Don John (3)

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CHAPTER VII.


THE time was a little past the middle of the century; the "Great Exhibition" had not long been over; the Metropolitan Railway had not yet begun to burrow under London, encouraging the builders to plant swarms of suburban villas far out into the fields; Londoners paid turnpikes then before they could drive out for fresh air, and they commonly contented themselves with a sojourn in the autumn at the sea-side, or in Scotland, instead of, as a rule, rushing over and dispersing themselves about the continent.

    But Donald Johnstone decided to take his wife there that autumn, baby, nurse, and all.  First he would establish the children at Dover; then he would propose to their mother that the little Lancey—"boy," as he more frequently called himself—should be sent to them, and have also the benefit of the change; then he would take her away and reproduce for her their wedding tour.

    This had been to Normandy and Brittany, where they had seen quaint, sweet fashions, even then on the wane; beautiful clothes, which those who have not already seen never will see; and peaked and pointed habitations, so strange and so picturesque, that nothing but a sojourn in them can make one believe them to be as convenient as those of ugly make.

    Estelle should see again the apple-gathering, the great melons, and the purple grapes drawn into market with homely pomp; the brown-faced girls gossiping beside their beautiful roofed wells, dressed in garments such as no lady in the finest drawing-room puts on at present; creatures like countrified queens, stepping after their solitary cows, each one with the spindle in her hand.  He would take her to Coutances, and then on to Avranches, and there he would unfold to her a certain plan.

    She fretted much over the doubt, which at present no investigation availed to solve.  Time had not befriended her: the more she thought, the more uncertain she became.

    Yet he hoped that time might bring them enlightenment in the end.  He would take her to Avranches, where lived his only sister, the widow of a general officer, who, from motives of economy, had settled there, and did not often come to England.

    In his opinion she was one of the most sensible women to be met with anywhere—just the kind of creature to be trusted with a secret—a little too full of theories, perhaps, almost oppressively intelligent, active in mind and body, but a very fast friend, and fond of his wife.

    He felt that, if the two boys could be parted from Estelle for three or four years, and be under the charge of his sister, it would be more easy, at the end of that time, to decide which of them had really the best claim to be brought up with his name and with all the prospects of a son.  It was quite probable that, in the course of three or four years, such a likeness might appear in one of the boys to some member of his family as would all but set the matter at rest.

    Nothing could be done if they remained in London, brought up among his own friends, and known by name and person to every servant about him.  But if he left them at Avranches with his sister, among French servants, who knew nothing about them—each known by his pet name, and not addressed by any surname—and if they themselves knew nothing about their parentage, there could be no injustice to either in the choice the parents might eventually make, even though they should decide not to take the child first sent home to them.

    He was desirous, for his own sake as well as for theirs, that they should hear of no doubt; that would be cruelty to the one not chosen, causing him almost inevitable discontent and envy, while the one chosen might himself become the victim of doubt, and never be able to enjoy the love of his parents, or any other of his advantages in peace.

    "We must be their earthly providence," he said to his wife, when he had unfolded this plan to her; "we must absolutely and irrevocably decide for them.  We must try fully to make up our minds, and then, whichever we eventually take, we must treat altogether as a son."

    "And the other, Donald?"

    "The other?  I think one's best chance of peace in any doubtful matter is not to do the least we can, but the most; we must give them both the same advantages in all respects, and so care for, and advance, and provide for, and love the other—so completely adopt him, that if we should ever have the misfortune to find that, after all, we have made a mistake, we may still feel that there was but one thing more we could have given him, and that was our name."

    "Then, even in that case, the choice having once been made, you would keep to it?"

    "What do you think, my star?"

    "It would be a cruel thing on the one we had taken for our own to dispossess him."

    "Yes; but if we allowed things to stand, the loss and pain would all be our own; they would be nothing to the other.  Some wrongs are done in spite of a great longing after the right, and such I hold to be irrevocable."

    "I see no promise of rest in any plan.  Perhaps my best chance will be to leave it altogether to you; you often talk of casting our cares upon God.  I have tried, but it does not seem to relieve me of the burden.  I can—I often do cast them upon you, only I hope—"

    "What, Estelle?"

    "I hope your sister will not say, as your mother did when our little Irene died, that it was one of those troubles which was ordained to work for my good."

    "She was only quoting Scripture."

    "When she used to come and pray with me, and read with me, I felt at last able to submit; and I found, as she had said, that submission could take the worst sting of that anguish out of my heart.  But no one must talk so to me now.  I have not fallen into the hands of God, but into those of a wicked woman.  This is different."

    "Is it, my wife?"

    "Your sister may say it is a rebuke to me for having loved this present life, and my husband, and my children too much, or she may say it is a warning to me that these blessings can—oh, how easily!—be withdrawn.  I will try to bear it as a discipline, as a punishment; let her teach me, if she can, to submit; but I cannot bear to hear about blessings in disguise.  My own little son; he was the pride of my heart; and now, when I hold him in my arms, and see the other playing at my feet, I wonder which has the best right to me.  I know that nothing can make up to me for the doubt.  I shall never be so happy any more!"

    So she thought; but she was utterly devoid of morbid feelings, and quite willing to let time do all for her that it could.  She had a sincere desire to be well and happy.  A woman, with any insight into man's nature, generally knows better than to believe that, in the long-run, delicacy can be interesting, and low spirits and sorrow attractive.

    She did not aggravate herself with anger against the nurse.  She knew she was to part with both the boys for years, while a doubtful experiment was tried.  Yet she let herself be refreshed by the sweet weather, the rural signs of peace and homely abundance; and when she drove up to the quaint abode her sister-in-law had made a home of, she could be amused with its oddness; the tiled floors, numerous clocks, clumsy furniture, thick crockery; the charming kitchen, full of bright pots and pans, so much lighter and more roomy than the drawing-room; the laundry in the roof; its orchard that stood it instead of a flower-garden, almost every tree hoary with lichen, and feathery with mistletoe; its little fish-pond and fountain, with a pipe like a quill, and its wooden arbours, with all their great creaking weather-cocks.

    And there was one little child, a girl, in the house—a small, dimpled thing, about six months younger than the two boys.

    That first evening passed off, and both husband and wife shrank from entering on the subject of their thoughts.  Mrs. O'Grady, Charlotte by Christian name, was full of talk and interest about all manner of things.  She had the disadvantage of being very short-sighted, and so missed the flashing messages and expressive communications that passed between other eyes.

    This defect makes many people more intellectual than they otherwise would be, and less intelligent, throwing them more on thought and less on observation.  But in her case it was only a question of wearing or not wearing her spectacles.  When she had them on, "all the world was print to her;" when they were off, her remarks were frequently more sensible in themselves than suitable to the occasion.

    Politics, church parties, family affairs, the newest books, the last scientific theories—nothing came amiss to her, every scrap of information was welcome.

    Mrs. Johnstone looked on rather listlessly, and soon it was evident that her husband could not make an opening for the matter that was in their thoughts.  He was letting himself be amused and interested while waiting for a more convenient season.

    When they had retired, she said,

    "I shall be so much more easy, Donald, when you have managed to tell her our story."

    "But what was I to do?" he answered.  "I could not suddenly dash into her sentence with a 'by-the-bye,' as she does herself.  'By-the-bye, Charlotte, we don't know whether one of our children is, in fact, ours or not!"'

    "That would at least astonish her into silence for a time."

    The next morning just the same difficulty!  They were in the midst of a discussion before they knew that it had begun.

    The baby was taken out after breakfast, by her nurse, into the apple orchard.

    "You have no servants who speak English, have you, Charlotte?" asked Mr. Johnstone, thinking to open the matter.

    "No," she answered; "and I prefer the French as servants, on the whole, to the English.  But I like that young Irish woman, Estelle, that you have brought with your baby.  There is something sweet about her that one does not meet with here.  Do you know, I have long noticed that, of all modern people, the Irish suffer least, and the French most, from the misery of envy?"

    "Do you think so?" said her brother, only half listening.

    "Yes, and hence the Irish chivalry towards the women of 'the quality,' and the total absence of any such feeling in a Frenchman.  He, frugal and accumulative, thinks, 'I am down because you are up.'  The poor Frenchman would rather all were down than that any should have what he has not; but it is the material advantages of those well off that he envies them; but the poor Irishman, wasteful and not covetous, could not do without something to admire.  One of these two takes in anguish through his eyes, whenever he casts them on beauty or riches not his; the other takes in consolation through his eyes.  He is not wholly bereaved of grandeur or loveliness if he may look on them, and he troubles himself little that they are not his own."

    "When demagogues leave him alone!" her brother put in.

    "It is singular, though," she continued, gliding on with scarcely any pause, "that though the Irish can do best without education and culture, they repay it least, they are least changed by it.  Now the English, of all people, can least do without culture and education, and repay them most.  What a brute and what a dolt a low Englishman frequently is! but a low Irishman is often a wit, and full of fine feelings."

    "Marry an Irishman," said the brother, with a smile, "and speak well of the Irish ever after."

    "Of course!  I always used to say, 'Give me an Irish lover and a Scotch cousin.'"

    "Why an Irish lover?"

    "Because he is sure to marry me as soon as he can, just as a Scotch cousin, if he gets in anywhere, is sure to do his best to get me in too."

    "You want nothing English, then?"

    "Yes, certainly, give me an English housemaid.  Let a French woman nurse me when I am ill, let an English woman clean me my house, and an Englishman write me my poetry!  For it is a curious thing," she went on, "that sentiment and poetic power never go together.  The French are rich in sentiment and very poor in poets.  How rich in sentiment the Irish are, and how poor the English!  We call the Irish talk poetical, yet Ireland has never produced a poet even as high as the second order.  How far more than the lion's share England has of all the poetry written in the English tongue—or, if you speak of current poetry, you might add, 'and in all other tongues.'"  Here she chanced to put on her spectacles, and immediately came to a full-stop.

    "Well?" said her brother; but she was no more to be lured on, when she could see, than stopped when she could not.  His chance had come.

    "If you will put on your bonnet, Charlotte," he said, "we will go out about the place.  I have something important—to us—to say to you."

    She rose instantly with the strange sense of defect and discomfiture that she often felt when her spectacles showed her other people's eyes, and thus that she had been at fault because her own were not better.

    It was a difficult story to tell, and at first she could not be made to believe that all had been done which could be done.

    An unsolvable doubt seemed just as unbearable to her as it had done to the mother.  She sat down on a bench in the apple orchard with nothing to say and nothing to propose.

    "I do not believe this thing ever was done," she said hesitatingly at last.  "I think the nurse's baseness began and ended when she planted this horrid doubt in your hearts.  She foresaw that it would rid her of her own child.  What could you do but take him?"

    "But you have told me this," she presently said, "because you think I can help you?"

    "Yes, you can help us—what we want is to gain time."

    He then unfolded his plan.  Each of the little fellows called himself by a pet name.  One went in the nursery by the name of "Middy," so called after a favourite sailor-doll they had; the other generally called himself "Boy."

    If they could be taken charge of till they were five or six years old, and the parents denied themselves all intercourse with them during those years, it was not in nature that the one truly theirs should not show some strong likeness either to one of his parents or to some of his brothers and sisters—for there might well be both by that time—or a likeness as to voice or even disposition might show itself; and, failing that, there was the other child.  He might begin to betray his parentage; the Johnstone had no likeness of Aird but could never forget his wife.

    An irrevocable choice must be made at the end of that time; and when the father and mother came over to make it, neither child would have heard anything about his story.  The one selected would soon return their love and subside into his place with the unquestioning composure of childhood, and the other would be equally contented with his position, having long forgotten all about his native country and his earliest friends.

    Little more than a week after this, Mr. Johnstone was sitting on the sands of a small French bathing-place, his sister with him.  He had brought over the two tiny boys, and they were playing at their feet, while Mrs. O'Grady scanned them eagerly.

    "Yours—I mean the one you call 'Middy'—is the most like our family, and like you in particular," she observed.

    "Yes, we think so."

    "And he is the one whom you brought up till the nurse herself put it into your heads that he might not be yours?"

    "Even so."

    "The other has slightly darker eyelashes and browner hair than either yours or Estelle's."

    "Of course we have noticed that."

    "And yet you doubt?"

    "We fancy that 'Boy' is a little like our dear child Irene."

    "Estelle says she wants me to dress them precisely alike, and treat them absolutely alike."

    "Yes, we have decided on that.  We shall leave photographs behind us.  When they see these in your book, they can be told to call them father and mother.  And we shall never take these names from either, but only teach one of them to understand that he is an adopted child."

    The parting with the boys was very bitter to Mrs. Johnstone.  She held each to her heart with yearnings unutterable, though, as was but natural, only one fretted after her at all, and that for a very little while.

    And when they were brought into the quaint house near Avranches, it was doubtful whether either had the intelligence to be surprised.  One was perfectly fearless, and found out directly that the "'Stupid mans and womans could not talk to 'Boy;"' the other listened to the babble about him with infantile scorn, and sometimes, baby as he was, showed himself a true-born Briton by laughing at it.

    But that stage of their life was soon over; their French nurse made them understand her very shortly, and before they had discovered that little Charlotte's English was worse than their French, she was taken away—gone to Ireland to her grandmother, as they were told.  They thought this was a pity; her mother with a touch of bitterness, thought so too; but the, grandmother had long urged it, promising to provide for the little Charlotte, and but that the Johnstones had known of her intended absence, they would not have proposed their plan.

    The poor must do—not what they would, but—what they can.

    Even if her little Charlotte was left unprovided for at the grandmother's death, the mother felt that here was a chance of saving several hundred pounds for her.  Donald Johnstone's payment was to be liberal in proportion to the importance of the interest at stake.  And, in the meantime, the little Charlotte cost her mother nothing, and the two boys were just as happy together when she was gone.

    They had not been a year in France before they spoke French as well as French children, which is not saying much.  In less than another year they spoke their English with a French accent, loved their nurse more than any living creature, excepting one another, and had altogether lost the air of English children, for their clothes were worn out, and they wore instead the frilled aprons and baggy trousers of the country; their hair was cropped perfectly short, as is there the mode, and every article they had about them was equally tasteless and unbecoming.

    But their toys were charming.

    Their aunt, as they both called her, was careful to awaken in their infant minds a certain enthusiasm for England; they had many pictures of English scenes in their nursery.  The nurse also did her part; she frequently talked to them about the dear papa and mamma, caused them to kiss the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone every night before they went to bed, and instilled into them something of the peculiar French tenderness and sentiment towards a mother.

    They both loved this pretty mother, and they grew on in health and peace till they were nearly five years old, about which time it became evident that the Johnstones could not make up their minds to be absent much longer.

    Mrs. O'Grady had not, for some time past, found it possible to doubt which was her brother's child, but she loyally forbore to make the least difference in her treatment of them, or to convey any hint to her brother.

    And now the children were told that dear father and mother were coming, and this important news was a good deal connected in their minds with the growth of their own hair.  It was much too long now, their nurse said, but English boys wore it so.  They thought it would have been impossible for father and mother to come and see them while it had been cropped so short.  Their aunt also had sent to London for complete suits of children's dress for them.  Their nurse was very gracious as regarded these.  Melanie the cook, came up to see them dressed à l'Anglais; she agreed with her that there was much to be said in favour of the English style.  Certainly, but for these clothes, the dear father and mother would never have taken the trouble to come; it was to be hoped they would like them.

    How slight was the feeling of the children as to this expected interview! how intense were the feelings of the parents!

    A door opened, and a pretty little boy, who knew nothing of their arrival, came dancing into a room where were seated a lady and a gentleman close together.

    In an instant he knew them, and stood blushing.  Then that lady said,

    "Come on, sweet boy!" and he advanced and kissed her hand, and that gentleman looked at him—oh, so earnestly!

    This was the dear mother; she had tears in her eyes, and she took him on her knee, and kissed his little face and head, and stroked his hair.  So did the dear father.

    "Did he know them?"

    "Oh, yes, and he and Middy had wanted them to come for a long while.  The dear mother was quite as pretty as he had expected," he continued looking up at her.  He spoke in French, and paid her a little French compliment as naturally as possible.  Then he blushed again with pleasure as she caressed him, and was glad he had all his best things on.

    After a time, his aunt came in, and quietly took him out of the room.

    "I should not have known him, he is so much grown and altered," sighed Mrs. Johnstone; "but he has made it evident that it is Middy whom we have not seen."

    "This is a most lovable, pretty little fellow," said the husband.

    "And not at all unlike our little Irene," she answered.

    But, in a minute or two, another child, equally unconscious of what awaited him, opened the same door, and marched boldly in.  A sudden thrill shook the hearts of both.  The child paused, drew back, and trembled: then he put up his arm before his face, and burst into tears.

    What it was that he felt or feared, it would have been quite past his power to express; but the dear mamma was there; she had tears in her eyes; was she going to kiss him?  He did not know what to say; what should he do?

    He could not look, he was crying so; and somebody carried him to her, and put his arms round her neck, and called him his dear little son.

    "Mamma, I never meant to cry," he presently said, with all naïveté—and mother was crying too, and so was father—well! it was very extraordinary, when he thought he should have been so glad.  And presently he was very glad because they were kind.

    They said they had wanted him so much for such a long time, and he should go to England—go home and see his dear little sisters.  They said he was just like the others, and there was a baby brother at home; he must teach him to play.  So Middy was very happy indeed, as in a child's paradise he nestled close to the long-lost mother, and admired his father, and thought how nice it would be to go to England with them.

    It would have been hard to doubt any more; the little flaxen-haired fellow was so like the children at home; they were so vastly more drawn to him than to the other, and yet he too was greatly altered.  He was not such a fine child for his years as when they had left him.  But if they could have doubted, his own love and agitation would have settled all.  The shy and yet delighted gaze, his contentment in their arms, the manner in which he seemed to have thought of them,—all helped them to a thankful certainty.  The mother had not been without her sorrows.  Since the parting she had lost two more little girls in infancy, and had longed inexpressibly to have her boy back again.

    Charlotte came in at last; she still had him in her arms.  There was no mistaking the father's look of contentment.  Charlotte had her spectacles on, and saw the state of the case at once.

    "Of course," she exclaimed; "how could it be otherwise?  I am afraid, Middy, father and mother will be rather shocked when I tell them that you have forgotten your other name."

    "I thought I was Middy," answered the child.

    Of course he did!  Great pains had been taken to prevent his thinking anything else.

    "But that is a baby-name, my sweet boy!  Don't you know what your father's name is?"

    "Yes, Donald."

    "Well, then, you are Donald too."


 
CHAPTER VIII.


I NEVER had any doubt which of the children was yours," observed Mrs. O'Grady the next day.

    "It was the more good of you to say nothing, then," replied the mother.

    "But now I hope you really feel at peace?"

    "Yes, at peace; but, in order to do so, I must adopt your theory, and believe that Maria Aird or her second husband invented the story of the changing of the children,—that supposes baseness enough but how far easier to do than to effect a real change!"

    "And you, Donald?" asked his sister.

    "My dear, I suppose myself to be quite satisfied which is my child; but I am not satisfied to leave the other out of my care and influence for an hour."

    "It is certainly time Donald was taken home," observed his sister; "he is a complete little Frenchman.  And you would not like to leave Lancey, then, in my charge a little longer?"

    "If I had no other reason I should still think it his right to be brought up as an Englishman also."

    "Then he must not breathe this air and eat this diet much longer.  Race has not half so much to do with national character as people think!  Why, some of the English families brought up here by English parents talk like the French, and cannot produce the peculiarly soft sound of the English 'r,' they either ring it or slur it over."

    "Companionship, my dear, nothing more."

    "But Charlotte would not deny herself the society of her one child, unless she felt what she has been saying very strongly," said Mrs. Johnstone.

    Donald Johnstone looked at his wife.  Tall, placid, fair, she was at work on a piece of knitting, and took her time about it.  All her movements spoke of tranquillity, and she observed what was going on about here.  Then he looked at his sister, who was netting.  Even the movements of her small ivory shuttle had an energetic jerk which seemed to suit the somewhat eager flash and sparkle of her clear hazel eyes; her thoughts were swift, her words were urgent for release, she longed to spread her theories, and scarcely noticed how they were received if she could but produce them.

    "No, Estelle, companionship is not all; your boys have hardly any companions, English or French, but they do not play half so boisterously, and they are not half so full of mischief as they would be if they had been brought up in equal seclusion on English soil.  The French child is more tame in early childhood than the English.  It is France that does this, not his race."

    "You really think so?"

    "Of course I do; the world is full of facts that bear on this point.  In many parts of Germany, the men have a most unfair advantage over the women.  They are better made, taller in proportion; they are far more intellectual, and you must admit, Donald, that they are handsomer.  All this mainly results from the superior diet of the men, specially in the towns.  Many of them regularly dine out excellently well, leaving their women-folk at home to cabbage-soup and cheap sausages."

    "Mean hounds!" exclaimed Donald Johnstone, laughing.

    "Yes, but unless the climate of Germany had already caused an inferiority in the women, they would not allow themselves to be so 'put upon.'  It is the intense cold of their winter, together with poor diet, which dwarfs and deteriorates the women; the same cold, with good food, braces the men.  There is no nation in Europe where the height, strength, and wits of the sexes are so equal as in France.  In fact, I think the French woman has the best of it!  It is partly the excellent climate—not hot enough to enervate, not damp to induce them to drink—and partly it is the excellent food.  Soil influences air—air influences food: these together influence manners, and are more, on the whole, than descent."

    "I shall always feel, Charlotte, that you have a right to preach to us, and to put forth as many theories as you please," said Donald Johnstone, when at last she came to a pause.

    "Because you feel that there is a great deal in what I say?" she inquired.

    Then she put on her spectacles, and caught a smile, half amused, half tender, flitting over her sister-in-law's face.  Her brother was openly laughing at her.

    "Not at all," he replied, "but because you are, as you always have been, the best of sisters and the most staunch of friends.  You can understand people; you are willing, and able too, to help them in their own way."  Then, observing that she was a little touchy and not at all pleased, he quietly stepped out over the low window, and left her to his wife, for he knew that it would be difficult for him to set matters straight again.

    The two little fellows were very docile children, and less independent than English boys of their age.

    "Donald," as Mrs. O'Grady was now careful to call him, "Donald has fewest faults, but he is the least interesting.  Lancey is a very endearing child."

    "Has he any special fault?" asked Mrs. Johnstone.

    "Well," she answered, "I hardly know what to say about that."

    Mrs. Johnstone looked up a little surprised; her sister-in-law appeared to speak with a certain caution.  "He is a very endearing little fellow," she repeated.

    "But if he has any special childish fault, I ought to know it, Charlotte."

    "Yes, my dear.  Well, I must be very careful not to make a mountain of a mole-hill, and you must try, if I tell you what has occurred, not to think too much of it.  He was but a baby, Estelle, when he first did it."

    "Did what, Charlotte?"

    "But I have taken great pains not to make light of it, and also, I could not let you know, because it is a fault so rare in our rank of life, that it would have appeared to be a telling piece of evidence against him in your mind.  It would have diminished his chance."

    Estelle coloured with anxiety.

    "The fact is, he has several times taken little articles that were not his own, and appropriated them.  They were things of no great value.  Can this be hereditary?  Were the father and mother honest?"

    "I cannot tell.  But what a fault, Charlotte!  Does little Donald know?"

    "Yes, but you need not be afraid for him.  Lancey was scarcely more than three years old when, walking home from the town one day with his bonne, a minute toy was found in his hand that he could give no account of.  They had been into several shops, but I never supposed that he had taken it.  I thought some child must have dropped it, and that he had picked it up on the road.  But, a few weeks after, I was in the market, bargaining for some oranges.  I saw Lancey, who was with me, looking red and roguish, and was very much vexed when I found that he had snatched up an orange, and evidently meant to carry it off. The woman, with nods and winks, pointed this out to me; she evidently regarded it as a joke.  I told her how wrong she was to laugh at him, made him give it back, and for several days, in order to impress his fault on his little mind, I deprived him of his usual dessert, though the oranges were always on the table."

    "This was two years ago?"

    "Yes."

    "Then I am afraid it is not all."

    "It was nearly all that I know of till last Christmas, when Donald sent over a box with some English school-books, and a number of little presents for the boys; among these were two silver medals.  Middy lost his almost at once, and there were great searchings for it.  Lancey helped to look, but it could not be found; then, one night after they were both asleep, la bonne was turning out the pockets of their little coats for the wash, and the two medals rolled out of Lancey's coat.  One had been tucked into the lining.  Poor little fellow! when I took him alone into my room the next morning, and showed them to him without saying a word, he wept piteously.  And, Estelle, I believe he is cured.  It was very touching to see the distress of both the little fellows when I made Lancey give back the medal and confess to Donald that he had taken it.  Donald is much the most affectionate of the two, and when Lancey saw how much he was shocked and how sorry he was for him, he seemed to think all the more of his fault himself.  I did all I could to deepen the impression, to show them the sin of stealing, and the punishment too.  For several days they were both very triste.  Then Lancey said to me, "When Middy says his prayers to-night, he's going to ask God to forgive me.'  I could do no less than say I was sure God would forgive him.  But I have not let the matter drop; and you must be on the watch, Estelle, to help the poor little fellow against himself."  And so, with all tenderness, the childish fault was told, everything that watchful love could do being extended to Lancey afterwards, and to all appearance he was cured, and as a rule, was a better boy than his foster-brother.

    The two little Frenchmen were brought back to their native isle.  At first, they took it amiss that there was no soup at the nursery breakfast, but then the nurse never expected to have hold of their hands when they walked out.  And the dogs did not understand them; they thought this must be on purpose; but, on the other hand, they were allowed indeed, they were encouraged—to climb the trees, and the cher père had given them some spades and a wheelbarrow.  There were no drums, swords, and shrill French pipes to parade the garden with, but these spades were better than nothing.  The cher père said they might dig as deep as they liked with them.

    "But the clay would stain their new coats."

    "Oh, that could not be helped!"

    "Might they dig down to the middle of the world, then?"

    "Certainly, if they could."

    They began to think England was a nice place to live in, and after a short sojourn in it contrived to make as much noise, and do as much mischief as any other two little urchin breathing, for they were in the Country now.  The cher père had a rambling, homely old house in the country, and there they gradually mastered English, learning it from the little sisters, though they continued, to the great scandal of the servants, to jabber French, and tutoyer one another when they were together.

    Childhood is long to the child, and his growth is slow, though to his parents he appears to "shoot up."

    Donald and Lancey shot up, and neither of them showing the slightest taste for any branch of learning whatever, they gave their governess a great deal of trouble.

    The nurse said there never were two such young Turks.  That was partly because, being of the same age and size, whatever piece of mischief attracted one, the other was always ready to help him in.  Then the little girls were always trying to imitate them.  It made them so rude "as never was."  As to the nursery children, specially Master Freddy, who would have been as good as gold but for them, they took delight in leading him astray, and had taught him to speak French too, on purpose that she might not understand what they said to him.

    Master Freddy kept his seventh birthday without having had any broken bones to rue, which was wonderful considering the diligence with which he had studied the manners and actions of his two brothers as they were always called.  But, about this time they were sent off rather suddenly to school, it beings at last allowed by governess, nurse, and even mother, that they were past feminine management.

    Mrs. Johnstone was excessively fond of them both,

    None of the anguish of doubt remained.  Her boy was her own, and he was intensely fond of her; yet towards Lancey she felt a never-satisfied yearning.  She was rather more indulgent to him than to Donald, as if she could never forget her period of uncertainty; and if there was a soft place in Lancey's heart—which is doubtful, for little boys are often hard-hearted mortals—it was probably reserved for her.  It was certainly to her that he always complained when he had any grievance against the nurse, and in her arms that he cried when the governess punished him for any grave delinquency by making him stop in doors on a half-holiday.

    Lancey remembered long after he went to school (that is to say for nearly six weeks) how dear mother had talked to him when he was in his little bed the night before he went.  She kissed him a great many times, and she cried, and he promised he would be so good, and never make her unhappy by doing naughty things.  And then she talked to Donald.  And Donald declared that he was never going to get into any mischief any more; he would promise her that he never would, and he would always say his prayers; and he would never fight with the other boys—at least he wouldn't if he could help it; and certainly he would never tell a lie whether he could help it or not.

    The house in Upper Harley Street was a far more comfortable abode when they were gone, and they saw very little of it for several years to come, their holidays always taking place when the family was in the country.

    As to their entrance on school life it was much like that of other little boys.  It was rather a large preparatory school to which Mr. Johnstone took his son and his adopted son, both the little fellows chubby, brave, according to their years, truthful, and idle.  They had a box of cakes and other prog with them.  He knew better than they did what would become of it.  They had also plenty of money.  He did not, of course, expect that they could have much to do with the spending of it, but he found out two of the bigger boys, whose fathers he was acquainted with, gave each a handsome tip, turned his fledglings over to them, and left them, feeling the parting, on the whole, more than they did.

    Under the auspices of these their new friends, the two little boys, when their own prog had been consumed, were privileged to put their money into a common purse, which happened just then to be nearly empty; a great deal more prog, some of it very wholesome, was then bought and consumed, after which the school sat in judgment on the new boys, kicked some of their caps round the playground, and ordered them never to wear them any more; tore up some of their books as being only fit for the nursery, and then decided that such a name as Donald Johnston was not to be borne.  There had been another boy whose name was so spelt, but he called it Johnson, why couldn't this fellow do the same.  Yes, it was a troublesome name to pronounce—not really long, of course—but it sounded long.  It was an uppish name; they were sure he was proud of it.  Half of it was quite enough for any fellow; from henceforth he should be called Don John.

    Don John accepted the verdict, and took it in good part.  His father had impressed on both the boys that they must never be "cheeky," or it would be the worse for them.  He thought when they next decreed that Lancey should be called Sir Lancelot, that they were rather inconsistent, but he did not take the liberty to say so, and the two little fellows made their way pretty well on the whole, seldom getting into trouble, except by a too ardent championship of one another.  To learn how to disguise this, their only deep affection, was their first lesson in duplicity.

    Always to take one another's part, right or wrong, when they dared, was their natural instinct; their fealty and devotion was far stronger than that felt by most true brothers, they were never known to quarrel.  They were always side by side in their class, because Lancey would not learn as fast as he might have done, lest he should outstrip Don John, and get into a higher form; and they were always together in their play, because Don John did not care to outdo Lancey, and have to be with stronger boys instead of with him.

    But the longing for companionship, a certain camaraderie as they would have called it, was not Don John's only reason for keeping close to Lancey.  For a long while the childish fault had been almost forgotten; if ever alluded to, it was by Lancey himself; but when the boys were twelve years old, and had just returned to school after the Easter holidays, Don John showed symptoms of illness, and was seized upon and sent home again forthwith.

    He had the measles, and was away for nearly six weeks.  There never was much the matter with him, and he returned; but in a day or two a very slight something, he hardly knew what it was, seemed to let him know that Lancey was watched, and that he knew it.

    Lancey did not meet his eye; that alone was strange.

    An opinion seemed to be floating in the air that it was better not to leave things about.  It was hardly expressed, but it was acted on, and the first hint he saw of such action drove the blood to Don John's heart; he remembered the medal.

    The next day the two boys were alone together in a class-room for one minute.  Don John looked at Lancey, and putting his head down on the high desk, whispered with a long sigh that was almost a sob,

    "They don't know anything against you, do they, Lancey?"

    "No," answered the other little fellow in a frightened whisper, and feigning to be busy with his dictionary.  "Don't seem to be talking to me.  They only suspect."

    Lancey's guilt was thus taken for granted, and confessed at once.

    A boy, dashing into the class-room, called them out to cricket.

    "Where are the things, then?" sobbed Don John again.  "Can't they be found?"

    "I've buried them," replied Lancey, and they darted out together, pretending to be eager for the game.

    As the two passing one another were for an instant apart from the rest, Don John cried out,—"Where?"

    "You can't get them out," replied Lancey, as after an interval they passed each other again.  "I buried them in the garden, and you know the door is almost always locked."

    "Say whereabouts it was," answered Don John.  But the two did not meet any more till the game was over.

    "What do you want to get them out for?" asked Lancey, as crest-fallen and sad they left the cricket-field together.

    "Because I know one of them is Marsden's watch.  You always said last half that it was a far better watch than either of ours.  He never will rest till he gets it, or till they find you out."

    He spoke in French, using the familiar "tu."  He was not angry with him, and the other was less ashamed than afraid.

    "He only suspects," repeated Lancey, sick at heart, and already feeling the truth of those words.  "The wages of sin are hard."

    "And I took some money too—Oh, Don, how could I do it?"

    "You might have known I should have plenty when I came back.  Why couldn't you wait?"

    "I don't know.  I took two sovereigns, one was an Australian sovereign.  He left them on his locker, and when he was telling the boys that it was gone, he said he knew that was not a safe place to have put it on, and he looked at me.

    "Then we must get back that very sovereign," said Don John; "one of mine will not do."

    Lancey said no, they only suspected him, and he knew the misery that came of taking things he should never do it any more.  He then explained exactly where he had buried the watch and the two sovereigns.  On the head-master's birthday they always had a holiday, and were allowed to range all over the place.  While he was walking about in the garden on that day, miserable on account of what Marsden had just said, he found that the other boys had fallen back from him, and then dispersed themselves; he was quite alone.  He hastily pushed a hole in some loose earth, close to a melon-frame, by which he was standing, dropped in the watch and the money, and with his foot covered them just as some boys drew near.  It was five days since this had occurred, and the first shower would probably uncover this property again.  In the evening of that very day Don John had come back with lots of prog, lots of money.  "And then," said Lancey, "I wished I hadn't done it.'

    Don John burst out with,

    "If you were found out, you would be—" he stopped awe-struck.

    "I know," said Lancey, "and father would be sent forO what shall I do—and mother would know too."

    "It was wicked," answered Don John "I won't go to sleep all night thinking what we can do.  It was wicked; it was worse than being a cad."

    Yes, Lancey felt that it was worse than being a cad.  Human language could go no further; they had both, as it were, made their confession, and their minds for the moment were a little relieved.


 
CHAPTER IX.


THE morning after this conversation two remarkable things occurred.

    There were four other boys in the dormitory where Don John slept; these were Lancey, Marsden, and two younger fellows.

    When they began to get up, Don John complained that his left arm hurt him horribly.  It was very much swollen, and he could not dress himself.

    The weather was hot, the boys had been out rather late the previous evening in the playing-field.  Don John was a great climber, he confessed to having had a fall; he must have sprained it then, Marsden said.  He seemed to have no opinion to give on the matter.

    His room-mates gave him a good deal of awkward help, which hurt him very much; but when they found that his jacket could not be put on, they went and fetched their Dame, and she took him away.

    Don John asked if Lancey might come too.

    "Oh, not by no means; he was better by half by himself."

    So she bore him off to a little study set apart for such contingencies as hurts and accidents which were distinct from illness, and there she much consoled him for his pain by giving him a little pot of hot tea all to himself, two eggs, and a plate of buttered toast.   He felt much better after this, but he wanted Lancey.

    Presently the head-master came in, and with a surgeon.

    "How had he managed to hurt himself so much?,

    "He had been climbing a tree, and he could not get down, so he sprang from the end of a bough, and fell on his arm."

    "Then it did not hurt him much at first?"

    "No, it felt quite numb."

    Neither asked when this had taken place; that it had been just before going to bed the night before was taken for granted.

    Yet the surgeon did testify a little surprise.

    "It's extraordinary what boys will sleep through," he remarked.

    "You should have mentioned it last night, my boy," said the master kindly.  "Why didn't you?"

    Don John said nothing, but he turned pale.

    "It gives you a good deal of pain, doesn't it?" he proceeded.

    "It didn't, sir, until I began to talk about it," answered the boy.

    In fact he could not bear the pain and the fear of detection together; he began to tremble visibly.

    But he had much worse pain to bear before the surgeon had done with him, for it was found that his wrist was badly sprained, and that the small bone of the upper arm was broken.

    Soon after this the other remarkable thing occurred.

    At twelve o'clock, when the boys came out of school, their Dame asked to see Marsden.

    "Master Marsden, you're mighty careless of your things," she exclaimed, when he and some of the other boys came running up.  "I was just a having your dormitory cleaned out, and when we moved the box atop of your locker, look here—if there wasn't your watch and the two sovereigns behind it that you've been making a work about."

    Marsden took these things and blushed as he had never blushed in his life before; what to do he did not know; but Lancey just then passing by and looking as usual crestfallen and miserable, he obeyed a good impulse,

    "I say, Sir Lancelot," he exclaimed, "look here, I must be an uncommon stupid ass!"

    Lancey looked with all his might, there was the Australian sovereign, and there was the watch and the other sovereign.

    "They were found at the back of my box!" proceeded Marsden.  "I could have declared I had looked there, but it seems I didn't."

    A friendly boy at that instant stepped up, stared him full in the face.

    "Hold your tongue," he whispered, "we were mistaken; don't let out that we suspected him."

    "They were found at the back of my box," repeated Marsden.

    "Oh, were they," said Lancey, "well I'm glad you've got them again," moderate and quiet words, but his gratitude was deep; he was reprieved.

    "Of course it's nothing to you," said the blundering Marsden, "but I thought you'd like to know."

    Several other boys in an equally blundering spirit betrayed their former suspicions by making like speeches, and showing a sudden desire to play with Lancey.

    Nobody but Don John, he was sure, could have done this—but how?

    This was how; but Lancey did not know it till some time afterwards.

    The boys went to bed as usual, and the others—even poor Lancey—soon fell asleep.  Don John then began to carry out the hardest part of his projected task; this was to keep himself awake till the dead time of the night, for he well knew that if he once went to sleep he should not wake till he was called in the morning.

    He sat upright in his little bed and cogitated.  There were three ways of getting into the garden; and once in there were several ways out, but they were all difficult.

    It was well-known that to get in otherwise than by the door, you must go through the kitchen, which involved a long tramp down dark passages, and a great risk of making a noise.  Or if you did not go that way you must descend the principal staircase (which had a nasty trick of creaking), and go past the headmaster's own bedroom door; or, finally, you might creep along the corridor and descend by the wash-house roof.  This, in hot weather, when the corridor window was wide open, was by far the shortest and easiest way, but then, unless the garden-door, which was always locked inside had the key in it, how should he get out and get back again?  He could not come through the kitchen, the bar would be up; and that he could only remove on the other side.  He could jump down from the washhouse roof, but he could not get up to it again without a short ladder, which would betray him.  Even if he could surmount that difficulty it was doubtful whether he should not make more clatter in creeping up the tiles than in creeping down.

    Therefore, if the garden door was locked, he would have to climb to the top of the high garden wall, by the branches of the trained fruit-trees upon it, and creep along the top of the wall till he reached a certain tree whose branches hung out over it, from one of these he must spring, or drop himself down as well as he could.  He would then be in the playground.  To break a pane of glass, and so undo the fastening of a window, push up the sash, get in, shut it down again, and softly come upstairs to his little chamber all these things had to be done successfully, if Lancey was to be saved.

    And if he himself was found out, what would happen?

    "Why, if he had the watch and the two sovereigns upon him, it would appear that he was the thief, and, moreover, that he had committed the high misdemeanour of getting out at night, perhaps to perpetrate more thefts.  Certainly for no possible good purpose.  Perhaps it would end in his being expelled; and mother—" Here Don John choked a little.

    "But then if he did not do it, Lancey in the end was sure to be found out, then he would be expelled.  And father—"  Here he choked again.  "Well it's no use funking or arguing," said Don John to himself, "because you know it's going to be done, and you're going to do it."

    It was almost like a nightmare when he thought of it afterwards, but he certainly enjoyed the deed while it was adoing.

    To slip out of bed, listen all breathless, and watch his room-mates, while the clock in the corridor, the wheezing old clock, swung its clumsy pendulum, this was the only difficult thing he really had to do.  It was the beginning; his own assurance to himself that the daring thing was to be attempted.

    But a stealthy exultation in the strangeness of the adventure was damped by that obtrusive tick.  The old clock was disagreeably wide awake; it seemed quite vicious enough to run down just at the decisive moment, and wake the second master, who might—who naturally would think a boy must be at that moment climbing down by the washhouse roof into the garden.

    It seemed equally natural that he should look out, and catch the boy.

    No, that clock must be stopped at all risks.  He stole out of the open door and along the bare corridor, full of dim moonlight and confused sounds of snoring.

    A childish figure in a long white night gown; he stopped before the clock, and gently opening its door, seized the great pendulum in his hand, and with one long gasping click the clock stopped.  Then was his real danger; the cessation of a noise so often wakes people, yet nobody did wake, not even the master.

    What a wicked boy he was! he felt as if he had choked off the incorruptible witness.  He held the pendulum squeezed hard in his hand for two or three minutes, then stole back to his room and put on his clothes.

    Often in his dreams it all came back to him afterwards; how he had tied his slippers together, and slung them round his neck, and how, as he got out there was a white cat on the washhouse roof.  In the dim light, her eyes gleamed on him strangely.  He all but slipped—yet no—he reached the eave, and jumped down safely into the soft mould underneath.  Then he stooped and put on his slippers, and effaced the marks of his feet in the mould.

    The cat had jumped down after him, and was looking on.  Here he was in the garden at one o'clock in the morning, and the moon was fast going down.

    How beautiful those tall white lilies were.  The, enjoyed themselves in secret all through the night, gave out their scent, drank in the dew, and never let men and women find out that the night-time was their life and their day.  The great evening primroses, too, white and yellow, were in their glory, and it seemed as if they also were keeping it secret, and still.  The cat was very jealous of his being out to see it all.  It would be very unlucky for cats if people in a body should discover how much more jolly it was to be oust in the warm golden mist of moonlight, when all was so fresh and sweet, than tucked up in their heated bedrooms under the low ceiling that shut out the stars,

    Don John shared in the still stealthy delight of the flowers; he knew all was easy till he had to get into the house again, and he put off thinking about that till the last moment.  But the moon was fast southing; it behoved him to be quick, unless he meant to stay out till day dawned.  So with a beating heart he went softly across the dewy lawn among the wet flowers, the cat following him every step of the way, and looking on, while he secured the plunder, while he effaced the traces of his search, while he climbed the wall by means of the spread-out branches of a fig-tree, and while he softly crept along the top.

    Oh, to be a cat for two minutes then; for cats never slip, and cats can see even under the branches in the dimness of a summer night!

    Don John sprang into the tree successfully, but whether he mistook a branch for a shadow, or whether the white cat, springing after, startled him, he never knew, but the next instant he was on the grass at the foot of this tree, and his arm was under him.

    He was on the right side of the wall, in the playground, that was his first thought.

    He felt as if he had no arm, it was so perfectly numb.  He was very cold, but presently thinking of himself, far more as a sneak than a hero, he got up and crept slowly towards the house.

    "I'm glad I'm not obliged to be a burglar, too," he said to himself, as he drew near, for a window was partly open, and he could get in without breaking a pane.

    He had got the watch and the two sovereigns, but now the deed was done there seemed to be no glory in it, that was perhaps because he had hurt himself.  He stole up to his little bed, thinking what a bad boy he had been to have thought the first part of the adventure such rare fun.  But now neither he nor Lancey would be expelled, that was something.  It was as much as they could expect, and they must make the best of it.

    It always seemed to him afterwards as if the cat understood the whole matter better than Lancey did.  Have cats a natural sympathy with wickedness? probably they have, for the cat was the fast friend of Don John from that day forward; and when his "dame" came in would march in after her, gravely inspect his sling, and smell at his nice savoury dinner.

    And Lancey?  Why, Lancey at first was very much relieved, and also very sorry that Don John was hurt, but both the boys felt,—one as much as the other, that to have a broken arm, was as nothing compared with being expelled, and it did not signify to either, which had the broken arm so much as it should have done. Father and mother now would never know.  What real gratitude Lancey felt was mainly on that account.  Don John loved them far more keenly than Lancey did, and this was but natural, but Lancey loved no one better.  They were his all, and Don John's brothers and sisters and home were his too.  The boys never set themselves one above the other, everything about them appeared to point plainly to theirs being equals, and little as Lancey had been told about his parentage, it satisfied him, and he asked no questions.

    He had always known that he was a dear adopted son, that his father's name was the same as his own, that he had died before his child's birth, and that his mother had married again and gone to Australia.

    It was Don John who asked awkward questions, Lancey did not care; what did it signify who gave him all he wanted so long as it was given?  No such thought had shaped itself distinctly in his young mind, thought was lying dormant as yet, and the love that cherished him and the well-being in which he lived kept it from expansion.

    Once Don John asked his mother why Lancey's mother never wrote to him, and she answered that mothers did not all love their children as much as she did.  The boy looked up at her with clear blue eyes full of surprise.  It had seemed as natural that a mother should love as that a flame should burn.

    His arm was just well when she said this unexpected thing.  She had a very long string of amber beads round her neck; he loved to rub the larger ones against the sleeve of his jacket, and make little bits of paper stick to them.  He always remembered afterwards how she looked down upon him as he sat by her, when he asked what was the use to any fellow of having a mother if she did not love him, and she moved his thick flaxen hair from his forehead while he made another little bit of paper leap to the beads, and then he put his arm round her waist and leaned his head against her shoulder to cogitate.  She was never in a hurry, this sweet comfortable mother.  She always had time to listen to every grievance about hard lessons, and childish scrapes.  She even sympathized when tops would not spin.  She generally knew when her children wanted to say something to her, and would wait till it came.  She was expecting something about Lancey now, and hoped the question might be easy to answer, but though Don John was thinking about Lancey, it concerned what he himself had lately done for him, and when he spoke at last she was a good deal surprised.

    "Oh, mother," he said, "you don't know how wicked I often feel."

    She looked down on him, but said nothing, and he went on.

    "And I think Mr. Viser is a very odd man—particularly for a clergyman."

    "What have those two things to do with one another, my dear boy," she answered.

    "Oh, a great deal," answered Don John.  "But you know, mother, you are the soul of honour."

    "Yes," she repeated, without smiling, "I am the soul of honour."

    She meant that when things were confided to her by her children she always kept them strictly to herself.  Sometimes the confidence related to quarrels, and then she generally managed to persuade the penitent to make them up, or they concerned misdoings, were in the nature of confessions, and she was to tell their father, and persuade him to forgive.  They all had a very wholesome fear of their father.

    "And you never think of telling."

    "Of course not!"

    "I listened to his sermon yesterday—I never used to listen, but I did, and—well, if it's of no use punishing one's self, what is of use, you know fathers, and mothers, and masters are always punishing boys."

    "Yes, they are."

    "To make them better."

    "Yes."

    "But if I had done something horrid—told a good many lies, for instance—and invented a story, which could not be confessed to father so that he could punish me, I think it extremely mean of Mr. Viser to make out that it's of no use my punishing myself instead."

    The mother did not startle her penitent by asking, "Have you told a great many lies?"  She only said, "And have you punished yourself, my boy?"

    "Yes, mother," he answered, "and here is the punishment.  I did it up more than a week ago, when first we came home for the holidays.  It almost choked me when father and you were so pleased with my papers.  And you know you talked about trusting me when I was out of your sight, and feeling sure I should be a good honourable boy.  Oh, you know what you said."  He produced a small brown-paper parcel.  "I meant—meant at first to dig a very deep hole and bury it—but I am afraid I might afterwards not be able to help digging it up again, for that mouse really is such a—"

    He paused, and still she did not smile or hurry the penitent, whose hand trembled a little, and who looked rather red and irate, and he presently went on,

    "So whatever Mr. Viser says, you are to take the parcel, mother, and lock it up—and mind, I am never to have it any more."

    "Very well, my boy," she answered, not at all as if she was surprised, and asked calmly, "What is there in it?"

    "There's all my money that grandmother sent, and my mechanical mouse that runs round and round when it is wound up, and several other things that I like.  Now I have punished myself!"

    "Yes.  Can you repeat Mr. Viser's text to me?"

    "No, not all of it."

    "Get me a Bible."

    Don John fetched a Bible, his wrong against the vicar did not seem less present to him when he had read the verses in question, the beautiful and well-known verses beginning "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord," and ending, "Hear ye the Rod, and who hath appointed it."

    "You see it is all in the Bible," she observed; and what did he say it meant, but that we must not think we can please or propitiate God by depriving ourselves of our goods, or even of any earthly thing, though we love it best.  Not to punish yourself, but to confess your sin and forsake it, is the way to obtain forgiveness."

    "Yes, but I did say that I could not confess this; that would be worse than doing it.  I cannot tell the real thing, the thing of consequence, but I can tell you a little more, and you will be sorry."

    "Yes, I shall—tell me as much as you can."

    "What I said to father when he questioned me about how I broke my arm, and when I did it, was all a lie—all my own invention.  I made it up—I am in such a rage sometimes after I go to bed and think about it, that I can hardly help crying.  I wish father could punish me for it, and then forgive me, and I should be all right then."

    "But that cannot be unless you confess your fault to him."

    "Oh, mother, I did tell you I could not confess it.  So if punishing myself won't do, I suppose it's my duty to be miserable about it, when I don't forget it," he added with boyish naïveté.

    "I dare say Lancey knows," she next said when he made no answer, "Don't you think he would be glad if you confessed?" she asked.

    "Why, of course not, mother," the boy exclaimed and then she never doubted that she should hear the whole; but no, Don John was very loving, very penitent, yet he stuck to it, that he must not tell her anything more, though when she asked him afterwards whether he had at least confessed his fault to God, he answered, "Oh, yes," with a fearlessness that surprised her.  She was surprised both that he should have done so, and that he should think nothing of telling her that he had.  Like most other boys he was in general extremely shy of all such subjects.

    She urged him again to confess his fault to her, and he paused, as if considering the matter.  "As God knows everything," he began, and then broke off.

    "Yes, my dear boy?"

    "And Mr. Viser doesn't, I shall not take back my mouse."  Here being hard put to it not to smile, she held her peace.

    "When boys are at school," he went on with a certain quaint simplicity that was natural to him.  "When boys are at school, it's not at all easy to think about God.  But HE knows what I mean.  Boys are not so good, mother, as you suppose.  If you knew everything just as God does, without my telling you, I should be very glad."

    This was all his confidence—childhood was nearly over, not precisely even in that fashion could he ever talk to her again.

    It was only Lancey who seemed never to have anything to hide.  Seemed—he was such a sweet little fellow, so ready to confess a fault, so apparently open; Donald Johnstone and his wife always felt themselves repaid for the kindness and the love they had shown him, and the family circle appeared to be incomplete unless he was in it.  But of course Mrs. Johnstone never asked him anything about Don John, how he broke his arm, and why he was obliged to tell lies to his father about it.  She would not have been "the soul of honour" if she had done such a thing as that.



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