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The Channings by Mrs. Henry Wood



CHAPTER I. THE INKED SURPLICE.
CHAPTER II. BAD NEWS.
CHAPTER III. CONSTANCE CHANNING.
CHAPTER IV. NO HOLIDAY TO-DAY.
CHAPTER V. ROLAND YORKE.
CHAPTER VI. LADY AUGUSTA YORKE AT HOME.
CHAPTER VII. MR. KETCH.
CHAPTER VIII. THE ASSISTANT-ORGANIST.
CHAPTER IX. HAMISH'S CANDLES.
CHAPTER X. A FALSE ALARM.
CHAPTER XI. THE CLOISTER KEYS.
CHAPTER XII. A MISHAP TO THE BISHOP.
CHAPTER XIII. MAD NANCE.
CHAPTER XIV. KEEPING OFFICE.
CHAPTER XV. A SPLASH IN THE RIVER.
CHAPTER XVI. MUCH TO ALTER.
CHAPTER XVII. SUNDAY MORNING AT MR. CHANNING'S, AND AT LADY AUGUSTA'S.
CHAPTER XVIII. MR. JENKINS ALIVE AGAIN.
CHAPTER XIX. THE LOSS.
CHAPTER XX. THE LOOMING OF AN AWFUL FEAR.
CHAPTER XXI. MR. BUTTERBY.
CHAPTER XXII. AN INTERRUPTED DINNER.
CHAPTER XXIII. AN ESCORT TO THE GUILDHALL.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE EXAMINATION.
CHAPTER XXV. A MORNING CALL.
CHAPTER XXVI. CHECKMATED.
CHAPTER XXVII. A PIECE OF PREFERMENT.
CHAPTER XXVIII. AN APPEAL TO THE DEAN.
CHAPTER XXIX. A TASTE OF “TAN.”
CHAPTER XXX. THE DEPARTURE.
CHAPTER XXXI. ABROAD.
CHAPTER XXXII. AN OMINOUS COUGH.
CHAPTER XXXIII. NO SENIORSHIP FOR TOM CHANNING.
CHAPTER XXXIV. GERALD YORKE MADE INTO A “BLOCK.”
CHAPTER XXXV. THE EARL OF CARRICK.
CHAPTER XXXVI. ELLEN HUNTLEY.
CHAPTER XXXVII. THE CONSPIRATORS.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE DECISION.
CHAPTER XXXIX. THE GHOST.
CHAPTER XL. MR. KETCH'S EVENING VISIT.
CHAPTER XLI. THE SEARCH.
CHAPTER XLII. AN OFFICIAL CEREMONY INTERRUPTED.
CHAPTER XLIII. DRAGGING THE RIVER.
CHAPTER XLIV. MR. JENKINS IN A DILEMMA.
CHAPTER XLV. A NEW SUSPICION.
CHAPTER XLVI. A LETTER FOR MR. GALLOWAY.
CHAPTER XLVII. DARK CLOUDS.
CHAPTER XLVIII. MUFFINS FOR TEA.
CHAPTER XLIX. A CHATEAU EN ESPAGNE.
CHAPTER L. REALLY GONE!
CHAPTER LI. AN ARRIVAL IN A FLY.
CHAPTER LII. A RELIC FROM THE BURIAL-GROUND.
CHAPTER LIII. THE RETURN HOME.
CHAPTER LIV. “THE SHIP'S DROWNED.”
CHAPTER LV. NEWS FROM ROLAND.
CHAPTER LVI. THE BROKEN PHIAL.
CHAPTER LVII. A GHOST AGAIN.
CHAPTER LVIII. BYWATER'S DANCE.
CHAPTER LIX. READY.
CHAPTER LX. IN WHAT DOES IT LIE?

 

THE CHANNINGS

A STORY

BY

MRS. HENRY WOOD

AUthor of “East Lynne,” “Johnny Ludlow,” etc.

TWO HUNDRED AND TENTH THOUSAND

1901

    I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
        Across the schoolboy's brain;
    The song and the silence in the heart,
    That in part are prophecies, and in part
        Are longings wild and vain.
          And the voice of that fitful song
          Sings on and is never still:
          “A boy's will is the wind's will,
 And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

   Strange to me now are the forms I meet
        When I visit the dear old town;
    But the native air is pure and sweet,
    And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,
        As they balance up and down,
          Are singing the beautiful song,
          Are sighing and whispering still:
          “A boy's will is the wind's will,
 And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

CHAPTER I. THE INKED SURPLICE.

The sweet bells of Helstonleigh Cathedral were ringing out in the summer's afternoon. Groups of people lined the streets, in greater number than the ordinary business of the day would have brought forth; some pacing with idle steps, some halting to talk with one another, some looking in silence towards a certain point, as far as the eye could reach; all waiting in expectation.

It was the first day of Helstonleigh Assizes; that is, the day on which the courts of law began their sittings. Generally speaking, the commission was opened at Helstonleigh on a Saturday; but for some convenience in the arrangements of the circuit, it was fixed this time for Wednesday; and when those cathedral bells burst forth, they gave signal that the judges had arrived and were entering the sheriff's carriage, which had gone out to meet them.

A fine sight, carrying in it much of majesty, was the procession, as it passed through the streets with its slow and stately steps; and although Helstonleigh saw it twice a year, it looked at it with gratified eyes still, and made the day into a sort of holiday. The trumpeters rode first, blowing the proud note of advance, and the long line of well-mounted javelin men came next, two abreast; their attire that of the livery of the high sheriff's family, and their javelins held in rest. Sundry officials followed, and the governor of the county gaol sat in an open carriage, his long white wand raised in the air. Then appeared the handsome, closed equipage of the sheriff, its four horses, caparisoned with silver, pawing the ground, for they chafed at the slow pace to which they were restrained. In it, in their scarlet robes and flowing wigs, carrying awe to many a young spectator, sat the judges. The high sheriff sat opposite to them, his chaplain by his side, in his gown and bands. A crowd of gentlemen, friends of the sheriff, followed on horseback; and a mob of ragamuffins brought up the rear.

To the assize courts the procession took its way, and there the short business of opening the commission was gone through, when the judges re-entered the carriage to proceed to the cathedral, having been joined by the mayor and corporation. The sweet bells of Helstonleigh were still ringing out, not to welcome the judges to the city now, but as an invitation to them to come and worship God. Within the grand entrance of the cathedral, waiting to receive the judges, stood the Dean of Helstonleigh, two or three of the chapter, two of the minor canons, and the king's scholars and choristers, all in their white robes. The bells ceased; the fine organ pealed out—and there are few finer organs in England than that of Helstonleigh—the vergers with their silver maces, and the decrepit old bedesmen in their black gowns, led the way to the choir, the long scarlet trains of the judges held up behind: and places were found for all.

The Rev. John Pye began the service; it was his week for chanting. He was one of the senior minor canons, and head-master of the college school. At the desk opposite to him sat the Rev. William Yorke, a young man who had only just gained his minor canonry.

The service went on smoothly until the commencement of the anthem. In one sense it went on smoothly to the end, for no person present, not even the judges themselves, could see that anything was wrong. Mr. Pye was what was called “chanter” to the cathedral, which meant that it was he who had the privilege of selecting the music for the chants and other portions of the service, when the dean did not do so himself. The anthem he had put up for this occasion was a very good one, taken from the Psalms of David. It commenced with a treble solo; it was, moreover, an especial favourite of Mr. Pye's; and he complacently disposed himself to listen.

But no sooner was the symphony over, no sooner had the first notes of the chorister sounded on Mr. Pye's ear, than his face slightly flushed, and he lifted his head with a sharp, quick gesture. That was not the voice which ought to have sung this fine anthem; that was a cracked, passee voice, belonging to the senior chorister, a young gentleman of seventeen, who was going out of the choir at Michaelmas. He had done good service for the choir in his day, but his voice was breaking now; and the last time he had attempted a solo, the bishop (who interfered most rarely with the executive of the cathedral; and, indeed, it was not his province to do so) had spoken himself to Mr. Pye on the conclusion of the service, and said the boy ought not to be allowed to sing alone again.

Mr. Pye bent his head forward to catch a glimpse of the choristers, five of whom sat on his side of the choir, the decani; five on the opposite, or cantori side. So far as he could see, the boy, Stephen Bywater, who ought to have taken the anthem, was not in his place. There appeared to be only four of them; but the senior boy with his clean, starched surplice, partially hid those below him. Mr. Pye wondered where his eyes could have been, not to have noticed the boy's absence when they had all been gathered round the entrance, waiting for the judges.

Had Mr. Pye's attention not been fully engrossed with his book, As the service had gone on, he might have seen the boy opposite to him; for there sat Bywater, before the bench of king's scholars, and right in front of Mr. Pye. Mr. Pye's glance fell upon him now, and he could scarcely believe it. He rubbed his eyes, and looked, and rubbed again. Bywater there! and without his surplice! braving, as it were, the head-master! What could he possibly mean by this act of insubordination? Why was he not in his place in the school? Why was he mixing with the congregation? But Mr. Pye could as yet obtain no solution to the mystery.

The anthem came to an end; the dean had bent his brow at the solo, but it did no good; and, the prayers over, the sheriff's chaplain ascended to the pulpit to preach the sermon. He selected his text from St. John's Gospel: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In the course of his sermon he pointed out that the unhappy prisoners in the gaol, awaiting the summons to answer before an earthly tribunal for the evil deeds they had committed, had been led into their present miserable condition by the seductions of the flesh. They had fallen into sin, he went on, by the indulgence of their passions; they had placed no restraint upon their animal appetites and guilty pleasures; they had sunk gradually into crime, and had now to meet the penalty of the law. But did no blame, he asked, attach to those who had remained indifferent to their downward course; who had never stretched forth a friendly hand to rescue them from destruction; who had made no effort to teach and guide in the ways of truth and righteousness these outcasts of society? Were we, he demanded, at liberty to ignore our responsibility by asking in the words of earth's first criminal, “Am I my brother's keeper?” No; it was at once our duty and our privilege to engage in the noble work of man's reformation—to raise the fallen—to seek out the lost, and to restore the outcast; and this, he argued, could only be accomplished by a widely-disseminated knowledge of God's truth, by patient, self-denying labour in God's work, and by a devout dependence on God's Holy Spirit.

At the conclusion of the service the head-master proceeded to the vestry, where the minor canons, choristers, and lay-clerks kept their surplices. Not the dean and chapter; they robed in the chapter-house: and the king's scholars put on their surplices in the schoolroom. The choristers followed Mr. Pye to the vestry, Bywater entering with them. The boys grouped themselves together: they were expecting—to use their own expression—a row.

“Bywater, what is the meaning of this conduct?” was the master's stern demand.

“I had no surplice, sir,” was Bywater's answer—a saucy-looking boy with a red face, who had a propensity for getting into “rows,” and, consequently, into punishment.

“No surplice!” repeated Mr. Pye—for the like excuse had never been offered by a college boy before. “What do you mean?”

“We were ordered to wear clean surplices this afternoon. I brought mine to college this morning; I left it here in the vestry, and took the dirty one home. Well, sir, when I came to put it on this afternoon, it was gone.”

“How could it have gone? Nonsense, sir! Who would touch your surplice?”

“But I could not find it, sir,” repeated Bywater. “The choristers know I couldn't; and they left me hunting for it when they went into the hall to receive the judges. I could not go into my stall, sir, and sing the anthem without my surplice.”

“Hurst had no business to sing it,” was the vexed rejoinder of the master. “You know your voice is gone, Hurst. You should have gone up to the organist, stated the case, and had another anthem put up.”

“But, sir, I was expecting Bywater in every minute. I thought he'd be sure to find his surplice somewhere,” was Hurst's defence. “And when he did not come, and it grew too late to do anything, I thought it better to take the anthem myself than to give it to a junior, who would be safe to have made a mess of it. Better for the judges and other strangers to hear a faded voice in Helstonleigh Cathedral, than to hear bad singing.”

The master did not speak. So far, Hurst's argument had reason in it.

“And—I beg your pardon for what I am about to say, sir,” Hurst went on: “but I hope you will allow me to assure you beforehand, that neither I, nor my juniors under me, have had a hand in this affair. Bywater has just told me that the surplice is found, and how; and blame is sure to be cast upon us; but I declare that not one of us has been in the mischief.”

Mr. Pye opened his eyes. “What now?” he asked. “What is the mischief?”

“I found the surplice afterwards, sir,” Bywater said. “This is it.”

He spoke meaningly, as if preparing them for a surprise, and pointed to a corner of the vestry. There lay a clean, but tumbled surplice, half soaked in ink. The head-master and Mr. Yorke, lay-clerks and choristers, all gathered round, and stared in amazement.

“They shall pay me the worth of the surplice,” spoke Bywater, an angry shade crossing his usually good-tempered face.

“And have a double flogging into the bargain,” exclaimed the master. “Who has done this?”

“It looks as though it had been rabbled up for the purpose,” cried Hurst, in schoolboy phraseology, bending down and touching it gingerly with his finger. “The ink has been poured on to it.”

“Where did you find it?” sharply demanded the master—not that he was angry with the boys before him, but he felt angry that the thing should have taken place.

“I found it behind the screen, sir,” replied Bywater. “I thought I'd look there, as a last resource, and there it was. I should think nobody has been behind that screen for a twelvemonth past, for it's over ankles in dust there.”

“And you know nothing of it, Hurst?”

“Nothing whatever, sir,” was the reply of the senior chorister, spoken earnestly. “When Bywater whispered to me what had occurred, I set it down as the work of one of the choristers, and I taxed them with it. But they all denied it strenuously, and I believe they spoke the truth. I put them on their honour.”

The head-master peered at the choristers. Innocence was in every face—not guilt; and he, with Hurst, believed he must look elsewhere for the culprit. That it had been done by a college boy there could be no doubt whatever; either out of spite to Bywater, or from pure love of mischief. The king's scholars had no business in the vestry; but just at this period the cathedral was undergoing repair, and they could enter, if so minded, at any time of the day, the doors being left open for the convenience of the workmen.

The master turned out of the vestry. The cathedral was emptied of its crowd, leaving nothing but the dust to tell of what had been, and the bells once more went pealing forth over the city. Mr. Pye crossed the nave, and quitted the cathedral by the cloister door, followed by the choristers. The schoolroom, once the large refectory of the monks in monkish days, was on the opposite side of the cloisters; a large room, which you gained by steps, and whose high windows were many feet from the ground. Could you have climbed to those windows, and looked from them, you would have beheld a fair scene. A clear river wound under the cathedral walls; beyond its green banks were greener meadows, stretching out in the distance; far-famed, beautiful hills bounded the horizon. Close by, were the prebendal houses; some built of red stone, some covered with ivy, all venerable with age. Pleasant gardens surrounded most of them, and dark old elms towered aloft, sheltering the rooks, which seemed as old as the trees.

The king's scholars were in the schoolroom, cramming their surplices into bags, or preparing to walk home with them thrown upon their arms, and making enough hubbub to alarm the rooks. It dropped to a dead calm at sight of the master. On holidays—and this was one—it was not usual for the masters to enter the school after service. The school was founded by royal charter—its number limited to forty boys, who were called king's scholars, ten of whom, those whose voices were the best, were chosen choristers. The master marched to his desk, and made a sign for the boys to approach, addressing himself to the senior boy.

“Gaunt, some mischief has been done in the vestry, touching Bywater's surplice. Do you know anything of it?”

“No, sir,” was the prompt answer. And Gaunt was one who scorned to tell a lie.

The master ranged his eyes round the circle. “Who does?”

There was no reply. The boys looked at one another, a sort of stolid surprise for the most part predominating. Mr. Pye resumed:

“Bywater tells me that he left his clean surplice in the vestry this morning. This afternoon it was found thrown behind the screen, tumbled together, beyond all doubt purposely, and partially covered with ink. I ask, who has done this?”

“I have not, sir,” burst forth from most of the boys simultaneously. The seniors, of whom there were three besides Gaunt, remained silent. But this was nothing unusual; for the seniors, unless expressly questioned or taxed with a fault, did not accustom themselves to a voluntary denial.

“I can only think this has been the result of accident,” continued the head-master. “It is incredible to suppose any one of you would wantonly destroy a surplice. If so, let that boy, whoever he may have been, speak up honourably, and I will forgive him. I conclude that the ink must have been spilt upon it, I say accidentally, and that he then, in his consternation, tumbled the surplice together, and threw it out of sight behind the screen. It had been more straightforward, more in accordance with what I wish you all to be—boys of thorough truth and honour—had he candidly confessed it. But the fear of the moment may have frightened his better judgment away. Let him acknowledge it now, and I will forgive him; though of course he must pay Bywater for another surplice.”

A dead silence.

“Do you hear, boys?” the master sternly asked.

No answer from any one; nothing but continued silence. The master rose, and his countenance assumed its most severe expression.

“Hear further, boys. That it is one of you, I am convinced; and your refusing to speak compels me to fear that it was not an accident, but a premeditated, wicked act. I now warn you, whoever did it, that if I can discover the author or authors, he or they shall be punished with the utmost severity, short of expulsion, that is allowed by the rules of the school. Seniors, I call for your aid in this. Look to it.”

The master left the schoolroom, and Babel broke loose—questioning, denying, protesting, one of another. Bywater was surrounded.

“Won't there be a stunning flogging? Bywater, who did it? Do you know?”

Bywater sat himself astride over the end of a bench, and nodded. The senior boy turned to him, some slight surprise in his look and tone.

“Do you know, Bywater?”

“Pretty well, Gaunt. There are two fellows in this school, one's at your desk, one's at the second desk, and I believe they'd either of them do me a nasty turn if they could. It was one of them.”

“Who do you mean?” asked Gaunt eagerly.

Bywater laughed. “Thank you. If I tell now, it may defeat the ends of justice, as the newspapers say. I'll wait till I am sure—and then, let him look to himself. I won't spare him, and I don't fancy Pye will.”

“You'll never find out, if you don't find out at once, Bywater,” cried Hurst.

“Shan't I? You'll see,” was the significant answer. “It's some distance from here to the vestry of the cathedral, and a fellow could scarcely steal there and steal back without being seen by somebody. It was done stealthily, mark you; and when folks go on stealthy errands they are safe to be met.”

Before he had finished speaking, a gentlemanly-looking boy of about twelve, with delicate features, a damask flush on his face, and wavy auburn hair, sprang up with a start. “Why!” he exclaimed, “I saw—” And there he came to a sudden halt, and the flush on his cheek grew deeper, and then faded again. It was a face of exceeding beauty, refined almost as a girl's, and it had gained for him in the school the sobriquet of “Miss.”

“What's the matter with you, Miss Charley?”

“Oh, nothing, Bywater.”

“Charley Channing,” exclaimed Gaunt, “do you know who did it?”

“If I did, Gaunt, I should not tell,” was the fearless answer.

Do you know, Charley?” cried Tom Channing, who was one of the seniors of the school.

“Where's the good of asking that wretched little muff?” burst forth Gerald Yorke. “He's only a girl. How do you know it was not one of the lay-clerks, Bywater? They carry ink in their pockets, I'll lay. Or any of the masons might have gone into the vestry, for the matter of that.”

“It wasn't a lay-clerk, and it wasn't a mason,” stoically nodded Bywater. “It was a college boy. And I shall lay my finger upon him as soon as I am a little bit surer than I am. I am three parts sure now.”

“If Charley Channing does not suspect somebody, I'm not here,” exclaimed Hurst, who had closely watched the movement alluded to; and he brought his hand down fiercely on the desk as he spoke. “Come, Miss Channing, just shell out what you know; it's a shame the choristers should lie under such a ban: and of course we shall do so, with Pye.”

“You be quiet, Hurst, and let Miss Charley alone,” drawled Bywater. “I don't want him, or anybody else to get pummelled to powder; I'll find it out for myself, I say. Won't my old aunt be in a way though, when she sees the surplice, and finds she has another to make! I say, Hurst, didn't you croak out that solo! Their lordships in the wigs will be soliciting your photograph as a keepsake.”

“I hope they'll set it in diamonds,” retorted Hurst.

The boys began to file out, putting on their trenchers, as they clattered down the steps. Charley Channing sat himself down in the cloisters on a pile of books, as if willing that the rest should pass out before him. His brother saw him sitting there, and came up to him, speaking in an undertone.

“Charley, you know the rules of the school: one boy must not tell of another. As Bywater says, you'd get pummelled to powder.”

“Look here, Tom. I tell you—”

“Hold your tongue, boy!” sharply cried Tom Channing. “Do you forget that I am a senior? You heard the master's words. We know no brothers in school life, you must remember.”

Charley laughed. “Tom, you think I am a child, I believe. I didn't enter the school yesterday. All I was going to tell you was this: I don't know any more than you who inked the surplice; and suspicion goes for nothing.”

“All right,” said Tom Channing, as he flew after the rest; and Charley sat on, and fell into a reverie.

The senior boy of the school, you have heard, was Gaunt. The other three seniors, Tom Channing, Harry Huntley, and Gerald Yorke, possessed a considerable amount of power; but nothing equal to that vested in Gaunt. They had all three entered the school on the same day, and had kept pace with each other as they worked their way up in it, consequently not one could be said to hold priority; and when Gaunt should quit the school at the following Michaelmas, one of the three would become senior. Which, you may wish to ask? Ah, we don't know that, yet.

Charley Channing—a truthful, good boy, full of integrity, kind and loving by nature, and a universal favourite—sat tilted on the books. He was wishing with all his heart that he had not seen something which he had seen that day. He had been going through the cloisters in the afternoon, about the time that all Helstonleigh, college boys included, were in the streets watching for the sheriff's procession, when he saw one of the seniors steal (Bywater had been happy in the epithet) out of the cathedral into the quiet cloisters, peer about him, and then throw a broken ink-bottle into the graveyard which the cloisters enclosed. The boy stole away without perceiving Charley; and there sat Charley now, trying to persuade himself by some ingenious sophistry—which, however, he knew was sophistry—that the senior might not have been the one in the mischief; that the ink-bottle might have been on legitimate duty, and that he threw it from him because it was broken. Charles Channing did not like these unpleasant secrets. There was in the school a code of honour—the boys called it so—that one should not tell of another; and if the head-master ever went the length of calling the seniors to his aid, those seniors deemed themselves compelled to declare it, if the fault became known to them. Hence Tom Channing's hasty arrest of his brother's words.

“I wonder if I could see the ink-bottle there?” quoth Charles to himself. Rising from the books he ran through the cloisters to a certain part, and there, by a dexterous spring, perched himself on to the frame of the open mullioned windows. The gravestones lay pretty thick in the square, enclosed yard, the long, dank grass growing around them; but there appeared to be no trace of an ink-bottle.

“What on earth are you mounted up there for? Come down instantly. You know the row there has been about the walls getting defaced.”

The speaker was Gerald Yorke, who had come up silently. Openly disobey him, young Channing dared not, for the seniors exacted obedience in school and out of it. “I'll get down directly, sir. I am not hurting the wall.”

“What are you looking at? What is there to see?” demanded Yorke.

“Nothing particular. I was looking for what I can't see,” pointedly returned Charley.

“Look here, Miss Channing; I don't quite understand you to-day. You were excessively mysterious in school, just now, over that surplice affair. Who's to know you were not in the mess yourself?”

“I think you might know it,” returned Charley, as he jumped down. “It was more likely to have been you than I.”

Yorke laid hold of him, clutching his jacket with a firm grasp. “You insolent young jackanapes! Now! what do you mean? You don't stir from here till you tell me.”

“I'll tell you, Mr. Yorke; I'd rather tell,” cried the boy, sinking his voice to a whisper. “I was here when you came peeping out of the college doors this afternoon, and I saw you come up to this niche, and fling away an ink-bottle.”

Yorke's face flushed scarlet. He was a tall, strong fellow, with a pale complexion, thick, projecting lips, and black hair, promising fair to make a Hercules—but all the Yorkes were finely framed. He gave young Channing a taste of his strength; the boy, when shaken, was in his hands as a very reed. “You miserable imp! Do you know who is said to be the father of lies?”

“Let me alone, sir. It's no lie, and you know it's not. But I promise you on my honour that I won't split. I'll keep it in close; always, if I can. The worst of me is, I bring things out sometimes without thought,” he added ingenuously. “I know I do; but I'll try and keep in this. You needn't be in a passion, Yorke; I couldn't help seeing what I did. It wasn't my fault.”

Yorke's face had grown purple with anger. “Charles Channing, if you don't: unsay what you have said, I'll beat you to within an inch of your life.”

“I can't unsay it,” was the answer.

“You can't!” reiterated Yorke, grasping him as a hawk would a pigeon. “How dare you brave me to my presence? Unsay the lie you have told.”

“I am in God's presence, Yorke, as well as in yours,” cried the boy, reverently; “and I will not tell a lie.”

“Then take your whacking! I'll teach you what it is to invent fabrications! I'll put you up for—”

Yorke's tongue and hands stopped. Turning out of the private cloister-entrance of the deanery, right upon them, had come Dr. Gardner, one of the prebendaries. He cast a displeased glance at Yorke, not speaking; and little Channing, touching his trencher to the doctor, flew to the place where he had left his books, caught them up, and ran out of the cloisters towards home.

CHAPTER II. BAD NEWS.

The ground near the cathedral, occupied by the deanery and the prebendal residences, was called the Boundaries. There were a few other houses in it, chiefly of a moderate size, inhabited by private families. Across the open gravel walk, in front of the south cloister entrance, was the house appropriated to the headmaster; and the Channings lived in a smaller one, nearly on the confines of the Boundaries. A portico led into it, and there was a sitting-room on either side the hall. Charley entered; and was going, full dash, across the hall to a small room where the boys studied, singing at the top of his voice, when the old servant of the family, Judith, an antiquated body, in a snow-white mob-cap and check apron, met him, and seized his arm.

“Hush, child! There's ill news in the house.”

Charley dropped his voice to an awe-struck whisper. “What is it, Judith? Is papa worse?”

“Child! there's illness of mind as well as of body. I didn't say sickness; I said ill news. I don't rightly understand it; the mistress said a word to me, and I guessed the rest. And it was me that took in the letter! Me! I wish I had put it in my kitchen fire first!”

“Is it—Judith, is it news of the—the cause? Is it over?”

“It's over, as I gathered. 'Twas a London letter, and it came by the afternoon post. All the poor master's hopes and dependencies for years have been wrested from him. And if they'd give me my way, I'd prosecute them postmen for bringing such ill luck to a body's door.”

Charles stood something like a statue, the bright, sensitive colour deserting his cheek. One of those causes, Might versus Right, of which there are so many in the world, had been pending in the Channing family for years and years. It included a considerable amount of money, which ought, long ago, to have devolved peaceably to Mr. Channing; but Might was against him, and Might threw it into Chancery. The decision of the Vice-Chancellor had been given for Mr. Channing, upon which Might, in his overbearing power, carried it to a higher tribunal. Possibly the final decision, from which there could be no appeal, had now come.

“Judith,” Charles asked, after a pause, “did you hear whether—whether the letter—I mean the news—had anything to do with the Lord Chancellor?”

“Oh, bother the Lord Chancellor!” was Judith's response. “It had to do with somebody that's an enemy to your poor papa. I know that much. Who's this?”

The hall door had opened, and Judith and Charles turned towards it. A gay, bright-featured young man of three and twenty entered, tall and handsome, as it was in the nature of the Channings to be. He was the eldest son of the family, James; or, as he was invariably styled, Hamish. He rose six foot two in his stockings, was well made, and upright. In grace and strength of frame the Yorkes and the Channings stood A1 in Helstonleigh.

“Now, then! What are you two concocting? Is he coming over you again to let him make more toffy, Judy, and burn out the bottom of another saucepan?”

“Hamish, Judy says there's bad news come in by the London post. I am afraid the Lord Chancellor has given judgment—given it against us.”

The careless smile, the half-mocking, expression left the lips of Hamish. He glanced from Judith to Charles, from Charles to Judith. “Is it sure?” he breathed.

“It's sure that it's awful news of some sort,” returned Judith; “and the mistress said to me that all was over now. They be all in there, but you two,” pointing with her finger to the parlour on the left of the hall; “and you had better go in to them. Master Hamish—”

“Well?” returned Hamish, in a tone of abstraction.

“You must every one of you just make the best of it, and comfort the poor master. You are young and strong; while he—you know what he is. You, in special, Master Hamish, for you're the eldest born, and were the first of 'em that I ever nursed upon my knee.”

“Of course—of course,” he hastily replied. “But, oh, Judith! you don't know half the ill this must bring upon us! Come along, Charley; let us hear the worst.”

Laying his arm with an affectionate gesture round the boy's neck, Hamish drew him towards the parlour. It was a square, light, cheerful room. Not the best room: that was on the other side the hall. On a sofa, underneath the window, reclined Mr. Channing, his head and shoulders partly raised by cushions. His illness had continued long, and now, it was feared, had become chronic. A remarkably fine specimen of manhood he must have been in his day, his countenance one of thoughtful goodness, pleasant to look upon. Arthur, the second son, had inherited its thoughtfulness, its expression of goodness; James, its beauty; but there was a great likeness between all the four sons. Arthur, only nineteen, was nearly as tall as his brother. He stood bending over the arm of his father's sofa. Tom, looking very blank and cross, sat at the table, his elbows leaning on it. Mrs. Channing's pale, sweet face was bent towards her daughter's, Constance, a graceful girl of one and twenty; and Annabel, a troublesome young lady of nearly fourteen, was surreptitiously giving twitches to Tom's hair.

Arthur moved from the place next his father when Hamish entered, as if yielding him the right to stand there. A more united family it would be impossible to find. The brothers and sisters loved each other dearly, and Hamish they almost reverenced—excepting Annabel. Plenty of love the child possessed; but of reverence, little. With his gay good humour, and his indulgent, merry-hearted spirit, Hamish Channing was one to earn love as his right, somewhat thoughtless though he was. Thoroughly well, in the highest sense of the term, had the Channings been reared. Not of their own wisdom had Mr. and Mrs. Channing trained their children.

“What's the matter, sir?” asked Hamish, smoothing his brow, and suffering the hopeful smile to return to his lips. “Judith says some outrageous luck has arrived; come express, by post.”

“Joke while you may, Hamish,” interposed Mrs. Channing, in a low voice; “I shrink from telling it you. Can you not guess the news?”

Hamish looked round at each, individually, with his sunny smile, and then let it rest upon his mother. “The very worst I can guess is not so bad. We are all here in our accustomed health. Had we sent Annabel up in that new balloon they are advertising, I might fancy it had capsized with her—as it will some day. Annabel, never you be persuaded to mount the air in that fashion.”

“Hamish! Hamish!” gently reproved Mrs. Channing. But perhaps she discerned the motive which actuated him. Annabel clapped her hands. She would have thought it great fun to go up in a balloon.

“Well, mother, the worst tidings that the whole world could bring upon us cannot, I say, be very dreadful, while we can discuss them as we are doing now,” said Hamish. “I suppose the Lord Chancellor has pronounced against us?”

“Irrevocably. The suit is for ever at an end, and we have lost it.”

“Hamish is right,” interrupted Mr. Channing. “When the letter arrived, I was for a short time overwhelmed. But I begin to see it already in a less desponding light; and by to-morrow I dare say I shall be cheerful over it. One blessed thing—children, I say advisedly, a 'blessed' thing—the worry will be over.”

Charley lifted his head. “The worry, papa?”

“Ay, my boy. The agitation—the perpetual excitement—the sickening suspense—the yearning for the end. You cannot understand this, Charley; you can none of you picture it, as it has been, for me. Could I have gone abroad, as other men, it would have shaken itself off amidst the bustle of the world, and have pressed upon me only at odd times and seasons. But here have I lain; suspense my constant companion. It was not right, to allow the anxiety so to work upon me: but I could not help it; I really could not.”

“We shall manage to do without it, papa,” said Arthur.

“Yes; after a bit, we shall manage very well. The worst is, we are behindhand in our payments; for you know how surely I counted upon this. It ought to have been mine; it was mine by full right of justice, though it now seems that the law was against me. It is a great affliction; but it is one of those which may be borne with an open brow.”

“What do you mean, papa?”

“Afflictions are of two kinds. The one we bring upon ourselves, through our own misconduct; the other is laid upon us by God for our own advantage. Yes, my boys, we receive many blessings in disguise. Trouble of this sort will only serve to draw out your manly energies, to make you engage vigorously in the business of life, to strengthen your self-dependence and your trust in God. This calamity of the lost lawsuit we must all meet bravely. One mercy, at any rate, the news has brought with it.”

“What is that?” asked Mrs. Channing, lifting her sad face.

“When I have glanced to the possibility of the decision being against me, I have wondered how I should pay its long and heavy costs; whether our home must not be broken up to do it, and ourselves turned out upon the world. But the costs are not to fall upon me; all are to be paid out of the estate.”

“That's good news!” ejaculated Hamish, his face radiant, as he nodded around.

“My darling boys,” resumed Mr. Channing, “you must all work and do your best. I had thought this money would have made things easier for you; but it is not to be. Not that I would have a boy of mine cherish for a moment the sad and vain dream which some do—that of living in idleness. God has sent us all into the world to work; some with their hands, some with their heads; all according to their abilities and their station. You will not be the worse off,” Mr. Charming added with a smile, “for working a little harder than you once thought would be necessary.”

“Perhaps the money may come to us, after all, by some miracle,” suggested Charley.

“No,” replied Mr. Channing. “It has wholly gone from us. It is as much lost to us as though we had never possessed a claim to it.”

It was even so. This decision of the Lord Chancellor had taken it from the Channing family for ever.

“Never mind!” cried Tom, throwing up his trencher, which he had carelessly carried into the room with him. “As papa says, we have our hands and brains: and they often win the race against money in the long run.”

Yes. The boys had active hands and healthy brains—no despicable inheritance, when added to a firm faith in God, and an ardent wish to use, and not misuse, the talents given to them.

CHAPTER III. CONSTANCE CHANNING.

How true is the old proverb—“Man proposes but God disposes!” God's ways are not as our ways. His dealings with us are often mysterious. Happy those, who can detect His hand in all the varied chances and changes of the world.

I am not sure that we can quite picture to ourselves the life that had been Mr. Channing's. Of gentle birth, and reared to no profession, the inheritance which ought to have come to him was looked upon as a sufficient independence. That it would come to him, had never been doubted by himself or by others; and it was only at the very moment when he thought he was going to take possession of it, that some enemy set up a claim and threw it into Chancery. You may object to the word “enemy,” but it could certainly not be looked upon as the act of a friend. By every right, in all justice, it belonged to James Channing; but he who put in his claim, taking advantage of a quibble of law, was a rich man and a mighty one. I should not like to take possession of another's money in such a manner. The good, old-fashioned, wholesome fear would be upon me, that it would bring no good either to me or mine.

James Channing never supposed but that the money would be his some time. Meanwhile he sought and obtained employment to occupy his days; to bring “grist to the mill,” until the patrimony should come. Hoping, hoping, hoping on; hope and disappointment, hope and disappointment—there was nothing else for years and years; and you know who has said, that “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” There have been many such cases in the world, but I question, I say, if we can quite realize them. However, the end had come—the certainty of disappointment; and Mr. Channing was already beginning to be thankful that suspense, at any rate, was over.

He was the head of an office—or it may be more correct to say the head of the Helstonleigh branch of it, for the establishment was a London one—a large, important concern, including various departments of Insurance. Hamish was in the same office; and since Mr. Channing's rheumatism had become chronic, it was Hamish who chiefly transacted the business of the office, generally bringing home the books when he left, and going over them in the evening with his father. Thus the work was effectually transacted, and Mr. Channing retained his salary. The directors were contented that it should be so, for Mr. Channing possessed their thorough respect and esteem.

After the ill news was communicated to them, the boys left the parlour, and assembled in a group in the study, at the back of the house, to talk it over. Constance was with them, but they would not admit Annabel. A shady, pleasant, untidy room was that study, opening to a cool, shady garden. It had oil-cloth on the floor instead of carpeting, and books and playthings were strewed about it.

“What an awful shame that there should be so much injustice in the world!” spoke passionate Tom, flinging his Euripides on the table.

“But for one thing, I should be rather glad the worry's over,” cried Hamish. “We know the worst now—that we have only ourselves to trust to.”

“Our hands and brains, as Tom said,” remarked Charley. “What is the 'one thing' that you mean, Hamish?”

Hamish seized Charley by the waist, lifted him up, and let him drop again. “It is what does not concern little boys to know: and I don't see why you should be in here with us, young sir, any more than Annabel.”

“A presentiment that this would be the ending has been upon me for some time,” broke in the gentle voice of Constance. “In my own mind I have kept laying out plans for us all. You see, it is not as though we should enjoy the full income that we have hitherto had.”

“What's that, Constance?” asked Tom hotly. “The decision does not touch papa's salary; and you heard him say that the costs were to be paid out of the estate. A pretty thing it would be if any big-wigged Lord Chancellor could take away the money that a man works hard for!”

“Hasty, as usual, Tom,” she said with a smile. “You know—we all know—that, counting fully upon this money, papa is behindhand in his payments. They must be paid off now in the best way that may be found: and it will take so much from his income. It will make no difference to you, Tom; all you can do, is to try on heartily for the seniorship and the exhibition.”

“Oh, won't it make a difference to me, though!” retorted Tom. “And suppose I don't gain it, Constance?”

“Then you will have to work all the harder, Tom, in some other walk of life. Failing the exhibition, of course there will be no chance of your going up to the university; and you must give up the hope of entering the Church. The worst off—the one upon whom this disappointment must fall the hardest—will be Arthur.”

Arthur Channing—astride on the arm of the old-fashioned sofa—lifted his large deep blue eyes to Constance with a flash of intelligence: it seemed to say, that she only spoke of what he already knew. He had been silent hitherto; he was of a silent nature: a quiet, loving, tender nature: while the rest spoke, he was content to think.

“Ay, that it will!” exclaimed Hamish. “What will become of your articles now, Arthur?”

It should be explained that Arthur had entered the office of Mr. Galloway, who was a proctor, and also was steward to the Dean and chapter. Arthur was only a subordinate in it, a clerk receiving. ay—and very short pay, too; but it was intended that he should enter upon his articles as soon as this money that should be theirs enabled Mr. Channing to pay for them. Hamish might well ask what would become of his articles now!

“I can't see a single step before me,” cried Arthur. “Except that I must stay on as I am, a paid clerk.”

“What rubbish, Arthur!” flashed Tom, who possessed a considerable share of temper when it was roused. “As if you, Arthur Channing, could remain a paid clerk at Galloway's! Why, you'd be on a level with Jenkins—old Jenkins's son. Roland Yorke would look down on you then; more than he does now. And that need not be!”

The sensitive crimson dyed Arthur's fair open brow. Of all the failings that he found it most difficult to subdue in his own heart, pride bore the greatest share. From the moment the ill news had come to his father, the boy felt that he should have to do fierce battle with his pride; that there was ever-recurring mortification laid up in store for it. “But I can battle with it,” he bravely whispered to himself: “and I will do it, God helping me.”

“I may whistle for my new cricket-bat and stumps now,” grumbled Tom.

“And I wonder when I shall have my new clothes?” added Charley.

“How selfish we all are!” broke forth Arthur.

“Selfish?” chafed Tom.

“Yes, selfish. Here we are, croaking over our petty disappointments, and forgetting the worst share that falls upon papa. Failing this money, how will he go to the German baths?”

A pause of consternation. In their own grievances the boys had lost sight of the hope which had recently been shared by them all. An eminent physician, passing through Helstonleigh, had seen Mr. Channing, and given his opinion that if he would visit certain medicinal spas in Germany, health might be restored to him. When the cause should be terminated in their favour, Mr. Channing had intended to set out. But now it was given against him; and hope of setting out had gone with it.

“I wish I could carry him on my back to Germany, and work to keep him while he stayed there!” impulsively spoke Tom. “Wretchedly selfish we have been, to dwell on our disappointments, by the side of papa's. I wish I was older.”

Constance was standing against the window. She was of middle height, thoroughly ladylike and graceful; her features fair and beautiful, and her dark-blue eyes and smooth white brow wonderfully like Arthur's. She wore a muslin dress with a delicate pink sprig upon it, the lace of its open sleeves falling on her pretty white hands, which were playing unconsciously with a spray of jessamine, while she listened to her brothers as each spoke.

“Tom,” she interposed, in answer to the last remark, “it is of no use wishing for impossibilities. We must look steadfastly at things as they exist, and see what is the best that can be made of them. All that you and Charles can do is to work well on at your studies—Annabel the same; and it is to be hoped this blow will take some of her thoughtlessness out of her. Hamish, and Arthur, and I, must try and be more active than we have been.”

“You!” echoed Arthur. “Why, what can you do, Constance?”

A soft blush rose to her cheeks. “I tell you that I have seemed to anticipate this,” she said, “and my mind has busied itself with plans and projects. I shall look out for a situation as daily governess.”

A groan of anger burst from Tom. His quick temper, and Arthur's pride, alike rose up and resented the words. “A daily governess! It is only another name for a servant. Fine, that would be, for Miss Channing!”

Constance laughed. “Oh, Tom! there are worse misfortunes at sea. I would go out wholly, but that papa would not like to spare me, and I must take Annabel for music and other things of an evening. Don't look cross. It is an excellent thought; and I shall not mind it.”

“What will mamma say?” asked Tom, ironically. “You just ask her!”

“Mamma knows,” replied Constance. “Mamma has had her fears about the termination of the lawsuit, just as I have. Ah! while you boys were laughing and joking, and pursuing your sports or your studies of a night, I and mamma would be talking over the shadowed future. I told mamma that if the time and the necessity came for turning my education and talents to account, I should do it with a willing heart; and mamma, being rather more sensible than her impetuous son Tom, cordially approved.”

Tom made a paper bullet and flung it at Constance, his honest eyes half laughing.

“So should I approve,” said Hamish. “It is a case, taking into consideration my father's state, in which all of us should help who are able. Of course, were you boys grown up and getting money, Constance should be exempt from aiding and abetting; but as it is, it is different. There will be no disgrace in her becoming a governess; and Helstonleigh will never think it so. She is a lady always, and so she would be if she were to turn to and wash up dishes. The only doubt is—”

He stopped, and looked hesitatingly at Constance. As if penetrating his meaning, her eyes fell before his.

“—Whether Yorke will like it,” went on Hamish, as though he had not halted in his sentence. And the pretty blush in Constance Channing's face deepened to a glowing crimson. Tom made a whole heap of bullets at once, and showered them on to her.

“So Hamish—be quiet, Tom!—you may inquire all over Helstonleigh to-morrow, whether any one wants a governess; a well-trained young lady of twenty-one, who can play, sing, and paint, speak really good English, and decent French, and has a smattering of German,” rattled on Constance, as if to cover her blushes. “I shall ask forty guineas a year. Do you think I shall get it?”

“I think you ought to ask eighty,” said Arthur.

“So I would, if I were thirty-one instead of twenty-one,” said Constance. “Oh dear! here am I, laughing and joking over it, but it is a serious thing to undertake—the instruction of the young. I hope I shall be enabled to do my duty in it. What's that?”

It was a merry, mocking laugh, which came from the outside of the window, and then a head of auburn hair, wild and entangled, was pushed up, and in burst Annabel, her saucy dark eyes dancing with delight.

“You locked me out, but I have been outside the window and heard it all,” cried she, dancing before them in the most provoking manner. “Arthur can only be a paid clerk, and Constance is going to be a governess and get forty guineas a year, and if Tom doesn't gain his exhibition he must turn bell-ringer to the college, for papa can't pay for him at the university now!”

“What do you deserve, you wicked little picture of deceit?” demanded Hamish. “Do you forget the old story of the listener who lost his ears?”

“I always do listen whenever I can, and I always will,” avowed Annabel. “I have warned you so a hundred times over, and now I warn you again. I wish Tom would turn bell-ringer! I'd make him ring a peal that should astonish Helstonleigh, the day Constance goes out as governess. Shan't I have a fine time of it! It's lessons for me now, morning, noon, and night,—she's always worrying me; but, once let us get her back turned, and I shall have whole holiday! She may think I'll do my lessons with her at night; but I won't!”

The boys began to chase her round the table. She was almost a match for all four—a troublesome, indulged, sunny-hearted child, who delighted in committing faults, that she might have the pleasure of avowing them. She flew out into the garden, first knocking over Constance's paint-box, and some of them went after her.

At that moment Mr. Yorke came in. You have seen him once before, in his place in Helstonleigh Cathedral: a tall, slender man, with pale, well-formed features, and an attractive smile. His dark eyes rested on Constance as he entered, and once more the brilliant colour lighted up her face. When prospects should be a little better—that is, when Mr. Yorke should have a sufficient living bestowed upon him—Constance was to become his wife. His stipend from the minor canonry was at present trifling.

“Judith met me in the hall as I was going into the parlour, and told me I had better come here,” he observed. “She said bad news had arrived for Mr. Channing.”

“Yes,” answered Hamish. “The lawsuit is lost.”

“Lost!” echoed Mr. Yorke.

“Irrevocably. We were discussing ways and means amongst ourselves,” said Hamish, “for of course this changes our prospects materially.”

“And Constance is going out as a governess, if she can find any one to take her, and Arthur is to plod on with Joe Jenkins, and Tom means to apply for the post of bell-ringer to the cathedral,” interposed the incorrigible Annabel, who had once more darted in, and heard the last words. “Can you recommend Constance to a situation, Mr. Yorke?”

He treated the information lightly; laughed at and with Annabel; but Constance noticed that a flush crossed his brow, and that he quitted the subject.

“Has the inked surplice been found out, Tom,—I mean the culprit?”

“Not yet, Mr. Yorke.”

“Charles, you can tell me who it was, I hear?”

There was a startled glance for a moment in Charles's eye, as he looked up at Mr. Yorke, and an unconscious meaning in his tone.

“Why, do you know who it was, sir?”

“Not I,” said Mr. Yorke. “I know that, whoever it may have been deserves a sound flogging, if he did it willfully.”

“Then, sir, why do you suppose I know?”

“I met Hurst just now, and he stopped me with the news that he was sure Charley Channing could put his hand upon the offender, if he chose to do it. It was not yourself, was it Charley?”

Mr. Yorke laughed as he asked the question. Charley laughed also, but in a constrained manner. Meanwhile the others, to whom the topic had been as Sanscrit, demanded an explanation, which Mr. Yorke gave, so far as he was cognizant of the facts.

“What a shame to spoil a surplice! Have you cause to suspect any particular boy, Charley?” demanded Hamish.

“Don't ask him in my presence,” interrupted Tom in the same hurried manner that he had used in the cloisters. “I should be compelled in honour to inform the master, and Charley would have his life thrashed out of him by the school.”

“Don't you ask me, either, Mr. Yorke,” said Charles; and the tone of his voice, still unconsciously to himself, bore a strange serious earnestness.

“Why not?” returned Mr. Yorke. “I am not a senior of the college school, and under obedience to its head-master.”

“If you are all to stop in this room, I and Tom shall never get our lessons done,” was all the reply made by Charles, as he drew a chair to the table and opened his exercise books.

“And I never could afford that,” cried Tom, following his example, and looking out the books he required. “It won't do to let Huntley and Yorke get ahead of me.”

“Trying for the seniorship as strenuously as ever, Tom?” asked Mr. Yorke.

“Of course I am,” replied Tom Channing, lifting his eyes in slight surprise. “And I hope to get it.”

“Which of the three stands the best chance?”

“Well,” said Tom, “it will be about a neck-and-neck race between us. My name stands first on the rolls of the school; therefore, were our merits equal, in strict justice it ought to be given to me. But the master could pass me over if he pleased, and decide upon either of the other two.”

“Which of those two stands first on the rolls?”

“Harry Huntley. Yorke is the last. But that does not count for much, you know, Mr. Yorke, as we all entered together. They enrolled us as our initial letters stood in the alphabet.”

“It will turn wholly upon your scholastic merits, then? I hear—but Helstonleigh is famous for its gossip—that in past times it has frequently gone by favour.”

“So it has,” said Tom Channing, throwing back his head with a whole world of indignation in the action. “Eligible boys have been passed over, and the most incapable dolt set up above them; all because his friends were in a good position, and hand-in-glove with the head-master. I don't mean Pye, you know; before he came. It's said the last case was so flagrant that it came to the ears of the dean, and he interfered and forbade favour for the future. At any rate, there's an impression running through the school that merit and conduct, taken together, will be allowed fair play.”

“Conduct?” echoed Arthur Channing.

Tom nodded:—“Conduct is to be brought in, this time. One day, when the first desk fell into a row with the head-master, through some mischief we had gone into out of school, he asked us if we were aware that our conduct, as it might be good or ill, might gain or lose us the seniorship. Yorke, who is bold enough, you know, for ten, remarked that that was a new dodge, and the master overheard the words, and said, Yes, he was happy to say there were many new 'dodges' he had seen fit to introduce, which he trusted might tend to make the school different from what it had been. Of course we had the laugh at Yorke; but the master took no more notice of it. Since then, I assure you, Mr. Yorke, our behaviour has been a pattern for young ladies—mine, and Huntley's, and Yorke's. We don't care to lose a chance.”

Tom Channing nodded sagaciously as he concluded, and they left the room to him and Charles.

CHAPTER IV. NO HOLIDAY TO-DAY.

“Now, Constance, that we have a moment alone, what is this about you?” began Mr. Yorke, as they stood together in the garden.

“Annabel said the truth—that I do think of going out as daily governess,” she replied, bending over a carnation to hide the blush which rose to her cheeks, a very rival to the blushing flower. “It is a great misfortune that has fallen upon us—at least we can only look at it in that light at present, and will, beyond doubt, be productive of some embarrassment. Do you not see, William, that it is incumbent upon us all to endeavour to lighten this embarrassment, those of us who can do so? I must assume my share of the burden.”

Mr. Yorke was silent. Constance took it for granted that he was displeased. He was of an excellent family, and she supposed he disliked the step she was about to take—deemed it would be derogatory to his future wife.

“Have you fully made up your mind?” he at length asked.

“Yes. I have talked it over with mamma—for indeed she and I both seem to have anticipated this—and she thinks with me, that it is what I ought to do. William, how could I reconcile it to my conscience not to help?” she continued. “Think of papa! think of his strait! It appears to be a plain duty thrown in my path.”

“By yourself, Constance?” “Not by myself,” she whispered, lifting for a moment her large blue eyes. “Oh, William, William, do not be displeased with me! do not forbid it! It is honourable to work—it is right to do what we can. Strive to see it in the right light.”

“Let that carnation alone, Constance; give your attention to me. What if I do forbid it?”

She walked a little forward, leaving the carnation bed, and halted under the shade of the dark cedar tree, her heart and colour alike fading. Mr. Yorke followed and stood before her.

“William, I must do my duty. There is no other way open to me, by which I can earn something to help in this time of need, except that of becoming a governess. Many a lady, better born than I, has done it before me.”

“A daily governess, I think you said?”

“Papa could not spare me to go out altogether; Annabel could not spare me either; and—”

“I would not spare you,” he struck in, filling up her pause. “Was that what you were about to say, Constance?”

The rosy hue stole over her face again, and a sweet smile to her lips: “Oh, William, if you will only sanction it! I shall go about it then with the lightest heart!”

He looked at her with an expression she did not understand, and shook his head. Constance thought it a negative shake, and her hopes fell again. “You did not answer my question,” said Mr. Yorke. “What if I forbid it?”

“But it seems to be my duty,” she urged from between her pale and parted lips.

“Constance, that is no answer.”

“Oh, do not, do not! William, do not you throw this temptation in my way—that of choosing between yourself and a plain duty that lies before me.”

“The temptation, as you call it, must be for a later consideration. Why will you not answer me? What would be your course if I forbade it?”

“I do not know. But, Oh, William, if you gave me up—”

She could not continue. She turned away to hide her face from Mr. Yorke. He followed and obtained forcible view of it. It was wet with tears.

“Nay, but I did not mean to carry it so far as to cause you real grief, my dearest,” he said, in a changed tone. “Though you brought it on yourself,” he added, laughing, as he bent his face down.

“How did I bring it on myself?”

“By doubting me. I saw you doubted me at the first, when Annabel spoke of it in the study. Constance, if you, possessed as you are of great acquirements, refused from any notion of false pride, to exert them for your family in a time of need, I should say you were little fitted for the wife of one whose whole duty it must be to do his Master's work.”

“You will sanction the measure then?” she rejoined, her countenance lighting up.

“How could you doubt me? I wish I could make a home at once to take you to; but as you must remain in this a little longer, it is only fair that you should contribute to its maintenance. We all have to bend to circumstances. I shall not love my wife the less, because she has had the courage to turn her talents to account. What could you be thinking of, child?”

“Forgive me, William,” she softly pleaded. “But you looked so grave and were so silent.”

Mr. Yorke smiled. “The truth is, Constance, I was turning in my mind whether I could not help to place you, and pondering the advantages and disadvantages of a situation I know of. Lady Augusta is looking out for a daily governess.”

“Is she?” exclaimed Constance. “I wonder whether—I—should suit her?”

Constance spoke hesitatingly. The thought which had flashed over her own mind was, whether Lady Augusta Yorke could afford to pay her sufficient remuneration. Probably the same doubt had made one of the “disadvantages” hinted at by Mr. Yorke.

“I called there yesterday, and interrupted a 'scene' between Lady Augusta and Miss Caroline,” he said. “Unseemly anger on my lady's part, and rebellion on Carry's, forming, as usual, its chief features.”

“But Lady Augusta is so indulgent to her children!” interrupted Constance.

“Perniciously indulgent, generally; and when the effects break out in insolence and disobedience, then there ensues a scene. If you go there you will witness them occasionally, and I assure you they are not edifying. You must endeavour to train the girls to something better than they have been trained to yet, Constance.”

“If I do go.”

“I knew how long it would last, Lady Augusta's instructing them herself,” resumed Mr. Yorke. “It is not a month since the governess left.”

“Why does she wish to take a daily governess instead of one in the house?”

Why Lady Augusta does a thing, is scarcely ever to be accounted for, by herself or by any one else!” replied Mr. Yorke. “Some convenience, or inconvenience, she mentioned to me, about sleeping arrangements. Shall I ascertain particulars for you, Constance; touching salary and other matters?”

“If you please. Papa is somewhat fastidious; but he could not object to my going there; and its being so very near our own house would be a great point of—”

“Constance!” interrupted a voice at this juncture. “Is Mr. Yorke there?”

“He is here, mamma,” replied Constance, walking forward to Mrs. Channing, Mr. Yorke attending her.

“I thought I heard you enter,” she said, as Mr. Yorke took her hand. “Mr. Channing will be pleased to see you, if you will come in and chat with him. The children have told you the tidings. It is a great blow to their prospects.”

“But they seem determined to bear it bravely,” he answered, in a hearty tone. “You may be proud to have such children, Mrs. Channing.”

“Not proud,” she softly said. “Thankful!”

“True. I am obliged to you for correcting me,” was the clergyman's ingenuous answer, as he walked, with Mrs. Channing, across the hall. Constance halted, for Judith came out of the kitchen, and spoke in a whisper.

“And what's the right and the wrong of it, Miss Constance? Is the money gone?”

“Gone entirely, Judith. Gone for good.”

“For good!” groaned Judith; “I should say for ill. Why does the Queen let there be a Lord Chancellor?”

“It is not the Lord Chancellor's fault, Judith. He only administers the law.”

“Why couldn't he just as well have given it for your papa, as against him?”

“I suppose he considers that the law is on the other side,” sighed Constance.

Judith, with a pettish movement, returned to her kitchen; and at that moment Hamish came downstairs. He had changed his dress, and had a pair of new white gloves in his hand.

“Are you going out to-night, Hamish?”

There was a stress on the word “to-night,” and Hamish marked it. “I promised, you know, Constance. And my staying away would do no good; it could not improve things. Fare you well, my pretty sister. Tell mamma I shall be home by eleven.”

“It'll be a sad cut-down for 'em all,” muttered Judith, gazing at Hamish round the kitchen door-post. “Where he'll find money for his white gloves and things now, is beyond my telling, the darling boy! If I could but get to that Lord Chancellor!”

Had you possessed the privilege of living in Helstonleigh at the time of which this story treats—and I can assure you you might live in a less privileged city—it is possible that, on the morning following the above events, your peaceful slumbers might have been rudely broken by a noise, loud enough to waken the seven sleepers of Ephesus.

Before seven o'clock, the whole school, choristers and king's scholars, assembled in the cloisters. But, instead of entering the schoolroom for early school, they formed themselves into a dense mass (if you ever saw schoolboys march otherwise, I have not), and, treading on each other's heels, proceeded through the town to the lodgings of the judges, in pursuance of a time-honoured custom. There the head-boy sent in his name to the very chamber of the Lord Chief Justice, who happened this time to have come to the Helstonleigh circuit. “Mr. Gaunt, senior of the college school”—craving holiday for himself, and the whole fry who had attended him.

“College boys!” cried his lordship, winking and blinking, as other less majestic mortals do when awakened suddenly out of their morning sleep.

“Yes, my lord,” replied the servant. “All the school's come up; such a lot of 'em! It's the holiday they are asking for.”

“Oh, ah, I recollect,” cried his lordship—for it was not the first time he had been to Helstonleigh. “Give one of my cards to the senior boy, Roberts. My compliments to the head-master, and I beg he will grant the boys a holiday.”

Roberts did as he was bid—he also had been to Helstonleigh before with his master—and delivered the card and message to Gaunt. The consequence of which was, the school tore through the streets in triumph, shouting “Holiday!” in tones to be heard a mile off, and bringing people in white garments, from their beds to the windows. The least they feared was, that the town had taken fire.

Back to the house of the head-master for the pantomime to be played through. This usually was (for the master, as wise on the subject as they were, would lie that morning in bed) to send the master's servant into his room with the card and the message; upon which permission for the holiday would come out, and the boys would disperse, exercising their legs and lungs. No such luck, however, on this morning. The servant met them at the door, and grinned dreadfully at the crowd.

“Won't you catch it, gentlemen! The head-master's gone into school, and is waiting for you; marking you all late, of course.”

“Gone into school!” repeated Gaunt, haughtily, resenting the familiarity, as well as the information. “What do you mean?”

“Why, I just mean that, sir,” was the reply, upon which Gaunt felt uncommonly inclined to knock him down. But the man had a propensity for grinning, and was sure to exercise it on all possible occasions. “There's some row up, and you are not to have holiday,” continued the servant; “the master said last night I was to call him this morning as usual.”

At this unexpected reply, the boys slunk away to the college schoolroom, their buoyant spirits sunk down to dust and ashes—figuratively speaking. They could not understand it; they had not the most distant idea what their offence could have been. Gaunt entered, and the rest trooped in after him. The head-master sat at his desk in stern state: the other masters were in their places. “What is the meaning of this insubordination?” the master sharply demanded, addressing Gaunt. “You are three-quarters of an hour behind your time.”

“We have been up to the judges, as usual, for holiday, sir,” replied Gaunt, in a tone of deprecation. “His lordship sends his card and compliments to you, and—”

“Holiday!” interrupted the master. “Holiday!” he repeated, with emphasis, as if disbelieving his own ears. “Do you consider that the school deserves it? A pretty senior you must be, if you do.”

“What has the school done, sir?” respectfully asked Gaunt.

“Your memory must be conveniently short,” chafed the master. “Have you forgotten the inked surplice?”

Gaunt paused. “But that was not the act of the whole school, sir. It was probably the act of only one.”

“But, so long as that one does not confess, the whole school must bear it,” returned the master, looking round on the assembly. “Boys, understand me. It is not for the fault itself—that may have been, as I said yesterday, the result of accident; but it is the concealment of the fault that makes me angry. Will you confess now?—he who did it?”

No; the appeal brought forth no further result than the other had done. The master continued:

“You may think—I speak now to the guilty boy, and let him take these words to himself—that you were quite alone when you did it; that no eye was watching. But let me remind you that the eye of God was upon you. What you refuse to tell, He can bring to light, if it shall so please Him, in His own wonderful way, His own good time. There will be no holiday to-day. Prayers.”

The boys fell into their places, and stood with hanging heads, something like rebellion working in every breast. At breakfast-time they were dismissed, and gathered in the cloisters to give vent to their sentiments.

“Isn't it a stunning shame?” cried hot Tom Channing. “The school ought not to suffer for the fault of one boy. The master has no right—”

“The fault lies in the boy, not in the master,” interrupted Gaunt. “A sneak! a coward! If he has a spark of manly honour in him, he'll speak up now.”

“As it has come to this, I say Charley Channing should be made to declare what he knows,” said one. “He saw it done!”

“Who says he did?” quickly asked Tom Channing.

“Some one said so; and that he was afraid to tell.”

Gaunt lifted his finger, and made a sign to Charles to approach. “Now, boy”—as the latter obeyed—“you will answer me, remember. The master has called the seniors to his aid, and I order you to speak. Did you see this mischief done?”

“No, I did not!” fearlessly replied little Channing.

“If he doesn't know, he suspects,” persisted Hurst. “Come, Miss Channing.”

“We don't declare things upon suspicion, do we, Mr. Gaunt?” appealed Charles. “I may suspect one; Hurst may suspect another; Bywater said he suspected two; the whole school may be suspicious, one of another. Where's the use of that?”

“It is of no use,” decided Gaunt. “You say you did not see the surplice damaged?”

“I did not; upon my word of honour.”

“That's enough,” said Gaunt. “Depend upon it, the fellow, while he was at it, took precious good precautions against being seen. When he gets found out, he had better not come within reach of the seniors; I warn him of that: they might not leave him a head on his shoulders, or a tooth in his mouth.”

“Suppose it should turn out to have been a senior, Mr. Gaunt?” spoke Bywater.

“Suppose you should turn out to be an everlasting big donkey?” retorted the senior boy.

CHAPTER V. ROLAND YORKE.

Just without the Boundaries, in a wide, quiet street, called Close Street, was the office of Richard Galloway, Esquire, Proctor, and Steward to the Dean and Chapter. Excepting for this solitary office, the street consisted of private houses, and it was one of the approaches to the cathedral, though not the chief one. Mr. Galloway was a bachelor; a short, stout man, shaped like a cask, with a fat, round face, round, open, grey eyes—that always looked as if their owner was in a state of wonder—and a little round mouth. But he was a shrewd man and a capable; he was also, in his way, a dandy; dressed scrupulously in the fashion, with delicate shirt fronts and snow-white wristbands; and for the last twenty-five years, at least, had been a mark for all the single ladies of Helstonleigh to set their caps at.

Of beauty, Mr. Galloway could boast little; but of his hair he was moderately vain: a very good head of hair it was, and curled naturally. But hair, let it be luxuriant enough to excite the admiration of a whole army of coiffeurs, is, like other things in this sublunary world of ours, subject to change; it will not last for ever; and Mr. Galloway's, from a fine and glossy brown, turned, as years went on, to sober grey—nay, almost to white. He did not particularly admire the change, but he had to submit to it. Nature is stronger than we are. A friend hinted that it might be “dyed.” Mr. Galloway resented the suggestion: anything false was abhorrent to him. When, however, after an illness, his hair began to fall off alarmingly, he thought it no harm to use a certain specific, emanating from one of her Majesty's physicians; extensively set forth and patronized as an undoubted remedy for hair that was falling off. Mr. Galloway used it extensively in his fear, for he had an equal dread both of baldness and wigs. The lotion not only had the desired effect, but it had more: the hair grew on again luxuriantly, and its whiteness turned into the finest flaxen you ever saw; a light delicate flaxen, exactly like the curls you see upon the heads of blue-eyed wax dolls. This is a fact: and whether Mr. Galloway liked it, or not, he had to put up with it. Many would not be persuaded but that he had used some delicate dye, hitherto unknown to science; and the suspicion vexed Mr. Galloway. Behold him, therefore, with a perfect shower of smooth, fair curls upon his head, equal to any young beau.

It was in this gentleman's office that Arthur Channing had been placed, with a view to his becoming ultimately a proctor. To article him to Mr. Galloway would take a good round sum of money; and this had been put off until the termination of the suit, when Mr. Channing had looked forward to being at his ease, in a pecuniary point of view. There were two others in the same office. The one was Roland Yorke, who was articled; the other was Joseph Jenkins, a thin, spare, humble man of nine and thirty, who had served Mr. Galloway for nearly twenty years, earning twenty-five shillings a week. He was a son of old Jenkins, the bedesman, and his wife kept a small hosiery shop in High Street. Roland Yorke was, of course, not paid; on the contrary, he had paid pretty smartly to Mr. Galloway for the privilege of being initiated into the mysteries belonging to a proctor. Arthur Channing may be said to have occupied a position in the office midway between the two. He was to become on the footing of Roland Yorke; but meanwhile, he received a small weekly sum in remuneration of his services, as Joe Jenkins did. Roland Yorke, in his proud moods, looked down upon him as a paid clerk; Mr. Jenkins looked up to him as a gentleman. It was a somewhat anomalous position; but Arthur had held his own bravely up in it until this blow came, looking forward to a brighter time.

In the years gone by, one of the stalls in Helstonleigh Cathedral was held by the Reverend Dr. Yorke: he had also some time filled the office of sub-dean. He had married, imprudently, the daughter of an Irish peer, a pretty, good-tempered girl, who was as fond of extravagance as she was devoid of means to support it. She had not a shilling in the world; it was even said that the bills for her trousseau came in afterwards to Dr. Yorke: but people, you know, are given to scandal. Want of fortune had been nothing, had Lady Augusta only possessed ordinary prudence; but she spent the doctor's money faster than he received it.

In the course of years Dr. Yorke died, leaving eight children, and slender means for them. There were six boys and two girls. Lady Augusta went to reside in a cheap and roomy house (somewhat dilapidated) in the Boundaries, close to her old prebendal residence, and scrambled on in her careless, spending fashion, never out of debt. She retained their old barouche, and would retain it, and was a great deal too fond of ordering horses from the livery stables and driving out in state. Gifted with excellent qualities had her children been born; but of training, in the highest sense of the word, she had given them none. George, the eldest, had a commission, and was away with his regiment. Roland, the second, had been designed for the Church, but no persuasion could induce him to be sufficiently attentive to his studies to qualify himself for it; he was therefore placed with Mr. Galloway, and the Church honours were now intended for Gerald. The fourth son, Theodore, was also in the college school, a junior. Next came two girls, Caroline and Fanny, and there were two little boys still younger.

Haughty, self-willed, but of sufficiently honourable nature, were the Yorkes. If Lady Augusta had only toiled to foster the good, and eradicate the evil, they would have grown up to bless her. Good soil was there to work upon, as there was in the Channings; but, in the case of the Yorkes, it was allowed to run to waste, or to generate weeds. In short, to do as it pleased.

A noisy, scrambling, uncomfortable sort of home was that of the Yorkes; the boys sometimes contending one with another, Lady Augusta often quarrelling with all. The home of the Channings was ever full of love, calm, and peace. Can you guess where the difference lay?

On the morning when the college boys had gone up to crave holiday of the judges, and had not obtained it—at least not from the head-master—Arthur Channing proceeded, as usual, to Mr. Galloway's, after breakfast. Seated at a desk, in his place, writing—he seemed to be ever seated there—was Mr. Jenkins. He lifted his head when Arthur entered, with a “Good morning, sir,” and then dropped it again over his copying.

“Good morning,” replied Arthur. And at that moment Mr. Galloway—his flaxen curls in full flow upon his head, something like rings—came forth from his private room. “Good morning, sir,” Arthur added, to his master.

Mr. Galloway nodded a reply to the salutation. “Have you seen anything of Yorke?” he asked. “I want that deed that he's about finished as soon as possible.”

“He will not be an instant,” said Arthur. “I saw him coming up the street.”

Roland Yorke bustled in; a dark young man of twenty-one, with large but fine features, and a countenance expressive of indecision.

“Come, Mr. Yorke, you promised to be here early to-day. You know that deed is being waited for.”

“So I am early, sir,” returned Roland.

“Early! for you perhaps,” grunted Mr. Galloway. “Get to it at once.”

Roland Yorke unlocked a drawer, collected sundry parchments together, and sat down to his desk. He and Arthur had their places side by side. Mr. Galloway stood at a table, and began sorting some papers that were upon it.

“How is Mr. Channing this morning, Arthur?”

“Much as usual, thank you, sir. Certain news, which arrived last night, has not tended to cheer him.”

“It is true, then?” remarked Mr. Galloway. “I heard a rumour of it.”

“Oh, it's true enough,” said Arthur. “It is in all the morning papers.”

“Well, there never was a more unjust decision!” emphatically spoke Mr. Galloway. “Mark you, I am not reflecting on the Lord Chancellor's judgment. I have always said that there were one or two nasty points in that suit, which the law might get hold of; but I know the whole cause by heart, from beginning to end; and that money was as much your father's, as this coat, that I have on, is mine. Tell him I'll come in one of these fine evenings, and abuse the injustice of our laws with him,—will you?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Arthur.

“What's this row in the college school about a destroyed surplice, and the boys not getting their holiday through it?” resumed Mr. Galloway.

“Oh, are they not savage!” struck in Roland Yorke. “The first thing Tod did, when he came home to breakfast, was to fling over his bowl of coffee, he was in such a passion. Lady Augusta—she came down to breakfast this morning, for a wonder—boxed his ears, and ordered him to drink water; but he went into the kitchen, and made a lot of chocolate for himself.”

“What are the particulars? How was it done? I cannot understand it at all,” said Mr. Galloway.

“Bywater left his clean surplice yesterday in the vestry, and some one threw ink over it—half soaked it in ink, so the choristers told Tom,” answered Arthur Channing. “In the afternoon—they had service late, you know, sir, waiting for the judges—Bywater was not in his place to sing the anthem, and Hurst sang it, and it put the master out very much.”

“Put him out all the more that he has no one to punish for it,” laughed Roland Yorke. “Of course Bywater couldn't appear in his stall, and sing the anthem, if he had no surplice to put on; and the master couldn't tan him for not doing it. I know this, if it had happened while I was in the college school, I'd just have skinned some of the fellows alive, but what I'd have made them confess.”

“Suppose you had skinned the wrong party?” cynically observed Mr. Galloway. “You are too hasty with your tongue, Roland Yorke. My nephew, Mark, ran in just now to tell me of the holiday being denied, and that was the first I had heard of the affair. Mark thinks one of the seniors was in it; not Gaunt.”

Arthur Channing and Roland Yorke both looked up with a sharp, quick gesture. Gaunt excepted, the only senior, besides their respective brothers, was Harry Huntley.

“It is not likely, sir,” said Arthur.

“A senior do it!” scoffed Roland Yorke. “What a young idiot Mark Galloway must be, to think that!”

“Mark does not seem to think much about it on his own account,” said Mr. Galloway. “He said Bywater thought so, from some cause or other; and has offered to bet the whole school that it will turn out to be a senior.”

“Does he, though!” cried Yorke, looking puzzled. “Bywater's a cautious fellow with his money; he never bets at random. I say, sir, what else did Galloway tell you?”

“That was all,” replied Mr. Galloway. And if you wonder at a staid old proctor chattering about this desultory news with his clerks in business hours, it may be explained to you that Mr. Galloway took the greatest possible interest, almost a boyish interest, in the college school. It was where he had been educated himself, where his nephews were being educated; he was on intimate terms with its masters; knew every boy in it to speak to; saw them troop past his house daily in their progress to and fro; watched them in their surplices in a Sunday, during morning and afternoon service; was cognizant of their advancement, their shortcomings, their merits, and their scrapes: in fact, the head-master could not take a greater interest in the doings of the collegiate school, than did Mr. Galloway. Whether of work, or whether of gossip, his ears were ever open to listen to its records. Besides, they were not so overburdened with work in that office, but that there was ample time for discussing any news that might be agreeable to its master. His work was light; his returns were heavy; his stewardship alone brought him in several hundreds a year.

“The Reverend Mr. Pye seems uncommonly annoyed about it, sir,” Mr. Jenkins ventured to put in. To interrupt, or take part in any conversation, was not usual with him, unless he could communicate little tit-bits of information touching the passing topic. “You are aware that Mr. Harper, the lay-clerk, lodges at our house, sir. Well, Mr. Pye came round last night, especially to question him about it.”

“What could Harper tell?” asked Mr. Galloway.

“He could not tell anything; except that he would answer for the lay-clerks knowing nothing of the transaction. The master said he never supposed the lay-clerks did know anything of it, but he had his reasons for putting the question. He had been to the masons, too, who are repairing the cathedral; and they declared to the master, one and all, that they had not been into the vestry yesterday, or even round to that side of the college where the vestry is situated.”

“Why should the master take it up so pertinaciously?” wondered Roland Yorke.

“I'm sure I don't know, sir. He was like one in a fever, so excited over it, Harper said.”

“Did he talk to you about it, Jenkins?” asked Mr. Galloway.

“I did not see him, sir; it was Harper told me afterwards,” was the reply of Jenkins, as he subsided to his writing again.

Just at this juncture, who should come in view of the window but the head-master himself. He was passing it with a quick step, when out flew Mr. Galloway, and caught him by the button. Roland Yorke, who was ever glad of a pretext for idleness, rose from his stool, and pushed his nose close up to the nearest pane, to listen to any colloquy that might ensue; but, the window being open, he might have heard without leaving his seat.

“I hear the boys have not a holiday to-day, Pye,” began Mr. Galloway.

“No, that they have not,” emphatically pronounced the master; “and, if they go on as they seem to be going on now, I'll keep them without it for a twelvemonth. I believe the inking of that surplice was a concocted plan, look you, Galloway, to—”

“To what?” asked Mr. Galloway, for the master stopped short.

“Never mind, just yet. I have my strong suspicions as to the guilty boy, and I am doing what I can to convert them into proofs. If it be as I suspect now, I shall expel him.”

“But what could it have been done for?” debated Mr. Galloway. “There's no point in the thing, that I can see, to ink and damage a surplice. If the boy to whom it belonged had been inked, one might not have wondered so much.”

“I'll 'point him,'“ cried the master, “if I catch the right one.”

“Could it have been one of the seniors?” returned the proctor, all his strong interest awakened.

“It was one who ought to have known better,” evasively returned the master. “I can't stop to talk now, Galloway. I have an errand to do, and must be back to duty at ten.”

He marched off quickly, and Mr. Galloway came indoors again. “Is that the way you get on with your business, Mr. Yorke?”

Yorke clattered to his desk. “I'll get on with it, sir. I was listening to what the master said.”

“It does not concern you, what he said. It was not one of your brothers who did it, I suppose?”

“No, that it was not,” haughtily spoke Roland Yorke, drawing up his head with a proud, fierce gesture.

Mr. Galloway withdrew to his private room, and for a few minutes silence supervened—nothing was to be heard but the scratching of pens. But Roland Yorke, who had a great antipathy to steady work, and as great a love for his own tongue, soon began again.

“I say, Channing, what an awful blow the dropping of that expected money must be for you fellows! I'm blest if I didn't dream of it last night! If it spoilt my rest, what must it have done by yours!”

“Why! how could you have heard of it last night?” exclaimed Arthur, in surprise. “I don't think a soul came to our house to hear the news, except Mr. Yorke: and you were not likely to see him. He left late. It is in every one's mouth this morning.”

“I had it from Hamish. He came to the party at the Knivetts'. Didn't Hamish get taken in!” laughed Roland. “He understood it was quite a ladies' affair, and loomed in, dressed up to the nines, and there he found only a bachelor gathering of Dick's. Hamish was disappointed, I think; he fancied he was going to meet Ellen Huntley; and glum enough he looked—”

“He had only just heard of the loss,” interrupted Arthur. “Enough to make him look glum.”

“Rubbish! It wasn't that. He announced at once that the money was gone for good and all, and laughed over it, and said there were worse disasters at sea. Knivett said he never saw a fellow carry ill news off with so high a hand. Had he been proclaiming the accession of a fortune, instead of the loss of one, he could not have been more carelessly cheerful. Channing, what on earth shall you do about your articles?”

A question that caused the greatest pain, especially when put by Roland Yorke; and Arthur's sensitive face flushed.

“You'll have to stop as a paid clerk for interminable years! Jenkins, you'll have him for your bosom companion, if you look sharp and make friends,” cried Roland, laughing loudly.

“No, sir, I don't think Mr. Arthur Channing is likely to become a paid clerk,” said Jenkins.

“Not likely to become a paid clerk! why, he is one. If he is not one, I'd like to know who is. Channing, you know you are nothing else.”

“I may be something else in time,” quietly replied Arthur, who knew how to control his rebellious spirit.

“I say, what a rum go it is about that surplice!” exclaimed Roland Yorke, dashing into another topic. “It's not exactly the mischief itself that's rum, but the master seem to be making so much stir and mystery over it! And then the hint at the seniors! They must mean Huntley.”

“I don't know who they mean,” said Arthur, “but I am sure Huntley never did it. He is too open, too honourable—”

“And do you pretend to say that Tom Channing and my brother Ger are not honourable?” fiercely interrupted Roland Yorke.

“There you go, Yorke; jumping to conclusions! It is not to be credited that any one of the seniors did it: still less, if they had done it, that they would not acknowledge it. They are all boys of truth and honour, so far as I believe. Huntley, I am sure, is.”

“And of Tom, also, I conclude you feel sure?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And I am sure of Ger Yorke. So, if the master is directing his suspicion to the seniors, he'll get floored. It's odd what can have turned it upon them.”

“I don't think the master suspects the seniors,” said Arthur. “He called them to his aid.”

“You heard what he just now said to Galloway. Jenkins, there is a knock at the door.”

Jenkins went to open it. He came back, and said Mr. Yorke was wanted.

Roland lazily proceeded to the outer passage, and, when he saw who was standing there, he put himself into a passion. “What do you mean by presuming to come to me here?” he haughtily asked.

“Well, sir, perhaps you'll tell me where I am to come, so as to get to see you?” civilly replied the applicant, one who bore the appearance of a tradesman. “It seems it's of no use going to your house; if I went ten times a day, I should get the same answer—that you are not at home.”

“Just take yourself off,” said Roland.

“Not till you pay me; or tell me for certain when you will pay me, and keep your promise. I want my money, sir, and I must have it.”

“We want a great many things that we can't get,” returned Roland, in a provokingly light tone. “I'll pay you as soon as I can, man; you needn't be afraid.”

“I'm not exactly afraid,” spoke the man. “I suppose if it came to it, Lady Augusta would see that I had the money.”

“You hold your tongue about Lady Augusta. What's Lady Augusta to you? Any odds and ends that I may owe, have nothing to do with Lady Augusta. Look here, Simms, I'll pay you next week.”

“You have said that so many times, Mr. Yorke.”

“At any rate, I'll pay you part of it next week, if I can't the whole. I will, upon my honour. There! now you know that I shall keep my word.”

Apparently satisfied, the man departed, and Roland lounged into the office again with the same idle movements that he had left it.

“It was that confounded Simms,” grumbled he. “Jenkins, why did you say I was in?”

“You did not tell me to say the contrary, sir. He came yesterday, but you were out then.”

“What does he want?” asked Arthur.

“Wanted me to pay him a trifle I owe; but it's not convenient to do it till next week. What an Eden this lower world might be, if debt had never been invented!”

“You need not get into debt,” said Arthur. “It is not compulsory.”

“One might build a mud hut outside the town walls, and shut one's self up in it, and eat herbs for dinner, and sleep upon rushes, and turn hermit for good!” retorted Roland. “You need not talk about debt, Channing.”

“I don't owe much,” said Arthur, noting the significance of Yorke's concluding sentence.

“If you don't, some one else does.”

“Who?”

“Ask Hamish.”

Arthur went on writing with a sinking heart. There was an undercurrent of fear running within him—had been for some time—that Hamish did owe money on his own private score. But this allusion to it was not pleasant.

“How much do you owe?” went on Roland.

“Oh, a twenty-pound note would pay my debts, and leave me something out of it,” said Arthur, in a joking tone. The fact was, that he did not owe a shilling to any one. “Jenkins, do you know what I am to set about next?” he continued; “I have filled in this lease.”

Jenkins was beginning to look amidst some papers at his elbow, in answer to the appeal; but at that moment Mr. Galloway entered, and despatched Arthur to get a cheque cashed at the bank.

CHAPTER VI. LADY AUGUSTA YORKE AT HOME.

“If you don't put away that trash, Caroline, and go upstairs and practise, I'll make you go! Strewing the table in that manner! Look what a pickle the room is in!”

The words came from Lady Augusta Yorke, a tall, dark woman, with high cheek-bones; and they were spoken at a height that might not have been deemed orthodox at court. Miss Caroline Yorke, a young demoiselle, with a “net” that was more frequently off her head than on it, slip-shod shoes, and untidy stockings, had placed a quantity of mulberry leaves on the centre table, and a silkworm on each leaf. She leisurely proceeded with her work, bringing forth more silkworms from her paper trays, paying not the least attention to her mother. Lady Augusta advanced, and treated her to a slight tap on the ear, her favourite mode of correcting her children.

“Now, mamma! What's that for?”

“Do you hear me, you disobedient child? I will have this rubbish put away, I say. Goodness, Martha! don't bring any one in here!” broke off Lady Augusta, as a maid appeared, showing in a visitor. “Oh, it is you, William! I don't mind you. Come in.”

It was the Reverend William Yorke who entered. He was not altogether a favourite of Lady Augusta's. Though only distantly related to her late husband, he yet bore the name of Yorke; and when he came to Helstonleigh (for he was not a native of the place), and became a candidate for a vacant minor canonry, Lady Augusta's pride had taken fire. The minor canons were looked upon by the exclusives of the cathedral as holding a very inferior position amidst the clergy, and she resented that one belonging to her should descend to set up his place amongst them.

Mr. Yorke shook hands with Lady Augusta, and then turned to look at the leaves and silkworms. “Are you doing that for ornament, Caroline?”

“Ornament!” wrathfully cried Lady Augusta. “She is doing it to waste time, and to provoke me.”

“No, I am not, mamma,” denied Miss Caroline. “My poor silkworms never have anything but lettuce leaves. Tod brought these for me from the bishop's garden, and I am looking at the silkworms enjoying the change.”

“Tod is in hot water,” remarked Mr. Yorke. “He was fighting with another boy as I came through the cloisters.”

“Then he'll come home with his clothes torn, as he did the last time he fought!” exclaimed Lady Augusta, in consternation. “I think no one ever had such a set of children as mine!” she peevishly continued. “The boys boisterous as so many wild animals, and the girls enough to drive one crazy, with their idle, disobedient ways. Look at this room, William! encumbered from one end to the other! things thrown out of hand by Caroline and Fanny! As to lessons, they never open one. For three days I have never ceased telling Caroline to go and practise, and she has not attempted to obey me! I shall go out of my mind with one thing or another; I know I shall! Nice dunces they'll grow up.”

“Go and practise now, Caroline,” said Mr. Yorke. “I will put your silkworms up for you.”

Caroline pouted. “I hate practising.”

He laid his hand gently upon her, gazing at her with his dark, pleasant eyes, reproachful now; “But you do not hate obeying your mamma? You must never let it come to that, Caroline.”

She suffered him to lead her to the door, went docilely enough to the drawing-room, and sat down to the piano. Oh, for a little better training for those children! Mr. Yorke began placing the silkworms in the trays, and Lady Augusta went on grumbling.

“It is a dreadful fate—to be left a widow with a heap of unruly children who will not be controlled! I must find a governess for the girls, and then I shall be free from them for a few hours in the day. I thought I would try and save the money, and teach them myself; but I might just as well attempt to teach so many little wild Indians! I am not fitted for teaching; it is beyond me. Don't you think you could hear of a governess, William? You go about so much.”

“I have heard of one since I saw you yesterday,” he replied. “A young lady, whom you know, is anxious to take a situation, and I think she might suit you.”

“Whom I know?” cried Lady Augusta. “Who is it?”

“Miss Channing.”

Lady Augusta looked up in astonishment. “Is she going out as governess? That comes of losing this lawsuit. She has lost no time in the decision.”

“When an unpalatable step has to be taken, the sooner it is set about, the less will be the cost,” remarked Mr. Yorke.

“Unpalatable! you may well say that. This will be the climax, will it not, William?”

“Climax of what?”

“Of all the unpleasantness that has attended your engagement with Miss Channing—”

“I beg your pardon, Lady Augusta,” was the interruption of Mr. Yorke. “No unpleasantness whatever has attended my engagement with Miss Channing.”

“I think so, for I consider her beneath you; and, therefore, that it is nothing but unpleasant from beginning to end. The Channings are very well in their way, but they are not equal to the Yorkes. You might make this a pretext for giving her up.”

Mr. Yorke laughed. “I think her all the more worthy of me. The only question that is apt to arise within me is, whether I am worthy of her. As we shall never agree upon this point, Lady Augusta, it may not be worth while to discuss it. About the other thing? I believe she would make an admirable governess for Caroline and Fanny, if you could obtain her.”

“Oh, I dare say she would do that. She is a lady, and has been well educated. Would she want a large salary?”

“Forty guineas a year, to begin with.”

Lady Augusta interrupted him with a scream. “I never could give half of it! I am sure I never could. What with housekeeping expenses, and milliners' bills, and visiting, and the boys everlastingly dragging money out of me, I have scarcely anything to spare for education.”

“Yet it is more essential than all the rest. Your income, properly apportioned, would afford—”

Another scream from Lady Augusta. Her son Theodore—Tod, familiarly—burst into the room, jacketless, his hair entangled, blood upon his face, and his shirt-sleeves in shreds.

“You rebellious, wicked fright of a boy!” was the salutation of my lady, when she could recover breath.

“Oh, it's nothing, mamma. Don't bother,” replied Master Tod, waving her off. “I have been going into Pierce, senior, and have polished him off with a jolly good licking. He won't get me into a row again, I'll bet.”

“What row did he get you into?”

“He's a nasty, sneaking tattler, and he took and told something to Gaunt, and Gaunt put me up for punishment, and I had a caning from old Pye. I vowed I'd pay Pierce out for it, and I have done it, though he is a sight bigger than me.”

“What was it about?” inquired Mr. Yorke. “The damaged surplice?”

“Damaged surplice be hanged!” politely retorted the young gentleman, who, in gaining the victory, appeared to have lost his temper. “It was something concerning our lessons at the third desk, if you must know.”

“You might be civil, Tod,” said Lady Augusta. “Look at your shirt! Who, do you suppose, is going to mend that?”

“It can go unmended,” responded Master Tod. “I wish it was the fashion to go without clothes! They are always getting torn.”

“I wish it was!” heartily responded my lady.

That same evening, in returning to her house from a visit, Constance Channing encountered Mr. Yorke. He turned to walk with her to the door.

“I intended to call this afternoon, Constance, but was prevented from doing so,” he observed. “I have spoken to Lady Augusta.”

“Well?” she answered with a smile and a blush.

“She would be very glad of you; but the difficulty, at first, appeared to be about salary. However, I pointed out a few home truths, and she admitted that if the girls were to be educated, she supposed she must pay for it. She will give you forty guineas a year; but you are to call upon her and settle other details. To-morrow, if it should be convenient to you.”

Constance clasped her hands. “I am so pleased!” she exclaimed, in a low tone.

“So am I,” said Mr. Yorke. “I would rather you went to Lady Augusta's than to a stranger's. And do, Constance, try and make those poor girls more what they ought to be.”

“That I shall try, you may be sure, William. Are you not coming in?”

“No,” said Mr. Yorke, who had held out his hand on reaching the door. He was pretty constant in his evening visits to the Channings, but he had made an engagement for this one with a brother clergyman.

Constance entered. She looked in the study for her brothers, but only Arthur was there. He was leaning his elbow upon the table in a thoughtful mood.

“Where are they all?” inquired Constance.

“Tom and Charles have gone to the cricket match. I don't think Hamish has come in.”

“Why did you not go to cricket also?”

“I don't know,” said Arthur. “I did not feel much inclination for cricket this evening.”

“You looked depressed, Arthur, but I have some good news for you,” Constance said, bending over him with a bright smile. “It is settled about my going out, and I am to have forty guineas a year. Guess where it is to?”

Arthur threw his arm round Constance, and they stood together, looking at the trailing honeysuckle just outside the window. “Tell me, darling.”

“It is to Lady Augusta's. William has been talking to her, and she would like to have me. Does it not seem lucky to find it so soon?”

Lucky, Constance?”

“Ah, well! you know what I think, Arthur, though I did say 'lucky,'“ returned Constance. “I know it is God who is helping us.”

Very beautiful, very touching, was the simple trustfulness reposed in God, by Constance and Arthur Channing. The good seed had been sown on good ground, and was bringing forth its fruit.

“I was deep in a reverie when you interrupted me, Constance,” Arthur resumed. “Something seems to whisper to me that this loss, which we regard as a great misfortune, may turn out for good in the end.”

“In the end! It may have come for our good now,” said Constance. “Perhaps I wanted my pride lowered,” she laughed; “and this has come to do it, and is despatching me out, a meek governess.”

“Perhaps we all wanted it,” cried Arthur, meaningly. “There are other bad habits it may stop, besides pride.” He was thinking of Hamish and his propensity for spending. “Forty guineas you are to have?”

“Yes,” said Constance. “Arthur, do you know a scheme that I have in my head? I have been thinking of it all day.”

“What is it? Stay! here is some one coming in. It is Hamish.”

Hamish entered with the account-books under his arm, preparatory to going over them with his father. Constance drew him to her.

“Hamish, I have a plan in my head, if we can only carry it out. I am going to tell it you.”

“One that will set the river on fire?” cried gay, laughing Hamish.

“If we—you and I, and Arthur—can only manage to earn enough money, and if we can observe strict economy at home, who knows but we may send papa to the German baths yet?”

A cloud came over Hamish's face, and his smile faded. “I don't see how that is to be done.”

“But you have not heard of my good luck. I am going to Lady Augusta's, and am to have forty guineas a year. Now, if you and Arthur will help, it may be easy. Oh, Hamish, it would be worth any effort—any struggle. Think how it would be rewarded. Papa restored to health! to freedom from pain!”

A look of positive pain seated itself on Hamish's brow. “Yes,” he sighed, “I wish it could be done.”

“But you do not speak hopefully.”

“Because, if I must tell you the truth, I do not feel hopefully. I fear we could not do it: at least until things are brighter.”

“If we do our very best, we might receive great help, Hamish.”

“What help?” he asked.

“God's help,” she whispered.

Hamish smiled. He had not yet learnt what Constance had. Besides, Hamish was just then in a little trouble on his own account: he knew very well that his funds were wanted in another quarter.

“Constance, dear, do not look at me so wistfully. I will try with all my might and main, to help my father; but I fear I cannot do anything yet. I mean to draw in my expenses,” he went on, laughing: “to live like any old screw of a miser, and never squander a halfpenny where a farthing will suffice.”

He took his books and went in to Mr. Channing. Constance began training the honeysuckle, her mind busy, and a verse of Holy Writ running through it—“Commit thy way unto the Lord, and put thy trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

“Ay!” she murmured, glancing upwards at the blue evening sky: “our whole, whole trust in patient reliance; and whatsoever is best for us will be ours.”

Annabel stole up to Constance, and entwined her arms caressingly round her. Constance turned, and parted the child's hair upon her forehead with a gentle hand.

“Am I to find a little rebel in you, Annabel? Will you not try and make things smooth for me?”

“Oh, Constance, dear!” was the whispered answer: “it was only my fun last night, when I said you should not take me for lessons in an evening. I will study all day by myself, and get my lessons quite ready for you, so as to give you no trouble in the evening. Would you like to hear me my music now?”

Constance bent to kiss her. “No, dear child; there is no necessity for my taking you in an evening, until my days shall be occupied at Lady Augusta Yorke's.”

CHAPTER VII. MR. KETCH.

Mrs. Channing sat with her children. Breakfast was over, and she had the Bible open before her. Never, since their earliest years of understanding, had she failed to assemble them together for a few minutes' reading, morning and evening. Not for too long at once; she knew the value of not tiring young children, when she was leading them to feel an interest in sacred things. She would take Hamish, a little fellow of three years old, upon her knee, read to him a short Bible story, suited to his age, and then talk to him. Talk to him in a soft, loving, gentle tone, of God, of Jesus, of heaven; of his duties in this world; of what he must do to attain to everlasting peace in the next. Day by day, step by step, untiringly, unceasingly, had she thus laboured, to awaken good in the child's heart, to train it to holiness, to fill it with love of God. As the other children came on in years, she, in like manner, took them. From simple Bible stories to more advanced Bible stories, and thence to the Bible itself; with other books at times and seasons: a little reading, a little conversation, Gospel truths impressed upon them from her earnest lips. Be you very sure that where this great duty of all duties is left unfulfilled by a mother, a child is not brought up as it ought to be. Win your child towards heaven in his early years, and he will not forget it when he is old.

It will be as a very shield, compassing him about through life. He may wander astray—there is no telling—in the heyday of his hot-blooded youth, for the world's temptations are as a running fire, scorching all that venture into its heat; but the good foundation has been laid, and the earnest, incessant prayers have gone up, and he will find his way home again.

Mrs. Channing closed the Bible, and spoke, as usual. It was all that teaching should be. Good lessons as to this world; loving pictures of that to come. She had contrived to impress them, not with the too popular notion that heaven was a far-off place up in the skies some vague, millions of miles away, and to which we might be millions of years off; but that it was very near to them: that God was ever present with them; and that Death, when he came, should be looked upon as a friend, not an enemy. Hamish was three and twenty years old now, and he loved those minutes of instruction as he had done when a child. They had borne their fruit for him, and for all: though not, perhaps, in an equal degree.

The reading over, and the conversation over, she gave the book to Constance to put away, and the boys rose, and prepared to enter upon their several occupations. It was not the beginning of the day for Tom and Charles, for they had been already to early school.

“Is papa so very much worse to-day, mamma?” asked Tom.

“I did not say he was worse, Tom,” replied Mrs. Channing. “I said he had passed a restless night, and felt tired and weak.”

“Thinking over that confounded lawsuit,” cried hot, thoughtless Tom.

“Thomas!” reproved Mrs. Channing.

“I beg your pardon, mamma. Unorthodox words are the fashion in school, and one catches them up. I forget myself when I repeat them before you.”

“To repeat them before me is no worse than repeating them behind me, Tom.”

Tom laughed. “Very true, mamma. It was not a logical excuse. But I am sure the news, brought to us by the mail on Wednesday night, is enough to put a saint out of temper. Had there been anything unjust in it, had the money not been rightly ours, it would have been different; but to be deprived of what is legally our own—”

“Not legally—as it turns out,” struck in Hamish.

“Justly, then,” said Tom. “It's too bad—especially as we don't know what we shall do without it.”

“Tom, you are not to look at the dark side of things,” cried Constance, in a pretty, wilful, commanding manner. “We shall do very well without it: it remains to be proved whether we shall not do better than with it.”

“Children, I wish to say a word to you upon this subject,” said Mrs. Channing. “When the news arrived, I was, you know, almost overwhelmed by it; not seeing, as Tom says, what we were to do without the money. In the full shock of the disappointment, it wore for me its worst aspect; a far more sombre one than the case really merited. But, now that I have had time to see it in its true light, my disappointment has subsided. I consider that we took a completely wrong view of it. Had the decision deprived us of the income we enjoy, then indeed it would have been grievous; but in reality it deprives us of nothing. Not one single privilege that we possessed before, does it take from us; not a single outlay will it cost us. We looked to this money to do many things with; but its not coming renders us no worse off than we were. Expecting it has caused us to get behindhand with our bills, which we must gradually pay off in the best way we can; it takes from us the power to article Arthur, and it straitens us in many ways, for, as you grow up, you grow more expensive. This is the extent of the ill, except—”

“Oh, mamma, you forget! The worst ill of all is, that papa cannot now go to Germany.”

“I was about to say that, Arthur. But other means for his going thither may be found. Understand me, my dears: I do not see any means, or chance of means, at present: you must not fancy that; but it is possible that they may arise with the time of need. One service, at any rate, the decision has rendered me.”

“Service?” echoed Tom.

“Yes,” smiled Mrs. Channing. “It has proved to me that my children are loving and dutiful. Instead of repining, as some might, they are already seeking how they may make up, themselves, for the money that has not come. And Constance begins it.”

“Don't fear us, mother,” cried Hamish, with his sunny smile. “We will be of more use to you yet than the money would have been.”

They dispersed—Hamish to his office, Arthur to Mr. Galloway's, Tom and Charles to the cloisters, that famous playground of the college school. Stolen pleasures, it is said, are sweetest; and, just because there had been a stir lately amongst the cathedral clergy, touching the desirability of forbidding the cloisters to the boys for play, so much the more eager were they to frequent them.

As Arthur was going down Close Street, he encountered Mr. Williams, the cathedral organist, striding along with a roll of music in his hand. He was Arthur's music-master. When Arthur Channing was in the choir, a college schoolboy, he had displayed considerable taste for music; and it was decided that he should learn the organ. He had continued to take lessons after he left the choir, and did so still.

“I was thinking of coming round to speak to you to-day, Mr. Williams.”

“What about?” asked the organist. “Anything pressing?”

“Well, you have heard, of course, that that suit is given against us, so I don't mean to continue the organ. They have said nothing to me at home; but it is of no use spending money that might be saved. But I see you are in too great a hurry, to stay to talk now.”

“Hurry! I am hurried off my legs,” cried the organist. “If a dozen or two of my pupils would give up learning, as you talk of doing, I should only be obliged to them. I have more work than I can attend to. And now Jupp must go and lay himself up, and I have the services to attend myself, morning and afternoon!”

Mr. Jupp was assistant-organist. An apprentice to Mr. Williams, but just out of his time.

“What's the matter with Jupp?” asked Arthur.

“A little bit of fever, and a great deal of laziness,” responded Mr. Williams. “He is the laziest fellow alive. Since his uncle died, and that money came to him, he doesn't care a straw how things go. He was copyist to the cathedral, and he gave that up last week. I have asked Sandon, the lay-clerk, if he will take the copying, but he declines. He is another lazy one.”

The organist hurried off. Arthur strove to detain him for another word or two, but it was of no use. So he continued his way to Mr. Galloway's.

Busy enough were his thoughts there. His fingers were occupied with writing, but his mind went roaming without leave. This post of copyist of music to the cathedral, which appeared to be going begging; why should not he undertake it, if Mr. Williams would give it to him? He was quite able to do so, and though he very much disliked music-copying, that was nothing: he was not going to set up dislikes, and humour them. He had only a vague idea what might be the remuneration; ten, or twelve, or fifteen pounds a year, he fancied it might bring in. Better that, than nothing; it would be a beginning to follow in the wake that Constance had commenced; and he could do it of an evening, or at other odd times. “I won't lose an hour in asking for it,” thought Arthur.

At one o'clock, when he was released from the office, he ran through the Boundaries to the cloisters, intending to pass through them on his way to the house of the organist, that being rather a nearer road to it, than if he had gone round the town. The sound of the organ, however, struck upon his ear, causing him to assume that it was the organist who was playing. Arthur tried the cathedral door, found it open, and went it.

It was Mr. Williams. He had been trying some new music, and rose from the organ as Arthur reached the top of the stairs, no very pleasant expression on his countenance.

“What is the matter?” asked Arthur, perceiving that something had put him out.

“I hate ingratitude,” responded Mr. Williams. “Jenkins,” he called out to the old bedesman, who had been blowing for him, “you may go to your dinner; I shan't want you any more now.”

Old Jenkins hobbled down from the organ-loft, and Mr. Williams continued to Arthur:

“Would you believe that Jupp has withdrawn himself utterly?”

“From the college?” exclaimed Arthur.

“From the college, and from me. His father comes to me, an hour ago, and says he is sure Jupp's in a bad state of health, and he intends to send him to his relatives in the Scotch mountains for some months, to try and brace him up. Not a word of apology, for leaving me at a pinch.”

“It will be very inconvenient for you,” said Arthur. “I suppose that new apprentice of yours is of no use yet for the services?”

“Use!” irascibly retorted Mr. Williams, “he could not play a psalm if it were to save his life. I depended upon Jupp. It was an understood thing that he should remain with me as assistant; had it not been, I should have taken good care to bring somebody on to replace him. As to attending the services on week-days myself, it is next door to an impossibility. If I do, my teaching will be ruined.”

“I wish I was at liberty,” said Arthur; “I would take them for you.”

“Look here, Channing,” said the organist. “Since I had this information of old Jupp's, my brain has been worrying itself pretty well, as you may imagine. Now, there's no one I would rather trust to take the week-day services than you, for you are fully capable, and I have trained you into my own style of playing: I never could get Jupp entirely into it; he is too fond of noise and flourishes. It has struck me that perhaps Mr. Galloway might spare you: his office is not overdone with work, and I would make it worth your while.”

Arthur, somewhat bewildered at the proposal, sat down on one of the stools, and stared.

“You will not be offended at my saying this. I speak in consequence of your telling me, this morning, you could not afford to go on with your lessons,” continued the organist. “But for that, I should not have thought of proposing such a thing to you. What capital practice it would be for you, too!”

“The best proof to convince you I am not offended, is to tell you what brings me here now,” said Arthur in a cordial tone. “I understood, this morning, that you were at a loss for some one to undertake the copying of the cathedral music: I have come to ask you to give it to me.”

“You may have it, and welcome,” said Mr. Williams. “That's nothing; I want to know about the services.”

“It would take me an hour, morning and afternoon, from the office,” debated Arthur. “I wonder whether Mr. Galloway would let me go an hour earlier and stay an hour later to make up for it?”

“You can put the question to him. I dare say he will: especially as he is on terms of friendship with your father. I would give you—let me see,” deliberated the organist, falling into a musing attitude—“twelve pounds a quarter. Say fifty pounds a year; if you stay with me so long. And you should have nothing to do with the choristers: I'd practise them myself.”

Arthur's face flushed. It was a great temptation: and the question flashed into his mind whether it would not be well to leave Mr. Galloway's, as his prospects there appeared to be blighted, and embrace this, if that gentleman declined to allow him the necessary hours of absence. Fifty pounds a year! “And,” he spoke unconsciously aloud, “there would be the copying besides.”

“Oh, that's not much,” cried the organist. “That's paid by the sheet.”

“I should like it excessively!” exclaimed Arthur.

“Well, just turn it over in your mind. But you must let me know at once, Channing; by to-morrow at the latest. If you cannot take it, I must find some one else.”

Arthur Channing went out of the cathedral, hardly knowing whether he stood on his head or his heels. “Constance said that God would help us!” was his grateful thought.

Such a whirlwind of noise! Arthur, when he reached the cloisters, found himself in the midst of the college boys, who were just let out of school. Leaping, shouting, pushing, scuffling, playing, contending! Arthur had not so very long ago been a college boy himself, and enjoyed the fun.

“How are you, old fellows—jolly?”

They gathered around him. Arthur was a favourite with them; had been always, when he was in the school. The elder boys loftily commanded off the juniors, who had to retire to a respectful distance.

“I say, Channing, there's the stunningest go!” began Bywater, dancing a triumphant hornpipe. “You know Jupp? Well, he has been and sent in word to Williams that he is going to die, or something of that sort, and it's necessary he should be off on the spree, to get himself well again. Old Jupp came this morning, just as college was over, and said it: and Williams is in the jolliest rage; going to be left without any one to take the organ. It will just pay him out, for being such a tyrant to us choristers.”

“Perhaps I am going to take it,” returned Arthur.

“You?—what a cram!”

“It is not, indeed,” said Arthur. “I shall take it if I can get leave from Mr. Galloway. Williams has just asked me.”

“Is that true, Arthur?” burst forth Tom Channing, elbowing his way to the front.

“Now, Tom, should I say it if it were not true? I only hope Mr. Galloway will throw no difficulty in my way.”

“And do you mean to say that you are going to be cock over us choristers?” asked Bywater.

“No, thank you,” laughed Arthur. “Mr. Williams will best fill that honour. Bywater, has the mystery of the inked surplice come to light?”

“No, and be shot to it! The master's in a regular way over it, though, and—”

“And what do you think?” eagerly interrupted Tod Yorke, whose face was ornamented with several shades of colour, blue, green, and yellow, the result of the previous day's pugilistic encounter: “my brother Roland heard the master say he suspected one of the seniors.”

Arthur Channing looked inquiringly at Gaunt. The latter tossed his head haughtily. “Roland Yorke must have made some mistake,” he observed to Arthur. “It is perfectly out of the question that the master can suspect a senior. I can't imagine where the school could have picked up the notion.”

Gaunt was standing with Arthur, as he spoke, and the three seniors, Channing, Huntley, and Yorke, happened to be in a line facing them. Arthur regarded them one by one. “You don't look very like committing such a thing as that, any one of you,” he laughed. “It is curious where the notion can have come from.”

“Such absurdity!” ejaculated Gerald Yorke. “As if it were likely Pye would suspect one of us seniors! It's not credible.”

“Not at all credible that you would do it,” said Arthur. “Had it been the result of accident, of course you would have hastened to declare it, any one of you three.”

As Arthur spoke, he involuntarily turned his eyes on the sea of faces behind the three seniors, as if searching for signs in some countenance among them, by which he might recognize the culprit.

“My goodness!” uttered the senior boy, to Arthur. “Had any one of those three done such a thing—accident or no accident—and not declared it, he'd get his name struck off the rolls. A junior may be pardoned for things that a senior cannot.”

“Besides, there'd be the losing his chance of the seniorship, and of the exhibition,” cried one from the throng of boys in the rear.

“How are you progressing for the seniorship?” asked Arthur, of the three. “Which of you stands the best chance?”

“I think Channing does,” freely spoke up Harry Huntley.

“Why?”

“Because our progress is so equal that I don't think one will get ahead of another, so that the choice cannot be made that way; and Channing's name stands first on the rolls.”

“Who is to know if they'll give us fair play and no humbug?' said Tom Channing.

“If they do, it will be what they have never given yet!” exclaimed Stephen Bywater. “Kissing goes by favour.”

“Ah, but I heard that the dean—”

At this moment a boy dashed into the throng, scattering it right and left. “Where are your eyes?” he whispered.

Close upon them was the dean. Arm in arm with him, in his hat and apron, walked the Bishop of Helstonleigh. The boys stood aside and took off their trenchers. The dean merely raised his hand in response to the salutation—he appeared to be deep in thought; but the bishop nodded freely among them.

“I heard that the dean found fault, the last time the exhibition fell, and said favour should never be shown again, so long as he was Dean of Helstonleigh,” said Harry Huntley, when the clergy were beyond hearing, continuing the sentence he had been interrupted in. “I say that, with fair play, it will be Channing's; failing Channing, it will be mine; failing me, it will be Yorke's.”

“Now, then!” retorted Gerald Yorke. “Why should you have the chance before me, pray?”

Huntley laughed. “Only that my name heads yours on the rolls.”

Once in three years there fell an exhibition for Helstonleigh College school, to send a boy to Oxford. It would be due the following Easter. Gaunt declined to compete for it; he would leave the school at Michaelmas; and it was a pretty generally understood thing that whichever of the three mentioned boys should be appointed senior in his place, would be presented with the exhibition. Channing and Yorke most ardently desired to gain it; both of them from the same motive—want of funds at home to take them to the university. If Tom Channing did not gain it, he was making up his mind to pocket pride, and go as a servitor. Yorke would not have done such a thing for the world; all the proud Yorke blood would be up in arms, at one of their name appearing as a servitor at Oxford. No. If Gerald Yorke should lose the exhibition, Lady Augusta must manage to screw out funds to send him. He and Tom Channing were alike designed for the Church. Harry Huntley had no such need: the son of a gentleman of good property, the exhibition was of little moment to him, in a pecuniary point of view; indeed, a doubt had been whispered amongst the boys, whether Mr. Huntley would allow Harry to take advantage of it, if he did gain it, for he was a liberal-minded and just man. Harry, of course, desired to be the successful one, for fame's sake, just as ardently as did Channing and Yorke.

“I'm blessed if here isn't that renowned functionary, Jack Ketch!”

The exclamation came from young Galloway. Limping in at one of the cloister doors, came the cloister porter, a surly man of sixty, whose temper was not improved by periodical attacks of lumbago. He and the college boys were open enemies. The porter would have rejoiced in denying them the cloisters altogether; and nothing had gladdened his grim old heart like the discussion which was said to have taken place between the dean and chapter, concerning the propriety of shutting out the boys and their noise from the cloisters, as a playground. He bore an unfortunate name—Ketch—and the boys, you may be very sure, did not fail to take advantage of it, joining to it sundry embellishments, more pointed than polite.

He came up, a ragged gig-whip in his hand, which he was fond of smacking round the throng of boys. He had never yet ventured to touch one of them, and perhaps it was just as well for him that he had not.

“Now, you boys! be off, with your hullabaloo! Is this a decent noise to make around gentlefolks' doors? You don't know, may be, as Dr. Burrows is in town.”

Dr. Burrows happened to live in a house which had a door opening to the cloisters. The boys retorted. The worst they gave Mr. Ketch was “chaff;” but his temper could bear anything better than that, especially if it was administered by the senior boy.

“Dear me, who's this?” began Gaunt, in a tone of ultra politeness. “Boys, do you see this gentleman who condescends to accost us? I really believe it is Sir John Ketch. What's that in his hand?—a piece of rope? Surely, Mr. Ketch, you have not been turning off that unfortunate prisoner who was condemned yesterday? Rather hasty work, sir; was it not?”

Mr. Ketch foamed. “I tell you what it is, sir. You be the senior boy, and, instead of restraining these wicked young reptiles, you edges 'em on! Take care, young gent, as I don't complain of you to the dean. Seniors have been hoisted afore now.”

“Have they, really? Well, you ought to know, Mr. Calcraft. There's the dean, just gone out of the cloisters; if you make haste, Calcraft, you'll catch him up. Put your best foot foremost, and ask him if he won't report Mr. Gaunt for punishment.”

The porter could have danced with rage; and his whip was smacking ominously. He did not dare advance it too near the circle when the senior boy was present, or indeed, when any of the elder boys were.

“How's your lumbago, Mr. Ketch?” demanded Stephen Bywater. “I'd advise you to get rid of that, before the next time you go on duty; it might be in your way, you know. Never was such a thing heard of, as for the chief toppler-off of the three kingdoms to be disabled in his limbs! What would you do? I'm afraid you'd be obliged to resign your post, and sink into private life.”

“Now I just vow to goodness, as I'll do all I can to get these cloisters took from you boys,” shrieked old Ketch, clasping his hands together. “There's insults as flesh and blood can't stand; and, as sure as I'm living, I'll pay you out for it.”

He turned tail and hobbled off, as he spoke, and the boys raised “three groans for Jack Ketch,” and then rushed away by the other entrance to their own dinners. The fact was, the porter had brought ill will upon himself, through his cross-grained temper. He had no right whatever to interfere between the boys and the cloisters; it was not his place to do so. The king's scholars knew this; and, being spirited king's scholars, as they were, would not stand it.

“Tom,” said Arthur Channing, “don't say anything at home about the organ. Wait and see if I get it, first. Charley did not hear; he was ordered off with the juniors.”

CHAPTER VIII. THE ASSISTANT-ORGANIST.

Things often seem to go by the rule of contrary. Arthur returned to the office at two o'clock, brimful of the favour he was going to solicit of Mr. Galloway; but he encountered present disappointment. For the first time for many weeks, Mr. Galloway did not make his appearance in the office at all; he was out the whole of the afternoon. Roland Yorke, to whom Arthur confided the plan, ridiculed it.

“Catch me taking such a task upon myself! If I could play the organ like a Mendelssohn, and send the folks into ecstasies, I'd never saddle myself with the worry of doing it morning and afternoon. You'll soon be sick of the bargain, Channing.”

“I should never be sick of it, if I did it for nothing: I am too fond of music for that. And it will be a very easy way of earning money.”

“Not so easy as making your mother stump up,” was the reply. And if your refinement turns from the expression, my good reader, I am sorry you should have to read it; but it is what Mr. Roland Yorke said. “I had a regular scene with Lady Augusta this morning. It's the most unreasonable thing in the world, you know, Channing, for her to think I can live without money, and so I told her—said I must and would have it, in fact.”

“Did you get it?”

“Of course I did. I wanted to pay Simms, and one or two more trifles that were pressing; I was not going to have the fellow here after me again. I wish such a thing as money had never been invented!”

“You may as well wish we could live without eating.”

“So I do, sometimes—when I go home, expecting a good dinner, and there's only some horrid cold stuff upon the table. There never was a worse housekeeper than Lady Augusta. It's my belief, our servants must live like fighting cocks; for I am sure the bills are heavy enough, and we don't get the benefit of them.”

“What made you so late this afternoon?” asked Arthur.

“I went round to pay Simms, for one thing; and then I called in upon Hamish, and stayed talking with him. Wasn't he in a sea of envy when I told him I had been scoring off that Simms! He wished he could do the same.”

“Hamish does not owe anything to Simms!” cried Arthur, with hasty retort.

“Doesn't he?” laughed Roland Yorke. “That's all you know about it. Ask him yourself.”

“If you please, sir,” interposed Mr. Jenkins, at this juncture, “I shall soon be waiting for that paper. Mr. Galloway directed me to send it off by post.”

“Bother the paper!” returned Roland; but, nevertheless, he applied himself to complete it. He was in the habit of discoursing upon private topics before Jenkins without any reserve, regarding him as a perfect nonentity.

When Arthur went home in the evening, he found Mr. Galloway sitting with his father. “Well,” cried the proctor, as Arthur entered, “and who has been at the office this afternoon?”

“No one in particular, sir. Oh yes, there was, though—I forgot. The dean looked in, and wanted to see you.”

“What did he want?”

“He did not say, sir. He told Jenkins it would do another time.” Arthur left his father and Mr. Galloway together. He did not broach the subject that was uppermost in his heart. Gifted with rare delicacy of feeling, he would not speak to Mr. Galloway until he could see him alone. To prefer the request in his father's presence might have caused Mr. Galloway more trouble in refusing it.

“I can't think what has happened to Arthur this evening!” exclaimed one of them. “His spirits are up to fever heat. Tell us what it is, Arthur?”

Arthur laughed. “I hope they will not be lowered to freezing point within the next hour; that's all.”

When he heard Mr. Galloway leaving, he hastened after him, and overtook him in the Boundaries.

“I wanted to say a few words to you, sir, if you please?”

“Say on,” said Mr. Galloway. “Why did you not say them indoors?”

“I scarcely know how I shall say them now, sir; for it is a very great favour that I have to ask you, and you may be angry, perhaps, at my thinking you might grant it.”

“You want a holiday, I suppose?”

“Oh no, sir; nothing of that sort. I want—”

“Well?” cried Mr. Galloway, surprised at his hesitation; but now that the moment of preferring the request had come, Arthur shrank from doing it.

“Could you allow me, sir—would it make very much difference—to allow me—to come to the office an hour earlier, and remain in it an hour later?” stammered Arthur.

“What for?” exclaimed Mr. Galloway, with marked surprise.

“I have had an offer made me, sir, to take the cathedral organ at week-day service. I should very much like to accept it, if it could be managed.”

“Why, where's Jupp?” uttered Mr. Galloway.

“Jupp has resigned. He is ill, and is going out for his health. I'll tell you how it all happened,” went on Arthur, losing diffidence now that he was fairly launched upon his subject. “Of course, this failure of the suit makes a great difference to our prospects at home; it renders it incumbent upon us to do what we can to help—”

“Why does it?” interrupted Mr. Galloway. “It may make a difference to your future ease, but it makes none to your present means.”

“There is money wanted in many ways, sir; a favourable termination to the suit was counted upon so certainly. For one thing, it is necessary that my father should try the German baths.”

“Of course, he must try them,” cried Mr. Galloway.

“But it will cost money, sir,” deprecated Arthur. “Altogether, we have determined to do what we can. Constance has set us the example, by engaging herself as daily governess at Lady Augusta's. She goes on Monday.”

“Very commendable of her,” observed the proctor, who loved a gossip like any old woman. “I hope she'll not let those two unruly girls worry her to death.”

“And I was casting about in my mind, this morning, what I could do to help, when I met the organist,” proceeded Arthur. “He chanced to say that he could find no one to take the music copying. Well, sir, I thought it over, and at one o'clock I went to ask him to give it to me. I found him at the organ, in a state of vexation. Jupp had resigned his post, and Mr. Williams had no one to replace him. The long and the short of it is, sir, that he offered it to me.”

“And did you accept it?” crossly responded Mr. Galloway.

“Of course I could not do that, sir, until I had spoken to you. If it were possible that I could make up the two hours to you, I should be very glad to take it.”

“And do it for nothing, I suppose?”

“Oh no. He would give me fifty pounds a year. And there would be the copying besides.”

“That's a great deal!” cried Mr. Galloway. “It appears to me to be good pay,” replied Arthur. “But he would lose a great deal more than that, if he had to attend the cathedral himself. He said it would ruin his teaching.”

“Ah! self-interest—two for himself and one for you!” ejaculated the proctor. “What does Mr. Channing say?”

“I have said nothing at home. It was of no use telling them, until I had spoken to you. Now that my prospects are gone—”

“What prospects?” interrupted Mr. Galloway.

“My articles to you, sir. Of course there's no chance of that now.”

Mr. Galloway grunted. “The ruin that Chancery suits work! Mark you, Arthur Channing, this is such a thing as was never asked a proctor before—leave of absence for two hours in the best part of the day! If I grant it, it will be out of the great friendship I bear your father.”

“Oh, sir! I shall never forget the obligation.”

“Take care you don't. You must come and work for two hours before breakfast in a morning.”

“Willingly—readily!” exclaimed Arthur Channing, his face glowing. “Then may I really tell Mr. Williams that I can accept it?”

“If I don't say yes, I suppose you'd magnify me into a sullen old bear, as bad as Ketch, the porter. You may accept it. Stop!” thundered Mr. Galloway, coming to a dead standstill.

Arthur was startled. “What now, sir?”

“Are you to be instructor to those random animals, the choristers?”

“Oh no: I shall have nothing to do with that.”

“Very good. If you had taken to them, I should have recommended you to guard against such a specimen of singing as was displayed the other day before the judges.”

Arthur laughed; spoke a word of heartfelt thanks; and took his way off-hand to the residence of the organist as light as any bird.

“I have obtained leave, Mr. Williams; I may take your offer!” he exclaimed with scant ceremony, when he found himself in that gentleman's presence, who was at tea with his wife. “Mr. Galloway has authorized me to accept it. How do you do, Mrs. Williams?”

“That's a great weight off my mind, then!” cried the organist. “I set that dolt of an apprentice of mine to play the folks out of college, this afternoon, when service was over, and—of all performances! Six mistakes he made in three bars, and broke down at last. I could have boxed his ears. The dean was standing below when I went down. 'Who was that playing, Mr. Williams?' he demanded. So, I told him about Jupp's ill-behaviour in leaving me, and that I had offered the place to you. 'But is Channing quite competent?' cried he—for you know what a fine ear for music the dean has:—'besides,' he added, 'is he not at Galloway's?' I said we hoped Mr. Galloway would spare you, and that I would answer for your competency. So, mind, Channing, you must put on the steam, and not disgrace my guarantee. I don't mean the steam of noise, or that you should go through the service with all the stops out.”

Arthur laughed; and, declining the invitation to remain and take tea, he went out. He was anxious to declare the news at home. A few steps on his road, he overtook Hamish.

“Where do you spring from?” exclaimed Hamish, passing his arm within Arthur's.

“From concluding an agreement that will bring me in fifty pounds a year,” said Arthur.

“Gammon, Master Arthur!”

“It is not gammon, Hamish. It is sober truth.”

Hamish turned and looked at him, aroused by something in the tone. “And what are you to do for it?”

“Just pass a couple of hours a day, delighting my own ears and heart. Do you remember what Constance said, last night? Hamish, it is wonderful, that this help should so soon have come to me!”

“Stay! Where are you going?” interrupted Hamish, as Arthur was turning into a side-street.

“This is the nearest way home.”

“I had rather not go that way.”

“Why?” exclaimed Arthur, in surprise. “Hamish, how funny you look! What is the matter?”

“Must I tell you? It is for your ear alone, mind. There's a certain tradesman's house down there that I'd rather not pass; he has a habit of coming out and dunning me. Do you remember Mr. Dick Swiveller?”

Hamish laughed gaily. He would have laughed on his road to prison: it was in his nature. But Arthur seemed to take a leap from his high ropes. “Is it Simms?” he breathed.

“No, it is not Simms. Who has been telling you anything about Simms, Arthur? It is not so very much that I owe Simms. What is this good luck of yours?”

Arthur did not immediately reply. A dark shadow had fallen upon his spirit, as a forerunner of evil.

CHAPTER IX. HAMISH'S CANDLES.

Old Judith sat in her kitchen. Her hands were clasped upon her knees, and her head was bent in thought. Rare indeed was it to catch Judith indulging in a moment's idleness. She appeared to be holding soliloquy with herself.

“It's the most incomprehensible thing in the world! I have heard of ghosts—and, talking about ghosts, that child was in a tremor, last night, again—I'm sure he was. Brave little heart! he goes up to bed in the dark on purpose to break himself of the fear. I went in for them shirts missis told me of, and he started like anything, and his face turned white. He hadn't heard me till I was in the room; I'd no candle, and 'twas enough to startle him. 'Oh, is it you, Judith?' said he, quietly, making believe to be as indifferent as may be. I struck a light, for I couldn't find the shirts, and then I saw his white face. He can't overget the fear: 'twas implanted in him in babyhood: and I only wish I could get that wicked girl punished as I'd punish her, for it was her work. But about the t'other? I have heard of ghosts walking—though, thank goodness, I'm not frightened at 'em, like the child is!—but for a young man to go upstairs, night after night, pretending to go to rest, and sitting up till morning light, is what I never did hear on. If it was once in a way, 'twould be a different thing; but it's always. I'm sure it's pretty nigh a year since—”

“Why, Judith, you are in a brown study!”

The interruption came from Constance, who had entered the kitchen to give an order. Judith looked up.

“I'm in a peck of trouble, Miss Constance. And the worst is, I don't know whether to tell about it, or to keep it in. He'd not like it to get to the missis's ears, I know: but then, you see, perhaps I ought to tell her—for his sake.”

Constance smiled. “Would you like to tell me, instead of mamma? Charley has been at some mischief again, among the saucepans? Burnt out more bottoms, perhaps?”

“Not he, the darling!” resentfully rejoined Judith. “The burning out of that one was enough for him. I'm sure he took contrition to himself, as if it had been made of gold.”

“What is it, then?”

“Well,” said Judith, looking round, as if fearing the walls would hear, and speaking mysteriously, “it's about Mr. Hamish. I don't know but I will tell you, Miss Constance, and it'll be, so far, a weight off my mind. I was just saying to myself that I had heard of ghosts walking, but what Mr. Hamish does every blessed night, I never did hear of, in all my born days.”

Constance felt a little startled. “What does he do?” she hastily asked.

“You know, Miss Constance, my bedroom's overhead, above the kitchen here, and, being built out on the side, I can see the windows at the back of the house from it—as we can see 'em from this kitchen window, for the matter of that, if we put our heads out. About a twelvemonth ago—I'm sure its not far short of it—I took to notice that the light in Mr. Hamish's chamber wasn't put out so soon as it was in the other rooms. So, one night, when I was half-crazy with that face-ache—you remember my having it, Miss Constance?—and knew I shouldn't get to sleep, if I lay down, I thought I'd just see how long he kept it in. Would you believe, Miss Constance, that at three o'clock in the morning his light was still burning?”

“Well,” said Constance, feeling the tale was not half told.

“I thought, what on earth could he be after? I might have feared that he had got into bed and left it alight by mistake, but that I saw his shadow once or twice pass the blind. Well, I didn't say a word to him next day, I thought he might not like it: but my mind wouldn't be easy, and I looked out again, and I found that, night after night, that light was in. Miss Constance, I thought I'd trick him: so I took care to put just about an inch of candle in his bed candlestick, and no more: but, law bless me! when folks is bent on forbidden things, it is not candle-ends that will stop 'em!”

“I suppose you mean that the light burnt still, in spite of your inch of candle?” said Constance.

“It just did,” returned Judith. “He gets into my kitchen and robs my candle-box, I thought to myself. So I counted my candles and marked 'em; and I found I was wrong, for they wasn't touched. But one day, when I was putting his cupboard to rights, I came upon a paper right at the back. Two great big composite candles it had in it, and another half burnt away. Oh, this is where you keep your store, my young master, is it? I thought. They were them big round things, which seems never to burn to an end, three to the pound.”

Constance made no reply. Judith gathered breath, and continued:

“I took upon myself to speak to him. I told him it wasn't well for anybody's health, to sit up at night, in that fashion; not counting the danger he ran of setting the house on fire and burning us all to cinders in our beds. He laughed—you know his way, Miss Constance—and said he'd take care of his health and of the house, and I was just to make myself easy and hold my tongue, and that I need not be uneasy about fire, for I could open my window and drop into the rain-water barrel, and there I should be safe. But, in spite of his joking tone, there ran through it a sound of command; and, from that hour to this, I have never opened my lips about it to anybody living.”

“And he burns the light still?”

“Except Saturday and Sunday nights, it's always alight, longer or shorter. Them two nights, he gets into bed respectable, as the rest of the house do. You have noticed, Miss Constance, that, the evenings he is not out, he'll go up to his chamber by half-past nine or ten?”

“Frequently,” assented Constance. “As soon as the reading is over, he will wish us good night.”

“Well, them nights, when he goes up early, he puts his light out sooner—by twelve, or by half-past, or by one; but when he spends his evenings out, not getting home until eleven, he'll have it burning till two or three in the morning.”

“What can he sit up for?” involuntarily exclaimed Constance.

“I don't know, unless it is that the work at the office is too heavy for him,” said Judith. “He has his own work to do there, and master's as well.”

“It is not at all heavy,” said Constance. “There is an additional clerk since papa's illness, you know. It cannot be that.”

“It has to do with the office-books, for certain,” returned Judith. “Why else is he so particular in taking 'em into his room every night?”

“He takes—them—for safety,” spoke Constance, in a very hesitating manner, as if not feeling perfectly assured of the grounds for her assertion.

“Maybe,” sniffed Judith, in disbelief. “It can't be that he sits up to read,” she resumed. “Nobody in their senses would do that. Reading may be pleasant to some folks, especially them story-books; but sleep is pleasanter. This last two or three blessed nights, since that ill news come to make us miserable, I question if he has gone to bed at all, for his candle has only been put out when daylight came to shame it.”

“But, Judith, how do you know all this?” exclaimed Constance, after a few minutes' reflection. “You surely don't sit up to watch the light?”

“Pretty fit I should be for my work in the morning, if I did! No, Miss Constance. I moved my bed round to the other corner, so as I could see his window as I lay in it; and I have got myself into a habit of waking up at all hours and looking. Truth to say, I'm not easy: fire is sooner set alight than put out: and if there's the water-butt for me to drop into, there ain't water-butts for the rest of the house.”

“Very true,” murmured Constance, speaking as if she were in reflection.

“Nobody knows the worry this has been upon my mind,” resumed Judith. “Every night when I have seen his window alight, I have said to myself, 'I'll tell my mistress of this when morning comes;' but, when the morning has come, my resolution has failed me. It might worry her, and anger Mr. Hamish, and do no good after all. If he really has not time for his books in the day, why he must do 'em at night, I suppose; it would never do for him to fall off, and let the master's means drop through. What ought to be done, Miss Constance?”

“I really do not know, Judith,” replied Constance. “You must let me think about it.”

She fell into an unpleasant reverie. The most feasible solution she could come to, was the one adopted by Judith—that Hamish passed his nights at the books. If so, how sadly he must idle away his time in the day! Did he give his hours up to nonsense and pleasure? And how could he contrive to hide his shortcomings from Mr. Channing? Constance was not sure whether the books went regularly under the actual inspection of Mr. Channing, or whether Hamish went over them aloud. If only the latter, could the faults be concealed? She knew nothing of book-keeping, and was unable to say. Leaving her to puzzle over the matter, we will return to Hamish himself.

We left him in the last chapter, you may remember, objecting to go down a certain side-street which would have cut off a short distance of their road; his excuse to Arthur being, that a troublesome creditor of his lived in it. The plea was a true one. Not to make a mystery of it, it may as well be acknowledged that Hamish had contracted some debts, and that he found it difficult to pay them. They were not many, and a moderate sum would have settled them; but that moderate sum Hamish did not possess. Let us give him his due. But that he had fully counted upon a time of wealth being close at hand, it is probable that he never would have contracted them. When Hamish erred, it was invariably from thoughtlessness—from carelessness—never from deliberate intention.

Arthur, of course, turned from the objectionable street, and continued his straightforward course. They were frequently hindered; the streets were always crowded at assize time, and acquaintances continually stopped them. Amongst others, they met Roland Yorke.

“Are you coming round to Cator's, to-night?” he asked of Hamish.

“Not I,” returned Hamish, with his usual gay laugh. “I am going to draw in my expenses, and settle down into a miser.”

“Moonshine!” cried Roland.

“Is it moonshine, though? It is just a little bit of serious fact, Yorke. When lord chancellors turn against us and dash our hopes, we can't go on as though the exchequer had no bottom to it.”

“It will cost you nothing to come to Cator's. He is expecting one or two fellows, and has laid in a prime lot of Manillas.”

“Evening visiting costs a great deal, one way or another,” returned Hamish, “and I intend to drop most of mine for the present. You needn't stare so, Yorke.”

“I am staring at you. Drop evening visiting! Any one, dropping that, may expect to be in a lunatic asylum in six months.”

“What a prospect for me!” laughed Hamish.

Will you come to Cator's?”

“No, thank you.”

“Then you are a muff!” retorted Roland, as he went on.

It was dusk when they reached the cathedral.

“I wonder whether the cloisters are still open!” Arthur exclaimed.

“It will not take a minute to ascertain,” said Hamish. “If not, we must go round.”

They found the cloisters still unclosed, and passed in. Gloomy and sombre were they at that evening hour. So sombre that, in proceeding along the west quadrangle, the two young men positively started, when some dark figure glided from within a niche, and stood in their way.

“Whose ghost are you?” cried Hamish.

A short covert whistle of surprise answered him. “You here!” cried the figure, in a tone of excessive disappointment. “What brings you in the cloisters so late?”

Hamish dextrously wound him towards what little light was cast from the graveyard, and discerned the features of Hurst. Half a dozen more figures brought themselves out of the niches—Stephen Bywater, young Galloway, Tod Yorke, Harrison, Hall, and Berkeley.

“Let me alone, Mr. Hamish Channing. Hush! Don't make a row.”

“What mischief is going on, Hurst?” asked Hamish.

“Well, whatever it may have been, it strikes me you have stopped it,” was Hurst's reply. “I say, wasn't there the Boundaries for you to go through, without coming bothering into the cloisters?”

“I am sorry to have spoiled sport,” laughed Hamish. “I should not have liked it done to me when I was a college boy. Let us know what the treason was.”

“You won't tell!”

“No; if it is nothing very bad. Honour bright.”

“Stop a bit, Hurst,” hastily interposed Bywater. “There's no knowing what he may think 'very bad.' Give generals, not particulars. Here the fellow comes, I do believe!”

“It was only a trick we were going to play old Ketch,” whispered Hurst. “Come out quickly; better that he should not hear us, or it may spoil sport for another time. Gently, boys!”

Hurst and the rest stole round the cloisters, and out at the south door. Hamish and Arthur followed, more leisurely, and less silently. Ketch came up.

“Who's this here, a-haunting the cloisters at this time o' night? Who be you, I ask?”

“The cloisters are free until they are closed, Ketch,” cried Hamish.

“Nobody haven't no right to pass through 'em at this hour, except the clergy theirselves,” grumbled the porter. “We shall have them boys a-playing in 'em at dark, next.”

“You should close them earlier, if you want to keep them empty,” returned Hamish. “Why don't you close them at three in the afternoon?”

The porter growled. He knew that he did not dare to close them before dusk, almost dark, and he knew that Hamish knew it too; and therefore he looked upon the remark as a quiet bit of sarcasm. “I wish the dean 'ud give me leave to shut them boys out of 'em,” he exclaimed. “It 'ud be a jovial day for me!”

Hamish and Arthur passed out, wishing him good night. He did not reply to it, but banged the gate on their heels, locked it, and turned to retrace his steps through the cloisters. The college boys, who had hidden themselves from his view, came forward again.

“He has got off scot-free to-night, but perhaps he won't do so to-morrow,” cried Bywater.

“Were you going to set upon him?” asked Arthur.

“We were not going to put a finger upon him; I give you my word, we were not,” said Hurst.

“What, then, were you going to do?”

But the boys would not be caught. “It might stop fun, you know, Mr. Hamish. You might get telling your brother Tom; and Tom might let it out to Gaunt; and Gaunt might turn crusty and forbid it. We were going to serve the fellow out; but not to touch him or to hurt him; and that's enough.”

“As you please,” said Hamish. “He is a surly old fellow.”

“He is an old brute! he's a dog in a kennel! he deserves hanging!” burst from the throng of boys.

“What do you think he went and did this afternoon?” added Hurst to the two Channings. “He sneaked up to the dean with a wretched complaint of us boys, which hadn't a word of truth in it; not a syllable, I assure you. He did it only because Gaunt had put him in a temper at one o'clock. The dean did not listen to him, that's one good thing. How jolly he'd have been, just at this moment, if you two had not come up! Wouldn't he, boys?”

The boys burst into a laugh; roar upon roar, peal upon peal; shrieking and holding their sides, till the very Boundaries echoed again. Laughing is infectious, and Hamish and Arthur shrieked out with them, not knowing in the least what they were laughing at.

But Arthur was heavy at heart in the midst of it. “Do you owe much money, Hamish?” he inquired, after they had left the boys, and were walking soberly along, under the quiet elm-trees.

“More than I can pay, old fellow, just at present,” was the answer.

“But is it much, Hamish?”

“No, it is not much, taking it in the abstract. Quite a trifling sum.”

Arthur caught at the word “trifling;” it seemed to dissipate his fears. Had he been alarming himself for nothing! “Is it ten pounds, Hamish?”

“Ten pounds!” repeated Hamish, in a tone of mockery. “That would be little indeed.”

“Is it fifty?”

“I dare say it may be. A pound here and a pound there, and a few pounds elsewhere—yes, taking it altogether, I expect it would be fifty.”

“And how much more?” thought Arthur to himself. “You said it was a trifling sum, Hamish!”

“Well, fifty pounds is not a large sum. Though, of course, we estimate sums, like other things, by comparison. You can understand now, why I was not sanguine with regard to Constance's hopeful project of helping my father to get to the German baths. I, the eldest, who ought to be the first to assist in it, am the least likely to do so. I don't know how I managed to get into debt,” mused Hamish. “It came upon me imperceptibly; it did, indeed. I depended so entirely upon that money falling to us, that I grew careless, and would often order things which I was not in need of. Arthur, since that news came, I have felt overwhelmed with worry and botheration.”

“I wish you were free!”

“If wishes were horses, we should all be on horseback. How debts grow upon you!” Hamish continued, changing his light tone for a graver one. “Until within the last day or two, when I have thought it necessary to take stock of outstanding claims, I had no idea I owed half so much.”

“What shall you do about it?”

“That is more easily asked than answered. My own funds are forestalled for some time to come. And, the worst is, that, now this suit is known to have terminated against us, people are not so willing to wait as they were before. I have had no end of them after me to-day.”

“How shall you contrive to satisfy them?”

“Satisfy them in some way, I must.”

“But how, I ask, Hamish?”

“Rob some bank or other,” replied Hamish, in his off-hand, joking way.

“Shall you speak to my father?”

“Where's the use?” returned Hamish. “He cannot help me just now; he is straitened enough himself.”

“He might help you with advice. His experience is larger than yours, his judgment better. 'In the multitude of counsellors there is safety,' you know, Hamish.”

“I have made up my mind to say nothing to my father. If he could assist me, I would disclose all to him: as it is, it would only be inflicting upon him unnecessary pain. Understand, Arthur, what I have said to you is in confidence: you must not speak of it to him.”

“Of course not. I should not think of interfering between you and him. I wish I could help you!”

“I wish you could, old fellow. But you need not look so serious.”

“How you can be so gay and careless over it, I cannot imagine,” said Arthur.

Hamish laughed. “If there's only a little patch of sunshine as large as a man's hand, I am sure to see it and trust to it.”

“Is there any sunshine in this?”

“A little bit: and I hope it will help me out of it. I am sure I was born with a large share of hope in my composition.”

“Show me the bit of sunshine, Hamish.”

“I can't do that,” was the answer. “I fear it is not so much actual sunshine that's to be seen yet—only its reflection. You could not see it at all, Arthur; but I, as I tell you, am extravagantly hopeful.”

The same ever-gay tone, the same pleasant smile, accompanied the words. And yet, at that moment, instead of walking straightforward into the open space beyond the elm-trees, as Arthur did, Hamish withdrew his arm from his brother's, and halted under their shade, peering cautiously around. They were then within view of their own door.

“What are you looking at?”

“To make sure that the coast is clear. I heard to-day—Arthur, I know that I shall shock you—that a fellow had taken out a writ against me. I don't want, to get it served, if I can help it.”

Arthur was indeed shocked. “Oh, Hamish!” was all he uttered. But the tone betrayed a strange amount of pain mingled with reproach.

“You must not think ill of me. I declare that I have been led into this scrape blindfolded, as may be said. I never dreamt I was getting into it. I am not reckless by nature; and, but for the expectation of that money, I should be as free now as you are.”

Thought upon thought was crowding into Arthur's mind. He did not speak.

“I cannot charge myself with any foolish or unnecessary expenditure,” Hamish resumed. “And,” he added in a deeper tone, “my worst enemy will not accuse me of rashly incurring debts to gratify my own pleasures. I do not get into mischief. Were I addicted to drinking, or to gambling, my debts might have been ten times what they are.”

“They are enough, it seems,” said Arthur. But he spoke the words in sadness, not in a spirit of reproof.

“Arthur, they may prove of the greatest service, in teaching me caution for the future. Perhaps I wanted the lesson. Let me once get out of this hash, and I will take pretty good care not to fall into another.”

“If you only can get out of it.”

“Oh, I shall do it, somehow; never fear. Let us go on, there seems to be no one about.”

CHAPTER X. A FALSE ALARM.

They reached home unmolested. Arthur went straight to Mr. Channing, who was lying, as usual, on his sofa, and bent over him with a smile, sweet and hopeful as that of Hamish.

“Father, may I gain fifty pounds a year, if I can do it, without detriment to my place at Mr. Galloway's?”

“What do you say, my boy?”

“Would you have any objection to my taking the organ at college on week days? Mr. Williams has offered it to me.”

Mr. Channing turned his head and looked at him. He did not understand. “You could not take it, Arthur; you could not be absent from the office; and young Jupp takes the organ. What is it that you are talking of?”

Arthur explained in his quiet manner, a glad light shining in his eyes. Jupp had left the college for good; Mr. Williams had offered the place to him, and Mr. Galloway had authorized him to accept it. He should only have to go to the office for two hours before breakfast in a morning, to make up for the two lost in the day.

“My brave boy!” exclaimed Mr. Channing, making prisoner of his hand. “I said this untoward loss of the suit might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. And so it will; it is bringing forth the sterling love of my children. You are doing this for me, Arthur.”

“Doing it a great deal for myself, papa. You do not know the gratification it will be to me, those two hours' play daily!”

“I understand, my dear—understand it all!”

“Especially as—” Arthur came to a sudden stop.

“Especially as what?” asked Mr. Channing.

“As I had thought of giving up taking lessons,” Arthur hastily added, not going deeper into explanations. “I play quite well enough, now, to cease learning. Mr. Williams said one day, that, with practice, I might soon equal him.”

“I wonder what those parents do, Arthur, who own ungrateful or rebellious children!” Mr. Channing exclaimed, after a pause of thought. “The world is full of trouble; and it is of many kinds, and takes various phases; but if we can only be happy in our children, all other trouble may pass lightly over us, as a summer cloud. I thank God that my children have never brought home to me an hour's care. How merciful He has been to me!”

Arthur's thoughts reverted to Hamish and his trouble. He felt thankful, then, that it was hid from Mr. Channing.

“I have already accepted the place, papa. I knew I might count upon your consent.”

“Upon my warm approbation. My son, do your best at your task. And,” Mr. Channing added, sinking his voice to a whisper, “when the choristers peal out their hymn of praise to God, during these sacred services, let your heart ascend with it in fervent praise and thanksgiving. Too many go through these services in a matter-of-course spirit, their heart far away. Do not you.”

Hamish at this moment came in, carrying the books. “Are you ready, sir? There's not much to do, this evening.”

“Ready at any time, Hamish.”

Hamish laid the books before him on the table, and sat down. Arthur left the room. Mr. Channing liked to be alone with Hamish when the accounts were being gone over.

Mrs. Channing was in the drawing-room, some of the children with her. Arthur entered. “Mrs. Channing,” cried he, with mock ceremony, “allow me to introduce you to the assistant-organist of the cathedral.”

She smiled, supposing it to be some joke. “Very well, sir. He can come in!”

“He is in, ma'am. It is myself.”

“Is young Mr. Jupp there?” she asked; for he sometimes came home with Arthur.

“Young Mr. Jupp has disappeared from public life, and I am appointed in his place. It is quite true.”

“Arthur!” she remonstrated.

“Mamma, indeed it is true. Mr. Williams has made me the offer, and Mr. Galloway has consented to allow me time to attend the week-day services; and papa is glad of it, and I hope you will be glad also.”

I have known of it since this morning,” spoke Tom, with an assumption of easy consequence; while Mrs. Channing was recovering her senses, which had been nearly frightened away. “Arthur, I hope Williams intends to pay you?”

“Fifty pounds a year, And the copying besides.”

Is it true, Arthur?” breathlessly exclaimed Mrs. Channing.

“I have told you that it is, mother mine. Jupp has resigned, and I am assistant-organist.”

Annabel danced round him in an ecstasy of delight. Not at his success—success or failure did not much trouble Annabel—but she thought there might be a prospect of some fun in store for herself. “Arthur, you'll let me come into the cathedral and blow for you?”

“You little stupid!” cried Tom. “Much good you could do at blowing! A girl blowing the college organ! That's rich! Better let Williams catch you there! She'd actually go, I believe!”

“It is not your business, Tom; it is Arthur's,” retorted Annabel, with flushed cheeks. “Mamma, can't you teach Tom to interfere with himself, and not with me?”

“I would rather teach Annabel to be a young lady, and not a tomboy,” said Mrs. Channing. “You may as well wish to be allowed to ring the college bells, as blow the organ, child.”

“I should like that,” said Annabel. “Oh, what fun, if the rope went up with me!”

Mrs. Channing turned a reproving glance on her, and resumed her conversation with Arthur. “Why did you not tell me before, my boy? It was too good news to keep to yourself. How long has it been in contemplation?”

“Dear mamma, only to-day. It was only this morning that Jupp resigned.”

“Only to-day! It must have been decided very hastily, then, for a measure of that sort.”

“Mr. Williams was so put to it that he took care to lose no time. He spoke to me at one o'clock. I had gone to him to the cathedral, asking for the copying, which I heard was going begging, and he broached the other subject, on the spur of the moment, as it seemed to me. Nothing could be decided until I had seen Mr. Galloway, and I spoke to him after he left here, this afternoon. He will allow me to be absent from the office an hour, morning and afternoon, on condition that I attend for two hours before breakfast.”

“But, Arthur, you will have a great deal upon your hands.”

“Not any too much. It will keep me out of mischief.”

“When shall you find time to do the copying?”

“In an evening, I suppose. I shall find plenty of time.”

As Hamish had observed, there was little to do at the books, that evening, and he soon left the parlour. Constance happened to be in the hall as he crossed it, on his way to his bedroom. Judith, who appeared to have been on the watch, came gliding from the half-opened kitchen door and approached Constance, looking after Hamish as he went up the stairs.

“Do you see, Miss Constance?” she whispered. “He is carrying the books up with him, as usual!”

At this juncture, Hamish turned round to speak to his sister. “Constance, I don't want any supper to-night, tell my mother. You can call me when it is time for the reading.”

“And he is going to set on at 'em, now, and he'll be at 'em till morning light!” continued Judith's whisper. “And he'll drop off into his grave with decline!—'taint in the nature of a young man to do without sleep—and that'll be the ending! And he'll burn himself up first, and all the house with him.”

“I think I will go and speak to him,” debated Constance.

I should,” advised Judith. “The worst is, if the books must be done, why, they must; and I don't see that there is any help for it.”

But Constance hesitated, considerably. She did not at all like to interfere; it appeared so very much to resemble the work of a spy. Several minutes she deliberated, and then went slowly up the stairs. Knocking at Hamish's door, she turned the handle, and would have entered. It was locked.

“Who's there?” called out Hamish.

“Can I come in for a minute, Hamish? I want to say a word to you.”

He did not undo the door immediately. There appeared to be an opening and closing of his desk, first—a scuffle, as of things being put away. When Constance entered, she saw one of the insurance books open on the table, the pen and ink near it; the others were not to be seen. The keys were in the table lock. A conviction flashed over the mind of Constance that Judith was right, in supposing the office accounts to be the object that kept him up. “What can he do with his time in the day?” she thought.

“What is it, Constance?”

“Can you let me speak to you, Hamish?”

“If you won't be long. I was just beginning to be busy,” he replied, taking out the keys and putting them into his pocket.

“I see you were,” she said, glancing at the ledger. “Hamish, you must not be offended with me, or think I interfere unwarrantably. I would not do it, but that I am anxious for you. Why is it that you sit up so late at night?”

There was a sudden accession of colour to his face—Constance saw it; but there was a smile as well. “How do you know I do sit up? Has Judy been telling tales?”

“Judy is uneasy about it, and she spoke to me this evening. She has visions of the house being burnt up with every one in it, and of your fatally injuring your health. I believe she would consider the latter calamity almost more grievous than the former, for you know you were always her favourite. Hamish; is there no danger of either?”

“There is not. I am too cautious for the one to happen, and, I believe, too hardy for the other. Judy is a simpleton,” he laughed; “she has her water-butt, and what more can she desire?”

“Hamish, why do you sit up? Have you not time for your work in the day?”

“No. Or else I should do it in the day. I do not sit up enough to hurt me. I have, on an average, three hours' night-work, five days in the week; and if that can damage a strong fellow like me, call me a puny changeling.”

“You sit up much longer than that?”

“Not often. These light days, I sometimes do not sit up half so long; I get up in the morning, instead. Constance, you look grave enough for a judge!”

“And you, laughing enough to provoke me. Suppose I tell papa of this habit of yours, and get him to forbid it?”

“Then, my dear, you would work irreparable mischief,” he replied, becoming grave in his turn. “Were I to be prevented from doing as I please in my chamber in this house, I must find a room elsewhere, in which I should be my own master.”

“Hamish!”

“You oblige me to say it, Constance. You and Judy must lay your heads together upon some other grievance, for, indeed, for this particular one there is no remedy. She is an old goose, and you are a young one.”

“Is it right that we should submit to the risk of being set on fire?”

“My dear, if that is the point, I'll have a fire-escape placed over the front door every night, and pay a couple of watchmen to act as guardians. Constance!” again dropping his tone of mockery, “you know that you may trust me better than that.”

“But, Hamish, how do you spend your time, that you cannot complete your books in the day?”

“Oh,” drawled Hamish, “ours is the laziest office! gossiping and scandal going on in it from morning till night. In the fatigue induced by that, I am not sure that I don't take a nap, sometimes.”

Constance could not tell what to make of him. He was gazing at her with the most perplexing expression of face, looking ready to burst into a laugh.

“One last word, Hamish, for I hear Judith calling to you. Are you obliged to do this night-work?”

“I am.”

“Then I will say no more; and things must go on as it seems they have hitherto done.”

Arthur came running upstairs, and Hamish met him at the chamber door. Arthur, who appeared strangely agitated, began speaking in a half-whisper, unconscious that his sister was within. She heard every word.

“Judy says some young man wants you, Hamish! I fear it may be the fellow to serve the writ. What on earth is to be done?”

“Did Judy say I was at home?”

“Yes; and has handed him into the study, to wait. Did you not hear her calling to you?”

“I can't—see him,” Hamish was about to say. “Yes, I will see him,” he added after a moment's reflection. “Anything rather than have a disturbance which might come to my mother's ears. And I suppose if he could not serve it now, he would watch for me in the morning.”

“Shall I go down first, and hear what he has to say?”

“Arthur, boy, it would do no good. I have brought this upon myself, and must battle with it. A Channing cannot turn coward!”

“But he may act with discretion,” said Arthur. “I will speak to the man, and if there's no help for it, I'll call you.”

Down flew Arthur, four stairs at a time. Hamish remained with his body inside his chamber door, and his head out. I conclude he was listening; and, in the confusion, he had probably totally forgotten Constance. Arthur came bounding up the stairs again, his eyes sparkling.

“A false alarm, Hamish! It's only Martin Pope.”

“Martin Pope!” echoed Hamish, considerably relieved, for Martin Pope was an acquaintance of his, and sub-editor of one of the Helstonleigh newspapers. “Why could not Judy have opened her mouth?”

He ran down the stairs, the colour, which had left his face, returning to it. But it did not to that of Constance; hers had changed to an ashy whiteness. Arthur saw her standing there; saw that she must have heard and understood all.

“Oh, Arthur, has it come to this? Is Hamish in that depth of debt!”

“Hush! What brought you here, Constance?”

“What writ is it that he fears? Is there indeed one out against him?”

“I don't know much about it. There may be one.”

She wrung her hands. “The next thing to a writ is a prison, is it not? If he should be taken, what would become of the office—of papa's position?”

“Do not agitate yourself,” he implored. “It can do no good.”

“Nothing can do good: nothing, nothing. Oh, what trouble!”

“Constance, in the greatest trouble there is always one Refuge.”

“Yes,” she mentally thought, bursting into tears. “What, but for that shelter, would become of us in our bitter hours of trial?”

CHAPTER XI. THE CLOISTER KEYS.

It was the twenty-second day of the month, and nearly a week after the date of the last chapter. Arthur Channing sat in his place at the cathedral organ, playing the psalm for the morning; for the hour was that of divine service.

“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious: and His mercy endureth for ever!”

The boy's whole heart went up with the words. He gave thanks: mercies had come upon him—upon his; and that great dread—which was turning his days to gall, his nights to sleeplessness—the arrest of Hamish, had not as yet been attempted. He felt it all as he sat there; and, in a softer voice, he echoed the sweet song of the choristers below, verse after verse as each verse rose on the air, filling the aisles of the old cathedral: how that God delivers those who cry unto Him—those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; those whose hearts fail through heaviness, who fall down and there is none to help them—He brings them out of the darkness, and breaks their bonds in sunder. They that go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters, who see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep; whose hearts cower at the stormy rising of the waves, and in their agony of distress cry unto Him to help them; and He hears the cry, and delivers them. He stills the angry waves, and calms the storm, and brings them into the haven where they would be; and then they are glad, because they are at rest.

“O that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness: and declare the wonders that He doeth for the children of men!

“And again, when they are minished, and brought low: through oppression, through any plague or trouble; though He suffer them to be evil intreated through tyrants: and let them wander out of the way in the wilderness; yet helpeth He the poor out of misery: and maketh him households like a flock of sheep.

“Whoso is wise will ponder these things: and they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.”

The refrain died away, the gentle echo died after it, and silence fell upon the cathedral. It was broken by the voice of the Reverend William Yorke, giving out the first lesson—a chapter in Jeremiah.

At the conclusion of the service, Arthur Channing left the college. In the cloisters he was overtaken by the choristers, who were hastening back to the schoolroom. At the same moment Ketch, the porter, passed, coming towards them from the south entrance of the cloisters. He touched his hat in his usual ungracious fashion to the dean and Dr. Gardner, who were turning into the chapter-house, carrying their trenchers, and looked the other way as he passed the boys.

Arthur caught hold of Hurst. “Have you 'served out' old Ketch, as you threatened?” he laughingly asked.

“Hush!” whispered Hurst. “It has not come off yet. We had an idea that an inkling of it had got abroad, so we thought it best to keep quiet for a few nights, lest the Philistines should be on the watch. But the time is fixed now, and I can tell you that it is not a hundred nights off.”

With a shower of mysterious nods and winks, Hurst rushed away and bounded up the stairs to the schoolroom. Arthur returned to Mr. Galloway's. “It's the awfullest shame!” burst forth Tom Channing that day at dinner (and allow me to remark, par parenthese, that, in reading about schoolboys, you must be content to accept their grammar as it comes); and he brought the handle of his knife down upon the table in a passion.

“Thomas!” uttered Mr. Channing, in amazed reproof.

“Well, papa, and so it is! and the school's going pretty near mad over it!” returned Tom, turning his crimsoned face upon his father. “Would you believe that I and Huntley are to be passed over in the chance for the seniorship, and Yorke is to have it, without reference to merit?”

“No, I do not believe it, Tom,” quietly replied Mr. Channing. “But, even were it true, it is no reason why you should break out in that unseemly manner. Did you ever know a hot temper do good to its possessor?”

“I know I am hot-tempered,” confessed Tom. “I cannot help it, papa; it was born with me.”

“Many of our failings were born with us, my boy, as I have always understood. But they are to be subdued; not indulged.”

“Papa, you must acknowledge that it is a shame if Pye has promised the seniorship to Yorke, over my head and Huntley's,” reiterated Tom, who was apt to speak as strongly as he thought. “If he gets the seniorship, the exhibition will follow; that is an understood thing. Would it be just?”

“Why are you saying this? What have you heard?”

“Well, it is a roundabout tale,” answered Tom. “But the rumour in the school is this—and if it turns out to be true, Gerald Yorke will about get eaten up alive.”

“Is that the rumour, Tom?” said Mrs. Channing.

Tom laughed, in spite of his anger. “I had not come to the rumour, mamma. Lady Augusta and Dr. Burrows are great friends, you know; and we hear that they have been salving over Pye—”

“Gently, Tom!” put in Mr. Channing.

“Talking over Pye, then,” corrected Tom, impatient to proceed with his story; “and Pye has promised to promote Gerald Yorke to the seniorship. He—”

“Dr. Burrows has gone away again,” interrupted Annabel. “I saw him go by to-day in his travelling carriage. Judy says he has gone to his rectory; some of the deanery servants told her so.”

“You'll get something, Annabel, if you interrupt in that fashion,” cried Tom. “Last Monday, Dr. Burrows gave a dinner-party. Pye was there, and Lady Augusta was there; and it was then they got Pye to promise it to Yorke.”

“How is it known that they did?” asked Mr. Channing.

“The boys all say it, papa. It was circulating through the school this morning like wild-fire.”

“You will never take the prize for logic, Tom. How did the boys hear it, I ask?”

“Through Mr. Calcraft,” replied Tom.

“Tom!”

“Mr. Ketch, then,” said Tom, correcting himself as he had done before. “Both names are a mile too good for him. Ketch came into contact with some of the boys this morning before ten-o'clock school, and, of course, they went into a wordy war—which is nothing new. Huntley was the only senior present, and Ketch was insolent to him. One of the boys told Ketch that he would not dare to be so, next year, if Huntley should be senior boy. Ketch sneered at that, and said Huntley never would be senior boy, nor Channing either, for it was already given to Yorke. The boys took his words up, ridiculing the notion of his knowing anything of the matter, and they did not spare their taunts. That roused his temper, and the old fellow let out all he knew. He said Lady Augusta Yorke was at Galloway's office yesterday, boasting about it before Jenkins.”

“A roundabout tale, indeed!” remarked Mr. Channing; “and told in a somewhat roundabout manner, Tom. I should not put faith in it. Did you hear anything of this, Arthur?”

“No, sir. I know that Lady Augusta called at the office yesterday afternoon while I was at college. I don't know anything more.”

“Huntley intends to drop across Jenkins this afternoon, and question him,” resumed Tom Channing. “There can't be any doubt that it was he who gave the information to Ketch. If Huntley finds that Lady Augusta did assert it, the school will take the affair up.”

The boast amused Hamish. “In what manner will the school be pleased to 'take it up?'“ questioned he. “Recommend the dean to hold Mr. Pye under surveillance? Or send Lady Augusta a challenge?”

Tom Channing nodded his head mysteriously. “There is many a true word spoken in jest, Hamish. I don't know yet what we should do: we should do something. The school won't stand it tamely. The day for that one-sided sort of oppression has gone out with our grandmothers' fashions.”

“It would be very wrong of the school to stand it,” said Charley, throwing in his word. “If the honours are to go by sneaking favour, and not by merit, where is the use of any of us putting out our mettle?”

“You be quiet, Miss Charley! you juniors have nothing to do with it,” were all the thanks the boy received from Tom.

Now the facts really were very much as Tom Channing asserted; though whether, or how far, Mr. Pye had promised, and whether Lady Augusta's boast had been a vain one, was a matter for speculation. Neither could it be surmised the part, if any, played in it by Prebendary Burrows. It was certain that Lady Augusta had, on the previous day, boasted to Mr. Galloway, in his office, that her son was to have the seniorship; that Mr. Pye had promised it to her and Dr. Burrows, at the dinner-party. She spoke of it without the least reserve, in a tone of much self-gratulation, and she laughingly told Jenkins, who was at his desk writing, that he might wish Gerald joy when he next saw him. Jenkins accepted it all as truth: it may be questioned if Mr. Galloway did, for he knew that Lady Augusta did not always weigh her words before speaking.

In the evening—this same evening, mind, after the call at the office of Lady Augusta—Mr. Jenkins proceeded towards home when he left his work. He took the road through the cloisters. As he was passing the porter's lodge, who should he see in it but his father, old Jenkins, the bedesman, holding a gossip with Ketch; and they saw him.

“If that ain't our Joe a-going past!” exclaimed the bedesman.

Joe stepped in. He was proceeding to join in the converse, when a lot of the college boys tore along, hooting and shouting, and kicking a ball about. It was kicked into the lodge, and a few compliments were thrown at the boys by the porter, before they could get the ball out again. These compliments, you may be quite sure, the boys did not fail to return with interest: Tom Channing, in particular, being charmingly polite.

“And the saucy young beast'll be the senior boy soon!” foamed Mr. Ketch, as the lot decamped. “I wish I could get him gagged, I do!”

“No, he will not,” said Joe Jenkins, speaking impulsively in his superior knowledge. “Yorke is to be senior.”

“How do you know that, Joe?” asked his father.

Joe replied by relating what he had heard said by the Lady Augusta that afternoon. It did not conciliate the porter in the remotest degree: he was not more favourably inclined to Gerald Yorke than he was to Tom Channing. Had he heard the school never was to have a senior again, or a junior either, that might have pleased him.

But on the following morning, when he fell into dispute with the boys in the cloisters, he spoke out his information in a spirit of triumph over Huntley. Bit by bit, angered by the boys' taunts, he repeated every word he had heard from Jenkins. The news, as it was busily circulated from one to the other, caused no slight hubbub in the school, and gave rise to that explosion of Tom Channing's at the dinner-table.

Huntley sought Jenkins, as he had said he would do, and received confirmation of the report, so far as the man's knowledge went. But Jenkins was terribly vexed that the report had got abroad through him. He determined to pay a visit to Mr. Ketch, and reproach him with his incaution.

Mr. Ketch sat in his lodge, taking his supper: bread and cheese, and a pint of ale procured at the nearest public-house. Except in the light months of summer, it was his habit to close the cloister gates before supper-time; but as Mr. Ketch liked to take that meal early—that is to say, at eight o'clock—and, as dusk, for at least four months in the year, obstinately persisted in putting itself off to a later hour, in spite of his growling, and as he might not shut up before dusk, he had no resource but to take his supper first and lock up afterwards. The “lodge” was a quaint abode, of one room only, built in an obscure nook of the cathedral, near the grand entrance. He was pursuing his meal after his own peculiar custom: eating, drinking, and grumbling.

“It's worse nor leather, this cheese! Selling it to a body for double-Gloucester! I'd like to double them as made it. Eight-pence a pound!—and short weight beside! I wonder there ain't a law passed to keep down the cost o' provisions!”

A pause, given chiefly to grunting, and Mr. Ketch resumed:—

“This bread's rougher nor a bear's hide! Go and ask for new, and they palms you off with stale. They'll put a loaf a week old into the oven to hot up again, and then sell it to you for new! There ought to be a criminal code passed for hanging bakers. They're all cheats. They mixes up alum, and bone-dust, and plaster of Paris, and—Drat that door! Who's kicking at it now?”

No one was kicking. Some one was civilly knocking. The door was pushed slightly open, and the inoffensive face of Mr. Joseph Jenkins appeared in the aperture.

“I say, Mr. Ketch,” began he in a mild tone of deprecation, “whatever is it that you have gone and done?”

“What d'ye mean?” growled old Ketch. “Is this a way to come and set upon a gentleman in his own house? Who taught you manners, Joe Jenkins?”

“You have been repeating what I mentioned last night about Lady Augusta's son getting the seniorship,” said Jenkins, coming in and closing the door.

“You did say it,” retorted Mr. Ketch.

“I know I did. But I did not suppose you were going to repeat it again.”

“If it was a secret, why didn't you say so?” asked Mr. Ketch.

“It was not exactly a secret, or Lady Augusta would not have mentioned it before me,” remonstrated Joe. “But it is not the proper thing, for me to come out of Mr. Galloway's office, and talk of anything I may have heard said in it by his friends, and then for it to get round to his ears again! Put it to yourself, Mr. Ketch, and say whether you would like it.”

“What did you talk of it for, then?” snarled Ketch, preparing to take a copious draught of ale.

“Because I thought you and father were safe. You might both have known better than to speak of it out of doors. There is sure to be a commotion over it.”

“Miserable beer! Brewed out of ditch-water!”

“Young Mr. Huntley came to me to-day, to know the rights and the wrongs of it—as he said,” continued Joseph. “He spoke to Mr. Galloway about it afterwards—though I must say he was kind enough not to bring in my name; only said, in a general way, that he had 'heard' it. He is an honourable young gentleman, is that Huntley. He vows the report shall be conveyed to the dean.”

“Serve 'em right!” snapped the porter. “If the dean does his duty, he'll order a general flogging for the school, all round. It'll do 'em good.”

“Galloway did not say much—except that he knew what he should do, were he Huntley's or Channing's father. Which I took to mean that, in his opinion, there ought to be an inquiry instituted.”

“And you know there ought,” said Mr. Ketch.

I know! I'm sure I don't know,” was the mild answer. “It is not my place to reflect upon my superiors, Mr. Ketch—to say they should do this, or they should do that. I like to reverence them, and to keep a civil tongue in my head.”

“Which is what you don't do. If I knowed who brewed this beer I'd enter an action again him, for putting in no malt.”

“I would not have had this get about for any money!” resumed Jenkins. “Neither you nor father shall ever catch me opening my lips again.”

“Keep 'em shut then,” growled old Ketch.

Mr. Ketch leisurely finished his supper, and the two continued talking until dusk came on—almost dark; for the porter, churl though he was, liked a visitor as well as any one—possibly as a vent for his temper. He did not often find one who would stand it so meekly as Joe Jenkins. At length Mr. Jenkins lifted himself off the shut-up press bedstead on which he had been perched, and prepared to depart.

“Come along of me while I lock up,” said Ketch, somewhat less ungraciously than usual.

Mr. Jenkins hesitated. “My wife will be wondering what has become of me; she'll blow me up for keeping supper waiting,” debated he, aloud. “But—well, I don't mind going with you this once, for company's sake,” he added in his willingness to be obliging.

The two large keys, one at each end of a string, were hung up just within the lodge door; they belonged to the two gates of the cloisters. Old Ketch took them down and went out with Jenkins, merely closing his own door; he rarely fastened it, unless he was going some distance.

Very dark were the enclosed cloisters, as they entered by the west gate. It was later than the usual hour of closing, and it was, moreover, a gloomy evening, the sky overcast. They went through the cloisters to the south gate, Ketch grumbling all the way. He locked it, and then turned back again.

Arrived about midway of the west quadrangle, the very darkest part in all the cloisters, and the most dreary, Jenkins suddenly startled his companion by declaring there was a light in the burial-ground.

“Come along!” growled Ketch. “You'll say there's corpse-candles there next.”

“It is only a little spark, like,” said Jenkins, halting. “I should not wonder but it is one of those pretty, innocent glowworms.”

He leaned his arms upon the mullioned frame of the open Gothic window, raised himself on tiptoe to obtain as complete a view as was possible, and pushed his head out to reconnoitre the grave-yard. Mr. Ketch shuffled on; the keys, held somewhat loosely in his hand by the string, clanking together.

“Be you going to stop there all night?” he called out, when he had gone a few paces, half turning round to speak.

At that moment a somewhat startling incident occurred. The keys were whisked out of Mr. Ketch's hand, and fell, or appeared to fall, with a clatter on the flags at his feet. He turned his anger upon Jenkins.

“Now then, you senseless calf! What did you do that for?”

“Did you speak?” asked Jenkins, taking his elbows from the distant window-frame, and approaching.

Mr. Ketch felt a little staggered. His belief had been that Jenkins had come up silently, and dashed the keys from his hand; but Jenkins, it appeared, had not left the window. However, like too many other cross-grained spirits, he persisted in venting blame upon him.

“Aren't you ashamed of yourself, to play an old man such a trick?”

“I have played no trick,” said Jenkins. “I thought I saw a glowworm, and I stopped to look; but I couldn't see it again. There's no trick in that.”

“Ugh!” cried the porter in his wrath. “You took and clutched the keys from me, and throwed 'em on the ground! Pick 'em up.”

“Well, I never heard the like!” said Jenkins. “I was not within yards and yards of you. If you dropped the keys it was no fault of mine.” But, being a peaceably-inclined man, he stooped and found the keys.

The porter grunted. An inner current of conviction rose in his heart that he must undoubtedly have dropped them, though he could have declared at the time that they were mysteriously snatched from him. He seized the string firmly now, and hobbled on to the west door, abusing Jenkins all the way.

They arrived at the west door, which was gained by a narrow closed passage from the gate of entrance, as was the south door in a similar manner; and there Mr. Ketch used his eyes and his tongue considerably, for the door, instead of being open, as he had left it, was shut and locked.

“What on earth has done this?” shrieked he.

“Done what?” asked Mr. Jenkins.

“Done what!” was the irascible echo. “Be you a fool, Joe Jenkins? Don't you see the door's fast!”

“Unfasten it,” said Jenkins sensibly.

Mr. Ketch proceeded to do so—at least to apply one of the keys to the lock—with much fumbling. It apparently did not occur to him to wonder how the locking-up process could have been effected, considering that the key had been in his own possession.

Fumbling and fumbling, now with one key, now with the other, and then critically feeling the keys and their wards, the truth at length burst upon the unhappy man that the keys were not the right keys, and that he and Jenkins were—locked in! A profuse perspiration broke out over him.

“They must be the keys,” remonstrated Mr. Jenkins.

“They are not the keys,” shrieked Ketch. “D'ye think I don't know my own keys, now I come to feel 'em?”

“But they were your keys that fell down and that I picked up,” argued Jenkins, perfectly sure in his own mind that they could be no others. “There was not a fairy in the cloisters to come and change them.”

“Feel 'em!” roared Ketch, in his despair. “These be a couple of horrid, rusty old things, that can't have been in use since the cloisters was built. You have changed 'em, you have!” he sobbed, the notion taking possession of him forcibly. “You are a-doing it to play me a infamous trick, and I'll have you up before the dean to-morrow! I'll shake the life out of you, I will!”

Laying summary hold of Mr. Jenkins, he began to shake him with all his feeble strength. The latter soon extricated himself, and he succeeded in impressing on the man the fallacy of his suspicion. “Don't I want to get home to my supper and my wife? Don't I tell you that she'll set upon me like anything for keeping it waiting?” he meekly remonstrated. “Do I want to be locked up in these unpleasant cloisters? Give me the keys and let me try them.”

Ketch, in sheer helplessness, was fain to comply. He resigned the keys to Jenkins, and Jenkins tried them: but he was none the nearer unlocking the gate. In their increasing perplexity, they resolved to return to the place in the quadrangle where the keys had fallen—a very forlorn suggestion proceeding from Mr. Jenkins that the right keys might be lying there still, and that this rusty pair might, by some curious and unaccountable chance, have been lying there also.

They commenced their search, disputing, the one hotly, the other temperately, as to which was the exact spot. With feet and hands they hunted as well as the dark would allow them; all in vain; and Ketch gave vent to a loud burst of feeling when he realized the fact that they were positively locked up in the cloisters, beyond hope of succour, in the dark and lonely night.

CHAPTER XII. A MISHAP TO THE BISHOP.

“Fordham, I wonder whether the cloisters are closed?”

“I will see, my lord.”

The question came from the Bishop of Helstonleigh; who, as it fell out, had been to make an evening call upon the dean. The dean's servant was now conducting his lordship down the grand staircase, on his departure. In proceeding to the palace from the deanery, to go through the cloisters cut off quite two-thirds of the distance.

Fordham left the hall, a lamp in his hand, and traversed sundry passages which brought him to the deanery garden. Crossing the garden, and treading another short passage, he came to the cloisters. The bishop had followed, lighted by Fordham, and talking affably. A very pleasant man was the Bishop of Helstonleigh, standing little upon forms and ceremonies. In frame he was nearly as active as a college boy.

“It is all right, I think, my lord,” said Fordham. “I hear the porter's voice now in the cloisters.”

“How dark it is!” exclaimed the bishop. “Ketch must be closing late to-night. What a noise he is making!”

In point of fact, Mr. Ketch had just arrived at that agreeable moment which concluded the last chapter—the conviction that no other keys were to be found, and that he and Jenkins were fast. The tone in which he was making his sentiments known upon the calamity, was not a subdued one.

“Shall I light you round, my lord?”

“By no means—by no means. I shall be up with Ketch in a minute. He seems in a temper. Good night, Fordham.”

“Good night to your lordship.”

The servant went back to the deanery. The prelate groped his way round to the west quadrangle.

“Are you closing, Ketch?”

Mr. Ketch started as if he had been shot, and his noise dropped to a calm. Truth to say, his style of complaint had not been orthodox, or exactly suitable to the ears of his bishop. He and Jenkins both recognized the voice, and bowed low, dark though it was.

“What is the matter, Ketch? You are making enough noise.”

“Matter, my lord!” groaned Ketch. “Here's matter enough to make a saint—saving your lordship's presence—forget his prayers. We be locked up in the cloisters.”

“Locked up!” repeated the bishop. “What do you mean? Who is with you?”

“It is me, my lord,” said Jenkins, meekly, answering for himself. “Joseph Jenkins, my lord, at Mr. Galloway's. I came in with the porter just for company, my lord, when he came to lock up, and we have somehow got locked in.”

The bishop demanded an explanation. It was not very easily afforded. Ketch and Jenkins talked one against the other, and when the bishop did at length understand the tale, he scarcely gave credence to it.

“It is an incomprehensible story, Ketch, that you should drop your keys, and they should be changed for others as they lay on the flags. Are you sure you brought out the right keys?”

“My lord, I couldn't bring out any others,” returned Ketch, in a tone that longed to betray its resentment, and would have betrayed it to any one but a bishop. “I haven't no others to bring, my lord. The two keys hang up on the nail always, and there ain't another key besides in the house, except the door key.”

“Some one must have changed them previously—must have hung up these in their places,” remarked the bishop.

“But, my lord, it couldn't be, I say,” reiterated old Ketch, almost shrieking. “I know the keys just as well as I know my own hands, and they was the right keys that I brought out. The best proof, my lord, is, that I locked the south door fast enough; and how could I have done that with these wretched old rusty things?”

“The keys must be on the flags still,” said his lordship.

“That is the only conclusion I can come to, my lord,” mildly put in Jenkins. “But we cannot find them.”

“And meanwhile we are locked in for the night, and here's his right reverend lordship, the bishop, locked in with us!” danced old Ketch, almost beside himself with anger. “Of course, it wouldn't matter for me and Jenkins: speaking in comparison, we are nobody; but it is a shameful indignity for my lord.”

“We must try and get out, Ketch,” said his lordship, in a tone that sounded as if he were more inclined to laugh than cry. “I will go back to the deanery.”

Away went the bishop as quickly as the gloom allowed him, and away went the other two in his wake. Arrived at the passage which led from the cloisters to the deanery garden they groped their way to the end—only to find the door closed and locked.

“Well, this is a pleasant situation!” exclaimed the bishop, his tone betraying amusement as well as annoyance; and with his own prelatical hands he pummelled at the door, and shouted with his own prelatical voice. When the bishop was tired, Jenkins and Ketch began to pummel and to shout, and they pummelled and shouted till their knuckles were sore and their throats were hoarse. It was all in vain. The garden intervened between them and the deanery, and they could not be heard.

It certainly was a pretty situation, as the prelate remarked. The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Helstonleigh, ranking about fifth, by precedence, on the episcopal bench, locked up ignominiously in the cloisters of Helstonleigh, with Ketch the porter, and Jenkins the steward's clerk; likely, so far as appearances might be trusted, to have to pass the night there! The like had never yet been heard of.

The bishop went to the south gate, and tried the keys himself: the bishop went to the west gate and tried them there; the bishop stamped about the west quadrangle, hoping to stamp upon the missing keys; but nothing came of it. Ketch and Jenkins attended him—Ketch grumbling in the most angry terms that he dared, Jenkins in humble silence.

“I really do not see what is to be done,” debated the bishop, who, no doubt, wished himself well out of the dilemma, as any less exalted mortal would have done, “The doors leading into the college are sure to be closed.”

“Quite sure,” groaned Ketch.

“And to get into the college would not serve us, that I see,” added the bishop. “We should be no better off there than here.”

“Saving that we might ring the bell, my lord,” suggested Jenkins, with deference.

They proceeded to the college gates. It was a forlorn hope, and one that did not serve them. The gates were locked, the doors closed behind them. No reaching the bell that way; it might as well have been a hundred miles off.

They traversed the cloisters again, and tried the door of the schoolroom. It was locked. Had it not been, the senior boy might have expected punishment from the head-master. They tried the small door leading into the residence of Dr. Burrows—fast also; that abode just now was empty. The folding doors of the chapter-house were opened easily, and they entered. But what did it avail them? There was the large, round room, lined with its books, furnished with its immense table and easy-chairs; but it was as much shut in from the hearing of the outside world as they were. The bishop came into contact with a chair, and sat down in it. Jenkins, who, as clerk to Mr. Galloway, the steward to the dean and chapter, was familiar with the chapter-house, felt his way to the spot where he knew matches were sometimes kept. He could not find any: it was the time of light evenings.

“There's just one chance, my lord,” suggested Jenkins. “That the little unused door at the corner of the cloisters, leading into the body of the cathedral, may not be locked.”

“Precious careless of the sextons, if it is not!” grunted Ketch.

“It is a door nobody ever thinks of going in at, my lord,” returned Jenkins, as if he would apologize for the sextons' carelessness, should it be found unfastened. “If it is open, we might get to the bell.”

“The sextons, proud, stuck-up gentlemen, be made up of carelessness and anything else that's bad!” groaned Ketch. “Holding up their heads above us porters!”

It was worth the trial. The bishop rose from the chair, and groped his way out of the chapter-house, the two others following.

“If it hadn't been for that Jenkins's folly, fancying he saw a light in the burying-ground, and me turning round to order him to come on, it might not have happened,” grumbled Ketch, as they wound round the cloisters.

“A light in the burial-ground!” hastily repeated the bishop. “What light?”

“Oh, a corpse-candle, or some nonsense of that sort, he had his mind running on, my lord. Half the world is idiots, and Jenkins is the biggest of 'em.”

“My lord,” spoke poor Jenkins, deprecatingly, “I never had such a thought within me as that it was a 'corpse-candle.' I said I fancied it might be a glowworm. And I believe it was one, my lord.”

“A more sensible thought than the other,” observed the prelate.

Luck at last! The door was found to be unlocked. It was a low narrow door, only used on the very rare occasion of a funeral, and was situated in a shady, out-of-the-way nook, where no one ever thought of looking. “Oh, come, this is something!” cried the bishop, cheerily, as he stepped into the cathedral.

“And your lordship now sees what fine careless sextons we have got!” struck in Ketch.

“We must overlook their carelessness this time, in consideration of the service it renders us,” said the bishop, in a kindly tone. “Take care of the pillars, Ketch.”

“Thank ye, my lord. I'm going along with my hands held out before me, to save my head,” returned Ketch.

Most likely the bishop and Jenkins were doing the same. Dexterously steering clear of the pillars, they emerged in the wide, open body of the cathedral, and bent their steps across it to the spot where hung the ropes of the bells.

The head sexton to the cathedral—whom you must not confound with a gravedigger, as you might an ordinary sexton; cathedral sextons are personages of more importance—was seated about this hour at supper in his home, close to the cathedral. Suddenly the deep-toned college bell boomed out, and the man started as if a gun had been fired at him.

“Why, that's the college bell!” he uttered to his family. And the family stared with open mouths without replying.

The college bell it certainly was, and it was striking out sharp irregular strokes, as though the ringer were not accustomed to his work. The sexton started up, in a state of the most amazed consternation.

“It is magic; it is nothing less—that the bell should be ringing out at this hour!” exclaimed he.

“Father,” suggested a juvenile, “perhaps somebody's got locked up in the college.” For which prevision he was rewarded with a stinging smack on the head.

“Take that, sir! D'ye think I don't know better than to lock folks up in the college? It was me, myself, as locked up this evening.”

“No need to box him for that,” resented the wife. “The bell is ringing, and I'll be bound the boy's right enough. One of them masons must have fallen asleep in the day, and has just woke up to find himself shut in. Hope he likes his berth!”

Whatever it might be, ringing the bell, whether magic or mason, of course it must be seen to; and the sexton hastened out, the cathedral keys in his hand. He bent his steps towards the front entrance, passing the cloisters, which, as he knew, would be locked at that hour. “And that bear of a Ketch won't hurry himself to unlock them,” soliloquized he.

He found the front gates surrounded. The bell had struck upon the wondering ears of many living within the precincts of the cathedral, who flocked out to ascertain the reason. Amongst others, the college boys were coming up in troops.

“Now, good people, please—by your leave!” cried the sexton. “Let me get to the gates.”

They made way for the man and his ponderous keys, and entrance to the college was gained. The sexton was beginning a sharp reproof to the “mason,” and the crowd preparing a chorus to it, when they were seized with consternation, and fell back on each other's toes. It was the Bishop of Helstonleigh, in his laced-up hat and apron, who walked forth.

The sexton humbly snatched off his hat; the college boys raised their trenchers.

“Thank you all for coming to the rescue,” said the bishop, in a pleasant tone. “It was not an agreeable situation, to be locked in the cathedral.”

“My lord,” stammered the sexton, in awe-struck dread, as to whether he had unwittingly been the culprit: “how did your lordship get locked in?”

“That is what we must inquire into,” replied the bishop.

The next to hobble out was Ketch. In his own fashion, almost ignoring the presence of the bishop, he made known the tale. It was received with ridicule. The college boys especially cast mockery upon it, and began dancing a jig when the bishop's back was turned. “Let a couple of keys drop down, and, when picked up, you found them transmogrified into old rusty machines, made in the year one!” cried Bywater. “That's very like a whale, Ketch!”

Ketch tore off to his lodge, as fast as his lumbago allowed him, calling upon the crowd to come and look at the nail where the keys always hung, except when in use, and holding out the rusty dissemblers for public view, in a furious passion.

He dashed open the door. The college boys, pushing before the crowd, and following on the bishop's heels—who had probably his own reasons for wishing to see the solution of the affair—thronged into the lodge. “There's the nail, my lord, and there—”

Ketch stopped, dumbfounded. On the nail, hanging by the string, as quietly as if they had hung for ages, were the cloister keys. Ketch rubbed his eyes, and stared, and rubbed again. The bishop smiled.

“I told you, Ketch, I thought you must be mistaken, in supposing you brought the proper keys out.”

Ketch burst into a wail of anger and deprecation. He had took out the right keys, and Jenkins could bear him out in the assertion. Some wicked trick had been played upon him, and the keys brought back during his absence and hung up on their hook! He'd lay his life it was the college boys!

The bishop turned his eyes on those young gentlemen. But nothing could be more innocent than their countenances, as they stood before him in their trenchers. Rather too innocent, perhaps: and the bishop's eyes twinkled, and a half-smile crossed his lips; but he made no sign. Well would it be if all the clergy were as sweet-tempered as that Bishop of Helstonleigh!

“Well, Ketch, take care of your keys for the future,” was all he said, as he walked away. “Good night, boys.”

“Good night to your lordship,” replied the boys, once more raising their trenchers; and the crowd, outside, respectfully saluted their prelate, who returned it in kind.

“What are you waiting for, Thorpe?” the bishop demanded, when he found the sexton was still at the great gates, holding them about an inch open.

“For Jenkins, my lord,” was the reply. “Ketch said he was also locked in.”

“Certainly he was,” replied the bishop. “Has he not come forth?”

“That he has not, my lord. I have let nobody whatever out except your lordship and the porter. I have called out to him, but he does not answer, and does not come.”

“He went up into the organ-loft in search of a candle and matches,” remarked the bishop. “You had better go after him, Thorpe. He may not know that the doors are open.”

The bishop left, crossing over to the palace. Thorpe, calling one of the old bedesmen, some of whom had then come up, left him in charge of the gate, and did as he was ordered. He descended the steps, passed through the wide doors, and groped his way in the dark towards the choir.

“Jenkins!”

There was no answer.

“Jenkins!” he called out again.

Still there was no answer: except the sound of the sexton's own voice as it echoed in the silence of the large edifice.

“Well, this is an odd go!” exclaimed Thorpe, as he leaned against a pillar and surveyed the darkness of the cathedral. “He can't have melted away into a ghost, or dropped down into the crypt among the coffins. Jenkins, I say!”

With a word of impatience at the continued silence, the sexton returned to the entrance gates. All that could be done was to get a light and search for him.

They procured a lantern, Ketch ungraciously supplying it; and the sexton, taking two or three of the spectators with him, proceeded to the search. “He has gone to sleep in the organ-loft, that is what he has done,” cried Thorpe, making known what the bishop had said.

Alas! Jenkins had not gone to sleep. At the foot of the steps, leading to the organ-loft, they came upon him. He was lying there insensible, blood oozing from a wound in the forehead. How had it come about? What had caused it?

Meanwhile, the college boys, after driving Mr. Ketch nearly wild with their jokes and ridicule touching the mystery of the keys, were scared by the sudden appearance of the head-master. They decamped as fast as their legs could carry them, bringing themselves to an anchor at a safe distance, under shade of the friendly elm trees. Bywater stuck his back against one, and his laughter came forth in peals. Some of the rest tried to stop it, whispering caution.

“It's of no good talking, you fellows! I can't keep it in; I shall burst if I try. I have been at bursting point ever since I twitched the keys out of his hands in the cloisters, and threw the rusty ones down. You see I was right—that it was best for one of us to go in without our boots, and to wait. If half a dozen had gone, we should never have got away unheard.”

I pretty nearly burst when I saw the bishop come out, instead of Ketch,” cried Tod Yorke. “Burst with fright.”

“So did a few more of us,” said Galloway. “I say, will there be a row?”

“Goodness knows! He is a kind old chap is the bishop. Better for it to have been him than the dean.”

“What was it Ketch said, about Jenkins seeing a glowworm?”

“Oh!” shrieked Bywater, holding his sides, “that was the best of all! I had taken a lucifer out of my pocket, playing with it, while they went round to the south gate, and it suddenly struck fire. I threw it over to the burial-ground: and that soft Jenkins took it for a glowworm.”

“It's a stunning go!” emphatically concluded Mr. Tod Yorke. “The best we have had this half, yet.”

“Hush—sh—sh—sh!” whispered the boys under their breath. “There goes the master.”

CHAPTER XIII. MAD NANCE.

Mr. Galloway was in his office. Mr. Galloway was fuming and fretting at the non-arrival of his clerk, Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins was a punctual man; in fact, more than punctual: his proper time for arriving at the office was half-past nine; but the cathedral clock had rarely struck the quarter-past before Mr. Jenkins would be at his post. Almost any other morning it would not have mattered a straw to Mr. Galloway whether Jenkins was a little after or a little before his time; but on this particular morning he had especial need of him, and had come himself to the office unusually early.

One-two, three-four! chimed the quarters of the cathedral. “There it goes—half-past nine!” ejaculated Mr. Galloway. “What does Jenkins mean by it? He knew he was wanted early.”

A sharp knock at the office door, and there entered a little dark woman, in a black bonnet and a beard. She was Mr. Jenkins's better half, and had the reputation for being considerably the grey mare.

“Good morning, Mr. Galloway. A pretty kettle of fish, this is!”

“What's the matter now?” asked Mr. Galloway, surprised at the address. “Where's Jenkins?”

“Jenkins is in bed with his head plastered up. He's the greatest booby living, and would positively have come here all the same, but I told him I'd strap him down with cords if he attempted it. A pretty object he'd have looked, staggering through the streets, with his head big enough for two, and held together with white plaster!”

“What has he done to his head?” wondered Mr. Galloway.

“Good gracious! have you not heard?” exclaimed the lady, whose mode of speech was rarely overburdened with polite words, though she meant no disrespect by it. “He got locked up in the cloisters last night with old Ketch and the bishop.”

Mr. Galloway stared at her. He had been dining, the previous evening, with some friends at the other end of the town, and knew nothing of the occurrence. Had he been within hearing when the college bell tolled out at night, he would have run to ascertain the cause as eagerly as any schoolboy. “Locked up in the cloisters with old Ketch and the bishop!” he repeated, in amazement. “I do not understand.”

Mrs. Jenkins proceeded to enlighten him. She gave the explanation of the strange affair of the keys, as it had been given to her by the unlucky Joe. While telling it, Arthur Channing entered, and, almost immediately afterwards, Roland Yorke.

“The bishop, of all people!” uttered Mr. Galloway. “What an untoward thing for his lordship!”

“No more untoward for him than for others,” retorted the lady. “It just serves Jenkins right. What business had he to go dancing through the cloisters with old Ketch and his keys?”

“But how did Jenkins get hurt?” asked Mr. Galloway, for that particular point had not yet been touched upon.

“He is the greatest fool going, is Jenkins,” was the complimentary retort of Jenkins's wife. “After he had helped to ring out the bell, he must needs go poking and groping into the organ-loft, hunting for matches or some such insane rubbish. He might have known, had he possessed any sense, that candles and matches are not likely to be there in summer-time! Why, if the organist wanted ever so much to stop in after dark, when the college is locked up for the night, he wouldn't be allowed to do it! It's only in winter, when he has to light a candle to get through the afternoon service, that they keep matches and dips up there.”

“But about his head?” repeated Mr. Galloway, who was aware of the natural propensity of Mrs. Jenkins to wander from the point under discussion.

“Yes, about his head!” she wrathfully answered. “In attempting to descend the stairs again, he missed his footing, and pitched right down to the bottom of the flight. That's how his head came in for it. He wants a nurse with him always, does Jenkins, for he is no better than a child in leading-strings.”

“Is he much hurt?”

“And there he'd have lain till morning, but for the bishop,” resumed Mrs. Jenkins, passing over the inquiry. “After his lordship got out, he, finding Jenkins did not come, told Thorpe to go and look for him in the organ-loft. Thorpe said he should have done nothing of the sort, but for the bishop's order; he was just going to lock the great doors again, and there Jenkins would have been fast! They found him lying at the foot of the stairs, just inside the choir gates, with no more life in him than there is in a dead man.”

“I asked you whether he is seriously hurt, Mrs. Jenkins.”

“Pretty well. He came to his senses as they were bringing him home, and somebody ran for Hurst, the surgeon. He is better this morning.”

“But not well enough to come to business?”

“Hurst told him if he worried himself with business, or anything else to-day, he'd get brain fever as sure as a gun. He ordered him to stop in bed and keep quiet, if he could.”

“Of course he must do so,” observed Mr. Galloway.

“There is no of course in it, when men are the actors,” dissented Mrs. Jenkins. “Hurst did well to say 'if he could,' when ordering him to keep quiet. I'd rather have an animal ill in the house, than I'd have a man—they are ten times more reasonable. There has Jenkins been, tormenting himself ever since seven o'clock this morning about coming here; he was wanted particularly, he said. 'Would you go if you were dead?' I asked him; and he stood it out that if he were dead it would be a different thing. 'Not different at all,' I said. A nice thing it would be to have to nurse him through a brain fever!”

“I am grieved that it should have happened,” said Mr. Galloway, kindly. “Tell him from me, that we can manage very well without him. He must not venture here again, until Mr. Hurst says he may come with safety.”

“I should have told him that, to pacify him, whether you had said it or not,” candidly avowed Mrs. Jenkins. “And now I must go back home on the run. As good have no one to mind my shop as that young house-girl of ours. If a customer comes in for a pair of black stockings, she'll take and give 'em a white knitted nightcap. She's as deficient of common sense as Jenkins is. Your servant, sir. Good morning, young gentlemen!”

“Here, wait a minute!” cried Mr. Galloway, as she was speeding off. “I cannot understand at all. The keys could not have been changed as they lay on the flags.”

“Neither can anybody else understand it,” returned Mrs. Jenkins. “If Jenkins was not a sober man—and he had better let me catch him being anything else!—I should say the two, him and Ketch, had had a drop too much. The bishop himself could make neither top nor tail of it. It'll teach Jenkins not to go gallivanting again after other folk's business!”

She finally turned away, and Mr. Galloway set himself to revolve the perplexing narrative. The more he thought, the less he was nearer doing so; like the bishop, he could make neither top nor tail of it. “It is entirely beyond belief!” he remarked to Arthur Channing; “unless Ketch took out the wrong keys!”

“And if he took out the wrong keys, how could he have locked the south door?” interrupted Roland Yorke. “I'd lay anybody five shillings that those mischievous scamps of college boys were at the bottom of it; I taxed Gerald with it, and he flew out at me for my pains. But the seniors may not have been in it. You should have heard the bell clank out last night, Mr. Galloway!”

“I suppose it brought out a few,” was Mr. Galloway's rejoinder.

“It did that,” said Arthur Channing. “Myself for one. When I saw the bishop emerge from the college doors, I could scarcely believe my sight.”

“I'd have given half-a-crown to see him!” cried Roland Yorke. “If there's any fun going on, it is sure to be my fate to miss it. Cator was at my house, having a cigar with me; and, though we heard the bell, we did not disturb ourselves to see what it might mean.”

“What is your opinion of last night's work, Arthur?” asked Mr. Galloway, returning to the point.

Arthur's opinion was a very decided one, but he did not choose to say so. The meeting with the college boys at their stealthy post in the cloisters, when he and Hamish were passing through at dusk, a few nights before, coupled with the hints then thrown out of the “serving out” of Ketch, could leave little doubt as to the culprits. Arthur returned an answer, couched in general terms.

“Could it have been the college boys, think you?” debated Mr. Galloway.

“Not being a college boy, I cannot speak positively, sir,” he said, laughing. “Gaunt knows nothing of it. I met him as I was going home to breakfast from my early hour's work here, and he told me he did not. There would have been no harm done, after all, but for the accident to Jenkins.”

“One of you gentlemen can just step in to see Jenkins in the course of the day, and reassure him that he is not wanted,” said Mr. Galloway. “I know how necessary it is to keep the mind tranquil in any fear of brain affection.”

No more was said, and the occupation of the day began. A busy day was that at Mr. Galloway's, much to the chagrin of Roland Yorke, who had an unconquerable objection to doing too much. He broke out into grumblings at Arthur, when the latter came running in from his duty at college.

“I'll tell you what is, Channing; you ought not to have made the bargain to go to that bothering organ on busy days; and Galloway must have been out of his mind to let you make it. Look at the heap of work there is to do!”

“I will soon make up for the lost hour,” said Arthur, setting to with a will. “Where's Mr. Galloway?”

“Gone to the bank,” grumbled Roland. “And I have had to answer a dozen callers-in at least, and do all my writing besides. I wonder what possessed Jenkins to go and knock his head to powder?”

Mr. Galloway shortly returned, and sat down to write. It was a thing he rarely did; he left writing to his clerks, unless it was the writing of letters. By one o'clock the chief portion of the work was done, and Mr. Roland Yorke's spirits recovered their elasticity. He went home to dinner, as usual. Arthur preferred to remain at his post, and get on further, sending the housekeeper's little maid out for a twopenny roll, which he ate as he wrote. He was of a remarkably conscientious nature, and thought it only fair to sacrifice a little time in case of need, in return for the great favour which had been granted him by Mr. Galloway. Many of the families who had sons in the college school dined at one o'clock, as it was the most convenient hour for the boys. Growing youths are not satisfied with anything less substantial than a dinner in the middle of the day, and two dinners in a household tell heavily upon the house-keeping. The Channings did not afford two, neither did Lady Augusta Yorke; so their hour was one o'clock.

“What a muff you must be to go without your dinner!” cried Roland Yorke to Arthur, when he returned at two o'clock. “I wouldn't.”

“I have had my dinner,” said Arthur.

“What did you have?” cried Roland, pricking up his ears. “Did Galloway send to the hotel for roast ducks and green peas? That's what we had at home, and the peas were half-boiled, and the ducks were scorched, and cooked without stuffing. A wretched set of incapables our house turns out! and my lady does not know how to alter it. You have actually finished that deed, Channing?”

“It is finished, you see. It is surprising how much one can do in a quiet hour!”

“Is Galloway out?”

Arthur pointed with his pen to the door of Mr. Galloway's private room, to indicate that he was in it. “He is writing letters.”

“I say, Channing, there's positively nothing left to do,” went on Roland, casting his eyes over the desk. “Here are these leases, but they are not wanted until to-morrow. Who says we can't work in this office?”

Arthur laughed good-naturedly, to think of the small amount, out of that day's work, which had fallen to Roland's share.

Some time elapsed. Mr. Galloway came into their room from his own to consult a “Bradshaw,” which lay on the shelf, alongside Jenkins's desk. He held in his hand a very closely-written letter. It was of large, letter-paper size, and appeared to be filled to the utmost of its four pages. While he was looking at the book, the cathedral clock chimed the three-quarters past two, and the bell rang for divine service.

“It can never be that time of day!” exclaimed Mr. Galloway, in consternation, as he took out his watch. “Sixteen minutes to three! and I am a minute slow! How has the time passed? I ought to have been at—”

Mr. Galloway brought his words to a standstill, apparently too absorbed in the railway guide to conclude them. Roland Yorke, who had a free tongue, even with his master, filled up the pause.

“Were you going out, sir?”

“Is that any business of yours, Mr. Roland? Talking won't fill in that lease, sir.”

“The lease is not in a hurry, sir,” returned incorrigible Roland. But he held his tongue then, and bent his head over his work.

Mr. Galloway dipped his pen in the ink, and copied something from “Bradshaw” into the closely-written letter, standing at Jenkins's desk to do it; then he passed the blotting-paper quickly over the words, and folded the letter.

“Channing,” he said, speaking very hastily, “you will see a twenty-pound bank-note on my desk, and the directed envelope of this letter; bring them here.”

Arthur went, and brought forth the envelope and bank-note. Mr. Galloway doubled the note in four and slipped it between the folds of the letter, putting both into the envelope. He had fastened it down, when a loud noise and commotion was heard in the street. Curious as are said to be antiquated maidens, Mr. Galloway rushed to the window and threw it up, his two clerks attending in his wake.

Something very fine, in a white dress, and pink and scarlet flowers on her bonnetless head, as if attired for an evening party, was whirling round the middle of the road in circles: a tall woman, who must once have been beautiful. She appeared to be whirling someone else with her, amid laughter and shrieks, and cries and groans, from the gathering mob.

“It is Mad Nance!” uttered Mr. Galloway. “Poor thing! she really ought to be in confinement.”

So every one had said for a long time, but no one bestirred themselves to place her in it. This unfortunate creature, Mad Nance, as she was called, was sufficiently harmless to be at large on sufferance, and sufficiently mad at times to put a street in an uproar. In her least sane moments she would appear, as now, in an old dimity white dress, scrupulously washed and ironed, and decorated with innumerable frills; some natural flowers, generally wild ones, in her hair. Dandelions were her favourites; she would make them into a wreath, and fasten it on, letting her entangled hair hang beneath. To-day she had contrived to pick up some geranium blossoms, scarlet and pink.

“Who has she got hold of there?” exclaimed Mr. Galloway. “He does not seem to like it.”

Arthur burst into laughter when he discovered that it was Harper, the lay-clerk. This unlucky gentleman, who had been quietly and inoffensively proceeding up Close Street on his way to service in the cathedral, was seized upon by Mad Nance by the hands. He was a thin, weak little man, a very reed in her strong grasp. She shrieked, she laughed, she danced, she flew with him round and round. He shrieked also; his hat was off, his wig was gone; and it was half the business of Mr. Harper's life to make that wig appear as his own hair. He talked, he raved, he remonstrated; I am very much afraid that he swore. Mr. Galloway laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.

The crowd was parted by an authoritative hand, and the same hand, gentle now, laid its firmness upon the woman and released the prisoner. It was Hamish Channing who had come to the rescue, suppressing his mirth as he best could while he effected it.

“I'll have the law of her!” panted Harper, as he picked up his hat and wig. “If there's justice to be got in Helstonleigh, she shall suffer for this! It's a town's shame to let her go about, molesting peaceable wayfarers, and shaking the life out of them!”

Something at a distance appeared to attract the attention of the unhappy woman, and she flew away. Hamish and Mr. Harper were left alone in the streets, the latter still exploding with wrath, and vowing all sorts of revenge.

“Put up with it quietly, Harper,” advised Hamish. “She is like a little child, not accountable for her actions.”

“That's just like you, Mr. Hamish Channing. If they took your head off, you'd put up with it! How would you like your wig flung away in the sight of a whole street?”

“I don't wear one,” answered Hamish, laughing. “Here's your hat; not much damaged, apparently.”

Mr. Harper, settling his wig on his head, and composing himself as he best could, continued his way to the cathedral, turning his hat about in his hand, and closely looking at it. Hamish stepped across to Mr. Galloway's, meeting that gentleman at the door.

“A good thing you came up as you did, Mr. Hamish. Harper will remember Mad Nance for a year to come.”

“I expect he will,” replied Hamish, laughing still. Mr. Galloway laughed also, and walked hastily down the street.

CHAPTER XIV. KEEPING OFFICE.

Hamish entered the office. Arthur and Roland Yorke had their heads stretched out of the window, and did not hear his footsteps. He advanced quietly and brought his hands down hastily upon the shoulder of each. Roland started, and knocked his head against the window-frame.

“How you startle a fellow! I thought it was Mad Nance come in to lay hands upon me.”

“She has laid hands upon enough for one day,” said Hamish. “Harper will dream of her to-night.”

“I thought Galloway would have gone into a fit, he laughed so,” cried Arthur. “As for my sides, they'll ache for an hour.”

Roland Yorke's lip curled with an angry expression. “My opinion agrees with Harper's,” he said. “I think Mad Nance ought to be punished. We are none of us safe from her, if this is to be her game.”

“If you punish her to-day, she would do the same again to-morrow, were the fit to come over her,” rejoined Hamish. “It is not often she breaks out like this. The only thing is to steer clear of her.”

“Hamish has a fellow-feeling for Mad Nance,” mockingly spoke Roland Yorke.

“Yes, poor thing! for her story is a sad one. If the same grievous wrong were worked upon some of us, perhaps we might take to dancing for the benefit of the public. Talking of the public, Arthur,” continued Hamish, turning to his brother, “what became of you at dinner-time? The mother was for setting the town-crier to work.”

“I could not get home to-day. We have had double work to do, as Jenkins is away.”

Hamish tilted himself on to the edge of Mr. Jenkins's desk, and took up the letter, apparently in absence of mind, which Mr. Galloway had left there, ready for the post. “Mr. Robert Galloway, Sea View Terrace, Ventnor, Isle of Wight,” he read aloud. “That must be Mr. Galloway's cousin,” he remarked: “the one who has run through so much money.”

“Of course it is,” answered Roland Yorke. “Galloway pretty near keeps him: I know there's a twenty-pound bank-note going to him in that letter. Catch me doing it if I were Galloway.”

“I wish it was going into my pocket instead,” said Hamish, balancing the letter on his fingers, as if wishing to test its weight.

“I wish the clouds would drop sovereigns! But they don't,” said Roland Yorke.

Hamish put the letter back from whence he had taken it, and jumped off the desk. “I must be walking,” said he. “Stopping here will not do my work. If we—”

“By Jove! there's Knivett!” uttered Roland Yorke. “Where's he off to, so fast? I have something that I must tell him.”

Snatching up his hat, Roland darted at full speed out of the office, in search of one who was running at full speed also down the street. Hamish looked out, amused, at the chase; Arthur, who had called after Roland in vain, seemed vexed. “Knivett is one of the fleetest runners in Helstonleigh,” said Hamish. “Yorke will scarcely catch him up.”

“I wish Yorke would allow himself a little thought, and not act upon impulse,” exclaimed Arthur. “I cannot stop three minutes longer: and he knows that! I shall be late for college.”

He was already preparing to go there. Putting some papers in order upon his desk, and locking up others, he carried the letter for Ventnor into Mr. Galloway's private room and placed it in the letter rack. Two others, ready for the post, were lying there. Then he went to the front door to look out for Yorke. Yorke was not to be seen.

“What a thoughtless fellow he is!” exclaimed Arthur, in his vexation. “What is to be done? Hamish, you will have to stop here.”

“Thank you! what else?” asked Hamish.

“I must be at the college, whatever betide.” This was true: yet neither might the office be left vacant. Arthur grew a little flurried. “Do stay, Hamish: it will not hinder you five minutes, I dare say. Yorke is sure to be in.”

Hamish came to the door, halting on its first step, and looking out over Arthur's shoulder. He drew his head in again with a sudden movement.

“Is not that old Hopper down there?” he asked, in a whisper, the tone sounding as one of fear.

Arthur turned his eyes on a shabby old man who was crossing the end of the street, and saw Hopper, the sheriff's officer. “Yes, why?”

“It is that old fellow who holds the writ. He may be on the watch for me now. I can't go out just yet, Arthur; I'll stay here till Yorke comes back again.”

He returned to the office, sat down and leaned his brow upon his hand. A strange brow of care it was just then, according ill with the gay face of Hamish Channing. Arthur, waiting for no second permission, flew towards the cathedral as fast as his long legs would carry him. The dean and chapter were preparing to leave the chapter-house as he tore past it, through the cloisters. Three o'clock was striking. Arthur's heart and breath were alike panting when he gained the dark stairs. At that moment, to his excessive astonishment, the organ began to peal forth.

Seated at it was Mr. Williams; and a few words of explanation ensued. The organist said he should remain for the service, which rendered Arthur at liberty to go back again.

He was retracing his steps underneath the elm-trees in the Boundaries at a slower pace than he had recently passed them, when, in turning a corner, he came face to face with the sheriff's officer. Arthur, whose thoughts were at that moment fixed upon Hamish and his difficulties, started away from the man, with an impulse for which he could not have accounted.

“No need for you to be frightened of me, Mr. Arthur,” said the man, who, in his more palmy days, before he had learnt to take more than was good for him, had been a clerk in Mr. Channing's office. “I have nothing about me that will bite you.”

He laid a stress upon the “you” in both cases. Arthur understood only too well what was meant, though he would not appear to do so.

“Nor any one else, either, I hope, Hopper. A warm day, is it not!”

Hopper drew close to Arthur, not looking at him, apparently examining with hands and eyes the trunk of the elm-tree underneath which they had halted. “You tell your brother not to put himself in my way,” said he, in a low tone, his lips scarcely moving. “He is in a bit of trouble, as I suppose you know.”

“Yes,” breathed Arthur.

“Well, I don't want to serve the writ upon him; I won't serve it unless he makes me, by throwing himself within length of my arm. If he sees me coming up one street, let him cut down another; into a shop; anywhere; I have eyes that only see when I want them to. I come prowling about here once or twice a day for show, but I come at a time when I am pretty sure he can't be seen; just gone out, or just gone in. I'd rather not harm him.”

“You are not so considerate to all,” said Arthur, after a pause given to revolving the words, and to wondering whether they were spoken in good faith, or with some concealed purpose. He could not decide which.

“No, I am not,” pointedly returned Hopper, in answer. “There are some that I look after, sharp as a ferret looks after a rat, but I'll never do that by any son of Mr. Channing's. I can't forget the old days, sir, when your father was kind to me. He stood by me longer than my own friends did. But for him, I should have starved in that long illness I had, when the office would have me no longer. Why doesn't Mr. Hamish settle this?” he abruptly added.

“I suppose he cannot,” answered Arthur.

“It is only a bagatelle at the worst, and our folks would not have gone to extremities if he had shown only a disposition to settle. I am sure that if he would go to them now, and pay down a ten-pound note, and say, 'You shall have the rest as I can get it,' they'd withdraw proceedings; ay, even for five pounds I believe they would. Tell him to do it, Mr. Arthur; tell him I always know which way the wind blows with our people.”

“I will tell him, but I fear he is very short of money just now. Five or ten pounds may be as impossible to find, sometimes, as five or ten thousand.”

“Better find it than be locked up,” said Hopper. “How would the office get on? Deprive him of the power of management, and it might cost Mr. Channing his place. What use is a man when he is in prison? I was in Mr. Channing's office for ten years, Mr. Arthur, and I know every trick and turn in it, though I have left it a good while. And now that I have just said this, I'll go on my way. Mind you tell him.”

“Thank you,” warmly replied Arthur.

“And when you have told him, please to forget that you have heard it. There's somebody's eyes peering at me over the deanery blinds. They may peer! I don't mind them; deaneries don't trouble themselves with sheriff's officers.”

He glided away, and Arthur went straight to the office. Hamish was alone; he was seated at Jenkins's desk, writing a note.

“You here still, Hamish! Where's Yorke?”

“Echo answers where,” replied Hamish, who appeared to have recovered his full flow of spirits. “I have seen nothing of him.”

“That's Yorke all over! it is too bad.”

“It would be, were this a busy afternoon with me. But what brings you back, Mr. Arthur? Have you left the organ to play itself?”

“Williams is taking it; he heard of Jenkins's accident, and thought I might not be able to get away from the office twice today, so he attended himself.”

“Come, that's good-natured of Williams! A bargain's a bargain, and, having made the bargain, of course it is your own look-out that you fulfil it. Yes, it was considerate of Williams.”

“Considerate for himself,” laughed Arthur. “He did not come down to give me holiday, but in the fear that Mr. Galloway might prevent my attending. 'A pretty thing it would have been,' he said to me, 'had there been no organist this afternoon; it might have cost me my post.'“

“Moonshine!” said Hamish. “It might have cost him a word of reproof; nothing more.”

“Helstonleigh's dean is a strict one, remember. I told Williams he might always depend upon me.”

“What should you have done, pray, had I not been here to turn office-keeper?” laughed Hamish.

“Of the two duties I must have obeyed the more important one. I should have locked up the office and given the key to the housekeeper till college was over, or until Yorke returned. He deserves something for this move. Has any one called?”

“No. Arthur, I have been making free with a sheet of paper and an envelope,” said Hamish, completing the note he was writing. “I suppose I am welcome to it?”

“To ten, if you want them,” returned Arthur. “To whom are you writing?”

“As if I should put you au courant of my love-letters!” gaily answered Hamish.

How could Hamish indulge in this careless gaiety with a sword hanging over his head? It was verily a puzzle to Arthur. A light, sunny nature was Hamish Channing's. This sobering blow which had fallen on it had probably not come before it was needed. Had his bark been sailing for ever in smooth waters, he might have wasted his life, indolently basking on the calm, seductive waves. But the storm rose, the waves ran high, threatening to engulf him, and Hamish knew that his best energies must be put forth to surmount them. Never, never talk of troubles as great, unmitigated evils: to the God-fearing, the God-trusting, they are fraught with hidden love.

“Hamish, were I threatened with worry, as you are, I could not be otherwise than oppressed and serious.”

“Where would be the use of that?” cried gay Hamish. “Care killed a cat. Look here, Arthur, you and your grave face! Did you ever know care do a fellow good? I never did: but a great deal of harm. I shall manage to scramble out of the pit somehow. You'll see.” He put the note into his pocket, as he spoke, and took up his hat to depart.

“Stop an instant longer, Hamish. I have just met Hopper.”

“He did not convert you into a writ-server, I hope. I don't think it would be legal.”

“There you are, joking again! Hamish, he has the writ, but he does not wish to serve it. You are to keep out of his way, he says, and he will not seek to put himself in yours. My father was kind to him in days gone by, and he remembers it now.”

“He's a regular trump! I'll send him half-a-crown in a parcel,” exclaimed Hamish.

“I wish you would hear me out. He says a ten-pound note, perhaps a five-pound note, on account, would induce 'his people'—suppose you understand the phrase—to stay proceedings, and to give you time. He strongly advises it to be done. That's all.”

Not only all Arthur had to say upon the point, but all he had time to say. At that moment, the barouche of Lady Augusta Yorke drove up to the door, and they both went out to it. Lady Augusta, her daughter Fanny, and Constance Channing were in it. She was on her way to attend a missionary meeting at the Guildhall, and had called for Roland, that he might escort her into the room.

“Roland is not to be found, Lady Augusta,” said Hamish, raising his hat with one of his sunny smiles. “He darted off, it is impossible to say where, thereby making me a prisoner. My brother had to attend the cathedral, and there was no one to keep office.”

“Then I think I must make a prisoner of you in turn, Mr. Hamish Channing,” graciously said Lady Augusta. “Will you accompany us?”

Hamish shook his head. “I wish I could; but I have already wasted more time than I ought to have done.”

“It will not cost you five minutes more,” urged Lady Augusta. “You shall only just take us into the hall; I will release you then, if you must be released. Three ladies never can go in alone—fancy how we should be stared at!”

Constance bent her pretty face forward. “Do, Hamish, if you can!”

He suffered himself to be persuaded, stepped into the barouche, and took his seat by Lady Augusta. As they drove away, Arthur thought the greatest ornament the carriage contained had been added to it in handsome Hamish.

A full hour Arthur worked on at his deeds and leases, and Roland Yorke never returned. Mr. Galloway came in then. “Where's Yorke?” was his first question.

Arthur replied that he did not know; he had “stepped out” somewhere. Arthur Channing was not one to make mischief, or get another into trouble. Mr. Galloway asked no further; he probably inferred that Yorke had only just gone. He sat down at Jenkins's desk, and began to read over a lease.

“Can I have the stamps, sir, for this deed?” Arthur presently asked.

“They are not ready. Have the letters gone to the post?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“You can take them now, then. And, Arthur, suppose you step in, as you return, and see how Jenkins is.”

“Very well, sir.” He went into Mr. Galloway's room, and brought forth the three letters from the rack. “Is this one not to be sealed?” he inquired of Mr. Galloway, indicating the one directed to Ventnor, for it was Mr. Galloway's invariable custom to seal letters which contained money, after they had been gummed down. “It is doubly safe,” he would say.

“Ay, to be sure,” replied Mr. Galloway. “I went off in a hurry, and did not do it. Bring me the wax.”

Arthur handed him the wax and a light. Mr. Galloway sealed the letter, stamping it with the seal hanging to his watch-chain. He then held out his hand for another of the letters, and sealed that. “And this one also?” inquired Arthur, holding out the third.

“No. You can take them now.”

Arthur departed. A few paces from the door he met Roland Yorke, coming along in a white heat.

“Channing, I could not help it—I could not, upon my honour. I had to go somewhere with Knivett, and we were kept till now. Galloway's in an awful rage, I suppose?”

“He has only just come in. You had no right to play me this trick, Yorke. But for Hamish, I must have locked up the office. Don't you do it again, or Mr. Galloway may hear of it.”

“It is all owing to that confounded Jenkins!” flashed Roland. “Why did he go and get his head smashed? You are a good fellow, Arthur. I'll do you a neighbourly turn, some time.”

He sped into the office, and Arthur walked to the post with the letters. Coming back, he turned into Mrs. Jenkins's shop in the High Street.

Mrs. Jenkins was behind the counter. “Oh, go up! go up and see him!” she cried, in a tone of suppressed passion. “His bedroom's front, up the two-pair flight, and I'll take my affidavit that there's been fifty folks here this day to see him, if there has been one. I could sow a peck of peas on the stairs! You'll find other company up there.”

Arthur groped his way up the stairs; they were dark too, coming in from the sunshine. He found the room, and entered. Jenkins lay in bed, his bandaged head upon the pillow; and, seated by his side, his apron falling, and his clerical hat held between his knees, was the Bishop of Helstonleigh.

CHAPTER XV. A SPLASH IN THE RIVER.

Amongst other facts, patent to common and uncommon sense, is the very obvious one that a man cannot be in two places at once. In like manner, no author, that I ever heard of, was able to relate two different portions of his narrative at one and the same time. Thus you will readily understand, that if I devoted the last chapter to Mr. Galloway, his clerks and their concerns generally, it could not be given to Mr. Ketch and his concerns; although in the strict, order of time and sequence, the latter gentleman might have claimed an equal, if not a premier right.

Mr. Ketch stood in his lodge, leaning for support upon the shut-up press-bedstead, which, by day, looked like a high chest of drawers with brass handles, his eyes fixed on the keys, hanging on the opposite nail. His state of mind may be best expressed by the strong epithet, “savage.” Mr. Ketch had not a pleasant face at the best of times: it was yellow and withered; and his small bright eyes were always dropping water; and the two or three locks of hair, which he still possessed, were faded, and stood out, solitary and stiff, after the manner of those pictures you have seen of heathens who decorate their heads with upright tails. At this moment his countenance looked particularly unpleasant.

Mr. Ketch had spent part of the night and the whole of this morning revolving the previous evening's affair of the cloisters. The more he thought of it, the less he liked it, and the surer grew his conviction that the evil had been the work of his enemies, the college boys.

“It's as safe as day,” he wrathfully soliloquized. “There be the right keys,” nodding to the two on the wall, “and there be the wrong ones,” nodding towards an old knife-tray, into which he had angrily thrown the rusty keys, upon entering his lodge last night, accompanied by the crowd. “They meant to lock me up all night in the cloisters, the wicked cannibals! I hope the dean'll expel 'em! I'll make my complaint to the head-master, I will! Drat all college schools! there's never no good done in 'em!”

“How are you this morning, Ketch?”

The salutation proceeded from Stephen Bywater, who, in the boisterous manner peculiar to himself and his tribe, had flung open the door without the ceremony of knocking.

“I'm none the better for seeing you,” growled Ketch.

“You need not be uncivil,” returned Bywater, with great suavity. “I am only making a morning call upon you, after the fashion of gentlefolks; the public delights to pay respect to its officials, you know. How do you feel after that mishap last night? We can't think, any of us, how you came to make the mistake.”

“I'll 'mistake' you!” shrieked Ketch. “I kep' a nasty old, rusty brace o' keys in my lodge to take out, instead o' the right ones, didn't I?”

“How uncommonly stupid it was of you to do so!” said Bywater, pretending to take the remark literally. “I would not keep a duplicate pair of keys by me—I should make sure they'd bring me to grief. What do you say? You did not keep duplicate keys—they were false ones! Why, that's just what we all told you last night. The bishop told you so. He said he knew you had made a mistake, and taken out the wrong keys for the right. My belief is, that you went out without any keys at all. You left them hanging upon the nail, and you found them there. You had not got a second pair!”

“You just wait!” raved old Ketch. “I'm a-coming round to the head-master, and I'll bring the keys with me. He'll let you boys know whether there's two pairs, or one. Horrid old rusty things they be; as rusty as you!”

“Who says they are rusty?”

“Who says it! They are rusty!” shrieked the old man. “You'd like to get me into a madhouse, you boys would, worrying me! I'll show you whether they're rusty! I'll show you whether there's a second brace o' keys or not. I'll show 'em to the head-master! I'll show 'em to the dean! I'll show 'em again to his lordship the bi—What's gone of the keys?”

The last sentence was uttered in a different tone and in apparent perplexity. With shaking hands, excited by passion, Mr. Ketch was rummaging the knife-box—an old, deep, mahogany tray, dark with age, divided by a partition—rummaging for the rusty keys. He could not find them. He searched on this side, he searched on that; he pulled out the contents, one by one: a black-handled knife, a white-handled fork, a green-handled knife with a broken point, and a brown-handled fork with one prong, which comprised his household cutlery; a small whetstone, a comb and a blacking-brush, a gimlet and a small hammer, some leather shoe-strings, three or four tallow candles, a match-box and an extinguisher, the key of his door, the bolt of his casement window, and a few other miscellanies. He could not come upon the false keys, and, finally, he made a snatch at the tray, and turned it upside down. The keys were not there.

When he had fully taken in the fact—it cost him some little time to do it—he turned his anger upon Bywater.

“You have took 'em, you have! you have turned thief, and stole 'em! I put 'em here in the knife-box, and they are gone! What have you done with 'em?”

“Come, that's good!” exclaimed Bywater, in too genuine a tone to admit a suspicion of its truth. “I have not been near your knife-box; I have not put my foot inside the door.”

In point of fact, Bywater had not. He had stood outside, bending his head and body inwards, his hands grasping either door-post.

“What's gone with 'em? who 'as took 'em off? I'll swear I put 'em there, and I have never looked at 'em nor touched 'em since! There's an infamous conspiracy forming against me! I'm going to be blowed up, like Guy Fawkes!”

“If you did put them there—'if,' you know—some of your friends must have taken them,” cried Bywater, in a tone midway between reason and irony.

“There haven't a soul been nigh the place,” shrieked Ketch.

“Except the milk, and he gave me my ha'porth through the winder.”

“Hurrah!” said Bywater, throwing up his trencher. “It's a clear case of dreams. You dreamt you had a second pair of keys, Ketch, and couldn't get rid of the impression on awaking. Mr. Ketch, D.H., Dreamer-in-chief to Helstonleigh!”

Bywater commenced an aggravating dance. Ketch was aggravated sufficiently without it. “What d'ye call me?” he asked, in a state of concentrated temper that turned his face livid. “'D?' What d'ye mean by 'D?' D stands for that bad sperit as is too near to you college boys; he's among you always, like a ranging lion. It's like your impedence to call me by his name.”

“My dear Mr. Ketch! call you by his name! I never thought of such a thing,” politely retorted Bywater. “You are not promoted to that honour yet. D.H., stands for Deputy-Hangman. Isn't it affixed to the cathedral roll, kept amid the archives in the chapter-house”—John Ketch, D.H., porter to the cloisters! “I hope you don't omit the distinguishing initials when you sign your letters?”

Ketch foamed. Bywater danced. The former could not find words. The latter found plenty.

“I say, though, Mr. Calcraft, don't you make a similar mistake when you are going on public duty. If you were to go there, dreaming you had the right apparatus, and find, in the last moment, that you had brought the wrong, you don't know what the consequences might be. The real victim might escape, rescued by the enraged crowd, and they might put the nightcap upon you, and operate upon you instead! So, be careful. We couldn't afford to lose you. Only think, what a lot of money it would cost to put the college into mourning!”

Ketch gave a great gasp of agony, threw an iron ladle at his tormentor, which, falling short of its aim, came clanking down on the red-brick floor, and banged the door in Bywater's face. Bywater withdrew to a short distance, under cover of the cathedral wall, and bent his body backwards and forwards with the violence of his laughter, unconscious that the Bishop of Helstonleigh was standing near him, surveying him with an exceedingly amused expression. His lordship had been an ear-witness to part of the colloquy, very much to his edification.

“What is your mirth, Bywater?”

Bywater drew himself straight, and turned round as if he had been shot. “I was only laughing, my lord,” he said, touching his trencher.

“I see you were; you will lose your breath altogether some day, if you laugh in that violent manner. What were you and Ketch quarrelling about?”

“We were not quarrelling, my lord. I was only chaff—teasing him,” rejoined Bywater, substituting one word for the other, as if fearing the first might not altogether be suited to the bishop's ears; “and Ketch fell into a passion.”

“As he often does, I fear,” remarked his lordship. “I fancy you boys provoke him unjustifiably.”

“My lord,” said Bywater, turning his red, impudent, but honest face full upon the prelate, “I don't deny that we do provoke him; but you can have no idea what an awful tyrant he is to us. I can't believe any one was ever born with such a cross-grained temper. He vents it upon every one: not only upon the college boys, but upon all who come in his way. If your lordship were not the bishop,” added bold Bywater, “he would vent it upon you.”

“Would he?” said the bishop, who was a dear lover of candour, and would have excused a whole bushel of mischief, rather than one little grain of falsehood.

“Not a day passes, but he sets upon us with his tongue. He would keep us out of the cloisters; he would keep us out of our own schoolroom. He goes to the head-master with the most unfounded cram—stories, and when the master declines to notice them (for he knows Ketch of old), then he goes presumingly to the dean. If he let us alone, we should let him alone. I am not speaking this in the light of a complaint to your lordship,” Bywater added, throwing his head back. “I don't want to get him into a row, tyrant though he is; and the college boys can hold their own against Ketch.”

“I expect they can,” significantly replied the bishop. “He would keep you out of the cloisters, would he?”

“He is aiming at it,” returned Bywater. “There never would have been a word said about our playing there, but for him. If the dean shuts us out, it will be Ketch's doings. The college boys have played in the cloisters since the school was founded.”

“He would keep you out of the cloisters; so, by way of retaliation, you lock him into them—an uncomfortable place of abode for a night, Bywater.”

“My lord!” cried Bywater.

“Sir!” responded his lordship.

“Does your lordship think it was I who played that trick on Ketch?”

“Yes, I do—speaking of you conjointly with the school.”

Bywater's eyes and his good-humoured countenance fell before the steady gaze of the prelate. But in the gaze there was an earnest—if Bywater could read it aright—of good feeling, of excuse for the mischief, rather than of punishment in store. The boy's face was red enough at all times, but it turned to scarlet now. If the bishop had before suspected the share played in the affair by the college boys, it had by this time been converted into a certainty.

“Boy,” said he, “confess it if you like, be silent if you like; but do not tell me a lie.”

Bywater turned up his face again. His free, fearless eyes—free in the cause of daring, but fearless in that of truth—looked straight into those of the bishop. “I never do tell lies,” he answered. “There's not a boy in the school punished oftener than I am; and I don't say but I generally deserve it! but it is never for telling a lie. If I did tell them, I should slip out of many a scrape that I am punished for now.”

The bishop could read truth as well as any one—better than many—and he saw that it was being told to him now. “Which of you must be punished for this trick as ringleader?” he asked.

“I, my lord, if any one must be,” frankly avowed Bywater. “We should have let him out at ten o'clock. We never meant to keep him there all night. If I am punished, I hope your lordship will be so kind as allow it to be put down to your own account, not to Ketch's. I should not like it to be thought that I caught it for him. I heartily beg your pardon, my lord, for having been so unfortunate as to include you in the locking-up. We are all as sorry as can be, that it should have happened. I am ready to take any punishment, for that, that you may order me.”

“Ah!” said the bishop, “had you known that I was in the cloisters, your friend Ketch would have come off scot free!”

“Yes, that he would, until—”

“Until what?” asked the bishop, for Bywater had brought his words to a standstill.

“Until a more convenient night, I was going to say, my lord.”

“Well, that's candid,” said the bishop. “Bywater,” he gravely added, “you have spoken the truth to me freely. Had you equivocated in the slightest degree, I should have punished you for the equivocation. As it is, I shall look upon this as a confidential communication, and not order you punishment. But we will not have any more tricks played at locking up Ketch. You understand?”

“All right, my lord. Thank you a hundred times.”

Bywater, touching his trencher, leaped off. The bishop turned to enter his palace gates, which were close by, and encountered Ketch talking to the head-master. The latter had been passing the lodge, when he was seen and pounced upon by Ketch, who thought it a good opportunity to make his complaint.

“I am as morally sure it was them, sir, as I am that I be alive.” he was saying when the bishop came up. “And I don't know who they has dealings with; but, for certain, they have sperited away them rusty keys what did the mischief, without so much as putting one o' their noses inside my lodge. I placed 'em safe in the knife-box last night, and they're gone this morning. I hope, sir, you'll punish them as they deserve. I am nothing, of course. If they had locked me up, and kept me there till I was worn to a skeleton, it might be thought light of; but his lordship, the bishop”—bowing sideways to the prelate—“was a sufferer by their wickedness.”

“To be sure I was,” said the bishop, in a grave tone, but with a twinkle in his eye; “and therefore the complaint to Mr. Pye must be preferred by me, Ketch. We will talk of it when I have leisure,” he added to Mr. Pye, with a pleasant nod, as he went through the palace gates.

The head-master bowed to the bishop, and walked away, leaving Ketch on the growl.

Meanwhile, Bywater, flying through the cloisters, came upon Hurst, and two or three more of the conspirators. The time was between nine and ten o'clock. The boys had been home for breakfast after early school, and were now reassembling, but they did not go into school until a quarter before ten.

“He is such a glorious old trump, that bishop!” burst forth Bywater. “He knows all about it, and is not going to put us up for punishment. Let's cut round to the palace gates and cheer him.”

“Knows that it was us!” echoed the startled boys. “How did it come out to him?” asked Hurst.

“He guessed it, I think,” said Bywater, “and he taxed me with it. So I couldn't help myself, and told him I'd take the punishment; and he said he'd excuse us, but there was to be no locking up of Mr. Calcraft again. I'd lay a hundred guineas the bishop went in for scrapes himself, when he was a boy!” emphatically added Bywater. “I'll be bound he thinks we only served the fellow right. Hurrah for the bishop!”

“Hurrah for the bishop!” shouted Hurst, with the other chorus of voices. “Long life to him! He's made of the right sort of stuff! I say, though, Jenkins is the worst,” added Hurst, his note changing. “My father says he doesn't know but what brain fever will come on.”

“Moonshine!” laughed the boys.

“Upon my word and honour, it is not. He pitched right upon his head; it might have cost him his life had he fallen upon the edge of the stone step, but they think he alighted flat. My father was round with him this morning at six o'clock.”

“Does your father know about it?”

“Not he. What next?” cried Hurst. “Should I stand before him, and take my trencher off, with a bow, and say, 'If you please, sir, it was the college boys who served out old Ketch!' That would be a nice joke! He said, at breakfast, this morning, that that fumbling old Ketch must have got hold of the wrong keys. 'Of course, sir!' answered I.”

“Oh, what do you think, though!” interrupted Bywater. “Ketch can't find the keys. He put them into a knife-box, he says, and this morning they are gone. He intended to take them round to Pye, and I left him going rampant over the loss. Didn't I chaff him?”

Hurst laughed. He unbuttoned the pocket of his trousers, and partially exhibited two rusty keys. “I was not going to leave them to Ketch for witnesses,” said he. “I saw him throw them into the tray last night, and I walked them out again, while he was talking to the crowd.”

“I say, Hurst, don't be such a ninny as to keep them about you!” exclaimed Berkeley, in a fright. “Suppose Pye should go in for a search this morning, and visit our pockets? You'd floor us at once!”

“The truth is, I don't know where to put them,” ingenuously acknowledged Hurst. “If I hid them at home, they'd be found; if I dropped them in the street, some hullaballoo might arise from it.”

“Let's carry them back to the old-iron shop, and get the fellow to buy them back at half-price!”

“Catch him doing that! Besides, the trick is sure to get wind in the town; he might be capable of coming forward and declaring that we bought the keys at his shop.”

“Let's throw 'em down old Pye's well!”

“They'd come up again in the bucket, as ghosts do!”

“Couldn't we make a railway parcel of them, and direct it to 'Mr. Smith, London?'“

“'Two pounds to pay; to be kept till called for,'“ added Mark Galloway, improving upon the suggestion. “They'd put it in their fire-proof safe, and it would never come out again.”

“Throw them into the river,” said Stephen Bywater. “That's the only safe place for them: they'd lie at the bottom for ever. We have time to do it now. Come along.”

Acting upon the impulse, as schoolboys usually do, they went galloping out of the cloisters, running against the head-master, who was entering, and nearly overturning his equilibrium. He gave them an angry word of caution; they touched their caps in reply, and somewhat slackened their speed, resuming the gallop when he was out of hearing.

Inclosing the cathedral and its precincts on the western side, was a wall, built of red stone. It was only breast high, standing on the cathedral side; but on the other side it descended several feet, to the broad path which ran along the banks of the river. The boys made for this wall and gained it, their faces hot, and their breath gone.

“Who'll pitch 'em in?” cried Hurst, who did not altogether relish being chief actor himself, for windows looked on to that particular spot from various angles and corners of the Boundaries. “You shall do it, Galloway!”

“Oh shall I, though!” returned young Galloway, not relishing it either.

“You precious rebel! Take the keys, and do as I order you!”

Young Galloway was under Hurst. He no more dared to disobey him than he could have disobeyed the head-master. Had Hurst ordered him to jump into the river he must have done it. He took the keys tendered him by Hurst, and was raising them for the pitch, when Bywater laid his hand upon them and struck them down with a sudden movement, clutching them to him.

“You little wretch, you are as deaf as a donkey!” he uttered. “There's somebody coming up. Turn your head, and look who it is.”

It proved to be Fordham, the dean's servant. He was accidentally passing. The boys did not fear him; nevertheless, it was only prudent to remain still, until he had gone by. They stood, all five, leaning upon the wall, soiling their waistcoats and jackets, in apparent contemplation of the view beyond. A pleasant view! The river wound peacefully between its green banks; meadows and cornfields were stretched out beyond; while an opening afforded a glimpse of that lovely chain of hills, and the white houses nestled at their base. A barge, drawn by a horse, was appearing slowly from underneath the city bridge, blue smoke ascending from its chimney. A woman on board was hanging out linen to dry—a shirt, a pair of stockings, and a handkerchief—her husband's change for the coming Sunday. A young girl was scraping potatoes beside her; and a man, probably the husband, sat steering, his pipe in his mouth. The boys fixed their eyes upon the boat.

“I shouldn't mind such a life as that fellow's yonder!” exclaimed young Berkeley, who was fonder of idleness than he was of Latin. “I'll turn bargeman when other trades fail. It must be rather jolly to sit steering a boat all day, and do nothing but smoke.”

“Fordham's gone, and be hanged to him! Now for it, Galloway!”

“Stop a bit,” said Bywater. “They must be wrapped up, or else tied close together. Better wrap them up, and then no matter who sees. They can't swear there are keys inside. Who has any paper about him?”

One of the boys, Hall, had his exercise-book with him. They tore a sheet or two out of it, and folded it round the keys, Hurst producing some string. “I'll fling them in,” said Bywater.

“Make haste, then, or we shall have to wait till the barge has gone by.”

Bywater took a cautious look round, saw nobody, and flung the parcel into the middle of the river. “Rari nantes in gurgite vasto!” ejaculated he.

“Now, you gents, what be you throwing into the river?”

The words came from Hudson, the porter to the Boundaries, who appeared to have sprung up from the ground. In reality, he had been standing on the steps leading to the river, but the boat-house had hidden him from their view. He was a very different man from the cloister porter; was afraid of the college boys, rather than otherwise, and addressed them individually as “sir.” The keeper of the boat-house heard this, and came up the steps.

“If you gentlemen have been throwing anything into the river you know that it's against the rules.”

“Don't bother!” returned Hurst, to the keeper.

“But you know it is wrong, gentlemen,” remonstrated the keeper. “What was it you threw in? It made a dreadful splash.”

“Ah! what was it?” coolly answered Hurst. “What should you say to a dead cat? Hudson, have the goodness to mind your business, unless you would like to get reported for interfering with what does not concern you.”

“There's a quarter to ten!” exclaimed Bywater, as the college clock chimed the three-quarters. “We shall be marked late, every soul of us!”

They flew away, their feet scarcely touching the ground, clattered up the schoolroom stairs, and took their places. Gaunt was only beginning to call over the roll, and they escaped the “late” mark.

“It's better to be born lucky than rich,” said saucy Bywater.

CHAPTER XVI. MUCH TO ALTER.

At the same moment Constance Channing was traversing the Boundaries, on her way to Lady Augusta Yorke's, where she had, some days since, commenced her duties. It took her scarcely two minutes to get there, for the houses were almost within view of each other. Constance would willingly have commenced the daily routine at an earlier hour. Lady Augusta freely confessed that to come earlier would be useless, for she could not get her daughters up. Strictly speaking, Lady Augusta did not personally try to get them up, for she generally lay in bed herself.

“That is one of the habits I must alter in the children,” thought Constance.

She entered, took off her things in the room appropriated to her, and passed into the schoolroom. It was empty, though the children ought to have been there, preparing their lessons. Fanny came running in, her hair in curl-papers, some bread and butter in her hand.

“Carry has not finished her breakfast, Miss Channing,” quoth she. “She was lazy this morning!”

“I think some one else was lazy also,” said Constance, gently drawing the child to her. “Why did you come down half-dressed, my dear?”

“I am quite dressed,” responded Fanny. “My frock's on, and so is my pinafore.”

“And these?” said Constance, touching the curl-papers.

“Oh, Martha got up late, and said she had no time to take them out. It will keep in curl all the better, Miss Channing; and perhaps I am going to the missionary meeting with mamma.”

Constance rang the bell. Martha, who was the only maid kept, except the cook, appeared in answer to it. Lady Augusta was wont to say that she had too much expense with her boys to keep many servants; and the argument was a true one.

“Be so kind as to take the papers out of Miss Fanny's hair. And let it be done in future, Martha, before she comes to me.”

Gently as the words were spoken, there was no mistaking that the tone was one of authority, and not to be trifled with. Martha withdrew with the child. And, just then, Caroline came in, full of eagerness.

“Miss Channing, mamma says she shall take one of us to the missionary meeting, whichever you choose to fix upon. Mind you fix upon me! What does that little chit, Fanny, want at a missionary meeting? She is too young to go.”

“It is expected to be a very interesting meeting,” observed Constance, making no reply to Miss Caroline's special request. “A gentleman who has lived for some years amongst the poor heathens is to give a history of his personal experiences. Some of the anecdotes are beautiful.”

“Who told you they were?” asked Caroline.

“Mr. Yorke,” replied Constance, a pretty blush rising to her cheek. “He knows the lecturer well. You would be pleased to hear them.”

“It is not for that I wish to go,” said Caroline. “I think meetings, where there's nothing but talking, are the dullest things in the world. If I were to listen, it would send me to sleep.”

“Then why do you wish so much to attend this one?”

“Because I shall wear my new dress. I have not had it on yet. It rained last Sunday, and mamma would not let me put it on for college. I was in such a passion.”

Constance wondered where she should begin. There was so much to do; so much to alter in so many ways. To set to work abruptly would never answer. It must be commenced gradually, almost imperceptibly, little by little.

“Caroline, do you know that you have disobeyed me?”

“In what way, Miss Channing?”

“Did I not request you to have that exercise written out?”

“I know,” said Caroline, with some contrition. “I intended to write it out this morning before you came; but somehow I lay in bed.”

“If I were to come to you every morning at seven o'clock, would you undertake to get up and be ready for me?” asked Constance.

Caroline drew a long face. She did not speak.

“My dear, you are fifteen.”

“Well?” responded Caroline.

“And you must not feel hurt if I tell you that I should think no other young lady of that age and in your position is half so deficient as you are. Deficient in many ways, Caroline: in goodness, in thoughtfulness, and in other desirable qualities; and greatly so in education. Annabel, who is a year younger than you, is twice as advanced.”

“Annabel says you worry her into learning.”

“Annabel is fond of talking nonsense; but she is a good, loving child at heart. You would be surprised at the little trouble she really gives me while she makes a show of giving me a great deal. I have so much to teach you, Caroline—to your mind and heart, as well as to your intellect—that I feel the hours as at present arranged, will be insufficient for me. My dear, when you grow up to womanhood, I am sure you will wish to be loving and loved.”

Caroline burst into tears. “I should do better if mamma were not so cross with me, Miss Channing. I always do anything that William Yorke asks me; and I will do anything for you.”

Constance kissed her. “Then will you begin by rising early, and being ready for me at seven?”

“Yes, I will,” answered Caroline. “But Martha must be sure to call me. Are you going to the meeting this afternoon?”

“Of course not,” said Constance. “My time now belongs to you.”

“But I think mamma wishes you to go with us. She said something about it.”

“Does she? I should very much like to go.”

Lady Augusta came in and proffered the invitation to Constance to accompany them. Constance then spoke of giving the children the extra two hours, from seven to nine: it was really necessary, she said, if she was to do her duty by them.

“How very conscientious you are!” laughed Lady Augusta, her tone savouring of ridicule.

Constance coloured almost to tears with her emotion. “I am responsible to One always, Lady Augusta. I may not make mine only eye-service.”

“You will never put up with our scrambling breakfast, Miss Channing. The boys are so unruly; and I do not get up to it half my time.”

“I will return home to breakfast. I should prefer to do so. And I will be here again at ten.”

“Whatever time do you get up?”

“Not very early,” answered Constance. “Hitherto I have risen at seven, summer and winter. Dressing and reading takes me just an hour; for the other hour I find plenty of occupation. We do not breakfast until nine, on account of Tom and Charley. I shall rise at six now, and come here at seven.”

“Very well,” said Lady Augusta. “I suppose this will only apply to the summer months. One of the girls shall go with us to-day; whichever deserves it best.”

“You are not leaving one of them at home to make room for me, I hope, Lady Augusta?”

“Not at all,” answered Lady Augusta. “I never chaperon two children to a crowded meeting. People might say they took up the room of grown-up persons.”

“You will let me go—not Caroline, Miss Channing?” pleaded Fanny, when her mother had quitted them.

“No,” said Caroline, sharply; “Miss Channing will fix upon me.”

“I shall obey Lady Augusta, and decide upon the one who shall best merit it,” smiled Constance. “It will be only right to do so.”

“Suppose we are both good, and merit it equally?” suggested Fanny.

“Then, my dear little girl, you must not be disappointed if, in that case, I give the privilege to Caroline, as being the elder of the two. But I will make it up to you in some other way.”

Alas for poor Caroline's resolution! For a short time, an hour or so, she did strive to do her best; but then good resolutions were forgotten, and idleness followed. Not only idleness, temper also. Never had she been so troublesome to Constance as on this day; she even forgot herself so far as to be insolent. Fanny was taken to the meeting—you saw her in the carriage when Lady Augusta drove to Mr. Galloway's office, and persuaded Hamish to join them—Caroline was left at home, in a state of open rebellion, with the lessons to learn which she had not learnt in the day.

“How shall you get on with them, Constance?” the Rev. William Yorke inquired of her that same evening. “Have the weeds destroyed the good seed?”

“Not quite destroyed it,” replied Constance, though she sighed sadly as she spoke, as if nearly losing heart for the task she had undertaken. “There is so much ill to undo. Caroline is the worst; the weeds, with her, have had longer time to get ahead. I think, perhaps, if I could keep her wholly with me for a twelvemonth or so, watching over her constantly, a great deal might be effected.”

“If that anticipated living would fall in, which seems very far away in the clouds, and you were wholly mine, we might have Caroline with us for a time,” laughed Mr. Yorke.

Constance laughed too. “Do not be impatient, or it will seem to be further off still. It will come, William.”

They had been speaking in an undertone, standing together at a window, apart from the rest. Mr. Channing was lying on his sofa underneath the other window, and now spoke to Mr. Yorke.

“You had a treat, I hear, at the meeting to-day?”

“We had, indeed, sir,” replied Mr. Yorke, advancing to take a seat near him. “It is not often we have the privilege of listening to so eloquent a speaker as Dr. Lamb. His experience is great, and his whole heart was in his subject. I should like to bring him here to call upon you.”

“I should be pleased to receive him,” replied Mr. Channing.

“I think it is possible that his experience in another line may be of service to you,” continued Mr. Yorke. “You are aware that ill health drove him home?”

“I have heard so.”

“His complaint was rheumatism, very much, as I fancy, the same sort of rheumatism that afflicts you. He told me he came to Europe with very little hope: he feared his complaint had become chronic and incurable. But he has been restored in a wonderful manner, and is in sound health again.”

“And what remedies did he use?” eagerly asked Mr. Channing.

“A three months' residence at some medicinal springs in Germany. Nothing else. When I say nothing else, of course I must imply that he was under medical treatment there. It is the very thing, you see, sir, that has been ordered for you.”

“Ay!” sighed Mr. Channing, feeling how very faint appeared to be the hope that he should have the opportunity of trying it.

“I was mentioning your case to him,” observed Mr. Yorke. “He said he had no doubt the baths would do you equal good. He is a doctor, you know. I will bring him here to talk it over with you.”

At that moment Mr. Galloway entered: the subject was continued. Mr. Yorke and Mr. Galloway were eloquent on it, telling Mr. Channing that he must go to Germany, as a point of duty. The Channings themselves were silent; they could not see the way at all clear. When Mr. Yorke was leaving, he beckoned Constance and Arthur into the hall.

“Mr. Channing must go,” he whispered to them. “Think of all that is at stake! Renewed health, exertion, happiness! Arthur, you did not urge it by a single word.”

Arthur did not feel hopeful; indeed his heart sank within him the whole time that they were talking. Hamish and his difficulties were the dark shadow; though he could not tell this to Mr. Yorke. Were Mr. Channing to go abroad, and the arrest of Hamish to follow upon it, the post they held, and its emoluments, might be taken from them at once and for ever.

“Dr. Lamb says the cost was so trifling as scarcely to be credited,” continued Mr. Yorke in a tone of remonstrance. “Arthur, don't you care to help—to save him?”

“I would move heaven and earth to save my father!” impulsively spoke Arthur, stung by the implied reproof. “I should not care what labour it cost me to procure the money, so that I succeeded.”

“We all would,” said Constance; “you must know we would, William. From Hamish downwards.”

“Who is that, making free with Hamish's name?” demanded that gentleman himself, entering the house with a free step and merry countenance. “Did you think I was lost? I was seduced into joining your missionary-meeting people, and have had to stop late at the office, to make up for it.”

“We have been talking about papa, Hamish,” said Constance. “Fresh hope seems to arise daily that those German baths would restore him to health. They cured Dr. Lamb.”

“I say, Hamish, that the money must be found for it somehow,” added Mr. Yorke.

“Found! of course it shall be found,” cried gay Hamish. “I intend to be a chief contributor to it myself.” But his joking words and careless manner jarred at that moment upon the spirit both of Arthur and Constance Channing.

Why? Could there have been any unconscious foreshadowing of evil to come?

CHAPTER XVII. SUNDAY MORNING AT MR. CHANNING'S, AND AT LADY AUGUSTA'S.

The day of rest came round in due course. A day of rest it is in truth to those who have learnt to make it such; a pleasant time of peace; a privileged season of commune with God; a loving day of social happiness for home and home ties. And yet, strange to say, it is, to some, the most hurried, uncomfortable, disagreeable day of all the seven.

Mrs. Channing's breakfast hour was nine o'clock on ordinary days, made thus late for the sake of convenience. On Sundays it was half-past eight. Discipline and training had rendered it easy to observe rules at Mr. Channing's; or, it may be better to say, it had rendered them difficult to be disobeyed. At half-past eight all were in the breakfast-room, dressed for the day. When the hour for divine service arrived, they had only to put on their hats and bonnets to be ready for it. Even old Judy was grand on a Sunday morning. Her mob-cap was of spotted, instead of plain net, and her check apron was replaced by a white one.

With great personal inconvenience, and some pain—for he was always worse in the morning—Mr. Channing would on that day rise to breakfast. It had been his invariable custom to take the reading himself on Sunday—the little time he devoted to religion—and he was unwilling to break through it. Breakfast over, it was immediately entered upon, and would be finished by ten o'clock. He did not preach a sermon; he did not give them much reading; it was only a little homely preparation for the day and the services they were about to enter upon. Very unwise had it been of Mr. Channing, to tire his children with a private service before the public service began.

Breakfast, on these mornings, was always a longer meal than usual. There was no necessity to hurry over it, in order to hasten to the various occupations of every-day life. It was taken leisurely, amidst much pleasant, social converse.

As they were assembling for breakfast on this morning, Arthur came in. It was so unusual for them to leave the house early on a Sunday, that Mr. Channing looked at him with surprise.

“I have been to see Jenkins, sir,” he explained. “In coming home last night, I met Mr. Hurst, who told me he feared Jenkins was getting worse. I would not go to see him then; it might have been late to disturb him, so I have been now.”

“And how is he?” inquired Mr. Channing.

“A great deal better,” replied Arthur. “So much better that: Mr. Hurst says he may come to the office to-morrow should there be no relapse. He enjoins strict quiet for to-day. And Mrs. Jenkins is determined that he shall have quiet; therefore I am sure, he will,” Arthur added, laughing. “She says he appeared ill last night only from the number of visitors he had seen. They were coming in all day long; and on Friday besides.”

“Why should people flock to see Jenkins?” exclaimed Tom. “He is nobody.”

“That is just what Mrs. Jenkins said this morning,” returned Arthur. “I believe they go out of curiosity to hear the truth of the locking-up in the cloisters. The bishop's having been one of the sufferers has aroused the interest of Helstonleigh.”

“I am very glad that Jenkins is better,” observed Mr. Charming.

“So am I,” emphatically answered Arthur. He was pretty sure Tom had had no share in the exploit; but he did not know about Charley.

“The dean preaches to-day,” suddenly called out Tom.

“How do you know?” demanded Annabel.

“Because I do,” oracularly spoke Tom.

“Will you condescend to inform me how you know it, Tom, if you will not inform Annabel?” asked Mr. Channing.

Tom laughed. “The dean began his close residence yesterday, papa. Therefore we know he will preach to-day.”

Mr. Channing sighed. He was debarred from attending the services, and he felt the deprivation keenly when he found that any particularly eminent man was to fill the cathedral pulpit. The dean of Helstonleigh was an admirable preacher.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mr. Channing, in the uncontrollable impulse of the moment, “if I could only regain health and strength!”

“It will come, James; God willing,” said Mrs. Channing, looking up hopefully from the cups she was filling. “What I have heard of Dr. Lamb's restoration has put new confidence into me.”

“I think Mr. Yorke intends to bring Dr. Lamb to see you this afternoon, papa,” said Constance.

“I shall be glad to see him; I shall be glad to hear the particulars of his case and its cure,” exclaimed Mr. Channing, with all conscious eagerness. “Did Mr. Yorke tell you he should bring him to-day, Constance?”

“Yes, papa. Dr. Lamb intends to be at the cathedral for afternoon service, and Mr. Yorke said he would bring him here afterwards.”

“You must get him to take tea with us, Mary.”

“Certainly,” answered Mrs. Channing. “In six months from this, James, you may be as well and active as ever.”

Mr. Channing raised his hands, as if warding off the words. Not of the words was he afraid, but of the hopes they whispered. “I think too much about it, already, Mary. It is not as though I were sure of getting to the medicinal baths.”

“We will take care that you do that, sir,” said Hamish, with his sunny smile.

You cannot help in it, you know, Hamish,” interposed saucy Annabel. “It will be Arthur and Constance who will help—not you. I heard you say so!”

“But I have changed my mind, and intend to help,” returned Hamish. “And, if you will allow me the remark, young lady, I think it would better become a certain little girl, not to chatter quite so much!”

Was Hamish speaking in jest, or earnest, with regard to the helping point of the affair? A peculiar tone in his voice, in spite of its lightness, had struck both Constance and Arthur, each being in the secret of his more than want of funds.

The second bell was beginning to chime as the Channings entered the cloister gates. Tom and Charles had gone on before. Panting, breathless, almost knocking down Annabel, came Tod Yorke, terribly afraid of being marked late.

“Take care, Tod!” exclaimed Hamish. “Are you running for a wager?”

“Don't keep me, Mr. Hamish Channing! Those incapable servants of ours never called us till the bell began. I have had no breakfast, and Gerald couldn't find his shirt. He has had to come off in his dirty one, with his waistcoat buttoned up. Won't my lady be in a rage when she sees him?”

Getting up and breakfasting were generally bustling affairs at Lady Augusta's; but the confusion of every day was as nothing compared with that of Sunday. Master Tod was wrong when he complained that he had not been called. The servants had called both him and Gerald, who shared the same room, but the young gentlemen had gone to sleep again. The breakfast hour was the same as other mornings, nine o'clock; but, for all the observance it obtained, it might as well have been nine at night. To give the servants their due, breakfast, on this morning, was on the table at nine—that is, the cloth, the cups and saucers: and there it remained until ten. The maids meanwhile enjoyed their own leisurely breakfast in the kitchen, regaling themselves with hot coffee, poached eggs, buttered toast, and a dish of gossip. At ten, Lady Augusta, who made a merit of always rising to breakfast on a Sunday, entered the breakfast-room in a dirty morning wrapper, and rang the bell.

“Is nobody down?” cried she, sharply.

“I think not, my lady,” was Martha's reply. “I have not heard them. I have been three times in the young ladies' room, but they would not get up.”

This was not quite true. Martha had been in once, and had been scolded for her pains. “None of them ever will get up on a Sunday morning,” added Martha; “they say, 'where's the good?'“

“Bring in breakfast,” crossly responded Lady Augusta. “And then go to the young ladies, and see whether the rest are getting up. What has the cook been at with this coffee?” Lady Augusta added, when she began to pour it out. “It is cold. Her coffee is always cold.”

“It has been made half an hour, I know, my lady.”

The first to appear was the youngest child of all, little Frank; the next his brother, a year older; they wore dirty collars, and their hair was uncombed. Then came the girls—Caroline without a frock, a shawl thrown on, instead, and Fanny in curl papers. Lady Augusta scolded them for their late appearance, forgetting, possibly, that she herself set the example.

“It is not much past ten,” said Caroline. “We shall be in time for college.”

“It is nearly upon half-past,” replied Lady Augusta. “Why do you come down in a petticoat, Caroline?”

“That stupid dressmaker has put no tape to my dress,” fretfully responded Caroline. “Martha is sewing it on.”

Roland lounged in, not more presentable than the rest. Why had Lady Augusta not brought them up to better habits? Why should they come down on a Sunday morning more untidy than on other mornings? They would have told you, had you asked the question, that on other mornings they must be ready to hasten to their daily occupations. Had Sunday no occupation, then? Did it deserve no marked deference? Had I been Lady Augusta Yorke, I should have said to Roland that morning, when I saw his slip-shod slippers and his collarless neck, “If you can show no respect for me, show it for the day.”

Half-past ten struck, and Lady Augusta started up to fly to her own room. She had still much to do, ere she could be presentable for college. Caroline followed. Fanny wondered what Gerald and Tod would do. Not yet down!

“Those boys will get a tanning, to-morrow, from old Pye!” exclaimed Roland, remembering the time when “tannings” had been his portion for the same fault. “Go and see what they are after, Martha.”

They were “after” jumping up in alarm, aroused by the college bell. Amidst wild confusion, for nothing seemed to be at hand, with harsh reproaches to Martha, touching their shirts and socks, and other articles of attire, they scrambled downstairs, somehow, and flew out of the house on their way to the college schoolroom; Gerald drinking a freshly made scalding cup of coffee; Tod cramming a thick piece of bread and butter into his pocket, and trusting to some spare moment to eat it in. All this was the usual scramble of Sunday morning. The Yorkes did get to college, somehow, and there was an end of it.

After the conclusion of the service, as the congregation were dispersing, Mr. Galloway came up to Arthur Channing in the cloisters, and drew him aside.

“Do you recollect taking the letters to the post, on Friday afternoon?” he inquired.

“On Friday?” mused Arthur, who could not at the moment recollect much about that particular day's letters; it was he who generally posted them for the office. “Oh yes, I do remember, sir,” he replied, as the relative circumstances flashed across him.

Mr. Galloway looked at him, possibly doubting whether he really did remember. “How many letters were there for the post that afternoon?” he asked.

“Three,” promptly rejoined Arthur. “Two were for London, and one was for Ventnor.”

“Just so,” assented Mr. Galloway. “Now, then, to whom did you intrust the posting of those letters?”

“I did not intrust them to any one,” replied Arthur; “I posted them myself.”

“You are sure?”

“Quite sure, sir,” answered Arthur, in some surprise. But Mr. Galloway said no more, and gave no reason for his inquiry. He turned into his own house, which was situated near the cloister gates, and Arthur went on home.

Had you been attending worship in Helstonleigh Cathedral that same afternoon, you might have observed, as one of the congregation, a tall stout man, with a dark, sallow face, and grey hair. He sat in a stall near to the Reverend William Yorke, who was the chanter for the afternoon. It was Dr. Lamb. A somewhat peculiar history was his. Brought up to the medical profession, and taking his physician's degree early, he went out to settle in New Zealand, where he had friends. Circumstances brought him into frequent contact with the natives there. A benevolent, thoughtful man, gifted with much Christian grace, the sad spiritual state of these poor heathens gave the deepest concern to Dr. Lamb. He did what he could for them in his leisure hours, but his profession took up most of his time: often did he wish he had more time at his command. A few years of hard work, and then the wish was realized. A small patrimony was bequeathed him, sufficient to enable him to live without work. From that time he applied himself to the arduous duties of a missionary, and his labours were crowned with marked success. Next came illness. He was attacked with rheumatism in the joints; and after many useless remedies had been tried, he came home in search of health, which he found, as you have heard, in certain German spas.

Mr. Channing watched the clock eagerly. Unless it has been your portion, my reader, to undergo long and apparently hopeless affliction, and to find yourself at length unexpectedly told that there may be a cure for you; that another, afflicted in a similar manner, has been restored to health by simple means, and will call upon you and describe to you what they were—you could scarcely understand the nervous expectancy of Mr. Channing on this afternoon. Four o'clock! they would soon be here now.

A very little time longer, and they were with him—his family, Mr. Yorke, and Dr. Lamb. The chief subject of anxiety was soon entered upon, Dr. Lamb describing his illness at great length.

“But were you as helpless as I am?” inquired Mr. Channing.

“Quite as helpless. I was carried on board, and carried to a bed at an hotel when I reached England. From what I have heard of your case, and from what you say, I should judge the nature of your malady to be precisely similar to mine.”

“And now tell me about the healing process.”

Dr. Lamb paused. “You must promise to put faith in my prescription.”

Mr. Channing raised his eyes in surprise. “Why should I not do so?”

“Because it will appear to you so very simple. I consulted a medical man in London, one skilled in rheumatic cases, and he gave it as his opinion that a month or two passed at one of the continental springs might restore me. I laughed at him.”

“You did not believe him?”

“I did not, indeed. Shall I confess to you that I felt vexed with him? There was I, a poor afflicted man, lying helpless, racked with pain; and to be gravely assured that a short sojourn at a pleasant foreign watering-place would, in all probability, cure me, sounded very like mockery. I knew something of the disease, its ordinary treatment, and its various phases. It was true I had left Europe for many years, and strange changes had been taking place in medical science. Still, I had no faith in what he said, as being applicable to my own case; and for a whole month, week after week, day after day, I declined to entertain his views. I considered that it would be so much time and money wasted.”

Dr. Lamb paused. Mr. Channing did not interrupt him.

“One Sunday evening, I was on my solitary sofa—lying in pain—as I can see you are lying now. The bells were ringing out for evening service. I lay thinking of my distressed condition; wishing I could be healed. By-and-by, after the bells had ceased, and the worshippers had assembled within the walls of the sanctuary, from which privilege I was excluded, I took up my Bible. It opened at the fifth chapter of the second book of Kings. I began to read, somewhat listlessly, I fear—listlessly, at any rate, compared with the strange enthusiasm which grew upon me as I read, 'Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. And Naaman was wroth.... And his servants spake unto him and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith unto thee, Wash, and be clean?'

“Mr. Channing,” Dr. Lamb continued in a deeper tone, “the words sounded in my ear, fell upon my heart, as a very message sent direct from God. All the folly of my own obstinate disbelief came full upon me; the scales seemed to fall from my eyes, and I said, 'Shall I not try that simple thing?' A firm conviction that the chapter had been directed to me that night as a warning, seated itself within me; and, from that hour, I never entertained a shadow of doubt but that the baths would be successful.”

“And you journeyed to them?”

“Instantly. Within a week I was there. I seemed to know that I was going to my cure. You will not, probably, understand this.”

“I understand it perfectly,” was Mr. Channing's answer. “I believe that a merciful Providence does vouchsafe, at rare times, to move us by these direct interpositions. I need not ask you if you were cured. I have heard that you were. I see you are. Can you tell me aught of the actual means?”

“I was ordered to a small place in the neighbourhood of Aix-la-Chapelle; a quiet, unpretending place, where there are ever-rising springs of boiling, sulphuric water. The precise course of treatment I will come in another day and describe to you. I had to drink a great deal of the water, warm—six or eight half-pints of it a day; I had to bathe regularly in this water; and I had to take what are called douche baths every other day.” “I have heard of the douche baths,” said Mr. Channing. “Rather fierce, are they not?”

“Fierce!” echoed the doctor. “The first time I tried one, I thought I should never come out alive. The water was dashed upon me, through a tube, with what seemed alarming force until I grew used to it; whilst an attendant rubbed and turned and twisted my limbs about, as if they had been so many straws in his strong hand. So violent is the action of the water that my face had to be protected by a board, lest it should come into contact with it.”

“Strong treatment!” remarked Mr. Channing.

“Strong, but effectual. Effectual, so far as my case was concerned. Whether it was drinking the water, or the sulphur baths, the douches, the pure air, or the Prussian doctor's medicine, or all combined, I was, under God's goodness, restored to health. I entertain no doubt that you may be restored in like manner.”

“And the cost?” asked Mr. Channing, with a sigh he could not wholly suppress.

“There's the beauty of it! the advantage to us poor folks, who possess a shallow purse, and that only half filled,” laughed Dr. Lamb. “Had it been costly, I could not have afforded it. These baths, mind you, are in the hotel, which is the greatest possible accommodation to invalids; the warm baths cost a franc each, the douche two francs, the water you drink, nothing. The doctor's fee is four and sixpence, and you need not consult him often. Ascertain the proper course, and go on with it.”

“But the hotel expenses?”

“That cost me four shillings a day, everything included, except a trifle for servants. Candles alone were extras, and I did not burn them very much, for I was glad to go to bed early. Wine I do not take, or that also would have been an extra. You could not live very much cheaper at home.”

“How I should like to go!” broke from the lips of Mr. Channing.

Hamish came forward. “You must go, my dear father! It shall be managed.”

“You speak hopefully, Hamish.”

Hamish smiled. “I feel so, sir.”

“Do you feel so, also, my friend!” said Dr. Lamb, fervently. “Go forth to the remedy as I did, in the full confidence that God can, and will, send His blessing upon it.”

CHAPTER XVIII. MR. JENKINS ALIVE AGAIN.

The quiet of Sunday was over, and Helstonleigh awoke on the Monday morning to the bustle of every-day life. Mr. Jenkins awoke, with others, and got up—not Jenkins the old bedesman, but his son Joseph, who had the grey mare for his wife. It was Mr. Jenkins's intention to resume his occupation that day, with Mr. Hurst's and Mrs. Jenkins's permission: the former he might have defied; the latter he dared not. However, he was on the safe side, for both had accorded it.

Mrs. Jenkins was making breakfast in the small parlour behind her hosiery shop, when her husband appeared. He looked all the worse for his accident. Poor Joe was one whom a little illness told upon. Thin, pale, and lantern-jawed at the best of times—indeed he was not infrequently honoured with the nickname of “scare-crow”—he now looked thinner and paler than ever. His tall, shadowy form seemed bent with the weakness induced by lying a few days in bed; while his hair had been cut off in three places at the top of his head, to give way to as many patches of white plaster.

“A nice figure you'll cut in the office, to-day, with those ornaments on your crown!” was Mrs. Jenkins's salutation.

“I am thinking to fold this broadly upon my head, and tie it under my chin,” said he, meekly, holding out a square, black silk handkerchief which he had brought down in his hand.

“That would not hide the patch upon your forehead, stupid!” responded Mrs. Jenkins. “I believe you must have bumped upon the edge of every stair in the organ-loft, as you came down, to get so many wounds!” she continued crossly. “If you ever do such a senseless trick again, you shan't stir abroad without me or the maid at your back, to take care of you; I promise you that!”

“I have combed my hair over the place on my forehead!” civilly replied Mr. Jenkins. “I don't think it shows much.”

“And made yourself look like an owl! I thought it was nothing less than a stuffed owl coming in. Why can't you wear your hat? That would hide your crown and your forehead too.”

“I did think of that; and I dare say Mr. Galloway would allow me to do it, and overlook the disrespect in consideration of the circumstances,” answered Jenkins. “But then, I thought again, suppose the dean should chance to come into the office to-day?—or any of the canons? There's no telling but they may. I could not keep my hat on in their presence; and I should not like to take it off, and expose the plasters.”

“You'd frighten them away, if you did,” said Mrs. Jenkins, dashing some water into the teapot.

“Therefore,” he added, when she had finished speaking, “I think it will be better to put on this handkerchief. People do wear them, when suffering from neuralgia, or from toothache.”

“Law! wear it, if you like! what a fuss you make about nothing! If you chose to go with your head wrapped up in a blanket, nobody would look at you.”

“Very true,” meekly coughed Mr. Jenkins.

“What are you doing?” irascibly demanded Mrs. Jenkins, perceiving that of two slices of bacon which she had put upon his plate, one had been surreptitiously conveyed back to the dish.

“I am not hungry this morning. I cannot eat it.”

“I say you shall eat it. What next? Do you think you are going to starve yourself?”

“My appetite will come back to me in a morning or two,” he deprecatingly observed.

“It is back quite enough for that bacon,” was the answer. “Come! I'll have it eaten.”

She ruled him in everything as she would a child; and, appetite or no appetite, Mr. Jenkins had to obey. Then he prepared for his departure. The black silk square was tied on, so as to cover the damages; the hat was well drawn over the brows, and Mr. Jenkins started. When Mr. Galloway entered his office that morning, which he did earlier than usual, there sat Mr. Jenkins in his usual place, copying a lease.

He looked glad to see his old clerk. It is pleasant to welcome a familiar face after an absence. “Are you sure you are equal to work, Jenkins?”

“Quite so, sir, thank you. I had a little fever at first, and Mr. Hurst was afraid of that; but it has quite subsided. Beyond being a trifle sore on the head, and stiff at the elbows and one hip, I am quite myself again.”

“I was sorry to hear of the accident, Jenkins,” Mr. Galloway resumed.

“I was as vexed at it as I could be, sir. When I first came to myself, I hardly knew what damage was done; and the uncertainty of getting to business, perhaps for weeks, did worry me much. I don't deny, too, that I have been in a little pain. But oh, sir! it was worth happening! it was indeed; only to experience the kindness and good fellowship that have been shown me. I am sure half the town has been to see me, or to ask after me.”

“I hear you have had your share of visitors.”

“The bishop himself came,” said poor Jenkins, tears of gratitude rising to his eyes in the intensity of his emotion. “He did, indeed, sir. He came on the Friday, and groped his way up our dark stairs (for very dark they are when Mr. Harper's sitting-room door is shut), and sat down by my bedside, and chatted, just as plainly and familiarly as if he had been no better than one of my own acquaintances. Mr. Arthur Channing found him there when he came with your kind message, sir.”

“So I heard,” said Mr. Galloway. “You and the bishop were both in the same boat. I cannot, for my part, get at the mystery of that locking-up business.”

“The bishop as good as said so, sir—that we had both been in it. I was trying to express my acknowledgments to his lordship for his condescension, apologizing for my plain bedroom, and the dark stairs, and all that, and saying, as well as I knew how, that the like of me was not worthy of a visit from him, when he laughed, in his affable way, and said, 'We were both caught in the same trap, Jenkins. Had I been the one to receive personal injury, I make no doubt that you would have come the next day to inquire after me.' What a great thing it is, to be blessed with a benevolent heart, like the Bishop of Helstonleigh's!”

Arthur Channing came in and interrupted the conversation. He was settling to his occupation, when Mr. Galloway drew his attention; in an abrupt and angry manner, as it struck Arthur.

“Channing, you told me, yesterday, that you posted that letter for Ventnor on Friday”

“So I did, sir.”

“It has been robbed.”

“Robbed!” returned Arthur, in surprise, scarcely realizing immediately the meaning of the word.

“You know that it contained money—a twenty-pound note. You saw me put it in.”

“Yes—I—know—that,” hesitated Arthur.

“What are you stammering at?”

In good truth, Arthur could not have told, except that he hesitated in surprise. He had cast his thoughts into the past, and was lost in them.

“The fact is, you did not post the letters yourself,” resumed Mr. Galloway. “You gave them to somebody else to post, in a fit of idleness, and the result is, that the letter was rifled, and I have lost twenty pounds.”

“Sir, I assure you, that I did post them myself,” replied Arthur, with firmness. “I went straight from this door to the post-office. In coming back, I called on Jenkins”—turning to him—“as you bade me, and afterwards I returned here. I mentioned to you, then, sir, that the bishop was with Jenkins.”

Mr. Jenkins glanced up from his desk, a streak of colour illumining his thin cheek, half hidden by the black handkerchief. “I was just saying, sir, to Mr. Galloway, that you found his lordship at my bedside,” he said to Arthur.

“Has the note been taken out of the letter, sir?” demanded Arthur. “Did the letter reach its destination without it?”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Galloway, in answer to both questions. “I had a few lines from Mr. Robert Galloway yesterday morning, stating that the letter had arrived, but no bank-note was enclosed in it. Now, where is the note?”

“Where can it be?” reiterated Arthur. “The letter must have been opened on the road. I declare to you, sir, that I put it myself into the post-office.”

“It is a crying shame for this civilized country, that one cannot send a bank-note across the kingdom in a letter, but it must get taken out of it!” exclaimed Mr. Galloway, in his vexation. “The puzzle to me is, how those letter-carriers happen just to pitch upon the right letters to open—those letters that contain money!”

He went into his private room as he spoke, banging the door after him, a sure symptom that his temper was not in a state of serenity, and not hearing or seeing Roland Yorke, who had entered, and was wishing him good morning.

“What's amiss? he seems in a tantrum,” ejaculated Mr. Roland, with his usual want of ceremony. “Hallo, Jenkins; is it really you? By the accounts brought here, I thought you were not going to have a head on your shoulders for six months to come. Glad to see you.”

“Thank you, sir. I am thankful to say I have got pretty well over the hurt.”

“Roland,” said Arthur, in a half-whisper, bringing his head close to his friend's, as they leaned together over the desk, “you remember that Ventnor letter, sent on Friday, with the money in it—”

“Ventnor letter!” interrupted Roland. “What Ventnor letter?”

“The one for Robert Galloway. Hamish was looking at it. It had a twenty-pound note in it.”

“For Ventnor, was it? I did not notice what place it was bound for. That fellow, the cousin Galloway, changes his place of abode like the Wandering Jew. What of the letter?”

“It has been robbed of the note.”

“No!” uttered Roland.

“It has. The cousin says the letter reached him, but the note did not. Mr. Galloway seems uncommonly put out. He accused me, at first, of not taking it myself to the post. As if I should confide letters of value to any one not worthy of trust!”

“Did you post it yourself?” asked Roland.

“Of course I did. When you were coming in, after playing truant on Friday afternoon, I was then going. You might have seen the letters in my hand.”

Roland shook his head. “I was in too great a stew to notice letters, or anything else. This will cure Galloway of sending bank-notes in letters. Have the post-office people had news of the loss sent to them? They must hunt up the thief.”

“Mr. Galloway is sure to do all that's necessary,” remarked Arthur.

“For my part, if I sent bank-notes across the country in letters, I should expect them to be taken. I wonder at Galloway. He is cautious in other things.”

Others had wondered at Mr. Galloway, besides Roland Yorke. A man of caution, generally, he yet persisted in the practice of enclosing bank-notes in letters. Persons cognizant of this habit had remonstrated with him; not his clerks—of course they had not presumed to do so. Mr. Galloway, who liked his own way, had become somewhat testy upon the point, and, not a week before the present time, had answered in a sort of contradictory spirit that his money-letters had always gone safely hitherto, and he made no doubt they always would go safely. The present loss, therefore, coming as it were, to check his obstinacy, vexed him more than it would otherwise have done. He did not care for the loss of the money half so much as he did for the tacit reproof to himself.

“I wonder if Galloway took the number of the note?” cried Roland. “Whether or not, though, it would not serve him much: bank-notes lost in transit never come to light.”

“Don't they, though!” retorted Arthur. “Look at the many convictions for post-office robbery!”

“I do not suppose that one case in ten is tracked home,” disputed Roland. “They are regular thieves, those letter-carriers. But, then, the fellows are paid so badly.”

“Do not be so sweeping in your assertions, Roland Yorke,” interposed Mr. Galloway, coming forward from his own room. “How dare you so asperse the letter-carriers? They are a hard-working, quiet, honest body of men. Yes, sir; honest—I repeat it. Where one has yielded to temptation, fingering what was not his own, hundreds rise superior to it, retaining their integrity. I would advise you not to be so free with your tongue.”

Not to be free with his tongue would have been hard to Roland.

“Lady Augusta was sending a box of camomile pills to some friend in Ireland, the other day, sir, but it was never heard of again, after she put it into the post-office, here,” cried he to Mr. Galloway. “The fellow who appropriated it no doubt thought he had a prize of jewels. I should like to have seen his mortification when he opened the parcel and found it contained pills! Lady Augusta said she hoped he had liver complaint, and then they might be of service to him.”

Mr. Galloway made no response. He had caught up a lease that was lying on Jenkins's desk, and stood looking at it with no pleasant expression of countenance. On went that undaunted Roland:

“The next thing Lady Augusta had occasion to send by post was a gold cameo pin. It was enclosed in a pasteboard box, and, when packed, looked just like the parcel of pills. I wrote PILLS on it, in great round text-hand. That reached its destination safely enough, sir.”

“More safely than you would, if it depended upon your pursuing your business steadily,” retorted Mr. Galloway to Roland. “Fill in that tithe paper.”

As Roland, with a suppressed yawn, and in his usual lazy manner, set himself to work, there came a clatter at the office-door, and a man entered in the uniform of a telegraphic official, bearing a despatch in his hand. Mr. Galloway had then turned to his room, and Roland, ever ready for anything but work, started up and received the packet from the man.

“Where's it from?” asked he, in his curiosity.

“Southampton,” replied the messenger.

“A telegram from Southampton, sir,” announced Roland to Mr. Galloway.

The latter took the despatch, and opened it, directing Jenkins to sign the paper. This done, the messenger departed. The words of the message were few, but Mr. Galloway's eye was bending upon them sternly, and his brow had knitted, as if in perplexity.

“Young gentlemen, you must look to this,” he said, coming forward, and standing before Roland and Arthur. “I find that the post-office is not to blame for this loss; it must have occurred in this room, before the letter went to the post-office.”

They both looked up, both coloured, as if with inward consternation. Thoughts, we all know, are quick as lightning: what was each thinking of, that it should give rise to emotion? Arthur was the first to speak.

“Do you allude to the loss of the bank-note, sir?”

“What else should I allude to?” sharply answered Mr. Galloway.

“But the post-office must be cheeky to deny it off-hand!” flashed Roland. “How is it possible that they can answer for the honesty of every man whose hands that letter passed through?”

“Pray who told you they had denied it, Mr. Roland Yorke?” demanded his master.

Roland felt a little checked. “I inferred it, sir.”

“I dare say. Then allow me to tell you that they have not denied it. And one very cogent reason why they have not, is, that they are not yet cognizant of the loss. I do not jump at conclusions as you do, Roland Yorke, and I thought it necessary to make a little private inquiry before accusing the post-office, lest the post-office might not be in fault, you know.”

“Quite right, I have no doubt, sir,” replied Roland, in a chafed accent, for Mr. Galloway was speaking satirically, and Roland never liked to have ridicule cast upon him. Like old Ketch, it affected his temper.

“By this communication,” touching the telegraphic despatch, “I learn that the letter was not opened after it left this office,” resumed Mr. Galloway. “Consequently, the note must have been abstracted from it while the letter lay here. Who has been guilty of it?”

Neither Arthur nor Roland spoke. It was not a pleasant accusation—if you can call it an accusation—and their faces deepened to scarlet; while Mr. Jenkins looked up half terrified, and began to think, what a mercy it was that he had broken his head, just that last particular Thursday night, on the marble flags of the cathedral.

CHAPTER XIX. THE LOSS.

When money is lost out of an office, suspicion very frequently falls upon one or more of that office's employes. Mr. Galloway's doubts, however, had not yet extended to those employed in his. The letter containing the bank-note had been despatched to Mr. Robert Galloway, at Ventnor, on the Friday. On the Sunday morning, while Mr. Galloway was at breakfast, a short answer was delivered to him from his cousin:—“Your letter has reached me, but not the note; you must have omitted to enclose it,” was the news it contained relative to that particular point. Mr. Galloway knew that he had enclosed the note; there was little doubt that both his clerks could testify that he had done so, for it was done in their presence. How could it have been taken out again? Had it been abstracted while the letter was still in his office?—or on its way to the post?—or in its transmission to Ventnor? “If in the office,” argued Mr. Galloway, “it must have been done before I sealed it; if afterwards, that seal must have been tampered with, probably broken. I'll drop a note to Robert, and ask the question.” He rose from his breakfast and penned a line to Southampton, where, as he had reason to believe, Mr. Robert Galloway would be on the Monday. It was not Mr. Galloway's habit to write letters on a Sunday, but he considered that the present occasion justified the act. “I certainly enclosed the note in my letter,” he wrote. “Send me word instantly whether the seal had been tampered with. I stamped it with my private seal.” Mr. Robert Galloway received this on the Monday morning. He did not wait for the post, but forwarded the reply by telegraph—“The seal had not been broken. Will send you back the envelope by first post.” This was the despatch which you saw Mr. Galloway receive in his office.

He went back into his private room, carrying the despatch with him, and there he sat down to think. From the very first, he had not believed the fraud to lie with the post-office—for this reason: had the note been taken out by one of its servants, the letter would almost certainly not have reached its destination; it would have disappeared with the note. He had cast a doubt upon whether Arthur Channing had posted the letters himself. Arthur assured him that he had done so, and Mr. Galloway believed him; the information that the seal of the letter was unbroken was now a further confirmation, had he needed it. At least, it confirmed that the letter had not been opened after it left the office. Mr. Galloway perfectly remembered fastening down the letter. He probably would have sealed it then, but for the commotion that arose at the same moment in the street caused by Mad Nance. There could be no shadow of doubt, so far as Mr. Galloway could see, and so far as he believed, that the abstraction had taken place between the time of his fastening down the envelope and of his sealing it. Who had done it?

“I'll lay a guinea I know how it happened!” he exclaimed to himself. “Channing was at college—I must have given him permission in a soft moment to take that organ, or I should never have done it, quitting the office daily!—and, Yorke, in his indolent carelessness, must have got gossiping outside, leaving, it is hard to say who, in the office! This comes of poor Jenkins's fall!”

Mr. Galloway rang his bell. It was answered by Jenkins. “Send Mr. Arthur Channing in,” said Mr. Galloway.

Arthur entered, in obedience. Mr. Galloway signed to him to close the door, and then spoke.

“This is an awkward business, Channing.”

“Very awkward, indeed, sir,” replied Arthur, at no loss to understand what Mr. Galloway alluded to. “I do not see that it was possible for the note to have been taken from the letter, except in its transmission through the post.”

“I tell you it was taken from it before it left this office,” tartly returned Mr. Galloway. “I have my reasons for the assertion. Did you see me put the bank-note into the letter?”

“Of course I did, sir. I was standing by when you did it: I remained by you after bringing you the note from this room.”

“I enclosed the note, and fastened down the envelope,” said Mr. Galloway, pointing the feather of his quill pen at each proposition. “I did not seal it then, because looking at Mad Nance hindered me, and I went out, leaving the letter on Jenkins's desk, in your charge and Yorke's.”

“Yes, sir. I placed the letter in the rack in your room, immediately afterwards.”

“And, pray, what loose acquaintances did you and Yorke receive here that afternoon?”

“Not any,” replied Arthur. “I do not know when the office has been so free from callers. No person whatever entered it, except my brother Hamish.”

“That's all nonsense,” said Mr. Galloway. “You are getting to speak as incautiously as Yorke. How can you tell who came here when you were at college? Yorke would be alone, then.”

“No, Yorke was not,” Arthur was beginning. But he stopped suddenly and hesitated. He did not care to tell Mr. Galloway that Yorke had played truant all that afternoon. Mr. Galloway saw his hesitation, and did not like it.

“Come, what have you to conceal? You and Yorke held a levee here, I suppose? That's the fact. You had so many fellows in here, gossiping, that you don't know who may have meddled with the letter; and when you were off to college, they stayed on with Yorke.”

“No, sir. For one thing, I did not take the organ that afternoon. I went, as usual, but Mr. Williams was there himself, so I came back at once. I was only away about ten minutes.”

“And how many did you find with Yorke?”

“Yorke stepped out to speak to some one just before I went to college,” replied Arthur, obliged to allude to it, but determined to say as little as possible. “Hamish was here, sir; you met him coming in as you were going out, and I got him to stay in the office till I returned.”

“Pretty doings!” retorted Mr. Galloway. “Hindering the time of Mr. Hamish Channing, that you and Yorke may kick up your heels elsewhere! Nice trustworthy clerks, both of you!”

“I was obliged to go to college, sir,” said Arthur, in a tone of deprecation.

“Was Yorke obliged to go out?”

“I was back again very shortly, I assure you, sir,” said Arthur, passing over the remark. “And I did not leave the office again until you sent me to the post.”

“Stop!” said Mr. Galloway; “let me clearly understand. As I went out, Hamish came in. Then, you say, Yorke went out; and you, to get to college, left Hamish keeping office! Did any one else come in besides Hamish?”

“Not any one. When I returned from college I inquired of Hamish who had called, and he said no one had called. Then Lady Augusta Yorke drove up, and Hamish went away with her. She was going to the missionary meeting.”

“And you persist in saying that no one came in, after that?”

“No one did come in, sir.”

“Very well. Send Yorke to me.”

Roland made his appearance, a pen behind his ear, and a ruler in his hand.

“More show than work!” sarcastically exclaimed Mr. Galloway. “Now, sir, I have been questioning Mr. Arthur Channing about this unpleasant business, for I am determined to come to the bottom of it. I can get nothing satisfactory from him; so I must try what I can do with you. Have the goodness to tell me how you spent your time on Friday afternoon.”

“On Friday?—let's see,” began Roland, out of his wits with perplexity as to how he should conceal his afternoon's absence from Mr. Galloway. “It's difficult to recollect what one does on one particular day more than another, sir.”

“Oh, indeed! Perhaps, to begin with, you can remember the circumstances of my enclosing the bank-note in the letter, I went into the other room to consult a 'Bradshaw'—”

“I remember that quite well, sir,” interrupted Roland. “Channing fetched the bank-note from this room, and you put it into the envelope. It was just before we were all called to the window by Mad Nance.”

“After that?” pursued Mr. Galloway.

“After that? I think, sir, you went out after that, and Hamish Channing came in.”

“Who else came in?”

“I don't remember any one else,” answered Roland, wishing some one would come in then, and stop the questioning. No such luck, however.

“How many people called in, while Channing was at college, and you were keeping office?” demanded Mr. Galloway.

Roland fidgeted, first on one leg, then on the other. He felt that it must all come out. “What a passion he'll go into with me!” thought Roland. “It is certain that no one can have touched the bank-note in this office, sir,” he said aloud. “Those poor, half-starved postmen must have helped themselves to it.”

“When I ask for your opinion upon 'who has helped themselves to it,' it will be time enough to give it me,” returned Mr. Galloway, drily. “I say that the money was taken from the letter before it left this office, when it was under the charge of you and Channing.”

“I hope you do not suspect us of taking it, sir!” said Roland, going into a heat.

“I suspect that you have been guilty of negligence in some way, Mr. Roland. Could the bank-note drop out of the letter of itself?”

“I suppose it could not, sir.”

“Good! Then it is my business to ascertain, if I can, how it did get out of it. You have not answered my question. Who came into this office, while Channing was at the cathedral, on Friday afternoon?”

“I declare nobody ever had such luck as I,” burst forth Roland, in a tone half comic, half defiant, as he felt he must make a merit of necessity, and confess. “If I get into the smallest scrape in the world, it is safe to come out. The fact is, sir, I was not here, last Friday afternoon, during Channing's hour for college.”

“What! not at all?” exclaimed Mr. Galloway, who had not suspected that Yorke was absent so long.

“As I say, it's my luck to be found out!” grumbled Roland. “I can't lift a finger to-day, if it ought not to be lifted, but it is known to-morrow. I saw one of my chums going past the end of the street, sir, and I ran after him. And I am sorry to say I was seduced into stopping out with him longer than I ought to have done.”

Mr. Galloway stared at Roland. “At what time did you go out?” he asked.

“Just after you did, sir. The bell was going for college.”

“And pray what time did you come in again?”

“Well, sir, you saw me come in. It was getting on for five o'clock.”

“Do you mean to say you had not been in at all, between those hours!”

“It was Knivett's fault,” grumbled Roland. “He kept me.”

Mr. Galloway sat drumming on his desk, apparently gazing at Roland; in reality thinking. To hear that Mr. Roland Yorke had taken French leave for nearly a whole afternoon, just on the especial afternoon that he ought not to have taken it—Jenkins being away—did not surprise him in the least; it was very much in the line of the Yorkes to do so. To scold or punish Roland for it, would have been productive of little good, since he was sure to do it again the very next time the temptation offered itself. Failing temptation, he would remain at his post steadily enough. No; it was not Roland's escapade that Mr. Galloway was considering; but the very narrow radius that the affair of the letter appeared to be drawing itself into. If Roland was absent, he could not have had half the town in, to chatter; and if Arthur Channing asserted that none had been in, Mr. Galloway could give credence to Arthur. But then—how had the money disappeared? Who had taken it?

“Channing!” he called out, loudly and sharply.

Arthur, who was preparing to attend the cathedral, for the bell had rung out, hastened in.

“How came you not to tell me when we were speaking of Roland Yorke's absence, that he remained away all the afternoon?” questioned Mr. Galloway.

Arthur was silent. He glanced once at Roland.

“Well?” cried Mr. Galloway.

“It was better for him to tell you himself, sir; as I conclude he has now done.”

“The fact is, you are two birds of a feather,” stormed Mr. Galloway, who, when once roused, which was not often, would say anything that came uppermost, just or unjust. “The one won't tell tales of the other. If the one set my office on fire, and then said it was the cat did it, the other would stick to it. Is it true, sir, that he was not at the office during my absence from it on Friday afternoon?” he continued to Arthur.

“That is true.”

“Then who can have taken the money?” uttered Mr. Galloway, speaking what was uppermost in his thoughts.

“Which is as much as to say that I took it,” burst from haughty Roland. “Mr. Galloway, I—”

“Keep quiet, Roland Yorke,” interrupted that gentleman. “I do not suspect you of taking it. I did suspect that you might have got some idlers in here, mauvais sujets, you know, for you call plenty of them friends; but, if you were absent yourself, that suspicion falls to the ground. Again I say, who can have taken the money?”

“It is an utter impossibility that Yorke could have taken it, even were he capable of such a thing,” generously spoke Arthur. “From the time you left the office yourself, sir, until after the letters were taken out of it to be posted, he was away from it.”

“Just like him!” exclaimed Mr. Galloway. “It must have been done while your brother Hamish was waiting in the office. We must ascertain from him who came in.”

“He told me no one came in,” repeated Arthur.

“Rubbish!” testily observed Mr. Galloway. “Some one must have come in; some one with light fingers, too! the money could not go without hands. You are off to college now, I suppose, Channing?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When service is over, just go down as far as your brother's office, and ask him about it.”

“He is as obstinate as any old adder!” exclaimed Roland Yorke to Arthur, when they left Mr. Galloway alone. “The only possible way in which it can have gone, is through that post-office. The men have forked it; as they did Lady Augusta's pills.”

“He says it was not the post-office,” mused Arthur. “He said—as I understood—that the telegraphic despatch proved to him that it had been taken out here.”

“What an idiot you are!” ejaculated Roland. “How could a despatch tell him who took it, or who did not?—unless it was a despatch from those spirit-rappers—mesmerists, or whatever they call themselves. They profess to show you who your grandmother was, if you don't know!”

Roland laughed as he spoke. Arthur was not inclined for joking; the affair perplexed him in no ordinary degree. “I wish Mr. Galloway would mention his grounds for thinking the note was taken before it went to the post!” he said.

“He ought to mention them,” cried Roland fiercely. “He says he learns, by the despatch, that the letter was not opened after it left this office. Now, it is impossible that any despatch could tell him that. He talks to me about broad assertions! That's a pretty broad one. What did the despatch say? who sent it?”

“Would it afford you satisfaction to know, Mr. Roland?” and Roland wheeled round with a start, for it was the voice of Mr. Galloway. He had followed them into the front office, and caught the latter part of the conversation. “Come, sir,” he added, “I will teach you a lesson in caution. When I have sealed letters that contained money after they were previously fastened down with gum, I have seen you throw your head back, Mr. Roland, with that favourite scornful movement of yours. 'As if gum did not stick them fast enough!' you have said in your heart. But now, the fact of my having sealed this letter in question, enables me to say that the letter was not opened after it left my hands. The despatch you are so curious about was from my cousin, telling me that the seal reached him intact.”

“I did not know the letter was sealed,” remarked Roland. “But that proves nothing, sir. They might melt the wax, and seal it up again. Every one keeps a stamp of this sort,” he added, stretching his hand out for the seal usually used in the office—an ordinary cross-barred wafer stamp.

“Ah,” said Mr. Galloway, “you are very clever, Master Roland. But I happened to stamp that letter with my own private seal.”

“That alters the case, of course,” said Roland, after a pause. “Sir, I wish you would set me to work to find out,” he impulsively continued. “I'd go to the post-office, and—”

“And there make enough noise for ten, and defeat your own ends,” interrupted Mr. Galloway. “Channing, you will be late. Do not forget to see Hamish.”

“Yes, I must be off,” said Arthur, coming out of his reverie with a start. He had waited to hear about the seal. And now flew towards the cathedral.

“I wish it had not happened!” he ejaculated. “I know Galloway does not suspect me or Yorke: but still I wish it had never happened!”

CHAPTER XX. THE LOOMING OF AN AWFUL FEAR.

Hamish Channing sat in his private room; his now; for, in the absence of Mr. Channing, Hamish was master. The insurance office was situated in Guild Street, a principal street, near to the Town Hall. It consisted of an entrance hall, two rooms, and a closet for hanging up coats, and for washing hands. The room on the left of the hall, as you entered, was the principal office; the room on the right, was the private room of Mr. Channing; now used, I say, by Hamish. The upper part of the house was occupied as a dwelling; the people renting it having nothing to do with the office. It was a large, roomy house, and possessed a separate entrance.

Hamish—gay, good-tempered, careless, though he was—ruled the office with a firm hand. There was no familiarity of manner there; the clerks liked him, but they had to defer to him and obey him. He was seated at his desk, deep in some accounts, on this same morning—the one mentioned in the last chapter—when one of the clerks entered, and said that Mr. Arthur Channing was asking to speak to him: for it was Mr. Hamish Channing's good pleasure not to be interrupted indiscriminately, unless a clerk first ascertained whether he was at liberty to be seen. Possibly Hamish feared treachery might be abroad.

Arthur entered. Hamish pushed his books from him, and stretched himself. “Well, old fellow! you seem out of breath.”

“I came down at a pace,” rejoined Arthur. “College is just over. I say, Hamish, a disagreeable thing has happened at Galloway's. I have never seen him put out as he is now.”

“Has his hair taken a change again, and come out a lovely rose colour?”

“I wish you would not turn everything into joke,” cried Arthur, who was really troubled, and the words vexed him. “You saw a letter on Jenkins's desk last Friday—the afternoon, you know, that Yorke went off, and you remained while I went to college? There was a twenty-pound note in it. Well, the note has, in some mysterious manner, been abstracted from it.”

Hamish lifted his eyebrows. “What can Galloway expect, if he sends bank-notes in letters?”

“Yes, but this was taken before it left our office. Galloway says so. He sealed it with his private seal, and the letter arrived at his cousin's intact, the seal unbroken—a pretty sure proof that the note could not have been in it when it was sealed.”

“Who took it out?” asked Hamish.

“That's the question. There was not a soul near the place, that I can find out, except you and I. Yorke was away, Jenkins was away, and Mr. Galloway was away. He says some one must have come in while you were in the office.”

“Not so much as a ghost came in,” said Hamish.

“Are you sure, Hamish?”

“Sure! I am sure they did not, unless I dropped asleep. That was not an unlikely catastrophe to happen; shut up by myself in that dull office, amidst musty parchments, with nothing to do.”

“Hamish, can you be serious for once? This is a serious matter.”

“Mr. Martin Pope wants you, sir,” said the clerk again, interrupting at this juncture. Martin Pope's face came in also, over the clerk's shoulder. It was red, and he looked in a hurry.

“Hamish, he has had a letter, and is off by the half-past eleven train,” spoke Martin Pope, in some excitement. “You must rush up to the station, if you want a last word with him. You will hardly catch him, running your best.”

Up jumped Hamish, in excitement as great as his friend's. He closed and locked the desk, caught his hat, and was speeding out of the office, when Arthur, to whom the words had been a puzzle, seized his arm.

“Hamish, did any one come in? It was Mr. Galloway sent me here to ascertain.”

“No, they did not. Should I not tell you if they had? Take care, Arthur. I must fly like the wind. Come away, Pope!”

Arthur walked back to Mr. Galloway's. That gentleman was out. Roland Yorke was out. But Jenkins, upon whom the unfortunate affair had taken great hold, lifted his face to Arthur, his eyes asking the question that his tongue scarcely presumed to do.

“My brother says no one came in while he was here. It is very strange!”

“Mr. Arthur, sir, if I had repined at all at that accident, and felt it as a misfortune, how this would have reproved me!” spoke Jenkins, in his simple faith. “Why, sir, it must have come to me as a mercy, a blessing; to take me away out of this office at the very time.”

“What do you mean, Jenkins?”

“There's no telling, sir, but Mr. Galloway might have suspected me. It is the first loss we have had since I have been here, all these years; and—”

“Nonsense!” interrupted Arthur. “You may as well fear that Mr. Galloway will suspect me, or Mr. Yorke.”

“No, sir, you and Mr. Yorke are different; you are gentlemen. Mr. Galloway would no more suspect you, than he would suspect himself. I am thankful I was absent.”

“Be easy, Jenkins,” smiled Arthur. “Absent or present, every one can trust you.”

Mr. Galloway did not return until nearly one o'clock. He went straight to his own room. Arthur followed him.

“I have seen Hamish, sir. He says no person whatever entered on Friday, while he was here alone.”

Mr. Galloway paused, apparently revolving the news. “Hamish must be mistaken,” he answered.

“He told me at the time, last Friday, that no one had been in,” resumed Arthur. “I asked the question when I returned from college, thinking people might have called on business. He said they had not done so; and he says the same now.”

“But look you here, Arthur,” debated Mr. Galloway, in a tone of reasoning. “I suspect neither you nor Yorke; indeed, as it seems, Yorke put himself out of suspicion's way, by walking off; but if no one came to the office, and yet the note went, remember the position in which you place yourself. I say I don't blame you, I don't suspect you; but I do say that the mystery must be cleared up. Are you certain no person came into the office during your presence in it?”

“I am quite certain of that, sir. I have told you so.”

“And is Hamish equally certain—that no one entered while he was here alone?”

“He says so.” But Arthur's words bore a sound of hesitation, which Mr. Galloway may or may not have observed. He would have spoken far more positively had Hamish not joked about it.

“'Says' will not do for me,” retorted Mr. Galloway. “I should like to see Hamish. You have nothing particular to finish before one o'clock; suppose you run up to Guild Street, and request him to come round this way, as he goes home to dinner? It will not take him two minutes out of his road.”

Arthur departed; choosing the nearest way to Guild Street. It led him through the street Hamish had been careful to avoid on account of a troublesome creditor. Arthur had no such fear. One o'clock struck as he turned into it. About midway down it, what was his astonishment at encountering Hamish! Not hurrying along, dreading to be seen, but flourishing leisurely at his ease, nodding to every one he knew, his sweet smile in full play, and his cane whirling circlets in the air.

“Hamish! I thought this was forbidden ground!”

“So it was, until a day or two ago,” laughed Hamish; “but I have managed to charm the enemy.”

He spoke in his usual light, careless, half-mocking style, and passed his arm within Arthur's. At that moment a shopkeeper came to his door, and respectfully touched his hat to Hamish. Hamish nodded in return, and laughed again as he walked on with Arthur.

“That was the fiercest enemy in all this street of Philistines, Arthur. See how civil he is now.”

“How did you 'charm' him?”

“Oh, by a process known to myself. Did you come down on purpose to escort me home to dinner? Very polite of you!”

“I came to ask you to go round by Mr. Galloway's office, and to call in and see him. He will not take your word at second hand.”

“Take my word about what?” asked Hamish.

“That the office had no visitors while you were in it the other day. That money matter grows more mysterious every hour.”

“Then I have not time to go round,” exclaimed Hamish, in—for him—quite an impatient accent. “I don't know anything about the money or the letter. Why should I be bothered?”

“Hamish, you must go,” said Arthur, impressively. “Do you know that—so far as can be ascertained—no human being was in the office alone with the letter, except you and I. Were we to shun inquiry, suspicion might fall upon us.”

Hamish drew himself up haughtily, somewhat after the fashion of Roland Yorke. “What absurdity, Arthur! steal a twenty-pound note!” But when they came to the turning where two roads met, one of which led to Close Street, Hamish had apparently reconsidered his determination.

“I suppose I must go, or the old fellow will be offended. You can tell them at home that I shall be in directly; don't let them wait dinner.”

He walked away quickly. Arthur pursued the path which would take him round the cathedral to the Boundaries. He bent his head in thought. He was lost in perplexity; in spite of what Mr. Galloway urged, with regard to the seal, he could not believe but that the money had gone safely to the post-office, and was stolen afterwards. Thus busied within himself, he had reached the elm-trees, when he ran up against Hopper, the bailiff. Arthur looked up, and the man's features relaxed into a smile.

“We shut the door when the steed's stolen, Mr. Arthur,” was his salutation. “Now that my pockets are emptied of what would have done no good to your brother, I come here to meet him at the right time. Just to show folks—should any be about—that I did know my way here; although it unfortunately fell out that I always missed him.”

He nodded and winked. Arthur, completely at sea as to his meaning, made some trifling remark in answer.

“He did well to come to terms with them,” continued Hopper, dropping his voice. “Though it was only a five pound, as I hear, and a promise for the rest, you see they took it. Ten times over, they said to me, 'We don't want to proceed to extremities with Hamish Channing.' I was as glad as could be when they withdrew the writ. I do hope he will go on smooth and straight now that he has begun paying up a bit. Tell him old Hopper says it, Mr. Arthur.”

Hopper glided on, leaving Arthur glued to the spot. Begun to pay up! Paid five pounds off one debt! Paid (there could be no doubt of it) partially, or wholly, the “enemy” in the proscribed street! What did it mean? Every drop of blood in Arthur Channing's body stood still, and then coursed on fiercely. Had he seen the cathedral tower toppling down upon his head, he had feared it less than the awful dread which was dawning upon him.

He went home to dinner. Hamish went home. Hamish was more gay and talkative than usual—Arthur was silent as the grave. What was the matter, some one asked him. His head ached, was the answer; and, indeed, it was no false plea. Hamish did not say a syllable about the loss at table; neither did Arthur. Arthur was silenced now.

It is useless to attempt to disguise the fear that had fallen upon him. You, my reader, will probably have glanced at it as suspiciously as did Arthur Channing. Until this loophole had appeared, the facts had been to Arthur's mind utterly mysterious; they now shone out all too clearly, in glaring colours. He knew that he himself had not touched the money, and no one else had been left with it, except Hamish. Debt! what had the paltry fear of debt and its consequences been compared with this?

Mr. Galloway talked much of the mystery that afternoon; Yorke talked of it; Jenkins talked of it. Arthur barely answered; never, except when obliged to do so; and his manner, confused at times, for he could not help its being so, excited the attention of Mr. Galloway. “One would think you had helped yourself to the money, Channing!” he crossly exclaimed to him once, when they were alone in the private room.

“No, sir, I did not,” Arthur answered, in a low tone; but his face flushed scarlet, and then grew deadly pale. If a Channing, his brother, had done it—why, he felt himself almost equally guilty; and it dyed his brow with shame. Mr. Galloway noticed the signs, and attributed them to the pain caused by his question.

“Don't be foolish, Arthur. I feel sure of you and Yorke. Though, with Yorke's carelessness and his spendthrift habits, I do not know that I should have been so sure of him, had he been left alone with the temptation.”

“Sir!” exclaimed Arthur, in a tone of pain, “Yorke did not touch it. I would answer for his innocence with my life.”

“Don't I say I do not suspect him, or you either?” testily returned Mr. Galloway. “It is the mystery of the affair that worries me. If no elucidation turns up between now and to-morrow morning, I shall place it in the hands of the police.”

The announcement scared away Arthur's caution; almost scared away his senses. “Oh! pray, pray, Mr. Galloway, do not let the police become cognizant of it!” he uttered, in an accent of wild alarm. And Mr. Galloway stared at him in very amazement; and Jenkins, who had come in to ask a question, stared too.

“It might not produce any good result, and would cause us no end of trouble,” Arthur added, striving to assign some plausible explanation to his words.

“That is my affair,” said Mr. Galloway.

When Arthur reached home, the news had penetrated there also. Mrs. Channing's tea-table was absorbed with it. Tom and Charles gave the school version of it, and the Rev. Mr. Yorke, who was taking tea with them, gave his. Both accounts were increased by sundry embellishments, which had never taken place in reality.

“Not a soul was ever near the letter,” exclaimed Tom, “except Arthur and Jenkins, and Roland Yorke.”

“The post-office must be to blame for this,” observed Mr. Channing. “But you are wrong, Tom, with regard to Jenkins. He could not have been there.”

“Mark Galloway says his uncle had a telegraphic despatch, to say the post-office knew nothing about it,” exclaimed Charles.

“Much you know about it, Miss Charley!” quoth Tom. “The despatch was about the seal: it was not from the post-office at all. They have not accused the post-office yet.”

Arthur let them talk on; headache the excuse for his own silence. It did ache, in no measured degree. When appealed to, “Was it this way, Arthur?” “Was it the other?” he was obliged to speak, so that an accurate version of the affair was arrived at before tea was over. Constance alone saw that something unusual was the matter with him. She attributed it to fears at the absence of Hamish, who had been expected home to tea, and did not come in. Constance's own fears at this absence grew to a terrific height. Had he been arrested?

She beckoned Arthur from the room, for she could no longer control herself. Her lips were white, as she drew him into the study, and spoke. “Arthur, what has become of Hamish? Has anything happened to him?”

“Happened to him!” repeated Arthur, vaguely, too absorbed in his own sad thoughts to reply at once.

“Has—he—been—taken?”

“Taken! Hamish? Oh, you mean for debt!” he continued, his heart beating, and fully aroused now. “There is no further fear, I believe. He has managed to arrange with the people.”

“How has he contrived it?” exclaimed Constance, in wonder.

Arthur turned his face away. “Hamish does not make me his confidant.”

Constance stole her hand into his. “Arthur, what is the matter with you this evening? Is it that unpleasant affair at Mr. Galloway's?”

He turned from her. He laid his face upon the table and groaned in anguish. “Be still, Constance! You can do no good.”

“But what is it?” uttered Constance in alarm. “You surely do not fear that suspicion should be cast on you, or on Hamish—although, as it appears, you and he were alone in the office with the letter?”

“Be still, I say, Constance,” he wailed. “There is nothing for it but to—to—to bear. You will do well to ask no more about it.”

A faint dread began to dawn upon her. “You and Hamish were alone with the letter!” the echo of the words came thumping against her brain. But she beat it off. Suspect a Channing! “Arthur, I need not ask if you are innocent; it would be a gratuitous insult to you.”

“No,” he quietly said, “you need not ask that.”

“And—Hamish?” she would have continued, but the words would not come. She changed them for others.

“How do you know that he has paid any of his debts, Arthur?”

“I heard it. I—”

At that moment they heard something else—Hamish's voice in the hall. In the impulse of the moment, in the glad revulsion of feeling—for, if Hamish were safe in the hall, he could not be in prison—Constance flew to him, and clasped her hands round his neck. “Oh, Hamish, Hamish! thank Heaven that you are here!”

Hamish was surprised. He went with Constance into the study, where Arthur had remained. “What do you mean, Constance? What is the matter?”

“I am always fearful,” she whispered; “always fearful; I know you owe money, and that they might put you in prison. Hamish, I think of it by night and by day.”

“My pretty sister!” cried Hamish, caressingly, as he smoothed her hair, just as Constance sometimes smoothed Annabel's: “that danger has passed for the present.”

“If you were arrested, papa might lose his post,” she murmured.

“I know it; it is that which has worried me. I have been doing what I could to avert it. Constance, these things are not for you. Who told you anything about them?”

“Never mind. I—”

“What will you give me for something I have found?” exclaimed Annabel, bursting in upon them, her hands behind her, and her eyes dancing. “It is one of your treasures, Hamish.”

“Then give it me, Annabel. Come! I am tired; I cannot play with you this evening.”

“I won't give it you until you guess what it is.”

Hamish was evidently in no mood for play. Annabel danced round and about him, provokingly eluding his grasp. He caught her suddenly, and laid his hands upon hers. With a shriek of laughing defiance, she flung something on the floor, and four or five sovereigns rolled about.

It was Hamish's purse. She had found it on the hall table, by the side of his hat and gloves, left there most probably inadvertently. Hamish stooped to pick up the money.

“See how rich he is!” danced Annabel; “after telling us he was as poor as a church mouse! Where has it all come from?”

Never had they seen Hamish more annoyed. When he had secured the money, he gave a pretty sharp tap to Annabel, and ordered her, in a ringing tone of command, not to meddle with his things again. He quitted the room, and Annabel ran after him, laughing and defiant still.

Where has it all come from?” The words, spoken in innocence by the child, rang as a knell on the ears of Constance and Arthur Channing. Constance's very heart turned sick—sick as Arthur's had been since the meeting with Hopper under the elm-trees.

CHAPTER XXI. MR. BUTTERBY.

The clock of Helstonleigh Cathedral was striking eight, and the postman was going his rounds through the Boundaries. Formerly, nothing so common as a regular postman, when on duty, was admitted within the pale of that exclusive place. The Boundaries, chiefly occupied by the higher order of the clergy, did not condescend to have its letters delivered in the ordinary way, and by the ordinary hands. It was the custom for the postman to take them to the Boundary-gate, and there put them into the porter's great box, just as if he had been posting letters at the town post-office; and the porter forthwith delivered them at their several destinations. The late porter, however, had grown, with years, half blind and wholly stupid. Some letters he dropped; some he lost; some he delivered at wrong houses; some, he persisted in declaring, when questioned, had never been delivered to him at all. In short, mistakes and confusion were incessant; so, the porter was exonerated from that portion of his duty, and the postman entered upon it. There was a fresh porter now, but the old custom had not been resumed.

Ring—ring—ring—ring—for one peculiarity of the Boundaries was, that most of its doors possessed no knockers, only bells—on he went, the man, on this morning, leaving letters almost everywhere. At length he came to Mr. Galloway's, and rang there a peal that it is the delight of a postman to ring; but when the door was opened, he delivered in only one letter and a newspaper. The business letters were generally directed to the office.

Mr. Galloway was half-way through his breakfast. He was no sluggard; and he liked to devote the whole hour, from eight to nine, to his breakfast and his Times. Occasionally, as on this morning, he would sit down before eight, in order that he might have nearly finished breakfast before the letters arrived. His servants knew by experience that, when this happened, he was expecting something unusual by the post.

His man came in. He laid the letter and the newspaper by his master's side. Mr. Galloway tore open the Times, gave one glance at the price of the funds and the money article, then put aside the paper, and took up the letter.

The latter was from his cousin, Mr. Robert Galloway. It contained also the envelope in which Mr. Galloway had enclosed the twenty-pound note. “You perceive,” wrote Mr. Robert, “that the seal has not been tampered with. It is perfectly intact. Hence I infer that you must be in error in supposing that you enclosed the note.”

Mr. Galloway examined the envelope closely. His cousin had not broken the seal in opening the letter, but had cut the paper above it. He was a methodical man in trifles, this Mr. Robert Galloway, and generally did cut open his envelopes. It had been all the better for him had he learnt to be methodical with his money.

“Yes; it is as Robert says,” soliloquized Mr. Galloway. “The seal has not been touched since it went out of my hands; therefore the note must previously have been extracted from the letter. Now, who did it?”

He sat—his elbow on the table, his chin in his hand, and the envelope before him. Apparently, he was studying it minutely; in reality he was lost in thought. “It's just like the work of a conjuror!” he presently exclaimed. “Not a caller near the place, that I can find out, and yet the bank-note vanishes out of the letter! Notes don't vanish without hands, and I'll do as I said yesterday—consult the police. If any one can come to the bottom of it, it's Butterby. Had the seal been broken, I should have given it to the post-office to ferret out; the crime would have lain with them, and so would the discovery. As it is, the business is mine.”

He wrote a line rapidly in pencil, folded, called in his man-servant, and despatched him with it to the police-station. The station was very near Mr. Galloway's; on the other side of the cathedral, halfway between that edifice and the town-hall. In ten minutes after the servant had left the house, Mr. Butterby was on his road to it.

Mr. Butterby puzzled Helstonleigh. He was not an inspector, he was not a sergeant, he was not a common officer, and he was never seen in official dress. Who was Mr. Butterby? Helstonleigh wondered. That he had a great deal to do with the police, was one of their staff, and received his pay, was certain; but, what his standing might be, and what his peculiar line of duty, they could not tell. Sometimes he was absent from Helstonleigh for months at a time, probably puzzling other towns. Mr. Galloway would have told you he was a detective; but perhaps Mr. Galloway's grounds for the assertion existed only in his own opinion. For convenience-sake we will call him a detective; remembering, however, that we have no authority for the term.

Mr. Butterby came forward, a spare, pale man, of middle height, his eyes deeply set, and his nose turned up to the skies. He was of silent habit; probably, of a silent nature.

Mr. Galloway recited the circumstances of his loss. The detective sat near him, his hands on his knees, his head bent, his eyes cast upon the floor. He did not interrupt the story by a single word. When it was ended, he took up the envelope, and examined it in equal silence; examined it with ridiculous minuteness, Mr. Galloway thought, for he poked, and peered, and touched it everywhere. He held it up to the light, he studied the postmarks, he gazed at the seal through an odd-looking little glass that he took from his waistcoat pocket, he particularly criticised the folds, he drew his fingers along its edges, he actually sniffed it—all in silence, and with an impassive countenance.

“Have you the number of the note?” was his first question.

“No,” said Mr. Galloway.

He looked up at this. The thought may have struck him, that, not to take the number of a bank-note, sent by post, betrayed some carelessness for a man of business. Mr. Galloway, at least, inferred this, and answered the look.

“Of course I am in the habit of taking their numbers; I don't know that I ever did such a thing before, as send a bank-note away without it. I had an appointment, as I tell you, at the other end of the town for a quarter to three; it was of importance; and, when I heard the college strike out the three-quarters—the very hour I ought to have been there—I hurriedly put the note into the folds of the letter, without waiting to take its number. It was not that I forgot to do so, but that I could not spare the time.”

“Have you any means of ascertaining the number, by tracing the note back to whence it may have come into your possession?” was the next question.

Mr. Galloway was obliged to confess that he had none. “Bank-notes are so frequently paid me from different quarters,” he remarked. “Yesterday, for instance, a farmer, renting under the Dean and Chapter, came in, and paid me his half-year's rent. Another, holding the lease of a public-house in the town, renewed two lives which had dropped in. It was Beard, of the Barley Mow. Now, both these men paid in notes, tens and fives, and they now lie together in my cash drawer; but I could not tell you which particular notes came from each man—no, not if you paid me the worth of the whole to do it. Neither could I tell whence I had the note which I put into the letter.”

“In this way, if a note should turn out to be bad, you could not return it to its owner.”

“I never took a bad note in my life,” said Mr. Galloway, speaking impulsively. “There's not a better judge of notes than myself in the kingdom; and Jenkins is as good as I am.”

Another silence. Mr. Butterby remained in the same attitude, his head and eyes bent. “Have you given me all the particulars?” he presently asked.

“I think so. All I remember.”

“Then allow me to go over them aloud,” returned the detective; “and, if I make any mistake or omission, have the goodness to correct me:—On Friday last, you took a twenty-pound note out of your cash drawer, not taking or knowing its number. This note you put within the folds of a letter, and placed both in an envelope, and fastened the envelope down, your two clerks, Channing and Yorke, being present. You then went out, leaving the letter upon one of the desks. As you left, Hamish Channing came in. Immediately following upon that, Yorke went out, leaving the brothers alone. Arthur departed to attend college, Hamish remaining in the office. Arthur Channing soon returned, finding there was no necessity for him to stay in the cathedral; upon which Hamish left. Arthur Channing remained alone for more than an hour, no one calling or entering the office during that period. You then returned yourself; found the letter in the same state, apparently, in which you had left it, and you sealed it, and sent Arthur Channing with it to the post-office. These are the brief facts, so far as you are cognizant of them, and as they have been related to you?”

“They are,” replied Mr. Galloway. “I should have mentioned that Arthur Channing carried the letter into my private room before he left the office for college.”

“Locking the door?”

“Oh dear, no! Closing the door, no doubt, but not locking it. It would have been unusual to do so.”

“Jenkins was away,” observed the detective in a tone of abstraction, which told he was soliloquizing, rather than addressing his companion. Mr. Galloway rather fired up at the remark, taking it in a different light from that in which it was spoken.

“Jenkins was at home at the time, confined to his bed; and, had he not been, I would answer for Jenkins's honesty as I would for my own. Can you see any possible solution to the mystery?”

“A very possible one,” was the dry answer. “There is no doubt whatever upon my mind, that the theft was committed by Arthur Channing.”

Mr. Galloway started up with an exclamation of surprise, mingled with anger. Standing within the room was his nephew Mark. The time had gone on to nine, the hour of release from school; and, on running past Mr. Galloway's with the rest of the boys, Mark had dutifully called in. Mark and his brothers were particularly fond of calling in, for their uncle was not stingy with his sixpences, and they were always on the look-out. Mr. Mark did not get a sixpence this time.

“How dare you intrude upon me in this sly way, sir? Don't you see I am engaged? I will have you knock at my room door before you enter. Take yourself off again, if you please!”

Mark, with a word of deprecation, went off, his ears pricking with the sentence he had heard from the detective—Arthur Channing the thief!

Mr. Galloway turned again to the officer. He resented the imputation. “The Channings are altogether above suspicion, from the father downwards,” he remonstrated. “Were Arthur Channing dishonestly inclined, he has had the opportunity to rob me long before this.”

“Persons of hitherto honourable conduct, honest by nature and by habit, have succumbed under sudden temptation or pressing need,” was the answer.

“Arthur Channing is in no pressing need. He is not hard up for money.”

A smile actually curled the detective's lip. “A great many more young men are harder up for money than they allow to appear. The Channings are in what may be called difficulties, through the failure of their Chancery suit, and the lad must have yielded to temptation.”

Mr. Galloway could not be brought to see it. “You may as well set on and suspect Hamish,” he resentfully said. “He was equally alone with the letter.”

“No,” was the answer of the keen officer. “Hamish Channing is in a responsible position; he would not be likely to emperil it for a twenty-pound note; and he could not know that the letter contained money.” Mr. Butterby was not cognizant of quite the facts of the case, you see.

“It is absurd to suspect Arthur Channing.”

“Which is the more absurd—to suspect him, or to assume that the bank-note vanished without hands? forced its own way through the envelope, and disappeared up the chimney in a whirlwind?” asked the officer, bringing sarcasm to his aid. “If the facts are as you have stated, that only the two Channings had access to the letter, the guilt must lie with one of them. Facts are facts, Mr. Galloway.”

Mr. Galloway admitted that facts were facts, but he could not be brought to allow the guilt of Arthur Channing. The detective rose.

“You have confided the management of this affair to me,” he observed, “and I have no doubt I shall be able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. One more question I must ask you. Is it known to your clerks that you have not the number of the note?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then I fear you stand little chance of ever seeing it again. That fact known, no time would be lost in parting with it; they'd make haste to get it safe off.”

Not an instant did Mr. Butterby take for consideration upon quitting Mr. Galloway. With a sharp, unhesitating step, as though his mind had been made up for a month past as to what his course must be, he took his way to the house of Mr. Joe Jenkins. That gentleman, his head still tied up, was just leaving for the office, and Mr. Butterby encountered him coming through the shop.

“Good morning, Jenkins. I want a word with you alone.”

Jenkins bowed, in his civil, humble fashion; but “a word alone” was more easily asked than had, Mrs. Jenkins being all-powerful, and burning with curiosity. The officer had to exert some authority before he could get rid of her, and be left at peace with Jenkins.

“What sources of expense has Arthur Channing?” demanded he, so abruptly as to startle and confuse Jenkins.

“Sources of expense, sir?” he repeated.

“What are his habits? Does he squander money? Does he go out in an evening into expensive company?”

“I'm sure, sir, I cannot tell you anything about it,” Jenkins was mildly beginning. He was imperatively interrupted by the detective.

“I ask to know. You are aware that I possess authority to compel you to speak; therefore, answer me without excuse or circumlocution; it will save trouble.”

“But indeed, sir, I really do not know,” persisted Jenkins. “I should judge Mr. Arthur Channing to be a steady, well-conducted young gentleman, who has no extravagant habits at all. As to his evenings, I think he spends them mostly at home.”

“Do you know whether he has any pressing debts?”

“I heard him say to Mr. Yorke one day, that a twenty-pound note would pay all he owed, and leave him something out of it,” spoke Jenkins in his unconscious simplicity.

“Ah!” said Mr. Butterby, drawing in his lips, though his face remained impassive as before. “When was this?”

“Not long ago, sir. About a week, it may have been, before I met with that accident—which accident, I begin to see now, sir, happened providentially, for it caused me to be away from the office when that money was lost.”

“An unpleasant loss,” remarked the officer, with apparent carelessness; “and the young gentlemen must feel it so—Arthur Channing especially. Yorke, I believe, was out?”

“He does feel it very much, sir. He was as agitated about it yesterday as could be, when Mr. Galloway talked of putting it into the hands of the police. It is a disagreeable thing to happen in an office, you know, sir.”

A slight pause of silence was made by the detective ere he rejoined. “Agitated, was he? And Mr. Roland Yorke the same, no doubt?”

“No, sir; Mr. Roland does not seem to care much about it. He thinks it must have been taken in its transit through the post-office, and I cannot help being of the same opinion, sir.”

Another question or two, and Jenkins attended Mr. Butterby to the door. He was preparing to follow him from it, but a peremptory female voice arrested his departure.

“Jenkins, I want you.”

“It is hard upon half-past nine, my dear. I shall be late.”

“If it's hard upon half-past ten, you'll just walk here. I want you, I say.”

Meek as any lamb, Mr. Jenkins returned to the back parlour, and was marshalled into a chair. Mrs. Jenkins closed the door and stood before him. “Now, then, what did Butterby want?”

“I don't know what he wanted,” replied Jenkins.

“You will sit there till you tell me,” resolutely replied the lady. “I am not going to have police inquisitors making mysterious visits inside my doors, and not know what they do it for. You'll tell me every word that passed, and the sooner you begin, the better.”

“But I am ignorant myself of what he did want,” mildly deprecated Jenkins. “He asked me a question or two about Mr. Arthur Channing, but why I don't know.”

Leaving Mrs. Jenkins to ferret out the questions one by one—which, you may depend upon it, she would not fail to do, and to keep Jenkins a prisoner until it was over—and leaving Mr. Butterby to proceed to the house of the cathedral organist, whither he was now bent, to ascertain whether Mr. Williams did take the organ voluntarily, and (to Arthur) unexpectedly, the past Friday afternoon, we will go on to other matters. Mr. Butterby best knew what bearing this could have upon the case. Police officers sometimes give to their inquiries a strangely wide range.

CHAPTER XXII. AN INTERRUPTED DINNER.

Have you ever observed a large lake on the approach of a sudden storm?—its unnatural stillness, death-like and ominous; its undercurrent of anger not yet apparent on the surface; and then the breaking forth of fury when the storm has come?

Not inaptly might the cloisters of Helstonleigh be compared to this, that day, when the college boys were let out of school at one o'clock. A strange rumour had been passed about amongst the desks—not reaching that at which sat the seniors—a rumour which shook the equanimity of the school to its centre; and, when one o'clock struck, the boys, instead of clattering out with all the noise of which their legs and lungs were capable, stole down the stairs quietly, and formed into groups of whisperers in the cloisters. It was the calm that precedes a storm.

So unusual a state of affairs was noticed by the senior boy.

“What's up now?” he asked them, in the phraseology in vogue there and elsewhere. “Are you all going to a funeral? I hope it's your sins that you are about to bury!”

A heavy silence answered him. Gaunt could not make it out. The other three seniors, attracted by the scene, came back, and waited with Gaunt. By that time the calm was being ruffled by low murmurings, and certain distinct words came from more than one of the groups.

“What do you say?” burst forth Tom Channing, darting forward as the words caught his ear. “You, Jackson! speak up; what is it?”

Not Jackson's voice especially, but several other voices arose then; a word from one, a word from another, half sentences, disjointed hints, forming together an unmistakable whole. “The theft of old Galloway's bank-note has been traced to Arthur Channing.”

“Who says it? Who dares to say it?” flashed Tom, his face flaming, and his hand clenched.

“The police say it. Butterby says it.”

“I don't care for the police; I don't care for Butterby,” cried Tom, stamping his foot in his terrible indignation. “I ask, who dares to say it here?”

“I do, then! Come, Mr. Channing, though you are a senior, and can put me up to Pye for punishment upon any false plea that you choose,” answered a tall fellow, Pierce senior, who was chiefly remarkable for getting into fights, and was just now unusually friendly with Mark Galloway, at whose desk he sat.

Quick as lightning, Tom Channing turned and faced him. “Speak out what you have to say,” cried he; “no hints.”

“Whew!” retorted Pierce senior, “do you think I am afraid? I say that Arthur Channing stole the note lost by old Galloway.”

Tom, in uncontrollable temper, raised his hand and struck him. One half-minute's struggle, nothing more, and Pierce senior was sprawling on the ground, while Tom Channing's cheek and nose were bleeding. Gaunt had stepped in between them.

“I stop this,” he said. “Pierce, get up! Don't lie there like a floundering donkey. Channing, what possessed you to forget yourself?”

“You would have done the same, Gaunt, had the insult been offered to you. Let the fellow retract his words, or prove them.”

“Very good. That is how you ought to have met it at first,” said Gaunt. “Now, Mr. Pierce, can you make good your assertion?”

Pierce had floundered up, and was rubbing one of his long legs, which had doubled under him in the fall, while his brother, Pierce junior, was collecting an armful of scattered books, and whispering prognostications of parental vengeance in prospective; for, so surely as Pierce senior fell into a fight at school, to the damage of face or clothes, so surely was it followed up by punishment at home.

“If you want proof, go to Butterby at the police station, and get it from him,” sullenly replied Pierce, who owned a sulky temper as well as a pugnacious one.

“Look here,” interrupted Mark Galloway, springing to the front: “Pierce was a fool to bring it out in that way, but I'll speak up now it has come to this. I went into my uncle's, this morning, at nine o'clock, and there was he, shut in with Butterby. Butterby was saying that there was no doubt the theft had been committed by Arthur Channing. Mind, Channing,” Mark added, turning to Tom, “I am not seconding the accusation on my own score; but, that Butterby said it I'll declare.”

“Pshaw! is that all?” cried Tom Channing, lifting his head with a haughty gesture, and not condescending to notice the blood which trickled from his cheek. “You must have misunderstood him, boy.”

“No, I did not,” replied Mark Galloway. “I heard him as plainly as I hear you now.”

“It is hardly likely that Butterby would say that before you, Galloway,” observed Gaunt.

“Ah, but he didn't see I was there, or my uncle either,” said Mark. “When he is reading his newspaper of a morning, he can't bear a noise, and I always go into the room as quiet as mischief. He turned me out again pretty quick, I can tell you; but not till I had heard Butterby say that.”

“You must have misunderstood him,” returned Gaunt, carelessly taking up Tom Channing's notion; “and you had no right to blurt out such a thing to the school. Arthur Channing is better known and trusted than you, Mr. Mark.”

“I didn't accuse Arthur Channing to the school. I only repeated to my desk what Butterby said.”

“It is that 'only repeating' which does three parts of the mischief in this world,” said Gaunt, giving the boys a little touch of morality gratis, to their intense edification. “As to you, Pierce senior, you'll get more than you bargain for, some of these days, if you poke your ill-conditioned nose so often into other people's business.”

Tom Channing had marched away towards his home, head erect, his step ringing firmly and proudly on the cloister flags. Charley ran by his side. But Charley's face was white, and Tom caught sight of it.

“What are you looking like that for?”

“Tom! you don't think it's true, do you?”

Tom turned his scorn upon the boy. “You little idiot! True! A Channing turn thief! You may, perhaps—it's best known to yourself—but never Arthur.”

“I don't mean that. I mean, can it be true that the police suspect him?”

“Oh! that's what your face becomes milky for? You ought to have been born a girl, Miss Charley. If the police do suspect him, what of that?—they'll only have the tables turned upon themselves, Butterby might come out and say he suspects me of murder! Should I care? No; I'd prove my innocence, and make him eat his words.”

They were drawing near home. Charley looked up at his brother. “You must wipe your face, Tom.”

Tom took out his handkerchief, and gave his face a rub. In his indignation, his carelessness, he would have done nothing of the sort, had he not been reminded by the boy. “Is it off?”

“Yes, it's off. I am not sure but it will break out again. You must take care.”

“Oh, bother! let it. I should like to have polished off that Pierce senior as he deserves. A little coin of the same sort would do Galloway no harm. Were I senior of the school, and Arthur not my brother, Mr. Mark should hear a little home truth about sneaks. I'll tell it him in private, as it is; but I can't put him up for punishment, or act in it as Gaunt could.”

“Arthur is our brother, therefore we feel it more pointedly than Gaunt,” sensibly remarked Charley.

“I'd advise you not to spell forth that sentimental rubbish, though you are a young lady,” retorted Tom. “A senior boy, if he does his duty, should make every boy's cause his own, and 'feel' for him.”

“Tom,” said the younger and more thoughtful of the two, “don't let us say anything of this at home.”

“Why not?” asked Tom, hotly. He would have run in open-mouthed.

“It would pain mamma to hear it.”

“Boy! do you suppose she would fear Arthur?”

“You seem to misconstrue all I say, Tom. Of course she would not fear him—you did not fear him; but it stung you, I know, as was proved by your knocking down Pierce.”

“Well, I won't speak of it before her,” conciliated Tom, somewhat won over, “or before my father, either; but catch me keeping it from the rest.”

As Charles had partially foretold, they had barely entered, when Tom's face again became ornamented with crimson. Annabel shrieked out, startling Mr. Channing on his sofa. Mrs. Channing, as it happened, was not present; Constance was: Lady Augusta Yorke and her daughters were spending part of the day in the country, therefore Constance had come home at twelve.

“Look at Tom's face!” cried the child. “What has he been doing?”

“Hold your tongue, little stupid,” returned Tom, hastily bringing his handkerchief into use again; which, being a white one, made the worse exhibition of the two, with its bright red stains. “It's nothing but a scratch.”

But Annabel's eyes were sharp, and she had taken in full view of the hurt. “Tom, you have been fighting! I am sure of it!”

“Come to me, Tom,” said Mr. Channing. “Have you been fighting?” he demanded, as Tom crossed the room in obedience, and stood close to him. “Take your handkerchief away, that I may see your face.”

“It could not be called a fight, papa,” said Tom, holding his cheek so that the light from the window fell full upon the hurt. “One of the boys offended me; I hit him, and he gave me this; then I knocked him down, and there it ended. It's only a scratch.”

“Thomas, was this Christian conduct?”

“I don't know, papa. It was schoolboy's.”

Mr. Channing could not forbear a smile. “I know it was a schoolboy's conduct; that is bad enough: and it is my son's, that is worse.”

“If I had given him what he deserved, he would have had ten times as much; and perhaps I should, for my temper was up, only Gaunt put in his interference. When I am senior, my rule will be different from Gaunt's.”

“Ah, Tom! your 'temper up!' It is that temper of yours which brings you harm. What was the quarrel about?”

“I would rather not tell you, papa. Not for my own sake,” he added, turning his honest eyes fearlessly on his father; “but I could not tell it without betraying something about somebody, which it may be as well to keep in.”

“After that lucid explanation, you had better go and get some warm water for your face,” said Mr. Channing. “I will speak with you later.”

Constance followed him from the room, volunteering to procure the warm water. They were standing in Tom's chamber afterwards, Tom bathing his face, and Constance looking on, when Arthur, who had then come in from Mr. Galloway's, passed by to his own room.

“Hallo!” he called out; “what's the matter, Tom?”

“Such a row!” answered Tom. “And I wish I could have pitched into Pierce senior as I'd have liked. What do you think, Arthur? The school were taking up the notion that you—you!—had stolen old Galloway's bank-note. Pierce senior set it afloat; that is, he and Mark Galloway together. Mark said a word, and Pierce said two, and so it went on. I should have paid Pierce out, but for Gaunt.”

A silence. It was filled up by the sound of Tom splashing the water on his face, and by that only. Arthur spoke presently, his tone so calm a one as almost to be unnatural.

“How did the notion arise?”

“Mark Galloway said he heard Butterby talking with his uncle; that Butterby said the theft could only have been committed by Arthur Channing. Mark Galloway's ears must have played him false; but it was a regular sneak's trick to come and repeat it to the school. I say, Constance, is my face clean now?”

Constance woke up from a reverie to look at his face. “Quite clean,” she answered.

He dried it, dried his hands, gave a glance at his shirt-front in the glass, which had, however, escaped damage, brushed his hair, and went downstairs. Arthur closed the door and turned to Constance. Her eyes were seeking his, and her lips stood apart. The terrible fear which had fallen upon both the previous day had not yet been spoken out between them. It must be spoken now.

“Constance, there is tribulation before us,” he whispered. “We must school ourselves to bear it, however difficult the task may prove. Whatever betide the rest of us, suspicion must be averted from him.”

“What tribulation do you mean?” she murmured.

“The affair has been placed in the hands of the police; and I believe—I believe,” Arthur spoke with agitation, “that they will publicly investigate it. Constance, they suspect me. The college school is right, and Tom is wrong.”

Constance leaned against a chest of drawers to steady herself, and pressed her hand upon her shrinking face. “How have you learnt it?”

“I have gathered it from different trifles; one fact and another. Jenkins said Butterby was with him this morning, asking questions about me. Better that I should be suspected than Hamish. God help me to bear it!”

“But it is so unjust that you should suffer for him.”

“Were it traced home to him, it might be the whole family's ruin, for my father would inevitably lose his post. He might lose it were only suspicion to stray to Hamish. There is no alternative. I must screen him. Can you be firm, Constance, when you see me accused?”

Constance leaned her head upon her hand, wondering whether she could be firm in the cause. But that she knew where to go for strength, she might have doubted it; for the love of right, the principles of justice were strong within her. “Oh, what could possess him?” she uttered, wringing her hands; “what could possess him? Arthur, is there no loophole, not the faintest loophole for hope of his innocence?”

“None that I see. No one whatever had access to the letter but Hamish and I. He must have yielded to the temptation in a moment of delirium, knowing the money would clear him from some of his pressing debts—as it has done.”

“How could he brave the risk of detection?”

“I don't know. My head aches, pondering over it. I suppose he concluded that suspicion would fall upon the post-office. It would have done so, but for that seal placed on the letter afterwards. What an unfortunate thing it was, that Roland Yorke mentioned there was money inside the letter in the hearing of Hamish!”

“Did he mention it?” exclaimed Constance.

He said there was a twenty-pound note in the letter, going to the cousin Galloway, and Hamish remarked that he wished it was going into his pocket instead. “I wish” Arthur uttered, in a sort of frenzy, “I had locked the letter up there and then.”

Constance clasped her hands in pain. “I fear he may have been going wrong for some time,” she breathed. “It has come to my knowledge, through Judith, that he sits up for hours night after night, doing something to the books. Arthur,” she shivered, glancing fearfully round, “I hope those accounts are right?”

The doubt thus given utterance to, blanched even the cheeks of Arthur. “Sits up at the books!” he exclaimed.

“He sits up, that is certain; and at the books, as I conclude. He takes them into his room at night. It may only be that he has not time, or does not make time, to go over them in the day. It may be so.”

“I trust it is; I pray it may be. Mind you, Constance, our duty is plain: we must screen him; screen him at any sacrifice to ourselves, for the father and mother's sake.”

“Sacrifice to you, you ought to say. What were our other light troubles, compared with this? Arthur, will they publicly accuse you?”

“It may come to that; I have been steeling myself all the morning to meet it.”

He looked into her face as he said it. Constance could see how his brow and heart were aching. At that moment they were called to dinner, and Arthur turned to leave the room. Constance caught his hand, the tears raining from her eyes.

“Arthur,” she whispered, “in the very darkest trouble, God can comfort us. Be assured He will comfort you.”

Hamish did not make his appearance at dinner, and they sat down without him. This was not so very unusual as to cause surprise; he was occasionally detained at the office.

The meal was about half over, when Annabel, in her disregard of the bounds of discipline, suddenly started from her seat and flew to the window.

“Charley, there are two policemen coming here! Whatever can they want?”

“Perhaps to take you,” said Mrs. Channing, jestingly. “A short sojourn at the tread-mill might be of great service to you, Annabel.”

The announcement had struck upon the ear and memory of Tom. “Policemen!” he exclaimed, standing up in his place, and stretching his neck to obtain a view of them. “Why—it never can be that—old Butterby—Arthur, what ails you?”

A sensitive, refined nature, whether implanted in man or woman, is almost sure to betray its emotions on the countenance. Such a nature was Arthur Channing's. Now that the dread had really come, every drop of blood forsook his cheeks and lips, leaving his face altogether of a deathly whiteness. He was utterly unable to control or help this, and it was this pallor which had given rise to Tom's concluding exclamation.

Mr. Channing looked at Arthur, Mrs. Channing looked at him; they all looked at him, except Constance, and she bent her head lower over her plate, to hide, as she best might, her own white face and its shrinking terror. “Are you ill, Arthur?” inquired his father.

A low brief reply came; one struggling for calmness. “No, sir.”

Impetuous Tom, forgetting caution, forgetting all except the moment actually present, gave utterance to more than was prudent. “Arthur, you are never fearing what those wretched schoolboys said? The police are not come to arrest you. Butterby wouldn't be such a fool!”

But the police were in the hall, and Judith had come to the dining-room door. “Master Arthur, you are wanted, please.”

“What is all this?” exclaimed Mr. Channing in astonishment, gazing from Tom to Arthur, from Arthur to the vision of the blue official dress, a glimpse of which he could catch beyond Judith. Tom took up the answer.

“It's nothing, papa. It's a trick they are playing for fun, I'll lay. They can't really suspect Arthur of stealing the bank-note, you know. They'll never dare to take him up, as they take a felon.”

Charley stole round to Arthur with a wailing cry, and threw his arms round him—as if their weak protection could retain him in its shelter. Arthur gently unwound them, and bent down till his lips touched the yearning face held up to him in its anguish.

“Charley, boy, I am innocent,” he breathed in the boy's ear. “You won't doubt that, I know. Don't keep me. They have come for me, and I must go with them.”

CHAPTER XXIII. AN ESCORT TO THE GUILDHALL.

The group would have formed a study for a Wilkie. The disturbed dinner-table; the consternation of those assembled at it; Mr. Channing (whose sofa, wheeled to the table, took up the end opposite his wife) gazing around with a puzzled, stern expression; Mrs. Channing glancing behind her with a sense of undefined dread; the pale, conscious countenances of Arthur and Constance; Tom standing up in haughty impetuosity, defiant of every one; the lively terror of Charley's face, as he clung to Arthur; and the wide-opened eyes of Annabel expressive of nothing but surprise—for it took a great deal to alarm that careless young lady; while at the door, holding it open for Arthur, stood Judith in her mob-cap, full of curiosity; and in the background the two policemen. A scene indeed, that Wilkie, in the day of his power, would have rejoiced to paint.

Arthur, battling fiercely with his outraged pride, and breathing an inward prayer for strength to go through with his task, for patience to endure, put Charley from him, and went into the hall. He saw not what was immediately around him—the inquiring looks of his father and mother, the necessity of some explanation to them; he saw not Judith and her curious face. A scale was, as it were, before his eyes, blinding them to all outward influences, except one-the officers of justice standing there, and the purpose for which they had come. “What on earth has happened, Master Arthur?” whispered Judith, as he passed her, terrifying the old servant with his pale, agitated face. But he neither heard nor answered; he walked straight up to the men.

“I will go with you quietly,” he said to them, in an undertone. “Do not make a disturbance, to alarm my mother.”

We cannot always have our senses about us, as the saying runs. Some of us, I fear, enjoy that privilege rarely, and the very best lose them on occasion. But that Arthur Channing's senses had deserted him, he would not have pursued a line of conduct, in that critical moment, which was liable to be construed into an admission, or, at least, a consciousness of guilt. In his anxiety to avert suspicion from Hamish, he lost sight of the precautions necessary to protect himself, so far as was practicable. And yet he had spent time that morning, thinking over what his manner, his bearing must be if it came to this! Had it come upon him unexpectedly he would have met it very differently; with far less outward calmness, but most probably with indignant denial. “I will go with you quietly,” he said to the men.

“All right, sir,” they answered with a nod, and a conviction that he was a cool hand and a guilty one. “It's always best not to resist the law—it never does no good.”

He need not have resisted, but he ought to have waited until they asked him to go. A dim perception of this had already begun to steal over him. He was taking his hat from its place in the hall, when the voice of Mr. Channing came ringing on his ear.

“Arthur, what is this? Give me an explanation.”

Arthur turned back to the room, passing through the sea of faces to get there; for all; except his helpless father, had come from their seats to gather round and about that strange mystery in the hall, to try to fathom it. Mr. Channing gave one long, keen glance at Arthur's face—which was very unlike Arthur's usual face just then; for all its candour seemed to have gone out of it. He did not speak to him; he called in one of the men.

“Will you tell me your business here?” he asked courteously.

“Don't you know it, sir?” was the reply.

“No, I do not,” replied Mr. Channing.

“Well, sir, it's an unpleasant accusation that is brought against this young gentleman. But perhaps he'll be able to make it clear. I hope he will. It don't give us no pleasure when folks are convicted, especially young ones, and those we have always known to be respectable; we'd rather see 'em let off.”

Tom interrupted—Tom, in his fiery indignation. “Is it of stealing that bank-note of Galloway's that you presume to accuse my brother?” he asked, speaking indistinctly in his haste and anger.

“You have said it, sir,” replied the man. “That's it.”

“Then I say whoever accuses him ought to be—”

“Silence, Thomas,” interrupted Mr. Channing. “Allow me to deal with this. Who brings this accusation against my son?”

“We had our orders from Mr. Butterby, sir. He is acting for Mr. Galloway. He was called in there early this morning.”

“Have you come for my son to go with you to Mr. Galloway's?”

“Not there, sir. We have to take him straight to the Guildhall. The magistrates are waiting to hear the case.”

A dismayed pause. Even Mr. Channing's heart, with all its implicit faith in the truth and honour of his children, beat as if it would burst its bounds. Tom's beat too; but it was with a desire to “pitch into” the policemen, as he had pitched into Pierce senior in the cloisters.

Mr. Channing turned to Arthur. “You have an answer to this, my son?”

The question was not replied to. Mr. Channing spoke again, with the same calm emphasis. “Arthur, you can vouch for your innocence?”

Arthur Channing did the very worst thing that he could have done—he hesitated. Instead of replying readily and firmly “I can,” which he might have done without giving rise to harm, he stopped to ask himself how far, consistently with safety to Hamish, he might defend his own cause. His mind was not collected; he had not, as I have said, his senses about him; and the unbroken silence, waiting for his answer, the expectant faces turned upon him, helped to confuse him and to drive his reason further away. The signs, which certainly did look like signs of guilt, struck a knell on the heart of his father. “Arthur!” he wailed out, in a tone of intense agony, “you are innocent?”

“Y—es,” replied Arthur, gulping down his rising agitation; his rising words—impassioned words of exculpation, of innocence, of truth. They had bubbled up within him—were hovering on the verge of his burning lips. He beat them down again to repression; but he never afterwards knew how he did it.

Better that he had been still silent, than speak that dubious, indecisive “Y—es.” It told terribly against him. One, conscious of his own innocence, does not proclaim it in indistinct, half-uttered words. Tom's mouth dropped with dismay, and his astonished eyes seemed as if they could not take themselves from Arthur's uncertain face. Mrs. Channing staggered against the wall, with a faint cry.

The policeman spoke up: he meant to be kindly. In all Helstonleigh there was not a family more respected than were the Channings; and the man felt a passing sorrow for his task. “I wouldn't ask no questions, sir, if I was you. Sometimes it's best not; they tell against the accused.”

“Time's up,” called out the one who was in the hall, to his fellow. “We can't stop here all day.”

The hint was taken at once, both by Arthur and the man. Constance had kept herself still, throughout, by main force; but Mrs. Channing could not see him go away like this. She rose and threw her arms round him, in a burst of hysterical feeling, sobbing out, “My boy! my boy!”

“Don't, mother! don't unnerve me,” he whispered. “It is bad enough as it is.”

“But you cannot be guilty, Arthur.”

For answer he looked into her eyes for a single moment. His habitual expression had come back to them again—the earnest of truth, which she had ever known and trusted. It spoke calm to her heart now. “You are innocent,” she murmured. “Then go in peace.”

Annabel broke into a storm of sobs. “Oh, Judith! will they hang him? What has he done?”

“I'd hang them two policemen, if I did what I should like to do,” responded Judith. “Yes, you two, I mean,” she added, without ceremony, as the officials turned round at the words. “If I had my will, I'd hang you both up to two of those elm-trees yonder, right in front of one another. Coming to a gentleman's house on this errand!”

“Do not take me publicly through the streets,” said Arthur to his keepers. “I give you my word to make no resistance: I will go to the Guildhall, or anywhere else that you please, as freely as if I were bound thither on my own pleasure. You need not betray that I am in custody.”

They saw that they might trust him. One of the policemen went to the opposite side of the way, as if pacing his beat; the other continued by the side of Arthur; not closely enough to give rise to suspicion in those they met. A few paces from the door Tom Channing came pelting up, and put his arm within Arthur's.

“Guilty, or not guilty, it shall never be said that a Channing was deserted by his brothers!” quoth he, “I wish Hamish could have been here.”

“Tom, you are thinking me guilty?” Arthur said, in a quiet, tone, which did not reach the ears of his official escort.

“Well—I am in a fix,” avowed Tom. “If you are guilty, I shall never believe in anything again. I have always thought that building a cathedral: well and good; but if it turns out to be a myth, I shan't be surprised, after this. Are you guilty?”

“No, lad.”

The denial was simple, and calmly expressed; but there was sufficient in its tone to make Tom Channing's heart give a great leap within him.

“Thank God! What a fool I was! But, I say, Arthur, why did you not deny it, out-and-out? Your manner frightened us. I suppose the police scared you?”

Tom, all right now, walked along, his head up, escorting Arthur with as little shame to public examination, as he would have done to a public crowning. It was not the humiliation of undeserved suspicion that could daunt the Channings: the consciousness of guilt could alone effect that. Hitherto, neither guilt nor its shadow had fallen upon them.

“Tom,” asked Arthur, when they had reached the hall, and were about to enter: “will you do me a little service?”

“Won't I, though! what is it?”

“Make the best of your way to Mr. Williams's, and tell him I am prevented from taking the organ this afternoon.”

“I shan't tell him the reason,” said Tom.

“Why not? In an hour's time it will be known from one end of Helstonleigh to the other.”

CHAPTER XXIV. THE EXAMINATION.

The magistrates sat on the bench in the town-hall of Helstonleigh. But, before the case was called on—for the police had spoken too fast in saying they were waiting for it—Arthur became acquainted with one great fact: that it was not Mr. Galloway who had driven matters to this extremity. Neither was he aware that Arthur had been taken into custody. Mr. Butterby had assumed the responsibility, and acted upon it. Mr. Butterby, since his interview with Mr. Galloway in the morning, had gathered, as he believed, sufficiently corroborating facts to establish, or nearly so, the guilt of Arthur Channing. He supposed that this was all Mr. Galloway required to remove his objection to stern measures; and, in procuring the warrant for the capture, Mr. Butterby had acted as for Mr. Galloway.

When Arthur was placed in the spot where he had often seen criminals standing, his face again wore the livid hue which had overspread it in his home. In a few moments this had changed to crimson; brow and cheeks were glowing with it. It was a painful situation, and Arthur felt it to the very depths of his naturally proud spirit. I don't think you or I should have liked it.

The circumstances were stated to the magistrates just as they have been stated to you. The placing of the bank-note and letter in the envelope by Mr. Galloway, his immediately fastening it down by means of the gum, the extraction of the note, between that time and the period when the seal was placed on it later in the day, and the fact that Arthur Channing alone had access to it. “Except Mr. Hamish Channing, for a few minutes,” Mr. Butterby added, “who kindly remained in the office while his brother proceeded as far as the cathedral and back again; the other clerks, Joseph Jenkins and Roland Yorke, being absent that afternoon.”

A deeper dye flushed Arthur's face when Hamish's name and share in the afternoon's doings were mentioned, and he bent his eyes on the floor at his feet, and kept them there. Had Hamish not been implicated, he would have stood there with a clear eye and a serene brow. It was that, the all too vivid consciousness of the sin of Hamish, which took all spirit out of him, and drove him to stand there as one under the brand of guilt. He scarcely dared look up, lest it should be read in his countenance that he was innocent, and Hamish guilty; he scarcely dared to pronounce, in ever so faltering a tone, the avowal “I did it not.” Had it been to save his life from the scaffold, he could not have spoken out boldly and freely that day. There was the bitter shock of the crime, felt for Hamish's own sake: Hamish whom they had all so loved, so looked up to: and there was the dread of the consequences to Mr. Channing in the event of discovery. Had the penalty been hanging, I believe that Arthur would have gone to it, rather than betray Hamish. But you must not suppose he did not feel it for himself; there were moments when he feared lest he should not carry it through.

Mr. Butterby was waiting for a witness—Mr. Galloway himself: and meanwhile, he entertained the bench with certain scraps, anecdotal and other, premising what would be proved before them. Jenkins would show that the prisoner had avowed in his presence, it would take a twenty-pound note to clear him from his debts, or hard upon it—

“No,” interrupted the hitherto silent prisoner, to the surprise of those present, “that is not true. It is correct that I did make use of words to that effect, but I spoke them in jest. I and Roland Yorke were one day speaking of debts, and I jokingly said a twenty-pound note would pay mine, and leave me something out of it. Jenkins was present, and he may have supposed I spoke in earnest. In point of fact I did not owe anything.”

It was an assertion more easily made than proved. Arthur Channing might have large liabilities upon him, for all that appeared in that court to the contrary. Mr. Butterby handed the seal to the bench, who examined it curiously.

“I could have understood this case better had any stranger or strangers approached the letter,” observed one of the magistrates, who knew the Channings personally, and greatly respected their high character. “You are sure you are not mistaken in supposing no one came in?” he added, looking kindly at Arthur.

“Certainly no one came in whilst I was alone in the office, sir,” was the unhesitating answer.

The magistrate spoke in an under-tone to those beside him. “That avowal is in his favour. Had he taken the note, one might suppose he would be anxious to make it appear that strangers did enter, and so throw suspicion off himself.”

“I have made very close inquiry, and cannot find that the office was entered at all that afternoon,” observed Mr. Butterby. Mr. Butterby had made close inquiry; and, to do him justice, he did not seek to throw one shade more of guilt upon Arthur than he thought the case deserved. “Mr. Hamish Channing also—”

Mr. Butterby stopped. There, standing within the door, was Hamish himself. In passing along the street he had seen an unusual commotion around the town-hall; and, upon inquiring its cause, was told that Arthur Channing was under examination, on suspicion of having stolen the bank-note, lost by Mr. Galloway.

To look at Hamish you would have believed him innocent and unconscious as the day. He strode into the justice-room, his eye flashing, his brow haughty, his colour high. Never had gay Hamish looked so scornfully indignant. He threw his glance round the crowded court in search of Arthur, and it found him.

Their eyes met. A strange gaze it was, going out from the one to the other; a gaze which the brothers had never in all their lives exchanged. Arthur's spoke of shame all too palpably—he could not help it in that bitter moment—shame for his brother. And Hamish shrank under it. If ever one cowered visibly in this world, Hamish Channing did then. A low, suppressed cry went up from Arthur's heart: whatever fond, faint doubt may have lingered in his mind, it died out from that moment.

Others noticed the significant look exchanged between them; but they, not in the secret, saw only, on the part of Hamish, what they took for vexation at his brother's position. It was suggested that it would save time to take the evidence of Mr. Hamish Channing at once. Mr. Galloway's might be received later.

“What evidence?” demanded Hamish, standing before the magistrates in a cold, uncompromising manner, and speaking in a cold, uncompromising tone. “I have none to give. I know nothing of the affair.”

“Not much, we are aware; but what little you do know must be spoken, Mr. Hamish Channing.”

They did not swear him. These were only informal, preliminary proceedings. Country courts of law are not always conducted according to orthodox rules, nor was that of Helstonleigh. There would be another and a more formal examination before the committal of the prisoner for trial—if committed he should be.

A few unimportant questions were put to Hamish, and then he was asked whether he saw the letter in question.

“I saw a letter which I suppose to have been the one,” he replied. 'It was addressed to Mr. Robert Galloway, at Ventnor.”

“Did you observe your brother take it into Mr. Galloway's private room?”

“Yes,” answered Hamish. “In putting the desks straight before departing for college, my brother carried the letter into Mr. Galloway's room and left it there. I distinctly remember his doing so.”

“Did you see the letter after that?”

“No.”

“How long did you remain alone while your brother was away?”

“I did not look at my watch,” irritably returned Hamish, who had spoken resentfully throughout, as if some great wrong were being inflicted upon him in having to speak at all.

“But you can guess at the time?”

“No, I can't,” shortly retorted Hamish. “And 'guesses' are not evidence.”

“Was it ten minutes?”

“It may have been. I know he seemed to be back almost as soon as he had gone.”

“Did any person—clerk, or stranger, or visitor, or otherwise—come into the office during his absence from it?”

“No.”

“No person whatever?”

“No person whatever. I think,” continued Hamish, volunteering an opinion upon the subject, although he knew it was out of all rule and precedent to do so, “that there is a great deal of unprofitable fuss being made about the matter. The money must have been lost in going through the post; it is impossible to suppose otherwi—”

Hamish was stopped by a commotion. Clattering along the outer hall, and bursting in at the court door, his black hair disordered, his usually pale cheeks scarlet, his nostrils working with excitement, came Roland Yorke. He was in a state of fierce emotion. Learning, as he had done by accident, that Arthur had been arrested upon the charge, he took up the cause hotly, gave vent to a burst of passionate indignation (in which he abused every one under the sun, except Arthur), and tore off to the town-hall. Elbowing the crowd right and left, in his impetuosity, pushing one policeman here and another there, who would have obstructed his path, he came up to Arthur and ranged himself by his side, linking his arm within his in an outburst of kindly generosity.

“Old fellow, who has done this?”

“Mr. Roland Yorke!” exclaimed the bench, indignantly. “What do you mean by this behaviour? Stand away, if you please, sir.”

“I'll stand away when Arthur Channing stands away,” retorted Yorke, apparently ignoring whose presence he was in. “Who accuses him? Mr. Galloway does not. This is your doing, Butterby.”

“Take care that their worships don't commit you for contempt of court,” retorted Mr. Butterby. “You are going on for it, Roland Yorke.”

“Let them commit me, if they will,” foamed Roland. “I am not going to see a friend falsely accused, and not stand up for him. Channing no more touched that money than any of you did. The post-office must have had it.”

“A moment, Mr. Roland Yorke: if you can calm yourself sufficiently to answer as a rational being,” interposed the magistrate who had addressed Arthur. “Have you any proof to urge in support of your assertion that the prisoner did not touch it?”

“Proof, sir!” returned Roland, subsiding, however, into a tone of more respect: “does it want proof to establish the innocence of Arthur Channing? Every action of his past life is proof. He is honest as the day.”

“This warm feeling does you credit, in one sense—”

“It does me no credit at all,” fiercely interrupted Roland. “I don't defend him because he is my friend; I don't defend him because we are in the same office, and sit side by side at the same desk; I do it, because I know him to be innocent.”

“How do you know it?”

“He could not be guilty. He is incapable of it. Better accuse me, or Jenkins, than accuse him!”

“You and Jenkins were not at the office during the suspected time.”

“Well, I know we were not,” acknowledged Roland, lowering his voice to a more reasonable tone. “And, just because it happened, by some cross-grained luck, that Channing was, Butterby pitches upon him, and accuses him of the theft. He never did it! and I'll say it with my last breath.”

With some trouble: threatenings on the part of the court, and more explosions from himself: Mr. Roland Yorke was persuaded to retire. He went as far as the back of the room, and there indulged in under-currents of wrath, touching injustice and Mr. Butterby, to a select circle who gathered round him. Warm-hearted and generous, by fits and starts, was Roland Yorke; he had inherited it with his Irish blood from Lady Augusta.

But meanwhile, where was Mr. Galloway? He did not make his appearance, and it was said he could not be found. Messenger after messenger was despatched to his office, to his house; and at length Mr. Butterby went himself. All in vain; his servants knew nothing about him. Jenkins, who had the office to himself, thought he must be “somewhere in the town,” as he had not said he was going out of it. Mr. Butterby went back crest-fallen, and confessed that, not to take up longer the time of their worships unnecessarily, the case must be remanded to the morrow.

“We will take bail,” said the magistrates, before the application was made. “One surety will be sufficient; fifty pounds.”

At that, Mr. Roland, who by this time was standing in a sullen manner against a pillar of the court, his violence gone, and biting his nails moodily, made a rush to the front again, heeding little who he knocked down in the process. “I'll be bail,” he cried eagerly. “That is, Lady Augusta will—as I am not a householder. I'll hunt her up and bring her here.”

He was turning in impetuous haste to “hunt up” Lady Augusta, when Hamish Channing imperatively waved to him to be still, and spoke to the bench.

“My father's security will be sufficient, I presume?”

“Quite so.”

Since Mr. Channing's incapacity, power to sign and to act for him had been vested in Hamish; and the matter was concluded at once. The court poured out its crowd. Hamish was on the point of taking Arthur's arm, but was pushed aside by Roland Yorke, who seized upon it as if he could never make enough of him.

“The miserable idiots! to bring such a charge against you, Arthur! I have been half mad ever since I heard of it.”

“Thank you, Yorke. You are very kind—”

“'Kind!' Don't talk that school-girl rubbish!” passionately interrupted Roland. “If I were taken up upon a false charge, wouldn't you stand by me?”

“That I would; were it false or true.”

“I'll pay that Butterby out, if it's ten years hence! And you, knowing your own innocence, could stand before them there, meek-faced as a tame cat, letting Butterby and the bench have it their own way! A calm temper, such as yours, Arthur, may be very—what do they call it?—Christian; but I'm blest if it's useful! I should have made their ears tingle, had they put me there, as they have not tingled for many a day.”

“Who do you suppose took the note?” inquired Hamish of Roland Yorke, speaking for the first time.

“Bother the note!” was the rejoinder of Mr. Roland. “It's nothing to us who took it. Arthur didn't. Go and ask the post-office.”

“But the seal?” Hamish was beginning in a friendly tone of argument. Roland bore him down.

“Who cares for the seal? I don't. If Galloway had stuck himself upon the letter, instead of his seal, and never got off till it reached the cousin Galloway's hand, I wouldn't care. It tells nothing. Do you want to find your brother guilty?” he continued, in a tone of scorn. “You did not half stand up for him, Hamish Channing, as I'd expect a brother to stand up for me. Now then, you people! Are you thinking we are live kangaroos escaped from a menagerie? Be off about your own business! Don't come after us.”

The last was addressed to a crowd, who had followed upon their heels from the court, staring, with that innate delicacy for which the English are remarkable. They had seen Arthur Channing a thousand times before, every one of them, but, as he had been arrested, they must look at him again. Yorke's scornful reproach and fierce face somewhat scattered them.

“If it had been Galloway's doings, I'd never have put my foot inside his confounded old office again!” went on Roland. “No! and my lady might have tried her best to force me. Lugging a fellow up for a pitiful, paltry sum of twenty pounds!—who is as much a gentleman as himself!—who, as his own senses might tell him, wouldn't touch it with the end of his finger! But it was that Butterby's handiwork, not Galloway's.”

“Galloway must have given Butterby his instructions,” observed Hamish.

“He didn't, then,” snapped Roland. “Jenkins says he knows he did not, by the remarks Galloway made to him this morning. And Galloway has been away ever since eleven o'clock, we can't tell where. It is nobody but that evil, mischief-making Butterby, and I'd give a crown out of my pocket to have a good duck at him in the river!”

With regard to Mr. Galloway's knowing nothing of the active proceedings taken against Arthur, Roland was right. Mr. Butterby had despatched a note to Mr. Galloway's office at one o'clock, stating what he had done, and requesting him to be at the office at two, for the examination—and the note had been lying there ever since.

It was being opened now. Now—at the exact moment that Mr. Roland Yorke was giving vent to that friendly little wish, about the river and Mr. Butterby. Mr. Galloway had met a friend in the town, and had gone with him a few miles by rail into the country, on unexpected business. He had just returned to find the note, and to hear Jenkins' account of Arthur's arrest.

“I am vexed at this,” he exclaimed, his tone betraying excessive annoyance. “Butterby has exceeded his orders.”

Jenkins thought he might venture to put in a word for Arthur. He had been intensely surprised, indeed grieved, at the whole affair; and not the less so that he feared what he had unconsciously repeated, about a twenty-pound note paying Arthur's debts, might have helped it on.

“I feel as sure as can be, sir, that it was not Mr. Arthur Channing,” he deferentially said. “I have not been in this office with him for more than twelve months without learning something of his principles.”

“The principles of all the Channings are well known,” returned Mr. Galloway. “No; whatever may be the apparent proofs, I cannot bring myself to think it could be Arthur Channing. Although—” Mr. Galloway did not say although what, but changed the topic abruptly. “Are they in court now?”

“I expect so, sir. Mr. Yorke is not back yet.”

Mr. Galloway walked to the outer door, deliberating what his course should be. The affair grieved him more than he could express; it angered him; chiefly for his old friend Mr. Channing's sake. “I had better go up to the Guildhall,” he soliloquized, “and see if—”

There they were, turning the corner of the street; Roland Yorke, Hamish, and Arthur; and the followers behind. Mr. Galloway waited till they came up. Hamish did not enter, or stop, but went straight home. “They will be so anxious for news,” he exclaimed. Not a word had been exchanged between the brothers. “No wonder that he shuns coming in!” thought Arthur. Roland Yorke threw his hat from him in silence, and sat down in his place at the desk. Mr. Galloway touched Arthur with his finger, motioned him towards the private room, and stood there facing him, speaking gravely.

“Tell me the truth, as before God. Are you innocent or guilty? What you say shall not be used against you.”

Quick as lightning, in all solemn earnestness, the word “innocent" was on Arthur's lips. It had been better for him, perhaps, that he had spoken it. But, alas! that perplexity, as to how far he might venture to assert his own innocence, was upon him still. What impression could this hesitation, coupled with the suspicious circumstances, make upon the mind of Mr. Galloway?

“Have you no answer?” emphatically asked Mr. Galloway.

“I am not guilty, sir.”

Meanwhile, what do you suppose were the sensations of Mr. Channing? We all know that anguish of mind is far more painful to bear when the body is quiescent, than when it is in motion. In any great trouble, any terrible suspense, look at our sleepless nights! We lie, and toss, and turn; and say, When will the night be gone? In the day we can partially shake it off, walking hither and thither; the keenness of the anguish is lost in exertion.

Mr. Channing could not take this exertion. Lying there always, his days were little better to him than nights, and this strange blow, which had fallen so suddenly and unexpectedly, nearly overwhelmed him. Until that afternoon he would have confidently said that his son might have been trusted with a room full of untold gold. He would have said it still, but for Arthur's manner: it was that which staggered him. More than one urgent message had been despatched for Mr. Galloway, but that gentleman was unable to go to him until late in the evening.

“My friend,” said Mr. Galloway, bending over the sofa, when they were alone, “I am more grieved at this than you can be.”

Mr. Channing clasped his hand. “Tell me what you think yourself; the simple truth; I ask it, Galloway, by our long friendship. Do you think him innocent or guilty?”

There might be no subterfuge in answer to words so earnest, and Mr. Galloway did not attempt any. He bent lower, and spoke in a whisper. “I believe him to be guilty.”

Mr. Channing closed his eyes, and his lips momentarily moved. A word of prayer, to be helped to bear, was going up to the throne of God.

“But, never think that it was I who instituted these proceedings against him,” resumed Mr. Galloway. “When I called in Butterby to my aid this morning, I had no more notion that it was Arthur Channing who was guilty, than I had that it was that sofa of yours. Butterby would have cast suspicion to him then, but I repelled it. He afterwards acted upon his own responsibility while my back was turned. It is as I say often to my office people: I can't stir out for a few hours but something goes wrong! You know the details of the loss?”

“Ay; by heart,” replied Mr. Channing. “They are suspicious against Arthur only in so far as that he was alone with the letter. Sufficient time must have been taken, as I conclude, to wet the envelope and unfasten the gum; and it would appear that he alone had that time. This apparent suspicion would have been nothing to my mind, knowing Arthur as I do, had it not been coupled with a suspicious manner.”

“There it is,” assented Mr. Galloway, warmly. “It is that manner which leaves no room for doubt. I had him with me privately when the examination was over, and begged him to tell me, as before God: innocent or guilty. He could not. He stood like a statue, confused, his eyes down, and his colour varying. He is badly constituted for the commission of crime, for he cannot brave it out. One, knowing himself wrongfully accused, would lay his hand upon his heart, with an upright countenance, and say, I am innocent of this, so help me Heaven! I must confess I did not like his manner yesterday, when he heard me say I should place it in the hands of the police,” continued Mr. Galloway. “He grew suddenly agitated, and begged I would not do so.”

“Ay!” cried Mr. Channing, with a groan of pain he could not wholly suppress. “It is an incredible mystery. What could he want with the money? The tale told about his having debts has no foundation in fact; he has positively none.”

Mr. Galloway shook his head; he would not speak out his thoughts. He knew that Hamish was in debt; he knew that Master Roland Yorke indulged in expensive habits whenever he had the opportunity, and he now thought it likely that Arthur, between the two examples, might have been drawn in. “I shall not allow my doubts of him to go further than you,” he said aloud. “And I shall put a summary stop to the law proceedings.”

“How will you do that, now that they are publicly entered upon?” asked Mr. Channing.

“I'll manage it,” was the reply. “We'll see which is strongest, I or Butterby.”

When they were gathering together for the reading, that night, Arthur took his place as usual. Mr. Channing looked at him sternly, and spoke sternly—in the presence of them all. “Will your conscience allow you to join in this?”

How it stung him! Knowing himself innocent; seeing Hamish, the real culprit, basking there in their love and respect, as usual; the unmerited obloquy cast upon him was almost too painful to bear. He did not answer; he was battling down his rebellious spirit; and the gentle voice of Mrs. Channing rose instead.

“James, there is all the more need for him to join in it, if things are as you fear.” And Mr. Channing applied himself to the reading.

“My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble.”

It was a portion of Scripture rarely chosen, and, perhaps for that reason, it fell upon Arthur with greater force. As he listened, the words brought healing with them; and his sore spirit was soothed, and grew trusting and peaceful as that of a little child.

CHAPTER XXV. A MORNING CALL.

You may possibly be blaming Arthur Channing for meeting this trouble in so sad a spirit. Were such an accusation cast unjustly upon you, you would throw it off impatiently, and stand up for yourself and your innocence in the broad light of day. Even were you debarred, as he was, from speaking out the whole truth, you would never be cast down to that desponding depth, and thereby give a colouring to the doubt cast upon you. Are you thinking this? But you must remember that it was not for himself that Arthur was so weighed down. Had he possessed no conception as to how the note went, he would have met the charge very differently, bearing himself bravely, and flinging their suspicion to the winds. “You people cannot think me guilty,” he might have said; “my whole previous life is a refutation to the charge.” He would have held up his head and heart cheerfully; waiting, and looking for the time when elucidation should come.

No; his grief, his despondency were felt for Hamish. If Arthur Channing had cherished faith in one living being more than in another, it was in his elder brother. He loved him with a lasting love, he revered him as few revere a brother; and the shock was great. He would far rather have fallen down to guilt himself, than that Hamish should have fallen. Tom Channing had said, with reference to Arthur, that, if he were guilty, he should never believe in anything again; they might tell him that the cathedral was a myth, and not a cathedral, and he should not be surprised. This sort of feeling had come over Arthur. It had disturbed his faith in honour and goodness—it had almost disgusted him with the world. Arthur Channing is not the only one who has found his faith in fellow-men rudely shaken.

And yet, the first shock over, his mind was busy finding excuses for him. He knew that Hamish had not erred from any base self-gratification, but from love. You may be inclined to think this a contradiction, for all such promptings to crime must be base. Of course they are; but as the motives differ, so do the degrees. As surely as though the whole matter had been laid before him, felt Arthur, Hamish had been driven to it in his desperate need, to save his father's position, and the family's means of support. He felt that, had Hamish alone been in question, he would not have appropriated a pin that was not his, to save himself from arrest: what he had done he had done in love. Arthur gave him credit for another thing—that he had never cast a glance to the possibility of suspicion falling on Arthur; the post-office would receive credit for the loss. Nothing more tangible than that wide field, where they might hunt for the supposed thief until they were tired.

It was a miserable evening that followed the exposure; the precursor of many and many miserable evenings in days to come. Mr. and Mrs. Channing, Hamish, Constance, and Arthur sat in the usual sitting-room when the rest had retired—sat in ominous silence. Even Hamish, with his naturally sunny face and sunny temper, looked gloomy as the grave. Was he deliberating as to whether he should show that all principles of manly justice were not quite dead within him, by speaking up at last, and clearing his wrongfully accused brother? But then—his father's post—his mother's home? all might be forfeited. Who can tell whether this was the purport of Hamish's thoughts as he sat there in abstraction, away from the light, his head upon his hand. He did not say.

Arthur rose; the silence was telling upon him. “May I say good night to you, father?”

“Have you nothing else to say?” asked Mr. Channing.

“In what way, sir?” asked Arthur, in a low tone.

“In the way of explanation. Will you leave me to go to my restless pillow without it? This is the first estrangement which has come between us.”

What explanation could he give? But to leave his father suffering in body and in mind, without attempt at it, was a pain hard to bear.

“Father, I am innocent,” he said. It was all he could say; and it was spoken all too quietly.

Mr. Channing gazed at him searchingly. “In the teeth of appearances?”

“Yes, sir, in the teeth of appearances.”

“Then why—if I am to believe you—have assumed the aspect of guilt, which you certainly have done?”

Arthur involuntarily glanced at Hamish; the thought of his heart was, “You know why, if no one else does;” and caught Hamish looking at him stealthily, under cover of his fingers. Apparently, Hamish was annoyed at being so caught, and started up.

“Good night, mother. I am going to bed.”

They wished him good night, and he left the room. Mr. Channing turned again to Arthur. He took his hand, and spoke with agitation. “My boy, do you know that I would almost rather have died, than live to see this guilt fall upon you?”

“Oh, father, don't judge me harshly!” he implored. “Indeed I am innocent.”

Mr. Channing paused. “Arthur, you never, as I believe, told me a lie in your life. What is this puzzle?”

“I am not telling a lie now.”

“I am tempted to believe you. But why, then, act as if you were guilty? When those men came here to-day, you knew what they wanted; you resigned yourself, voluntarily, a prisoner. When Mr. Galloway questioned you privately of your innocence, you could not assert it.”

Neither could he now in a more open way than he was doing.

“Can you look me in the face and tell me, in all honour, that you know nothing of the loss of the note?”

“All I can say, sir, is, that I did not take it or touch it.”

“Nay, but you are equivocating!” exclaimed Mr. Channing.

Arthur felt that he was, in some measure, and did not gainsay it.

“Are you aware that to-morrow you may be committed for trial on the charge?”

“I know it,” replied Arthur. “Unless—unless—” he stopped in agitation. “Unless you will interest yourself with Galloway, and induce him to withdraw proceedings. Your friendship with him has been close and long, sir, and I think he would do it for you.”

“Would you ask this if you were innocent?” said Mr. Channing. “Arthur, it is not the punishment you ought to dread, but the consciousness of meriting it.”

“And of that I am not conscious,” he answered, emphatically, in his bitterness. “Father! I would lay down my life to shield you from care! think of me as favourably as you can.”

“You will not make me your full confidant?”

“I wish I could! I wish I could!”

He wrung his father's hand, and turned to his mother, halting before her. Would she give him her good-night kiss?

Would she? Did a fond mother ever turn against her child? To the prison, to the scaffold, down to the very depths of obloquy and scorn, a loving mother clings to her son. All else may forsake; but she, never, be he what he will. Mrs. Channing drew his face to hers, and burst into sobs as she sheltered it on her bosom.

You will have faith in me, my darling mother!”

The words were spoken in the softest whisper. He kissed her tenderly, and hastened from the room, not trusting himself to say good night to Constance. In the hall he was waylaid by Judith.

“Master Arthur, it isn't true?”

“Of course it is not true, Judith. Don't you know me better?”

“What an old oaf I am for asking, to be sure! Didn't I nurse him, and haven't I watched him grow up, and don't I know my own boys yet?” she added to herself, but speaking aloud.

“To be sure you have, Judy.”

“But, Master Arthur, why is the master casting blame to you? And when them insolent police came strutting here to-day, as large as life, in their ugly blue coats and shiny hats, why didn't you hold the door wide, and show 'em out again? I'd never have demeaned myself to go with 'em politely.”

“They wanted me at the town-hall, you know, Judith. I suppose you have heard it all?”

“Then, want should have been their master, for me,” retorted Judith. “I'd never have gone, unless they had got a cord and drawn me. I shouldn't wonder but they fingered the money themselves.”

Arthur made his escape, and went up to his room. He was scarcely within it when Hamish left his chamber and came in. Arthur's heart beat quicker. Was he coming to make a clean breast of it? Not he!

“Arthur,” Hamish began, speaking in a kindly, but an estranged tone—or else Arthur fancied it—“can I serve you in any way in this business?”

“Of course you cannot,” replied Arthur: and he felt vexed with himself that his tone should savour of peevishness.

“I am sorry for it, as you may readily believe, old fellow,” resumed Hamish. “When I entered the court to-day, you might have knocked me down with a feather.”

“Ay, I should suppose so,” said Arthur. “You did not expect the charge would be brought upon me.”

“I neither expected it nor believed it when I was told. I inquired of Parkes, the beadle, what unusual thing was going on, seeing so many people about the doors, and he answered that you were under examination. I laughed at him, thinking he was joking.”

Arthur made no reply.

“What can I do for you?” repeated Hamish.

“You can leave me to myself, Hamish. That's about the kindest thing you can do for me to-night.”

Hamish did not take the hint immediately. “We must have the accusation quashed at all hazards,” he went on. “But my father thinks Galloway will withdraw it. Yorke says he'll not leave a stone unturned to make Helstonleigh believe the money was lost in the post-office.”

“Yorke believes so himself,” reproachfully rejoined Arthur.

“I think most people do, with the exception of Butterby. Confounded old meddler! There would have been no outcry at all, but for him.”

A pause. Arthur did not seem inclined to break it. Hamish had caught up a bit of whalebone, which happened to be lying on the drawers, and was twisting it about in his fingers, glancing at Arthur from time to time. Arthur leaned against the chimneypiece, his hands in his pockets, and, in like manner, glanced at him. Not the slightest doubt in the world that each was wishing to speak out more freely. But some inward feeling restrained them. Hamish broke the silence.

“Then you have nothing to say to me, Arthur?”

“Not to-night.”

Arthur thought the “saying” should have been on the other side. He had cherished some faint hope that Hamish would at least acknowledge the trouble he had brought upon him. “I could not help it, Arthur; I was driven to my wit's end; but I never thought the reproach would fall upon you,” or words to that effect. No: nothing of the sort.

Constance was ascending the stairs as Hamish withdrew. “Can I come in, Arthur?” she asked.

For answer, he opened the door and drew her inside. “Has Hamish spoken of it?” she whispered.

“Not a word—as to his own share in it. He asked, in a general way, if he could serve me. Constance,” he feverishly added, “they do not suspect downstairs, do they?”

“Suspect what?”

“That it was Hamish.”

“Of course they do not. They suspect you. At least, papa does. He cannot make it out; he never was so puzzled in all his life. He says you must either have taken the money, or connived at its being taken: to believe otherwise, would render your manner perfectly inexplicable. Oh, Arthur, he is so grieving! He says other troubles have arisen without fault on our part; but this, the greatest, has been brought by guilt.”

“There is no help for it,” wailed Arthur. “I could only clear myself at the expense of Hamish, and it would be worse for them to grieve for him than for me. Bright, sunny Hamish! whom my mother has, I believe in her heart, loved the best of all of us. Thank you, Constance, for keeping my counsel.”

“How unselfish you are, Arthur!”

“Unselfish! I don't see it as a merit. It is my simple duty to be so in this case. If I, by a rash word, directed suspicion to Hamish, and our home in consequence got broken up, who would be the selfish one then?”

“There's the consideration which frightens and fetters us. Papa must have been thinking of that when he thanked God that the trouble had not fallen upon Hamish.”

“Did he do that?” asked Arthur, eagerly.

“Yes, just now. 'Thank God that the cloud did not fall upon Hamish!' he exclaimed. 'It had been far worse for us then.'“

Arthur listened. Had he wanted anything to confirm him in the sacrifice he was making, those words of his father's would have done it. Mr. Channing had no greater regard for one son than for the other; but he knew, as well as his children, how much depended upon Hamish.

The tears were welling up into the eyes of Constance. “I wish I could speak comfort to you!” she whispered.

“Comfort will come with time, I dare say, darling. Don't stay. I seem quite fagged out to-night, and would be alone.”

Ay, alone. Alone with his grief and with God.

To bed at last, but not to sleep; not for hours and for hours. His anxiety of mind was intense, chiefly for Hamish; though he endured some on his own score. To be pointed at as a thief in the town, stung him to the quick, even in anticipation; and there was also the uncertainty as to the morrow's proceedings; for all he knew, they might end in the prosecution being carried on, and his committal for trial. Towards morning he dropped into a heavy slumber; and, to awake from that, was the worst of all; for his trouble came pressing upon his brain with tenfold poignancy.

He rose and dressed, in some perplexity—perplexity as to the immediate present. Ought he, or ought he not, to go as usual to Mr. Galloway's? He really could not tell. If Mr. Galloway believed him guilty—and there was little doubt of that, now—of course he could no longer be tolerated in the office. On the other hand, to stop away voluntarily, might look like an admission of guilt.

He determined to go, and did so. It was the early morning hour, when he had the office to himself. He got through his work—the copying of a somewhat elaborate will—and returned home to breakfast. He found Mr. Channing had risen, which was not usual. Like Arthur, his night had been an anxious one, and the bustle of the breakfast-room was more tolerable than bed. I wonder what Hamish's had been! The meal passed in uncomfortable silence.

A tremendous peal at the hall bell startled the house, echoing through the Boundaries, astonishing the rooks, and sending them on the wing. On state occasions it pleased Judith to answer the door herself; her helpmate, over whom she held undisputed sway, ruling her with a tight hand, dared not come forward to attempt it. The bell tinkled still, and Judy, believing it could be no one less than the bishop come to alarm them with a matutinal visit, hurried on a clean white apron, and stepped across the hall.

Mr. Roland Yorke. No one more formidable. He passed Judith with an unceremonious nod, and marched into the breakfast-room.

“Good morning all! I say, old chap, are you ready to come to the office? It's good to see you down at this early hour, Mr. Channing.”

He was invited to take a seat, but declined; it was time they were at Galloway's, he said. Arthur hesitated.

“I do not know whether Mr. Galloway will expect me,” he observed.

“Not expect you!” flashed Roland, lapsing into his loud, excited manner. “I can tell you what, Arthur: if he doesn't expect you, he shan't expect me. Mr. Channing, did you ever know anything so shamefully overbearing and unjust as that affair yesterday?”

“Unjust, if it be unfounded,” replied Mr. Channing.

“Unfounded!” uttered Roland. “If that's not unfounded, there never was an unfounded charge brought yet. I'd answer for Arthur with my own life. I should like to sew up that Butterby! I hope, sir, you'll bring an action against him.”

“You feel it strongly, Roland.”

“I should hope I do! Look you, Mr. Channing: it is a slur on our office; on me, and on Jenkins, and on Galloway himself. Yes, on Galloway. I say what I mean, and nobody shall talk me down. I'd rather believe it was Galloway did it than Arthur. I shall tell him so.”

“This sympathy shows very kind feeling on your part, Ro—”

“I declare I shall go mad if I hear that again!” interrupted Roland, turning red with passion. “It makes me wild. Everybody's on with it. 'You—are—very—kind—to—take—up—Arthur Channing's—cause!' they mince out. Incorrigible idiots! Kind! Why, Mr. Channing, if that cat of yours there, were to be accused of swallowing down a mutton chop, and you felt morally certain that she did not do it, wouldn't you stand up for her against punishment?”

Mr. Channing could not forbear a smile at Roland and his hot championship. “To be 'morally certain' may do when cats are in question, Mr. Roland; but the law, unfortunately, requires something more for us, the superior animal. No father living has had more cause to put faith in his children than I. The unfortunate point in this business is, that the loss appears to have occurred so mysteriously, when the letter was in Arthur's charge.”

“Yes, if it had occurred that way; but who believes it did, except a few pates with shallow brains?” retorted Roland. “The note is burning a hole in the pocket of some poor, ill-paid wight of a letter-carrier; that's where the note is. I beg your pardon, Mr. Channing, but it's of no use to interrupt me with arguments about old Galloway's seal. They go in at one ear and out at the other. What more easy than to put a penknife under the seal, and unfasten it?”

“You cannot do this where gum is used as well: as it was to that letter.”

“Who cares for the gum!” retorted Mr. Roland. “I don't pretend to say, sir, how it was accomplished, but I know it must have been done somehow. Watch a conjuror at his tricks! You can't tell how he gets a shilling out of a box which you yourself put in—all you know is, he does get it out; or how he exhibits some receptacle, crammed full, which you could have sworn was empty. Just so with the letter. The bank-note did get out of it, but we can't tell how, except that it was not through Arthur. Come along, old fellow, or Galloway may be blowing us up for arriving late.”

Twitching Tom's hair as he passed him, treading on the cat's tail, and tossing a branch of sweetbriar full of thorns at Annabel, Mr. Roland Yorke made his way out in a commotion. Arthur, yielding to the strong will, followed. Roland passed his arm within his, and they went towards Close Street.

“I say, old chum, I haven't had a wink of sleep all night, worrying over this bother. My room is over Lady Augusta's, and she sent up this morning to know what I was pacing about for, like a troubled ghost. I woke at four o'clock, and I could not get to sleep after; so I just stamped about a bit, to stamp the time away.”

In a happier mood, Arthur might have laughed at his Irish talk, “I am glad you stand by me, at any rate, Yorke. I never did it, you know. Here comes Williams. I wonder in what light he will take up the affair? Perhaps he will turn me from my post at the organ.”

“He had better!” flashed Roland. “I'd turn him!”

Mr. Williams appeared to “take up the affair” in a resentful, haughty sort of spirit, something like Roland, only that he was quieter over it. He threw ridicule upon the charge. “I am astonished at Galloway!” he observed, when he had spoken with them some moments. “Should he go on with the case, the town will cry shame upon him.”

“Ah, but you see it was that meddling Butterby, not Galloway,” returned Yorke. “As if Galloway did not know us chaps in his office better than to suspect us!”

“I fancy Butterby is fonder of meddling than he need be,” said the organist. “A certain person in the town, living not a hundred miles from this very spot, was suspected of having made free with a ring, which disappeared from a dressing-table, where she was paying an evening visit; and I declare if Butterby did not put his nose into it, and worm out all the particulars!”

“That she had not taken it?”

“That she had. But it produced great annoyance; all parties concerned, even those who had lost the ring, would rather have buried it in silence. It was hushed up afterwards. Butterby ought to understand people's wishes, before he sets to work.”

“I wish press-gangs were in fashion!” emphatically uttered Roland. “What a nice prize he'd make!”

“I suppose I can depend upon you to take the duty at College this morning?” Mr. Williams said to Arthur, as he was leaving them.

“Yes, I shall be out in time for the examination at the Guildhall. The hour fixed is half-past eleven.”

“Old villains the magistrates must have been, to remand it at all!” was the concluding comment of Mr. Roland Yorke.

CHAPTER XXVI. CHECKMATED.

Constance Channing proceeded to her duties as usual at Lady Augusta Yorke's. She drew her veil over her face, only to traverse the very short way that conveyed her thither, for the sense of shame was strong upon her; not shame for Arthur, but for Hamish. It had half broken Constance's heart.

There are times in our every-day lives when all things seem to wear a depressing aspect, turn which way we will. They were wearing it that day to Constance. Apart from home troubles, she felt particularly discouraged in the educational task she had undertaken. You heard the promise made to her by Caroline Yorke, to be up and ready for her every morning at seven. Caroline kept it for two mornings and then failed. This morning and the previous morning Constance had been there at seven, and returned home without seeing either of the children. Both were ready for her when she entered now.

“How am I to deal with you?” she said to Caroline, in a sad but affectionate tone. “I do not wish to force you to obey me; I would prefer that you should do it cheerfully.”

“It is tiresome to get up early,” responded Caroline. “I can't wake when Martha comes.”

“Whether Martha goes to you at seven, or at eight, or at nine, she has the same trouble to get you up.”

“I don't see any good in getting up early,” cried Caroline.

“Do you see any good in acquiring good habits, instead of bad ones?” asked Constance.

“But, Miss Channing, why need we learn to get up early? We are ladies. It's only the poor who need get up at unreasonable hours—those who have their living to earn.”

“Is it only the poor who are accountable to God for waste of time, Caroline?”

Caroline paused. She did not like to give up her argument. “It's so very low-lived to get up with the sun. I don't think real ladies ever do it.”

“You think 'real ladies' wait until the sun has been up a few hours and warmed the earth for them?”

“Y—es,” said Caroline. But it was not spoken very readily, for she had a suspicion that Miss Channing was laughing at her.

“May I ask where you have acquired your notions of 'real ladies,' Caroline?”

Caroline pouted. “Don't you call Colonel Jolliffe's daughters ladies, Miss Channing?”

“Yes—in position.”

“That's where we went yesterday, you know. Mary Jolliffe says she never gets up until half-past eight, and that it is not lady-like to get up earlier. Real ladies don't, Miss Channing.”

“My dear, shall I relate to you an anecdote that I have heard?”

“Oh, yes!” replied Caroline, her listless mood changing to animation; anecdotes, or anything of that desultory kind, being far more acceptable to the young lady than lessons.

“Before I begin, will you tell me whether you condescend to admit that our good Queen is a 'real lady'?”

“Oh, Miss Channing, now you are laughing at me! As if any one, in all England, could be so great a lady as the Queen.”

“Very good. When she was a little girl, a child of her own age, the daughter of one of the nobility, was brought to Kensington Palace to spend the day with her. In talking together, the Princess Victoria mentioned something she had seen when out of doors that morning at seven o'clock. 'At seven o'clock!' exclaimed the young visitor; 'how early that is to be abroad! I never get out of bed until eight. Is there any use in rising so early?' The Duchess of Kent, who was present, took up the answer: 'My daughter may be called to fill the throne of England when she shall be grown up; therefore, it is especially necessary that she should learn the full value of time.' You see, Caroline, the princess was not allowed to waste her mornings in bed, although she was destined to be the first lady in the land. We may be thankful to her admirable mother for making her in that, as in many other things, a pattern to us.”

“Is it a true anecdote, Miss Channing?”

“It was related to my mother, many years ago, by a lady who was, at that time, very much at Kensington Palace. I think there is little doubt of its truth. One fact we all know, Caroline: the Queen retains her early habits, and implants them in her children. What do you suppose would be her Majesty's surprise, were one of her daughters—say, the Princess Helena, or the Princess Louise—to decline to rise early for their morning studies with their governess, Miss Hildyard, on the plea that it was not 'lady-like'?”

Caroline's objection appeared to be melting away under her. “But it is a dreadful plague,” she grumbled, “to be obliged to get up from one's nice warm bed, for the sake of some horrid old lessons!”

“You spoke of 'the poor'—those who 'have their living to earn'—as the only class who need rise early,” resumed Constance. “Put that notion away from you at once and for ever, Caroline; there cannot be a more false one. The higher we go in the scale of life, the more onerous become our duties in this world, and the greater is our responsibility to God. He to whom five talents were intrusted, did not make them other five by wasting his days in idleness. Oh, Caroline!—Fanny, come closer and listen to me—your time and opportunities for good must be used —not abused or wasted.”

“I will try and get up,” said Caroline, repentantly. “I wish mamma had trained me to it when I was a child, as the Duchess of Kent trained the princess! I might have learned to like it by this time.”

“Long before this,” said Constance. “Do you remember the good old saying, 'Do what you ought, that you may do what you like'? Habit is second nature. Were I told that I might lie in bed every morning until nine or ten o'clock, as a great favour, I should consider it a great punishment.”

“But I have not been trained to get up, Miss Channing; and it is nothing short of punishment to me to do so.”

“The punishment of self-denial we all have to bear, Caroline. But I can tell you what will take away half its sting.”

“What?” asked Caroline, eagerly.

Constance bent towards her. “Jesus Christ said, 'If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.' When once we learn HOW to take it up cheerfully, bravely, for His sake, looking to Him to be helped, the sting is gone. 'No cross, no crown,' you know, my children.”

“No cross, no crown!” Constance had sufficient cross to carry just then. In the course of the morning Lady Augusta came into the room boisterously, her manner indicative of great surprise.

“Miss Channing, what is this tale, about your brother's having been arrested for stealing that missing bank-note? Some visitors have just called in upon me, and they say the town is ringing with the news.”

It was one of the first of Constance Channing's bitter pills; they were to be her portion for many a day. Her heart fluttered, her cheek varied, and her answer to Lady Augusta Yorke was low and timid.

“It is true that he was arrested yesterday on suspicion.”

“What a shocking thing! Is he in prison?”

“Oh no.”

“Did he take the note?”

The question pained Constance worse than all. “He did not take it,” she replied, in a clear, soft tone. “To those who know Arthur well, it would be impossible to think so.”

“But he was before the magistrates yesterday, I hear, and is going up again to-day.”

“Yes, that is so.”

“And Roland could not open his lips to tell me of this when I came home last night!” grumbled my lady. “We were late, and he was the only one up; Gerald and Tod were in bed. I shall ask him why he did not. But, Miss Channing, this must be a dreadful blow for you all?”

“It would be far worse, Lady Augusta, if we believed him guilty,” she replied from her aching heart.

“Oh, dear! I hope he is not guilty!” continued my lady, displaying as little delicacy of feeling as she could well do. “It would be quite a dangerous thing, you know, for my Roland to be in the same office.”

“Be at ease, Lady Augusta,” returned Constance, with a tinge of irony she could not wholly suppress. “Your son will incur no harm from the companionship of Arthur.”

“What does Hamish say?—handsome Hamish! He does not deserve that such a blow should come to him.”

Constance felt her colour deepen. She bent her face over the exercise she was correcting.

“Is he likely to be cleared of the charge?” perseveringly resumed Lady Augusta.

“Not by actual proof, I fear,” answered Constance, pressing her hand upon her brow as she remembered that he could only be proved innocent by another's being proved guilty. “The note seems to have been lost in so very mysterious a manner, that positive proof of his innocence will be difficult.”

“Well, it is a dreadful thing!” concluded Lady Augusta.

Meanwhile, at the very moment her ladyship was speaking, the magistrates were in the town-hall in full conclave—the case before them. The news had spread—had excited interest far and wide; the bench was crowded, and the court was one dense sea of heads.

Arthur appeared, escorted by his brother Hamish and by Roland Yorke. Roland was in high feather, throwing his haughty glances everywhere, for he had an inkling of what was to be the termination of the affair, and did not conceal his triumph. Mr. Galloway also was of their party.

Mr. Galloway was the first witness put forth by Mr. Butterby. The latter gentleman was in high feather also, believing he saw his way clear to a triumphant conviction. Mr. Galloway was questioned; and for some minutes it all went on swimmingly.

“On the afternoon of the loss, before you closed your letter, who were in your office?”

“My clerks—Roland Yorke and Arthur Channing.”

“They saw the letter, I believe?”

“They did.”

“And the bank-note?”

“Most probably.”

“It was the prisoner, Arthur Channing, who fetched the bank-note from your private room to the other? Did he see you put it into the letter?”

“I cannot say.”

A halt. “But he was in full possession of his eyes just then?”

“No doubt he was.”

“Then what should hinder his seeing you put the note into the letter?”

“I will not swear that I put the note into the letter.”

The magistrates pricked up their ears. Mr. Butterby pricked up his, and looked at the witness.

“What do you say?”

“I will not swear that I put the bank-note inside the letter,” deliberately repeated Mr. Galloway.

“Not swear that you put the bank-note into the letter? What is it that you mean?”

“The meaning is plain enough,” replied Mr. Galloway, calmly. “Must I repeat it for the third time? I will not swear that I put the note into the letter.”

“But your instructions to me were that you did put the note into the letter,” cried Mr. Butterby, interrupting the examination.

“I will not swear it,” reiterated the witness.

“Then there's an end of the case!” exclaimed the magistrates' clerk, in some choler. “What on earth was the time of the bench taken up for in bringing it here?”

And there was an end of the case—at any rate for the present—for nothing more satisfactory could be got out of Mr. Galloway.

“I have been checkmated,” ejaculated the angry Butterby.

They walked back arm-in-arm to Mr. Galloway's, Roland and Arthur. Hamish went the other way, to his own office, and Mr. Galloway lingered somewhere behind. Jenkins—truehearted Jenkins, in the black handkerchief still—was doubly respectful to Arthur, and rose to welcome him; a faint hectic of pleasure illumining his face at the termination of the charge.

“Who said our office was going to be put down for a thief's!” uttered Roland. “Old Galloway's a trump! Here's your place, Arthur.”

Arthur did not take it. He had seen from the window the approach of Mr. Galloway, and delicacy prevented his assuming his old post until bade to do so. Mr. Galloway came in, and motioned him into his own room.

“Arthur Channing,” he said, “I have acted leniently in this unpleasant matter, for your father's sake; but, from my very heart, I believe you to be guilty.”

“I thank you, sir,” Arthur said, “for that and all other kindness. I am not as guilty as you think me. Do you wish me to leave?”

“If you can give me no better assurance of your innocence—if you can give me no explanation of the peculiar and most unsatisfactory manner in which you have met the charge—yes. To retain you here would be unjust to my own interests, and unfair as regards Jenkins and Roland Yorke.”

To give this explanation was impossible; neither dared Arthur assert more emphatically his innocence. Once convince Mr. Galloway that he was not the guilty party, and that gentleman would forthwith issue fresh instructions to Butterby for the further investigation of the affair: of this Arthur felt convinced. He could only be silent and remain under the stigma.

“Then—I had better—you would wish me, perhaps—to go at once?” hesitated Arthur.

“Yes,” shortly replied Mr. Galloway.

He spoke a word of farewell, which Mr. Galloway replied to by a nod, and went into the front office. There he began to collect together certain trifles that belonged to him.

“What's that for?” asked Roland Yorke.

“I am going,” he replied.

“Going!” roared Roland, jumping to his feet, and dashing down his pen full of ink, with little regard to the deed he was copying. “Galloway has never turned you off!”

“Yes, he has.”

“Then I'll go too!” thundered Roland, who, truth to say, had flown into an uncontrollable passion, startling Jenkins and arousing Mr. Galloway. “I'll not stop in a place where that sort of injustice goes on! He'll be turning me out next! Catch me stopping for it!”

“Are you taken crazy, Mr. Roland Yorke?”

The question proceeded from his master, who came forth to make it. Roland turned to him, his temper unsubdued, and his colour rising.

“Channing never took the money, sir! It is not just to turn him away.”

“Did you help him to take it, pray, that you identify yourself with the affair so persistently and violently?” demanded Mr. Galloway, in a cynical tone. And Roland answered with a hot and haughty word.

“If you cannot attend to your business a little better, you will get your dismissal from me; you won't require to dismiss yourself,” said Mr. Galloway. “Sit down, sir, and go on with your work.”

“And that's all the thanks a fellow gets for taking up a cause of oppression!” muttered Mr. Roland Yorke, as he sullenly resumed his place at the desk. “This is a precious world to live in!”

CHAPTER XXVII. A PIECE OF PREFERMENT.

Before the nine days' wonder, which, you know, is said to be the accompaniment of all marvels, had died away, Helstonleigh was fated to be astonished by another piece of news of a different nature—the preferment of the Reverend William Yorke.

A different preferment from what had been anticipated for him; otherwise the news had been nothing extraordinary, for it is usual for the Dean and Chapter to provide livings for their minor canons. In a fine, open part of the town was a cluster of buildings, called Hazeldon's Charity, so named from its founder Sir Thomas Hazeldon—a large, paved inclosure, fenced in by iron railings, and a pair of iron gates. A chapel stood in the midst. On either side, right and left, ran sixteen almshouses, and at the end, opposite to the iron gates, stood the dwelling of the chaplain to the charity, a fine residence, called Hazeldon House. This preferment, worth three hundred a year, had been for some weeks vacant, the chaplain having died. It was in the gift of the present baronet, Sir Frederick Hazeldon, a descendant of the founder, and he now suddenly conferred it upon the Rev. William Yorke. It took Helstonleigh by surprise. It took Mr. Yorke himself entirely by surprise. He possessed no interest whatever with Sir Frederick, and had never cast a thought to the probability of its becoming his. Perhaps, Sir Frederick's motive for bestowing it upon him was this—that, of all the clergy in the neighbourhood, looking out for something good to fall to them, Mr. Yorke had been almost the only one who had not solicited it of Sir Frederick.

It was none the less welcome. It would not interfere in the least with the duties or preferment of his minor canonry: a minor canon had once before held it. In short, it was one of those slices of luck which do sometimes come unexpectedly in this world.

In the soft light of the summer evening, Constance Channing stood under the cedar-tree. A fine old tree was that, the pride of the Channings' garden. The sun was setting in all its beauty; clouds of crimson and purple floated on the horizon; a roseate hue tinged the atmosphere, and lighted with its own loveliness the sweet face of Constance. It was an evening that seemed to speak peace to the soul—so would it have spoken to that of Constance, but for the ever-present trouble which had fallen there.

Another trouble was falling upon her, or seemed to be; one that more immediately concerned herself. Since the disgrace had come to Arthur, Mr. Yorke had been less frequent in his visits. Some days had now elapsed from the time of Arthur's dismissal from Mr. Galloway's, and Mr. Yorke had called only once. This might have arisen from accidental circumstances; but Constance felt a different fear in her heart.

Hark! that is his ring at the hall-bell. Constance has not listened for, and loved that ring so long, to be mistaken now. Another minute, and she hears those footsteps approaching, warming her life-blood, quickening her pulses: her face deepens to crimson, as she turns it towards him. She knows nothing yet of his appointment to the Hazeldon chaplaincy; Mr. Yorke has not known it himself two hours.

He came up and laid his hands upon her shoulders playfully, looking down at her. “What will you give me for some news, by way of greeting, Constance?”

“News?” she answered, raising her eyes to his, and scarcely knowing what she did say, in the confusion of meeting him, in her all-conscious love. “Is it good or bad news?”

“Helstonleigh will not call it good, I expect. There are those upon whom it will fall as a thunder-clap.”

“Tell it me, William; I cannot guess,” she said, somewhat wearily. “I suppose it does not concern me.”

“But it does concern you—indirectly.”

Poor Constance, timorous and full of dread since this grief had fallen, was too apt to connect everything with that one source. We have done the same in our lives, all of us, when under the consciousness of some secret terror. She appeared to be living upon a mine, which might explode any hour and bring down Hamish in its debris. The words bore an ominous sound; and, foolish as it may appear to us, who know the nature of Mr. Yorke's news, Constance fell into something very like terror, and turned white.

“Does—does—it concern Arthur?” she uttered.

“No. Constance,” changing his tone, and dropping his hands as he gazed at her, “why should you be so terrified for Arthur? You have been a changed girl since that happened—shrinking, timid, starting at every sound, unable to look people in the face. Why so, if he is innocent?”

She shivered inwardly, as was perceptible to the eyes of Mr. Yorke. “Tell me the news,” she answered in a low tone, “if, as you say, it concerns me.” “I hope it will concern you, Constance. At any rate, it concerns me. The news,” he gravely added, “is, that I am appointed to the Hazeldon chaplaincy.”

“Oh, William!” The sudden revulsion of feeling from intense, undefined terror to joyful surprise, was too much to bear calmly. Her emotion overpowered her, and she burst into tears. Mr. Yorke compelled her to sit down on the bench, and stood over her—his arm on her shoulder, her hand clasped in his.

“Constance, what is the cause of this?” he asked, when her emotion had passed.

She avoided the question. She dried her tears and schooled her face to smiles, and tried to look as unconscious as she might. “Is it really true that you have the chaplaincy?” she questioned.

“I received my appointment this evening. Why Sir Frederick should have conferred it upon me I am unable to say: I feel all the more obliged to him for its being unexpected. Shall you like the house, Constance?”

The rosy hue stole over her face again, and a happy smile parted her lips. “I once said to mamma, when we had been spending the evening there, that I should like to live at Hazeldon House. I like its rooms and its situation; I shall like to be busy among all those poor old people, but, when I said it, William, I had not the slightest idea that the chance would ever be mine.”

“You have only to determine now how soon the 'chance' shall become certainty,” he said. “I must take up my residence there within a month, and I do not care how soon my wife takes up hers after that.”

The rose grew deeper. She bent her brow down upon her hand and his, hiding her face. “It could not possibly be, William.”

“What could not be?”

“So soon. Papa and mamma are going to Germany, you know, and I must keep house here. Besides, what would Lady Augusta say at my leaving her situation almost as soon as I have entered upon it?”

“Lady Augusta—” Mr. Yorke was beginning impulsively, but checked himself. Constance lifted her face and looked at him. His brow was knit, and a stern expression had settled on it.

“What is it, William?”

“I want to know what caused your grief just now,” was his abrupt rejoinder. “And what is it that has made you appear so strange of late?”

The words fell on her as an ice-bolt. For a few brief moments she had forgotten her fears, had revelled in the sunshine of the happiness so suddenly laid out before her. Back came the gloom, the humiliation, the terror.

“Had Arthur been guilty of the charge laid to him, and you were cognizant of it, I could fancy that your manner would be precisely what it is,” answered Mr. Yorke.

Her heart beat wildly. He spoke in a reserved, haughty tone, and she felt a foreboding that some unpleasant explanation was at hand. She felt more—that perhaps she ought not to become his wife with this cloud hanging over them. She nerved herself to say what she deemed she ought to say.

“William,” she began, “perhaps you would wish that our marriage should be delayed until—until—I mean, now that this suspicion has fallen upon Arthur—?”

She could scarcely utter the words coherently, so great was her agitation. Mr. Yorke saw how white and trembling were her lips.

“I cannot believe Arthur guilty,” was his reply.

She remembered that Hamish was, though Arthur was not; and in point of disgrace, it amounted to the same thing. Constance passed her hand over her perplexed brow. “He is looked upon as guilty by many: that, we unfortunately know; and it may not be thought well that you should, under the circumstance, make me your wife. You may not think so.”

Mr. Yorke made no reply. He may have been deliberating the question.

“Let us put it in this light, William,” she resumed, her tone one of intense pain. “Suppose, for argument's sake, that Arthur were guilty; would you marry me, all the same?”

“It is a hard question, Constance,” he said, after a pause.

“It must be answered.”

“Were Arthur guilty and you cognizant of it—screening him—I should lose half my confidence in you, Constance.”

That was the knell. Her heart and her eyes alike fell, and she knew, in that one moment, that all hope of marrying William Yorke was at an end.

“You think that, were he guilty—I am speaking only for argument's sake,” she breathed in her emotion,—“you think, were I cognizant of it, I ought to betray him; to make it known to the world?”

“I do not say that, Constance. No. But you are my affianced wife; and, whatever cognizance of the matter you might possess, whatever might be the mystery attending it—and a mystery I believe there is—you should repose the confidence and the mystery in me.”

“That you might decide whether or not I am worthy to be your wife!” she exclaimed, a flash of indignation lighting up her spirit. To doubt her! She felt it keenly, Oh, that she could have told him the truth! But this she dare not, for Hamish's sake.

He took her hand in his, and gazed searchingly into her face. “Constance, you know what you are to me. This unhappy business has been as great a trial to me as to you. Can you deny to me all knowledge of its mystery, its guilt? I ask not whether Arthur be innocent or guilty; I ask whether you are innocent of everything in the way of concealment. Can you stand before me and assure me, in all truth, that you are so?”

She could not. “I believe in Arthur's innocence,” she replied, in a low tone.

So did Mr. Yorke, or he might not have rejoined as he did. “I believe also in his innocence,” he said. “Otherwise—”

“You would not make me your wife. Speak it without hesitation, William.”

“Well—I cannot tell what my course would be. Perhaps, I would not.”

A silence. Constance was feeling the avowal in all its bitter humiliation. It seemed to humiliate her. “No, no; it would not be right of him to make me his wife now,” she reflected. “Hamish's disgrace may come out any day; he may still be brought to trial for it. His wife's brother! and he attached to the cathedral. No, it would never do. William,” she said, aloud, “we must part.”

“Part?” echoed Mr. Yorke, as the words issued faintly from her trembling lips.

Tears rose to her eyes; it was with difficulty she kept them from falling. “I cannot become your wife while this cloud overhangs Arthur. It would not be right.”

“You say you believe in his innocence,” was the reply of Mr. Yorke.

“I do. But the world does not. William,” she continued, placing her hand in his, while the tears rained freely down her face, “let us say farewell now.”

He drew her closer to him. “Explain this mystery, Constance. Why are you not open with me? What has come between us?”

“I cannot explain,” she sobbed. “There is nothing for us but to part.”

“We will not part. Why should we, when you say Arthur is innocent, and I believe him to be so? Constance, my darling, what is this grief?”

What were the words but a tacit admission that, if Arthur were not innocent, they should part? Constance so interpreted them. Had any additional weight been needed to strengthen her resolution, this would have supplied it.

“Farewell! farewell, William! To remain with you is only prolonging the pain of parting.”

That her resolution to part was firm, he saw. It was his turn to be angry now. A slight touch of the haughty Yorke temper was in him, and there were times when it peeped out. He folded his arms, and the flush left his countenance.

“I cannot understand you, Constance. I cannot fathom your motive, or why you are doing this; unless it be that you never cared for me.”

“I have cared for you as I never cared for any one; as I shall never care for another. To part with you will be like parting with life.”

“Then why speak of it? Be my wife, Constance; be my wife!”

“No, it might bring you disgrace,” she hysterically answered; “and, that, you shall never encounter through me. Do not keep me, William; my resolution is irrevocable.”

Sobbing as though her heart would break, she turned from him. Mr. Yorke followed her indoors. In the hall stood Mrs. Channing. Constance turned aside, anywhere, to hide her face from her mother's eye. Mrs. Channing did not particularly observe her, and turned to accost Mr. Yorke. An angry frown was on his brow, an angry weight on his spirit. Constance's words and course of action had now fully impressed him with the belief that Arthur was guilty; that she knew him to be so; and the proud Yorke blood within him whispered that it was well so to part. But he had loved her with a deep and enduring love, and his heart ached bitterly.

“Will you come in and lend us your help in the discussion?” Mrs. Channing said to him, with a smile. “We are carving out the plan for our journey.”

He bowed, and followed her into the sitting-room. He did not speak of what had just occurred, leaving that to Constance, if she should choose to give an explanation. It was not Mr. Yorke's place to say, “Constance has given me up. She has impressed me with the conviction that Arthur is guilty, and she says she will not bring disgrace upon me.” No, certainly; he could not tell them that.

Mr. Channing lay as usual on his sofa, Hamish near him. Gay Hamish, who was looking as light-faced as ever; undoubtedly, he seemed as light-hearted. Hamish had a book before him, a map, and a pencil. He was tracing out the route for his father and mother, joking always.

After much anxious consideration, Mr. Channing had determined to proceed at once to Germany. It is true that he could not well afford to do so; and, before he heard from Dr. Lamb the very insignificant cost it would prove, he had always put it from him, as wholly impracticable at present. But the information given him by the doctor altered his views, and he began to think it not only practicable, but feasible. His children were giving much help now to meet home expenses—Constance, in going to Lady Augusta's; Arthur, to the Cathedral. Dr. Lamb strongly urged his going, and Mr. Channing himself knew that, if he could only come home restored to health and to activity, the journey instead of being an expense, would, in point of fact, prove an economy. With much deliberation, with much prayer to be helped to a right decision, Mr. Channing at length decided to go.

It was necessary to start at once, for the season was already advanced; indeed, as Dr. Lamb observed, he ought to have been away a month ago. Then all became bustle and preparation. Two or three days were wasted in the unhappy business concerning Arthur. But all the grieving over that, all the staying at home for it, could do no good; Mr. Channing was fain to see this, and the preparations were hastened. Hamish was most active in all—in urging the departure, in helping to pack, in carving out their route: but always joking.

“Now, mind, mother, as you are to be commander in chief, it is the Antwerp packet you are to take,” he was saying, in a serio-comic, dictatorial manner. “Don't get seduced on to any indiscriminate steamer, or you may find yourselves carried off to some unknown regions inhabited by cannibals, and never be heard of again. The Antwerp steamer; and it starts from St. Katherine's Docks—if you have the pleasure of knowing that enchanting part of London. I made acquaintance with it in a fog, in that sight-seeing visit I paid to town; and its beauty, I must confess, did not impress me. From St. Katherine's Docks you will reach Antwerp in about eighteen hours—always provided the ship does not go to pieces.”

“Hamish!”

“Well, I won't anticipate: I dare say it is well caulked. At any rate, take an insurance ticket against accident, and then you'll be all right. An Irishman slept at the top of a very high hotel. 'Are you not afraid to sleep up there, in case of fire?' a friend asked him. 'By the powers, no!' said he; 'they tell me the house is insured.' Now, mother mine—”

“Shall we have to stay in Antwerp, Hamish?” interrupted Mr. Channing.

“Yes, as you return, sir; an answer that you will think emanated from our Irish friend. No one ever yet went to Antwerp without giving the fine old town a few hours' inspection. I only wish the chance were offered me! Now, on your way there, you will not be able to get about; but, as you return, you will—if all the good has been done you that I anticipate.”

“Do not be too sanguine, Hamish.”

“My dear father,” and Hamish's tone assumed a deeper feeling, “to be sanguine was implanted in my nature, at my birth: but in this case I am more than sanguine. You will be cured, depend upon it. When you return, in three months' time, I shall not have a fly waiting for you at the station here, or if I do, it will be for the mother's exclusive use and benefit; I shall parade you through the town on my arm, showing your renewed strength of leg and limb to the delighted eyes of Helstonleigh.”

“Why are you so silent?” Mrs. Channing inquired of William Yorke. She had suddenly noticed that he had scarcely said a word; had sat in a fit of abstraction since his entrance.

“Silent? Oh! Hamish is talking for all of us,” he answered, starting from his reverie.

“The ingratitude of some people!” ejaculated Hamish. “Is he saying that in a spirit of complaint, now? Mr. Yorke, I am astonished at you.”

At this moment Tom was heard to enter the house. That it could be no one but Tom was certain, by the noise and commotion that arose; the others were quieter, except Annabel, and she was a girl. Tom came in, tongue, hands, and feet all going together.

“What luck, is it not, Mr. Yorke? I am so glad it has been given to you!”

Mr. Channing looked up in surprise. “Tom, you will never learn manners! What has been given?”

“Has he not told you?” exclaimed Tom, ignoring the reproof to his manners. “He is appointed to Hazeldon Chapel. Where's Constance? I'll be bound he has told her!”

Saucy Tom! They received his news in silence, looking to Mr. Yorke for explanation. He rose from his chair, and his cheek slightly flushed as he confirmed the tidings.

“Does Constance know it?” inquired Mrs. Channing, speaking in the moment's impulse.

“Yes,” was Mr. Yorke's short answer. And then he said something, not very coherently, about having an engagement, and took his leave, wishing Mr. Channing every benefit from his journey.

“But, we do not go until the day after to-morrow,” objected Mr. Channing. “We shall see you before that.”

Another unsatisfactory sentence from Mr. Yorke, that he “was not sure.” In shaking hands with Mrs. Channing he bent down with a whisper: “I think Constance has something to say to you.”

Mrs. Channing found her in her room, in a sad state of distress. “Child! what is this?” she uttered.

“Oh! mother, mother, it is all at an end, and we have parted for ever!” was poor Constance's wailing answer. And Mrs. Channing, feeling quite sick with the various troubles that seemed to be coming upon her, inquired why it was at an end.

“He feels that the disgrace which has fallen upon us would be reflected upon him, were he to make me his wife. Mother, there is no help for it: it would disgrace him.”

“But where there is no real guilt there can be no real disgrace,” objected Mrs. Channing. “I am firmly persuaded, however mysterious and unsatisfactory things may appear, that Arthur is not guilty, and that time will prove him so.”

Constance could only shiver and sob. Knowing what she knew, she could entertain no hope.

“Poor child! poor child!” murmured Mrs. Channing, her own tears dropping upon the fair young face, as she gathered it to her sheltering bosom. “What have you done that this blight should extend to you?”

“Teach me to bear it, mother. It must be God's will.” And Constance Channing lay in her resting-place, and there sobbed out her heart's grief, as she had done in her early girlhood.

CHAPTER XXVIII. AN APPEAL TO THE DEAN.

The first sharpness of the edge worn off, Arthur Channing partially recovered his cheerfulness. The French have a proverb, which is familiar to us all: “Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute.” There is a great deal of truth in it, as experience teaches us, and as Arthur found. “Of what use my dependence upon God,” Arthur also reasoned with himself ten times a day, “if it does not serve to bear me up in this, my first trouble? As well have been brought up next door to a heathen. Let me do the best I can under it, and go my way as if it had not happened, trusting all to God.”

A good resolution, and one that none could have made, and kept, unless he had learnt that trust, which is the surest beacon-light we can possess in the world. Hour after hour, day after day, did that trust grow in Arthur Channing's heart. He felt a sure conviction that God would bring his innocence to light in His own good time: and that time he was content to wait for. Not at the expense of Hamish. In his brotherly love for Hamish, which this transaction had been unable to dispel, he would have shielded his reputation at any sacrifice to himself. He had grown to excuse Hamish, far more than he could ever have excused himself, had he been guilty of it. He constantly hoped that the sin might never be brought home to Hamish, even by the remotest suspicion. He hoped that he would never fall again. Hamish was now so kind to Arthur—gentle in manner, thoughtfully considerate, anxious to spare him. He had taken to profess his full belief in Arthur's innocence; not as loudly perhaps, but quite as urgently, as did Roland Yorke. “He would prove my innocence, and take the guilt to himself, but that it would bring ruin to my father,” fondly soliloquised Arthur.

Arthur Channing's most earnest desire, for the present, was to obtain some employment. His weekly salary at Mr. Galloway's had been very trifling; but still it was so much loss. He had gone to Mr. Galloway's not so much to be of help to that gentleman, who really did not require a third clerk, as to get his hand into the routine of the office, preparatory to being articled. Hence his weekly pay had been almost a nominal sum. Small though it was, he was anxious to replace it; and he sought to hear of something in the town. As yet, without success. Persons were not willing to engage one on whom a doubt rested; and a very great doubt, in the opinion of the town, did rest upon Arthur. The manner in which the case had terminated—by Mr. Galloway's refusing to swear he put the bank-note into the envelope, when it was known that Mr. Galloway had put it in, and that Mr. Galloway himself knew that he had done so—told more against Arthur than the actual charge had done. It was not, you see, establishing Arthur's innocence; on the contrary, it rather tended to imply his guilt. “If I go on with this, he will be convicted, therefore I will withdraw it for his father's sake,” was the motive the town imputed to Mr. Galloway. His summary dismissal, also, from the office, was urged against him. Altogether, Arthur did not stand well with Helstonleigh; and fresh employment did not readily show itself. This was of little moment, comparatively speaking, while his post in the Cathedral was not endangered. But that was to come.

On the day before the departure of Mr. and Mrs. Channing, Arthur was seated at the organ at afternoon service, playing the anthem, when Mr. Williams came up. Arthur saw him with surprise. It was not the day for practising the choristers; therefore, what could he want? A feeling of dread that it might mean ill to him, came over Arthur.

A feeling all too surely borne out. “Channing,” Mr. Williams began, scarcely giving himself time to wait until service was over and the congregation were leaving, “the dean has been talking to me about this bother. What is to be done?”

The life-blood at his heart seemed to stand still, and then go on again. His place there was about to be taken from him; he knew it. Must he become an idle, useless burden upon them at home?

“He met me this morning in High Street, and stopped me,” continued Mr. Williams. “He considers that if you were guilty of the theft, you ought not to be allowed to retain your place here. I told him you were not guilty—that I felt thoroughly convinced of it; but he listened coldly. The dean is a stern man, and I have always said it.”

“He is a good man, and only stern in the cause of injustice,” replied Arthur, who was himself too just to allow blame to rest where it was not due, even though it were to defend himself. “Did he give orders for my dismissal?”

“He has not done so yet. I said, that when a man was wrongly accused, it ought not to be a plea for all the world's trampling him down. He answered pretty warmly, that of course it ought not; but that, if appearances might be trusted, you were not wrongly accused.”

Arthur sat, scoring some music with his pencil. Never had he felt that appearances were against him more plainly than he felt it then.

“I thought I would step down and tell you this, Channing,” Mr. Williams observed. “I shall not dismiss you, you may be sure of that; but, if the dean puts forth his veto, I cannot help myself. He is master of the Cathedral, not I. I cannot think what possesses the people to doubt you! They never would, if they had ten grains of sense.”

The organist concluded his words as he hurried down the stairs—he was always much pressed for time. Arthur, a cold weight lying at his heart, put the music together, and departed.

He traversed the nave, crossed the body, and descended the steps to the cloisters. As he was passing the Chapter House, the doors opened, and Dr. Gardner came out, in his surplice and trencher. He closed the doors after him, but not before Arthur had seen the dean seated alone at the table—a large folio before him. Both of them had just left the Cathedral.

Arthur raised his hat to the canon, who acknowledged it, but—Arthur thought—very coldly. To a sore mind, fancy is ever active. A thought flashed over Arthur that he would go, there and then, and speak to the dean.

Acting upon the moment's impulse, without premeditation as to what he should say, he turned back and laid his hand upon the door handle. A passing tremor, as to the result, arose within him; but he had learned where help in need is ever to be obtained, and an earnestly breathed word went up then. The dean looked round, saw that it was Arthur Channing, rose from his seat, and awaited his approach.

“Will you pardon my intruding upon you here, Mr. Dean?” he began, in his gentle, courteous manner; and with the urgency of the occasion, all his energy seemed to come to him. Timidity and tremor vanished, and he stood before the dean, a true gentleman and a fearless one. The dean still wore his surplice, and his trencher lay on the table near him. Arthur placed his own hat by its side. “Mr. Williams has just informed me that you cast a doubt as to the propriety of my still taking the organ,” he added.

“True,” said the dean. “It is not fitting that one, upon whom so heavy an imputation lies, should be allowed to continue his duty in this Cathedral.”

“But, sir—if that imputation be a mistaken one?”

“How are we to know that it is a mistaken one?” demanded the dean.

Arthur paused. Sir, will you take my word for it? I am incapable of telling a lie. I have come to you to defend my own cause; and yet I can only do it by my bare word of assertion. You are not a stranger to the circumstances of my family, Mr. Dean; and I honestly avow that if this post is taken from me, it will be felt as a serious loss. I have lost what little I had from Mr. Galloway; I trust I shall not lose this.”

“You know, Channing, that I should be the last to do an unjust thing; you also may be aware that I respect your family very much,” was the dean's reply. “But this crime which has been laid to your charge is a heavy one. If you were guilty of it, it cannot be overlooked.”

“I was not guilty of it,” Arthur impressively said, his tone full of emotion. “Mr. Dean! believe me. When I shall come to answer to my Maker for my actions upon earth, I cannot then speak with more earnest truth than I now speak to you. I am entirely innocent of the charge. I did not touch the money; I did not know that the money was lost, until Mr. Galloway announced it to me some days afterwards.”

The dean gazed at Arthur as he stood before him; at his tall form—noble even in its youthfulness—his fine, ingenuous countenance, his earnest eye; it was impossible to associate such with the brand of guilt, and the dean's suspicious doubts melted away. If ever uprightness was depicted unmistakably in a human countenance, it shone out then from Arthur Channing's.

“But there appears, then, to be some mystery attaching to the loss, to the proceedings altogether,” debated the dean.

“No doubt there may be; no doubt there is,” was the reply of Arthur. “Sir,” he impulsively added, “will you stand my friend, so far as to grant me a favour?”

The dean wondered what was coming.

“Although I have thus asserted my innocence to you; and it is the solemn truth; there are reasons why I do not wish to speak out so unequivocally to others. Will you kindly regard this interview as a confidential one—not speaking of its purport even to Mr. Galloway?”

“But why?” asked the dean.

“I cannot explain. I can only throw myself upon your kindness, Mr. Dean, to grant the request. Indeed,” he added, his face flushing, “my motive is an urgent one.”

“The interview was not of my seeking, so you may have your favour,” said the dean, kindly. “But I cannot see why you should not publicly assert it, if, as you say, you are innocent.”

“Indeed, I am innocent,” repeated Arthur. “Should one ray of light ever be thrown upon the affair, you will see, Mr. Dean, that I have spoken truth.”

“I will accept it as truth,” said the dean. “You may continue to take the organ.”

“I knew God would be with me in the interview!” thought Arthur, as he thanked the dean and left the Chapter House.

He did not go home immediately. He had a commission to execute in the town, and went to do it. It took him about an hour, which brought it to five o'clock. In returning through the Boundaries he encountered Roland Yorke, just released from that bane of his life, the office, for the day. Arthur told him how near he had been to losing the Cathedral.

“By Jove!” uttered Roland, flying into one of his indignant fits. “A nice dean he is! He'd deserve to lose his own place, if he had done it.”

“Well, the danger is over for the present. I say, Yorke, does Galloway talk much about it?”

“Not he,” answered Roland. “He's as sullen and crabbed as any old bear. I often say to Jenkins that he is in a temper with himself for having sent you away, and I don't care if he hears me. There's an awful amount to do since you went. I and Jenkins are worked to death. And there'll be the busiest time of all the year coming on soon, with the autumn rents and leases. I shan't stop long in it, I know!”

Smiling at Roland's account of being “worked to death,” for he knew how much the assertion was worth, Arthur continued his way. Roland continued his, and, on entering his own house, met Constance Channing leaving it. He exchanged a few words of chatter with her, though it struck him that she looked unusually sad, and then found his way to the presence of his mother.

“What an uncommonly pretty girl that Constance Channing is!” quoth he, in his free, unceremonious fashion. “I wonder she condescends to come here to teach the girls!”

“I think I shall dismiss her, Roland,” said Lady Augusta.

“I expect she'll dismiss herself, ma'am, without waiting for you to do it, now William Yorke has found bread and cheese, and a house to live in,” returned Roland, throwing himself at full length on a sofa.

“Then you expect wrong,” answered Lady Augusta. “If Miss Channing leaves, it will be by my dismissal. And I am not sure but I shall do it,” she added, nodding her head.

“What for?” asked Roland, lazily.

“It is not pleasant to retain, as instructress to my children, one whose brother is a thief.”

Roland tumbled off the sofa, and rose up with a great cry—a cry of passionate anger, of aroused indignation. “What?” he thundered.

“Good gracious! are you going mad?” uttered my lady. “What is Arthur Channing to you, that you should take up his cause in this startling way upon every possible occasion?”

“He is this to me—that he has nobody else to stand up for him,” stuttered Roland, so excited as to impede his utterance. “We were both in the same office, and the shameful charge might have been cast upon me, as it was cast upon him. It was mere chance. Channing is as innocent of it as you, mother; he is as innocent as that precious dean, who has been wondering whether he shall dismiss him from the Cathedral. A charitable lot you all are!”

“I'm sure I don't want to be uncharitable,” cried Lady Augusta, whose heart was kind enough in the main. “And I am sure the dean never was uncharitable in his life: he is too good and enlightened a man to be uncharitable. Half the town says he must be guilty, and what is one to think? Then you would not recommend me to let it make any difference to Miss Channing's coming here?”

“No!” burst forth Roland, in a tone that might have brought down the roof, had it been made of glass. “I'd scorn such wicked injustice.”

“If I were you, I'd 'scorn' to put myself into these fiery tempers, upon other people's business,” cried my lady.

“It is my business,” retorted Roland. “Better go into tempers than be hard and unjust. What would William Yorke say at your speaking so of Miss Channing?”

Lady Augusta smiled. “It was hearing what William Yorke had done that almost decided me. He has broken off his engagement with Miss Channing. And he has done well, Roland. It is not meet that he should take his wife from a disgraced family. I have been telling him so ever since it happened.”

Roland stood before her, as if unable to digest the news: his mouth open, his eyes staring. “It is not true!” he shrieked.

“Indeed, it is perfectly true. I gathered a suspicion of it from William Yorke's manner to-day, and I put the question plainly to Miss Channing herself. 'Had they parted in consequence of this business of Arthur's?' She acknowledged that it was so.”

Roland turned white with honest anger. He dashed his hair from his brow, and with an ugly word, he dashed down the stairs four at a time, and flung out of the house; probably with the intention of having a little personal explosion with the Reverend William Yorke.

CHAPTER XXIX. A TASTE OF “TAN.”

The cloisters of Helstonleigh were echoing with the sounds of a loud dispute, according as little with their sacred character, as with the fair beauty of the summer's afternoon.

The excitement caused in the college school by the rumour of Lady Augusta Yorke's having obtained the promise of the head-master that her son should be promoted to the seniorship over the heads of Channing and Huntley, had been smouldering ominously, and gathering greater strength from the very fact that the boys appeared to be powerless in it. Powerless they were: in spite of Tom Channing's boast at the dinner-table that the school would not stand it tamely, and his meaning nod when Hamish had mockingly inquired whether the school intended to send Lady Augusta a challenge, or to recommend Mr. Pye to the surveillance of the dean.

In the first flow of their indignation, the boys, freely ringing the changes of rebellion, had avowed to one another that they would acquaint the dean with the head-master's favouritism, and request his interference—as too many of us do when things happen that annoy us. We are only too prone to speak out our mind, and to proclaim what our remedy or revenge shall be. But when our anger has subsided, and we see things in their true light, we find that those boasts were only loud talking, and cannot be acted upon. Thus it was with the Helstonleigh college boys. They had hurled forth indignation at the master, had pretty nearly conned over the very words in which they should make known their grievance to the dean; but when the practical part came to be considered, their courage oozed out at their fingers' ends. The mice, you remember, passed a resolution in solemn conclave that their enemy, the old cat, should be belled: an excellent precaution, and only wanting one small thing to render it efficient—no mouse would undertake to do it.

To prefer a complaint to the dean of their head-master was a daring measure; such as the school, with all its hardihood, had never yet attempted. It might recoil upon themselves; might produce no good to the question at issue, and only end in making the master their enemy. On the other hand, the boys were resolved not to submit tamely to a piece of favouritism so unjust, without doing something. In the midst of this perplexity, one of them suddenly mooted the suggestion that a written memorial should be sent to the head-master from the school collectively, respectfully requesting him to allow the choice of senior to be made in the legitimate order of things, by merit or priority, but not by favour.

Lame as the suggestion was, the majority were for its adoption simply because no other plan could be hit upon. Some were against it. Hot arguments prevailed on both sides, and a few personal compliments rather tending to break the peace, had been exchanged. The senior boy held himself aloof from acting personally: it was his place they were fighting for. Tom Channing and Huntley were red-hot against what they called the “sneaking,” meaning the underhand work. Gerald Yorke was equally for non-interference, either to the master or the dean. Yorke protested it was not in the least true that Lady Augusta had been promised anything of the sort. In point of fact, there was no proof that she had been, excepting her own assertion, made in the hearing of Jenkins. Gerald gravely declared that Jenkins had gone to sleep and dreamt it.

Affairs had been going on in a cross-grained sort of manner all day. The school, taking it as a whole, had been inattentive; Mr. Pye had been severe; the second master had caned a whole desk, and threatened another, and double lessons had been set the upper boys for the following morning. Altogether, when the gentlemen were released at five o'clock, they were not in the sweetest of tempers, and entered upon a wordy war in the cloisters.

“What possessed you to take and tear up that paper you were surreptitiously scribbling at, when Pye ordered you to go up and hand it in?” demanded Gaunt, of George Brittle. “It was that which put him out with us all. Was it a love-letter?”

“Who was to think he'd go and ask for it?” returned Brittle, an indifferent sort of gentleman, who liked to take things easily. “Guess what it was.”

“Don't talk to me about guessing!” imperiously spoke Gaunt. “I ask you what it was?”

“Nothing less than the memorial to himself,” laughed Brittle. “Some of us made a rough shell of it, and I thought I'd set on and copy it fair. When old Pye's voice came thundering, 'What's that you are so stealthily busy over, Mr. Brittle?—hand it in,' of course I could only tear it into minute pieces, and pretend to be deaf.”

“You had best not try it on again,” said Gaunt. “Nothing puts out Pye like disobeying him to his face.”

“Oh, doesn't it, though!” returned Brittle. “Cribs put him out the worst. He thought that was a crib, or he'd not have been so eager for it.”

“What sort of a shell is it?” asked Harry Huntley. “Who drew it out?”

“It won't do at all,” interposed Hurst. “The head of it is, 'Revered master,' and the tail, 'Yours affectionately.'“

A shout of laughter; Brittle's voice rose above the noise. “And the middle is an eloquent piece of composition, calculated to take the master's obdurate heart by storm, and move it to redress our wrongs.”

“We have no wrongs to redress of that sort,” cried Gerald Yorke.

“Being an interested party, you ought to keep your mouth shut,” called out Hurst to Yorke.

“Keep yours shut first,” retorted Yorke to Hurst. “Not being interested, there's no need to open yours at all.”

“Let's see the thing,” said Huntley.

Brittle drew from his pocket a sheet of a copy-book, tumbled, blotted, scribbled over with the elegance that only a schoolboy can display. Several heads had been laid together, and a sketch of the memorial drawn out between them. Shorn of what Hurst had figuratively called the head and tail, and which had been added for nonsense, it was not a bad production. The boys clustered round Brittle, looking over his shoulder, as he read the composition aloud for the benefit of those who could not elbow space to see.

“It wouldn't be bad,” said Huntley, critically, “if it were done into good grammar.”

“Into what?” roared Brittle. “The grammar's as good as you can produce any day, Huntley. Come!”

“I'll correct it for you,” said Huntley, coolly. “There are a dozen faults in it.”

“The arrogance of those upper-desk fellows!” ejaculated Brittle. “The stops are not put in yet, and they haven't the gumption to allow for them. You'll see what it is when it shall be written out properly, Huntley. It might be sent to the British Museum as a model of good English, there to be framed and glazed. I'll do it to-night.”

“It's no business of yours, Mr. Brittle, that you should interfere to take an active part in it,” resumed Gerald Yorke.

“No business of mine! That's good! When I'm thinking of going in for the seniorship myself another time!”

“It's the business of the whole batch of us, if you come to that!” roared Bywater, trying to accomplish the difficult feat of standing on his head on the open mullioned window-frame, thereby running the danger of coming to grief amongst the gravestones and grass of the College burial-yard. “If Pye does not get called to order now, he may lapse into the habit of passing over hard-working fellows with brains, to exalt some good-for-nothing cake with none, because he happens to have a Dutchman for his mother. That would wash, that would!”

“You, Bywater! do you mean that for me?” hotly demanded Gerald Yorke.

“As if I did!” laughed Bywater. “As if I meant it for any cake in particular! Unless the cap happens to fit 'em. I don't say it does.”

“The thing is this,” struck in Hurst: “who will sign the paper? It's of no use for Brittle, or any other fellow, to be at the bother of writing it out, if nobody can be got to sign it.”

“What do you mean? The school's ready to sign it.”

“Are the seniors?”

With the seniors there was a hitch. Gaunt put himself practically out of the affair; Gerald Yorke would not sign it; and Channing could not. Huntley alone remained.

Why could not Channing sign it? Ah, there was the lever that was swaying and agitating the whole school this afternoon. Poor Tom Channing was not just now reposing upon rose-leaves. What with his fiery temper and his pride, Tom had enough to do to keep himself within bounds; for the school was resenting upon him the stigma that had fallen upon Arthur. Not the whole school; but quite sufficient of it. Not that they openly attacked Tom; he could have repaid that in kind; but they were sending him to Coventry. Some said they would not sign a petition to the master headed by Tom Channing:—Tom, you remember, stood on the rolls next to Gaunt. They said that if Tom Channing were to succeed as senior of the school, the school would rise up in open rebellion. That this feeling against him was very much fostered by the Yorkes, was doubted. Gerald was actuated by a twofold motive, one of which was, that it enhanced his own chance of the seniorship. The other arose from resentment against Arthur Channing, for having brought disgrace upon the office which contained his brother Roland. Tod fraternized in this matter with Gerald, though the same could not be said of him in general; no two brothers in the school agreed less well than did the Yorkes. Both of them fully believed Arthur to be guilty.

“As good have the thing out now, and settle it,” exclaimed Griffin, who came next to Gerald Yorke, and would be fourth senior when Gaunt should leave. “Are you fellows going to sign it, or not?”

“To whom do you speak?” demanded Gaunt.

“Well, I speak to all,” said Griffin, a good-humoured lad, but terribly mischievous, and, for some cause best known to himself, warmly espousing the cause of Gerald Yorke. “Shall you sign it, Gaunt?”

“No. But I don't say that I disapprove of it, mind you,” added Gaunt. “Were I going in for the seniorship, and one below me were suddenly hoisted above my head and made cock of the walk, I'd know the reason why. It is not talking that would satisfy me, or grumbling either; I'd act.”

“Gaunt doesn't sign it,” proceeded Griffin, telling off the names upon his fingers. “That's one. Huntley, do you?”

“I don't come next to Gaunt,” was Huntley's answer. “I'll speak in my right turn.”

Tom Channing stood near to Huntley, his trencher stuck aside on his head, his honest face glowing. One arm was full of books, the other rested on his hip: his whole attitude bespoke self-possession; his looks, defiance. Griffin went on.

“Gerald Yorke, do you sign it?”

“I'd see it further, first.”

“That's two disposed of, Gaunt and Yorke,” pursued Griffin. “Huntley, there's only you.”

Huntley gave a petulant stamp. “I have told you I will not speak out of my turn. Yes, I will speak, though, as we want the affair set at rest,” he resumed, changing his mind abruptly. “If Channing signs it, I will. There! Channing, will you sign it?”

“Yes, I will,” said Tom.

Then it was that the hubbub arose, converting the cloisters into an arena. One word led to another. Fiery blood bubbled up; harsh things were said. Gerald Yorke and his party reproached Tom Channing with being a disgrace to the school's charter, through his brother Arthur. Huntley and a few more warmly espoused Tom's cause, of whom saucy Bywater was one, who roared out cutting sarcasms from his gymnasium on the window-frame. Tom controlled himself better than might have been expected, but he and Gerald Yorke flung passionate retorts one to the other.

“It is not fair to cast in a fellow's teeth the shortcomings of his relations,” continued Bywater. “What with our uncles and cousins, and mothers and grandmothers, there's sure to be one among them that goes off the square. Look at that rich lot, next door to Lady Augusta's, with their carriages and servants, and soirees, and all the rest of their grandeur!—their uncle was hanged for sheep-stealing.”

“I'd rather steal a sheep and be hanged for it, than help myself to a nasty bit of paltry money, and then deny that I did it!” foamed Gerald. “The suspicion might have fallen on my brother, but that he happened, by good luck, to be away that afternoon. My opinion is, that Arthur Charming intended suspicion to fall upon him.”

A howl from Bywater. He had gone over, head foremost, to make acquaintance with the graves. They were too much engrossed to heed him.

“Your brother was a great deal more likely to have helped himself to it, than Arthur Charming,” raged Tom. “He does a hundred dirty things every day, that a Channing would rather cut off his arm than attempt.”

The disputants' faces were almost touching each other, and very fiery faces they were—that is, speaking figuratively. Tom's certainly was red enough, but Gerald's was white with passion. Some of the bigger boys stood close to prevent blows, which Gaunt was forbidding.

“I know he did it!” shrieked Gerald. “There!”

“You can't know it!” stamped Tom. “You don't know it!”

“I do. And for two pins I'd tell.”

The boast was a vain boast, the heat of passion alone prompting it. Gerald Yorke was not scrupulously particular in calm moments; but little recked he what he said in his violent moods. Tom repudiated it with scorn. But there was another upon whom the words fell with intense fear.

And that was Charley Channing. Misled by Gerald's positive and earnest tone, the boy really believed that there must be some foundation for the assertion. A wild fear seized him, lest Gerald should proclaim some startling fact, conveying a conviction of Arthur's guilt to the minds of the school. The blood forsook his face, his lips trembled, and he pushed his way through the throng till he touched Gerald.

“Don't say it, Gerald Yorke! Don't!” he imploringly whispered. “I have kept counsel for you.”

“What?” said Gerald, wheeling round.

“I have kept your counsel about the surplice. Keep Arthur's in return, if you do know anything against him.”

I wish you could have witnessed the change in Gerald Yorke's countenance! A streak of scarlet crossed its pallor, his eyes blazed forth defiance, and a tremor, as of fear, momentarily shook him. To the surprise of the boys, who had no notion what might have been the purport of Charley's whisper, he seized the boy by the arm, and fiercely dragged him away up the cloisters, turning the corner into the west quadrangle.

“Get down!” he hissed; “get down upon your knees, and swear that you'll never breathe a syllable of that calumny again! Do you hear me, boy?”

“No, I will not get down,” said brave Charley.

Gerald drew in his lips. “You have heard of a wild tiger, my boy? One escaped from a caravan the other day, and killed a few people. I am worse than a wild tiger now, and you had better not provoke me. Swear it, or I'll kill you!”

“I will not swear,” repeated the child. “I'll try and keep the promise I gave you, not to betray about the surplice—I will indeed; but don't you say again, please, that Arthur is guilty.”

To talk of killing somebody, and to set about doing it, are two things. Gerald Yorke's “killing” would have amounted to no more than a good thrashing. He held the victim at arm's length, his eyes dilating, his right hand raised, when a head was suddenly propelled close upon them from the graveyard. Gerald was so startled as to drop his hold of Charley.

The head belonged to Stephen Bywater, who must have crept across the burial-ground and chosen that spot to emerge from, attracted probably by the noise. “What's the row?” asked he.

“I was about to give Miss Channing a taste of tan,” replied Gerald, who appeared to suddenly cool down from his passion. “He'd have got it sweetly, had you not come up. I'll tan you too, Mr. Bywater, if you come thrusting in yourself, like that, where you are not expected, and not wanted.”

“Tan away,” coolly responded Bywater. “I can tan again. What had the young one been up to?”

“Impudence,” shortly answered Yorke. “Mark you, Miss Channing! I have not done with you, though it is my pleasure to let you off for the present. Halloa! What's that?”

It was a tremendous sound of yelling, as if some one amidst the throng of boys was being “tanned” there. Gerald and Charley flew off towards it, followed by Bywater, who propelled himself upwards through the mullioned frame in the best way he could. The sufferer proved to be Tod Yorke, who was writhing under the sharp correction of some tall fellow, six feet high. To the surprise of Gerald, he recognized his brother Roland.

You may remember it was stated in the last chapter that Roland Yorke flew off, in wild indignation, from Lady Augusta's news of the parting of the Reverend Mr. Yorke and Constance Channing. Roland, in much inward commotion, was striding through the cloisters on his way to find that reverend divine, when he strode up to the throng of disputants, who were far too much preoccupied with their own concerns to observe him. The first distinct voice that struck upon Roland's ear above the general hubbub, was that of his brother Tod.

When Gerald had rushed away with Charley Channing, it had struck Tod that he could not do better than take up the dispute on his own score. He forced himself through the crowd to where Gerald had stood in front of Tom Channing, and began. For some little time the confusion was so great he could not be heard, but Tod persevered; his manner was overbearing, his voice loud.

“I say that Tom Channing might have the decency to take himself out of the school. When our friends put us into it, they didn't expect we should have to consort with thieves' brothers.”

“You contemptible little reptile! How dare you presume to cast aspersion at my brother?” scornfully uttered Tom. And the scorn was all he threw at him; for the seniors disdained, whatever the provocation, to attack personally those younger and less than themselves. Tod Yorke knew this.

“How dare I! Oh!” danced Tod. “I dare because I dare, and because it's true. When my brother Gerald says he knows it was Arthur Channing helped himself to the note, he does know it. Do you think,” he added, improving upon Gerald's suggestion, “that my brother Roland could be in the same office, and not know that he helped himself to it? He—”

It was at this unlucky moment that Roland had come up. He heard the words, dashed the intervening boys right and left, caught hold of Mr. Tod by the collar of his jacket, and lifted him from the ground, as an angry lion might lift a contemptible little animal that had enraged him. Roland Yorke was not an inapt type of an angry lion just then, with his panting breath, his blazing eye, and his working nostrils.

“Take that! and that! and that!” cried he, giving Tod a taste of his strength. “You speak against Arthur Channing!—take that! You false little hound!—and that! Let me catch you at it again, and I won't leave a whole bone in your body!”

Tod writhed; Tod howled; Tod shrieked; Tod roared for mercy. All in vain. Roland continued his “and thats!” and Gerald and the other two absentees came leaping up. Roland loosed him then, and turned his flashing eyes upon Gerald.

“Is it true that you said you knew Arthur Channing took the bank-note?”

“What if I did?” retorted Gerald.

“Then you told a lie! A lie as false as you are. If you don't eat your words, you are a disgrace to the name of Yorke. Boys, believe me!” flashed Roland, turning to the wondering throng—“Gaunt, you believe me—Arthur Channing never did take the note. I know it. I know it, I tell you! I don't care who it was took it, but it was not Arthur Channing. If you listen again to his false assertions,” pointing scornfully to Gerald, “you'll show yourselves to be sneaking curs.”

Roland stopped for want of breath. Bold Bywater, who was sure to find his tongue before anybody else, elbowed his way to the inner circle, and flourished about there, in complete disregard of the sad state of dilapidation he was in behind; a large portion of a very necessary article of attire having been, in some unaccountable manner, torn away by his recent fall.

“That's right, Roland Yorke!” cried he. “I'd scorn the action of bringing up a fellow's relations against him. Whether Arthur Channing took the note, or whether he didn't, what has that to do with Tom?—or with us? They are saying, some of them, that Tom Channing shan't sign a petition to the master about the seniorship!”

“What petition?” uttered Roland, who had not calmed down a whit.

“Why! about Pye giving it to Gerald Yorke, over the others' heads,” returned Bywater. “You know Gerald's crowing over it, like anything, but I say it's a shame. I heard him and Griffin say this morning that there was only Huntley to get over, now Tom Channing was put out of it through the bother about Arthur.”

“What's the dean about, that he does not give Pye a word of a sort?” asked Roland.

“The dean! If we could only get to tell the dean, it might be all right. But none of us dare do it.”

“Thank you for your defence of Arthur,” said Tom Channing to Roland Yorke, as the latter was striding away.

Roland looked back. “I am ashamed for all the lot of you! You might know that Arthur Channing needs no defence. He should not be aspersed in my school, Gaunt, if I were senior.”

What with one thing and another, Roland's temper had not been so aroused for many a day. Gaunt ran after him, but Roland would not turn his head, or speak.

“Your brothers are excited against Tom Channing, and that makes them hard upon him, with regard to this accusation of Arthur,” observed Gaunt. “Tom has gone on above a bit, about Gerald's getting his seniorship over him and Huntley. Tom Channing can go on at a splitting rate when he likes, and he has not spared his words. Gerald, being the party interested, does not like it. That's what they were having a row over, when you came up.”

“Gerald has no more right to be put over Tom Channing's head, than you have to be put over Pye's,” said Roland, angrily.

“Of course he has not,” replied Gaunt. “But things don't go by 'rights,' you know. This business of Arthur Channing's has been quite a windfall for Gerald; he makes it into an additional reason why Tom, at any rate, should not have the seniorship. And there only remains Huntley.”

“He does, does he!” exclaimed Roland. “If the dean-”

Roland's voice—it had not been a soft one—died away. The dean himself appeared suddenly at the door of the chapter-house, which they were then passing. Roland raised his hat, and Gaunt touched his trencher. The dean accosted the latter, his tone and manner less serene than usual.

“What is the cause of this unusual noise, Gaunt? It has disturbed me in my reading. If the cloisters are to be turned into a bear-garden, I shall certainly order them to be closed to the boys.”

“I'll go and stop it at once, sir,” replied Gaunt, touching his trencher again, as he hastily retired. He had no idea that the dean was in the chapter-house.

Roland, taking no time for consideration—he very rarely did take it, or any of the Yorkes—burst forth with the grievance to the dean. Not that Roland was one who cared much about justice or injustice in the abstract; but he was feeling excessively wroth with Gerald, and in a humour to espouse Tom Channing's cause against the world.

“The college boys are in a state of semi-rebellion, Mr. Dean, and are not so quiet under it as they might be. They would like to bring their cause of complaint to you; but they don't dare.”

“Indeed!” said the dean.

“The senior boy leaves the school at Michaelmas,” went on Roland, scarcely giving the dean time to say the word. “The one who stands first to step into his place is Tom Channing; the next is Huntley; the last is Gerald Yorke. There is a belief afloat that Mr. Pye means to pass over the two first, without reference to their merits or their rights, and to bestow it upon Gerald Yorke. The rumour is, that he has promised this to my mother, Lady Augusta. Ought this to be so, Mr. Dean?—although my asking it may seem to be opposed to Lady Augusta's wishes and my brother's interests.”

“Where have you heard this?” inquired the dean.

“Oh, the whole town is talking of it, sir. Of course, that does not prove its truth; but the college boys believe it. They think,” said Roland, pointedly, “that the dean ought to ascertain its grounds of foundation, and to interfere. Tom Channing is bearing the brunt of this false accusation on his brother, which some of the cowards are casting to him. It would be too bad were Pye to deprive him of the seniorship!”

“You think the accusation on Arthur Channing to be a false one?” returned the dean.

“There never was a more false accusation brought in this world,” replied Roland, relapsing into excitement. “I would answer for Arthur Channing with my own life. He is entirely innocent. Good afternoon, Mr. Dean. If I stop longer, I may say more than's polite; there's no telling. Things that I have heard this afternoon have put my temper up.”

He strode away towards the west door, leaving the dean looking after him with a smile. The dean had been on terms of friendship with Dr. Yorke, and was intimate with his family. Roland's words were a somewhat singular corroboration of Arthur Channing's private defence to the dean only an hour ago.

Meanwhile Gaunt had gone up to scatter the noisy crew. “A nice row you have got me into with your quarrelling,” he exclaimed. “The dean has been in the chapter-house all the time, and isn't he in a passion! He threatens to shut up the cloisters.”

The announcement brought stillness, chagrin. “What a bothering old duffer he is, that dean!” uttered Bywater. “He is always turning up when he's not wanted.”

“Take your books, and disperse in silence,” was the command of the senior boy.

“Stop a bit,” said Bywater, turning himself round and about for general inspection. “Look at me! Can I go home?”

“My!” roared the boys, who had been too preoccupied to be observant. “Haven't they come to grief!”

“But can I go through the streets?”

“Oh yes! Make a rush for it. Tell the folks you have been in the wars.”

CHAPTER XXX. THE DEPARTURE.

I like to see fair skies and sunshine on the morning fixed for a journey. It seems to whisper a promise that satisfaction from that journey lies before it: a foolish notion, no doubt, but a pleasant one.

Never did a more lovely morning arise to gladden the world, than that fixed upon for Mr. and Mrs. Channing's departure. The August sky was without a cloud, the early dew glittered in the sunbeams, bees and butterflies sported amidst the opening flowers.

Mr. Channing was up early, and had gathered his children around him. Tom and Charles had, by permission, holiday that morning from early school, and Constance had not gone to Lady Augusta Yorke's. The very excitement and bustle of preparation had appeared to benefit Mr. Channing; perhaps it was the influence of the hope which had seated itself in his heart, and was at work there. But Mr. Channing did not count upon this hope one whit more than he could help; for disappointment might be its ending. In this, the hour of parting from his home and his children, the hope seemed to have buried itself five fathoms deep, if not to have died away completely. Who, in a similar position to Mr. Channing's, has not felt this depression on leaving a beloved home?

The parting had been less sad but for the dark cloud hanging over Arthur. Mr. Channing had no resource but to believe him guilty, and his manner to him had grown cold and stern. It was a pleasing sight—could you have looked in upon it that morning—one that would put you in mind of that happier world where partings are not.

For it was to that world that Mr. Channing had been carrying the thoughts of his children in these, the last moments. The Bible was before him, but all that he had chosen to read was a short psalm. And then he prayed God to bless them; to keep them from evil; to be their all-powerful protector. There was not a dry eye present; and Charles and Annabel—Annabel with all her wildness—sobbed aloud.

He was standing up now, supported by Hamish, his left hand leaning heavily, also for support, on the shoulder of Tom. Oh! Arthur felt it keenly! felt it as if his heart would break. It was Tom whom his father had especially called to his aid; he was passed over. It was hard to bear.

He was giving a word of advice, of charge to all. “Constance, my pretty one, the household is in your charge; you must take care of your brothers' comforts. And, Hamish, my son, I leave Constance to your care. Tom, let me enjoin you to keep your temper within bounds, particularly with regard to that unsatisfactory matter, the seniorship. Annabel, be obedient to your sister, and give her no care. And Charley, my little darling, be loving and gentle as you always are. Upon my return—if I shall be spared to return—”

“Father,” exclaimed Arthur, in a burst of irrepressible feeling, “have you no word for me?”

Mr. Channing laid his hand upon the head of Arthur. “Bless, oh bless this my son!” he softly murmured. “And may God forgive him, if he be indeed the erring one we fear!”

But a few minutes had elapsed since Mr. Channing had repeated aloud the petition in the prayer taught us by our Saviour—“Lead us not into temptation!” It had come quickly to one of his hearers. If ever temptation assailed a heart, it assailed Arthur's then. “Not I, father; it is Hamish who is guilty; it is for him I have to bear. Hamish, whom you are caressing, was the true culprit; I, whom you despise, am innocent.” Words such as these might have hovered on Arthur's lips; he had nearly spoken them, but for the strangely imploring look cast to him from the tearful eyes of Constance, who read his struggle. Arthur remembered One who had endured temptation far greater than this; Who is ever ready to grant the same strength to those who need it. A few moments, and the struggle and temptation passed, and he had not yielded to it.

“Children, I do not like these partings. They always sadden my heart. They make me long for that life where partings shall be no more. Oh, my dear ones, do you all strive on to attain to that blessed life! Think what would be our woeful grief—if such can assail us there; if memory of the past may be allowed us—should we find any one of our dear ones absent—of you who now stand around me! I speak to you all—not more to one than to another—absent through his own fault, his own sin, his own carelessness! Oh, children! you cannot tell my love for you—my anxious care!—lest any of you should lose this inconceivable blessing. Work on; strive on; and if we never meet again here—”

“Oh, papa, papa,” wildly sobbed Annabel, “we shall meet again! You will come back well.”

“I trust we shall! I do trust I may! God is ever merciful and good. All I would say is, that my life is uncertain; that, if it be His will not to spare me, I shall have but preceded you to that better land. My blessing be upon you, my children! God's blessing be upon you! Fare you well.”

In the bustle of getting Mr. Channing to the fly, Arthur was left alone with his mother. She clung to him, sobbing much. Even her faith in him was shaken. When the rupture occurred between Mr. Yorke and Constance, Arthur never spoke up to say: “There is no cause for parting; I am not guilty.” Mrs. Channing was not the only one who had expected him to say this, or something equivalent to it; and she found her expectation vain. Arthur had maintained a studied silence; of course it could only tell against him.

“Mother! my darling mother! I would ask you to trust me still, but that I see how difficult it is for you!” he said, as hot tears were wrung from his aching heart.

Hamish came in. Arthur, not caring to exhibit his emotion for every one's benefit, retired to a distant window. “My father is in, all comfortable,” said Hamish. “Mother, are you sure you have everything?”

“Everything, I believe.”

“Well—put this into your private purse, mother mine. You'll find some use for it.”

It was a ten-pound note. Mrs. Channing began protesting that she should have enough without it.

“Mrs. Channing, I know your 'enoughs,'“ laughed Hamish, in his very gayest and lightest tone. “You'll be for going without dinner every other day, fearing that funds won't last. If you don't take it, I shall send it after you to-morrow.”

“Thank you, my dear, considerate boy!” she gratefully said, as she put up the money, which would, in truth, prove useful. “But how have you been able to get it for me?”

“As if a man could not save up his odd sixpences for a rainy day!” quoth Hamish.

She implicitly believed him. She had absolute faith in her darling Hamish; and the story of his embarrassments had not reached her ear. Arthur heard all from his distant window. “For that very money, given to my mother as a gift from him, I must suffer,” was the rebellious thought that ran through his mind.

The fly started. Mr. and Mrs. Channing and Charley inside, Hamish on the box with the driver. Tom galloped to the station on foot. Of course the boys were eager to see them off. But Arthur, in his refined sensitiveness, would not put himself forward to make one of them; and no one asked him to do so.

The train was on the point of starting. Mr. and Mrs. Channing were in their places, certain arrangements having been made for the convenience of Mr. Channing, who was partially lying across from one seat to the other; Hamish and the others were standing round for a last word; when there came one, fighting his way through the platform bustle, pushing porters and any one else who impeded his progress to the rightabout. It was Roland Yorke.

“Haven't I come up at a splitting pace! I overslept myself, Mr. Channing, and I thought I should not be in time to give you a God-speed. I hope you'll have a pleasant time, and come back cured, sir!”

“Thank you, Roland. These heartfelt wishes from you all are very welcome.”

“I say, Mr. Channing,” continued Roland, leaning over the carriage window, in utter disregard of danger: “If you should hear of any good place abroad, that you think I might do for, I wish you'd speak a word for me.”

“Place abroad?” repeated Mr. Channing, while Hamish burst into a laugh.

“Yes,” said Roland. “My brother George knew a fellow who went over to Austria or Prussia, or some of those places, and dropped into a very good thing there, quite by accident. It was connected with one of the embassies, I think; five or six hundred a year, and little to do.”

Mr. Channing smiled. “Such windfalls are rare. I fear I am not likely to hear of anything of the sort. But what has Mr. Galloway done to you, Roland? You are a fixture with him.”

“I am tired of Galloway's,” frankly confessed Roland. “I didn't enjoy myself there before Arthur left, but I am ready to hang myself since, with no one to speak to but that calf of a Jenkins! If Galloway will take on Arthur again, and do him honour, I'll stop and make the best of it; but, if he won't—”

“Back! back! hands off there! Are you mad?” And amidst much shouting, and running, and dragging careless Roland out of danger, the train steamed out of the station.

CHAPTER XXXI. ABROAD.

A powerful steamer was cutting smoothly through the waters. A large expanse of sea lay around, dotted with its fishing-boats, which had come out with the night's tide. A magnificent vessel, her spars glittering in the rising sun, might be observed in the distance, and the grey, misty sky, overhead, gave promise of a hot and lovely day.

Some of the passengers lay on deck, where they had stationed themselves the previous night, preferring its open air to the closeness of the cabins, in the event of rough weather. Rough weather they need not have feared. The passage had been perfectly calm; the sea smooth as a lake; not a breath of wind had helped the good ship on her course; steam had to do its full work. But for this dead calm, the fishing-craft would not be close in-shore, looking very much like a flock of sea-gulls. Had a breeze, ever so gentle, sprung up, they would have put out to more prolific waters.

A noise, a shout, a greeting! and some of the passengers, already awake, but lying lazily, sprang up to see what caused it. It was a passing steamer, bound for the great metropolis which they had left not seventeen hours ago. The respective captains exchanged salutes from their places aloft, and the fine vessels flew past each other.

Bon voyage! bon voyage!” shouted out a little French boy to the retreating steamer.

“We have had a fine passage, captain,” observed a gentleman who was stretching himself and stamping about the deck, after his night's repose on the hard bench.

“Middling,” responded the captain, to whom a dead calm was not quite so agreeable as it was to his passengers. “Should ha' been in all the sooner for a breeze.”

“How long will it be, now?”

“A good time yet. Can't go along as if we had wind at our back.”

The steamer made good progress, however, in spite of the faithless wind. It glided up the Scheldt, and, by-and-by, the spire of Antwerp Cathedral was discerned, rising against the clear sky. Mrs. Channing, who had been one of those early astir, went back to her husband. He was lying where he had been placed when the vessel left St. Katherine's Docks.

“We shall soon be in, James. I wish you could see that beautiful spire. I have been searching for it ever so long; it is in sight, now. Hamish told me to keep a look-out for it.”

“Did he?” replied Mr. Channing. “How did Hamish know it might be seen?”

“From the guide-books, I suppose; or from hearsay. Hamish seems to know everything. What a good passage we have had!”

“Ay,” said Mr. Channing. “What I should have done in a rough sea, I cannot tell. The dread of it has been pressing on me as a nightmare since our voyage was decided upon.”

Mrs. Channing smiled. “Troubles seldom come from the quarter we anticipate them.”

Later, when Mrs. Channing was once more leaning over the side of the vessel, a man came up and put a card into her hand, jabbering away in German at the same time. The Custom House officers had come on board then.

“Oh, dear, if Constance were only here! It is for interpreting that we shall miss her,” thought Mrs. Channing. “I am sorry that I do not understand you,” she said, turning to the man.

“Madame want an hot-el? That hot-el a good one,” tapping the card with his finger, and dexterously turning the reverse side upward, where was set forth in English the advantages of a certain Antwerp inn.

“Thank you, but we make no stay at Antwerp; we go straight on at once.” And she would have handed back the card.

No, he would not receive it. “Madame might be wanting an hot-el at another time; on her return, it might be. If so, would she patronize it? it was a good hot-el; perfect!”

Mrs. Channing slipped the card into her reticule, and searched her directions to see what hotel Hamish had indicated, should they require one at Antwerp. She found it to be the Hotel du Parc. Hamish certainly had contrived to acquire for them a great fund of information; and, as it turned out, information to be relied on.

Breakfast was to be obtained on board the steamer, and they availed themselves of it, as did a few of the other passengers. Some delay occurred in bringing the steamer to the side, after they arrived. Whether from that cause, or the captain's grievance—want of wind—or from both, they were in later than they ought to have been. When the first passenger put his foot on land, they had been out twenty hours.

Mr. Channing was the last to be removed, as, with him, aid was required. Mrs. Channing stood on the shore at the head of the ladder, looking down anxiously, lest in any way harm should come to him, when she found a hand laid upon her shoulder, and a familiar voice saluted her.

“Mrs. Channing! Who would have thought of seeing you here! Have you dropped from the moon?”

Not only was the voice familiar, but the face also. In the surprise of being so addressed, in the confusion around her, Mrs. Channing positively did not for a moment recognize it; all she saw was, that it was a home face. “Mr. Huntley!” she exclaimed, when she had gathered her senses; and, in the rush of pleasure of meeting him, of not feeling utterly alone in that strange land, she put both her hands into his. “I may return your question by asking where you have dropped from. I thought you were in the south of France.”

“So I was,” he answered, “until a few days ago, when business brought me to Antwerp. A gentleman is living here whom I wished to see. Take care, my men!” he continued to the English sailors, who were carrying up Mr. Channing. “Mind your footing.” But the ascent was accomplished in safety, and Mr. Channing was placed in a carriage.

“Do you understand their lingo?” Mr. Huntley asked, as the porters talked and chattered around.

“Not a syllable,” she answered. “I can manage a little French, but this is as a sealed book to me. Is it German or Flemish?”

“Flemish, I conclude,” he said laughingly; “but my ears will not tell me, any more than yours tell you. I should have done well to bring Ellen with me. She said, in her saucy way, 'Papa, when you are among the French and Germans, you will be wishing for me to interpret for you.'“

“As I have been wishing for Constance,” replied Mrs. Channing. “In our young days, it was not thought more essential to learn German than it was to learn Hindustanee. French was only partially taught.”

“Quite true,” said Mr. Huntley. “I managed to rub through France after a fashion, but I don't know what the natives thought of my French. What I did know, I have half forgotten. But, now for explanations. Of course, Mr. Channing has come to try the effect of the German springs?”

“Yes, and we have such hopes!” she answered. “There does appear to be a probability that not only relief, but a cure, may be effected; otherwise, you may be sure we should not have ventured on so much expense.”

“I always said Mr. Channing ought to try them.”

“Very true; you did so. We were only waiting, you know, for the termination of the chancery suit. It is terminated, Mr. Huntley; and against us.”

Mr. Huntley had been abroad since June, travelling in different parts of the Continent; but he had heard from home regularly, chiefly from his daughter, and this loss of the suit was duly communicated with other news.

“Never mind,” said he to Mrs. Channing. “Better luck next time.”

He was of a remarkably pleasant disposition, in temperament not unlike Hamish Channing. A man of keen intellect was Mr. Huntley; his fine face expressing it. The luggage collected, they rejoined Mr. Channing.

“I have scarcely said a word to you,” cried Mr. Huntley, taking his hand. “But I am better pleased to see you here, than I should be to see any one else living. It is the first step towards a cure. Where are you bound for?”

“For Borcette. It is—”

“I know it,” interrupted Mr. Huntley. “I was at it a year or two ago. One of the little Brunnens, near Aix-la-Chapelle. I stayed a whole week there. I have a great mind to accompany you thither, now, and settle you there.”

“Oh, do!” exclaimed Mr. Channing, his face lighting up, as the faces of invalids will light up at the anticipated companionship of a friend. “If you can spare time, do come with us!”

“My time is my own; the business that brought me here is concluded, and I was thinking of leaving to-day. Having nothing to do after my early breakfast, I strolled down to watch in the London steamer, little thinking I should see you arrive by it. That's settled, then. I will accompany you as far as Borcette, and see you installed.”

“When do you return home?”

“Now; and glad enough I shall be to get there. Travelling is delightful for a change, but when you have had enough of it, home peeps out in the distance with all its charms.”

The train which Mr. and Mrs. Channing had intended to take was already gone, through delay in the steamer's reaching Antwerp, and they had to wait for another. When it started, it had them safely in it, Mr. Huntley with them. Their route lay through part of the Netherlands, through Malines, and some beautiful valleys; so beautiful that it is worth going the whole distance from England to see them.

“What is this disturbance about the seniorship, and Lady Augusta Yorke?” asked Mr. Huntley, as it suddenly occurred to his recollection, in the earlier part of their journey. “Master Harry has written me a letter full of notes of exclamation and indignation, saying I 'ought to come home and see about it.' What is it?”

Mr. Channing explained; at least, as far as he was able to do so. “It has given rise to a good deal of dissatisfaction in the school,” he added, “but I cannot think, for my own part, that it can have any foundation. Mr. Pye would not be likely to give a promise of the kind, either to Lady Augusta, or to any other of the boys' friends.”

“If he attempted to give one to me, I should throw it back to him with a word of a sort,” hastily rejoined Mr. Huntley, in a warm tone. “Nothing can possibly be more unjust, than to elevate one boy over another undeservedly; nothing, in my opinion, can be more pernicious. It is enough to render the boy himself unjust through life; to give him loose ideas of right and wrong. Have you not inquired into it?”

“No,” replied Mr. Channing.

“I shall. If I find reason to suspect there may be truth in the report, I shall certainly inquire into it. Underhand work of that sort goes, with me, against the grain. I can stir in it with a better grace than you can,” Mr. Huntley added: “my son being pretty sure not to succeed to the seniorship, so long as yours is above him to take it. Tom Channing will make a good senior; a better than Harry would. Harry, in his easy indifference, would suffer the school to lapse into insubordination; Tom will keep a tight hand over it.”

A sensation of pain darted across the heart of Mr. Channing. Only the day before his leaving home, he had accidentally heard a few words spoken between Tom and Charley, which had told him that Tom's chance of the seniorship was emperilled through the business connected with Arthur. Mr. Charming had then questioned Tom, and found that it was so. He must speak of this now to Mr. Huntley, however painful it might be to himself to do so. It were more manly to meet it openly than to bury it in silence, and let Mr. Huntley hear of it (if he had not heard of it already) as soon as he reached Helstonleigh.

“Have you heard anything in particular about Arthur lately?” inquired Mr. Channing.

“Of course I have,” was the answer. “Ellen did not fail to give me a full account of it. I congratulate you on possessing such sons.”

“Congratulate! To what do you allude?” asked Mr. Channing.

“To Arthur's applying after Jupp's post, as soon as he knew that the suit had failed. He's a true Channing. I am glad he got it.”

“Not to that—I did not allude to that,” hastily rejoined Mr. Channing. And then, with downcast eyes, and a downcast heart, he related sufficient to put Mr. Huntley in possession of the facts.

Mr. Huntley heard the tale with incredulity, a smile of ridicule parting his lips. “Suspect Arthur of theft!” he exclaimed. “What next? Had I been in my place on the magistrates' bench that day, I should have dismissed the charge at once, upon such defective evidence. Channing, what is the matter?”

Mr. Channing laid his hand upon his aching brow, and Mr. Huntley had to bend over him to catch the whispered answer. “I do fear that he may be guilty. If he is not guilty, some strange mystery altogether is attached to it.”

“But why do you fear that he is guilty?” asked Mr. Huntley, in surprise.

“Because his own conduct, relating to the charge, is so strange. He will not assert his innocence; or, if he does attempt to assert it, it is with a faint, hesitating manner and tone, that can only give one the impression of falsehood, instead of truth.”

“It is utterly absurd to suppose your son Arthur capable of the crime. He is one of those whom it is impossible to doubt; noble, true, honourable! No; I would suspect myself, before I could suspect Arthur Channing.”

“I would have suspected myself before I had suspected him,” impulsively spoke Mr. Channing. “But there are the facts, coupled with his not denying the charge. He could not deny it, even to the satisfaction of Mr. Galloway: did not attempt it; had he done so, Galloway would not have turned him from the office.”

Mr. Huntley fell into thought, revolving over the details, is they had been related to him. That Arthur was the culprit, his judgment utterly repudiated; and he came to the conclusion that he must be screening another. He glanced at Mrs. Channing, who sat in troubled silence.

“You do not believe Arthur guilty?” he said, in a low tone, suddenly bending over to her.

“I do not know what to believe; T am racked with doubt and pain,” she answered. “Arthur's words to me in private are only compatible with entire innocence; but then, what becomes of the broad facts?—of his strange appearance of guilt before the world? God can bring his innocence to light, he says; and he is content to wait His time.”

“If there is a mystery, I'll try to come to the bottom of it, when I reach Helstonleigh,” thought Mr. Huntley. “Arthur's not guilty, whoever else may be.”

It was impossible to shake his firm faith in Arthur Channing. Mr. Huntley was one of the few who read character strongly and surely, and he knew Arthur was incapable of doing wrong. Had his eyes witnessed Arthur positively stealing the bank-note, his mind, his judgment would have refused credence to his eyes. You may, therefore, judge that neither then, nor afterwards, was he likely to admit the possibility of Arthur's guilt.

“And the college school is saying that Tom shall not stand for the seniorship!” he resumed aloud. “Does my son say it?”

“Some of them are saying it; I believe the majority of the school. I do not know whether your son is amongst the number.”

“He had better not let me find him so,” cried Mr. Huntley. “But now, don't suffer this affair to worry you,” he added, turning heartily to Mr. Channing. “If Arthur's guilty, I'll eat him; and I shall make it my business to look into it closely when I reach home. You are incapacitated, my old friend, and I shall act for you.”

“Did Ellen not mention this, in writing to you?”

“No; the sly puss! Catch Miss Ellen writing to me anything that might tell against the Channings.”

A silence followed. The subject, which the words seemed to hint at, was one upon which there could be no openness between them. A warm attachment had sprung up between Hamish Channing and Ellen Huntley; but whether Mr. Huntley would sanction it, now that the suit had failed, was doubtful. He had never absolutely sanctioned it before: tacitly, in so far as that he had not interfered to prevent Ellen from meeting Hamish in society—in friendly intercourse. Probably, he had never looked upon it from a serious point of view; possibly, he had never noticed it. Hamish had not spoken, even to Ellen; but, that they did care for each other very much, was evident to those who chose to open their eyes.

“No two people in all Helstonleigh were so happy in their children as you!” exclaimed Mr. Huntley. “Or had such cause to be so.”

“None happier,” assented Mrs. Channing, tears rising to her eyes. “They were, and are good, dutiful, and loving. Would you believe that Hamish, little as he can have to spare, has been one of the chief contributors to help us here?”

Mr. Huntley lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “Hamish has! How did he accomplish it?”

“He has, indeed. I fancy he has been saving up with this in view. Dear, self-denying Hamish!”

Now, it just happened that Mr. Huntley was cognizant of Mr. Hamish's embarrassments; so, how the “saving up” could have been effected, he was at a loss to know. “Careless Hamish may have borrowed it,” thought he to himself, “but saved it up he has not.”

“What are we approaching now?” interrupted Mr. Channing.

They were approaching the Prussian frontier; and there they had to change trains: more embarrassment for Mr. Channing. After that, they went on without interruption, and arrived safely at the terminus, almost close to Borcette, having been about four hours on the road.

“Borcette at last!” cheerily exclaimed Mr. Huntley, as he shook Mr. Channing's hand. “Please God, it may prove to you a place of healing!”

“Amen!” was the earnestly murmured answer.

Mrs. Channing was delighted with Borcette. Poor Mr. Channing could as yet see little of it. It was a small, unpretending place, scarcely ten minutes' distance from Aix-la-Chapelle, to which she could walk through an avenue of trees. She had never before seen a bubbling fountain of boiling water, and regarded those of Borcette with much interest. The hottest, close to the Hotel Rosenbad, where they sojourned, boasted a temperature of more than 150 deg. Fahrenheit; it was curious to see it rising in the very middle of the street. Other things amused her, too; in fact, all she saw was strange, and bore its peculiar interest. She watched the factory people flocking to and fro at stated hours in the day—for Borcette has its factories for woollen fabrics and looking-glasses—some thousands of souls, their walk as regular and steady as that of school-girls on their daily march under the governess's eye. The men wore blue blouses; the women, neat and clean, wore neither bonnets nor caps; but their hair was twisted round their heads, as artistically as if done by a hairdresser. Not one, women or girls, but wore enormous gold earrings, and the girls plaited their hair, and let it hang behind.

What a contrast they presented to their class in England! Mrs. Channing had, not long before, spent a few weeks in one of our large factory towns in the north. She remembered still the miserable, unwholesome, dirty, poverty-stricken appearance of the factory workers there—their almost disgraceful appearance; she remembered still the boisterous or the slouching manner with which they proceeded to their work; their language anything but what it ought to be. But these Prussians looked a respectable, well-conducted, well-to-do body of people.

Where could the great difference lie? Not in wages; for the English were better paid than the Germans. We might go abroad to learn economy, and many other desirable accompaniments of daily life. Nothing amused her more than to see the laundresses and housewives generally, washing the linen at these boiling springs; wash, wash, wash! chatter, chatter, chatter! She thought they must have no water in their own homes, for they would flock in numbers to the springs with their kettles and jugs to fill them.

It was Doctor Lamb who had recommended them to the Hotel Rosenbad; and they found the recommendation a good one. Removed from the narrow, dirty, offensive streets of the little town, it was pleasantly situated. The promenade, with its broad walks, its gay company (many of them invalids almost as helpless as Mr. Channing), and its musical bands, was in front of the hotel windows; a pleasant sight for Mr. Channing until he could get about himself. On the heights behind the hotel were two churches; and the sound of their services would be wafted down in soft, sweet strains of melody. In the neighbourhood there was a shrine, to which pilgrims flocked. Mrs. Channing regarded them with interest, some with their alpen-stocks, some in fantastic dresses, some with strings of beads, which they knelt and told; and her thoughts went back to the old times of the Crusaders. All she saw pleased her. But for her anxiety as to what would be the effect of the new treatment upon her husband, and the ever-lively trouble about Arthur, it would have been a time of real delight to Mrs. Channing.

They could not have been better off than in the Hotel Rosenbad. Their rooms were on the second floor—a small, exquisitely pretty sitting-room, bearing a great resemblance to most continental sitting-rooms, its carpet red, its muslin curtains snowy white; from this opened a bed-room containing two beds, all as conveniently arranged as it could be. Their meals were excellent; the dinner-table especially being abundantly supplied. For all this they paid five francs a day each, and the additional accommodation of having the meals served in their room, on account of Mr. Channing, was not noted as an additional expense. Their wax-lights were charged extra, and that was all. I think English hotel-keepers might take a lesson from Borcette!

The doctor gave great hopes of Mr. Channing. His opinion was, that, had Mr. Channing come to these baths when he was first taken ill, his confinement would have been very trifling. “You will find the greatest benefit in a month,” said the doctor, in answer to the anxious question, How long the restoration might be in coming. “In two months you will walk charmingly; in three, you will be well.” Cheering news, if it could only be borne out.

“I will not have you say 'If,'“ cried Mr. Huntley, who had made one in consultation with the doctor. “You are told that it will be so, under God's blessing, and all you have to do is to anticipate it.”

Mr. Channing smiled. They were stationed round the open window of the sitting-room, he on the most comfortable of sofas, Mrs. Channing watching the gay prospect below, and thinking she should never tire of it. “There can be no hope without fear,” said he.

“But I would not think of fear: I would bury that altogether,” said Mr. Huntley. “You have nothing to do here but to take the remedies, look forward with confidence, and be as happy as the day's long.”

“I will if I can,” said Mr. Channing, with some approach to gaiety. “I should not have gone to the expense of coming here, but that I had great hopes of the result.”

“Expense, you call it! I call it a marvel of cheapness.”

“For your pocket. Cheap as it is, it will tell upon mine: but, if it does effect my restoration, I shall soon repay it tenfold.”

“'If,' again! It will effect it, I say. What shall you do with Hamish, when you resume your place at the head of your office?”

“Let me resume it first, Huntley.”

“There you go! Now, if you were only as sanguine and sure as you ought to be, I could recommend Hamish to something good to-morrow.”

“Indeed! What is it?”

“But, if you persist in saying you shall not get well, or that there's a doubt whether you will get well, where's the use of my doing it? So long as you are incapacitated, Hamish must be a fixture in Guild Street.”

“True.”

“So I shall say no more about it at present. But remember, my old friend, that when you are upon your legs, and have no further need of Hamish—who, I expect, will not care to drop down into a clerk again, where he has been master—I may be able to help him to something; so do not let anticipations on his score worry you. I suppose you will be losing Constance soon?”

Mr. Channing gave vent to a groan: a sharp attack of his malady pierced his frame just then. Certain reminiscences, caused by the question, may have helped its acuteness; but of that Mr. Huntley had no suspicion.

In the evening, when Mrs. Channing was sitting under the acacia trees, Mr. Huntley joined her, and she took the opportunity of alluding to the subject. “Do not mention it again in the presence of my husband,” she said: “talking of it can only bring it before his mind with more vivid force. Constance and Mr. Yorke have parted.”

Had Mrs. Channing told him the cathedral had parted, Mr. Huntley could not have felt more surprise. “Parted!” he ejaculated. “From what cause?”

“It occurred through this dreadful affair of Arthur's. I fancy the fault was as much Constance's as Mr. Yorke's, but I do not know the exact particulars. He did not like it; he thought, I believe, that to marry a sister of Arthur's would affect his own honour—or she thought it. Anyway, they parted.”

“Had William Yorke been engaged to my daughter, and given her up upon so shallow a plea, I should have been disposed to chastise him,” intemperately spoke Mr. Huntley, carried away by his strong feeling.

“But, I say I fancy that the giving up was on Constance's side,” repeated Mrs. Channing. “She has a keen sense of honour, and she knows the pride of the Yorkes.”

“Pride, such as that, would be the better for being taken down a peg,” returned Mr. Huntley. “I am sorry for this. The accusation has indeed been productive of serious effects. Why did not Arthur go to William Yorke and avow his innocence, and tell him there was no cause for their parting? Did he not do so?”

Mrs. Channing shook her head only, by way of answer; and, as Mr. Huntley scrutinized her pale, sad countenance, he began to think there must be greater mystery about the affair than he had supposed. He said no more.

On the third day he quitted Borcette, having seen them, as he expressed it, fully installed, and pursued his route homewards, by way of Lille, Calais, and Dover. Mr. Huntley was no friend to long sea passages: people with well-filled purses seldom are so.

CHAPTER XXXII. AN OMINOUS COUGH.

“I say, Jenkins, how you cough!”

“Yes, sir, I do. It's a sign that autumn's coming on. I have been pretty free from it all the summer. I think the few days I lay in bed through that fall, must have done good to my chest; for, since then, I have hardly coughed at all. This last day or two it has been bad again.”

“What cough do you call it?” went on Roland Yorke—you may have guessed he was the speaker. “A churchyard cough?”

“Well, I don't know, sir,” said Jenkins. “It has been called that, before now. I dare say it will be the end of me at last.”

“Cool!” remarked Roland. “Cooler than I should be, if I had a cough, or any plague of the sort, that was likely to be my end. Does it trouble your mind, Jenkins?”

“No, sir, not exactly. It gives me rather down-hearted thoughts now and then, till I remember that everything is sure to be ordered for the best.”

“The best! Should you call it for 'the best' if you were to go off?” demanded Roland, drawing pen-and-ink chimneys upon his blotting-paper, with clouds of smoke coming out, as he sat lazily at his desk.

“I dare say, sir, if that were to happen, I should be enabled to see that it was for the best. There's no doubt of it.”

“According to that theory, everything that happens must be for the best. You may as well say that pitching on to your head and half killing yourself, was for the best. Moonshine, Jenkins!”

“I think even that accident was sent for some wise purpose, sir. I know, in some respects, it was very palpably for the best. It afforded me some days of quiet, serious reflection, and it served to show how considerate everybody was for me.”

“And the pain?”

“That was soon over, sir. It made me think of that better place where there will be no pain. If I am to be called there early, Mr. Roland, it is well that my thoughts should be led to it.”

Roland stared with all his eyes. “I say, Jenkins, what do you mean? You have nothing serious the matter with you?”

“No, sir; nothing but the cough, and a weakness that I feel. My mother and brother both died of the same thing, sir.”

“Oh, nonsense!” returned Roland. “Because one's mother dies, is that any reason why we should fall into low spirits and take up the notion that we are going to die, and look out for it? I am surprised at you, Jenkins.”

“I am not in low spirits, sir; and I am sure I do not look out for it. I might have looked out for it any autumn or any spring of late, had I been that way inclined, for I have had the cough at those periods, as you know, sir. There's a difference, Mr. Roland, between looking out for a thing, and not shutting one's eyes to what may come.”

“I say, old fellow, you just put all such notions away from you”—and Roland really meant to speak in a kindly, cheering spirit. “My father died of dropsy; and I may just as well set on, and poke and pat at myself every other morning, to see if it's not attacking me. Only think what would become of this office without you! Galloway would fret and fume himself into his tomb at having nobody but me in it.”

A smile crossed Jenkins's face at the idea of the office, confided to the management of Roland Yorke. Poor Jenkins was one of the doubtful ones, from a sanitary point of view. Always shadowy, as if a wind would blow him away, and, for some years, suffering much from a cough, which only disappeared in summer, he could not, and did not, count upon a long life. He had quite recovered from his accident, but the cough had now come on with much force, and he was feeling unusually weak.

“You don't look ill, Jenkins.”

“Don't I, sir? The Reverend Mr. Yorke met me, to-day—”

“Don't bring up his name before me!” interrupted Roland, raising his voice to anger. “I may begin to swear, perhaps, if you do.”

“Why, what has he done?” wondered Jenkins.

“Never mind what he has done,” nodded Roland. “He is a disgrace to the name of Yorke. I enjoyed the pleasure of telling him so, the other night, more than I have enjoyed anything a long while. He was so mad! If he had not been a parson, I shouldn't wonder but he'd have pitched into me.”

“Mr. Roland, sir, you know the parties are waiting for that lease,” Jenkins ventured to remind him.

“Let the parties wait,” rejoined Roland. “Do they think this office is going to be hurried as if it were a common lawyer's? I say, Jenkins, where has old Galloway taken flight to, this afternoon?”

“He has an appointment with the surrogate,” answered Jenkins. “Oh!—I quite forgot to mention something to you, Mr. Roland.”

“Mention it now,” said Roland.

“A person came this morning, sir, and was rather loud,” said Jenkins, in a tone of deprecation, as if he would apologize for having to repeat the news. “He thought you were in, Mr. Roland, and that I was only denying you, and he grew insolent. Mr. Galloway happened to be in his room, unfortunately, and heard it, and he came out himself, and sent the person away. Mr. Galloway was very angry, and he desired me to tell you, sir, that he would not have that sort of people coming here.”

Roland took up the ruler, and essayed to balance it on the edge of his nose. “Who was it?” asked he.

“I am not sure who it was, though I know I have seen the man, somewhere. I think he wanted payment of a bill, sir.”

“Nothing more likely,” rejoined Roland, with characteristic indifference. “I hope his head won't ache till he gets it! I am cleared out for some time to come. I'd like to know who the fellow was, though, Jenkins, that I might punish him for his impudence. How dared he come here?”

“I asked him to leave his name, sir, and he said Mr. Roland Yorke knew his name quite well enough, without having it left for him.”

“As brassy as that, was he! I wish to goodness it was the fashion to have a cistern in your house-roofs!” emphatically added Roland.

“A what, sir?” cried Jenkins, lifting his eyes from his writing.

“A water-cistern, with a tap, worked by a string, at pleasure. You could give it a pull, you know, when such customers as those came, and they'd find themselves deluged. That would cool their insolence, if anything would. I'd get up a company for it, and take out a patent, if I only had the ready money.”

Jenkins made no reply. He was applying himself diligently to his work, perhaps hoping that Mr. Roland Yorke might take the hint, and do the same. Roland actually did take it; at any rate, he dipped his pen in the ink, and wrote, at the very least, five or six words; then he looked up.

“Jenkins,” began he again, “do you know much about Port Natal?”

“I don't know anything about it, sir; except that there is such a place.”

“Why, you know nothing!” cried Roland. “I never saw such a muff. I wonder what you reckon yourself good for, Jenkins?”

Jenkins shook his head. No matter what reproach was brought against him, he received it meekly, as if it were his due. “I am not good for much, sir, beyond just my daily duty here. To know about Port Natal and those foreign places is not in my work, sir, and so I'm afraid I neglect them. Did you want any information about Port Natal, Mr. Roland?”

“I have got it,” said Roland; “loads of it. I am not sure that I shan't make a start for it, Jenkins.”

“For Port Natal, sir? Why! it's all the way to Africa!”

“Do you suppose I thought it was in Wales?” retorted Roland. “It's the jolliest opening for an enterprising man, is Port Natal. You may land there to-day with half-a-crown in your pocket, and come away in a year or two with your fortune made.”

“Indeed!” ejaculated Jenkins. “How is it made, sir?”

“Oh, you learn all that when you get there. I shall go, Jenkins, if things don't look up a bit in these quarters.”

“What things, sir?” Jenkins ventured to ask.

“Tin, for one thing; work for another,” answered Roland. “If I don't get more of the one, and less of the other, I shall try Port Natal. I had a row with my lady at dinner-time. She thinks a paltry sovereign or two ought to last a fellow for a month. My service to her! I just dropped a hint of Port Natal, and left her weeping. She'll have come to, by this evening, and behave liberally.”

“But about the work, sir?” said Jenkins. “I'm sure I make it as light for you as I possibly can. You have only had that lease, sir, all day yesterday and to-day.”

“Oh, it's not just the amount of work, Jenkins,” acknowledged Roland; “it's the being tied by the leg to this horrid old office. As good work as play, if one has to be in it. I have been fit to cut it altogether every hour, since Arthur Channing left: for you know you are no company, Jenkins.”

“Very true, sir.”

“If I could only get Arthur Channing to go with me, I'd be off to-morrow! But he laughs at it. He hasn't got half pluck. Only fancy, Jenkins! my coming back in a year or two with twenty thousand pounds in my pocket! Wouldn't I give you a treat, old chap! I'd pay a couple of clerks to do your work here, and carry you off somewhere, in spite of old Galloway, for a six-months' holiday, where you'd get rid of that precious cough. I would, Jenkins.”

“You are very kind, sir—”

Jenkins was stopped by the “precious cough.” It seemed completely to rack his frame. Roland looked at him with sympathy, and just then steps were heard to enter the passage, and a knock came to the office door.

“Who's come bothering now?” cried Roland. “Come in!”

Possibly the mandate was not heard, for poor Jenkins was coughing still. “Don't I tell you to come in?” roared out Roland. “Are you deaf?”

“Open the door. I don't care to soil my gloves,” came the answer from the other side. And Mr. Roland slid off his stool to obey, rather less lazily than usual, for the voice was that of his mother, the Lady Augusta Yorke.

“A very dutiful son, you are, Mr. Roland!” was the salutation of Lady Augusta. “Forcing me up from dinner before I had finished!”

“I didn't do anything of the sort,” said Roland.

“Yes, you did. With your threats about Port Natal! What do you know about Port Natal? Why should you go to Port Natal? You will break my heart with grief, that's what you will do.”

“I was not going to start this afternoon,” returned Roland. “But the fact is, mother, I shall have to go to Port Natal, or to some other port, unless I can get a little money to go on with here. A fellow can't walk about with empty pockets.”

“You undutiful, extravagant boy!” exclaimed Lady Augusta. “I am worried out of my life for money, between you all. Gerald got two sovereigns from me yesterday. What money do you want?”

“As much as you can let me have,” replied Mr. Roland.

Lady Augusta threw a five-pound note by his side upon the desk. “When you boys have driven me into the workhouse, you'll be satisfied, perhaps. And now hold your foolish tongue about Port Natal.”

Roland gathered it up with alacrity and a word of thanks. Lady Augusta had turned to Jenkins.

“You are the best off, Jenkins; you have no children to disturb your peace. You don't look well, Jenkins.”

“Thank you kindly, my lady, I feel but poorly. My cough has become troublesome again.”

“He has just been saying that he thought the cough was going to take him off,” interposed Roland.

Lady Augusta laughed; she supposed it was spoken in jest; and desired her son to open the door for her. Her gloves were new and delicate.

“Had you chosen to remain at the dinner-table, as a gentleman ought, I should have told you some news, Mr. Roland,” said Lady Augusta.

Roland was always ready for news. He opened his eyes and ears. “Tell it me now, good mother. Don't bear malice.”

“Your uncle Carrick is coming here on a visit.”

“I am glad of that; that's good!” cried Roland. “When does he come? I say, mother, don't be in a hurry! When does he come?”

But Lady Augusta apparently was in a hurry, for she did not wait to reply. Roland looked after her, and saw her shaking hands with a gentleman, who was about to enter.

“Oh, he's back, is he!” cried unceremonious Roland. “I thought he was dead and buried, and gone to heaven.”

CHAPTER XXXIII. NO SENIORSHIP FOR TOM CHANNING.

Shaking hands with Lady Augusta Yorke as she turned out of Mr. Galloway's office, was Mr. Huntley. He had only just arrived at Helstonleigh; had not yet been home; but he explained that he wished to give at once a word of pleasant news to Constance Channing of her father and mother, and, on his way to the Boundaries, was calling on Mr. Galloway.

“You will find Miss Channing at my house,” said Lady Augusta, after some warm inquiries touching Mr. and Mrs. Channing. “I would offer to go back there with you, but I am on my way to make some calls.” She turned towards the town as she spoke, and Mr. Huntley entered the office.

“I thought you were never coming home again!” cried free Roland. “Why, you have been away three months, Mr. Huntley!”

“Very nearly. Where is Mr. Galloway?”

“In his skin,” said Roland.

Jenkins looked up deprecatingly, as if he would apologize for the rudeness of Roland Yorke. “Mr. Galloway is out, sir. I dare say he will not be away more than half an hour.”

“I cannot wait now,” said Mr. Huntley. “So you are one less in this office than you were when I left?”

“The awfullest shame!” struck in Roland. “Have you heard that Galloway lost a bank-note out of a letter, sir?”

“Yes. I have heard of it from Mr. Channing.”

“And they accused Arthur Channing of taking it!” exclaimed Roland. “They took him up for it; he was had up twice to the town-hall, like any felon. You may be slow to believe it, Mr. Huntley, but it's true.”

“It was Butterby, sir,” interposed Jenkins. “He was rather too officious over it, and acted without Mr. Galloway's orders.”

“Don't talk rubbish, Jenkins,” rebuked Roland. “You have defended Galloway all through the piece, but he is as much to blame as Butterby. Why did he turn off Channing?”

“You do not think him guilty, Roland, I see,” said Mr. Huntley.

“I should hope I don't,” answered Roland. “Butterby pitched upon Arthur, because there happened to be nobody else at hand to pitch upon; just as he'd have pitched upon you, Mr. Huntley, had you happened to be in the office that afternoon.”

“Mr. Arthur Channing was not guilty, I am sure, sir; pray do not think him so,” resumed Jenkins, his eye lighting as he turned to Mr. Huntley. And Mr. Huntley smiled in response to the earnestness. He believe Arthur Channing guilty!

He left a message for Mr. Galloway, and quitted the office. Roland, who was very difficult to settle to work again, if once disturbed from it, strided himself across his stool, and tilted it backwards.

“I'm uncommonly glad Carrick's coming!” cried he. “Do you remember him, Jenkins?”

“Who, sir?”

“That uncle of mine. He was at Helstonleigh three years ago.”

“I am not sure that I do, sir.”

“What a sieve of a memory you must have! He is as tall as a house. We are not bad fellows for height, but Carrick beats us. He is not married, you know, and we look to him to square up many a corner. To do him justice, he never says No, when he has the cash, but he's often out at elbows himself. It was he who bought George his commission and fitted him out; and I know my lady looks to him to find the funds Gerald will want to make him into a parson. I wonder what he'll do for me?”

Jenkins was about to answer, but was stopped by his cough. For some minutes it completely exhausted him; and Roland, for want of a hearer, was fain to bring the legs of his stool down again, and apply himself lazily to his work.

At this very moment, which was not much past two o'clock in the day, Bywater had Charley Channing pinned against the palings underneath the elm trees. He had him all to himself. No other boys were within hearing; though many were within sight; for they were assembling in and round the cloisters after their dinner.

“Now, Miss Charley, it's the last time I'll ask you, as true as that we are living here! You are as obstinate as a young mule. I'll give you this one chance, and I'll not give you another. I'd advise you to take it, if you have any regard for your skin.”

“I don't know anything, Bywater.”

“You shuffling little turncoat! I don't know that there's any fire in that kitchen chimney of the old dean's, but I am morally certain that there is, because clouds of black smoke are coming out of it. And you know just as well who it was that played the trick to my surplice. I don't ask you to blurt it out to the school, and I won't bring your name up in it at all; I won't act upon what you tell me. There!”

“Bywater, I don't know; and suspicion goes for nothing. Gaunt said it did not.”

Bywater gave Charley a petulant shake. “I say that you know morally, Miss Channing. I protest that I heard you mention the word 'surplice' to Gerald Yorke, the day there was that row in the cloisters, when Roland Yorke gave Tod a thrashing and I tore the seat out of my pants. Gerald Yorke looked ready to kill you for it, too! Come, out with it. This is about the sixth time I have had you in trap, and you have only defied me.”

“I don't defy you, Bywater. I say that I will not tell. I would not if I knew. It is no business of mine.”

“You little ninny! Don't you see that your obstinacy is injuring Tom Channing? Yorke is going in for the seniorship; is sure to get it—if it's true that Pye has given the promise to Lady Augusta. But, let it come out that he was the Jack-in-the-box, and his chance falls to the ground. And you won't say a word to do good to your brother!”

Charley shook his head. He did not take the bait. “And Tom himself would be the first to punish me for doing wrong! He never forgives a sneak. It's of no use your keeping me, Bywater.”

“Listen, youngster. I have my suspicions; I have had them all along; and I have a clue—that's more. But, for a certain reason, I think my suspicions and my clue point to the wrong party; and I don't care to stir in it till I am sure. One—two—three! for the last time. Will you tell me?”

“No.”

“Then, look you, Miss Charley Channing. If I do go and denounce the wrong party, and find out afterwards that it is the wrong one, I'll give you as sweet a drubbing as you ever had, and your girl's face shan't save you. Now go.”

He propelled Charley from him with a jerk, and propelled him against Mr. Huntley, who was at that moment turning the corner close to them, on his way from Mr. Galloway's office.

“You can't go through me, Charley,” said Mr. Huntley. “Did you think I was made of glass, Bywater?”

“My patience!” exclaimed Bywater. “Why, Harry was grumbling, not five minutes ago, that you were never coming home at all, Mr. Huntley.”

“He was, was he? Is he here?”

“Oh, he's somewhere amongst the ruck of them,” cried Bywater, looking towards the distant boys. “He wants you to see about this bother of the seniorship. If somebody doesn't, we shall get up a mutiny, that's all. Here, Huntley,” he shouted at the top of his voice, “here's an arrival from foreign parts!”

Some of the nearer boys looked round, and the word was passed to Huntley. Harry Huntley and the rest soon surrounded him, and Mr. Huntley had no reason to complain of the warmth of his reception. When news had recently arrived that Mr. Huntley was coming home, the boys had taken up the hope of his interference. Of course, schoolboy-like, they all entered upon it eagerly.

“Stop, stop, stop!” said Mr. Huntley. “One at a time. How can I hear, if you all talk together? Now, what's the grievance?”

They detailed it as rationally and with as little noise as it was in their nature to do. Huntley was the only senior present, but Gaunt came up during the conference.

“It's all a cram, Mr. Huntley,” cried Tod Yorke. “My brother Gerald says that Jenkins dreamt it.”

“I'll 'dream' you, if you don't keep your tongue silent, Tod Yorke,” reprimanded Gaunt. “Take yourself off to a distance, Mr. Huntley,” he added, turning to that gentleman, “it is certain that Lady Augusta said it; and we can't think she'd say it, unless Pye promised it. It is unfair upon Charming and Huntley.”

A few more words given to the throng, upon general matters—for Mr. Huntley touched no more on the other topic—and then he continued his way to Lady Augusta's. As he passed the house of the Reverend Mr. Pye, that gentleman was coming out of it. Mr. Huntley, a decisive, straightforward man, entered upon the matter at once, after some moments spent in greeting.

“You will pardon my speaking of it to you personally,” he said, when he had introduced the subject, “In most cases I consider it perfectly unjustifiable for the friends of boys in a public school to interfere with the executive of its master; but this affair is different. Is it, or is it not correct, that there is an intention afloat to exalt Yorke to the seniorship?”

“Mr. Huntley, you must be aware that in no case can the head-master of a public school allow himself to be interfered with, or questioned,” was the reply of the master.

“I hope you will meet this amicably,” returned Mr. Huntley.

“I have no other wish than to be friendly; quite so. We all deem ourselves under obligations to you, Mr. Pye, and esteem you highly; we could not have, or wish, a better preceptor for our sons. But in this instance, my duty is plain. The injustice—if any such injustice is contemplated—tells particularly upon Tom Channing and my son. Mr. Channing does not give ear to it; I would rather not; nevertheless, you must pardon me for acting, in the uncertainty, as though it had foundation. I presume you cannot be ignorant of the dissatisfied feeling that reigns in the school?”

“I have intimated that I will not be questioned,” said Mr. Pye.

“Quite right. I merely wished to express a hope that there may be no foundation for the rumour. If Tom Channing and Harry forfeit their rights legally, through want of merit, or ill conduct, it is not I that would urge a word in their favour. Fair play's a jewel: and the highest boy in the school should have no better chance given him than the lowest. But if the two senior boys do not so forfeit their rights, Yorke must not be exalted above them.”

“Who is to dictate to me?” demanded Mr. Pye. “Certainly not I,” replied Mr. Huntley, in a courteous but firm tone. “Were the thing to take place, I should simply demand, through the Dean and Chapter, that the charter of the school might be consulted, as to whether its tenets had teen strictly followed.”

The head-master made no reply. Neither did he appear angry; only impassible. Mr. Huntley had certainly hit the right nail on the head; for the master of Helstonleigh College school was entirely under the control, of the Dean and Chapter.

“I can speak to you upon this all the more freely and with better understanding, since it is not my boy who stands any chance,” said Mr. Huntley, with a cordial smile. “Tom Channing heads him on the rolls.”

“Tom Channing will not be senior; I have no objection to affirm so much to you,” observed the master, falling in with Mr. Huntley's manner, “This sad affair of his brother Arthur's debars him.”

“It ought not to debar him, even were Arthur guilty,” warmly returned Mr. Huntley.

“In justice to Tom Channing himself, no. But,” and the master dropped his voice to a confidential tone, “it is necessary sometimes to study the prejudices taken up by a school; to see them, and not to appear to see them—if you understand me. Were Tom Channing made head of the school, part of the school would rise up in rebellion; some of the boys would, no doubt, be removed from it. For the peace of the school alone, it could not be done. The boys would not now obey him as senior, and there would be perpetual warfare, resulting we know not in what.”

“Arthur Channing was not guilty. I feel as sure of it as I do of my own life.”

“He is looked upon as guilty by those who must know best, from their familiarity with the details,” rejoined Mr. Pye, “For my own part, I have no resource but to believe him so, I regard it as one of those anomalies which you cannot understand, or would believe in, but that it happens under your own eye; where the moment's yielding to temptation is at variance with the general character, with the whole past life. Of course, in these cases, the disgrace is reflected upon relatives and connections, and they have to suffer for it. I cannot help the school's resenting it upon Tom.”

“It will be cruel to deprive Tom of the seniorship upon these grounds,” remonstrated Mr. Huntley.

“To himself individually,” assented the master. “But it is well that one, promoted to a foundation-school's seniorship, should be free from moral taint. Were there no feeling whatever against Tom Channing in the school, I do not think I could, consistently with my duty and with a due regard to the fitness of things, place him as senior. I am sorry for the boy; I always liked him; and he has been of good report, both as to scholarship and conduct.”

“I know one thing,” said Mr. Huntley: “that you may search the school through, and not find so good a senior as Tom Channing would make.”

“He would have made a very good one, there's no doubt. Would have ruled the boys well and firmly, though without oppression. Yes, we lose a good senior in Tom Channing.”

There was no more to be said. Mr. Huntley felt that the master was thoroughly decided; and for the other matter, touching Yorke, he had done with it until the time of appointment. As he went musing on, he began to think that Mr. Pye might be right with regard to depriving Tom of the seniorship, however unjust it might appear to Tom himself. Mr. Huntley remembered that not one of the boys, except Gaunt, had mentioned Tom Channing's name in his recent encounter with them; they had spoken of the injustice of exalting Yorke over Harry Huntley. He had not noticed it at the time.

He proceeded to Lady Augusta's, and Constance was informed of his visit. She had three pupils at Lady Augusta's now, for that lady had kindly insisted that Constance should bring Annabel to study with her daughters, during the absence of Mrs. Channing. Constance left them to themselves and entered the drawing-room. Pretty Constance! so fresh, so lovely, in her simple muslin dress, and her braided hair. Mr. Huntley caught her hands, and imprinted a very fatherly kiss upon her fair forehead.

“That is from the absentees, Constance. I told them I should give it to you. And I bring you the bravest news, my dear. Mr. Channing was already finding benefit from his change; he was indeed. There is every hope that he will be restored.”

Constance was radiant with delight. To see one who had met and stayed with her father and mother at their distant sojourn, was almost like seeing her parents themselves.

“And now, my dear, I want a word with you about all those untoward trials and troubles, which appear to have come thickly during my absence,” continued Mr. Huntley. “First of all, as to yourself. What mischief-making wind has been arising between you and William Yorke?”

The expression of Constance's face changed to sadness, and her cheeks grew crimson.

“My dear, you will not misunderstand me,” he resumed. “I heard of these things at Borcette, and I said that I should undertake to inquire into them in the place of your father: just as he, health permitting him, would have undertaken for me in my absence, did any trouble arise to Ellen. Is it true that you and Mr. Yorke have parted?”

“Yes,” faltered Constance.

“And the cause?”

Constance strove to suppress her tears. “You can do nothing, Mr. Huntley; nothing whatever. Thank you all the same.”

“He has made this accusation upon Arthur the plea for breaking off his engagement?”

“I could not marry him with this cloud upon me,” she murmured. “It would not be right.”

“Cloud upon you!” hastily ejaculated Mr. Huntley. “The accusation against Arthur was the sole cause, then, of your parting?”

“Yes; the sole cause which led to it.”

Mr. Huntley paused, apparently in thought. “He is presented to Hazeldon Chapel, I hear. Did his rupture with you take place after that occurrence?”

“I see what you are thinking,” she impulsively cried, caring too much for Mr. Yorke not to defend him. “The chief fault of the parting was mine. I felt that it would not do to become his wife, being—being—” she hesitated much—“Arthur's sister. I believe that he also felt it. Indeed, Mr. Huntley, there is no help for it; nothing can be done.”

“Knowing what I do of William Yorke, I am sure that the pain of separation must be keen, whatever may be his pride. Constance, unless I am mistaken, it is equally keen to you.”

Again rose the soft damask blush to the face of Constance. But she answered decisively. “Mr. Huntley, I pray you to allow the subject to cease. Nothing can bring about the renewal of the engagement between myself and Mr. Yorke. It is irrevocably at an end.”

“Until Arthur shall be cleared, you mean?”

“No,” she answered—a vision of Hamish and his guilt flashing across her—“I mean for good.”

“Why does not Arthur assert his innocence to Mr. Yorke? Constance, I am sure you know, as well as I do, that he is not guilty. Has he asserted it?”

She made no answer.

“As I would have wished to serve you, so will I serve Arthur,” said Mr. Huntley. “I told your father and mother, Constance, that I should make it my business to investigate the charge against him; I shall leave not a stone unturned to bring his innocence to light.”

The avowal terrified Constance, and she lost her self-possession. “Oh don't! don't!” she uttered. “You must not, indeed! you do not know the mischief it might do.”

“Mischief to what?—to whom?” exclaimed Mr. Huntley.

Constance buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears. The next moment she had raised it, and taken Mr. Huntley's hand between hers. “You are papa's friend! You would do us good and not harm—is it not so?” she beseechingly said.

“My dear child,” he exclaimed, quite confounded by her words—her distress: “you know that I would not harm any of you for the world.”

“Then pray do not seek to dive into that unhappy story,” she whispered. “It must not be too closely looked into.”

And Mr. Huntley quitted Constance, as a man who walks in a dream, so utterly amazed was he. What did it all mean?

As he was going through the cloisters—his nearest way to the town—Roland Yorke came flying up. With his usual want of ceremony, he passed his arm within Mr. Huntley's. “Galloway's come in now,” he exclaimed, “and I am off to the bank to pay in a bag of money for him. Jenkins told him you had called. Just hark at that clatter!”

The clatter, alluded to by Mr. Roland, was occasioned by the tramp of the choristers on the cloister flags. They were coming up behind, full speed, on their way from the schoolroom to enter the cathedral, for the bell had begun for service.

“And here comes that beautiful relative of mine,” continued Roland, as he and Mr. Huntley passed the cathedral entrance, and turned into the west quadrangle of the cloisters. “Would you credit it, Mr. Huntley, that he has turned out a sneak? He has. He was to have married Constance Channing, you know, and, for fear Arthur should have touched the note, he has declared off it. If I were Constance, I would never allow the fellow to speak to me again.”

Apparently it was the course Mr. Roland himself intended to observe. As the Rev. Mr. Yorke, who was coming in to service, drew near, Roland strode on, his step haughty, his head in the air, which was all the notice he vouchsafed to take. Probably the minor canon did not care very much for Mr. Roland's notice, one way or the other; but his eye lighted with pleasure at the sight of Mr. Huntley, and he advanced to him, his hand outstretched.

But Mr. Huntley—a man given to show in his manner his likes and dislikes—would not see the hand, would not stop at all, but passed Mr. Yorke with a distant bow. That gentleman had fallen pretty deeply in his estimation, since he had heard of the rupture with Constance Channing. Mr. Yorke stood for a moment as if petrified, and then strode on his way with a step as haughty as Roland's.

Roland burst into a glow of delight. “That's the way to serve him, Mr. Huntley! I hope he'll get cut by every good man in Helstonleigh.”

CHAPTER XXXIV. GERALD YORKE MADE INTO A “BLOCK.”

The Rev. Mr. Yorke, in his surplice and hood, stood in his stall in the cathedral. His countenance was stern, absorbed; as that of a man who is not altogether at peace with himself. Let us hope that he was absorbed in the sacred service in which he was taking a part: but we all know, to our cost, that the spirit will wander at these times, and worldly thoughts obtrude themselves. The greatest divine that the Church can boast, is not always free from them.

Not an official part in the service was Mr. Yorke taking, that afternoon; the duty was being performed by the head-master, whose week it was to take it. Very few people were at service, and still less of the clergy; the dean was present, but not one of the chapter.

Arthur Channing sat in his place at the organ. Arthur's thoughts, too, were wandering; and—you know it is of no use to make people out to be better than they are—wandering to things especially mundane. Arthur had not ceased to look out for something to do, to replace the weekly funds lost when he left Mr. Galloway's. He had not yet been successful: employment is more easily sought than found, especially by one lying under doubt, as he was. But he had now heard of something which he hoped he might gain.

Jenkins, saying nothing to Roland Yorke, or to any one else, had hurried to Mr. Channing's house that day between one and two o'clock; and hurrying there and back had probably caused that temporary increase of cough, which you heard of a chapter or two back. Jenkins's errand was to inform Arthur that Dove and Dove (solicitors in the town, who were by no means so dove-like as their name) required a temporary clerk, and he thought Arthur might suit them. Arthur had asked Jenkins to keep a look-out for him.

“Is one of their clerks leaving?” Arthur inquired.

“One of them met with an accident last night up at the railway-station,” replied Jenkins. “Did you not hear of it, sir?”

“I heard of that. I did not know who was hurt. He was trying to cross the line, was he not?”

“Yes, sir. It was Marston. He had been out with some friends, and had taken, it is thought, more than was good for him. A porter pulled him back, but Marston fell, and the engine crushed his foot. He will be laid up two months, the doctor says, and Dove and Dove are looking out for some one to fill his place for the time. If you would like to take it, sir, you could be looking out for something else while you are there. You would more readily get the two hours' daily leave of absence from a place like that, where they keep three or four clerks, than you would from where they keep only one.”

“If I like to take it!” repeated Arthur. “Will they like to take me? That's the question. Thank you, Jenkins; I'll see about it at once.”

He was not able to do so immediately after Jenkins left; for Dove and Dove's offices were situated at the other end of the town, and he might not be back in time for service. So he waited and went first to college, and sat, I say, in his place at the organ, his thoughts filled, in spite of himself, with the new project.

The service came to an end: it had seemed long to Arthur—so prone are we to estimate time by our own feelings—and his voluntary, afterwards, was played a shade faster than usual. Then he left the cathedral by the front entrance, and hastened to the office of Dove and Dove.

Arthur had had many a rebuff of late, when bent on a similar application, and his experience taught him that it was best, if possible, to see the principals: not to subject himself to the careless indifference or to the insolence of a clerk. Two young men were writing at a desk when he entered. “Can I see Mr. Dove?” he inquired.

The elder of the writers scrutinized him through the railings of the desk. “Which of them?” asked he.

“Either,” replied Arthur. “Mr. Dove, or Mr. Alfred Dove. It does not matter.”

“Mr. Dove's out, and Mr. Alfred Dove's not at home,” was the response. “You'll have to wait, or to call again.”

He preferred to wait: and in a very few minutes Mr. Dove came in. Arthur was taken into a small room, so full of papers that it seemed difficult to turn in it, and there he stated his business.

“You are a son of Mr. Channing's, I believe,” said Mr. Dove. He spoke morosely, coarsely; and he had a morose, coarse countenance—a sure index of the mind, in him, as in others. “Was it you who figured in the proceedings at the Guildhall some few weeks ago?”

You may judge whether the remark called up the blood to Arthur's face. He suppressed his mortification, and spoke bravely.

“It was myself, sir. I was not guilty. My employment in your office would be the copying of deeds solely, I presume; that would afford me little temptation to be dishonest, even were I inclined to be so.”

Had any one paid Arthur in gold to keep in that little bit of sarcasm, he could not have done so. Mr. Dove caught up the idea that the words were uttered in sarcasm, and scowled fitfully.

“Marston was worth twenty-five shillings a week to us: and gained it. You would not be worth half as much.”

“You do not know what I should be worth, sir, unless you tried me. I am a quick and correct copyist; but I should not expect to receive as much as an ordinary clerk, on account of having to attend the cathedral for morning and afternoon service. Wherever I go, I must have that privilege allowed me.”

“Then I don't think you'll get it with us. But look here, young Channing, it is my brother who undertakes the engaging and management of the clerks—you can speak to him.”

“Can I see him this afternoon, sir?”

“He'll be in presently. Of course, we could not admit you into our office unless some one became security. You must be aware of that.”

The words seemed like a checkmate to Arthur. He stopped in hesitation. “Is it usual, sir?”

“Usual—no! But it is necessary in your case”

There was a coarse, pointed stress upon the “your,” natural to the man. Arthur turned away. For a moment he felt that to Dove and Dove's he could not and would not go; every feeling within him rebelled against it. Presently the rebellion calmed down, and he began to think about the security.

It would be of little use, he was sure, to apply to Mr. Alfred Dove—who was a shade coarser than Mr. Dove, if anything—unless prepared to say that security could be given. His father's he thought he might command: but he was not sure of that, under present circumstances, without first speaking to Hamish. He turned his steps to Guild Street, his unhappy position pressing with unusual weight upon his feelings.

“Can I see my brother?” he inquired of the clerks in the office.

“He has some gentlemen with him just now, sir. I dare say you can go in.”

There was nothing much amiss in the words; but in the tone there was. It was indicative of slight, of contempt. It was the first time Arthur had been there since the suspicion had fallen on him, and they seemed to stare at him as if he had been a hyena; not a respectable hyena either.

He entered Hamish's room. Hamish was talking with two gentlemen, strangers to Arthur, but they were on the point of leaving. Arthur stood away against the wainscoting by the corner table, waiting until they were gone, his attitude, his countenance, his whole appearance indicative of depression and sadness.

Hamish closed the door and turned to him. He laid his hand kindly upon his shoulder; his voice was expressive of the kindest sympathy. “So you have found your way here once more, Arthur! I thought you were never coming again. What can I do for you, lad?”

“I have been to Dove and Dove's. They are in want of a clerk. I think perhaps they would take me; but, Hamish, they want security.”

“Dove and Dove's,” repeated Hamish. “Nice gentlemen, both of them!” he added, in his half-pleasant, half-sarcastic manner. “Arthur, boy, I'd not be under Dove and Dove if they offered me a gold nugget a day, as weighty as the Queen's crown. You must not go there.”

“They are not agreeable men; I know that; they are not men who are liked in Helstonleigh, but what difference will that make to me? So long as I turn out their parchments properly engrossed, that is all I need care for.”

“What has happened? Why are you looking so sad?” reiterated Hamish, who could not fail to perceive that there was some strange grief at work.

“Is my life so sunny just now, that I can always be as bright as you?” retorted Arthur—for Hamish's undimmed gaiety did sometimes jar upon his wearied spirit. “I shall go to Dove and Dove's if they will take me,” he added, resolutely. “Will you answer for me, Hamish, in my father's name?”

“What amount of security do they require?” asked Hamish. And it was a very proper, a very natural question; but even that grated on Arthur's nerves.

“Are you afraid of me?” he rejoined. “Or do you fear my father would be?”

“I dare say they would take my security,” was Hamish's reply. “I will answer for you to any amount. That is,” and again came his smile, “to any amount they may deem me good for. If they don't like mine, I can offer my father's. Will that do, Arthur?”

“Thank you; that is all I want.”

“Don't go to Dove and Dove's, old boy,” Hamish said again, as Arthur was leaving the room. “Wait patiently for something better to turn up. There's no such great hurry. I wish there was room for you to come here!”

“It is only a temporary thing; it is not for long,” replied Arthur; and he went out.

On going back to Dove and Dove's, the first person he saw, upon opening the door of the clerks' room, was Mr. Alfred Dove. He appeared to be in a passion over something that had gone wrong, and was talking fast and furiously.

“What do you want?” he asked, wheeling round upon Arthur. Arthur replied by intimating that he would be glad to speak with him.

“Can't you speak, then?” returned Mr. Alfred Dove. “I am not deaf.”

Thus met, Arthur did not repeat his wish for privacy. He intimated his business, uncertain whether Mr. Alfred Dove had heard of it or not; and stated that the security could be given.

“I don't know what you mean about 'security,'“ was Mr. Alfred Dove's rejoinder. “What security?”

“Mr. Dove said that if I came into your office security would be required,” answered Arthur. “My friends are ready to give it.”

“Mr. Dove told you that, did he? Just like him. He has nothing to do with the details of the office. Did he know who you are?”

“Certainly he did, sir.”

“I should have thought not,” offensively returned Mr. Alfred Dove. “You must possess some assurance, young man, to come after a place in a respectable office. Security, or no security, we can't admit one into ours, who lies under the accusation of being light-fingered.”

It was the man all over. Hamish had said, “Don't go to Dove and Dove's.” Mr. Alfred Dove stood with his finger pointing to the door, and the two clerks stared in an insolent manner at Arthur. With a burning brow and rising spirit, Arthur left the room, and halted for a moment in the passage outside. “Patience, patience,” he murmured to himself; “patience, and trust in God!” He turned into the street quickly, and ran against Mr. Huntley.

For a minute he could not speak. That gentleman detected his emotion, and waited till it was over. “Have you been insulted, Arthur?” he breathed.

“Not much more so than I am now getting accustomed to,” was the answer that came from his quivering lips. “I heard they wanted a clerk, and went to offer myself. I am looked upon as a felon now, Mr. Huntley.”

“Being innocent as the day.”

“I am innocent, before God,” spoke Arthur, in the impulse of his emotion, in the fervency of his heart. That he spoke but the solemn truth, it was impossible to doubt, even had Mr. Huntley been inclined to doubt; and Arthur may be excused for forgetting his usual caution in the moment's bitterness.

“Arthur,” said Mr. Huntley, “I promised your father and mother that I should do all in my power to establish your innocence. Can you tell me how I am to set about it?”

“You cannot do it at all, Mr. Huntley. Things must remain as they are.”

“Why?”

“I cannot explain why. I can only repeat it.”

“There is some strange mystery attaching to this.”

Arthur did not gainsay it.

“Arthur, if I am to allow the affair to rest as I find it, you must at least give me a reason why I may not act. What is it?”

“Because the investigation could only cause tenfold deeper trouble. You are very good to think of helping me, Mr. Huntley, but I must fight my own battle. Others must be quiet in this matter—for all our sakes.”

Mr. Huntley gazed after Arthur as he moved away. Constance first! Arthur next! What could be the meaning of it all? Where did the mystery lie? A resolution grew up in Mr. Huntley's heart that he would fathom it, for private reasons of his own; and, in the impulse of the moment, he bent his steps there and then, towards the police-station, and demanded an interview with Roland Yorke's bete noire, Mr. Butterby.

But the cathedral is not quite done with for the afternoon.

Upon the conclusion of service, the dean lingered a few minutes in the nave, speaking to one of the vergers. When he turned to continue his way, he encountered the Rev. Mr. Pye, who had been taking off his surplice in the vestry. The choristers had been taking off their surplices also, and were now trooping through the cloisters back to the schoolroom, not more gently than usual. The dean saluted Mr. Pye, and they walked out together.

“It is impossible to keep them quiet unless one's eye is continually upon them!” exclaimed the head-master, half apologetically, as they came in view of the rebels. He had a great mind to add, “And one's cane.”

“Boys will be boys,” said the dean. “How has this foolish opinion arisen among them, that the names, standing first on the roll for the seniorship, will not be allowed to compete for it?” continued he, with much suavity.

Mr. Pye looked rather flushed. “Really I am unable to say, Mr. Dean. It is difficult to account for all the notions taken up by schoolboys.”

“Boys do take up strange notions,” blandly assented the dean. “But, I think, were I you, Mr. Pye, I would set their minds at rest in this respect. You have not yet deemed it worth while, I dare say: but it may perhaps be as well to do so. When the elders of a school once take up the idea that their studies may not meet with due reward, it tends to render them indifferent. I remember once—it was just after I came here as dean, many years ago—the head-master of the school exalted a boy to be senior who stood sixth or seventh on the rolls, and was positively half an idiot. But those times are past.”

“Certainly they are,” remarked the master.

“It was an unpleasant duty I had to perform then,” continued the dean, in the same agreeable tone, as if he were relating an anecdote: “unpleasant both for the parents of the boy, and for the head-master. But, as I remark, such things could not occur now. I think I would intimate to the king's scholars that they have nothing to fear.”

“It shall be done, Mr. Dean,” was the response of the master; and they exchanged bows as the dean turned into the deanery. “She's three parts a fool, is that Lady Augusta,” muttered the master to the cloister-flags as he strode over them. “Chattering magpie!”

As circumstances had it, the way was paved for the master to speak at once. Upon entering the college schoolroom, in passing the senior desk, he overheard whispered words of dispute between Gerald Yorke and Pierce senior, touching this very question, the seniorship. The master reached his own desk, gave it a sharp rap with a cane that lay near to hand, and spoke in his highest tone, looking red and angry.

“What are these disputes that appear to have been latterly disturbing the peace of the school? What is that you are saying, Gerald Yorke?—that the seniorship is to be yours?”

Gerald Yorke looked red in his turn, and somewhat foolish. “I beg your pardon, sir; I was not saying precisely that,” he answered with hesitation.

“I think you were saying precisely that,” was the response of the master. “My ears are quicker than you may fancy, Mr. Yorke. If you really have been hugging yourself with the notion that the promotion will be yours, the sooner you disabuse your mind of it, the better. Whoever gains the seniorship will gain it by priority of right, by scholarship, or by conduct—as the matter may be. Certainly not by anything else. Allow me to recommend you, one and all”—and the master threw his eyes round the desks generally, and gave another emphatic stroke with the cane—“that you concern yourselves with your legitimate business; not with mine.”

Gerald did not like the reproof, or the news. He remained silent and sullen until the conclusion of school, and then went tearing home.

“A pretty block you have made of me!” he uttered, bursting into the presence of Lady Augusta, who had just returned home, and sat fanning herself on a sofa before an open window.

“Why, what has taken you?” returned her ladyship.

“It's a shame, mother! Filling me up with the news that I was to be senior? And now Pye goes and announces that I'm a fool for supposing so, and that it's to go in regular rotation.”

“Pye does not mean it,” said my lady. “There, hold your tongue, Gerald. I am too hot to talk.”

“I know that every fellow in the school will have the laugh at me, if I am to be made a block of, like this!” grumbled Gerald.

CHAPTER XXXV. THE EARL OF CARRICK.

On a fine afternoon in August—and the month was now drawing towards its close—the 2.25 train from London steamed into the station at Helstonleigh, eight minutes behind time, and came to a standstill. Amongst the passengers who alighted, was a gentleman of middle age, as it is called—in point of fact, he had entered his fiftieth year, as the peerage would have told any curious inquirer. As he stepped out of a first-class carriage, several eyes were drawn towards him, for he was of notable height, towering above every one; even above Roland Yorke, who was of good height himself, and stood on the platform waiting for him.

It was the Earl of Carrick, brother to Lady Augusta Yorke, and much resembling her—a pleasant, high cheek-boned, easy face, betraying more of good humour than of high or keen intellect, and nothing of pride. The pride of the young Yorkes was sometimes talked of in Helstonleigh, but it came from their father's side, not from Lady Augusta's. The earl spoke with a slight brogue, and shook both Roland's hands heartily, as soon as he found that it was to Roland they belonged.

“Sure then! but I didn't know ye, Roland! If ye had twenty years more on to ye're head, I should have thought it was ye're father.”

“Have I grown like him, Uncle Carrick?”

“Ye've grown out of knowledge, me boy. And how's ye're mother, and how are the rest of ye?”

“Stunning,” responded Roland. “They are all outside. She would bring up the whole caravan. The last time the lot came to the station, the two young ones got upon the line to dance a hornpipe on the rails; so she has kept them by her, and is making Gerald and Tod look after them. Where's your luggage, Uncle Carrick? Have you brought a servant?”

“Not I,” replied the earl. “Servants are only troubles in other folk's houses, and me bit of luggage isn't so much but I can look after it meself. I hope they put it in,” he continued, looking about amid the boxes and portmanteaus, and unable to see his own.

The luggage was found at last, and given in charge of a porter; and Lord Carrick went out to meet his relatives. There were enough of them to meet—the whole caravan, as Roland had expressed it. Lady Augusta sat in her barouche—her two daughters and Constance and Annabel Channing with her. Little Percy and Frank, two most troublesome children, were darting in and out amidst the carriages, flys, and omnibuses; and Gerald and Tod had enough to do to keep them out of danger. It was so like Lady Augusta—bringing them all to the station to welcome their uncle! Warm-hearted and impulsive, she had little more judgment than a child. Constance had in vain protested against herself and Annabel being pressed into the company; but her lady-ship looked upon it as a sort of triumphal expedition, and was deaf to remonstrances.

The earl, warm-hearted and impulsive also, kissed them all, Constance included. She could not help herself; before she was aware of the honour intended her, the kiss was given—a hearty smack, as all the rest had. The well-meaning, simple-minded Irishman could not have been made to understand why he should not give a kiss of greeting to Constance as readily as he gave it to his sister, or his sister's daughters. He protested that he remembered Constance and Annabel well. It may be questioned whether there was not more of Irish politeness than of truth in the assertion, though he had seen them occasionally, during his visit of three years ago.

How were they all to get home? In and on the barouche, as all, except Roland, had come, to the gratification of the curious town? Lord Carrick wished to walk; his long legs were cramped: but Lady Augusta would not hear of it, and pulled him into the carriage, Gerald, Percy, and Frank were fighting for places on the box beside the driver, Tod intending to hang on behind, as he had done in coming, when the deep-toned college bell struck out a quarter to three, and the sound came distinctly to their ears, borne from the distance. It put a stop to the competition, so far as Gerald was concerned. He and Tod, startled half out of their senses, for they had not observed the lapse of time, set off on foot as hard as they could go.

Meanwhile, Roland, putting aside the two young ones with his strong hand, chose to mount the box himself; at which they both began to shriek and roar. Matters were compromised after a while; Percy was taken up by Roland, and Frank was, by some process of packing, stowed away inside. Then the cargo started! Lady Augusta happy as a princess, with her newly-met brother and her unruly children, and not caring in the least for the gaze of the people who stood in the street, or came rushing to their windows and doors to criticise the load.

Crowded as the carriage was, it was pleasanter to be in it, on that genial day, than to be at work in close rooms, dark shops, or dull offices. Amongst others, who were so confined and hard at work, was Jenkins at Mr. Galloway's. Poor Jenkins had not improved in health during the week or two that had elapsed since you last saw him. His cough was more troublesome still, and he was thinner and weaker. But Jenkins, humble and conscientious, thinking himself one who was not worth thinking of at all in comparison with others, would have died at his post rather than give in. Certainly, Arthur Channing had been discharged at a most inopportune moment, for Mr. Galloway, as steward to the Dean and Chapter, had more to do about Michaelmas, than at any other time of the year. From that epoch until November, when the yearly audit took place, there was a good deal of business to be gone through.

On this afternoon, Jenkins was particularly busy. Mr. Galloway was away from home for a day or two—on business connected with that scapegrace cousin of his, Roland Yorke proclaimed; though whether Mr. Roland had any foundation for the assertion, except his own fancy, may be doubted—and Jenkins had it all upon his own shoulders. Jenkins, unobtrusive and meek though he was, was perfectly competent to manage, and Mr. Galloway left him with entire trust. But it is one thing to be competent to manage, and another thing to be able to do two persons' work in one person's time; and, that, Jenkins was finding this afternoon. He had letters to write; he had callers to answer; he had the general business of the office to attend to; he had the regular deeds to prepare and copy. The copying of those deeds was the work belonging to Roland Yorke. Roland did not seem to be in a hurry to come to them. Jenkins cast towards them an anxious eye, but Jenkins could do no more, for his own work could not be neglected. He felt very unwell that afternoon—oppressed, hot, unable to breathe. He wiped the moisture from his brow three or four times, and then thought he might be the better for a little air, and opened the window. But the breeze, gentle as it was, made him cough, and he shut it again.

Of course, no one, knowing Mr. Roland Yorke, could be surprised at his starting to the station to meet Lord Carrick, instead of to the office to do his work. He had gone home at one o'clock that day, as usual. Not that there was any necessity for his doing so, for the dinner hour was postponed until later, and it would have furthered the business of the office had he remained for once at his post. Had any one suggested to Roland to do so, he would have thought he was going to be worked to death. About twenty minutes past three he came clattering in.

“I say, Jenkins, I want a holiday this afternoon.”

Jenkins, albeit the most accommodating spirit in the world, looked dubious, and cast a glance at the papers on Roland's desk. “Yes, sir. But what is to be done about the Uphill farm leases?”

“Now, Jenkins, it's not a bit of good for you to begin to croak! If I gave in to you, you'd get as bad as Galloway. When I have my mind off work, I can't settle to it again, and it's of no use trying. Those Uphill deeds are not wanted before to-morrow.”

“But they are wanted by eleven o'clock, sir, so that they must be finished, or nearly finished, to-night. You know, sir, there has been a fuss about them, and early to-morrow, is the very latest time they must be sent in.”

“I'll get up, and be here in good time and finish them,” said Roland. “Just put it to yourself, Jenkins, if you had an uncle that you'd not seen for seventeen ages, whether you'd like to leave him the minute he puts his foot over the door-sill.”

“I dare say I should not, sir,” said good-natured Jenkins, turning about in his mind how he could make time to do Roland's work. “His lordship is come, then, Mr. Roland?”

“His lordship's come, bag and baggage,” returned Roland. “I say, Jenkins, what a thousand shames it is that he's not rich! He is the best-natured fellow alive, and would do anything in the world for us, if he only had the tin.”

“Is he not rich, sir?”

“Why, of course he's not,” confidentially returned Roland. “Every one knows the embarrassments of Lord Carrick. When he came into the estates, they had been mortgaged three deep by the last peer, my grandfather—an old guy in a velvet skull-cap, I remember, who took snuff incessantly—and my uncle, on his part, had mortgaged them three deep again, which made six. How Carrick manages to live nobody knows. Sometimes he's in Ireland, in the tumble-down old homestead, with just a couple of servants to wait upon him; and sometimes he's on the Continent, en garcon—if you know what that means. Now and then he gets a windfall when any of his tenants can be brought to pay up; but he is the easiest-going coach in life, and won't press them. Wouldn't I!”

“Some of those Irish tenants are very poor, sir, I have heard.”

“Poor be hanged! What is a man's own, ought to be his own. Carrick says there are some years that he does not draw two thousand pounds, all told.”

“Indeed, sir! That is not much for a peer.”

“It's not much for a commoner, let alone a peer,” said Roland, growing fierce. “If I were no better off than Carrick, I'd drop the title; that's what I'd do. Why, if he could live as a peer ought, do you suppose we should be in the position we are? One a soldier; one (and that's me) lowered to be a common old proctor; one a parson; and all the rest of it! If Carrick could be as other earls are, and have interest with the Government, and that, we should stand a chance of getting properly provided for. Of course he can make interest with nobody while his estates bring him in next door to nothing.”

“Are there no means of improving his estates, Mr. Roland?” asked Jenkins.

“If there were, he's not the one to do it. And I don't know that it would do him any material good, after all,” acknowledged Roland. “If he gets one thousand a year, he spends two; and if he had twenty thousand, he'd spend forty. It might come to the same in the long run, so far as he goes: we might be the better for it, and should be. It's a shame, though, that we should need to be the better for other folk's money; if this were not the most unjust world going, everybody would have fortunes of their own.”

After this friendly little bit of confidence touching his uncle's affairs, Roland prepared to depart. “I'll be sure to come in good time In the morning, Jenkins, and set to it like a brick,” was his parting salutation.

Away he went. Jenkins, with his aching head and his harassing cough, applied himself diligently, as he ever did, to the afternoon's work, and got through it by six o'clock, which was later than usual. There then remained the copying, which Mr. Roland Yorke ought to have done. Knowing the value of Roland's promises, and knowing also that if he kept this promise ever so strictly, the amount of copying was more than could be completed in time, if left to the morning, Jenkins did as he had been aware he must do, when talking with Roland—took it home with him.

The parchments under his arm, he set out on his walk. What could be the matter with him, that he felt so weak, he asked himself as he went along. It must be, he believed, having gone without his dinner. Jenkins generally went home to dinner at twelve, and returned at one; occasionally, however, he did not go until two, according to the exigencies of the office; this day, he had not gone at all, but had cut a sandwich at breakfast-time and brought it with him in his pocket.

He had proceeded as far as the elm trees in the Boundaries—for Jenkins generally chose the quiet cloister way for his road home—when he saw Arthur Channing advancing towards him. With the ever-ready, respectful, cordial smile with which he was wont to greet Arthur whenever he saw him, Jenkins quickened his steps. But suddenly the smile seemed to fix itself upon his lips; and the parchments fell from his arm, and he staggered against the palings. But that Arthur was at hand to support him, he might have fallen to the ground.

“Why, what is it, Jenkins?” asked Arthur, kindly, when Jenkins was beginning to recover himself.

“Thank you, sir; I don't know what it could have been. Just as I was looking at you, a mist seemed to come before my eyes, and I felt giddy. I suppose it was a sort of faintness that came over me. I had been thinking that I felt weary. Thank you very much, sir.”

“Take my arm, Jenkins,” said Arthur, as he picked up the parchments, and took possession of them. “I'll see you home.”

“Oh no, sir, indeed,” protested simple-hearted Jenkins; “I'd not think of such a thing. I should feel quite ashamed, sir, at the thought of your being seen arm-in-arm with me in the street. I can go quite well alone; I can, indeed, sir.”

Arthur burst out laughing. “I wish you wouldn't be such an old duffer, Jenkins—as the college boys have it! Do you suppose I should let you go home by yourself? Come along.”

Drawing Jenkins's arm within his own, Arthur turned with him. Jenkins really did not like it. Sensitive to a degree was he: and, to his humble mind, it seemed that Arthur was out of place, walking familiarly with him.

“You must have been doing something to tire yourself,” said Arthur as they went along.

“It has been a pretty busy day, sir, now Mr. Galloway's away. I did not go home to dinner, for one thing.”

“And Mr. Roland Yorke absent for another, I suppose?”

“Only this afternoon, sir. His uncle, Lord Carrick, has arrived. Oh, sir!” broke off Jenkins, stopping in a panic, “here's his lordship the bishop coming along! Whatever shall you do?”

“Do!” returned Arthur, scarcely understanding him. “What should I do?”

“To think that he should see you thus with the like of me!”

It amused Arthur exceedingly. Poor, lowly-minded Jenkins! The bishop appeared to divine the state of the case, for he stopped when he came up. Possibly he was struck by the wan hue which overspread Jenkins's face.

“You look ill, Jenkins,” he said, nodding to Arthur Channing. “Keep your hat on, Jenkins—keep your hat on.”

“Thank you, my lord,” replied Jenkins, disregarding the injunction touching his hat. “A sort of faintness came over me just now under the elm trees, and this gentleman insisted upon walking home with me, in spite of my protestations to—”

Jenkins was stopped by a fit of coughing—a long, violent fit, sounding hollow as the grave. The bishop watched him till it was over. Arthur watched him.

“I think you should take better care of yourself, Jenkins,” remarked his lordship. “Is any physician attending you?”

“Oh, my lord, I am not ill enough yet for that. My wife made me go to Mr. Hurst the other day, my lord, and he gave me a bottle of something. But he said it was not medicine that I wanted.”

“I should advise you to go to a physician, Jenkins. A stitch in time saves nine, you know,” the bishop added, in his free good humour.

“So it does, my lord. Thank your lordship for thinking of me,” added Jenkins, as the bishop said good afternoon, and pursued his way. And then, and not till then, did Jenkins put on his hat again.

“Mr. Arthur, would you be so kind as not to say anything to my wife about my being poorly?” asked Jenkins, as they drew near to his home. “She'd be perhaps, for saying I should not go again yet to the office; and a pretty dilemma that would put me in, Mr. Galloway being absent. She'd get so fidgety, too: she kills me with kindness, if she thinks I am ill. The broth and arrowroot, and other messes, sir, that she makes me swallow, are untellable.”

“All right,” said Arthur.

But the intention was frustrated. Who should be standing at the shop-door but Mrs. Jenkins herself. She saw them before they saw her, and she saw that her husband looked like a ghost, and was supported by Arthur. Of course, she drew her own conclusions; and Mrs. Jenkins was one who did not allow her conclusions to be set aside. When Jenkins found that he was seen and suspected, he held out no longer, but honestly confessed the worst—that he had been taken with a giddiness.

“Of course,” said Mrs. Jenkins, as she pushed a chair here and another there, partly in temper, partly to free the narrow passage through the shop to the parlour. “I have been expecting nothing less all day. Every group of footsteps slower than usual, I have thought it was a shutter arriving and you on it, dropped dead from exhaustion. Would you believe”—turning short round on Arthur Channing—“that he has been such a donkey as to fast from breakfast time? And with that cough upon him!”

“Not quite so fast, my dear,” deprecated Jenkins. “I ate the paper of sandwiches.”

“Paper of rubbish!” retorted Mrs. Jenkins. “What good do sandwiches do a weakly man? You might eat a ton-load, and be none the better for it. Well, Jenkins, you may take your leave of having your own way.”

Poor Jenkins might have deferentially intimated that he never did have it. Mrs. Jenkins resumed:

“He said he'd carry a sandwich with him this morning, instead of coming home to dinner. I said, 'No.' And afterwards I was such a simpleton as to yield! And here's the effects of it! Sit yourself down in the easy-chair,” she added, taking Jenkins by the arms and pushing him into it. “And I'll make the tea now,” concluded she, turning to the table where the tea-things were set out. “There's some broiled fowl coming up for you.”

“I don't feel as if I could eat this evening,” Jenkins ventured to say.

Not eat!” she repeated with emphasis. “You had better eat—that's all. I don't want to have you falling down exhausted here, as you did in the Boundaries.”

“And as soon as you have had your tea, you should go to bed,” put in Arthur.

“I can't, sir. I have three or four hours' work at that deed. It must be done.” “At this?” returned Arthur, opening the papers he had carried home. “Oh, I see; it is a lease. I'll copy this for you, Jenkins. I have nothing to do to-night. You take your ease, and go to bed.”

And in spite of their calls, Jenkins's protestations against taking up his time and trouble, and Mrs. Jenkins's proffered invitation to partake of tea and broiled fowl, Arthur departed carrying off the work.

CHAPTER XXXVI. ELLEN HUNTLEY.

“A pretty time o' day this is to deliver the letters. It's eleven o'clock!”

“I can't help it. The train broke down, and was three hours behind its time.”

“I dare say! You letter-men want looking up: that's what it is. Coming to folks's houses at eleven o'clock, when they have been waiting and looking ever since breakfast-time!”

“It's not my fault, I say. Take the letter.”

Judith received it with a grunt, for it was between her and the postman that the colloquy had taken place. A delay had occurred that morning in the delivery, and Judith was resenting it, feeling half inclined to reject the letter, now that it had come. The letters from Germany arrived irregularly; sometimes by the afternoon post at four, sometimes by the morning; the only two deliveries in Helstonleigh. A letter had been fully expected this morning, and when the time passed over, they supposed there was none.

It was directed to Miss Channing. Judith, who was quite as anxious about her master's health as the children were, went off at once with it to Lady Augusta Yorke's, just as she was, without the ceremony of putting on a bonnet. Though she did wear a mob-cap and a check apron, she looked what she was—a respectable servant in a respectable family; and the Boundaries so regarded her, as she passed through them, letter in hand. Martha, Lady Augusta's housemaid, answered the door, presenting a contrast to Judith. Martha wore a crinoline as big as her lady's, and a starched-out muslin gown over it, with flounces and frillings, for Martha was “dressed” for the day. Her arms, red and large, were displayed beneath her open sleeves, and something that looked like a bit of twisted lace was stuck on the back of her head. Martha called it a “cap.” Judith was a plain servant, and Martha was a fashionable one; but I know which looked the better of the two.

Judith would not give in the letter. She asked for the young mistress, and Constance came to her in the hall. “Just open it, please, Miss Constance, and tell me how he is,” said she anxiously; and Constance broke the seal of the letter.

 “Borcette. Hotel Rosenbad, September, 18—.”

“My Dear Child,—Still better and better! The improvement, which I told you in my last week's letter had begun to take place so rapidly as to make us fear it was only a deceitful one, turns out to have been real. Will you believe it, when I tell you that your papa can walk! With the help of my arm, he can walk across the room and along the passage; and to-morrow he is going to try to get down the first flight of stairs. None but God can know how thankful I am; not even my children. If this change has taken place in the first month (and it is not yet quite that), what may we not expect in the next—and the next? Your papa is writing to Hamish, and will confirm what I say.”

This much Constance read aloud. Judith gave a glad laugh. “It's just as everybody told the master,” said she. “A fine, strong, handsome man, like him, wasn't likely to be laid down for life like a baby, when he was hardly middle-aged. These doctors here be just so many muffs. When I get too old for work, I'll go to Germany myself, Miss Constance, and ask 'em to make me young again.”

Constance smiled. She was running her eyes over the rest of the letter, which was a long one. She caught sight of Arthur's name. There were some loving, gentle messages to him, and then these words: “Hamish says Arthur applied at Dove and Dove's for a clerk's place, but did not come to terms with them. We are glad that he did not. Papa says he should not like to have one of his boys at Dove and Dove's.”

“And here's a little bit for you, Judith,” Constance said aloud. “Tell Judith not to be over-anxious in her place of trust; and not to over-work herself, but to let Sarah take her full share. There is no hurry about the bed-furniture; Sarah can do it in an evening at her leisure.”

Judith received the latter portion of the message with scorn. “'Tisn't me that's going to let her do it! A fine do it would be, Miss Constance! The first thing I shall see, when I go back now, will be her head stretched out at one of the windows, and the kidney beans left to string and cut themselves in the kitchen!”

Judith turned to depart. She never would allow any virtues to her helpmate Sarah, who gave about the same trouble to her that young servants of twenty generally give to old ones. Constance followed her to the door, saying something which had suddenly occurred to her mind about domestic affairs, when who should she meet, coming in, but the Rev. William Yorke! He had just left the Cathedral after morning prayers, and was calling at Lady Augusta's.

Both were confused; both stopped, face to face, in hesitation. Constance grew crimson; Mr. Yorke pale. It was the first time they had met since the parting. There was an angry feeling against Constance in the mind of Mr. Yorke; he considered that she had not treated him with proper confidence; and in his proud nature—the Yorke blood was his—he was content to resent it. He did not expect to lose Constance eventually; he thought that the present storm would blow over some time, and that things would come right again. We are all too much given to trust to that vague “some time.” In Constance's mind there existed a soreness against Mr. Yorke. He had doubted her; he had accepted (if he had not provoked) too readily her resignation of him. Unlike him, she saw no prospect of the future setting matters right. Marry him, whilst the cloud lay upon Arthur, she would not, after he had intimated his opinion and sentiments: and that cloud could only be lifted at the expense of another.

They exchanged a confused greeting; neither of them conscious how it passed. Mr. Yorke's attention was then caught by the open letter in her hand—by the envelope bearing the foreign post-marks. “How is Mr. Channing?” he asked.

“So much better that it seems little short of a miracle,” replied Constance. “Mamma says,” glancing at the letter, “that he can walk, leaning on her arm.”

“I am so glad to hear it! Hamish told me last week that he was improving. I trust it may go on to a cure.”

“Thank you,” replied Constance. And she made him a pretty little state curtsey as she turned away, not choosing to see the hand he would fain have offered her.

Mr. Yorke's voice brought a head and shoulders out at the breakfast-room door. They belonged to Lord Carrick. He and Lady Augusta were positively at breakfast at that hour of the day. His lordship's eyes followed the pretty form of Constance as she disappeared up the staircase on her return to the schoolroom. William Yorke's were cast in the same direction. Then their eyes—the peer's and the clergyman's—met.

“Ye have given her up, I understand, Master William?”

“Master William” vouchsafed no reply. He deemed it a little piece of needless impertinence.

“Bad taste!” continued Lord Carrick. “If I were only twenty years younger, and she'd not turn up her nose at me for a big daft of an Irishman, you'd not get her, me lad. She's the sweetest little thing I have come across this many a day.”

To which the Rev. William Yorke condescended no answer, unless a haughty gesture expressive of indignation might be called one, as he brushed past Lord Carrick into the breakfast-room.

At that very hour, and in a breakfast-room also—though all signs of the meal had long been removed—were Mr. Huntley and his daughter. The same praise, just bestowed by Lord Carrick upon Constance Channing, might with equal justice be given to Ellen Huntley. She was a lovely girl, three or four years older than Harry, with pretty features and soft dark eyes. What is more, she was a good girl—a noble, generous-hearted girl, although (you know no one is perfection) with a spice of self-will. For the latter quality I think Ellen was more indebted to circumstances than to Nature. Mrs. Huntley was dead, and a maiden sister of Mr. Huntley's, older than himself, resided with them and ruled Ellen; ruled her with a tight hand; not a kind one, or a judicious one; and that had brought out Miss Ellen's self-will. Miss Huntley was very starched, prim, and stiff—very unnatural, in short—and she wished to make Ellen the same. Ellen rebelled, for she much disliked everything artificial. She was truthful, honest, straightforward; not unlike the character of Tom Channing. Miss Huntley complained that she was too straightforward to be ladylike; Ellen said she was sure she should never be otherwise than straightforward, so it was of no use trying. Then Miss Huntley would take offence, and threaten Ellen with “altering her will,” and that would vex Ellen more than anything. Young ladies rarely care for money, especially when they have plenty of it; and Ellen Huntley would have that, from her father. “As if I cared for my aunt's money!” she would say. “I wish she may not leave it to me.” And she was sincere in the wish. Their controversies frequently amused Mr. Huntley. Agreeing in heart and mind with his daughter, he would yet make a playful show of taking his sister's part. Miss Huntley knew it to be show—done to laugh at her—and would grow as angry with him as she was with Ellen.

Mr. Huntley was not laughing, however, this morning. On the contrary, he appeared to be in a very serious, not to say solemn mood. He slowly paced the room, as was his custom when anything disturbed him, stopping at moments to reflect, buried in thought. Ellen sat at a table by the window, drawing. The house was Mr. Huntley's own—a white villa with a sloping lawn in front. It was situated outside the town, on a gentle eminence, and commanded a view of the charming scenery for which the county was famous.

Ellen, who had glanced up two or three times, concerned to see the very stern, perplexed look on her father's face, at length spoke, “Is anything the matter, papa?”

Mr. Huntley did not answer. He was standing close to the table then, apparently looking at Ellen, at her white morning dress and its blue ribbons: it, and she altogether, a fair picture. Probably he saw neither her nor her dress—he was too deeply absorbed.

“You are not ill, are you, papa?”

“Ill!” he answered, rousing himself. “No, Ellen, I am not ill.”

“Then you have had something to vex you, papa?”

“I have,” emphatically replied Mr. Huntley. “And the worst is, that my vexation will not be confined to myself, I believe. It may extend to you, Ellen.”

Mr. Huntley's manner was so serious, his look so peculiar as he gazed at her, that Ellen felt a rush of discomfort, and the colour spread itself over her fair face. She jumped to the conclusion that she had been giving offence in some way—that Miss Huntley must have been complaining of her.

“Has my aunt been telling you about last night, papa? Harry had two of the college boys here, and I unfortunately laughed and talked with them, and she said afterwards I had done it on purpose to annoy her. But I assure you, papa—”

“Never mind assuring me, child,” interrupted Mr. Huntley. “Your aunt has said nothing to me; and if she had, it would go in at one ear and out at the other. It is worse business than any complaint that she could bring.”

Ellen laid down her pencil, and gazed at her father, awe-struck at his strange tone. “What is it?” she breathed.

But Mr. Huntley did not answer. He remained perfectly still for a few moments, absorbed in thought: and then, without a word of any sort to Ellen, turned round to leave the room, took his hat as he passed through the hall, and left the house.

Can you guess what it was that was troubling Mr. Huntley? Very probably, if you can put, as the saying runs, this and that together.

Convinced, as he was, that Arthur Channing was not, could not be guilty of taking the bank-note, yet puzzled by the strangely tame manner in which he met the charge—confounded by the behaviour both of Arthur and Constance relating to it—Mr. Huntley had resolved, if possible, to dive into the mystery. He had his reasons for it. A very disagreeable, a very improbable suspicion, called forth by the facts, had darted across his mind; therefore he resolved to penetrate to it. And he set to work. He questioned Mr. Galloway, he questioned Butterby, he questioned Jenkins, and he questioned Roland Yorke. He thus became as thoroughly conversant with the details of the transaction as it was possible for any one, except the actual thief, to be; and he drew his own deductions. Very reluctantly, very slowly, very cautiously, were they drawn, but very surely. The behaviour of Arthur and Constance could only have one meaning: they were screening the real culprit. And that culprit must be Hamish Channing.

Unwilling as Mr. Huntley was to admit it, he had no resource but to do so. He grew as certain of it as he was of his own life. He had loved and respected Hamish in no measured degree. He had observed the attachment springing up between him and his daughter, and he had been content to observe it. None were so worthy of her, in Mr. Huntley's eyes, as Hamish Channing, in all respects save one—wealth; and, of that, Ellen would have plenty. Mr. Huntley had known of the trifling debts that were troubling Hamish, and he found that those debts, immediately on the loss of the bank-note, had been partially satisfied. That the stolen money must have been thus applied, and that it had been taken for that purpose, he could not doubt.

Hamish! It nearly made Mr. Huntley's hair stand on end. That he must be silent over it, as were Hamish's own family, he knew—silent for Mr. Channing's sake. And what about Ellen?

There was the sad, very sad grievance. Whether Hamish went wrong, or whether Hamish went right, it was not of so much consequence to Mr. Huntley; but it might be to Ellen—in fact, he thought it would be. He had risen that morning resolved to hint to Ellen that any particular intimacy with Hamish must cease. But he was strangely undecided about it. Now that the moment was come, he almost doubted, himself, Hamish's guilt. All the improbabilities of the case rose up before him in marked colours; he lost sight of the condemning facts; and it suddenly occurred to him that it was scarcely fair to judge Hamish so completely without speaking to him. “Perhaps he can account to me for the possession of the money which he applied to those debts,” thought Mr. Huntley. “If so, in spite of appearances, I will not deem him guilty.”

He went out, on the spur of the moment, straight down to the office in Guild Street. Hamish was alone, not at all busy, apparently. He was standing up by the fireplace, his elbow on the mantelpiece, a letter from Mr. Channing (no doubt the one alluded to in Mrs. Channing's letter to Constance) in his hand. He received Mr. Huntley with his cordial, sunny smile; spoke of the good news the letter brought, spoke of the accident which had caused the delay of the mail, and finally read out part of the letter, as Constance had to Judith.

It was all very well; but this only tended to embarrass Mr. Huntley. He did not like his task, and the more confidential they grew over Mr. Channing's health, the worse it made it for him to enter upon. As chance had it, Hamish himself paved the way. He began telling of an incident which had taken place that morning, to the scandal of the town. A young man, wealthy but improvident, had been arrested for debt. Mr. Huntley had not yet heard of it.

“It stopped his day's pleasure,” laughed Hamish. “He was going along with his gun and dogs, intending to pop at the partridges, when he got popped upon himself, instead. Poor fellow! it was too bad to spoil his sport. Had I been a rich man, I should have felt inclined to bail him out.”

“The effect of running in debt,” remarked Mr. Huntley. “By the way, Master Hamish, is there no fear of a similar catastrophe for you?” he added, in a tone which Hamish might, if he liked, take for a jesting one.

“For me, sir?” returned Hamish.

“When I left Helstonleigh in June, a certain young friend of mine was not quite free from a suspicion of such liabilities,” rejoined Mr. Huntley.

Hamish flushed rosy red. Of all people in the world, Mr. Huntley was the one from whom he would, if possible, have kept that knowledge, but he spoke up readily.

“I did owe a thing or two, it can't be denied,” acknowledged he. “Men, better and wiser and richer than I, have owed money before me, Mr. Huntley.”

“Suppose they serve you as they have served Jenner this morning?”

“They will not do that,” laughed Hamish, seeming very much inclined to make a joke of the matter. “I have squared up some sufficiently to be on the safe side of danger, and I shall square up the rest.”

Mr. Huntley fixed his eyes upon him. “How did you get the money to do it, Hamish?”

Perhaps it was the plain, unvarnished manner in which the question was put; perhaps it was the intent gaze with which Mr. Huntley regarded him; but, certain it is, that the flush on Hamish's face deepened to crimson, and he turned it from Mr. Huntley, saying nothing.

“Hamish, I have a reason for wishing to know.”

“To know what, sir?” asked Hamish, as if he would temporize, or avoid the question.

“Where did you obtain the money that you applied to liquidate, or partially to liquidate, your debts?”

“I cannot satisfy you, sir. The affair concerns no one but myself. I did get it, and that is sufficient.”

Hamish had come out of his laughing tone, and spoke as firmly as Mr. Huntley; but, that the question had embarrassed him, was palpably evident. Mr. Huntley said good morning, and left the office without shaking hands. All his doubts were confirmed.

He went straight home. Ellen was where he had left her, still alone. Mr. Huntley approached her and spoke abruptly. “Are you willing to give up all intimacy with Hamish Channing?”

She gazed at him in surprise, her complexion changing, her voice faltering. “Oh, papa! what have they done?”

“Ellen, did I say 'they!' The Channings are my dear friends, and I hope ever to call them such. They have done nothing unworthy of my friendship or of yours. I said Hamish.”

Ellen rose from her seat, unable to subdue her emotion, and stood with her hands clasped before Mr. Huntley. Hamish was far dearer to her than the world knew.

“I will leave it to your good sense, my dear,” Mr. Huntley whispered, glancing round, as if not caring that even the walls should hear. “I have liked Hamish very much, or you may be sure he would not have been allowed to come here so frequently. But he has forfeited my regard now, as he must forfeit that of all good men.”

She trembled excessively, almost to impede her utterance, when she would have asked what it was that he had done.

“I scarcely dare breathe it to you,” said Mr. Huntley, “for it is a thing that we must hush up, as the family are hushing it up. When that bank-note was lost, suspicion fell on Arthur.”

“Well, papa?” wonderingly resumed Ellen.

“It was not Arthur who took it. It was Hamish. And Arthur is bearing the stigma of it for his father's sake.”

Ellen grew pale. “Papa, who says it?”

“No one says it, Ellen. But the facts leave no room for doubt. Hamish's own manner—I have just left him—leaves no room for it. He is indisputably guilty.”

Then Ellen's anger, her straightforwardness, broke forth. She clasped her hands in pain, and her face grew crimson. “He is not guilty, papa. I would answer for it with my own life. How dare they accuse him! how dare they asperse him? Is he not Hamish Channing?”

“Ellen! Ellen!”

Ellen burst into a passionate flood of tears. “Forgive me, papa. If he has no one else to take his part, I will do it. I do not wish to be undutiful; and if you bid me never to see or speak to Hamish Channing again, I will implicitly obey you; but, hear him spoken of as guilty, I will not. I wish I could stand up for him against the world.”

“After that, Miss Ellen Huntley, I think you had better sit down.”

Ellen sat down, and cried until she was calm.

CHAPTER XXXVII. THE CONSPIRATORS.

Nothing of sufficient consequence to record here, occurred for some weeks to the Channings, or to those connected with them. October came in; and in a few days would be decided the uncertain question of the seniorship. Gaunt would leave the college on the fifth; and on the sixth the new senior would be appointed. The head-master had given no intimation whatever to the school as to which of the three seniors would obtain the promotion, and discussion ran high upon the probabilities. Some were of opinion that it would be Huntley; some, Gerald Yorke; a very few, Tom Channing. Countenanced by Gaunt and Huntley, as he had been throughout, Tom bore on his way, amid much cabal; but for the circumstance of the senior boy espousing (though not very markedly) his cause, his place would have been unbearable. Hamish attended to his customary duties in Guild Street, and sat up at night as usual in his bedroom, as his candle testified to Judith. Arthur tried bravely for a situation, and tried in vain; he could get nothing given to him—no one seemed willing to take him on. There was nothing for it but to wait in patience. He took the organ daily, and copied, at home, the cathedral music. Constance was finding great favour with the Earl of Carrick—but you will hear more about that presently. Jenkins grew more like a shadow day by day. Roland Yorke went on in his impulsive, scapegrace fashion. Mr. and Mrs. Channing sent home news, hopeful and more hopeful, from Germany. And Charley, unlucky Charley, had managed to get into hot water with the college school.

Thus uneventfully had passed the month of September. October was now in, and the sixth rapidly approaching. What with the uncertainty prevailing, the preparation for the examination, which on that day would take place, and a little private matter, upon which some few were entering, the college school had just then a busy and exciting time of it.

Stephen Bywater sat in one of the niches of the cloisters, a pile of books by his side. Around him, in various attitudes, were gathered seven of the most troublesome of the tribe—Pierce senior, George Brittle, Tod Yorke, Fred Berkeley, Bill Simms, Mark Galloway, and Hurst, who had now left the choir, but not the school. They were hatching mischief. Twilight overhung the cloisters; the autumn evenings were growing long, and this was a gloomy one. Half an hour, at the very least, had the boys been gathered there since afternoon school, holding a council of war in covert tones.

“Paid out he shall be, by hook or by crook,” continued Stephen Bywater, who appeared to be president—if talking more than his confreres constitutes one. “The worst is, how is it to be done? One can't wallop him.”

“Not wallop him!” repeated Pierce senior, who was a badly disposed boy, as well as a mischievous one. “Why not, pray?”

“Not to any good,” said Bywater. “I can't, with that delicate face of his. It's like beating a girl.”

“That's true,” assented Hurst. “No, it won't do to go in for beating; might break his bones, or something. I can't think what's the good of those delicate ones putting themselves into a school of this sort. A parson's is the place for them; eight gentlemanly pupils, treated as a private family, with a mild usher, and a lady to teach the piano.”

The council burst into a laugh at Hurst's mocking tones, and Pierce senior interrupted it.

“I don't see why he shouldn't—”

“Say she, Pierce,” corrected Mark Galloway.

“She, then. I don't see why she shouldn't get a beating if she deserves it; it will teach her not to try her tricks on again. Let her be delicate; she'll feel it the more.”

“It's all bosh about his being delicate. She's not,” vehemently interrupted Tod Yorke, somewhat perplexed, in his hurry, with the genders. “Charley Channing's no more delicate than we are. It's all in the look. As good say that detestable little villain, Boulter, is delicate, because he has yellow curls. I vote for the beating.”

“I'll vote you out of the business, if you show insubordination, Mr. Tod,” cried Bywater. “We'll pay out Miss Charley in some way, but it shan't be by beating him.”

“Couldn't we lock him up in the cloisters, as we locked up Ketch, and that lot; and leave him there all night?” proposed Berkeley.

“But there'd be getting the keys?” debated Mark Galloway.

“As if we couldn't get the keys if we wanted them!” scoffingly retorted Bywater. “We did old Ketch the other time, and we could do him again. That would not serve the young one out, locking him up in the cloisters.”

“Wouldn't it, though!” said Tod Yorke. “He'd be dead of fright before morning, he's so mortally afraid of ghosts.”

“Afraid of what?” cried Bywater.

“Of ghosts. He's a regular coward about them. He dare not go to bed in the dark for fear of their coming to him. He'd rather have five and twenty pages of Virgil to do, than he'd be left alone after nightfall.”

The notion so tickled Bywater, that he laughed till he was hoarse. Bywater could not understand being afraid of “ghosts.” Had Bywater met a whole army of ghosts, the encounter would only have afforded him pleasure.

“There never was a ghost seen yet, as long as any one can remember,” cried he, when he came out of his laughter. “I'd sooner believe in Gulliver's travels, than I'd believe in ghosts. What a donkey you are, Tod Yorke!”

“It's Charley Channing that's the donkey; not me,” cried Tod, fiercely. “I tell you, if we locked him up here for a night, we should find him dead in the morning, when we came to let him out. Let's do it.”

“What, to find him dead in the morning!” exclaimed Hurst. “You are a nice one, Tod!”

“Oh, well, I don't mean altogether dead, you know,” acknowledged Tod. “But he'd have had a mortal night of it! All his clothes gummed together from fright, I'll lay.”

“I don't think it would do,” deliberated Bywater. “A whole night—twelve hours, that would be—and in a fright all the time, if he is frightened. Look here! I have heard of folks losing their wits through a thing of the sort.”

“I won't go in for anything of the kind,” said Hurst. “Charley's not a bad lot, and he shan't be harmed. A bit of a fright, or a bit of a whacking, not too much of either; that'll be the thing for Miss Channing.”

“Tod Yorke, who told you he was afraid of ghosts?” demanded Bywater.

“Oh, I know it,” said Tod. “Annabel Channing was telling my sisters about it, for one thing: but I knew it before. We had a servant once who told us so, she had lived at the Channings'. Some nurse frightened him when he was a youngster, and they have never been able to get the fear out of him since.”

“What a precious soft youngster he must have been!” said Mr. Bywater.

“She used to get a ghost and dress it up and show it off to Miss Charley—”

“Get a ghost, Tod?”

“Bother! you know what I mean,” said Tod, testily. “Get a broom or something of that sort, and dress it up with a mask and wings: and he is as scared over it now as he ever was. I don't care what you say.”

“Look here!” exclaimed Bywater, starting from his niche, as a bright idea occurred to him. “Let one of us personate a ghost, and appear to him! That would be glorious! It would give him a precious good fright for the time, and no harm done.”

If the boys had suddenly found the philosopher's stone, it could scarcely have afforded them so much pleasure as did this idea. It was received with subdued shouts of approbation: the only murmur of dissent to be heard was from Pierce senior. Pierce grumbled that it would not be “half serving him out.”

“Yes, it will,” said Bywater. “Pierce senior shall be the ghost: he tops us all by a head.”

“Hurst is as tall as Pierce senior.”

“That he is not,” interrupted Pierce senior, who was considerably mollified at the honour being awarded to him. “Hurst is not much above the tips of my ears. Besides, Hurst is fat; and you never saw a fat ghost yet.”

“Have you seen many ghosts, Pierce?” mocked Bywater.

“A few; in pictures. Wretched old scarecrows they always are, with a cadaverous face and lantern jaws.”

“That's the reason you'll do so well, Pierce,” said Bywater. “You are as thin as a French herring, you know, with a yard and a half of throat.”

Pierce received the doubtful compliment flatteringly, absorbed in the fine vista of mischief opening before him. “How shall I get myself up, Bywater?” asked he, complaisantly. “With horns and a tail?”

“Horns and a tail be bothered!” returned Hurst. “It must be like a real ghost, all white and ghastly.”

“Of course it must,” acquiesced Bywater.

“I know a boy in our village that they served out like that,” interposed Bill Simms, who was a country lad, and boarded in Helstonleigh. “They got a great big turnip, and scooped it out and made it into a man's face, and put a light inside, and stuck it on a post where he had to pass at night. He was so frightened that he died.”

“Cram!” ejaculated Tod Yorke.

“He did, though,” repeated Simms. “They knew him before for an awful little coward, and they did it to have some fun out of him. He didn't say anything at the time; didn't scream, or anything of that sort; but after he got home he was taken ill, and the next day he died. My father was one of the jury on the inquest. He was a little chap with no father or mother—a plough-boy.”

“The best thing, if you want to make a ghost,” said Tod Yorke, “is to get a tin plate full of salt and gin, and set it alight, and wrap yourself round with a sheet, and hold the plate so that the flame lights up your face. You never saw anything so ghastly. Scooped-out turnips are all bosh!”

“I could bring a sheet off my bed,” said Bywater. “Thrown over my arm, they'd think at home I was bringing out my surplice. And if—”

A wheezing and coughing and clanking of keys interrupted the proceedings. It was Mr. Ketch, coming to lock up the cloisters. As the boys had no wish to be fastened in, themselves, they gathered up their books, and waited in silence till the porter was close upon them. Then, with a sudden war-whoop, they sprang past him, very nearly startling the old man out of his senses, and calling forth from him a shower of hard words.

The above conversation, puerile and school-boyish as it may seem, was destined to lead to results all too important; otherwise it would not have been related here. You very likely may have discovered, ere this, that this story of the Helstonleigh College boys is not merely a work of imagination, but taken from facts of real life. Had you been in the cloisters that night with the boys—and you might have been—and heard Master William Simms, who was the son of a wealthy farmer, tell the tale of a boy's being frightened to death, you would have known it to be a true one, if you possessed any knowledge of the annals of the neighbourhood. In like manner, the project they were getting up to frighten Charles Channing, and Charles's unfortunate propensity to be frightened, are strictly true.

Master Tod Yorke's account of what had imbued his mind with this fear, was a tolerably correct one. Charley was somewhat troublesome and fractious as a young child, and the wicked nurse girl who attended upon him would dress up frightful figures to terrify him into quietness. She might not have been able to accomplish this without detection, but that Mrs. Channing was at that time debarred from the active superintendence of her household. When Charley was about two years old she fell into ill health, and for eighteen months was almost entirely confined to her room. Judith was much engaged with her mistress and with household matters, and the baby, as Charley was still called, was chiefly left to the mercies of the nurse. Not content with frightening him practically, she instilled into his young imagination the most pernicious stories of ghosts, dreams, and similar absurdities. But, foolish as we know them to be, they are not the less horrible to a child's vivid imagination. At two, or three, or four years old, it is eagerly opening to impressions; and things, solemnly related by a mother or a nurse, become impressed upon it almost as with gospel truth. Let the fears once be excited in this terrible way, and not a whole lifetime can finally eradicate the evil. I would rather a nurse broke one of my children's limbs, than thus poison its fair young mind.

In process of time the girl's work was discovered—discovered by Judith. But the mischief was done. You may wonder that Mrs. Channing should not have been the first to discover it; or that it could have escaped her notice at all, for she had the child with her often for his early religious instruction; but, one of the worst phases of this state of things is, the shrinking tenacity with which the victim buries the fears within his own breast. He dare not tell his parents; he is taught not; and taught by fear. It may not have been your misfortune to meet with a case of this sort; I hope you never will. Mrs. Channing would observe that the child would often shudder, as with terror, and cling to her in an unaccountable manner; but, having no suspicion of the evil, she attributed it to a sensitive, timid temperament. “What is it, my little Charley?” she would say. But Charley would only bury his face the closer, and keep silence. When Martha—that was the girl's name: not the same Martha who was now living at Lady Augusta's—came for him, he would go with her willingly, cordially. It was not her he feared. On the contrary, he was attached to her; she had taught him to be so; and he looked upon her as a protector from those awful ghosts and goblins.

Well, the thing was in time discovered, but the mischief, I say, was done. It could not be eradicated. Charles Channing's judgment and good sense told him that all those bygone terrors were only tricks of that wretched Martha's: but, overcome the fear, he could not. All consideration was shown to him; he was never scolded for it, never ridiculed; his brothers and sisters observed to him entire silence upon the subject—even Annabel; and Mr. and Mrs. Channing had done reasoning lovingly with him now. It is not argument that will avail in a case like this. In the broad light of day, Charley could be very brave; would laugh at such tales with the best of them; but when night came, and he was left alone—if he ever was left alone—then all the old terror rose up again, and his frame would shake, and he would throw himself on the bed or on the floor, and hide his face; afraid of the darkness, and of what he might see in it. He was as utterly unable to prevent or subdue this fear, as he was to prevent his breathing. He knew it, in the sunny morning light, to be a foolish fear, utterly without reason: but, in the lonely night, there it came again, and he could not combat it.

Thus, it is easy to understand that the very worst subject for a ghost trick to be played upon, was Charley Channing. It was, however, going to be done. The defect—for it really is a defect—had never transpired to the College school, who would not have spared their ridicule, or spared Charley. Reared, in that point, under happier auspices, they could have given nothing but utter ridicule to the fear. Chattering Annabel, in her thoughtless communications to Caroline and Fanny Yorke, had not bargained for their reaching the ears of Tod; and Tod, when the report did reach his ears, remembered to have heard the tale before; until then it had escaped his memory.

Charley had got into hot water with some of the boys. Bywater had been owing him a grudge for weeks, on account of Charley's persistent silence touching what he had seen the day the surplice was inked; and now there arose another grudge on Bywater's score, and also on that of others. There is not space to enter into the particulars of the affair; it is sufficient to say that some underhand work, touching cribs, came to the knowledge of one of the under-masters—and came to him through Charley Channing.

Not that Charley went, open-mouthed, and told; there was nothing of that disreputable character—which the school held in especial dislike—the sneak, about Charles Channing. Charley would have bitten his tongue out first. By an unfortunate accident Charles was pinned by the master, and questioned; and he had no resource but to speak out. In honour, in truth, he could not do otherwise; but, the consequence was—punishment to the boys; and they turned against him. Schoolboys are not famous for being swayed by the rules of strict justice; and they forgot to remember that in Charles Channing's place they would (at any rate, most of them) have felt bound to do the same. They visited the accident upon him, and were determined—as you have heard them express it in their own phrase—to “serve him out.”

Leaving this decision to fructify, let us turn to Constance. Lady Augusta Yorke—good-hearted in the main, liberal natured, swayed by every impulse as the wind—had been particularly kind to Constance and Annabel Channing during the absence of their mother. Evening after evening she would insist upon their spending at her house, Hamish—one of Lady Augusta's lasting favourites, probably from his good looks—being pressed into the visit with them by my lady. Hamish was nothing loth. He had given up indiscriminate evening visiting; and, since the coolness which had arisen in the manner of Mr. Huntley, Hamish did not choose to go much to Mr. Huntley's, where he had been a pretty constant visitor before; and he found his evenings hang somewhat heavily on his hands. Thus Constance saw a good deal of the Earl of Carrick; or, it may be more to the purpose to say, the earl saw a good deal of her.

For the earl grew to like her very much indeed. He grew to think that if she would only consent to become his wife, he should be the happiest man in ould Ireland; and one day, impulsive in his actions as was ever Lady Augusta, he told Constance so, in that lady's presence.

Constance—much as we may regret to hear it of her—behaved in by no means a dignified manner. She laughed over it. When brought to understand, which took some little time, that she was actually paid that high compliment, she laughed in the earl's face. He was as old as her father; and Constance had certainly regarded him much more in the light of a father than a husband.

“I do beg your pardon, Lord Carrick,” she said, apologetically “but I think you must be laughing at me.”

“Laughing at ye!” said the earl. “It's not I that would do that. I'd like ye to be Countess of Carrick to-morrow, me dear, if you can only get over me fifty years and me grey hair. Here's me sister—she knows that I'd like to have ye. It's you that are laughing at me, Miss Constance; at me ould locks.”

“No, indeed, indeed it is not that,” said Constance, while Lady Augusta sat with an impassive countenance. “I don't know why I laughed. It so took me by surprise; that was why, I think. Please do not say any more about it, Lord Carrick.”

“Ye could not like me as well as ye like William Yorke? Is that it, child?”

Constance grew crimson. Like him as she liked William Yorke!

“Ye're the nicest girl I have seen since Kathleen Blake,” resumed the straightforward, simple earl. “She promised to have me; she said she liked me grey hair better than brown, and me fifty years better than thirty, but, while I was putting the place a bit in order for her, she went and married a young Englishman. Did ye ever see him, Augusta?”—turning to his sister. “He is a baronet. He came somewhere from these parts.”

Lady Augusta intimated stiffly that she had not the honour of the baronet's acquaintance. She thought her brother was making a simpleton of himself, and had a great mind to tell him so.

“And since Kathleen Blake went over to the enemy, I have not seen anybody that I'd care to look twice at, till I came here and saw you, Miss Constance,” resumed the earl. “And if ye can only get to overlook the natural impediments on me side, and not mind me being poor, I'd be delighted, me dear, if ye'd say the word.”

“You are very kind, very generous, Lord Carrick,” said Constance, with an impulse of feeling; “but I can only beg you never to ask me such a thing again.”

“Ah! well, child, I see ye're in earnest,” good-naturedly responded the earl, as he gave it up. “I was afraid ye'd only laugh at me. I knew I was too old.”

And that was the beginning and the ending of Lord Carrick's wooing. Scarcely worth recording, you will think. But there was a reason for doing so.

CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE DECISION.

The important sixth of October—important to the Helstonleigh College boys—did not rise very genially. On the contrary, it rose rather sloppily. A soaking rain was steadily descending, and the streets presented a continuous scene of puddles. The boys dashed through it without umbrellas (I never saw one of them carry an umbrella in my life, and don't believe the phenomenon ever was seen), their clean surplices on their arms; on their way to attend ten-o'clock morning prayers in the cathedral. The day was a holiday from school, but not from morning service.

The college bell was beginning to ring out as they entered the schoolroom. Standing in the senior's place, and calling over the roll, was Tom Channing, the acting senior for a few brief hours. Since Gaunt's departure, the previous day, Tom Channing had been head of the school; it lay in the custom of the school for him so to be. Would his place be confirmed? or would he lose it? Tom looked flurried with suspense. It was not so much being appointed senior that he thought of, as the disgrace, the humiliation that would be his portion, were he deposed from it. He knew that he deserved the position; that it was his by right; he stood first on the rolls, and he had done nothing whatever to forfeit it. He was the school's best scholar; and—if he was not always a perfect model for conduct—there was this much to be said in his favour, that none of them could boast of being better.

The opinion of the school had been veering round for the last few days in favour of Tom. I do not mean that he, personally, was in better odour with it—not at all, the snow-ball, touching Arthur, had gathered strength in rolling—but in favour of his chances of the seniorship. Not a breath of intimation had the head-master given; except that, one day, in complaining to Gaunt of the neglect of a point of discipline in the school, which point was entirely under the control of the senior boy, he had turned to Tom, and said, “Remember, Channing, it must be observed for the future.”

Tom's heart leaped within him as he heard it, and the boys looked inquiringly at the master. But the master's head was then buried in the deep drawer of his desk, hunting for a lost paper. Unless he had spoken it in forgetfulness—which was not improbable-there could be no doubt that he looked upon Tom as Gaunt's successor. The school so interpreted it, and chose to become, amongst themselves, sullenly rebellious. As to Tom, who was nearly as sanguine in temperament as Hamish, his hopes and his spirits went up to fever heat.—

One of the last to tear through the street, splashing his jacket, and splashing his surplice, was Harry Huntley. He, like all the rest, took care to be in time that morning. There would have been no necessity for his racing, however, had he not lingered at home, talking. He was running down from his room, whither he had gone again after breakfast, to give the finishing brush to his hair (I can tell you that some of those college gentlemen were dandies), when Mr. Huntley's voice was heard, calling him into the breakfast-room.

“Harry,” said he, “I don't think that I need enjoin you not to suffer your manner to show triumph towards Tom Channing, should you be promoted over him to-day.”

“I shan't be, papa. Channing will have the seniorship.”

“How do you know that?”

“Oh, from something Pye let drop. We look upon it that Channing is as good as senior.”

Mr. Huntley remembered the tenor of the private conversation the master had held with him, and believed his son would find himself mistaken, and that he, Harry, would be made senior. That it would be Gerald Yorke, Mr. Huntley did not believe. “At any rate, Harry, take heed to what I say,” he resumed. “Be very considerate and courteous towards your friend Channing, if you should obtain it. Do not let me have to blush for my son's ill feeling.”

There was a tone in Mr. Huntley's voice which, to Harry's ears, seemed to intimate that he did not speak without reason. “Papa, it would not be fair for me to go up over Channing,” he impulsively said.

“No. Comparing your merits together, Channing is the better man of the two.”

Harry laughed. “He is not worse, at all events. Why are you saying this, papa?”

“Because I fancy that you are more likely to be successful than Tom Channing. I wish I may be mistaken. I would rather he had it; for, personally, he had done nothing to forfeit it.”

“If Harry could accept the seniorship and displace Tom Channing, I would not care to call him my brother again,” interrupted Ellen Huntley, with a flashing eye.

“It is not that, Ellen; you girls don't understand things,” retorted Harry. “If Pye displaces Tom from the scholarship, he does not do it to exalt me; he does it because he won't have him at any price. Were I to turn round like a chivalrous Knight Templar and say I'd not take it, out of regard to my friend Tom, where would be the good? Yorke would get hoisted over me, and I should be laughed at for a duffer. But I'll do as you like, papa,” he added, turning to Mr. Huntley. “If you wish me not to take the honour, I'll resign it in favour of Yorke. I never expected it to be mine, so it will be no disappointment; I always thought we should have Channing.”

“Your refusing it would do no good to Channing,” said Mr. Huntley. “And I should have grumbled at you, Harry, had you suffered Yorke to slip over your head. Every one in his own right. All I repeat to you, my boy, is, behave as you ought to Tom Channing. Possibly I may pay the college school a visit this morning.”

Harry opened his eyes to their utmost width.

“You, papa! Whatever for?”

“That is my business,” laughed Mr. Huntley. “It wants only twenty minutes to ten, Harry.”

Harry, at the hint, bounded into the hall. He caught up his clean surplice, placed there ready for him, and stuck his trencher on his head, when he was detained by Ellen.

“Harry, boy, it's a crying wrong against Tom Channing. Hamish never did it—”

Hamish” interrupted Harry, with a broad grin. “A sign who you are thinking of, mademoiselle.”

Mademoiselle turned scarlet. “You know I meant to say Arthur, stupid boy! It's a crying wrong, Harry, upon Tom Channing. Looking at it in the worst light, he has been guilty of nothing to forfeit his right. If you can help him to the seniorship instead of supplanting him, be a brave boy, and do it. God sees all things.”

“I shall be late, as sure as a gun!” impatiently returned Harry. And away he sped through the rain and mud, never slackening speed till he was in the college schoolroom.

He hung up his trencher, flung his surplice on to a bench, and went straight up, with outstretched hand, to Tom Channing, who stood as senior, unfolding the roll. “Good luck to you, old fellow!” cried he, in a clear voice, that rang through the spacious room. “I hope, with all my heart, that you'll be in this post for many a day.”

“Thank you, Huntley,” responded Tom. And he proceeded to call over the roll, though his cheek burnt at sundry hisses that came, in subdued tones, from various parts of the room.

Every boy was present. Not a king's scholar but answered to his name; and Tom signed the roll for the first time. “Channing, acting senior.” Not “Channing, senior,” yet. It was a whim of Mr. Pye's that on Sundays and saints' day—that is, whenever the king's scholars had to attend service—the senior boy should sign the roll.

They then put on their surplices; and rather damp surplices some of them were. The boys most of them disdained bags; let the weather be what it might, the surplices, like themselves, went openly through it. Ready in their surplices and trenchers, Tom Channing gave the word of command, and they were on the point of filing out, when a freak took Pierce senior to leave his proper place in the ranks, and walk by the side of Brittle.

“Halt!” said Channing. “Pierce senior, take your place.”

“I shan't,” returned Pierce. “Who is to compel me?” he added with a mocking laugh. “We are without a senior for once.”

“I will,” thundered Tom, his face turning white at the implied sneer, the incipient disobedience. “I stand here as the school's senior now, whatever I may do later, and I will be obeyed. Return to your proper place.”

There was that in Tom's eye, in Tom's tone, that somehow over-awed Mr. Pierce; and he walked sheepishly to his own place. There was no mistaking that Channing would make a firm senior. The boys proceeded, two and two, decorously through the cloisters, snatching off their trenchers as they entered the college gates. Tom and Huntley walked last, Tom bearing the keys. The choir gained, the two branched off right and left, Huntley placing himself at the head of the boys on the left, or cantori side; Tom, assuming his place as acting senior, on the, decani. When they should sit next in that cathedral would their posts be reversed?

The dean was present: also three canons—Dr. Burrows, who was subdean, Dr. Gardner, and Mr. Mence. The head-master chanted, and in the stall next to him sat Gaunt. Gaunt had discarded his surplice with his schoolboy life; but curiosity with regard to the seniorship brought him amongst them again that day. “I hope you'll keep the place, Channing,” he whispered to him, as he passed the boys to get to his stall. Arthur Channing was at his place at the organ.

Ere eleven o'clock struck, service was over, and the boys marched back again. Not to the schoolroom—into the chapter-house. The examination, which took place once in three years, was there held. It was conducted quite in a formal manner; Mr. Galloway, as chapter clerk, being present, to call over the roll. The dean, the three prebendaries who had been at service, the head and other masters of the school, all stood together in the chapter-house; and the king's scholars wearing their surplices still, were ranged in a circle before them.

The dean took the examination. Dr. Burrows asked a question now and then, but the dean chiefly took it. There is neither space nor time to follow it in detail here: and no one would care to read it, if it were given. As a whole, the school acquitted itself well, doing credit to its masters. One of the chapter—it was Dr. Gardner, and the only word he spoke throughout—remarked that the head boy was a sound scholar, meaning Tom Channing.

The business over, the dean's words of commendation spoken, then the head-master took a step forward and cleared his throat. He addressed himself to the boys exclusively; for, what he had to say, had reference to them and himself alone: it was supposed not to concern the clergy. As to the boys, those who were of an excitable temperament, looked quite pale with suspense, now the long-expected moment was come. Channing? Huntley? Yorke?—which of the three would it be?

“The praise bestowed upon you, gentlemen, by the Dean and Chapter has been, if possible, more gratifying to myself than to you. It would be superfluous in me to add a word to the admonition given you by the Very Reverend the Dean, as to your future conduct and scholarly improvement. I can only hope, with him, that they may continue to be such as to afford satisfaction to myself, and to those gentlemen who are associated with me as masters in the collegiate school.”

A pause and a dead silence. The head-master cleared his throat again, and went on.

“The retirement of William Gaunt from the school, renders the seniorship vacant. I am sorry that circumstances, to which I will not more particularly allude, prevent my bestowing it upon the boy whose name stands first upon the rolls, Thomas Ingram Channing. I regret this the more, that it is not from any personal fault of Channing's that he is passed over; and this fact I beg may be most distinctly understood. Next to Channing's name stands that of Henry Huntley, and to him I award the seniorship. Henry Huntley, you are appointed senior of Helstonleigh Collegiate School. Take your place.”

The dead silence was succeeded by a buzz, a murmur, suppressed almost as soon as heard. Tom Channing's face turned scarlet, then became deadly white. It was a cruel blow. Huntley, with an impetuous step, advanced a few paces, and spoke up bravely, addressing the master.

“I thank you, sir, for the honour you have conferred upon me, but I have no right to it, either by claim or merit. I feel that it is but usurping the place of Channing. Can't you give it to him, please sir, instead of to me?”

The speech, begun formally and grandly enough for a royal president at a public dinner, and ending in its schoolboy fashion, drew a smile from more than one present. “No,” was all the answer vouchsafed by Mr. Pye, but it was spoken with unmistakable emphasis, and he pointed his finger authoritatively to the place already vacated by Tom Channing. Huntley bowed, and took it; and the next thing seen by the boys was Mr. Galloway altering the roll. He transposed the names of Channing and Huntley.

The boys, bowing to the clergy, filed out, and proceeded to the schoolroom, the masters following them. Tom Channing was very silent. Huntley was silent. Yorke, feeling mad with everyone, was silent. In short, the whole school was silent. Channing delivered the keys of the school to Huntley; and Mr. Pye, with his own hands, took out the roll and made the alteration in the names. For, the roll belonging to the chapter-house was not, as you may have thought, the every-day roll of the schoolroom. “Take care what you are about, Huntley,” said the master. “A careless senior never finds favour with me.”

“Very well, sir,” replied Huntley. But he was perfectly conscious, as he spoke, that his chief fault, as senior, would be that of carelessness. And Gaunt, who was standing by, and knew it also, telegraphed a significant look to Huntley. The other masters went up to Huntley, shook hands, and congratulated him, for that was the custom of the school; indeed, it was for that purpose only that the masters had gone into the schoolroom, where they had, that day, no business. Gaunt followed suit next, in shaking hands and congratulating, and the school afterwards; Gerald Yorke doing his part with a bad grace.

“Thank you all,” said Harry Huntley. “But it ought to have been Tom Channing.” Poor Tom's feelings, during all this, may be imagined.

The king's scholars were slinging their surplices on their arms to depart, for they had full holiday for the remainder of the day, when they were surprised by the entrance of Mr. Huntley. He went straight up to the head-master, nodding pleasantly to the boys, right and left.

“Well, and who is your important senior?” he gaily demanded of the master.

“Henry Huntley.”

Mr. Huntley drew in his lips. “For another's sake I am sorry to hear it. But I can only express my hope that he will do his duty.”

“I have just been telling him so,” observed the master.

“What brings me here, is this, sir,” continued Mr. Huntley to the master. “Knowing there was a doubt, as to which of the three senior boys would be chosen, I wished, should it prove to be my son, to speak a word about the Oxford exhibition, which, I believe, generally accompanies the seniorship. It falls due next Easter.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Pye.

“Then allow me to decline it for my son,” replied Mr. Huntley. “He will not need it; and therefore should not stand in the light of any other boy. I deemed it well, sir, to state this at once.”

“Thank you,” warmly responded the head-master. He knew that it was an unselfish, not to say generous, act.

Mr. Huntley approached Tom Channing. He took his hand; he shook it heartily, with every mark of affection and respect. “You must not allow this exaltation of Harry to lessen the friendship you and he entertain for each other,” he said, in tones that reached every pair of ears present—and not one but was turned up to listen. “You are more deserving of the place than he, and I am deeply sorry for the circumstances which have caused him to supplant you. Never mind, Tom; bear on bravely, lad, and you'll outlive vexation. Continue to be worthy of your noble father; continue to be my son's friend; there is no boy living whom I would so soon he took pattern by, as by you.”

The hot tears rushed into Tom's eyes, and his lip quivered. But that he remembered where he was, he might have lost his self-control. “Thank you, sir,” he answered, in a low tone.

“Whew!” whistled Tod Yorke, as they were going out. “A fine friend he is! A thief's brother.”

“A thief's brother! A thief's brother!” was the echo.

“But he's not our senior. Ha! ha! that would have been a good joke! He's not our senior!”

And down the steps they clattered, and went splashing home, as they had come, they and their surplices, through the wet streets and the rain.

CHAPTER XXXIX. THE GHOST.

The moon was high in the heavens. Lighting up the tower of the cathedral, illuminating its pinnacles, glittering through the elm trees, bringing forth into view even the dark old ivy on the prebendal houses. A fair night—all too fair for the game that was going to be played in it.

When the Helstonleigh College boys resolved upon what they were pleased to term a “lark”—and, to do them justice, they regarded this, their prospective night's work, in no graver light—they carried it out artistically, with a completeness, a skill, worthy of a better cause. Several days had they been hatching this, laying their plans, arranging the details; it would be their own bungling fault if it miscarried. But the college boys were not bunglers.

Stripped of its details, the bare plot was to exhibit a “ghost” in the cloisters, and to get Charley Charming to pass through them. The seniors knew nothing of the project. Huntley—it was the day following his promotion—would have stopped it at once, careless as he was. Tom Channing would have stopped it. Gerald Yorke might or might not; but Tod had taken care not to tell Gerald. And Griffin, who was burning to exercise in any way his newly acquired power, would certainly have stopped it. They had been too wise to allow it to come to the knowledge of the seniors. The most difficult part of the business had been old Ketch; but that was managed.

The moonlight shone peacefully on the Boundaries, and the conspirators were stealing up, by ones and twos, to their place of meeting, round the dark trunks of the elm trees. Fine as it was overhead, it was less so under-foot. The previous day, you may remember, had been a wet one, the night had been wet, and also the morning of the present day. Schoolboys are not particularly given to reticence, and a few more than the original conspirators had been taken into the plot. They were winding up now, in the weird moonlight, for the hour was approaching.

Once more we must pay a visit to Mr. Ketch in his lodge, at his supper hour. Mr. Ketch had changed his hour for that important meal. Growing old with age or with lumbago, he found early rest congenial to his bones, as he informed his friends: so he supped at seven, and retired betimes. Since the trick played him in the summer, he had taken to have his pint of ale brought to him; deeming it more prudent not to leave his lodge and the keys, to fetch it. This was known to the boys, and it rendered their plans a little more difficult.

Mr. Ketch, I say, sat in his lodge, having locked up the cloisters about an hour before, sneezing and wheezing, for he was suffering from a cold, caught the previous day in the wet. He was spelling over a weekly twopenny newspaper, borrowed from the public-house, by the help of a flaring tallow candle, and a pair of spectacles, of which one glass was out. Cynically severe was he over everything he read, as you know it was in the nature of Mr. Ketch to be. As the three-quarters past six chimed out from the cathedral clock, his door was suddenly opened, and a voice called out, “Beer!” Mr. Ketch's ale had arrived.

But the arrival did not give that gentleman pleasure, and he started up in what, but for the respect we bear him, we might call a fury. Dashing his one-eyed glasses on the table, he attacked the man.

“What d'ye mean with your 'beer' at this time o' night? It wants a quarter to seven! Haven't you no ears? haven't you no clock at your place? D'ye think I shall take it in now?”

“Well, it just comes to this,” said the man, who was the brewer at the public-house, and made himself useful at odd jobs in his spare time: “if you don't like to take it in now, you can't have it at all, of my bringing. I'm going up to t'other end of the town, and shan't be back this side of ten.”

Mr. Ketch, with much groaning and grumbling, took the ale and poured it into a jug of his own—a handsome jug, that had been in the wars and lost its spout and handle—giving back the other jug to the man. “You serve me such a imperant trick again, as to bring my ale a quarter of a hour aforehand, that's all!” snarled he.

The man received the jug, and went off whistling; he had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Ketch and his temper well. That gentleman closed his door with a bang, and proceeded to take out his customary bread and cheese. Not that he had any great love for a bread-and-cheese supper as a matter of fancy: he would very much have preferred something more dainty; only, dainties and Mr. Ketch's pocket did not agree.

“They want to be took down a notch, that public—sending out a man's beer a quarter afore seven, when it ain't ordered to come till seven strikes. Much they care if it stops a waiting and flattening! Be I a slave, that I should be forced to swallow my supper afore I want it, just to please them? They have a sight too much custom, that's what it is.”

He took a slight draught of the offending ale, and was critically surveying the loaf, before applying to it that green-handled knife of his, whose elegance you have heard of, when a second summons was heard at the door—a very timid one this time.

Mr. Ketch flung down the bread and the knife. “What's the reason I can't get a meal in quiet? Who is it?”

There was no response to this, beyond a second faint tapping. “Come in!” roared out he. “Pull the string o' the latch.”

But nobody came in, in spite of this lucid direction; and the timid tapping, which seemed to proceed from very small knuckles, was repeated again. Mr. Ketch was fain to go and open it.

A young damsel of eight or so, in a tattered tippet, and a large bonnet—probably her mother's—stood there, curtseying. “Please, sir, Mr. Ketch is wanted.”

Mr. Ketch was rather taken to at this strange address, and surveyed the messenger in astonishment. “Who be you? and who wants him?” growled he.

“Please, sir, it's a gentleman as is waiting at the big green gates,” was the reply. “Mr. Ketch is to go to him this minute; he told me to come and say so, and if you didn't make haste he should be gone.”

“Can't you speak plain?” snarled Ketch. “Who is the gentleman?”

“Please, sir, I think it's the bishop.”

This put Ketch in a flutter. The “big green gates” could only have reference to the private entrance to the bishop's garden, which entrance his lordship used when attending the cathedral. That the bishop was in Helstonleigh, Ketch knew: he had arrived that day, after a short absence: what on earth could he want with him? Never doubting, in his hurry, the genuineness of the message, Ketch pulled his door to, and stepped off, the young messenger having already decamped. The green gates were not one minute's walk from the lodge—though a projecting buttress of the cathedral prevented the one from being in sight of the other—and old Ketch gained them, and looked around.

Where was the bishop? The iron gates, the garden, the white stones at his feet, the towering cathedral, all lay cold and calm in the moonlight, but of human sight or sound there was none. The gates were locked when he came to try them, and he could not see the bishop anywhere.

He was not likely to see him. Stephen Bywater, who took upon himself much of the plot's performance—of which, to give him his due, he was boldly capable—had been on the watch in the street, near the cathedral, for a messenger that would suit his purpose. Seeing this young damsel hurrying along with a jug in her hand, possibly to buy beer for her home supper, he waylaid her.

“Little ninepins, would you like to get threepence?” asked he. “You shall have it, if you'll carry a message for me close by.”

“Little ninepins” had probably never had a whole threepence to herself in her young life. She caught at the tempting suggestion, and Bywater drilled into her his instructions, finding her excessively stupid in the process. Perhaps that was all the better. “Now you mind, you are not to say who wants Mr. Ketch, unless he asks,” repeated he for about the fifth time, as she was departing to do the errand. “If he asks, say you think it's the bishop.”

So she went, and delivered it. But had old Ketch's temper allowed him to go into a little more questioning, he might have discovered the trick. Bywater stealthily followed the child near to the lodge, screening himself from observation; and, as soon as old Ketch hobbled out of it, he popped in, snatched the cloister keys from their nail, and deposited a piece of paper, folded as a note, on Ketch's table. Then he made off.

Back came Ketch, after a while. He did not know quite what to make of it, but rather inclined to the opinion that the bishop had not waited for him. “He might have wanted me to take a errand round to the deanery,” soliloquized he. And this thought had caused him to tarry about the gates, so that he was absent from his lodge quite ten minutes. The first thing he saw, on entering, was the bit of paper on his table. He seized and opened it, grumbling aloud that folks used his house just as they pleased, going in and out without reference to his presence or his absence. The note, written in pencil, purported to be from Joseph Jenkins. It ran as follows:—

My old father is coming up to our place to-night, to eat a bit of supper, and he says he should like you to join him, which I and Mrs. J. shall be happy if you will, at seven o'clock. It's tripe and onions. Yours,

“J. JENKINS.”

Now, if there was one delicacy, known to this world, more delicious to old Ketch's palate than another, it was tripe, seasoned with onions. His mouth watered as he read. He was aware that it was—to use the phraseology of Helstonleigh—“tripe night.” On two nights in the week, tripe was sold in the town ready dressed. This was one of them, and Ketch anticipated a glorious treat. In too great a hurry to cast so much as a glance round his lodge (crafty Bywater had been deep), not stopping even to put up the bread and cheese, away hobbled Ketch as fast as his lumbago would allow him, locking safely his door, and not having observed the absence of the keys.

“He ain't a bad sort, that Joe Jenkins,” allowed he, conciliated beyond everything at the prospect the invitation held out, and talking to himself as he limped away towards the street. “He don't write a bad hand, neither! It's a plain un; not one o' them new-fangled scrawls that you can't read. Him and his wife have held up their heads a cut above me—oh yes, they have, though, for all Joe's humbleness—but the grand folks be a coming to. Old Jenkins has always said we'd have a supper together some night, him and me; I suppose this is it. I wonder what made him take and have it at Joe's? If Joe don't soon get better than he have looked lately—”

The first chime of the cathedral clock giving notice of the hour, seven! Old Ketch broke out into a heat, and tried to hobble along more quickly. Seven o'clock! What if, through being late, his share of supper should be eaten!

Peering out every now and then from the deep shade, cast by one of the angles of the cathedral, and as swiftly and cautiously drawn back again, was a trencher apparently watching Ketch. As soon as that functionary was fairly launched on his way, the trencher came out completely, and went flying at a swift pace round the college to the Boundaries.

It was not worn by Bywater. Bywater, by the help of the stolen keys, was safe in the cloisters, absorbed with his companions in preparations for the grand event of the night. In point of fact, they were getting up Pierce senior. Their precise mode of doing that need not be given. They had requisites in abundance, having disputed among themselves which should be at the honour of the contribution, and the result was an undue prodigality of material.

“There's seven!” exclaimed Bywater in an agony, as the clock struck. “Make haste, Pierce! the young one was to come out at a quarter past. If you're not ready, it will ruin all.”

“I shall be ready and waiting, if you don't bother,” was the response of Pierce. “I wonder if old Ketch is safely off?”

“What a stunning fright Ketch would be in, if he came in here and met the ghost!” exclaimed Hurst. “He'd never think it was anything less than the Old Gentleman come for him.”

A chorus of laughter, which Hurst himself hushed. It would not do for noise to be heard in the cloisters at that hour.

There was nothing to which poor Charley Channing was more sensitive, than to ridicule on the subject of his unhappy failing—his propensity to fear; and there is no failing to which schoolboys are more intolerant. Of moral courage—that is, of courage in the cause of right—Charles had plenty; of physical courage, little. Apart from the misfortune of having had supernatural terror implanted in him in childhood, he would never have been physically brave. Schoolboys cannot understand that this shrinking from danger (I speak of palpable danger), which they call cowardice, nearly always emanates from a superior intellect. Where the mental powers are of a high order, the imagination unusually awakened, danger is sure to be keenly perceived, and sensitively shrunk from. In proportion will be the shrinking dread of ridicule. Charles Channing possessed this dread in a remarkable degree; you may therefore judge how he felt, when he found it mockingly alluded to by Bywater.

On this very day that we are writing of, Bywater caught Charles, and imparted to him in profound confidence an important secret; a choice few of the boys were about to play old Ketch a trick, obtain the keys, and have a game in the cloisters by moonlight. A place in the game, he said, had been assigned to Charles. Charles hesitated. Not because it might be wrong so to cheat Ketch—Ketch was the common enemy of the boys, of Charley as of the rest—but because he had plenty of lessons to do. This was Bywater's opportunity; he chose to interpret the hesitation differently.

“So you are afraid, Miss Charley! Ho! ho! Do you think the cloisters will be dark? that the moon won't keep the ghosts away? I say, it can't be true, what I heard the other day—that you dare not be in the dark, lest ghosts should come and run away with you!”

“Nonsense, Bywater!” returned Charley, changing colour like a conscious girl.

“Well, if you are not afraid, you'll come and join us,” sarcastically returned Bywater. “We shall have stunning good sport. There'll be about a dozen of us. Rubbish to your lessons! you need not be away from them more than an hour. It won't be dark, Miss Channing.”

After this, fearing their ridicule, nothing would have kept Charley away. He promised faithfully to be in the cloisters at a quarter past seven.

Accordingly, the instant tea was over, he got to his lessons; Tom at one side of the table—who had more, in proportion, to do than Charles—he at the other. Thus were they engaged when Hamish entered.

“What sort of a night is it, Hamish?” asked Charles, thinking of the projected play.

“Fine,” replied Hamish. “Where are they all?”

“Constance is in the drawing-room, giving Annabel her music lesson. Arthur's there too, I think, copying music.”

Silence was resumed. Hamish stood over the fire in thought. Tom and Charles went on with their studies. “Oh dear!” presently exclaimed the latter, in a tone of subdued impatience.

Hamish turned his eyes upon him. He thought the bright young face looked unusually weary. “What is it, Charley, boy?”

“It's this Latin, Hamish. I can't make it come right. And Tom has no time to tell me.”

“Bring the Latin here.”

Charles carried his difficulties to Hamish. “It won't come right,” repeated he.

“Like Mrs. Dora Copperfield's figures, I expect, that wouldn't add up,” said Hamish, as he cast his eyes over the exercise-book. “Halloa, young gentleman! what's this! You have been cribbing.” He had seen in the past leaves certain exercises so excellently well done as to leave no doubt upon the point.

Charles turned crimson. Cribs were particularly objectionable to Mr. Channing, who had forbidden their use, so far as his sons were concerned. “I could not help it, Hamish. I used the cribs for about a week. The desk made me.”

“Made you!”

“Well,” confessed Charley, “there has been a row about the cribbing. The rest had cribbed, and I had not, and somehow, through that, it came out to the second master. He asked me a lot of questions, and I was obliged to tell. It made the desk savage, and they said I must do as they did.”

“Which you complied with! Nice young gentlemen, all of you!”

“Only for five or six days, Hamish. You may see that, if you look. I am doing my lessons on the square, now, as I did before.”

“And don't go off the square again, if you please, sir,” repeated Hamish, “or you and I may quarrel. If Mr. Channing is not here, I am.”

“You don't know how tyrannical the college boys are.”

“Don't I!” said Hamish. “I was a college boy rather longer than you have yet been, Master Charley.”

He sat down to the table and so cleared Charley's difficulties that the boy soon went on swimmingly, and Hamish left him. “How do you get on, Tom?” Hamish asked.

“Better than I need,” was Tom's answer, delivered somewhat roughly. “After the injustice done me yesterday, it does not much matter how I get on.”

Hamish turned himself round to the fire, and said no more, neither attempting to console nor remonstrate. Charles's ears were listening for the quarter past seven, and, the moment it chimed out, he left his work, took his trencher from the hall, and departed, saying nothing to any one.

He went along whistling, past Dr. Gardner's house, past the deanery; they and the cathedral tower, rising above them, looked grey in the moonlight. He picked up a stone and sent it right into one of the elm trees; some of the birds, disturbed from their roost, flew out, croaking, over his head. In the old days of superstition it might have been looked upon as an evil omen, coupled with what was to follow. Ah, Charley! if you could only foresee what is before you! If Mrs. Channing, from her far-off sojourn, could but know what grievous ill is about to overtake her boy!

Poor Charley suspected nothing. He was whistling a merry tune, laughing, boy-like, at the discomfiture of the rooks, and anticipating the stolen game he and his friends were about to enjoy on forbidden ground. Not a boy in the school loved play better than did Master Charles Channing.

A door on the opposite side of the Boundaries was suddenly opened, to give admittance to one who sprung out with a bound. It was Gerald Yorke: and Charley congratulated himself that they were on opposite sides; for he had been warned that this escapade was to be kept from the seniors.

At that moment he saw a boy come forth from the cloisters, and softly whistle to him, as if in token that he was being waited for. Charley answered the whistle, and set off at a run. Which of the boys it was he could not tell; the outline of the form and the college cap were visible enough in the moonlight; but not the face. When he gained the cloister entrance he could no longer see him, but supposed the boy had preceded him into the cloisters. On went Charley, groping his way down the narrow passage. “Where are you?” he called out.

There was no answer. Once in the cloisters, a faint light came in from the open windows overlooking the graveyard. A very faint light, indeed, for the buildings all round it were so high, as almost to shut out any view of the sky: you must go quite to the window-frame before you could see it.

“I—s-a-a-y!” roared Charley again, at the top of his voice, “where are you all? Is nobody here?”

There came neither response nor sign of it. One faint sound certainly did seem to strike upon his ear from behind; it was like the click of a lock being turned. Charley looked sharply round, but all seemed still again. The low, dark, narrow passage was behind him; the dim cloisters were before him; he was standing at the corner formed by the east and south quadrangles, and the pale burial-ground in their midst, with its damp grass and its gravestones, looked cold and lonely in the moonlight.

The strange silence—it was not the silence of daylight—struck upon Charles with dismay. “You fellows there!” he called out again, in desperation. “What's the good of playing up this nonsense?”

The tones of his voice died away in the echoes of the cloisters, but of other answer there was none. At that instant a rook, no doubt one of the birds he had disturbed, came diving down, and flapped its wings across the burial-ground. The sight of something, moving there, almost startled Charles out of his senses, and the matter was not much mended when he discovered it was only a bird. He turned, and flew down the passage to the entrance quicker than he had come up it; but, instead of passing out, he found the iron gate closed. What could have shut it? There was no wind. And if there had been ever so boisterous a wind, it could scarcely have moved that little low gate, for it opened inwards.

Charles seized it to pull it open. It resisted his efforts. He tried to shake it, but little came of that, for the gate was fastened firmly. Bit by bit stole the conviction over his mind that he was locked in.

Then terror seized him. He was locked in the ghostly cloisters, close to the graves of the dead; on the very spot where, as idle tales, went, the monks of bygone ages came out of those recording stones under his feet, and showed themselves at midnight. Not a step could he take, round the cloisters, but his foot must press those stones. To be locked in the cloisters had been nothing (from this point of view) for brave, grown, sensible men, such as the bishop, Jenkins, and Ketch—and they had been three in company, besides—but for many a boy it would have been a great deal; and for Charles Channing it was awful.

That he was alone, he never doubted. He believed—as fully as belief, or any other feeling could flash into his horrified mind—that Bywater had decoyed him into the cloisters and left him there, in return for his refusal to disclose what he knew of the suspicions bearing upon the damaged surplice. All the dread terrors of his childhood rose up before him. To say that he was mad in that moment might not be quite correct; but it is certain that his mind was not perfectly sane. His whole body, his face, his hair, grew damp in an instant, as of one in mortal agony, and with a smothered cry, which was scarcely like that of a human being, he turned and fled through the cloisters, in the vague hope of finding the other gate open.

It may be difficult for some of you to understand this excessive terror, albeit the situation was not a particularly desirable one. A college boy, in these enlightened days, laughs at supernatural tales as the delusions of ignorance in past ages; but for those who have had the misfortune to be imbued in infancy with superstition, as was Charles Channing, the terror still exists, college boys though they may be. He could not have told (had he been collected enough to tell anything) what his precise dread was, as he flew through the cloisters. None can do so, at these moments. A sort of vampire rises in the mind, and they shrink from it, though they see not what its exact nature may be; but it is a vampire that can neither be faced nor borne.

Feeling as one about to die; feeling as if death, in that awful moment, might be a boon, rather than the contrary, Charles sped down the east quadrangle, and turned into the north. At the extremity of the north side, forming the angle between it and the west, commenced the narrow passage similar to the one he had just traversed, which led to the west gate of entrance. A faint glimmering of the white flagged stones beyond this gate, gave promise that it was open. A half-uttered sound of thankfulness escaped him, and he sped on.

Ah! but what was that? What was it that he came upon in the middle of the north quadrangle, standing within the niches? A towering white form, with a ghastly face, telling of the dead; a mysterious, supernatural-looking blue flame lighting it up round about. It came out of the niche, and advanced slowly upon him. An awful cry escaped from his heart, and went ringing up to the roof of the cloisters. Oh! that the good dean, sitting in his deanery close to the chapter-house, could have heard that helpless cry of anguish!—that Dr. Burrows, still nearer, could have heard it, and gone forth into the cloisters with the succour of his presence! No, no; there could be no succour for a spot supposed to be empty and closed.

Back to the locked gate—with perhaps the apparition following him? or forward past IT to the open door? Which was it to be? In these moments there can be no reason to guide the course; but there is instinct; and instinct took that ill-fated child to the open door.

How he flew past the sight, it is impossible to tell. Had it been right in front of his path, he never would have passed it. But it had halted just beyond the niche, not coming out very far. With his poor hands stretched out, and his breath leaving him, Charles did get by, and made for the door, the ghost bringing up the rear with a yell, while those old cloister-niches, when he was fairly gone, grew living with moving figures, which came out of their dark corners, and shrieked aloud with laughter.

Away, he knew not whither—away, as one who is being pursued by an unearthly phantom—deep catchings of the breath, as will follow undue bodily exertion, telling of something not right within; wild, low, abrupt sounds breaking from him at intervals—thus he flew, turning to the left, which led him towards the river. Anywhere from the dreaded cloisters; anywhere from the old, grey, ghostly edifice; anywhere in his dread and agony. He dashed past the boat-house, down the steps, turning on to the river pathway, and—

Whether the light, hung at the boat-house, deceived his sight—whether the slippery mud caused him to lose his footing—whether he was running too quickly and could not stop himself in time—or whether, in his irrepressible fear, he threw himself unconsciously in, to escape what might be behind him, will never be known. Certain it is, that the unhappy boy went plunge into the river, another and a last wild cry escaping him as the waters closed over his head.

CHAPTER XL. MR. KETCH'S EVENING VISIT.

It were surely a breach of politeness on our part not to attend Mr. Ketch in his impromptu evening visit! He shuffled along at the very top of his speed, his mouth watering, while the delicious odour of tripe and onions appeared to be borne on the air to his olfactory nerves: so strong is the force of fancy. Arrived at his destination, he found the shop closed. It was Mrs. Jenkins's custom to close at seven from October to April; and the shutters had now just been put up. Mr. Ketch seized the knocker on the shop-door—there was no other entrance to the house—and brought it down with a force that shook the first-floor sitting-room, and startled Mr. Harper, the lay clerk, almost out of his armchair, as he sat before the fire. Mrs. Jenkins's maid, a young person of seventeen, very much given to blacking her face, opened it.

“Be I in time?” demanded Ketch, his voice shaking.

“In time for what?” responded the girl.

“Why, for supper,” said Ketch, penetrating into the shop, which was lighted by a candle that stood on the counter, the one the girl had brought in her hand. “Is old Jenkins the bedesman come yet?”

“Old Jenkins ain't here,” said she. “You had better go into the parlour, if you're come to supper.”

Ketch went down the shop, sniffing curiously. Sharp as fancy is, he could not say that he was regaled with the scent of onions, but he supposed the saucepan lid might be on. For, as was known to Mr. Ketch, and to other of the initiated in tripe mysteries, it was generally thought advisable, by good housewives, to give the tripe a boil up at home, lest it should have become cold in its transit from the vendor's. The girl threw open the door of the small parlour, and told him he might sit down if he liked; sh: did not overburden the gentleman with civility. “Missis'll be here soon,” said she.

Ketch entered the parlour, and sat down. There was a fire in the grate, but no light, and there were not, so far as Ketch could see, any preparations yet for the entertainment. “They're going to have it downstairs in the kitchen,” soliloquized he. “And that's a sight more comfortabler. She's gone out to fetch it, I shouldn't wonder!” he continued, alluding to Mrs. Jenkins, and sniffing again strongly, but without result. “That's right! she won't let 'em serve her with short onions, she won't; she has a tongue of her own. I wonder how much beer there'll be!”

He sat on pretty patiently, for him, about half an hour, and then took the liberty of replenishing the fire from a coal-box that stood there. Another quarter of an hour was passed much more impatiently, when Ketch began to grow uneasy and lose himself in all sorts of grave conjectures. Could she have arrived too late, and found the tripe all sold, and so had stopped out to supper herself somewhere? Such a thing as a run on the delicacy had occurred more than once, to Ketch's certain knowledge, and tardy customers had been sent away disappointed, to wait in longing anticipations for the next tripe night. He went into a cold perspiration at the bare idea. And where was old Jenkins, all this time, that he had not come in? And where was Joe? A pretty thing to invite a gentleman out to an impromptu supper, and serve him in this way! What could they mean by it?

He groped his way round the corner of the shop to where lay the kitchen stairs, whose position he pretty well knew, and called. “Here, Sally, Betty—whatever your name is—ain't there nobody at home?”

The girl heard, and came forth, the same candle in hand. “Who be you calling to, I'd like to know? My name's Lidyar, if you please.”

“Where's your missis?” responded Ketch, suffering the name to drop into abeyance. “Is she gone out for the tripe?”

“Gone out for what tripe?” asked the girl. “What be you talking of?”

“The tripe for supper,” said Ketch.

“There ain't no tripe for supper,” replied she.

“There is tripe for supper,” persisted Ketch. “And me and old Jenkins are going to have some of it. There's tripe and onions.”

The girl shook her head. “I dun know nothing about it. Missis is upstairs, fixing the mustard.”

Oh come! this gave a promise of something. Old Ketch thought mustard the greatest condiment that tripe could be accompanied by, in conjunction with onions. But she must have been a long time “fixing" the mustard; whatever that might mean. His spirits dropped again, and he grew rather exasperated. “Go up and ask your missis how long I be to wait?” he growled. “I was told to come here at seven for supper, and now it's a'most eight.”

The girl, possibly feeling a little curiosity herself, came up with her candle. “Master ain't so well to-night,” remarked she. “He's gone to bed, and missis is putting him a plaster on his chest.”

The words fell as ice on old Ketch. “A mustard-plaster?” shrieked he.

“What else but a mustard-plaster!” she retorted. “Did you think it was a pitch? There's a fire lighted in his room, and she's making it there.”

Nothing more certain. Poor Jenkins, who had coughed more than usual the last two days, perhaps from the wet weather, and whose chest in consequence was very painful, had been ordered to bed this night by his wife when tea was over. She had gone up herself, as soon as her shop was shut, to administer a mustard-plaster. Ketch was quite stunned with uncertainty. A man in bed, with a plaster on his chest, was not likely to invite company to supper.

Before he had seen his way out of the shock, or the girl had done staring at him, Mrs. Jenkins descended the stairs and joined them, having been attracted by the conversation. She had slipped an old buff dressing-gown over her clothes, in her capacity of nurse, and looked rather en deshabille; certainly not like a lady who is about to give an entertainment.

“He says he's come to supper: tripe and onions,” said the girl, unceremoniously introducing Mr. Ketch and the subject to her wondering mistress.

Mrs. Jenkins, not much more famous for meekness in expressing her opinions than was Ketch, turned her gaze upon that gentleman. “What do you say you have come for?” asked she.

“Why, I have come for supper, that's what I have come for,” shrieked Ketch, trembling. “Jenkins invited me to supper; tripe and onions; and I'd like to know what it all means, and where the supper is.”

“You are going into your dotage,” said Mrs. Jenkins, with an amount of scorn so great that it exasperated Ketch as much as the words themselves. “You'll be wanting a lunatic asylum next. Tripe and onions! If Jenkins was to hint at such a thing as a plate of tripe coming inside my house, I'd tripe him. There's nothing I have such a hatred to as tripe; and he knows it.”

“Is this the way to treat a man?” foamed Ketch, disappointment and hunger driving him almost into the state hinted at by Mrs. Jenkins. “Joe Jenkins sends me down a note an hour ago, to come here to supper with his old father, and it was to be tripe and onions! It is tripe night!” he continued, rather wandering from the point of argument, as tears filled his eyes. “You can't deny as it's tripe night.”

“Here, Lydia, open the door and let him out,” cried Mrs. Jenkins, waving her hand imperatively towards it. “And what have you been at with your face again?” continued she, as the candle held by that damsel reflected its light. “One can't see it for colly. If I do put you into that mask I have threatened, you won't like it, girl. Hold your tongue, old Ketch, or I'll call Mr. Harper down to you. Write a note! What else? He has wrote no note; he has been too suffering the last few hours to think of notes, or of you either. You are a lunatic, it's my belief.”

“I shall be drove one,” sobbed Ketch. “I was promised a treat of—”

“Is that door open, Lydia? There! Take yourself off. My goodness, me! disturbing my house with such a crazy errand!” And, taking old Ketch by the shoulders, who was rather feeble and tottering, from lumbago and age, Mrs. Jenkins politely marshalled him outside, and closed the door upon him.

“Insolent old fellow!” she exclaimed to her husband, to whom she went at once and related the occurrence. “I wonder what he'll pretend he has next from you? A note of invitation, indeed!”

“My dear,” said Jenkins, revolving the news, and speaking as well as his chest would allow him, “it must have been a trick played him by the young college gentlemen. We should not be too hard upon the poor old man. He's not very agreeable or good-tempered, I'm afraid it must be allowed; but—I'd not have sent him away without a bit of supper, my dear.”

“I dare say you'd not,” retorted Mrs. Jenkins. “All the world knows you are soft enough for anything. I have sent him away with a flea in his ear; that's what I have done.”

Mr. Ketch had at length come to the same conclusion: the invitation must be the work of the college gentlemen. Only fancy the unhappy man, standing outside Mrs. Jenkins's inhospitable door! Deceived, betrayed, fainting for supper, done out of the delicious tripe and onions, he leaned against the shutters, and gave vent to a prolonged and piteous howl. It might have drawn tears from a stone.

In a frame of mind that was not enviable, he turned his steps homeward, clasping his hands upon his empty stomach, and vowing the most intense vengeance upon the college boys. The occurrence naturally caused him to cast back his thoughts to that other trick-the locking him into the cloisters, in which Jenkins had been a fellow-victim—and he doubled his fists in impotent anger. “This comes of their not having been flogged for that!” he groaned.

Engaged in these reflections of gall and bitterness, old Ketch gained his lodge, unlocked it, and entered. No wonder that he turned his eyes upon the cloister keys, the reminiscence being so strong within him.

But, to say he turned his eyes upon the cloister keys, is a mere figure of speech. No keys were there. Ketch stood a statue transfixed, and stared as hard as the flickering blaze from his dying fire would allow him. Seizing a match-box, he struck a light and held it to the hook. The keys were not there.

Ketch was no conjuror, and it never occurred to him to suspect that the keys had been removed before his own departure. “How had them wicked ones got in?” he foamed. “Had they forced his winder?—had they took a skeleton key to his door?—had they come down the chimbley? They were capable of all three exploits; and the more soot they collected about 'em in the descent, the better they'd like it. He didn't think they'd mind a little fire. It was that insolent Bywater!—or that young villain, Tod Yorke!—or that undaunted Tom Channing!—or perhaps all three leagued together! Nothing wouldn't tame them.”

He examined the window; he examined the door; he cast a glance up the chimney. Nothing, however, appeared to have been touched or disturbed, and there was no soot on the floor. Cutting himself a piece of bread and cheese, lamenting at its dryness, and eating it as he went along, he proceeded out again, locking up his lodge as before.

Of course he bent his steps to the cloisters, going to the west gate. And there, perhaps to his surprise, perhaps not, he found the gate locked, just as he might have left it himself that very evening, and the keys hanging ingeniously, by means of the string, from one of the studded nails, right over the keyhole.

“There ain't a boy in the school but what'll come to be hung!” danced old Ketch in his rage.

He would have preferred not to find the keys; but to go to the head-master with a story of their theft. It was possible, it was just possible that, going, keys in hand, the master might refuse to believe his tale.

Away he hobbled, and arrived at the house of the head-master. Check the first!—The master was not at home. He had gone to a dinner-party. The other masters lived at a distance, and Ketch's old legs were aching. What was he to do? Make his complaint to some one, he was determined upon. The new senior, Huntley, lived too far off for his lumbago; so he turned his steps to the next senior's, Tom Channing, and demanded to see him.

Tom heard the story, which was given him in detail. He told Ketch—and with truth—that he knew nothing about it, but would make inquiries in the morning. Ketch was fain to depart, and Tom returned to the sitting-room, and threw himself into a chair in a burst of laughter.

“What is the matter?” they asked.

“The primest lark,” returned Tom. “Some of the fellows have been sending Ketch an invitation to sup at Jenkins's off tripe and onions, and when he arrived there he found it was a hoax, and Mrs. Jenkins turned him out again. That's what Master Charley must have gone after.”

Hamish turned round. “Where is Charley, by the way?”

“Gone after it, there's no doubt,” replied Tom. “Here's his exercise, not finished yet, and his pen left inside the book. Oh yes; that's where he has gone!”

CHAPTER XLI. THE SEARCH.

“Tom, where is Charles?”

“He is not in my pocket,” responded Tom Charming, who was buried in his studies, as he had been for some hours.

“Thomas, that is not the proper way to answer me,” resumed Constance, in a tone of seriousness, for it was from her the question had proceeded. “It is strange he should run out in the abrupt way you describe, and remain out so long as this. It is half-past nine! I am waiting to read.”

“The boys are up to some trick to-night with Mr. Calcraft, Constance, and he is one of them,” said Tom. “He is sure to be in soon.”

Constance remained silent; not satisfied. A nameless, undefined sort of dread was creeping over her. Engaged with Annabel until eight o'clock, when she returned to the general sitting-room, she found Charles absent, much to her surprise. Expecting him to make his appearance every moment, the time may have seemed to her long, and his absence all the more unaccountable. It had now gone on to half-past nine, and still he was not come in, and his lessons were not done. It was his hour for bed time.

Tom had more than usual to do that night, and it was nearly ten when he rose from his books. Constance watched him put them aside, and stretch himself. Then she spoke.

“Tom, you must go and find Charles. I begin to feel uneasy. Something must have happened, to keep him out like this.”

The feeling “uneasy” rather amused Tom. Previsions of evil are not apt to torment schoolboys. “I expect the worst that has happened may be a battle royal with old Ketch,” said he. “However, the young monkey had no business to cut short his lessons in the middle, and go off in this way, so I'll just run after him and march him home.”

Tom took his trencher and flew towards the cathedral. He fully expected the boys would be gathered somewhere round it, not a hundred miles from old Ketch's lodge. But he could not come upon them anywhere. The lodge was closed, was dark and silent, showing every probability that its master had retired for the night to sleep away his discomfiture. The cloisters were closed, and the Boundaries lay calm in the moonlight, undisturbed by a single footstep. There was no sign of Charles, or of any other college boy.

Tom halted in indecision. “Where can he have gone to, I wonder? I'm sure I don't know where to look for him! I'll ask at Yorke's! If there's any mischief up, Tod's sure to know of it.”

He crossed the Boundaries, and rang at Lady Augusta's door. Tod himself opened it. Probably he thought it might be one of his friends, the conspirators; certainly he had not expected to find Tom Channing there, and he looked inclined to run away again.

“Tod Yorke, do you know anything of Charles?”

“Law! how should I know anything of him?” returned Tod, taking courage, and putting a bold face upon it. “Is he lost?”

“He is not lost, I suppose; but he has disappeared somewhere. Were you in the game with old Ketch, to-night?”

“What game?” inquired Tod, innocently.

But at this moment Gerald, hearing Tom's voice, came out of the sitting-room. Gerald Yorke had a little cooled down from his resentment against Tom. Since the decision of the previous day, nearly all Gerald's wrath had been turned upon Mr. Pye, because that gentleman had not exalted him to the seniorship. So great was it, that he had no room to think of Tom. Besides, Tom was a fellow-sufferer, and had been passed over equally with himself.

“What's the row?” asked Gerald.

Tom explained, stating what he had heard from Ketch of the trick the boys had played him; and Charley's absence. Gerald, who really was not cognizant of it in any way, listened eagerly, making his own comments, and enjoying beyond everything the account of Ketch's fast in the supper department. Both he and Tom exploded with mirth; and Tod, who said nothing, but listened with his hands in his pockets, dancing first on one leg, then on the other, nearly laughed himself into fits.

“What did they take out the cloister keys for?” demanded Gerald.

“Who's to know?” said Tom. “I thought Tod was sure to be in it.”

“Don't I wish I had been!” responded that gentleman, turning up the whites of his eyes to give earnestness to the wish.

Gerald looked round at Tod, a faint suspicion stealing over him that the denial was less genuine than it appeared. In point of fact, Mr. Tod's had been the identical trencher, spoken of as having watched the effect of the message upon old Ketch. “I say, Tod, you were off somewhere to-night for about two hours,” said Gerald. “I'll declare you were.”

“I know I was,” said Tod readily. “I had an appointment with Mark Galloway, and I went to keep it. If you skinned me alive, Channing, I couldn't tell you where Miss Charley is, or where he's likely to be.”

True enough in the abstract. Tom Channing stopped talking a short time longer, and then ran home. “Is Charley in yet?” was his first question.

No, Charley was not in; and the household now became seriously concerned. It was past ten. By leaving his lessons half done, and his pen inside his exercise-book—of which exercise he had not left many words to complete; but he had other studies to do—it was evident to them that he had not gone out intending to remain away. Indeed, if he wanted to go out in an evening, he always asked leave, and mentioned where he was going.

“Haven't you found him?” exclaimed Judith, coming forward as Tom entered. “Where in the world can the child be?”

“Oh, he's safe somewhere,” said Tom. “Don't worry your old head, Judy.”

“It's fit that somebody should worry their heads,” retorted Judith sharply to Tom. “He never stopped out like this before—never! Pray Heaven there's no harm come nigh him!”

“Well done, Judy!” was Tom's answer. “Harm! What harm is likely to have come to him? Helstonleigh has not been shaken by an earthquake to-night, to swallow him up; and I don't suppose any greedy kite has descended from the skies and carried him off in her talons. You'll make a simpleton of that boy till he's twenty!”

Judith—who, truth to say, did look very much after Charley, loved him and indulged him—wasted no more words on infidel Tom, but went straight up to Hamish's room, and knocked at the door. Hamish was in it, at his writing-table as usual, and Judith heard a drawer opened and shut before he came to her.

“Mr. Hamish, it's very queer about the child!” said Judith. “I don't half like it.”

“What! Has he not come in?”

“No, he's not. And, just to look how he has left his books and his lessons about, is enough to prove that something or other must have kept him. I declare my heart's all in a quake! Master Tom has been out, and can find no traces of him—though it's hard to tell whether he troubled himself to look much. Boys are as careless one of another as so many young animals.”

“I will come down directly, Judith.”

He shut the door, right in front of Judith's inquisitive nose, which was peering in to ascertain what there might be to see. Judith's curiosity, in reference to her young master's night employment, had increased rather than abated. Every night, night after night, as Hamish came home with the account-books of the office under his arm, and carried them straight to his bedroom, Judith watched him go up with jealous eyes. Constance also watched him: watched him in a far more uneasy frame of mind than could be Judith's. Bringing home those books now, in Mr. Channing's absence, was only too plain a proof to Constance that his night work must be connected with them: and a perfectly sick feeling would rush over her. Surely there could be nothing wrong with the accounts?

Hamish closed the door, shutting out Judy. She heard him putting things away: heard a lock turned, and the keys removed. Then he came forth, and went down with Judith.

The difficulty was, where to look for Charles. It was possible that he might have gone to the houses of any one of the schoolboys, and be staying there: if not very likely, still it was by no means impossible. Tom was despatched to Mr. Pye's, who had some half dozen of the king's scholars boarding in his house; and thence to other houses in the neighbourhood. All with the same result; all denied knowledge of Charles. The college bell struck eleven, the sound booming out in the silence of the night on their listening ears; and with that sound, Hamish grew alarmed.

They went out different ways: Hamish, Arthur, Tom, and Judith. Sarah was excessively anxious to make one of the searching party, but Judith imperatively ordered her to stop at home and mind her own business. Judy ran round and about the college, like any one wild; nothing extra on her shoulders, and the border of her mob-cap flying. But the old red walls were high, silent, and impenetrable; revealing nothing of Charles Channing. She stopped at the low wall, extending from the side of the boat-house to some of the prebendal residences, and glanced over at the river. The water was flowing tranquilly between its banks, giving no sign that a young child was drowning, or had been drowned there not many hours before. “No,” said Judy to herself, rejecting the doubt, which had come over her as improbable, “he can't have got in there. We should have heard of it.”

She turned, and took a survey around. She did not know what to do, or where to look. Still, cold, shadowy it all lay; the cathedral, the old houses, the elm trees with their birds, at rest now. “Where can he have got to?” exclaimed Judith, with a touch of temper.

One thing was certain: it was of no use to wait where she was, and Judith went herself home again. Just beyond the house of Lady Augusta Yorke she encountered the head-master, who was walking towards his home. He said “Good night” to Judith, as he passed her; but she arrested him.

“We are in a fine way, sir! We can't find Master Charles.”

“Not find Master Charles?” repeated Mr. Pye. “How do you mean?”

“Why, it happened in this way, sir,” said Judith. “He was at his lessons, as usual, with Master Tom, and he suddenly gets up and leaves them, and goes out, without saying a word to nobody. That was at seven, or a bit later; and he has never come in again.”

“He must be staying somewhere,” remarked Mr. Pye.

“So we all thought, sir, till it got late. He's not likely to be staying anywhere now. Who'd keep him till this hour, terrifying of us all into fits? Ketch—”

“Holloa, Judy! Any luck?”

The interruption came from Tom Channing. He had discerned Judy's cap from the other side of the Boundaries, and now came running across, unconscious that her companion was the head-master. Judy went on with her communication.

“Ketch, the porter, came to Master Tom an hour or two ago, complaining that the college boys had been serving him a trick to-night. They had pretended to invite him out somewhere to supper, and stole his cloister keys while he was gone. Now, sir, I'd not like to say too much against that surly-tempered brown bear,” went on Judy, “but if he has had anything to do with keeping the child out, he ought to be punished.”

Tom was up now, saw it was the master, and touched his trencher.

“Have you found your brother?” asked the master.

“No, sir. It is very strange where he can have got to.”

“What tricks have the boys been playing Ketch, to-night?” resumed Mr. Pye. “Your servant tells me that he has been round to you to complain of them.”

Tom went into a white heat. Judy ought to have kept her mouth shut. It was not his place to inform against the school, privately, to the master. “Y—es,” he hesitatingly said, for an untruth he would not tell.

“What was the complaint?” continued Mr. Pye. “Could this disappearance of your brother's be connected with it?”

“No, sir, I don't see that it could,” replied Tom.

“You 'don't see!' Perhaps you'll allow me to see, and judge. What had the boys been doing, Channing?” firmly spoke the master, perceiving his hesitation. “I insist upon knowing.”

Tom was at his wits' ends. He might not defy the master, on the one hand; on the other, he knew the school would send him to Coventry for ever and a day, if he spoke; as he himself would have sent any other boy, in it, doing the same thing. He heartily wished Judy had been in Asia before she had spoken of it, and her tongue with her.

“Were you in the affair yourself, pray?” asked the master.

“No, sir, indeed I was not; and I do not know a single boy who was. I have heard nothing of it, except from Ketch.”

“Then what is your objection to tell me?”

“Well, sir, you know the rules we hold amongst ourselves,” said Tom, blurting out the truth, in his desperation. “I scarcely dare tell you.”

“Yes, you dare, Channing, when I command you to do so,” was the significant answer.

Tom had no resource left; and, very unwillingly, Ketch's details were drawn from him, bit by bit. The sham invitation, the disappointment touching the tripe and onions, the missing the cloister keys when he reached home, and the finding them outside the west door.

“Did he enter the cloisters and examine them?” said the master, speaking hastily. A possibility had struck him, which had not struck any of the Channings; and it was curious that it had not done so.

“I think not, sir,” replied Tom.

“Then, that's where Charles is, locked up in the cloisters!” said the master, the recollection of the former locking-up no doubt helping him to the conclusion. “The fact of the keys having been left hanging outside the cloister door might have been sufficient to direct your suspicions.”

Tom felt the force of the words, and was wondering how it was he had not thought of it, when a cry burst from Judith.

“If he is there, he will never come out alive! Oh, sir, what will become of us?”

The master was surprised. He knew it was not a desirable situation for any young boy; but “never come out alive” were strong terms. Judy explained them. She poured into the master's ears the unhappy story of Charles having been frightened in childhood; of his propensity still to supernatural fears.

“Make haste round! we must have the cloisters opened immediately!” exclaimed the master, as all the full truth of the dread imparted by Judith became clear to him. “Channing, you have light heels; run on, and knock up Ketch.”

Tom tore off; never a lighter pair of heels than his, to-night; and the master and the old servant followed. The master's sympathies, nay, his lively fears, were strongly awakened, and he could not leave the affair in this stage, late though the hour was.

They arrived, to find Tom pummelling at Ketch's door. But to pummel was one thing, and to arouse Mr. Ketch was another. Mr. Ketch chose to remain deaf. “I'll try the window,” said Tom, “He must hear; his bed is close at hand.”

He knocked sharply; and it at length elicited an answer from the drowsy gentleman, composed of growls and abuse.

“Get up!” called out Tom. “The keys of the cloisters are wanted.”

“Then they may be wanted!” responded old Ketch in a muffled tone, as if he were speaking from under the bed-clothes. “I'll see you all furder before you get the keys from me.”

“Ketch, produce the keys this instant!” interposed the master. “You know my voice; Mr. Pye's. How dare you?”

“I'll 'dare' you all, if you don't go away!” raved old Ketch, mistaking, or pretending to mistake, the disturbers for his enemies, the college boys. “It's a second edition of the trick you played me this evening, is it? I'll go to the dean with the first glimmer o' daylight—”

“Ketch, I am the head-master. I have come for the cloister keys. There's a boy locked in the cloisters!”

“Is there? Praise be given up for that! I wouldn't unlock him for a mint o' diaments. If you don't be off, I'll call the police.”

“Fire! fire!” shouted Judy, in a shrill tone, putting her mouth to the keyhole; for she despaired of gaining Ketch by any other means. “What an idiot you are, old Ketch! Do you want to be burnt up alive?”

“Fire!” shouted Tom, in stentorian tones. “Fire! fire!” And Ketch, whether he was really alarmed, or whether he recognized the head-master's voice, and thought it imprudent to hold out any longer, tumbled out of bed, opened the door, and appeared before them in attire more airy than elegant. Another minute, and impetuous Tom would have burst the window in.

“Beg pardon,” said Ketch, ungraciously, to the master. “Them boys play me up such tricks, that I'm always thinking of 'em. Where's the fire?”

“I don't think it's anywhere,” said the master. “The cloister keys, Ketch: and make haste. Which of the boys played you that trick to-night?”

Ketch gave a yell, for the point was a sore one. “I never set eyes on one of 'em! They're too cunning for me.”

“Was my brother Charles one?” asked Tom, while Mr. Pye hastened away with the cloister keys.

“I tell ye I never see'd one! Can't you believe?” Tom did believe, and went after the master and Judy.

They entered the cloisters, and shouted for Charles. Nothing answered them but the echoes. To see whether he was there, was impossible. Judy thought he might be lying somewhere, insensible from fright, and she ran up and down feeling into niches, as one demented. Mr. Pye sent Tom back to old Ketch's for a light, which was not supplied without difficulty.

He was turning away with it, when Hamish came up. Hamish had been with all speed to Mr. Huntley's, to question Harry, as senior of the school, whether he knew what the trick of the night had been, and what boys were in it. Harry, however, who was in bed, assured Hamish of his complete ignorance. But for Mr. Huntley's veto, he would have got up and gone out to join in the search, and enjoyed it amazingly.

They carried the candle to every nook and corner of the cloisters, no result arising from it. Hamish and Tom climbed over and searched the burial-ground. He was not there. No signs, for their keen eyes, or for any others, remained of the night's work: the college boys were cautious. A couple of matches, half-burnt, lay on the ground in the north quadrangle, but they told nothing. The boys were often lighting matches, as the master knew.

“I really think you must be mistaken in supposing Charles's absence has to do with this trick played upon old Ketch—whatever it may have been,” he observed. “It does not appear that the boys have been in the cloisters. Had any of them been locked in here, here they would be still.”

There was no denying it, and they left the cloisters and closed them. The keys were conveyed to Ketch, who had to get out of bed again to receive them, which he did with a great amount of wrath. Mr. Pye thought it would be proved that Charles must be at the house of one of the boys, carelessness or accident having detained him. And then he wished them good night and went home.

Completely at a loss were they. Hamish, ever hopeful, thought Charles had perhaps returned home: and they bent their steps thither. No, no; Constance, Arthur, and curious Sarah, were all outside, looking every way. Constance was too agitated to remain indoors. Arthur had just returned home. He had been to the houses of some of the college boys, those with whom Charles was most intimate, but could obtain no tidings of him.

Constance burst into tears. She grew excessively alarmed, when Judy mentioned the doubt lest he had been shut in the cloisters. “But that fear is done away with,” said Hamish. “We have searched them thoroughly. Do not distress yourself, Constance.”

“There goes midnight!” exclaimed Judy.

“Ugh!” shivered Sarah. “I feel just as if somebody was walking over my grave, Judith.”

“If they were walking over you, it mightn't be amiss,” reprimanded Judith. “Don't talk such stuff as that, girl, in the young mistress's ears.”

The words died away into silence, and they stood listening to the strokes of the deep-toned cathedral bell. With the last, twelve, another day had dawned upon the world. What would it bring forth for them?

“I shall go to the police-station,” said Hamish. “Constance, my dear, you had better not remain outside. Go indoors.”

It was well to say “Go indoors,” but in the agitation and suspense at that moment overwhelming Constance, “indoors” was not so easy to bear. Hamish strode off, Tom following him. Arthur remained with his sister, waiting and watching still.

And so they waited and watched through the livelong night. Hamish was at work; the police were at work; Tom was at work: but neither sign nor trace could be found of Charles Channing.

CHAPTER XLII. AN OFFICIAL CEREMONY INTERRUPTED.

A grey dusky morning, enveloped in fog, succeeded to the fine night. Before seven o'clock—so watchful and alert are boys when mischief is afloat—most of those who had been in the conspiracy were assembled, and waiting round the schoolroom doors. Generally, they could tear up at the twelfth moment. They would not have missed the sight of Charles Channing's arrival for half-a-crown apiece, so curious were they to see how he looked, after his fright. As it happened, it was not at any of their homes that inquiries had been made the previous night; not one of them was, to say, intimate with Charley: they were most of them older than he. Consequently, they knew nothing of the search. Tod Yorke, who did know of it, had not yet arrived. Of all the king's scholars, none were marked late more frequently than Master Tod.

The senior boy had gone to the head-master's for the keys as usual, and now came down the cloisters, clanking them in his hand.

“Has Charles Channing turned up?” he called out, before he was well abreast of them.

Pierce senior choked away his inclination to laughter, which the sound of the name excited, and saucy Bywater answered. “Where should he turn up from, Huntley? Has he been swallowed?”

“Hamish Channing came to our house last night, ages after I was in bed, saying they couldn't find him,” replied Huntley. “What was in the wind last night with old Calcraft?”

The boys looked at him demurely; and Huntley, receiving no reply, unlocked the schoolroom and entered it. They remained behind, winking at each other, and waiting still for Charles. It wanted yet a few minutes to seven.

“I say, what d'ye think?” whispered Bywater. “After I had got our sheet smuggled in, all right, and was putting it on the bed, I found two big holes burnt in it. Won't there be a commotion when my old aunt finds it out! She'll vow I have been reading in bed. That was you, Pierce senior!”

“I'm sure I never burnt it,” retorted Pierce. “It was the flame did it, if anything.”

“Here comes Bill Simms!” exclaimed Bywater, when their smothered laugh was over. “What has he been doing to himself? He's as white as the ghost!”

Mr. Bill Simms assuredly did look white. He had a pale face at the best of times, and it was embellished with straw-coloured hair. But at the present moment it had turned ghastly, and his frame seemed shaking as he came along.

“What on earth has taken you, Simms?” demanded Hurst.

“Oh, goodness!” uttered Simms. “I wish I was well out of this! They are saying there's a college boy drowned!”

“What?” cried the boys, gathering round him.

“There was a crowd down by the boat-house as I came along,” responded Simms, as well as he could speak for his chattering teeth. “I asked a fellow what it was, and he said he didn't rightly know, but he thought one of the college boys had been found drowned in the water.”

Some of the gentlemen-listeners' faces turned as pale as Mr. Bill Simms's; as pale as each conscience. Bywater was the first to gather courage.

“It's not obliged to be Charley Channing, if there is any one drowned.”

“But it's sure to be him,” chattered Simms, his teeth as crazy as his grammar. “Griffin junior says Arthur Channing went to their house last night at twelve, and said they couldn't find Charley.”

The consternation into which this news plunged the guilty ones is not easily described. A conviction that it was Charles Channing who was drowned, overtook them all. Schoolboys are not quite without hearts, and they would have given all they possessed, in that moment, to see Charles come flying amongst them, as usual. Some of them began to wish they were without necks; for if Charles had come to an untimely end through their work, they might stand a chance of furnishing employment to the veritable Mr. Calcraft, on their own score. Tod Yorke came leaping up in delight.

“Oh, wasn't it good! The young one—”

“Hold your noise, Tod! They are saying he's dead.”

“Who's dead?” wondered Tod.

“Charley Channing. A college boy was found in the river, drowned.”

“Oh, that be hanged!” exclaimed Tod, half in mocking disbelief, half in awful fear. “It can't be, you know. Who says it?”

“There's seven! We must go in, or Huntley will be on to us. Mind!” added Pierce senior, for he was the speaker, “we must all keep each other's counsel, and be in one tale—that we know nothing at all about it.”

They slunk into school. But that the senior boy was occupied with his new duty—the calling over of the roll—he might have observed that something was wrong. To play up a bit of mischief is the legitimate privilege of college boys; but to have led to a companion's death is a terror-striking affair; and their countenances betrayed that it was so.

Before the roll was finished, the head-master was in school. Tom Channing—it was late for him—entered afterwards. The master beckoned to him.

“Is Charles found?”

“No, sir. We cannot learn any tidings of him at all. We have not been to bed, any of us; and the police are searching also.”

Had Tom Channing come from the other side of the Boundaries, near the boat-house, perhaps he might have been able to give a different account.

The master made no comment then. He motioned Tom to his desk, and gave the word for prayers. As the boys were rising from their knees, Hamish Channing entered the school, attended by Mr. Ketch.

Hamish approached the master, who shook hands with him. Ketch remained snarling and grinning defiance at the door, shaking his fist and his old teeth covertly at the boys. If looks could have blown up a room, the college school had certainly gone aloft then.

“I hear you have not found the boy?” said the master to Hamish. “It is very singular.”

“We have not found him. Mr. Pye,” continued Hamish, gravely, “I come to demand of your courtesy an immediate investigation into the doings of the college boys last night. That the disappearance of Charles is in some measure connected with it, we cannot do otherwise than believe. I have brought Ketch with me that he may tell his own tale.”

Ketch was marshalled forward and ordered to tell his tale, and the business of the school was suspended. Ketch told it distinctly enough; but he could not forbear enlarging upon his cruel disappointment over the tripe and onions, and it sent the school into convulsions. In the midst of it, Tom Channing breathed freely; Ketch's preferring the complaint, did away with the unpleasantness he had feared might arise, through having been forced to disclose it to the master.

“I should be sorry to have displeasure visited upon the boys,” resumed Hamish. “Indeed, I should esteem it a favour, sir, if you will not punish them for any disclosure that may arise through this step which I have taken. I dare say,” he added, turning his laughing gaze upon them, “that I should have been one of the ringleaders myself, in my school days, therefore it would not be fair for me to bring punishment upon them. I only wish to know which of the school were in it, that I may make inquiries of them whether Charles was one of them or not; and, if he was, what they know of his movements afterwards.”

The address was fair and candid; so was Hamish's face; and some of the conspirators, in their good feeling, might have freely confessed, but for the something just whispered to them by Simms. That closed their lips.

“Do you hear?” said the master, speaking sharply, for he had rather, ten times over, that the school frankly avowed mischief, when brought to book: he was never half so severe if they were so. “Why are you silent?”

Bill Simms, who had the bump of conscientiousness largely developed, with a wholesome dread of consequences, besides being grievously timid, felt that he could not hold out long. “Oh, murder!” he groaned to Mark Galloway, next to whom he sat: “let's tell, and have done with it.”

Mark turned cold with fear. “You're a pretty fellow!” he uttered, giving him a tremendous kick on the shins. “Would you like us all to be tried for our lives?” A suggestion which made matters worse; and Bill Simms's hair began to stand on end.

“Huntley, have you any cognizance of this?” demanded Mr. Pye.

“None, sir.” And so said the three seniors under him.

“Boys!” said the master, bringing his cane down upon the desk in a manner he was accustomed to do when provoked: “I will come to the bottom of this business. That several of you were in it, I feel sure. Is there not one of you sufficiently honest to speak, when required so to do?”

Certain of the boys drooped their conscious faces and their eyelids. As to Bill Simms, he felt ready to faint.

“What have you done with Charles Channing?” thundered the master. “Where have you put him? Where is he gone? I command you to speak! Let the senior of those who were in it speak! or the consequences be upon your own heads.”

The threat sounded ominous in the ears of Bill Simms: he saw himself, in prospective, exposed to all the horrors of a dungeon, and to something worse. With a curious noise, something between a bark and a groan, he flung himself with his face on the floor, and lay there howling.

“Mr. Simms,” said the master, “what has taken you? Were you the chief actor in this matter?”

All considerations had disappeared from Mr. Simms's mind except the moment's terror. He forgot what would be his own position in the school, if he told, or—as they would have expressed it—turned sneak. Impelled by fear, he was hardly conscious of his words; hardly responsible for them.

“It wasn't me,” he howled. “They all know I didn't want the trick played upon him. I told them that it had killed a boy down by our farm, and it might kill Channing. They know I told them.”

The master paused. “Walk here, Simms.”

Simms picked himself up from the ground and walked there. A miserable object he looked; his eyes red, his teeth chattering, his face white, and his straw-coloured hair standing on end.

The master leaned his arms upon his desk, and brought his face almost into contact with the frightened one. “What trick did you play upon Charles Channing?”

“'Twasn't me, sir,” sobbed Simms. “I didn't want it done, I say, O-o-o-o-o-o-h! I didn't!”

“What trick was played upon him?”

“It was a ghost dressed up to frighten him, and he passed through the cloisters and saw it. It wasn't me! I'll never speak another word, if it was me!”

“A ghost!” repeated the master in astonishment, while Ketch stretched his old neck forward, and the most intense interest was displayed by the school.

“They did it with a sheet and a blue flame,” went on Simms; who, now that the ice was broken, tried to make a clean breast of it, and grew more alarmed every moment. “It wasn't me! I didn't want it done, and I never lent a hand to the dressing up. If little Channing is dead, it won't be fair to hang me.”

“Who was in the plot?” was the next question of the master. And Simms enumerated them. The master, stern and grim, beckoned to the several gentlemen to walk up, and to range themselves before him. “The lad has run some distance in his terror,” observed the master aside to Hamish, as he remembered what Judith had told him the previous night. “You will see him home in the course of the day.”

“I trust we may!” replied Hamish, with marked emphasis.

Bit by bit, word by word, the master drew the whole truth from the downcast lads. Pierce senior looked dogged and obstinate: he was inwardly vowing unheard-of revenge against Mr. Simms. Probably most of them were doing the same.

“I knowed it was them! I knowed it couldn't be nobody but them!” broke forth old Ketch, summarily interrupting the proceedings. “You sees now, sir, what incorrigible—”

“Silence!” said the master, raising his hand. “I can deal with this without your assistance, Ketch. Hurst, who concocted this infamous plot?”

Hurst—who was the senior of the conspirators, with regard to his position in the school, though not so old as Pierce senior—could not answer it definitively. It was concocted between them, he said; not by one more than by another.

“Did you not know that a trick, such as this, has deprived men of reason?” continued the master. “And you play it upon a young and defenceless boy! I am at a loss how to express my sense of your conduct. If any ill shall have happened to him through it, you will carry it on your consciences for ever.”

Remembering what they had just heard, the boys' consciences had begun to suffer already.

“Who personated the ghost?” continued the master.

“Pierce senior.” The answer came from Simms. The others would not have given it.

“I might have guessed that,” was the remark of the master, who had no great love for the gentleman named. “I might have known that if there was a boy in the college school who would delight to put himself forward to trample on one younger and more sensitive than himself, it would be Pierce senior. I'll give you something to remember this work by, Mr. Pierce. Yorke!”

Gerald Yorke knew what he was called for. He was the tallest and strongest of all. The school knew also; and a murmur of excitement went round. Pierce senior was going to be hoisted.

Only in very flagrant cases was the extreme punishment of flogging resorted to by the present master. It had been more common with his predecessor. Of course its rarity made it all the more impressive when it did come.

“Make ready,” said the master to Pierce senior, unlocking his desk, and taking out a birch as big as a besom.

Pierce turned green and white, without help from any blue flame, and slowly began to obey. There might be no resistance. The school hushed itself into suspense, and Mr. Ketch's legs were on the point of taking a dance of ecstasy. A minute or two, and the group formed the centre of the upper part of the room. Yorke supported the great boy whose back was bared, while the daunted faces and eager eyes were strained eagerly from around. The head-master took his place, and his birch was raised in the air to come down with a heavy stroke, when a commotion was heard at one of the desks, and Stephen Bywater rushed forward.

“Stop, sir!” he said to the master. “If you will let Pierce go, I will take the punishment.”

The master's arm with its weapon dropped by his side, and he turned his astonished gaze upon Bywater.

“I had more to do with planning the trick than Pierce had, sir, so it's only just that I should be the scapegoat. We fixed upon Pierce to personate the ghost because he was tall and lanky. And a flogging is not much to my skin,” added honest, impudent Bywater.

“So you were the planner of it, were you, Mr. Bywater?” demanded the angry master.

“In a great measure I was, sir. If I do go in for mischief, it shall not be said that I let others suffer for it. Little Channing had offended me, and I wished to serve him out. But I never thought to do him harm.”

In the perplexity of deciding what he ought to do, when official proceedings were interrupted in this unprecedented way, the master hesitated. What he would have done is uncertain—flogged Pierce first and Bywater afterwards, perhaps—but at that moment there occurred another interruption, and a more serious one.

Diggs, the man who lived at the boat-house, had entered the school, and was asking to speak to the head-master. Catching sight of the signs of the ceremony about to be performed, he waited for no permission, but went forward at once, a college cap in his hand, and his voice trembling with excitement. Its excitement was not lessened when he recognized Hamish Channing.

“I am the bearer of bad news, gentlemen,” he said, addressing them both. “I fear one of the young college lads was drowned last night by my boat-house. We have picked up his cap this morning. It was poor little Master Channing.”

Hamish controlled his emotion better than did the Rev. Mr. Pye. The latter turned his eyes on the horrified school, himself equally horrified, and then signified to Pierce senior to dress himself—to Bywater to retire to his place. “The affair has become serious,” he observed, “and must be dealt with differently. Poor child! Poor little Channing!”

And the boys, in their emotion, broke into an echoing wail. “Poor little Channing! poor little Channing!”

CHAPTER XLIII. DRAGGING THE RIVER.

The echoes of lamentation were dying away in the high roof of the college school. Hamish Channing, pale, but calm and self-controlled, stood perfectly ready to investigate the account brought by the boat-house keeper of the drowning of Charles. The feelings of those who had had a hand in the work may be imagined, perhaps, but certainly cannot be described. Bill Simms choked and sobbed, and pulled his lanky straw-coloured hair, and kicked his legs about, and was altogether beside himself. The under-masters looked on with stern countenances and lowering brows; while old Ketch never had had such a disappointment in all his life (the one grand disappointment of last night excepted) as he was feeling now, at the deferred flogging.

Diggs, the boat-house keeper, was a widower, with one child, a girl of ten years old. His mother lived with him—an aged woman, confined to her bed, of late, with rheumatic fever, from which she was slowly recovering. On the previous night Diggs was out, and the girl had been sent on an errand, Mrs. Diggs being left in the house alone. She was lying quietly, still as was the air outside, when sudden sounds broke that stillness, and smote upon her ear. Footsteps—young steps, they seemed—were heard to come tearing down on the outside gravel, from the direction of the cathedral, and descend the steps. Then there was a startling cry and a plunge into the river.

The old woman echoed the cry; but there were none to hear it, and she was powerless to aid. That a human soul was struggling in the water was certain; and she called and called, but called in vain. She was shut up in the house, unable to move; and there were none outside to hear her. In her grief and distress she at length pulled the bed-clothes over her ears, that she might hear no more (if more was to be heard) of the death agony.

Twenty minutes or so, and then the girl came in. The old woman brought her head from under the clothes, and stated what had occurred, and the girl went and looked at the river. But it was flowing along peacefully, showing no signs that anything of the sort had happened. Not a creature was on the path on either side, so far as her eyes could see in the moonlight; and she came to the conclusion that her grandmother must have been mistaken. “She has odd fancies,” said the child to herself, “and thinks she hears things that nobody else never hears.”

At ten o'clock Diggs came home. Now, this man had a propensity for yielding to an infirmity to which many others also yield—that of drinking too freely. It is true that this did not often occur; but when it did happen, it was usually at a time when his services were especially required. It is very much the case in this world: we often do things, whether good ones or bad ones, just at the wrong moment. Diggs arrived at home, stupid. His old mother called him to her room, and told him what she had heard; but she could make little impression upon him. As his young daughter had done, he took a survey of the river, but only from the windows of his house—the girl had gone on to the bank—and then he tumbled into bed, and slept heavily until the morning.

Up betimes, he remembered what had been told to him, and went out of doors, half expecting possibly to see something floating on the surface. “I was detained out last night on an errand,” explained he to some three or four stragglers who had gathered round him, “and when I got in, my old mother told me a cock-and-bull story of a cry and a splash, as if somebody had fallen into the river. It don't look much like it, though.”

“A dead dog, maybe,” suggested one of the idlers. “They're always throwing rubbish into this river on the sly.”

“Who is?” sharply asked Diggs. “They had better let me catch 'em at it!”

“Lots of folks,” was the response. “But if it was a dead dog, it couldn't well have cried out.”

Diggs went indoors to his mother's chamber. “What time was it, this tale of yours?” asked he.

“It was about half-past seven,” she answered. “The half-hour chimed out from the college, just before or just after, I forget which.” And then she related again what she knew he could not clearly comprehend over night: the fact of the fleet-sounding footsteps, and that they appeared to be young footsteps. “If I didn't know the cloisters were shut at that hour, I should have thought they come direct from the west door—”

The words were interrupted by a call from below; and the man hastened down, A boy's cap—known, from its form, to belong to one of the collegiate scholars—had just been found under the lower bank, lodged in the mud. Then some one had been drowned! and it was a college boy.

Where does a crowd collect from? I don't believe any one can tell. Not three minutes after that trencher was picked up, people were gathering thick and threefold, retired though the spot was; and it was at this time that Mr. Bill Simms had passed, and heard the tale which turned his heart sick and his face white.

Some time given to supposition, to comments, and to other gossip, indigenous to an event of the sort, and then Mr. Diggs started for the college school with the cap. Another messenger ran to the Channings' house, the name in the cap proving to whom it had belonged. Diggs related the substance of this to the master, suppressing certain little points bearing upon himself.

Mr. Pye took the cap in his hand, and looked inside. The name, “C. Channing,” was in Mrs. Channing's writing; and, in the sprawling hand of one of the schoolboys—it looked like Bywater's—“Miss” had been added. Charley had scratched the addition over with strokes from a pen, but the word might still be read.

“The river must be dragged, Diggs,” said Hamish Channing.

“The drags are being got ready now, sir. They'll be in, by the time I get back.”

Hamish strode to the door. Tom came up from his desk, showing some agitation, and looked at the master. “You will allow me to go, sir? I can do no good at my lessons in this suspense.”

“Yes,” replied the master. He was going himself.

The school rose with one accord. The under-masters rose. To think of study, in this excitement, was futile; and, in defiance of all precedent, the boys were allowed to leave the room, and troop down to the river. It was a race which should get there first; masters and boys ran together. The only one who walked pretty soberly was the head-master, who had to uphold his dignity.

The drags were already in the river, and the banks were lined; police, friends, spectators, gentlemen, mob, and college boys, jostled each other. Arthur Channing, pale and agitated, came running from his home. The old vergers and bedesmen came; some of the clergy came; Judy came; and the dean came. Hamish, outwardly self-possessed, and giving his orders with quiet authority, was inwardly troubled as he had never been. The boy had been left to his charge, and how should he answer for this to his father and mother?

He went in and saw the old woman; as did the renowned Mr. Butterby, who had appeared with the rest. She related to them she had heard the previous night. “I could have told, without having heard it now, that it was the steps of a college boy,” she said. “I don't listen so often to 'em that I need mistake. He seemed to be coming from the west door o' the cloisters—only that the cloisters are shut at night; so he may have come round by the front o' the college. Desperate quick he ran, and leapt down the steps; and, a minute after, there was a cry and a splash, and the footsteps were heard no more. One might fancy that in turning the corner to run along the towing-path he had turned too quick, and so fell over the bank.”

“Did you hear no noise afterwards?” questioned Hamish.

“I didn't. I called out, but nobody came nigh to answer it: and then I hid my ears. I was afraid, ye see.”

They left the old woman's bedside, and returned to the crowd on the bank. The dean quietly questioned Hamish about the facts, and shook his head when put in possession of them. “I fear there is little hope,” he said.

“Very little. My father and mother's absence makes it the more distressing. I know not, Mr. Dean, how—”

Who was this, pushing vehemently up, to the discomfiture of every one, elbowing the dean with as little ceremony as he might have elbowed Ketch, thrusting Hamish aside, and looking down on the river with flashing eyes? Who should it be, but Roland Yorke? For that was his usual way of pushing through a crowd; as you have heard before.

“Is it true?” he gasped. “Is Charles Channing in the water!—sent there through the tricks of the college boys—of Tod?”

“There is little doubt of its truth, Roland,” was the answer of Hamish.

Roland said no more. Off went his coat, off went his waistcoat, off went other garments, leaving him nothing but his drawers and his shirt; and in he leaped impetuously, before any one could stop him, and dived below, searching after Charles, paying no heed to the shouts that the drags would get hold of him.

But neither drags nor Roland could find Charles. The drags were continued, but without result. Very few had expected that there would be any result, the probability being that the current had carried the body down the stream. Hamish had been home to soothe the grief of his sisters—or rather to attempt to soothe it-and then he came back again.

Roland, his ardour cooled, had likewise been home to exchange his wet things for dry ones. This done, he was flying out again, when he came upon the Reverend William Yorke, who was hastening down to the scene, in some agitation.

“Is the boy found, Roland, do you know? How did it happen? Did he fall in?”

“Considering the light in which you regard the family, William Yorke, I wonder you should waste your breath to ask about it,” was Roland's touchy answer, delivered with as much scorn as he could call up.

Mr. Yorke said no more, but quickened his pace towards the river. Roland kept up with him and continued talking.

“It's a good thing all the world's not of your opinion, William Yorke! You thought to put a slight upon Constance Channing, when you told her she might go along, for you. It has turned out just the best luck that could have happened to her.”

“Be silent, sir,” said Mr. Yorke, his pale cheek flushing. “I have already told you that I will not permit you to mention Miss Channing's name to me. You have nothing to do with her or with me.”

You have nothing to do with her, at any rate,” cried aggravating Roland. “She'll soon belong to your betters, William Yorke.”

Mr. Yorke turned his flashing eye upon him, plainly asking the explanation that he would not condescend to ask in words. It gave Roland an advantage, and he went on swimmingly with his mischief.

“Lord Carrick has seen the merits of Constance, if you have not; and—I don't mind telling it you in confidence—has resolved to make her his wife. He says she's the prettiest girl he has seen for ages.”

“It is not true,” said Mr. Yorke, haughtily.

“Not true!” returned Roland. “You'll see whether it's true or not, when she's Countess of Carrick. Lady Augusta was present when he made her the offer. He was half afraid to make it for some time, he told us, as he was getting on in years, and had grey hair. Halloa! you are turning pale, William Yorke. She can't be anything to you! You threw her away, you know.”

William Yorke, vouchsafing no reply, broke away from his tormentor. He probably did look pale; certainly he felt so. Roland indulged in a quiet laugh. He had been waiting for this opportunity, ever since he became cognizant of what had taken place between the earl and Constance. The earl had made no secret of his intention and its defeat. “I'll have some fun over it with Mr. William,” had been Roland's thought.

A sudden noise! Cries and shouts on the banks of the river, and the dense crowd swayed about with excitement. Mr. Yorke and Roland set off at a run, each from his own point, and the cries took a distinct sound as they neared them.

“They have found the body!”

It was being laid upon the bank. Those who could get near tried to obtain a glimpse of it. The college boys, with white faces and terror-stricken consciences, fought for a place; Roland Yorke fought for it; the head-master fought for it: I am not sure that the bishop—who had seen the commotion from his palace windows, and came up to know what it meant—did not fight for it.

A false alarm, so far as the present object was concerned. A little lad, who had been drowned more than a week before, had turned up now. He had incautiously climbed the parapet of the bridge, whence he fell into the water, and their search for him had hitherto been fruitless. He was not a pleasant sight to look upon, as he lay there; but the relief to certain of the college boys, when they found it was not Charles, was immeasurable. Bywater's spirits went up to some of their old impudence. “In looking for one thing you find another,” quoth he.

Very true, Mr. Bywater! Sometimes we find more than we bargain for. The drags were thrown in again, and the excited crowd jostled each other as before, their faces hanging over the brink. Hush! Hark! Another prize! What is it, coming up now?

A rare prize, this time! The drags pulled and tugged, and the men cried, “Heave-ho!” and a hundred and one voices echoed it: “Heave-ho! heave-ho!” Hush! Hush—sh—sh! A breathless moment of suspense, and up it comes. Amidst straw and tangled weeds and mud, and the odds and ends that a river will collect, something hard and clanking was thrown upon the bank, and wondering eyes and faces peered over it.

Nothing but two keys. A pair of large rusty keys, tied together with string. Bywater, and Hurst, and young Galloway, and one or two more, cast significant glances together, and were nearly choking with fright and suppressed laughter. One, standing there, conspicuous for his dress, which amongst other items comprised an apron, turned a significant glance on them. Bold Bywater met it, and looked a little less bold than usual. But the prelate had kept counsel, and meant to keep it; and he looked away again.

Once more were the drags thrown into the water. Once more the mob, gentle and simple, crowded its brink. When the college bell tolled out for morning prayers, those, whose duty it was to attend the cathedral, drew themselves away unwillingly. Arthur Channing was one of them. Whatever might be his grief and suspense, engagements must be fulfilled.

Later in the day, when the search was over—for it was thought useless to continue it—and when hope was over, a council was held at Mr. Channing's house. Mr. and Mrs. Channing must be acquainted with this sad business; but how was it to be done? By letter? by telegraph? or by a special messenger? Constance had suggested writing, and silently hoped that Hamish would take the task upon himself, for she felt unequal to it, in her dire distress. Mr. Galloway, who had been in and out all the morning, suggested the telegraph. Hamish approved of neither, but proposed to despatch Arthur, to make the communication in person.

“I cannot leave Helstonleigh myself,” he said; “therefore it must devolve upon Arthur. Of course his journey will be an expense; but there are times when expense must not be regarded. I consider this one of them.”

“A letter would go more quickly,” said Mr. Galloway.

“Scarcely, in these days of travelling,” was Hamish's reply. “But that is not the question. A letter, let it be ever so explanatory, will only leave them in suspense. As soon as they have read it, five hundred questions will suggest themselves that they will wish to ask; and, to wait to have them satisfied, will be intolerable, especially to my mother. Arthur's going will obviate this. He knows as much as we know, and can impart his knowledge to them.”

“There is a great deal in what you say,” mused Mr. Galloway.

“I am sure there is,” spoke Constance through her tears, “though it did not strike me before. In mamma's anxiety and suspense, she might start for home, to learn further details.”

“And I think it is what she would do,” said Hamish: “if not my father also. It will be better that Arthur should go. He can tell them all they would learn if they returned; and so far as it is possible, that would be satisfactory.”

They were interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Huntley and his daughter. Ellen had begged her father, when she found he was going to the Channings', to allow her to accompany him, and see Constance in her distress. Mr. Huntley readily acquiesced. The drowning of poor Charley was a serious affliction, in contemplation of which he forgot the inexpediency of her meeting Hamish.

Hamish did not appear to perceive any inexpediency in the matter. He was the first to take Ellen's hand in his, and bend upon her his sweet smile of welcome. Knowing what Ellen knew of Mr. Huntley's sentiments, and that he was looking on, it rendered her manner confused and her cheeks crimson. She was glad to turn to Constance, and strive to say a few words of sympathy. “Had Harry been one of those wicked, thoughtless boys to join in this ghost trick, I could never have forgiven him!” she impulsively exclaimed, hot tears running down her cheeks.

The subject under consideration was referred to Mr. Huntley, and his opinion requested: more as a form of courtesy than anything else, for Hamish had made up his mind upon the point. A thoroughly affectionate and dutiful son was Hamish Channing; and he believed that the tidings could be rendered more bearable to his father and mother by a messenger, than by any other mode of communication. The excuse that Constance and Arthur had, throughout, found for Hamish in their hearts was, that he had taken the bank-note out of latent affection to Mr. and Mrs. Channing.

“You are wrong, every one of you,” said Mr. Huntley, when he had listened to what they had to say. “You must send neither letter nor messenger. It will not do.”

Hamish looked at him. “Then what can we send, sir?

“Don't send at all.”

“Not send at all!” repeated Hamish.

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Huntley. “You have no positive proof as yet that the child is dead. It will be alarming them unnecessarily.”

“Mr. Huntley!” said Constance. “Is it possible that you see any ground for hope?”

“Honestly, my dear, I do not see much ground for hope,” he replied. “But, on the other hand, there are no positive grounds for despair. So long as these grounds are not furnished, I say keep it from Mr. and Mrs. Channing. Answer me one thing: What good end would it serve to tell them?”

“Is it not a duty?”

“I do not see it,” said Mr. Huntley. “Were the poor boy's fate known, beyond uncertainty, it would be a different matter. If you send to them, what would come of it? The very suspense, the doubt, would have a bad effect upon Mr. Channing. It might bring him home; and the good already effected might be destroyed—his time, purse, hopes, all that he has given to the journey, wasted. On the other hand, allowing that he still remained, the news might delay his cure. No: my strong advice to you is: Suffer them for the present to remain in ignorance of what has happened.”

Hamish began to think Mr. Huntley might be right.

“I know I am right,” said Mr. Huntley. “If putting them in possession of the facts could produce any benefit to themselves, to you, or to Charles, I would go off myself with Arthur this hour. But it could effect nothing; and, to them, it might result in great evil. Until we know something more certain ourselves, let us keep it from them.”

“Yes, I see it,” said Hamish, warmly. “It will be best so.”

Constance felt her arm touched, and coloured with emotion when she found it was Mr. William Yorke. In this day of distress, people seemed to come in and go out without ceremony. Mr. Yorke had entered with Tom Channing. He completely accepted the new view of the matter, and strongly advised that it should not be allowed to reach the ears of Mr. and Mrs. Channing.

Mr. Galloway, when he was departing, beckoned Constance into the hall. It was only to give her a word of friendly sympathy, of advice—not to be overwhelmed, but to cling to hope. She thanked him, but it was with an aching heart, for Constance could not feel this hope.

“Will you grant me the favour of a minute's private interview?” asked Mr. Yorke stiffly, meeting her in the hall.

Constance hesitated a moment. He was asking what she felt he had no right to ask. She coloured, bowed, and stepped towards the drawing-room. Mr. Yorke threw open the door for her, and followed her in.

Then he became agitated. Whatever his pride or his temper may have been, whether the parting between them was his fault or Constance's, it was certain that he loved her with an enduring love. Until that morning he had never contemplated losing Constance; he had surely looked forward to some indefinite future when she should be his; and the words spoken by Roland had almost driven him mad. Which was precisely what Mr. Roland hoped they would do.

“I would not speak to you to-day, when you are in distress, when you may deem it an unfitting time for me to speak,” he began, “but I cannot live in this suspense. Let me confess that what brought me here was to obtain this interview with you, quite as much as this other unhappy business. You will forgive me?”

“Mr. Yorke, I do not know what you can have to speak about,” she answered, with dignity. “My distress is great, but I can hear what you wish to say.”

“I heard—I heard”—he spoke with emotion, and went plunging abruptly into his subject—“I heard this morning that Lord Carrick was soliciting you to become his wife.”

Constance could have laughed, but for her own distress, agitated though he was. “Well, sir?” she coldly said, in a little spirit of mischief.

“Constance, you cannot do it,” he passionately retorted. “You cannot so perjure yourself!”

“Mr. Yorke! Have you the right to tell me I shall or shall not marry Lord Carrick?”

“You can't do it, Constance!” he repeated, laying his hand upon her shoulder, and speaking hoarsely. “You know that your whole affection was given to me! It is mine still; I feel that it is. You have not transferred it to another in this short time. You do not love and forget so lightly.”

“Is this all you have to say to me?”

“No, it is not all,” he answered, with emotion. “I want you to be my wife, Constance, not his. I want you to forget this miserable estrangement that has come between us, and come home to me at Hazledon.”

“Listen, Mr. Yorke,” she said; but it was with the utmost difficulty she retained her indifferent manner, and kept back her tears: she would have liked to be taken then to his sheltering arms, never to have left them. “The cause which led to our parting, was the suspicion that fell upon Arthur, coupled with something that you were not pleased with in my own manner relating to it. That suspicion is upon him still; and my course of conduct would be precisely the same, were it to come over again. I am sorry you should have reaped up this matter, for it can only end as it did before.”

“Will you not marry me?” he resumed.

“No. So long as circumstances look darkly on my brother.”

“Constance! that may be for ever!”

“Yes,” she sadly answered, knowing what she did know; “they may never be brighter than they are now. Were I tempted to become your wife, you might reproach me afterwards for allying you to disgrace; and that, I think, would kill me. I beg you not to speak of this again.”

“And you refuse me for Lord Carrick! You will go and marry him!” exclaimed Mr. Yorke, struggling between reproach, affection, and temper.

“You must allow me to repeat that you have no right to question me,” she said, moving to the door. “When our engagement was forfeited, that right was forfeited with it.”

She opened the door to leave the room. Mr. Yorke might have wished further to detain her, but Judy came bustling up. “Lady Augusta's here, Miss Constance.”

Lady Augusta Yorke met Constance in the hall, and seized both her hands. “I had a bad headache, and lay in bed, and never heard of it until an hour ago!” she uttered with the same impulsive kindness that sometimes actuated Roland. “Is it true that he is drowned? Is it true that Tod was in it?—Gerald says he was. William, are you here?”

Constance took Lady Augusta into the general sitting-room, into the presence of the other guests. Lady Augusta asked a hundred questions, at the least; and they acquainted her with the different points, so far as they were cognizant of them. She declared that Tod should be kept upon bread and water for a week, and she would go to the school and request Mr. Pye to flog him. She overwhelmed Constance with kindness, wishing she and Annabel would come to her house and remain there for a few days. Constance thanked her, and found some difficulty in being allowed to refuse.

“Here is his exercise-book,” observed Constance, tears filling her eyes; “here is the very place in which he laid his pen. Every other moment I think it cannot be true that he is gone—that it must be all a dream.”

Lady Augusta took up the pen and kissed it: it was her impulsive way of showing sympathy. Mr. Huntley smiled. “Where's William gone to?” asked Lady Augusta.

The Reverend William Yorke had quitted the house, shaking the dust from his shoes in anger, as he crossed the threshold. Anger as much at himself, for having ever given her up, as at Constance Channing; and still most at the Right Honourable the Earl of Carrick.

CHAPTER XLIV. MR. JENKINS IN A DILEMMA.

I don't know what you will say to me for introducing you into the privacy of Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins's bed-chamber, but it is really necessary to do so. We cannot very well get on without it.

A conjugal dispute had occurred that morning when Mrs. Jenkins got up. She was an early riser; as was Jenkins also, in a general way; but since his illness, he had barely contrived to come down in time for breakfast. On this morning—which was not the one following the application of mustard to his chest, but one about a week after that medicinal operation—Mrs. Jenkins, on preparing to descend, peremptorily ordered him to remain in bed. Nothing need be recorded of the past week, except two facts: Charles Channing had not been discovered, either in life or in death; and the Earl of Carrick had terminated his visit, and left Helstonleigh.

“I'll bring up your breakfast,” said Mrs. Jenkins.

“It is of no use to say that,” Jenkins ventured meekly to remonstrate. “You know I must get up.”

“I say you shall not get up. Here you are, growing weaker and worse every day, and yet you won't take care of yourself! Where's the use of your taking a bottle a-day of cough-mixture—where's the use of your making the market scarce of cod-liver oil—where's the use of wasting mustard, if it's all to do you no good? Does it do you any good?”

“I am afraid it has not, as yet,” confessed Jenkins.

“And never will, so long as you give your body and brains no rest. Out you go by nine o'clock, in all weathers, ill or well, and there you are at your business till evening; stooping yourself double over the writing, dancing abroad on errands, wearing out your lungs with answers to callers! There's no sense in it.”

“But, my dear, the office must be attended to,” said Jenkins, with much deference.

“There's no 'must' in the case, as far as you are concerned. If I say you shan't go to it, why, you shan't. What's the office, pray, in comparison with a man's life?”

“But I am not so ill as to remain away. I can still go and do my work.”

“You'd be for going, if you were in your coffin!” was Mrs. Jenkins's wrathful answer. “Could you do any good then, pray?”

“But I am not in my coffin,” mildly suggested Jenkins.

“Don't I say you'd go, if you were?” reiterated Mrs. Jenkins, who sometimes, in her heat, lost sight of the precise point under dispute. “You know you would! you know there's nothing in the whole world that you think of, but that office! Office—office—office, it is with you from morning till night. When you are in your coffin, through it, you'll be satisfied.”

“But it is my duty to go as long as I can, my dear.”

“It's my duty to do a great many things that I don't do!” was the answer; “and one of my duties which I haven't done yet, is to keep you indoors for a bit, and nurse you up. I shall begin from to-day, and see if I can't get you well, that way.”

“But—”

“Hold your tongue, Jenkins. I never say a thing but you are sure to put in a 'but.' You lie in bed this morning,—do you hear?—and I'll bring up your breakfast.”

Mrs. Jenkins left the room with the last order, and that ended the discussion. Had Jenkins been a free agent—free from work—he had been only too glad to obey her. In his present state of health, the duties of the office had become almost too much for him; it was with difficulty that he went to it and performed them. Even the walk, short as it was, in the early morning, was almost beyond his strength; even the early rising was beginning to tell upon him. And though he had little hope that nursing himself up indoors would prove of essential service, he felt that the rest it brought would be to him an inestimable boon.

But Jenkins was one who thought of duty before he thought of himself; and, therefore, to remain away from the office, if he could drag himself to it, appeared to him little less than a sin. He was paid for his time and services—fairly paid—liberally paid, some might have said—and they belonged to his master. But it was not so much from this point of view that Jenkins regarded the necessity of going—conscientious though he was—as at the thought of what the office would do without him; for there was no one to replace him but Roland Yorke. Jenkins knew what he was; and so do we.

To lie in bed, or remain indoors, under these circumstances, Jenkins felt to be impossible; and when his watch gave him warning that the breakfast hour was approaching, up he got. Behold him sitting on the side of the bed, trying to dress himself—trying to do it. Never had Jenkins felt weaker, or less able to battle with his increasing illness, than on this morning; and when Mrs. Jenkins dashed in—for her quick ears had caught the sounds of his stirring—he sat there still, stockings in hand, unable to help himself.

“So you were going to trick me, were you! Are you not ashamed of yourself, Jenkins?”

Jenkins gasped twice before he could reply. A giddiness seemed to be stealing over him, as it had done that other evening, under the elm trees. “My dear, it is of no use your talking; I must go to the office,” he panted.

“You shan't go—if I lock you up! There!”

Jenkins was spared the trouble of a reply. The giddiness had increased to faintness, his sight left him, and he fell back on to the bed in a state of unconsciousness. Mrs. Jenkins rather looked upon it as a triumph. She put him into bed, and tucked him up.

“This comes of your attempting to disobey me!” said she, when he had come round again. “I wonder what would become of you poor, soft mortals of men, if you were let have your own way! There's no office for you to day, Jenkins.”

Very peremptorily spoke she. But, lest he should attempt the same again, she determined to put it out of his power. Opening a closet, she thrust every article of his clothing into it, not leaving him so much as a waistcoat, turned the key, and put it into her pocket. Poor Jenkins watched her with despairing eyes, not venturing to remonstrate.

“There,” said she, speaking amiably in her glow of satisfaction: “you can go to the office now—if you like. I'll not stop you; but you'll have to march through the streets leaving your clothes in that closet.”

Under these difficulties Jenkins did not quite see his way to get there. Mrs. Jenkins went instead, catching Mr. Roland Yorke just upon his arrival.

“What's up, that Jenkins is not here?” began Roland, before she could speak.

“Jenkins is not in a fit state to get out of his bed, and I have come to tell Mr. Galloway so,” replied she.

Roland Yorke's face grew to twice its usual length at the news. “I say, though, that will never do, Mrs. Jenkins. What's to become of this office?”

“The office must do the best it can without him. He's not coming to it.”

I can't manage it,” said Roland, in consternation. “I should go dead, if I had to do Jenkins's work, and my own as well.”

“He'll go dead, unless he takes some rest in time, and gets a little good nursing. I should like to know how I am to nurse him, if he is down here all day?”

“That's not the question,” returned Roland, feeling excessively blank. “The question is, how the office, and I, and Galloway are to get on without him? Couldn't he come in a sedan?”

“Yes, he can; if he likes to come without his clothes,” retorted Mrs. Jenkins. “I have taken care to lock them up.”

“Locked his clothes up!” repeated Roland, in wonder. “What's that for?”

“Because, as long as he has a bit of life in him, he'll use it to drag himself down here,” answered Mrs. Jenkins, tartly. “That's why. He was getting up to come this morning, defying me and every word I said against it, when he fell down on the bed in a fainting fit. I thought it time to lock his things up then.”

“Upon my word, I don't know what's to be done,” resumed Roland, growing quite hot with dismay and perplexity, at the prospect of some extra work for himself. “Look here!” exhibiting the parchments on Jenkins's desk, all so neatly left—“here's an array! Jenkins did not intend to stay away, when he left those last night, I know.”

He intend to stay away! catch him thinking of it,” retorted Mrs. Jenkins. “It is as I have just told him—that he'd come in his coffin. And it's my firm belief that if he knew a week's holiday would save him from his coffin, he'd not take it, unless I was at his back to make him. It's well he has somebody to look after him that's not quite deficient of common sense!”

“Well, this is a plague!” grumbled Roland.

“So it is—for me, I know, if for nobody else,” was Mrs. Jenkins's reply. “But there's some plagues in the world that we must put up with, and make the best of, whether we like 'em or not; and this is one of them. You'll tell Mr. Galloway, please; it will save me waiting.”

However, as Mrs. Jenkins was departing, she encountered Mr. Galloway, and told him herself. He was both vexed and grieved to hear it; grieved on Jenkins's score, vexed on his own. That Jenkins was growing very ill, he believed from his own observation, and it could not have happened at a more untoward time. Involuntarily, Mr. Galloway's thoughts turned to Arthur Channing, and he wished he had him in the office still.

“You must turn over a new leaf from this very hour, Roland Yorke,” he observed to that gentleman, when he entered. “We must both of us buckle-to, if we are to get through the work.”

“It's not possible, sir, that I can do Jenkins's share and mine,” said Roland.

“If you only do Jenkins's, I'll do yours,” replied Mr. Galloway, significantly. “Understand me, Roland: I shall expect you to show yourself equal to this emergency. Put aside frivolity and idleness, and apply yourself in earnest. Jenkins has been in the habit of taking part of your work upon himself, as I believe no clerk living would have done; and, in return, you must now take his. I hope in a few days he may be with us again. Poor fellow, we shall feel his loss!”

Mr. Galloway had to go out in the course of the morning, and Roland was left alone to the cares and work of the office. It occurred to him that, as a preliminary step, he could not do better than open the window, that the sight of people passing (especially any of his acquaintances, with whom he might exchange greetings) should cheer him on at his hard work. Accordingly, he threw it up to its utmost extent, and went on with his writing, giving alternately one look to his task, and two to the street. Not many minutes had he been thus spurring on his industry, when he saw Arthur Channing pass.

“Hist—st—st!” called out Roland, by way of attracting his attention. “Come in, old fellow, will you? Here's such a game!”

CHAPTER XLV. A NEW SUSPICION.

Arthur Channing had been walking leisurely down Close Street. Time hung heavily on his hands. In leaving the cathedral after morning service, he had joined Mr. Harper, the lay clerk, and went with him, talking, towards the town; partly because he had nothing to do elsewhere—partly because out of doors appeared more desirable than home. In the uncertain state of suspense they were kept in, respecting Charles, the minds of all, from Hamish down to Annabel, were in a constant state of unrest. When they rose in the morning the first thought was, “Shall we hear of Charles to-day?” When they retired at bedtime, “What may not the river give up this night?” It appeared to them that they were continually expecting tidings of some sort or other; and, with this expectation, hope would sometimes mingle itself.

Hope; where could it spring from? The only faint suspicion of it, indulged at first, that Charley had been rescued in some providential manner, and conveyed to a house of shelter, had had time to die out. A few houses there were, half-concealed near the river, as there are near to most other rivers of traffic, which the police trusted just as far as they could see, and whose inmates did not boast of shining reputations; but the police had overhauled these thoroughly, and found no trace of Charley. Nor was it likely that they would conceal a child. So long as Charles's positive fate remained a mystery, suspense could not cease; and with this suspense there did mingle some faint glimmer of hope. Suspense leads to exertion; inaction is intolerable to it. Hamish, Arthur, Tom, all would rather be out of doors now, than in; there might be something to be heard of, some information to be gathered, and looking after it was better than staying at home to wait for it. No wonder, then, that Arthur Channing's steps would bend unconsciously towards the town, when he left the cathedral, morning and afternoon.

It was in passing Mr. Galloway's office, the window of which stood wide open, that Arthur had found himself called to by Roland Yorke.

“What is it?” he asked, halting at the window.

“You are the very chap I wanted to see,” cried Roland. “Come in! Don't be afraid of meeting Galloway: he's off somewhere.”

The prospect of meeting Mr. Galloway would not have prevented Arthur from entering. He was conscious of no wrong, and he did not shrink as though he had committed one. He went in, and Mr. Harper proceeded on his way.

“Here's a go!” was Roland's salutation. “Jenkins is laid up.” It was nothing but what Arthur had expected. He, like Mr. Galloway, had observed Jenkins growing ill and more ill. “How shall you manage without him?” asked Arthur; Mr. Galloway's dilemma being the first thing that occurred to his mind.

“Who's to know?” answered Roland, who was in an explosive temper. “ I don't. If Galloway thinks to put it all on my back, it's a scandalous shame! I never could do it, or the half of it. Jenkins worked like a horse when we were busy. He'd hang his head down over his desk, and never lift it for two hours at a stretch!—you know he would not. Fancy my doing that! I should get brain fever before a week was out.”

Arthur smiled at this. “Is Jenkins much worse?” he inquired.

“I don't believe he's worse at all,” returned Roland, tartly. “He'd have come this morning, as usual, fast enough, only she locked up his clothes.”

“Who?” said Arthur, in surprise.

“She. That agreeable lady who has the felicity of owning Jenkins. She was here this morning as large as life, giving an account of her doings, without a blush. She locked up his things, she says, to keep him in bed. I'd be even with her, I know, were I Jenkins. I'd put on her flounces, but what I'd come out, if I wanted to. Rather short they'd be for him, though.”

“I shall go, Roland. My being here only hinders you.”

“As if that made any difference worth counting! Look here!—piles and piles of parchments! I and Galloway could never get through them, hindered or not hindered. I am not going to work over hours! I won't kill myself with hard labour. There's Port Natal, thank goodness, if the screw does get put upon me too much!”

Arthur did not reply. It made little difference to Roland: whether encouraged or not, talk he would.

“I have heard of folks being worked beyond their strength; and that will be my case, if one may judge by present appearances. It's too bad of Jenkins!”

Arthur spoke up: he did not like to hear blame, even from Roland Yorke, cast upon patient, hard-working Jenkins. “You should not say it, Roland. It is not Jenkins's fault.”

“It is his fault. What does he have such a wife for? She keeps Jenkins under her thumb, just as Galloway keeps me. She locked up his clothes, and then told him he might come here without them, if he liked: my belief is, she'll be sending him so, some day. Jenkins ought to put her down. He's big enough.”

“He would be sure to come here, if he were equal to it,” said Arthur.

“He! Of course he would!” angrily retorted Roland. “He'd crawl here on all fours, but what he'd come; only she won't let him. She knows it too. She said this morning that he'd come when he was in his coffin! I should like to see it arrive!”

Arthur had been casting a glance at the papers. They were unusually numerous, and he began to think with Roland that he and Mr. Galloway would not be able to get through them unaided. Most certainly they would not, at Roland's present rate of work. “It is a pity you are not a quick copyist,” he said.

“I dare say it is!” sarcastically rejoined Roland, beginning to play at ball with the wafer-box. “I never was made for work; and if—”

“You will have to do it, though, sir,” thundered Mr. Galloway, who had come up, and was enjoying a survey of affairs through the open window. Mr. Roland, somewhat taken to, dropped his head and the wafer-box together, and went on with his writing as meekly as poor Jenkins would have done; and Mr. Galloway entered.

“Good day,” said he to Arthur, shortly enough.

“Good day, sir,” was the response. Mr. Galloway turned to his idle clerk.

“Roland Yorke, you must either work or say you will not. There is no time for playing and fooling; no time, sir! do you hear? Who put that window stark staring open?”

“I did, sir,” said incorrigible Roland. “I thought the office might be the better for a little air, when there was so much to do in it.”

Mr. Galloway shut it with a bang. Arthur, who would not leave without some attempt at a passing courtesy, let it be ever so slight, made a remark to Mr. Galloway, that he was sorry to hear Jenkins was worse.

“He is so much worse,” was the response of Mr. Galloway, spoken sharply, for the edification of Roland Yorke, “that I doubt whether he will ever enter this room again. Yes, sir, you may look; but it is the truth!”

Roland did look, looked with considerable consternation. “How on earth will the work get done, then?” he muttered. With all his grumbling, he had not contemplated Jenkins being away more than a day or two.

“I do not know how it will get done, considering that the clerk upon whom I have to depend is Roland Yorke,” answered Mr. Galloway, with severity. “One thing appears pretty evident, that Jenkins will not be able to help to do it.”

Mr. Galloway, more perplexed at the news brought by Mrs. Jenkins than he had allowed to appear (for, although he chose to make a show of depending upon Roland, he knew how much dependence there was in reality to be placed upon him—none knew better), had deemed it advisable to see Jenkins personally, and judge for himself of his state of health. Accordingly, he proceeded thither, and arrived at an inopportune moment for his hopes. Jenkins was just recovering from a second fainting fit, and appeared altogether so ill, so debilitated, that Mr. Galloway was struck with dismay. There would be no more work from Jenkins—as he believed—for him. He mentioned this now in his own office, and Roland received it with blank consternation.

An impulse came to Arthur, and he spoke upon it. “If I can be of any use to you, sir, in this emergency, you have only to command me.”

“What sort of use?” asked Mr. Galloway.

Arthur pointed to the parchments. “I could draw out these deeds, and any others that may follow them. My time is my own, sir, except the two hours devoted to the cathedral, and I am at a loss how to occupy it. I have been idle ever since I left you.”

“Why don't you get into an office?” said Mr. Galloway.

Arthur's colour deepened. “Because, sir, no one will take me.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Galloway, drily, “a good name is easier lost than won.”

“Yes, it is,” freely replied Arthur. “However, sir, to return to the question. I shall be glad to help you, if you have no one better at hand. I could devote several hours a day to it, and you know that I am thoroughly to be trusted with the work. I might take some home now.”

“Home!” returned Mr. Galloway. “Did you mean that you could do it at home?”

“Certainly, sir; I did not think of doing it here,” was the pointed reply of Arthur. “I can do it at home just as well as I could here; perhaps better, for I should shut myself up alone, and there would be nothing to interrupt me, or to draw off my attention.”

It cannot be denied that this was a most welcome proposition to Mr. Galloway; indeed, his thoughts had turned to Arthur from the first. Arthur would be far better than a strange clerk, looked for and brought in on the spur of the moment—one who might answer well or answer badly, according to chance. Yet that such must have been his resource, Mr. Galloway knew.

“It will be an accommodation to me, your taking part of the work,” he frankly said. “But you had better come to the office and do it.”

“No, sir; I would rather—”

“Do, Charming!” cried out Roland Yorke, springing up as if he were electrified. “The office will be bearable if you come back again.”

“I would prefer to do it at home, sir,” continued Arthur to Mr. Galloway, while that gentleman pointed imperiously to Yorke, as a hint to him to hold his tongue and mind his own business.

“You may come back here and do it,” said Mr. Galloway.

“Thank you, I cannot come back,” was the reply of Arthur.

“Of course you can't!” said angry Roland, who cared less for Mr. Galloway's displeasure than he did for displaying his own feelings when they were aroused. “You won't, you mean! I'd not show myself such a duffer as you, Channing, if I were paid for it in gold!”

“You'll get paid in something, presently, Roland Yorke, but it won't be in gold!” reproved Mr. Galloway. “You will do a full day's work to-day, sir, if you stop here till twelve o'clock at night.”

“Oh, of course I expect to do that, sir,” retorted Roland, tartly. “Considering what's before me, on this desk and on Jenkins's, there's little prospect of my getting home on this side four in the morning. They needn't sit up for me—I can go in with the milk. I wonder who invented writing? I wish I had the fingering of him just now!”

Arthur turned to the parchments. He was almost as much at home with them as Jenkins. Mr. Galloway selected two that were most pressing, and gave them to him, with the requisite materials for copying. “You will keep them secure, you know,” he remarked.

“Perfectly so, sir; I shall sit quite alone.”

He carried them off with alacrity. Mr. Galloway's face cleared as he looked after him, and he made a remark aloud, expressive of his satisfaction. “There's some pleasure in giving out work when you know it will be done. No play—no dilatoriness—finished to the minute that it's looked for! You should take a leaf out of his book, Yorke.”

“Yes, sir,” freely answered Roland. “When you drove Arthur Channing out of this office, you parted with the best clerk you ever had. Jenkins is all very well for work, but he is nothing but a muff in other things. Arthur's a gentleman, and he'd have served you well. Jenkins himself says so. He is honourable, he is honest, he—”

“I know enough of your sentiments with respect to his honesty,” interrupted Mr. Galloway. “We need not go over that tale again.”

“I hope every one knows them,” rejoined Roland. “I have never concealed my opinion that the accusation was infamous; that, of all of us in this office, from its head down to Jenkins, none was less likely to finger the note than Arthur Channing. But of course my opinion goes for nothing.”

“You are bold, young man.”

“I fear it is my nature to be so,” cried Roland. “If it should ever turn up how the note went, you'll be sorry, no doubt, for having visited it upon Arthur. Mr. Channing will be sorry; the precious magistrates will be sorry; that blessed dean, who wanted to turn him from the college, will be sorry. Not a soul of them but believes him guilty; and I hope they'll be brought to repentance for it, in sackcloth and ashes.”

“Go on with your work,” said Mr. Galloway, angrily.

Roland made a show of obeying. But his tongue was like a steam-engine: once set going, it couldn't readily be stopped, and he presently looked up again.

“I am not uncharitable: at least, to individuals. I always said the post-office helped itself to the note, and I'd lay my last half-crown upon it. But there are people in the town who think it could only have gone in another way. You'd go into a passion with me, sir, perhaps, if I mentioned it.”

Mr. Galloway—it has been before mentioned that he possessed an unbounded amount of curiosity, and also a propensity to gossip—so far forgot the force of good example as to ask Roland what he meant. Roland wanted no further encouragement.

“Well, sir, there are people who, weighing well all the probabilities of the case, have come to the conclusion that the note could only have been abstracted from the letter by the person to whom it was addressed. None but he broke the seal of it.”

“Do you allude to my cousin, Mr. Robert Galloway?” ejaculated Mr. Galloway, as soon as indignation and breath allowed him to speak.

“Others do,” said Roland. “I say it was the post-office.”

“How dare you repeat so insolent a suspicion to my face, Roland Yorke?”

“I said I should catch it!” cried Roland, speaking partly to himself. “I am sure to get in for it, one way or another, do what I will. It's not my fault, sir, if I have heard it whispered in the town.”

“Apply yourself to your work, sir, and hold your tongue. If you say another word, Roland Yorke, I shall feel inclined also to turn you away, as one idle and incorrigible, of whom nothing can be made.”

“Wouldn't it be a jolly excuse for Port Natal!” exclaimed Roland, but not in the hearing of his master, who had gone into his own room in much wrath. Roland laughed aloud; there was nothing he enjoyed so much as to be in opposition to Mr. Galloway; it had been better for the advancement of that gentleman's work, had he habitually kept a tighter rein over his pupil. It was perfectly true, however, that the new phase of suspicion, regarding the loss of the note, had been spoken of in the town, and Roland only repeated what he had heard.

Apparently, Mr. Galloway did not like this gratuitous suggestion. He presently came back again. A paper was in his hand, and he began comparing it with one on Roland's desk. “Where did you hear that unjustifiable piece of scandal?” he inquired, as he was doing it.

“The first person I heard speak of it was my mother, sir. She came home one day from calling upon people, and said she had heard it somewhere. And it was talked of at Knivett's last night. He had a bachelors' party, and the subject was brought up. Some of us ridiculed the notion; others thought it might have grounds.”

“And pray, which did you favour?” sarcastically asked Mr. Galloway.

“I? I said then, as I have said all along, that there was no one to thank for it but the post-office. If you ask me, sir, who first set the notion afloat in the town, I cannot satisfy you. All I know is, the rumour is circulating.”

“If I could discover the primary author of it, I would take legal proceedings against him,” warmly concluded Mr. Galloway.

“I'd help,” said undaunted Roland. “Some fun might arise out of that.”

Mr. Galloway carried the probate of a will to his room, and sat down to examine it. But his thoughts were elsewhere. This suspicion, mentioned by Roland Yorke, had laid hold of his mind most unpleasantly, in spite of his show of indignation before Roland. He had no reason to think his cousin otherwise than honest; it was next to impossible to suppose he could be guilty of playing him such a trick; but somehow Mr. Galloway could not feel so sure upon the point as he would have wished. His cousin was a needy man—one who had made ducks and drakes of his own property, and was for ever appealing to Mr. Galloway for assistance. Mr. Galloway did not shut his eyes to the fact that if this should have been the case, Robert Galloway had had forty pounds from him instead of twenty—a great help to a man at his wits' ends for money. He had forwarded a second twenty-pound note, upon receiving information of the loss of the first. What he most disliked, looking at it from this point of view, was, not the feeling that he had been cleverly deceived and laughed at, but that Arthur Channing should have suffered unjustly. If the lad was innocent, why, how cruel had been his own conduct towards him! But with these doubts came back the remembrance of Arthur's unsatisfactory behaviour with respect to the loss; his non-denial; his apparent guilt; his strange shrinking from investigation. Busy as Mr. Galloway was, that day, he could not confine his thoughts to his business. He would willingly have given another twenty-pound note out of his pocket to know, beyond doubt, whether or not Arthur was guilty.

Arthur, meanwhile, had commenced his task. He took possession of the study, where he was secure from interruption, and applied himself diligently to it. How still the house seemed! How still it had seemed since the loss of Charles! Even Annabel and Tom were wont to hush their voices; ever listening, as it were, for tidings to be brought of him. Excepting the two servants, Arthur was alone in it. Hamish was abroad, at his office; Constance and Annabel were at Lady Augusta's; Tom was in school; and Charles was not. Judith's voice would be heard now and then, wafted from the kitchen regions, directing or reproving Sarah; but there was no other sound. Arthur thought of the old days when the sun had shone; when he was free and upright in the sight of men; when Constance was happy in her future prospects of wedded life; when Tom looked forth certainly to the seniorship; when Charley's sweet voice and sweeter face might be seen and heard; when Hamish—oh, bitter thought, of all!—when Hamish had not fallen from his pedestal. It had all changed—changed to darkness and to gloom; and Arthur may be pardoned for feeling gloomy with it. But in the very midst of this gloom, there arose suddenly, without effort of his, certain words spoken by the sweet singer of Israel; and Arthur knew that he had but to trust to them:—

“For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life; heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

CHAPTER XLVI. A LETTER FOR MR. GALLOWAY.

Morning passed into afternoon, and afternoon was drawing towards its close. Roland Yorke had contrived to struggle through it, and be still living, in spite of the amount of work which was pressed upon him. Mr. Galloway had put on his spectacles and copied out several pages himself—a thing he rarely attempted. But he had gone out now, and had carried with him some letters to post.

“Yes!” grumbled Roland. “He can stretch his legs, but he takes good care I shall not stretch mine! Why couldn't he send me with those letters? It's my place to post them: it's not his. Write, write, write! till my fingers are cramped, and my feet have no more feeling in them than the stool has! Why, I wouldn't stop by myself in this horrid, musty, parchmented old place—Oh, it's you, is it?”

This was addressed to the postman, who came in with the afternoon delivery of letters. Two. He handed them to Roland, and departed.

Of course Roland immediately began to scrutinize them: turning them over; critically guessing at the senders; playing with them at pitch and toss—anything to while away the time, and afford him some cessation from his own work. By these means he contrived to pass five minutes rather agreeably (estimating things by comparison), when Mr. Galloway's servant entered.

“Is my master in, Mr. Roland?”

“Of course he's not,” said Roland. “He's gone gallivanting somewhere. He has all the pleasure of it, and I have all the work.”

“Will you please to give him this letter, then?” said the man. “The post has just left it at our house, so I brought it round.”

“What's it brought round here for?” asked Roland.

“Because he ordered it to be done. He said he expected a letter would be delivered at the house by the afternoon post, and if it came I was to bring it to him at once. Good afternoon, sir.”

This little bit of information was quite enough for Roland. He seized the letter, as he had done the others, and subjected it to the same scrutiny. The address was written in a singular hand; in large, print-looking letters. Roland satisfied his curiosity, so far as the outside of the letter could do it, and then rose from his stool and laid the three letters upon Mr. Galloway's desk in his private room.

A short time, and that gentleman entered. “Anything by the post?” was his first question.

“Two letters, sir,” replied Roland. “And John brought round one, which was addressed to the house. He said you expected it.”

Mr. Galloway went into his private room. He glanced casually at the addresses on the letters, and then called Roland Yorke. “Where is the letter John brought round?” he inquired, somewhat testily.

Roland pointed it out. “That was it, sir.”

“That!” Mr. Galloway bent on it a keener glance, which probably satisfied him that it bore his private address. “Was this the only one he brought?” added he; and from his manner and words Roland inferred that it was not the letter he had expected.

“That was all, sir.”

Roland returned to his own room, and Mr. Galloway sat down and opened his letters. The first two were short communications relative to business; the last was the one brought by John.

What did it contain? For one thing, It contained a bank-note for twenty pounds. But the contents? Mr. Galloway gazed at it and rubbed his brow, and gazed again. He took off his spectacles, and put them on; he looked at the bank-note, and he read and re-read the letter; for it completely upset the theory and set at nought the data he had been going upon; especially the data of the last few hours.

“The finder of that lost twenty-pound note sends it back to Mr. Galloway. His motive in doing so is that the wrongly suspected may be cleared. He who was publicly accused of the offence was innocent, as were all others upon whom suspicion (though not acted upon) may have fallen. The writer of this alone took the note, and now restores it.”

Abrupt and signatureless, such was the letter. When Mr. Galloway had sufficiently overcome his surprise to reason rationally, it struck him as being a singular coincidence that this should come to him on the day when the old affair had been renewed again. Since its bustle had died out at the time of the occurrence, Mr. Galloway did not remember to have voluntarily spoken of it, until that morning with Roland Yorke.

He took up the bank-note. Was it the one actually taken—the same note—kept possibly, in fear, and now returned? He had no means of knowing. He thought it was not the same. His recollection of the lost note had seemed to be that it was a dirty note, which must have passed through many hands; but he had never been quite clear upon that point. This note was clean and crisp. Who had taken it? Who had sent it back? It quite disposed of that disagreeable suspicion touching his cousin. Had his cousin so far forgotten himself as to take the note, he would not have been likely to return it: he knew nothing of the proceedings which had taken place in Helstonleigh, for Mr. Galloway had never mentioned them to him. The writer of this letter was cognizant of them, and had sent it that they might be removed.

At the first glance, it of course appeared to be proof positive that Arthur Channing was not guilty. But Mr. Galloway was not accustomed to take only the superficial view of things: and it struck him, as it would strike others, that this might be, after all, a refined bit of finessing on Arthur's own part to remove suspicion from himself. True, the cost of doing so was twenty pounds: but what was that compared with the restoration of his good name?

The letter bore the London post-mark. There was not a doubt that it had been there posted. That betrayed nothing. Arthur, or any one else, could have a letter posted there, if wishing to do it. “Where there's a will, there's a way,” thought Mr. Galloway. But again, where was Arthur Channing to procure twenty pounds from? Mr. Galloway did not think that he could procure this sum from anywhere, or that he possessed, himself, a twentieth part of it. So far the probability was against Arthur's being the author. Mr. Galloway quite lost himself in conjectures. Why should it have been addressed to his residence, and not to the office? He had been expecting a letter from one, that afternoon, who always did address to his residence: and that letter, it appeared, had not arrived. However, that had nothing to do with this. Neither paper nor writing afforded any clue to the sender, and the latter was palpably disguised.

He called in Roland Yorke, for the purpose of putting to him a few useless questions—as a great many of us do when we are puzzled—questions, at any rate, that could throw no light upon the main subject.

“What did John say when he brought this letter?”

“Only what I told you, sir. That you expected a letter addressed to the house, and ordered him to bring it round.”

“But this is not the letter I expected,” tapping it with his finger, and looking altogether so puzzled and astonished that Roland stared in his turn.

“It's not my fault,” returned he. “Shall I run round, sir, and ask John about it?”

“No,” testily answered Mr. Galloway. “Don't be so fond of running round. This letter—There's some one come into the office,” he broke off. Roland turned with alacrity, but very speedily appeared again, on his best behaviour, bowing as he showed in the Dean of Helstonleigh.

Mr. Galloway rose, and remained standing. The dean entered upon the business which had brought him there, a trifling matter connected with the affairs of the chapter. This over, Mr. Galloway took up the letter and showed it to him. The dean read it, and looked at the bank-note.

“I cannot quite decide in what light I ought to take it, sir,” remarked Mr. Galloway. “It either refutes the suspicion of Arthur Channing's guilt, or else it confirms it.”

“In what way confirms it? I do not understand you,” said the dean.

“It may have come from himself, Mr. Dean. A wheel within a wheel.”

The dean paused to revolve the proposition, and then shook his head negatively. “It appears to me to go a very great way towards proving his innocence,” he observed. “The impression upon my own mind has been, that it was not he who took it—as you may have inferred, Mr. Galloway, by my allowing him to retain his post in the cathedral.”

“But, sir, if he is innocent, who is guilty?” continued Mr. Galloway, in a tone of remonstrance.

“That is more than I can say,” replied the dean. “But for the circumstances appearing to point so strongly to Arthur Channing, I never could have suspected him at all. A son of Mr. Channing's would have been altogether above suspicion, in my mind: and, as I tell you, for some time I have not believed him to be guilty.”

“If he is not guilty—” Mr. Galloway paused; the full force of what he was about to say, pressing strongly upon his mind. “If he is not guilty, Mr. Dean, there has been a great deal of injustice done-not only to himself—”

“A great deal of injustice is committed every day, I fear,” quietly remarked the dean.

“Tom Channing will have lost the seniorship for nothing!” went on Mr. Galloway, in a perturbed voice, not so much addressing the dean, as giving vent to his thoughts aloud.

“Yes,” was the answer, spoken calmly, and imparting no token of what might be the dean's private sentiments upon the point. “You will see to that matter,” the dean continued, referring to his own business there, as he rose from his chair.

“I will not forget it, Mr. Dean,” said Mr. Galloway. And he escorted the dean to the outer door, as was his custom when honoured by that dignitary with a visit, and bowed him out.

Roland just then looked a pattern of industry. He had resumed his seat, after rising in salutation as the dean passed through the office, and was writing away like a steam-engine. Mr. Galloway returned to his own room, and set himself calmly to consider all the bearings of this curious business. The great bar against his thinking Arthur innocent, was the difficulty of fixing upon any one else as likely to have been guilty. Likely! he might almost have said as possible to have been guilty. “I have a very great mind,” he growled to himself, “to send for Butterby, and let him rake it all up again!” The uncertainty vexed him, and it seemed as if the affair was never to have an end. “What, if I show Arthur Channing the letter first, and study his countenance as he looks at it? I may gather something from that. I don't fancy he'd be an over good actor, as some might be. If he has sent this money, I shall see it in his face.”

Acting upon the moment's impulse, he suddenly opened the door of the outer office, and there found that Mr. Roland's industry had, for the present, come to an end. He was standing before the window, making pantomimic signs through the glass to a friend of his, Knivett. His right thumb was pointed over his shoulder towards the door of Mr. Galloway's private room; no doubt, to indicate a warning that that gentleman was within, and that the office, consequently, was not free for promiscuous intruders. A few sharp words of reprimand to Mr. Roland ensued, and then he was sent off with a message to Arthur Channing.

It brought Arthur back with Roland. Mr. Galloway called Arthur into his own room, closed the door, and put the letter into his hand in silence.

He read it twice over before he could understand it; indeed, he did not do so fully then. His surprise appeared to be perfectly genuine, and so Mr. Galloway thought it. “Has this letter been sent to you, sir? Has any money been sent to you?”

“This has been sent to me,” replied Mr. Galloway, tossing the twenty-pound note to him. “Is it the one that was taken, Channing?”

“How can I tell, sir?” said Arthur, in much simplicity. And Mr. Galloway's long doubts of him began to melt away.

You did not send the money—to clear yourself?”

Arthur looked up in surprise. “Where should I get twenty pounds from?” he asked. “I shall shortly have a quarter's salary from Mr. Williams: but it is not quite due yet. And it will not be twenty pounds, or anything like that amount.”

Mr. Galloway nodded. It was the thought which had struck himself. Another thought, however, was now striking Arthur; a thought which caused his cheek to flush and his brow to lower. With the word “salary" had arisen to him the remembrance of another's salary due about this time; that of his brother Hamish. Had Hamish been making this use of it—to remove the stigma from him? The idea received additional force from Mr. Galloway's next words: for they bore upon the point.

“This letter is what it purports to be: a missive from the actual thief; or else it comes from some well-wisher of yours, who sacrifices twenty pounds to do you a service. Which is it?”

Mr. Galloway fixed his eyes on Arthur's face and could not help noting the change which had come over it, over his bearing altogether. The open candour was gone: and in its place reigned the covert look, the hesitating manner, the confusion which had characterized him at the period of the loss. “All I can say, sir, is, that I know nothing of this,” he presently said. “It has surprised me as much as it can surprise any one.”

“Channing!” impulsively exclaimed Mr. Galloway, “your manner and your words are opposed to each other, as they were at the time. The one gives the lie to the other. But I begin to believe you did not take it.”

“I did not,” returned Arthur.

“And therefore—as I don't like to be played with and made sport of, like a cat tormenting a mouse—I think I shall give orders to Butterby for a fresh investigation.”

It startled Arthur. Mr. Galloway's curiously significant tone, his piercing gaze upon his face, also startled him. “It would bring no satisfaction, sir,” he said. “Pray do not. I would far rather continue to bear the blame.”

A pause. A new idea came glimmering into the mind of Mr. Galloway. “Whom are you screening?” he asked. But he received no answer.

“Is it Roland Yorke?”

“Roland Yorke!” repeated Arthur, half reproachfully. “No, indeed. I wish every one had been as innocent of it as was Roland Yorke.”

In good truth, Mr. Galloway had only mentioned Roland's name as coming uppermost in his mind. He knew that no suspicion attached to Roland. Arthur resumed, in agitation:

“Let the matter drop, sir. Indeed, it will be better. It appears, now, that you have the money back again; and, for the rest, I am willing to take the blame, as I have done.”

“If I have the money back again, I have not other things back again,” crossly repeated Mr. Galloway. “There's the loss of time it has occasioned, the worry, the uncertainty: who is to repay me all that?”

“My portion in it has been worse than yours, sir,” said Arthur, in a low, deep tone. “Think of my loss of time; my worry and uncertainty; my waste of character; my anxiety of mind: they can never be repaid to me.”

“And whose the fault? If you were truly innocent, you might have cleared yourself with a word.”

Arthur knew he might. But that word he had not dared to speak. At this juncture, Roland Yorke appeared. “Here's Jenner's old clerk come in, sir,” said he to his master. “He wants to see you, he says.”

“He can come in,” replied Mr. Galloway. “Are you getting on with that copying?” he added to Arthur, as the latter was going out.

“Yes, sir.”

The gentleman, whom Roland Yorke designated as “Jenner's old clerk,” was shut in with Mr. Galloway; and Roland, who appeared to be on the thorns of curiosity, arrested Arthur.

“I say, what is it that's agate? He has been going into fits, pretty near, over some letter that came, asking me five hundred questions about it. What have you to do with it? What does he want with you?”

“Some one has been sending him back the money, Roland. It came in a letter.”

Roland opened his eyes. “What money?”

“The money that was lost. A twenty-pound note has come. He asked me whether it was the veritable note that was taken.”

“A twenty-pound note come!” repeated puzzled Roland.

“It's quite true, Roland. It purports to be sent by the stealer of the money for the purpose of clearing me.”

Roland stood for a few moments, profound surprise on his face, and then began to execute a triumphant hornpipe amidst the desks and stools of the office. “I said it would come right some time; over and over again I said it! Give us your hand, old fellow! He's not such a bad trump after all, that thief!”

“Hush, Roland! you'll be heard. It may not do me much good. Galloway seems to doubt me still.”

“Doubt you still!” cried Roland, stopping short in his dance, and speaking in a very explosive tone. “Doubt you still! Why, what would he have?”

“I don't know;” sighed Arthur. “I have assured him I did not send it; but he fancies I may have done it to clear myself. He talks of calling in Butterby again.”

“My opinion then, is, that he wants to be transported, if he is to turn up such a heathen as that!” stamped Roland. “What would he have, I ask? Another twenty, given him for interest? Arthur, dear old fellow, let's go off together to Port Natal, and leave him and his office to it! I'll find the means, if I rob his cash-box to get them!”

But Arthur was already beyond hearing, having waved his adieu to Roland Yorke and his impetuous but warm-hearted championship. Anxious to get on with the task he had undertaken, he hastened home. Constance was in the hall when he entered, having just returned from Lady Augusta Yorke's.

His confidant throughout, his gentle soother and supporter, his ever ready adviser, Arthur drew her into one of the rooms, and acquainted her with what had occurred. A look of terror rose to her face, as she listened.

“Hamish has done it!” she uttered, in a whisper. “This puts all doubt at an end. There are times—they have been times”—she burst into tears as she spoke—“when I have fondly tried to cheat myself that we were suspecting him wrongfully. Arthur! others suspect him.”

Arthur's face reflected the look that was upon hers. “I trust not!”

“But they do. Ellen Huntley dropped a word inadvertently, which convinces me that he is in some way doubted there. She caught it up again in evident alarm, ere it was well spoken; and I dared not pursue the subject. It is Hamish who has sent this money.”

“You speak confidently, Constance.”

“Listen. I know that he has drawn money—papa's salary and his own: he mentioned it incidentally. A few days ago I asked him for money for housekeeping purposes, and he handed me a twenty-pound note, in mistake for a five-pound. He discovered the mistake before I did, and snatched it back again in some confusion.”

'I can't give you that,' he said in a laughing manner, when he recovered himself. 'That has a different destination.' Arthur! that note, rely upon it, was going to Mr. Galloway.”

“When was this?” asked Arthur.

“Last week. Three or four days ago.”

Trifling as the incident was, it seemed to bear out their suspicions, and Arthur could only come to the same conclusion as his sister: the thought had already crossed him, you remember.

“Do not let it pain you thus, Constance,” he said, for her tears were falling fast. “He may not call in Butterby. Your grieving will do no good.”

“I cannot help it,” she exclaimed, with a burst of anguish. “How God is trying us!”

Ay! even as silver, which must be seven times purified, ere it be sufficiently refined.

CHAPTER XLVII. DARK CLOUDS.

Constance Channing sat, her forehead buried in her hands. How God was trying them! The sentence, wrung from her in the bitterness of her heart, but expressed the echo of surrounding things. Her own future blighted; Arthur's character gone; Tom lost the seniorship; Charley not heard of, dead or alive! There were moments, and this was one of them, when Constance felt almost beyond the pale of hope. The college school, meanwhile existed in a state of constant suspense, the sword of terror ever hanging over its head. Punishment for the present was reserved; and what the precise punishment would be when it came, none could tell. Talkative Bywater was fond of saying that it did not matter whether Miss Charley turned up or not, so far as their backs were concerned: they would be made to tingle, either way.

Arthur, after communicating to Constance the strange fact of the return of the money to Mr. Galloway, shut himself up in the study to pursue his copying. Tea-time arrived, and Sarah brought in the tea-things. But neither Hamish nor Tom had come in, and Constance sat alone, deep in unpleasant thoughts.

That it was Hamish who had now returned the money to Mr. Galloway, Constance could not entertain the slightest doubt. It had a very depressing effect upon her. It could not render worse what had previously happened, indeed, it rather mended it, insomuch as that it served to show some repentance, some good feeling; but it made the suspicion against Hamish a certainty; and there had been times when Constance had been beguiled into thinking it only a suspicion. And now came this new fear of Mr. Butterby again!

Hamish's own footstep in the hall. Constance roused herself. He came in, books under his arm, as usual, and his ever-gay face smiling. There were times when Constance almost despised him for his perpetual sunshine. The seriousness which had overspread Hamish at the time of Charley's disappearance had nearly worn away. In his sanguine temperament, he argued that not finding the body was a proof that Charley was yet alive, and would come forth in a mysterious manner one of these days.

“Have I kept you waiting tea, Constance?” began he. “I came home by way of Close Street, and was called into Galloway's by Roland Yorke, and then got detained further by Mr. Galloway. Where's Arthur?”

“He has undertaken some copying for Mr. Galloway, and is busy with it,” replied Constance in a low tone. “Hamish!” raising her eyes to his face, as she gathered resolution to speak of the affair: “have you heard what has happened?”

“That some good fairy has forwarded a bank-note to Galloway on the wings of the telegraph? Roland Yorke would not allow me to remain in ignorance of that. Mr. Galloway did me the honour to ask whether I had sent it.”

“You!” uttered Constance, regarding the avowal only from her own point of view. “He asked whether you had sent it?”

“He did.”

She gazed at Hamish as if she would read his very soul. “And what did—what did you answer?”

“Told him I wished a few others would suspect me of the same, and count imaginary payments for real ones.”

“Hamish!” she exclaimed, the complaint wrung from her: “how can you be so light, so cruel, when our hearts are breaking?”

Hamish, in turn, was surprised at this. “I, cruel! In what manner, Constance? My dear, I repeat to you that we shall have Charley back again. I feel sure of it; and it has done away with my fear. Some inward conviction, or presentiment—call it which you like—tells me that we shall; and I implicitly trust to it. We need not mourn for him.”

“It is not for Charley: I do not speak of Charley now,” she sadly reiterated. “You are straying from the point. Hamish, have you no love left for Arthur?”

“I have plenty of love for every one,” said Mr. Hamish.

“Then how can you behave like this? Arthur is not guilty; you know he is not. And look what he has to bear! I believe you would laugh at the greatest calamity! Sending back this money to Mr. Galloway has—has—sadly distressed me.”

Hamish turned his smiling eyes upon her, but his tone was grave. “Wait until some great calamity occurs, Constance, and then see whether I laugh. Did I laugh that dreadful night and day that succeeded to Charley's loss? Sending back the money to Mr. Galloway is not a cause for sadness. It most certainly exonerates Arthur.”

“And you are gay over it!” She would have given anything to speak more plainly.

“I am particularly gay this afternoon,” acknowledged Hamish, who could not be put out of temper by any amount of reproach whatever. “I have had great news by the post, Constance.”

“From Germany?” she quickly cried.

“Yes, from Germany,” he answered, taking a letter from his pocket, and spreading it open before Constance.

It contained the bravest news: great news, as Hamish expressed it. It was from Mr. Channing himself, and it told them of his being so far restored that there was no doubt now of his ability to resume his own place at his office. They intended to be home the first week in November. The weather at Borcette continued warm and charming, and they would prolong their stay there to the full time contemplated. It had been a fine autumn everywhere. There was a postscript added to the letter, as if an afterthought had occurred to Mr. Channing. “When you see Mr. Huntley, tell him how well I am progressing. I remember, by the way, that he hinted at being able to introduce you to something, should I no longer require you in Guild Street.”

In the delight that the news brought, Constance partially lost sight of her sadness. “It is not all gloom,” she whispered to herself. “If we could only dwell on God's mercies as we do on His chastisement; if we could only feel more trust, we should see the bright side of the cloud oftener than we do.”

But it was dark; dark in many ways, and Constance was soon to be reminded again of it forcibly. She had taken her seat at the tea-table, when Tom came in. He looked flushed—stern; and he flung his Gradus, and one or two other books in a heap, on the side table, with more force than was necessary; and himself into a chair, ditto.

“Constance, I shall leave the school!”

Constance, in her dismay, dropped the sugar-tongs into the sugar. “What, Tom?”

“I shall leave the school!” he repeated, his tone as fiery as his face. “I wouldn't stop in it another month, if I were bribed with gold. Things are getting too bad there.”

“Oh, Tom, Tom! Is this your endurance?”

“Endurance!” he exclaimed. “That's a nice word in theory, Constance; but just you try it in practice! Who has endured, if I have not? I thought I'd go on and endure it, as you say; at any rate, until papa came home. But I can't—I can't!”

“What has happened more than usual?” inquired Hamish.

“It gets worse and worse,” said Tom, turning his blazing face upon his brother. “I wouldn't wish a dog to live the life that I live in the college school. They call me a felon, and treat me as one; they send me to Coventry; they won't acknowledge me as one of their seniors. My position is unbearable.”

“Live it down, Tom,” said Hamish quietly.

“Haven't I been trying to live it down?” returned the boy, suppressing his emotion. “It has lasted now these two months, and I have borne it daily. At the time of Charley's loss I was treated better for a day or two, but that has worn away. It is of no use your looking at me reproachfully, Constance; I must complain. What other boy in the world has ever been put down as I? I was head of the school, next to Gaunt; looking forward to be the head; and what am I now? The seniorship taken from me in shame; Huntley exalted to my place; my chance of the exhibition gone—”

“Huntley does not take the exhibition,” interrupted Constance.

“But Yorke will. I shan't be allowed to take it. Now I know it, Constance, and the school knows it. Let a fellow once go down, and he's kept down: every dog has a fling at him. The seniorship's gone, the exhibition is going. I might bear that tamely, you may say; and of course I might, for they are negative evils; but what I can't and won't bear, are the insults of every-day life. Only this afternoon they—”

Tom stopped, for his feelings were choking him; and the complaint he was about to narrate was never spoken. Before he had recovered breath and calmness, Arthur entered and took his seat at the tea-table. Poor Tom, allowing one of his unfortunate explosions of temper to get the better of him, sprang from his chair and burst forth with a passionate reproach to Arthur, whom he regarded as the author of all the ill.

“Why did you do it? Why did you bring this disgrace upon us? But for you, I should not have lost caste in the school.”

“Tom!” interposed Hamish, in a severe tone.

Mr. Tom, brave college boy that he was—manly as he coveted to be thought—actually burst into tears. Tears called forth, not by contrition, I fear; but by remembered humiliation, by vexation, by the moment's passion. Never had Tom cast a reproach openly to Arthur; whatever he may have felt he buried it within himself; but that his opinion vacillated upon the point of Arthur's guilt, was certain. Constance went up to him and laid her hand gently and soothingly upon his shoulder.

“Tom, dear boy, your troubles are making you forget yourself. Do not be unjust to Arthur. He is innocent as you.”

“Then if he is innocent, why does he not speak out like a man, and proclaim his innocence?” retorted Tom, sensibly enough, but with rather too much heat. “That's what the school cast in my teeth, more than anything again. 'Don't preach up your brother's innocence to us!' they cry; 'if he did not take it, wouldn't he say so?' Look at Arthur now”—and Tom pointed his finger at him—“he does not, even here, to me, assert that he is innocent!”

Arthur's face burnt under the reproach. He turned it upon Hamish, with a gesture almost as fiery, quite as hasty, as any that had been vouchsafed them by Tom. Plainly as look could speak, it said, “Will you suffer this injustice to be heaped upon me?” Constance saw the look, and she left Tom with a faint cry, and bent over Arthur, afraid of what truth he might give utterance to.

“Patience yet, Arthur!” she whispered. “Do not let a moment's anger undo the work of weeks. Remember how bravely you have borne.”

“Ay! Heaven forgive my pride, Tom!” Arthur added, turning to him calmly. “I would clear you—or rather clear myself—in the eyes of the school, if I could: but it is impossible. However, you have less to blame me for than you may think.”

Hamish advanced. He caught Tom's arm and drew him to a distant window. “Now, lad,” he said, “let me hear all about this bugbear. I'll see if it can be in any way lightened for you.”

Hamish's tone was kindly, his manner frank and persuasive, and Tom was won over to speak of his troubles. Hamish listened with an attentive ear. “Will you abide by my advice?” he asked him, when the catalogue of grievances had come to an end.

“Perhaps I will,” replied Tom, who was growing cool after his heat.

“Then, as I said to you before, so I say now—Live it down. It is the best advice I can give you.”

“Hamish, you don't know what it is!”

“Yes, I do. I can enter into your trials and annoyances as keenly as if I had to encounter them. I do not affect to disparage them to you: I know that they are real trials, real insults; but if you will only make up your mind to bear them, they will lose half their sharpness. Your interest lies in remaining in the college school; more than that, your duty lies in it. Tom, don't let it be said that a Channing shrunk from his duty because it brought him difficulties to battle with.”

“I don't think I can stop in it, Hamish. I'd rather stand in a pillory, and have rotten eggs shied at me.”

“Yes, you can. In fact, my boy, for the present you must. Disobedience has never been a fault amongst us, and I am sure you will not be the one to inaugurate it. Your father left me in charge, in his place, with full control; and I cannot sanction any such measure as that of your leaving the school. In less than a month's time he will be home, and you can then submit the case to him, and abide by his advice.”

With all Tom's faults, he was not rebellious, neither was he unreasonable; and he made up his mind, not without some grumbling, to do as Hamish desired him. He drew his chair with a jerk to the tea-table, which of course was unnecessary. I told you that the young Channings, admirably as they had been brought up, had their faults; as you have yours, and I have mine.

It was a silent meal. Annabel, who was wont to keep them alive, whatever might be their troubles, had remained to take tea at Lady Augusta Yorke's, with Caroline and Fanny. Had Constance known that she was in the habit of thoughtlessly chattering upon any subject that came uppermost, including poor Charles's propensity to be afraid of ghosts, she had allowed her to remain with them more charily. Hamish took a book and read. Arthur only made a show of taking anything, and soon left them, to resume his work; Tom did not even make a show of it, but unequivocally rejected all good things. “How could he be hungry?” he asked, when Constance pressed him. An unsociable meal it was—almost as unpleasant as were their inward thoughts. They felt for Tom, in the midst of their graver griefs; but they were all at cross purposes together, and they knew it; therefore they could only retain an uncomfortable reticence one with another. Tom laid the blame to the share of Arthur; Arthur and Constance to the share of Hamish. To whom Hamish laid it, was only known to himself.

He, Hamish, rose as the tea-things were carried away. He was preparing for a visit to Mr. Huntley's. His visits there, as already remarked, had not been frequent of late. He had discovered that he was not welcome to Mr. Huntley. And Hamish Channing was not one to thrust his company upon any one: even the attraction of Ellen could not induce that. But it is very probable that he was glad of the excuse Mr. Channing's letter afforded him to go there now.

He found Miss Huntley alone; a tall, stiff lady, who always looked as if she were cased in whalebone. She generally regarded Hamish with some favour, which was saying a great deal for Miss Huntley.

“You are quite a stranger here,” she remarked to him as he entered.

“I think I am,” replied Hamish. “Mr. Huntley is still in the dining-room, I hear?”

“Mr. Huntley is,” said the lady, speaking as if the fact did not give her pleasure, though Hamish could not conceive why. “My niece has chosen to remain with him,” she added, in a tone which denoted dissatisfaction. “I am quite tired of talking to her! I tell her this is proper, and the other is improper, and she goes and mixes up my advice in the most extraordinary way; leaving undone what she ought to do, and doing what I tell her she ought not! Only this very morning I read her a sermon upon 'Propriety, and the fitness of things.' It took me just an hour—an hour by my watch, I assure you, Mr. Hamish Channing!—and what is the result? I retired from the dinner-table precisely ten minutes after the removal of the cloth, according to my invariable custom; and Ellen, in defiance of my warning her that it is not lady-like, stays there behind me! 'I have not finished my grapes, aunt,' she says to me. And there she stays, just to talk with her father. And he encourages her! What will become of Ellen, I cannot imagine; she will never be a lady!”

“It's very sad!” replied Hamish, coughing down a laugh, and putting on the gravest face he could call up.

“Sad!” repeated Miss Huntley, who sat perfectly upright, her hands, cased in mittens, crossed upon her lap. “It is grievous, Mr. Hamish Channing! She—what do you think she did only yesterday? One of our maids was going to be married, and a dispute, or some unpleasantness occurred between her and the intended husband. Would you believe that Ellen actually wrote a letter for the girl (a poor ignorant thing, who never learnt to read, let alone to write, but an excellent servant) to this man, that things might be smoothed down between them? My niece, Miss Ellen Huntley, lower