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The Stokesley Secret by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 4 out of 4

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"And," cried Bessie, "he burnt his dear little ship, the Victory,
because he couldn't bear to look at it after you said THAT, Papa."

"After I said what?"

"That he was not smart enough to learn the ropes."

"Very silly of him," said the Captain, "to take in despair what was
only meant to spur him on. I suppose now I shall find he has dawdled
so much that he couldn't get through an examination."

This shut up the mouths of both the girls, who were afraid that he
might not, since they saw a good deal of his droning habits over his
lessons, and heard more of Hal's superior cleverness.

Miss Fosbrook ventured to say, "You may expect a great deal of a boy
who works on a pure principle of obedience."

"You think a great deal of that youngster," said the Captain, highly
gratified. "It is the first time I ever knew a stranger take to

"I did not take to him as a stranger. I thought him uncouth and
dull. I only learnt to love and respect him, as I felt how perfectly
I might rely on him, and how deep and true his principles are. If
the children have gone on tolerably well in your absence, it is
because he has always stood by me, and his weight of character has
told on them."

Captain Merrifield did not answer at once; he bit his lip, then blew
his nose, and cleared his throat, before he said, "Miss Fosbrook, you
have made me very happy; it will make his mother so. She always
rated him so high, that I half thought it was a weakness for her
eldest son; but there! I suppose he was down-hearted about this
fancy of his, poor boy; and that hindered him from making the most of
himself. I wonder what sort of a figure he is cutting before his

The town was at length reached; and the shopping was quite wonderful
to the sisters. Miss Fosbrook found a shop where the marvellous
woman undertook to send home two grey frocks trimmed with pink, by
the next evening; and found two such fashionable black silk jackets,
that Susie felt quite ashamed of herself, though rather pleased; and
Bessie only wished she could see her own back, it must look so like
Ida's. Then there were white sleeves, and white collars, that made
them feel like young women; and little pink silk handkerchiefs for
their necks; and two straw hats, which Miss Fosbrook undertook to
trim with puffs of white ribbon, and a pink rosette at each ear.
Bessie thought they would be the most beautiful things that had ever
been in her possession, and was only dreading that Sam would say they
were like those on Ida Greville's donkey's best harness; while Susan
looked quite frightened at them, whispered a hope that Mamma would
not think them too fine, and that Miss Fosbrook would not let them
cost too much money; and when assured that all fell within what Papa
had given to be laid out, she begged that Annie and little Sally
might have the like.

But as they were not going to London, Miss Fosbrook could not venture
on this; and as Bessie had set her affections upon a certain white
chip hat, with a pink border and a white feather, both sisters
remained wishing for something--as is sure to happen on such

However, Elizabeth recovered from the hat when she was out of sight
of it; and they went and saw the cathedral, where the painted windows
and grave grand arches filled her with a truer and wiser sense of
what was beautiful; and then they walked a long time up and down
under its buttressed wall, waiting for Papa, till they grew tired and
hungry; but at last he came in a great hurry, and sorry to have been
hindered. With naval politeness, he gave his arm to Miss Fosbrook,
and carried them off to a pastry-cook's, where he bade them eat what
they pleased, and spend the rest of the florin he threw them on buns
for the little ones, while he fetched the carriage; and so they all
drove home again, and found the rest of the party ravenous, having
waited dinner for three-quarters of an hour.

Wonderful to relate, Uncle John had not eaten anybody up! not even
Baby; though Papa advised Susan to make sure that she was safe, and
then sent Sam to ask Purday for a salad. Perhaps this was by way of
getting rid of this constant follower while he asked his brother what
he thought of the boys' attainments.

Uncle John could not speak very highly of the learning of either; but
he said, "Sam knows thoroughly what he does know. As to the other,
he thinks he knows everything, and makes most awful shots. When I
asked them who Dido's husband was, Sam told me he did not know, and
Hal, that he was Diodorus Siculus--AT LEAST, Scipio--no, he meant

"Then you think neither could stand an examination for the

"I could not be sure of Sam; but I am quite sure that Hal could not."

Here the dinner-bell rang; the hungry populace rushed to the dining-
room, and the meal was gone through as merrily as could be, while
still the father never spoke to Henry. Uncle John was as pleasant
and good-natured as possible. Who would have thought of the marked
difference he made between dining with barbarians, or young

Dinner over, Captain Merrifield called Sam,--or rather, since that
was not necessary, as Sam was never willingly a yard from his elbow,
he ordered the others not to follow as they went into the garden

"Sam," he said, "Admiral Penrose is kind enough to offer me a berth
in the Ramilies for one of you. If you can pass the examination,
should you wish to avail yourself of the offer?"

Sam grew very red in the face, looked down, and twirled the button of
his sleeve. He certainly was not a gracious boy, for all he said was
in a gruff hoarse voice, without even thanks, "Not if it is for

"For this! What do you mean, Sam?" said Captain Merrifield, thinking
either that the boy was faint-hearted, or that his wish had been the
mere fancy of the girls.

"Not if it is to punish Hal," said Sam, with another effort.

"That is not the question. Do you wish it?"

Sam hung his head, and made his eyebrows come down, as if they were
to serve as a veil to those horrid tears in his eyes; and after all,
his voice sounded sulky, as he said, "Yes."

"Is that all?" said the Captain, angry and disappointed. "Is that
the way you take such an offer? If you had rather stay here, and be
bred up to be a country squire, say so at once; don't mince the

"O Papa!" cried Sam indignantly, "how can you think that? Didn't I
always want to be like you?"

"Then why can't you say so?"

"Because I can't bear to cut Hal out!" said Sam, putting his arm over
his eyes, as a way he considered secret of disposing of his tears.

"Put that out of your head, Sam; or if you don't fancy the sea, have
it out at once."

"O Papa! please listen. You know, though Miss Fosbrook is very
jolly, we couldn't help getting nohow when you were away, US two

"You have no mischief to confess, surely, Sam?" said his father,
really imagining that this preference to Hal was acting on him so as
to make him mention some concealed misdemeanour; "if you have, you
know truth is the best line."

"But I haven't, Papa," said Sam, looking up, quite surprised. "You
know I am a year older, and couldn't help caring more; and Miss
Fosbrook is so nice, one couldn't bother her; but you see the
Grevilles WOULD put it into Hal's head that it was stupid and like a
girl to mind her. It is all their fault; and they were sneaks about
the turkey-cock, and wouldn't pay--and I know he would have ended by
putting the money back when he could, only Davie made such a row
before he could; and he did so reckon on the navy--he would pay it
back the first thing." The last sentences came between gasps, very
like sobs.

"Have done with Hal," said Captain Merrifield, still with
displeasure. "I wouldn't take him now on any account. If the
Grevilles lead him wrong, what would he do among the mids? If he
acts dishonourably here, we should have him disgracing himself and
his profession. Since he can't take it, and you won't, I shall try
to make some exchange of the chance till John or David will be old

"But Papa, I--" began Sam.

"_I_ don't want to force you to it," continued Captain Merrifield, in
his vexed voice. "I never mean to force my sons to any profession if
I can help it; and you have a right to be considered. It has always
been a disadvantage to me, and to this place, that I was bred to the
sea instead of to farming; and though you can't live on the property
without some profession, it may be quite as well that you should turn
your mind to something else--only if it be the army, I can't help you
on in it."

"I had rather go to sea, if you please," said Sam.

"Don't say so to please me," said his father. "I tell you, the
examinations are a pretty deal harder than they were in my time. It
is not a trade for a youngster to be idle in; and I won't have you,
just when you've knocked about a few years, and are getting fit to be
of use on board and nowhere else, calling yourself heartily sick of
it, and turning round to say it was my doing."

"I'll never do that, Papa," said poor Sam, unable to understand why
his father should speak as though scolding him.

"No? And mind, you must take the rough with the smooth, if you sail
with me, and not be always running after me, Papa-ing me. I can't
see after you, and should only get you ill will if I tried."

"I had rather go," said Sam.

"I'm sure I don't know what to make of you," said his father, looking
at him in a puzzle. "However, if you do mean to go, you may tell
Freeman to get your things ready to come up with me on Thursday; only
if you don't really like the notion, find out your own mind, and let
me know in time, that's all."

The Captain turned away, and gave a long whistle--an accustomed
signal--that brought children and dogs all rushing and tumbling about
him together, to walk with him about the farm, and his brother among
them; but Sam hung back. He had not the heart to go with that merry
throng; for he did not know whether his father were not displeased
with him, and he therefore thought he must be to blame.

People who, like Sam, rather cultivate the habit of gruffness and
reserve, and prefer to be short and rude, become so utterly unable to
express what they mean, that on great occasions they are
misunderstood, and give pain by supposed ingratitude and dislike,
even when they feel most warmly. Captain Merrifield could only judge
from looks and words; and even when Sam had been satisfied about
Henry, he had shown so little alacrity or satisfaction, as really to
leave a doubt whether he were not unwillingly yielding to his
father's wishes; which would have been a mistaken act, as the Captain
thought no one ought to be a sailor unless with a very strong desire
that way. Thus Sam really perplexed and distressed his father, when
he least intended it; and unable to understand what was the matter,
yet feeling heavy and sad, he turned aside from the rest, and, by way
of the quietest place he could find, climbed up a tall pear-tree, to
the very highest branch he could reach. He put himself astride on
one bough, his feet upon another below, and his back leaning against
the main stem. No one could see him up so high among the thick
leaves; but he could see all around the village, and over the house;
he could look down into the farm-court at the pigs burying themselves
in the straw; and out beyond at the geese and ducks in the meadow,
and the broods of chickens pecking and scratching about, or the older
poultry rolling in the dust-holes they had scraped for themselves.
He could see Purday among his cabbages in the garden; and further
off, could watch the walking-party through the fields, his father
with little George in his arms, and Uncle John as often as possible
by his side; while the others frisked about, sometimes spreading out
like a flock of sheep in the pasture land, or when they came to the
narrow paths in the cornfields, all getting into single file, and
being lost sight of all but their heads.

Sam recollected how, the day when he had heard that he was not likely
to be a sailor, he had felt as if he hated Stokesley, and as if it
would be a prison to him, and how everything reminding him of the sea
had been a misery to him. He would not then have believed anyone who
had told him that he would really hear of his appointment and be so
little glad. Yet for two whole years the loss of the hope had
weighed on him, and made him dull whenever he thought of grown-up
life, heard of the sea, or was asked what he was to be: and almost
always, at his prayers, he had that meaning in his mind, when he said
"Thy Will be done;" he had really submitted patiently, and tried to
put away the longing from his mind, and would, there can be no doubt,
have been happy and dutiful at home; but at length the wish of his
heart was suddenly granted.

And then, wish though it still were, there came all this grief and
discomfort. The gladness was in him somewhere, but he could not get
at it, either for his own comfort, or that of his father. He missed
his mother exceedingly. SHE would know what he meant, and tell Papa
that he did care to go. Yet, did he care so very much? Only think
of beginning to be a stranger at this dear old home! and seeing no
mother, no Susie, nor any of them, for years together--probably not
his father after the first voyage! However, the sailor was too
strong in Sam for that grief not to pass off; and his chief trouble
was the sense of supplanting Henry. He knew the disappointment would
be most bitter; and he could not get rid of the sense of having taken
an unfair advantage of the disgrace of Henry's adventure. As to his
father's manner, he got over that more easily, for his conscience was
free; he knew that the tone of displeasure would be gone at the next
meeting, and he was too sure of his own love of the sea to fear that
he should not show it enough. After all, he was to be a naval cadet!
He could not be sorry. Nay, he felt he had his wish; the very wish
he had thought it wrong to put into a prayer. He thought he ought to
be thankful that it was granted, in the same way as he had been when
his mother began to recover. So he put his hands together, and
looked up into the summer blue sky through the leaves, and his lips
moved, as he whispered his thanks, and asked to be helped in being a
good brave sailor, and that something as good might happen to poor

After this, somehow, the weight was gone, he knew not where. All he
recollected was, that he should see Mamma in two days, and that he
was to sail with Papa if he could get through his examination. There
was a sort of necessity of doing something comical; and just then
spying Miss Fosbrook with a book walking slowly below, he could not
resist the temptation of sending down on her a shower of little hard
pears and twigs.

Bob came one down on her book, and another on her bonnet. She looked
up, and saw a leg stretching out for a branch, apparently in such a
dangerous manner, that she did not know whether she should not have
Sam himself on her head next, and started back, watching as he swung
himself from branch to branch, and then slid down, embracing the

"Did I hit you!" said he. "I couldn't help trying it; it was such

It was a great liberty; but she was so good-humoured as to laugh, and
said he had taken good aim.

"Please, Miss Fosbrook," next said he, "would you hear how many
propositions I can say!" And as she opened her eyes at this holiday
amusement, he added, "Papa has got the appointment after all, and
means me to have it."

"I am so glad, Sam! I give you joy!" she said, and took his hand to
shake it heartily.

"I wish Hal could go too," said Sam.

"Dear Sam," she said kindly, and guessing his feelings, as having
gone along with them, "I don't wonder you are sorry for him; but
indeed I think it is better for him to be sheltered from beginning
real life just now."

"Papa said he would not have taken him," said Sam; "but it seems so
hard to have all his life changed for a thing that sounds worse than
he meant it to be."

"Sam," said Miss Fosbrook, "I once read a sermon, that said that our
conduct in little things does decide the tenor of our lives. You
know one moment of hastiness cost Moses the Promised Land; and only a
little while ago, we heard how Joash had but few victories allowed to
him, because he did not think it worth while to strike the ground as
often as Elisha told him. It is the little things that show whether
we are to be trusted with great."

"It is such a tremendous punishment," said Sam, "when he would have
put it back again."

"My brother knew a banker's clerk who was transported for borrowing
what he meant to put back again. No, Sam; people must bear the
result of their doings; and your father judges for Hal as much in
kindness as in anger."

"I know he knows best."

"You may see it as well as trust. With all his grand talk, do you
really think that Hal would not be upset at the first hardship, or
that he could face bullying or danger? Remember the bull, that was
at least a vicious cow, and turned out to be a calf."

Sam could not help laughing, as he said, "Yes, that would never do at
sea; and he would be done for if he were cowardly there. But I wish
I could get out of sight of him till I am gone. And please hear my
Euclid; I'll get the book, if you'll stay out here."

"Therefore, if the two sides of two triangles be equal to one
another, and the adjacent angles be equal each to each," resounded
through the laurels, as the walking party returned.

"Hallo! al fresco Euclid!" exclaimed Uncle John, as Sam with a blush
ran after his blotted diagrams, as a sudden gust of wind blew them
dancing over the garden. Captain Merrifield caught one, and restored
it to Sam, with a pat on the back that made his teeth rattle in his
head, but which made him as happy as a young sea-king, showing that
they perfectly understood each other.

But to be ever so good a boy does not carry one through the
examinations that stand at the door of every road of life for those
who are not wealthy. Sam knew he was the dull boy of Mr. Carey's
four pupils; and though from sheer diligence he was less often turned
back than the rest, yet they could all excel him whenever they chose:
his lessons all went against the grain, and were a sore trouble to
him; and his uncle had shown much wrath to-day at his ignorance and
backwardness. He was therefore in a great fright, and gave himself
and Miss Fosbrook no peace, running after her every moment with his
Euclid, his Colenso, or his slate.

"That boy will stupefy himself and his admirable cramming machine!"
exclaimed Uncle John, when coming out into the court after tea to
talk to Purday, the two brothers heard, "The complement A E is equal
to the complement D E," proceeding out of the school-room window.

"A truce with your complements to-night," shouted the Captain; "come
down, Sam; I must have a game at hide-and-seek!"

Though hide-and-seek on the lawn with Papa was the supremest bliss
that life had yet offered to the young Merrifields, and though Susan,
Bessie, Annie, and Johnnie, had all severally burst into the room to
proclaim it and summon Sam, he had refused them all; but this call
settled it; he broke off in the middle of his rectangle, and dashed
down stairs, to the great relief of kind Miss Fosbrook, who, with all
her good-will, found her head beginning to grow weary of angles and
right-angles on a hot evening in the height of summer.

The summer-house was to be HOME, and there the party were assembled--
nine in number, for not only Papa, but Uncle John, was going to play;
and Henry, though forlorn and unnoticed, had wandered about with the
rest all day, trying to do as usual, to forget the heavy load that
pressed on him, and to believe that he was not going to be punished
for mere unluckiness in borrowing, and for not answering impertinent
questions. The world was very unlike itself to him; and he saw the
enjoyment without being able to enter into it, just as a sick person
sees the sunshine without feeling the warmth; but instead of
penitence, he merely tried to shake off his compunction.

So there he stood in the ring, as Susan was finding out who was to be
the first to hide, by pointing to each, at each word of the formula,

"Eggs, butter, cheese, bread,
Sticks, stocks, stones, dead."

"Dead" came to Uncle John, as perhaps Susan had contrived; and
shrugging up his shoulders, he went off to hide, and his whoop was
presently heard. He was not VERY good game; maybe he did not wish to
be very long sought, for he was no further than in the tall French
beans, generally considered as a stupid place to hide in. The
children had been in hopes that he would catch Papa, which was always
a very difficult matter, for the sailor was lighter of foot, as well
as, of course, longer in limb, than any of the children; but they saw
that Uncle John had not the slightest chance with him, and it was
Bessie who was caught in her homeward race.

Bessie was rather a good hider, and was searched for far and wide
before Sam's "I spy! I spy!" gave the signal that a bit of the
spotty cotton had been seen peeping out from under Purday's big
potato-basket in the tool-house, and the whole party flew towards
home. Bessie would not aim at Papa, for if so, she would certainly
catch no one; but she hunted down David, who was too sturdy to be a
quick runner, and who was very well pleased to be caught.

"I'll have Papa!" he said, as she captured him. "I know of such a
cunning place."

David's place proved to be in among his likenesses, the cabbages,
immediately in front of the summer-house. There he lay flat on the
very wet mould, among the stout cabbages, all of which had a bead of
wet in every wrinkle of their great leaves, so that when Susan had at
length spied him, and he came plunging out, his brown-holland--to say
nothing of his knees--was in a state that would have caused most
mammas to send him to be instantly undressed; but nobody even saw it,
and he charged instantly towards the door of the summer-house, not
pursuing anyone in particular, but cutting all off from their
retreat. He slipped aside, however, and let all the lesser game pass
by uncaught; his soul soared higher than even Uncle John, who looked
on exceedingly amused at the small man's stratagem, and at the long
dodging that took place between him and his father, the quick lithe
Captain skipping hither and thither, and trying to pop in one side
while his enemy was on the other; and the square, determined, little,
puffing, panting boy, guarding his door, hands on knees, ever ready
for a dart wherever the attempt was made. The whole party in the
home nearly went into fits at the fun, and at the droll remarks Uncle
John made at this hare and tortoise spectacle; till at last either
the Captain gave in, or Davie made a cleverer attack than ever, for
with a great shout he flew upon Papa, and held him fast by the legs.
Everyone shrieked with delight; Papa hid in such clever places, and
when found, he roared so splendidly, that it struck the little ones
with terror, and did the hearts of the elders good, to hear him;
indeed, the greatest ambition Johnnie entertained was to roar like
Papa. Then he could make his voice sound as if out of any place he
chose, so that no one could guess by his "whoop" where to look for
him; and this time it seemed to be quite out at the other end of the
kitchen-garden, where they were all looking, when another "whoop"
came apparently down from Sam's pear-tree on the lawn; and while they
were peeping up into it, "whoop" re-echoed from the stables! At
last, as Annie was gazing up and round as if she even thought it as
well to look right into the sky for Papa, she suddenly beheld the two
merriest eyes in the world, on the roof of the summer-house itself.
He had been lying there on the thatch, watching at his ease all the
wanderings of the seekers, and uttering those wonderful whoops to
bewilder them.

"I spy! I spy!" shrieked Annie, flying in, even while her father
sprang to the ground, and with Davie's manoeuvre on a larger scale,
seemed to be taking his choice of all the fugitives rushing up from
all parts.

One elder boy, and one younger, he was hunting down the gooseberry-
path, when just as he was about to pounce on the former, he said that
it was not Sam, stood still, and folded his arms. A shriek made him
look round; little David stood sobbing and crying piteously.

"Davie! what, Davie! What is it, my man? Where are you hurt!"

"No, no! I'm not hurt! Catch Hal, Papa."

"No, David. I do not play with boys that act like Henry."

"Speak to him, Papa; oh, speak!"

"I shall, before I go," said the Captain gravely.

"Now, now! Papa. Oh, do! I did want him to be punished, but not
like this."

"No, David. If he can expect to play with me, and be treated like
the others, he is not in the state to receive forgiveness. There,
have done crying; let us go on with the game."

But David could not go on playing; he was too unhappy. Not to be
forgiven, even if punished, seemed to him too dreadful to happen to
anyone; and he thought that he had brought it all on Henry by his
letter of accusation. Tardily and dolefully he crept into the house;
and Miss Fosbrook met him, looking so woe-begone, that she too
thought he had hurt himself. She took him, dirt and all, on her lap;
and there he sobbed out that Papa wouldn't speak to Hal, and it was
very dreadful; and he wished there were no such things as pigs, or
money, or secrets; they only made people miserable!

"Dear Davie, they only make people miserable when they care too much
about them. Papa will forgive Hal before he goes away, I am sure;
only he is making him sorry first, that he may never do such a thing

"I don't like it." And David cried sadly, perhaps because partly he
was tired with having been on his legs more than usual that day; but
his good and loving little self was come home again. He at least had
forgiven his brother the wrong done to himself; and there was no
hanging back that night from the fulness of prayer; no, he rather
felt that he had been unkind; and the last thing heard of him that
night was, that as Sam and Hal were coming up-stairs to bed, a little
white figure stood on the top of the stairs, and a small voice said,
"Hal, please kiss me! I am so sorry I told Papa about--"

"There, hold your tongue," said Hal, cutting him short with the
desired kiss, "if you hadn't told, someone else would."

But long after Sam was asleep, Hal was wetting his pillow through
with tears.


Still the silence lasted. Henry had tried at first to persuade
himself that it was only by chance that he never heard his own name
from lips that used to call it more often than any other. Indeed, he
was so much used to favour, that it needed all the awe-struck pity of
the rest to prove to him its withdrawal; and he was so much in the
habit of thrusting himself before Samuel, that even the sight and
sound of the First Book of Euclid, all day long, failed to convince
him that his brother could be preferred; above all, as Nurse Freeman
had been collecting his clean shirts as well as Sam's, and all the
portmanteaus and trunks in the house had been hunted out of the roof.
Once, either the spirit of imitation, or his usual desire of showing
himself off, made him break in when Sam was knitting his brows
frightfully over a sum in proportion. Hal could do it in no time!

So he did; but he put the third term first, and multiplied the hours
into the minutes, instead of reducing them to the same denomination;
so that he made out that twenty-five men would take longer to cut a
field of grass than three, and then could not see that he was wrong;
but Miss Fosbrook and Sam both looked so much grieved for him, that a
start of fright went through him.

Some minds really do not understand a fault till they see it severely
visited; and "at least" and "couldn't help" had so blinded Henry's
eyes that he had thought himself more unlucky than to blame, till his
father's manner forced it on him that he had done something dreadful.
Vaguely afraid, he hung about, looking so wretched that he was a
piteous sight; and it cut his father to the heart to spend such a
last day together. Mayhap the Captain could hardly have held out all
that second day, if he had not passed his word to his brother.

The travellers were to set off at six in the morning, to meet the
earliest train: and it was not till nine o'clock at night, when the
four elder ones said good-night, that the Captain, following them out
of the room, laid his hand on Henry as the others went up-stairs, and
said, "Henry, have you nothing to say to me?"

Henry leant against the baluster and sobbed, not knowing what else to

"You can't be more grieved than I am to have such a last day
together," said his father, laying his hand on the yellow head; "but
I can't help it, you see. If you will do such things, it is my duty
to make you repent of them."

Hal threw himself almost double over the rail, and something was
heard about "sorry," and "never."

"Poor little lad!" said his father aloud to himself; "he is cut up
enough now; but how am I to know if his sorrow is good for anything?"

"O Papa! I'll never do such a thing again!"

"I wish I knew that, Hal," said the Captain, sitting down on the
stairs, and taking him between his knees. "There, let us talk it
over together. I don't suppose you expected to steal and deceive
when you got up in the morning."

"Oh no, no!"

"Go back to the beginning. See how you came to this."

As he waited for an answer, Hal mumbled out after some time, "You
said we need not go to church on a week-day."

"Well, what of that?"

"I didn't go in case the telegraph should come."

"There are different ways of thinking," said his father. "Church was
the only place where I COULD have gone that St. Barnabas' Day."

"I would have gone," said the self-contradictory Henry, "only the
Grevilles are always at one for being like a girl."

"Ha! now we see daylight!" said the Captain.

"'The Grevilles are at one,'--that's more like getting to the bottom
of it."

"Yes, Papa," said Hal, glad to make himself out a victim to
circumstance; "you can't think what a pair of fellows those are for
not letting one alone; Purday says they haven't as much conscience
between them as a pigeon's egg has meat; and going down to Mr.
Carey's with them every day, they let one have no peace."

"You will find people everywhere who will let you have no peace,
unless you do not care for them; though you will not be left to the
Grevilles any longer."

"Yes, Papa; when I am away from them, you will see--"

"No, Hal, I shall not see, I shall hear."

"Shall not I sail with you, then, Papa?"

"You will not sail at all: I thought you knew that."

"I thought the Admiral must have given you two appointments," said
Hal timidly.

"He gave me ONE, for one of my sons. The first choice is Sam's
right, even if he had not deserved it by his brave patient

Hal hung his head; then said, "But, Papa, if Sam broke down in his
examination, please mightn't I--"

"No, Henry. Not only does your uncle say that though Sam's success
is very doubtful, your inaccuracy would make your failure certain;
but if your knowledge were ever so well up to the mark, I could not
put you into the navy. Left to yourself here, you have been
insubordinate, vain, weak, shuffling: can I let you go into greater
temptation, where disgrace would be public and without remedy?"

"Oh, but, Papa! Papa! Away from the Grevilles, and not under only a

"You shall be away from the Grevilles, and not under a governess.
Your uncle is kind enough to take you with him to his house, and will
endeavour to make you fit to try to get upon the foundation by the
time there is a vacancy."

"O Papa! don't," sobbed Henry.

"I can't help it, Hal! You have shown yourself unfit either for the
sea or for home. What can I do with you?"

"Try me--only try me, Papa. I would--"

"I cannot go by what you say you would be, but what you are. Deeds,
not words."

"But if you won't let me go into the navy, only let me be in real

"No, Henry; I have not the means of sending you there: excepting on
the foundation; and if you get admittance there at all, it will only
be by great diligence, and your uncle's kindness in preparing you."

Henry cried bitterly. It was a dreadful prospect to do his lessons
alone with Uncle John in the boys' play-hours, and be kept in order
by Aunt Alice when his uncle was in school. Perhaps his father would
not have liked it himself, for his voice was very pitying, though
cheering, as he said, "One half year, Hal, very likely no more if you
take pains, and you'll get into school, and be very happy, so long as
you don't make a Greville of every idle chap you meet."

Henry cried as though beyond consolation.

"I hate leaving you this way," continued his father; "but by the time
I come home you will see it was the best thing for you; and look up
to Uncle John as your best friend. Why, Hal, boy, you'll be a tall
fellow of fourteen! Let me find you godly and manly: you can't be
one without the other. There now, good night, God bless you."

More might have been said to Henry on his fault and what had led to
it; but what his father did say was likely to sink deeper as he grew
older, and had more sense and feeling.

From him Captain Merrifield went to the school-room, where Miss
Fosbrook was packing up for the little girls, and putting last
stitches to their equipments, with hearty good-will and kindness, as
if she had been their elder sister.

He thanked her most warmly; and without sending away the girls, who
were both busy tacking in little white tuckers to the evening frocks,
he began to settle about the terms on which she was to remain at
Stokesley. He said that he could not possibly have left his wife
without a person on whose friendly help and good management of the
children he could depend. Important as it was to him to be employed,
he must have refused the appointment if Miss Fosbrook had been
discontented, or had not had the children so well in hand. He
explained that he had reason to think that Mrs. Merrifield's present
illness had been the effect of all she had gone through while he was
in the Black Sea during the Crimean War. She had been a very strong
person, and had never thought of sparing herself; but she and all her
little children had had to get into Stokesley in his absence; she had
to manage the estate and farm, teach the elder children, and take
care of the babies, with no help but Nurse Freeman's: and though he
had been wounded when with the Naval Brigade, and had been at death's
door with cholera, the effects had done him no lasting harm at all;
while the over-strain of the anxiety and exertion that she had
undergone all alone had so told upon her, that she had never been
well since, and he much feared, would never be in perfect health
again. He must depend upon Miss Fosbrook for watching over her and
saving her, as his little Susie could not yet do; and for letting him
know from time to time how she was going on, and whether he ought to
give up everything and come home.

He had tears in his eyes as he thanked Christabel for her earnest
promise to watch and tend Mrs. Merrifield with a daughter's care; and
her heart swelled with strong deep feeling of sorrow and sympathy
with these two brave-hearted loving people, doing their duty at all
costs so steadily; and she was full of gladness and thankfulness that
they could treat her as a true and trusty friend. He walked away,
feeling far too much to bear any eye upon him; and Susan was found to
be crying quietly, making her thread wet through, and her needle
squeak at every stitch, at the sad news that Mamma never was to be
quite well, even though assured that she was likely to be much better
than she had been for months past.

Bessie shed no tears; but Miss Fosbrook, who had been hindered all
day by Sam's Euclid and Colenso, and had sat up till half-past eleven
o'clock to make the two Sunday frocks nice enough for the journey, on
going into the bed-room to lay them out for the morning, saw a little
face raised from the pillow of one of the small white beds, and found
her broad awake. Bessie never could go to sleep properly when
anything out of the common way was coming to pass, so that was the
less wonder; but she had a great deal in her head, and she was glad
to get Christabel to kneel down by her, to listen to her whispers.

"Dear Christabel, I am so sorry. I never cared about it before!"

"About what, my dear?"

"What Papa said about when he was in the Black Sea. I never knew
Mamma cared so much."

"I dare say not, my dear; you were much younger then."

"And I didn't know all about it," said Bessie, "or else I've
forgotten. I have been trying to remember whether we ever thought
about Mamma; and oh, Christabel! do you know--I believe we only
thought she was cross! Oh dear! it was so naughty and bad of us!"

"I can guess how it happened, my dear. You were not old enough to be
made her friends, and you could not understand quiet sorrow."

"To think we should have said she was cross!"

"That was wrong, because it was disrespectful. You see, my dear,
when grown people are in trouble, you young ones can't enter into
their feelings, nor always even find out that anything is amiss; and
you get vexed at there being a cloud over the house, and call it

"Grown-up people are sometimes cross, aren't they?" said Bessie.
"Nurse is; and I heard Papa say Aunt Alice was."

"We have tempers, certainly," said Miss Fosbrook; "and unless we have
conquered them as children, there will be signs of them afterwards;
but very few people, and certainly no children, can tell when grave
looks, or words sharper than usual, come from illness or anxiety or
sorrow; and it is the only way to save great grief and self-reproach
to give one's own faults the blame, and try to be as unobtrusive and
obliging as possible."

"And I am older now, and can understand," said Bessie; "but then, it
is Susie that is right hand, and does everything."

"There's plenty in your own line, Bessie--plenty of little kindly
services that are very cheering; and above all--"


"Attending to your Mamma's troubles will drive away your own
grievances. Only I will not talk to you any more now, for I want you
to go to sleep; if you lie awake, you will be tired to-morrow, and
that will incline you to be fretful."

"Fretful to-morrow!"

Bessie could not believe it possible; and indeed Miss Fosbrook did
not think the chance great, as long as there was amusement and
excitement. The danger would be in the waitings and disappointments
that will often occur, even in the height of enjoyable schemes.

It would take too long to tell of all the good-byes. The children
old enough to enter into the parting were setting off too; and Miss
Fosbrook felt more for the little ones than they did for themselves,
as they watched their father and uncle and two sisters into the gig,
and the boys into the cart, with Purday to drive them and the boxes,
Sam sitting on his father's old midshipman's chest, trying, as well
as the jolting would let him, to con over that troublesome Thirty-
fifth Proposition, which nine times repetition to Miss Fosbrook had
failed to put into his head.

Johnnie and Annie wished themselves going to sea, or to London, or
anywhere, rather than having the full force of Miss Fosbrook on their
lessons! She did not make them do more, but she took the opportunity
of making everything be done thoroughly, and, as they thought,
bothered them frightfully about pronouncing their words in reading,
and holding their pens when they wrote. After a little while,
however, they found that really their hands were much less tired, and
their lines much smoother and more slanting, than when they crooked
their fingers close down over the ink. Absolutely they began to know
the pleasure of doing something well, and they felt so comfortable,
that they were wonderfully good; and the pig fund might have had a
chance, but David did not seem to think of reviving it. Perhaps his
great vehemence had tired itself out; and maybe he was ashamed of the
great disturbance he had made and all that had come upon Henry, and
did not wish to think of it again, for St. Katherine's fair-day
passed over without a word of the pig.

The young ladies were not great letter-writers; and all that was
known of them was that Mamma was better, they had been to the
Zoological Gardens and the hyena was so funny, and Mrs. Penrose was
so nice. Then that Papa and Sam were gone to Portsmouth, and that
they had telegraphed that Sam had succeeded.

If it had been her own brother, Miss Fosbrook could not have been
much happier; and in honour of it she and the three children all went
to drink tea in the wilderness, walking in procession, each with a
flag in hand, painted by her for the occasion.

Three days after, when the post came in, there was a letter directed
to Master David Douglas Merrifield, Stokesley House, Bonchamp. It
was a great wonder; for David was not baby enough, nor near enough to
the youngest, to get letters as a pet, nor was he old enough to be
written to like an elder one. He spelt the address all over before
he made up his mind to open it, and then exclaimed, "But it is not a
letter! It's green!"

"It is a post-office order, Davie," said Miss Fosbrook. "Let me
look. Yes, for ten shillings. Write your name there; and if we take
it to the post-office at Bonchamp, they will give you ten shillings."

"Ten shillings! Oh, Davie!" cried Johnnie, "I wish it was to me!"

"It just makes up for what Hal took, and more too," said Annie.
"Where can it come from, Davie?"

"From the Queen," said Davie composedly; "the Queen always does

Miss Fosbrook was quite sorry to confess, for truth's sake, that she
did not think the Queen could have heard of the loss of the pig fund,
and that it was more likely to be from someone who wished to make up
for the disaster--who could it be? She looked at the round stamp
upon the green-lettered paper, and read "Portsmouth." Could it be
from Papa? Then she looked at the cover; but it was not a bit like
the Captain's writing; it was pretty, lady-like, clear-looking hand-
writing, and puzzled her a great deal more. If the children had once
had a secret of their own, there was a very considerable one to
puzzle them now; and they could hardly believe that Miss Fosbrook
knew nothing about it, any more than themselves.

So restless and puzzled were they, that she thought they would never
be able to settle quietly to their lessons, and that it would save
idleness if she walked with them at once to Bonchamp to get the
money. It was two miles; but all three were stout walkers, and they
were delighted to go; indeed, they would have fancied that someone
else might run away with the ten shillings if they had not made haste
to secure it. So "David Douglas Merrifield" was written, with much
difficulty to make it small enough, in the very best and roundest
hand. The boys were put into clean blouses, Annie's striped cotton
came to light; and off set the party through the lanes, each with
sixpence in their hand, for it was poor fun to go to Bonchamp, unless
one had something to spend there. David wanted a knife, Johnnie
wanted a whip, Annie nothing in particular, only to go into a shop,
and buy--she didn't know what.

But the wonderful affair at the post-office must have the first turn;
and very grand did David feel as the clerk peeped out from his little
hole, and looked amused and gracious as the little boy stood on
tiptoe to give in his green paper.

"Will you have it in gold or silver, Sir?" he asked.

"In gold, please," said David.

It was something to have a bit of gold in one's possession for the
first time in one's life; and David felt as if he had grown an inch
taller, and were as good as six years old, as he walked away with the
half sovereign squeezed into his hot little palm.

The toy-shop was at the end of the street, and in they went; Johnnie
to try all the whistles in the handles of the whips, and be much
disgusted that all that had a real sound lash cost a shilling; David
to open and shut the sixpenny knives with the gravity of a judge
examining their blades; and Annie to gape about, and ask the price of
everything, after the tiresome fashion of people, old or young, when
they come out bent on spending, but without any aim or object.
However, Annie was kind, if she were silly, and she was very fond of
Johnnie; so it ended, after a little whispering, in her sixpence
being added to his, to buy a real good whip, such as would crack, and
not come to pieces.

Just then, what should the children espy, but a nice firm deal box,
containing a little saw, a little plane, a hammer, a gimlet, a
chisel, and sundry different sizes of nails. Was there ever anything
so delightful, especially to David, who loved nothing so well as
running after George Bowles the carpenter, and handling his tools.
What was the price of them?

Just ten shillings and sixpence. They were very cheap, the woman of
the toy-shop said. They had been ordered by an old lady at her
grandson's entreaty; but afterwards a misgiving had seized her that
the young gentleman would cut his fingers, and she would not take

"Miss Fosbrook," whispered David, "may I give back the knife? then I
could buy it."

"You have bought and paid for it," said Christabel.

"Somebody else will buy the box," said David wistfully.

Miss Fosbrook, within herself, thought this unlikely, for nobody went
to Bonchamp for costly shopping; and she saw that the woman would
gladly have had the knife back, if she could have sold the tool-box,
which, even at this reduced price, was much too dear for the little
boys who frequented the shop.

"Come away now, my dear," she said decidedly. "No, another time,
thank you."

David was as nearly crying as ever he was, as he was forced to follow
her out of the shop. Those tools were so charming; his fingers
tingled to be hammering, sawing, boring holes. Had he lost the
chance for that poor blunt knife? Must he wait a whole fortnight for
another sixpence, and find the delicious tool-chest gone?

"Dear Davie, I am very sorry," said Christabel when they were in the

"That nasty knife!" cried David.

"It is not the knife, Davie," said she; "but that I want to think--I
want you to think--why these ten shillings must have been sent."

"Because we lost the money for the pig," said David. "But Kattern
Hill fair is over, and I don't want a pig now; I do want the gimlet
to make holes--"

"Yes, David; but you know what was saved for the pig came from all of
you; you would have had no right to spend it on anything else, unless
they all had consented."

"This is my very own," said David; "it was sent to me--myself--me."

"So it seems now; but just suppose you were to have a letter to say
that someone--poor Hal himself, perhaps--or Papa--had sent ten
shillings to make up the money for the pig, and directed it to you
because you cared so much, would it not be a shame to have spent the
money upon yourself?"

"Then they should not have sent it without saying," said David.

Miss Fosbrook thought the same, when she saw how hard the trial was
to the little boy; but she hoped she was taking the kindest course,
as she said, "Now, David, in nine days time, if you are good, you
will have had another sixpence. I see no chance of the tools being
sold; or if they are, I could send for such a box from London. By
that time, perhaps, something will have happened to show who sent the
money, and why."

"And if it is all for myself, I may have the tools!" cried David.

"You shall have them, if you really think it is right, when Monday
week comes."


Ideas were slow in both entering or dying out of David's mind; but
while there they reigned supreme. Carpentry had come in as the pig
had gone out, and with the more force, because a new window was being
put into Mamma's room; and George Bowles was there, with all his
delightful tools, letting the little boys amuse themselves therewith,
till they had hardly three sound fingers between them; and Nurse
Freeman, when she dressed their wounds, could not think what was the
use of a lady if she could not keep the children from hurting
themselves; but Miss Fosbrook thought that it was better that boys
should get a few cuts and bruises than that they should be timid and

One evening, all the party walked to carry to Hannah Higgins's little
girl a pinafore that Annie had been making. She was a nice, tidy
woman, but there was little furniture in her house, and she looked
very poor. The garden was large, and in pretty good order; and there
was an empty pig-sty, into which Annie peeped significantly.

"No, Miss Annie, we haven't no pig," said Mrs. Higgins. "Ben says,
says he, 'Mother, when I'm taken on for carter boy, see if I don't
get you a nice little pig, as will eat the garden stuff, and pay the

"Oh, but--" began Annie, and there she came to a sudden stop.

"Is he likely soon to be a carter boy?" asked Miss Fosbrook.

"No, Ma'am; he is but ten years old, and they don't often take them
on under twelve; but he is a good boy to his mother, and a terrible
one for leasing."

Miss Fosbrook was obliged to have it explained to her that "leasing"
meant gleaning; and she saw the grand pile of small neat bundles of
wheat put out to dry on the sunny side of the house.

"O Davie!" cried Annie, as soon as they were outside the gate,
"sha'n't we get the pig for Hannah?"

"It is my money, not yours; I shall do what I please with it," said
David, rather crossly.

Miss Fosbrook pulled Annie back, and desired her to let David alone;
herself wondering what would be the effect of what he had seen.

He had been eager to do good to Hannah when no desire of his own
stood in the way; but a formed wish had arisen in his mind, and he
loved himself better than Hannah. Christabel dreaded the clearing-up
of the secret of the post-office order, lest he should be proved to
love himself more than right and justice.

There were not many letters from the absent pair of sisters; they
seemed to be much too busy and happy to write, and appeared to be
"seeing everything," and to be only just able to put down the names
of the wonders. The chief of all, however, was that kind Mrs.
Penrose had actually taken them to Portsmouth for a couple of nights,
to see the Ramilies, in which she was going to remain till it sailed.
They had sat in the Admiral's cabin, and had slept upon "dear little
sofas," where they wished they always slept; they had been in Papa's
cabin, which was half filled up with a great gun, that can only be
fired out at the window (scratched out, and "port-hole" put in.)

"Oh, how delightful! I wish I had a big gun in my room!" cried

And they had seen Sam's chest; and Sam did look so nice in his
uniform; and he had dined with them every day. They had dined late,
with the grown-up people; and the Admiral was so kind, only rather

Annie wished she were as old as Bessie, as much as John wished to
have a gun filling up his whole bed-room.

The next day, their Papa had taken them into the country to see Lady
Seabury, Bessie's godmother, a very old lady indeed, older than
Grandmamma, and who could not move out of her chair. "She gave me--"
wrote Bessie. There again something had been scratched out, and "a
kiss" written overhead.

That something was quite a long word, but it had been very completely
blotted out; not like the "window," which had only a couple of cross
bars, through which it could be plainly read; but there had plainly
been first an attempt at smearing it out with the finger, and that
not succeeding, an immense shiny black mess, like the black shade of
a chafer grub, had been put down on it, and had come off on the
opposite side of the sheet.

What could the word be? Annie and David were both sure they could
read the lines through all the blot. The first letter was certainly

"But," said Miss Fosbrook, "do you think it is quite honourable to
try to read what Bessie did not mean us to see?"

They did not quite enter into this, but they left off trying.

"Mamma had been out in the carriage several times; and they were all
coming home on Saturday week"--that was the best news of all--"and
then we have a secret too for Miss Fosbrook."

David said he was tired of secrets, and would not guess. Annie
guessed a great deal; but Miss Fosbrook thought more about the word
she would not try to read. She began to have a strong suspicion from
whom the post-office order had come, and was the more uneasy about
the spending of David's half sovereign; but she durst say nothing,
for she knew it could do no good if he felt himself compelled against
his own will; and she saw that he was full of thought.

One day the lawn had been mown, and the children where all very busy
wheeling their little barrows, and loading them with the short grass;
David was with them at first, but when Purday left off work, he
marched after the old man in his grave deliberate way, and was seen
no more till nearly tea-time, when he walked into the school-room
with a very set look upon his solemn face, and sat himself down
cross-legged on the locker, with a sigh that seemed to come out of
the very depths of his heart.

"What's the matter, David?"

He made no answer, and Miss Fosbrook let him alone; but Annie
presently bounced in, crying out, "Davie, Davie! where were you? we
have been hunting for you everywhere! Where did you go?"

"I went with Purday."

"What, to milk the cows?"


"And then?"

"I went with him to Farmer Long's, to see his little Chinese pigs."

"And you have bought one! O Davie!"

"Purday is to ask the farmer about the price to-morrow morning,
because he wasn't at home."

"Then you won't get the carpenter's tools?" said Annie.

"No," said David; "Purday said tools that they make for little boys
never will cut."

"So you told Purday all about it?"

David nodded his head.

"Oh, do tell me what Purday said!" continued Annie.

"It's nothing to you," said David bluntly. But by and by, when John
came in, and a few more questions were asked, David let out that
Purday had said, "Well, he thought sure enough if the money was sent
to Master David for that intent, he did not ought to spend it no
other ways; and whether or not, Hannah Higgins was a deserving woman;
and Master Davie didn't know what it was like never to have a bit of
bacon ne'er a Sunday in the winter. He couldn't say but it was hard
that those poor folks should get nothing but bread and cabbages from
week's end to week's end, just that Master Davie might spoil bits of
deal board with making chips of them."

And when David was sure he shouldn't spoil his wood, Purday had told
him that them toy-shop young gentleman's tools were made to sell, and
not made to cut. Best save up his money, and buy one real man's tool
after another; and then he'd get a set equal to George Bowles's in

Though so young, David was long-sighted and patient enough to see the
sense of this, and had already made up his mind that he would begin
with a gimlet. And though he did not say so, and the first
resolution had cost a very tough struggle, his heart seemed to have
freed itself in that one great sigh, and he was at peace with

Miss Fosbrook was very glad he had gone to so wise and good an
adviser as Purday, and was almost as happy as David himself. She
gave him and John leave to go with Purday the next day to bargain for
the pig, as David was very anxious for one in especial, whose face he
said was so jolly fat; and it was grand to see the two little boys
consequentially walking on either aide of Purday, who had put on his
whitest round frock for the great occasion.

Farmer Long was at home; he came out and did the honours of his ten
little pigs; and when he found which was David's favourite, he
declared that it was the best of the lot, and laughed till David
blushed, at the young gentleman's having got such an eye for a pig.
"It was a regular little Trudgeon," said Purday, (meaning perhaps a
Trojan;) and it was worth at least twelve shillings, but the farmer
in his good-nature declared that little Master should have it for the
ten, as it was for a present. Hannah's boy was working for him, and
was a right good lad, and he would give him some straw for the pig's
bed when he went home at night. Then he took the two boys into the
parlour, and while Purday had a glass of beer in the kitchen, Mrs.
Long gave each of them a big slice of plum-cake, and wanted very much
to have given them some wine, but that they knew they must not have;
and she inquired after their Mamma and Papa, and made them so much of
visitors, that David was terribly shy, and very glad when it was
over, though John liked it, and talked fast.

As to the giving the pig, that was a serious business; and David felt
hot and shy, and wanted to get it over as soon as possible without a

So he bolted into Mrs. Higgins's cottage, put his hands behind his
back, and spoke thus:- "Please, Mrs. Higgins, put your pig-sty in
order! We've all done it--at least they all wanted to--and a green
order came down in a letter--and we've bought the pig, and Ben will
drive it home when he comes from work!"

And then, as if he had been in a great fright, he ran away; while
Johnnie stayed, and, when Hannah understood, received so many
curtsies, and listened to so much pleasure, that he could hardly
think of anything else, and felt very glad that SOME pence of his had
been in Toby Fillpot.

Annie said that it was not fair that she had not been at the giving
the pig; and Miss Fosbrook was a little disappointed too; but then it
was much better that David should not want to make a display, so she
would not complain, and comforted Annie by putting her in mind that
they could go and see the little pig in his new quarters.

A few days more, and the carriage was driving up to the door with
dear Mamma in it, and--why, there were three little girls, not two!
One look, and the colour came into Christabel's face. It was her
youngest little sister, Dora, who sat beside Bessie! Mrs. Merrifield
had gone to see Mrs. Fosbrook, and ask if she could take anything for
her to her daughter; and she had been so much shocked at the sight of
the little pale London faces, that she had begged leave to take home
one of the children to spend a month with her sister at Stokesley,
since Miss Fosbrook could not be spared to go home at present. Was
not that a secret for Christabel? How these two sisters did hug each

But the Stokesley secrets have lasted long enough; and there is no
time to tell of the happy days of Dora's visit, and the good care
that Johnnie took of her whenever she went out, and of her pretty
quiet ways that made Bessie take her for her dearest of friends. And
still less can be told of the smooth, peaceful, free spirit that
seemed to have come home with Mamma, even though she was still able
to do little among the children, for the very having her in the house
appeared to keep things from going wrong.

One thing must be told, however, and that is, that when Annie told
all the wonderful story of the post-office order and the Chinese pig,
Bessie grew redder and redder in the face, and Susan squeezed both
her hands tight together, and said "May I tell, Bessie!"

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