صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

what she was gazing at. She replied, "At Miss Lee," and Miss Lee heard her.

"Why are you looking at Miss Lee so strong?"

"I was wondering whether she had been hurt on the slide this morning," answered Dora.

"If I had been, Dora," answered Miss Lee, "I should have gone to bed."

There was such an awkward emphasis on the word bed that Dora felt that she was not quite Miss Lee's match yet, and had better hold her tongue. For there was no appeal against Miss Lee in that house; and Miss Lee, in her position as governess, could send anybody to bed in five minutes. Dora, although in opposition to her governess, as a true British young lady is bound to be, had sense enough to hold her tongue and let things drive. "So you are going to set your cap at Uncle Arthur, are you, my lady?" she said to herself. "Good gracious, goodness me, how fine we are getting all of a sudden! Yes, indeed! Oh, quite so! Bed may be bed, my lady, but I have seen the last of French irregular verbs for some time, I fancy; unless I am a born fool, which I ain't; no, nor I won't be kept in over my colloquia French either, after this; and she trampolining away to Hampstead with the children, and Dempster, and riding donkeys, because I said, 'Il va pluvoir.'

Dora was rebellious against Miss Lee, although they were the best friends in the world.

They had just sat down to supper when a new guest arrived.

A gallant-looking youth, with good features and fine bold intelligent eyes, dressed in a quiet but very becoming uniform. He stood behind Algernon's chair, waiting for recognition; and Dora saw him first, and called attention to him.

"My boy," said Algernon, turning kindly on him, “I had given you up. How late you are. You have lost all the fun, and we have had such a merry day. Come and sit by me. What made you so late?"

"We had anthem in chapel this afternoon,-Purcell's. And the third master, Hicks, asked me, as a favour, to stay

and help; and we always do anything for him. So I came by the six o'clock train."

"Well, here you are at last; make yourself as happy as you may. Sit beside me. Reginald, this is the new schoolfellow I told you of. He has promised to be your protector. Come and make friends with him."

Reginald looked for one moment at Dora, but Dora was ready for his telegraph, and left looking at the new comer, and nodded twice or thrice shortly and rapidly at Reginald. The nod said emphatically, "He'll do ;" and Reginald went and sat beside him. Dora, the opened-eyed, watched them. At first Reginald was a little shy, but soon, as far as she could see-for she could not hear the stronger, older, and handsomer boy won him over by kindliness of talk. Dora looked until Reginald took out his bran new knife, and showed it to the strange boy. Then she said, “That's all right. Now let's see how you two other little people are getting on." The two people, whom she called "the two other little people," were not getting on at all. Her uncle and Miss Lee were at opposite sides of the table, and were not looking at one another. "If he were her director, I wonder if she would confess about the slide," thought Dora.

But Dora found that youth, good humour, and innocence were very pleasant things to contemplate, and so she looked at the two boys again, and her honest heart was satisfied. They had got their heads together now, and Reginald had got his peg-top and his string and his dibbs and agate taws, out all round his plate of plum-pudding, and was showing them to the big boy in the uniform, who seemed to possess none of these treasures.

"He is poorer than Reggy," she said, " and how gentle and pleasant he looks! I like that boy."

And indeed he looked very likeable indeed, in his quiet manly dress, and his whole face beaming with kindliness and pleasure.

There was some pleasant discussion about one of the large agate marbles, and the two boys appealed to Algernon, who sat radiant beside them. Reginald stretched across the strange lad, and pushed him against his father, so that his curly head was almost against Algernon's face. At the

same moment a great brown hand was twisted gently into the lad's curls, and his head was pulled back until the owner of the hand could look down into the boy's face. At which time a loud, pleasant voice said,-

"Out of the way curly-wig, and let us have a chance at your father. Algy, old cock, how are you?"

There was a general rising and confusion. All sorts of notes composed the harmony which followed; but from Mr. Betts' contented growl of "The Captain, by jingo!" down to the shriek of the smallest child from Miss Lee's kind arms," Uncle Tom, what have you brought us?" the notes, discordant in sound, were the same in sentiment. They meant enthusiastic welcome to the ne'er-do-well and ne'er-to-do-better, Captain Tom Silcote of Silcotes.

Algy was very much affected and touched. He never cried, even in his most pathetic sermon; but he had to stop sometimes, and he stopped now. When he had done stopping he said,—

"My dearest Tom! This is kind."

"I don't see it. Archy, boy, he says it's kind of me to come and get such a welcome as this. How are you, Betts? Miss Lee, my good creature, you look-all right, AlgyMiss Lee, you look, you look-I don't know what the deuce you don't look like. There-there's no harm in that. Out of the way, you handsome young monkey, and let me get near your father."

"That is not my boy, Tom: that is a friend of Reginald's."

[ocr errors]

Then go, friend of Reginald's, slope, and make love to Dora, if the young pepper-box will let you. Any way, give me this chair. The room smells of turkey have it fetched back, I am as hungry as a hunter. Betts, is there a good glass of sherry in the house? Hold your tongue, Algy-what do you know about good sherry? See how wise old Betts looks all of a sudden. Six fingers is sixty! Nonsense, man; is your Aunt Jane dead? A Christmas treat? All right! let's have a glass, then. Betts, old fellow, I want to talk to you on business. Archy, how are you and the other prigs getting on at Oxford ?"

Arthur was not in good humour with his brother. As

fellow and tutor of Balliol, he had to do with fast men at that college, such as there were. As a pro-proctor, who was taking a somewhat peculiar line in the university, he had to do with fast men of other colleges-very fast men; men who could not be tolerated at Balliol for half a term. But his brother Tom was faster than any of them. Arthur had to do with many cases of fast lads. The last was that of a servitor at Christ Church, who had been hunting in pink, and owed 500l. (a real case). Arthur had seen to this lad's affairs, and had compounded with his creditors for about eighteen years' penal servitude. I mean that he was to deny himself every luxury and pleasure for some eighteen years, to pay off the debts, with the interest on them, which he had contracted in one year among winemerchants, livery-stable keepers, and grooms. When will lads give over believing that hunting at five pounds a day is the summit of human happiness? When are the dons going to forbid fox-hunting?

But this servitor lad was penitent, and promised amendment. Tom was nothing of the kind. Arthur had been the agent between his father and his eldest brother in the last settlement of Tom's everlasting debts. He had taken to the Squire a schedule of Tom's debts, which he knew, by his dawning knowledge of the world, to be only a half statement; but he had taken it, and asked for payment.

The sum was so fearful-eight thousand pounds-that he, brave as he was, knowing that sum was not all the reality, was frightened when he presented it. He did not recover his nerve until the Squire, in his cursing, cursed him as an accomplice. Then anger gave him nerve, and he resumed that old ascendancy over his father which his perfect rectitude had in the first instance given him feeling at the same time like a villain, because he was sure, in his innermost heart, that the schedule of Tom's debts was understated. The moment when Silcote the elder recovered from his furious indignation sufficiently to tell Arthur that he could trust him at all events, was probably the most bitter and the most degraded of his life.

The C. C. servitor had told the truth, and had been penitent; not that the penitence of that sort of young gentle

man is of much use, unless they are steadily whipped in by a stronger hand and will. His brother Tom, as he knew perfectly, whenever he chose to know, had not told the truth, and there was not one half-penny worth of penitence about him. So Arthur was in contemptuous variance with his brother. Tom's persistent wrong-doing and waste of life were to his mind inexplicable and hateful; and, moreover, Tom had outstepped an arbitrary line which the world lays down, and the world was beginning to talk. How long he might stay in his present regiment was very doubtful.

And so not caring to look much at his brother, he looked another way; and the other way happened to be Miss Lee's way; and, as she had her eyes turned away, he had courage to look at her; and, when he had begun looking at her, he found he could not leave off; she was beyond all he had ever dreamed of. This was the creature he had complained of as being boisterous, and had-heavens that wouldn't do to think about. She was sitting quite alone, and no one was speaking to her; every one was busy round his brother. What could a gentleman do but go across and speak to a lady under such circumstances? Was she unconscious of his approach? If so, why was her heart drumming away such a triumphant tune? But, at all events, her air was one of extreme unconsciousness, when, with a sudden start as he spoke, she turned her wondering, lovely face on his.

CHAPTER XIV.

ST. MARY'S BY THE CITY.

ST. MARY'S Hospital was founded much about the same time as Christ's Hospital, was nearly as rich as that very noble institution, and in some respects closely resembled it. Like Christ's Hospital, it was hemmed in to the great city, and the boys wore a miserable and ridiculous dress. Here the resemblance between that noble institution and St.

« السابقةمتابعة »