« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
so he neither had much pocket-money to spend, nor many presents to receive: still the brightness of his spirits, his entire carelessness of self, and his universal ability, which he was always ready to exert for his fellow-pupils, made him most popular with all; and the contrast between him and Hector was so great, as to form a frequent subject for conversation amongst the young gentlemen.
Poor Hector! his character had become so defective that it was impossible to know at which end to commence amending it; his pride had grown into the rankest insolence; his helplessness rendered him a burden, which no one was willing to bear; he was thus thrown back upon his own resources, which were enfeebled for want of use; but his greediness, which a liberal supply of pocket-money enabled him to indulge, made him despised more than anything else ; and his disdain of beef and mutton raised a frequent laugh at his expense : for all that, his education improved, his dislike of books yielded to emulation, and his excellent master (hopeless as the task seemed to every one else), trusted that time, and total absence from his blindly indulgent home, might at last overcome much that was evil, more particularly as occasional glimpses of better things were visible — at long intervals, to be sure, but even these glimpses left something to hope from. He had been nearly a year at school, when one morning his master was disturbed by a violent altercation in the play-ground; he entered the arena with an open letter he had been reading in his hand, and there saw young Howard, in a violent state of excitement; he had no means at the moment of ascertaining how the quarrel began, but he heard him say, “I, who shall be, and Nick Lycet knows it, if he chooses to speak, the richest man in the county; who never was expected to carve my own dinner, or feed myself, or eat
“ Anything but liver-wings,” added Nicholas, spitefully enough.
“For shame! for shame !” said Rhody, “that's not generous, Lycet, only you are vexed with him now."
“I, who have been petted as an only child— "
“We would all help you, if you would help us in return,” said a rosy-faced boy.
“ Yes !” exclaimed Rhody, “so we would, with all our hearts. You know the maxim you wrote so often in your copy-book, Howard — One good turn deserves another, and • Give and take;' and the fable, too, about a lion, who was glad of a mouse's little teeth to nibble him out of the net ; so, even if you were a lion, you might be civil to the mice.”
“ I vote," quoth an embryo M.P., “ that we ask our master's permission to send Master Howard to Coventry for a month, where no one is to do anything for him; mind, no one, and then he would find out how helpless the grandee *Number One'may become.”
Hector Howard eyed the various speakers, one after the other, with a countenance swollen with indignation; and was about to say something very desperate, when Dr. Stanley, the master, came forward.
"I do not like this, young gentlemen," he said ; “it is very unlike the youths of England to fall upon one; and you Lycet, in particular, who know the defects of his education,
and came here as his friend; it takes a long time to eradicate errors whose growth commenced in his nurse's arms, and you must have observed the state of suffering he has lived in—” the lads looked astonished —"yes, positive suffering," he resumed. “Whoever indulges selfishness in youth will be scourged by selfishness in after life. The selfish man would desire to live amongst slaves, who would pamper and indulge him ; but happily, in England, there are no slaves to live amongst.” Some of the boys clapped their hands, but the reproving eye of the master was upon them. “There are,” he continued, “a few whom interest or a weak affection may compel to endure the tyranny of selfishness; but such endurance could not be desired by a right-minded person, and, I think and believe, the time will come when Hector will agree with me.”
“But, sir,” said one of the boys, “ he treats us as if we were his inferiors. We are all the sons of gentlemen, as well born as himself; and if he wants to be indulged he should conciliate. I am not to be insulted because my father has only a thousand a year, while his father has ten."
“We never had any talk about property until he came amongst us, sir,” exclaimed another.
- Well, well,” said the master, “I will inquire into the origin of this disturbance by.and-by. I have received a letter from Mr. Howard this morning, and he wishes to have his son home for a month.”
Hector sprang to the Doctor's side. “Oh, sir! you will let me go, will you not ?".
“I think your own heart will tell you that you do not deserve the indulgence,-and yet! but come into my room." The Doctor led the way, and Hector followed.
“I know what the Doctor is going to tell our most royal • Number One,'” said young Rhody, rubbing his hands. “I had a letter from mamma this morning, and she visits Mrs. Howard's sister. I know what the only child' will hear, and I was greatly tempted to tell it out before you all when he insulted us, stuffing his gold down our throats, as if every guinea was a sponge-cake; but I did not like to hurt him as I knew what he will have to suffer. Well might the Doctor say, that whoever indulges selfishness in youth will be scourged by selfishness in after life.”
“Is his poor mamma dead ?” inquired Lycet.
“No, indeed; but you know how much Hector has been petted.”
“ To be sure we do.”
“ And how delighted he is at the prospect of being always *Number One.'”
“ Yes, yes, we do,” exclaimed the boys.
“ And how he rejoices at not being troubled, as he calls it, with brothers and sisters."
“Oh, to be sure, we all know that, Rhody; have you nothing else to tell us?”
“Yes I have; he has got a new brother and sister.”
“Yes; I will read you a bit of mamma's letter.” They gathered in a circle round him. “You will be astonished to hear that your schoolfellow, Hector Howard, so long considered the only heir to his father's' property, is so no longer, his mamma having, the day before yesterday, presented his papa with twins.”
At this, some of the boys to whom Hector had been very
overbearing, gave a shout, but the good feeling of others suppressed it; and all began talking immediately on the probable effects of this information, and conjectured how he would bear it. After a time they re-entered the school-room, but Hector was not there; I fear that the delicacy evinced by Rhody in not proclaiming the news before Hector (who frequently treated him with contempt, because of his comparative poverty) was hardly appreciated as it deserved to be by his companions. Rhody felt his narrow means more acutely than could be imagined; he turned with a careless air from the confectioner's basket, when he would have liked a cake as well as any other boy, and kept looking straightforward, instead of into the toyshop or fruiterer's, knowing that his purse was indeed slender. He often longed to help Hector with his lessons, but he knew that if he did so his schoolmates would say he was mean; and Hector, seeing Rhody so anxious to help all except himself, felt much annoyed at being excluded from such valuable aid; but now matters, at least so the goodnatured Rhody thought, were much changed. “Number One” was now only one of three. He glided from the school-room, and met the wardrobe woman on the stairs, who said Master Howard would not suffer her to pack his trunk. The next moment Rhody was at the door of Hector's pretty bedchamber-he knocked, at first there was no answer, again, when there was a surly “ Come in,” and Rhody entered. Hector was standing beside his open trunk, some of his clothes lying on the floor, some in the drawers. : “What do you want?” inquired young Howard.
“I knew you were going home,” replied Rhody, “and thought I would come and help you."
"I do not want any help,” was the sulky reply.