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   Chapter 8 No.8

That Scholarship Boy By Emma Leslie Characters: 26190

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Righteous Retribution.

Warren volunteered the information that Howard's mother had gone away from home, and only his elder brother could take care of him, if he was sent there, so that it was decided that he should remain in the master's house for the present; and Warren went to let Fred know that his brother would not be home all night.

'Why, what is the matter?' asked the young carpenter anxiously.

'There was something wrong in the "lab." this dinner-time. Nobody knows just how it happened, but there'll be a jolly row about it to-morrow, I know.'

'I hope Horace had nothing to do with it,' said Fred.

'Oh, didn't he, though! Three boys would soon have been dead if he hadn't gone in. That's how he got hurt. You can go and see him, my father says, only you mustn't talk much.'

Fred was not long getting his tea; he was too anxious to go and hear more of what had happened to his brother, but he took care to wash himself and change his working clothes before presenting himself at the master's house.

He found Horace in bed, with both hands bandaged and looking very pale. He was able to tell him what had happened, but begged him not to say a word about it to his mother, as he felt sure he should be quite well in the morning. Fred hardly knew what to do, but at length agreed not to say a word about it when he wrote to his mother. When he had nearly reached his own home, he saw a boy waiting near the gate, and he said, 'Are you Howard's brother?'

'Yes. Who are you?' asked Fred.

'My name is Morrison, and I want to know if you think he will get well again.'

'I hope so. But why are you so anxious about it? Do you know how it happened?'

Leonard nodded.

'I know a bit,' said the boy sheepishly, 'and I wondered whether I'd better tell my father.'

'Yes, yes-tell him by all means,' said Fred eagerly. 'Come in a minute, and if you like I will go home with you and break the ice. I've always been in the habit of telling my mother when I got into a scrape; but it made it a bit easier if Horace told her something about it first, so I know how you feel about telling your father.'

'We didn't mean to hurt the fellows, you know,' said Leonard eagerly, as he went into the little sitting-room. 'We didn't mean to hurt anybody; only make a jolly stink in the "lab.," and get somebody into a row.'

He did not say who the 'somebody' was, and Fred did not ask him. They went away together, and walked almost in silence, for Fred did not like to press the boy to tell him any more. It was a long walk round to Leonard's home, but Fred did not mind; and if the doctor had got back he might hear of his mother, and something of what had happened since she had been gone, for he had not had a letter from her, as he had expected.

When they got to the doctor's house, and Fred asked to see him, the servant said he had only just come home, and she was not sure that he could see anybody.

'I think he will see me, if you tell him that my name is Howard,' said Fred. 'I have come to see him about my brother, who was hurt at school to-day.'

The doctor was certainly mystified as to the meaning of the last part of the message, but he was glad to see Fred, for he had promised his mother he would see him as soon as possible.

The doctor rose from his seat and took Fred's hands as he entered the room. 'I am very glad to see you. I have some wonderful news for you. I left your father a few hours ago. Your mother wished me to tell you. Do you remember your father?'

'Yes, sir, a little,' answered Fred, quite forgetting what he actually had come for.

'You do remember him?' repeated the doctor.

'I know he was a gentleman,' said Fred, a little proudly.

'Yes, he has proved himself a steadfast, God-fearing, humble Christian. A true gentleman in these later years,' said Mr. Morrison; 'and I have promised him, and your mother too, that you shall hear something of what those years have been.'

'But I should like to know first why he went away and left us all alone,' said Fred, with reddening brow. 'It was not fair to my mother, or to any of us, and I am not sure that I shall ever want to see him again.' And then the tears filled Fred's eyes.

'Sit down, my lad,' said the doctor; 'your father knew that you must feel angry at what has happened, and, to use his own words, he does not deserve anything else at your hands, but I was to tell his story in as few words as possible, and leave the rest to you.

'Some time before he went away he had a patient named Taylor. He seems to have been a very fascinating sort of man, and your father was not a very strong one. Through this man he neglected his practice a great deal-he was a doctor, you know-his friend always seemed to have plenty of money, and they went about the country a good deal together enjoying themselves, doing no great harm, beyond your father neglecting his work and you at home.

'This lasted for some time, and then one day his friend begged him, as a great favour, to sign his name to a bill. Of course, by doing this your father became responsible for the whole amount of the debt, if his friend should fail to repay it within the time named; but he had such confidence in Mr. Taylor, and believed all he said about the wealth coming to him, that he signed it after a little persuasion, although it was for a very large amount of money.

'He never told your mother of this transaction, because he knew she disliked and mistrusted this Taylor.

'A few days before this bill became due your father found to his dismay that his friend had disappeared from his London house, and no one knew where he had gone. Still, your father said no word to your mother of what had happened, but when he was served with the notice that he must now pay the debt, he was seized with panic at the thought of the ruin he had brought upon himself and family, and, instead of bravely staying to do what he could to help those who were dependent upon him, he went out one morning, and took a passage to Australia by a vessel that was just leaving the docks.

'It must be said in excuse for him that just at the time there was a great talk of the rapid fortunes that were being made in the gold-fields, and he had heard that Taylor had gone there to make his fortune.

'I need hardly tell you that he did not see his false friend again, although he heard of him more than once during his wanderings in the wilds of Australia.

'He wrote one short letter, telling your mother he would come home as soon as he had made his fortune; and he resolved in his own mind not to do so until he had accomplished this, for only in this way he thought he could atone for the past and prove that he was worthy of her confidence for the future.

'But he found the task much harder than he had supposed, and instead of making his fortune at the gold-fields he was robbed of the little he possessed, and was glad to get any sort of work that would provide him with a crust of bread.

'Then he met with Mrs. Morrison's brother, who was not unlike himself in many respects-easily led, weak to resist temptation-but in the hard school of affliction to which they had condemned themselves God met them, and showed them the folly and sin of which they had been guilty; and they sought and found pardon through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, through the help of God's Holy Spirit, they began to struggle against the temptations by which they were beset, and in the struggle grew strong, strong enough to resist even the making of illegal gains; and so the fortune that was to restore them to home and country was a long time in the making, and meanwhile they clung to each other, and to God.'

'But my father might have written to us,' said Fred, still a little hardly.

'They both wrote to their nearest friends in England. But you must remember that your mother had left London, and I had left Liverpool, where I was living when my brother-in-law went away; so both letters were returned, and the wanderers could only work on in faith and hope that one day God would bring them to their dear ones again.'

Fred had listened with the greatest intentness to the doctor's story, and now he roused himself, remembering that the errand he had come upon had not yet been mentioned. 'Thank you, Dr. Morrison,' he said, 'for telling me this; but I cannot help thinking still that my father has been very cruel to us, although he may not have intended it; but I came to see you about something else. You have a son who goes to school with my brother; Horace has been hurt somehow, and is in bed at the master's house. Your son wishes me to tell you that he knows something of what happened. He did not mean to hurt anybody, but three boys might have died through what was done.'

'Ah, that is just it. Boys never intend wilfully to hurt each other, I believe, and it is only rarely that men do so; but they do it through their weakness and thoughtlessness, and bring untold misery upon friends, and all who love them. Your father's spoiled life, and my brother-in-law's almost wasted one, should teach all you lads a lesson. Ask God to make you strong to resist the first temptation-strong in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, for this alone can help you in the hour of trial. And remember that this time of trial must come to you sooner or later; and the sooner it comes in life the better, if only you go to the Strong for strength to sustain you.'

Then the doctor rang the bell, and told the servant to send Leonard to him. Fred rose to go, but the doctor told him to sit down again.

'We'll get this business over while you are here,' he said. And when Leonard appeared, he said, 'My friend, Mr. Fred Howard, says you have something to tell me. Yes, he is my friend, and I trust that you will make him yours also, if he will accept the friendship of a boy like you,' said the doctor, answering the look of perplexity on Leonard's face. 'This lad's father has saved your uncle's life more than once, it seems, while you have nearly killed his brother. Is that true?'

Leonard hung his head, and the tears slowly gathered in his eyes. 'Did Mr. Warren tell you that, father?' he said with a gasp.

'I have not seen Warren yet,' said Dr. Morrison. 'What is it you have to tell me? Do not be afraid, I want to hear all the truth from you. Now what is it you have to tell me, Len?' said the doctor, in a more tender tone. 'I hear you have got into some scrape at school, and somebody has got hurt.'

'Yes, father; the scholarship boy, and I was afraid he might die.'

'Well, what was your share of the mischief? Did you really wish your schoolfellow to die?'

'Father, we didn't mean to hurt him really. We only wanted to drive him away from the school.' And then, bit by bit, Mr. Morrison heard the whole story of what had been going on at Torrington's for the last few months.

Fred was as much astonished as Mr. Morrison. 'My brother never said a word about it at home,' he said.

'Your brother has the brave gallant spirit of a gentleman,' said the doctor. 'But what am I to say of my son and his cowardly companions? Go to your room, sir!' he said, addressing Leonard, for he was very angry.

'But, Mr. Morrison, that he should wish to come and tell you of it before it is known at the school who has done it, should not be forgotten,' said Fred, pleadingly.

'Certainly, certainly, it is something, as you say,' answered Mr. Morrison; but in truth he felt overwhelmed just now.

As Fred was leaving, a servant from Dr. Mason's arrived with a note, asking that Mr. Morrison would bring his son, and be at the school by nine o'clock.

'Mason has found out all about it, I expect,' he said, as he read the note. He gave orders for his carriage to be ready by half-past eight the following day, for he had a great deal to do before he started for London in the evening.

He went to see Leonard in his own room before he went to bed, and then told him something of his uncle's life, and why it was that he wished to befriend Horace Howard.

His father's talk made a deep impression on the boy's mind. 'Mamma told me something of this once but she did not say the "somebody" was my uncle.'

'My boy, she loved this brother as Florrie loves you, and how could she tell you all the miserable tale?'

'Oh, papa, I am so sorry! What can I do to make you believe that I do mean to try and do right always for the future? I wish I could do something for that poor Horace. His hands are awfully bad, and he won't be able to use them for ever so long. There's nobody to take care of him at home either. Don't you think he might come here, papa?'

Dr. Morrison looked at Leonard, and breathed a sigh of relief. 'My boy, could I trust you to be good to him if I fetched him here to-morrow?'

'Yes, yes, papa; indeed I will try to make it up to him, if you will let him come. I am so sorry. I did not know it was going to be so bad, until I heard Mr. Skeats say he wondered they were not dead. That was why I wanted to see Howard's brother. I knew

he was the worst, and I wanted them to know that I did not mean really to hurt him.'

'I can quite believe and sincerely hope that this will be a lesson you will never forget through your whole life. But if I forgive you it is more than you can expect Dr. Mason to do. I almost wonder he has not put it into the hands of the police, and had you all arrested. The punishment will be severe, I have no doubt; it ought to be, to make an impression upon the school; and remember, whatever it may be, I shall expect you to bear it patiently and bravely. I forgive you, but I shall not seek to lessen the punishment your schoolmaster may inflict. Now go to sleep as soon as you can, and I will take you to school in the carriage with me in the morning.'

Dr. Morrison was compelled to pay a visit to a patient on his way to the school the next day, so that when they arrived they found all the school assembled in the hall. Prayers were just over, and when Leonard entered with his father, he was directed to take his place beside Taylor and Curtis, who were standing in front of the platform, where Dr. Mason and the other masters were sitting. His father was asked to take a seat there beside two other gentlemen, whom he afterwards heard were Mr. Curtis and Mr. Taylor, who had come to hear what their sons were charged with.

'It might have been manslaughter,' said Dr. Mason severely, when one of the gentlemen asked this question rather angrily.

'Last night, before we separated, I asked if anyone wanted to make a statement about this matter,' said the master, addressing the school. 'No one answered then; now it is too late, and I can tell you myself all that happened. When the chemistry class left the laboratory yesterday morning, Mr. Skeats left three boys to finish what they were doing, believing that they were the only lads there. Just after he had gone they heard the stink-chamber door opened, and Taylor put something down on Howard's bench, which is close to that door. They took no notice of this at first, until the peculiar odour arrested their attention. Then one of them went round to see what it was, but coming in closer contact with the fumes was overcome by them, and fell down unconscious. Soon a second fell at his bench, and the third fell just as Howard opened the laboratory door and called to them. None were able to answer; but he pulled two out on to the landing, and then went back for the third, but fell unconscious himself, close to his own bench, and near the lad he was trying to save. Fortunately, his cry for help was heard, and both lives were saved, I am thankful to say, although Howard has been burned a great deal with the acid of the poison.'

There was a dead silence throughout the school while the master was speaking. After a pause he said, 'I do not suppose that either Taylor, Curtis, or Morrison knew what their act would be likely to cause. I am sure they were ignorant of the danger they caused to three or four of their schoolfellows. But I do know that for some time past these boys have been persecuting one of their companions; and this sort of thing shall never be allowed at this school. Therefore, to save this school from future disgrace and trouble, I am compelled to expel from the school those who have been the ringleaders in this persecution. Taylor! Curtis! your names will be removed from the school roll, and never again will you be admitted as scholars of Torrington's school. Morrison has been greatly to blame in the part he has taken in this business; but taking into consideration that he made a full confession to his father last night of all he had done, added to the fact that he is a younger and weaker boy than the others, I shall suspend him from attending this school for six months; and if at the end of that time he can bring a certificate of good conduct from any other school, he may possibly be reinstated at Torrington's. The honour of the school demands that these punishments should be strictly adhered to.' The master sat down, and before a boy could leave his place Dr. Morrison sprang to his feet.

'Dr. Mason, I am an old Torrington boy,' he said; 'and I thank you with all my heart for defending the honour of the dear old school. My son is one of the culprits, and I thank you in his name for giving him another chance to retrieve his character. I shall send him for the six months to one of the board schools in the town, where I hope and trust he may earn the right to come among you once more, and bring no further disgrace upon Torrington's school.'

The other two gentlemen did not say a word. They were exceedingly angry with the culprits, but could not complain that the master had been unduly severe with them. Before they left, Dr. Mason said that he must charge them with the cost of a new suit of clothes for Horace. 'Those he was wearing yesterday are burned into holes, so that the poor lad has nothing to wear when he is able to get up,' said Dr. Mason.

'I will see to that,' said Dr. Morrison.

'I understand you are going to charge yourself with the care of the lad until he is well,' said the master. 'I like justice all round, and it is only fair these gentlemen should buy the boy a new suit. Will you leave me to order it?' he said, addressing the two.

'Yes, yes, of course, and we will pay the bill,' both answered in a breath.

'Now, Morrison, you can go and tell the lad that he will soon have some new clothes, for I understand that is the chief trouble with him this morning-that he has spoiled his best jacket, and burned holes in his trousers. Mrs. Mason will give you something to take him home in, and I think it will do both lads good to know more of each other. The wisest thing you could do is what you have decided upon for Leonard, and I hope I shall see him back at Torrington's at the end of six months.'

Mr. Morrison found Fred was with his brother, but he readily agreed to his being taken home by the doctor. Horace himself did not know what to make of it. Fred had just told him what he had heard from Dr. Morrison about his father, and now the doctor assured him that Leonard was very anxious to make up to him for all the unkindness he had been guilty of in the past.

'For our father's sake you ought to give him this chance,' said Fred, for he knew he could not give his brother the care he needed.

'Thank you, doctor; I will go with you,' said Horace.

Just as he was being wrapped up Mr. Warren came in to see his patient, and was glad to learn that he was going home with Dr. Morrison.

'You will let Warren come and see me, won't you?' said Horace.

'Yes, yes, send him by all means; and I shall be glad if you can look in upon him yourself to-morrow, for I am obliged to go to London this evening, so that he must be left to the tender mercies of Len and the servants for a day or two.'

Horace was carried to the carriage where Leonard was seated, shedding a few quiet tears over the folly that had gained for him this suspension for the honour of the school. Still, he was thankful that he was allowed a chance of return, and resolved to do all he could-even in a board school-to earn the right to go back at the end of six months. He was glad enough to have Horace seated beside him, and the first words he said were,

'I hope you will forgive me for being such a fool. We must be friends, you know, and I hope to come back to Torrington's with you by-and by.'

'Yes, yes, we will be good friends if you like,' said Horace, with the tears shining in his eyes. 'Only I don't know what my mother will say when she comes home.'

'Oh, that will be all right,' answered Leonard. 'Your mother has gone to London with my mother. I dare say we shall know all about it presently. But father is too busy now, for he is going to London again this evening, and so I shall have to take care of you until he comes back. We'll ask Warren to come and see us as well, because I know you like Warren.'

This last proposal cost Leonard the most, for he wanted Horace to like him now. But it was a proof to Mr. Morrison that his son had learned to conquer himself; and he had more hope for him now than he had since he first heard of this school scandal.

The doctor had taken care to say as little as possible to the two boys about the fortune Mr. Howard had made while he was away, and it had made so little impression upon Horace, that when Mr. Morrison came back from London the next day, and told him that his mother wanted him to go to the sea-side as soon as he was able to go, Horace looked at him in mute wonder.

Could his mother afford to send him to the sea-side? he wondered, and he resolved to ask Fred what he thought about it when he came.

His brother came to sit with him for an hour every evening, and as soon as they were left to themselves that night Horace said, 'Have you heard that mother wants us to go to the sea-side-Leonard, and you and I? What does it mean, Fred? Has mother got money enough now to spend it like that?'

'I suppose she has,' said Fred, with something like a sigh; 'but I am not sure that it is going to make us any happier, Horry,' he added.

'Well, I suppose that will depend upon what we do with it, won't it?' said Horace simply.

'Well, then I don't know that I shall let them spend any of it on me,' said Fred, in an angry tone.

'Then you won't let mother be happy, though she may have more money, and not have to work for it now.'

'Now, Horace, you know it is on mother's account that I feel as I do. It was unkind and cruel of father to go away and leave her as he did for years and years, though he was making a fortune for us. I tell you that money has been bought too dearly, and for mother's sake I don't feel as though I could touch a penny of it.'

'Oh, Fred! think how unhappy she will be if you say that to her.'

'I have said it,' replied Fred bitterly. 'I wrote and told her that I hoped she would leave me to be a carpenter, and live on in the little cottage where she had worked so hard.'

'Oh, how could you-what did she say?' cried Horace, with the tears shining in his eyes.

Fred covered his face for a moment. 'She begged me to forgive my father for her sake, as though it was not for her sake I feel as I do.'

'Yes, yes, I know,' said Horace. 'But you will have to do as she says, or else we shall all be so unhappy. Oh, Fred, for mother's sake, for my sake, forgive father! for why should I lose my brother because my father has come home? I cannot help myself. I must let him help me, and if he did stay and work for this money just to prove that he was sorry for what he had done so long ago, I think we ought to forgive him, as mother has. He is ill, too, through the hardships he had to endure.'

'Oh, Horry, if only he hadn't gone away like that! To have to forgive your father, instead of looking up to him as Len Morrison does, is so bitter; and it might all have been so different if only he had kept on doing his duty and asking God to help him when things were a bit harder than usual.'

'Oh, Fred, ask God to help you now, to help you forgive him for mother's sake, and for Jesus Christ's sake!' cried Horace, in a passion of tears.

'I have, dear, I have! and I think I shall be able to do it soon; but I think God wanted me to see that making a fortune can't make up for not doing the right thing at the right time; no, not even to the people you may make the fortune for. I shall have to let my father know this before I can fully forgive him.'

It was a bitter lesson for the returned prodigals to learn, for Leonard Morrison took the same view concerning his uncle, having memories of days when his mother was too ill and too sad to be glad with them; and he heard now from his father that this was generally caused by some memory of the dearly loved brother who had fled from them under a cloud of disgrace.

At length, however, Fred wrote and assured his mother that for her sake, and for his brother's, he would do as they wished, and join them at the sea-side, when Horace went for a holiday before returning to school. His hands were better, thanks to the kind attention he received from everyone at Dr. Morrison's. Indeed, he was such good friends now with Leonard, that he begged to be allowed to go to the sea-side with him, in order to make the acquaintance of his mother and his father as well as of his own uncle, who was still staying with them to help the invalid.

Fred wrote this letter, and Mrs. Howard was greatly relieved to receive it. To her it had been easy enough to receive and pardon her husband for his long neglect, and she failed to understand why her elder son, who had always been so good to her, should assume such a hard, unforgiving demeanour towards his father.

But when they met some weeks later she learned to understand the lad better; and when she told her husband he said, 'It is better. He is young, and has all his life before him, and he is right in thinking that no fortune can make up for wasted opportunities and neglected duties.'

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