wildney, chuckling. "But come again and
awake me at twelve, will you?"

Eric went to his room and lay down, but he didn't take off his clothes,
for fear he should go to sleep. Dr. Rowlands came round as usual at
eleven, and then Eric closed his eyes for a few minutes, till the
head-master had disappeared. After that he lay awake thinking for an
hour, but his thoughts weren't very pleasant.

At twelve he went and awoke Wildney.

"I don't feel very sleepy. Shall I sit with you for your hour, Charlie?"

"Oh, do! I should like it of all things. But douse the glim there; we
shan't want it, and it might give the alarm."

"All right."

So Eric went and sat by his dangerous little friend, and they talked in
low voices until they heard the great school clock strike one. They then
woke Pietrie, and Eric went off to bed again.

At three Graham awoke him, and dressing hastily, he joined the others in
the lavatory.

"Now, I'm going to get the key," said Wildney, "and mean to have a
stomach-ache for the purpose."

Laughing quietly he went up to the door of Mr. Harley's bed-room, which
opened out of the lavatory, and knocked.

No answer. He knocked a little louder. Still no answer. Louder still.

"Bother the fellow," said Wildney; "he sleeps like a grampus. Won't one
of you try to wake him?"

"No," said Graham; "'taint dignified for fifth-form boys to have

"Well, I must try again." But it seemed no use knocking, and Wildney at
last, in a fit of impatience, thumped a regular tattoo on the
bed-room door.

"Who's there?" said the startled voice of Mr. Harley.

"Only me, sir!" answered Wildney, in a mild and innocent way.

"What do you want?"

"Please, sir, I want the key of the lavatory. I'm indisposed," said
Wildney again, in a tone of such disciplined suavity, that the others
shook with laughing.

Mr. Harley opened the door about an inch, and peered about suspiciously.

"Oh, well, you must go and awake Mr. Rose. I don't happen to have the
key to-night." And so saying, he shut the door.

"Phew! Here's a go!" said Wildney, recovering immediately. "It'll never
do to awake old Rose. He'd smell a rat in no time."

"I have it," said Pietrie. "I've got an old nail, with which I believe I
can open the lock quite simply. Let's try."

"Quietly and quick, then," said Eric.

In ten minutes he had silently shot back the lock with the old nail, and
the boys were on the landing. They carried their shoes in their hands,
ran noiselessly down stairs, and went to the same window at which Eric
and Wildney had got out before. Wildney had taken care beforehand to
break the pane and move away the glass, so they had only to loosen the
bar and slip through one by one.

It was cold and very dark, and as on the March morning they stood out
in the playground, all four would rather have been safe and harmlessly
in bed. But the novelty and the excitement of the enterprise bore them
up, and they started off quickly for the house at which Mr. Gordon and
his pupils lived, which was about half a mile from the school. They went
arm in arm to assure each other a little, for at first in their fright
they were inclined to take every post and tree for a man in ambush, and
to hear a recalling voice in every sound of wind and wave.

Not far from Mr. Gordon's was a carpenter's shop, and outside of this
there was generally a ladder standing. They had arranged to carry this
ladder with them (as it was only a short one), climb the low garden wall
with it, and then place it against the house, immediately under the
dovecot which hung by the first story-windows. Wildney, as the lightest
of the four, was to take the birds, while the others held the ladder.

Slanting it so that it should be as far from the side of the window as
possible, Wildney ascended and thrust both hands into the cot. He
succeeded in seizing a pigeon with each hand, but in doing so threw the
other birds into a state of such alarm that they fluttered about in the
wildest manner, and the moment his hands were withdrawn, flew out with a
great flapping of hurried wings.

The noise they made alarmed the plunderer, and he hurried down the
ladder as fast as he could. He handed the pigeons to the others, who
instantly wrung their necks.

"I'm nearly sure I heard somebody stir," said Wildney; "we haven't been
half quiet enough. Here! let's crouch down in this corner."

All four shrank up as close to the wall as they could, and held their
breath. Some one was certainly stirring, and at last they heard the
window open. A head was thrust out, and Mr. Gordon's voice asked
sternly--"Who's there?"

He seemed at once to have caught sight of the ladder, and made an
endeavor to reach it; but though he stretched out his arm at full
length, he could not do so.

"We must cut for it," said Eric; "it's quite too dark for him to see us,
or even to notice that we are boys."

They moved the ladder to the wall, and sprang over, one after the other,
as fast as they could. Eric was last, and just as he got to the top of
the wall he heard the back door open, and some one run out into
the yard.

"Run for your lives," said Eric hurriedly; "it's Gordon, and he's
raising the alarm."

They heard footsteps following them, and an occasional shout of
"thieves! thieves!"

"We must separate and run different ways, or we've no chance of escape.
We'd better turn towards the town to put them off the right scent," said
Eric again.

"Don't leave me," pleaded Wildney; "you know I can't run very fast."

"No, Charlie, I won't;" and grasping his hand, Eric hurried him over the
style and through the fields, while Pietrie and Graham took the opposite

Some one (they did not know who it was, but suspected it to be Mr.
Gordon's servant-man) was running after them, and they could distinctly
hear his footsteps, which seemed to be half a field distant. He carried
a light, and they heard him panting. They were themselves tired, and in
the utmost trepidation; the usually courageous Wildney was trembling all
over, and his fear communicated itself to Eric. Horrible visions of a
trial for burglary, imprisonment in the castle jail, and perhaps
transportation, presented themselves to their excited imaginations, as
the sound of the footsteps came nearer.

"I can't run any further, Eric," said Wildney. "What shall we do? don't
leave me, for heaven's sake."

"Not I, Charlie. We must hide the minute we get t'other side of this

They scrambled over the gate, and plunged into the thickest part of a
plantation close by, lying down on the ground behind some bushes, and
keeping as still as they could, taking care to cover over their
white collars.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest