The Project Gutenberg eBook of That scholarship boy

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Title: That scholarship boy

Author: Emma Leslie

Illustrator: Leonard Skeats

Release date: July 22, 2008 [eBook #26104]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Chris Curnow, Lindy Walsh,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




[Page 106.


Title Page






Author of 'Arthur Ranyard's Training,' 'Dearer than Life,' etc.






4 Bouverie Street and 65 St. Paul's Churchyard E.C.


Chapter I
Brother and Sister 5
Chapter II
Sending Him to Coventry 18
Chapter III
The Cock of the Walk 32
Chapter IV
Dr. Morrison 46
Chapter V
The Champion 59
Chapter VI
For the Honour of the School 74
Chapter VII
News for Mrs. Morrison 89
Chapter VIII
Righteous Retribution 109



Brother and Sister.

'I say, we've got a new boy at Torrington's. Haven't had one for ages and ages, so it's made quite a stir among us.'

'You can make stir enough when you are coming out of school,' said his sister, lifting her eyes from her lessons and looking across the table.

'Who is the new boy?' she asked.

'Nobody knows—that's the fun,' said Leonard, with a short whistle.

'Don't you even know his name?'

'That's just like a girl, Duffy; you're worse than usual,' said her brother, setting his elbows on the table, and nibbling the end of the pen-holder in a meditative fashion. 'Of course he was properly introduced to the class as Mr. Horace Howard.'

'Howard is a nice name,' commented Duffy, whose real name was Florence. 'It was Aunt Lucy's name before she was married, you know.'

No, I don't know. I may have heard it,[6] but the name's nothing. I don't suppose his father was hanged!' said her brother.

'Perhaps he is some distant relative of the Duke of Norfolk? though auntie says she has nothing to do with those Howards.'

A mocking laugh greeted this suggestion. 'Go on, Duffy, let us have some more of your wisdom.'

'I don't see what there is to laugh at, Len, and I am sure I don't want to hear about the new boy,' said his sister indignantly, and she turned to her lessons once more.

This brought a fusillade of paper pellets from the student sitting opposite. She bore it patiently for a minute or two, and then angrily demanded why he did not get on with his lessons and let her do the same, and threatened to ring the bell.

'Don't be a bigger duffer than you are, Flo. You can't help being a girl, I know; but I'm willing to help you all I can out of a girl's foolishness. Only a girl would talk of ringing the bell, and making a row, because she can't have all her own way. Come now, I want to talk to you about the new boy, and we can finish the lesson afterwards.'

'But you say you don't know anything about him, and so there's nothing to talk about,' said his sister.

'Yes, that's just it. Why shouldn't the fellow tell us who his people are, where he[7] comes from, and what he's going to do with himself by-and-by?'

It was his sister's turn to laugh now. 'What queer notions boys have!' she exclaimed. 'I suppose you expect a new scholar to come and say, "My father is a doctor, or a lawyer, and we have three servants at our house," as soon as the master has introduced him to the class.'

A ball of paper was levelled at Duffy's head for this remark. 'Who said he was to do it the first day or the second day? But when a fellow has been there nearly a fortnight you expect to hear something about who he is.'

'But suppose he don't choose to tell you, what then?'

'Yes, that's it. How are we going to make him? What would you do, Duffy? That's what I want to know.'

'Oh, I'm only a girl,' said Duffy with a laugh. 'I can't be expected to understand boys' affairs like that.'

'Yes, you do—that's just what girls do understand. We can't have a good stand up fight, which is the way we generally settle things.'

'Why not? If the new boy won't do as the rest tell him, then fight it out, if he won't give in!'

Leonard heaved a sigh of despair. 'There never was anything half so stupid as a girl!'[8] he exclaimed. 'Do you think if it was anything we could settle off-hand like that I should ask you about it?'

'Well, tell me what it is, and I'll help you if I can. What is the new boy like?' she asked.

'Oh, like most other fellows, I suppose, or at least he was the first day, I know, for I took particular notice as he came into the class; but the last day or two he has come in a jacket that ought to have gone to the rag-bag three months ago, and——'

'But his jacket can't hurt you,' interrupted his sister, 'you don't have to wear it.'

'You stupid duffer! don't he go to Torrington's, I tell you, and haven't we got to stand up for the honour of the school?'

'Who—the boys or the head master?' asked Duffy innocently.

'Why, all of us, to be sure, and we mean to do it too. Why, Torrington's is as good as Eton.'

'Oh yes, of course it's a good school,' admitted Duffy.

'Yes, and we mean to keep it so; we don't mean to have any cads among us.'

'Is the new boy a cad, then?' asked his sister.

'He can't be anything else, if the story Bob Taylor has heard is true. He brought it to school yesterday, and says he knows it is a fact[9] That the new fellow is a scholarship boy from one of those low board schools in Middleton, and that he walks back to the town every day.'

'What is a scholarship boy?' asked Duffy.

'Why, a poor beggar who can't afford to pay his own schooling, and so the County Council pay it for him.'

'What a shame!' exclaimed the young lady indignantly. 'Mamma was saying only yesterday how much our schooling cost. Why don't the County Council pay for us, especially as father has something to do with it?'

Leonard shook his head. He either did not know or did not choose to tell his sister the conditions upon which County Scholarships were granted. He merely remarked, 'You're a dreadful duffer about some things, Flo. But you could tell us what girls would do if their school was going to be dragged down.'

But Florence shook her head. 'I don't know what we should do,' she said, 'because I am not one of the elder girls, and we juniors don't count for much; but if the girl weren't nice I should not speak to her or help her with her lessons or anything.'

'Oh, the beggar don't want any help with his lessons. He has climbed to the top of the class, and hooked Taylor out of his place already. And old Mason actually had the cheek to tell us to-day that we[10] should have to pay a good deal more attention to our home work, or else Howard would carry off all the prizes by-and-by. I should like to see him do it,' he added.

'No, you wouldn't; and so you had better get on with your lessons now,' said the young lady practically.

'No, no! let's settle this first. You haven't told me what a girl's way would be with a fellow like this Howard.'

'Why, if he isn't nice, don't speak to him. Of course you can't help it if he does his lessons better than you do, or you must work at them a little more carefully, I suppose, if you mean to get ahead of him in the class and take some of the prizes!'

'Oh, prizes be bothered!' exclaimed Leonard crossly, for his sister's advice had not pleased him at all. 'I tell you we want to get rid of the fellow if we can. Taylor says the head master ought to have refused to take a scholarship boy.'

'Perhaps father could interfere,' said Florence. 'He has a good deal to do with the Council.'

'If you breathe a word of what I've said to father, I'll never speak to you again!' said her brother vehemently. 'The idea of such a thing! Tell father, indeed! What would the other fellows say, do you think? No, no, we can fight our own battle, and defend the[11] honour of the school in our own way. A nice hash you would make of everything. You are a worse duffer than I thought, though I don't think you are a tell-tale.'

'Of course I shall not tell father what we have been talking about, if that is what you mean,' said Duffy, a little indignantly. The tears were shining in her eyes, for she was very fond of her brother, and always ready to help him whenever she was allowed, and so she felt this scornful rebuff the more keenly.

'There, you needn't cry over it. I suppose you can't help being only a girl. But mind, if you say a word to father or mother of what I have told you, I never will speak to you again!' And with this last threat Leonard turned with a sigh to his lessons.

'I've wasted a lot of time over you this evening,' he said, after a short silence, during which Duffy had been muttering over a French verb. 'I'm awfully disappointed about it,' he went on, 'for I shall have to tell Taylor and the rest that you're nothing but a duffer.'

'Because I can't tell you how to manage with a boy that I don't know; it isn't fair, Len, and you say boys always are fair,' said his sister, in a tone of protest, as she turned to her lessons once more.[12]

Leonard tried to follow her example, but he could not fix his attention upon problems in Euclid with that greater problem unsolved—how the honour of the school was to be saved, and the new boy got rid of? That was really what Taylor and one or two leading spirits had decided must be done; but how to do it was the puzzle!

Leonard's lessons were very imperfectly prepared that night, and every moment he could snatch the next morning was given to looking over his books, that he might not utterly fail when he was called upon to produce what he should have learned; and he was conning over one task as he walked to school, when he was overtaken by Taylor and the rest.

'Oh, I say, Dabbs'—Len's nickname among his friends—'we saw that new fellow with another carrying a basket of tools—looked like a carpenter's basket,' said one.

'It was his brother, too, I know—looked as though he was going wood-chopping somewhere,' said another. But Taylor slipped his arm in Len's and drew him aside. 'Look here, what are we going to do about it—what did your clever sister say?'

'She couldn't think of anything last night, she was too busy.'

'Oh, that's all rot you know. You said she would be sure to think of something clever,[13] and it's come to this—that we must do something at once, or Torrington's will go to the dogs, with working fellows coming here and lording it over gentlemen. The question is how are we to get rid of him?'

'Yes, that's it. How are we? It is easy to say, get rid of him, but the question is—how? The only thing that we can do at present that I can see is to send him to Coventry!'

To send a boy to Coventry required united action on the part of the whole school, but Leonard Morrison and Taylor, with one or two of their friends, did not despair of persuading their class-mates to follow their example. Of course the boys in the lower classes might speak an occasional word, and the seniors in the upper form might have occasion to do the same, but the classes in this school were large and practically self-contained, so that they had little to do with those in the upper or junior classes; it was therefore comparatively easy for the leading spirits to persuade or compel the rest to follow their lead, whatever it might be.

So the day following the talk between the brother and sister, Horace Howard found himself sent to Coventry, as his foes had decreed. As he was a quiet, studious lad, he did not notice this at first, but by degrees it impressed itself upon him that no one had asked him a question all day, or even told him[14] that he must not do this or that. He felt vaguely uncomfortable before he set off on his long walk home; and when he found that several of his schoolfellows, who had previously talked to him as they walked part of the way together, ran off as soon as the gate was passed, his heart sank within him, and he wondered what he could have done to bring this punishment upon himself.

But, whatever he might feel, he determined not to let his mother know anything about it, and so he went into the little room where she sat at work, whistling cheerily as usual.

'Stitch, stitch, stitch,' he said, as his mother looked up from her work for the accustomed kiss.

'You're earlier to-night, dear,' said Mrs. Howard, as she laid aside her work and drew the tea-tray close to her.

'I suppose I walked a bit faster, and didn't gossip quite so much,' said the lad, and he had to strangle a sigh as he spoke, lest his mother should detect it.

'Are you hungry, my boy?' said his mother as he hung up his cap.

'Not very,' answered Horace, for he knew by this time that it was inconvenient for him to have a large appetite, and so he was learning to regulate it by the state of their finances.

'You went in your old jacket again to-day,[15] Horace,' she remarked as she set his dinner before him, for he took his mid-day meal with him to school.

'Yes, I wore my old jacket. Why not?' said Horace. 'You mended it up so nicely that it was a pity not to give it another turn and save the other. Jackets can't be picked up in the street, you know; and though we may sometimes pick wool off the hedges, it isn't woven and made up into boys' jackets.'

Horace talked on in this strain, to prevent his mother from asking questions as to how he had got on at school during the day, for Mrs. Howard knew something of the ways of boys, and was terribly afraid lest some of her son's schoolfellows should find out something of their circumstances, and not treat Horace as they would an equal.

Nothing but the lad's love of science and her desire to give him an education that would fit him to make use of this talent, had made her willing to consent that he should compete for a scholarship that would enable him to do this. It was the first time, she knew, that a boy from the board school had ever been admitted to this exclusive grammar school known as 'Torrington's'; and she had watched anxiously each day, to find out whether the lads were treating their poorer companion kindly and courteously, and thus far she had been perfectly satisfied.[16]

Her elder son was as anxious as she was that Horace should have all the advantages a good education could give, but he was opposed to his brother going to Torrington's.

'I am only a carpenter,' he said, 'and never want to be anything better, but it won't suit those boys to hear that one of their schoolfellows has a brother who is a common working man.'

'You are not a common working man, Fred,' said his mother quickly.

'Not to you, perhaps, mother mine, but I want you to look at things as the world does. I do common work—carpenter's work, and am glad to get the chance of doing it, and to help you and Horace. Here we can only be common working people—you sewing for the shops and I working for a builder. That is all the people know, and all we want them to know, and I wish Horace could have been a carpenter too.'

'Perhaps it would have been as well,' said his mother with a sigh.

'I am sure it would. We agreed to come here and leave the whole miserable past behind.'

'It is left behind,' interrupted his mother quickly.

'Ah, yes, we have done our best; but who knows what questions may be asked, now Horace has gone to that school? Boys are[17] often curious in their inquiries, and it is not as though——'

'Fred, Fred, we must leave these things in the hand of God, and be content to take one step at a time. I could not, in fairness to Horace, let him throw away this opportunity of getting a good education that will fit him to use the gifts which I believe God has given him.'

This conversation had taken place at dinner-time that very day, and Mrs. Howard was thinking of it as she watched Horace eat his dinner.

The boy knew that his mother's eyes were upon him, and he was the more anxious to guard his secret, and so he rattled on until his mother forgot her fears, and thought Fred was making himself anxious without the slightest shadow of cause.



Sending Him to Coventry.

Horace Howard sat longer over his lessons that night, and was quite undisturbed by any talking with his mother and brother, and when the time came for him to put the lessons aside and go to bed, he knew he had only half mastered them, for his thoughts had wandered continually from the subject of the lesson before him to the events of his day at school, trying to discover what he had done to offend his schoolfellows, that they should all at once send him to Coventry in this fashion. The study of mathematics, French, chemistry, and physics did not help him to the solution of this problem; but the school mystery greatly hindered the other subjects from becoming clear to his mind, and when he took his place in class the next morning he knew it would be a bad day for him with his class-work.

It was worse even than he feared, and as he lost place after place, and went down at last even below the dunces of the form, it hurt him more to see how gleeful the other[19] boys were over his mistakes than to lose his place in the class.

At last, when Horace had blundered worse than usual over some lesson, the master said, 'What is the matter with you to-day, Howard? Are you ill? Have you got a headache?'

'No, sir,' answered Horace, for he was a truthful lad, and could not avail himself of the excuse the master had thus offered him.

'You could not have prepared your lessons last night, then; you know the rule about this, don't you?' said the master sternly.

'Yes, sir; I studied my lessons for more than two hours last night,' said Horace, reddening and growing more confused, for he knew all the class were staring at him, and, as he fancied, glorying in his discomfiture. In this he was not far wrong; but there were one or two who pitied him in his various dilemmas, and would have broken that ban of silence that had been decreed against him, but the leaders kept their eyes upon them, and they would not venture to brave the displeasure of their elders.

Altogether it was a cruelly hard day for Horace, and he felt strongly inclined to say when he went home, that he would never go near the school again, but become a carpenter like his brother. One trade would be as good as another, if he could not go on and learn more of the mysteries of chemistry and physics[20] It was some consolation to him that his master had told him to prepare a special lesson in chemistry, in readiness for some practical experiments that were to take place the following day.

In his eagerness over this Horace forgot the vexations and trials of the day, and had mastered it so quickly, that he was able to look over again the lessons that had floored him in class. These imperfect lessons would be like the damaged links of a chain, and might bring him trouble again and again, if he did not repair the mischief at once; and so by the time he went to bed he had well-nigh mastered all the difficulties, and worked himself into a state of self-content, which was about the best preparation for the next day's work, for he went to sleep without a thought beyond his lessons, and took his place in the class looking bright and cheery once more.

To-day was to be a sort of recapitulation of the previous fortnight's work in chemistry, and the stupid blunders made the previous day were more than atoned for, and at last when the boy had worked out a brilliant result that greatly surprised the master he said, 'Why, you must have been ill yesterday.'

'No, sir, I was well,' said Horace, seeing the master waited for an answer. 'I was well enough, but I was not quite happy.'

'Well, then, let me advise you to make[21] yourself happy in future under any circumstances.' And then he added in an undertone, 'You are a scholarship lad, and we expect more from you than from some of the others.'

'Thank you, sir, I'll try,' said Horace; and throughout that day he did not find it hard to try, as the master had suggested.

The others had their eyes upon him, and were puzzled to account for his success. They had made up their minds the previous day that they would only have to carry on their present tactics for a short time, and Horace would leave the school in disgust, or else he would be asked to leave by the head master, and thus Torrington's would be saved from going to the dogs through this scholarship boy. But this day's experience of what Horace could do under the terrible ban of their displeasure puzzled them, and they resolved to watch more closely, to make sure none of those who were suspected of faltering in allegiance to the decree of their leaders did not speak to him on their way home.

But Horace himself did not expect this now. The first bitterness of the trial had worn off, and as soon as he was beyond the school gate he set off home at a sharp trot, softly whistling to himself, as he pondered over what would be the probable effect if a certain acid they had been using was mixed with another substance entirely different from[22] anything they had used in that day's experiments.

He whistled and thought, and turned the matter over and over in his mind, and finally ended by wishing that his mother could afford to give him pocket-money like most boys had to spend. This cost him a sigh, as he thought he might as well wish for a slice of the moon at once as for pocket-money, and by the time he got home he was whistling to himself again as happily as ever.

When he got in, his mother noticed his eager, animated looks.

'Why, what has happened to make you so merry?' she said, as he threw up his cap in sheer exuberance of spirits.

'Nothing much, mother; only I have got an idea.'

'Keep it, then, lad—keep it,' said his brother, laughing.

'All right,' said Horace, thinking he should be under no temptation to part with it, since his schoolfellows would not speak to him. 'It's a good idea, I know, if I can only find out the way to carry it out,' added Horace, at which his brother laughed, and his mother remarked that a good many people had ideas, but the difficulty was to carry them into effect, so that they were of practical use.

'Oh, it will want a good deal of thinking[23] about, I know; but it has made me quite decide not to be a carpenter.'

'I thought you had made up your mind about that long ago,' said Fred.

'Ah, but I was thinking the other day it would be a great deal easier to be a carpenter, and earn money. I wasn't sure that I ought not to do something to help mother soon.'

'No, my boy,' interrupted Mrs. Howard; 'it would not be your duty to give up all opportunity of using the talents God has given you, when the way has been made clear for you to receive the education that will fit you to use them by-and-by. Fred always liked cutting wood and making boats and stools, just as you are fond of making chemical experiments, and watching what the result will be.'

'I wouldn't be anything but a carpenter; but I shall study mathematics more, that I may do better at my trade by-and-by,' said Fred. 'Every man to his trade, I suppose; but there's nothing like making things, I think,' he added.

So the brothers agreed to differ; but it was a very happy evening to Horace, and he thought he had overcome all his difficulties, and could be very happy, in spite of the ban that his schoolfellows had placed upon him. He learned his lessons that night without[24] difficulty, and the next morning began to recover his place in the class; but the hour of recess tried him sorely.

A few of the boys who lived in the neighbourhood went home to dinner from one to two o'clock, but many who came from a distance brought luncheon with them, or had dinner provided for them at the school. There was a luncheon room provided for those who brought their meals with them, but Horace had preferred eating his slice of bread and butter or bread and dripping, walking about the playground. There were others who did the same thing, but they walked in groups and chatted and frolicked, or played games, and when he first came Horace had been invited to join these, and had been initiated into the mysteries of one game peculiar to the school, which was, therefore, very popular among the boys.

Now, however, this was altered. Horace was left severely alone, and though a boy might go shouting round for another to make up the game, no one ever asked Horace to take the vacant place. He was left to walk up and down the side of the playground until the bell rang for afternoon school, and then the boys who might be near, as they were passing in, took care to hold as far aloof from him as possible.

Horace wondered how long this was[25] going to last. He had made several attempts to break through this silent persecution, but each boy to whom he had spoken had walked away as though he was stone deaf; and so at last Horace gave up the attempt, and tried to be happy in spite of this.

'I say, Morrison, how much longer is that beggar going to hold out?' said Taylor, one day speaking to Leonard, as though he ought to know all about it.

Taylor had lost his place in the class, and so had Leonard, and neither felt very amiable.

'Ask him, if you want to know. I'm nearly sick of it, I can tell you. It's lasted a month now, and I think we may as well give it up.'

'I daresay you do. My brother who has just come home from Oxford, says it is your people who have brought him into the school.'

'My people!' shouted Leonard, crimson with wrath at the insinuation. 'Who do you mean by "my people?" and why should you think so?'

'Now don't get mad, Len,' said Taylor in a quieter tone. 'But you know your father is on the County Council, and they say it was he who recommended that Howard should be sent to Torrington's.'

'I don't believe it!' blazed Leonard[26] Morrison; and then with fine inconsistency he added, 'If he did, it was because the fellow got a scholarship, and he had to go somewhere.'

'Anywhere but at Torrington's would have done for him,' grumbled Taylor; 'and I think the master or the Council ought to turn him out, now they know the rest of the fellows don't like it.'

'But do they know we have sent him to Coventry?' asked Leonard.

'Are they bats—do they go about with their eyes shut—haven't you noticed that Howard has been up in the chemistry "lab." yesterday and to-day all the lunch time? I saw Skeats speaking to him yesterday just after we came into the playground, and the two walked away together. It was the same again to-day, only Howard was looking out for him, and went to meet him as soon as he appeared. Now what are we going to do, if the masters try to beat us at this game?'

'I say it isn't fair,' answered Morrison.

'Fair! I call it the meanest thing I ever heard of, and shows that Torrington's is going to the dogs, masters and all. I wish you'd speak to your pater about it, Morrison. I think you might, now Skeats has taken to interfering with us like this.'

Leonard shrugged his shoulders. 'I think[27] it would be better for somebody else to come and see my father, if they think he had anything to do with sending that boy here. You don't know the pater. He'd just turn me inside out, and then laugh at me; but he couldn't serve any other fellow that way.'

But Taylor shook his head. It was true that he did not know Dr. Morrison, but he had heard that this gentleman had said it would be for the advantage of Torrington's to receive a few scholarship boys, for they were sure to be sharp, studious lads, and it would waken the other boys up and put them on their mettle. So he declined to go and see Mr. Morrison, but declared that Leonard ought to undertake the mission on behalf of the school.

'Look here, Curtis!' he called to another lad, who, like himself, was one of the elders of the class, and consequently domineered a good deal over the rest. 'Morrison won't do his duty in upholding the honour of the school. You come and talk to him.'

'What's the row?' asked Curtis loftily, sauntering up with his hands in his pockets, and looking down upon Leonard Morrison as a big overgrown lad likes to look at one of his smaller schoolfellows, as if to intimidate him with his superior height and bulk.[28]

'Now, then, little Morrison, speak up. What is it?' he said in a sleepy tone, but trying to look fierce.

'Why, it's just this, Curtis, that beggar we have sent to Coventry don't seem inclined to take himself out of the school, and so somebody must be made to move him.'

'Of course,' said Curtis, who did not mind who the somebody might be, so long as he was not called upon to exert himself beyond a little bullying, 'you hear, little Morrison, just you do as you're told!' he commanded.

'This is what I want him to do,' explained Taylor. 'I have heard that it is all through his father that we have got the beggar here, and so it's Mr. Morrison and that precious Council that must move him.'

'Of course,' assented Curtis. 'You hear, Morrison?'

'I tell you it must be some of the other fellows that must go and explain to the pater that the school don't like scholarship boys. You don't know my pater,' he went on, a little plaintively. 'He would very likely report us to the head master for sending the fellow to Coventry, and then where should we be?'

'Where we are now, but that fellow wouldn't.'

'I tell you, Curtis, you don't know the pater. He would ask what he had done that[29] the school had sent him to Coventry, and you know well enough that we haven't acted on the square with him.'

'Oh, that's it, is it? You are going to take his part now, and peach on us!' raved Taylor.

Curtis yawned. 'You'd better give in, and do as Taylor orders you.'

'Well, then, I should peach, and no mistake, if I told my father we had sent the fellow to Coventry for the last month. "What for?" he would say in his quiet way, while he looked into your very soul, so that you knew you must make a clean breast of everything. No, thank you. I don't mind going with you and Taylor and two or three other fellows as a sort of deputation from——'

'Deputation be bothered!' interrupted Taylor viciously. 'Why should we go cap in hand to ask your father to take the fellow away? It ought to be enough for you to tell him that the school don't like it, and that we are determined to uphold the honour of Torrington's.'

'Yes, that's it. We don't mean to let the school go to the dogs to please anybody,' said Curtis lazily.

'Yes; and what are we to do next, for the beggar don't seem to care now whether we send him to Coventry or not, and Skeats[30] is giving the game away by letting him go to the chemistry "lab." every dinner hour.'

'Let's send Skeats to Coventry,' said Curtis.

Leonard laughed at the suggestion, but Taylor grew more angry.

'It's no good fooling over this now,' he said. 'I have been talking to some of the fellows in the sixth, and they have made up their minds not to have the beggar among them.'

'All right, let them get rid of him, then,' said Curtis. 'I don't see why we should do their dirty work. When's he going up?'

'He swats as though he expected to go next term,' complained Leonard Morrison, who had lost his place in the class that morning through Horace.

'Swats! It's shameful the pace that fellow goes with his lessons; and the masters think we ought to do the same,' foamed Taylor.

'Ah, they've tried to force it upon all of us,' observed Curtis; 'but I won't let it disturb me, I can tell you.'

'You don't mind being the dunce of the school,' said Leonard, with a short laugh.

'I don't care what the fellows call me, so[31] long as they let me alone,' said the young giant, still with his hands in his pockets. He was getting tired of the discussion, and Taylor saw that it was of little use trying to threaten Leonard, and so he walked sulkily away, to try and think out some other means of getting rid of the obnoxious scholarship boy.



The Cock of the Walk.

'I say, Duffy, there's an awful row among the fellows at school; Taylor and Curtis are like raging bulls over this new fellow, and they say it's all the pater's fault.'

The brother and sister were sitting at their lessons in the little room known as the study, as they sat when this story opened. Several weeks, however, had elapsed since that time, and Florence, having her own cares and interests to think of, had well-nigh forgotten how she had been appealed to in the matter of the new boy.

'What are you talking about, Len?' she asked, after a pause, during which she had been muttering over a French verb, with her hand covering the page, by way of testing whether she knew her lesson.

'That's like a girl!' answered her brother tartly. 'I have told you more than once or twice about that new boy at Torrington's, and now you ask me what I am talking about.'

'Oh, well, I didn't know he was so in[33]teresting as all that. You told me a week or two ago that you had sent him to Coventry and settled him, and so of course I thought it was all over,' said the young lady, propping her chin in her hands and looking across at her brother.

'But if a fellow won't be settled, what are you to do? I want you to tell me that, Duffy.'

The young lady shook her head. 'Tell us all about it, Len, I'm not very busy to-night.'

'Well, we sent that fellow to Coventry, as I told you—not that he's a bad sort of chap; only he came from one of those beastly board schools in the town, and we didn't know who he was or what he was, and he kept his mouth shut about his people, and so the fellows took up the notion that Torrington's would soon go to the dogs if we let that sort of cattle stay there, and so we said he must go. Well, we thought the Coventry game had done the trick for us just at first, for you never saw such an awful ass as he made of himself one morning at all the classes. "Howard, are you ill?" said Skeats at last, in his sharp way. And we thought the beggar would get off for the rest of the lessons. But, if you'll believe it, he was game enough to say, "No, sir, I'm quite well," which was as good as telling Skeats he was a fool for asking such a question.'

Florence nodded. 'I like plucky boys,' she said approvingly.[34]

'Well, it was a plucky thing to do, I daresay, but it didn't help him much with Skeats that day, for he never spared him a bit, as he did not take the excuse that had been offered him, and he blundered and floundered worse than ever, so that Curtis, the biggest dunce in the class, answered for him, and took his place in the class.'

'What a shame!' said Florence, pityingly.

'Well, I felt sorry for the poor little beggar at last, for we knew he had swatted well over the lesson, and yet he seemed to have lost his wits. "That's done the trick," Taylor whispered to me, when Skeats frowned at him once for being such an ass. "We shan't see that scholarship swatter here any more."'

'Swatter,' repeated Florence. 'But I thought you said he didn't know his lessons.'

'Ah! that once. But it wasn't for the want of swatting, for it was just that that put the fellows' backs up. He comes into the school looking as meek as a rabbit. "I've been to the board school," he says to Taylor, when he put him through the usual mill. Not a word did he say about French and Latin, and so Taylor thought he would have him for a fag, as he was a junior; but we soon found out that we should have to swat over our lessons, and no mistake, if we were to keep out of rows with the masters. He set the pace, don't you see, till Taylor got as[35] mad as a hatter when he lost his place at the top of the class, and then he said this new boy would have to go.'

'Because he learned his lessons better than the rest!' exclaimed his sister.

'Well, not that exactly—of course not,' replied her brother; 'but you see he was only a board school boy, and his mother couldn't be a lady, and his brother is only a common carpenter, they say; and so for a fellow like that to come to Torrington's would just ruin the school. That's why we want to get rid of him, don't you see?'

'No, I don't,' said Florence, indignantly; 'and Taylor and the rest are a set of mean cads!' The expression was not very elegant or ladylike; but she had learned it from her brother, and knew he would feel the reproach conveyed by this word more surely than by anything else she could say.

It stung him into a fierce passion of wrath. 'What do girls know about boys' schools and boys' ways?' he demanded.

'I know what you have told me about Taylor and the rest, and I say they are not gentlemen, but a set of mean cads.' She was careful not to include Leonard in this scathing denunciation, for she added, 'I should not like to think my brother would act like that.'

'Oh, well, Duffy, you see you are a girl, and can't be expected to know everything;[36] but I did tell Taylor to-day that I thought we might leave the beggar alone, and let him out of Coventry now.'

'If I was the new boy, I would send you there, and see how you liked it. What are you going to do?' she asked.

'That's just it—just what I wanted to talk to you about. The fellows say it is all the pater's doings that Howard has been sent to Torrington's, and——'

Florence clapped her hands. 'Dear old daddy!' she said. 'He knew what Torrington's wanted. Now go on,' she added.

'It's no good when you interrupt like that. I wanted to tell you what the fellows are saying; and now if I do, you'll just go and peach about the whole thing.'

'Now, Len, did I ever peach about anything you told me? Haven't we always been fair and square to each other?' expostulated his sister, who felt herself insulted by such a charge.

'Yes, you always have been pretty fair for a girl,' admitted her brother, 'and I hope you'll remember that mum must be the word still. And mind, if you hear about this, you don't know anything, but just tell the pater to ask me about it. I don't want you to go and give your opinion about the school and the fellows, though Curtis and one or two more may be a poor lot. The thing is, they feel themselves[37] insulted by having this scholarship boy sent to Torrington's, and they want me to speak to the pater about it.'

'Oh, do—do, and let me be there when you tell him,' said Florence, her eyes dancing with glee at the prospect.

'Don't be a duffer. Do you think I don't know my own daddy well enough to know that it would be no good going to him with the fellows' complaints? I told Taylor he had better come and see the pater himself about it.'

'Of course,' nodded Florence, 'that would be the proper way, and I should like to see them do it.' And again the girl laughed.

This seemed to annoy her brother. 'It's all very well for you to laugh,' he said. 'You don't know what it is to be mixed up with such an affair, and I want to know what I am to do.'

'What do they want you to do?'

'Haven't I told you? They say I must get the pater to remove Howard from the school at once. And one of the fellows told me as I came home that he overheard Taylor and Curtis say that, if it wasn't pretty soon done, they'd send me to Coventry, and find out some other way to get rid of Howard.'

'I wouldn't care if I was you.'

'Wouldn't you? If you was a boy, you'd know what it was to be sent to Coventry,[38] perhaps, and let me tell you, you wouldn't want a second dose. It's none so pleasant, I can tell you, to have this fellow turn his back, and begin to whistle if you attempt to speak to him. Why, they make it so strict at Torrington's that if the master sends a message to a fellow in Coventry, they fetch a junior to deliver it. Oh, I know enough to make me hate the thought of it, and so would you.'

'Girls are not so nasty as that,' said Florence, 'but I tell you what you could do if they send you to Coventry—chum up with the new boy. I should think he was a nice fellow.'

But Leonard turned up his nose at the suggestion. 'He isn't much at games,' he said. 'I don't think he ever saw a fives court until he came to Torrington's; and I do like a good game at fives.'

'I'd play by myself then,' said his sister.

'Ah! and see every other fellow pick up his ball and walk out of the court as soon as you appeared. You'd feel like playing then, wouldn't you?' he added.

His sister sighed. She was very fond of Leonard, although he was not very brave, she feared. Still, big lads like Taylor and Curtis could make things very uncomfortable for the younger and weaker lads, like Leonard.

'Now just see if you can't help me out of this hole, Flo,' said the boy, after another[39] pause. 'I told the fellows I'd do something to-night, and I must, you know.'

'Do something!' repeated his sister, 'what do you want to do?'

'I don't want to do anything. The poor beggar might stay at Torrington's for ever if he liked; but you see the others have set their faces against it, and they say I must either make the pater remove him, or else think of another plan to get rid of him. Don't you see, Duffy, I must do one or the other?'

'No, I don't see; and you shan't call me Duffy either, if you mean to help these wretched cads at Torrington's, and I'll never own you for a brother again!' His sister spoke calmly, but with the utmost scorn and contempt in her tones, and then laid her head on the table and burst into tears. 'I'm ashamed of you, I am!' she sobbed through her tears.

Leonard stared at her in silent amazement for a minute or two, and then said slowly, 'You don't know this scholarship boy, do you?'

She shook her head. 'Of course I don't,' she said, as soon as she could speak.

'Then what are you crying for? I'd be ashamed to cry for a fellow I'd never seen; and you a girl too!'

Florence started to her feet as her brother uttered this taunt; and dashing away her tears, with blazing eyes she exclaimed, 'It is not for this strange boy I am crying, but for you—that[40] you are as much a cad as Taylor and the rest!' Then, gathering up her books, she marched out of the room with the air of an offended duchess.

'Ah, you're only a girl!' exclaimed Leonard as she departed; and he broke into a whistle, but it soon ended in a sigh, when the door closed and he was left to himself.

'I wonder what girls are made of,' he said, as he slowly opened his lesson books. 'To think of Duffy flying at me like that! She called me a cad too, nasty little thing! I won't speak to her for a week, when we come in here to lessons. I'll give her a taste of Coventry, and see how she likes it.' And Leonard set himself to master a Latin verb. But before he had conned it three minutes his thoughts had wandered to his sister, and from her to Taylor and the lads at school, who expected him to solve the problem that they had made into a bogey—how to get rid of the scholarship boy, since all their efforts thus far had failed.

Before he got to school the next morning he met half a dozen of his schoolfellows.

'Well, what's the news, Morrison?' asked two or three in a breath. 'You know, of course, Taylor expects you to bring a message from your father about that fellow to-day.'

'Blessed are they that expect nothing, for[41] they shall never be disappointed,' said Leonard in a tantalising tone.

'Well, you can cheek us, of course, little Morrison, but it won't do for Taylor, let me tell you. He don't mean to stand any nonsense. That fellow's got to go. We don't mean to have any board school boys here. Torrington's was founded for gentlemen, and we don't mean to have cads here. We've made up our minds about it, and the sooner your father and that precious Council understand this the better.'

'Did Taylor tell you to say all that?' said Morrison sneeringly, 'How long have you been his fag?' he asked of the lad who had spoken.

'Oh, well, fag or no fag, you'll know it when Taylor comes.' And, as if in verification of his words, Taylor called to them the next minute to wait for him.

'We're late now,' shouted Leonard back, and then he started off at a sharp pace towards the school, for he had not quite made up his mind yet what he should tell Taylor, by way of excuse for not speaking to his father, and so he did not want to meet him just now.

He could not help noticing, as he ran, that none of the rest attempted to join him, but waited at the corner of the road they had been crossing for Taylor to come up.

'So Morrison has skulked off,' he said, as soon as he joined them.[42]

'I believe he wanted to get out of your way,' said one.

'I shouldn't wonder,' said the bigger lad; 'but he need not think he's going to do it. I tell you that I've been ferreting out things a bit, and I know now that it was Dr. Morrison that persuaded the County Council to send that fellow to Torrington's, and so he must and shall take him away, and that pretty soon too, and I mean to tell Morrison that.'

'How are you going to do it?' asked one.

'Oh, through Morrison junior, of course. There isn't much spunk about him, and he'll soon cry Peccavi! when we put the screw on.'

'What will you do—how will you do it?' asked one.

'Send him to Coventry as we did the other,' was the prompt reply.

'Oh, that be bothered; we can't be worried with two there at once. You must think of something else.'

'Bless you, the threat of it will be enough for little Morrison. He'll give in when he hears the mystic word Coventry!'

'You'll give him another chance it he hasn't brought the message?'

'Well, I shall hear what he's got to say first. Now look alive, there's the last bell, and we shall all get an imposition instead of a pleasant talk with little Morrison, if we don't get inside that gate.'[43]

As he spoke the heavy clang of the school gate was heard, and the boys looked at each other as Taylor ejaculated, 'Dash it all! they haven't rung that last bell two minutes, and that's the regulation time.' They propped their backs against the wall and rested after their run, for the gate would not be opened again until prayers were over in school, and then their names would be taken as they went in, and an extra lesson would be exacted from them in the dinner hour.

'Don't let little Morrison get off without seeing me in the afternoon,' said Taylor. 'I sha'n't be able to nail him in the dinner hour, but it will give me a bit more time to think of some other plan.'

'It's a beastly shame they ever sent that scholarship boy to Torrington's!' said another lad, as though he did not like the task of hunting him out.

'Oh, well, he's here, and we must get him out,' said Taylor, as though he rather liked the hunt. Just then the gate opened, and the lads filed in. Nearly a dozen were late from the whole school; and each as he passed was asked if he had brought a note to excuse this breach of the rule, and then they passed on to their different class-rooms instead of going to the hall for prayers.

The being late and consequent imposition of an extra lesson did not improve Taylor's[44] temper, and when he met Leonard at the close of afternoon school he was in a towering rage.

'Now, then, Morrison, out with it! What message has your father sent to the school for his abominable behaviour—what has he to say for himself?'

Leonard looked a little scared at the abruptness and tone of this question, and he answered very quietly, 'My father was busy last night, and I could not speak to him about it.'

'Busy, was he? Well, it won't be good for you if he's busy to-night, let me tell you, for the school don't mean to wait any longer, and if that fellow isn't soon removed, you shall both go. Do you hear, little Morrison, we mean to clear the school of all vermin at once?'

'Why didn't you tell him to take himself off?' said one, when Taylor had walked away. 'This is getting a bit too much. You stand up for yourself and your father, if he comes any more of that bullying. What right has he to say who shall come to Torrington's? If he had spoken of my father like that, he should have had a black eye, if he killed me for it afterwards!' added his friend.

Leonard sighed, 'You don't know Taylor as well as I do,' he said. 'He isn't a bad sort of fellow, if you let him have his own way.'[45]

'But it's such a beastly way that I wouldn't put up with it,' said the other. 'He may be "the cock of the walk," but he need not think we are all going to cackle to him like a set of hens. I mean to take that fellow out of Coventry after this. Come on, let us both walk home with him a bit, and see how the cock likes that. There's Howard just ahead; let's catch him.'

But instead of quickening his pace Leonard looked timorously back; and there was Taylor with a group of lads round him vigorously declaiming against the County Council for sending one of their scholarship boys to Torrington's. So Leonard felt afraid to join this unpopular scholar, and set himself in defiance of the present wave of anger that was passing over his friends, and he turned down a by-road and walked home by himself.



Dr. Morrison.

Leonard Morrison found himself sent to Coventry, not by his schoolfellows, but by his sister. It was just the punishment he had decided she deserved for daring to have an opinion of her own that differed from his, and so to find himself 'hoist with his own petard' made him very angry.

'Where is Flo going to do her lessons to-night?' he asked his mother, when he went to the study and found it in darkness. His sister usually lighted the lamp ready for him, but his mother had come with him to do it to-night.

'She has gone to her own room—she wants to be quiet, she says. You should not talk so much, Lenny dear,' added the lady.

'Nasty little thing! She has been telling tales, I suppose?'

'She did not say what you had been talking about, if that is what you mean,' said Mrs. Morrison, 'but your father heard a great deal of chatter, he says.'[47]

'So Flo has taken herself off,' said Leonard, as he took his seat and opened his school satchel. 'A nice time I shall have, if Taylor keeps his word and sends me to Coventry at school! I shall lose the use of my tongue in about a week, if nobody will speak to me. It's a lively look-out, any way, and what have I done to deserve it, I should like to know?'

Leonard considered himself a very ill-used individual just then, and he was specially angry with his sister because she had so neatly turned the tables upon him in leaving him to do his lessons alone.

He missed her sadly as the time went on, and there was no one to grumble at or ask advice from. What to do about speaking to his father he did not know, and at last he decided to say something to his mother about the matter; not that he meant to tell her all, but he would just ask her if she thought Taylor was right in his statement.

So when Mrs. Morrison came into the room with his slice of cake for his supper, he said, 'Do you know whether father had anything to do with sending that scholarship boy to Torrington's?'

'Why—isn't he a good boy?' said the lady.

'That isn't it, mother. He may be good—I dare say he is—but did father send him there?'[48]

'The County Council sent him; your father would not have the power.'

'I suppose not,' said Leonard in a satisfied tone.

'But why did you ask, my boy?' said the lady.

'Oh, it doesn't matter,' said Leonard, lightly. 'As long as daddy didn't send him it's all right.'

'But what has happened? What sort of a boy is he?'

'Oh, he's all right, I dare say. Boys can't peach, you know, mother.'

And Leonard's light words sent his mother out with an aching heart.

'More trouble, I fear,' she said softly to herself, as she closed the door and went back to the dining-room. 'Poor Dick! poor, dear Dick! What misery he has brought to us all! And yet he was never wicked—only weak.'

The lady buried her face in her handkerchief for a few minutes, but roused herself when she heard the street door open and close, and went and rung the bell for supper to be served.

'You are late to-night, dear,' she said, when her husband entered the room.

'Yes, I have had a busy day, and am as hungry as a hunter. Chicks gone to bed, I suppose, he added, as he looked round the[49] room before going to wash his hands and change his coat for a comfortable hour by his own fireside.

A tasty hot supper was on the table when he came back, but he noticed as he ate that his wife scarcely touched hers; but he did not ask what was troubling her until the meal was over and the table cleared. Then he said, leaning back in his chair—

'Now, little woman, I have done my duty to your nice supper, which I know is all you have been waiting for. Now tell me what is amiss. Has Flo cut her finger, or Len got into mischief?' he asked.

'No, dear, the children are all right,' said Mrs. Morrison, with a sigh; 'but I have been wondering whether you were wise to get that little board school boy sent to Torrington's. You did have a good deal to do with it, I know,' added the lady.

'To be sure I did. The lad had fairly earned the Thompson Scholarship, and, from all we heard of the lad and his relatives, we thought he would be an acquisition to the school rather than otherwise. His mother was a patient of mine about a year ago, and from all I saw then I concluded that they were people who had come down in the world, for it was easy to see that they were superior to their surroundings, and I thought then that if ever it was in my power to help[50] them I would do so. The father is abroad, travelling, I understand; but he seems to have left his family badly provided for. What have you heard about the boy?'

'Oh, nothing,' promptly replied Mrs. Morrison. 'Only from a word Lenny dropped I fancy he is not popular at the school, and you know what queer notions people take sometimes; and if it was said that Dr. Morrison sent a board school boy to the school they are all so proud of, we might have all our old troubles over again.'

The doctor laughed. 'You think half my patients must be offended as well as the boys at Torrington's! I have heard a whisper that some of them don't like the new scholar; but he will live it down, I daresay, and I am not going to notice it.'

'But, my dear, if you should lose your patients? If this boy should disgrace himself, people will be sure to say that you had no business to send him to such a school, and the worst of the trouble is sure to come upon us.'

'Ah, I see you have been saddling the horse ready to go and meet it! How many times am I to tell you, little woman, to wait until the trouble comes to you, and then to look it squarely in the face and fight it, if fighting is likely to do any good, and if it is not, then bear it with all the patience and[51] courage that God will give you, if you only do your share in the matter? Now what has Master Len been saying about this lad?'

'He asked if it was true that you were the means of sending that scholarship boy to Torrington's. The boys had said you did it.

The doctor laughed. 'Murder will out, you see, Maria.'

'I told him the County Council sent him, and of course they did.'

'Quite true; but I had the casting vote in the matter, and I voted that the lad should go to Torrington's, both for the sake of the school and the boy, and also that I might hear incidentally from Len what sort of a lad he was. What does he say?'

'Nothing definite. He wanted to know whether it was true that you had sent him, and when I asked why, he said boys were not allowed to tell tales, or words to that effect.

The doctor smiled. 'Then it's nothing very bad,' he said, 'and if this lad can only hold his own among some of those big louting lads, he will do our school a world of good.'

'How is he to do that?' asked the lady.

'Why, this boy has formed the habit of steady application to the task before him, whatever it may be. If he had not, he could not have passed the examination necessary to gain this scholarship. Now Torrington's sadly needs a few lads like this, for it is beginning[52] to suffer from the dry rot that a great name often brings to a school after some years. The sons of wealthy men are sent there, who have no need to toil with either hands or brains, and they take care not to do it themselves, and to hinder others from doing it if they can. For Len, and lads like him, this example is bad; and so to introduce a studious lad, who will think less of games than of lessons, has become a necessity, if Torrington's is to be saved from going to the dogs; and I should be very sorry to see the school go down. I went there when I was a lad, and have always been proud of Torrington's, and that is why I am anxious to save it from collapse.'

'I believe Lenny is just as proud of it as you are,' said his wife.

'I should hope so. I don't think much of a lad who is not proud and fond of his school, and ready to fight for its honour against all antagonists.'

'I think all Torrington's lads feel the same about their school,' said Mrs. Morrison. 'But suppose some of them should think a poor boy, who is dependent upon a scholarship for his schooling, beneath the rest of the scholars? I cannot forget the old trouble,' she added.

'Then they must learn to know better! Learn to consider that there is something more[53] in the world than money worth consideration. This is what I am afraid is spoiling some of the Torrington boys just now, and it is high time it was checked. We talked this aspect of the matter over at the Council meeting—for there are several old boys among us who are proud of our school—and we agreed that a little new blood among these purse-proud young gentlemen would do them a world of good, and I hope this boy may be what is needed among them. As for the old trouble,' went on Dr. Morrison, 'that is left behind, I hope; but you must remember that it arose from a very different cause. Your brother Dick behaved very badly to more than one of my patients, and so disgraced us.'

'Poor, dear Dick!' said the lady with a sigh; 'I am sure he never intended to do us any harm.'

'I never thought he did. No one who knew Dick would think that of him; but the misery came to us all the same, and Dick was responsible for it.'

This allusion to her brother brought the tears to Mrs. Morrison's eyes. He had been such a bright, winning lad. When he was the age of Leonard he had only one fault that she would admit, even now, and that was that he was too easily led. He could not say 'No,' though not to say it and abide by it under the circumstances was wrong. This ended at last[54] in what was little less than a crime, for which they had to pay the penalty in a long struggle against adverse circumstances, and eventually to leave Liverpool, and return to Mr. Morrison's native town and begin the world afresh.

This ending to what might have been a bright and honourable career for her brother, and a no less prosperous one for her husband, was a very bitter trial to the lady; and though Dr. Morrison's practice was now steadily increasing, anything that rendered him less popular might bring back the old trouble she feared.

In thinking thus she, of course, exaggerated the circumstances in every way, for, in point of fact, not even Mrs. Howard knew that it was through the doctor's influence that Horace was sent to the same school with his own son; and as the name of Morrison was not mentioned by Horace, she did not know that he was there for some time. Her son was industrious and fond of scientific study, and had fairly won the scholarship, she was assured by the schoolmaster. He was very proud to add that Horace was the first scholarship boy who had been sent by the County Council to Torrington's. But that her doctor had had anything to do with the selection of a school for Horace she knew nothing.

She heard afterwards that it was the best[55] school in the county; but she thought more of whether Horace would be able to do the lessons required of him, without overworking himself, and also whether she would be able to keep him suitably clothed, so that he did not look particular among the other lads.

The school was nearly two miles from their home, so that he would wear out his boots very fast, she reflected, when considering ways and means. There was a small allowance made for this, after the school fees were paid out of the scholarship money, and it was the consideration of this that made Horace resume wearing the old jacket, when his mother wished him to keep on with his best one, which he had worn for the first week or two.

In fact, he had worn the best jacket until he was so mysteriously sent to Coventry, and though he carefully kept this fact to himself, it was the underlying meaning of what he told her when he said it would make no difference to him at school whether he wore a new or an old jacket.

Of the bitterness underlying the words that were said, that she should not spend too much on his clothes, she knew nothing. Indeed, after the first week or two Horace was very reticent about what passed at school, rarely mentioned a schoolfellow by name, and seemed absorbed in his lessons all the even[56]ing. He talked sometimes to Fred about his mysterious idea, which she knew was connected with chemistry; but beyond this she knew very little of her boy's life at this time. Sometimes he looked worried as he sat poring over his books, as though they were a little beyond his power, she thought; and then she would say, 'Now, Horace, if you are getting tired, give it up. You know going to this school is quite an experiment for you, and if you fail to keep up with the rest it will be no disgrace to own it. You have been looking pale the last day or two.'

'I feel quite well, mother; and as to keeping up with the rest, well, you should see the young giant who is always at the bottom of the class.' And Horace laughed as he mentally recalled the perpetually yawning figure of Curtis, with his back propped against the wall. 'I believe he would go to sleep outright if it wasn't for the master saying, "Now, Curtis, keep your ears and eyes open!"'

'Poor fellow! perhaps he does not feel able to do the work,' said Mrs. Howard pityingly.

'Well, he doesn't let lessons trouble him much. He and "the cock of the walk," that's another big chap who doesn't care much about books, they take it pretty easy, except when they get an "impot," and that takes all their dinner time.'[57]

'And what do you do at dinner time?' asked his brother at this point.

'Eat my dinner, to be sure,' answered Horace.

'Well, you don't look much the better for it. Mother, I'm going to be paid an extra shilling a week, and I vote it goes in dinners for the boy with an idea,' said Fred.

'No! No! I can do very well, and I enjoy my dinner hours now, for I often go up to the "lab.," and have a nice time to myself. Mr. Skeats told me I might go, if I did not take any of the other boys with me. You see, some of them might get up to larks, and——'

'Why don't you get up to larks?' interrupted his brother.

Horace laughed, 'Oh, you know that isn't much in my way, and there's room for everybody in a big school like Torrington's.'

'I wish the youngster did not look so serious,' said Fred, after his brother had gone to bed that night.

'He always was quiet,' remarked his mother.

'Quiet, yes; but now he looks up from his book sometimes, as though he had a world of care upon his mind.'

'Perhaps he is thinking over his "idea." You know he could talk of nothing else for a day or two,' said Mrs. Howard.[58]

'Well, he doesn't talk much now, at any rate, and I am wondering whether he is quite happy at that school.'

'But surely he would tell us if he was not. I have asked him again and again. I think he would tell us if there was anything wrong.'

'Now, mother, don't vex yourself, or I shall be sorry I have spoken. Just let that extra shilling a week I am to have go for the youngster's mid-day meal. Get him something better than bread and butter to take with him—sandwiches or a little meat-pie. They say people who work with their brains want as much to eat as those who work with their hands, and I am sure two slices of bread and butter wouldn't satisfy me at twelve o'clock.'



The Champion.

'Mother, I think I shall be obliged to wear that other jacket to go to school,' said Horace one evening as he ate his dinner.

He had come home from school looking almost radiant, and his mother had heard incidentally that one of the other boys had walked most of the way with him.

'But I thought you said no one lived this way?' said Mrs. Howard.

'Oh, I think Warren came out of his way a bit that we might finish our talk! He likes history awfully, and so do I a bit, and we got talking about those old battles, and almost forgot the time. Now, mother, don't you think I had better take my best jacket for school? The sleeves of this are getting so short.'

His mother laughed.

'Why, I told you the same thing a month ago,' she said, 'but you insisted that it did not matter!'[60]

'Well, you know, I don't want to cost you more than I am obliged for clothes, and I thought I might wear the old jacket a bit longer, as I should wear out so many boots; but now——' And there Horace stopped, lest he should say something that might betray how his schoolfellows had treated him lately.

'You must be careful to wear the linen apron and sleeves while you do your chemistry work,' remarked his mother, 'for you are beginning to make the old one a variegated colour.'

'All right, I'll be careful; but I thought Warren looked at my hands poking too far through the sleeves of that old one, and Warren is a nice fellow; I should not like to hurt his feelings,' said Horace.

'Ah! you find that some lads are more particular about their clothes than you are. Yes, wear the best jacket by all means, and I have no doubt I shall be able to buy you a new one when you want it.'

So the matter was settled, and the next morning he met his new friend as they had arranged, and the two boys had a pleasant chat on all sorts of subjects as they walked along the road. Just before the school was reached, and when they came within sight of other groups of boys, Horace stopped short, and said[61]

'Now you had better go on; it don't matter if I am late, I have plenty of time in the dinner hour to do the imposition.'

'What do you mean—what do you take me for?' said Warren, thrusting his arm through his companion's.

'Well, you know the school have sent me to Coventry lately; and if you know what for, it's more than I do, so that it isn't likely to alter its opinion in a hurry,' said Horace.

'Oh, the school be bothered!' said Warren. 'Of course a fellow has to do the same as the rest when he is at school, but "the cock of the walk" is going a bit too far this time, and I mean to let the whole lot see that I won't follow the lead, when I don't think it's fair and square. If they had any good reason for sending you to Coventry, I'd see you hanged before I'd try to take your part; but I like fair play, and it is not a fair game they are playing against you now.'

'But suppose they send you to Coventry as well?' said Horace.

'Oh, they will, you bet. Taylor and Curtis and that crowd are sure to do it, and I dare say they will rage like a bull in a china shop. Come on here. They see we are going in arm-in-arm.'

A storm of hisses greeted their appearance at the school gate, and Horace changed colour[62] and his arm shook; but Warren gripped him the tighter, so that he could not get away.

'Is it worth while sticking to me if the rest don't like it?' whispered Horace.

'Is anything worth fighting for as those old Englishmen fought in the Civil War—Hampden and that lot?' Warren's face was flaming, and he held his head high, as he led Horace through the hooting crowd of boys, while he asked this question loud enough for any of them to hear.

Horace did not answer. He almost wished Warren would leave him alone. But this was not that gentleman's way. 'I tell you what it is, Howard,' he said, when they had reached the comparative shelter of the playground, where the hooting had to cease, for fear the master should insist upon knowing what it was about. 'I have been thinking a lot of what we were talking about last night, and it's my opinion that there would not be so many tyrants in the world if they did not find easy victims. You knuckled under to "the cock of the walk" at the first touch, when you ought to have said, "Now, what do you mean by sending me to Coventry? What rule of the school have I broken?"'

'Ah, but you know we are not rich people. I am only a scholarship boy, and come from a board school.'[63]

'As if I didn't know that. As if my pater has not told me a dozen times lately that he wishes he had sent me to a board school when I was young. Bless you, we are not rich. My father is only a doctor, like Morrison's, and there are swarms and swarms of children in the nursery, so you may know we haven't got money to roll in, like Curtis. No, old fellow, we are two poor boys, and so we'll just stand shoulder to shoulder, and fight the lot, if they want to fight us. Now mind, you've got to fight for me, and I'll fight for you; and we'll let 'em see what two can do, if nobody else joins us. Little Morrison will, though I think Taylor has led him a dog's life lately; and so I should think he would be glad enough to cut that shop, and join Howard and Co.'

Horace laughed as he had not done since he had been at Torrington's. He was ready enough to fight for his new friend, and when one or two tried to hustle them apart as they were going to school, he did not hesitate to push one of them off, when he was crowding down upon Warren.

The boy turned and scowled at Horace. 'Who are you?' he demanded angrily.

'The scholarship boy, and this is my friend,' he said, still holding on to Warren, and dealing some sharp thrusts at those who were trying to push between them. There[64] could be no great demonstration here in the lobby of the school, or the masters would want to know what the quarrel was about.

At dinner time there was little opportunity for the new friends to meet, for the science master, if he did not know, shrewdly guessed the attitude taken by the rest of the class towards the scholarship boy, and so had contrived to find something for him to do in the chemistry laboratory during the recess; and Horace was only too glad of the change to do a little extra practical work towards the elucidation of his idea, which grew all the more interesting, as he saw it would need great care and industry to arrive at the result.

But when afternoon school was over Warren waited about until Horace appeared, and then he said, 'Just go on a little way, while I speak to Morrison. I want him to come with us, for I know that "cock of the walk" is bullying him, and if he'll just join us we shall be three to the other lot. Little Morrison isn't a bad sort of fellow, when you can get him to make up his mind, and the Curtis lot are getting a deal too cocky.'

So Horace walked on to the corner of the road, and Warren waited for Leonard; but the moment Taylor saw him speak to the lad[65] he pounced down upon him. 'Now look here, Morrison,' he said, 'if you go talking to Warren now he's joined that fellow in Coventry, you'll be sent there yourself by the rest of the school. I'll give you a week to think over what we were talking about at dinner time;' and Taylor, as he spoke, slipped his arm into Leonard's and walked him off, leaving Warren to try and persuade another boy to join him in his walk home with Horace.

But the Taylor and Curtis party were too strong just now for another to rebel against their rule, and so the two lads walked home by themselves, amid the derisive cheers of Taylor and a few others.

This state of things continued for a few days—the two friends learning to know and like each other better each time they met, and cared less for the company of others. Then a quarrel broke out in the ranks of the popular party, and Warren heard that Taylor was so hectoring the others as to what they should do, that at last, out of sheer perversity, two or three came to walk home with them, and held a discussion concerning Taylor and his ways that ought to have made that young gentleman's ears tingle.

'We're all in Coventry now, of course,' said one boy, 'and I vote that we make ourselves jolly over it. I say, Howard, I want[66] you to tell me how you get your lessons done, for you're always ready with an answer, and I've been so floored lately that I've had a private message if I don't do better I shall have to go down among the juniors, and that would make my people wild.'

Horace laughed at the idea of there being any royal road to the acquisition of lessons but the one of careful, steady, thoughtful study.

'Then you do swat awfully, as the fellows say, and that's what they are so mad about. Taylor says Torrington's will be nothing better than a swatting shop, and no place for gentlemen, if it isn't stopped.'

Horace opened his eyes. 'I thought we went to school that we might learn all we could!' he said.

'Oh, Torrington's has got so fashionable that fellows have come to think of it as an easy-going place, where they need not work if they don't like it.'

'Just what my pater says!' exclaimed Warren. 'And he told me that if I didn't turn over a new leaf he should send me somewhere else. Now I propose we make ourselves into a swatting club. I believe Mr. Mason would be glad if we did.'

'I'm sure Skeats would,' said another.

'Well, there are six of us here. Suppose we agree that we'll stick to our work of an[67] evening till we've got our lessons perfect for the next day.'

'Won't Taylor be mad when he finds it out!' said another. But, as Taylor had offended them, the suggestion added piquancy to the notion. And so before they separated each pledged himself to join the new swatting club. It was not an elegant name for a party of students to call themselves, but the object of the combination was good, and was warmly commended by the parents, who were taken into the confidence of their sons.

If the little party of students thought they were going to have an easy time of it at school, they were mistaken; for Taylor and the more popular party soon found out by the answers given in the classes what the new combination meant, and he was more angry than ever.

'A parcel of beggars who set themselves up to be gentlemen have no business at Torrington's; and the sooner they take themselves off the better!' he exclaimed angrily, when discussing this new departure with a few of his chosen friends.

Warren overheard what he said, and was not averse to a duel of words with 'the cock of the walk.'

'Who do you call gentlemen?' he demanded—'those who live in glass houses, and the son of a man who used to keep——'[68]

Taylor did not wait to hear more. Before the objectionable word could be spoken Warren received a blow that felled him to the ground.

It came so unexpectedly and was struck so unfairly that there was an instant cry of, 'Coward! coward! Fight it fair and square!'

'All right, let him come on,' said Taylor. But Warren was in no fit condition to stand up to his antagonist just now, for he had struck his head as he had fallen, and lay for a minute or two quite unconscious. Some of the boys grew alarmed, and all were glad to see the boy open his eyes and the colour slowly return to his face. They were outside the school premises when the incident occurred, and they all took care to walk away as quickly as they could, lest the master's attention should be called to the quarrel, and they be compelled to give an account of it, which would not have been at all to their taste, as they preferred to manage their own affairs in their own way, with as little interference from the masters as possible in what they regarded as their own private business.

Taylor was one of the first to walk off when he saw Warren was getting better, and the rest, who had hoped to enjoy the spectacle of a fight, were disappointed. There were plenty to urge Warren to 'take it out' of[69] Taylor another day, and plenty more to side with the bigger lad, and urge him to 'have it out' with Warren for his 'cheek' in daring to dispute the authority of the majority of the class, and speak to the scholarship boy when he had been sent to Coventry.

Leonard Morrison was one of the foremost in urging Taylor to fight it out.

'The school expects it of you,' urged Leonard. 'He said your father was——'

'Shut up, will you!' snarled Taylor, turning his angry gaze upon Leonard. 'If he has taken that fellow out of Coventry, it was a plucky thing to do in the face of the whole class, and I like pluck,' he added, 'though I may get the kicks.'

It was plain that 'the cock of the walk' was seriously hurt or alarmed by what Warren had said, for he ceased to crow as loudly as usual, and walked home without noticing what his satellites said, his eyes bent on the ground, and evidently lost in thought over something that disturbed him more than the prospect of a fight with Warren.

Of course, as this was the latest phase of the scholarship boy question, it occupied more of the thought and attention than the earlier question; and so Horace walked into school the next morning chatting with one or two others, and no protesting hisses were raised.[70]

It was noticed that Warren was not with him, and he looked round anxiously from time to time in search of his friend. But the day passed, and he did not appear, and the boys' spirits were damped a little in consequence, for they remembered now that they had heard that a blow on the head might prove dangerous to Warren.

But, to the relief of everybody, the two friends were seen coming along the road together the next morning, and when Taylor appeared round a bend in the road Warren walked up and joined him.

'Look here, Taylor, I had no business to say what I did the other day, for I can't fight you, it seems. My father has forbidden it, because——'

'Then you won't repeat what you said the other day?' interrupted Taylor eagerly.

'What do you take me for? I should be a cad if I did. Besides, I can see now that I have no business to blame you for what——No, I'm not going to say anything,' he whispered, in answer to Taylor's frown. 'Let every tub stand on its own bottom, I say.'

'All right, old fellow, we'll let the matter drop, then, and, mind, mum is the word between us.'

'Right you are,' said Warren, and then he ran off to join Horace, for he had drawn[71] Taylor aside to say this, as neither of them wished their talk to be overheard.

Whatever it might be that Warren had heard concerning the antecedents of Taylor's family, he could not be more sensitive upon the point than Warren was over his inability to fight without danger to his life. For a schoolboy to be told that he cannot stand up in a fair, square fight without bringing the danger to his antagonist of being charged with manslaughter, had brought such a shock to the boy that it was this, rather than the effects of the fall, that made his father forbid him going to school the previous day. The lad had wondered how he was to get out of finishing the fight already begun; and it demanded a greater amount of courage on his part to walk up to Taylor and ask him to let the matter end where it was, than to stand up before him for a turn at fisticuffs, even with the almost dead certainty of getting the worst of it.

He had told his secret to Horace as he came along, glad of a confidant who would understand his difficulty; and Horace had counselled that he should make up his quarrel with Taylor, even though it involved throwing him over, if Taylor should make the demand.

Warren shook his head. 'I shan't do that,' he said. 'I think we shall find another way, and you can tell the fellows we have[72] agreed to cry quits. But don't tell them I can't stand up and fight, for fear the other fellow should get sent to prison afterwards. That's the dreadful part about it, and that's what my father says would be pretty sure to follow. What an awful muff I must be!' sighed the boy, 'worse than any girl!'

'But look here, you've just done something that took a lot more courage of another sort,' said Horace, who was ready to make a hero of his new friend for managing the affair with Taylor without throwing him over. 'You did a plucky thing too, speaking to me in the face of all the class.'

'Oh, that was just part of the fight that is in me. I believe I was born a fighter, and now for the sake of other people I must be mum, and go through the world like a girl.'

'I don't know anything about girls; I never had a sister, so I can't tell what they are like, but I know you will have plenty of the other sort of courage when it is wanted, so you need not mind much, if you can't fight with your fists.'

They had reached the crowd of boys near the gate now, and two or three pressed eagerly forward, to know when and where the fight was to come off.

'We've settled it now,' answered Warren.

'Bosh! Don't believe it, boys. They are just going off to have it out by themselves.'[73]

'You're not going to let Warren off, are you, Taylor?' shouted another lad, as Taylor appeared.

'Shut up and mind your own business, and leave Warren and me to settle our own affairs in our own way!' And having said this, he pushed his way through the crowd and marched straight into school.



For the Honour of the School.

'How is your friend Warren to-day, Len?' asked Mr. Morrison, on the day when the boys thought the adjourned fight ought to have come off.

'Warren's no friend of mine now, he's an awful sneak!' said Leonard, angrily. He was greatly mystified over the fight not taking place, for he intended to support Taylor, and at least do part of the cheering on his side; and the collapse of the whole affair annoyed him, and he chose to consider it was Warren's fault. 'He just funked it you know, dad,' he said, when he explained the matter to his father.

'I don't know so much about that,' said Mr. Morrison; 'I met his father yesterday, and he told me he had forbidden his son to engage in a fight, either now or at any future time, and I asked him if he thought his son would obey him.'

'"Yes, I do!" he said, and seemed quite[75] confident that his boy would respect his wishes, and I wondered whether he was right. So Warren junior refused to fight, did he?' said Mr. Morrison. 'It was a plucky thing to do, and I like a boy who can say "No," and stick to it.'

'The fellows are saying it was beastly mean of him, and he funked it because Taylor is a bigger fellow.'

'Ah! boys often jump to wrong conclusions. It isn't the only plucky thing Warren has done. Have you joined the swatting club yet, my boy?'

'What did you say, father?' asked Leonard, with widely opened eyes.

'The formation of a swatting club is the last new move, I hear, at Torrington's. To swat is to study, I understand—is that right?'

'Oh yes, the word is right enough; but who told you about it?'

'Is it a secret, then? Didn't you know about it—haven't you been asked to join it?'

'No! they wouldn't ask me; it isn't likely; for all the school know that I am trying to keep up the honour of Torrington's—keep it from going to the dogs, in fact,' said the boy, loftily, but with an angry tone in his voice.

'I am glad to hear it, Len. I was a Torrington boy in my time, and I love the old school still.'[76]

'Then, father, what did you send that beastly scholarship boy there for?' burst out Leonard, scarcely knowing what he said in his anger.

'Leonard! Leonard!' chided his mother.

'I beg your pardon, mother, but it is what the fellows are always saying, and I forgot.'

'But why should the boys be vexed that the County Council chose to send one of the most promising of their scholars to that school? Has he done anything to offend you?'

'We don't give him the chance, and we want you, father, to take him away at once. Don't you see the honour of the school is at stake, and the fellows like Curtis and Taylor——'

The doctor held up his hand to stop the boy's angry flow of words. 'We won't discuss those gentlemen, if you please,' he said.

'But they are always discussing it,' exclaimed Leonard.

'Very foolish of them,' interrupted Mr. Morrison. 'But now tell me what you mean by the honour of the school, and why this lad has endangered it.'

'He comes from a board school, which, of course, is intended for poor, common people,' answered the boy.

'But "poor, common people" must be[77] taught, you know; and now, if they possess the brains, they have the right to learn to use them as well as those who are better off. From Dr. Mason's report to the Council, this lad has given every satisfaction while he has been at the school, and I had hoped that you would have made his acquaintance by this time, and that I might have learned a little more about him from your point of view.'

Leonard shook his head. 'You must go to Warren for that; he has chosen to take him up in defiance of the whole school, and—and——' he stopped, dimly conscious that in his anger he had already said too much. Mr. Morrison was called away from the table at this point, and Leonard felt relieved that no further questions could be asked.

Later he went to the little room where lessons were learned, and found his sister sitting in her usual place. 'Mother wished me to come, Len,' she said, in explanation of her presence.

'All right, Duffy—not that you are such a duffer,' he added, 'and I shall try to find another name for you.'

'Oh, Duffy will do. Don't waste your time thinking about another name for me. What's in a name after all? It's what you are, not what name you are called by. I say, what is this swatting club[78] father has heard about? You never told me about it.'

'Never heard of it myself before. Won't Taylor be mad when I tell him, for if there is one thing he hates it is swat! He says it's low and vulgar, and not fit for a school like Torrington's.'

'But you know father doesn't think that, and I am sure you ought to know that father is wiser than Taylor, if he is the biggest boy in the school.'

'As if that made any difference! You're just as much of a duffer as ever, to think such a thing,' he added.

'Well, what is it about Taylor that makes you call him the "cock of the walk?" I met him at a party last week, and I did not think much of him, I can tell you.'

'Ah! that's because you are a girl, and don't know anything. Taylor is a jolly fellow.'

'Well, I'm glad he's not my brother, for he is not very kind to his sister, and he was quite rude to his mother. He is no gentleman, and so he has no right to find fault with father because he sent a board school boy to sit with him at Torrington's.'

Leonard only laughed at his sister's denunciation of his hero; but he was curious to learn what had been said about this swatting[79] club—whether she had heard it spoken of before to-day. 'I should like to know how long they have been at it, and who are in it,' he said.

'Father said Warren and the scholarship boy; he was telling mother about it when you came in.'

'Oh, that scholarship boy is at the bottom of the whole mischief, of course,' said Leonard; 'but I should like to know how many more are in it; it's no good going to Taylor with half a tale. Won't he be mad, when he hears of this last move! Warren is forbidden to fight, too! I wonder why that is? Something wrong with his head, I shouldn't wonder,' added Leonard, after a minute's thought.

'Why, what makes you think that?' asked Florence.

'Because when Taylor knocked him down the other day he lay still as though he were dead for a minute or two, and never turned up at school all the next day. What larks if he can't fight! I'll put Taylor on to that, and see what he can make of it.'

'Len, how can you like to do such mean things? I wish father had not told you about it; but, of course, he never thought you were going to peach to the rest of the school about it, and especially to that vulgar thing Taylor.'[80]

'Now, Duffy, that "vulgar thing" is your brother's chosen friend, so of course you don't like him, for I've noticed lately that if I like anything or anybody, you take a dislike to them directly.'

'Yes, because the things and the people you like are never nice. Mother was saying the other day she hoped you would not grow up like somebody she knew. I did not hear his name, but she sighed as she said it, and father did not smile or say anything when he heard her say it.'

'Look here, Duffy, you need not talk about those sort of things; I shall grow up all right, never fear. What I want to know is who are in the swatting lot besides Warren and the scholarship boy? Find that out for me, will you?'

'No, indeed, I will not, unless you promise to join them, and I don't believe you mean to do that, although you know father would like it.'

'I wonder whether he joined a swatting club when he went to Torrington's?' rejoined Leonard.

'I will ask him when he comes home,' replied his sister. 'Now I must begin my lessons; I have done them better lately, my governess says, and if I only work steadily on, I shall get a prize at Christmas.

Her brother whistled. 'Half-a-crown book[81] for six months' work. That game don't pay except for duffers,' he said in a tone of contempt.

'I would rather be a duffer than some people who think themselves so clever. Now don't hinder me, but get on with your own lessons, and let me learn mine,' said his sister.

'Swat! swat! swat! with fingers and brain and pen,' sung her brother, while Florence propped her head on her hands and stared at her book. Then the door opened, and Mrs. Morrison appeared.

'Lenny, I want to have a little talk with you. Playing again, my boy; I knew some one else who chose to play a great deal of his time away at school, but he has bitterly repented it since. Perhaps you had better take your books up to your own room, dear,' she said, turning to Florence; 'I thought you might help each other if you did them together again, but when I heard Lenny singing I knew it was no good.'

Mrs. Morrison said that while Florence was gathering up her books, and when she had gone upstairs, she took her seat facing Leonard and had a long talk with him. She told him what his father had heard concerning one portion of the school; that it was becoming almost lawless in its determination not to learn more than the masters could force upon them.[82] 'He told you too that he heard to-day of a few boys who had separated themselves from this party, and were determined to profit by the instruction given, and learn the home lessons to the best of their ability.'

Mrs. Morrison saw Leonard's lip curl as she spoke in admiration of these lads. 'They're just a set of cads!' he muttered under his breath.

'No, they are not; and it is your father's wish, and mine too, that you should join this section of the school, and learn your home lessons as well as you possibly can. We do all we can to help you, and Florence is quite willing to come back and do her lessons here, if you do not hinder her. Now will you promise me, Lenny, to turn over a new leaf, and set your mind steadily to the tasks that may be set for you, instead of wasting your time in play as you have done lately?'

'I don't mind doing my lessons,' grunted Leonard ungraciously, 'but I don't see why father should want me to join that scholarship lot at school.'

'He wishes it because they are a steady set of lads, and you are easily led into mischief by your companions.'

'What mischief have I done?' angrily demanded the boy.

'Well, I don't know that there has been any particular mischief,' admitted his mother;[83] 'but your father is not very satisfied with the way things have been going on at school lately. You know the last report was far from satisfactory, and your father said you were just wasting your time, instead of learning all you could. Now promise me, dear, that you will make a new beginning.'

Leonard stared at his book and drummed on the table in silence, and Mrs. Morrison, feeling that she had said enough for once, rose and left the room. She hoped that Leonard would think over what she had said and act upon it, although he had not given the promise that she asked.

She went back to the drawing-room and sat down to think, and her thoughts wandered to that brother whom her son so strangely resembled; and she prayed that God would save her boy from wrecking his life and bringing misery to his friends, as this beloved brother had done.

Now Leonard chose to be half offended over what his mother had said to him. 'Mother wants me to be like a duffing girl,' he whispered to himself as she left the room. 'I wonder who it is she was telling me about. Somebody who has got himself into a nice scrape, and been obliged to leave England. It was a nice thing to be told I was like this scapegrace,' he muttered. But, in spite of his anger, he did manage to learn something of his[84] lessons that night before he went to bed; and he might have got on fairly well in class, if he had not met Taylor early in his walk to school. Taylor was brimming over with the importance of a piece of news he had heard.

'What do you think, Morrison? There are a lot of sneaks in the school who have set up a swatting club without saying a word to us about it!'

'Yes, I know; my pater has heard of it, and wants me to join it.'

'You'll never do it, Morrison!' exclaimed the elder lad.

'Not if I know it. What do you take me for? Isn't it enough to be worried by the masters? No, thank you; I'm going to stick to my friends.'

'Yes, and you must fight with them too, unless you want to see Torrington's ruined as a school for gentlemen. That's what my pater says, and I guess he knows as much as most. He has made his pile; means I shall be a gentleman, and that is all he cares for. Lessons be blowed! They're all very well for scholarship boys and such cads. Your father ought to be ashamed of himself ever to have sent that board school boy among gentlemen, and the beggar will have to go!'

Leonard did not reply, for he did not like to hear any action of his father blamed, and[85] so he walked along in silence, while Taylor poured out further angry denunciations until the school was reached.

During the course of the class lessons that morning it became very evident that there was a dividing line between those who had carefully studied their subjects and the rest of the class. Warren, Howard, and seven or eight other lads held the top part of the class in all subjects, and Taylor, Morrison, and the rest of that part kept steadily at the bottom.

'I've had enough of this,' said Taylor when they came into the playground after dinner. 'That scholarship boy is at the bottom of the whole thing, and we must get rid of him.'

'You've said that before,' grumbled Curtis.

'Yes, I know I have, and I hoped Morrison would persuade his pater to do the job for us, as he brought him in; but it don't seem as though he was going to move in the matter, and so I shall, and little Morrison must help me.'

'But what are you going to do?' asked Leonard.

'That's my business. All you've got to do is what I tell you, and to ask no questions.'

Curtis lifted his sleepy eyes and looked at Taylor with a little more interest.[86]

'What is it to be?' he asked.

'Well, I mean to stink him out; it will all be done up in the stinkery.'

'The stinkery'—or stink-room, to give it its proper title—was a small slip-room divided from the laboratory by a close wooden partition with several ventilating shafts, under which noisome-smelling chemicals could be used without causing any annoyance to the students working in the general laboratory.

'That scholarship boy shall have enough of his precious slops. I'll let Skeats know whether he shall favour a fellow because the rest of us have sent him to Coventry!'

'Why, what has Skeats done?' asked one of the lads; for the science master was a favourite among most of the boys.

'Can't you see what he's doing every day? That sneak from the board school pretends to have "an idea," whatever that may be, and goes talking to old Skeats about it, and so he lets him go up to the "lab." every dinner-time to work at it. Don't you see the little game? We can't make him feel he is in Coventry, if he is taken out of our way. But I am going to upset this family party, and I mean little Morrison shall help me. It's only fair, as his father brought the fellow here, that he should be used to get rid of him.'

'What do you want me to do?' asked[87] Leonard, turning pale, and heartily wishing himself out of the way.

'Why, you shall get the stuff we want. Your father is a doctor, and so it will be easy enough.'

'But the pater does not keep a store of chemicals,' said Leonard.

'Who said he did? I said he was a doctor, and I suppose you can't deny that, can you?'

Leonard looked offended, and was turning away, but Taylor soon fetched him back. 'Look here, little Morrison, it's no good funking. You can do this job better than anybody else, and you've got to do it. I don't want you to steal your father's stuff, but you must get two of his bottles, and go to get what I shall tell you, and if the people at the drug store ask you whether it is for your father, why, of course you must say, "Yes." Now mind, mum must be the word, for I'm not going to tell all the crowd what I'm going to do. Curtis is going to find half the money, and I'll find the other half. Here's half a sovereign. I don't know what the things will cost, any more than the man in the moon, but I shall want the things I have put down in this paper; and tell them to fasten them down tight, so that they don't leak out; for you'll have to keep 'em in your bag till I can use 'em to-morrow.'[88]

'Must I get them to-night?' asked Leonard, wishing he could tell Taylor he would not do it.

'Yes, you must!' answered the 'cock of the walk' in a masterful tone. 'Now, mind you don't lose the money, and be sure you bring the right chemicals.'



News for Mrs. Morrison.

'Oh dear, how late you are for luncheon! it always happens so, if I want you to come home early!'

'Can't help it, my dear,' said Dr. Morrison, as he began to take off his coat.

But his wife was too impatient to let him do it this time. 'Come in here while they put luncheon on the table,' she said, and she drew him into the little room. 'I have had a letter. Guess who it is from.'

But Dr. Morrison shook his head. 'I am too hungry to guess anything,' he said. 'Is it from the man in the moon?'

'Almost as wonderful,' said the lady. 'It is from Dick, dear old Dick! I feel ready to jump for joy.'

The doctor stood still and looked at his wife in blank amazement. 'From Dick? your brother Dick?' he said at last.

'Oh dear, don't speak like that, as though the poor fellow had ever done anything[90] wicked! I have heard you say many times that he was only weak, not wicked.'

'Yes, yes, I know he is only weak; only too ready to say "Yes," and be led into mischief, when he ought to say "No," and stand to it. Think what his easy-going ways have cost us.'

'No, no, I can't think of that now,' interrupted the lady. 'I can only remember that he is my only brother, and I want you to take me to him at once. I have not seen him for five years,' she added, 'and he begs that you will go to him at once, because he has a friend with him who needs your attention at once. He says he met with him out in the wilds of Australia, and he has been the best friend he ever had—that this Mr. Howard has saved him body and soul. But he has fallen ill, through disappointment at not receiving a letter from his wife as soon as he landed. That he has not heard from her for years, because he had to leave England in a hurry, a great many years ago.'

'Why, that might be written of Dick himself,' said the doctor, with a smile. '"Birds of a feather," you know the old proverb!'

'Oh, but Dick must have altered, I am sure, for he says that he and Mr. Howard have both worked very hard, and made a moderate fortune, or they would not have come home to[91] England again. That is not like the old Dick, is it?'

'No, my dear, for he generally let other people do the hard work, while he dreamed of what he would like to do. But now let me see this letter.'

'Luncheon is served, ma'am,' said the housemaid, tapping at the door at this moment.

The doctor and his wife were to have the meal alone to-day, and so the servant's service was dispensed with, that they might discuss this wonderful letter, for wonderful it was, even the doctor had to confess, when he had read it.

There was far more about his friend, whose wife and family he was anxious to find, than there was about the writer himself; but the most interesting piece of information was in the postscript.

'My friend has just heard that his wife went to live in the neighbourhood of your town. Can you make inquiries? She has two sons, Frederick and Horace. The latter would be about thirteen, I think.'

The doctor dropped the letter and gazed at his wife. 'I wonder whether it is the father of that scholarship boy!' he almost gasped.

'What scholarship boy?' asked Mrs. Morrison impatiently.

'Why, the one that was sent from the[92] board school to Torrington's. His father was entered as a traveller, I believe, and he was said to be abroad. My dear, put your things on, and we will drive round and see this Mrs. Howard. She lives at that old-fashioned cottage just outside the town.'

'Oh, but I want to go and see Dick!' said the lady.

'And we will go, if possible; but I shall have to see Warren first, and we must do as Dick wishes, and inquire for his friend's wife before we go.'

Dr. Morrison was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet, and so the carriage was ordered at once, and in half an hour they were on their way to the cottage.

A very few words convinced the doctor that he had found the lady he was seeking; and when she had read all that was said about her husband she readily agreed to go with the doctor and Mrs. Morrison to London. While the doctor went to his friend Warren, she wrote a letter explaining something of what had happened, and that she was going with Dr. Morrison to London. This she sent by a messenger to Fred at his work, asking him to tell Horace something of what had occurred, and also to meet his brother when he came home to tea.

Fred was not a little puzzled when he received this letter, but he asked to be allowed[93] to leave a little earlier, and so managed to reach home just as Horace appeared at the bend of the lane.

'I tried to get here before you, but you were too quick for me,' he said, when his brother rushed in at the garden gate.

'Where's mother?' asked Horace, when he saw Fred take the street-door key from his pocket.

'Come indoors, and I'll tell you all I know. Let me light the fire first,' he added. Fred had learned to be very handy about the house, and he soon had the fire blazing under the kettle; and while it boiled he told Horace that a letter had been sent to him early in the afternoon from his mother, saying that she had just received news of his father, who was ill in London. 'Dr. Morrison came and told her all about it, and he has gone to London with her.'

'Dr. Morrison!' repeated Horace. 'Why, Morrison is in my class at school; and the doctor is his father, I know.'

'What sort of a fellow is young Morrison?' asked Fred. He was handing cups and saucers to Horace, who was setting them ready for tea.

'Oh, Morrison is all right,' said Horace, who was clattering the cups and saucers; for he did not want to discuss his school troubles with his brother. 'I don't see much of him,[94] because he likes to go with the bigger boys. I say, Fred, do you remember our father?' said Horace; 'he's been gone away such a long time. We used to have a nice house and servants when he stayed at home with us, didn't we?'

'Then you remember him, Horry?' said Fred.

But Horace shook his head. 'No, I don't remember a bit about him, only that we had a nice house a long time ago.'

'Well, I only remember a little,' said Fred. 'But I know he was a tall gentleman, and I think he was a doctor. He went away to travel, I have heard mother say, and she thought he must be dead until Dr. Morrison came this afternoon. I have brought home some sausages,' announced Fred, who wanted to change the conversation.

He knew so little and remembered so little about his father and those former days; but as he had grown older he had grown angry that his father should leave his mother as he had, without cause—so far as Fred knew—and without explanation, he had heard, and simply gone abroad to travel, leaving them to battle with poverty as they could.

As time went on he had spoken less and less of his father, but he had become certain that there must have been some cause for his father's disappearance, though his mother[95] might not know it; but in his own mind there was a lurking fear that some disgrace might lie hidden below the long silence. And so, as soon as tea was over, he said—

'I am going out to get some things for breakfast.'

So Horace was left to the comfort of his books and the study of his lessons.

When Leonard reached home that same afternoon, Florence met him with the information that father and mother had both gone out, and Mary the housemaid did not know what time they would be home.

'Where have they gone?' asked Leonard, for it was a rare occurrence for both to be away at the same time.

Florence shook her head. 'Mary says that James was sent with a letter to Mr. Warren, and so I should think father had asked him to look after some of his patients.'

'Very likely,' answered her brother; and then he took his satchel to the little room where lessons were studied and sat down to think.

He did not know whether he was glad or sorry to hear that his father had gone out. As he came along he had made up his mind that it would be impossible to get bottles from his father's dispensing-room, for he was never allowed to go there, and it was just[96] possible that his father had locked the door before going out, in which case he could tell Taylor that it was impossible to get the chemicals for him, and there would be an end of it.

But, although he said this, he knew there would not be an end of it, and if he refused at last to get what was wanted, he would be sent to Coventry, at least by those whose society he desired.

So after washing his hands before going to tea he went to the dispensing-room, to find out whether the door could be opened, and found that it yielded at once. He went in and closed the door, lest one of the servants should come that way and see him, when they would be sure to remind him that he was not allowed to go there.

After closing the door he looked round to see what he could find, and there by the sink was a row of glass-stoppered bottles, evidently filled with water for washing them. He selected two that he thought would hold about half a pint each, and pouring out the water he took them to the study and hid them in a corner out of sight, in case Florence should decide to do her lessons with him this evening.

But it seemed as though everything was to favour him in what he knew was wrong-doing. His sister told him at tea-time that she must[97] do her lessons in her own room, for she had an extra piece of history to study, as she was working for the history prize to be given at Christmas.

'Oh, all right,' said Leonard, with his mouth full of bread and jam. 'It's all a girl can do, I suppose, get a prize now and then.'

'You can't do that if you are a boy!' retorted Florence; and then there was a little more sparring and wrangling, until the housemaid appeared to clear the table. Florence went upstairs to her lesson then, and Leonard sauntered off to the little study and lighted the gas, for it was getting dusk.

When the gas was lighted he went to look at his bottles, and then saw in the corner, near where he had hidden them, an old leather bag of his father's. He remembered now that he had been told he might have it for his books when the satchel was worn out; and he decided to take it at once. 'This is good fortune indeed! Taylor says he'll take care nobody finds out, if I only get the stuff there. Taylor is a smart fellow, and so is his father, or he could not have made a big fortune in a year or two, as Taylor says he did. My dad won't make one in a life-time, I'm afraid, and I shall just have to go plodding on at hard work, unless I can learn a thing or two from Taylor by-and-by.'[98]

While he had been speaking to himself he had been wrapping each bottle up separately in a piece of old newspaper and putting them into the bag. Then he took the written paper given him by Taylor and the half-sovereign, and decided to go at once and get his bottles filled. He must tell the chemist to seal the stoppers down securely, or there would be such a smell from the bag that it would betray them before it could be got into 'the stinkery' at school. He put a book in the bag as well as the bottles, so that if his sister should discover that he had been out, he could say he had been to borrow a book from one of his schoolfellows.

He went out by the back gate, for he did not want anyone to know he was going if he could help it, and Florence might hear him shut the front door. He knew where to go, and as he brought his father's private bottles and half-a-sovereign to pay for what he had, the chemist served him without demur. He wondered a little what the doctor could want the chemicals for, but reflected that as Leonard was old enough to sign his poison-book in the regular way, and as Mr. Morrison was a well-known practitioner in the town, there could be no harm done in letting him have what he wanted.

So Leonard walked home in triumph with the bottles securely wrapped up in the bag.[99] On his way back he met Taylor walking arm-in-arm with Curtis, and both smoking cigarettes.

'Hullo, little Morrison!' he said in a patronising tone, as Leonard stopped them, for they would have passed without noticing him.

'This is a piece of luck!' exclaimed the boy. 'You can take the bag now, Taylor. The bottles and stuff are in it safe enough.'

'What bottles? What stuff?' he said, stepping back a pace, as if the proffered bag would bite him.

'You know what it is,' said Leonard in a tone of surprise.

'Oh no, I don't! I know nothing until you bring me the stuff I told you about. Ta-ta! little Morrison. Don't forget the bag in the morning;' and the 'cock of the walk' and his friend went on their way laughing, leaving the boy transfixed with anger and amazement. His first thought was that he would go and throw the bottles in the canal just as they were, give Taylor the change out of the half-sovereign, and tell him where he would find the bottles if he wanted them. He went so far as to walk down the canal road, but his courage evaporated before he had gone any distance, and although he was still very angry over the treatment he had received[100] from his chosen friend, he turned his steps homeward, still carrying the bottles, but half decided that he would not take them to Taylor in the morning.

As he was going in at the back gate one of the servants met him.

'Dear me, Mr. Leonard! how you made me jump! There's a telegram come for you, and Miss Florence has been hunting all over the house to find you, for the boy said he was to wait for an answer.'

The importance of having a telegram sent to him soothed Leonard's ruffled feelings, and he hurried in to find his sister and learn what the message could be. 'Mother and I cannot come home to-night—coming to-morrow.' This was what the mysterious yellow envelope contained by way of a message, and Leonard read it with Florence looking over his shoulder.

'There's no answer to go back,' said Leonard, when he saw Mary looking at him. 'Go and tell the boy Father has just sent to say that he is not coming home to-night;' and then he went and carried the bag to the little room, leaving Florence to read the telegram over for her own satisfaction—as if that would give her any more information.

She followed her brother to the study and said, 'Where do you think they have gone, Len?'[101]

'How can I tell? I never heard of a rich uncle, did you?'

His sister shook her head. 'Daddy was an only son, I know,' she said. 'But I think mother had a brother.'

'Was he a millionaire?' asked Leonard.

'He was a doctor, which is quite as good, I am sure, for that is——'

'Flo, you're a duffer,' interrupted her brother. 'There's nothing like millionaires in these days, and so I hope this uncle, whoever he may be, has made his pile, and will leave it all to us.'

'But you don't know it is an uncle they have gone to see. Father had friends in London, and this telegram came from Westminster, and I know that is in London.'

'Well, we shall hear all about it when they come, I dare say. Now run away, little girl, for I want to get on with my lessons, now I have got the book I wanted.'

'Oh, that was what you wanted! You boys are so careless. It is a good job you can borrow of each other;' and Florence went away, leaving Leonard to do his lessons or reflect upon the strange events of the evening.

After a few angry thoughts concerning Taylor and his behaviour towards him that evening, he began wondering once more whether it was an uncle his parents had gone[102] to see, and then whether he was rich, and would make them wealthy too. He had never thought so much of money and what it could do for its possessor until lately, but Taylor and Curtis both belonged to wealthy families, and he thought of what they could do. He called to mind the half-sovereign and the cigarettes he had seen them smoking, and he had no doubt they were going to a famous billiard-room in the town. Billiards, cigars, and half-sovereigns made up an entrancing picture to the boy, and he sat and dreamed of these things, and wished he had plenty of money, until half the evening was gone; and although he declined to go to bed at the usual hour, he only half knew his lessons when he did go.

The next morning he started for school in good time, for fear he should miss Taylor, and be compelled to have those bottles on his mind all the morning. But Taylor was looking out for him at the corner of the road where they usually met. He was in a different mood this morning, and flattered and praised the lad for having got the chemicals without anyone finding out what he had done.

'You carry the bag to the gate, and I'll take it of you there, and no one will ever see those bottles again, I can promise you.'[103]

'But how are you going to manage?' asked Leonard.

'Oh, I have made my plans! I have to work in "the stinkery" this morning, so the thing will be easy enough when I have once got your bottles up in the "lab.," and they'll go in my pockets for me to take them up there. Oh, never fear! we shall get rid of that board school beggar this time, for Skeats is awfully particular about his stuff, and he'll never forgive him for using chemicals like these away from "the stinkery." I know where to put them till I want them, so you can give them to me in a minute, and I will put them into the pockets of this dust-coat I am carrying; I brought it with me on purpose.'

Leonard breathed a sigh of relief when the bottles were safely transferred from the bag to the inside pockets of the fashionable coat.

'If the stopper should come out of that bottle of sulphuric acid, your coat won't be worth much,' he said, as Taylor swung the coat over his arm.

'The stoppers are all right, I can see,' he said; but still he carried the coat carefully, and went at once to hang it up when he got to the school.

The laboratory had been built at a later date than the main body of the school, and was reached by a flight of steps from the play[104]ground. The room below it was used for coats and hats and other impedimenta the boys might bring with them, each boy having his own peg and place on the shelf for bag or lunch basket. They passed through this room on their way to the laboratory, and so it would be easy for Taylor to take down his coat, and carry it up with him when he went for his practical chemistry lesson, and he did this without any notice being aroused among the other boys.

At twelve o'clock, when school was over, the science master went to the playground to look for Howard, who was eating his sandwiches as he walked up and down. 'You won't be long before you go up to the laboratory, I suppose, Howard?' he said, when he saw the lad.

'No, sir, I'm going in a minute,' said the boy.

'I have left three boys there finishing their work. Just see they leave their things all right, when you go in.'

Horace frequently performed such small services for the science master, and readily promised to do this. But just as Mr. Skeats turned away, Warren came up, and the two stood talking for two or three minutes before Howard went to the laboratory. He ran up the steps, and was surprised to find the door closed, but not locked, as boys usually locked[105] it when they were left to do some work after school hours. When he opened the door, he was struck by the peculiar smell of almonds that pervaded the place. He closed the door, but did not lock it. 'I say, what have you fellows been using?' he said, as he went to the further end of the room. There lay one boy stretched out on the floor near a bench, and close to another lay a second. He tried to rouse the one nearest to him, and then seized him by the legs and dragged him across the room out on to the landing. There he shouted 'Help! help!' and ran back to pull out the others, for he knew the deadly nature of that almond-like smell. He managed to get another to the door, where he would get fresh air, and then returned for the third. He found him lying near 'the stinkery,' and thought he would open that door, for the better ventilation of the outer room; but as he passed his own bench, which stood near, he was overpowered by the fumes pouring out of a flask standing there, from which acid also was boiling over on to the bench and floor. He reeled, and before he could reach the door fell insensible to the ground, one hand falling helplessly into the pool of burning liquid there. But by this time the fresh air had revived the first boy he had dragged out, and he called to a lad in the playground.

'What's the row?' said Warren—for it[106] happened to be that young gentleman. 'Oh, what a stink!' he said the next minute, and putting his head in, he saw Howard and the other lad lying on the floor at the further end of the room. He knew that the fumes were dangerous, and stuffing his pocket-handkerchief into his mouth and up his nostrils, he dashed in and tried to drag both boys at once to the door, but had to drop one just as Mr. Skeats rushed up. He picked up Horace, and carried him down, and then sent for the head master and other lads to carry out those who, although somewhat revived, were still lying on the landing at the top of the steps.

'You must have a doctor, sir,' said Warren, pushing his way through the crowd of boys who had gathered round to know what was the matter.

'Yes, yes,' said the master; and Warren rushed off to the gate and ran hastily down the road. He knew his father was often in the neighbourhood about that time of the day, and, to his great joy, he saw him driving in his gig. The boy ran and shouted, and speedily attracted the doctor's attention when his son shouted, 'Something wrong in the "lab!"'

He ran into the playground, and there half-a-dozen voices called, 'They have carried them all to the master's house.'[107]

Here he found two of the boys well-nigh recovered, but the third one was still unconscious, and Horace seemed even worse. His hand and arms were badly burned with the acid, and there were splashes of it on his face.

The masters were doing what they could to get the deadly poison out of his lungs, but it seemed as though Horace and the third lad had inhaled so much of the gas that all their efforts were in vain. The doctor looked grave when Mr. Skeats told him the boys had been breathing hydro-cyanic acid gas. The application of artificial respiration was redoubled, but it was not until nearly four o'clock that Horace began to revive, and what Leonard felt during those awful hours of suspense could be better imagined than described! The laboratory had been locked up, as soon as it was known what had happened, so that the affair might be inquired into. No boy was allowed to go home either, although Taylor had complained of being very ill, and had wanted to leave early.

Not until it was known that Horace was out of all immediate danger was there a word spoken, and then Dr. Mason said, 'I am ready to hear any explanation that you may wish to give me as to the cause of what has happened. I have heard all about the attendant circumstances and the rescue of these[108] lads. What I want to know is, who caused the disaster?'

Not a sound broke the silence of the school when the doctor had said this. Leonard was ready to tell of his share in the affair, but as he glanced at Taylor he received such a look of warning as made him cower in his seat, and the school broke up wondering what would happen next.



Righteous Retribution.

Warren volunteered the information that Howard's mother had gone away from home, and only his elder brother could take care of him, if he was sent there, so that it was decided that he should remain in the master's house for the present; and Warren went to let Fred know that his brother would not be home all night.

'Why, what is the matter?' asked the young carpenter anxiously.

'There was something wrong in the "lab." this dinner-time. Nobody knows just how it happened, but there'll be a jolly row about it to-morrow, I know.'

'I hope Horace had nothing to do with it,' said Fred.

'Oh, didn't he, though! Three boys would soon have been dead if he hadn't gone in. That's how he got hurt. You can go and see him, my father says, only you mustn't talk much.'[110]

Fred was not long getting his tea; he was too anxious to go and hear more of what had happened to his brother, but he took care to wash himself and change his working clothes before presenting himself at the master's house.

He found Horace in bed, with both hands bandaged and looking very pale. He was able to tell him what had happened, but begged him not to say a word about it to his mother, as he felt sure he should be quite well in the morning. Fred hardly knew what to do, but at length agreed not to say a word about it when he wrote to his mother. When he had nearly reached his own home, he saw a boy waiting near the gate, and he said, 'Are you Howard's brother?'

'Yes. Who are you?' asked Fred.

'My name is Morrison, and I want to know if you think he will get well again.'

'I hope so. But why are you so anxious about it? Do you know how it happened?'

Leonard nodded.

'I know a bit,' said the boy sheepishly, 'and I wondered whether I'd better tell my father.'

'Yes, yes—tell him by all means,' said Fred eagerly. 'Come in a minute, and if you like I will go home with you and break the ice. I've always been in the habit of telling my mother when I got into a scrape; but it[111] made it a bit easier if Horace told her something about it first, so I know how you feel about telling your father.'

'We didn't mean to hurt the fellows, you know,' said Leonard eagerly, as he went into the little sitting-room. 'We didn't mean to hurt anybody; only make a jolly stink in the "lab.," and get somebody into a row.'

He did not say who the 'somebody' was, and Fred did not ask him. They went away together, and walked almost in silence, for Fred did not like to press the boy to tell him any more. It was a long walk round to Leonard's home, but Fred did not mind; and if the doctor had got back he might hear of his mother, and something of what had happened since she had been gone, for he had not had a letter from her, as he had expected.

When they got to the doctor's house, and Fred asked to see him, the servant said he had only just come home, and she was not sure that he could see anybody.

'I think he will see me, if you tell him that my name is Howard,' said Fred. 'I have come to see him about my brother, who was hurt at school to-day.'

The doctor was certainly mystified as to the meaning of the last part of the message, but he was glad to see Fred, for he had promised his mother he would see him as soon as possible.[112]

The doctor rose from his seat and took Fred's hands as he entered the room. 'I am very glad to see you. I have some wonderful news for you. I left your father a few hours ago. Your mother wished me to tell you. Do you remember your father?'

'Yes, sir, a little,' answered Fred, quite forgetting what he actually had come for.

'You do remember him?' repeated the doctor.

'I know he was a gentleman,' said Fred, a little proudly.

'Yes, he has proved himself a steadfast, God-fearing, humble Christian. A true gentleman in these later years,' said Mr. Morrison; 'and I have promised him, and your mother too, that you shall hear something of what those years have been.'

'But I should like to know first why he went away and left us all alone,' said Fred, with reddening brow. 'It was not fair to my mother, or to any of us, and I am not sure that I shall ever want to see him again.' And then the tears filled Fred's eyes.

'Sit down, my lad,' said the doctor; 'your father knew that you must feel angry at what has happened, and, to use his own words, he does not deserve anything else at your hands, but I was to tell his story in as few words as possible, and leave the rest to you.

'Some time before he went away he had[113] a patient named Taylor. He seems to have been a very fascinating sort of man, and your father was not a very strong one. Through this man he neglected his practice a great deal—he was a doctor, you know—his friend always seemed to have plenty of money, and they went about the country a good deal together enjoying themselves, doing no great harm, beyond your father neglecting his work and you at home.

'This lasted for some time, and then one day his friend begged him, as a great favour, to sign his name to a bill. Of course, by doing this your father became responsible for the whole amount of the debt, if his friend should fail to repay it within the time named; but he had such confidence in Mr. Taylor, and believed all he said about the wealth coming to him, that he signed it after a little persuasion, although it was for a very large amount of money.

'He never told your mother of this transaction, because he knew she disliked and mistrusted this Taylor.

'A few days before this bill became due your father found to his dismay that his friend had disappeared from his London house, and no one knew where he had gone. Still, your father said no word to your mother of what had happened, but when he was served with the notice that he must now pay the debt,[114] he was seized with panic at the thought of the ruin he had brought upon himself and family, and, instead of bravely staying to do what he could to help those who were dependent upon him, he went out one morning, and took a passage to Australia by a vessel that was just leaving the docks.

'It must be said in excuse for him that just at the time there was a great talk of the rapid fortunes that were being made in the gold-fields, and he had heard that Taylor had gone there to make his fortune.

'I need hardly tell you that he did not see his false friend again, although he heard of him more than once during his wanderings in the wilds of Australia.

'He wrote one short letter, telling your mother he would come home as soon as he had made his fortune; and he resolved in his own mind not to do so until he had accomplished this, for only in this way he thought he could atone for the past and prove that he was worthy of her confidence for the future.

'But he found the task much harder than he had supposed, and instead of making his fortune at the gold-fields he was robbed of the little he possessed, and was glad to get any sort of work that would provide him with a crust of bread.

'Then he met with Mrs. Morrison's brother, who was not unlike himself in many respects—easily[115] led, weak to resist temptation—but in the hard school of affliction to which they had condemned themselves God met them, and showed them the folly and sin of which they had been guilty; and they sought and found pardon through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, through the help of God's Holy Spirit, they began to struggle against the temptations by which they were beset, and in the struggle grew strong, strong enough to resist even the making of illegal gains; and so the fortune that was to restore them to home and country was a long time in the making, and meanwhile they clung to each other, and to God.'

'But my father might have written to us,' said Fred, still a little hardly.

'They both wrote to their nearest friends in England. But you must remember that your mother had left London, and I had left Liverpool, where I was living when my brother-in-law went away; so both letters were returned, and the wanderers could only work on in faith and hope that one day God would bring them to their dear ones again.'

Fred had listened with the greatest intentness to the doctor's story, and now he roused himself, remembering that the errand he had come upon had not yet been mentioned. 'Thank you, Dr. Morrison,' he said, 'for telling me this; but I cannot help thinking still that my father has been very cruel to[116] us, although he may not have intended it; but I came to see you about something else. You have a son who goes to school with my brother; Horace has been hurt somehow, and is in bed at the master's house. Your son wishes me to tell you that he knows something of what happened. He did not mean to hurt anybody, but three boys might have died through what was done.'

'Ah, that is just it. Boys never intend wilfully to hurt each other, I believe, and it is only rarely that men do so; but they do it through their weakness and thoughtlessness, and bring untold misery upon friends, and all who love them. Your father's spoiled life, and my brother-in-law's almost wasted one, should teach all you lads a lesson. Ask God to make you strong to resist the first temptation—strong in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, for this alone can help you in the hour of trial. And remember that this time of trial must come to you sooner or later; and the sooner it comes in life the better, if only you go to the Strong for strength to sustain you.'

Then the doctor rang the bell, and told the servant to send Leonard to him. Fred rose to go, but the doctor told him to sit down again.

'We'll get this business over while you are here,' he said. And when Leonard appeared, he said, 'My friend, Mr. Fred Howard, says[117] you have something to tell me. Yes, he is my friend, and I trust that you will make him yours also, if he will accept the friendship of a boy like you,' said the doctor, answering the look of perplexity on Leonard's face. 'This lad's father has saved your uncle's life more than once, it seems, while you have nearly killed his brother. Is that true?'

Leonard hung his head, and the tears slowly gathered in his eyes. 'Did Mr. Warren tell you that, father?' he said with a gasp.

'I have not seen Warren yet,' said Dr. Morrison. 'What is it you have to tell me? Do not be afraid, I want to hear all the truth from you. Now what is it you have to tell me, Len?' said the doctor, in a more tender tone. 'I hear you have got into some scrape at school, and somebody has got hurt.'

'Yes, father; the scholarship boy, and I was afraid he might die.'

'Well, what was your share of the mischief? Did you really wish your schoolfellow to die?'

'Father, we didn't mean to hurt him really. We only wanted to drive him away from the school.' And then, bit by bit, Mr. Morrison heard the whole story of what had been going on at Torrington's for the last few months.

Fred was as much astonished as Mr. Morrison. 'My brother never said a word about it at home,' he said.[118]

'Your brother has the brave gallant spirit of a gentleman,' said the doctor. 'But what am I to say of my son and his cowardly companions? Go to your room, sir!' he said, addressing Leonard, for he was very angry.

'But, Mr. Morrison, that he should wish to come and tell you of it before it is known at the school who has done it, should not be forgotten,' said Fred, pleadingly.

'Certainly, certainly, it is something, as you say,' answered Mr. Morrison; but in truth he felt overwhelmed just now.

As Fred was leaving, a servant from Dr. Mason's arrived with a note, asking that Mr. Morrison would bring his son, and be at the school by nine o'clock.

'Mason has found out all about it, I expect,' he said, as he read the note. He gave orders for his carriage to be ready by half-past eight the following day, for he had a great deal to do before he started for London in the evening.

He went to see Leonard in his own room before he went to bed, and then told him something of his uncle's life, and why it was that he wished to befriend Horace Howard.

His father's talk made a deep impression on the boy's mind. 'Mamma told me something of this once but she did not say the "somebody" was my uncle.'

'My boy, she loved this brother as Florrie[119] loves you, and how could she tell you all the miserable tale?'

'Oh, papa, I am so sorry! What can I do to make you believe that I do mean to try and do right always for the future? I wish I could do something for that poor Horace. His hands are awfully bad, and he won't be able to use them for ever so long. There's nobody to take care of him at home either. Don't you think he might come here, papa?'

Dr. Morrison looked at Leonard, and breathed a sigh of relief. 'My boy, could I trust you to be good to him if I fetched him here to-morrow?'

'Yes, yes, papa; indeed I will try to make it up to him, if you will let him come. I am so sorry. I did not know it was going to be so bad, until I heard Mr. Skeats say he wondered they were not dead. That was why I wanted to see Howard's brother. I knew he was the worst, and I wanted them to know that I did not mean really to hurt him.'

'I can quite believe and sincerely hope that this will be a lesson you will never forget through your whole life. But if I forgive you it is more than you can expect Dr. Mason to do. I almost wonder he has not put it into the hands of the police, and had you all arrested. The punishment will be severe, I have no doubt; it ought to be, to make an impression upon the school; and remember, whatever it[120] may be, I shall expect you to bear it patiently and bravely. I forgive you, but I shall not seek to lessen the punishment your schoolmaster may inflict. Now go to sleep as soon as you can, and I will take you to school in the carriage with me in the morning.'

Dr. Morrison was compelled to pay a visit to a patient on his way to the school the next day, so that when they arrived they found all the school assembled in the hall. Prayers were just over, and when Leonard entered with his father, he was directed to take his place beside Taylor and Curtis, who were standing in front of the platform, where Dr. Mason and the other masters were sitting. His father was asked to take a seat there beside two other gentlemen, whom he afterwards heard were Mr. Curtis and Mr. Taylor, who had come to hear what their sons were charged with.

'It might have been manslaughter,' said Dr. Mason severely, when one of the gentlemen asked this question rather angrily.

'Last night, before we separated, I asked if anyone wanted to make a statement about this matter,' said the master, addressing the school. 'No one answered then; now it is too late, and I can tell you myself all that happened. When the chemistry class left the laboratory yesterday morning, Mr. Skeats left three boys to finish what they were doing,[121] believing that they were the only lads there. Just after he had gone they heard the stink-chamber door opened, and Taylor put something down on Howard's bench, which is close to that door. They took no notice of this at first, until the peculiar odour arrested their attention. Then one of them went round to see what it was, but coming in closer contact with the fumes was overcome by them, and fell down unconscious. Soon a second fell at his bench, and the third fell just as Howard opened the laboratory door and called to them. None were able to answer; but he pulled two out on to the landing, and then went back for the third, but fell unconscious himself, close to his own bench, and near the lad he was trying to save. Fortunately, his cry for help was heard, and both lives were saved, I am thankful to say, although Howard has been burned a great deal with the acid of the poison.'

There was a dead silence throughout the school while the master was speaking. After a pause he said, 'I do not suppose that either Taylor, Curtis, or Morrison knew what their act would be likely to cause. I am sure they were ignorant of the danger they caused to three or four of their schoolfellows. But I do know that for some time past these boys have been persecuting one of their companions; and this sort of thing shall never be allowed at this[122] school. Therefore, to save this school from future disgrace and trouble, I am compelled to expel from the school those who have been the ringleaders in this persecution. Taylor! Curtis! your names will be removed from the school roll, and never again will you be admitted as scholars of Torrington's school. Morrison has been greatly to blame in the part he has taken in this business; but taking into consideration that he made a full confession to his father last night of all he had done, added to the fact that he is a younger and weaker boy than the others, I shall suspend him from attending this school for six months; and if at the end of that time he can bring a certificate of good conduct from any other school, he may possibly be reinstated at Torrington's. The honour of the school demands that these punishments should be strictly adhered to.' The master sat down, and before a boy could leave his place Dr. Morrison sprang to his feet.

'Dr. Mason, I am an old Torrington boy,' he said; 'and I thank you with all my heart for defending the honour of the dear old school. My son is one of the culprits, and I thank you in his name for giving him another chance to retrieve his character. I shall send him for the six months to one of the board schools in the town, where I hope and trust he may earn the right to come among you once more, and[123] bring no further disgrace upon Torrington's school.'

The other two gentlemen did not say a word. They were exceedingly angry with the culprits, but could not complain that the master had been unduly severe with them. Before they left, Dr. Mason said that he must charge them with the cost of a new suit of clothes for Horace. 'Those he was wearing yesterday are burned into holes, so that the poor lad has nothing to wear when he is able to get up,' said Dr. Mason.

'I will see to that,' said Dr. Morrison.

'I understand you are going to charge yourself with the care of the lad until he is well,' said the master. 'I like justice all round, and it is only fair these gentlemen should buy the boy a new suit. Will you leave me to order it?' he said, addressing the two.

'Yes, yes, of course, and we will pay the bill,' both answered in a breath.

'Now, Morrison, you can go and tell the lad that he will soon have some new clothes, for I understand that is the chief trouble with him this morning—that he has spoiled his best jacket, and burned holes in his trousers. Mrs. Mason will give you something to take him home in, and I think it will do both lads good to know more of each other. The wisest thing you could do is what you have decided upon for Leonard, and I hope I shall see[124] him back at Torrington's at the end of six months.'

Mr. Morrison found Fred was with his brother, but he readily agreed to his being taken home by the doctor. Horace himself did not know what to make of it. Fred had just told him what he had heard from Dr. Morrison about his father, and now the doctor assured him that Leonard was very anxious to make up to him for all the unkindness he had been guilty of in the past.

'For our father's sake you ought to give him this chance,' said Fred, for he knew he could not give his brother the care he needed.

'Thank you, doctor; I will go with you,' said Horace.

Just as he was being wrapped up Mr. Warren came in to see his patient, and was glad to learn that he was going home with Dr. Morrison.

'You will let Warren come and see me, won't you?' said Horace.

'Yes, yes, send him by all means; and I shall be glad if you can look in upon him yourself to-morrow, for I am obliged to go to London this evening, so that he must be left to the tender mercies of Len and the servants for a day or two.'

Horace was carried to the carriage where Leonard was seated, shedding a few quiet tears over the folly that had gained for him[125] this suspension for the honour of the school. Still, he was thankful that he was allowed a chance of return, and resolved to do all he could—even in a board school—to earn the right to go back at the end of six months. He was glad enough to have Horace seated beside him, and the first words he said were,

'I hope you will forgive me for being such a fool. We must be friends, you know, and I hope to come back to Torrington's with you by-and by.'

'Yes, yes, we will be good friends if you like,' said Horace, with the tears shining in his eyes. 'Only I don't know what my mother will say when she comes home.'

'Oh, that will be all right,' answered Leonard. 'Your mother has gone to London with my mother. I dare say we shall know all about it presently. But father is too busy now, for he is going to London again this evening, and so I shall have to take care of you until he comes back. We'll ask Warren to come and see us as well, because I know you like Warren.'

This last proposal cost Leonard the most, for he wanted Horace to like him now. But it was a proof to Mr. Morrison that his son had learned to conquer himself; and he had more hope for him now than he had since he first heard of this school scandal.

The doctor had taken care to say as little[126] as possible to the two boys about the fortune Mr. Howard had made while he was away, and it had made so little impression upon Horace, that when Mr. Morrison came back from London the next day, and told him that his mother wanted him to go to the sea-side as soon as he was able to go, Horace looked at him in mute wonder.

Could his mother afford to send him to the sea-side? he wondered, and he resolved to ask Fred what he thought about it when he came.

His brother came to sit with him for an hour every evening, and as soon as they were left to themselves that night Horace said, 'Have you heard that mother wants us to go to the sea-side—Leonard, and you and I? What does it mean, Fred? Has mother got money enough now to spend it like that?'

'I suppose she has,' said Fred, with something like a sigh; 'but I am not sure that it is going to make us any happier, Horry,' he added.

'Well, I suppose that will depend upon what we do with it, won't it?' said Horace simply.

'Well, then I don't know that I shall let them spend any of it on me,' said Fred, in an angry tone.

'Then you won't let mother be happy, though she may have more money, and not have to work for it now.'[127]

'Now, Horace, you know it is on mother's account that I feel as I do. It was unkind and cruel of father to go away and leave her as he did for years and years, though he was making a fortune for us. I tell you that money has been bought too dearly, and for mother's sake I don't feel as though I could touch a penny of it.'

'Oh, Fred! think how unhappy she will be if you say that to her.'

'I have said it,' replied Fred bitterly. 'I wrote and told her that I hoped she would leave me to be a carpenter, and live on in the little cottage where she had worked so hard.'

'Oh, how could you—what did she say?' cried Horace, with the tears shining in his eyes.

Fred covered his face for a moment. 'She begged me to forgive my father for her sake, as though it was not for her sake I feel as I do.'

'Yes, yes, I know,' said Horace. 'But you will have to do as she says, or else we shall all be so unhappy. Oh, Fred, for mother's sake, for my sake, forgive father! for why should I lose my brother because my father has come home? I cannot help myself. I must let him help me, and if he did stay and work for this money just to prove that he was sorry for what he had done so long ago, I think we ought to forgive[128] him, as mother has. He is ill, too, through the hardships he had to endure.'

'Oh, Horry, if only he hadn't gone away like that! To have to forgive your father, instead of looking up to him as Len Morrison does, is so bitter; and it might all have been so different if only he had kept on doing his duty and asking God to help him when things were a bit harder than usual.'

'Oh, Fred, ask God to help you now, to help you forgive him for mother's sake, and for Jesus Christ's sake!' cried Horace, in a passion of tears.

'I have, dear, I have! and I think I shall be able to do it soon; but I think God wanted me to see that making a fortune can't make up for not doing the right thing at the right time; no, not even to the people you may make the fortune for. I shall have to let my father know this before I can fully forgive him.'

It was a bitter lesson for the returned prodigals to learn, for Leonard Morrison took the same view concerning his uncle, having memories of days when his mother was too ill and too sad to be glad with them; and he heard now from his father that this was generally caused by some memory of the dearly loved brother who had fled from them under a cloud of disgrace.

At length, however, Fred wrote and assured his mother that for her sake, and for[129] his brother's, he would do as they wished, and join them at the sea-side, when Horace went for a holiday before returning to school. His hands were better, thanks to the kind attention he received from everyone at Dr. Morrison's. Indeed, he was such good friends now with Leonard, that he begged to be allowed to go to the sea-side with him, in order to make the acquaintance of his mother and his father as well as of his own uncle, who was still staying with them to help the invalid.

Fred wrote this letter, and Mrs. Howard was greatly relieved to receive it. To her it had been easy enough to receive and pardon her husband for his long neglect, and she failed to understand why her elder son, who had always been so good to her, should assume such a hard, unforgiving demeanour towards his father.

But when they met some weeks later she learned to understand the lad better; and when she told her husband he said, 'It is better. He is young, and has all his life before him, and he is right in thinking that no fortune can make up for wasted opportunities and neglected duties.'