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It is the generous spirit, who, when brought Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought, Whose high endeavours are an inward light, Making the path before him always bright. WORDSWORTH.
The holidays had commenced about a week when Harry, now duly appointed to H. M. S. Alcestis, was to come home on leave, as he proudly expressed it.
A glad troop of brothers and sisters, with the doctor himself, walked up to the station to meet him, and who was happiest when, from the window, was thrust out the rosy face, with the gold band? Mary gave such a shriek and leap, that two passengers and one guard turned round to look at her, to the extreme discomfiture of Flora and Norman, evidenced by one by a grave "Mary! Mary!" by the other, by walking off to the extreme end of the platform, and trying to look as if he did not belong to them, in which he was imitated by his shadow, Tom.
Sailor already, rather than schoolboy, Harry cared not for spectators; his bound from the carriage, and the hug between him, and Mary would have been worthy of the return from the voyage. The next greeting was for his father, and the sisters had had their share by the time the two brothers thought fit to return from their calm walk on the platform.
Grand was it to see that party return to the town--the naval cadet, with his arm linked in Mary's, and Aubrey clinging to his hand, and the others walking behind, admiring him as he turned his bright face every moment with some glad question or answer, "How was Margaret?" Oh, so much better; she had been able to walk across the room, with Norman's arm round her--they hoped she would soon use crutches--and she sat up more. "And the baby?" More charming than ever--four teeth--would soon walk--such a darling! Then came "my dirk, the ship, our berth." "Papa, do ask Mr. Ernescliffe to come here. I know he could get leave."
"Mr. Ernescliffe! You used to call him Alan!" said Mary.
"Yes, but that is all over now. You forget what we do on board. Captain Gordon himself calls me Mr. May!"
Some laughed, others were extremely impressed.
"Ha! There's Ned Anderson coming," cried Mary. "Now! Let him see you, Harry."
"What matters Ned Anderson to me?" said Harry; and, with an odd mixture of shamefacedness and cordiality, he marched full up to his old school-fellow, and shook hands with him, as if able, in the plenitude of his officership, to afford plenty of good-humoured superiority. Tom had meantime subsided out of all view. But poor Harry's exultation had a fall.
"Well!" graciously inquired 'Mr. May', "and how is Harvey?"
"Oh, very well. We are expecting him home to-morrow."
"Where has he been?"
"To Oxford, about the Randall."
Harry gave a disturbed, wondering look round, on seeing Edward's air of malignant satisfaction. He saw nothing that reassured him, except the quietness of Norman's own face, but even that altered as their eyes met. Before another word could be said, however, the doctor's hand was on Harry's shoulder.
"You must not keep him now, Ned," said he--"his sister has not seen him yet."
And he moved his little procession onwards, still resting on Harry's shoulder, while a silence had fallen on all, and even the young sailor ventured no question. Only Tom's lips were quivering, and Ethel had squeezed Norman's hand. "Poor Harry!" he muttered, "this is worst of all! I wish we had written it to him."
"So do I now, but we always trusted it would come right. Oh! if I were but a boy to flog that Edward!"
"Hush, Ethel, remember what we resolved."
They were entering their own garden, where, beneath the shade of the tulip-tree, Margaret lay on her couch. Her arms were held out, and Harry threw himself upon her, but when he rose from her caress, Norman and Tom were gone.
"What is this?" he now first ventured to ask.
"Come with me," said Dr. May, leading the way to his study, where he related the whole history of the suspicion that Norman had incurred. He was glad that he had done so in private, for Harry's indignation and grief went beyond his expectations; and when at last it appeared that Harvey Anderson was actually Randall-scholar, after opening his eyes with the utmost incredulity, and causing it to be a second time repeated, he gave a gulp or two, turned very red, and ended by laying his head on the table, and fairly sobbing and crying aloud, in spite of dirk, uniform, and manhood.
"Harry! why, Harry, my boy! We should have prepared you for this," said the doctor affectionately. "We have left off breaking our hearts about it. I don't want any comfort now for having gold instead of glitter; though at first I was as bad as you."
"Oh, if I had but been there!" said Harry, combating unsuccessfully with his tears.
"Ah! so we all said, Norman and all. Your word would have cleared him--that is, if you had not been in the thick of the mischief. Ha! July, should not you have been on the top of the wall?"
"I would have stood by him, at least. Would not I have given Axworthy and Anderson two such black eyes as they could not have shown in school for a week? They had better look out!" cried Harry savagely.
"What! An officer in her Majesty's service! Eh, Mr. May?"
"Don't, papa, don't. Oh! I thought it would have been so happy, when I came home, to see Norman Randall-scholar. Oh! now I don't care for the ship, nor anything." Again Harry's face went down on the table.
"Come, come, Harry," said Dr. May, pulling off the spectacles that had become very dewy, "don't let us make fools of ourselves, or they will think we are dying for the scholarship."
"I don't care for the scholarship, but to have June turned down--and disgrace--"
"What I care for, Harry, is having June what he is, and that I know better now."
"He is! he is--he is June himself, and no mistake!" cried Harry, with vehemence.
"The prime of the year, is not it?" said the doctor, smiling, as he stroked down the blue sleeve, as if he thought that generous July did not fall far short of it.
"That he is!" exclaimed Harry. "I have never met one fellow like him."
"It will be a chance if you ever do," said Dr. May. "That is better than scholarships!"
"It should have been both," said Harry.
"Norman thinks the disappointment has been very good for him," said the doctor.
"Perhaps it made him what he is now. All success is no discipline, you know."
Harry looked as if he did not know.
"Perhaps you will understand better by-and-by, but this I can tell you, Harry, that the patient bearing of his vexation has done more to renew Norman's spirits than all his prosperity. See if if has not. I believe it is harder to every one of us, than to him. To Ethel, especially, it is a struggle to be in charity with the Andersons."
"In charity!" repeated Harry. "Papa! you don't want us to like a horrid, sneaking, mean-spirited pair like those, that have used Norman in that shameful way?"
"No, certainly not; I only want you to feel no more personal anger than if it had been Cheviot, or some indifferent person, that had been injured."
"I should have hated them all the same!" cried Harry.
"If it is all the same, and it is the treachery you hate, I ask no more," said the doctor.
"I can't help it, papa, I can't! If I were to meet those fellows, do you think I could shake hands with them? If I did not lick Ned all down Minster Street, he might think himself lucky."
"Well, Harry, I won't argue any more. I have no right to preach forbearance. Your brother's example is better worth than my precept. Shall we go back to Margaret, or have you anything to say to me?"
Harry made no positive answer, but pressed close to his father, who put his arm round him, while the curly head was laid on his shoulder. Presently he said, with a great sigh, "There's nothing like home."
"Was that what you wanted to say?" asked Dr. May, smiling, as he held the boy more closely to him.
"No; but it will be a long time before I come back. They think we shall have orders for the Pacific."
"You will come home our real lion," said the doctor. "How much you will have to tell!"
"Yes," said Harry; "but oh! it is very different from coming home every night, not having any one to tell a thing to."
"Do you want to say anything now?"
"I don't know. I told you in my letter about the half-sovereign."
"Ay, never mind that."
"And there was one night, I am afraid, I did not stand by a little fellow that they bullied about his prayers. Perhaps he would have gone on, if I had helped him!"
"Does he sail with you?"
"No, he was at school. If I had told him that he and I would stand by each other--but he looked so foolish, and began to cry! I am sorry now."
"Weak spirits have much to bear," said the doctor, "and you stronger ones, who don't mind being bullied, are meant, I suppose, to help them, as Norman has been doing by poor little Tommy."
"It was thinking of Norman--that made me sorry. I knew there was something else, but you see I forget when I don't see you and Margaret every day."
"You have One always near, my boy."
"I know, but I cannot always recollect. And there is such a row at night on board, I cannot think or attend as I ought," murmured Harry.
"Yes, your life, sleeping at home in quiet, has not prepared you for that trial," said the doctor. "But others have kept upright habits under the same, you know--and God helps those who are doing their best."
"I mean to do my best," he added; "and if it was not for feeling bad, I should like it. I do like it"--and his eye sparkled, and his smile beamed, though the tear was undried.
"I know you do!" said Dr. May, smiling, "and for feeling bad, my Harry, I fear you must do that by sea, or land, as long as you are in this world. God be thanked that you grieve over the feeling. But He is ready to aid, and knows the trial, and you will be brought nearer to Him before you leave us."
"Margaret wrote about the Confirmation. Am I old enough?"
"If you wish it, Harry, under these circumstances."
"I suppose I do," said Harry, uneasily twirling a button.
"But then, if I've got to forgive the Andersons--"
"We won't talk any more of that," said the doctor; "here is poor Mary, reconnoitring, to know why I am keeping you from her."
Then began the scampering up and down the house, round and round the garden, visiting every pet or haunt or contrivance; Mary and Harry at the head, Blanche and Tom in full career after them, and Aubrey stumping and scrambling at his utmost speed, far behind.
Not a word passed between Norman and Harry on the school misadventure, but, after the outbreak of the latter, he treated it as a thing forgotten, and brought all his high spirits to enliven the family party. Richard, too, returned later on the same day, and though not received with the same uproarious joy as Harry, the elder section of the family were as happy in their way as what Blanche called the middle-aged. The Daisy was brought down, and the eleven were again all in the same room, though there were suppressed sighs from some, who reflected how long it might be before they could again assemble.
Tea went off happily in the garden, with much laughing and talking. "Pity to leave such good company!" said the doctor, unwillingly rising at last--"but I must go to the Union--I promised Ward to meet him there."
"Oh, let me walk with you!" cried Harry.
"And me!" cried other voices, and the doctor proposed that they should wait for him in the meads, and extend the walk after the visit. Richard and Ethel both expressing their intention of adhering to Margaret--the latter observing how nice it would be to get rid of everybody, and have a talk.
"What have we been doing all this time?" said Dr. May, laughing.
"Chattering, not conversing," said Ethel saucily.
"Ay! the Cocksmoor board is going to sit," said Dr. May.
"What is a board?" inquired Blanche, who had just come down prepared for her walk.
"Richard, Margaret, and Ethel, when they sit upon Cocksmoor," said Dr. May.
"But Margaret never does sit on Cocksmoor, papa."
"Only allegorically, Blanche," said Norman.
"But I don't understand what is a board?" pursued Blanche.
"Mr. May in his ship," was Norman's suggestion.
Poor Blanche stood in perplexity. "What is it really?"
"Something wooden headed," continued the provoking papa.
"A board is all wooden, not only its head," said Blanche.
"Exactly so, especially at Stoneborough!" said the doctor.
"It is what papa is when he comes out of the council-room," added Ethel.
"Or what every one is while the girls are rigging themselves," sighed Harry. "Ha! here's Polly--now we only want Flora."
"And my stethoscope! Has any one seen my stethoscope!" exclaimed the doctor, beginning to rush frantically into the study, dining-room, and his own room; but failing, quietly took up a book, and gave up the search, which was vigorously pursued by Richard, Flora, and Mary, until the missing article was detected, where Aubrey had left it in the nook on the stairs, after using it for a trumpet and a telescope.
"Ah! now my goods will have a chance!" said Dr. May, as he took it, and patted Richard's shoulder. "I have my best right hand, and Margaret will be saved endless sufferings."
"Ay! poor dear! don't I see what she undergoes, when nobody will remember that useful proverb, 'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' I believe one use of her brains is to make an inventory of all the things left about the drawing-room; but, beyond it, it is past her power."
"Yes," said Flora, rather aggrieved; "I do the best I can, but, when nobody ever puts anything into its place, what can I do, single- handed? So no one ever goes anywhere without first turning the house upside down for their property; and Aubrey, and now even baby, are always carrying whatever they can lay hands on into the nursery. I can't bear it; and the worst of it is that," she added, finishing her lamentation, after the others were out at the door, "papa and Ethel have neither of them the least shame about it."
"No, no, Flora, that is not fair!" exclaimed Margaret--but Flora was gone.
"I have shame," sighed Ethel, walking across the room disconsolately, to put a book into a shelf.
"And you don't leave trainants as you used," said Margaret. "That is what I meant."
"I wish I did not," said Ethel; "I was thinking whether I had better not make myself pay a forfeit. Suppose you keep a book for me, Margaret, and make a mark against me at everything I leave about, and if I pay a farthing for each, it will be so much away from Cocksmoor, so I must cure myself!"
"And what shall become of the forfeits?" asked Richard.
"Oh, they won't be enough to be worth having, I hope," said Margaret.
"Give them to the Ladies' Committee," said Ethel, making a face. "Oh, Ritchie! they are worse than ever. We are so glad that Flora is going to join it, and see whether she can do any good."
"We?" said Margaret, hesitating.
"Ah! I know you aren't, but papa said she might--and you know she has so much tact and management--"
"As Norman says," observed Margaret doubtfully. "I cannot like the notion of Flora going and squabbling with Mrs. Ledwich and Louisa Anderson!"
"What do you think, Ritchie?" asked Ethel. "Is it not too bad that they should have it all their own way, and spoil the whole female population? Why, the last thing they did was to leave off reading the Prayer-book prayers morning and evening! And it is much expected that next they will attack all learning by heart."
"It is too bad," said Richard, "but Flora can hardly hinder them."
"It will be one voice," said Ethel; "but oh! if I could only say half what I have in my mind, they must see the error. Why, these, these-- what they call formal--these the ties--links on to the Church--on to what is good--if they don't learn them soundly--rammed down hard--you know what I mean--so that they can't remember the first--remember when they did not know them--they will never get to learn--know-- understand when they can understand!"
"My dear Ethel, don't frown so horribly, or it will spoil your eloquence," said Margaret.
"I don't understand either," said Richard gravely. "Not understand when they can understand? What do you mean?"
"Why, Ritchie, don't you see? If they don't learn them--hard, firm, by rote when they can't--they won't understand when they can."
"If they don't learn when they can't, they won't understand when they can?" puzzled Richard, making Margaret laugh; but Ethel was too much in earnest for amusement.
"If they don't learn them by rote when they have strong memories. Yes, that's it!" she continued; "they will not know them well enough to understand them when they are old enough!"
"Who won't learn and understand what?" said Richard.
"Oh, Ritchie, Ritchie! Why the children--the Psalms--the Gospels-- the things. They ought to know them, love them, grow up to them, before they know the meaning, or they won't care. Memory, association, affection, all those come when one is younger than comprehension!"
"Younger than one's own comprehension?"
"Richard, you are grown more tiresome than ever. Are you laughing at me?"
"Indeed, I beg your pardon--I did not mean it," said Richard. "I am very sorry to be so stupid."
"My dear Ritchie, it was only my blundering-never mind."
"But what did you mean? I want to know, indeed, Ethel."
"I mean that memory and association come before comprehension, so that one ought to know all good things--fa--with familiarity before one can understand, because understanding does not make one love. Oh! one does that before, and, when the first little gleam, little bit of a sparklet of the meaning does come, then it is so valuable and so delightful."
"I never heard of a little bit of a sparklet before," said Richard, "but I think I do see what Ethel means; and it is like what I heard and liked in a university sermon some Sundays ago, saying that these lessons and holy words were to be impressed on us here from infancy on earth, that we might be always unravelling their meaning, and learn it fully at last--where we hope to be."
"The very same thought!" exclaimed Margaret, delighted; "but," after a pause, "I am afraid the Ladies' Committee might not enter into it in plain English, far less in Ethel's language."
"Now, Margaret! You know I never meant myself. I never can get the right words for what I mean."
"And you leave about your faux commencements, as M. Ballompre would call them, for us to stumble over," said Margaret.
"But Flora would manage!" said Ethel. "She has power over people, and can influence them. Oh, Ritchie, don't persuade papa out of letting her go."
"Does Mr. Wilmot wish it?" asked Richard.
"I have not heard him say, but he was very much vexed about the prayers," said Ethel.
"Will he stay here for the holidays?"
"No, his father has not been well, and he is gone to take his duty. He walked with us to Cocksmoor before he went, and we did so wish for you."
"How have you been getting on?"
"Pretty well, on the whole," said Ethel, "but, oh, dear! oh, dear, Richard, the M'Carthys are gone!"
"Oh, to Wales. I knew nothing of it till they were off. Una and Fergus were missing, and Jane Taylor told me they were all gone. Oh, it is so horrid! Una had really come to be so good and so much in earnest. She behaved so well at school and church, that even Mrs. Ledwich liked her, and she used to read her Testament half the day, and bring her Sunday-school lessons to ask me about! Oh! I was so fond of her, and it really seemed to have done some good with her. And now it is all lost! Oh, I wish I knew what would become of my poor child!"
"The only hope is that it may not be all lost," said Margaret.
"With such a woman for a mother!" said Ethel; "and going to some heathenish place again! If I could only have seen her first, and begged her to go to church and say her prayers. If I only knew where she is gone! but I don't. I did think Una would have come to wish me good-bye!"
"I am very sorry to lose her," said Richard.
"Mr. Wilmot says it is bread cast on the waters," said Margaret--"he was very kind in consoling Ethel, who came home quite in despair."
"Yes, he said it was one of the trials," said Ethel, "and that it might be better for Una as well as for me. And I am trying to care for the rest still, but I cannot yet as I did for her. There are none of the eyes that look as if they were eating up one's words before they come, and that smile of comprehension! Oh, they all are such stupid little dolts, and so indifferent!"
"Fancy last Friday--Mary and I found only eight there--"
"Do you remember what a broiling day Friday was?" interrupted Margaret. "Miss Winter and Norman both told me I ought not to let them go, and I began to think so when they came home. Mary was the colour of a peony!"
"Oh! it would not have signified if the children had been good for anything, but all their mothers were out at work, and, of those that did come, hardly one had learned their lessons--Willy Blake had lost his spelling-card; Anne Harris kicked Susan Pope, and would not say she was sorry; Mary Hale would not know M from N, do all our Mary would; and Jane Taylor, after all the pains I have taken with her, when I asked how the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, seemed never to have heard of them."
Margaret could have said that Ethel had come in positively crying with vexation, but with no diminution of the spirit of perseverance.
"I am so glad you are come, Richard!" she continued. "You will put a little new life into them. They all looked so pleased when we told them Mr. Richard was coming."
"I hope we shall get on," said Richard.
"I want you to judge whether the Popes are civilised enough to be dressed for Sunday-school. Oh, and the money! Here is the account- book--"
"How neatly you have kept it, Ethel."
"Ah! it was for you, you know. Receipts--see, aren't you surprised?"
"Four pounds eighteen and eightpence! That is a great deal!"
"The three guineas were Mr. Rivers's fees, you know; then, Margaret gave us half-a-sovereign, and Mary a shilling, and there was one that we picked up, tumbling about the house, and papa said we might have, and the twopence were little Blanche's savings. Oh, Ritchie!" as a bright coin appeared on the book.
"That is all I could save this term," he said.
"Oh, it is famous! Now, I do think I may put another whole sovereign away into the purse for the church. See, here is what we have paid. Shoes--those did bring our money very low, and then I bought a piece of print which cost sixteen shillings, but it will make plenty of frocks. So, you see, the balance is actually two pounds nine! That is something. The nine shillings will go on till we get another fee; for I have two frocks ready made for the Popes, so the two pounds are a real nest-egg towards the church."
"The church!" repeated Rlchard, half smiling.
"I looked in the paper the other day, and saw that a chapel had been built for nine hundred pounds," said Ethel.
"And you have two!"
"Two in eight months, Ritchie, and more will come as we get older. I have a scheme in my head, but I won't tell you now."
"Nine hundred! And a church has to be endowed as well as built, you know, Ethel."
"Oh! never mind that now. If we can begin and build, some good person will come and help. I'll run and fetch it, Ritchie. I drew out a sketch of what I want it to be."
"What a girl that is!" said Richard, as Ethel dashed away.
"Is not she?" said Margaret. "And she means all so heartily. Do you know she has spent nothing on her own pleasures, not a book, not a thing has she bought this year, except a present for Blanche's birthday, and some silk to net a purse for Harry."
"I cannot help being sometimes persuaded that she will succeed," said Richard.
"Faith, energy, self-denial, perseverance, they go a great way," said Margaret. "And yet when we look at poor dear Ethel, and her queer ungainly ways, and think of her building a church!"
Neither Richard nor Margaret could help laughing, but they checked it at once, and the former said, "That brave spirit is a reproof to us all."
"Yes," said Margaret; "and so is the resolution to mend her little faults."
Ethel came back, having, of course, mislaid her sketch, and, much vexed, wished to know if it ought to cause her first forfeit, but Margaret thought these should not begin till the date of the agreement, and the three resumed the Cocksmoor discussion.
It lasted till the return of the walking party, so late, that they had been star-gazing, and came in, in full dispute as to which was Cygnus and which Aquila, while Blanche was talking very grandly of Taurus Poniatouski, and Harry begging to be told which constellations he should still see in the southern hemisphere. Dr. May was the first to rectify the globe for the southern latitudes, and fingers were affectionately laid on Orion's studded belt, as though he were a friend who would accompany the sailor-boy. Voices grew loud and eager in enumerating the stars common to both; and so came bedtime, and the globe stood on the table in danger of being forgotten. Ethel diligently lifted it up; and while Norman exclaimed at her tidiness, Margaret told how a new leaf was to be turned, and of her voluntary forfeits.
"A very good plan," cried the doctor. "We can't do better than follow her example."
"What you, papa? Oh, what fun!" exclaimed Harry.
"So you think I shall be ruined, Mr. Monkey. How do you know I shall not be the most orderly of all? A penny for everything left about, confiscated for the benefit of Cocksmoor, eh?"
"And twopence for pocket-handkerchiefs, if you please," said Norman, with a gesture of disgust.
"Very well. From Blanche, upwards. Margaret shall have a book, and set down marks against us--hold an audit every Saturday night. What say you, Blanche?"
"Oh, I hope Flora will leave something about!" cried Blanche, dancing with glee.
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