The Stokesley Secret by Charlotte M. Yonge
Nothing had as yet befallen Henry, for he came down to breakfast in the morning; but his father did not greet him, and spoke no word to him all the time they were in the room together. The children felt that this was indeed terrific. Such a thing had never befallen any of them before. They would much rather have been whipped; and even David's heart sank.
Something, however, was soon said that put all else out of his sisters' minds. The Captain turned to them with his merry smile, saying, "Pray what would Miss Susie and Miss Bessie say to coming up to London with me to see Mamma?"
The two girls bounded upon their chairs; Susan's eyes grew round, and Bessie's long; the one said, "O Papa!" and the other, "Oh, thank you!" and they looked so overwhelmed with ecstasy, and all the three elders laughed.
"Then you will behave discreetly, young women?"
"I'll try," said Susan; "and Bessie always does. Oh, thank you, Papa!"
"Grandmamma should be thanked; she asked me to bring a child or two, to be with Mamma when I go down to Portsmouth. We had thought of Susan; but I think Betty deserves some amends for what she has undergone."
"Oh yes, Papa! thank you!" cried Susan, Sam, and David, from their hearts; John and Annie because the others did so.
"Then you won't kick her out if she shares your berth, Sue?"
"Oh, I am so glad, Papa! It is so nice to go together."
"Then, Miss Fosbrook, will you be kind enough to rig them out? I must drive into Southminster at ten o'clock; and if you would be so good as to see them smartened up for London there, I should be much obliged to you."
The mere drive to the country town was a great event in itself, even without the almost incredible wonder that it was to lead to; and the delights of which Ida and Miss Fosbrook had told them in London went so wildly careering through the little girls' brains, that they hardly knew what they said or did, as they danced about the house, and ran up-stairs to get ready, long before ten o'clock.
Mr. Carey had been informed that his pupils would not come to him during the few days of their father's stay; and Sam begged to ride in on his pony by the side of the carriage; but he was desired to fetch his books, and call Henry, as his uncle wished to give them both an examination. Was this the beginning of captivity to Uncle John? David and Johnnie were quite angry. They considered it highly proper that Hal should be shut up with Uncle John, but they thought it very hard that Sam should be so used too; and Sam himself looked very round-backed, reluctant, and miserable, partly at the task, partly at being deprived of the sight of his father for several hours of one of those few precious days.
Miss Fosbrook wished Susan to have sat on the front seat of the old phaeton with her father; but he would not consent to this, and putting the two little girls together behind, handed the governess to the place of honour beside him, where she felt rather shy, in spite of his bright easy manner.
"I am afraid," he said, after having flourished his whip merrily at Johnnie, Annie, and Davie, who were holding open the iron gate, "that you have had a tough job with those youngsters! We never meant you to have been left so long to their mercy."
"I know--I know; I only wish I could have done better."
"You have done wonders. My brother hardly knows where he is--never saw those children so mannerly."
Miss Fosbrook could not show how delighted she was.
"I could hardly have ventured on taking those two girls to town unless you had broken them in a little. I would say nothing last night till I had watched Susan; for my mother is particular, and if my wife was to be always worrying herself about their manners, they had better be at home."
"Indeed, I think you may quite trust to their behaving well. Those two and Sam are so thoroughly trustworthy, that I had no real difficulty till this unhappy business."
The Captain wanted to talk this over with her, and hear her account of it once more. She gave it fully, thinking he ought to know exactly how his children had acted in the matter, and wishing to explain where she thought she had made mistakes. When she had finished, he said, "Thank you," and considered a little while; then said, "A thing like this brings out a great deal of character; and a new eye sometimes sees more what is in a child than those that bred him up."
"It has been a touchstone, indeed," she answered.
"Poor Hal!" he said sadly; then resumed, "I've said nothing of it yet to the boys--but Admiral Penrose has promised to let me take out one with me. I had thought most of Hal; he seemed to me a smarter fellow, more likely to make his way than his brother; but this makes me doubt whether there can be stuff enough in him. I might not be able to look after him, nor do I know what his messmates may be; and I should not choose to risk it, except with a boy I could thoroughly trust."
"Those young Grevilles seem to me Hal's bane and temptation."
"Ay, ay; but if a boy is of the sort, he'll find someone to be his bane, wherever he goes. I'll have no more of the Grevilles though. If he should not go with me, my brother John would take him into his house, and keep a sharp look out after him. Just tell me, if you have no objection, how the boy strikes you. Most people think him the most taking of the lot."
"So he is," said Christabel thoughtfully; "he has more ease and readiness, and he is affectionate and warm-hearted; but then he is a great talker, and fond of boasting."
"Exactly. I told him that was the very way he learnt falsehood."
"I am afraid, too," she was obliged to add, "that his resolutions run away in talk. He has not much perseverance; and he is easily led."
"Well, I believe you are right; but then what's to be done? I can hardly afford to lose this chance; but Sam was always backward; and I doubt his even caring to go to sea."
"Oh! Captain Merrifield!"
"What! has he given you reason to think that he does?" She told him how she had found Sam struggling with his longing for the sea and his father; and how patiently the boy had resigned himself to see his brother put before him, and himself condemned for being too dull and slow.
"Did I say so? I suppose he had put me past my patience with blundering over his lessons. I never meant to make any decision; but I did not think he wished it."
"He said it had been his desire from the time he could remember, especially when he felt the want of you during your last voyage."
"Very odd; how reserved some boys are! I declare I was vexed that it had gone out of his head; though I thought it might be for the best. You know I was not born to this place. I never dreamt of it till my poor brother Sam's little boy went off in a fever six years ago, and we had to settle down here. Before that, we meant my eldest to follow my own profession; but when he seemed to take to the soil so kindly, I thought, after all, he might make the happier squire for never having learnt the smell of salt water, nor the spirit of enterprise; but if it were done already, the first choice is due to him. You are sure?"
"Ask the girls."
He leant back and shouted out the question, "Sue! do you know whether Sam wishes to go to sea?"
"There's nothing he ever wished so much," was the answer.
"Then why didn't he say so?"
"Because he thought it would be no use," screamed Susan back.
"No use! why?"
"Because Hal says Admiral Penrose promised him. O Papa! are you going to take Sam?"
"Oh dear! we can't get on without him!" sighed Elizabeth.
"Are you sure he would like it?" said her father. "I thought he never cared to hear of the sea."
"He can't bear to talk of it, because it makes him so sorry," said Susan.
"And," cried Bessie, "he burnt his dear little ship, the Victory, because he couldn't bear to look at it after you said that, Papa."
"After I said what?"
"That he was not smart enough to learn the ropes."
"Very silly of him," said the Captain, "to take in despair what was only meant to spur him on. I suppose now I shall find he has dawdled so much that he couldn't get through an examination."
This shut up the mouths of both the girls, who were afraid that he might not, since they saw a good deal of his droning habits over his lessons, and heard more of Hal's superior cleverness.
Miss Fosbrook ventured to say, "You may expect a great deal of a boy who works on a pure principle of obedience."
"You think a great deal of that youngster," said the Captain, highly gratified. "It is the first time I ever knew a stranger take to him."
"I did not take to him as a stranger. I thought him uncouth and dull. I only learnt to love and respect him, as I felt how perfectly I might rely on him, and how deep and true his principles are. If the children have gone on tolerably well in your absence, it is because he has always stood by me, and his weight of character has told on them."
Captain Merrifield did not answer at once; he bit his lip, then blew his nose, and cleared his throat, before he said, "Miss Fosbrook, you have made me very happy; it will make his mother so. She always rated him so high, that I half thought it was a weakness for her eldest son; but there! I suppose he was down-hearted about this fancy of his, poor boy; and that hindered him from making the most of himself. I wonder what sort of a figure he is cutting before his uncle!"
The town was at length reached; and the shopping was quite wonderful to the sisters. Miss Fosbrook found a shop where the marvellous woman undertook to send home two grey frocks trimmed with pink, by the next evening; and found two such fashionable black silk jackets, that Susie felt quite ashamed of herself, though rather pleased; and Bessie only wished she could see her own back, it must look so like Ida's. Then there were white sleeves, and white collars, that made them feel like young women; and little pink silk handkerchiefs for their necks; and two straw hats, which Miss Fosbrook undertook to trim with puffs of white ribbon, and a pink rosette at each ear. Bessie thought they would be the most beautiful things that had ever been in her possession, and was only dreading that Sam would say they were like those on Ida Greville's donkey's best harness; while Susan looked quite frightened at them, whispered a hope that Mamma would not think them too fine, and that Miss Fosbrook would not let them cost too much money; and when assured that all fell within what Papa had given to be laid out, she begged that Annie and little Sally might have the like.
But as they were not going to London, Miss Fosbrook could not venture on this; and as Bessie had set her affections upon a certain white chip hat, with a pink border and a white feather, both sisters remained wishing for something--as is sure to happen on such occasions.
However, Elizabeth recovered from the hat when she was out of sight of it; and they went and saw the cathedral, where the painted windows and grave grand arches filled her with a truer and wiser sense of what was beautiful; and then they walked a long time up and down under its buttressed wall, waiting for Papa, till they grew tired and hungry; but at last he came in a great hurry, and sorry to have been hindered. With naval politeness, he gave his arm to Miss Fosbrook, and carried them off to a pastry-cook's, where he bade them eat what they pleased, and spend the rest of the florin he threw them on buns for the little ones, while he fetched the carriage; and so they all drove home again, and found the rest of the party ravenous, having waited dinner for three-quarters of an hour.
Wonderful to relate, Uncle John had not eaten anybody up! not even Baby; though Papa advised Susan to make sure that she was safe, and then sent Sam to ask Purday for a salad. Perhaps this was by way of getting rid of this constant follower while he asked his brother what he thought of the boys' attainments.
Uncle John could not speak very highly of the learning of either; but he said, "Sam knows thoroughly what he does know. As to the other, he thinks he knows everything, and makes most awful shots. When I asked them who Dido's husband was, Sam told me he did not know, and Hal, that he was Diodorus Siculus--at least, Scipio--no, he meant Sicyon."
"Then you think neither could stand an examination for the cadetship?"
"I could not be sure of Sam; but I am quite sure that Hal could not."
Here the dinner-bell rang; the hungry populace rushed to the dining- room, and the meal was gone through as merrily as could be, while still the father never spoke to Henry. Uncle John was as pleasant and good-natured as possible. Who would have thought of the marked difference he made between dining with barbarians, or young gentlefolks!
Dinner over, Captain Merrifield called Sam,--or rather, since that was not necessary, as Sam was never willingly a yard from his elbow, he ordered the others not to follow as they went into the garden together.
"Sam," he said, "Admiral Penrose is kind enough to offer me a berth in the Ramilies for one of you. If you can pass the examination, should you wish to avail yourself of the offer?"
Sam grew very red in the face, looked down, and twirled the button of his sleeve. He certainly was not a gracious boy, for all he said was in a gruff hoarse voice, without even thanks, "Not if it is for this."
"For this! What do you mean, Sam?" said Captain Merrifield, thinking either that the boy was faint-hearted, or that his wish had been the mere fancy of the girls.
"Not if it is to punish Hal," said Sam, with another effort.
"That is not the question. Do you wish it?"
Sam hung his head, and made his eyebrows come down, as if they were to serve as a veil to those horrid tears in his eyes; and after all, his voice sounded sulky, as he said, "Yes."
"Is that all?" said the Captain, angry and disappointed. "Is that the way you take such an offer? If you had rather stay here, and be bred up to be a country squire, say so at once; don't mince the matter!"
"O Papa!" cried Sam indignantly, "how can you think that? Didn't I always want to be like you?"
"Then why can't you say so?"
"Because I can't bear to cut Hal out!" said Sam, putting his arm over his eyes, as a way he considered secret of disposing of his tears.
"Put that out of your head, Sam; or if you don't fancy the sea, have it out at once."
"O Papa! please listen. You know, though Miss Fosbrook is very jolly, we couldn't help getting nohow when you were away, us two particularly."
"You have no mischief to confess, surely, Sam?" said his father, really imagining that this preference to Hal was acting on him so as to make him mention some concealed misdemeanour; "if you have, you know truth is the best line."
"But I haven't, Papa," said Sam, looking up, quite surprised. "You know I am a year older, and couldn't help caring more; and Miss Fosbrook is so nice, one couldn't bother her; but you see the Grevilles would put it into Hal's head that it was stupid and like a girl to mind her. It is all their fault; and they were sneaks about the turkey-cock, and wouldn't pay--and I know he would have ended by putting the money back when he could, only Davie made such a row before he could; and he did so reckon on the navy--he would pay it back the first thing." The last sentences came between gasps, very like sobs.
"Have done with Hal," said Captain Merrifield, still with displeasure. "I wouldn't take him now on any account. If the Grevilles lead him wrong, what would he do among the mids? If he acts dishonourably here, we should have him disgracing himself and his profession. Since he can't take it, and you won't, I shall try to make some exchange of the chance till John or David will be old enough."
"But Papa, I--" began Sam.
"I don't want to force you to it," continued Captain Merrifield, in his vexed voice. "I never mean to force my sons to any profession if I can help it; and you have a right to be considered. It has always been a disadvantage to me, and to this place, that I was bred to the sea instead of to farming; and though you can't live on the property without some profession, it may be quite as well that you should turn your mind to something else--only if it be the army, I can't help you on in it."
"I had rather go to sea, if you please," said Sam.
"Don't say so to please me," said his father. "I tell you, the examinations are a pretty deal harder than they were in my time. It is not a trade for a youngster to be idle in; and I won't have you, just when you've knocked about a few years, and are getting fit to be of use on board and nowhere else, calling yourself heartily sick of it, and turning round to say it was my doing."
"I'll never do that, Papa," said poor Sam, unable to understand why his father should speak as though scolding him.
"No? And mind, you must take the rough with the smooth, if you sail with me, and not be always running after me, Papa-ing me. I can't see after you, and should only get you ill will if I tried."
"I had rather go," said Sam.
"I'm sure I don't know what to make of you," said his father, looking at him in a puzzle. "However, if you do mean to go, you may tell Freeman to get your things ready to come up with me on Thursday; only if you don't really like the notion, find out your own mind, and let me know in time, that's all."
The Captain turned away, and gave a long whistle--an accustomed signal--that brought children and dogs all rushing and tumbling about him together, to walk with him about the farm, and his brother among them; but Sam hung back. He had not the heart to go with that merry throng; for he did not know whether his father were not displeased with him, and he therefore thought he must be to blame.
People who, like Sam, rather cultivate the habit of gruffness and reserve, and prefer to be short and rude, become so utterly unable to express what they mean, that on great occasions they are misunderstood, and give pain by supposed ingratitude and dislike, even when they feel most warmly. Captain Merrifield could only judge from looks and words; and even when Sam had been satisfied about Henry, he had shown so little alacrity or satisfaction, as really to leave a doubt whether he were not unwillingly yielding to his father's wishes; which would have been a mistaken act, as the Captain thought no one ought to be a sailor unless with a very strong desire that way. Thus Sam really perplexed and distressed his father, when he least intended it; and unable to understand what was the matter, yet feeling heavy and sad, he turned aside from the rest, and, by way of the quietest place he could find, climbed up a tall pear-tree, to the very highest branch he could reach. He put himself astride on one bough, his feet upon another below, and his back leaning against the main stem. No one could see him up so high among the thick leaves; but he could see all around the village, and over the house; he could look down into the farm-court at the pigs burying themselves in the straw; and out beyond at the geese and ducks in the meadow, and the broods of chickens pecking and scratching about, or the older poultry rolling in the dust-holes they had scraped for themselves. He could see Purday among his cabbages in the garden; and further off, could watch the walking-party through the fields, his father with little George in his arms, and Uncle John as often as possible by his side; while the others frisked about, sometimes spreading out like a flock of sheep in the pasture land, or when they came to the narrow paths in the cornfields, all getting into single file, and being lost sight of all but their heads.
Sam recollected how, the day when he had heard that he was not likely to be a sailor, he had felt as if he hated Stokesley, and as if it would be a prison to him, and how everything reminding him of the sea had been a misery to him. He would not then have believed anyone who had told him that he would really hear of his appointment and be so little glad. Yet for two whole years the loss of the hope had weighed on him, and made him dull whenever he thought of grown-up life, heard of the sea, or was asked what he was to be: and almost always, at his prayers, he had that meaning in his mind, when he said "Thy Will be done;" he had really submitted patiently, and tried to put away the longing from his mind, and would, there can be no doubt, have been happy and dutiful at home; but at length the wish of his heart was suddenly granted.
And then, wish though it still were, there came all this grief and discomfort. The gladness was in him somewhere, but he could not get at it, either for his own comfort, or that of his father. He missed his mother exceedingly. She would know what he meant, and tell Papa that he did care to go. Yet, did he care so very much? Only think of beginning to be a stranger at this dear old home! and seeing no mother, no Susie, nor any of them, for years together--probably not his father after the first voyage! However, the sailor was too strong in Sam for that grief not to pass off; and his chief trouble was the sense of supplanting Henry. He knew the disappointment would be most bitter; and he could not get rid of the sense of having taken an unfair advantage of the disgrace of Henry's adventure. As to his father's manner, he got over that more easily, for his conscience was free; he knew that the tone of displeasure would be gone at the next meeting, and he was too sure of his own love of the sea to fear that he should not show it enough. After all, he was to be a naval cadet! He could not be sorry. Nay, he felt he had his wish; the very wish he had thought it wrong to put into a prayer. He thought he ought to be thankful that it was granted, in the same way as he had been when his mother began to recover. So he put his hands together, and looked up into the summer blue sky through the leaves, and his lips moved, as he whispered his thanks, and asked to be helped in being a good brave sailor, and that something as good might happen to poor Henry.
After this, somehow, the weight was gone, he knew not where. All he recollected was, that he should see Mamma in two days, and that he was to sail with Papa if he could get through his examination. There was a sort of necessity of doing something comical; and just then spying Miss Fosbrook with a book walking slowly below, he could not resist the temptation of sending down on her a shower of little hard pears and twigs.
Bob came one down on her book, and another on her bonnet. She looked up, and saw a leg stretching out for a branch, apparently in such a dangerous manner, that she did not know whether she should not have Sam himself on her head next, and started back, watching as he swung himself from branch to branch, and then slid down, embracing the trunk.
"Did I hit you!" said he. "I couldn't help trying it; it was such fun."
It was a great liberty; but she was so good-humoured as to laugh, and said he had taken good aim.
"Please, Miss Fosbrook," next said he, "would you hear how many propositions I can say!" And as she opened her eyes at this holiday amusement, he added, "Papa has got the appointment after all, and means me to have it."
"I am so glad, Sam! I give you joy!" she said, and took his hand to shake it heartily.
"I wish Hal could go too," said Sam.
"Dear Sam," she said kindly, and guessing his feelings, as having gone along with them, "I don't wonder you are sorry for him; but indeed I think it is better for him to be sheltered from beginning real life just now."
"Papa said he would not have taken him," said Sam; "but it seems so hard to have all his life changed for a thing that sounds worse than he meant it to be."
"Sam," said Miss Fosbrook, "I once read a sermon, that said that our conduct in little things does decide the tenor of our lives. You know one moment of hastiness cost Moses the Promised Land; and only a little while ago, we heard how Joash had but few victories allowed to him, because he did not think it worth while to strike the ground as often as Elisha told him. It is the little things that show whether we are to be trusted with great."
"It is such a tremendous punishment," said Sam, "when he would have put it back again."
"My brother knew a banker's clerk who was transported for borrowing what he meant to put back again. No, Sam; people must bear the result of their doings; and your father judges for Hal as much in kindness as in anger."
"I know he knows best."
"You may see it as well as trust. With all his grand talk, do you really think that Hal would not be upset at the first hardship, or that he could face bullying or danger? Remember the bull, that was at least a vicious cow, and turned out to be a calf."
Sam could not help laughing, as he said, "Yes, that would never do at sea; and he would be done for if he were cowardly there. But I wish I could get out of sight of him till I am gone. And please hear my Euclid; I'll get the book, if you'll stay out here."
"Therefore, if the two sides of two triangles be equal to one another, and the adjacent angles be equal each to each," resounded through the laurels, as the walking party returned.
"Hallo! al fresco Euclid!" exclaimed Uncle John, as Sam with a blush ran after his blotted diagrams, as a sudden gust of wind blew them dancing over the garden. Captain Merrifield caught one, and restored it to Sam, with a pat on the back that made his teeth rattle in his head, but which made him as happy as a young sea-king, showing that they perfectly understood each other.
But to be ever so good a boy does not carry one through the examinations that stand at the door of every road of life for those who are not wealthy. Sam knew he was the dull boy of Mr. Carey's four pupils; and though from sheer diligence he was less often turned back than the rest, yet they could all excel him whenever they chose: his lessons all went against the grain, and were a sore trouble to him; and his uncle had shown much wrath to-day at his ignorance and backwardness. He was therefore in a great fright, and gave himself and Miss Fosbrook no peace, running after her every moment with his Euclid, his Colenso, or his slate.
"That boy will stupefy himself and his admirable cramming machine!" exclaimed Uncle John, when coming out into the court after tea to talk to Purday, the two brothers heard, "The complement A E is equal to the complement D E," proceeding out of the school-room window.
"A truce with your complements to-night," shouted the Captain; "come down, Sam; I must have a game at hide-and-seek!"
Though hide-and-seek on the lawn with Papa was the supremest bliss that life had yet offered to the young Merrifields, and though Susan, Bessie, Annie, and Johnnie, had all severally burst into the room to proclaim it and summon Sam, he had refused them all; but this call settled it; he broke off in the middle of his rectangle, and dashed down stairs, to the great relief of kind Miss Fosbrook, who, with all her good-will, found her head beginning to grow weary of angles and right-angles on a hot evening in the height of summer.
The summer-house was to be home, and there the party were assembled-- nine in number, for not only Papa, but Uncle John, was going to play; and Henry, though forlorn and unnoticed, had wandered about with the rest all day, trying to do as usual, to forget the heavy load that pressed on him, and to believe that he was not going to be punished for mere unluckiness in borrowing, and for not answering impertinent questions. The world was very unlike itself to him; and he saw the enjoyment without being able to enter into it, just as a sick person sees the sunshine without feeling the warmth; but instead of penitence, he merely tried to shake off his compunction.
So there he stood in the ring, as Susan was finding out who was to be the first to hide, by pointing to each, at each word of the formula,
"Eggs, butter, cheese, bread, Sticks, stocks, stones, dead."
"Dead" came to Uncle John, as perhaps Susan had contrived; and shrugging up his shoulders, he went off to hide, and his whoop was presently heard. He was not very good game; maybe he did not wish to be very long sought, for he was no further than in the tall French beans, generally considered as a stupid place to hide in. The children had been in hopes that he would catch Papa, which was always a very difficult matter, for the sailor was lighter of foot, as well as, of course, longer in limb, than any of the children; but they saw that Uncle John had not the slightest chance with him, and it was Bessie who was caught in her homeward race.
Bessie was rather a good hider, and was searched for far and wide before Sam's "I spy! I spy!" gave the signal that a bit of the spotty cotton had been seen peeping out from under Purday's big potato-basket in the tool-house, and the whole party flew towards home. Bessie would not aim at Papa, for if so, she would certainly catch no one; but she hunted down David, who was too sturdy to be a quick runner, and who was very well pleased to be caught.
"I'll have Papa!" he said, as she captured him. "I know of such a cunning place."
David's place proved to be in among his likenesses, the cabbages, immediately in front of the summer-house. There he lay flat on the very wet mould, among the stout cabbages, all of which had a bead of wet in every wrinkle of their great leaves, so that when Susan had at length spied him, and he came plunging out, his brown-holland--to say nothing of his knees--was in a state that would have caused most mammas to send him to be instantly undressed; but nobody even saw it, and he charged instantly towards the door of the summer-house, not pursuing anyone in particular, but cutting all off from their retreat. He slipped aside, however, and let all the lesser game pass by uncaught; his soul soared higher than even Uncle John, who looked on exceedingly amused at the small man's stratagem, and at the long dodging that took place between him and his father, the quick lithe Captain skipping hither and thither, and trying to pop in one side while his enemy was on the other; and the square, determined, little, puffing, panting boy, guarding his door, hands on knees, ever ready for a dart wherever the attempt was made. The whole party in the home nearly went into fits at the fun, and at the droll remarks Uncle John made at this hare and tortoise spectacle; till at last either the Captain gave in, or Davie made a cleverer attack than ever, for with a great shout he flew upon Papa, and held him fast by the legs. Everyone shrieked with delight; Papa hid in such clever places, and when found, he roared so splendidly, that it struck the little ones with terror, and did the hearts of the elders good, to hear him; indeed, the greatest ambition Johnnie entertained was to roar like Papa. Then he could make his voice sound as if out of any place he chose, so that no one could guess by his "whoop" where to look for him; and this time it seemed to be quite out at the other end of the kitchen-garden, where they were all looking, when another "whoop" came apparently down from Sam's pear-tree on the lawn; and while they were peeping up into it, "whoop" re-echoed from the stables! At last, as Annie was gazing up and round as if she even thought it as well to look right into the sky for Papa, she suddenly beheld the two merriest eyes in the world, on the roof of the summer-house itself. He had been lying there on the thatch, watching at his ease all the wanderings of the seekers, and uttering those wonderful whoops to bewilder them.
"I spy! I spy!" shrieked Annie, flying in, even while her father sprang to the ground, and with Davie's manoeuvre on a larger scale, seemed to be taking his choice of all the fugitives rushing up from all parts.
One elder boy, and one younger, he was hunting down the gooseberry- path, when just as he was about to pounce on the former, he said that it was not Sam, stood still, and folded his arms. A shriek made him look round; little David stood sobbing and crying piteously.
"Davie! what, Davie! What is it, my man? Where are you hurt!"
"No, no! I'm not hurt! Catch Hal, Papa."
"No, David. I do not play with boys that act like Henry."
"Speak to him, Papa; oh, speak!"
"I shall, before I go," said the Captain gravely.
"Now, now! Papa. Oh, do! I did want him to be punished, but not like this."
"No, David. If he can expect to play with me, and be treated like the others, he is not in the state to receive forgiveness. There, have done crying; let us go on with the game."
But David could not go on playing; he was too unhappy. Not to be forgiven, even if punished, seemed to him too dreadful to happen to anyone; and he thought that he had brought it all on Henry by his letter of accusation. Tardily and dolefully he crept into the house; and Miss Fosbrook met him, looking so woe-begone, that she too thought he had hurt himself. She took him, dirt and all, on her lap; and there he sobbed out that Papa wouldn't speak to Hal, and it was very dreadful; and he wished there were no such things as pigs, or money, or secrets; they only made people miserable!
"Dear Davie, they only make people miserable when they care too much about them. Papa will forgive Hal before he goes away, I am sure; only he is making him sorry first, that he may never do such a thing again."
"I don't like it." And David cried sadly, perhaps because partly he was tired with having been on his legs more than usual that day; but his good and loving little self was come home again. He at least had forgiven his brother the wrong done to himself; and there was no hanging back that night from the fulness of prayer; no, he rather felt that he had been unkind; and the last thing heard of him that night was, that as Sam and Hal were coming up-stairs to bed, a little white figure stood on the top of the stairs, and a small voice said, "Hal, please kiss me! I am so sorry I told Papa about--"
"There, hold your tongue," said Hal, cutting him short with the desired kiss, "if you hadn't told, someone else would."
But long after Sam was asleep, Hal was wetting his pillow through with tears.