I pass over the first two months of the boys' residence at the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy. Ned found out he had made a mistake about the grub, as he called it. The living was good, and the house well and carefully kept. It was on account of her singular abilities in this respect, that Dr. Neverasole bore with Mrs. Jollipop, who did not hesitate to express her mind about all sorts of things, and who lived in a chance state of opposition to Doctor Neverasole and most of the professors. Professor Poggers was her chief dislike, and she always designated him as "that Poggers." Once Doctor Neverasole had rebelled and dismissed Mrs. Jollipop, but things had gone so wrong, and the boys had made such a fuss, and the clothes, and dormitories, and kitchen, had got into such a state, that he had been glad to receive her back again, and her sway was undisputed. Mrs. Neverasole was her warm supporter, as she had no ide? of renouncing the comforts and ease of her own wing, for the cares and labors of the main building, and she remembered, too well, how, in Mrs. Jollipop's absence, she had run here and there, and worked herself sick, in a vain effort to make things go. So, when Mrs. Jollipop broke out, Mrs. Neverasole always retired, and suppressed any inclinations Dr. Neverasole might, occasionally, feel for a change of ministry.
Miss Mehitabel, or Hetty, as she was called, who was a forward, pretty girl of about sixteen, with whom all the boys were constantly in love, shared in the boy's admiration for Mrs. Jollipop, and was a frequent and constant visitor at the housekeeper's room.
It was an afternoon, in January. It had snowed all the night before, but the snow, in the morning, had turned into a soft, mild rain, so that there was nothing but slush; the boys had tried to snow-ball, but, except a few more adventurous ones, had gradually gone back, again, into the house. Some were in the Gymnasium, where Mr. La Tombe was instructing them in athletic sports; some were in a place they called the Retreat, which was a room of the Gymnasium; some, unfortunately, were in the school-room, where Mr. Whooney, whose duty it was to see that discipline was enforced, presided; and the older youth were about, in the bed-rooms of the bigger boys. The boys in the highest class, did not sleep in dormitories, but had bed-rooms to themselves, two in a room.
The room at the top of the second flight of stairs, was occupied by Thomas Durkey, who was generally accounted the best scholar and most promising boy in the school. He was Professor Pogger's favorite scholar. He had a great taste for mathematics, and his scientific knowledge, while not deep, was at least showy. He had a good memory and easily learned the various facts he heard in the lectures, and could talk, as the boys said, as well as old Gubbins. He expected to leave the school, at the end of the present year, and was allowed more liberties than most of the boys. Especially, he could go into Dorchester, occasionally, and this, and plenty of money, which he always seemed to have at his command, made him exceedingly popular.
"I don't know where he gets his money," said Jerry Guffins, one day, to Ned. "My father says his father isn't rich."
"Isn't his Aunt Jemima?" said Ned. "I heard him say so, once. She is awful rich, and is going to leave him all her property, when she dies. She sends him lots of money, and pays all his bills."
This afternoon, Thomas Durkey was seated in his study, surrounded by several of his friends.
Thomas was a tall, straight, well-formed youth, of good figure and graceful carriage. He was well and tastefully dressed, and had pleasant, gentlemanly manners. There was nothing coarse or sensual in his face; on the contrary, there was a decidedly intellectual look about him. Almost any one, in looking at him. would have said, "what a fine young fellow; there is manliness, and honor, and frankness!"
Perhaps, a more careful observer might have disliked a certain look about the face, when in repose, and the manner in which the eye avoided another's--but only a careful observer would have noticed it.
Dr. Neverasole introduced him to all their visitors--Professor Poggers called him up to recite, whenever there was any company present. Occasionally Professor Gosh-kins referred to him, and he once corrected Professor Gub bins, in one of his lectures. The boys followed him, and imitated, and did what he said, and in the expressive language in use in the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy, declared that he was a "hunkey fellow."
On the stove, in Durkey's room, was a stew of oysters, sending out a savory smell; on the table, in six saucers, were oysters, raw; a salt cellar, elaborately carved out of a block of wood, and an ancient pepper box, with a vinegar cruet and some forks, made up the furniture of the table, placed before the stove. Durkey, with a whiskey bottle in jjis hand, was pouring into two glasses, a little whiskey. The boys in the room were, Jerry Gufiins, an old scholar, and an old acquaintance of Ned's, Ned himself, who was full of jokes, and had become a prime favorite, the more so, that he was ready for any kind of mischief; Henry, or as the boys called him, Sandy Whiffles; Jack Popkins and Edward Bolmer.
Sandy Whiffles had derived his name from the color of his hair; sometimes, too, the boys called him "Cravat," from his peculiar taste in that article of dress. Sandy was always in love with some girl or other--sometimes in the neighborhood, sometimes in Dorchester; and the number and frequency of his letters, was a continued wonder to the clerk of the little post-office at Hubviile, the village hard by. Every day or two, he appeared in a new cravat, of the most extraordinary appearance--green, red and yellow being the favorite colors. He wore, on his ring finger, three rings, one of gold, another of whalebone, and a third--about the composition of which there was much dispute--a large green stone, which Sandy declared was Emerald, and Popkins asserted was glass, being the subject of discussion. A huge breastpin, also, which purported to be a diamond of the first water, set off a shirt, which was not as white as one could have wished.
Popkins was a big, burly, coarse, red-faced fellow, whose appetite was monstrous, and who was inclined to tease Sandy about his jewelry, and his lady loves.
Bolmer sat a little ways from the table, half joining in the conversation, but with a look on his face, as if he did not altogether approve. He declined the whiskey, when Durkey offered it to him, and pushed his chair a little further from the table.
Bolmer was thought, by some of the boys, to be superior to Durkey, but he was a youth who seemed to care very little for praise, or standing first, and in an easy tempered way, let Durkey take all the honors, such as they were. He did not hesitate to speak out his mind, and was the only boy in the school who had any real influence over Durkey. In his heart, Durkey knew this, and struggled between the respect he felt for him, and the dislike he felt at his power over him.
As Bolmer refused the whiskey, a shade passed over Durkey's face, but he said nothing. Now, the boys drew their chairs nearer the fire. Popkins' face, as he drank the whiskey, looked like some animal's, so coarse and brutish was the expression.
"I say, Sandy, didn't I give it to old Whiney, in class, this morning?"
Whiney was the name by which Mr. Whooney was popularly known.
"Yes, that you did!" said Sandy.
"Think of his impudence in expecting me to decline a noun of the fourth declension! Does he think that I am going to spend my time on his old Latin and Greek grammar?"
"What did you tell him?" said Durkey, looking up, with a peculiar smile.
"I told him he was an ass."
"What did he say?" asked Guffins.
"Oh, nothing; what could he? He knew well enough old Neverasole wouldn't say a word to me for not studying classics; so long as you get your lessons to Poggers of Goshkins, and don't go to sleep in the lectures, you're all right, in this school. I guess that's the reason he has such a fellow as Whiney to teach the classics."
"I'll tell you something about Whiney," said Durkey, in a quiet tone of voice. "He's got lots of tin."
"How do you know?" they all said in a breath.
"He's such a bloody old Englishman, that he's afraid to trust his money in the Dorchester Banks, so he keeps it up in his room."
"Did you see it?"
Durkey did not answer the question, but went and looked out of the window. Mr. Whooney's room was on the same floor as his own, but at the other end of the hall; the window looked out to the rear of the building as his own did; There was a scraggy pear tree, which was just in front of Mr. Whooney's window, and in summer, shaded it
"If a fellow was to climb up that pear tree, at ten o'clock, and Whooney's curtain was up, as it is half the time, I guess you could see him counting the money, some night."
"What a jolly row it would be," said Jerry Guffins, "to hook his money some time, and see how the old thing would take it."
Ned had followed Durkey to the window.
"I'd as lieve shin up that tree as not, and I guess I'll do it, some night."
"You daren't do it," said Durkey.
"Daren't!" said Ned; "I guess there's not many things I don't dare to do."
"To-morrow's your day, then," said Durkey, "for I happen to know that Neverasole pays the teachers their quarter's salary to-morrow afternoon, and I bet a sixpence, he counts over his cash to-morrow night, when he goes to bed. He has to keep study all the evening, and can't do it before."
"Pooh!" said Bolmer, "can't you leave Whooney alone? It seems to me, if any body had the heart of a cat, they would leave that man- alone. Dr. Neverasole snubs him, and Poggers snubs him, and Goshkins laughs at him, and Gubbins mocks him; and the boys--there ain't two in the whole school that treats him any better than if he were a dog. I say it's mean."
"That's because you like Latin and Greek, and can translate like sixty," said Jerry.
"I'll pay Whiney, for getting me shut up three days, on bread and water," said Popkins.
At this, Whiffles laughed a little.
"You needn't laugh," said Popkins; "I guess Whiney didn't tell Abraham Jones, Esq., down in Dorchester, that you were writing letters to his Polly Maria; and I guess you didn't get a letter from old Abraham, enclosing your last, and declining the honor of any further correspondence."
"Anyhow," answered Whiffles, "I didn't get drunk, down in Hubville, and be brought home, by old Whiney and two policemen."
Popkins' face flushed up; "I'll pay him for it, too."
Just then, Durkey interrupted the conversation: "What's the story about Jollipop's going into the dormitory, .and saying Billy Hubbers shouldn't be teased?"
"Yes," said Popkin's, "Jollipop had better mind her own business, and leave the dormitory alone."
Popkins, although a big boy, was not in the highest class, and still slept in the dormitory. He ruled the dormitory, with a rod of iron, and allowed and encouraged all the rows which went on there, unless he happened to be very sleepy, and then he made everybody keep quiet. It was this, which added to his spite against Mr. Whooney, because it was his duty to keep order in the dormitory, and, in doing so, he had frequently been the means of bringing Popkins to punishment.
Poor Mr. Whooney! he was born at Lichfield, in England, and was a graduate at Oxford. He had inherited a small property, and had come to America with a vain idea that he should make his fortune. A young woman in Lichfield, a daughter of one of the Cathedral clergy, had won his heart, and the poor soul had thought that, in five years, he could return, rich as Croesus, and live in peace and plenty all the rest of his days. Lucy had vainly tried to persuade him, that they could live happily enough on a little, but he had not been satisfied.
His speculations in Dorchester had not been successful; by the failure of the firm of Hoblens, Snubbers & Co., he had lost a part of his property; some more had gone when the Atlantic Bank broke; his share in the Nova Scotia gold mines, kept going down, instead of going up; and after three years in Dorchester, he found himrelf almost penniless. Then he had fallen back upon his university education, and had accepted the place of classical teacher, in the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy. The salary was good, but he labored under the difficulty that Dr. Neverasole did not think that classical training was of any special value, except for persons intending to study for some profession; the school was scientific, and commercial, and practical, as the doctor constantly asserted; still he kept a classical master, because some of the boys did want to go to college, and some people retained the old fashioned notion that it was good mental training, after all, to study Latin and Greek.
His misfortunes had broken down his natural force of character, and he had not sufficient vigor and energy to compel respect and attention. Gentle and quiet by nature unaccustomed to rude and untrained boys, conscientiously trying to do his duty, yet unable to do it properly he was just in that weak and unprotected condition, which would have excited compassion in any other community than the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy. There, it only provoked wrath from the Doctor, and persecution from the boys
Two things kept poor Mr. Whooney alive-his weekly letter by the steamer, with the post-mark Lichfield and the foreign stamp, which he kindly gave to the little boys one by one; and Mrs. Jollipop's unwavering attachment. She stood up for him. Many was the little delicacy that found its way to his room. It was she who sewed on his shirt buttons, and mended his stockings, and sewed up the rips in his coat. It was she who warned him of impending tricks, and scolded the boys, when they were impuden and, but for the letters, and Mrs. Jollipop, and the hope of one day going back to Lichfield, Mr. Whooney would I dare say, have died.'
He had a little cough, as it was, and his hair had grown thin, on the top of his head, with, here and there, a white thread in it; but he was saving up his salary, and while now, he did not hope to be rich, one day he thought he might get back to Lichfield, and marry Lucy, and live as he might have lived, had he never left there. Lucy was not pretty, and had no great charms to recommend her. Indeed, Mrs. Jollipop, who had seen her photograph said to Miss Hetty, that she was a skinny looking thing; but she loved Mr. Whooney, and he loved her, and every day in the service, in the Cathedral, she remembered him in her prayers, as he did her, in his room at night.
Miss Hetty, who had read all the new novels, had a tender feeling, herself, for Mr. Whooney, as a faithful lover, and probably helped Mrs. Jollipop in sewing on his buttons; a feeling which was the warmer, that Mrs. Neverasole, having once detected something in her tone of speaking of Mr. Whooney, which seemed a little tender, had accused her of something of the kind.
But we must return to Durkey's room.
"Yes," said Popkins, "just as we were having a good time, teazing Hubbers, who will kneel down and say his-prayers, in came Jollipop. How she did talk! and she sat there till Hubbers got through. I'd have given it back to her, but for one thing."
"What is that?" said Whiffles.
"She's got some awful good jelly and stuff in her room, and I've got my eye on it, for a bite."
"Yes," said Sandy, "You had better keep on the blind side of old Jollipop, if you want good eating; she's a buster, in the way of victuals."
"I guess," said Popkins, "we've got two spooneys, in the Dormitory, now, for they've moved that Rob. Graham in to-day, and he's just such another as little Hubbers, only he's bigger. Ain't he some kind of relation of yours, Ned Stebbins?"
"Yes, he's my cousin, and he isn't a spooney, though he's awful good."
"Is that the fellow that made you go to Church, one Sunday, in Dorchester?" said Guffins.
"Yes," said Ned, shortly.
"Well!" said Popkins, "I'm head of that Dormitory, and I don't care for Jollipop,' or Whooney, or all the spooneys in creation; things shall go on all right, there."
Just then, the bell rang for tea, and the boys separated. As they passed out of the room, Durkey called Ned back again.
"Were you serious, about climbing up the pear tree?"
"Yes, I was," said Ned.
"Let me know what you see inside; will you?"
"Yes, old fellow."
They shook hands, and Ned ran down stairs.
That night, when the boys went up to bed, no sooner did Popkins get inside, than he took a key from his pocket, and locked the door.
"Now, fellows," said he, "lets have a high old time! Whooney can't get in, and Jollipop's gone down to Hubville."
This was answered by a general scream for Mr. Whooney. They did not care about him; and Mrs. Jollipop, about whom they did, was away. Dr. Neverasole was too far off, to hear any noise, and rarely came around.
Straightway commenced a pillow fight, of the most formidable proportions. One side of the Dormitory, was led by Ned Stebbins; the other side, by Jerry Guffins. Popkins ensconced himself on two chairs, away from the combatants, and commenced smoking a pipe and reading a yellow-covered book. Now, victory crowned the side of Guffins; now, that of Ned; at one time Jerry and his boys were driven into a corner, and almost pounded to exhaustion, by the other party; at another, Ned was compelled to cry, "stop!" being knocked down by a monstrous bolster.
One by one, however, the boys slopped playing, and sank down on their separate beds, and began kicking off their boots. This proceeding was interrupted by an occasional tossing about of these articles of apparel, but when this was through, they were soon ready for bed. It was curious to see how large a proportion of what they wore in the day time, many of them would carry to bed with them.
The Dormitory grew quieter, and one or two of the boys had dropped off to sleep, when Popkins laid down his pipe, and called out in a loud voice:
"Where's that Rubbers?"
His bed was empty, and no body had touched his pillow.
"He was here, a little while ago," said Copsey, the boy who slept next to him.
"Find him, then, some of you," said Popkins.
They looked all around, but he was not to be found; at last one of the boys detected a foot sticking out, from underneath Hubbers' bed.
"Here he is!" called out Guffins, and in a moment more, they were pulling Hubbers out from under the bed, where he had crept in the pillow fight, and had fallen asleep. They pulled him forward to Popkins, rubbing his eyes, and not quite awake, even yet.
"I say," said Popkins, assuming a judicial aspect, and looking at him as he had seen Dr. Neverasole look at himself, "you understand Mrs. Jollipop isn't master here, nor Whiney either; the boys mind me; don't you fellows?"
"Yes," said several.
"It's owing to me, that there is a supper, once a month, up here, and pillow fights, and lots of things. Ain't it, fellows?"
"Yes," said several, again.
"Now, Hubbers, you are young, and are here to be educated. What's the good for you to be setting up to be better than the rest of us, and poking down and saying your prayers every night? It's as much as to say that none of the rest of us are respectable fellows. It's all very well for the women and gals, but no boys, in this Dormitory, ever have done so, or ever shall, as long as my name's Popkins."
The boys, who had gathered around, clapped their hands at this, which was the most eloquent speech Popkins had ever been known to make.
Rubbers stood looking on, bewildered. He was a little fellow, with a quiet, gentle face. He did not say anything, and nothing seemed expected. Popkins had spoken, and the matter was decided.
Copsey whispered to Hubbers:
"I say, Bill, you had better get into bed, to-night, quick, and you can speak to Aunt Jollipop to-morrow."
A tear came into Rubbers' eye, and he only answered:
"I promised my mother."
Popkins took up his pipe again, and began to read. Every now and then, however, he cast a glance over at Hubbers.
Not far from Hubbers, sat Rob Graham, whose first night it was in the Dormitory, as, owing to the Dormitory being full, he had been, before, in a room by himself. He had listened to Popkin's speech, and now sat looking at Hubbers. He got up from his bed, and went over to Hubbers' bed.
"Never mind." he said; "wait a minute or two, till the Dormitory gets quiet. I am going to say mine, and you can say them with me."
The boy looked at him, with a glance of wonder. "Ain't you afraid to?" he whispered. "Copsey would say his, if he wasn't afraid to; he always used to, when he was at home."
"No," said Rob, "I don't think I am!"
In a moment or two more, Rob knelt down by the side of his bed, and, Rubbers seeing him do so, knelt down by his.
For a moment, Popkins could not believe his eyes; it was actual rebellion. He was so taken back by it, and by the quiet way in which it was done, that he would have made believe he had not seen it, if Jerry Guffins had not called:
"I say, Popkins, righteousness is on the increase; there's two on 'em now!"
In a moment more, Popkins had marched across the floor, seized Rubbers by the nape of the neck, and pulled him over on to the floor. He marched over, and was about to do the same to Rob, when Rob, who had already been disturbed by Rubbers' disaster, jumped up from his knees, and confronted Popkins, with a quiet look on his face, which abashed him.
"Take that!" said Popkins, hitting a blow at Rob's face.
As he struck, Rob dexterously leaped over the bed, and Popkins, who had lost his temper, having hit out very violently, fell flat on his face, and coming in contact with the leg of the iron bedstead, bruised his nose considerably. At this Guffins laughed, and several of the smaller boys, who hated Popkins, but were generally afraid to show it, screamed derisively.
The screams, however, were hushed, and all the little boys looked as if they hadn't screamed, when Popkins arose from the floor. He stood on one side of the bed, and Rob on the other. The boys had jumped out of their beds, and. in every variety of costume, were grouped around.
"Now, you'll have to take it, my young man!" said Popkins.
Rob stood his ground, calmly, his arms folded, and his eye fixed full on Popkins' face. It seemed, somehow, to have a subduing effect on Popkins, that calm, unwavering glance; he did not dare to look back at Rob.
"Popkins," said Rob--the voice was low, but it was so clear and distinct, and had such a force in it, that the clamor was hushed, and Popkins paused, in the very act of leaping over the bed--"how do you dare to try to stop the boys from saying their prayers?"
"Dare, dare!" said Popkins, his face flushing a deeper crimson; "Dare, dare! What do you think I am afraid of? Is it Whooney?"
"Is it Jollipop?"
"Is it Neverasole?"
"Is it you, or Hubbers?"
There was that in Rob's look and voice, which commanded attention, as he answered, "Almighty God."
The reverent voice, the sound of the awful and blessed name, so rarely heard by them, except as an oath, fell on the ears of the boys, and struck some hidden chord in their hearts, and subdued even Popkins.
Rob's eye gleamed, his voice grew loud and clear, his cheek flushed.
"I tell you what it is, you may not pray yourself--more's the pity--but you'd better take care how you try and stop others. Rubbers and I may not be as strong as you; you may beat us, and pound us; more would be the shame; but look out, God takes care of children!"
What Rob said, frightened Popkins. If he had said anything about telling Dr. Neverasole, or anybody--if he had threatened to fight him, or have done anything earthly, Popkins would have sprung at him; but that awful name, that invisible justice, struck a strange terror into Popkins' heart. He looked at the other boys, as if to gather courage, but some of the boys had crept ofif to bed, and Guffins, with an altered tone of voice, said, "better leave 'em alone, Pop-kins," and Popkins with a vain attempt to look blustering, walked away to his chair, and presently tossed down the yellow-covered book, and crept oft" to bed. The boys knelt down and said their prayers, and Copsey got out of bed and did the same, too, every now and then, in the midst of "Our Father," looking up, and stealing a glance at the conquered, though still terrible, Popkins.
The next morning, after breakfast, Ned said to Rob, "I say, Rob, that was real plucky, last night, in you; how you did scare old Popkins. I thought he'd have knocked you down, and I took his side all the time, but when you said what you did, I had a great mind to say my prayers, too."
"Why didn't you?"
Ned only answered, by another question: "What's the .good of saying prayers, anyhow?"
Rob was a little puzzled; he was not accustomed to give reasons, so he stood bothered, for a moment--"You need God and the angels to take care of you, I think, and when you've done wrong, you need to be forgiven."
"I get along first rate," said Ned, "and I feel pretty jolly, generally, except when I get scared, as I did that other night; there's only one thing that troubles me."
"I always keep doing lots of things, I know I oughtn't to do; there's a thing I am.going to do to-night, I guess I'd better not do. I think I won't, and then I think I will; and then I think I won't, and so on, and, generally, the won't, or will, which is on the wrong side, gets the best of It."
"I wouldn't do it," said Rob, "if its wrong," and then his face brightened, with a new thought: "I guess that's another good of prayer, that it gets you help to do right."
There was a sad, serious expression, on Ned's countenance, which made him look five years older than Rob; indeed, there was a positively worn, and anxious expression, about his chalky face, but, in a moment, every trace of seriousness was gone, and he rushed away, at the sight of Jerry Guffins, and at his loud call--"Come along, Ned, the boys have found a rat, out in the back yard!"
Every now and then, through the day, the thought kept coming over Rob, in the midst of his lessons, and at his play--"What is Ned going to do?" In the course of the afternoon, he asked Ned what it was, but Ned's mood had changed, and he answered sharply enough--"None of your business!"
Everything went on as usual, and at night, the boys went up to the Dormitory. Popkins did not say anything about prayers, but, when Rob bade him good night, only said "don't speak to me, you little sniveler, that's all."
Rob lay awake for awhile, thinking about Ned, whose bed was a little ways from his. The lamp was put out early, and the voices died away, one by one.
"Wasn't that a jolly, big rat?" said Guffins, to somebody, but he was only answered by a half sigh.
The silence was only broken by a boy's throwing a boot at Billy Sniffles, whose tonsils were swollen, and who snored like a steam engine. Now and then, a boy tossed his arms about, and muttered something about his play, or his lessons. Rob had just fallen into a light sleep, when he was aroused by a slight noise--it sounded like someone stumbling over a pair of boots; he sat up in bed, and looked around, but it was so dark, he could see nothing; there was a faint gleam, however, in the distance, which showed that the Dormitory door had been opened.
Rob got up from his bed, and crept over to Ned's. He put his hand on the pillow, and then on the bed-clothes, but Ned was not there. He waited ten minutes, as near as he could tell, but no Ned returned. Then he thought he would get back to bed. It was cold, in the Dormitory, and he could not help shivering. Just as he was creeping into bed, he remembered what his grandmother had told him, and he got up again, and, slipping on his pantaloons, moved over to the Dormitory window. There was a little snow on the ground, and the stars were shining bright. From Mr. Whooney's window, a bright gleam shone out upon the darkness, which shewed that his curtain was up.
"In a moment more, Rob had crept down stairs, and knocked at Mr. Whooney's door. There was a pause, and then a sound like the shutting of a drawer, and Mr. Whooney's sharp voice said, "Who's there?"
"Can I leave the Dormitory for a few moments?"
"Yes,"' said Mr. Whooney, and in a moment more, Rob had bounded down stairs. As he passed Durkey's door, the door opened, and some one looked out. Fearful of being discovered, Rob rushed hastily on; he looked all round outside, but could see nothing. Ned was nowhere visible. Had he looked up, however, he might have seen him, almost over his head, safely perched on the bough of a tree, staring, with all his might, into Mr. Whooney's window; he saw Rob, although he could not tell who he was. Rob went round to the front of the house, and back again, and then went out to the Gymnasium; then he went out to the road, but could see nothing of Ned. He went up stairs, going softly, to make no noise, but, as he passed Durkey's door, it was suddenly opened, and Durkey grasped him tightly by the arm. "What are you doing out of doors, tonight?" said Durkey, his face slightly pale and his brow scowling.
"I had leave," said Rob, "from Mr. Whooney."
"I don't care for your leave," said Durkey, and then checking himself--"Is anybody else out of the Dormitory?"
Rob looked up, rather wondering at his question, and said, "Yes, I believe Ned is; I went out to see where he went."
"Did you see him?"
"No; I couldn't find him."
Durkey's brow relaxed, and he said, "You had better get up to bed, for if old Neverasole catches you, you'll get no end of bread and water, for one while."
Glad to be released, Rob hurried on, and just as he opened the door of the Dormitory, he came full on Dr. Neverasole, in dressing-gown and slippers, and with a lantern in his hand.
"Ha-ha," said the Doctor, "Now we have you!" and
"he shook him by the arm. "You are the boy, are you, who goes prowling around, at night; you are the boy that creeps out into the yard, when the innocent and good are wrapped in slumber?"
"I had leave," said Rob.
"Leave!" said Dr. Neverasole; "who gave it to you?"
The Doctor looked cross; he was disappointed, apparently, at the loss of his. case of discipline. He was, perhaps, a little more angry, that he had lost any cause to to be angry. "Making me leave my study, at this time of night--Whooney ought to be more careful." Then, boiling over, he said, in a loud tone of voice, giving Rob a shake, "Whooney, or no Whooney, don't let me catch you out, again!"
Glad to be let off so easily, Rob went into the Dormitory. As he passed by Ned's bed, he perceived that he was there, and was soon, himself, fast asleep.
It was during play hour, the next afternoon, that Durkey found Ned in the "retreat," and pulling him off, one side, asked, in a whisper, "What did you see, up the pear tree?"
"How do you know I was out?" said Ned.
"Oh, never mind that. I can hear a fellow go down stairs, at night, I guess, if I'm not asleep. What did you see; was the curtain up?"
"Yes, the curtain was up; I saw lots."
"Come to my room," said Durkey; "I've got some first rate canned peaches, I bought in Hubville; come along!"
Presently, Ned was seated before Durkey's stove, eating peaches, and Durkey sitting opposite him, and his face shaded by his hand. "What did you see?"
"Whooney sat at his table, reading a letter; then he took out a case, which looked like a daguerreotype, and"--here, Ned blushed, ever so little--"he kissed it?"
"The fool!" interrupted Durkey.
"He kissed it, lots of times," said Ned, who evidently felt that this was a most important circumstance.
"Never mind," said Durkey, "about that kissing. What did he do, then?"
"I don't know; I did'nt see."
"Didn't see! Where were your eyes?"
"Well, somehow, it made ma feel bad, and I felt like coming down?"
"I hope you weren't such a goose, as to come down?"
"No," said Ned, "when I looked again, the old fellow had gone to a drawer in a bureau--"
Durkey gave a little, start. "Which drawer?" he said hastily.
"The second, I think, from the top, and he pulled out a couple of bags; one he put back again, and the other he opened."
"Was it money?" said Durkey.
"Yes," said Ned, "and he dropped a little on the floor, and they were--I'm sure--five dollar gold pieces; he must be awful rich."
Durkey sat listening, and said nothing. Ned went on: "He took out of his pocket, some more money, and counted it, and put it into the bag, and then he locked it up in the drawer, and put the key in his vest pocket."
Durkey drew his chair nearer to Ned. "Guffins is a first-rate fellow," he said.
"Yes," said Ned, not seeing the connection. "Jerry's a bully old boy."
"He's up to all sorts of fun," said Durkey. "What a funny idea that was, of his, to hook old Whiney's money, for a few days, just to see how he would take it!"
"He's such a miser, that it would be jolly enough to see what a state he'd be in; how he would howl and tear, and then, just as the matter got to the worst, why, we could slip it back, again, and it would be all right. I guess the boys wouldn't have any Latin or Greek lessons, for a week or two. Still," said Durkey, "there ain't iny boy in this school that's got pluck enough, and wit enough, to do it. Jerry'd back out, at the last. There was a fellow here, once, by the name of Billy Edgar--he's a passed midshipman in the navy now--and he was up to all sorts of tricks. What a time we had, when he stole old Jollipop's spectacles! And one day, when everybody was looking for them, in walked the cat, into chapel, with the spectacles tied onto her nose, shaking her head, and mewing, like all get out. Old Mr. Howler stopped, in the midst of his sermon on the Prodigal Son, and there was a row."
"It would be easy enough to steal Aunt Jollipop's spectacles; but to get into Whooney's room, would be another matter," said Ned.
"I've got a key," said Durkey, "which will unlock Whooney's door, and he sleeps like sixty; you can hear him snore any night, with the door shut. With my bulls-eye, it would be easy enough to see, after a fellow had got in.
I've a great mind to put Jerry Guffins up to doing it; there'd be no end of fun."
Ned sat silent, for a moment; then he started up from his chair, and said, as if answering himself, "What's the use of being afraid; I'll do it, anyhow.''
Durkey stood up, too, with a look of admiration on his face.
"Billy Bumble-eye was a--------to you. Come to my room, to-night, after the fellow? are in bed, and don't say a word to anybody."
"All right," said Ned.
"Mum's the word."
Ned avoided Rob, the rest of the day. After tea, he generally went and sat by him, and talked, in the schoolroom, but, this evening, he did not do so.
At recess, Guffins said to Popkins, "Who was that queer looking cuss, who was round just before supper, asking for Durkey?"
"Don't you know him?" said Popkins.
"No; who is he?"
Popkins gave a whistle, and whispered something to Guffins.
After the boys were in bed, Rob lay awake again, wondering if Ned would go out again; he kept his eyes iixed on his bed, and, as far as the darkness would permit, tried to see if he was awake. Ned did not stir. At last, just as Rob had made up his mind to go to sleep, he saw Ned get out of bed; he himself did the same, and going over to Ned's bed, seized him by the hand, and in a low, impassioned voice, said :
"Ned, please don't go; I know it's for something wrong; that's what you meant the other day?"
Ned, angrily, pulled his hand away. "What business is it of yours, what I do?"
"Ned," said Rob, unheeding the anger expressed in his voice, "please don't go."
"Don't bother," said Ned; "go to bed--you'll wake up the boys."
"You won't go then," said Rob.
"I won't go out of doors, to-night," answered Ned. "Will that do?"
"Thank you," said Rob; "1 always knew you were a first rate fellow, down at the bottom."
Poor Ned; he kept saying to himself, "it isn't a lie; I am not going out of doors;" but conscience kept answering "it is a lie; it is a he."
Rob went back to his bed, his heart lightened of a load, and in a moment or two, was half asleep. Something roused him; he did not know what; he jumped from his bed and went over, again, to Ned. Ned was gone. It was a lie, then, that Ned had told him; he would not have thought that of him. at any rate; what should he do?" Dr. Neverasole had said he must not go out of the Dormitory; but, perhaps, if he could find Ned, he might yet persuade him to stop. Suddenly, it. flashed upon him, that he might go to Dr. Neverasole's study--he could not be in bed yet--and ask his permission; he did not consider that Dr. Neverasole would ask what he wanted to go out for, and Ihen he would have nothing to say, unless he told of Ned which, of course, he could not do. But he did not stop to reason; he slipped on his clothes, and hurried out of the Dormitory, not minding a loud "who's there?" from Popkins.
He rushed down stairs; went out of the front door, and was on the side-walk which led to the wing. In the darkness, he ran into somebody.
"Is that you, Ned?" he said.
A hand grasped him, roughly, by the arm, and he was drawn along, in no gentle manner. He was pulled into the front door of the wing, and into the bright light of the parlor, before Mrs. Neverasole and Miss Hetty, who were sitting at a table, and, holden off at arm's length, was gazed at by the stern eyes of Dr. Neverasole.
What, between the dazzling light, and Dr. Neverasole, and the half dressed condition he was in, he felt guilty enough.
"Robert Graham?" (interrogatively.)
"Robert Graham!" (with astonishment.)
"Robert Graham!" (with authority.)
"I found you out of your Dormitory, last night; I told you not to go out again; I find you out to-night. What does it mean? What have you to say for yourself?"
"I came out to ask your leave to go out."
"My leave, indeed! A pretty story, that."
Dr. Neverasole looked at him, still more harshly.
"You came out for no good. It is now"--and the Doctor drew out his handsome watch--"a quarter to eleven. You have been out for no good. I ask you, sir, why you came out?"
"I came down," said Rob, "to ask for your leave to go out; indeed, I did."
"You tell a falsehood, sir!" said the Doctor.
The blood flushed into Rob's cheek, the tears gathered in his eyes, but he said nothing. What was, really, only the burning blush of innocence, seemed, to the Doctor, the blush of guilt. So, he took Robert by the arm, and led him through the door which connected the wing with the main building, and which was only used by the family; upr past Mrs. Jollipop's, down to a little room, which was popularly known as the jail. The Doctor opened the door; there was nothing in the room, but a poorly furnished bed, a single chair and a table; the window was grated, and it seemed like a cell in a penitentiary.
"Sit down there, and remember what a dreadful thing it is to He!"
He closed the door, and all was still. Rob heard his retreating footsteps; he heard the wing door close, in the distance; he then threw himself on the bed, and burst into passionate sobs.
He was a thoroughly truthful boy, and to be accused of lying, seemed a terrible injustice. Now, he was in the jail; he was disgraced; how it would grieve his grandmother, if she heard of it. So, he sobbed more and more, till, suddenly, he remembered a passage in the Bible, which Mrs. Dorothy had once told him, when he thought he had been punished unjustly, "For what glory is it. if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently; but, if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, yet take it patiently,. this is acceptable with God." So, after a while, he knelt down and prayed to God, and especially for Ned, and then fell asleep.
When the Doctor got down stairs, he only said to his wife and daughter, "That is a dreadful boy, and what an outrageous lie!"
"Fearful!" said Mrs. Neverasole; "but I tell you what it is, deary, you see through them. Don't he, Hetty."
Miss Hetty's face grew very red, and she spoke out:
"I will speak, ma, if I burst afterwards and become a ghost. I don't believe that boy told a lie, at all. Mrs. Jollipop says he's real good, and I'm sure he is; you can see it in his face."
"Hetty," said Dr. Neverasole, "it is eleven o'clock and five minutes; go to bed."
Eleven o'clock and five minutes!" said Mrs. Neverasole; "who would have thought it could be so late?"
The next day, all day long, Rob was kept confined in the jail. At breakfast, dinner and tea, a servant brought him bread and water, and immediately left, and locked the door.
That evening, Mrs. Jollipop was seated in her comfortable room, in a large, easy chair. A most comfortable room, was Mrs. Jollipop's--all round were presses and closets, full of jellies, pickles, preserves, and all sorts of good things. The boys liked Mrs. Jollipop's room, immensely--she always treated them to something, and was so popular, that she was obliged to refuse admission, constantly, or the room would have been full of boys, all the time. Indeed, holiday evenings, it always was so. This evening, was a study evening, however, and all was quiet. The cat purred on the rug, before the fire: the tea-kettle sent forth its musical sound, and Mrs. Jollipop looked as comfortable as possible. On the other side of the table, sat Miss Hetty. She was reading aloud to Mrs. Jollipop, that charming book, "Emmeline Fitzherbert, or the Deserted Bride." Mrs. Jollipop did not like it, at all; she kept interrupting Miss Hetty, with such exclamations as--"Do tell!" "I never!" "Who would have thought!" and when Miss Hetty got to that interesting scene where Emmeline poisons her grandmother, Mrs. Jollipop jumped out of her chair, and went over where Miss Hetty sat. She put her hand on Miss Hetty's head, and said--"Hetty Neverasole"--Mrs. Jollipop looked very solemn.
"What is it, Aunty? Please don't interrupt me, in the .most interesting part."
"Interesting!" said Mrs. Jollipop. "It's horrible--it's avv-ful--it's wicked. What will you come to, if you read such stuff? 'Evil communications corrupt good manners," " and without more ado, Mrs. Jollipop seized the book, and threw it into the fire.
Hetty would have remonstrated, when there was a knock at the door, and in came Mr. Whooney. He looked troubled.
"Sit down," said Mrs. Jollipop; anything the matter?"
"Nothing, more than usual," he said; but I feel sorry that Robert Graham, who seemed such a nice boy, should have been put into the jail."
"Yes," said Mrs. Jollipop, "he is a nice boy, jail or no jail; he did something, to-day, that most boys wouldn't have done."
"What's that?" said Mr. Whooney.
"Why," said Mrs. Jollipop, "I know it's wrong, but I've told the Doctor I can't help doing it; but, you see, he has had nothing but bread and water, all day long; so, after tea, I just stepped in there, with a couple ot sandwiches, just to stay his stomach a little, and he wouldn't touch "em."
"Why not?" said Mr. Whooney.
"He said the Doctor put him there, on bread and water, and he ought not to take anything else--he looked mighty hungry, at the sandwiches, too. There ain't many boys could have done that."
"No," said Mr. Whooney. "What is he in the jail for?'
"He was out of his Dormitory, last night, between ten and eleven o'clock."
"Was he;" then drawing his chair nearer to the table he said: "Mrs. Jollipop, do you believe in ghosts?"
"Ghosts!' said Mrs. Jollipop, looking all around the room; "of course, I do."
"Do you?" said Miss Hetty, looking over her shoulder--"did you ever see one?"
"Never mind," said Mrs. Jollipop; "It's a solemn thing, Mehitabel; but why did you ask, Mr. Whooney?"
"Because, last night, something so singular happened to me."
"What was it?" said Mrs. Jollipop and Miss Hetty, in one breath.
"I went to bed, quite early, being very tired, ami was soon fast asleep. You know I sleep pretty .sound, Mrs. Jollipop."
"Yes," said Mrs. Jollipop, shaking her head, solemnly; "go on!"
"Well," continued Mr. Whooney, "something woke me up. I do not know what; it was as dark as Egypt, in the room, but, somehow, I felt as if something v\as there. I thought I heard somebody breathing, so I sat up in bed." Mr. Whooney paused.
Mrs. Jollipop laid down her sewing.
Miss Hetty drew nearer to Mrs. Jollipop.
"What do you think I saw?"
"What was it?" said Mrs. Jollipop.
"Standing over by my bureau, was a man, or a boy, and he had a lantern of some sort, for it gave a flash of light, over towards my bed."
"It was a thief," said Mrs. Jollipop, seizing her bundle of keys, which lay on the table.
"So I thought," said Mr. Whooney; "so I called out, in a loud voice, 'where's my pistols?' on purpose to frighten him.'
"Oh dear!" said Miss Hetty; "how could you be so brave? I should have just put my head under the bedclothes, and screamed with all my might."
"Hush! Hetty," said Mrs. Jollipop. "What did he do then?"
"I don't know," said Mr. Whooney; "in a moment I jumped out of bed, found a match, and lighted my candle, 'but there was nobody in the room. I looked everywhere, but I could find no one. I know, that somebody was there; I was as wide awake as I am noAv; there was no possibility of his getting out of the room, and so, unless it was a disembodied spirit, I don't know what it could have been."
"What did it look like?" said Hetty, in a low voice.
"I could not tell," said Mr. Whooney.
"Mr. Whooney," said Mrs. Jollipop, "I believe in ghosts, but that wasn't any ghost--that was boys--they were going to play some awful trick on you, you may be sure, and your getting up, frightened them.
That's what I suppose," said Mr. Whooney; "but I can't make the matter out. He was there one minute, and wasn't the next."
"Are you sure you were not asleep?"
"Quite sure, for I looked at my watch, and it was just half-past ten."
"Just a little while before, Robert Graham was found out of the Dormitory," said Hetty. "Could he have had anything to do with it?"
"No, indeed?" said Mrs. Jollipop and Mr. Whooney both, at once.
That evening, after tea, Rob was liberated from the jail, and was allowed to go down to the school-room. He did not like to go--he was afraid the boys would tease him and laugh at him--so he hesitated for awhile; but, at last, opened the study door and walked in. He was not prepared for the greeting he received; they gathered all around him.
Popkins shook him by the hand, and said, "Sly old fellow! Saying your prayers, and all that, and then going out of your Dormitory, without any one's knowing it!"
"Gay old boy!" said Whiffles; "we all thought you were so awful good, and you're up to snuff, like the rest of us!"
There was, evidently, an intense feeling amongst the boys. The boy, whose good example had frightened them, was no better than they were. He was, straightway, immensely popular. Only Hubbers and Copsey, did not-go up to speak to him, at once; and Bolmer said to the boy he was talking to, "Like all the rest of them, after all."
Jerry Gulnns was just about to give Rob three cheers, when Rob said, "I think you are making a mistake. Dr. Neverasole has punished me, but I really did not mean to do anything wrong, I went down to speak to Dr. Neverasole, and he thought I was breaking the rules, that was all."
The boys, however, mostly stuck to the opinion that Rob was mighty sly, and knew what he was about. Ned was the only one who seemed, at all, to understand him, and he shook hands with Rob, and said it was too bad.
As he did so, Rob could not help noticing the appearance of unusual excitement about him. His cheek was flushed, and his eyes sparkled, and there was a sort of twitching of the muscles of the face. As Mr. Whooney came in, to the evening study, he gave a start, as though some one had struck him, and when Mr. Whooney said, "I wish to say something to you, boys," his face became as white as a sheet. His color, however, returned, when it proved to be only a notice about some trifling matter of behavior.
That evening, at recess, Ned was missing, and came in late, after the other boys had assembled. He had been in Durkey's room, telling Durkey, for the second time, what he had done the night before. He could not speak of it to others, and so he took the more pleasure in talking about it, to Durkey.
"When I got inside," he told, the story, "I looked around and saw that Whooney was fast asleep. The first thing, was to get the key out of his vest pocket--his vest was on a chair, and, luckily, lay on top. What a lot of things there were in his pockets; I thought I never should find it, 'and, as luck would have it, I dropped his pencil on the floor. Didn't I feel frightened, when old Whiney moved about in his bed: presently he became quiet, and then I went over to the drawer, and easily opened it, and got one bag in the big pocket of my overcoat. Just then, I heard Whiney say, 'Where's my pistols?" I thought it was all up me, when, just by the bureau, I remembered there was a big, empty trunk, of which the lid was open. It was monstrous box, which had just been emptied, and, in a moment, I got into that, and pulled the lid down. It was an awful small place to be in, and, once, he put his hand on the cover. I should think he stayed up half an hour, and it was half an hour more, before he got snoring, again, and then I got up, and crept out of the room. As I passed up stairs, I dropped the bag on the floor. Didn't you hear it Durkey?"
"Yes, indeed!" said Durkey, "that's the way I knew you had done the prettiest trick that ever was played in this school."
A day or two passed away, and nothing happened, except, one day, Mr. Whooney held up a knife, and asked whose it was. Nobody answered, at first; but Robert Graham got up, and said it was his. As he handed it to him, Mr. Whooney said, "Where did you lose it?"
"I do not know," said Rob. "I am much obliged, to you, sir."
Nothing more was said, but the same day, Mr. Whooney said to Miss Hetty, whom he met in Mrs. Jollipop's room, "Did you say that Robert Graham was out of the Dormitory that night, when I was disturbed?"
"Yes," said Hetty, "certainly, he was. He was in the parlor, caught by father."
"Strange!" said Mr. Whooney, to himself; "and that knife, which I found in my room, was his--strange enough!"
A week went by, and there was no evidence that Mr. Whooney had discovered his loss. Indeed, he had not; for he was no miser, and only kept his money in his room, from a distrust, he foolishly felt, of the Dorchester Banks.
Poor Ned! His joke wore on him. He went about, tike one standing on the top of a mine, which might explode it any time. He watched every turn and expression of Mr. Whooney's face. Every day that went by, only increased his anxiety. His face grew thin with waiting. At first, he had thought what fun it would be, when the matter came to light. Now, he kept asking himself, what he should do when Whiney did find it out. At last, he went to Durkey, and said he must let him carry it back again: he couldn't stand it any longer. It was a joke that wouldn't pay. What was his horror, when Durkey brought out the bag, and said, "Ned, I am sorry to say, that somebody or another, has taken some of the money out of the bag; it is not more than half full--is that as full as it was when you took it?" he said.
Ned took it in his hand and said, "No, indeed!"
"I thought not," said Durkey. "What shall we do?"
Poor Ned was thoroughly frightened. "Who could have taken it?"
"I am sure I do not know," said Durkey. "I have kept it tight locked, and, only once, looked at it, to see that it was all safe. Then it was that I discovered that some of it was gone. But there is," he continued, "one thing that seems to me queer. What kind of a fellow is that cousin of yours, Robert Graham--the fellow who says his prayers, and is so dreadful pious?"
"He's a first-rate fellow," said Ned. "I wish I was as good."
"You as good!" said Durkey. "I shouldn't like to see you such a soft kind of a thing as he is--any how, I caught ten in my room the other day, and he looked guilty enough."
"Now, Durkey!" said Ned, "that won't do. He would not steal, you may be sure of that."
"Not so sure of it," said Durkey, "and I wish I had searched his pockets, that's all. You be on the watch, and see if he hasn't got some five-dollar gold pieces about him."
"Durkey," said Ned, "wouldn't it do to take the bag back to Whooney, and tell him I took it, and say that we will make up what's gone, as soon as we can. I've got five dollars now, and Pop would give me some, if I asked him, to save me from disgrace."
Durkey stood up. "Do you want to be made the laughing stock of this school? Perhaps Whooney wouldn't speak of it--catch him," said Durkey. "He'd tell it everywhere, and you'd be expelled."
"What shall we do?" said Ned.
"Let the joke go on, and when he finds it out, put enough flat stones in the bottom to make the bag full. He may not find it out till he dies."
"But it's just like stealing," said Ned.
"Well, then, if you don't like that, write to your father for a hundred dollars, in five-dollar gold pieces, and you can put that in."
"I'll do that," said Ned, "and then, when I've got the money, I can put it back."
"All right!" said Durkey.