By degrees the violence of his distress subsided, and he sent up his tearful petitions to his heavenly Father, till his overloaded heart felt lightened of some of its sorrow. As he grew calmer, remembrances of old faults came before him, and he thought of a similar sin of his own, and how nearly an innocent person had suffered for it—and this he felt was much easier to bear than the consciousness of having committed the fault himself; and he remembered the sweet verses in the first Epistle of St. Peter: "What glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently; but if when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto ye were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously,"—and the feeling of indignation against Ferrers was gradually changed into almost pity for him, for Louis knew by experience the pain of a loaded conscience. While his thoughts thus ran over the past and present, he heard the firm step of Dr. Wilkinson crossing the hall, and nearly at the same moment that gentleman entered the room. There was no pity in his countenance—the dark lines in his face seemed fixed in their most iron mould; and briefly announcing to his trembling pupil that the time allowed him for consideration had expired, he asked whether he were prepared to acknowledge his fault. Louis meekly persisted in his denial, which had only the effect of making the doctor consider him a more hardened offender; and after a few words, expressing the strongest reprehension of his wickedness and cowardice, he gave him severe caning, and sent him immediately to bed, although it was but the middle of the day. In spite of the better feelings which urged poor Louis to acknowledge the justice, under the circumstances, of his master's proceedings, he could not help thinking that he had been very hardly treated. He hurried up stairs, glad to indulge his grief in silence. How many times, in the affliction of the next few hours, did he repeat a little hymn he had learned at home:
"Thy lambs, dear Shepherd, that are weak, Are thy peculiar care; 'Tis Thine in judgment to afflict, And Thine in love to spare.
"Though young in years, yet, oh! how oft Have I a rebel been; My punishment, O Lord, is mild, Nor equals all my sin.
"Since all the chastisements I feel Are from Thy love alone, Let not one murmuring thought arise, But may Thy will be done.
"Then let me blush with holy shame, And mourn before my Lord, That I have lived to Thee no more, No more obeyed Thy word."
—"Hymns for Sunday-Schools"
At last he fell asleep, and oh! to wake; from that sleep! It was surely good to be afflicted, and in the happiness of his mind Louis forgot his trouble. But he had yet to endure much more, and the bitterest part of his punishment came the next morning, when, according to his master's orders, he repaired to the study with his books. He had been desired to remain in this room out of school-hours, and was forbidden to speak to any of his school-fellows without leave. While he was sitting there the first morning after the inquiry related in this chapter, Dr. Wilkinson entered with a letter, and sat down at the table where Louis was reading. As he opened his desk, he said, "I have a painful task to perform. This is a letter from your father, Louis Mortimer, and he particularly requests that I should give him an account of your conduct and your brother's; you know what an account I can give of you both."
Louis had listened very attentively to his master's speech, and when it was concluded he gave way to such a burst of sorrow as quite touched the doctor. For some minutes he wept almost frantically, and then clasping his hands, he implored Dr. Wilkinson not to tell his father what had happened: "It will break mamma's heart, it will break mamma's heart, sir—do not tell my father."
"Confess your fault, Louis, and I may then speak of amendment," said the doctor.
"I cannot, indeed—indeed I cannot. It will all come out by and bye: you will see, sir—oh! you will see, sir," sobbed Louis, deprecating the gathering of the angry cloud on the doctor's face. "Oh! do not tell mamma, for it is not true."
"I do not wish to hear any more, sir," said the doctor, sternly.
"Oh! what shall I do—what shall I do!" cried Louis; and he pushed his chair quickly from the table, and, throwing himself on his knees by Dr. Wilkinson, seized the hand that was beginning to date the dreaded letter—"I assure you I did not, sir—I am speaking the truth."
"As you always do, doubtless," said the doctor, drawing his hand roughly away. "Get up, sir; kneel to Him you have so deeply offended, but not to me."
Louis rose, but stood still in the same place. "Will you hear only this one thing, sir? I will not say any thing more about my innocence—just hear me, if you please, sir."
Dr. Wilkinson turned his head coldly towards him.
Louis dried his tears, and spoke with tolerable calmness: "I have one thing to ask, sir—will you allow me still to remain in the second class, and to do my lessons always in this room? You will then see if I can do without keys, or having any help."
"I know you can if you choose," replied Dr. Wilkinson, coldly, "or I should not have placed you in that class."
"But, if you please, sir, I know all,"—Louis paused, he had promised to say no more on that subject.
There was a little silence, during which Dr. Wilkinson looked earnestly at Louis. At last he said, "You may stay in the class; but, remember, you are forbidden to speak to any of your school-fellows for the next week without express permission."
"Not to my brother, sir?"
"No; now go."
"May I write to mamma?"
"Yes, if you wish it."
After timidly thanking the doctor, Louis returned to his seat, and Dr. Wilkinson continued his letter, which went off by the same post that took Louis' to his mother.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."—Heb. xii. 11.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word."—Psalm cxix. 67.
Perhaps there is no state more dangerous to a Christian's peace of mind than one of continual prosperity. In adversity even the worldly man will sometimes talk of resignation, and feel that it is a good thing to be acquainted and at peace with God, and that when all human help is cut off, it is a sweet thing to have a sure refuge in an almighty Saviour. But in prosperity the ungodly never look to Him; and His own children, carrying about with them a sinful nature, against which they must continually maintain a warfare, are too apt to forget the Giver in his gifts, and to imagine that all is well because nothing occurs to disturb the regularity of their blessings.
Our little Louis, though the trial he now underwent was a bitter one, and though at times it seemed almost too hard to be endured, learned by degrees to feel that it was good for him. He had been in too high favor, he had trusted too much in the good word of his school-fellows, and had suffered the fear of man to deter him from his duty to God; and now, isolated and looked upon as an unworthy member of the little society to which he belonged, he learned to find his sole happiness in that sweet communion which he had now solitary leisure to enjoy. His very troubles carried him to a throne of grace; his desolate condition made him feel that there was only One who never changed nor forsook His people; only One who could understand and feel for the infirmities and sorrows of a human creature; and though to the ungodly it is a terror to know that there is "nothing that is not manifest in God's sight," to the true child of God it is an unspeakable comfort to feel that his thoughts and actions are "known long before" by his unwearied Guardian.
The effects of Louis' lonely communings were soon visible in his daily conduct, and after his term of punishment had expired, the meekness of his bearing, and the gentle lowliness of his demeanor, often disarmed the most severe and unpitying of his youthful judges. There was no servility in his manner, for he neither courted nor shunned observation; nor, though he was as willing as ever to do a kind action for any one, did he allow himself to be persuaded to give up all his time to his idler school-fellows. There seemed more firmness and decision in his naturally yielding disposition, and those who knew not the power of assisting grace, looked and wondered at the firmness the sweet but weak boy could at times assume. He would have told them it was not his own. He was very quiet, and spoke little, even to his brother, of what was passing in his mind, and sometimes his thoughts were so quietly happy that he did not like to be spoken to. To Ferrers, Louis was as gentle and courteous as to the rest of his companions, and, indeed, he had now little other feeling towards him than that of sorrow and pity.
There had been an unusual noise in the study one evening, while Louis was absent, and when he entered it, he found the confusion attendant on a grand uproar. Very little was doing, and tokens of the late skirmish lay about the floor in torn and scattered books, and overthrown forms. Among others, Ferrers was hunting for a missing book, but to discover it in such a chaos was a difficult task, especially as no one would now allow the candles to be used in the search.
With many expressions, so unfitted for refined ears that I do not choose to present them to my reader, Ferrers continued his search, now and then attempting to snatch a candle from the table, in which he was regularly foiled by those sitting there.
"Well, at least have the civility to move and let me see if it is under the table," he said at length.
"You have hindered us long enough," said Salisbury; "Smith, Jones, and I have done nothing to-night. If you will have rows, you must e'en take the consequences."
"Can't you get under the form?" asked Smith, derisively.
Ferrers was going to make some angry, reply, when Louis dived between the table and the form, with some trouble, and, at the expense of receiving a few unceremonious kicks, recovered the book and gave it to Ferrers, who hardly thanked him, but leaning his head on his hand, seemed almost incapable of doing any thing. Presently he looked up, and asked in a tone of mingled anger and weariness, what had become of the inkstand he had brought.
"Loosing's seeking, Finding's keeping,"
said Salisbury. "Which is yours? Perhaps it's under the table too."
"Hold your nonsense," cried Ferrers, angrily. "It's very shabby of you to hinder me in this manner."
Louis quietly slipped an inkstand near him, an action of which Ferrers was quite aware, and though he pretended not to notice it, he availed himself presently of the convenience. A racking headache, however, almost disabled him from thinking, and though he was really unwell, there was only the boy he had so cruelly injured who felt any sympathy for his suffering.
Louis carefully avoided any direct manifestation of his anxiety to return good for evil, for he felt, though he hardly knew why, that his actions would be misconstrued, but whenever any little opportunity occurred in which he could really render any service, he was always as ready to do it for Ferrers as for another; and now, when from his classmates Ferrers met with nothing but jokes on his "beautiful temper," and "placid state of mind," he could not help feeling the gentleness of Louis' conduct, the absence of pleasure in his annoyance, and the look of evident sympathy he met whenever he accidentally turned his eyes in his direction. For a few days after this he was obliged to keep his bed, and during this time, though Louis only once saw him, he thought of every little kind attention he could, that might be grateful to the invalid. Knowing that he was not a favorite, and that few in the school would trouble themselves about him, he borrowed books and sent them to him for his amusement, and empowered the old cake man to procure some grapes, which he sent up to him by a servant, with strict orders to say nothing of where they came from. The servant met Hamilton at the door of the room, and he relieved her of her charge, and as she did not consider herself under promise of secrecy towards him, she mentioned it, desiring him at the same time to say nothing to Ferrers.
Louis had now established a regular time for doing his own lessons, and kept to it with great perseverance to the end of the half-year, with one exception, when he had been acting prisoner in a trial performed in the school-room, by half his own class and the third, and let the evening slip by without remembering how late it grew. His class-fellows were in the same predicament as himself, and as they had barely time to write a necessary exercise, they agreed among themselves to learn each his own piece of the lesson they had to repeat. Louis did not seriously consider the deceit they were practising, and adopted the same plan. One of the number, not trusting to his memory, hit upon the singular expedient of writing the whole of his piece and the next on a piece of paper, and wafering it to the instep of his shoe when he went up to his class. Unhappily for his scheme, he was so placed that he dared not expose his foot so as to allow him to avail himself of this delectable assistance, and consequently, after much looking on the floor for inspiration, and much incoherent muttering, was passed over, and the order of things being thereby disturbed, of course no one could say the missing lines until the head boy was applied to, and the lower half of the class was turned down, with the exception of Louis, who, standing on this occasion just above the gentleman of shoe memory, had been able to say his share.
As they were breaking up, Mr. Danby said to Louis, "You have been very industrious lately, Louis Mortimer: I am glad you have been so correct to-day."
Louis blushed from a consciousness of undeserved praise; but though his natural fear of offending and losing favor sprung up directly, a higher principle faced it, and bearing down all obstacles, forced him to acknowledge his unworthiness of the present encomium.
"I ought to learn mine, sir,—I learned my piece to-day."
"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Danby.
"I learned my part of the lesson, as well as Harris, Williams, Sutton, and Charles Salisbury. We forgot our lessons last night, but it is quite an accident that I have said mine to-day."
"I am glad you have had the honor to say so," said Mr. Danby. "Of course you must learn yours, but let me have no more learning pieces, if you please."
"Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they will be still praising Thee. For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."—Psalm lxxxiv. 4, 10.
Dr. Wilkinson's school was too large to be entirely accommodated with sittings in the nearest church—and, consequently, was divided into two bodies on Sunday, one of which regularly attended one of the churches in Bristol, where Mr. Wilkinson, the doctor's son, occasionally did duty. It fell to Louis' lot, generally, to be of the Bristol party, and unless the day was rainy he was not ill-pleased with his destiny, for the walk was very pleasant, and there was something in the chorus of bells in that many-churched city, and the sight of the gray towers and spires, very congenial to his feelings. It happened that the Sunday after Louis had received permission to mix as usual with his school-fellows was one of those peculiarly sunny days that seem to call upon God's people especially to rejoice and be glad in the Works of His hand. Louis' mind was in a more than usually peaceful state, and his heart overflowed with quiet happiness as he looked down from the height of Brandon Hill upon the city below. He and his companion had walked on rather faster than the rest of their school-fellows, and now stood waiting till they came up.
"A penny for your thoughts, Mortimer," said his companion, a pleasant-looking boy of fifteen or sixteen years of age; "you are very silent to-day—what may be the subject of your profound meditations?"
Louis hardly seemed to hear the question, for he suddenly turned his bright face to his interrogator, and exclaimed, "What a beautiful sight it is to see so many churches together, Meredith! I think our churches make us such a happy country."
"Upon my word," replied Meredith, "you are endowing those piles of stone with considerable potency. What becomes of commerce and—"
"I mean, of course," interrupted Louis, "that it is religion that makes us a happier country than others. I love so to look at the churches; the sight of one sometimes, when all is fair and quiet, brings the tears into my eyes."
"Hey-dey! quite sentimental! You'd better be a parson, I think."
"I hope I shall be a clergyman—I wish very much to be one—there is not such another happy life. I was just thinking, Meredith, when you spoke to me, of a verse we read yesterday morning, which quite expresses my feelings: 'One thing have I desired of the Lord which I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.'"
Meredith looked with some surprise at Louis, and as they moved on he said carelessly, "I suppose somebody will have the gratification of beholding me in a long gown some day, holding forth for the edification of my devoted flock."
"Are you going to be a clergyman?" asked Louis.
"Yes, I suppose I must. Don't you think I shall be a most useful character?"
"Oh! surely you wish it, do you not?"
"Well, I don't much mind," replied Meredith, snatching a handful of leaves from the hedge near him; "I shall have a nice fat living, and it's a respectable kind of thing."
Louis was horror-struck—he had not imagined such an idea—he almost gasped out, "Oh! Meredith, I can hardly understand you. Surely that is not your only wish about it: that cannot be a reason—not a right one."
"Why, what's the harm?" said Meredith, laughing. "I only say outright what hundreds think. If I could choose, perhaps I might like the army best, but my father has a comfortable provision in the church for me, and so I, like a dutiful son, don't demur, especially as, if I follow the example of my predecessor, it will be vastly more easy than a soldier's life."
"Meredith, Meredith, this is too solemn a thing to laugh about. I have often wondered how it is there are clergymen who can take their duties so easily as some do; but if they only undertake them for your reasons, I cannot feel so much surprised that they should be so careless. How can you expect any happiness from such a life! I should be afraid to talk so."
Meredith stared contemptuously. "You are a Methodist, Louis," he said; "I have no doubt I shall preach as good sermons as you: just put on a grave face, and use a set of tender phrases, and wear a brilliant on your little finger, and a curly head, and there you are a fashionable preacher at once—and if you use your white pocket-handkerchief occasionally, throw your arms about a little, look as if you intended to tumble over the pulpit and embrace the congregation, and dose your audience with a little pathos, you may draw crowds—the ladies will idolize you."
"I should not think that such popularity would be very good," replied Louis, "supposing you could do as you say; but it seems to me quite shocking to speak in such a slighting manner of so holy a thing. Were you ever at an ordination, Meredith?"
"Not I," said Meredith.
"I should think if you had been you would be afraid to think of going to answer the solemn questions you will be asked when you are ordained. I was once with papa at an ordination at Norwich cathedral, and I shall never forget how solemnly that beautiful service came upon me. I could not help thinking how dreadful it must be to come there carelessly, and I wondered how the gentlemen felt who were kneeling there—and the hymn was so magnificent, Meredith. I think if you were there with your present feelings, you would be afraid to stay. It would seem like mocking God to come to answer all those solemn questions, and not mean what you said. I think it is wicked."
Louis spoke rapidly, and with great emotion.
Meredith looked angry, struggling with a feeling of shame, and a wish to laugh it off. "You are exclusively precise," he said; "others are not, and have as much right to their opinion as you to yours. Trevannion, for instance—he's going into the church because it is so genteel."
"I hope you are mistaken," said Louis, quickly.
"Not I; I heard him say the same thing myself."
"I am very sorry," said Louis, sadly. "Oh! I would rather be a laborer than go into the church with such a wish—and yet, I had rather be a very poor curate than a rich duke: it is such a happy, holy life." The last part of Louis' speech was nearly inaudible, and no more was said until the afternoon.
It was Dr. Wilkinson's wish that the Sabbath should be passed as blamelessly as he had the power of ordering it in his household; but to make it a day of reverence and delight among so large a number of boys, with different dispositions and habits of life, was an arduous task. Mr. James Wilkinson was with the boys the whole afternoon, as well as his father, to whose utmost endeavors he joined his own, that the day might not be wholly unprofitable. In spite, however, of all diligence, it could not fail of often being grossly misspent with many of the pupils; for it is not possible for human power effectually to influence the heart, and, until that is done, any thing else can be but an outward form.
This afternoon the boys were scattered over the large playground. In one corner was the doctor, with twenty or thirty boys around him, and in other directions, the different ushers hearing Catechisms and other lessons. Some of the parties were very dull, for no effort was made by the instructor to impart a real delight in the Word of God to his pupils; and religion was made merely a matter of question and answer, to remain engraved in such heartless form on the repugnant mind of the learner. And, alas! how can it be otherwise, where the teacher himself does not know that religion is a real and happy thing, and not to be learned as we teach our boys the outlines of heathen mythology?
Sitting on the ground, lolling against one of the benches under a tree, sat Hastings Meredith and Reginald and Louis Mortimer; and one or two more were standing or sitting near; all of whom had just finished answering all the questions in the Church Catechism to Mr. Danby, and had said a Psalm.
Louis was sitting on the bench, looking flushed, thinking of holidays, and, of course, of home,—home Sabbaths, those brightest days of home life,—when Trevannion came up with his usual air of cool, easy confidence. Trevannion was the most gentlemanly young man in the school; he never was in a hurry; was particularly alive to any thing "vulgar," or "snobbish," and would have thought it especially unbecoming in him to exhibit the smallest degree of annoyance at any untoward event. It took a good deal to put him out of countenance, and he esteemed it rather plebeian to go his own errands, or, indeed, to take any unnecessary trouble.
"Were you in Bristol this morning, Meredith?" he said.
"Yes, sure, your highness," replied Meredith, yawning.
"Tired apparently," said Trevannion ironically, glancing at the recumbent attitude of the speaker.
"Worried to death with that old bore Danby, who's been going backwards and forwards for the last hour, with 'What is your name?' and 'My good child,' &c. I'm as tired as—as—oh help me for a simile! as a pair of worn-out shoes."
"A poetical simile at last," remarked Reginald, laughing.
"You would have a nice walk," said Trevannion.
"Very! and a sermon gratis to boot," replied Meredith. "It would have done you good, Trevannion, to have heard what shocking things you have done in being so very genteel."
"What do you mean?" said Trevannion, coolly.
"Louis Mortimer was giving me a taste of his Methodistical mind on the duties of clergymen generally, and your humble servant especially."
"I presume you do not include yourself in the fraternity yet?" said Trevannion.
"Not exactly; but having informed him of my prospects, the good child began to upbraid me with my hypocrisy, and, bless you, such a thundering sermon,—positively quite eloquent."
"Perhaps I may be allowed to profit by the second part of it," said Trevannion, turning to Louis; "will you be kind enough to edify me?"
Louis did not reply, and Trevannion's lips curled slightly as he remarked, "There is an old proverb about those who live in glass houses—'Physician, cure thyself.'"
Poor Louis turned away, and Meredith, stretching himself and yawning terrifically, continued, "You must know, Trevannion, that it is very wicked to be any thing but a Methodist, very wicked for a clergyman to be genteel, or to wish to make himself comfortable."
"Hastings, I did not say so," said Louis, turning his head.
"And so," continued Meredith, without noticing Louis, "if we dare to follow up our own or our fathers' wishes, we must listen to Louis Mortimer, and he will tell us what to do."
"Much obliged to him, I am sure," said Trevannion.
"Yes, so am I," rejoined Meredith, "though I forgot to tender my thanks before; and hereby give notice, that when I am in orders, I will not hunt more than convenient, nor play cards on Good Friday, nor go to dancing parties on Saturday evening."
"Pshaw, Meredith," said Trevannion: "it is very unbecoming to talk in this manner of so sacred a profession. A hunting and card-playing clergyman ought to be stripped of his gown without hesitation. Any right-minded person would recoil with horror at such a character. It is a great disgrace to the profession; no clergyman ought to enter into any kind of improper dissipation. Your ideas are very light and indelicate."
"Will you be kind enough to define that term, improper dissipation," said Meredith, carelessly. "I presume you have no objection to a quiet dance now and then, only they must not call it a ball."
"A clergyman ought not to dance," replied Trevannion, in precisely the same cool, dictatorial manner.
"He may look on them, may he not?" said Meredith.
"A clergyman has many serious duties to perform, and he should be very careful that he does not degrade his office," replied Trevannion. "He has to uphold the dignity of the church, and should take care that his conduct is such that no reproach can fall on that church from his inconsistency."
"Well, for my part," said Meredith, lightly, "I think the church too important to miss the weight of my example. I mean to have a most exemplary curate."
Near these speakers sat Mr. James Wilkinson, with a few little boys, whom at this moment he hastily dismissed, for the sound of the light conversation reached him, and he arose quickly and introduced himself to the little coterie just as Reginald exclaimed, "For shame, Meredith!"
"Ay, for shame," said Mr. James: "I have heard a little of what has been going on among you, and am really very sorry to hear such expressions on a subject so solemn and important. Meredith, you cannot be aware of what you are saying. I should like to have a little talk about this matter; and, Mr. Trevannion, if you will give me your attention for a few minutes, I shall be obliged to you."
Trevannion seated himself on the bench, and folding his arms, remained in an attitude of passive attention.
"Lend me your prayer-book, Mortimer," said Mr. James, and he quickly turned to the service for the ordering of deacons. "The first question here put to the candidate for holy orders is, 'Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon you this office and ministration, to serve God for the promoting of His glory and the edifying of His people?' Now, Meredith, I ask you to think, whether, with such sentiments as you have just expressed, you can dare to answer, 'I trust so?'"
"I never thought very seriously about it," said Meredith, rather abruptly.
"But you know these things must be thought of seriously and prayerfully. It is required of a man in every station of life, that he be faithful and diligent, serving the Lord, and whoever does not remember this, must answer for his neglect of such duty to his Maker. It will not do to say that our individual example can be of no importance; the command, 'Occupy till I come,' is laid upon each one of us; but what must be said of him who, in a careless, light frame of mind, takes these holy vows upon him, knowing in his own mind that he intends to break them; that his sole desire to be put into the priest's office is to eat a morsel of bread? What shall be said of him who goes into the house of God, and in the presence of His people declares that it is his intention, 'to search gladly and willingly for the sick and poor of his parish, to relieve their necessities; to frame his own life and the lives of his family according to the doctrine of Christ; to be diligent in prayers and in reading of the Holy Scriptures, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh,' and yet knows that he intends to enjoy himself in the things of this world—a very hireling who forgets that his master's eye is upon him. It is a fearful thing. It is coming before the Almighty with a lie. Nay, hear me a little longer. The clergyman's is a glorious and exalted path, the happiest I know of on earth. It is his especially to bear the message of salvation from a tender Saviour. It is his to go forth with the balm of heavenly comfort, to bind up the wounds sin and grief have made. It is his indeed pre-eminently to dwell in the house of his God, to be hid away from the world and its many allurements; but as every great blessing brings with it a great responsibility, so the responsibility of the minister of Christ is very great, and if he turn from the commandment delivered to him, his condemnation is fearful. I should be much obliged to you, Meredith, if you would read me these verses."
Meredith took the open Bible from Mr. Wilkinson's hand, and read aloud the first ten verses of the 34th of Ezekiel.
"In this holy word, which must be the standard for all our conduct, we do not find that the Almighty looks upon this office as a light thing. In the thirty-third chapter there is so solemn a warning to the careless watchman, that I wonder any one who does not steadfastly intend to give himself to his sacred duties, can read it and not tremble. 'If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take away any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but HIS BLOOD WILL I REQUIRE AT THE WATCHMAN'S HAND. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, Oh wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.' This is the second solemn warning to the same purport given to Ezekiel; for, in the third chapter, we find the same thing; and these are awful truths engraved in God's everlasting word, by which we are to be judged at the last day. You must excuse me," continued Mr. Wilkinson, and his eyes glistened with emotion; "but I am a watchman, and I must warn you of the fearful sin you are contemplating."
Meredith was silent. He was impressed with the earnestness displayed by Mr. Wilkinson, and the solemn truths he had brought before him—truths it would be well if all those who are looking forward to entering the sacred ministry would seriously and prayerfully consider.
The tea bell ringing at this moment, the conversation was necessarily concluded; but that evening after prayers, Mr. Wilkinson put into Meredith's hand a piece of paper, on which were written the following references: Num. xvi. 9; Isaiah lii. 7, 8; lxii. 6, 7; Jer. xxiii. 1-4; Ezek. iii. 17-21; xxxiii. 1-9; xxxiv. 1-10; John xxi. 15-17; 1 Cor. ix. 16, 17, 19; and both the Epistles to Timothy; and underneath the references was the Apostle's injunction, "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear unto all."
When Louis was fairly in bed that night, he was called on for a story.
"Tell us the end of the princess Rosetta, Louis," cried Frank; "I want to know how the fair animal got out of her watery bedroom, and whether the green dog ever got his nose nipped by the oysters he was so fond of snapping up."
"Yes, Rosetta!" cried several voices. "Did she ever get to the king of the peacocks, Louis?"
"No, no," cried Reginald; "it is not fit for Sunday."
"I am sure we have been doing heaps of good things to-day," replied Frank, lightly; "come, Louis."
"I must not," said Louis, gently. "I do not like telling stories at night at all, because I think we ought not to fill our heads with such things when we are going to sleep; but I must not tell you Rosetta to-night, Frank."
"Get along," said Frank, contemptuously; "you are not worth the snap of a finger. All you are ever worth is to tell stories, and now you must needs set up for a good, pious boy—you, forsooth of all others!"
"Indeed, Frank, you will not understand me."
"If you dare to say any more to Louis," cried Reginald, "I'll make you—"
Louis' hand was upon Reginald's mouth.
Frank replied, tauntingly, "Ay, finish your work this time, that's right. Come boys, never mind, I'll tell you a wonderful tale."
"I think we'd better not have one to-night," said one; "perhaps Mortimer's right."
"Don't have one, don't!" said Louis, starting up; "do not let us forget that all this day is God's day, and that we must not even speak our own words."
"None of your cant," cried one.
"Well, I propose that we go to sleep, and then we shan't hear what he says," said Meredith. "They talk of his not having pluck enough to speak, but he can do it when he pleases," he remarked in a low tone to his next companion, Frank Digby, who rejoined,
"More shame for him, the little hypocrite. I like real religious people, but I can't bear cant."
What Frank's idea of real religion was, may be rather a difficult matter to settle. Probably it was an obscure idea to himself,—an idea of certain sentiment and no vitality.
The next Saturday afternoon proving unusually fine, the community at Ashfield House sallied forth to enjoy their half-holiday on the downs. A few of the seniors had received permission to pay a visit to Bristol, and not a small party was arranged for a good game of cricket. Among the latter was Reginald Mortimer, whose strong arm and swift foot were deemed almost indispensable on such occasions. As he rushed out of the playground gates, bat in hand, accompanied by Meredith, he overtook his brother, who had discovered a poem unknown to him in Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, and was anticipating a pleasant mental feast in its perusal.
"Louis, you lazy fellow," cried Reginald, good-temperedly, "you shan't read this fine afternoon—come, join us."
"I don't play cricket, I have not learned," replied Louis.
"And you never will," rejoined Reginald, "if you don't make a beginning: I'll teach you—now put away that stupid book."
"Stupid!" said Louis. "It's Coleridge, that mamma promised to read to us."
"I hate poetry," exclaimed Reginald; "I wonder how anybody can read such stuff. Give me the book, Louis, and come along."
"No, thank you, I'd rather not."
"What a donkey you are!" said Meredith: "why don't you learn?"
"Perhaps my reputation may be the safer for not divulging my reasons," said Louis, archly: "it is sufficient for present purposes that I had rather not."
"Rather not—rather not," echoed Meredith: "like one of your sensible reasons."
"He has refused to give them, so you cannot call that his reason, Meredith," remarked Reginald; "but let us be off, as Louis won't come."
Away they ran, and after looking at them for a minute, Louis turned off his own way, but it was destined that he should not read the Ancient Mariner that day, for he was presently interrupted by little Alfred Hamilton, who pounced upon him full of joy.
"Louis," he cried, "I am so glad to speak to you! I don't know how it is that I have not been able to speak to you lately: I half thought Edward did not like it, but he asked me to-day why I did not come to you now."
"Did he?" exclaimed Louis, with joyful surprise; "I am very glad you are come. I think we shall have a beautiful walk."
"I can't think how it is, Louis, that everybody is either so grave or rude when I speak of you. What is the matter?"
"A mistake; and a sad one for me," said Louis, gravely. "But don't say any thing about it, Alfred; they think I have been doing something very wrong; but all will come out some day."
"I hope so," replied little Alfred; "I cannot think what you can have done wrong, Louis, you always seem so good."
The child looked wistfully up in Louis' face as he spoke, and seemed to wait some explanation.
"That is because you do not know much about me, Alfred," replied Louis; "but in this one case I have not done wrong, I assure you."
Alfred asked no more questions, though he looked more than once in the now sorrowful young face by him, as they sauntered along the wide downs.
"Here come Edward and Mr. Trevannion," said Alfred, turning round; "and there is Frank Digby, and Mr. Ferrers, too. I think Edward is going to Bristol this afternoon."
This intimation of the august approach of his majesty and court was hardly given when the young gentlemen passed Louis. Hamilton, with Trevannion, as usual, leaning on his arm, and Frank Digby walking backwards before them, vainly endeavoring to support a failing argument with a flood of nonsense, a common custom with this young gentleman; and, by the way, we might recommend it as remarkably convenient at such times, to prevent the pain of a total discomfiture, it being more pleasant to slip quietly and unseen from your pedestal to some perfectly remote topic, than to allow yourself to be hurled roughly therefrom by the rude hand of a more sound and successful disputant.
"Enough, enough, Frank!" exclaimed Hamilton, laughing. "I see through your flimsy veil. We won't say any more: you either argue in a circle, or try to blind us."
Louis looked up as Hamilton passed, in hopes that that magnate might give him a favorable glance, in which he was not mistaken, for Edward the Great had been watching him from some distance, and was perfectly aware of his near approach to him.
He certainly did not seem displeased, though the grave countenance bore no marks of particular satisfaction at the rencontre. He spoke carelessly to his brother, and then, addressing Louis, said, "You must look after him, Louis, if you wish for his company; if not, dismiss him at once."
"I do wish for him," said Louis, with a bright look of gratitude; "I promise to take care of him. Mr. Hamilton, I am getting up in my class—I am fifth now."
The latter communication was made doubtfully, in a tone indicating mixed pleasure and timidity.
"I am glad to hear it," was Hamilton's laconic reply. He did not quicken his pace. "What have you there?" he asked, noticing his book.
"Coleridge's Ancient Mariner; I was going to read it," replied Louis; "but now Alfred has come we shall talk: shall we not, Alfred?"
This was accompanied by another look of grateful pleasure at Alfred's brother.
What was passing in Hamilton's mind was not to be gathered from his countenance, which exhibited no emotion of any kind. He turned to Trevannion, as their party was strengthened by Churchill, remarking, "Here comes the sucking fish."
"It's uncommon hot," said Churchill, taking off his hat, and fanning himself with his handkerchief.
"Dreadful warm," said Frank Digby, in exactly the same tone.
"And there is not a breath of wind on the horrid downs," continued the sapient youth, perfectly unconscious of Frank's mimicry.
"What will the fair Louisa do?" cried Frank: "O that a zephyr would have pity on that delicate form!"
Across their path lay a wagon, from which the horses had been detached, and which now offered a tempting though homely shelter to those among the pedestrians who might choose to sit on the shady side, or to avail themselves of the accommodation afforded by the awning over the interior. Ferrers threw himself full length inside the cart: and Louis, drawing Alfred to the shady side, seated himself by him on the grass. His example was followed by Churchill, who exclaimed rapturously as he did so, "How nice! This puts me in mind of a Latin sentence; I forget the Latin, but I remember the English—'Oh, 'tis pleasant to sit in the shade!'"
"Of a wagon," said Frank, laughing. "Remarkably romantic! It is so sweet to hear the birds chirp, and the distant hum of human voices—but language fails! As for Lady Louisa, she is in the Elysium of ecstasy. It's so romantic."
"Are you going to Bristol, Frank, for I'm off?" said Hamilton.
"Coming," replied Frank. "We'll leave these romantic mortals to their sequestered glen. There ain't nothing like imagination, my good sirs."
As he joined his companions, Trevannion remarked to Hamilton, "Little Mortimer is so much the gentleman, you never know him do or say any thing vulgar or awkward. It is a pity one can't depend upon him."
"I am not quite sure that you cannot," replied Hamilton.
"How!" said Trevannion, in astonishment.
"Are you going to turn Paladin for her ladyship?" asked Frank.
"I have been watching Louis very carefully, and the more I see, the more I doubt his guilt," replied Hamilton.
"After what you saw yourself? After all that was seen by others? Impossible, my dear Hamilton!" exclaimed Trevannion. "You cannot exonerate him without criminating others."
"We shall see," replied Hamilton; "and more than that, Trevannion, I am certain that Dr. Wilkinson has his doubts now, too."
"But does Fudge know any thing about his old pranks?" asked Frank, incredulously.
"I cannot say," replied Hamilton; "but I think that he probably does; for what is so well known now among ourselves, is likely enough to reach his quick ears."
"But knowing all you do, my dear Hamilton," said Trevannion, expostulatingly, "you must be strongly prejudiced in your protege's favor to admit a doubt in this case. Has Dr. Wilkinson told you that he has any doubts?"
"No," replied Hamilton; "you know the doctor would not reveal his mind unless he were confident, but I have noticed some little things, and am sure that though he seems generally so indifferent to Louis' presence and concerns, and so distant and cold towards him, he's nevertheless watching him very narrowly; and I, for my part, expect to see things take a new turn before long."
"The boy seems quite to have won your heart," said Trevannion.
"Poor fellow," replied Hamilton, smiling. "He is a sweet-tempered, gentle boy; a little too anxious to be well thought of, and has, perhaps, too little moral courage. I own he has interested me. His very timidity and his numerous scrapes called forth pity in the first instance, and then I saw more. I should not have been surprised at his telling a lie in the first place, but I do not think he would persist in it."
"I'm afraid wisdom's at fault," said Frank, shaking his head: "you would not say that Ferrers helped him?—I mean took the key to get him into a scrape."
"I accused no one, Digby," replied Hamilton, in a reserved tone; "nor am I going to wrong any one by uttering unformed suspicions."
"Enough has been said," remarked Trevannion; "let us drop the subject, and talk of something more interesting to all parties."
While these young gentlemen pursue their walk, we will retrace our steps to the wagon, where Louis and his little friend have taken shelter.
Churchill, finding neither seemed very much inclined to encourage his conversational powers, took himself off, after remaining in the shade long enough to cool himself. After his departure Louis and Alfred talked lazily on of their own pleasant thoughts and schemes, both delighted at being once more in each other's society. They were within sight of the masters out on the downs, and who had forbidden them to wander beyond certain limits, but still so far from their school-fellows as to be able to enjoy their own private conversation unmolested, and in the feeling of seclusion.
At length, after a pause, Louis made an original remark on the beauty of the weather, which was immediately responded to by his companion, who added that he had not known such a fine day since Miss Wilkinson's wedding.
"Don't you think so?" said Louis; "I think we had one or two Sundays quite as fine."
"Perhaps I thought that day so very fine, because I wanted to go out," said Alfred.
"What do you mean?" asked Louis: "we had a holiday then."
"Yes, I know, but I was not allowed to go out because I had been idle, and had spoken improperly to Mr. Norton. I remember it was so sad. I assure you, Louis, I cried nearly all day; for I was shut up in your class-room, and I heard all the boys so merry outside. The very thought makes me quite sorrowful now."
A thought flashed across Louis' mind, and he asked quickly—
"Were you shut up in our class-room that holiday, Alfred? I never saw you when I went in."
"But I saw you once," said Alfred, "when you came in for an atlas; and I saw Mr. Ferrers, and afterwards Edward and Mr. Salisbury and Mr. Trevannion come in; but I was ashamed, and I did not want any one to see me, so I hid myself between the book-case and the wall."
"Did your brother know you were there?" asked Louis.
"Not there," replied Alfred. "He thought I was to go into Dr. Wilkinson's study; but I could not go there, and I didn't want him to speak to me."
"Did Ferrers come to fetch any thing, Alfred?"
Alfred laughed. "It won't be telling tales out of school to tell you, Louis. He came for a key to the first-class exercise book."
"How do you know it was a first-class exercise book, Alfred?" asked Louis, with a glowing face and beating heart.
"I know Edward does Kenrick's Latin Exercises, and I know the key because it's just like the book, and I have seen Mr. Ferrers with it before. I remember once on a half-holiday he did his lessons in the school-room at my desk, and he had it open in the desk, and as I wanted something out. I saw it, though he did not think I did."
"Oh Alfred, Alfred!" cried Louis, clasping him very tightly. "Oh Alfred! dear Alfred!"
The child looked up in astonishment, but Louis was so wild with excitement that he could not say any more.
Just at that moment there was an abrupt movement in the wagon, and Ferrers' head was put over the side.
Alfred uttered an exclamation of fear. "Oh, there's Mr. Ferrers!"
"What rubbish have you been talking, you little impostor?" cried Ferrers. "How dare you talk in such a manner? I've a great mind to kick you from Land's End to John o' Groat's house."
"Ferrers, you know it's all true," said Louis.
Ferrers' face was white with passion and anxiety. "Get along with you, Alfred, you'd better not let me hear any more of your lies, I can tell you."
"If you had not been listening you would not have heard," replied Alfred, taking care to stand out of Ferrers' reach. "Listeners never hear any good of themselves, Mr. Ferrers: you know it's all true, and if I'd told Edward, you wouldn't have liked it."
"Alfred dear, don't say so much," said Louis.
Alfred here set off running, as Ferrers had dismounted in a very threatening attitude, but instead of giving chase to the daring fugitive, the conscience-stricken youth drew near Louis, who was standing in a state of such delight that he must be excused a little if no thought of his school-fellow's disgrace marred it at present. A glance at the changed and terror-stricken countenance of that school-fellow checked the exuberance of Louis' joy, for he was too sympathizing not to feel for him, and he said in a gentle tone,
"I am very sorry for you, Ferrers,—you have heard all that Alfred has said."
"Louis Mortimer!" exclaimed Ferrers, in agony; and Louis was half alarmed by the wild despair of his manner, and the vehemence with which he seized his arm. "Louis Mortimer—it is all true—but what shall I do?"
Louis was so startled that he could not answer at first: at last he replied,
"Go and tell the doctor yourself—that will be much the best way."
"Listen to me a moment—just listen a moment—as soon as Dr. Wilkinson knows it, I shall be expelled, and I shall be ruined for life. What I have suffered, Louis! Oh—you see how it was; I dared not tell about it—how can I hope you can forgive me?"
"I think you must have seen that I forgave you long ago," replied Louis; "I wish I could do any thing for you, Ferrers, but you cannot expect me to bear the blame of this any longer. I think if you tell it to the doctor yourself, he will, perhaps, overlook it, and I will beg for you."
"Oh, Louis!" said Ferrers, seizing the passive hand, and speaking more vehemently; "you heard what the doctor said, and he will do it—and for one fault to lose all my prospects in life! I shall leave at the holidays, and then I will tell Dr. Wilkinson; will you—can you—to save a fellow from such disgrace, spare me a little longer? There are only four weeks—oh, Louis! I shall be eternally obliged—but if you could tell—I have a father—just think how yours would feel. Louis, will you, can you do this very great favor for me? I don't deserve any mercy from you, I know; but you are better than I am."
All the bright visions of acknowledged innocence fled, and a blank seemed to come over poor Louis' soul. The sacrifice seemed far too great, and he felt as if he were not called to make it; and yet—a glance at Ferrers' face—his distress, but not his meanness, struck him. A minute before, he had indulged in bright dreams of more than restoration to favor—of his brother's delight—of his father's and mother's approbation—of his grandfather's satisfaction—and Hamilton's friendly congratulations. And to give up this! it was surely too much to expect.
During his silence, Ferrers kept squeezing, and even kissing, his now cold hand, and repeating,
"Dear Louis—be merciful—will you pity me?—think of all—I don't deserve it, I know." And though the meanness and cowardliness were apparent, Louis looked at little else than the extreme agony of the suppliant.
"Don't kiss my hand, Ferrers—I can't bear it," he said at length, drawing his hand quickly away; and there was something akin to disgust mingled with the sorrowful look he gave to his companion.
"But Louis, will you?"
"Oh Ferrers! it is a hard thing to ask of me," said Louis, bitterly.
"Just for a little longer," implored Ferrers, "to save me from a lasting disgrace."
Louis turned his head away—it was a hard, hard struggle: "I will try to bear it if God will help me," he said; "I will not mention it at present."
"Oh! how can I thank you! how can I! how shall I ever be able!" cried Ferrers: "but will Alfred tell?"
"He does not know," replied Louis, in a low tone.
"But will he not mention what has passed?"
"I will warn him then," said Louis.
Ferrers then in broken sentences renewed his thanks, and Louis, after hearing a few in silence, as if he heard nothing, turned his full moist eyes on him with a sorrowful beseeching look,
"You have done a very wicked thing, Ferrers. Oh do pray to God to forgive you."
"I will try to do any thing you wish," replied Ferrers.
"A prayer because I wished, could do you no good. You must feel you have sinned against God. Do try to think of this. If it should make you do so, I think I could cheerfully bear this disgrace a little longer for you, though what it is to bear I cannot tell you."
"You are almost an angel, Louis!" exclaimed Ferrers.
"Oh don't say such things to me, Ferrers," said Louis, "pray don't. I am not more so than I was before this—I am but a sinful creature like yourself, and it is the remembrance of this that makes me pity you. Now do leave me alone; I cannot bear to hear you flatter me now."
Ferrers lingered yet, though Louis moved from him with a shuddering abhorrence of the fawning, creeping manner of his school-fellow. Seeing that Ferrers still loitered near him, he asked if there were any thing more to say.
"Will your brother know this?"
"Reginald?" replied Louis. "Of course—no—I shall not tell him."
"A thousand thousand times I thank you,—oh Louis, Louis, you are too good!"
"Will you be kind enough to let me alone," said Louis gently, but very decidedly.
This time the request was complied with, and Louis resumed his former seat, and fixing his eyes vacantly on the sweet prospect before him, ruminated with a full heart on the recent discovery; and, strange to say, though he had voluntarily promised to screen Ferrers a little longer from his justly merited disgrace, he felt as if it had been only a compulsory sense of duty and not benevolence which had led him to do so, and was inclined to murmur at his hard lot. For some time he sat in a kind of sullen apathy, without being able to send up a prayer, even though he felt he needed help to feel rightly. At length the kindly tears burst forth, and covering his face with his hands he wept softly. "I am very wrong—very ungrateful to God for His love to me. He has borne so much for me, and I am so unwilling to bear a little for poor Ferrers. Oh what sinful feelings I have! My heavenly Father, teach me to feel pity for him, for he has no one to help him; help him, teach him, Thyself."
Such, and many more, were the deep heart-breathings of the dear boy, and who ever sought for guidance and grace, and was rejected? and how unspeakably comfortable is the assurance, that for each of us there is with Christ the very grace we need.
The sullen fit was gone, and Louis was his own happy self again, when little Alfred came to tell him that Mr. Witworth had given the order to return home,—"And I came to tell you, dear Louis, for I wanted to walk home with you. What a beast that Ferrers is! see if I won't tell Edward of him."
"Hush, Alfred!" said Louis, putting his finger on the little boy's mouth. "Do you know that God is very angry when we call each other bad names, and surely you do not wish to revenge yourself? I will tell you a very sweet verse which our Saviour said: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.'" As the little monitor spoke, the soft consciousness of the comfort of those sweet words rushed over his own mind, "children of your Father who is in heaven."
"And am I a child—His child indeed! I will try to glorify my Saviour who has given me that great name."
That is a sure promise that "they who water shall be watered," and who is there that has endeavored to lead another heavenward, that has not felt, at one time or another, a double share of that living water refreshing his own soul?
With one arm round his little friend's neck, Louis wandered home, and, during the walk, easily persuaded Alfred not to say a word of what had passed; and as for Louis—oh, his eye was brighter, his step more buoyant, his heart full of gladness!
A little word, and I will close this long chapter. It is good for us to consider how unable we are to think and to do rightly ourselves: we must do so if we would be saved by Christ. When we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but oh, how gracious—how incomprehensible is that love that puts into our minds good desires, brings the same to good effect, and rewards us for those things which He Himself has enabled us to do!
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind."—1 Cor. xiii. 4.
Louis entered the class-room sooner than usual one evening, and sitting down by his brother, spread before him a few strawberries and some sweet-cakes, inviting him and one of Salisbury's brothers who was on the other side of him to partake of them.
"What beauties they are!" exclaimed John Salisbury; "have you had a box, Louis? How did you get them?"
"Guess," said Louis.
"Nay, I can't guess. Strawberries like these don't come at this time of the year in boxes."
"I guess," said Frank Digby from the opposite side of the table, in a tone as if he had been speaking to some one behind him. "Fudge has a dinner party to-night, hasn't he?"
"Yes," said Louis, laughing; "how did you know that?"
"Oh, I have the little green bird that tells every thing," replied Frank.
"What's that, Frank?" cried Salisbury; "Fudge a dinner party? How snug he's kept it!"
"Why you don't suppose that he's obliged to inform us all when he has some idea of doing the genteel," remarked one of the first class.
"Are Hamilton and Trevannion invited?" asked Salisbury.
"In good troth! thou art a bat of the most blind species," said Frank; "didn't you see them both just now in all their best toggery? Trevannion went up to his room just after school, and has, I believe, at last adorned his beauteous person to his mind—all graces and delicious odors.—Faugh! he puts me in mind of a hair-dresser's shop."
"He declares that his new perfumes are something expressly superior," said another. "He wouldn't touch your vulgar scents."
"His millefleurs is at all events uncommonly like a muskrat," said Salisbury.
"And," remarked Frank, "as that erudite youth, Oars, would say, 'puts me in mind of some poet, but I've forgotten his name.' However, two lines borrowed from him, which my sister quotes to me when I am genteel, will do as well as his name:
"'I cannot talk with civet in the room— A fine puss gentleman, that's all perfume.'"
Reginald laughed. "I often think of the overrun flower-pots in the cottages at Dashwood, when Trevannion has been adorning himself. I once mortally offended him by the same quotation."
"Had you the amazing audacity! the intolerable presumption!" cried Frank, pretending to start. "I perceive his magnificent scorn didn't quite annihilate you; I think, though, he was three hours embellishing himself to-night."
"Frank, that's impossible!" cried Louis, laughing, "for it was four o'clock when he went, and it's only half-past six now."
"Cease your speech, and eat your booty: I dare say it is sweet enough; sweetness is the usual concomitant of goods so obtained."
"What do you mean, Frank?" asked Louis.
"Sweet little innocent; of course he don't know—no, in course he don't—how should he? they came into his hand by accident," said Frank, mockingly; "I wish such fortunate accidents would happen to me."
"They were given to me, Frank," said Louis, quietly. "Mrs. Wilkinson gave them to me when she told me I must not stay in the study."
"What a kind person Mrs. Wilkinson is!—oh! Louis, Louis, Tanta est depravitas humani generis!"
"FRANK!" shouted Reginald, "at your peril!"
"Well, my dear—what, is my life in peril from you again? I must take care then."
"Come, Frank, have done," cried one of his class-fellows, "can't you leave Louis Mortimer alone—it doesn't signify to you."
"I only meant to admonish him by a gentle hint, that he must not presume to contradict gentlemen whose honor and veracity may at least be on a par with his own."
"Frank," said Louis, "I cannot think how you can suppose me guilty of such meanness."
"The least said, the soonest mended," remarked Salisbury. "We must have large powers of credence where you are concerned. Clear off your old scores, and then we will begin a new one with you."
Reginald started to his feet. "You shall rue this, Salisbury."
"Two can play at your game," rejoined Salisbury, rising.
Reginald was springing forward, but was checked by Louis, who threw himself on him. "Do not fight, dear Reginald—do not, pray."
"I will—unhand me, Louis! I tell you I WILL—let me go."
"Dear Reginald, not for me—wait a minute."
At this moment the form behind them fell with a heavy bang, and in struggling to release himself, Reginald fell over it, dragging Louis with him. Louis was a little hurt, but he did not let go his hold. "Reginald," he said, "ask Mrs. Wilkinson to say so herself; they will believe her, I suppose."
The fall had a little checked his rage, and Reginald sat brooding in sullen anger on the ground. At last he started up and left the room, saying to Louis, "It's all your fault, then—you've no spirit, and you don't want me to have any."
Louis mechanically assisted in raising the form, and stood silently by the table. He looked quickly round, and pushing the little share of his untasted fruit from him, went into the school-room. He did not recover his spirits again that evening, even when Reginald apologized to him for his roughness, pleading in excuse the extreme trouble it gave him to prevent himself from fighting with Salisbury.
As they went up stairs that night, in spite of the cautions given by the usher to be quiet, a sham scuffle ensued on purpose between Salisbury and Frank Digby, during which the former let his candle fall over the bannisters, and they were left in darkness; though, happily for the comfort of the doctor's dinner party, the second hall and back staircase arrangement effectually prevented the noise that ensued from reaching the drawing-room.
"Halloa there—you fellows! Mortimer, ahoa!" cried one of Salisbury's party; "bring your light."
"You may come and fetch it if you want it," shouted Reginald from his room.
"We're in the dark," was the reply.
"So much the better," said Reginald: "perhaps you will behave a little better now; if you want a light you may come and light your candle here."
"Our candle's on the hall floor," said another voice, amidst suppressed laughter.
"Pick it up, then."
"We're desperately afraid of hobgoblins," cried Frank, rushing into his room and blowing their candle out.
"What did you do that for, Frank?" asked several indignant voices.
"Because Salisbury and his myrmidons were coming to carry it off by a coup de main—he-he-he—" giggled Frank.
"And so you've given your own head a blow to punish your tooth! well done," exclaimed another voice at the door.
"Peters, is that you?"
"What's to be done now?"
"How shall we get a light?"
"If you will give me the candle I will get one," said Louis.
Accordingly, the extinguished candle was delivered into his hands, and he felt his way to the kitchen door, where he obtained a light, and then, picking up the fallen candle, tried to arrange its shattered form, and replace it. While thus employed, Ferrers joined him, and offered his aid, and on Louis' accepting it, said in a low tone,—
"Louis, I am a wretch, I am so very miserable. I can't think how you can bear so much from one who has never done you any thing but harm."
Louis raised his head from his work in astonishment, and saw that Ferrers looked as he said, very miserable, and was deadly pale.
"I do so despise myself—to see you bearing all so sweetly, Louis. I should have been different, perhaps, if I had known you before—I love, I admire you, as much as I hate myself."
"Are you coming with the candle there?" cried a voice from above: "Louis Mortimer and William Ferrers in deep confabulation—wonders will never cease."
Ferrers jumped up and ran up stairs with his candle, and Louis followed more leisurely to his own room, nor could any thing induce him that night to tell a story. How long and earnest was his prayer for one who had injured him so cruelly, but towards whom he now, instead of resentment, felt only pity and interest!
Ferrers, after tossing from side to side, and trying all schemes for several hours, in vain, to drown his remorse in sleep, at last, at daybreak, sank into an uneasy slumber. The image of Louis, and his mute expression of patient sorrow that evening, haunted him, and he felt an indefinable longing to be like him, and a horror of himself in comparison with him. He remembered Louis' words, "Pray to God;" and one murmured petition was whispered in the stillness of the night, "Lord have mercy on a great sinner."
Since his disgrace, Louis generally had his brother for a companion during their walks; but the next morning Ferrers joined him, and asked Louis to walk with him to the downs. They were both naturally silent for the beginning of the walk; but on Louis making some remark, Ferrers said, "I can't think of any thing just now, Louis; I have done every thing wrong to-day. My only satisfaction is in telling you how much I feel your goodness. I can't think how you can endure me."
"Oh, Ferrers!" said Louis, "what am I that I should not bear you? and if you are really sorry, and wish to be better, I think I may some day love you."
"That you can never do, Louis,—you must hate and despise me."
"No, I do not," said Louis, kindly; "I am very sorry for you."
"You must have felt very angry."
"I did feel very unkind and shocked at first," replied Louis; "but by God's grace I learned afterwards to feel very differently, and you can't think how often I have pitied you since."
"Pitied me!" said Ferrers.
"Oh yes," replied Louis, sweetly; "because I am sure you must have been very unhappy with the knowledge of sin in your heart—I don't think there is any thing so hard as remorse to bear."
"I did not feel much sorrow till you were so kind to me," said Ferrers. "What a wretch you must think me!"
"I have sinned too greatly myself to judge very hardly of you; and when I think of all the love shown to me, I feel anxious to show some love to others; and I should be afraid, if I thought too hardly of you, I should soon be left to find out what I am."
Ferrers did not reply; he did not understand the motives which induced Louis' forbearance and gentleness, for he was an entire stranger to religion, and never having met with any one resembling Louis, could not comprehend, though he did not fail to admire, his character, now its beauty was so conspicuously before him. He felt there was an immeasurable distance between them—for the first time he found himself wanting. Mentally putting himself in Louis' place, he acknowledged that no persuasion could have induced him to act so generously and disinterestedly; and knowing the keen sensitiveness of Louis to disgrace, he wondered how one so alive to the opinion of others, and naturally so yielding and wavering, could steadily and uncomplainingly persevere in his benevolent purpose; for not by word or sign did Louis even hint the truth to Reginald—the usual depository of his cares and secrets.
Louis, imagining the silence of his companion to proceed from shame and distress, proceeded after a few minutes to reassure him.
"You must not think that I am miserable, Ferrers, for lately I have been much happier than even when I was in favor, for now I do not care so much what the boys will think or say of me, and that thought was always coming in the way of every thing; and there are many things which make me very happy, often."
"What things, Louis?"
"I do not think you would understand me," replied Louis, timidly; "the things and thoughts that make me happy are so different from what we hear generally here."
"But tell me, Louis. I want to know how it is you are so much better than any one else here. I want to be better myself."
"Oh, dear Ferrers," said Louis, gazing earnestly in Ferrers' face, "if you do want to be better, come to our Saviour, and He will make you all you want to be. It is the feeling of His goodness, and the happy hope of being God's children, and having all their sins forgiven, that make all God's people so happy; and you may have this happiness too, if you will. I do not think we think enough of our great name of Christian."
"You read your Bible a great deal, Louis, don't you?"
"Not so much as I ought," replied Louis, blushing, "but I love it very much."
"It always seems to me such a dull book, I am always very glad when our daily reading's over."
"I remember when I thought something in the same way," said Louis: "only mamma used always to explain things so pleasantly, that even then I used to like to hear her read it to us. Papa once said to me that the Bible is like a garden of flowers, through which a careless person may walk, and notice nothing, but that one who is really anxious to find flowers or herbs to cure his disease, will look carefully till he finds what he wants, and that some happy and eager seekers will find pleasure in all."
"Louis, you are very happy," said Ferrers, "though very strange. I would give a world, were it mine, to lay this heavy burden of mine down somewhere, and be as light in disgrace as you are."
Ferrers sighed deeply, and Louis said softly, "'Come unto Him all ye that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.'"
Here they parted. The last whispers of the Saviour's gracious invitation, those "comfortable words," lingered in Ferrers' ears as he entered the house, and returned at night; but he did not throw himself and his burden at the Saviour's feet. And what hindered him? It was pride, pride—though forced to feel himself a sinner, pride still retained its hold, more feebly than before, but still as a giant.
The holidays were fast approaching. Ten days of the three weeks' examination had passed, and every energy was exerted, and every feeling of emulation called out, among those who had any hope of obtaining the honors held out to the successful candidates. It was surprising to see what could be, and what was, done. Even idle boys who had let their fair amount of talent lie dormant during the half year, now came forth, and, straining every nerve, were seen late and early at work which should have been gradually mastered during the last five months; denying themselves both recreation and sleep, with an energy, which, had it been earlier exerted in only half the degree, would have been highly laudable. Some of the latter, who possessed great talent, were successful, but generally the prizes fell to the lot of those who had throughout been uniformly steady, and who had gained an amount of thorough information which the eager study of a few weeks could not attain. Now there were beating hearts and anxious faces, and noisy summing up of the day's successes or losses, when the daily close of school proclaimed a truce to the emulous combatants. A few there were who appeared totally indifferent as to the issue of the contest, and who hailed the term of examination as entailing no set tasks to be said the ensuing day under certain penalties, and, revelling in extended play-hours, cared nothing for disgrace, having no character to lose.
Reginald bid fair to carry off all, or nearly all, the second-class honors; still, there were in his class several whose determined efforts and talents gave him considerable work in winning the battle.
Amongst all this spirited warfare, it is not to be supposed that Louis was tranquil; for, though naturally of an indolent temperament, there was in him a fund of latent emulation, which only wanted a stimulus such as the present to rouse him to action. Louis was a boy of no mean ability, and now, fired with the hope of distinguishing himself, and gaining a little honor that might efface the remembrance of past idleness, and give some pleasure to his dear parents, he applied himself so diligently and unremittingly to his studies during the last month, as to astonish his masters.
I do not mean to particularize the subjects for examination given by Dr. Wilkinson to the two upper classes, for this simple reason, that my classical and mathematical ignorance might cause mistakes more amusing to the erudite reader than pleasant to the author. It shall be sufficient to say, that whatever these subjects had been, the day's examination had gone through in a manner equally creditable to masters and pupils; and after a few turns in the fresh air when tea was over, a knot, comprising the greater part of the above-mentioned classes, assembled round their head man to congratulate him on his undoubted successes, and to talk over the events of the day elsewhere. Reginald and Louis could spare little time for talking, and were walking up and down the playground, questioning and answering each other with the most untiring diligence, though both of them had been up since four o'clock that morning. There were a few who had risen still earlier, and who now lay fast asleep on forms in the school-room, or endeavored to keep their eyes open by following the example of our hero and his brother.
"John's fast asleep," said Salisbury, laughing; "he has a capital way of gaining time—by getting up at half-past three, and falling asleep at seven."
"How does he stand for the prizes?" asked Smith.
"I'm sure I can't tell you; I suppose Mortimer's sure of the first classics and history—and he ought, for he's coming to us next half. John's next to him."
"I hear little Mortimer's winning laurels," remarked Trevannion.
"Oh! for him," said Harris, a second-class boy, "because he's been such a dunce before;—I suspect Ferrers helps him."
"Ferrers!" cried all at once, and there was a laugh—"Do you hear, Ferrers?"
"Of course I do," replied Ferrers.
"He's not good-natured enough," remarked another.
"He needs no help," said Ferrers.
"You're sure of the mathematical prize, Ferrers; and Hamilton, of course, gets that for Latin composition."
Ferrers did not reply—his thoughts had flown to Louis, from whom they were now seldom absent; and, though he had been generally successful, yet the settled gloom and anxiety of his manner led many to suppose that he entertained fears for the issue of his examination. There were others who imagined that there was some deeper cause of anxiety preying on his mind, or that he was suffering from illness and fatigue—and one or two made mysterious remarks on his intimacy with Louis, and wondered what all foreboded.
"I wonder who'll get the medal," said one.
"Hamilton, of course," replied Smith.
"You're out there," said Frank Digby. "My magic has discovered that either the Lady Louisa or myself will obtain it. I admire your selfishness, young gentlemen—you assign to yourselves every thing, and leave us out of the question. If I can't be a genius, I mean to be a good boy."
Many bitter remarks were then made on Louis' late good behavior, and a few upon his manner towards Ferrers, which, by some, was styled meanness of the highest degree.
Ferrers could not endure it—he left the circle and walked about the playground alone, full of remorse, thinking over every plan he had formed for making amends to Louis for all. He looked up once or twice with a gasping effort, and, oh! in the wrinkled and contracted forehead what trouble might be read. "Oh! that it were a dream," he at last uttered, "that I could wake and find it a warning."
There was a soft, warm hand in his, and Louis' gentle voice replied, "Do not grieve now about me, Ferrers, it will soon be over."
Ferrers started and drew his hand away.
"You are not angry with me, are you?" said Louis; "I saw you alone, and I was afraid you wanted comfort—I did not like to come before, for fear the boys should make remarks, Reginald especially."
Ferrers looked at Louis a minute without speaking, and then, pushing him off, walked quickly to the house, and did not show himself any more that evening.
* * * * *
Breakfast had long been finished, and the school was once more assembled; the second class was waiting impatiently on the raised end of the school-room for the doctor's entrance, or for a summons to his presence; and near, at their several desks, busily writing answers to a number of printed questions, sat the first class. It was nearly an hour past the time, and impatient eyes were directed to the clock over the folding-doors, which steadily marked the flying minutes.
"Where can the doctor be?" had been asked many times already, but no one could answer.
"We shall have no time—we shall not get done before night," muttered several malcontents. "What can keep the doctor?"
At this moment the folding-doors were quickly flung open, and Dr. Wilkinson entered, and rapidly made his way towards the upper end of the school-room, but in such a state of unwonted agitation that the boys were by common consent hushed into silence, and every occupation was suspended to watch their master's movements. "How strange he looks!" whispered one; "something's the matter." Dr. Wilkinson took no notice of the open eyes and mouths of his awe-struck pupils—all his aim seemed to be to reach his seat with the greatest speed.
"What's the row?" muttered Salisbury, in an under-tone to Hamilton, having some idea that the latter could afford a clue to the clearing up of the mystery. "Do you know of any thing, Hamilton?" Hamilton shook his head, and fairly stood up to see what was going on.
Dr. Wilkinson at length reached his place, and there stood a few minutes to collect himself. He then looked around, and asked, in a quick, low tone, for Louis Mortimer. Louis was almost behind him, and in some terror presented himself; though he was unconscious of any misdemeanor, he did not know what new suspicion might have attached to him. His gentle "Here, sir," was distinctly heard in every part of the large room, in the breathless silence which now ruled. Dr. Wilkinson looked on him, but there was no anger in his gaze—his eyes glistened, and though there might be indignation mixed with the many emotions struggling for expression in his countenance, Louis felt, as he raised his timid eyes, that there was nothing now to fear. The doctor seemed incapable of speaking; after one or two vain efforts he placed both hands on Louis' head, and uttered a deep "God bless you!"
It would be impossible to describe the flood of rapture which this action poured upon poor Louis. The endurance of the last few weeks was amply repaid by the consciousness that somehow—and he did not consider how—his innocence was established, and now, in the presence of his school-fellows, publicly acknowledged.
For another minute Dr. Wilkinson stood with both hands resting on the head of his gentle pupil, then, removing one, he placed it under Louis' chin, and turned the glowing face up to himself and smiled—such a smile none remembered ever to have seen on that stern face.
"Have you found all out, sir?" cried Reginald, starting forward.
The doctor's hand motioned him back, and turning Louis round, so as to face the school, he said in a distinct, yet excited manner,
"Young gentlemen, we have been doing a wrong unconsciously, and I, as one of the first, am anxious to make to the subject of it the only reparation in my power, by declaring to you all that Louis Mortimer is entirely innocent of the offence with which he was charged; and I am sure I may say in the name of you all, as well as of myself, that we are very sorry that he should have suffered so much on account of it."
There was a hum all around, and many of the lower school who knew nothing of the matter, began whispering among themselves. But all was hushed directly the doctor resumed his speech.
"There are some among you who are not aware, I believe, to what I allude; but those who do know, can bear testimony to the gentle endurance of false accusation that Louis Mortimer has exhibited during the whole time he has been made to suffer so severely for the fault of another. I cannot express my admiration of his conduct—conduct which I am sure has had for its foundation the fear and love of God. Stay, gentlemen," said the doctor, stilling with a motion of his hand the rising murmur of approbation, "all is not yet told. This patient endurance might be lauded as an unusual occurrence, were there nothing more—but there is more. Louis Mortimer might have produced proofs of his innocence and cleared himself in the eyes of us all."
"Louis!" exclaimed Reginald, involuntarily.
Louis' head was down as far as his master's hand would allow it, and deep crimson blushes passed quickly over the nearly tearful face—and now the remembrance of Ferrers, poor Ferrers, who had surely told all. Louis felt very sorry for him, and almost ashamed on his own account. He wished he could get behind his master, but that was impossible, and he stood still, as the doctor continued, "Three weeks ago Louis discovered that a little boy was in the study on the day when Kenrick's Key was abstracted, who could, of course, bring the desired information—the information which would have righted him in all our eyes; but mark—you who are ready to revenge injuries—because this would have involved the expulsion of one who had deeply injured him, he has never, by sign or word, made known to any one the existence of such information, persuading the little boy also to keep the secret; and this, which from him I should never have learned, I have just heard from the guilty person, who, unable to bear the remorse of his own mind, has voluntarily confessed his sin and Louis' estimable conduct. Young gentlemen, I would say to all of you, 'GO AND DO LIKEWISE.'"
During this speech, Reginald had hardly been able to control himself, especially when he found that Louis had never mentioned his knowledge to himself; and now he sprang forward, unchecked by the doctor, and, seizing his brother, who was immediately released, asked, "Why did you not tell me, Louis? How was it I never guessed?"
While he spoke, there was a buz of inquiry at the lower end of the school, and those who knew the story crowded eagerly up to the dais to speak to Louis. Alfred's voice was very distinct, for he had worked himself up to his brother:
"Edward, tell me all about it. I'm sure if I'd known I'd have told. I didn't know why Louis was so joyful."
Edward could answer nothing: his heart was as full as the doctor's, and with almost overflowing eyes and a trembling step, he pushed his way to Louis, who had thrown himself on Reginald and was sobbing violently.
"Louis, I'm very sorry," said one. "Louis, you'll forgive me—I'm sure I beg pardon," said other voices; and others added, "How good you are!—I shouldn't have done it."
Louis raised his head from that dear shoulder, so often the place where it had rested in his troubles, and said, amidst his sobs,
"Oh! don't praise me. I was very unwilling to do it."
"Let him alone," said the doctor. "Reginald, take him up stairs. Gentlemen, I can do nothing more, nor you neither, I think, to-day. I shall give you a holiday for the remainder of it."
There was a lull in the noise as Dr. Wilkinson spoke, but just as Louis was going out, there arose a deafening cheer, three times repeated, and then the boys picked up their books and hurried out of doors.
Louis' heart was full of gratitude, but at the same time it was sobered by the recollection of what Ferrers must now suffer, and the doubt he felt respecting his fate; and as soon as he had recovered himself, he sought the doctor to beg pardon for him.
"As he has voluntarily confessed his fault, I shall not expel him," replied the doctor; "but I intend that he shall beg your pardon before the school."
Louis, however, pleaded so earnestly that he had already suffered enough, and begged as a favor that nothing more might be said, that at length Dr. Wilkinson gave way.
The sensation that this event had caused in the school was very great: those who had been loudest in condemning Louis, were now the loudest in his praise, and most anxious to load him with every honor; and when he made his appearance among them with Reginald, whose manly face beamed with satisfaction and brotherly pride, he was seized by a party, and against his will, chaired round the playground, everywhere greeted by loud cheers, with now and then "A groan for Ferrers!"
"Louis, my man, you look sorrowful," said Hamilton, as he was landed at last on the threshold of the school-room door.
"No, no," said Salisbury, who had been foremost in the rioting; "cheer up, Louis—what's the matter?"
"I am afraid," said Louis, turning away.
"Afraid! of what old boy?" said Salisbury. "Come, out with it."
"I am afraid you will make me think too much of what ought not to be thought of at all—you are all very kind, but—"
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Salisbury; "we're all so vexed that we have been such bears, and we want to make it up."
"I am sure I do not think any thing about it now," said Louis, holding out both his hands and shaking all by turns; "I am very happy. Will you let me ask one thing of you?"
"A hundred," was the reply; "and we'll fly on Mercury's pennons to do your bidding."
"Put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes," said Frank Digby.
"When poor Ferrers comes among us, for my sake, do not take any notice of what has happened."
There was a dark cloud on the faces before Louis, and Hamilton's lip trembled with scorn. No reply was made.
"I am the only one who has any thing to forgive; please promise me to leave him alone."
"Then," said Salisbury, abruptly, "whenever he comes in, I walk out, for I can't sit in the same room and be civil.
"I shan't be particularly inclined to favor him with my discourse," said Frank; "so I promise to leave him alone."
"Will you try to be the same as you were before? Do!" said Louis.
"That's impossible!" they all cried; "we cannot, Louis."
"If you only knew how unhappy he has been, you would pity him very much," said Louis, sorrowfully. "He has been so very sad—and do not talk of this to other people, please. I should be so much more happy if you would try to be the same to him."
"All we can promise, is not to notice it, Louis," said Hamilton; "and now, don't be sad any longer."
Yet Louis was sad and anxious; though now and then a thought that all was clear, darted like a sunbeam across his mind, and called forth a grateful emotion. He longed for the holidays to come,—the favor he was in was almost painful.
Ferrers was invisible till the next evening, when he joined his class-fellows at prayers. In spite of the half-promise Louis had obtained from them, a studied unconsciousness of his presence, and a chilling coldness, greeted him. Louis alone stood by him, and looked in the deadly white countenance by him with heartfelt sympathy and compassion; and glanced at several of his companions to remind them of his wish. Ferrers seemed hardly the same; the proud, bullying air of arrogance had given place to a saddened, subdued despair; and yet his expression was far more pleasing in its humility than the natural one.
One or two, noticing Louis' anxiety, addressed him civilly, and even wished him "Good-night!" which he did not return by more than an inclination of the head. He expected no pity, and had nerved himself to bear the scorn he had brought on himself; but any attention was a matter of surprise to him.
Wearily and joylessly had the last week of the examination passed away for Ferrers; although in one branch he had borne away the palm from all competitors. His confession had, in some measure, atoned for his great fault, in the eyes of his judicious master; for, however much it called for the severest reprehension, the fact of the mind not being hardened to all sense of shame and right feeling, made the doctor anxious to improve his better feelings; and, instead of driving them all away by ill-timed severity, considering how lamentably the early training of Ferrers had been neglected, he endeavored, after the first emotion of indignation had passed away, to rouse the fallen youth to a sense of honor and Christian responsibility; and sought to excite, as far as he was able, some feeling of compassion for him among his school-fellows.
There were, however, few among them who had learned the Christian duty of bearing one another's burdens; few among them, who, because circumstances over which they had had no control, had placed them out of the temptations that had overcome their penitent school-fellow, did not esteem themselves better than he, and look scornfully upon him, as though they would say with the proud Pharisee of old, "Stand by, for I am holier than thou!" And is it not the case around us generally? Alas! how apt we are all to condemn our fellow-creatures; forgetting that, had we been throughout similarly situated, our course might have been the same, or even worse. "Who is it that has made us to differ from another?"
Louis, as I have mentioned, felt very deeply for Ferrers; for, besides their late close connection, had he not known what it was to suffer for sin? He knew what it was to carry about a heavy heart, and to wake in the morning as if life had no joy to give; and he knew, too, what it was to lay his sins at a Saviour's feet, and to take the light yoke upon him. How anxious was he to lead his fellow-sinner there! Though his simple efforts seemed impotent at the time, years after, when his school-fellow had grown a steady and useful Christian, he dated his first serious impressions to this time of disgrace; and the remembrance of Louis' sweet conduct was often before him.
Louis' mind had been so chastened by his previous adversity that his present prosperity was meekly though thankfully borne. It came like sunshine after showers, cheering and refreshing his path, but not too powerful; for he was gradually learning more and more, to fear any thing that had a tendency to draw his mind to rest complacently on himself.
But the prize-day came—the joyful breaking-up-day—the day that was to bring his dear parents; and of all the bounding hearts, there were none more so than those of the two brothers. Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer had given their boys reason to expect them in the afternoon of that day, and they were to go from Clifton to Heronhurst before returning home.
Although Dr. Wilkinson's breaking-up-day was not ostensibly a public day, yet so many of the pupils' friends claimed admittance to the hall on the occasion, that it became so in fact, and was usually very respectably attended. Many of the doctor's old pupils came, to recall their old feelings, by a sight of this most memorable exhibition. And on this day, Vernon Digby was present with a younger brother, not to witness Frank's triumph, for that young gentleman had none to boast of, but to look on the theatre of his former fame, and to see how his place was now filled.
Dr. Wilkinson's high desk had been removed from the dais, and in its place stood a long table covered with a red cloth, on which were arranged a number of handsomely bound books of different sizes; and in front of the dais, in a semicircular form, were placed the rows of seats for the boys. On each side of this semicircle, and behind and parallel with Dr. Wilkinson's seat, was accommodation for the spectators. The room was in the most inviting order, and had been hung with garlands of flowers by the boys. At eleven o'clock the pupils assembled, and under the inspection of two of the under masters, seated themselves in the places assigned them, the little boys being placed in the front row.
As the exact fate of each was unknown, though tolerably accurately guessed, there was much anxiety. Some of the youths were quite silent and pale, others endeavored to hide their agitation by laughing and talking quietly, and some affected to consider their nearest companion as more sure than themselves. Even Hamilton was not free from a little nervousness, and though he talked away to Vernon Digby, who was sitting by him, he cast more than one fidgety glance at the red-covered table, and perceptibly changed color when the class-room door opened to allow the long train of ladies and gentlemen to enter, and closed after Dr. Wilkinson, and a few of his particular friends, among whom were two great scholars who had assisted in the examination of the past week.