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commence learning their Scripture lesson. At that moment a dull moan of pain caught my ear, causing me to think once more of the sufferer within.
How dull it must be, lying there, alone, with the double row of little white beds, and nothing to relieve the monotony of the bare walls, but the great sprawling pattern of the faded wall-paper. Just one more lingering look of regret through the window, as I placed my hand, hesitatingly, on the brass doorhandle.
Ah! stay! There is Willie Knowles going to join the other two; now, indeed, I must go.
With which resolution, I suddenly withdrew my hand from the door-handle, turning it, as I did so, with a sharp, unintentional jerk.
"Who's there?" cried a voice from within.
Should I reply? Or should I noiselessly make my escape? "Come in, do!" cried Rogers, again; peevishly this time, I thought.
So there was no help for it, and in I marched.
Oh, it's you, is it? And what do you want, pray? Why doesn't Bob North, or some one, come to see me?"
Rogers' disappointed tone, as he sank back again upon his pillows, so damped my spirits, that, with a fresh desire to effect a retreat, I racked my brains to invent an excuse for only remaining in the room a few minutes.
"Why, Bob is at home to-day, you know; this is Sunday." "So it is. And it was only last night that I did this!"and his voice died away in an almost inaudible murmur at his misfortune;-"I seem to have been lying here for days, already."
"Do you? I am so sorry."
"You-sorry? I know better! You are all glad enough to have me out of the way for a bit, I know," he said, bitterly. I did not make any reply, for his words had so nearly hit
the truth that I could think of nothing suitable with which to answer him. Presently he spoke again.
"Now you are here, you may as well stop a bit with me. It's awfully slow, lying here with nothing to look at but that rickety old washstand, or the flies crawling up the window panes, and slipping down again faster than they get up."
"I came for that," I said, shyly. me to stay with you?"
"Would you really like
"Shouldn't ask you if I didn't," was the curt rejoinder.
But I knew Rogers' ways pretty well by this time, and not to have met with an uncivil rebuff was an evidence of a new and strange feeling of kindness towards me on his part.
"I am afraid I cannot read well enough for you to care about my reading any book aloud," I said, despondingly.
"Oh, never mind the reading! I have been looking through those books all the morning, until I am sick of the sight of every one of them."
"But hasn't Miss Baxter been sitting with you, then?"
"Not since dinner-time: she has had quite enough of my company for one day, I'll warrant ! ”
Then, with a sudden, sharp cry of pain, he sank back upon his pillow, his eyes shut and his lips pressed tightly together. Frightened, and yet not daring to offer a word of sympathy, I stood watching him. Presently he reopened his eyes, and stared fixedly at his tied-up hand, without speaking.
"Does it hurt dreadfully?" I ventured to ask, timidly, but he vouchsafed no reply; so, seating myself upon a bed hard by, I waited patiently until he should choose to express some knowledge of my presence.
"What made you come?" he asked, by-and-by, without raising his eyes, in a voice which seemed to indicate that he was following out a certain train of thought.
"Oh! I don't know," I replied, rather puzzled how to answer; "I thought perhaps you might like to see some one."
"Yes? But then, you; I've always been such a brute to you."
"Not more than to some of the others," was the rejoinder on the tip of my tongue; but, fortunately, I checked myself just in time.
He lay still again, and neither of us spoke, until he continued, with an apparent effort,
"I am sorry that I sneaked of you and Harry Morland, that day."
I knew to what he alluded, well enough; but I don't think that I could have understood, then, how much such an admission must have cost him. Yet I was glad, now, that I had come in, and only regretted that my visit had not, in the end, been more of a voluntary character, and less the result of an accident.
"Oh! that was long ago!" I said, trying to laugh the matter off. "We have almost forgotten that by this time." And then, feeling awkward and shy, at the revival of so delicate a topic, I launched forth headlong into a fresh subject, with a bravery born of my very timidity-if such an apparent contradiction of terms can be justly reconciled.
"I tell you what!" said Rogers, as the tea-bell rang, and I rose to go downstairs, "I'll never be such a brute to you, again, as I have been; you're a regular little brick, that you are! And you'll come and see me again soon, won't you, eh?"
"All right!" I nodded, and with a bright face and a light heart, I slipped out of the room, and ran down the stairs two steps at a time, in spite of the difficulty which such a performance presented to my short legs.
"Really I can scarcely believe that I should ever have liked Rogers half so well," I thought, as I fell into the line which was already filing into the dining-room for tea. "The time seems to have slipped quite quickly and pleasantly away; perhaps, after all, I shall grow to be a 'peacemaker'-in time."
THE SCAMP TURNS SPY.
"BERNIE," whispered the Scamp to me, just as we were passing in to tea, two or three days afterwards, "come up into the Nut Walk, as soon as ever we are let out after tea; I want to speak to you about something private."
"All right, Sam; I'll come!" I whispered back, wondering, meanwhile, what on earth the Scamp could have to tell
So, in half an hour, running hastily to the appointed meeting-place, I discovered the Scamp eagerly conversing with Harry Morland,
"Are you willing to join in a spree to-night?" he said, breaking off in the midst of a sentence, and advancing to meet
"What is it?" I asked, cautiously.
"Come here!" he said, taking my hand; and leading me to the hedge at the end of the path, he pointed, through a gap in the shrubs, to a low building a short distance off.
"Do you see that shed, away down there ?"
"That is Ryland's place, where he keeps those wretched donkeys of his."
"Do you mean the 'Lanky Man,' who lives at the corner of the two lanes ? "
"That's him!" said the Scamp, ungrammatically-though we were profoundly unconscious of the fact.
"Well; and what then? "
"Why, that's where we are going to."
"Harry, and you, and I."
"I never said I should; what's the object?"
"Oh, but you will, won't you?" said the Scamp, persuasively, but ignoring my question. "I want you to go, ever so.Besides, you wouldn't be a little funk, would you?”
"No-o-o," I answered, dubiously, for scarcely any one likes being called a coward. "But what would She do to us, if we
were to get found out?"
It was a low standard on which to base the motives of one's actions, but it is almost invariably the first idea which, in some shape or form, suggests itself to the mind of the schoolboy, deliberately contemplating some forbidden adventure, and anxious to calculate all risks.
Oh, no fear! We shan't be caught; so come along, both of you."
"But what is the use?" I said, still hesitating.
"I'll tell you when we are there."
So, over-persuaded (alas! what a common failing that is-of following so easily where others lead), I plucked up courage, and pushed after the other two, through the gap in the hedge, and so out into the fields beyond.
We skirted the edge of this one, keeping well under the shelter of the high hedges, over the rickety gate, into the narrow lane, which, losing itself in the fields just above, was scarcely ever used, and was, consequently, in a deplorable condition of deep-worn ruts and hollow places, where the water lay in yellow, muddy puddles for weeks together in rainy weather.