Bessie Bradford's Prize
Joanna H. Mathews
Part 3 out of 4
in a kind of panic. "What did I do? Does she think--yes--think that
the money has not gone? Oh, yes, indeed, yes, I sent it so carefully,
carefully indeed, fully, and the dear boy has it, yes, has it,
indeed, long before this, long!" Then to Lena, "Your brother, my
dear, yes, brother. Oh, I would have gone home myself to take it to
him, yes, take, if I could not have sent it quite safely, yes, safe;
but they persuaded me to stay, and so I sent it by post, sent it,
Lena gave a little gasp.
Here then was a partial solution of the mystery of that second
hundred dollars. She and Bessie both saw it; Hannah had sent it to
Percy, and by some strange means, through Miss Trevor. And Hannah was
now evidently very angry and disturbed. What could it all mean?
Bessie wondered: but the matter was not of as much moment to her as
it was to Lena, who was more bewildered, if possible, than ever. And
she knew what must follow--questions, explanations, and disclosure to
her aunt and uncle of Percy's wrong-doing. Now, however, that he was
released from the other dangers that had threatened him, the child
felt this to be almost a relief: she had so suffered under the
knowledge that she was keeping his secret from them, had felt such a
sense of positive guiltiness in their presence.
"What is all this, Miss Trevor?" asked Mrs. Rush. "Where have you met
Lena's old nurse before? And what is this about Percy; for I take it
for granted he is the brother of Lena of whom you are speaking."
Her manner was so grave that Miss Trevor was alarmed, and imagining
that she had brought herself and her young cavalier into some
difficulty, she became more incoherent, nervous and rambling than
usual. Repeating herself over and over again, she related, in such a
confused manner, the story of her encounter with Hannah, and of how
the latter had entrusted her with the money for Percy; of how she had
intended to return to Sylvandale at once when she had accepted the
trust, but had been persuaded by her friends to remain in the city
until after Easter, and how she, mindful of the task she had
undertaken, and not knowing where she could find Hannah to inform her
of the change in her plans, had sent the money by post; but, as she
assured Mrs. Rush, with the greatest precautions. Only those who were
accustomed to her ways of speech could have thoroughly understood
her, and even Mrs. Rush, who had known the old lady from her own
childhood, had some difficulty in patching together a connected tale;
and all she arrived at in the end only increased her desire to know
more of the matter and to understand for what purpose Hannah had sent
such a sum of money to Percy, and in such a mysterious manner.
As for Lena, a new thorn was planted in her poor little heart, a new
shame bowed her head.
This much she understood, that Hannah had been sending money to
Percy. Was it possible that her reckless brother had been so lost to
all sense of what was fitting that he had actually applied to his
faithful old nurse, this servant in his father's family, for aid? Oh,
Percy, Percy; shame, shame!
As we know, she wronged Percy in this; but as she had no means of
ascertaining how Hannah had become possessed of his secret and of his
extremity, it was the most natural thing in the world that she should
think he had so far forgotten himself. She could guess at more than
Mrs. Rush or Bessie Bradford could, and had no doubt to what purpose
the money entrusted to Miss Trevor had been destined.
And an added pang of shame and regret was given to the proud,
high-spirited child when, at the conclusion of Miss Trevor's rambling
tale, her aunt turned to her, and said:
"Why, Lena, that gold must have been those cherished sovereigns which
Hannah destined for her monument and '_epithet_.' Why should she
have sent them to Percy? It is not possible that she would trust them
to the keeping of a careless schoolboy."
As yet, it was plain, Mrs. Rush had suspected nothing wrong, so far
as Percy was concerned about the disposal of Hannah's money, but now
when she observed the painful flush and startled, shamed look upon
the little girl's face, she could not but see that Lena was
distressed, and instantly coupled this with the low spirits and
nervous restlessness which had, for some time past, so evidently
retarded her recovery. Lena could make her no answer in words, but
her expression and manner were enough, and Mrs. Rush asked no more,
intending to leave the matter to the judgment of her husband. She
gave no hint of her suspicions to Lena, moreover, passing over the
child's agitation in silence; and when the carriage had returned with
the colonel, and the visitors departed, she set herself to divert
Lena, offering, if she chose, to read the "club papers" Maggie had
brought with her.
Lena assented, more to divert attention from herself and to turn her
aunt's thoughts from the subject of the mysterious doings of Hannah,
than from any real interest in the compositions; but as Mrs. Rush
read her attention was presently attracted.
"This is one of Maggie's, I see," said Mrs. Rush, perceiving one in
Maggie's handwriting. "Oh, no," glancing at the commencement and
seeing that it was by no means in Maggie's style, "it is another
effusion of Frankie's; she has only written it out from his
dictation. I wonder if it will be as droll as 'Babylon Babylon.'"
"THE MAN THAT BROKE GOOD FRIDAY."
"Once there was a boy, and he never told a lie, and his name wasn't
George Washington either. And I don't think it was anything so great
to tell about that everlasting cherry-tree that everybody's tired
hearing about; and when I come to be the Father of my Country and I
do something bad, I'll just go and tell my papa about it without
waiting for him to go poking round and having to ask me if I did it.
I think it is awfully mean to do a fault and wait till somebody comes
and asks you about it; it is skimpy of telling the truth. And if you
do bad things your fathers don't always claps you in their arms and
say they'd rather you'd do a hundred bad things than tell a lie;
sometimes they punish you, all the same, and you don't always get out
of it that way.
"Well, this boy didn't think so much of himself because he didn't
tell lies; he was used to not telling them, and he didn't get himself
put into the history books about it and make himself chestnuts. He
was very polite to girls, too, and always got up and gave them a
chair and gave them the best of everything, just like our Hal. Hal's
awfully generous, and Fred is, too; only Fred teases, and the boys
call Hal 'Troubadour.'
"Well, there was a man lived by this boy's house, and he was a real
bad man, and it came Good Friday, and this man didn't go to church or
anything; but he bought a flag--a great big, new one, and he put it
right up on his flag-staff with his own hands. He just must have been
glad that God was dead. The good boy saw it, and he knew it wasn't
any use to tell that man he was breaking Good Friday, 'cause he would
just say 'mind your own business,' so the boy ran to the President
and told him about it, and the President came down out of his Capitol
and ran with the truth-telling boy and came to the man and said, 'Hi,
there, you! Pull down that flag this minute on Good Friday! And the
man was awfully frightened 'cause he knew the President has such lots
of soldiers and policemen, and he was afraid he'd set them on him;
so he pulled down the flag mighty quick. But he was so mad he made
faces at the President; but the President didn't care a bit.
Presidents grow used to disagreeable things, and it is worse having
people not vote for you than it is to be made faces at. He had a lot
of laws to make that day and he thought he'd make a new one about
putting up flags on Good Friday; so he hurried home to his Capitol;
but when he came there, he said to his wife:
"'My dear, I'm afraid that man might do something horrid to that
truth-telling boy--I know just by the look of him he don't like
people who tell the truth; so you run and peep round the corner and
"And the President's wife said, 'Yes, your Presidency, I will'; and
she put on her best frock and her crown, so as to make the man think
she was very grand, so he'd be respectful to her, and she kissed the
President for good-by and went and peeped around the corner.
"Well, you see after the President went away that man had grown
madder and madder, but he didn't dare to put the flag up again, only
he didn't like it 'cause somebody meddled with his business;
generally people don't like it if you meddle with their business; and
he stamped his feet and clenched his hands, and just screamed, he was
so mad. It sometimes makes you feel a little better to scream if
you're mad, only your fathers and mothers don't like it, but this
man was so old and grown up his father and mother had had to die long
ago; but they saw him out of heaven and were mad at him. Well, all of
a sudden he said, 'I guess it was that boy who never tells lies; he
looked real mad when he saw that flag, and I'll pay him off, oh,
won't I though!' Then he cut off a great big piece of his flag-staff;
he forgot the flag wouldn't go so high if he did it, and he was going
to run at that boy who didn't tell lies; but the boy wasn't going to
wait for him to ask, and he went up to him and said:
"'Hi, there, you! I told the President about you; I don't want you to
ask me any kestions, 'cause always I speak the truth without waiting
for people to ask me, and I did it, so, there now!'
"Then the bad man struck at the boy with the piece of the flag-staff
in his hand; but the boy was too quick for him, and he couldn't reach
him, and the President's wife screamed right out and ran for her
husband's soldiers. She would have gone to help the boy herself; but
she had to be very proud and stiff of herself because she was the
"When the President heard her scream he knew it was because that man
was trying to do something to the boy; so he looked in his laws
dictionary to find what to do to him; but the man that made the
dictionary never thought that any one would be so bad as to break
Good Friday, so there was nothing about it. So he made a new law
himself very quick and told the soldiers what to do, and they came;
and the President's wife was hollering like anything and nervous;
but the boy was just laughing and jumping around the man, saying,
'Catch me; why don't you catch me, old Good Friday breaker.'
"Well, this boy had a fairy of his own--this is partly a fairy tale
and partly a Bible story, 'cause it is about Good Friday; and I don't
know if it's very pious to mix up the two, but I have to end up the
story--and this fairy came to help him, and she opened a hole in the
ground and let the man fall right through to Africa, where the
cannibals got him and eat him up; but he was so bad he disagreed with
them, so even after he was killed he was a nuisance. Then the
President gave the boy a beautiful present, and told him he'd vote
for him to be President when he grew up, and he'd give him a whole
regiment of soldiers for his own.
"So this is what you get for always telling the truth, and for not
being afraid to tell when you've done a bad thing. Anybody is an
awful old meaner to hide it when he's done it, and you ought to tell
right out and not be sneaky. A boy who hides what he's done _is_
a sneak, I don't care. The End."
There were some parts of this fanciful tale which made Lena wince, as
she saw how much clearer an idea of right and wrong, truth and
justice, had this little boy of seven than had her own brother of
more than twice his age. If Percy could but think that it was "mean
and sneaky" to endeavor to hide a fault, could but see how much
nobler and more manly it was to make confession, and, so far as
possible, reparation. True, the money had been repaid to Seabrooke;
but through what a source had it come to him; and there were so many
other things to confess, things which had led to this very trouble
with Seabrooke. The rambling, half-incoherent nonsense written, or
rather, dictated by the little brother of her young friends made her
feel more than ever the shame and meanness of Percy's conduct, and
she could not laugh at Frankie's contribution to the "Cheeryble
Sisters," as her aunt did.
And Frankie practised that which he preached, as Lena very well knew.
Mischievous and heedless, almost to recklessness, he was not only
always ready to confess his wrong-doing when questioned, but when
conscious of his fault, did not wait for his parents to "go poking
about to find him out," but would go straightway and accuse himself.
Like all the Bradford children, strictly truthful and upright, he
scorned concealment or evasion, and accepted the consequences of his
naughtiness without attempt at either. But well could Lena remember
how in the nursery days from which she and Percy had but so recently
escaped, he would hide, by every possible device, his own misdoings,
even to the very verge of suffering others to be blamed for them.
Hannah would even then strive to shield him from detection and
punishment at his parents' hands, thus fostering his weakness and
moral cowardice. With over-severity on the one hand, and
over-indulgence on the other, what wonder was it that Percy's faults
had grown with his growth and strengthened with his strength?
It cannot be said that Lena put all this into words, even to herself:
but such thoughts were there, or those very much like them. She was
given to reasoning and pondering over things in the recesses of her
own mind, and she was uncommonly clear-sighted for a girl of her age.
Probably the child was not the happier for that.
To Maggie and Bessie, in their joyous lives, full of the tenderness
and confidence and sympathy which existed between them and their
parents, such ideas would never have come, even while they wondered
at and pitied the utter lack in Lena's existence of all that made the
happiness of theirs.
And another trouble, perhaps now the greatest which weighed upon
Lena's mind, was the knowledge that their faithful old nurse had
sacrificed her long-cherished gold, with its particular purpose, to
the rescue of Percy from his dilemma. For, after hearing Miss
Trevor's story, Lena could not--did not doubt that this was so.
And Aunt May, having also heard the tale, would tell Uncle Horace;
there was no doubt of that. Lena was not at all relieved by the fact
that her aunt asked no questions, never once alluded to the subject.
She suspected something wrong, and was only waiting for an
opportunity to submit it to the colonel. Lena did not imagine, of
course, that her aunt blamed her in any way in the matter; there was
no reason that she should do so, and in one respect it would be
almost a relief to have her aunt and uncle know all. But for Percy's
sake she still shrank from that.
But Hannah, and Hannah's cherished money! Dear, faithful old Hannah!
Oh, the shame, the shame of it!
Mrs. Rush, with her suspicions already tending Percy-wise in
connection with Lena's late low spirits, and noting how devoid of
interest she seemed to be in the papers she was reading for her
benefit, had those suspicions more than ever confirmed since she
observed the effect Miss Trevor's revelation had had upon her; she
felt assured now that Percy had fallen into some trouble from which
his sister and his old nurse had endeavored to extricate him. And it
must be indeed a serious trouble which made needful such secrecy,
such mysterious, underhand doings.
Suddenly Mrs. Rush saw Lena's countenance change; a look of relief
passed over it, and her head was lifted and her eye brightened again.
For it had flashed upon the child that there was a way out of a part
of the difficulty, at least. That second hundred dollars could be
taken to return to Hannah that which she had sacrificed. Percy had
written that he would bring it to her when she came home for the
Easter holidays; she would somehow contrive to have it turned into
gold and give it back to the old woman, telling her at the same time
that she and Percy had discovered her generosity, and loved her all
the more for her faithful tenderness.
Ah! she said to herself, how stupid she had been not to see this at
once, and how strange that Percy had not thought of doing it when he
must at least have suspected the truth after applying to Hannah.
Mrs. Rush took up the second paper and glanced over it, then laughed.
"This is Lily's," she said. "Spelling does not seem to be her strong
"No," answered Lena, "she says she never can spell, and I do not
think she tries very hard. Miss Ashton takes a great deal of trouble
with her, too; but Lily just laughs at her own spelling and does not
seem to think that it matters very much. But she is so nice," she
added, apologetically, "and we all like her so much."
"Yes," answered Mrs. Rush, "Lily is a dear child, and so truly noble
and upright and conscientious, in spite of her sometimes careless way
of speaking of right and wrong. Shall I read this, Lena; do you care
to hear it?" For she had noticed that Lena appeared _distraite_
during the reading of Frankie's composition.
"Oh, yes, if you please, Aunt Marian," answered Lena, more cheerfully
than she had spoken before. "Lily's compositions are always rather
droll, even if they are not very correct."
"But does Miss Ashton leave it to Lily's own choice to say whether
she will write compositions or no?" asked Mrs. Rush.
"Oh, no," answered Lena, "she has to write them regularly, as the
rest of us do; but she has never before been willing to have one read
in the club, and even this she will not allow to go in our book."
"'Good Resolutions' is the title of the piece," said Mrs. Rush,
beginning to read from the paper in her hand.
"Good resolutions are capitle things if you keep them, but generally
they are made to be broken; at least I am afraid mine are. I think
I've made about a thousand in my life, and about nine hundred and
ninety-seven have been broken. But there is one good resolution I
made I have never broken and never shall, and that is, forever and
ever and ever to hate Oliver Cromwell. I shall always kepe that. I
know of lots of bad men, but I think he was the worst I ever knew. He
made believe he was very pious, but he was not at all, he was a
hipokrit and deceiver; and he made believe he had the king killed for
writeousness' sake, and I know he only did it so as to take the head
place himself. I think I can't bear Cromwell more than any one I ever
knew. I just hate him, and it is no use for any one to say he was
doing what he thought was best for his country and he meant well. I
don't believe it, and I hate people who mean well; they are always
tiresome. The poor dear king! I would like to have been there when
they tryed him, and I would have been like Lady Fairfax and would
have called out, 'Oliver Cromwell is a rogue and a traitor,' and not
been afrade of anybody when I wanted to stand up for my king. I love
"What a stanch little royalist Lily is and would have been had she
lived in those days," said Mrs. Rush, smiling as she came to a pause.
"Yes," said Lena, "she always stands up for kings and the rights of
"But I am amazed," said Mrs. Rush, "that Lily does not write a better
composition than this. It is really not as good as some which I have
seen written by the younger children of the class, Bessie, Belle and
"No," answered Lena, "and we all think it is because Lily does not
choose to take pains with her compositions. She is so bright and
clever about all her other lessons, history, geography, French, and
everything but composition and spelling; but she only laughs about
her bad report for those two, and does not seem to care at all or to
take any trouble to improve in them. Miss Ashton is sometimes quite
vexed with her, and says it is only carelessness."
"And even the wish to earn the prize did not spur her on?" asked Mrs.
"Oh, no," answered Lena, "she only said she knew she could never gain
it, and wasn't going to try. I think Maggie persuaded her to write a
paper to be read in the club in the hope that it would make her take
a little pains and try to improve."
"But it hardly seems to have answered the purpose," said Mrs. Rush.
"But" she added, as she took up again Lily's paper, which she had
laid upon the table, "she is a dear child, and as you say, very
bright. Do you wish to hear more of this, dear; or are you tired?"
"Oh, yes, please," answered Lena, who was now so relieved by the
remembrance that the debt to Hannah could be paid as soon as her
brother returned, that she felt as if some heavy weight had been
lifted from her, and looked, spoke, and acted like a different child
from the one of a few moments since; "if you please, Aunt Marian.
Lily goes on for some time in such a nonsensical way and then comes
out with something so clever and droll that we cannot help laughing.
I would like to hear the rest of it; and there is Bessie's piece,
But before Mrs. Rush had time to commence once more the reading of
Lily's composition, the colonel sent up a message to ask his wife to
come to him.
The puzzled colonel, even more puzzled than were his wife and Lena,
since he had not all the clews to guide him which they had received,
and, moreover, rather astonished that the former had not come to
greet him, according to her usual custom, when he entered the house
after an absence of some hours, had his tale to tell and his riddle
"Where have you been? Why did you not come before? Is Lena worse?"
were questions he propounded in a breath, not waiting for an answer
to the first till he had asked all three.
No, Lena was not worse, Mrs. Rush said, but she had been startled and
worried, and she had stayed with her and tried to divert her until
she should be more comfortable. And then she told the story of Miss
Trevor's visit, of her encounter with Hannah, and the latter's
evident dismay and displeasure at seeing her there; of how the old
lady had betrayed that which the old nurse had plainly intended
should be kept a profound secret; of how there could be no doubt that
Lena had had the key to these revelations, and of how she had been
much distressed and agitated by them, but had tried to conceal this
and had told her nothing.
The colonel had his say also, and told how he had met Miss Trevor at
the door with Maggie and Bessie when they came down to take the
carriage; of how she had, in her own queer, incoherent way, told him
some story of which he could make nothing clear save that Hannah had,
through her, sent a large sum of money to Percy; and how he, coupling
one thing with another, had arrived at the conclusion that Percy had
fallen into trouble through his own fault, and so had not dared to
apply for help to those upon whom he had a legitimate right to call,
but had confided in Hannah, and begged and received aid from her.
There could be no doubt of this, both the colonel and his wife
agreed; nor that the depression and anxiety shown by Lena some time
since was to be referred to the same cause, whatever that might be.
But as Percy would be home for the Easter vacation in a couple of
days, the colonel said he would not question Lena or disturb her
further at present. If Percy were in fault and had been guilty of any
wrong-doing, he must be made to confess; if not, it would still be
expedient that it should be known why a sum of money, so large for
such a boy, should have been conveyed to him by a servant in such a
surreptitious manner. If no information on the matter could be
obtained from either Lena, Percy or Hannah, he should feel it only
right to write to Percy's father and place it in his hands; and in
any case Hannah must be repaid. The story of the exchange of the gold
for Miss Trevor's bank-notes left little doubt in the mind of either
Colonel or Mrs. Rush that the sum consecrated to the monument and
epitaph which were to commemorate the virtues of the faithful old
woman, had been sacrificed to Percy's needs; and now the colonel
remembered how she had asked him the value of British gold in
So nothing more was said till Percy should come, and Lena, seeing
that her uncle and aunt were just as usual, and that they plied her
with no questions, took heart of grace, and consoled herself with the
reflection that she had alarmed herself unnecessarily, and that they
were not going to "make a fuss" over Miss Trevor's revelations.
Meanwhile Percy had kept his promise to his sister, namely, that he
would henceforth avoid Lewis Flagg; at least, he had done so as far
as he was able, for it is easier to take up with bad company than it
is to shake it off; that is, if the desire to do so is not mutual,
and the bad company has no mind to be discarded. And this was the
case with Lewis. He had reasons of his own for wishing to keep his
influence over Percy, and he did not intend that he should escape it
if it were possible to maintain it.
So, in spite of Percy's avoidance of him, which became so marked that
the other boys noticed it, he persisted in seeking his company at all
times and in all places. He was not by any means blind to Percy's
endeavors to avoid him, but chose to ignore them and to be constantly
hail-fellow-well-met with him as he had been before.
But, fortunately for Percy, Seabrooke had his eye on both. While
seeing all the weakness and instability of the younger boy's
character, he saw also much that was lovable and good; and moreover,
a kindly feeling towards him had been aroused through gratitude to
his friends and relations.
He had heard through his sister Gladys and his father, not only of
the kindness shown to the little girl, but also of the generous
donation made by Colonel Rush to the struggling church of which his
father was rector; and he knew through Percy of the efforts of Lena
and her young friends to gain the scholarship for Gladys. In spite of
his rather stubborn pride which had led him so haughtily to answer
Percy that his sister was not an object of charity, he could not but
feel grateful to the sweet little strangers who were striving to earn
such a benefit for his own sister; and for the sake of Percy's
relatives as well as for that of the boy himself, he had resolved to
keep an eye upon him during the few remaining days of the term and to
endeavor to keep him from going astray again. And Percy, who had been
pretty thoroughly frightened, and also truly ashamed of the
disgraceful scrape into which he had fallen, was far more amenable
than usual to rules and regulations, and was not without gratitude to
Seabrooke for having dealt so leniently with him.
But even now, as Harley Seabrooke could plainly see, Percy had no
proper sense of the gravity of his late offence; the dread of Dr.
Leacraft's displeasure and of the exposure to his relatives being
what chiefly concerned him.
Percy had told Seabrooke whence he had received the money with which
he had been enabled to repay him, and had been rather troubled by his
reluctance to accept it through the means of a girl who was totally
innocent of any share of blame. Careless as he was, Percy could not
but feel that it cast a reflection upon him. Hence he had been glad
when that second remittance arrived in such a mysterious manner to
let Harley know of it, and to declare that he should repay his
sister at once on his return to his uncle's house at the approaching
But Seabrooke had little faith in Percy's strength of purpose in case
any new temptation presented itself in the meantime; that is, any
temptation to spend the money in any other way.
"Don't you think it is what I ought to do?" asked Percy, when he had
told Seabrooke of his intentions, and observed, as he could not help
doing, that the other seemed a little doubtful.
"Certainly, I think it is what you ought to do; it is the only thing
you _can_ do if you have any sense of right and honor," answered
Seabrooke, looking at him steadily.
"But you think I won't," said Percy, awakening to a sense that
Seabrooke had no confidence in his good resolutions.
"I think you are open to temptation, Neville, more than any one I
know," answered his uncompromising mentor; and Percy could not deny
that there was too much truth in the assertion. He took it in good
part, however, although he made no answer beyond what was conveyed by
a rather sheepish look; and presently Seabrooke said:
"Does any one know that you have received this money, Neville?"
He would not ask the direct question which was in his mind, namely,
whether Lewis Flagg knew of it.
"Oh, yes, all the fellows know of it," answered Percy; "they were all
there when I opened that odd-looking parcel. I thought it was a
hoax--wrapped up in paper after paper that way--and I was not going
to open the hair-pin box when it came out at last; but Raymond
Stewart cut the string and there was the hundred-dollar note. A nice
thing it would have been if I had tossed it in the fire, as I had a
mind to do half-a-dozen times while I was unrolling those papers.
Oh, yes; they all saw it. Flagg says I am the luckiest fellow he
"Yes," thought Seabrooke, "and he'll persuade you to make way with it
before it goes into your sister's hands, if I know him aright. I say,
Percy," aloud, "why don't you put that money into Mr. Merton's hands
till you are going home?"
"Why?" asked Percy, rather indignantly. "You don't suppose any one is
going to steal it, do you?"
"Of course not," answered Seabrooke, who really had no such thought,
and only feared that Percy himself might be tempted to do something
foolish--in his situation something almost dishonorable Seabrooke
thought it would be. It was due to Percy's sister that this sum
should be employed to repay her; it would be an absolute wrong to
employ it for anything else. "Only," he added, with a little
hesitation, "I thought you might find it a sort of a safeguard to
have it in the hands of some one else."
"A safeguard against myself, eh?" said Percy, laughing
good-naturedly, and not at all offended, as Seabrooke feared he might
be. "All right, if you are unhappy about it take care of it
And drawing his purse from his pocket he opened it, took from it the
hundred dollar note, and thrust the latter into Seabrooke's hand.
"I suppose it's wisest," he said; "but I _know_ I shouldn't
spend it. However, if it gives you any satisfaction it is as well in
your pocket as mine."
"It will not lodge in my pocket," said Seabrooke; "how can you carry
such a sum of money in such an insecure place, Neville? Playing
rough-and-tumble games, too, when any minute it is likely to fall out
of your pocket. I shall lock it up, I can tell you; and what if you
tell me not to return it to you till we are breaking up?"
"All right," said Percy again. "I request you not to give it back to
me until the day we leave."
"I promise," said Seabrooke. "Remember now; I shall keep my word and
take you at yours, and _will_ not return this money to you until
Thursday morning of next week."
"No, don't," said Percy, laughing. "I give you full leave to refuse
to return it to me till then."
"Self-confident, careless fellow!" said Seabrooke to himself as the
other turned away in a series of somersaults down the slope on the
edge of which they had been standing. "He is so sure of himself; and
yet, I know, at the very first temptation he would forget all about
his debt to his sister and make way with that money. But I can't help
having a liking for him, and for the sake of that sister who has been
so nice to Gladys I shall do what I can to keep him straight."
"I say, Neville," said Raymond Stewart, meeting Percy not half an
hour afterward, "aren't you going to stand treat out of that fortune
"No," answered Percy, "not this time. I have something else to do
with that fortune of mine."
"Turned stingy all of a sudden, eh?" said Raymond, with the
disagreeable sneer which was almost habitual with him; and Percy, in
spite of his boasting self-confidence, felt glad that his money was
in other keeping than his own. He knew perfectly well that he would
not have stood proof against the persuasions and sneers, perhaps even
threats, which might be brought into use to induce him to part with
at least a portion of it. Seabrooke had foreseen just some such
state of affairs when he heard that the other boys all knew of
Percy's fortune, and hence the precautions he had taken. He would
have felt that they were fully justified had he overheard the present
Further pressure, not only from Raymond Stewart, but from several of
the other boys was brought to bear upon Percy: but, as he laughingly
declared, he had not the money in his hands, and so could not spend
"Where is it, then?" "What have you done with it?" "Have you sent it
home?" asked one and another; but Percy still refused to tell.
Only Lewis Flagg did not beset him, did not ask any questions or seem
to take any interest in the matter; but that would easily be
accounted for by the coolness which had arisen between Percy and
himself during the last few days. But this state of affairs had
really nothing to do with it, for Lewis did not choose to be snubbed
so long as he had any object to gain, and the coolness was all on
But Lewis could give a very good guess as to the whereabouts of
Percy's money at present, or at least, as to the person in whose
custody it was.
He had been standing at one of the school-room windows while
Seabrooke and Percy had been talking at the top of the slope, and had
seen the latter take out his pocket-book, take something from it and
hand it to Seabrooke, and he rightly conjectured how matters were,
that Seabrooke had persuaded Percy to give him the money for
And then arose a thought which had made itself felt before, that it
was hard that Percy had been furnished not only with the means to
defray the claim of Seabrooke, and that through no sacrifice or
exertion of his own, but also with a like sum which he was at liberty
to spend as he pleased, while he himself had been obliged to dispose
of his watch in order to obtain the sum which would save him. He felt
quite wronged, and as if some injustice had been done to him,
forgetting or losing sight of all the meanness, underhand dealing and
disobedience of rules which had brought him to his present
predicament. And the doctor would be here tomorrow,--for his son was
out of danger and he was coming back to close the school,--would hear
the account of his misconduct and would report at home, if nothing
worse. A feeling of intense irritation against both Seabrooke and
Percy Neville took possession of him, a feeling as unreasonable as it
was spiteful; and he said to himself that he would find means to be
revenged on both, especially on Seabrooke, whom he chose to look upon
as the offender instead of the offended, the injurer instead of the
Then another idea took possession of him, and one worthy of his own
mean spirit, namely, that Seabrooke had been demanding and Percy
giving a further prize for the silence of the former in the matter of
the burnt money; and he immediately formed in his own mind a plan by
which he might be revenged upon Seabrooke. He called it to himself,
"playing a jolly good trick;" but Lewis Flagg's "jolly good tricks"
were apt to prove more jolly to himself than to his victims, and they
did occasionally, as we have seen, recoil upon his own head.
"I say, Percy," said Raymond Stewart, "you hav'n't made over that
hundred dollars to Flagg, have you? We know that he can get out of
you anything that he chooses. Has he, Flagg? Own up now if he has. I
"No, I hav'n't," said Percy, exasperated by the assertion that Flagg
could do as he pleased with him. "No, I haven't given it to him, and
he can't make me do as he pleases. No one can."
At this assumption of his own independence from the facile,
easily-led Percy a shout of derision was raised; and then began a
running fire of schoolboy jeers and jests. The good humor with which
Percy generally took such attacks was apt to disarm his tormentors;
but now, probably because he was conscious that their taunts were so
well-deserved, he resented them and showed some irritability in the
matter. Had he not felt assured that Seabrooke would abide by his
word and insist upon keeping possession of the money until the day of
the breaking up of school, there is little doubt that he would have
allowed himself to be urged into demanding it back and spending at
least some portion of it for the entertainment of his school-fellows.
"See here," said one of the boys, apropos of nothing it seemed, "see
here, do you know Seabrooke is going to dine with the dons up at Mr.
"Then who's going to be sentinel at evening study?" asked Raymond
"Mr. Merton," answered the other.
"Isn't he invited?" asked Raymond.
"Yes, but he wants Seabrooke to go because he says he has but little
pleasure; so he told him he would decline and take the evening study,
so that he might go to the dinner. Here he comes now. Hallo!
Seabrooke, what a big-bug you're getting to be! Going out to dine
with the dons and so forth."
Seabrooke passed on with a cold, indifferent smile just moving the
corners of his mouth. He had little of the spirit of good comradeship
and was not accustomed to meet any joke or nonsense from his
companions in a responsive manner; so it was little wonder that he
was not very popular with the other boys.
But as he passed Percy, who stood leaning with his back against a
tree, rather discontentedly kicking the toe of his shoe into the
ground, he saw that the boy was vexed about something, and paused to
speak to him.
"Hallo, Neville," he said; "what is the matter? You look as if the
world were not wagging your way just now."
"Nothing," answered Percy, half-sulkily, "only I wish I hadn't given
you that money. The fellows think I'm awfully mean."
"So soon!" said Seabrooke to himself; then replied aloud, "Why,
because you wish to pay a just debt?"
"No, they don't know about that," said Percy, "only they think I
ought to stand treat."
"I shall keep my word to you," said Seabrooke, significantly, and
"You wouldn't like it yourself," answered Percy; but Seabrooke only
shrugged his shoulders and gave no symptom of yielding to his
"Weak, unstable fellow!" he said to himself. "He would have asked me
for that money if he had thought there was the slightest chance I
would give it to him, and would have spent a part of it rather than
have those fellows chaff and run him. After his sister's sacrifice,
He had never been a boy who was subject to temptations of this
nature, or who cared one iota for the opinion of others, especially
if he believed himself to be in the right; and he had no patience
with or pity for weakness of character or purpose. To him there was
something utterly contemptible in Percy's indulging in the least
thought of withdrawing from his resolution of using the sum he had
confided to his keeping to repay his debt to his sister, and he
wasted no sympathy upon him or his fancied difficulties.
Seabrooke went to dine with "the dons," caring not so much for the
social pleasure as for the honor conferred upon him by the
invitation; Mr. Merton taking, as had been arranged, his place in the
schoolroom during evening study.
The tutor cast his eye around the line of heads and missed one.
"Where is Lewis Flagg?" he asked.
"I don't know, sir," answered one of the boys. "I saw him about ten
Scarcely had he spoken when the delinquent entered the room and
hastened to his seat.
"Late, Lewis," said Mr. Merton, placing a tardy mark against his
"I did not hear the bell, sir," answered Lewis, telling his falsehood
with coolness, although his manner was somewhat flurried and nervous.
Percy was running across the play-ground the next morning when he
came full against Seabrooke, who was just rounding the corner of an
evergreen hedge. He would have been thrown off his balance by the
shock had not Seabrooke caught him; but the next instant he shook him
off, while he regarded him with a look of the most scornful contempt.
"Hallo!" said Percy, not observing this at first, "that was a
concussion between opposing forces. I beg your pardon. I should have
been down, too, but for you"
"You're pretty well _down_, I should say," replied Seabrooke,
sneeringly. "You're a nice fellow to call yourself a gentleman,
Percy opened his eyes in unfeigned astonishment. The grave, studious,
young pupil-teacher was no favorite with the other boys, who thought
him priggish and rather arbitrary; but at least he was always
courteous in his dealings with them, and, indeed, rather prided
himself upon his manners.
"Well, that's one way to take it," said the younger boy, resentfully,
his regrets taking flight at once as they met with this apparently
ungracious reception. "Accidents will happen, and, after all, it was
just as much your fault as mine."
"I would not try to appear innocent. It will hardly serve your turn
under the circumstances," said Seabrooke, still with the same
disagreeable tone and manner. "But let me tell you, Mr. Neville, that
I have a great mind to report you for trespassing in my quarters. You
may think you have the right to demand your own if you choose to
break a compact made for your own good, but you have no right to be
guilty of the liberty and meanness of ransacking another man's
belongings in search of it."
"I don't know what you are talking about. What do you mean?"
exclaimed the astonished Percy, really for the moment forgetting that
Seabrooke had anything belonging to him in his keeping.
But Seabrooke only answered, as he turned away, "Such an assumption
of innocence is quite thrown away, I repeat, sir and the next time
you meddle with my things or places, you shall suffer for it, I
But Percy seized him by the arm.
"You shall not leave me this way," he said. "What do you mean?
Explain yourself. Who touched your things?"
"It shows what you are," answered Seabrooke, continuing his
reproaches, instead of giving the straightforward answer which he
considered unnecessary, "that you have not the decent manliness to
demand that which rightfully belonged to you because you were ashamed
of your own folly and weakness, but must go and ransack in my
quarters to find your money. Let me go; I wish nothing more to do
Light broke upon the bewildered Percy. Seabrooke was accusing him of
searching for and taking the money he had confided to his care, but
which he, Percy, certainly had no right to recover by such means.
"You say I took back my money without asking you for it, and hunted
it out from your places?" he asked, incredulously, but fiercely.
"I do," answered Seabrooke, "and I've nothing more to say to you now
Percy contradicted him flatly, and in language which left no doubt as
to his opinion of his veracity, and very hard words were
interchanged. Both lost their temper, and Seabrooke his dignity--poor
Percy had not much of the latter quality to lose--and the quarrel
presently attracted the attention, not only of the other boys, but of
one or two of the masters who happened to be within hearing.
Naturally this called forth inquiry, and it soon became known that
Percy had entrusted to Seabrooke's keeping a large sum of money, lest
he should himself be tempted to spend any portion of it, as it was to
be reserved for a special purpose; that Seabrooke before going to the
dinner on the previous evening had put it, as he supposed, in a
secure place, and that this morning the money was gone, while he had
discovered slight but unmistakable evidence that his quarters had
been ransacked in search of it. He had, perhaps, not unnaturally, at
once arrived at the conclusion that Percy himself had searched for
and taken it, being determined to have it, and yet ashamed to demand
its return. It was a grave accusation, and one which Percy denied in
the most emphatic and indignant manner which convinced nearly every
one who heard him of his innocence.
Seabrooke was not among these. He maintained that no one but Percy
knew that he had taken the money in charge; no one but Percy had any
object in finding it, and he appeared and professed himself perfectly
outraged that any one "should have dared" to open his trunk, bureau
and so forth. There could be no question of actual theft, since the
money was Percy's own, to dispose of as he pleased, but the liberty
was a great one, and it was a very mean way of regaining possession
even of his own property, had he been guilty of it.
But Percy was popular, Seabrooke was not; and even the masters were
inclined to believe that the latter must have been careless and
forgetful and mislaid the money, while believing he had put it in the
place he indicated, and presently--no one knew exactly how it started
or could trace the rumor to its source--presently it began to be
bruited about among the boys that Seabrooke was keeping it for his
own use and had never intended to return it to Percy, and was now
making him his scape-goat.
But Percy, even in the midst of his own wrath and indignation,
generously combated this; he inclined to the first supposition that
Seabrooke had mislaid or lost the note, and he even maintained that
it would shortly be found.
But this did not make Seabrooke any more lenient in his judgment. He
said little, but that little expressed the most dogged and obstinate
belief in Percy's weakness of purpose, and in his search for and
abstraction of his own property.
The situation was one hard to deal with, and Mr. Merton and the other
tutors resolved to let the matter rest until the return of Dr.
Leacraft, who was expected that very evening.
School closed the next day, and the various actors in this little
drama were to scatter to their respective homes for the Easter
"What a miserable report we have to make to the doctor on his
return!" said Mr. Merton. "When he has been through so much, too, and
is just feeling a little relief from his anxiety. He will find that
his boys--the majority at least--have not had much consideration for
him in his trouble."
What would he have said had he known how much worse the record might
have been--had all been revealed, had Seabrooke disclosed the
drugging, the theft of his letter to his father, and the destruction,
unintentional though it was, of the money?
Seabrooke went about the business of the day with all his accustomed
regularity and precision, but with a sort of defiant and
I-am-going-to-stick-to-it air about him which in itself incited the
other boys to covert thrusts and innuendoes tending to throw distrust
upon his version of the story and to make known their thorough
sympathy with Percy, not only for his loss, but also for the
aspersions cast upon him by the young pupil-teacher. Seabrooke
professed, and perhaps with truth, not to care particularly for
popularity or for what others said about him; but he found this hard
to bear, more especially as he fully believed Percy to be guilty of
the meanness he had ascribed to him.
But for some unknown reason Lewis Flagg, who was usually the
ringleader in all such little amenities, held his peace and had
nothing to say.
If Dr. Leacraft expected to be received with much enthusiasm on his
return that evening he was destined to disappointment. The boys
cheered him on his arrival, it is true, and came about him with
inquiries for his injured son and congratulations on his partial
recovery; but there was a certain restraint in the manner of the
majority which to his experienced eye and ear told that all things
had not gone quite well.
And that it was something more than the by-gone offence of the
expedition to Rice's was evident. Only one-half of the boys were
implicated in that affair; they had already been punished by the
restrictions which had been placed upon them, and were to be further
disgraced by the public reprimand which he intended to give them on
the dismissal of the school; and these culprits were probably
dreading this or some other severe punishment which would be meted
out to them by the report of their misconduct which would be sent
home. But there was something here beyond all this; the boys were
looking askance at one another, and as if there were some new
revelation to be made.
Mr. Merton would have spared the doctor the recital of any further
disturbance until the morning; but the principal, having observed all
this, would not be put off; the time was short, and if the matter
were a serious one which required investigation, he must have
knowledge of it at once.
Serious, indeed, the doctor thought it when he heard the tale: the
disappearance of a hundred-dollar note confided by one boy to
another, and the question as to who was responsible for it.
But was it certain that this responsibility lay solely between these
This was an idea which now presented itself to the minds of the two
gentlemen, as it had before this to the minds of the pupils. It had
been started by Raymond Stewart, who had said:
"How do we know that some one else has not been meddling with that
money? I do not see that it follows no one could touch it but
Seabrooke or Percy."
"That would say that there was a thief among us," said another boy,
"That's about it," answered Raymond.
The boys had looked from one to another almost in dismay. Whatever
their faults and shortcomings--and some of these had been grave
enough--such an idea, such an implication as this had never before
presented itself to them--that there was a thief in their midst, that
one of their number had been guilty of flagrant dishonesty, of an
absolute theft, and that of a large sum.
"That's a nice thing for you to say," broke forth Malcolm Ainslie.
"Whom do you accuse?"
"I accuse no one," answered Raymond. "I only said such a thing might
But Percy and Seabrooke had both scouted the idea; no one, they both
said, knew that the former had intrusted his money to Seabrooke; no
one had been present at the time, and both declared that they had
spoken of it to no one.
But the suspicion aroused by Raymond was not set at rest by this, and
an uncomfortable atmosphere had reigned ever since, and, as has been
seen, was remarked by Dr. Leacraft as soon as he returned home.
Thursday morning, and the closing day arrived, and there was a
general feeling of shame and annoyance that such a cloud should be
resting upon the school as its members separated even for a few days.
It seemed now as if nothing could "come out," as the boys said, there
was so little time for any investigation, for the pupils, none of
whom lived at more than a few hours distance from Sylvandale, were to
leave by the afternoon trains.
The morning lessons were to continue as usual, but those for the
after part of the day were to be dispensed with.
The matron did the boys' packing, so that there were no especial
calls upon their time before leaving.
"Henderson, are you ill?" asked Dr. Leacraft, coming into the junior
class-room about eleven o'clock, and noticing that Charlie Henderson,
the youngest boy in the school and a pattern scholar, was deathly
pale, and supporting his head upon his hand. The boy was subject to
frightful headaches, which for the time unfitted him for all study or
recitation; and Seabrooke, who was hearing the lesson in progress,
had excused him from taking any part in it. These headaches were of
few hours duration; but the boy needed absolute rest and quiet to
enable him to conquer them.
As he lifted his heavy, suffering eyes to the doctor's face,
Seabrooke answered for him.
"Yes, sir, he has one of his headaches, and is afraid he will not be
able to go this afternoon. I have excused him from recitation, and
was going to ask if he may go to his room. He is not fit to be here."
"Certainly. Go at once, my child," said the doctor, laying his hand
kindly on the boy's throbbing head. "You must have a sleep, and ease
this poor head before afternoon. You will feel better by train time."
Charlie rose with a murmured word of thanks, every step and movement
adding a fresh pang to his pain, and went slowly from the room and up
to the dormitory devoted to the younger boys.
But there seemed small prospect of quiet here. The matron and three
housemaids were in the room, half a dozen trunks were standing here
and there, bureau drawers and closets were standing open, and a
general appearance of disorder attendant upon the packing for
half-a-dozen boys reigned throughout the apartment.
Charlie gave a little groan of despair as he stood at the open door
and looked in.
"Oh, Master Henderson, my dear!" ejaculated the matron, as she caught
sight of the pale, suffering young face, "you've never gone and got
one of your headaches to-day of all days. Such a hubbub as there is
here. You can't come in, my dear; you'll never get rest for your poor
head. Come to the other dormitory; we're all done there, and it's as
quiet as a nunnery, and one can get to sleep, and sleep you must have
if you are going home this afternoon. Come now; you have five hours
to get rid of that good-for-nothing headache."
And the voluble but kind-hearted woman led the way to the dormitory
of the older boys, where all was quiet and in order, and installed
her patient on Percy Neville's bed, covered him, gave him the
medicine prescribed for his relief, and having made him as
comfortable as circumstances would permit, left him to the coveted
rest and quiet in the half-darkened room.
The healing sleep was not long in coming, and for three hours or more
Charlie lay motionless and lost to all around him, Mrs. Moffat coming
once or twice to look in upon him, and depart with a satisfied nod of
her head, confident that he would wake sufficiently restored to
undertake the journey home at the appointed hour.
It was with a grave face that the doctor rose at the close of the
morning lessons to dismiss his charge for the Easter holidays. His
customary leave-taking was one simply of good-will and kind wishes
for the enjoyment of his pupils, and for their return at the
commencement of another term; but this time there was much to be said
that was not so agreeable. To the younger boys he addressed only a
few commendatory words, praising them for their fair progress and
general good conduct, and wishing them a very pleasant holiday.
To those of the senior department he then turned with stern looks and
tones, saying he had thought it but right to inform their parents and
guardians of their misconduct during his absence. He did not intend
to leave punishment entirely to them, however, but on the return of
the boys to school, further restrictions would be placed upon their
liberty, and many of their past privileges would be taken from them
for the remainder of the school year. He spoke severely, not only of
the want of principle shown by the culprits, but alluded also to the
lack of feeling they had shown in so defying his express wishes and
orders at a time of such distress and anxiety to himself, although he
did not dwell much upon this. But to those among them who had any
sense of honor left, there was an added shame when this was presented
anew to them, and as Percy afterwards said, he did "feel uncommonly
mean and sneaky."
He must speak of another and still more painful matter, the doctor
continued. A matter so serious that he felt he must allude to it
before they separated. A large sum of money was missing under very
mysterious circumstances; he believed that there was no need to enter
into particulars. He wished and was inclined to think that some
forgetfulness and carelessness lay at the bottom of this. Here
Seabrooke's hand, which lay upon his desk, clenched itself, and a
dark scowl passed over his face, while Percy glanced over at him
with suspicion and resentment written on every feature, and a battery
of eyes turned in his direction, not one among them with friendly
look for himself.
But the doctor said there might be even a worse interpretation put
upon the disappearance of the money, an interpretation he was both to
entertain, but which must occur to all, namely, that some one had
succumbed to temptation, and had appropriated the missing sum, which
one of their number had been so positive he left in a safe place.
Was it possible that there was one among the circle who would do such
a thing? If so, let him make confession and restitution before he
left to-day, and although he could not be suffered to return to the
school, he might at least be spared the shame of confronting his
schoolmates after discovery. For he would leave no stone unturned, he
said, emphatically, to unravel the mystery; and if nothing came to
light before to-night, he should at once place the matter in
competent hands for its solution.
A dead silence fell upon the boys as he concluded, and if they had
been uneasy and inclined to look askance upon one another before, how
was it with them now? So the higher powers shared the suspicions
which, they scarcely knew how, had made themselves felt among them
since yesterday morning.
What an uncomfortable puzzle it all was! and who was to read the
answer to the riddle? Had Seabrooke lost the money? Had Percy been
guilty of possessing himself of his own property by such
unjustifiable means? Or was one of their number an actual thief?
In a few more words Dr. Leacraft then dismissed the school, and the
boys were free for discussion of the matter among themselves.
It was easy for Seabrooke to see, as it had been from the first, in
which direction the current of opinion tended, and not caring to talk
further upon the subject, he withdrew to the shelter of his own
Charlie Henderson, in the solitary dormitory, lay quiet and
undisturbed, until, having nearly slept off his headache, he woke
with the delightful sense of relief and peace which comes after the
cessation of severe pain. He lay still, however, feeling languid, and
waiting till some one should come whom he could ask for the cup of
strong coffee which was always needed to perfect his cure, and
thinking happily of home and the pleasure he anticipated in the
holidays just at hand.
At last Mrs. Moffat put her head into the room. "Ah, Master
Henderson, my dear," she said, at once appreciating the change in the
situation, "so you're better. That's a dear boy"--as though it were
highly meritorious in Charlie to have allowed himself to feel better.
"Well, now, you must have your cup of coffee to tone you up for your
trip. You lie still, while I see about it. There's lots of time yet,
and I'm not going to send you home faint and miserable to your
mother, and have her say there's nobody at Sylvandale Academy to look
after her head-ache-y boy."
And she was gone, while Charlie, nothing loth, obeyed orders and lay
Suddenly quick footsteps came along the hall, and the door of the
room, which Mrs. Moffat had left ajar, was pushed open and a boy
entered--one of the older boys--and Charlie knew that his presence
here would be questioned, and that he must hasten to explain.
Who was it? There were boys and boys belonging to that dormitory, and
Charlie felt that he would rather be found there by some than by
others. It was for this reason that he had chosen the bed of the
good-natured, easy-going Percy to rest upon; he would "raise no
fuss," or make him feel himself an intruder.
It was Lewis Flagg. Certainly he was not the one by whom Charlie
would choose to be faced, and seeing that he was not perceived, he
hesitated whether he should speak and reveal his presence, or pretend
to be still asleep and trust to silence and good fortune to remain
But before he had quite made up his mind which course to pursue the
matter was decided for him, and he found that he had no need to
Lewis was upon business which necessitated haste and secrecy; and
knowing that all the other legitimate occupants of the dormitory were
below stairs, he never gave a thought to the possibility that there
might be some one else there, and believed himself quite alone. His
hurried movements were very mysterious to the young spectator.
Lewis went to the alcove occupied by Seabrooke, where his trunk, like
that of the other boys, stood packed and closed, but not locked or
strapped lest there should be "some last things to put in." He
stooped over the trunk, lifted the lid, and taking something from his
pocket, thrust it down beneath the contents, hastily closed it again,
and darted from the room. The whole performance took but a moment,
but there was an unmistakable air of guilt and terror about Lewis
which did not fail to make itself apparent even to the inexperienced
eye of Charlie.
[Illustration: AN UNSUSPECTING WITNESS]
"I wonder what he was doing. He hates Seabrooke; so he wasn't giving
him a pleasant surprise," said the little boy to himself. "He's a
sneak, and I suspect he was doing something sneaky. I've a great mind
to tell Seabrooke to look in his trunk before he locks it. Perhaps he
has put in something to explode or do some harm to the things in
Seabrook's trunk or to himself."
Charlie was a nervous child and rather imaginative, and was always
conjuring up possibilities of disaster in his own mind. He did not
make these public; he knew better than to do such a thing in a house
full of schoolboys, but they existed all the same. He did not wish to
"tell tales;" but he had not too much confidence in Lewis Flagg--it
would be hard to find the boy in the school who had, especially among
the younger ones--and he could not bear to think that he might have
planned some scurvy trick on Seabrooke.
Charlie was a pattern scholar, a boy after Seabrooke's own heart,
because of his sincere efforts to do right; and hence he had found
favor in his eyes, and he had shown many little tokens of partiality
toward the child which had won for him the younger boy's gratitude
He lay waiting for Mrs. Moffat and trying to make up his mind what he
had better do, when Seabrooke himself entered the room and went
directly to his alcove, in his turn unconscious of Charlie's
He looked troubled and harassed, as he well might do, and sat down
for a moment, leaning his head upon his hand, and seemingly in deep
Should he tell him? Charlie asked himself.
Presently with a sigh and a despondent shake of the head, to which he
would never have given vent had he known that any one was observing
him, Seabrooke rose, and going to his trunk proceeded to lock it.
It was too much for Charlie.
"Seabrooke!" he said, in a low tone, and raising himself from his
Seabrooke looked up, startled at finding that he was not the sole
occupant of the room.
"Charlie," he exclaimed, "what are you doing here?" Then with a flash
of recollection, "Oh! I suppose they put you here to sleep off your
"Yes," answered Charlie, "and--Seabrooke--"
"Well, what is it?" asked the other, as the boy hesitated.
"Won't you look in your trunk--carefully--before you lock it?" said
"Why?" asked Seabrooke, much surprised, and thinking for a moment
that Charlie's headache must have produced something like delirium.
"Oh, because," said Charlie, thinking how he could best warn
Seabrooke and yet not betray Flagg, "because--there's something in
"Of course there is," said Seabrooke, "lots of things, I should
say--pretty much all I possess is there."
And he wondered as he spoke if he should ever bring any of his
possessions back there again, whether, with this cloud, this
suspicion of a possible betrayal of his trust resting upon him, he
should ever return to Sylvandale school.
"But--" stammered Charlie, "I mean--Seabrooke--somebody put something
there. I--I saw him--but he did not see me here. He's playing you a
trick, I know. Do look."
Seeing that the boy was quite himself and thoroughly in earnest,
Seabrooke turned to his trunk and began taking the clothes out,
Charlie sitting up and watching him anxiously, and wondering what
would be discovered.
"It's in the left-hand corner in front," he said; and then there was
silence for a moment.
Seabrooke laid aside half-a-dozen articles, then suddenly started to
his feet with an exclamation, holding in his hand a creased and
crumpled envelope, which he hastily opened, and took from it--Percy's
He turned deathly pale and for a moment stood gazing at it as if
"What is it? Percy Neville's money?" asked Charlie, who, in common
with every other boy in the school, knew the story of Percy's lost
"Yes," answered Seabrooke in a stern, cold tone, "did you say you saw
some one put it there?"
"Yes," said Charlie, "but you must not ask me who it was, for I
"You _must_ tell me," said Seabrooke, striding up to the bed,
"you _must_ tell me. Who was it?"
"I won't, I won't; I will not," said Charlie, firmly. "I told you
because I thought you ought to know some one went to your trunk; but
I _won't_ tell who it was."
"Ah, I know," answered Seabrooke; "no need to look very far. It was
Neville himself. Who would have believed it of him, weak, miserable
coward that he is? He would have set some one to search my trunk, I
suppose, that it might be found there and prove me a thief."
"Percy Neville! It was not Percy! Oh, no!" exclaimed Charlie; "you
ought not to say it."
"Who then? Tell me at once," persisted Seabrooke, just as Mrs. Moffat
returned with the coffee, to find her young patient flushed and
distressed, with Seabrooke standing over him in rather a threatening
"I won't," repeated Charlie, "but it wasn't Percy."
"Hi! what's the matter? what is this?" demanded Mrs. Moffat. "If
Master Henderson's been breaking any rules, you'll please not nag him
about it now, Mr. Seabrooke. You'll have him all worried into another
headache, and he is not fairly over this one yet, and he'll not be
fit for his journey home."
Seabrooke paid no more attention to her than if she had not spoken.
"Do you hear me, Henderson?" he asked. "I _will_ know."
"I won't--" began Charlie again; but Mrs. Moffat interposed once
"Mr. Seabrooke," she said, actually pushing herself between the two
boys, the tray with the coffee in her hand, "Mr. Seabrooke, Master
Henderson is under my care so long as he is in here, and I will not
have him worried in this way. Let him alone if you please."
Seabrooke was blind and deaf to all her interference.
"I will know," he repeated. "I will bring the doctor here if you do
not tell. Who was it?"
Charlie's eyes turned involuntarily towards the corner of the room
occupied by Lewis Flagg's bed and other belongings, and Seabrooke
caught the look. Quick-sighted and quick-witted, he drew his own
inferences and attacked the boy from another quarter.
"It was Flagg, then," he persisted.
The color flashed up over Charlie's pale face, but he only answered
"I tell you to let me alone. You're real mean, Seabrooke."
"So he is," said Mrs. Moffat, "and I wish the doctor would come. We'd
see if he'd have this sick boy put about this way, Mr. Seabrooke. I
tell you I have the care of him now, and I'll not have him plagued
But Seabrooke was gone before she was half through with this speech,
and poor Charlie was left to take his coffee in such peace as he
might with the dread hanging over him of being reported as a
tell-tale. Mrs. Moffat's sympathy and her almost abuse of Seabrooke
did him little good; he was very sensitive to praise or blame, and
could not bear the thought of incurring the ill-will of any one of
Quiet and self-contained and little given to impulse as he was,
Seabrooke, when roused to anger or resentment, was a very lion in his
wrath, and there was one thing which he could never tolerate or
overlook, and that was any attempt to take an unfair advantage of
him. He had been exasperated to a great degree by Flagg's endeavor to
drug him on the night of the expedition to Rice's, and that with good
reason; and now his suspicions, nay, more than suspicions aroused
that he was trying to make it appear that he, Seabrooke, had
wrongfully kept Percy's money and then pretended that the latter had
taken it from him by stealth, enraged him beyond bounds.
Striding in among the group of boys who were still discussing the
very question of the disappearance of the money which had been the
main topic of interest ever since the loss was discovered, the
bank-note in his hand, he advanced directly to Flagg, who was taking
an active part in the conversation--that is, he had been doing so
within the last few moments, since he had returned after a short
absence from the school-room, looking, as more than one of the boys
observed, "flushed and rather flurried."
Indeed one boy had remarked:
"You seem to be short of breath, Flaggy; you're purring like a
steam-engine. What ails you?"
"Can't a fellow take a run around the house without anything being
the matter with him?" asked Lewis, sharply, but with a little nervous
trepidation in his tone and manner; but the subject was now dropped,
and he had more than recovered his composure and was taking an
apparently interested part in the renewed discussion over Percy's
loss, when the enraged Seabrooke entered the room.
"You scoundrel!" he ejaculated between his set teeth, and with his
eyes actually blazing, "you stole this, did you?"--flourishing the
note before the now terrified Lewis, who, taken thus by surprise, had
no time to collect his wits and assume an appearance of unconcern and
innocence. "You stole this, and to make it appear that I was the
thief--the thief!--you put it in my trunk. Don't deny it," as Lewis
endeavored to speak, "don't dare to deny it.--You were _seen_ to
No other thought entered the head of the terrified Lewis than that
Seabrooke himself had seen him at his shameful work, and that he had
chosen to confront and convict him with it here in the presence of
the rest of the school. He would have denied it could he have found
words in which to do it, had he had time to frame a denial, but he
was so entirely off his guard, so confounded by Seabrooke's sudden
accusation and this evidence of the dastardly deed he had performed
that he was utterly overwhelmed, and stood speechless, and the
picture of detected guilt.
The doctor happened to be in one of the adjoining recitation rooms in
conference with some of the other teachers over this very matter, and
the raised tones--so very unusual--of Seabrooke's angry voice
arrested his attention and called him into the main schoolroom.
To him Seabrooke, without waiting to be questioned, made known his
complaint, and again displayed the note in proof thereof, accusing
Lewis Flagg of stealing it and then placing it in his trunk for the
purpose of criminating him, hoping that it might be found there
before school broke up.
In this he did Flagg some partial injustice. Lewis had searched for
and taken the money with the object of playing an annoying trick upon
Seabrooke and Percy, but proposing, after giving both "a good
fright," to put it back where he had found it, or in some other place
in Seabrooke's alcove where he might be supposed to have mislaid it.
But once in his possession, the note excited his cupidity and a
strong desire to keep it. If it were but his, he could easily clear
off sundry debts which he had contracted, especially the remainder of
that to Rice, which he had only partially satisfied. On his return to
school after the Easter holidays it might well appear that he had an
unusual amount of funds; a boy's relations were apt to be generous
at such times, and no one need ever know the extent of his riches.
So reasoned this unprincipled boy, and he had actually made up his
mind to make no attempt to restore the money to a place where it
might be found, but to retain it for himself, when the doctor's
address and a dread that his crime might after all be detected,
decided him to return to his first intentions.
There was little time to be lost now. Seizing the first opportunity
of slipping away from his schoolmates, he rushed upstairs to the
dormitory with the design of throwing the note under Seabrooke's bed
or bureau, where it might be supposed to have fallen; but seeing the
trunk standing there ready packed, the impulse had taken him to put
it in that, and without reflecting--perhaps hardly caring--that this
would place Seabrooke in a still more embarrassing position, he
thrust the note within, as Charlie Henderson saw, and fled from the
room. He was rid of it in any event, and he cared little what the
consequences might be to any one else, especially Seabrooke.
And now he was confronted with the evidence of his misdeeds, and even
when he began to recover himself a little, knew not what to say, what
excuse to make. And here was Dr. Leacraft awaiting his answer to
Seabrooke's accusations, and regarding him with stern and questioning
The doctor was a just man, however, and would condemn no culprit
unheard, and he had no proof that Lewis Flagg was the culprit in the
present case, other than Seabrooke's asseverations and the boy's own
guilty appearance. As the latter stood hesitating for words which
would not plunge him deeper, Dr. Leacraft turned to Seabrooke.
"_Who_ saw Flagg do this thing?" he questioned. "Did you,
"No, sir," answered Seabrooke, who was becoming more calm; "I did not
see him myself, but he was seen to do it."
"By whom?" persisted the doctor.
Seabrooke hesitated. He was beginning to realize that he was placing
Charlie Henderson in rather an unpleasant position: that young
involuntary detective might be scouted at by the boys for the part he
had taken in bringing Flagg to justice, for "telling." He knew that
there were those among the older scholars who would make the child's
school-life a misery to him if they heard that he had informed, and
he would not betray him to them.
"Could I see you a moment alone, sir?" he asked the doctor.
Dr. Leacraft assented, and retired with Seabrooke to one of the
adjoining class-rooms, bidding every boy remain where he was till
Alone with the doctor, Seabrooke told his story and besought him not
to let it be known that Charlie had been the unsuspected observer of
"The boy is as honest as the day, doctor," said Seabrooke.
"I know it; above suspicion. A most honest and loyal little fellow,"
said the doctor. "His secret shall be kept, if possible."
Then he went up to see Charlie, and received from him the fullest
confirmation of all that Seabrooke had told; and he assured the boy
that his knowledge of the transaction should not be betrayed to the
Charlie himself had taken such precautions against "being found out"
as he was able to do; he would not even drink his coffee until he had
persuaded Mrs. Moffat to let him go to his own dormitory, lest any of
the "big fellows" should find him in their quarters. He told Mrs.
Moffat enough to let her understand that he had unwittingly seen
something he was not intended to see, and she, knowing enough of boys
in general and of that senior class in particular, to be sure that
Charlie would not go scot free, if the truth were known, hastened to
comply with his request. Charlie had faith enough in Seabrooke to
believe that he would not betray him if it were possible not to do
so, and as no boy save he and Flagg had been into the dormitory, he
hoped that it would not be discovered that he had been there.
And it was so; when the boys came up to make the final preparations
for leaving, Charlie was in his own room, all tokens of his presence
in that of the senior class removed by Mrs. Moffat's willing hands,
and no one suspected that the boy had slept off his headache in any
other than his usual place.
During the doctor's absence, and when he had time to collect his
thoughts a little, Lewis had made up his mind as to the course he
would pursue. He was in a bad position, there was no doubt of that;
but he resolved to brave it out and to treat the whole affair as a
huge joke. He might be punished; there was little doubt but that he
would be, and probably his misconduct would be reported at home, but
he would make the best he could out of a bad business. As he did not
know who it was that had seen him in the dormitory, he did not dare
to deny having been there; his suspicions turned toward Mrs. Moffat,
and as she was an old and trusted member of the household, he knew
very well that her word would be taken at any time against his own,
which had not too much credit with either teacher or scholars.
He broke forth into a hoarse, forced laugh, looking around him with
defiance and an assured contempt upon the circle of his schoolmates,
who were, one and all, regarding him with suspicion and unconcealed
scorn. The most careless and reckless among them were shocked at the
enormity of the offence with which he stood charged, a theft of such
magnitude, and then the scoundrelly attempt to make it appear that
another had been guilty of it.
"What a row about a small matter!" he exclaimed. "The whole thing was
a joke; but I never thought it would be so successful as this,
putting the whole school in a fever. See here; I did take that
bank-note, of course. I wanted to see Seabrooke and Neville in a war
over it, and then I was going to put it in some place here it would
be found. I was going to throw it under Seabrooke's bed or somewhere;
but I saw his trunk standing there, and the chance was too good to be
lost. I knew he would find it there, and send it to Percy as soon as
he reached home. If it hadn't been for old Moffat it would all have
Utter silence met this tissue of impudence, defiance, truth and
falsehood, and he saw plainly enough that he was believed to have
committed the theft of Percy's money for theft itself, pure and
simple, and that fear of detection only had induced him to make the
effort at restoration.
"I say, Neville," he continued, "you know I did not mean to keep the
money, don't you?"
But Percy only turned contemptuously away without any reply in words.
None were needed. Lewis was answered.
"I'm going to do my best not to be sent back here," said Lewis,
striving to continue his bravado, although his heart was sinking as
he began to realize more and more in what a predicament he had placed
himself. "Such a set of muffs, teachers and scholars, I never met. No
one can take a joke, or even see it."
"I think it likely your efforts will be crowned with success," said
Raymond Stewart, himself a boy of not too much principle, but who, in
common with the rest of the school, had been inexpressibly shocked
and revolted by Lewis' conduct.
"You are dismissed," said Mr. Merton, appearing at the door. "Lewis
Flagg, you are to go to the doctor in his study."
What sentence was meted out to Lewis in that interview with the
doctor the boys did not know until their return to school after the
holidays, when he did not appear among them, and they were told on
inquiry that he would not do so.
He endeavored to brazen it out with Dr. Leacraft as he had with the
boys, insisting that the whole affair, the abstraction of the money
and the placing it in Seabrooke's trunk, was "only a joke;" but the
doctor altogether refused to look upon it in any other light than
that of an unmitigated theft and an atrocious attempt to fasten it
upon another when he feared detection for himself.
No protestations to the contrary served Lewis' turn, and from this
day forth his evil influence was happily lost to the school.
And this was the story which Percy had to pour into the ears of his
innocent young sister on his return home.
On the first opportunity which presented itself the morning after his
arrival at his uncle's he told her all, extenuating nothing of his
own misconduct and weakness in the beginning, and acknowledging that
he had almost wilfully suffered himself to be led into disobedience
and wrong, and richly deserved all the shame and trouble which had
fallen upon him.
Lena was inexpressibly shocked by the account of this last wickedness
of Flagg's, for she, in common with Dr. Leacraft and every one else
who heard the tale, gave him credit only for the deliberate theft of
Percy's money and then of the effort to throw it upon Seabrooke,
either as an act of revenge or else because he feared that it would
be found in his possession.
He returned to her the hundred-dollar note which had such a story
attached to it, and in his turn had to hear from Lena her belief that
the second sum sent for his relief had come from Hannah, and that the
old nurse had sacrificed the gold which she had destined for her own
glorification to his rescue from his predicament.
She reproached him for having appealed to Hannah, a servant in his
father's house, for aid; and in her turn had to hear his reproaches
for believing that he would condescend to such a thing, and received
an emphatic and solemn denial that he had been guilty of this, or
that he had ever let Hannah know of the straits he was in. He had
never, he asseverated, spoken or written to any one concerning this,
save herself; if he had done so it would have been to his indulgent
uncle, Colonel Rush, to whom he would have applied.
How then had Hannah become possessed of his secret, was the question
which the brother and sister now asked of each other and of
themselves. Here was a mystery, indeed; for that it had been Hannah
who sent that second hundred dollars could not be doubted after Miss
Trevor's revelations. And why should she have sent the money unless
she had known that Percy was in sore need?
"Did you tell Hannah anything about it?" he asked.
"No!" answered Lena, indignantly. "How could I tell her such a thing?
And you know how you told me I must never, never tell."
"And you did not show her my letter?" asked the puzzled Percy, who
was by no means pleased, as may be imagined, by the knowledge that
one other, at least, must share the secret.
"No," repeated Lena, still more vexed that he should suppose her to
be capable of such an evasion, which to her sense of uprightness
would have been as bad as speaking a falsehood by word of mouth; "no,
of course I did not, that would have been telling her, would it not?
One can _do_ a falsehood as well as tell it," and although she
had intended no reflection upon her brother, no thrust at him, Percy
was ashamed as he remembered how often, during the last few months,
he had done this very thing; how he had shuffled and evaded, and
thought it no great harm as long as he did not put his falsehood into
"Well, no one knows how thankful I am to you, Lena, dear," he said.
"What can I ever do for you?"
"Tell Uncle Horace. I wish, oh, I do _wish_ you would tell him,"
said his sister.
"Tell Uncle Horace; no, never!" exclaimed Percy. "I couldn't. Think
of that look in his eyes when he hears of anything he thinks shabby
or--well--dishonorable. He'd be ready to put me out of his house if
he heard about that letter, even though we didn't know what was in
it. I couldn't, Lena; I couldn't."
"I think it would be better for you," said his sister, "for Aunt May
knew about Hannah and Miss Trevor, and she is sure to have told him.
They have said nothing about it to me; but I know Uncle Horace will
ask you, and then you must confess. It will be best to tell him
without waiting till you must; he will not think so badly of you."
But Percy could not be persuaded to do this; he lacked the moral
courage to follow his sister's advice and to confess all to his uncle
before he should be obliged to do so, hoping that after all she might
be mistaken and that he should still escape that humiliation. Since
Colonel Rush had not spoken at once upon the subject, Percy believed
that he would not do so at all, either because he had no knowledge
of these money transactions or because he thought the matter of no
"Why should Uncle Horace worry himself about Hannah's money?" he said
to his sister. "She is nothing to him, and what she chooses to do
with it is no business of his. She is not his servant."
"No," said the sensible and more far-sighted Lena; "but she is in his
house. And you are his nephew and under his care, and he must think
it strange that a servant would send you so much money and in such a
secret way, and he must know that something is wrong; he must suspect
that you are in some very bad scrape."
But Percy was still immovable. Easily swayed as he was in general, he
was not to be influenced in the only right direction now, and all
Lena's arguments were thrown away.
"But I say, Lena," he said, with a sudden change of subject and with
his usual, easy-going facility for putting aside for the time being
anything which troubled him, "I say, isn't it queer that the girl you
are all trying to win this prize for should be the sister of
Seabrooke? How things do come around, to be sure. I can tell you he's
as uppish as the Grand Panjandrum himself about it, too; says his
sister is not an object of charity, and her father and brother are
able to look after her."
"Oh, did you tell him? How could you, Percy?" exclaimed Lena. "And
now he'll tell her, and we meant it to be a surprise to her if any
one gained it for her. What will the girls say, Maggie and Bessie,
and the others who are trying for her!"
"I let it out without intending to," said Percy. "I was so taken by
surprise myself when Seabrooke told me what he intended to do with
that money, that I just let it out without thinking. But afterwards I
told him it was a secret, and he said he wouldn't say anything about
it. But he was awfully high and mighty, I can tell you. You won't
make the thing go down with him. But who is likely to win it,--you
won't, of course, whatever your chances may have been in the
beginning--any one of your chums? Maggie Bradford or Bessie, or
"I don't know," answered Lena. "Maggie would, of course, if it were
for the best composition written by the class; but it is not for
that, you know, but for the greatest general improvement in
composition. But so many of the girls are interested about Gladys
Seabrooke that I think almost any of our class would give it to her.
But it somehow seems as if Maggie or Bessie _ought_ to have the
pleasure because we are the ones who found her out. The girls are all
going to Miss Ashton's on Saturday morning, when they will be told;
and if any one gains the prize who will give it to Gladys Seabrooke,
it will be sent to her as an Easter present."
A damper had been thrown upon Lena's satisfaction in the belief that
Gladys Seabrooke would probably be the recipient of the gift of Mr.
Ashton's trust, by the assurance of her brother Percy that Seabrooke
would be high and mighty and oppose the acceptance of it. She did not
reflect that, having a father and mother, it was not at all likely
that her brother's fiat would decide the matter for Gladys either
one way or the other.
Her first thought and wish was to confide this doubt to Maggie and
Bessie when she should next see them; but she presently felt that she
could not well do this without in some measure, at least, betraying
the heedless Percy. She did not dare to speak of his connection with
Seabrooke, lest she should draw suspicion upon him after her
confidences to Bessie. So she must needs keep this little fretting
worry to herself, too.
There was the question about Hannah, also: how the money was to be
returned to her, in the uncertainty as to how much she knew, and how
she had acquired any knowledge of Percy's predicament; for that she
knew something of it Lena was convinced; and yet the child was
equally sure that that letter had never been out of her own keeping.
Percy had at once put into her hand the hundred-dollar note, telling
her that she must find means of conveying it to the old nurse. Oh,
what a puzzle and a tangle it all was!
Poor little Lena! Truly she was having a hard time with all the
perplexities and anxieties which Percy's worse than folly had brought
But one source of worry, in fact two, were to be lifted before long.
Colonel Rush, having waited for what he considered a sufficient
length of time for Percy to make a confession had he been disposed to
do so, resolved to bring him to it whether he would or no. That Percy
had been in some serious difficulty, that he was in some way heavily
involved, was very evident; likewise that Hannah knew of this and had
sacrificed her much prized savings to rescue him.
At present he--the colonel--stood in the relation of parent to Percy
and master to Hannah; he therefore felt that it was both his right
and his duty to make inquiries and put matters straight, so far as he
On Saturday morning, therefore, he called the boy into his library
and asked him if there were anything which he would like to tell him,
and receive his counsel and perhaps help. He made no accusation; did
not tell Percy that he knew he had been involved in some trouble
which had brought about the necessity--real or fancied--for him to
free himself by the payment of this--for a boy--large sum. He put his
question and offer kindly and freely, but in a way which showed his
nephew he was not to be trifled with.
And, indeed, his uncle was the last man in the world with whom Percy
would have chosen to trifle. Not his father, not Dr. Leacraft, had
half the influence over him that this hero-uncle had, the brave,
distinguished soldier whose very name was a synonym for all that was
honorable and daring. There was no one in the world whose good
opinion could have influenced him so much; no one whose scorn and
disapprobation he so dreaded, or from whose reproof he would have
shrunk. He had shown this when he had pleaded with Lena not to betray
him to their uncle, of all people. He would really rather have borne
some severe punishment at the hands of his parents or teacher than he
would one contemptuous word or look from him who was regarded by all
his young relations and friends as a chevalier _sans peur et sans
reproche_. No prevarication, no shuffling would do here; if he
said anything, if he answered at all, it must be the truth and
nothing but the truth.
He hesitated for a moment, not from any intention of refusing to give
his uncle his confidence, or denying that he had been in trouble, but
from a desire to frame his confession in the best manner possible;
but nothing came to his aid other than the plain, unvarnished truth;
nothing else, he felt, would serve his turn here with that steady,
searching eye upon him; and in a moment he had taken his resolve, and
the whole shameful tale was poured into Colonel Rush's ears.
Bad as it was, it was not as bad as Colonel Rush had feared.
Rebellion against lawful authority, rank disobedience and deception
were to be laid at Percy's door, not to speak of the pitiable
weakness which had suffered him to be led into this wrong, and the
enormity of his at least passive acquiescence when Flagg had stolen
Seabrooke's letter; still worse his own destruction of it, almost
involuntary though it was. What he had apprehended the colonel would
hardly have confessed even to himself; but the truth was that he had
suspected Percy of nothing less than the appropriation of some sum
which he was compelled to replace or to face open disgrace.
And yet Colonel Rush was not a suspicious man or one ready to believe
evil of others, but circumstances had looked very dark for Percy, and
there had seemed but one interpretation to place upon them.
And now, by Percy's confession, one part of the mystery was solved;
but there still remained that of Hannah's presumed knowledge that he
was in trouble and had been in sore need of money. Assuredly, Hannah,
devoted as she was to the interests of her nurslings, especially
Percy, would never have thought of making this sacrifice had she not
felt that there was some pressing necessity; but how in the world had
the old nurse acquired this knowledge. The nephew was as much puzzled
as the uncle, and denied, with an indignation which seemed rather out
of place in the light of past occurrences, any imputation that he had
asked her to assist him.
But now, Percy inquired, could the colonel have the hundred-dollar
note exchanged for gold so that it might be restored to faithful
Hannah in the form in which she had always kept it. It was easy
enough to do this, the colonel said; but the trouble would be to make
Hannah confess that she had sent it, still more so why she had sent
it. Colonel Rush would not say so to the children, seeing that no
such idea had occurred to them, but it was his own opinion that
Hannah had in some way obtained unlawful possession of Percy's letter
to Lena, had mastered its contents, and then taken steps for his
relief which she believed could not be discovered.
Of the kindly advice and admonition given to Percy by his uncle there
is no need to speak further; but it resulted in making Percy feel
that he would do anything rather than again run the risk of
forfeiting the good opinion which he now valued more than ever.
Meanwhile, during the time that Percy was closeted with his uncle in
the library, that portion of the members of the "Cheeryble Sisters'
Club" which constituted the choice band of "Inseparables," namely
Maggie and Bessie Bradford, Belle Powers, Lily Norris, and Fanny
Leroy, having joined forces on their way to Miss Ashton's, had called
in to see Lena. This had been done at the suggestion of the ever
considerate Maggie, who, although naturally heedless about the little
everyday business of life, never forgot to do "nice things" for
others. When she was much younger, extreme carelessness had been her
besetting fault, and, as is the manner of this "little fox," had
created much trouble for herself and for others; but having become
convinced that it was her duty to cure herself of this, she had set
to work to do it in such earnest that that which had been a burden
and a care to her was fast becoming a settled habit, and it was but
seldom now that any act or word of heedlessness could be laid to her
charge, while her ever obliging disposition and loving heart prompted
many a deed of kindness which she never failed to carry out if it
were in her power to do so.
"But we have to stop as we come back, to tell her that you have the
prize," said Bessie.
"We will stop again and tell her who has gained it as we come back,"
answered Maggie. "But I think she will like it if we stop now, so
that she will know we are thinking about her and are so sorry that
she cannot be with us. But, Bessie, I think you are quite mistaken in
believing so surely that I will have the prize. I know quite well
that there are two or three who have improved in composition more
than I have."
Bessie made no reply in words, but shook her head as if unconvinced.
With Lena Neville and Gracie Howard out of the lists, she found it
quite impossible to believe that any one but her own Maggie could be
the successful competitor.
But all agreed that it would be well to call in and see Lena for a
moment and let her be sure that she was not forgotten.
"And," said Maggie, "there is the doctor's carriage at the door. We
will wait till he comes downstairs and ask him how soon Lena will be
able to go about and have a little excitement, so that we can arrange
about the fair. It is just a good chance for us. Then we will tell
Lena what he says if he is encouraging."
Maggie and Bessie were almost as much at home in Colonel Rush's house
as they were in their own, and had they chosen to go in and out
twenty times a day, they would always have been welcome; and the
young friends who accompanied them were about as much at their ease,
although not one among the quintette would ever have been obtrusive
The doctor, who knew each one of them, being, as it happened, family
physician to their respective households, was just about taking leave
and was standing in the hall talking to Mrs. Rush.
"Hallo!" he said, his kindly face beaming upon the smiling flock who
trooped in when Starr opened the door for them. "Hallo! what a bevy
of birdlings! But how comes it that you are not at Miss Ashton's? I
have just left my Laura there, and she is in a state of frantic
expectation over this composition prize the finest authoress among
you is to gain this morning. Are none of you interested?"
"Oh, yes, sir, all of us," answered Lily Norris, always ready to be
spokeswoman; "we are going to Miss Ashton's in a few moments. But we
are not to be there until twelve o'clock, and it is not that yet. And
if the finest authoress is to have the prize, it will be Maggie's."
"So Laura seems to think," said Dr. Middleton, and shy Maggie, not
caring to put forth in his presence any further disclaimer to the
still undecided honors which her sister and friends seemed determined
to put upon her head, smiled doubtfully.
"Doctor," she said, "would you mind telling me how soon you think
Lena will be able to bear a little excitement?"
The doctor looked grave.
"My child," he said, "I fear Lena is under more excitement now than
is good for her." Then turning to Mrs. Rush, he added, "There is
little use in expecting her to make rapid progress while she is
fretting herself, as she is evidently doing, over some real or
imaginary evil. Do you think it possible," an idea occurring to him,
"that she is troubled about losing the chance to win this prize?"
"I scarcely think so," said Mrs. Rush. "She was even more than
anxious for it at one time; but the principal object for which she
wanted it is gained now, and she is not the child to fret herself
over a disappointed ambition."
"Well," said the doctor, "find out the trouble if you can. You cure
the mental ill and I will answer for the physical. But what is this
excitement you are speaking of, Maggie?"
"We are going to have a fair, Doctor," answered Maggie. "We wanted to
have it at Easter, but put it off because Lena is so lame and not
strong enough, and we would like to know how soon she will be well
The doctor thought a moment.
"Perhaps," he said, presently, "if she were interested in this fair
it might do her good and take her mind from whatever is troubling
her. Try it, Maggie; set the time for your fair at no distant date,
and see what it will do for her. Good-morning, Mrs. Rush. Good-by, my
Cheerybles." And the busy physician departed on his rounds.
"I believe it is the prize," said Lily, as the whole flock, bidden to
do so by Mrs. Rush, mounted the stairs to Lena's room. "I know that
Lena was perfectly crazy to have that prize so she could spite her
father and mother--and I would be, too, if I were she--and I am sure
she feels very badly about it."
"Why, Lily!" said Maggie.
"Well," said Lily, "I'm sure it's perfectly natural if she
does--_such_ a father and mother--specially mother. She's the
kind that always think they're right, and she turned up her nose at
Miss Ashton, and then she had to find out what a splendid teacher she
is, and Lena improved so much in composition and everything else
before she was burned that I expect she could have taken the prize
even before Maggie. She just wanted her mother to _know_ that
she couldn't do a better thing than to leave her with Miss Ashton to
the end of her days. And if you mean, Maggie, that I am not
respectful in my speaking of Mrs. Neville, I know I am not, and I
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