The Stokesley Secret by Charlotte M. Yonge
Saturday's post brought a letter, and a comfortable one. All Thursday Mrs. Merrifield had been in so doubtful a state, that her husband could not bear to write, lest he should fill the children with false hopes, or alarm them still more; but she had had a good night, was stronger on Friday, and when the post went out, the doctors had just ventured to say they believed she would recover favourably. The letter was finished off in a great hurry; but Captain Merrifield did not forget to thank his little Susan warmly for her poor scrambling letter, and say he knew all she meant by it, bidding her give Miss Fosbrook his hearty thanks for forwarding it, and for telling him the children were all behaving well, and feeling properly. His love to them all; they must try to deserve the great mercy that had been granted to them.
To the children, this was almost as good as saying that their mother was well again; but there was too much awe about them for their joy to show itself noisily. Susan ran away to her own room, and Bessie followed her; and Sam said no word, only Miss Fosbrook remarked that he did not eat two mouthfuls of breakfast. She would not take any notice; she knew his heart was full; and when she looked round on that little flock, and thought of the grievous sorrow scarcely yet averted from them, she could hardly keep the tears from blinding her. They were all somewhat still and grave, and it was too happy a morning to be broken into by the reproofs that Henry deserved, even more richly than Christabel knew. She had almost forgotten his bad behaviour; and when she remembered something of it, she could not but hope that silence, on such a day as this, might bring it home to him more than rebuke. Yet when breakfast was ever, he was among the loudest of those who, shaking off the strange, awed gravity of deep gladness, went rushing together into the garden, feeling that they might give way to their spirits again.
Sam shouted and whooped as if he were casting off a burthen, and picking little George up in his arms, tossed him and swung him round in the air in an ecstasy; while John and Annie and David went down on the grass together, and tumbled and rolled one over the other like three kittens, their legs and arms kicking about, so that it was hard to tell whose property were the black shoes that came wriggling into view.
Susan was quieter. She told Nurse the good news, and then laid hold upon Baby, and carried her off into the passage to hug all to herself. She could tell no one but Baby how very happy she was, and how her heart had trembled at her mother's suffering, her father's grief, and at the desolateness that had so nearly come on them. Oh, she was very happy, very thankful; but she could not scream it out like the others, Baby must have it all in kisses.
"Christabel," said a little voice, when all the others were gone, "I shall never be pipy again."
"You must try to fight against it, my dear."
"Because," said Elizabeth, coming close up to her, "when dear Mamma was so ill, it did seem so silly to mind about not having pretty things like Ida, and the boys plaguing, and so on."
"Yes, my dear; a real trouble makes us ashamed of our little discontents."
"I said so many times yesterday, and the day before, that I would never mind things again, if only Mamma would get well and come home," said the little girl; "and I never shall."
"You will not always find it easy not to mind," said Christabel; "but if you try hard, you will learn how to keep from showing that you mind."
"Oh!" said Elizabeth, (and a great mouthful of an oh! it was,) "those things are grown so silly and little now."
"You have seen them in their true light for once, my dear. And now that you have so great cause of thankfulness to God, you feel that your foolish frets and discontents were unthankful."
"Yes," said Bessie, her eyes cast down, as they always were when anything of this kind was said to her, as if she did not like to meet the look fixed on her.
"Well then, Bessie, try to make the giving up of these murmurs your thank-offering to God. Suppose every day when you say your prayers, you were to add something like this--" and she wrote down on a little bit of paper, "O Thou, who hast raised up my mother from her sickness, teach me to be a thankful and contented child, and to guard my words and thoughts from peevishness."
"Isn't it too small to pray about?" said Elizabeth.
"Nothing is too small to pray about, my dear. Do you think this little midge is too small for God to have made it, and given it life, and spread that mother-of-pearl light on its wings? Do you think yourself too small to pray? or your fault too small to pray about?"
Elizabeth cast down her eyes. She did not quite think it was a fault, but she did not say so.
"Bessie, what was the great sin of the Israelites in the wilderness?"
The colour on her cheek showed that she knew.
"They tempted God by murmurs," said Christabel. "They tried His patience by grumbling, when His care and blessings were all round them, and by crying out because all was not just as they liked. Now, dear Bessie, God has shown you what a real sorrow might be; will it not be tempting Him to go back to complaints over what He has ordained for you?"
"I shall net complain now; I shall not care," said Elizabeth. But she took the little bit of paper, and Christabel trusted that she would make use of it, knowing that in this lay her hope of cure; for whatever she might think in this first joy of relief, her little troubles were sure to seem quite as unbearable while they were upon her as if she had never feared a great one.
However, nothing remarkable happened; everyone was bright and happy; but still the influence of their past alarm subdued them enough to make them quiet and well-behaved, both on Saturday and Sunday; and Miss Fosbrook had never had so little trouble with them.
In consideration of this, and of the agitation and unsettled state that had put the last week out of all common rules, she announced on Monday morning that she would excuse all the fines, and that all the children should have their allowance unbroken. Maybe she was moved to this by the suspicion that these four sixpences and three threepennies would make up the fund to the price of a "reasonable pig;" and she thought it time that David's perseverance should be rewarded, and room made in his mind for something beyond swine and halfpence.
Her announcement was greeted by the girls with eager thanks, by the boys with a tremendous "Three times three for Miss Fosbrook!" and Bessie was so joyous, that instead of crying out against the noise, she joined in with Susan and Annie; but they made such a ridiculous little squeaking, that Sam laughed at them, and took to mocking their queer thin hurrahs. Yet even this Elizabeth could bear!
David was meanwhile standing by the locker, his fingers at work as if he were playing a tune, his lips counting away, "Ninety-two, ninety- three, ninety-four--that's me; ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven- -that's Jack," and so on; till having plodded up diligently, he turned round with a little scream, "One hundred and twenty! That's the pig!"
"What?" cried Annie.
"One hundred and twenty pence. Sukey said one hundred and twenty pence were ten shillings. That will do it! That's the pig! Oh, we've done it! May I take it to Purday?"
"It was to be let alone till fair-day, you little bother!" said Hal.
"No, no, no," cried many voices; "only till we had enough."
"And I am sure nobody knows if we have," added Hal hotly. "A lot of halfpence, indeed!"
"But I know, Hal," insisted David. "There are eighty-nine pence and one farthing in Toby Fillpot, and this makes one hundred and twenty- two pence and one farthing."
"You'd no business to peep," said Sam.
"I didn't peep," said David indignantly. "There were forty-eight pence at first, and then Susie had three, that was fifty-one--" And he would have gone on like a little calculating machine, with the entire reckoning in his head, if the others had had patience to hear; but Annie and Johnnie were urgent to have the sum counted out before their eyes. Hal roughly declared it was against the rules, and little inquisitives must not have their way. But others were also inquisitive; and Sam said it would be best to know how much they had, that Purday might be told to look out for a pig at the price; besides, he wanted to have it over; it was such a bore not to have any money.
"It's not fair!" cried Henry passionately. "You don't keep the rules! You sha'n't have my sixpence, I can tell you; and I won't--I won't stay and see it."
"Nobody wants you," said Sam.
"I didn't know there were any rules," said the girls; but Hal was already off.
"Hal has only put in fivepence-halfpenny," said David, "so no wonder he is ashamed. Such a big boy, with sixpence a week! But if he won't let us have his sixpence now--"
"Never mind, we will make it up next week," said Susan.
"Now, then, who will take Toby down?" said Miss Fosbrook, unbuttoning one glass door, and undoing the two bolts of the second, behind which the cup of money stood.
"Susie ought, because she is the eldest."
"Davie ought, because he is the youngest."
David stood on a chair to take Toby off his shelf. Solemn was the face with which the little boy lifted the mug by the handle, putting his other hand to steady the expected weight of coppers; but there was at once a frown, a little cry of horror. Toby came up so light in his hand, that all his great effort was thrown away, and only made him stagger back in dismay, falling backward from the chair, and poor Toby crashing to pieces on the floor as he fell, while out rolled-- one solitary farthing
Nobody spoke for some moments; but all stood perfectly still, staring as hard as if they hoped the pence would be brought out by force of looking for them.
Then David's knuckles went up into his eyes, and he burst forth in a loud bellow. It was the first time Miss Fosbrook had heard him cry, and she feared that he had been hurt by the fall, or cut by the broken crockery; but he struck out with foot and fist, as if his tears were as much anger as grief, and roared out, "I want the halfpence for my pig."
"Sam, Sam," cried Susan, "if you have hid them for a trick, let him have them."
"I--I play tricks now?" exclaimed Sam in indignation. "No, indeed!"
"Then perhaps Hal has," said Elizabeth.
"For shame, Bessie!" cried Sam.
"I only know," said Elizabeth, half in self-defence, half in fright, "that one of you must have been at the baby-house, for I found the doors open, and shut them up."
"And why should it be one of us?" demanded Sam; while David stopped crying, and listened.
"Because none of the younger ones can reach to undo the doors," said Elizabeth. "It was as much as I could do to reach the upper bolt, though I stood upon a chair."
This was evident; for the baby-house was really an old-fashioned bureau, and below the glass doors there was a projecting slope of polished walnut, upon which only a fly could stand, and which was always locked. No one whose years were less than half a score was tall enough to get a good hold of the button, even from the highest chair, far less to jerk down the rather stiff upper bolt.
"It cannot have been a little one, certainly," said Miss Fosbrook; "but you should not be so ready to accuse your brothers, Bessie."
David, however, had laid hold of a hope, and getting up from the floor, hastened out of the room, followed by John; and they were presently heard shouting "Hal!" all over the house.
"What day was it that you found the door open, Bessie?" asked Miss Fosbrook.
"It was just after dinner," said Elizabeth, recollecting herself.
"It was on Friday. Yes, I remember it was Friday, because I went into the school-room to get my pencil, and I was afraid Hal would jump out upon me, and looked in first to see whether he was going to be tiresome; but he was gone."
"Yes," said Susan; "it was the day we found poor Jack stuck up on the gate, when he and Hal were in disgrace. Oh, he never would have played tricks then."
"Did you go up before me, Bessie?" asked Miss Fosbrook; "for I went up directly after dinner to speak to Henry."
"Yes, I did," said she. "I thought if you got in first, you would be scolding him ever so long, and would let nobody in, so I would get my pencil first; and I slipped up before you had left the table."
Just then the two boys were heard stumping up the stairs, and ran in, panting with haste and excitement, David with a fiery red ear.
"No, no; Hal didn't hide it!"
"But he boxed Davie's ear for thinking he did," added John; "and said he'd do the same for spiteful Bet!"
"Then he never played tricks," said Susan.
"I told you not," said Sam.
"No," reiterated David; "and he said I'd no business to ask; and if Bet went prying about everywhere, I'd better ask her. Have you got it, Betty?"
"I!" cried Elizabeth. "How can you, Davie?"
"You have got a secret," exclaimed David; "and you always were cross about Hannah Higgins's pig. You have got it to tease me! Miss Fosbrook, make her give it back."
"Nonsense, David," said Miss Fosbrook; "Bessie is quite to be trusted; and it is wrong to make unfounded accusations."
"Never mind, Betty," added Sam kindly; "if Davie wasn't a little donkey, he wouldn't say such things."
"Where is Henry?" asked the governess. "Why did he not come himself? Call him; I want to know if he observed this door being open."
"He is gone down to Mr. Carey's," said John.
"And it is high time you were there too, Sam," said Miss Fosbrook, starting. "If you are late, beg Mr. Carey's pardon from me, and tell him that I kept you."
Sam was obliged to run off at full speed; and the other children stood about, still aghast and excited. Miss Fosbrook, however, told them to take out their books. She would not do anything more till she had had time to think, and had composed their minds and her own; for she was exceedingly shocked, and felt herself partly in fault, for having left the hoard in an unlocked cupboard. She feared to do anything hastily, lest she should bring suspicion on the innocent; and she thought all would do better if time were given for settling down. All were disappointed at thus losing the excitement, fancying perhaps that instant search and inquiry would hunt up the money; and David put himself quite into a sullen fit. No, he would not turn round, nor read, nor do anything, unless Miss Fosbrook would make stingy Bet give up the pence.
Miss Fosbrook and Susan both tried to argue with him; but he had set his mind upon one point so vehemently, that it was making him absolutely stupid to everything else; and he was such a little boy (only five years old), that his mind could hardly grasp the exceeding unlikelihood of a girl like Elizabeth committing such a theft, either in sport or earnest, nor understand the injury of such a suspicion. He only knew that she had a secret--a counter secret to his pig; and when she hotly assured him that she had never touched the money, and Susan backed her up with, "There, she says she did not," he answered, "She once told a story."
Elizabeth coloured deep red, and Susan cried out loudly that it was a shame in David; then explained that it was a long long time ago, that Hal and Bessie broke the drawing-room window by playing at ball with little hard apples, and had not 'told, but when questioned had said, "No;" but indeed they had been so sorry then that she knew they would never do so again.
Again David showed that he could not enter into this, and sulkily repeated, "She told a story."
"I will have no more of this," said Christabel resolutely. "You are all working yourselves up into a bad spirit: and not another word will I hear on this matter till lessons are over."
That tone was always obeyed; but lessons did not prosper; the children were all restless and unsettled; and David, hitherto for his age her best scholar, took no pains, and seemed absolutely stupefied. What did he care for fines, if the chance of the pig was gone? And he was sullenly angry with Miss Fosbrook for using no measures to recover the money, fancied she did not care, and remembered the foolish nursery talk about her favouring Bessie.
Once Miss Fosbrook heard a little gasping from the corner, and looking round, saw poor Bessie crying quietly over her slate, and trying hard to check herself. She would not have noticed her, though longing to comfort her, if David had not cried out, "Bet is crying! A fine!"
"No," said Miss Fosbrook; "but a fine for an ill-natured speech that has made her cry."
"She has got the pig's money," muttered David.
"Say that again, and I shall punish you, David."
He looked her full in the face, and said it again.
She was thoroughly roused to anger, and kept her word by opening the door of a small dark closet, and putting David in till dinner-time.
Then she and Susan both tried to soothe Bessie, by reminding her how childish David was, how he had caught up some word that probably Hal had flung out without meaning it, and how no one of any sense suspected her for a moment.
"It is so ill-natured and hard," sobbed Bessie. "To think I could steal! I think they hate me."
"Ah," said Susan, "if you only would never be cross to the boys, Bessie, and not keep out of what they care for, they would never think it."
"Yes, Susie is right there," said Christabel. "If you try to be one with the others, and make common cause with them, giving up and forbearing, they never will take such things into their heads."
"And we don't now," said Susan cheerily. "Didn't you hear Sam say nobody but a donkey could think it?"
"But Bessie has a secret!" said Annie.
Again stout Susan said, "For shame!"
"I'll tell you what my secret is," began Bessie.
"No," said Susan, "don't tell it, dear! We'll trust you without; and Sam will say the same."
Bessie flung her arms round Susan's neck, as if she only now knew the comfort of her dear good sister.
Lessons were resumed; and as soon as these were done, Miss Fosbrook resolved on a thorough search. Some strange fit of mischief or curiosity might have actuated some one, and the money be hidden away; so she brought David out of his cupboard, and with Susan's help turned out every drawer and locker in the school-room, forbidding the others to touch or assist. They routed out queer nests of broken curiosities, disturbed old dusty dens of rubbish, peeped behind every row of books; but made no discovery worth mentioning, except the left leg of Annie's last doll, the stuffing of Johnnie's ball, the tiger out of George's Noah's ark, and the first sheet of Sam's Latin Grammar, all stuffed together into a mouse-hole in the skirting.
At dinner Christabel forbade the subject to be mentioned, not only to hinder quarrelsome speeches, but to prevent the loss being talked of among the servants; since she feared that one of them must have committed the theft, and though anxious not to put it into the children's heads, suspected Rhoda, the little nursery-girl, who was quite a child, and had not long been in the house.
Henry ate his dinner in haste, but could not get away till Miss Fosbrook had called him away from the rest, and told him that if he had been playing a trick on his little brother, it was time to put an end to it, before any innocent person fell under suspicion.
"I--I've been playing no tricks--at least--"
"Without any at least, Henry, have you hidden the money?"
"You dined in the school-room on Friday. Were the baby-house doors open then!"
"I--I'm sure I didn't notice."
"You didn't open them to take anything out?"
"What should I want with the things in the baby-house?"
"Did you, or did you not!"
"I--I didn't--at least--"
"In one word, did you open them? yes or no."
"What time did you go out after eating your dinner?"
"Bother! how is one to remember! It's all nonsense making such a fuss. The children fancied they put in ever so much more than they did, and very likely took out some."
"No; David's reckoning was accurate. I wrote down all I knew of; and I am sure none was taken out, for early that very morning I had put in a sixpence myself, and the cup was then full of coppers, with that little silver threepenny of David's with the edge turned up upon the top."
"Then you must have left the door undone!" said Henry delighted.
"I dare not be positive," said Christabel; "but I believe I remember bolting it; and if I had not done so, it would have flown open sooner."
"Oh, but the wind, you know."
"If the doors did open, it would not account for the loss of the money."
"Well, I can't help it," said Henry ungraciously, trying to move off: but she first required him to tell her what he had said to the younger boys to make them suspect Elizabeth.
"Did I?" said Henry, "I am sure I didn't; at least, if I did, I only said Bess peeped everywhere, and was very close. I didn't suspect her, you know."
"I should think not!" said Miss Fosbrook indignantly. "Now please to come up with me."
"I want to go out," said Henry.
No, she would not let him go. She thought Elizabeth ought to clear herself, so far as it could be done, by making her secret known, since that had drawn suspicion on her; and when all the children were together, she called the little girl and told her so.
"It is very unkind of them," said Bessie, with trembling lip; "but they shall see, if they want that to show I am not a thief!"
"I said I wouldn't see," said Susan. "You knows Bessie, I trust you."
"And I," said Sam; "I don't care for people's secrets. I don't want to pry into Bessie's."
No one followed their example; all either really suspected, or else were full of curiosity, and delighted to gratify it.
Half a dozen slips of card, with poor little coloured drawings on them, and as many lengths of penny ribbon!
"Is that all?" said Annie, much disappointed.
"So that's what Bet made such a fuss about," said John; and David's face fell, as if he had really expected to see the lost pence.
The next thing, after the search had been made through all the children's bed-rooms, was to go to the nursery: and thither Miss Fosbrook allowed only Susan and Sam to follow her. Nurse Freeman was very stiff and stately, but she had no objection to searching; and the boy and girl began the hunt, while Miss Fosbrook meantime cautiously asked whether Nurse were sure of Rhoda, and if she were trustworthy.
This made Mrs. Freeman very angry; and though her words were respectful, she showed that she was much offended at the strange lady presuming to suspect anyone, especially one under her charge.
Miss Fosbrook wanted to have asked Rhoda whether the doors were open or shut when she carried Henry his dinner, but Nurse would not consent to call her. "I understood the nursery and the girl were to be my province," she said. "If Miss Merrifield heard her mamma say otherwise, then it is a different thing."
Susan cowered into the dark cupboard. Nurse must be in a dreadful way to call her Miss Merrifield, instead of Missy!
Nothing more could be done. The pence could not be found. Nurse would not let Rhoda be examined; and all that could be found out from the children had been already elicited.
Christabel could only beg that no more should be said, and, her head aching with perplexity, hope that some light might yet be thrown on the matter. There must be pain and grief whenever it should be explained; but this would be far better, even for the offender, than the present deception: and the whole family were in a state of irritation and distrust, that hurt their tempers, and made her bitterly reproach herself with not having prevented temptation by putting the hoard under lock and key.
She ordered that no more should be said about it that evening, and made herself obeyed; but play was dull, and everything went off heavily. The next morning, Susan came back early from her housekeeping business, with her honest face grave and unhappy, and finding Miss Fosbrook alone, told her she had something really to say to her if she might; and this being granted began, with the bright look of having found a capital notion: "I'll tell you what I wish you would do."
"If you would call every one in all the house, and ask them on their word and honour if they took the pence."
"My dear, I am not the head of the house, and I have no right to do that; besides, I do not believe it would discover it."
"What! could a thief get in from out of doors!" said Susan looking at the window.
"Hardly that, my dear; but I am afraid a person who could steal would not scruple to tell a falsehood, and I do not wish to cause this additional sin."
"It is very horrid; I can't bear it," said Susan, puckering up her face for tears. "Do you know, Miss Fosbrook, the maids are all so angry that you said anything about Rhoda?"
"You did not mention it, my dear?"
"Oh no; nor Sam. It was Nurse herself! But they all say that you want to take away her character; and they won't have strangers put over them."
"Pray, Susie; don't tell me this. It can do no good."
"Oh, but please!" cried Susan. "And then Mary--I can't think how she could--but she said that poor dear Bessie was always sly, and that she had been at the cupboard, and had got the pence; but she was your favourite, and so you vindicated her. And Nurse began teasing her to confess, and tell the truth, and told her she was a wicked child because she would not; but it was all because we were put under strangers! I'm sure they do set on Johnnie and Davie to be cross to her."
"When was this, my dear?"
"Last night, when we went to the nursery to be washed. It was our night, you know. Oh! I wish Mamma was well!"
"Indeed I do my dear. And how did poor Bessie bear it!"
"She got quite white, and never said a word, even when they told her she was sulky. But when we got into bed, and I kissed her and cuddled her up, oh! she did cry so; I didn't know what to do. So, do you know, I got my shawl on, and went and called Sam; and he was not gone to sleep, and he came and sat by her, and told her that he believed her, and knew she was as sound a heart of oak as any of us; and we both petted her, and Sam was so nice and kind, till she went to sleep. Then he went to the nursery, and told Nurse how horrid it was in her; but Cook said it only made her worse, because she is jealous of our taking part with you."
"My dear, I do like to hear of your kindness to Bessie; but I wish you would not mind what any of the maids say, nor talk to them about it. It only distresses you for nothing."
"But I can't help it," said Susan.
"You could not help this attack in the nursery, but you need not talk to Cook or Mary about it. It is of no use to vex ourselves with what people say who don't know half a story."
"Can't you tell them not?" said simple Susan.
"No, I cannot interfere. They would only do it the more. We can only keep Bessie as much out of the way of the maids as we can, and show our confidence in her."
Certainly Elizabeth had been known to look infinitely more glum when nothing was the matter than under all this vexation, even though the servants were really very unkind to her; and her two little brothers both behaved as ill as possible to her whenever they had the opportunity--David really believing that she had made away with the money, and ought to be tortured for it; and Johnnie taking it on his word, and being one of those little boys who have a positive taste for ill-nature, and think it fun. They pinched her, they bit her, they rubbed out her sums, they shut up her lesson-books and lost her place, they put bitten crusts into her plate, and did whatever they knew she most disliked, whenever Miss Fosbrook or Sam was not in the way; but she never told. She did not choose to be called a tell- tale; and besides, they really did not succeed in making her life miserable, so much was she pleased with the real kindness her trouble had brought out from Susan and Sam. Susan could not prevent the persecution of the two naughty little boys, but she defended her sister to her utmost; and Sam cuffed them if they said a word or lifted a finger against Bessie before him; and he gave her such notice and kindness as she never had received from him before. One afternoon, when he was going to walk to Bonchamp, he asked leave for her to come with him, and would take nobody else; and hot day as it was, Bessie had never had such a charming walk. She kept herself from making one single fuss; and in return, he gathered wild strawberries for her, showed her a kingfisher, and took her to look in at a very grand aquarium in the fishing-tackle maker's window, where she saw some gold-fish, and a most comical little newt. And going home, they had a real good talk about their father's voyage, and how they should get on without him; and Bessie found to her great pleasure, that Sam hoped Miss Fosbrook would stay when Mamma Came home.
"For I do think she has put some sense into you, Bessie," said Sam.
She was so delighted, that instead of preparing to fret if Sam did but hold up a finger at her, she looked up with a smile when he came in her way, sure of protection, and expecting something pleasant, as well as thinking it an honour to be asked to help him in anything. The next day, when Mr. Carey had insisted on his verifying by the map all the towns which he had been contented to say were in Asia Minor (where every place in ancient history is always put if its whereabouts be doubtful), she saved him so much time and trouble, that he got out into the garden full half an hour earlier than he would otherwise have done. Thereupon he told her she was a jolly good fellow, and gave her such a thump on the back, as a few weeks ago would have made her scream and whine; but this time she took it as a new form of thanks, and felt highly honoured by being invited to help him to fish for minnows, though it almost made her sick to stick the raw meat upon his hooks.
The threatening of a true sorrow, the bearing a real trouble, and the opening to her brother's kindness, had done far more to make her a happy little girl than all Miss Fosbrook's attempts to satisfy her cravings or please her tastes. These had indeed done her some good, and taught her to find means of enjoyment for those likings that no one else cared for; but it had been the spirit of delight that had been chiefly wanting; and when thankfulness and love were leading her to that, it was much easier to see that the evening clouds or the rising moon were lovely, than when she was looking out for affronts.
Nothing was said in public about the loss; and Christabel hoped that the bad impression as to Elizabeth would wear out in the young minds of the lesser children; but David's whole nature seemed to have been disorganized by the disappointment. Instead of being a pattern child for diligence and good behaviour, very fond of Miss Fosbrook, and not only inoffensive, but often keeping John and Anne in order, he seemed absolutely stupid and senseless at lessons, became stubborn at reproof, seemed to take pleasure in running counter to his governess, and rendered the other two, who, though his elders, were both of weak natures compared with his own, more openly naughty than himself. Sometimes it seemed to Christabel that the habit of spiting Bessie was getting so confirmed, that it would last even when the cause was forgotten; and yet the more she strove to put it down in sight, the more it throve out of sight; and when she looked at David, and thought how she had once admired him, she could not but remember the text that says, "Thy goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the dew shall it vanish away." She had thought it goodness based upon religious feeling, as well as on natural gravity and orderliness; and so perhaps it had once been, but the little fellow had fixed his whole soul on one purpose, and though that was a good one, it had grown into an idol, and swallowed up all his other motives, till of late he had only been good for the sake of the pig, not because it was right. Being disappointed of the pig, he had nothing to fall back upon, but felt himself so ill-used, that it seemed to him that it was no use to be good; and he revenged himself by naughtiness.
Such sturdy strong characters as little David's, when they are once set on the right object, come to the very best kind of goodness; but when they take a wrong turn, they are the very worst, both for themselves and others.