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His Big Opportunity by Amy Le Feuvre

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low that we are lifted very high. When we come to an end a new beginning
is coming.'

"The walnuts sighed as he flew away; yet the biggest one turned with a
spark of hope to his brothers.

"'I do believe we have been made for something. My skin is rotting and
dying, but in spite of it all I feel as if I have something inside that
is still alive. Let us wait and be patient a little longer.'

"And then at last one day, when the apple and pear-tree were fruitless
and leafless, when the flowers and butterflies and bees had all
disappeared, down the garden came the master himself and the gardener.

"He stopped when he came to the walnut-tree, and stooping down in the
long grass he gently raised one of the fallen nuts.

"'You must gather these in,' he said to his gardener; 'we have a good
many for the first year.'

"'Yes,' said the gardener, 'they are ready now. I've let them lie till
you saw them.'

"And the walnuts whispered to themselves in surprised delight that it
was not neglect and indifference had left them there, but that the
gardener had watched each one fall, and knew where to find them when
their time came at last.

"And when their green husks were removed, and their brown shells cracked
at the master's table, they discovered that the most valuable part of
them was what could not be seen by outsiders, and could only be brought
to light by the master's hand."

"That's a kind of parable," said Roy when Mrs. Ford ceased speaking.

"Yes," she said, smiling; "most people are like the sparrows: they think
it is only the outside you should go by. Now, when I see a person for
the first time I always wonder what their soul is like. If that is
beautiful it doesn't matter about their body. And a little body may
contain a very big soul."

"Can we make our souls big?" asked Roy, with an anxious face.

"They should be growing, my boy, day by day. Put them into the
Gardener's keeping and He will make them grow. It isn't the handsome and
the strong who do all the good in the world; very often it is just the
other way."

"Then there is hope I may do something," said Roy, brightening up; "I
like that story about the walnuts, don't you, Dudley?"

"Yes, I'll think of it when I crack them next," said Dudley.

Tea was now brought in, and the boys did it full justice, and shortly
after they were on their homeward way.

"She's a jolly old thing," remarked Dudley, presently, "and her cake was
awfully good. I'm glad we went to see her."

Roy was unusually silent. Dudley continued--

"I expect you've got the biggest soul of us too, Roy; nurse is always
saying your soul is too big for your body."

"I wish I had no body sometimes," said Roy, with a sigh; "it gets so
tired and stupid."

"Well, we won't talk about souls and bodies any more," Dudley said,
quickly, "they aren't interesting. I say, do you think we could teach
Rob cricket?"

Rob was a topic which always interested Roy. He brightened up at once.

"We'll teach him everything," he said, eagerly. "I want him to be able
to read and write and play, and do everything that we do, and more
besides, for I shall have him for my friend as well as a servant when I
grow up."

"A funny kind of chap for a friend," said Dudley, a little crossly;
"he's twice as old as you are, to begin with, and he's an awfully
stupid, thick-headed fellow."

"Don't you like Rob?"

Roy's tone was an astonished one.

"Oh, I like him well enough, but I'm getting rather sick of hearing you
crack him up so."

Roy changed the subject. He wondered sometimes why Dudley seemed to lose
his temper so over Rob; it never entered his head that Dudley might
regard him as a possible rival; that Rob, the country lad, might spoil
the covenant of friendship between them.



It was Roy's birthday, and he was standing at his bedroom window before
breakfast looking out into the old garden below, his busy brain full of
thought and conjecture. His birthday was a very important day to him,
and for some years now there had been a settled programme for the day.
His guardian, an old Indian officer living in the neighborhood, and
formerly a very old friend of his father's, always came over to see him
and stayed to lunch, the two boys joining their elders at that meal.
Directly after, they would drive or ride over to Norrington Court which
was Roy's future home, and stay there for the rest of the day.

The boy's heart was full of the future as usual, and when Dudley burst
into his room with a radiant face to offer his good wishes, he turned to
meet him gravely.

But Dudley was too occupied in tugging in a small basket to notice it.

"This is my present, old chap. Just open it and see if you don't like

Roy's little face became illumined with smiles a moment after, when he
saw two beautiful little white mice amongst the straw looking up at him
with calm curiosity out of their bright beady eyes.

"They're tame," said Dudley, delightedly; "old Principle has had them,
taming them for over a month. Their names are Nibble and Dibble. Look!
This is Dibble with the little black spot on his nose. You never
guessed, did you? I've been down to see them lots of times and they'll
eat food out of my hand. You just see!"

Roy was too excited over his mice to eat much breakfast, and when Rob
came up to him immediately afterward with a new cricket ball, bought out
of his small wages, he declared he was the "luckiest fellow in the

Miss Bertram presented him with a handsome writing case, and every one
of the servants had some trifle to offer him. At ten o'clock he went to
his grandmother's room.

This was also part of the programme.

Mrs. Bertram received him very impressively, as was her wont.

"Sit down, Fitz Roy; you are getting a big boy; have you been measured
this morning?"

"Yes, granny, and I really have grown an inch and a half since last
year. That isn't very bad, is it?"

"Your father was very much taller at your age. I cannot understand it."

Roy began to feel rather depressed. "General Newton will be here soon,
I suppose," continued Mrs. Bertram, precisely, "and I wish you to convey
him a message from me. Give him my very kind regards, and ask him to
excuse me from coming down to see him this morning. I have had a very
bad night, and am not feeling fit for any extra fatigue. I hope he will
find you improved in manners and appearance. I could wish you talked and
laughed less and thought more. You must endeavor to realize your
responsibilities when you visit Norrington Court this afternoon. It is a
very large and important property for a little boy like you to be heir
to, and I hope you will fill the position worthily when you come of age.
Your uncle was the most respected and honored man in the county, and if
your dear father had lived to come back from Canada, he would have
walked in your uncle's steps."

"And who will walk in mine when I'm dead, granny?"

"My dear, you must learn not to interrupt grown-up people when they are

"I'm very sorry, but do tell me if I died before I grew up, would Dudley
have my house?"

"Yes, by the terms of the will he would, as his father came next in age
to yours."

"That is what Aunt Judy means, when she calls me Jonathan and says when
I brag, that I must remember my namesake never came to the throne at
all. I like to think that Dudley may have it, he would make a grander
master than me, wouldn't he?"

Mrs. Bertram gave a little sigh. Roy's delicacy was a sore point with
her, and she could never get reconciled to his small stature.

"Well," said Roy, after a pause; "I'll do my very best, granny, to grow
up a big strong man. I take my tonics now whenever nurse gives them to
me, and I never pour them out of the window as I used to do. And I'm
hoping to do something great before I die, and I'm trying to grow up a
good man. Do you think that will do?" he added, a little anxiously, as
he fancied his grandmother's gaze rested on him with some

She did not reply, only drew out her purse from her pocket, and Roy knew
this was a signal for his dismissal.

"Now," said Mrs. Bertram, "this is the sovereign that I usually give
you. I hope you will spend it wisely. Tell me when it is gone what you
have done with it. I hope you will spend a happy day. Give me a kiss and
leave me. Oh, if only you were more like your handsome father!"

Roy took his gift, thanked her for it, and giving his grandmother a
kiss, left the room very quietly.

Outside the door he paused on the door-mat, and drew his jacket across
his eyes with a strangled sob.

"It's a pity God won't make me strong, but I don't seem to be able to do
it myself."

And then with a shout for Dudley, a minute after he was tearing round
the house, showing his pet mice to all, and chattering away as if he had
not a care upon him.

General Newton arrived soon after and took a more cheering view of his
ward's appearance than had his grandmother.

"You'll grow into a splendid fellow yet," he said, patting him on the
shoulder, "and you'll out-top your cousin. Have you been in many scrapes

"They're good boys on the whole," replied Miss Bertram, smiling; "except
when they try to be philanthropists, and then they come to grief."

"Oh, that's the last idea, is it? When I was here before they were going
to be travelling peddlers. Have you made a choice of any profession yet,
either of you?"

"Yes, I'm going to be a traveller and discoverer," said Roy, with

"Oh, indeed! Then you've still the love for exploration. How is your
friend old Principle? Is he still unearthing wonders and keeping them in
his kettles?"

"He is busy in a cave now," said Dudley, eagerly; "would you like to
come and see it one day?"

"No, thank you. And are you lads still devoted friends?"

"David and Jonathan, still," said Miss Bertram; and the old general
laughed heartily.

Before he left, he also gave Roy a sovereign, which made the little
fellow confide to Dudley,

"I've put granny's in my right hand pocket, and the general's in my
left, they won't mix together well, because hers is such a solemn one,
and his is so jolly!"

It was a happy little party that set off for Norrington Court. The boys
were on their ponies, and Miss Bertram in her pony trap, with Rob
sitting behind, proud in the consciousness of a new suit of clothes, and
delighted at being included in the number.

Up a long stately avenue of elms and beeches, with bracken and ferns
covering mossy glades in the distance, and then Roy and Dudley flung
themselves off their ponies before an old stone house with ivy-covered
walls and turrets. Everything had been brightened up for their visit.
The flowers on the terraces were one mass of sweet perfume and color,
the drives weeded and rolled, and the velvet turf in only such a
condition as centuries of care can make it. The old housekeeper opened
the door in her very best black silk, and two or three more faithful
retainers stood in the background.

Roy spoke to them all with boyish frankness and grace, and then eagerly
demanded if tea might be on the terrace. Miss Bertram agreed and while
she went indoors for a chat with the housekeeper, the boys tore round
the place dragging Rob after them. The stables of course were visited,
and an old groom who had known the boys' fathers when boys, welcomed
them with great warmth.

"Ye must grow quicker, Master Fitz Roy. We want to see you here among
us. I'm looking to see all these stalls occupied by hunters and sich
like again. 'Tis mournful work to live year in and year out with only
two bosses for company!"

"Tell us about the old times, Ben, do!"

Ben sat down and spread his hands out on his knees reflectively.

"All the young gentlemen were born riders," he said, slowly; "I mind how
Master Randolph would tear up the avenue after a long ride. 'There, Ben'
he'd say to me, chucking me the rein, and jumpin' off as light as a
feather, 'we've worked our spirits h'off--Ruby and me!' When the old
squire were alive, he'd have all three young gentlemen up, and then he'd
mount them and bring them down to Ruddocks stream, and see them jump it.
He used to say, 'No grandson of mine is worth calling a Bertram if he
can't take that leap before he is twelve year old!' They all did it
before they was ten, and he used to stand chuckling and rubbing his
hands as he saw them do it."

"Is that the stream at the bottom of the back meadow?" asked Dudley,
eagerly; "the one with the hedge in front?"

"Ay, to be sure!"

"But we have never jumped it," exclaimed Roy. "And I think we ought to
for we're his great-grandsons."

"We shan't be twelve for a long time yet," said Dudley, "but we really
ought to try."

"Well, we'll do it this evening after tea; and you shall come and see us
do it, Ben."

Ben grinned from ear to ear.

"You'll go over it like a bird, if so be as your pony is accustomed to
sich things!"

"We haven't taken very high jumps," admitted Dudley, candidly.

"Oh, we shall do it," said Roy, with a little toss of his head; "we'll
_make_ them go over!"

And then they turned to other subjects.

"What do you think of my house, Rob?" asked Roy, later on as he was
escorting his humble friend through the empty rooms and corridors

"It'll take a powerful number of people to fill it," said Rob, with awe.

"I shall have a lot of friends to stay with me, of course, and then I
shall marry; men always do that, don't they?"

"I b'lieve they mostly does," was the grave reply.

"And won't you like to come and live with me here?"

"That I should."

"Well," said Dudley, from a few paces behind; "if you're going to
travel, you won't use your house much, Roy. If Rob is going to be your
follower, I'll come and live here when you're abroad, and when you come
home, I'll go away."

"No you won't, you know we shall want you too."

And seeing the frown on Dudley's face, Roy turned back and linked his
arm in his. "Look here," he added, "Rob shall be your follower as well
as mine, and we will all go out to look for a new country together, and
when we've found it, we will come back and have a jolly time in this old

"I shall have to work for my living," Dudley replied, gruffly.

"Yes. I was thinking," and the earnest look came into Roy's eyes as he
spoke; "I was thinking this morning, I mustn't just live as I like to
live when I grow up. There will be an awful lot to be done. Old
Principle was telling me the other day that the reason some people are
overworked is because other people don't work enough, and an idle man
puts his burden of work on other people's backs."

"We don't want old Principle's sermons here," exclaimed Dudley, having
recovered his good humor. "Aren't you awfully hungry? I'm sure tea must
be ready."

They went to the terrace where a most elaborate repast was set out,
which they thoroughly enjoyed. After it was over all the servants came
up to drink Roy's health; the old butler Pike made a little speech, and
Roy responded; his words lingering in the memories of those who heard
him for long afterward.

Miss Bertram, as she looked at his upright, slender little figure, and
noted the intense emphasis with which he spoke, felt a pang go through
her, as she wondered if his frail young life would be cut short before
he reached manhood.

"I'm awfully much obliged to you all for your good wishes. I'm
determined when I grow up and come to live with you that I'll do all
the good I can to everybody. I hope I'm getting stronger, and I think I
may be able to do as much as other people. But whatever I am, I promise
you I'll do my very best for the property!"

Then three cheers were given for the little master; and after the
ceremony was over, Miss Bertram told her little nephews to amuse
themselves quietly for another half hour before they returned home.

Their plans were already arranged, and they went straight to the stables
for their ponies to try the leap the old groom had mentioned to them.

He had already saddled them, and a few minutes after, they came through
the small paddock in front of the spot.

It was rather an awkward hedge, though not a very high one with a broad
stream of running water the other side.

Old Ben began to get a little nervous as he saw the boys eyeing the leap
rather doubtfully.

"Has the hedge grown since our fathers were little boys?" asked Dudley.

"A wee bit, perhaps, though we do keep it cut pretty much to the same
level. It's a deal thicker than it used to be, but don't you try it if
you hain't sure of your ponies. It 'ud be a awful thing if you hurt
yourself and couldn't do it!"

[Illustration: "'He's dead, Ben! he's dead!"]

"If we try it at all, we shall do it," said Roy, spiritedly, and then
he and Dudley rode back to put their steeds to a gallop.

Old Ben watched them breathlessly. Dudley seemed to be hesitating.

"I say, old fellow, don't let us do it to-night."

Roy's look was one of astonishment mingled with a little contempt.

"Not do it! Are you afraid?"

Dudley's color rose. "I'm not afraid of our courage," he said, boldly,
"but of our ponies: they have never been accustomed to it."

"Then they can learn to-night. Now then, there's plenty of room for us
both abreast. One--two--three--off! Hurrah for the Bertrams!"

The ponies were fresh, the hedge was cleared; but as old Ben was in the
act of waving his cap aloft to give a cheer--there was a crash--a sharp
cry--and a sickening thud the other side of the hedge. And when the old
groom with beating heart and trembling limbs, reached the farther bank,
Roy and his horse were prostrate on the ground. Dudley had cleared it
safely, and now having flung himself from his horse was leaning over Roy
in agony of terror.

"He's dead, Ben--he's dead--his pony rolled over him--oh, fetch a
doctor, quick!"

Ben took the unconscious little figure in his arms, with a heavy groan;
and Dudley tore on to the house almost frantic with fright.

Every one was in confusion at once, but it was Rob who tore off for the
doctor, and brought him in an incredibly short time, considering that he
lived three miles away.

To Dudley, listening outside the bedroom door, it seemed years before
the doctor came out, and when he did, he was too overcome to speak to
him. But seeing the white unnerved face of the boy, Doctor Grant put his
hand kindly on his shoulder.

"Cheer up, my boy, it might have been worse--he is only stunned, and leg
broken. I hope he will pull round again."

And then Dudley burst into a passionate fit of tears, with relief at the
doctor's words.



It was long before the cousins met; Roy's delicate constitution had
received such a shock that his condition for some time was a cause of
grave anxiety. His leg did not heal, and then the terrible word was
whispered through the house "amputation"!

It was a lovely evening in September when after a long talk with the
doctor in the library Miss Bertram came out, her usually determined face
quivering with emotion.

"I will tell him to-night, Doctor Grant, and we shall be ready for you
to-morrow afternoon at three."

She went upstairs, and Dudley with scared eyes having heard her speech
now crept out of the house after the doctor.

"Look here, Doctor Grant," he said, confronting him with an almost
defiant air: "you're not going to make Roy a cripple!"

"I'm going to save his life, if I can," said the doctor, half sadly, as
he looked down upon the sturdy boy in front of him.

"He won't live with only one leg, I know he won't, it will be too much
of a disgrace to him; he'll die of grief, I know he will! Oh, Doctor
Grant, you might have pity on him, it isn't fair!"

"Would you rather see him die in lingering pain?" enquired the doctor,

"Oh, I think it so awful! Why should he be the one to be smashed up.
Look at me! I know everybody thinks it a pity it wasn't me. It would
have made us so much more equal. Why should I be so strong, and he so
weak! I tell you what! I've heard a story about joining on other men's
legs. Now tell me, could you do it? Could you give him one of mine? I'd
let you cut it off this minute--to-night, if you only would. If it would
make him walk straight!"

Dudley seized hold of the doctor's coat excitedly, and Doctor Grant saw
his whole soul was in his words.

"I'm afraid that would be an impossible feat, my boy. No--keep your own
legs to wait upon him, and cheer him up all you can."

"Cheer him up!" was the fierce retort; "what could cheer him! I know he
won't be able to live a cripple. He always says he is straight and
upright though his chest is weak, and now when he knows it's no use
trying to be strong any more, for he'll never be able to--when he knows
he won't be able to play cricket, or football, or even climb the wall or
run races--oh, it's awful--it will break his heart, and I wish I was
dead!" After which passionate speech Dudley dashed away, and the doctor
continued his walk shaking his head and muttering, "It's a bad lookout
for the little fellow!"

Dudley ran across the lawn in his misery, and then nearly tumbled over
Rob who was lying on the grass, his face hidden in his arms. He looked
up and his eyes were red and swollen.

"Master Dudley, is it true, is he going to lose his legs?"

Dudley stood looking at him for a minute before he spoke, and then he
said, "Yes, it's all that hateful doctor!"

Rob dropped his head on his arms again and a smothered groan escaped

Dudley continued his run out into the stableyard, from thence to the
road, and he never stopped till he reached old Principle's little
three-cornered shop.

Old Principle was busy serving customers when he came in; he gave him a
friendly nod, and went on with his business whilst Dudley crept into the
little back parlor, and sitting down in an old horsehair chair tried to
recover his breath. It was not long before old Principle came after him.

"Well, my laddie," he said, laying his hand on the curly head, "there's
sad news going through the village this morning, and I see by your face
that 'tis true!"

Dudley nodded and then seizing hold of the old man's hand, leaned his
head against it and burst into tears.

"Why does God do it!" he sobbed at length, "Roy is so much better than I
am, he's always trying to please God, though he never talks about it,
and I've prayed so hard that he might be made quite well!"

"Ay, and the good Lord is making him well perhaps though not by the way
you planned. He might a been killed outright, and then what a trouble
you'd have been in."

"This is nearly as bad," muttered Dudley.

"Now, laddie, don't harden your heart, are you one of the Lord's own

"I don't know. I don't think I love God as much as Roy does."

"'Tis an awful bad principle," the old man continued, "to doubt and
complain directly we can't understand the Almighty's dealings with us.
He loves Master Roy better'n you and me, and the time will come when
we'll thank the Lord with all our hearts for this accident."

This was utterly incomprehensible to Dudley.

"I feel very badly about it," old Principle went on, "and so do you,
but the one I'm most sorry for is Ben Burkstone. I hear say he's fit to
kill himself with despair!"

"Well," said Dudley, stopping his sobs for a minute; "I don't see it was
his fault; it was the stupid pony; he funked it, and then fell and broke
his knees; mine went over all right. Oh, why didn't it happen to me! If
I had been spilled, I wouldn't have minded, and one leg wouldn't have
been half so bad to me as to Roy!"

"I reckon you'd have got your leg all right again without having to lose
it. 'Tis the laddie's delicate constitution that is so in his way. But I
think you'll find Master Roy as plucky over the loss of his leg as he
ever was. Now lift your heart up to God and ask Him that he may overrule
it all for good. There goes the shop-bell!"

Old Principle disappeared, and Dudley soothed and comforted by his
sympathy, retraced his steps to the house.

Meanwhile Miss Bertram had been going through the trying ordeal of
breaking the news to the little invalid.

Roy was lying in bed, flushed and restless. His eyes looked unnaturally
large and bright, as he met his aunt's anxious gaze.

"I'm so tired of pain, Aunt Judy, and I can't get to sleep."

Miss Bertram sat down and smiled her brightest smile.

Taking his thin little hand in hers she said tenderly,

"Yes, dear, you've been a brave little patient, but I hope you won't
have much more to bear. You would like to be free from it, wouldn't

"Am I going to die?"

"We hope you're going to get quite well again, if God wills, and if you
will be a good boy and let the doctor cure you."

Roy's eyes were fixed intently on his aunt now.

"How are they going to cure me?"

Then Miss Bertram nerved herself for the occasion.

"Roy, dear, you have been so patient since you lay here, that I know you
will be patient over this. Doctor Grant says that your leg will never
heal as it is, but he is sure you will get well and strong again if--if
you will make up your mind to do without it."

"Does that mean he is going to cut it off?"


Dead silence, broken only by the flapping of the window-curtains in the
breeze. Roy was not looking at his aunt now, but his eyes were fixed on
the distant hills through the open window. A blackbird now hovering on
some jasmine outside, suddenly lifted up his voice and burst into an
exultant song. A faint smile flickered about Roy's lips.

"Do legs _never_ grow again like teeth?"

The pathos of tone saved Miss Bertram from smiling at the comicality of
the question.

"I'm afraid not, dear. Not until we reach heaven."

Then there was silence again, broken at last by Roy's saying in a very
quiet tone,--

"I want to see Dudley."

Miss Bertram rose from her seat, but first she stooped to kiss him.

"You are quite a little hero," she said; "I will send David to you. My
poor little Jonathan!"

A hot tear splashed on Roy's forehead; he put up his hand and stroked
his aunt's face.

"Never mind, Aunt Judy, David made a better king than Jonathan would
have I expect. Don't call Dudley just yet--I--I want to be alone."

Miss Bertram left him, but sat down outside his door on a broad window
ledge and cried like a child.

And then a short time after, Dudley stole softly into the room and Roy's
arms were clinging round his neck.

"Oh, Dudley, I've wanted you, kiss me!"

"You're going to get well, old chap, aren't you? You'll soon be out in
the garden again."

Dudley was speaking in the gruff quick tones he used when trying to hide
his feelings.

"We'll talk about that presently," said Roy, lying back on his pillows
and making Dudley take a seat on his bed. "Dudley, do you know what a
will is?"

"Yes; you've a strong will nurse always says."

"No, not that kind of one. Uncle James left a will when he died saying
he left Norrington Court to father, and father left it to me. It's a
piece of thick paper they write it down on, and it has some sealing wax
on it. Aunt Judy showed me father's will once."

Dudley did not look enlightened, so Roy went on,--

"I want you to get a piece of paper and write down my will for me. I
will tell you what to say."

Dudley slipped out of the room obediently and returned with a sheet of
note paper, but this did not satisfy Roy. "It must be a large
sheet--very large," was his command.

After some minutes' search Dudley came in with a sheet of foolscap, and
then with pen and ink he began to write at Roy's dictation:

"When I am dead"--

But Dudley's pen stopped. "You are not going to die, Roy?"

"I hope I am," was the unexpected reply; "I've been asking God to make
me. I shouldn't think many people lived after their legs were cut off: I
know I don't want to!"

"But I want you to live," cried poor Dudley; "oh! Roy you couldn't be so
mean as to leave me all alone. Oh, do unsay that prayer of yours. You
mustn't die!"

"I'm going to get quite ready to die," persisted Roy; "and if you really
loved me you wouldn't think of liking to see me alive hopping about on a
wooden leg, I couldn't do it."

"Nelson lived with only one arm," said Dudley.

Roy lay back on his pillows to consider this; then he said in a tired

"Will you write what I want?"

Dudley seized the pen and in round, childish hand wrote as follows:

"When I am dead, Dudley is to have Norrington
Court for his very own, and he is to
live there instead of me. He can have Dibble
and Nibble too. Rob is to have my musical
box. I leave him my best tool box, and father's
red silk pocket-handkerchief which I
keep in the old tobacco pot on my chimneypiece.
I leave granny her sovereign which
she gave me, and my book 'Heroes of old
England.' Aunt Judy is to have my best
four-bladed knife, and my prayer book. I
want old Principle to have my silver mug and
my new writing case. I leave nurse the sovereign
my guardian gave me to get herself some
new shoes, and I leave her my Bible."

Thus far; then Roy gave a tired sigh. Dudley having entered completely
into the spirit of the thing looked up and said eagerly, "There's your
telescope, you know, Roy! If you leave it to me, I'll let you look
through it when we're off on our travels."

"I shall never travel with no legs--besides I shall be dead. I'll leave
my telescope to you."

Dudley subsided at once; then after a silence he asked meekly, "Is that

"Yes, I'm so tired, put--'I leave all my old clothes to the village
boys, and my cricket bat and stumps to Ben'--but wait a minute,
Dudley--there are all the servants, and I've got such heaps of books and
toys--I think we'll leave it like that."

Dudley looked at his paper with some pride.

"I've only made six mistakes and three blots," he said; "now may I drop
the sealing wax over it? I've got a lovely red piece in my pocket."

"I think I have to write my name at the bottom first, I know father did.
Give me the pen."

Dudley handed it, and wondered why Roy's fingers shook so as he signed
his name.

"Is that all?"

"No, wait a moment. I want to write something myself."

And then in a large scrawl at the bottom of the paper Roy wrote--

"This boy died before he had time to serve
the Queen, he tried to serve God, and he tried
to do good to some people, only they turned
out mistakes. He hopes the Queen will forgive
him; he knows God will. Amen."

Dudley read this with awe.

"And is that a will?" he asked.

"Yes, let me drop some sealing wax; fetch a candle!"

Dudley was longing to do this part himself, but he generously said
nothing, and presented Roy with a brass button out of his pocket, to
stamp on the hot wax.

A lot of sealing wax was dropped indiscriminately all over the paper,
and then old nurse appeared on the scene to order Dudley off.

"You've been far too long with him already, to my mind," she said; "if
Miss Bertram wasn't beside herself she would never have given you
permission at all; he ought to have been kept extra quiet, and he's
worked himself all in a fever again." She put Roy gently back on his
pillows, and did not notice in her short-sightedness the roll of paper
being stuffed under his pillow. Dudley's spirits sank to zero, now he
was about to be dismissed.

"Good-bye, Roy, ask to see me again, won't you?"

Roy held out his hand.

"I'll talk about it to-morrow," he said, faintly.

And Dudley crept out of the room feeling more forlorn and wretched than



It was all over; two doctors had been closetted in the bedroom for a
very long time, and then Dudley and Rob, sitting on the garden steps,
were told that everything had been successfully carried out, and Roy was
as well and better than had been expected.

"I never saw such fortitude and calm self-control in my life," said Miss
Bertram to her mother; "it was unnatural for a child of his age!"

"He is a true Bertram in spirit," said the grandmother, proudly; then
she added with a sigh, "but, alas, not in body."

"Nurse," said Dudley that night as he was creeping into bed under her
charge; "is Roy going to die?"

"I hope not," answered nurse, a little tearfully. "Doctor Grant says
he'll make a good recovery, but he whispered himself to me--Master Roy
did just before he took the sleeping draught--'Nurse I'll have my leg
buried with me!' he says."

Dudley was silent for a minute, then he asked, solemnly, "And where is
it, nurse?"

Nurse turned upon him tearfully and angrily,

"I believe as how you haven't one speck of feeling for that blessed
darling, you naughty boy! To talk of such a thing in such a way with not
a tear on your face! And to think of him laying there a helpless
cripple, and him the owner of the biggest estate in the county!"

Dudley crept into bed feeling he had no more tears to shed, wondering
when he would be allowed to see Roy again, and also wondering who was
the possessor of his lost leg.

It was a fortnight before he was allowed to see the little invalid, and
when the boys met, Dudley gazed with deep pity on Roy's white little
face, looking smaller and whiter than ever. But he welcomed him with a

"It's years since you were here, old chap."

"Yes," responded Dudley, "and it's been the most miserablest years of my

"I thought I was going to die then," continued Roy, with still the same
smile; "but God wouldn't let me. He was determined I should live, and do
you know I've been thinking it out. I really believe it is because He is
going to let me do something great still. And Doctor Grant has been
telling me of a man in Parliament who took all the house by storm, and
brought in a most wonderful law that thousands of people blessed him
for, and he--he had a cork leg!"

Certainly Roy had not lost his buoyancy of spirits. Dudley drew a deep
breath of relief, and for the first time began to see brighter times

"And I'm going to have a cork leg," went on Roy, "a leg that if I press
a spring I can kick out. Think of that!"

Dudley looked beaming, exclaiming,--

"And it will be very convenient to have a leg with no feeling, won't it,
especially about the knee when you're crawling along a wall with broken

"I'm going to see Rob to-morrow," announced Roy, after a little more
conversation. "Has he learned to read while I have been ill?"

Dudley shook his head.

"No, we tried one afternoon on the wall, but we were too miserable, so
we stopped."

"Well, I can teach him here in bed. That's one thing you don't want a
leg to do!"

"I say, Roy," Dudley asked, very cautiously; "don't you feel very funny
without it?"

Roy looked away for a minute without answering, and then he said slowly:

"I try and not think about it. It will be worse when I get up--people
might think when they see me in bed that I'm all right, but they'll know
the truth when I'm up."

Then he added more cheerfully, "It's awfully queer, but do you know I'd
never know it wasn't there as far as the feeling goes. Why I can feel
the pain right down to my toes now. And at night I'm always dreaming I'm
running races with you as fast as I can, and then I wake and can't
believe I'll never run again."

As Roy grew stronger he had more visitors; Rob came to him every day for
a reading lesson, and old Principle brought him books and sweets. Ben
was allowed an interview, and the old groom, with tears running down his
cheeks, besought Roy to forgive him.

"I never ought to allowed you, and 'twas me that egged you on and sent
you to your death!"

"No, it was my own fault, Ben," said Roy, humbly, "and the thing that
pains me most--more than breaking my leg--is to think that I should be
the first Bertram who has failed. Dudley did it, and I didn't, and of
course I shall never be able to try it again. Perhaps I was too proud of
what I could do. We have a picture in the nursery of a boy standing on
the top of a bridge, and then tumbling in the water; it's called 'Pride
must have a fall.' I've had a fall, haven't I, Ben?"

Ben came out from that interview declaring that "Master Roy ought to be

One afternoon Rob was finishing his reading lesson when he looked up
and said, a little shyly,

"Master Roy, you mind what you were a telling me of once--about what
your father told you. Do you think as how I could do it too?"

"Of course you could, Rob. All of us ought to serve God."

"I've been thinking a deal about it, and I should like to, if I knew

"Well, the Bible tells you. I remember nurse made me learn a text a long
time ago, 'If any man serve me let him follow me.' It's just following
Jesus I suppose, and doing what He wants us to do."

"How can we follow somebody we can't see?"

Roy knitted his brows. Rob's questions were hard to answer sometimes,
and then a smile flashed across his face.

"I'll tell you. It's like this. On my birthday granny called me in to
give me a birthday talk and, of course, she talked to me about my
property. She said my uncle had managed it awfully well over there, and
she hoped I would walk in his steps. That would be following him though
he was dead, wouldn't it?"

"Ye-es," was the slow response.

"And so you see," Roy replied, leaning forward impressively, and his
eyes glistening with earnestness, "we can each follow Jesus. Try and
live as He did, and do and speak like Him. We read how He lived in the
New Testament."

"And He was the one that died for us," Rob said, reflectively.

"Yes, He is the one you go to, to get your sins washed away. That comes
first before we begin to serve Him."

"But I never could serve Him proper, always," objected Rob.

"No, nor more can any one. I'm awful, you know! Dudley says I think such
a lot of myself. And of course Jesus never did. And I grumble and cry
over my leg every day, and of course He wouldn't have done it. But Jesus
forgives us again and again, and helps us to be good, and that's why we
love Him, and because He died for us."

"Would He forgive me, and help me?" asked Rob; "are you quite sure He
would care to have me for a servant?"

"Of course I'm sure. He wants everybody. You just ask Him."

Rob said no more. He was a lad of few words, and for some days did not
touch on the subject again. His reading was progressing rapidly, and
when Roy and Dudley found out that his birthday was near they laid their
heads together and presented him with a handsome Bible, as they knew he
was saving up his pennies to buy one.

His gratitude and delight overwhelmed them, and every day now, when his
work was finished, he would sit down and spell out chapters of the
gospels to himself.

As the days began to shorten, Roy grew so much stronger that he was able
to be carried downstairs, and the first evening he was in the
drawing-room, he asked Miss Bertram for the song of the two little
drummer boys.

She sat down at the piano, and Dudley seeing Rob weeding a flower bed
outside the open window, beckoned to him to come up closer and listen.

"It's the best song out," he shouted.

Roy's face shone as Miss Bertram's sweet voice rang out triumphantly.

--"'the fight was won, and the regiment saved
By those two little dots in red!'"

"Oh, how I wish I could be a soldier!" was the muttered exclamation of
Roy, "I shall never be able to serve the Queen now!"

"Nonsense," said Miss Bertram, briskly; "granny would tell you 'that all
the Bertrams have always served the Queen, and only a few of them have
been soldiers!'"

"Well, I suppose they have been sailors?" said Dudley.

"Not at all; we have only had one admiral, and three naval captains in
our family during the last hundred years. Your father, Dudley, served
the Queen as a governor in India quite as well as if he were fighting
for her. Roy's father was her servant in Canada, though he had to do
with politics; your uncle James served as a member of Parliament. The
Queen has numbers of servants. I always think policemen are quite as
brave as soldiers!"

"And what can a one-legged Bertram do?" Roy asked, with a pathetic smile
that went straight to his aunt's heart.

"There's no reason why he shouldn't go into Parliament, and perhaps end
by being a member of the cabinet."

"I never quite understand what that is," said Roy, contemplatively. "I
don't think I should like to be shut up in a stuffy cupboard. They shut
them up in it to talk, don't they, Aunt Judy?"

How Miss Bertram laughed! But whilst she was explaining what a cabinet
was, Rob crept away from the window muttering, "I suppose as how I could
be a policeman, but I'd a deal rather be a soldier!"



"Can I see Master Roy, please?"

It was Rob who spoke, and he seemed breathless with haste and
importance, as he stood at the front door one cold afternoon the end of

"You can give me your message," the young footman said, rather

"No, I can't," was the blunt retort; "ask Master Roy to speak to me."

Rob gained his point, and was ushered into the library where Roy and
Dudley were amusing themselves in the firelight.

The old nursery was not much used now, and the library had begun to be
considered the boys' room, partly because owing to it being on the
ground floor, and opening into the garden, it was more convenient for
Roy's use.

Roy was now the possessor of a cork leg; and with the help of a stick he
was nearly as active as ever. His spirits were as high, and his purposes
as plentiful as before his illness; and his grandmother and aunt
marvelled that he could take his deformity so lightly. Yet there were
times unknown to any, when Roy's brave little heart sank with the
consciousness of it; and often in bed at night his pillow would be wet
with tears.

"Oh, God," he would often pray, "you wouldn't let me die, do help me to
do something worth living for. I feel my leg will keep away all the
opportunities now, but please give me something big to do for you

"Hulloo, Rob, come on," was Roy's exclamation as he caught sight of his
friend. "Just look at Nibble and Dibble, we're teaching them to draw a
cart. It makes you die of laughing to look at them. There they go, and
Dibble turns head over heels in his excitement!"

Roy's happy laugh rang out, but though Dudley joined him, Rob's face was
grave and set.

"Please, can I speak to you on business, Master Roy?"

"Goody! What a long face!" exclaimed Dudley, pulling down his own in
imitation of Rob's, and thereby causing a fresh peal of laughter from
Roy. "Have you been a naughty boy, Rob, and has old Hal been thrashing
you? Have you been skylarking on the top of the greenhouse, and smashed
through on Hal's pate?"

"I should like to speak to Master Roy, alone," said Rob, a little
wistfully; in no way disturbed by Dudley's teasing.

"Oh, it's one of your secrets again. I'll be off, Roy, I want to see old

And Dudley dashed out of the room, whilst Rob came nearer and began his

"Master Roy, I've been thinking a lot lately, and Miss Bertram asked me
the other day if I'd like any other job for the winter as there's hardly
enough work for me in the garden now. And yesterday I saw a chap in the
village I used to know. He's a recruiting sergeant for the ----shire
regiment, and he wants me to enlist straight away. I wouldn't have given
it a thought only what you said about serving the Queen has stuck to me,
and it does seem a chance, and somehow that song has been in my head
ever since I heard Miss Bertram sing it. I'd like to be in a regiment."

Rob paused for breath, and Roy's eyes were wide open with wonder and

"But, Rob, you aren't old enough to be a soldier yet!"

"I'm just the age--they take them at eighteen, and I was that the other
day, only I don't look it."

"But you're going to be my servant. I couldn't let you go."

Rob's face fell.

"I thought I could have seven years--or even twelve years would hardly
find you ready to take up your property. And then I'd come back to you
and never leave you again!"

"But I want you with me now--always"--said Roy, in a distressed tone; "I
couldn't do without you all that time, and it's horrid of you to want to
get away from here, I think."

"All right, Master Roy, I won't go--I'll get a job in the village that
will keep me close at hand."

Rob tried to speak cheerfully, and after waiting a minute to see if Roy
would say any more, he left the room quietly; all the light having died
out of his honest grey eyes.

Roy watched the antics of his mice in the firelight, but his thoughts
were far away from them. At last he opened the door and made his way up
to his grandmother's room to have his usual chat with her before tea.

"Granny, if a person you like will do anything you like, ought you to
make that person do what you like instead of what they like?"

"It sounds like a riddle," said Mrs. Bertram, with a smile. "I won't ask
who the person is, the question is whether you like that person or
yourself best. Which do you?"

Roy did not answer for a minute, then he hung his head.

"I'm afraid I like myself best."

"If you give me more details, perhaps I can advise you."

"Well, granny, may I talk first to Dudley about it, and then I'll tell
you. But you see it's like this--the person wants to please you, and you
can't pretend to be pleased if he does what doesn't please you!"

"I think the best plan would be to leave yourself out of the question
entirely, and only think of the other person; that would be the most
unselfish way."

Roy knitted his brows and heaved a heavy sigh.

"Am I a very selfish person, granny?"

"You are much more selfish than Dudley is," said Mrs. Bertram,
decidedly, who never minced matters with her grandsons.

Roy flushed a deep crimson, and his grandmother added,

"I do not say that you are altogether to blame, for Dudley has always
given way to you and spoiled you; but you do not very often think of his
wishes before your own."

"No, I never do."

Roy's tone was of the deepest dejection; but the sudden entrance of
Dudley gave a turn to the conversation, and he gradually recovered his

When the two boys were at their tea half an hour later, Roy spread the
whole matter before Dudley who looked at it in quite a different light.

"How stunning! And is he really going? Hurray! One of us will be a
soldier, at any rate. I wish I was big enough to go with him."

"But I don't want him to go, and I told him so, and he isn't going!"

Dudley opened his eyes at this.

"You going to keep him back? Why you're the one that's always talking
about serving the Queen, and fighting for her!"

"Yes, I should like to, but--but Rob is different. I want him to be with

"Then you don't care about serving the Queen, if you're going to do her
out of a soldier who might fight for her!"

This was quite a new aspect of the affair.

"You think I'm like the dog in the manger? I can't go myself and I don't
want him to. But if you go to a boarding school like Aunt Judy talks of,
and I'm not allowed to go with you, and Rob is gone, I shall be left all
alone; and I hate being alone, you don't know how I hate it--I think I
should die!"

"Well, if I was you and knew I couldn't be a soldier myself, I would
love to send some one instead of me--you know how they do in France. Old
Selby was telling us. They pay a subsidy--substitute--don't you call
it?--to go and fight for them."

"Yes, that is the coward's way," Roy said, scornfully.

He paused for a minute, and then his eyes flashed fire.

"Yes, Dudley, I'll let him go. It's me that's the coward to try and keep
him back! You and I shall send him, and he shall be our substitute, and
when we hear of him doing brave things, we shall feel it's ourselves.
And we'll make him write letters to us and tell us all he is doing--oh,
it will be splendid. How glad I am he has learned to read and write.
Dudley, you just go and fetch him in, will you?"

Dudley crammed rather a large piece of cake into his mouth, and dashed
out of the room; and a few minutes later dragged in the would-be

"We've settled you can go, Rob," said Roy, with a little of his
masterful air about him; "only you're to go as _our_ soldier. I think if
I had had a good, broad, strong chest and never broke my leg, I should
have enlisted, but you can go instead of me. Are you glad?"

"I'm sorry to leave you, Master Roy, but I'd dearly like to go."

"We must tell granny and Aunt Judy, and see what they say first. But I'm
sure they'd like you to go."

No objection was made. Miss Bertram was rather pleased than otherwise.

"He will make a good soldier," she said, when talking it over with the
boys; "he is a steady, reliable lad, with not too many ideas of his own,
and implicitly obedient."

"Is that what makes a good soldier?" asked Roy. "I thought it was dash
and bravery."

"Dash is a dangerous quality. Steady perseverance is better, Jonathan!"

The next few days were most exciting ones for the boys. Roy and Rob had
many a long talk together, and very earnest and serious subjects were
touched upon. Rob had little time left to bid his friends farewell, but
he went to old Principle, as a matter of course.

"Yes," said the old man, a little proudly; "all the younger folks going
out in life comes to me for a parting word. They laughs at me and my
principles, but I'm proud of my nickname, and 'tis only right principles
will make a man live right, and they knows it. What can I say to you,
lad, but fear God and honor the Queen and those in authority under her.
Never be afraid of holding to the right and denouncing the wrong, and
may God Almighty take your body and soul in His keeping until we meet

Rob's last day came, and an hour before his departure, in company with
his friend, the sergeant, he came up to the Manor to bid them all
farewell. Roy had some farewell words with him in the privacy of his

"We shall miss you awfully," he said, walking up and down the room to
hide his emotion; "and it makes me wish I had your chance. But you'll
remember, Rob, I look to you to be a rattling good soldier, much better
than I should have been, and you'll be sure to do something grand and
brave the very first opportunity, won't you? You must get the Victoria
Cross, of course, and the account of you must be in the newspapers, so
that we can read about you. And I shall pray that God will keep you
safe, Rob. I hope you'll never have an arm or leg shot off, though I
think that would be better than having them cut off. I hope you'll come
back safe and sound. When shall we see you again?"

"The sergeant told me I should get a month or six weeks' leave this time
next year, Master Roy."

"A year is a very long time. Rob, if I should die before I grow up, I
want you to promise me that you will be Dudley's servant instead of
mine. He will be master of Norrington Court, then, and I want you to
live there."

"But you aren't going to die, Master Roy, you will live and do great
things yet."

Roy shook his head a little sadly.

"Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. I won't give up trying, but I shall
never be anything but half a man, with my cork leg and my weak chest.
Dudley would make a much grander master. Still there's one thing I can
do. I can serve God--and I've sent you to serve the Queen, and I can try
to serve my fellow creatures. Good-bye, dear Rob, will you kiss me."

And then forgetting his dignity, Roy flung his arms round Rob's neck and
hugged him passionately. "I'll never forget you carrying me home that
night," he whispered in his ear, "I loved you from that time. And Rob
you'll do what father told me to do--serve God first."

Rob nodded, and as he knelt on the ground holding the frail little
figure to him, he made a promise there and then in his heart that he
would never do or say anything that he would be ashamed of Roy's

"They're calling me, Master Roy, good-bye."

He was gone, and Roy sitting down on the floor, leaned his head against
his bed and burst into tears.

Dudley found him there, and soon comforted him.

"Look here, if you like it, let us get upon the wall and see Rob and the
sergeant drive by; we can just see the high road, and Rob had to go to
the inn first, so we shall have plenty of time."

Roy's whole face beamed, he seized his stick and limped after Dudley
without a thought of his leg, but when he reached the wall he came to a

"I'm afraid I can't climb it, Dudley, I've never been on it since my leg
was broken!"

But Dudley would take no denial.

"Oh, yes, you can, I'll hoist you up, we'll manage it."

And "manage it" they did to Roy's intense delight, though Mrs. Bertram
would have been horror-struck at the narrow escape the little invalid
had, of falling to the ground during the proceeding.

When they saw the trap in the distance, they set up a wild cheer, and
waved their handkerchiefs frantically, and when they were answered by a
cheer and a fluttering piece of white, they felt quite satisfied at
their farewell.

Before they got down from their high perch, Roy said, earnestly, "If God
sent us Rob as an opportunity, Dudley, I wonder if we did him good."

"Well, you see he was such a lot bigger than us, and Aunt Judy says she
never saw such a steady good boy; it's very difficult to do good to
good people, because you want to be so extra good yourself."

"At any rate, we've made him the Queen's soldier."

"Yes," argued Dudley, provokingly; "but he was the first one that
thought of it!"

"Oh, shut up," was Roy's impatient retort; "he told me himself it was
the song of Jake and Jim that did it, and--and my talking to him."

"And I expect the sergeant thinks it's all his doing."

"But he wouldn't have gone unless I had told him he might."

And as usual Roy had the last word.



Very disappointed were the boys at Rob's first letter, which arrived
about a fortnight after he had gone to the regimental depot at a
neighboring town.


"I hope you and Master Dudley are
quite well as it leaves me at present. I like it
first-rate, but it is hard work, and I have a
good many masters, but I means to do my
best. God bless you.

"From your faithful

"That's not a letter at all!" said Roy, scornfully; "why he tells us
nothing at all! Why he might have gone to school and told us more! That
from a soldier. It's the stupidest rot I've ever heard!"

"I think you forget what a poor scholar Rob is," said Miss Bertram,
reprovingly. "Now I think that is a remarkably good letter when I think
what a short time he has been learning to write. You boys had better
each write a proper letter to him yourselves, and ask him what you want
to know. He will like to hear from you."

And so that afternoon, sitting up in state at the library table, the
boys spread out their writing materials and began to write.

"I feel," said Roy, biting the end of his pen and looking up at the
ceiling for an inspiration, "that I don't know quite how to begin. I
should like to tell him not to write like an ass, when he knows he ought
to tell us everything."

"All right, tell him so," said Dudley, squaring his elbow and frowning
terribly as he prepared himself for the task. "You know what old Selby
says: 'Make your paper talk, my boys, and make it talk in your own

After a great many interruptions from each other, and a few skirmishes
round the table which resulted in the ink bottle being spilt, the
letters were finished.

Roy read his aloud with pride to Dudley, who did the same to him.


"You must write us longer letters. I
am quite sure there is lots to tell. What do
you have to eat? And where do you sleep?
Have you got a gun of your own? Do they
let soldiers shoot rabbits on their half-holidays?
Does the band play while you are at dinner?
What are your clothes like, and what are you
to be called, now you're a soldier? When
will you be a sergeant, and is there any fighting
coming off soon? Old Principle says
you will be learning drill. What is drill? He
says it's learning how to march, but Dudley
and I can do that first-rate. How many masters
have you got? Write to me to-morrow
and tell me all. I hope you will remember
you are our soldier, and be sure you do something
very grand as quick as ever you can.
Have you got a sword and a medal? Do you
ride on a horse, and can you fire off the cannon?
I miss you very much but you belong
to us, and must come back full of glory.

"Your loving friend,



"I hope you like being a soldier. How
many soldiers are there in the same house with
you? Give them my love and tell them we
hope they liked the cake we put in your box
for them. Roy came down to old Principle's
with me yesterday. He showed us a hammer
out of his cave he dug up. He says you will
not be a full blown soldier for a year. He
had a cousin who was a sergeant in India--and
had his brains burst out in battle. When
do you begin to fight? Tell us if you feel
funky, and what the enemy looks like, and who
they are. We think you ought to write us a
much jollier letter. Roy's leg is first-rate, and
he is up on the garden wall now like a cat.
We sit there to do our evening prep: for old
Selby. Good-bye. We're on the lookout for
your name in the newspapers the first battle
that comes off.

"Roy's friend,


"I don't think you've finished your letter properly," observed Roy,
critically, as Dudley concluded reading his. "Why do you write you're my

"Because I am," was the prompt reply; "I'm not Rob's friend and I shan't
tell him I am. I just write to him because you do, that's all."

"Don't you like him?"

"I don't want him for my friend; he's going to be a kind of servant.
Besides I wanted him to remember that I was your friend. I knew you long
before he did, and if he was dead now, or if he never had been born, I
should have been your friend just the same. We could have got on all
right without him."

This was not the first touch of jealousy that had appeared in Dudley's
character. He had more than once quarrelled with Roy on account of the
boy who he said had crept in between them, but on Roy always
emphatically assuring him that Rob occupied a back place in his
affections, Dudley would generally be appeased and become his sunny self

"I like Rob very much," said Roy, slowly, "'specially now he's a
soldier. I was thinking in church last Sunday, when they were reading
about David and Jonathan, that Jonathan had an armor-bearer. That's Rob.
Only I can't go to battle, so I send him. Don't you think that's a nice

"Did he get killed?" asked Dudley, with interest; "I forget about him."

"It doesn't say--I expect he lived as long as Jonathan did, and then
perhaps David took him to be his servant. That's what I've settled with
Rob, that he shall be your servant if I die."

Dudley gave himself an impatient shake.

"Oh, shut up with that rot, you'll live as long as I do!"

Roy did not speak for a minute, then he said, slowly, "You remember my
will that I made when I was so ill?"

"Yes, what did you do with it?"

"Aunt Judy found it the next morning on the floor nearly under the bed.
She laughed a little at first, and then got quite grave when I explained
it, and she took it away and locked it up somewhere. But if I never
make another, you will remember that I have left Rob to you for your

Dudley looked up with a comical gleam in his eye.

"And who gave Rob to you, old chap?"

"I took him--at least he gave himself to me."

Roy's tone was dignity itself, but Dudley laughed.

"Well he doesn't belong to you any longer; the Queen has got him."

"I have lent him to her, that's all."

"You talk of Rob as if he is a slave. He's a Briton, and 'Britons shall
be free!'"

"So he is free, but he chose to be my servant when I grow up, and he
shall be!"

Dudley dropped the argument, for Roy's face was flushing hotly, and he
was wonderfully patient with him since his accident.

Miss Bertram entered the room at this juncture, and asked in her cheery
brisk tones, "Would any boys like to drive me to the railway station in
the pony trap? I am going up to London on business, and shall be away
till to-morrow."

"Hurray," shouted Roy; "we'll come, and just read our letters, Aunt
Judy! Won't they make Rob see how he ought to write?"

Miss Bertram took the letters in her hand, praised the little writers,
and then sent them off to their rooms to get tidy for their drive.

A short time after, Roy mounted in front with his aunt, was driving her
with pride along the high road; whilst Dudley from the back seat kept
them lively with his chatter and flow of fun.

The boys always liked the bustle of the station; and getting a lad to
hold the pony, they followed their aunt to the platform and saw her on
board the train. Some friends spoke to her before the train went off and
amongst them was a certain Captain Smalley.

"I say," said Dudley, nudging Roy; "he's an officer, and he is in the
army, I expect he knows Rob."

"We'll ask him, directly the train is off."

But in the bustle of the last few minutes they missed seeing him; the
young captain got into his dog-cart, and was well on his way home before
the boys were ready to start in their trap.

"Oh, I say! See him in the distance! Whip up and let us catch him. Here,
let me drive, it's my turn now!"

But Roy clutched hold of the reins.

"No, I want to."

"I tell you it's my turn!"

"It's the only thing I can do with one leg, it's a beastly shame of

Dudley, who had nearly got possession of the coveted reins dropped them

"All right then, but go ahead!"

And then Roy with a shamed look put the reins in his cousin's hands.

"I'll give them up. Granny always says I'm selfish. It was awfully mean
to talk of my leg. Now then hurry! Gee-up!"

Dudley took the reins with a gratified smile, applied the whip, and the
spirited little pony dashed along the road at such a rate, that a porter
looked after them in dismay.

"Those two young gents will come to their death afore they're
satisfied," he remarked, and another man responded:

"Yes, the little one is pretty well smashed up already, but legs or no
legs, boys allays keeps their sperrits!"

Captain Smalley was rather startled at hearing frantic shouts behind
him, and when he pulled up wondering if some message were to be
delivered, he was still more bewildered by what he heard.

"Hi, Captain Smalley! Stop for us. We've come two miles out of our way.
Now then, Roy, go ahead!"

"Do you know Rob? We want you to tell us how he is. We can't get a word
out of him; is there going to be any fighting? And how does he look in
his clothes?"

"Who is Rob?" asked Captain Smalley.

"Why, he's a soldier like you. You must know him!"

A few more explanations were made, and then the young man laughed

"Your young friend is learning his recruit drill at the depot, I should
think. If he were in my regiment I might not be able to give you much
information about him. The army is a big affair, my boys, and I doubt if
Rob and I will ever meet."

The boys' faces fell considerably.

"Do you think he likes it?" asked Roy, anxiously; "do you like being a

"Of course I do, and if he has any stuff in him he will like it, too."

"And will he be sent to fight very soon?"

"I dare say he may do his seven years without a single fight!"

Roy looked very disappointed.

"If he doesn't fight, he might just as well have stopped at home. What's
the good of being a soldier if you don't have any battles?"

"Soldiers prevent battles, sometimes."

This sounded nonsense to the boys. They bade the captain good-bye, and
turned their pony's head homeward quite disconsolate.

"I'll write and tell him to come home if he's not going to do anything,"
said Roy, with his little mouth pursed up determinedly.

"We'll give him a chance, first. He may go out to fight. Captain
Smalley didn't say for certain."

"I think Captain Smalley is funky himself about fighting, that's what I

And with this disdainful assertion Roy dismissed the subject.



It was a soft, mild day in December. Mr. Selby's study seemed close and
stifling to the boys as they sat up at the long table with books and
slates before them, and a blazing fire behind their backs.

"This sum won't come right, Mr. Selby," groaned Roy; "and I've gone over
it three times. It is made up of nothing but eights and nines. I hate
nine. I wish it had never been made. Who made up figures, Mr. Selby?"

Roy's questions were rather perplexing at lesson time.

"I will tell you all about that another time," was Mr. Selby's reply.
"Have another try, my boy: never let any difficulty master you, if you
can help it."

A knock at the door, and Mr. Selby was summoned to some parishioner. He
was often interrupted when with his pupils, but they were generally
conscientious enough to go on working during his absence.

But Roy's lesson this morning was not interesting, and he was unusually

"It's no good trying to master this sum, it's all those nines. They're
nasty, lanky, spiteful little brutes, I should like to tear them out of
the sum-books."

"Expel them from arithmetic," said Dudley, looking up from a latin
exercise, his sunny smile appearing. "Don't you wish we could have a
huge dust hole to empty all the nasty people and things in that we don't

"Yes--I'd shovel the nines in fast enough, and a few eights to keep them
company, and then I would throw in all my medicine bottles, and my great
coat, and--and Mrs. Selby on the top of them!"

This last clause was added in a whisper, for if there was any one that
Roy really disliked, it was his tutor's wife. She was a kind-hearted
woman, but fidgety and fussy to the last degree, and was always in a
bustle. Having no children, she expended all her energies on the parish,
and there was not a domestic detail in any village home that escaped her
eye. She had spoken sharply to the boys that morning for bringing in
muddy footprints, and her words were still rankling in Roy's breast.

"It's so awfully hot," Roy continued; "let us open the window, Dudley.
Old Selby won't mind for once; it's like an oven in here."

The window was opened with some difficulty, and the fresh air blowing in
seemed delicious to the boys. Roy clambered up on the old window-seat,
slate in hand, but his eyes commanded the view of the village street,
and the sum made slow progress in consequence.

"I say! Tom White's pig has broken loose, and that stupid Johnnie Dent
is driving it straight into old Principle's! I expect he'll come out in
an awful rage. No--the door must be shut, he can't get in. There seems
quite a crowd round old Principle's. He's giving them a lecture, I
expect. Here comes old Mother Selby tearing up the street, her bonnet
strings are flying and she's awfully excited!"

A minute after the door was thrown open.

"John, it's the most extraordinary thing--oh, you are not here!--Where
is Mr. Selby? I always knew something would happen to that old man
roaming over the hills half the night, and digging holes big enough to
bury himself! John! Where are you?"

She disappeared as quickly as she had come, banging the door violently
behind her; but Roy sprang down from his seat instantly.

"Dudley, it's old Principle! Something must have happened to him, do let
us go and see."

Dudley dashed down his pen, and was vaulting out of the window, when he
suddenly stopped.

"Roy get your great coat, quick. Aunt Judy made me promise to look
after you. I'll wait while you get it."

Roy dashed out into the hall. He heard the rector's voice in the
distance, but was too excited to wait to see him, and after impatiently
tugging on his objectionable coat, he limped off as quickly as he could,
joining Dudley at the garden gate. They heard the news on the way to old
Principle's. It appeared that the old man had gone out the afternoon
before, and had never come home. His shop was shut up exactly as he had
left it, and the woman who went in every day to do his cleaning and
cooking for him, was the first one to notice his absence. The group of
idle women round his door were busily discussing the question when the
boys arrived.

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if as how he has made away with
hisself," suggested one, knowingly. "I always did say as he were queer
in the head, a makin' out of a pack o' stones such amazin' stories! And
a mutterin' to hisself like no ordinary creetur, and a walkin' through
the woods and fields as if he seed nothin' but what other folks couldn't
see at all!"

"Ah, now! To think of it! And Bill is a goin' down the river to find his
body; for him and Walter Hitchcock have searched the whole place since
seven o'clock this mornin'!"

"May be there's a murder in it," said a young woman, cheerfully. "He
were an old man to wander off alone, and there's allays evil-doers round
about for the unprotected."

The boys listened to these and similar conjectures with frightened eyes;
then Dudley whispered,

"I believe he is in his cave, Roy; we'll go and look for him. Only don't
tell these women about it, because he hasn't told anybody but us where
it is."

They left the shop and started for the hills, but Roy's lameness made
progress very slow.

At last he stopped, and struggling to hide his disappointment said,
"You'll have to go on without me, Dudley. I only keep you back. This old
leg of mine always comes in the way."

Dudley stopped to consider. "It's a very long way, but we must get there
somehow. Hulloo, here's just the thing."

They had stopped at a small inn at the outskirts of the village; and
tied to the drinking trough outside, was a rough pony and cart whose
owner was enjoying himself in the tap room with his friends.

"Jump in, Roy. It's to save old Principle, and anybody would be glad to
lend his cart for that."

Roy was not long in acting upon this advice. The pony trotted forward
briskly, and the boys would have thoroughly enjoyed this escapade,
except for the fears of their friend's safety.

"If anything has happened to him, the village will go to the dogs!" Roy
asserted, emphatically; "old Hal said the other day he was worth a
couple of parsons. When I grow up, I think I shall try and be like him.
I shall give good advice to everybody without ever scolding them, that
is what he does."

"Do you think he is dead?" asked Dudley, "I don't think he can be. Why
it was only the day before yesterday we saw him, and he was as well as
we are."

It seemed a long time before they reached the cave; the hills were steep
and the pony rather old, and more than once Dudley felt inclined to run
forward on his own two legs. Roy at last suggested this.

"I can drive up after you as fast as I can; and if you find him you
holloa to me."

So Dudley jumped out and was soon lost to sight behind the bushes and
hollows that fringed the hills.

Roy drove on busily thinking, and wondering if they had done wisely to
take the matter into their own hands, and come off alone as they had

When he at length reached the cave Dudley came to meet him with a
puzzled face.

"Something has happened, Roy. I can't get into it very far; there's a
lot of earth tumbled down and I can't move it."

"Then old Principle is buried alive!" cried Roy in terror. "Quick,
Dudley, let us dig him out."

Dudley seemed quite helpless.

"I've no spade, and there's no place near to get one. I wish we hadn't
come alone."

This was a dilemma, but Roy would not be overcome by it.

"Let us look about for his tools; he always brings them up with him.
Isn't there enough room for me to get in, Dudley?"

Dudley shook his head, and both boys approached the entrance. There had
indeed been a serious landslip, and it was impossible to remove the
great blocks of stone and earth that had fallen without proper tools;
and though they searched for some traces of old Principle, not a thing
belonging to him could they find.

"Perhaps he may not be here."

"I believe he is," maintained Roy; "and we must be as quick as ever we
can. Dudley you go back in the cart and get some men to come and help. I
will stay here. How I wish we hadn't come alone!"

Left by himself, Roy did not sit down and do nothing. Clambering all
amongst the fallen earth and stone, he eagerly searched for some
crevice or opening; and at last high up in the ravine he found one. Then
lying down flat on the ground he put his mouth to the hole. "Old
Principle! Hi! Old Principle! Are you there?"

It was not fancy that a muffled voice came up to him--

"Help! I'm here!"

That gave Roy fresh strength. Eagerly he tore aside brambles and stones
with small thought of his scratched, bruised hands, and at last had the
satisfaction of viewing a hole big enough to drop his slim little body
through. Then he called again,

"Old Principle, I'm coming down from the top. Are you hurt? Can you tell
me if it is far to fall?"

And this time old Principle's voice sounded clearer:

"God help you, laddie! For I can't help you or myself. No it is not a
very big drop from where you are."

For one moment Roy looked at the dark chasm below him with hesitation,
then he murmured to himself, "If I break my other leg, I must get to
him--poor old Principle."

And then carefully and cautiously he let himself down, clinging with his
hands to a stout twig of mountain ash that bent and swayed across the
crevice with his weight.

Another moment and leaving go of the friendly branch, he dropped on damp
fresh soil, and found himself in almost total darkness. Then as his eyes
got more accustomed to it, he saw the prostrate form of old Principle
only a yard or two away from him. The old man was breathing heavily, and
his legs were completely buried under fallen earth.

"Is it Master Roy?" he said, as Roy came over and took hold of his hand;
"ay, you shouldn't have imprisoned yourself with me, laddie--I didn't
rightly think of what you were doing--I'm--I'm in such pain!"

"Are you very hurt? Oh, dear, what can I do? I can't lift you. Are your
legs broken?"

"I don't rightly know. If you could shift a little of the earth off, may
be it would ease me!"

Roy looked round and then delightedly seized hold of a small shovel.

"Your shovel is here. I'll do it," he said, cheerfully, and then to work
he went. The soil was fortunately not heavy to remove, but there was a
great quantity of it before poor old Principle's legs were liberated.
Roy toiled on, hot and breathless, longing that help should come, his
own fatigue forgotten in his pity for the helpless old man.

"Can you lift yourself up, old Principle? I really think I've got the
earth off your legs--at least most of it!"

There was a struggle, then a groan.

"I'm afraid not, laddie. 'Tis the power that has quite gone out of them.
I'm fearing that old Principle will be never roaming the hills again,
but there 'tis the Lord's will, and He never do make mistakes."

"Do you think your legs are broken like mine were?"

"I can't rightly say. It has seemed a weary time since I lay here. Many
days and nights I suppose--and I'm longing for a drink, but thank the
Lord, He has sent you to me."

"It is only since yesterday that you have been lost. And Dudley has gone
back to get some men to come. I wish I could get you some water, but
there's none here, is there?"

"I am afraid not."

Silence fell on the pair, which was broken at last by,--

"'Tis a good principle to think of your mercies when trouble overtakes
you. It has whiled away the time here, and I can thank the Lord with all
my heart, that my head and hands are uninjured!"

"How did it happen?" asked Roy.

"I'm afraid I excavated too far and was in the midst of unearthing a
large boulder of stone when I remembered no more--it took me so sudden,
and when I came to life again I thought I was in my bed at home with a
ton's weight on my feet. 'Twas good of the Lord to give me air--that
crevice you came through has saved me."

"You said a long time ago you could mend anything but broken hearts, but
you can't mend broken legs, can you? Or you would have mended mine."

"Ay, ay, so I would, surely. No--the mender has turned into a breaker
this time, 'tis a good thing it's only himself that he has broken up."

A slight groan escaped him, and Roy softly stroked his face, a broken
sob escaping him.

"Oh, old Principle, how I wish I was strong, how I wish I could move
you! You aren't broken up! Don't say you are. Couldn't I help you to
roll over on your back, wouldn't that be better?"

After great effort this was partly accomplished, and then to Roy's
intense relief he heard voices above.

Running to the opening he shouted:

"Here we are! Help us out, or old Principle will die!"

But it was some time before the rescue could be accomplished. The
opening was small enough to let Roy through, but not old Principle, and
the boy refused to leave the old man. Pickaxes and shovels were set
heartily to work, and after half an hour's hard toil, the old man was
gently raised out of his dangerous position, and placed in the cart. Roy
was put in with him, and Dudley walked by the side in silence until they
reached the village. There was a great stir and excitement over their
return. Mrs. Selby and their aunt met the boys at the entrance of the
village, and Miss Bertram looked anxiously at Roy's little white set

He could not be torn away from his old friend till he heard the doctor's
verdict, and it was a far more hopeful one than anybody had anticipated.

"It is a marvellous escape. Not a bone broken, but of course he is
terribly bruised and shaken, and very stiff."

"I'll sit with him till we can get a proper nurse," said good-natured
Mrs. Selby; "he seems to have no kith or kin belonging to him. It will
be a lesson to him, for life, I hope, and will put a stop to all this
delving and digging and unearthing what is best left alone. It only
fosters scepticism in the minds of the ignorant, and teaches them to
disbelieve their Bibles!"

Old Principle looked up with a smile after the doctor's visit.

"Is little Master Roy there?"

Roy pressed forward eagerly.

"I'm thinking, laddie, that you and Master Dudley have had a rare good
opportunity of saving a poor old man's life, and he is duly grateful to

But Roy was very near tears.

"I'm so glad--so glad your legs aren't broken," he said, in a quivering
voice, "anything is better than being suddenly turned into a cripple!"

And then bending over him he kissed the furrowed brow, and crept out of
the room.



Old Principle's accident was a great event in the village. The boys got
their fair share of praise in his rescue, but their grandmother did not
see it in such a favorable light.

"You ought never to have left your lessons without leave, or taken a
cart belonging to a stranger all unknown to him, or gone off alone
without telling any one about it. And you were shown the folly and
uselessness of such a proceeding by arriving on the scene and being
utterly unable to extricate him from his position. If children would
realize their weakness and foolishness more in these days, they would
develop into better men and women, but self-sufficiency and self-conceit
are signs of the times!"

Every day the boys went to see their friend, and even Mrs. Selby allowed
that they could be quiet and well-behaved in a sick room. It was a long
time before old Principle regained his health, and he seemed to have
grown much older and feebler since his accident; but his serenity of
spirit was undisturbed, and some of the neighbors who had before voted
him close and cranky, now offered to come and sit with him, and learned

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