LOUIS' SCHOOL DAYS,
A STORY FOR BOYS.
By E. J. May
NEW-YORK: D. APPLETON & COMPANY, 200 BROADWAY. 1852.
It was originally my intention to leave the child of my imagination to make its way where it would, without any letter of introduction in the form of the usual prefatory address to the reader; but having been assured that a preface is indispensable, I am laid under the necessity of formally giving a little insight into the character of the possible inmate of many a happy home.
Reader, the following pages claim no interest on the score of authenticity. They are no fiction founded on facts. They profess to be nothing but fiction, used as a vehicle for illustrating certain broad and fundamental truths in our holy religion.
It has often struck me, in recalling religious stories (to which I acknowledge myself much indebted), that many of them fell into an error which might have the effect of confusing the mind of a thinking child, namely, that of drawing a perfect character as soon as the soul has laid hold of Christ, without any mention of those struggles through which the Christian must pass, in order to preserve a holy consistency before men. This would seem to exclude the necessity of maintaining a warfare.
The doctrine I have endeavored to maintain in the following pages is, that man being born in "sin, a child of wrath," has, by nature, all his affections estranged from God; that, when by grace, through faith in Christ, a new life has been implanted within him, his affections are restored to their rightful Lord, every thought and imagination is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and his whole being longs to praise Him who has called him "out of darkness into light"—to praise Him "not only with his lips, but in his life." Then commences the struggle between light and darkness, between the flesh and the spirit, between the old and new man; and the results of this conflict are seen in the outward conduct of the Christian soldier.
The character of the child of God does not essentially alter, but a new impulse is given him. Whatever good quality was in his natural state conspicuous in him, will, in a state of grace and newness of life, shine forth with double lustre; and he will find his besetting sin his greatest hindrance in pressing forward to the attainment of personal holiness. The great wide difference is, that he desires to be holy, and the Lord, who gives him this desire, gives him also the strength to overcome his natural mind; and the more closely he waits on his heavenly Father for His promised aid, the more holily and consistently he will walk; and when, through the deceits of his heart, the allurements of the world, or the temptations of Satan, he relaxes his vigilance, and draws less largely from the fountain of his strength, a sad falling away is the inevitable consequence. This warfare, this danger of backsliding, ends only with the life, when, and when only, he will be perfect, for he shall be like his Saviour.
As a writer for the young, I dare not plead even the humble pretensions of my little volume in deprecation of the criticism which ought to be the lot of every work professing to instruct others. In choosing the arena of a boy's school for the scene of my hero's actions, I have necessarily been compelled to introduce many incidents and phrases to which, perhaps, some very scrupulous critics might object as out of place in a religious work; but my readers will do well to recollect, that to be useful, a story must be attractive, and to be attractive, it must be natural; and I trust that they who candidly examine mine will find nothing therein that can produce a wrong impression. It has not been without an anxious sense of the great responsibility dependent on me in my present capacity, that this little effort has been made. Should it be the instrument of strengthening in one young one the best lessons he has received, it will, indeed, not have been in vain. To the service of Him who is the strength and help of all His people, it is dedicated.
"Be Thou alone exalted: If there's a thought of favor placed on me— THINE be it all! Forgive its evil and accept its good— I cast it at Thy feet."
Doleful were the accounts received from time to time of Louis Mortimer's life with his tutor at Dashwood Rectory; and, if implicit credence might be yielded to them, it would be supposed that no poor mortal was ever so persecuted by Latin verses, early rising, and difficult problems, as our hero. His eldest brother, to whom these pathetic relations were made, failed not to stimulate him with exciting passages of school life—and these, at last, had the desired effect, drawing from Louis the following epistle:
"My dear Reginald,
"Your letter was as welcome as usual. You cannot imagine what a treat it is to hear from you. Mr. Phillips is kind, but so very different from dear Mr. Daunton. What I dislike most is, that he says so often, 'What did Mr. Daunton teach you? I never saw a boy so ignorant in my life!' I do not care how much he says of me, but I cannot bear to hear him accuse dear Mr. Daunton of not teaching me properly. I believe I am really idle often, but sometimes, when I try most, it seems to give least satisfaction. The other day I was busy two hours at some Latin verses, and I took so much pains with them—I had written an 'Ode to the Rising Sun,' and felt quite interested, and thought Mr. Phillips would be pleased; but when I took it to him, he just looked at it, and taking a pen dashed out word after word, and said, so disagreeably, 'Shocking! Shocking, Louis! Disgraceful, after all that I said yesterday—the pains that I took with you,' 'Indeed, sir,' I said, 'I tried a great deal,' 'Fine ideas! fine ideas! no doubt,' he said, 'but I have told you dozens of times that I do not want ideas—I want feet.' I wish those same feet would run away to Clifton with me, Reginald; I hope I have not been saying any thing wrong about Mr. Phillips—I should be very sorry to do so, for he is very kind in his way: he tells me I do not know what I am wishing for, and that school will not suit me, and a great deal about my having to fag much harder and getting into disgrace; but never mind, I should like to make the experiment, for I shall be with you; and, dear as Dashwood is, it is so dull without papa and mamma—I can hardly bear to go into the Priory now they are away. I seem to want Freddy's baby-voice in the nursery; and sober Neville and Mary are quite a part of home—how long it seems since I saw them! Well, I hope I shall come to you at Easter. Do you not wish it were here? I had a nice letter from mamma yesterday—she was at Florence when she wrote, and is getting quite strong, and so is little Mary. I have now no more time; mamma said papa had written to you, or I would have told you all the news. I wanted to tell you very much how our pigeons are, and the rabbits, and Mary's hen, which I shall give in Mrs. Colthrop's care when I leave Dashwood. But good bye, in a great hurry. With much love, I remain your very affectionate brother,
"LOUIS FRANCIS MORTIMER.
"P.S. Do you remember cousin Vernon's laughing at our embrace at Heronhurst? I wonder when I shall have another—I am longing so to see you."
It would not concern my readers much were I to describe the precise locality of the renowned Dr. Wilkinson's establishment for young gentlemen—suffice it to say, that somewhere near Durdham Down, within a short walk of Clifton, stood Ashfield House, a large rambling building, part of which looked gray and timeworn when compared with the modern school-room, and sundry dormitories, that had been added at different periods as the school grew out of its original domains. Attached to the house was a considerable extent of park land, which was constituted the general play-ground.
At the time of which I am writing, Dr. Wilkinson's school consisted of nearly eighty pupils, all of whom were boarders, and who were sent from different parts of the kingdom; for the doctor's fame, as an excellent man, and what, in the eyes of some was even a greater recommendation, as a first-rate classical scholar, was spread far and wide. At the door of this house, one fine April day, Louis presented himself; and, after descending from the vehicle which brought him from Bristol, followed the servant into the doctor's dining-room, where we will leave him in solitary grandeur, or, more correctly speaking, in agitating expectation, while we take a peep at the room on the opposite side of the hall. In this, Dr. Wilkinson was giving audience to a gentleman who had brought back his little boy a few minutes before Louis arrived. Having some private business to transact, the child was sent to the school-room, and then Mr. Percy entered into a discussion respecting the capabilities of his son, and many other particulars, which, however interesting to himself, would fail of being so to us.
At length these topics were exhausted, and it seemed nearly decided how much was to be done or discontinued in Master Percy's education. Mr. Percy paused to consider if any thing were left unsaid.
"Oh! by the by, Dr. Wilkinson," he said, letting fall the pencil with which he had been tapping the table during his cogitations, "you have one of Sir George Vernon's grandsons with you, I believe?"
"Two of them," replied the doctor.
"Ah! indeed, I mean young Mortimer, son of Mr. Mortimer of Dashwood."
"I have his eldest son, and am expecting another to-day."
"Then it was your expected pupil that I saw this morning," said Mr. Percy.
"May I ask where?" said the doctor.
"At the White Lion. He came down by the London coach. I saw his trunk, in the first place, addressed to you, and supposed him to be the young gentleman who attained to some rather undesirable notoriety last year."
"How so?" asked the doctor.
"Oh! he very ungenerously and artfully endeavored to retain for himself the honor of writing a clever little essay, really the work of his brother, and actually obtained a prize from his grandfather for it."
"How came that about?" asked Dr. Wilkinson.
"Oh! there was some mistake in the first instance, I believe, and the mean little fellow took advantage of it."
Mr. Percy then gave a detailed account of Louis' birthday at Heronhurst, and concluded by saying—
"I was not present, but I heard it from a spectator; I should be afraid that you will not have a little trouble with such a character."
"It is extraordinary," said the doctor; "his brother is the most frank, candid fellow possible."
"I hear he is a nice boy," said Mr. Percy. "There is frequently great dissimilarity among members of the same family; but of course, this goes no further. It is as well you should know it,—but I should not talk of it to every one."
Dr. Wilkinson bowed slightly, and remained silent, without exhibiting any peculiar gratification at having been made the depository of the secret. Mr. Percy presently rose and took his leave; and Dr. Wilkinson was turning towards the staircase, when a servant informed him that a young gentleman waited to see him in the dining-room.
"Oh!" said the doctor to himself, "my dilatory pupil, I presume."
He seemed lost in thought for a minute, and then slowly crossing the hall, entered the dining-room.
Louis had been very anxious for the appearance of his master, yet almost afraid to see him; and when the door opened, and this gentleman stood before him, he was seized with such a palpitation as scarcely to have the power of speech.
Dr. Wilkinson was certainly a person calculated to inspire a school-boy with awe. He was a tall, dignified man, between fifty and sixty years of age, with a magnificent forehead and good countenance: the latter was not, however, generally pleasing, the usual expression being stern and unyielding. When he smiled, that expression vanished; but to a new-comer there was something rather terrible in the compressed lips and overhanging eyebrows, from under which a pair of the keenest black eyes seemed to look him through.
Louis rose and bowed on his master's entrance.
"How do you do, Mortimer?" said the doctor, shaking hands with him. "I dare say you are tired of waiting. You have not seen your brother, I suppose?"
"No, sir," replied Louis, looking in the stern face with something of his customary simple confidence. Doctor Wilkinson smiled, and added, "You are very like your father,—exceedingly like what he was at your age."
"Did you know him then, sir?" asked Louis, timidly.
"Yes, as well as I hope to know you in a short time. What is your name?"
"Louis Francis, sir."
"What! your father's name—that is just what it should be. Well, I hope, Louis, you will now endeavor to give him the utmost satisfaction. With such a father, and such a home, you have great privileges to account for; and it is your place to show to your parents of what use their care and instruction have been. In a large school you will find many things so different from home, that, unless you are constantly on your guard, you will often be likely to do things which may afterwards cause you hours of pain. Remember that you are a responsible creature sent into the world to act a part assigned to you by your Maker; and to Him must the account of every talent be rendered, whether it be used, or buried in the earth. As a Christian gentleman, see, Louis, that you strive to do your part with all your might."
Dr. Wilkinson watched the attention and ready sympathy with his admonition displayed by Louis; and in spite of the warning he had so lately received, felt very kindly and favorably disposed towards his new pupil.
"Come with me," he said, "I will introduce you to your school-fellows; I have no doubt you will find your brother among them somewhere."
Louis followed Dr. Wilkinson through a door at the further end of the hall, leading into a smaller hall which was tapestried with great-coats, cloaks, and hats; and here an increasing murmur announced the fact of his near approach to a party of noisy boys. As the doctor threw open the folding-doors leading into the noble school-room, Louis felt almost stupefied by the noise and novelty. A glass door leading into the play-ground was wide open, and, as school was just over, there was a great rush into the open air. Some were clambering in great haste over desks and forms; and the shouting, singing, and whistling, together with the occasional overthrow of a form, and the almost incessant banging of desk-lids, from those who were putting away slates and books, formed a scene perfectly new and bewildering to our hero.
The entrance of Dr. Wilkinson stilled the tumult in a slight degree, and in half a minute after, the room was nearly cleared, and a passage was left for the new-comers towards the upper end. Here was a knot of great boys (or, rather, craving their pardon, I should say young men), all engaged in eager and merry confabulation. So intent were they that their master's approach was wholly unnoticed by them. One of these young gentlemen was sitting tailor fashion on the top of a desk, apparently holding forth for the edification of his more discreet companions, to whom he seemed to afford considerable amusement, if the peals of laughter with which his sallies were received might be considered any proof. A little aloof from this party, but within hearing, stood a youth of about seventeen, of whom nothing was remarkable, but that his countenance wore a very sedate and determined expression. He seemed struggling with a determination not to indulge a strong propensity to laugh; but, though pretending to be occupied with a book, his features at length gave way at some irresistible sally, and throwing his volume at the orator, he exclaimed—
"How can you be such an ass, Frank!"
"There now," said Frank, perfectly unmoved, "the centre of gravity is disturbed,—well, as I was saying,—Here's the doctor!" and the young gentleman, who was no other than Frank Digby, brother of Louis' cousin Vernon, dismounted from his rostrum in the same instant that his auditors turned round, thereby acknowledging the presence of their master.
"I have brought you a new school-fellow, gentlemen," said the doctor; "where is Mortimer?"
"Here, sir," cried Reginald, popping up from behind a desk, where he had been pinned down by a short thick-set boy, who rose as if by magic with him.
"Here is your brother."
Louis and Reginald scrambled over all obstacles, and stood before the doctor, in two or three seconds.
In spite of Louis' valiant protestations the preceding mid-summer at Heronhurst, he did not dare, in the presence of only a quarter of the hundred and twenty eyes, to embrace his brother, but contented himself with a most energetic squeeze, and a look that said volumes; and, indeed, it must be confessed, that Reginald was not an inviting figure for an embrace; for, independently of a rough head, and dust-bedecked garments, his malicious adversary had decorated his face with multitudinous ink-spots, a spectacle which greatly provoked the mirth of his laughter-loving school-fellows.
Dr. Wilkinson made some remark on the singularity of his pupil's appearance, and then, commending Louis to the kind offices of the assembled party, left the room.
He had scarcely closed the door behind him, when several loiterers from the lower part of the room came up; and Reginald and his brother were immediately assailed with a number of questions, aimed with such rapidity as to be unanswerable.
"When did you come?" "Who's that, Mortimer?" "Is that your brother?" "What's his name?" "Shall you be in our class?" "Why didn't you stay longer in Bristol?—If I had been you I would!"
Louis was amused though puzzled, and turned first one way, and then another, in his futile attempts to see and reply to his interrogators.
"Make way!" at last exclaimed Frank Digby; "you are quite embarrassing to her ladyship. Will the lady Louisa take my arm? Allow me, madam, to interpose my powerful authority." And he offered his arm to Louis with a smirk and low bow, which set all the spectators off laughing; for Frank was one of those privileged persons, who, having attained a celebrity for being very funny, can excite a laugh with very little trouble.
"Don't, Frank!" said Reginald.
"Don't! really, Mr. Mortimer, if you have no respect for your sister's feelings, it is time that I interposed. Here you allow this herd of I don't know what to call them, to incommode her with their senseless clamor. I protest, she is nearly fainting; she has been gasping for breath the last five minutes. Be off, ye fussy, curious, prying, peeping, pressing-round fellows; or, I promise you, you shall be visited with his majesty's heaviest displeasure."
"How do you do, lady Louisa? I hope your ladyship's in good health!" "Don't press on her!" was now echoed mischievously in various tones around Louis, whose color was considerably heightened by this unexpected attack.
"Now do allow me," persisted Frank, dragging Louis' hand in his arm, in spite of all the victim's efforts to prevent it, and leading him forcibly through the throng, which made way on every side, to Edward Hamilton, the grave youth before mentioned:—"His majesty is anxious to make the acquaintance of his fair subject. Permit me to present to your majesty the lovely, gentle, blushing lady Louisa Mortimer, lately arrived in your majesty's kingdom; your majesty will perceive that she bears loyalty in her—hey! what! excited!—hysterics!"
The last exclamations were elicited by a violent effort of Louis to extricate himself.
"Frank, leave him alone!"
"What is the will of royalty?" said Frank, struggling with his refractory cousin.
"That you leave Louis Mortimer alone," said Hamilton. "You will like us better presently, Louis," added he, shaking hands with him: "my subjects appear to consider themselves privileged to be rude to a new-comer; but my royal example will have its weight in due time."
"Your majesty's faithful trumpeter, grand vizier, and factotum is alive and hearty," said Frank.
"But as he had a selfish fit upon him just now," returned Hamilton, "we were under the necessity of doing our own business."
"I crave your majesty's pardon," said Frank, stroking his sovereign tenderly on the shoulder; for which affectionate demonstration he was rewarded by a violent push that laid him prostrate.
"I am a martyr to my own benevolence," said Frank, getting up and approaching Louis, "still I am unchanged in devotion to your ladyship. Tell me what I can do,"—and whichever way Louis turned, Frank with his smirking face presented himself;—"Will you not give your poor slave one command?"
"Only that you will stand out of my sunshine," said Louis good-temperedly.
"Very good," exclaimed Hamilton.
"Out of your sunshine! What, behind you? that is cruel, but most obsequiously I obey."
Louis underwent the ordeal of a new scholar's introduction with unruffled temper, though his cousin took care there should be little cessation until afternoon school, when Louis was liberated from his tormentors to his great satisfaction—Frank's business carrying him to a part of the school-room away from that where Louis was desired to await further orders. In the course of the afternoon, he was summoned to the presence of Dr. Wilkinson, who was holding a magisterial levee in one of two class-rooms or studies adjoining the school-room. The doctor appeared in one of his sternest humors. Besides the fourteen members of the first class, whose names Louis knew already, there was in this room a boy about Louis' age, who seemed in some little trepidation. Doctor Wilkinson closed the book he held, and laying it down, dismissed his pupils; then turning to the frightened-looking boy, he took a new book off the table, saying, "Do you know this, Harrison?"
"Yes, sir," faintly replied the boy.
"Where did you get it?"
"I bought it."
"To assist you in winning prizes from your more honorable class-fellows, I suppose," said the doctor, with the most marked contempt. "Since you find Kenrick too difficult for you, you may go into the third class, where there may be, perhaps, something better suited to your capacity; and beware a second offence: you may go, sir."
Louis felt great pity for the boy, who turned whiter still, and then flushed up, as if ready to burst into tears.
"Well, Louis, I wish to see what rank you will be able to take," said the doctor, and he proceeded with his examination.
"Humph!" he ejaculated at length, "pretty well—you may try in the second class. I can tell you that you must put your shoulder to the wheel, and make the most of your powers, or you will soon be obliged to leave it for a less honorable post; but let me see what you can do—and now put these books away on that shelf." As he spoke, the doctor pointed to a vacant place on one of the shelves that lined two sides of the study, and left the room. Louis put the books away, and then returned to the school-room, where he sought his brother, and communicated his news just before the general uproar attendant on the close of afternoon school commenced.
Reginald was one of the most noisy and eager in his preparations for play; and, dragging Louis along with him, bounded into the fresh air, with that keen feeling of enjoyment which the steady industrious school-boy knows by experience.
"What a nice play-ground this is!" said Louis.
"Capital!" said Reginald. "What's the fun, Frank?" he cried to his cousin, who bounded past him at this moment, towards a spot already tolerably crowded.
"Maister Dunn," shouted Frank.
"Oh, the old cake-man, Louis," said Reginald; "I must go and get rid of a few surplus pence."
"Do you like to spend your money in cakes?" asked Louis; "I have plenty, Mrs. Colthrop took care of that."
"In that case I'll save for next time," said Reginald, "but let's go and see what's going on."
Accordingly Reginald ran off in the cake-man's direction. Louis followed, and presently found himself standing in the outer circle of a group of his school-fellows, who formed a thick wall round a white-haired old man and a boy, both of whom carried a basket on each arm, filled with dainties always acceptable to a school-boy's palate.
Were I inclined to moralize, I might here make a few remarks on waste of money, &c., but my business being merely to relate incidents at present, I shall only say that there they stood, the old man and his assistant, with the boys in constant motion and murmur around them.
Frank Digby and Hamilton were in the outer circle, the latter having walked from a direction opposite to that from which Frank and Reginald came, but whose dignity did not prevent a certain desire to purchase if he saw fit, and if not, to amuse himself with those who did so. He stood watching the old man with an imperturbable air of gravity, and, hanging on his arm in a state of listless apathy, stood Trevannion, another member of the first class.
Frank Digby took too active a share in most things in the establishment to remain a passive spectator of the actions of others, and began pushing right and left. "Get along, get away ye vagabonds!" he politely cried: "you little shrimps! what business have you to stop the way?—Alfred, you ignoramus! Alfred, why don't you move?"
"Because I'm buying something," said the little boy addressed, looking up very quietly at the imperious intruder.
"Da locum melioribus, Alfred, as the poet has it. Do you know where to find that, my boy?—the first line of the thirteenth book of the Aeneid, being a speech of the son of Anchises to the Queen of Carthage. You'll find a copy of Virgil's works in my desk."
"I don't mean to look," said Alfred, "I know it's in the Delectus."
"Wonderful memory!—I admire that delectable book of yours," cried Frank, who talked on without stopping, while forcing himself to the first rank. "How now, Maister Dunn!" he said, addressing the old man, "I hope you b'aint a going to treat us as e did last time. You must be reasonable; the money market is in a sadly unflourishing condition at present."
"You always talk of the money market, Frank," said little Alfred: "what do you mean by the money market?"
"It's a place, my dear—I'll explain it in a moment. Here, Maister Dunn;—It's a place where the old women sell sovereigns a penny a measure, Alfred."
"Oh, Frank!" exclaimed Alfred.
"Oh! and why not?" said Frank; "do you mean to say you don't believe me? That's it,—isn't it, maister?"
"Ah, Maister Digby! ye're at yer jokes," said the old man.
"Jokes!" said Frank, with a serious air. "Pray, Mr. Dunn, did you ever happen to notice certain brass, or copper, or bronze tables, four in number, in front of the Bristol Exchange!"
"Ay sure, maister!"
"Well, I'll insense you into the meaning of that, presently. That, my good sir, is where the old women stood in the good old times, crying out, 'Here you are! sovereigns a penny a measure!' And that's the reason people used to be so rich!"
"Oh, Frank! now I know that's only your nonsense," said Alfred.
"Well, I can't give you a comprehension, and if I could buy you one, I couldn't afford it," answered Frank. "Now here's my place for any one; Louis, I'll make you a present of it, as I don't want it."
"I don't want to buy any thing," said Louis.
"Rubbish!" cried Frank. "Every one does. Don't be stingy." And so Louis allowed himself to be pushed and pulled into the crowd, and bought something he would much rather have been without, because he found it inconvenient to say no.
The two upper classes were privileged to use the largest of the class-rooms as their sitting-room in the evenings; and here Reginald introduced his brother after tea; and, when he had shown him his lessons, began to prepare his own. Most of the assembled youths were soon quietly busy, though some of the more idly disposed kept up a fire of words, while turning over leaves, and cutting pens to pieces. Among the latter class was Frank Digby, who was seldom known to be silent for a quarter of an hour, and who possessed the singular power of distracting every one's attention but his own; for, though he scarcely ever appeared to give his lessons a moment's attention, he was generally sufficiently prepared with them to enable him to keep his place in his class, which was usually two from the bottom.
Louis saw that he must give his whole mind to his work; but being unused to study in a noise, it was some time before he was well able to comprehend what he wanted to do; and found himself continually looking up and laughing at something around him, or replying to some of Frank's jokes, which were often directed to him. When, by a great exertion, he had at last forced himself to attend to Reginald's repeated warnings, and had begun to learn in earnest, the door softly opened, and the little boy he had noticed in the crowd that afternoon came in.
"Halloa! what do you want?" cried one of the seniors; "you have no business here."
"Is Edward here, Mr. Salisbury?"
"Do you know where he is, please?"
"With the doctor," replied the young gentleman.
"Oh dear!" sighed the little boy, venturing to approach the table a little nearer.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Reginald.
"I can't do this," said the child: "I wanted Edward to help me with my exercise."
"My little dear, you have just heard that sapient Fred Salisbury declare, in the most civil terms chooseable, that your fraternal preceptor, Edwardus magnus, non est inventus," said Frank, pompously, with a most condescending flourish of his person in the direction of the little boy.
"And, consequently," said the afore-mentioned Mr. Salisbury, "you have free leave to migrate to York, Bath, Jericho, or any other equally convenient resort for bores in general, and you in particular."
"Please, Mr. Digby," said the little boy, "will you just show me this?"
"Indeed I can't," said Frank; "I can't do my own, so in all reason you could not expect me to find brains for two exercises."
"Oh! please somebody show me—Dr. Wilkinson will be so angry if Mr. Norton sends me up again to-morrow."
"Will you go?" shouted Salisbury, with such deliberate energy of enunciation that Alfred shrunk back: "what's the use of your exercises, if you're shown how to do them?"
"Come here, Alfred," said Louis, softly. Alfred readily obeyed; and Louis, taking his book, began to show him what to do.
"Louis, you must not tell him word for word," said Reginald: "Hamilton wouldn't like it—he never does himself."
"But I may help him to do it for himself, may I not?" said Louis.
"Yes; but, Louis, you have not time—and he is so stupid," replied Reginald; "you won't have time to do your own."
But Louis thought he should have time for both, and, putting his arm round Alfred, he kindly and patiently set him in the way of doing his lesson properly, and then resumed his own disturbed studies.
Hardly, however, was he settled than he found himself listening to Frank, who remarked, as Alfred left the room, "We shall be sure to have 'Oars' in soon!"
"Who do you mean by Oars?" asked Louis.
"Churchill," said Reginald, laughing.
"What an extraordinary name!" said Louis.
"I say, Digby," cried a boy from the opposite side of the table, "they give you the credit of that cognomen—but we are all in the dark as to its origin."
"Like the origin of all truly great," answered Frank, "it was very simple: Churchill came one day to me with his usual 'Do tell us a bit, that's a good fellow,' and after he had badgered me some minutes, I asked him if he had not the smallest idea of his lesson—so, after looking at it another minute, he begins thus, 'Omnes, all.' 'Bravo!' replied I. 'Conticuere—What's that, Frank?' 'Were silent,' I answered: 'Go on.' After deep cogitation, and sundry hints, he discovered that tenebant must have some remote relationship to a verb signifying to hold fast, and forthwith a bright thought strikes him, and on we go: 'Intentique ora tenebant—and intently they hold their oars,' he said, exultingly. 'Very well,' quoth I, approvingly, and continued for him, 'Inde toro pater—the waters flowed glibly farther on, ab alto—to the music of the spheres; the inseparable Castor and Pollux looking down benignantly on their namesake below.' Here I was stopped by the innocent youth's remark, that I certainly was quizzing, for he knew that Castor and Pollux were the same in Latin as in English. Whereupon, I demanded, with profound gravity, whether gemini did not mean twins, and if the twins were not Castor and Pollux—and if he knew (who knew so much better than I) whether or no there might not be some word in the Latin language, besides gemini, signifying twins; and that if it was his opinion that I was quizzing, he had better do his lesson himself. He looked hard, and, thinking I was offended, begged pardon; and believing that jubes was Castor and Pollux, we got on quite famously—and he was quite reassured when we turned from the descriptive to the historical, beginning with Aeneas sic orsus infandum—Aeneas was such a horrid bear."
"Didn't you tell him of his mistake?" asked Louis, who could not help laughing.
"What! spoil the fun and the lesson I meant to give him?—not I."
"Well, what then, Frank?" said Reginald.
"Why, imagine old Whitworth's surprise, when, confident in the free translation of a first-class man, Oars flowed on as glibly as the waters; Whitworth heard him to the end in his old dry way, and then asked him where he got that farrago of nonsense;—I think he was promoted to the society of dunces instanter, and learns either Delectus or Eutropius now. Of course, he never applied again to me."
Louis did not express his opinion that Frank was ill-natured, though he thought so, in spite of the hearty laugh with which his story was greeted. When he turned again to his lesson, he found his book had been abstracted.
"I tell you what," cried Reginald, fiercely, "I won't have Louis tormented—who has taken his book? It's you, Ferrers, I am sure."
"I! did you ever!" replied that young gentleman. "I appeal to you, Digby—did you see me touch his book?"
"I did not, certainly," said Frank.
"Give me the book," exclaimed Reginald, jumping upon the table, "give me the book, and let's have no more such foolery."
"Get down, Mortimer, you're not transparent," cried several voices.
Reginald, however, paid no attention to the command, but pouncing upon Ferrers at a vantage, threw him backwards off the form, tumbling over his prostrate foe, and in his descent bringing down books, inkstand, papers, and one of the candles, in glorious confusion.
"What's the row!" exclaimed Salisbury, adding an expression more forcible than elegant; and, starting from his seat, he pulled Reginald by main force from his adversary, with whom he was now struggling on the floor, and at the same instant the remaining candle was extinguished. Louis was almost stunned by the noise that ensued: some taking his brother's part, and some that of Ferrers, while, in the dark, friend struggled and quarrelled with friend as much as foe, no one attempting to quell the tumult, until the door was suddenly burst open, and Hamilton with Trevannion and two or three from the school-room entered. Hamilton stood still for a moment, astonished by the unlooked-for obscurity. His entrance checked the combatants, who at first imagined that one of their masters had made his appearance, if that could be said to appear which was hardly discernible in the dim light which came through the half-open door. Hamilton begged one of the boys with him to fetch a light, and taking advantage of the momentary lull, he called out, "Is this Bedlam, gentlemen? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves! What's the matter, Mortimer?"
"Oh!" replied Ferrers, "they've been teasing his little brother, and he can't abide it."
"I only mean to say, that Louis shan't be plagued in this manner," cried Reginald, passionately; "and you know if the others were not here you wouldn't dare to do it, you bully!"
"For shame, Mortimer," said Hamilton, decidedly; and coming up to Reginald he drew him a little aside, not without a little resistance on Reginald's part—"What's the matter, Mortimer?"
"Matter! why that they are doing all they can to hinder Louis from knowing his lessons to-morrow. I won't stand it. He has borne enough of it, and patiently too."
"But is that any reason you should forget that you are a gentleman?" said Hamilton.
"My book is here, dear Reginald," said Louis, touching his brother's shoulder.
Reginald darted a fierce glance at Ferrers, but not being able to substantiate an accusation against him, remained silent, and, under the eye of Hamilton and his friend Trevannion, the remainder of the evening passed in a way more befitting the high places in the school which the young gentlemen held; but Louis had been so much interrupted, and was so much excited and unsettled by the noise and unwonted scenes, that when Dr. Wilkinson came at nine to read prayers, he had hardly prepared one of his lessons for the next day.
Louis soon made himself a universal favorite among his school-fellows; and, though he was pronounced by some to be a "softy," and by others honored by the equally comprehensive and euphonious titles of "spooney" and "muff," there were few who were not won by his gentle good-nature, and the uniform good temper, and even playfulness, with which he bore the immoderate quizzing that fell to his lot, as a new boarder arrived in the middle of the half-year. If there were an errand to be run among the seniors, it was, "Louis Mortimer, will you get me this or that?" if a dunce wanted helping, Louis was sure to be applied to, with the certainty in both cases that the requests would be complied with, though they might, as was too often the case, interfere with his duties; but Louis had not courage to say no.
In proportion, however, as our hero grew in the good graces of his school-fellows, he fell out of those of his masters, for lessons were brought only half-learned, and exercises only half-written, or blotted and scrawled so as to be nearly unintelligible; and after he had been a fortnight at school, he seemed much more likely to descend to a lower class than to mount a step in his own. Day after day saw Louis kept in the school-room during play-hours, to learn lessons which ought to have been done the night before, or to write out some long imposition as a punishment for some neglected duty that had given place to the desire of assisting another.
Louis always seemed in a hurry, and never did any thing well. His mind was unsettled, and, like every thing else belonging to him at present, in a state of undesirable confusion.
There was one resource which Louis had which would have set all to rights, but his weakness of disposition often prevented him from taking advantage of even the short intervals for prayer allowed by the rules of the school, and he was often urged at night into telling stories till he dropped asleep, and hurried down by the morning bell, before he could summon up courage to brave the remarks of his school-fellows as to his being so very religious, &c., and sometimes did not feel sorry that there was some cause to prevent these solemn and precious duties. I need not say he was not happy. He enjoyed nothing thoroughly; he felt he was not steadily in earnest. Every day he came with a beating heart to his class, never certain that he could get through a single lesson.
One morning he was endeavoring to stammer through a few lines of some Greek play, and at last paused, unable to proceed.
"Well, sir," said his master quietly,—"as usual, I suppose—I shall give you only a few days' longer trial, and then, if you cannot do better, you must go down."
"Who is that, Mr. Danby?" said a voice behind Louis, that startled him, and turning his blanched face round, he saw Dr. Wilkinson standing near. "Who is that, Mr. Danby?" he repeated, in a deep stern voice.
"Louis Mortimer, sir," replied Mr. Danby. "Either he is totally unfit for this class, or he is very idle; I can make nothing of him."
Dr. Wilkinson fixed his eyes searchingly on Louis, and replied, in a tone of much displeasure:
"If you have the same fault to find the next two days, send him into a lower class. It is the most disgraceful idleness, Louis."
Louis' heart swelled with sorrow and shame as the doctor walked away. He stood with downcast eyes and quivering lids, hardly able to restrain his tears, until the class was dismissed, and he was desired to stay in and learn his unsaid lesson.
Reginald followed his brother into the study, where Louis took his books to learn more quietly than he could do in the school-room.
"My dear Louis," he said, "you must try; the doctor will be so displeased if you go into a lower class; and just think what a disgrace it will be."
"I know," said Louis, wiping his eyes: "I can't tell how it is, every thing seems to go wrong with me—I am not at all happy, and I am sure I wish to please everybody."
"A great deal too much, dear Louis," said Reginald. "You are always teaching everybody else, and you know you have scarcely any time for yourself. You must tell them you won't do it; I can't be always at your elbow; I've quarrelled more with the boys than ever I did, since you came, on your account."
"Oh dear! I am sorry I came," sighed Louis, "I do so long to be a little quiet. Reginald, dear, I am so sorry I should give you any trouble. Oh, I have lost all my happy thoughts, and I know every thing is sure to go wrong."
Louis remained sadly silent for a few minutes, and then, raising his tearful eyes to his brother, who was sitting with his chin on his hands, watching him, he begged him to leave him, declaring he should not learn any thing while Reginald was with him.
Thus urged, Reginald took his departure, though, with his customary unselfish affection, he would rather have stayed and helped him.
When he was gone, Louis began slowly to turn over the leaves of his Lexicon, in order to prepare his lesson. He had not been long thus employed, when he was interrupted by the irruption of the greatest dunce in the school, introduced to the reader in the former chapter as Churchill, alias Oars, a youth of fifteen, who had constant recourse to Louis for information. He now laid his dog's-eared Eutropius before Louis, and opened his business with his usual "Come now, tell us, Louis—help us a bit, Louis."
"Indeed, Harry, it is impossible," said Louis sorrowfully. "I have all my own to do, and if I do not get done before dinner I shall go into the third class—no one helps me, you know."
"It won't take you a minute," said Churchill.
"It does take much more. You know I was an hour last night writing your theme; and, Churchill, I do not think it is right."
"Oh stuff! who's been putting that nonsense into your head?" replied Churchill. "It's all right and good, and like your own self, you're such a good-natured fellow."
"And a very foolish one, sometimes," said Louis. "Can't you get somebody else to show you?"
"Goodness gracious!" cried Churchill, "who do you think would do it now? and no one does it so well as you. Come, I say—come now—that's a good fellow,—now do."
"But how is it that you want to learn your lesson now," asked Louis? "Won't the evening do?"
"No; Dr. Wilkinson has given me leave to go out with my uncle this afternoon, if I learn this and say it to old Norton before I go; and I am sure I shan't get it done if you don't help me."
"I cannot," said poor Louis.
"Now I know you're too good-natured to let me lose this afternoon's fun. Come, you might have told me half."
And against his better judgment, Louis spent half an hour in hearing this idle youth a lesson, which, with a little extra trouble he might easily have mastered himself in three quarters of an hour.
"Thank you, Louis, you're a capital fellow; I know it now, don't I?"
"I think so," replied Louis; "and now you must not talk to me."
"What are you doing?" said Churchill, looking at his book; "oh, 'Kenrick's Greek Exercises.' If I can't tell you, I can help you to something that will. Here's a key." As he spoke, he took down the identical book taken from Harrison on the day of Louis' arrival, and threw it on the table before him.
"Is that a key?" asked Louis, opening the book; "put it back, Harry, I cannot use it."
"It would not be right. Oh no! I will not, Churchill; put it up."
"How precise you are!" said Churchill; "it's quite a common thing for those who can get them—Thompson and Harcourt always use one."
"Thompson ought to be ashamed of himself," cried Louis, "to be trying for a prize, and use a key."
"Well, so he ought, but you won't get a prize if you begin now, and try till breaking-up day; so you hurt nobody, and get yourself out of a scrape. Don't be a donkey, Louis."
When Churchill left him alone Louis looked at the title-page, and felt for an instant strongly tempted to avail himself of the assistance of the book; but something checked him, and he laid his arms suddenly on the table, and buried his face on them. A heavy hand laid on his shoulder roused him from this attitude; and looking up, with his eyes full of tears, he found Hamilton and Trevannion standing beside him.
"What's the matter, Louis?" said the former.
"I have so much to do;—I—I've been very careless and idle," stammered Louis.
"I can readily believe that," said Hamilton.
"A candid confession, at any rate," remarked Trevannion.
"And do you imagine that your brains will be edified by coming in contact with these books?" asked Hamilton. "What have you to do?"
"I have this exercise to re-write, and my Greek to learn,—and—and—twenty lines of Homer to write out. I can't do all now—I shall have to stay in this afternoon."
"I should think that more than probable," said Trevannion.
"What have we here?" said Hamilton, taking up the key. "Hey! what! Louis! Is this the way you are going to cheat your masters?"
"Pray don't think it?" said Louis, eagerly.
"If you use keys, I have done with you."
"Indeed I did not,—I never do,—I wasn't going. One of the boys left it here. I am sure I did not mean to do so," cried Louis in great confusion.
"Put it back," said Hamilton, gravely, "and then I will go over your lessons with you, and see if I can make you understand them better."
"Thank you, thank you,—how kind you are!" said poor Louis, who hastily put the dangerous book away, and then sat down.
Hamilton smiled, and remarked, "It is but fair that one should be assisted who loses his character in playing knight errant for all those who need, or fancy they need, his good services: but, Louis, you are very wrong to give up so much of your time to others; your time does not belong to yourself; your father did not send you here to assist Dr. Wilkinson—or, rather, I should say, to save a set of idle boys the trouble of doing their own work. There is a vast difference between weakness and good-nature; but now to business."
Trevannion withdrew with a book to the window, and Hamilton sat down by Louis, and took great pains to make him give his mind to his business; and so thoroughly did he succeed with his docile pupil, that, although he had come in rather late, all, with the exception of the imposition, was ready for Mr. Danby by the time the dinner-bell rang.
Louis overwhelmed Hamilton with the expression of his gratitude, and again and again laid his little hand on that of his self-instituted tutor. Hamilton did not withdraw his hand, though he never returned the pressure, nor made any reply to Louis' thanks, further than an abrupt admonition from time to time to "mind what he was about," and to "go on."
Several inquiries were made at the open window after Louis, but all were answered by Trevannion, and our hero was left undisturbed to his studies.
That evening Louis had the satisfaction of being seated near his friend Hamilton, who, with a good-natured air of authority, kept him steadily at work until his business was properly concluded. Unhappily for Louis, Hamilton was not unfrequently with the doctor in the evenings, or he might generally have relied on his protection and assistance: however, for the next two or three days, Louis steadily resisted all allurements to leave his own lesson until learned; and, in consequence, was able to report to Hamilton the desirable circumstance of his having gained two places in his class.
For some time before Louis' arrival at Ashfield House, preparations had been making in the doctor's domestic menage for the approaching marriage of Miss Wilkinson, the doctor's only daughter. The young gentlemen had, likewise, their preparations for the auspicious event, the result of which was a Latin Epithalamium, composed by the seniors, and three magnificent triumphal arches, erected on the way from the house-door to the gate of the grounds. Much was the day talked of, and eagerly were plans laid, both by masters and pupils, for the proper enjoyment of the whole holiday that had been promised on the occasion, and which, by the way—whatever young gentlemen generally may think of their masters' extreme partiality for teaching—was now a greater boon to the wearied and over-fagged ushers, than to the party for whose enjoyment it was principally designed.
The bridal day came.—No need to descant on the weather. The sun shone as brightly as could be desired, and as the interesting procession passed under the green bowers, cheer after cheer rose on the air, handfuls of flowers were trodden under the horses' feet, and hats, by common consent, performed various somersaults some yards above their owners' heads.
There was a long watch till the carriages returned, and the same scene was enacted and repeated, when the single vehicle rolled away from the door; and the last mark of honor having been paid, the party dispersed over the large playground, each one in search of his own amusement. Louis wandered away by himself, and enjoyed a quiet hour unmolested, and tried, with the help of his little hymn-book, and thinking over old times, to bring back some of his former happy thoughts. There were more than ordinary temptations around him, and he felt less able to resist them; and this little rest from noise and hurry was to him very grateful. When, at length, a little party found out his retreat and begged him to join in a game of "hocky," he complied with a light and merry heart, freer from that restless anxiety to which he had been lately so much subject.
In the afternoon, determining to let nothing interfere with the learning of his lessons, Louis sat down in the school-room to business. There were but two persons besides himself in the room, one of whom was an usher, who was writing a letter, and the other, his school-fellow Ferrers. The latter was sitting on the opposite side of the same range of desks Louis had chosen, very intently engaged in the same work which had brought Louis there.
Louis felt very happy in the consciousness that he was foregoing the pleasure of the merry playground for the stern business that his duty had imposed on him; and the noise of his companions' voices, and the soft breezes that came in through the open door leading into the playground, only spurred him on to finish his work as quickly as possible.
Ferrers and his younger vis-a-vis pursued their work in silence, apparently unconscious of the presence of each other, until the former, raising his head, asked Louis to fetch him an atlas out of the study.
"With pleasure," said Louis, jumping up and running into the study; he returned almost immediately with a large atlas, and laid it down on Ferrers' books. He had once more given his close attention to his difficult exercises, when a movement from his companion attracted his notice.
"Did you speak?" he said.
"Will you—oh, never mind, I'll do it myself," muttered Ferrers, rising and going into the class-room himself.
Louis had become again so intent upon his study, that he was hardly aware of the return of his school-fellow, nor did he notice the precipitation with which he hurried into his place, and half hid the book he had brought with him, a book that he imagined to be a key to his exercises, but which, in fact, was a counterpart to that taken away from Harrison, though bound exactly like the one Ferrers had gone for, and so nearly the same size as easily to be mistaken for it in the confusion attendant on the abstraction of it.
Just at this moment, Hamilton, Trevannion, and Salisbury, with one or two more of the first class, entered from the playground, and walked directly across to Ferrers.
Alive to all the disgrace of being found by his class-fellows in possession of a key, and unable to return it unobserved, Ferrers, in the first moment of alarm, tried to push it into the desk at which he was writing, but finding it locked, he stood up with as much self-possession as he could assume, and pretending to be looking among his books and papers, managed, unobserved, to pass the obnoxious volume over to Louis' heap of books, laying it half under one of them. Louis was wholly unconscious of the danger so near him, and did not raise his held from his absorbing occupation when the fresh comers approached the desk.
"Ferrers," said Salisbury, as they came up, "we want your advice on a small matter; come with us into the class-room."
Accordingly Ferrers obeyed, glad to leave the dangerous spot, and Louis was left in undisturbed possession of the apartment for more than half an hour, at the end of which time the party returned from the inner room laughing, and all walked out of doors. Just as they passed out, Mr. Witworth, the usher, approached Louis, and asked him if he could lend him a pencil. Louis laid his pen down, and began to search his pockets for a pencil he knew should be there, when he was startled by the ejaculation of the master:
"Hey!—what!—This is it, is it? So I have found you out, sir."
Louis looked up in alarm. "Found me out, sir?" he said, in a terrified tone: "what have I done?"
"Done!" exclaimed Mr. Witworth,—"done, indeed: what are you doing there?"
"My exercise, sir."
"To be sure, to be sure. What's the meaning of this, sir?" and he held up the key. "What have you done, indeed!—you hoped that it was nicely concealed, I dare say. I wonder how you can be so artful."
"I am sure I don't know any thing about that book," said Louis, in great agitation.
"Admirably acted," said Mr. Witworth. "It wouldn't walk here, however, Master Mortimer: some one must have brought it."
"I am sure I don't know who did—I don't indeed," said poor Louis, despairingly.
"Perhaps you'll try to make me believe you don't know what it is, and that you never saw the book before," remarked Mr. Witworth, scornfully.
"I do know what it is, but I never used it, I do assure you, sir, and I did not bring it here. Will you not believe me?"
"It is very likely that I should believe you, is it not? Well, sir, this book goes up with you to-morrow to Dr. Wilkinson, and we shall see how much he will believe of your story. This accounts for your apparent industry lately." So saying, Mr. Witworth walked off with the book in his hand, leaving Louis in the greatest distress.
"And all my pains are quite lost!" he exclaimed, as he burst into tears. "The doctor is sure not to believe me, and there will be—oh, who could have left it there?"
"Louis, are you coming out this afternoon; what's the matter?" exclaimed the welcome voice of his brother.
"What, Lady Louisa in tears! Here's the ink bottle; do let me catch the crystal drops," said Frank Digby, who accompanied Reginald in search of his brother.
"Oh, Reginald!" exclaimed Louis, regardless of Frank's nonsense, "some one has left a key to my exercises on my books, and Mr. Witworth has just found it. What shall I do?"
"Some one has left," ejaculated Frank. "That's a good story, Louis; only one can't quite swallow it, you know. Who would leave it, eh?"
"How? where, Louis?" said Reginald.
"It was just here it was found. I am sure I cannot think who put it there."
"Well of all the"—began Frank; "my astonishment positively chokes me. Louis, are you not ashamed of yourself?"
"Oh, Frank! I am speaking the truth; I am, indeed, I am—Reginald, I am, you know I am."
"It is very strange," remarked Reginald, who was standing with a clouded, unsatisfied brow, and did not exhibit that enthusiasm respecting his innocence which Louis expected from him. Reginald knew too much, and dared not yet be certain when appearances were so sadly against him.
"Reginald, dear Reginald, tell me," cried Louis, almost frantically; "surely you believe me?"
"Believe you!" echoed Frank, scornfully; "he knows you too well, and so do I. Remember last year, Louis: you'd better have thought of it sooner."
Reginald cast a threatening glance on his cousin, who undauntedly replied to it.
"You can't gainsay that, at any rate, Reginald."
"Reginald, dear Reginald," cried Louis, with streaming eyes, "you know I always spoke the truth to you; I declare solemnly that I am speaking only the truth now."
Reginald looked gloomily at his brother.
"Indeed it is. If you will not believe me, who will?"
"Who, indeed?" said Frank.
"I do believe you, Louis," said Reginald, quickly, "I do believe you; but this matter must be sifted. It is very strange, but I will make all the inquiries I can. Who sat with you?"
"Ferrers was sitting there," replied Louis.
"Any one else?"
"No," replied Louis.
"I'll answer for it, it was Ferrers," said Reginald.
"A likely story," said Frank.
"I think it very likely," said Reginald, firmly, "and woe be to him if he has."
As he finished speaking, Reginald ran off in search of Ferrers, whom he found in a group of the head boys, into the midst of which he burst without the smallest ceremony.
"Manners!" exclaimed Hamilton; "I beg your pardon, Mr. Mortimer, for standing in your way."
"I am very sorry," said Reginald, bluntly, "but I can't stand upon ceremony. Ferrers, what have you been doing with Kenrick's Exercises—I mean the key to it?"
"I!" cried Ferrers, reddening violently; "what—what do you mean, Mortimer?"
"You have left the key on Louis' desk, to get him into a scrape—you know you have."
"Upon my word, Mortimer! what next!" exclaimed Salisbury. "Who do you think would fash themselves about such a little hop-o'-my-thumb?"
"Will you let Ferrers answer!" cried Reginald, imperiously.
Unconscious of the mistake he had made, Ferrers felt exceedingly uncomfortable in his present position, and, assuming an air of contemptuous indignation, he turned his back on Reginald, saying as he did so, "Such impertinence merits nothing but silent contempt."
"You did it, you coward!" cried Reginald, enraged almost beyond control. "I know you did, and you know you did. Will you answer me?"
"Answer him, Ferrers, answer him at once, and let us have an end of his impertinence," cried several voices: "he's like a wild-cat."
"Well then, I did not," said Ferrers, turning round with a violent effort; "will that satisfy you?"
Reginald glared angrily and doubtfully on the changing countenance of the speaker, and then burst out vehemently,
"I don't believe a word you say: you did it either to spite him, or you mistook your aim. Do you never use keys, Mr. Ferrers?"
"Really, Mortimer!" exclaimed Trevannion, "your language is very intemperate and ungentlemanly. I have no doubt your brother knows how to help himself; and now, for your comfort, know that I saw him the other day with that same book, and here is Hamilton, who can corroborate my statement."
"Where? when?" asked Reginald, in a subdued tone.
"In the class-room alone, when he was writing his exercise. Hamilton, am I not right?"
"Dr. Wilkinson will do justice to-morrow," said Reginald, as after a moment's painful silence he looked up with assumed confidence, and turned proudly away from Ferrers' reassured look of exultation, though the latter hardly dared exult, for he thought Reginald had mistaken the book, and feared the suspicions that might rest on himself when it should be discovered that it was not a second-class key. "And now, Mortimer, let's have no more of this violent language," said Hamilton. "If the matter is to come before the doctor, he will do all justice; let him be sole arbitrator; but I would not bring it before him were I in your place. Make an apology to Ferrers, and say nothing more. You will do your brother more harm than good."
"Make an apology," said Reginald, ironically; "I haven't changed my mind yet. It must come before the doctor. Mr. Witworth found the book, and has carried it by this time, or certainly will carry it, to head-quarters."
"Come along with me, and tell me the whole affair," said Hamilton.
While Reginald was unfolding the matter to Hamilton, the party they had left was reinforced by Frank Digby, who warmly took Ferrers' part, and enlightened the company as to many particulars of his cousin's former character: and so much was said about the injury Reginald had done to Ferrers by his suspicions, that when that youth discovered the certainty of the mistake he had made, he was so far involved as to render it impossible to him to acknowledge that even out of a spirit of teasing he had placed the book near Louis; and his anxiety was so great to free himself from any suspicion, that he was selfishly and ungenerously insensible to the trouble entailed upon Louis, whom he disliked on account of his superiority to himself, but on whom he had not seriously contemplated inflicting so great an injury—so imperceptibly does one fault lead to another, so unable are we to decide where the effects of one false step, one dishonest thought, shall end.
The story was soon spread among Louis' immediate companions, who were anxious to learn the cause of his swollen eyes and sad demeanor, and Louis had to endure many sneers, and, what was still harder to bear, much silent contempt from those whose high sense of honor made them despise any approach to the meanness of which he was supposed guilty. Hamilton, though in the study the whole evening, took no notice of him, and when his eyes met Louis', they bore no more consciousness of his presence than if he had been a piece of stone. Frank Digby did not tease Louis, but he let fall many insinuations, and a few remarks so bitter in their sarcasm, that Reginald more than once looked up with a glance so threatening in its fierceness, that it checked even that audacious speaker. Even little Alfred was not allowed to sit with Louis; though Hamilton made no remark, nor even alluded to the subject to his brother, he called him immediately to himself, and only allowed him to leave him at bed-time.
As the elder boys went up stairs to bed, Frank continued his aggravating allusions to Louis' weakness, but in so covert a manner, that no one but those acquainted with Louis' former history could have understood their import. For some time Reginald pretended not to hear them; there was a strong struggle within him, for his high spirit rose indignantly at his cousin's unkindness, yet was for some time checked by a better feeling within; but, at length, on Frank's making some peculiarly insulting remark in a low tone, his pent-up ire boiled forth, and, in the madness of his fury, he seized on his cousin with a strength that passion rendered irresistible. "You've tried to provoke me to this all the evening—you will have it, you dastardly coward! you WILL have it, will you?"
These exclamations were poured forth in a shout, and Reginald, after striking his cousin several violent blows, threw him from him with such force that his head struck against the door-post, and he fell motionless to the ground, the blood streaming from a wound in his forehead.
There was an awful silence for a minute. The boys, horror-struck, stood as if paralyzed, gazing on the inanimate form of their school-fellow. Reginald's passion subsided in an instant; his face turned pale, the color fled from his lips, and clasping his hands in terror, he muttered, "Oh! what have I done!" and then there was a shout, "Oh, Frank Digby's killed! Digby's killed—he's dead!"
Hamilton at length pushed forward and raised Frank's head. And at this moment Mr. Norton and Dr. Wilkinson, with two or three of the servants, came from different directions. The crowd round Frank made way for the doctor, who hurriedly approached, and assisted Hamilton to raise Frank and carry him to his bed.
"He's dead, he's dead!" cried the boys all round.
"How did this happen?" asked the doctor, and without waiting for an answer he tore open the handkerchief and collar of the insensible youth, and dispatched some one immediately for a medical man. One was sent for a smelling-bottle, another for some water, and Mrs. Wilkinson soon made her appearance with a fan, and other apparatus for restoring a fainting person. But it was long before there were any signs of returning life. It was a terrible time for Reginald. It was agony to look on the motionless form, and blood-streaked countenance before him—to watch the cloud of anxiety that seemed to deepen on his master's face as each new restorative failed its accustomed virtue,—to listen to the subdued murmurs and fearful whispers, and to note the blanched faces of his school-fellows. He stood with clasped hands, and there was a prayer in his heart that he might not be called to suffer so very deeply for this sinful expression of his temper. What if he should have sent his cousin unprepared into eternity? Oh, what would he give to see one motion; what, that he had been able to restrain his ungovernable fury! There was almost despair in his wild thoughts, when at last Frank sighed faintly, and then opened his eyes. He closed them immediately, and just then the surgeon arriving, more potent remedies were used, and he was at length restored to consciousness, though unable to speak aloud. Doctor Wilkinson had him removed to another room, and after seeing him comfortably arranged, returned to Reginald's bedroom.
"Now, how did this happen?" he said.
No one spoke, and the silence was only broken by the sound of sobs from the further end of the room.
"Who did this?" asked the doctor again.
"I did, sir," said Reginald, in a broken voice.
"Come forward. Who is it that speaks?" said Doctor Wilkinson. "Mortimer! is this some passion of yours that has so nearly caused the death of your cousin? I am deeply grieved to find that your temper is still so ungovernable. What was the matter?"
Reginald was incapable of answering, and none of his companions understood the quarrel; so Doctor Wilkinson left the room, determined to make a strict investigation the next morning.
Poor Reginald was almost overwhelmed: he knelt with his brother after their candle was extinguished, by their bedside, and both wept bitterly, though quite silently. Distress at his own fault, and his brother's new trouble, and deep thankfulness that his cousin was alive, and not dangerously hurt, filled Reginald's mind, and kept him awake long after all besides in the room were asleep.
The next morning, after the early school-hours, Doctor Wilkinson kept Reginald back as he was following the stream to breakfast, and led the way into the class-room, where, after closing the door, he seated himself, and motioning Reginald to draw closer to him, thus opened his inquiry.
"I wish to know, Mortimer, how this affair began last night: it appears, from all I can make out, to have been a most unprovoked attack on your part, but as there is often more than appears on the surface, I shall be glad to hear what you have to allege in extenuation of your savage conduct."
Reginald colored very deeply, and dropping his eyes under the piercing gaze of his master, remained silent.
"Am I to conclude from your silence that you have no excuse to make?" asked the doctor in a tone of mixed sorrow and indignation; "and am I to believe that from some petty insult you have allowed your temper such uncontrolled sway as nearly to have cost your cousin his life?"
"I had very great provocation," said Reginald, sullenly.
"And what might that be?" asked his master. "If the wrong be on Digby's side, you can have no hesitation in telling me what the wrong was."
Reginald made no answer, and, after a pause, Dr. Wilkinson continued: "Unless you can give me some reason, I must come to the conclusion that you have again given way to your violent passions without even the smallest excuse of injury from another. The assertion that you have been 'provoked' will not avail you much: I know that Digby is teasing and provoking, and is therefore very wrong, but if you cannot bear a little teasing, how are you to get on in the world? You are not a baby now, though you have acted more like a wild beast than a reasonable creature. I am willing and desirous to believe that something more than usual has been the cause of this ebullition of temper, for I hoped lately that you were endeavoring to overcome this sad propensity of yours."
"I assure you, sir," said Reginald, raising his open countenance to his master's, "I tried very much to bear with Frank, and I think I should if he had not said so much about—about—"
Here Reginald's voice failed; a sensation of choking anger prevented him from finishing his sentence.
"About what?" said the doctor, steadily.
"About my brother," said Reginald, abruptly.
"And what did he say about your brother that chafed you so much?"
Reginald changed color, and his eyes' lighted up with passion. He did not reply at first, but as his master seemed quietly awaiting his answer, he at length burst out,—
"He had been going on all the afternoon about Louis: he tried to put me in a passion; he said all he could—every thing that was unkind and provoking, and it was more than a fellow could stand. I bore it as long as I could—"
"You are giving me a proof of your gentle endurance now, I suppose," said the doctor.
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I can't help it,—I feel so angry when I think of it, that I am afraid I should knock him down again if he were to repeat it."
"For shame, sir!" said the doctor, sternly; "I should have thought that you had already had a lesson you would not easily have forgotten. What did he say of your brother that irritated you? I insist upon knowing."
"He said Louis was—that Louis did not speak the truth, sir. He said that I believed it—that I believed it"—and Reginald's passionate sobs choked his utterance.
"Believed what?" asked the doctor.
"Something that happened yesterday," said Reginald; "he said that—he was a hypocrite, and he went on taunting me about last summer."
"About last summer!" repeated the doctor.
"Yes, sir—about a mistake. Nobody makes allowances for Louis. I could have borne it all if he had not said that I knew Louis was a liar. I'd knock any one down that I was able who should say so! Indeed," continued Reginald, fiercely, "I begged him to leave off, and not provoke me, but he would have it, and he knew what I was."
"Enough—enough—hush," said Dr. Wilkinson: "I beg I may hear no more of knocking down. Don't add to your fault by working yourself into a passion with me. Some provocation you certainly have had, but nothing can justify such unrestrained fury. Consider what would have been your condition at present, if your rage had been fatal to your cousin; it would have availed you little to have pleaded the aggravation; your whole life would have been embittered by the indulgence of your vengeful feelings—one moment have destroyed the enjoyment of years. Thank God, Mortimer, that you have been spared so terrible a punishment. But you will always be in danger of this unless you learn to put a curb on your hasty temper. The same feelings which urge you into a quarrel as a boy, will hurry you into the duel as a man. It is a false spirit of honor and manliness that makes you so ready to resent every little insult. In the life of the only perfect Man that ever lived, our great Example and Master, we do not see this impatience of contradiction: 'When He was reviled, He reviled not again;' and if He, the Lord of all, could condescend to endure such contradiction of sinners against Himself, shall it be too much for us to bear a little with the contradiction of our fellow-creatures? My boy, if we do not strive to bear a little of the burden and heat of the day, we are not worthy to bear the noble name of Christians."
"I am very sorry, sir," said Reginald, quite softened by the earnest manner of his master; "I am very sorry I have been so hasty and wrong. I dare not make any promises for the future, for I know I cannot certainly keep them, but, with God's help, I hope to remember what you have so kindly said to me."
"With His help we may do all things," said Dr. Wilkinson; "you may by this help overcome the stumbling-stone of your violent passions, which otherwise may become an effectual barrier in the way of your attaining the prize of eternal life; and remember that 'he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.'"
There was a minute's silence, which Reginald broke by asking if he might attend on Frank until he was well.
"Can I hope that you will be gentle," said the doctor; "that you will remember he is in invalid—one of your making, Mortimer; and that if he is impatient and fretful, you are the cause?"
"I will try, sir, to make amends to him," said Reginald, looking down; "I hope I may be able to be patient."
"I will give orders that you may go to him," said the doctor; and after a pause, he added, "another offence of this kind I shall visit with the heaviest displeasure. I am in hopes that the anxiety you have undergone, and the present state of your cousin, may be a lesson to you; but if I find this ineffectual, I shall cease to consider you a reasonable creature, and shall treat you accordingly."
Dr. Wilkinson then rose and left the room. Reginald lingered a few minutes to compose himself before joining his school-fellows; his heart was very full, and he felt an earnest desire to abide by his master's counsel, as well as grateful for the leniency and kindness with which he had been treated, which made him feel his fault much more deeply than the severest punishment.
The breakfast time was very unpleasant for Louis that morning; he was full of anxiety as to the result of Mr. Witworth's discovery, and his sickness of heart entirely deprived him of appetite. When the meal was dispatched, Reginald went off to Frank, whom he found in a darkened room, very restless and impatient. He had passed a very bad night, and was suffering considerable pain. Reginald had to endure much ill-nature and peevishness; all of which he endeavored to bear with gentleness, and during the time Frank was ill, he gave up all his play-hours to wait on him and to amuse him as he grew better; and the exercise of patience which this office entailed was greatly beneficial to his hasty and proud spirit.
Mr. Danby was in the midst of the second-class lessons that morning, when one of the first class brought him a little slip of paper. Mr. Danby glanced at the few words written thereon, and when the class had finished he desired Louis to go to Dr. Wilkinson. All remnant of color fled from Louis' cheek, though he obeyed without making any reply, and with a very sinking heart entered the room where the doctor was engaged with the first class. The keen eye of his master detected him the instant he made his appearance, but he took no notice of him until he had finished his business; then, while his pupils were putting up their books he turned to Louis, and pointing to a little table by his side, said, "There is a volume, Louis Mortimer, with which I suspect you have some acquaintance."
Louis advanced to the table, and beheld the Key to Kenrick's Greek Exercises.
"You know it?" said the doctor.
"Yes, sir, but I did not use it," said Louis.
"You will not deny that it was found among your books in the school-room," said the doctor.
"I know, sir, Mr. Witworth found it, but I assure you I did not put it there," replied Louis, very gently.
"Have you never used it at all?" asked Dr. Wilkinson.
"Never, sir," replied Louis, firmly.
At this moment, he met the eye of Hamilton, who was standing near Dr. Wilkinson, and who looked very scornfully and incredulously at him as he paused to hear the result of the inquiry. Louis remembered that Hamilton had seen the key Churchill had left, and he hastily exclaimed, "I assure you, Mr. Hamilton, I did not."
"What is this, Hamilton?" said Dr. Wilkinson, turning round. "Do you know any thing of this matter?"
"I would much rather not answer," said Hamilton, abruptly, "if you will excuse me, sir."
"I must, however, beg that you will, if you please," replied the doctor.
"I really know nothing positively, I can say nothing certainly. You would not wish, sir, that any imagination of mine should prejudice you to Louis Mortimer's disadvantage; I am not able to say any thing," and Hamilton turned away in some confusion, vexed that he should have been appealed to.
Dr. Wilkinson looked half perplexed—he paused a moment and fixed his eyes on the table. Louis ventured to say, "Mr. Hamilton saw a book once before with my lesson books, but I never used it."
"What do you mean by saw a book?" asked the doctor. "What book did Mr. Hamilton see? How came it there, and why was it there?"
"It was 'Kenrick's Greek Exercises,' sir."
"You mean the 'Key,' I suppose?"
Louis answered in the affirmative.
"Whose was it?" asked the doctor, with a countenance more ominous in its expression.
"It was the one you took from Harrison, sir," replied Louis.
"Humph! I thought I took it away. Bring it here." Louis obeyed, and the doctor having looked at it, continued, "Well, you had this with your lesson books, you say. How did it come there?"
"One of the boys gave it to me, sir," replied Louis.
"And why did you not put it away?"
"I was going, sir;" and the color rushed into Louis' pale face. "I did not use it—and I hope I should not."
"Who left the book?" asked Dr. Wilkinson.
"Call Churchill, Salisbury."
Salisbury obeyed; and during his absence a profound silence reigned in the room, for all the first class were watching the proceedings in deep interest. Dr. Wilkinson seemed lost in thought; and Louis, in painful anxiety, scanned the strongly marked countenance of his master, now wearing its most unpleasing mask, and those of Hamilton and Trevannion, alternately. Hamilton did not look at him, but bent over a table at a book, the leaves of which he nervously turned. Trevannion eyed him haughtily as he leaned in his most graceful attitude against the wall behind the doctor's chair; and poor Louis read his condemnation in his eyes, as well as in the faces of most present.
Salisbury at length returned with Churchill, who was the more awe-struck at the unwonted summons, as he was so low in the school as seldom to have any business with the principal.
"Churchill," said the doctor, gravely, "I have sent for you to hear what is said of you. Now, Louis Mortimer, who gave you this book on the day Mr. Hamilton discovered it in your possession?"
"Churchill, sir," replied Louis, in great agitation; "you did, Churchill, did you not? Oh! do say you did."
"Hush," said the doctor. "What have you to say against this, Churchill?"
"Nothing, sir—I did—I gave it to Louis Mortimer," stammered Churchill, looking from Louis to the doctor, and back again.
"And how came you to give it to him?"
Churchill did not reply until the question was repeated, when he reluctantly said, he had given it to Louis to assist him in his exercise.
"Did Mortimer ask you for it?"
"Did he wish for it?"
"No, sir, not that I know of."
"You know, Harry, that I asked you to put it away—did I not?" cried Louis.
"I don't know—yes—I think you did," said Churchill, growing very hot.
"Why did you not put it away?" asked Dr. Wilkinson.
"Because I thought he wanted it, please sir."
"But I did not, Harry! I told you I did not," said Louis, eagerly.
Dr. Wilkinson desired Louis to be silent, and continued his questions—
"Did you try to persuade him to use it?"
Again Churchill paused, and again confessed, most unwillingly, that he had done so—and received a severe reprimand for his conduct on the occasion, and a long task to write out which would keep him employed during the play-hours of that day.
He was then dismissed, and Dr. Wilkinson again addressed himself to Louis: "I am glad to find that part of your story is correct; but I now wish you to explain how my key found its way into the school-room yesterday, when discovered by Mr. Witworth. The book must have been deliberately taken out of this room into the school-room. You appear to have been alone, or nearly so, in the school-room the greater part of yesterday afternoon, and Mr. Witworth found the book half concealed by your lesson books while you were writing your exercises."
"I assure you, sir, I did not take it," said Louis.
"Unhappily," replied Dr. Wilkinson, "I cannot take a mere assurance in the present instance. Had not the case been so palpable, I should have been bound to believe you until I had had reason to mistrust your word—but with these facts I cannot, Louis;" and he added, in a very low tone, so as to be heard only by Louis, who was much nearer to him than the others, "Your honor has not always been sacred—beware."
His school-fellows wondered what made the red flush mount so furiously in Louis' forehead, and the tears spring to his eyes. The painful feelings called forth by his master's speech prevented him from speaking for a few minutes. He was roused by Dr. Wilkinson saying—
"The discovery of this Key in your possession would involve your immediate dismissal from the second class, a sufficient disgrace, but the matter assumes a far more serious aspect from these assertions of innocence. If you had not used the book when discovered, it must have been taken either by you, or another, for use. The question is now, who took it?"
"I did not, sir," said Louis, in great alarm.
"Who did, then? Were any of your class with you?"
"Was any one with you?"
Louis paused. A sudden thought flashed across him—a sudden recollection of seeing that book passed over and slipped among his books; an action he had taken no notice of at the time, and which had never struck him till this moment. He now glanced eagerly at Ferrers, and then, in a tremulous voice, said, "I remember now, Ferrers put it there—I am almost sure."
"Ferrers!" exclaimed the young men, with one voice.
"What humbugging nonsense!" said Salisbury, in a low tone.
"Do you hear, Mr. Ferrers?" said the doctor: "how came you to put that Key among Louis Mortimer's books?"
"I, sir—I never," stammered Ferrers. "What should I want with it? What good could I get by it? Is it likely?"
"I am not arguing on the possibility of such an event, I simply wish to know if you did it?" said the doctor.
"I, sir—no," exclaimed Ferrers, with an air of injured innocence. "If I had done it, why did he not accuse me at once, instead of remembering it all of a sudden?"
"Because I only just remembered that I saw you moving something towards me, and I am almost sure it was that book now—I think so," replied Louis.
"You'd better be quite sure," said Ferrers.
Dr. Wilkinson looked from one to the other, and his look might have made a less unprincipled youth fear to persist in so horrible a falsehood.
"Were you learning your lessons in the school-room yesterday afternoon, Mr. Ferrers, at the same time with Louis Mortimer?" Ferrers acknowledging this, Dr. Wilkinson sent for Mr. Witworth, and asked him if he had observed either Ferrers or Louis go into the study during the afternoon, and if he knew what each brought out with him. Mr. Witworth replied that both went in, but he did not know what for.
"I went in to get an atlas for Ferrers," cried Louis, in great agitation.
"I got the atlas myself, Mortimer, you know," said Ferrers.
Louis was quite overcome. He covered his face with his hands, and burst into tears.
"This is a sad business," said Dr. Wilkinson, very gravely; "much worse than I expected—one of you must be giving utterance to the most frightful untruths. Which of you is it?"
"What would Ferrers want with the Key to The Greek Exercises sir?" suggested Trevannion, "unless he wished to do an ill turn to Mortimer, which you cannot suppose."
"I have hitherto trusted Mr. Ferrers," replied Dr. Wilkinson; "and am not disposed to withdraw that confidence without sufficient cause. Mr. Ferrers, on your word of honor, am I to believe your statement?"
Ferrers turned pale, but the doctor's steady gaze was upon him, and all his class-fellows awaited his reply—visions of disgrace, contempt, and scorn were before him, and there was no restraining power from within to check him, as he hastily replied, "On my word of honor, sir."
"I must believe you, then, as I can imagine no motive which could induce you to act dishonorably by this boy, were I to discover that any one in my school had acted so, his immediate expulsion should be the consequence."
The dead silence that followed the doctor's words struck coldly on the heart of the guilty coward.
"Now, Louis Mortimer," said the doctor, sternly, "I wish to give you another chance of confessing your fault."
Louis' thick convulsive sobs only replied to this. After waiting a few minutes, Dr. Wilkinson said, "Go now to the little study joining my dining-room, and wait there till I come: I shall give you half an hour to consider."
Louis left the room, and repaired to the study, where he threw himself on a chair in a paroxysm of grief, which, for the first quarter of an hour, admitted of no alleviation: "He had no character. The doctor had heard all before. All believed him guilty—and how could Ferrers act so? How could it ever be found out? And, oh! his dear father and mother, and his grandfather, would believe it."