A year and a month had passed away since the story opened, and it was Hallowe'en, the day before Robert's birthday. He had been born on All Saint's Day, and so long as he could remember, his grandmother and Mrs. Dorothy had kept the day as a high holiday. Robert knew, of course, that the Saints had something to do with the observance. The church was open, and there was the Holy Communion, which was only celebrated on great festivals, and other things to mark the solemnity; but the chief thought in Robert's mind about the day was, that it was his birthday. It made him feel as if the Saints had selected his birthday for their festival, and that they liked him better than they did other boys who had different birthdays. Mingled with this, there was another and more serious thought, that he ought to follow them in all virtuous and godly living, as the Collect said, and be one of those of whom he heard in the lesson, the world was not worthy. Then he thought of the words which went before: "They were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword," and kept wondering whether he would have to bear anything like this.
This very afternoon he asked his grandmother whether there were any Saints now-a-days---whether anybody in Danville was a Saint, and whether boys ever could be Saints.
His grandmother stroked his hair gently, as he knelt by her side, and looked down on the great Bible which lay open on her lap. She passed over the question about Danville, and replied, "she was sure boys could be, if they tried hard enough."
"How, grandma?" he said. "Must they be sawn asunder? That would hurt like sixty."
She said, "Robert, there are some things which hurt even more than that."
"I shouldn't think so, unless it were being eaten up by lions, or being burned when the wood was green," answered Robert. "What is it, grandma?" he asked again, as she continued stroking his hair.
"Well," she said, pausing a moment, "perhaps to lose all one's friends, and to live very much alone, and to have those you love turn out ill, something as St. John must have felt when all the Apostles were taken away, and the Blessed Virgin was dead, and he was longing to depart and be with Christ, and there were heresies and divisions in the Church.
Robert looked up wonderingly. This he could not understand, being sawn asunder looked a great deal worse. He only asked the question again: "How can boys be Saints, grandmother?"
She said, "There is a short way, Robert, which is the only way." She put both her hands upon his head, and a tear trembled in her eyes, as she spoke: "It is by giving up everything, all you have and all you want, to God, and keeping back nothing."
"Grandmother," he said, "do you think I ought to put my fish-pole, and my whip, and the big cat in the plate next Sunday? Those, and my patent-leather boots are pretty much all I have, unless it be," he added thoughtfully, as if he were not quite sure as to whether it would be a sacrifice to part with it--"Rollin's Ancient History."
"Yes," she said, "Robert, all these, if you were sure God required them of you--everything you have, in will always, in deed often."
"Ah, Grandmother!" he said, with a bright smile, "it must be easier for boys to be Saints than men, for they have less to give up."
"Yes," she said, "if fish-poles, and cats, and boots, were all a boy had to give up, and if putting money in the plate, were the only way of doing it."
"What else is there, Grandma?"
"Your own way and your own wishes, and, perhaps, the things you love the most de: rly, my child."
"What, Grandma! you and Mrs. Dorothy?"
"Yes," she said, and her face grew pale, and there was. a nervous twitching about the mouth, and a big tear dropped on the Bible, and fell on the text: "Ye must, through much tribulation, enter into the Kingdom of God." "You know what I told you a month ago?"
"Do you mean about Uncle Henry?" he said.
"Yes; to-morrow will be your twelfth birth-day, and then you must go to your Uncle Henry, if he wishes it."
"Will he want me, Grandma," he said, "do you think?"
"Yes," she said, "I fear so. He is to be here this week, sometime."
"Why did father leave it so in his will, Grandma?"
"He thought it was better, I suppose, that you should have the care of your Uncle, rather than mine, as you grew older; and, I dare say, too, he thought I would not live so long, for my health was poorer then than now. At any rate, it is so, and your uncle thinks you ought to go to school with your cousin Edward."
All this was not new to Robert; he had heard it often before, but he had kept putting away the thought, as a thing not to be for a long time. Now it seemed to come home to him.
"I cannot go with Uncle Henry," he said. "I heard you say, one day, to Mrs. Dorothy, that he was not a religious man, but very worldly, and you were afraid the household was not managed well, and that Aunt Mary had influenced him towards--towards"--he hesitated for the word--"Spirituality."
The tears rushed into his eyes as he spoke, and his breast heaved, and the red blood flushed in his cheek. "I can't go, Grandma; indeed I can't, and leave you, and Aunt Dorothy, and little Bertha."
He put his head down on the Bible and shook all over.
"Ah! Robert," she said, "is not this the first self-sacrifice? Ought you not to put this on the plate to-morrow, if God wills it?"
He looked up into her face; the blood came and went from his cheek. Her pale face was lighted with a glow from the western sky, which gleamed in through the west window, opposite. The rosy light rested a moment on his forehead, as he answered--
"I see, Grandma, I see; yes, I will!"
So St. James and St. John had said, in the days long ago, when He asked them, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" And they had answered, as brave and generous hearts should, without a moment's hesitation, "We are able."
All Saints' Day was a splendid day. The November sun shone through a soft haze. There was not a breath of wind, and the dying leaves only fell from the trees, because they could stay no longer.
Mrs. Dorothy had picked the White Chrysanthemums from the flower-pots in the window, where they had been moved from the garden, from fear of frost, and made a cross of white flowers for Captain Graham's grave.
The big basket for the lunch, down on the point below the church-yard, which the sea washes so lazily to-day, is all packed, and sends forth a fragrant and appetizing smell. Little Bertha, now a child of the family, is happy and skipping about, in eager haste to be away, and Robert, dressed in his Sunday suit, with a sober expression on his face which seems to contend with his natural high spirits, waits at the foot of the stairs, for his grandmother to come down.
Now they are all ready. The bell rings out for the service. Yonder goes Mr. Southey in his wagon. Miss Nancy Hogie is seen in the distance. She meets Mr. Coxie, who bows and murmurs internally, "Deluded souls, who dream of Heaven." Miss Nancy was no longer young and pretty, and a green calash, as everybody knows, is not becoming, and a cotton umbrella, however useful, not a graceful appendage. Still, those who looked deeper than the surface, could have seen something in the deep light of Miss Nancy's eyes, and the soft, gentle smile, which made her like one pleasant to look upon, on All Saints' Day.
The little party waited for Miss Nancy, and were shortly increased in numbers by the accession of old widow Jones, who, having lost all her teeth, could only mumble festival greetings. But though the widow's utterance was thick, she made up what she lacked in clearness, by greater fluency. The good soul, indeed, kept on talking, whether you understood her or not, and fascinated little Bertha, who kept gazing at her with great black eyes, under the horror-stricken impression that the old lady was an ogress.
Now, they could hear the slow, lazy beating of the waves on the Point; now, they passed through the churchyard gate; now, they stood in the shadow which, in the morning sun, the church cast to the westward.
They walked in a little procession up the path, with a certain formality which Robert was used to. First came Mrs. Dorothy, carrying the cross of Chrysanthemums, then Mrs. Graham, then Robert, then the widow, leading Bertha, who every now and then made ineffectual efforts to escape. Last of all came Miss Nancy, who liked it very much, but who had never entirely been able to get over the feeling, that perhaps there was some Roman tendency in it. They stopped at Captain Graham's grave. The marble cross was discolored, and moss-grown, the grass on the grave, weedy and withered. They looked at it for a moment; Mrs. Dorothy handed the cross to Mrs. Graham ; she laid it on the grave. She then stooped down and read the inscription, and passed on, followed by the rest, into the church. How still it was inside! The altar was vested in snow white; the altar cross was decked with a few white flowers, and the service went on. R.obert thought of what his grandmother had said to him yesterday, and, as they all knelt when the priest offered the alms upon the altar, he made his offering to God.
They had a fine time at lunch afterwards. The clean table-cloth was spread upon a smooth, flat rock, which the high bank kept in the shadow. Mrs. Dorothy knew how to get up a lunch--such sandwiches, such cold chicken, and such pumpkin pies--that the widow, whose larder was but scantily supplied, felt that All Saints' Day was almost as good as Thanksgiving.
Robert and Bertha managed to boil the teakettle, for the old ladies could not manage to do without tea, even at a picnic; and, excepting a hole in Bertha's frock, and a tear in Robert's pantaloons, all went nicely.
When the widow had taken her tea, she told the whole story of the death and funeral of Mr. Jones, who had been killed some forty years ago, by a fall from an apple tree. She even gave quotations from the funeral sermon, and went so far as to repeat the gestures of the worthy minister. As she did so, unluckily the thought seized possession of Bertha, that the time had come when the ogress was to swallow her whole. She shrieked at the top of her voice, and screaming, "You shan't! you shan't!" rushed into Mrs. Dorothy's arms for protection. It was some time before she could take her face from the folds of Mrs. Dorothy's gown, where she had hid it, and when she did so, the sight of Mrs. Jones, showing all her gums in a vain effort to look benignant, renewed the explosion.
At last, it was proposed that the ladies should walk homeward, and Robert and Bertha be allowed to stay awhile longer, and pick up shells on the beach. This silenced Bertha's sobs, and no sooner was the last sight seen of the widow, as she climbed up the bank and was hidden from the view, than away went Bertha, full of glee, to pick up shells.
They had played an hour or two, when there came one of those changes in the weather, not uncommon in the autumn. Dark, grey clouds began to spread over the sky; the wind began to sob, and moan, and whistle, and the leaves in the church-yard above, rustled as though a multitude were trampling on them. The air, which had been so soft and mild, grew chilly and cold, and the waves rolled in heavier and heavier on the beach.
"It is time to go home, Bertha," called Robert.
The change had affected her spirits. She put her hand softly in his, and looked up into his face, half frightened, and pointed out to the waves, and shivered. Quickly they climbed the bank, and stood in the church-yard. The tall, withered grass, which had not been mown, shook to and fro in the wind, the leaves danced in a circle in the angle of the tower, the cross of white flowers, which had been placed so carefully on the grave, was blown to one side, and the fair blossoms were withered. Robert carefully picked it up, and laid it again on the grave. As he did so, Bertha seized his hand and said,
"Come, let us go, Robby; see, there is a bad man here."
Sure enough, just in the way to the gate, seated on a tomb stone, which was placed in a horizontal position, sat a man, smoking a cigar. Robert was doubtful whether it was right to smoke at any time; but to sit on a tomb stone and smoke, seemed to him almost a sacrilege. There was that in the man's face which was not prepossessing, though he was well dressed, and had the outward marks of a gentleman.
Robert's first instinct was to turn and go the other way; his second thought was that this would be cowardly; so he took Bertha's hand firmly in his, and marched forwards. As he did so, the man rose from his place, and fixed himself full in front of the children, on the path. Robert's heart went thump, thump against his vest, and the big tears came into Bertha's eyes. It was but a little walk to where the man stood, but the thought flashed through Robert's-mind, as the most unreasonable thoughts will, what if he should be a pirate, or a robber, and should wish to carry himself and little Bertha off. He looked this way and that. There was the church and the lonely graves, and the far-reaching sea, but no living being in sight except the stranger.
Robert stepped out of the path to pass him, when he laid his hand upon his shoulder, and in a harsh, sharp voice, said, "stand still!"
Robert stopped instinctively, while Bertha grasped a handful of dirt and stones in her little hand, and with her cheeks blazing, was ready to throw them at the intruder,
"Can you tell me where I can find Mrs. Graham? I heard she had come out for a pic-nic; a pretty thing for a woman of her age?"
"She has gone home, sir;" and as he said so, Robert tried to hurry on.
"Gone home, has she? Then I will go there, too, although I do not see how I could have missed her. What's your name, little girl?" he said, stooping down and trying to kiss her. He seemed more unpleasant when he-tried to be pleasant, even than before, and little Bertha jumped out of his reach, and, if Robert had not stopped her, would have thrown the handful of dirt at him.
The gentleman only laughed, and said to Robert, "And what is your name?"
"Ah!" he said, with a little start, "you are the boy, then. I suppose you do not know me. I am your Uncle Henry."
Robert did not know what to say, so he said, "how do you do, sir?"
"Well," said Mr. Stebbins, for that was his name, "is your trunk all packed, my fine sir? I have come for you. Your cousin, Edward, is very anxious to see you."
Robert did not answer; his heart was too full. He would perhaps have said something ungracious, when his attention, and that of Mr. Stebbins, was diverted by little Bertha who, having in the excitement withdrawn her hand from Robert's, was proceeding at a little distance in the rear to discharge a new handful of dirt at the coat tails of Mr. Stebbins. Robert, of course, had to catch her and stop the threatened demonstration; and so, in his efforts to keep the little maiden in order, and in answering a few questions, the time passed till they reached Mrs. Graham's door.
Mr. Henry Stebbins was the son-in-law of Mrs. Graham. He had married for his first wife her eldest daughter. During the short time of their married life, doubtless influenced by her earnest faith, Mr. Stebbins had seemed all that one could desire. A sudden fever had taken her away, after they had been married but a few years, and with many prayers she had committed to her husband's care her only child Edward. Mr. Stebbins had remained for a while, a sincere mourner, but four years before the story begins, had married Miss Mary Mixer, a lady well known in the refined society of Dorchester, as a person of strong character and great attainments. She was a constant contributor to that admirable magazine, The Progressive Freeman-, had been a teacher of Ethics, Physiology and Hygiene, in the Dorchester Female Academy, and was for a while an inmate of the Fourierite Establishment at Polehampton. To her maternal affection young Edward Stebbins was entrusted. It was while the first Mrs. Stebbins was living that Mr. Graham, Robert's father, feeling that his end was approaching, had made by his will Mr. Stebbins one of his executors, and determined that his son Robert should be placed under his uncle's care when he reached his twelfth birthday. He was led to do so from his respect for Mr. Stebbins' character as it then appeared, and from his fear that his own mother's age and infirmities, would preclude her from doing her duty to his son.
Mr. and Mrs. Stebbins would gladly have left Robert to his grandmother's care, had it not been for one consideration. Mr. Graham had left a comfortable property, and by the provisions of the will, over and above the expenses of his son's maintenance, Mr. Stebbins was to receive a sum of money every year, so long as Robert Graham remained under his charge. His own tastes and those of his wife were expensive, his business was not as profitable as it might have been, and the additional income was an object to him. He also thought that Robert Graham would be a desirable companion for his own son, and so was ready and desirous to take him under his charge, so soon as his twelfth birthday arrived.
Mrs. Graham, much as she would have liked to keep Robert, with her, and greatly as she feared the influence of Mr. Stebbins' home associations, was prevented from making any strong effort to overcome Mr. Stebbins' resolution, by the feeling she had, that, by doing so, she might be interfering with God's providential ordering for her grandson. His father, with many prayers, and after much consideration, had thus willed it, and so with many a pang and tear, and many a misgiving and earnest prayer, she resolved to let him go.
Mrs. Dorothy was for a long time rebellious, and, y private, abused Mr. and Mrs. Stebbins to Miss Nancy Hogie and the widow Jones, until they regarded them worse than Fejee Islanders. Indeed, whenever Mrs. Dorothy poked the fire in an especially spiteful way, it way fully understood by the widow and Miss Nancy, that she was poking the invisible Stebbinses, and devoting them to the same fate with which Calvin had regaled Servetus.
Miss Nancy had been a little shaken in her opinion about Mr. Stebbins, by seeing so gentlemanly-looking a man pass her house the day after his arrival in Danville, but, on expressing some doubts as to his total depravity to Mrs. Dorothy, she had been met by such a glance of disdain, that she prudently abandoned the contest, and only restored herself to favor, by remembering, in the nick of time, that Satan himself had been transformed into an angel of light. I pass over the sad parting, on the third of November, when, in the fog, and mist, and dreariness, Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Dorothy had watched the Dorchester stage grow dimmer and dimmer in the distance, until it was lost to view. There were few last words. The stage went early, and Mrs. Dorothy had to get breakfast. Mrs. Graham had tried to eat, and did her best to make Robert do so. She had been pleased to see that the excitement of traveling, and the prospect of seeing the great city, of which he had heard so much, had a little taken away the intensity of Robert's sorrow at parting. He was full of the Museum, and the man-of war in the harbor, and the great menagerie, and the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy, about which his uncle had told him; and in the thought of present enjoyment, forgot the sorrow of going away.
The night before, Mrs. Graham had had a quiet talk with him in her own room. There was one thing about which she had been very anxious--he had never been confirmed, and had not received the Holy Communion. The newly consecrated Bishop of Dorchester had not, as yet, visited Danville, and the old Bishop had regarded confirmation as a corrupt following of the Apostles, and so had administered it as seldom as he could. She made Robert promise that he would be careful about his prayers. She gave him a new Bible and Prayer Book, and an old copy of Bishop Ken's Prayers for Schoolboys, which his father had used. She enjoined upon him that he should always go to church when he could, and, laying her hands upon his head, implored him to take the first opportunity of being confirmed, that God should give him. "Remember, my child," she said, "confirmation will give you strength to resist your temptations, and when you go to the Holy Communion, it is going to Christ, our dear Lord. When you are disappointed, or sorrowful, or lonely, or tempted, if you can only go to Him you will find comfort and help. You can go to Him," she said, after a moment's pause, "each time you say your prayers, and each time you go to Church, but you find His very blessed Presence at the altar of God."
He listened with a thoughtful expression on his face, and said, "Yes, grandmama, I promised God in church yesterday, I would give up all for Him."
She kissed him on his cheek, and said one thing more: "Robert, do try and do your cousin as much good as you can; I am afraid he needs help. Perhaps," she said, with a bright look, "God has taken you away from me that you May do good to him." Just then Mrs. Dorothy had called them to tea, and so the talk had ended.
A pleasant fire in the dull November evening, was burning in the grate, as Robert entered the comfortable parlor in his uncle's house in Dorchester. Mrs. Stebbins, was reading the last number of the Progressive Freeman. and her son Edward, or, as every one called him, Ned, was curled up in the arm chair, asleep.
Let us look at him a moment. He is about a year older than Robert Graham, and looks like him and unlike him. It is difficult to say in what the likeness consists, for Robert's hair is black, while Ned's is a light brown; Robert has black eyes, Ned blue; Robert is thick-set, and stout and broad-shouldered; Ned half a head taller, and thin, and spare; Robert's face brown with exercise in the open air, and with a ruddy glow in his cheeks; Ned's has a chalky look, and over all his features there is an appearance as though they had been partly washed out by a sponge; Robert's face has a sunny, cheerful smile; when Ned's features are in repose, there is an expression half melancholy,, half irritable; and yet there is a likeness as if Robert might have looked like Ned had he been differently brought up, and Ned might have had the same sort of face with his cousin, under similar circumstances.
Mrs. Stebbins was not a handsome woman. The first thing you noticed was her hair. It was brushed off her forehead, to show as much as possible of her brow; on either side of her face, it was drawn down into four stiff curls, and on the back, it was made up into a little hump. It seemed as though it had never been able to flourish, by reason of the activity of her brain, and was withered up by internal fires. She wore gold spectacles, and had a habit of biting her nails. As Robert came in, she laid aside the Progressive Freeman.
"So this is Robert Graham? How do you do?" She gave him a little kiss, and began to read again.
"Wake up?" said Mr. Stebbins, giving Ned a poke.
"Whoa!" said Ned. "What's the matter?" Then rubbing his eyes, he added, "Is that you, Pop?"
"Yes, Ned; don't you know your cousin?"
He got up from the chair, and took Robert's outstretched hand, and said, "I'm glad you've come. Come up to the Snuggery."
Robert looked around at his uncle, and, receiving no directions as to what to do, and supposing the Snuggery was some place, where it was the proper thing for him to go on his arrival, followed Ned out of the room.
Ned mounted three pair of stairs, and in the topmost hall, kicked the first door open. "Look out," he said, "for the Happy Family, till I turn on the gas." It was only just in time to save Robert from treading on the box containing the Happy Family, which consisted of a squirrel, a pigeon, a cat, a mouse, a guinea pig, and a rabbit.
The Happy Family diffused an odor not suggestive of happiness, over the room. Robert gazed around, and Ned looked on, pleased at his astonishment. The wall was hung with pictures of horses and prize-fighters, with here and there a comic sketch. On the mantel-piece were a couple of meerschaums, and just under the gas-light, as if Ned had been lately reading, lay a dime novel, entitled, "The Bride of the Rocky Mountains, or The Hunter's Revenge." The half-opened drawer showed what looked like a whisky or brandy flask, and in the corner, a false moustache.
"How do you like the Snuggery?" said Ned.
"I don't know; what is it for? Is it a private menagerie."
"A private menagerie!" laughed Ned; "why, it's my bedroom, and I call it the Snuggery, it's so awful comfortable. See here," he continued, and taking down a meerschaum from the mantlepiece, he lighted it, and put his legs up on the table, "This is what I call jolly." As the smoke filled the room, the Happy Family did not seem to find it jolly, but began moving about the box in which they were confined, in a way which seemed to express uneasiness, at least. Robert himself was compelled, in a little while, to retreat to the door, and ask if he could not go down stairs again.
"First, I will show you your room, which is close by mine." He opened the next door, and showed a neatly furnished room, looking out upon the street.
"This is nice," said Robert.
"Nice enough, but it does not make any difference, as we shall both have to be off to the 'Polly' on Monday."
"The 'Polly?' What's that?"
"Oh! that's what we call the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy."
"Why are we going so soon?"
"It's on account of the disagreement, or something, in my bumps."
"Bumps!" said Rob, more and more mystified; but Ned would vouchsafe no explanation, and led the way down stairs again.
In the course of the evening, the mystery was explained. Mrs. Stebbins was reading a Treatise on Phrenology, from which, every now and then, she read an extract aloud. Suddenly she called to Robert, and ordered him to kneel on his knees before her, and commenced rapidly rubbing his head and fumbling in his hair.
Robert was quite amazed, and said, meekly, "Mrs. Dorothy combed it with a fine-tooth comb on Saturday, and she said it was very clean."
"Clean!" exclaimed Mrs. Stebbins, "What's cleanliness? Here's combativeness, very large; philoprogenitiveness, enormous! Mercy!" she exclaimed, "What shall we do?"
"What is it, my dear?" said Mr. Stebbins, waking up from a nap, while Ned drew near, and with a make-believe expression of deep interest on his face, asked, "What is it?"
"He has a dreadful head; destructiveness, obstinacy, amativeness, largely developed; conscientiousness, reverence, ideality, not large. Poor Dr. Neverasole, what a time he will have!"
"Mother," said Ned, "I ate up the custard that was in the closet, this afternoon, in order to cultivate my alimentiveness, which you said was deficient, and I asked the most ancient Miss Puggins how old she was, to increase my individuality. Is there anything I can do to improve Rob's bumps?"
"I shall leave you both to dear Dr. Neverasole," said Mrs. Stebbins, "you can go to bed now."
As they went up stairs, Ned declared that his mother had greatly improved his character by her exertions, and that his bad bumps were constantly growing smaller, and his good ones actually swelling. "Whenever I think I am getting too good, I bump my head against the bedpost. Sometimes," he said, looking at Robert with an air of comic ·eriousness, "my whole character is changed by a slight accident, as everything depends upon the way the bumps are balanced. Once." he said, "it became necessary for me to increase my destructiveness, in order to preserve the balance of power, and I used to break a dozen cups and saucers, daily."
Poor Rob! He did not comprehend; he had not been used to that kind of joking--and he went to bed with a heavy heart.
He undressed himself, and after reading the Evening Psalter and lessons, knelt down and said his prayers. He got into bed and tried to sleep. To drive away all other thoughts, he said his evening hymn, and kept repeating over the words:
"Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die."
But, do what he would, his grandmother, and Mrs. Dorothy, and his own little room at home, and the cat, came and looked at him. It seemed to him as if he must see them, and speak to them. It seemed as if his heart could jump out of his mouth, it was swelling so large in his breast. The hot tears ran down his cheeks. Just as he thought he could stand it no longer, he remembered what his grandmother had once told him, that when he was separated from those he loved, he could always come near them by praying for them. So he got up from his bed and prayed for grandmother and Mrs. Dorothy, little Bertha, and everybody in Danville, he could think of. Then he felt easier and better, and, with his hands crossed upon his breast, fell fast asleep. The moon looked in at the window, and cast a pale, white light on the bed--he slept in peace.
How long he had slept, he did not know, when he was awakened by a loud shout: "Help--help--murder--murder--help--help!" He leaped from his bed and rushed to the door. As he opened the door, the house was as still as possible--not a sound was to be heard. He thought he had been dreaming, when, louder than before, from Ned's room came the cry: "Help--help--murder--murder!"
It was but a moment's wor.k to push open the door and rush in. As he did so, something gave a jump at him, and fled past him.
The room had a close, bad smell of tobacco and the Happy Family, combined; the gaslight, not turned quite off, cast a flickering light over all; Ned sat up in bed; his eyes were fixed on vacancy; the sweat stood in great beads on his forehead; his face was as white as the sheet; he did not seem to see Robert, and cried again: "Help--help!"
"Here I am," said Rob, "what is the matter, Ned?"
"It is a ghost," said Ned, "I saw it, and felt in on my breast."
"Pooh!" said Robert, laughing, "Wake up. It was only the cat; the Happy Family have got out, and are having a good time."
Robert came and sat on the bed, and put his hand on Ned's hand. The poor boy was shaking like an aspen. He lay down in bed, and when Robert, seeing that the nightmare was over, moved to go, Ned begged him to stay. "Don't go, Rob," said he, "I dare not stay alone; I see such awful things." So Rob lay down on the bed by his side, and slept till morning.
The next day was Sunday, and Rob was up, as was the custom at home, bright and early. He dressed himself carefully, and read, as he was accustomed to do, though not fully understanding it, the hymn for the Sunday, from Keble's Christian Year. When he went down stairs there was nobody stirring except a sleepy-looking house-maid, who was opening the parlor shutters. She stared at him, and when he asked what time breakfast would be ready, replied, "Sometimes, it was nine, and sometimes it was ten; it depended on what time master and mistress got up."
It seemed an age till breakfast time. The meal was only just over, when all the bells in the city went clang--clang--for the various services and meetings. Rob went to the window. He wondered where they all went to church, but nobody said anything. His uncle sat in his arm chair, in dressing gown and slippers, reading the Sunday edition of the Dorchester Daily Lyar. Ned had got the "Bride of the Rocky Mountains," and was yawning over it. Mrs. Stebbms had left the room.
The bells rang out, and, through the window, Rob could see the people, neatly dressed, and going this way and that to church.
He did not like to speak to his uncle, so he whispered to Ned: "Where do we go to church?"
"Go to church?" said Ned, "sometimes I go to one church; sometimes to another. Last Sunday--let me see--1 was at Pumper's Hall, to hear Mrs. Ernestine Smith lecture on Spiritualism. She's a medium--and how she does talk! The Sunday before that, I went to the Catholic Cathedral; and Sunday before that, it rained; and to-day I haven't decided."
"Isn't there any Episcopal Church?" said Rob.
"Oh, yes!" said Ned, "there's Old St. Bridget's close by; that's the fashionable church. Pop's got a pew there--havn't you, Pop?" he asked.
"What?" said Mr. Stebbins, looking up from the police intelligence in the Daily Lyar.
"Havn't you got a pew in St. Bridget's?"
"No," said Mr. Stebbins, with a frown, "I have sold it; don't bother me!"
"Won't you please go with me?" whispered Robert, again. "I do want to go, and I don't know where to go."
"Well," said Ned, "I suppose I might as well; it's some time now, since I have patronized the Episcopals."
Presently, the boys were on their way. The bell had ceased tolling before they got to the church, and Rob had a guilty feeling, as though he was breaking the fourth commandment. Just before they reached the church, Rob asked Ned why he did not go to some church, regularly.
"Oh," said Ned, "Pop wishes me to decide for myself, about my religion; he doesn't believe in prejudicing me in favor of any denomination; so I am trying them all."
Just then, as they were mounting the broad stone steps which led to St. Bridget's, suddenly, Ned looking over his shoulder, saw a boy he knew, on the other side of the street. "Don't wait for me, Rob," he said, "there's Jerry Guffins!"
Rob stopped for a moment, hoping he would return, and then opened the church door and walked in. The church was well filled with people, all elegantly dressed. The pews, which were painted white, were very high indeed, with high doors, on each of which was a small brass plate, with a number on it. At the end of the aisle was a railing, and inside of it, a table with a marble slab on it, and above that, a huge desk, and far above that, a pulpit. A clergyman, in the desk, was reading the exhortation.
Robert walked up the aisle, hoping to find an empty pew. The people looked over the tops of the pews, at him. There was a pew near the top, with only one lady in it, and Rob put his hand on the door, to open it, but the lady looked at him and frowned; so he walked to the top of the church; but no one asked him in, and then he walked down again. By this time, the confession had begun, and Rob did not like to be walking about, so he knelt down in the aisle, where he was. When he got up from his knees, an old, white-headed man, came out of a pew, a few doors ahead, and taking him by the hand, led him into a pew. At this, a young lady tittered almost aloud, and several others hid their faces in their Prayer Books.
The service went on as usual, except that when the Litany was said, and Robert read the responses, as he was accustomed to do at home, the white-headed gentleman touched him on-the shoulder, and whispered, "Not so loud, my little man--not so loud." So Robert read lower. When the sermon began, Robert had time to notice how nicely the pew was cushioned, and how handsomely the Prayer Books were bound, and, also, to remark a thermometer, which the old gentleman kept examining, as though it might be affected by the warmth or coldness of the services.
At last, Robert got interested in the sermon. It was about confirmation, and he was all the more interested, when he heard the clergyman say that the Bishop would visit the church that afternoon, to administer the rite, and he hoped that those who wished to be confirmed, would hand in their names before Evening Prayer.
Presently, the blessing was pronounced, and scarcely were the words uttered, Avhen everybody got up, and moved into the aisles. Some nodded, some whispered, some talked about the weather or the sermon, and down the aisle the people poured.
The white-headed man moved along with the rest; but Robert, when the others had passed out, stayed in the pew. He remembered what his grandmother had said about confirmation, but he did not know what to do. Presently, he saw a fat, motherly-looking woman, going towards the vestry-room, and he mustered up courage enough to follow her. Before they reached the door, out came the clergyman.
"How do you do, my dear Mrs. Jowler!" he said, shaking her warmly by the hand. "What a lovely Sabbath this is."
"Lovely, indeed, Mr. Gooby; and what a sweet sermon that was, you gave us."
"I am glad you liked it. I sat up till two o'clock, last night, writing it."
"Do be careful of your health. Mr. Gooby."
"Thank you, Mrs. Jowler. I keep up pretty well, though I am a little fatigued. How is dear Belinda?"
"She did not like to come out to-day. She would be so much noticed, you know, and Thursday so near by; but we thought you might come home and dine with us, and explain to her about the service, so there might be no mistake at the wedding."
"Just like dear Belinda--so thoughtful!" said Mr. Gooby. Then he noticed Robert, who stood twirling his hat, and anxiously waiting for a chance to ask his question. Sabbath School meets at three," said Mr. Gooby, and was passing by.
"Please, sir," said Rob, "May I ask you a question?" 'Certainly," said Mr. Gooby, with a smile, but at the same time with a little impatience expressed in the voice, "what is it?"
"Would it be right for me"--and Robert hesitated and stammered, as he asked the question--"so soon after hearing about it, to be confirmed?"
"How old are you?" said Mr. Gooby.
"Just twelve," said Robert.
"No, indeed," said Mr. Gooby, "no, indeed, my son; you are not old enough."
"In a year, or two, or three," he added. "Attend the Sabbath School, regularly, and pray for a change of heart."
He did not wait for Rob's declaration that he could not attend the "Sabbath School," but was soon comfortably seated in Mrs. Jowler's carriage, and listening to her pleasant remark:
"What good advice you gave; so short and pithy, and so much to the point."
Mrs. Jowler was so much pleased that she told it at the dinner table, as a good story, and repeated it to all her friends at the sewing society, which met on Tuesday.
That afternoon Rob persuaded Ned to go to church and see the confirmation. The church was not as full as in the morning, and the Sexton showed them a pew.
There was something very gentle and earnest about the Bishop of Dorchester, and even Ned said he was a "real nice man." Both the boys were much impressed by the solemn service, and walked home, arm in arm. All Ned said, was:
"It must be jolly to be good; but there's no use trying," and he whistled ferociously.