THE time was a
little past the middle of the century; the "Great Exhibition" had
not long been over; the Metropolitan Railway had not yet begun to
burrow under London, encouraging the builders to plant swarms of
suburban villas far out into the fields; Londoners paid turnpikes
then before they could drive out for fresh air, and they commonly
contented themselves with a sojourn in the autumn at the sea-side,
or in Scotland, instead of, as a rule, rushing over and dispersing
themselves about the continent.
But Donald Johnstone decided to take his wife there that
autumn, baby, nurse, and all. First he would establish the
children at Dover; then he would propose to their mother that the
little Lancey—"boy," as he more frequently called himself—should be
sent to them, and have also the benefit of the change; then he would
take her away and reproduce for her their wedding tour.
This had been to Normandy and Brittany, where they had seen
quaint, sweet fashions, even then on the wane; beautiful clothes,
which those who have not already seen never will see; and peaked and
pointed habitations, so strange and so picturesque, that nothing but
a sojourn in them can make one believe them to be as convenient as
those of ugly make.
Estelle should see again the apple-gathering, the great
melons, and the purple grapes drawn into market with homely pomp;
the brown-faced girls gossiping beside their beautiful roofed wells,
dressed in garments such as no lady in the finest drawing-room puts
on at present; creatures like countrified queens, stepping after
their solitary cows, each one with the spindle in her hand. He
would take her to Coutances, and then on to Avranches, and there he
would unfold to her a certain plan.
She fretted much over the doubt, which at present no
investigation availed to solve. Time had not befriended her:
the more she thought, the more uncertain she became.
Yet he hoped that time might bring them enlightenment in the
end. He would take her to Avranches, where lived his only
sister, the widow of a general officer, who, from motives of
economy, had settled there, and did not often come to England.
In his opinion she was one of the most sensible women to be
met with anywhere—just the kind of creature to be trusted with a
secret—a little too full of theories, perhaps, almost oppressively
intelligent, active in mind and body, but a very fast friend, and
fond of his wife.
He felt that, if the two boys could be parted from Estelle
for three or four years, and be under the charge of his sister, it
would be more easy, at the end of that time, to decide which of them
had really the best claim to be brought up with his name and with
all the prospects of a son. It was quite probable that, in the
course of three or four years, such a likeness might appear in one
of the boys to some member of his family as would all but set the
matter at rest.
Nothing could be done if they remained in London, brought up
among his own friends, and known by name and person to every servant
about him. But if he left them at Avranches with his sister,
among French servants, who knew nothing about them—each known by his
pet name, and not addressed by any surname—and if they themselves
knew nothing about their parentage, there could be no injustice to
either in the choice the parents might eventually make, even though
they should decide not to take the child first sent home to them.
He was desirous, for his own sake as well as for theirs, that
they should hear of no doubt; that would be cruelty to the one not
chosen, causing him almost inevitable discontent and envy, while the
one chosen might himself become the victim of doubt, and never be
able to enjoy the love of his parents, or any other of his
advantages in peace.
"We must be their earthly providence," he said to his wife,
when he had unfolded this plan to her; "we must absolutely and
irrevocably decide for them. We must try fully to make up our
minds, and then, whichever we eventually take, we must treat
altogether as a son."
"And the other, Donald?"
"The other? I think one's best chance of peace in any
doubtful matter is not to do the least we can, but the most; we must
give them both the same advantages in all respects, and so care for,
and advance, and provide for, and love the other—so completely adopt
him, that if we should ever have the misfortune to find that, after
all, we have made a mistake, we may still feel that there was but
one thing more we could have given him, and that was our name."
"Then, even in that case, the choice having once been made,
you would keep to it?"
"What do you think, my star?"
"It would be a cruel thing on the one we had taken for our
own to dispossess him."
"Yes; but if we allowed things to stand, the loss and pain
would all be our own; they would be nothing to the other. Some
wrongs are done in spite of a great longing after the right, and
such I hold to be irrevocable."
"I see no promise of rest in any plan. Perhaps my best
chance will be to leave it altogether to you; you often talk of
casting our cares upon God. I have tried, but it does not seem
to relieve me of the burden. I can—I often do cast them upon
you, only I hope—"
"I hope your sister will not say, as your mother did when our
little Irene died, that it was one of those troubles which was
ordained to work for my good."
"She was only quoting Scripture."
"When she used to come and pray with me, and read with me, I
felt at last able to submit; and I found, as she had said, that
submission could take the worst sting of that anguish out of my
heart. But no one must talk so to me now. I have not
fallen into the hands of God, but into those of a wicked woman.
This is different."
"Is it, my wife?"
"Your sister may say it is a rebuke to me for having loved
this present life, and my husband, and my children too much, or she
may say it is a warning to me that these blessings can—oh, how
easily!—be withdrawn. I will try to bear it as a discipline,
as a punishment; let her teach me, if she can, to submit; but I
cannot bear to hear about blessings in disguise. My own little
son; he was the pride of my heart; and now, when I hold him in my
arms, and see the other playing at my feet, I wonder which has the
best right to me. I know that nothing can make up to me for
the doubt. I shall never be so happy any more!"
So she thought; but she was utterly devoid of morbid
feelings, and quite willing to let time do all for her that it
could. She had a sincere desire to be well and happy. A
woman, with any insight into man's nature, generally knows better
than to believe that, in the long-run, delicacy can be interesting,
and low spirits and sorrow attractive.
She did not aggravate herself with anger against the nurse.
She knew she was to part with both the boys for years, while a
doubtful experiment was tried. Yet she let herself be
refreshed by the sweet weather, the rural signs of peace and homely
abundance; and when she drove up to the quaint abode her
sister-in-law had made a home of, she could be amused with its
oddness; the tiled floors, numerous clocks, clumsy furniture, thick
crockery; the charming kitchen, full of bright pots and pans, so
much lighter and more roomy than the drawing-room; the laundry in
the roof; its orchard that stood it instead of a flower-garden,
almost every tree hoary with lichen, and feathery with mistletoe;
its little fish-pond and fountain, with a pipe like a quill, and its
wooden arbours, with all their great creaking weather-cocks.
And there was one little child, a girl, in the house—a small,
dimpled thing, about six months younger than the two boys.
That first evening passed off, and both husband and wife
shrank from entering on the subject of their thoughts. Mrs.
O'Grady, Charlotte by Christian name, was full of talk and interest
about all manner of things. She had the disadvantage of being
very short-sighted, and so missed the flashing messages and
expressive communications that passed between other eyes.
This defect makes many people more intellectual than they
otherwise would be, and less intelligent, throwing them more on
thought and less on observation. But in her case it was only a
question of wearing or not wearing her spectacles. When she
had them on, "all the world was print to her;" when they were off,
her remarks were frequently more sensible in themselves than
suitable to the occasion.
Politics, church parties, family affairs, the newest books,
the last scientific theories—nothing came amiss to her, every scrap
of information was welcome.
Mrs. Johnstone looked on rather listlessly, and soon it was
evident that her husband could not make an opening for the matter
that was in their thoughts. He was letting himself be amused
and interested while waiting for a more convenient season.
When they had retired, she said,―
"I shall be so much more easy, Donald, when you have managed
to tell her our story."
"But what was I to do?" he answered. "I could not
suddenly dash into her sentence with a 'by-the-bye,' as she does
herself. 'By-the-bye, Charlotte, we don't know whether one of
our children is, in fact, ours or not!"'
"That would at least astonish her into silence for a time."
The next morning just the same difficulty! They were in
the midst of a discussion before they knew that it had begun.
The baby was taken out after breakfast, by her nurse, into
the apple orchard.
"You have no servants who speak English, have you,
Charlotte?" asked Mr. Johnstone, thinking to open the matter.
"No," she answered; "and I prefer the French as servants, on
the whole, to the English. But I like that young Irish woman,
Estelle, that you have brought with your baby. There is
something sweet about her that one does not meet with here. Do
you know, I have long noticed that, of all modern people, the Irish
suffer least, and the French most, from the misery of envy?"
"Do you think so?" said her brother, only half listening.
"Yes, and hence the Irish chivalry towards the women of 'the
quality,' and the total absence of any such feeling in a Frenchman.
He, frugal and accumulative, thinks, 'I am down because you are up.'
The poor Frenchman would rather all were down than that any should
have what he has not; but it is the material advantages of those
well off that he envies them; but the poor Irishman, wasteful and
not covetous, could not do without something to admire. One of
these two takes in anguish through his eyes, whenever he casts them
on beauty or riches not his; the other takes in consolation through
his eyes. He is not wholly bereaved of grandeur or loveliness
if he may look on them, and he troubles himself little that they are
not his own."
"When demagogues leave him alone!" her brother put in.
"It is singular, though," she continued, gliding on with
scarcely any pause, "that though the Irish can do best without
education and culture, they repay it least, they are least changed
by it. Now the English, of all people, can least do without
culture and education, and repay them most. What a brute and
what a dolt a low Englishman frequently is! but a low Irishman is
often a wit, and full of fine feelings."
"Marry an Irishman," said the brother, with a smile, "and
speak well of the Irish ever after."
"Of course! I always used to say, 'Give me an Irish
lover and a Scotch cousin.'"
"Why an Irish lover?"
"Because he is sure to marry me as soon as he can, just as a
Scotch cousin, if he gets in anywhere, is sure to do his best to get
me in too."
"You want nothing English, then?"
"Yes, certainly, give me an English housemaid. Let a
French woman nurse me when I am ill, let an English woman clean me
my house, and an Englishman write me my poetry! For it is a
curious thing," she went on, "that sentiment and poetic power never
go together. The French are rich in sentiment and very poor in
poets. How rich in sentiment the Irish are, and how poor the
English! We call the Irish talk poetical, yet Ireland has
never produced a poet even as high as the second order. How
far more than the lion's share England has of all the poetry written
in the English tongue—or, if you speak of current poetry, you might
add, 'and in all other tongues.'" Here she chanced to put on
her spectacles, and immediately came to a full-stop.
"Well?" said her brother; but she was no more to be lured on,
when she could see, than stopped when she could not. His
chance had come.
"If you will put on your bonnet, Charlotte," he said, "we
will go out about the place. I have something important—to
us—to say to you."
She rose instantly with the strange sense of defect and
discomfiture that she often felt when her spectacles showed her
other people's eyes, and thus that she had been at fault because her
own were not better.
It was a difficult story to tell, and at first she could not
be made to believe that all had been done which could be done.
An unsolvable doubt seemed just as unbearable to her as it
had done to the mother. She sat down on a bench in the apple
orchard with nothing to say and nothing to propose.
"I do not believe this thing ever was done," she said
hesitatingly at last. "I think the nurse's baseness began and
ended when she planted this horrid doubt in your hearts. She
foresaw that it would rid her of her own child. What could you
do but take him?"
"But you have told me this," she presently said, "because you
think I can help you?"
"Yes, you can help us—what we want is to gain time."
He then unfolded his plan. Each of the little fellows
called himself by a pet name. One went in the nursery by the
name of "Middy," so called after a favourite sailor-doll they had;
the other generally called himself "Boy."
If they could be taken charge of till they were five or six
years old, and the parents denied themselves all intercourse with
them during those years, it was not in nature that the one truly
theirs should not show some strong likeness either to one of his
parents or to some of his brothers and sisters—for there might well
be both by that time—or a likeness as to voice or even disposition
might show itself; and, failing that, there was the other child.
He might begin to betray his parentage; the Johnstone had no
likeness of Aird but could never forget his wife.
An irrevocable choice must be made at the end of that time;
and when the father and mother came over to make it, neither child
would have heard anything about his story. The one selected
would soon return their love and subside into his place with the
unquestioning composure of childhood, and the other would be equally
contented with his position, having long forgotten all about his
native country and his earliest friends.
Little more than a week after this, Mr. Johnstone was sitting
on the sands of a small French bathing-place, his sister with him.
He had brought over the two tiny boys, and they were playing at
their feet, while Mrs. O'Grady scanned them eagerly.
"Yours—I mean the one you call 'Middy'—is the most like our
family, and like you in particular," she observed.
"Yes, we think so."
"And he is the one whom you brought up till the nurse herself
put it into your heads that he might not be yours?"
"The other has slightly darker eyelashes and browner hair
than either yours or Estelle's."
"Of course we have noticed that."
"And yet you doubt?"
"We fancy that 'Boy' is a little like our dear child Irene."
"Estelle says she wants me to dress them precisely alike, and
treat them absolutely alike."
"Yes, we have decided on that. We shall leave
photographs behind us. When they see these in your book, they
can be told to call them father and mother. And we shall never
take these names from either, but only teach one of them to
understand that he is an adopted child."
The parting with the boys was very bitter to Mrs. Johnstone.
She held each to her heart with yearnings unutterable, though, as
was but natural, only one fretted after her at all, and that for a
very little while.
And when they were brought into the quaint house near
Avranches, it was doubtful whether either had the intelligence to be
surprised. One was perfectly fearless, and found out directly
that the "'Stupid mans and womans could not talk to 'Boy;"' the
other listened to the babble about him with infantile scorn, and
sometimes, baby as he was, showed himself a true-born Briton by
laughing at it.
But that stage of their life was soon over; their French
nurse made them understand her very shortly, and before they had
discovered that little Charlotte's English was worse than their
French, she was taken away—gone to Ireland to her grandmother, as
they were told. They thought this was a pity; her mother with
a touch of bitterness, thought so too; but the, grandmother had long
urged it, promising to provide for the little Charlotte, and but
that the Johnstones had known of her intended absence, they would
not have proposed their plan.
The poor must do—not what they would, but—what they can.
Even if her little Charlotte was left unprovided for at the
grandmother's death, the mother felt that here was a chance of
saving several hundred pounds for her. Donald Johnstone's
payment was to be liberal in proportion to the importance of the
interest at stake. And, in the meantime, the little Charlotte
cost her mother nothing, and the two boys were just as happy
together when she was gone.
They had not been a year in France before they spoke French
as well as French children, which is not saying much. In less
than another year they spoke their English with a French accent,
loved their nurse more than any living creature, excepting one
another, and had altogether lost the air of English children, for
their clothes were worn out, and they wore instead the frilled
aprons and baggy trousers of the country; their hair was cropped
perfectly short, as is there the mode, and every article they had
about them was equally tasteless and unbecoming.
But their toys were charming.
Their aunt, as they both called her, was careful to awaken in
their infant minds a certain enthusiasm for England; they had many
pictures of English scenes in their nursery. The nurse also
did her part; she frequently talked to them about the dear papa and
mamma, caused them to kiss the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone
every night before they went to bed, and instilled into them
something of the peculiar French tenderness and sentiment towards a
They both loved this pretty mother, and they grew on in
health and peace till they were nearly five years old, about which
time it became evident that the Johnstones could not make up their
minds to be absent much longer.
Mrs. O'Grady had not, for some time past, found it possible
to doubt which was her brother's child, but she loyally forbore to
make the least difference in her treatment of them, or to convey any
hint to her brother.
And now the children were told that dear father and mother
were coming, and this important news was a good deal connected in
their minds with the growth of their own hair. It was much too
long now, their nurse said, but English boys wore it so. They
thought it would have been impossible for father and mother to come
and see them while it had been cropped so short. Their aunt
also had sent to London for complete suits of children's dress for
them. Their nurse was very gracious as regarded these.
Melanie the cook, came up to see them dressed
à l'Anglais; she agreed with
her that there was much to be said in favour of the English style.
Certainly, but for these clothes, the dear father and mother would
never have taken the trouble to come; it was to be hoped they would
How slight was the feeling of the children as to this
expected interview! how intense were the feelings of the parents!
A door opened, and a pretty little boy, who knew nothing of
their arrival, came dancing into a room where were seated a lady and
a gentleman close together.
In an instant he knew them, and stood blushing. Then
that lady said,―
"Come on, sweet boy!" and he advanced and kissed her hand,
and that gentleman looked at him—oh, so earnestly!
This was the dear mother; she had tears in her eyes, and she
took him on her knee, and kissed his little face and head, and
stroked his hair. So did the dear father.
"Did he know them?"
"Oh, yes, and he and Middy had wanted them to come for a long
while. The dear mother was quite as pretty as he had
expected," he continued looking up at her. He spoke in French,
and paid her a little French compliment as naturally as possible.
Then he blushed again with pleasure as she caressed him, and was
glad he had all his best things on.
After a time, his aunt came in, and quietly took him out of
"I should not have known him, he is so much grown and
altered," sighed Mrs. Johnstone; "but he has made it evident that it
is Middy whom we have not seen."
"This is a most lovable, pretty little fellow," said the
"And not at all unlike our little Irene," she answered.
But, in a minute or two, another child, equally unconscious
of what awaited him, opened the same door, and marched boldly in.
A sudden thrill shook the hearts of both. The child paused,
drew back, and trembled: then he put up his arm before his face, and
burst into tears.
What it was that he felt or feared, it would have been quite
past his power to express; but the dear mamma was there; she had
tears in her eyes; was she going to kiss him? He did not know
what to say; what should he do?
He could not look, he was crying so; and somebody carried him
to her, and put his arms round her neck, and called him his dear
"Mamma, I never meant to cry," he presently said, with all
naïveté—and mother was crying too, and so was father—well! it was
very extraordinary, when he thought he should have been so glad.
And presently he was very glad because they were kind.
They said they had wanted him so much for such a long time,
and he should go to England—go home and see his dear little sisters.
They said he was just like the others, and there was a baby brother
at home; he must teach him to play. So Middy was very happy
indeed, as in a child's paradise he nestled close to the long-lost
mother, and admired his father, and thought how nice it would be to
go to England with them.
It would have been hard to doubt any more; the little
flaxen-haired fellow was so like the children at home; they were so
vastly more drawn to him than to the other, and yet he too was
greatly altered. He was not such a fine child for his years as
when they had left him. But if they could have doubted, his
own love and agitation would have settled all. The shy and yet
delighted gaze, his contentment in their arms, the manner in which
he seemed to have thought of them,—all helped them to a thankful
certainty. The mother had not been without her sorrows.
Since the parting she had lost two more little girls in infancy, and
had longed inexpressibly to have her boy back again.
Charlotte came in at last; she still had him in her arms.
There was no mistaking the father's look of contentment.
Charlotte had her spectacles on, and saw the state of the case at
"Of course," she exclaimed; "how could it be otherwise?
I am afraid, Middy, father and mother will be rather shocked when I
tell them that you have forgotten your other name."
"I thought I was Middy," answered the child.
Of course he did! Great pains had been taken to prevent
his thinking anything else.
"But that is a baby-name, my sweet boy! Don't you know
what your father's name is?"
"Well, then, you are Donald too."
I NEVER had any
doubt which of the children was yours," observed Mrs. O'Grady the
"It was the more good of you to say nothing, then," replied
"But now I hope you really feel at peace?"
"Yes, at peace; but, in order to do so, I must adopt your
theory, and believe that Maria Aird or her second husband invented
the story of the changing of the children,—that supposes baseness
enough but how far easier to do than to effect a real change!"
"And you, Donald?" asked his sister.
"My dear, I suppose myself to be quite satisfied which is my
child; but I am not satisfied to leave the other out of my care and
influence for an hour."
"It is certainly time Donald was taken home," observed his
sister; "he is a complete little Frenchman. And you would not
like to leave Lancey, then, in my charge a little longer?"
"If I had no other reason I should still think it his right
to be brought up as an Englishman also."
"Then he must not breathe this air and eat this diet much
longer. Race has not half so much to do with national
character as people think! Why, some of the English families
brought up here by English parents talk like the French, and cannot
produce the peculiarly soft sound of the English 'r,' they either
ring it or slur it over."
"Companionship, my dear, nothing more."
"But Charlotte would not deny herself the society of her one
child, unless she felt what she has been saying very strongly," said
Donald Johnstone looked at his wife. Tall, placid,
fair, she was at work on a piece of knitting, and took her time
about it. All her movements spoke of tranquillity, and she
observed what was going on about here. Then he looked at his
sister, who was netting. Even the movements of her small ivory
shuttle had an energetic jerk which seemed to suit the somewhat
eager flash and sparkle of her clear hazel eyes; her thoughts were
swift, her words were urgent for release, she longed to spread her
theories, and scarcely noticed how they were received if she could
but produce them.
"No, Estelle, companionship is not all; your boys have hardly
any companions, English or French, but they do not play half so
boisterously, and they are not half so full of mischief as they
would be if they had been brought up in equal seclusion on English
soil. The French child is more tame in early childhood than
the English. It is France that does this, not his race."
"You really think so?"
"Of course I do; the world is full of facts that bear on this
point. In many parts of Germany, the men have a most unfair
advantage over the women. They are better made, taller in
proportion; they are far more intellectual, and you must admit,
Donald, that they are handsomer. All this mainly results from
the superior diet of the men, specially in the towns. Many of
them regularly dine out excellently well, leaving their women-folk
at home to cabbage-soup and cheap sausages."
"Mean hounds!" exclaimed Donald Johnstone, laughing.
"Yes, but unless the climate of Germany had already caused an
inferiority in the women, they would not allow themselves to be so
'put upon.' It is the intense cold of their winter, together
with poor diet, which dwarfs and deteriorates the women; the same
cold, with good food, braces the men. There is no nation in
Europe where the height, strength, and wits of the sexes are so
equal as in France. In fact, I think the French woman has the
best of it! It is partly the excellent climate—not hot enough
to enervate, not damp to induce them to drink—and partly it is the
excellent food. Soil influences air—air influences food: these
together influence manners, and are more, on the whole, than
"I shall always feel, Charlotte, that you have a right to
preach to us, and to put forth as many theories as you please," said
Donald Johnstone, when at last she came to a pause.
"Because you feel that there is a great deal in what I say?"
Then she put on her spectacles, and caught a smile, half
amused, half tender, flitting over her sister-in-law's face.
Her brother was openly laughing at her.
"Not at all," he replied, "but because you are, as you always
have been, the best of sisters and the most staunch of friends.
You can understand people; you are willing, and able too, to help
them in their own way." Then, observing that she was a little
touchy and not at all pleased, he quietly stepped out over the low
window, and left her to his wife, for he knew that it would be
difficult for him to set matters straight again.
The two little fellows were very docile children, and less
independent than English boys of their age.
"Donald," as Mrs. O'Grady was now careful to call him,
"Donald has fewest faults, but he is the least interesting.
Lancey is a very endearing child."
"Has he any special fault?" asked Mrs. Johnstone.
"Well," she answered, "I hardly know what to say about that."
Mrs. Johnstone looked up a little surprised; her
sister-in-law appeared to speak with a certain caution. "He is
a very endearing little fellow," she repeated.
"But if he has any special childish fault, I ought to know
"Yes, my dear. Well, I must be very careful not to make
a mountain of a mole-hill, and you must try, if I tell you what has
occurred, not to think too much of it. He was but a baby,
Estelle, when he first did it."
"Did what, Charlotte?"
"But I have taken great pains not to make light of it, and
also, I could not let you know, because it is a fault so rare in our
rank of life, that it would have appeared to be a telling piece of
evidence against him in your mind. It would have diminished
Estelle coloured with anxiety.
"The fact is, he has several times taken little articles that
were not his own, and appropriated them. They were things of
no great value. Can this be hereditary? Were the father
and mother honest?"
"I cannot tell. But what a fault, Charlotte! Does
little Donald know?"
"Yes, but you need not be afraid for him. Lancey was
scarcely more than three years old when, walking home from the town
one day with his bonne, a minute toy was found in his hand
that he could give no account of. They had been into several
shops, but I never supposed that he had taken it. I thought
some child must have dropped it, and that he had picked it up on the
road. But, a few weeks after, I was in the market, bargaining
for some oranges. I saw Lancey, who was with me, looking red
and roguish, and was very much vexed when I found that he had
snatched up an orange, and evidently meant to carry it off. The
woman, with nods and winks, pointed this out to me; she evidently
regarded it as a joke. I told her how wrong she was to laugh
at him, made him give it back, and for several days, in order to
impress his fault on his little mind, I deprived him of his usual
dessert, though the oranges were always on the table."
"This was two years ago?"
"Then I am afraid it is not all."
"It was nearly all that I know of till last Christmas, when
Donald sent over a box with some English school-books, and a number
of little presents for the boys; among these were two silver medals.
Middy lost his almost at once, and there were great searchings for
it. Lancey helped to look, but it could not be found; then,
one night after they were both asleep, la bonne was turning
out the pockets of their little coats for the wash, and the two
medals rolled out of Lancey's coat. One had been tucked into
the lining. Poor little fellow! when I took him alone into my
room the next morning, and showed them to him without saying a word,
he wept piteously. And, Estelle, I believe he is cured.
It was very touching to see the distress of both the little fellows
when I made Lancey give back the medal and confess to Donald that he
had taken it. Donald is much the most affectionate of the two,
and when Lancey saw how much he was shocked and how sorry he was for
him, he seemed to think all the more of his fault himself. I
did all I could to deepen the impression, to show them the sin of
stealing, and the punishment too. For several days they were
both very triste. Then Lancey said to me, "When
Middy says his prayers to-night, he's going to ask God to
forgive me.' I could do no less than say I was sure God would
forgive him. But I have not let the matter drop; and you must
be on the watch, Estelle, to help the poor little fellow against
himself." And so, with all tenderness, the childish fault was
told, everything that watchful love could do being extended to
Lancey afterwards, and to all appearance he was cured, and as a
rule, was a better boy than his foster-brother.
The two little Frenchmen were brought back to their native
isle. At first, they took it amiss that there was no soup at
the nursery breakfast, but then the nurse never expected to have
hold of their hands when they walked out. And the dogs did not
understand them; they thought this must be on purpose; but, on the
other hand, they were allowed indeed, they were encouraged—to climb
the trees, and the cher père
had given them some spades and a wheelbarrow. There were no
drums, swords, and shrill French pipes to parade the garden with,
but these spades were better than nothing. The cher père
said they might dig as deep as they liked with them.
"But the clay would stain their new coats."
"Oh, that could not be helped!"
"Might they dig down to the middle of the world, then?"
"Certainly, if they could."
They began to think England was a nice place to live in, and
after a short sojourn in it contrived to make as much noise, and do
as much mischief as any other two little urchin breathing, for they
were in the Country now. The cher père
had a rambling, homely old house in the country, and there they
gradually mastered English, learning it from the little sisters,
though they continued, to the great scandal of the servants, to
jabber French, and tutoyer one another when they were
Childhood is long to the child, and his growth is slow,
though to his parents he appears to "shoot up."
Donald and Lancey shot up, and neither of them showing the
slightest taste for any branch of learning whatever, they gave their
governess a great deal of trouble.
The nurse said there never were two such young Turks.
That was partly because, being of the same age and size, whatever
piece of mischief attracted one, the other was always ready to help
him in. Then the little girls were always trying to imitate
them. It made them so rude "as never was." As to the
nursery children, specially Master Freddy, who would have been as
good as gold but for them, they took delight in leading him astray,
and had taught him to speak French too, on purpose that she might
not understand what they said to him.
Master Freddy kept his seventh birthday without having had
any broken bones to rue, which was wonderful considering the
diligence with which he had studied the manners and actions of his
two brothers as they were always called. But, about this time
they were sent off rather suddenly to school, it beings at last
allowed by governess, nurse, and even mother, that they were past
Mrs. Johnstone was excessively fond of them both,
None of the anguish of doubt remained. Her boy was her
own, and he was intensely fond of her; yet towards Lancey she felt a
never-satisfied yearning. She was rather more indulgent to him
than to Donald, as if she could never forget her period of
uncertainty; and if there was a soft place in Lancey's heart—which
is doubtful, for little boys are often hard-hearted mortals—it was
probably reserved for her. It was certainly to her that he
always complained when he had any grievance against the nurse, and
in her arms that he cried when the governess punished him for any
grave delinquency by making him stop in doors on a half-holiday.
Lancey remembered long after he went to school (that is to
say for nearly six weeks) how dear mother had talked to him when he
was in his little bed the night before he went. She kissed him
a great many times, and she cried, and he promised he would be so
good, and never make her unhappy by doing naughty things. And
then she talked to Donald. And Donald declared that he was
never going to get into any mischief any more; he would promise her
that he never would, and he would always say his prayers; and he
would never fight with the other boys—at least he wouldn't if he
could help it; and certainly he would never tell a lie whether he
could help it or not.
The house in Upper Harley Street was a far more comfortable
abode when they were gone, and they saw very little of it for
several years to come, their holidays always taking place when the
family was in the country.
As to their entrance on school life it was much like that of
other little boys. It was rather a large preparatory school to
which Mr. Johnstone took his son and his adopted son, both the
little fellows chubby, brave, according to their years, truthful,
and idle. They had a box of cakes and other prog with
them. He knew better than they did what would become of it.
They had also plenty of money. He did not, of course, expect
that they could have much to do with the spending of it, but he
found out two of the bigger boys, whose fathers he was acquainted
with, gave each a handsome tip, turned his fledglings over to them,
and left them, feeling the parting, on the whole, more than they
Under the auspices of these their new friends, the two little
boys, when their own prog had been consumed, were privileged to put
their money into a common purse, which happened just then to be
nearly empty; a great deal more prog, some of it very wholesome, was
then bought and consumed, after which the school sat in judgment on
the new boys, kicked some of their caps round the playground, and
ordered them never to wear them any more; tore up some of their
books as being only fit for the nursery, and then decided that such
a name as Donald Johnston was not to be borne. There
had been another boy whose name was so spelt, but he called it
Johnson, why couldn't this fellow do the same. Yes, it was a
troublesome name to pronounce—not really long, of course—but it
sounded long. It was an uppish name; they were sure he was
proud of it. Half of it was quite enough for any fellow; from
henceforth he should be called Don John.
Don John accepted the verdict, and took it in good part.
His father had impressed on both the boys that they must never be
"cheeky," or it would be the worse for them. He thought when
they next decreed that Lancey should be called Sir Lancelot, that
they were rather inconsistent, but he did not take the liberty to
say so, and the two little fellows made their way pretty well on the
whole, seldom getting into trouble, except by a too ardent
championship of one another. To learn how to disguise this,
their only deep affection, was their first lesson in duplicity.
Always to take one another's part, right or wrong, when they
dared, was their natural instinct; their fealty and devotion was far
stronger than that felt by most true brothers, they were never known
to quarrel. They were always side by side in their class,
because Lancey would not learn as fast as he might have done, lest
he should outstrip Don John, and get into a higher form; and they
were always together in their play, because Don John did not care to
outdo Lancey, and have to be with stronger boys instead of with him.
But the longing for companionship, a certain camaraderie
as they would have called it, was not Don John's only reason for
keeping close to Lancey. For a long while the childish fault
had been almost forgotten; if ever alluded to, it was by Lancey
himself; but when the boys were twelve years old, and had just
returned to school after the Easter holidays, Don John showed
symptoms of illness, and was seized upon and sent home again
He had the measles, and was away for nearly six weeks.
There never was much the matter with him, and he returned; but in a
day or two a very slight something, he hardly knew what it was,
seemed to let him know that Lancey was watched, and that he knew it.
Lancey did not meet his eye; that alone was strange.
An opinion seemed to be floating in the air that it was
better not to leave things about. It was hardly expressed, but
it was acted on, and the first hint he saw of such action drove the
blood to Don John's heart; he remembered the medal.
The next day the two boys were alone together in a class-room
for one minute. Don John looked at Lancey, and putting his
head down on the high desk, whispered with a long sigh that was
almost a sob,―
"They don't know anything against you, do they, Lancey?"
"No," answered the other little fellow in a frightened
whisper, and feigning to be busy with his dictionary. "Don't
seem to be talking to me. They only suspect."
Lancey's guilt was thus taken for granted, and confessed at
A boy, dashing into the class-room, called them out to
"Where are the things, then?" sobbed Don John again.
"Can't they be found?"
"I've buried them," replied Lancey, and they darted out
together, pretending to be eager for the game.
As the two passing one another were for an instant apart from
the rest, Don John cried out,—"Where?"
"You can't get them out," replied Lancey, as after an
interval they passed each other again. "I buried them in the
garden, and you know the door is almost always locked."
"Say whereabouts it was," answered Don John. But the
two did not meet any more till the game was over.
"What do you want to get them out for?" asked Lancey, as
crest-fallen and sad they left the cricket-field together.
"Because I know one of them is Marsden's watch. You
always said last half that it was a far better watch than either of
ours. He never will rest till he gets it, or till they find
He spoke in French, using the familiar "tu." He was not
angry with him, and the other was less ashamed than afraid.
"He only suspects," repeated Lancey, sick at heart, and
already feeling the truth of those words. "The wages of sin
"And I took some money too—Oh, Don, how could I do it?"
"You might have known I should have plenty when I came back.
Why couldn't you wait?"
"I don't know. I took two sovereigns, one was an
Australian sovereign. He left them on his locker, and when he
was telling the boys that it was gone, he said he knew that was not
a safe place to have put it on, and he looked at me.
"Then we must get back that very sovereign," said Don John;
"one of mine will not do."
Lancey said no, they only suspected him, and he knew the
misery that came of taking things he should never do it any more.
He then explained exactly where he had buried the watch and the two
sovereigns. On the head-master's birthday they always had a
holiday, and were allowed to range all over the place. While
he was walking about in the garden on that day, miserable on account
of what Marsden had just said, he found that the other boys had
fallen back from him, and then dispersed themselves; he was quite
alone. He hastily pushed a hole in some loose earth, close to
a melon-frame, by which he was standing, dropped in the watch and
the money, and with his foot covered them just as some boys drew
near. It was five days since this had occurred, and the first
shower would probably uncover this property again. In the
evening of that very day Don John had come back with lots of prog,
lots of money. "And then," said Lancey, "I wished I hadn't
Don John burst out with,―
"If you were found out, you would be—" he stopped awe-struck.
"I know," said Lancey, "and father would be sent for―O
what shall I do—and mother would know too."
"It was wicked," answered Don John "I won't go to sleep all
night thinking what we can do. It was wicked; it was worse
than being a cad."
Yes, Lancey felt that it was worse than being a cad.
Human language could go no further; they had both, as it were, made
their confession, and their minds for the moment were a little
THE morning after
this conversation two remarkable things occurred.
There were four other boys in the dormitory where Don John
slept; these were Lancey, Marsden, and two younger fellows.
When they began to get up, Don John complained that his left
arm hurt him horribly. It was very much swollen, and he could
not dress himself.
The weather was hot, the boys had been out rather late the
previous evening in the playing-field. Don John was a great
climber, he confessed to having had a fall; he must have sprained it
then, Marsden said. He seemed to have no opinion to give on
His room-mates gave him a good deal of awkward help, which
hurt him very much; but when they found that his jacket could not be
put on, they went and fetched their Dame, and she took him away.
Don John asked if Lancey might come too.
"Oh, not by no means; he was better by half by himself."
So she bore him off to a little study set apart for such
contingencies as hurts and accidents which were distinct from
illness, and there she much consoled him for his pain by giving him
a little pot of hot tea all to himself, two eggs, and a plate of
buttered toast. He felt much better after this, but he
Presently the head-master came in, and with a surgeon.
"How had he managed to hurt himself so much?,
"He had been climbing a tree, and he could not get down, so
he sprang from the end of a bough, and fell on his arm."
"Then it did not hurt him much at first?"
"No, it felt quite numb."
Neither asked when this had taken place; that it had been
just before going to bed the night before was taken for granted.
Yet the surgeon did testify a little surprise.
"It's extraordinary what boys will sleep through," he
"You should have mentioned it last night, my boy," said the
master kindly. "Why didn't you?"
Don John said nothing, but he turned pale.
"It gives you a good deal of pain, doesn't it?" he proceeded.
"It didn't, sir, until I began to talk about it," answered
In fact he could not bear the pain and the fear of detection
together; he began to tremble visibly.
But he had much worse pain to bear before the surgeon had
done with him, for it was found that his wrist was badly sprained,
and that the small bone of the upper arm was broken.
Soon after this the other remarkable thing occurred.
At twelve o'clock, when the boys came out of school, their
Dame asked to see Marsden.
"Master Marsden, you're mighty careless of your things," she
exclaimed, when he and some of the other boys came running up.
"I was just a having your dormitory cleaned out, and when we moved
the box atop of your locker, look here—if there wasn't your watch
and the two sovereigns behind it that you've been making a work
Marsden took these things and blushed as he had never blushed
in his life before; what to do he did not know; but Lancey just then
passing by and looking as usual crestfallen and miserable, he obeyed
a good impulse,―
"I say, Sir Lancelot," he exclaimed, "look here, I must be an
uncommon stupid ass!"
Lancey looked with all his might, there was the Australian
sovereign, and there was the watch and the other sovereign.
"They were found at the back of my box!" proceeded Marsden.
"I could have declared I had looked there, but it seems I didn't."
A friendly boy at that instant stepped up, stared him full in
"Hold your tongue," he whispered, "we were mistaken; don't
let out that we suspected him."
"They were found at the back of my box," repeated Marsden.
"Oh, were they," said Lancey, "well I'm glad you've got them
again," moderate and quiet words, but his gratitude was deep; he was
"Of course it's nothing to you," said the blundering Marsden,
"but I thought you'd like to know."
Several other boys in an equally blundering spirit betrayed
their former suspicions by making like speeches, and showing a
sudden desire to play with Lancey.
Nobody but Don John, he was sure, could have done this—but
This was how; but Lancey did not know it till some time
The boys went to bed as usual, and the others—even poor
Lancey—soon fell asleep. Don John then began to carry out the
hardest part of his projected task; this was to keep himself awake
till the dead time of the night, for he well knew that if he once
went to sleep he should not wake till he was called in the morning.
He sat upright in his little bed and cogitated. There
were three ways of getting into the garden; and once in there were
several ways out, but they were all difficult.
It was well-known that to get in otherwise than by the door,
you must go through the kitchen, which involved a long tramp down
dark passages, and a great risk of making a noise. Or if you
did not go that way you must descend the principal staircase (which
had a nasty trick of creaking), and go past the headmaster's own
bedroom door; or, finally, you might creep along the corridor and
descend by the wash-house roof. This, in hot weather, when the
corridor window was wide open, was by far the shortest and easiest
way, but then, unless the garden-door, which was always locked
inside had the key in it, how should he get out and get back again?
He could not come through the kitchen, the bar would be up; and that
he could only remove on the other side. He could jump down
from the washhouse roof, but he could not get up to it again without
a short ladder, which would betray him. Even if he could
surmount that difficulty it was doubtful whether he should not make
more clatter in creeping up the tiles than in creeping down.
Therefore, if the garden door was locked, he would have to
climb to the top of the high garden wall, by the branches of the
trained fruit-trees upon it, and creep along the top of the wall
till he reached a certain tree whose branches hung out over it, from
one of these he must spring, or drop himself down as well as he
could. He would then be in the playground. To break a
pane of glass, and so undo the fastening of a window, push up the
sash, get in, shut it down again, and softly come upstairs to his
little chamber all these things had to be done successfully, if
Lancey was to be saved.
And if he himself was found out, what would happen?
"Why, if he had the watch and the two sovereigns upon him, it
would appear that he was the thief, and, moreover, that he had
committed the high misdemeanour of getting out at night, perhaps to
perpetrate more thefts. Certainly for no possible good
purpose. Perhaps it would end in his being expelled; and
mother—" Here Don John choked a little.
"But then if he did not do it, Lancey in the end was sure to
be found out, then he would be expelled. And father—"
Here he choked again. "Well it's no use funking or
arguing," said Don John to himself, "because you know it's going
to be done, and you're going to do it."
It was almost like a nightmare when he thought of it
afterwards, but he certainly enjoyed the deed while it was adoing.
To slip out of bed, listen all breathless, and watch his
room-mates, while the clock in the corridor, the wheezing old clock,
swung its clumsy pendulum, this was the only difficult thing he
really had to do. It was the beginning; his own assurance to
himself that the daring thing was to be attempted.
But a stealthy exultation in the strangeness of the adventure
was damped by that obtrusive tick. The old clock was
disagreeably wide awake; it seemed quite vicious enough to run down
just at the decisive moment, and wake the second master, who
might—who naturally would think a boy must be at that moment
climbing down by the washhouse roof into the garden.
It seemed equally natural that he should look out, and catch
No, that clock must be stopped at all risks. He stole
out of the open door and along the bare corridor, full of dim
moonlight and confused sounds of snoring.
A childish figure in a long white night gown; he stopped
before the clock, and gently opening its door, seized the great
pendulum in his hand, and with one long gasping click the clock
stopped. Then was his real danger; the cessation of a noise so
often wakes people, yet nobody did wake, not even the master.
What a wicked boy he was! he felt as if he had choked off the
incorruptible witness. He held the pendulum squeezed hard in
his hand for two or three minutes, then stole back to his room and
put on his clothes.
Often in his dreams it all came back to him afterwards; how
he had tied his slippers together, and slung them round his neck,
and how, as he got out there was a white cat on the washhouse roof.
In the dim light, her eyes gleamed on him strangely. He all
but slipped—yet no—he reached the eave, and jumped down safely into
the soft mould underneath. Then he stooped and put on his
slippers, and effaced the marks of his feet in the mould.
The cat had jumped down after him, and was looking on.
Here he was in the garden at one o'clock in the morning, and the
moon was fast going down.
How beautiful those tall white lilies were. The,
enjoyed themselves in secret all through the night, gave out their
scent, drank in the dew, and never let men and women find out that
the night-time was their life and their day. The great evening
primroses, too, white and yellow, were in their glory, and it seemed
as if they also were keeping it secret, and still. The cat was
very jealous of his being out to see it all. It would be very
unlucky for cats if people in a body should discover how much more
jolly it was to be oust in the warm golden mist of moonlight, when
all was so fresh and sweet, than tucked up in their heated bedrooms
under the low ceiling that shut out the stars,
Don John shared in the still stealthy delight of the flowers;
he knew all was easy till he had to get into the house again, and he
put off thinking about that till the last moment. But the moon
was fast southing; it behoved him to be quick, unless he meant to
stay out till day dawned. So with a beating heart he went
softly across the dewy lawn among the wet flowers, the cat following
him every step of the way, and looking on, while he secured the
plunder, while he effaced the traces of his search, while he climbed
the wall by means of the spread-out branches of a fig-tree, and
while he softly crept along the top.
Oh, to be a cat for two minutes then; for cats never slip,
and cats can see even under the branches in the dimness of a summer
Don John sprang into the tree successfully, but whether he
mistook a branch for a shadow, or whether the white cat, springing
after, startled him, he never knew, but the next instant he was on
the grass at the foot of this tree, and his arm was under him.
He was on the right side of the wall, in the playground, that
was his first thought.
He felt as if he had no arm, it was so perfectly numb.
He was very cold, but presently thinking of himself, far more as a
sneak than a hero, he got up and crept slowly towards the house.
"I'm glad I'm not obliged to be a burglar, too," he said to
himself, as he drew near, for a window was partly open, and he could
get in without breaking a pane.
He had got the watch and the two sovereigns, but now the deed
was done there seemed to be no glory in it, that was perhaps because
he had hurt himself. He stole up to his little bed, thinking
what a bad boy he had been to have thought the first part of the
adventure such rare fun. But now neither he nor Lancey would
be expelled, that was something. It was as much as they could
expect, and they must make the best of it.
It always seemed to him afterwards as if the cat understood
the whole matter better than Lancey did. Have cats a natural
sympathy with wickedness? probably they have, for the cat was the
fast friend of Don John from that day forward; and when his "dame"
came in would march in after her, gravely inspect his sling, and
smell at his nice savoury dinner.
And Lancey? Why, Lancey at first was very much
relieved, and also very sorry that Don John was hurt, but both the
boys felt,—one as much as the other, that to have a broken arm, was
as nothing compared with being expelled, and it did not signify to
either, which had the broken arm so much as it should have done.
Father and mother now would never know. What real gratitude
Lancey felt was mainly on that account. Don John loved them
far more keenly than Lancey did, and this was but natural, but
Lancey loved no one better. They were his all, and Don John's
brothers and sisters and home were his too. The boys never set
themselves one above the other, everything about them appeared to
point plainly to theirs being equals, and little as Lancey had been
told about his parentage, it satisfied him, and he asked no
He had always known that he was a dear adopted son, that his
father's name was the same as his own, that he had died before his
child's birth, and that his mother had married again and gone to
It was Don John who asked awkward questions, Lancey did not
care; what did it signify who gave him all he wanted so long as it
was given? No such thought had shaped itself distinctly in his
young mind, thought was lying dormant as yet, and the love that
cherished him and the well-being in which he lived kept it from
Once Don John asked his mother why Lancey's mother never
wrote to him, and she answered that mothers did not all love their
children as much as she did. The boy looked up at her with
clear blue eyes full of surprise. It had seemed as natural
that a mother should love as that a flame should burn.
His arm was just well when she said this unexpected thing.
She had a very long string of amber beads round her neck; he loved
to rub the larger ones against the sleeve of his jacket, and make
little bits of paper stick to them. He always remembered
afterwards how she looked down upon him as he sat by her, when he
asked what was the use to any fellow of having a mother if she did
not love him, and she moved his thick flaxen hair from his forehead
while he made another little bit of paper leap to the beads, and
then he put his arm round her waist and leaned his head against her
shoulder to cogitate. She was never in a hurry, this sweet
comfortable mother. She always had time to listen to every
grievance about hard lessons, and childish scrapes. She even
sympathized when tops would not spin. She generally knew when
her children wanted to say something to her, and would wait till it
came. She was expecting something about Lancey now, and hoped
the question might be easy to answer, but though Don John was
thinking about Lancey, it concerned what he himself had lately done
for him, and when he spoke at last she was a good deal surprised.
"Oh, mother," he said, "you don't know how wicked I often
She looked down on him, but said nothing, and he went on.
"And I think Mr. Viser is a very odd man—particularly for a
"What have those two things to do with one another, my dear
boy," she answered.
"Oh, a great deal," answered Don John. "But you know,
mother, you are the soul of honour."
"Yes," she repeated, without smiling, "I am the soul of
She meant that when things were confided to her by her
children she always kept them strictly to herself. Sometimes
the confidence related to quarrels, and then she generally managed
to persuade the penitent to make them up, or they concerned
misdoings, were in the nature of confessions, and she was to tell
their father, and persuade him to forgive. They all had a very
wholesome fear of their father.
"And you never think of telling."
"Of course not!"
"I listened to his sermon yesterday—I never used to listen,
but I did, and—well, if it's of no use punishing one's self, what
is of use, you know fathers, and mothers, and masters are always
"Yes, they are."
"To make them better."
"But if I had done something horrid—told a good many lies,
for instance—and invented a story, which could not be confessed to
father so that he could punish me, I think it extremely mean of Mr.
Viser to make out that it's of no use my punishing myself instead."
The mother did not startle her penitent by asking, "Have you
told a great many lies?" She only said, "And have you punished
yourself, my boy?"
"Yes, mother," he answered, "and here is the punishment.
I did it up more than a week ago, when first we came home for the
holidays. It almost choked me when father and you were so
pleased with my papers. And you know you talked about trusting
me when I was out of your sight, and feeling sure I should be a good
honourable boy. Oh, you know what you said." He produced
a small brown-paper parcel. "I meant—meant at first to dig a
very deep hole and bury it—but I am afraid I might afterwards not be
able to help digging it up again, for that mouse really is such a—"
He paused, and still she did not smile or hurry the penitent,
whose hand trembled a little, and who looked rather red and irate,
and he presently went on,―
"So whatever Mr. Viser says, you are to take the parcel,
mother, and lock it up—and mind, I am never to have it any more."
"Very well, my boy," she answered, not at all as if she was
surprised, and asked calmly, "What is there in it?"
"There's all my money that grandmother sent, and my
mechanical mouse that runs round and round when it is wound up, and
several other things that I like. Now I have punished myself!"
"Yes. Can you repeat Mr. Viser's text to me?"
"No, not all of it."
"Get me a Bible."
Don John fetched a Bible, his wrong against the vicar did not
seem less present to him when he had read the verses in question,
the beautiful and well-known verses beginning "Wherewith shall I
come before the Lord," and ending, "Hear ye the Rod, and who hath
"You see it is all in the Bible," she observed; and what did
he say it meant, but that we must not think we can please or
propitiate God by depriving ourselves of our goods, or even of any
earthly thing, though we love it best. Not to punish yourself,
but to confess your sin and forsake it, is the way to obtain
"Yes, but I did say that I could not confess this; that would
be worse than doing it. I cannot tell the real thing, the
thing of consequence, but I can tell you a little more, and you will
"Yes, I shall—tell me as much as you can."
"What I said to father when he questioned me about how I
broke my arm, and when I did it, was all a lie—all my own invention.
I made it up—I am in such a rage sometimes after I go to bed and
think about it, that I can hardly help crying. I wish father
could punish me for it, and then forgive me, and I should be all
"But that cannot be unless you confess your fault to him."
"Oh, mother, I did tell you I could not confess it. So
if punishing myself won't do, I suppose it's my duty to be miserable
about it, when I don't forget it," he added with boyish naïveté.
"I dare say Lancey knows," she next said when he made no
answer, "Don't you think he would be glad if you confessed?" she
"Why, of course not, mother," the boy exclaimed and then she
never doubted that she should hear the whole; but no, Don John was
very loving, very penitent, yet he stuck to it, that he must not
tell her anything more, though when she asked him afterwards whether
he had at least confessed his fault to God, he answered, "Oh, yes,"
with a fearlessness that surprised her. She was surprised both
that he should have done so, and that he should think nothing of
telling her that he had. Like most other boys he was in
general extremely shy of all such subjects.
She urged him again to confess his fault to her, and he
paused, as if considering the matter. "As God knows
everything," he began, and then broke off.
"Yes, my dear boy?"
"And Mr. Viser doesn't, I shall not take back my mouse."
Here being hard put to it not to smile, she held her peace.
"When boys are at school," he went on with a certain quaint
simplicity that was natural to him. "When boys are at school,
it's not at all easy to think about God. But HE knows what I
mean. Boys are not so good, mother, as you suppose. If
you knew everything just as God does, without my telling you, I
should be very glad."
This was all his confidence—childhood was nearly over, not
precisely even in that fashion could he ever talk to her again.
It was only Lancey who seemed never to have anything to hide.
Seemed—he was such a sweet little fellow, so ready to confess a
fault, so apparently open; Donald Johnstone and his wife always felt
themselves repaid for the kindness and the love they had shown him,
and the family circle appeared to be incomplete unless he was in it.
But of course Mrs. Johnstone never asked him anything about Don
John, how he broke his arm, and why he was obliged to tell
lies to his father about it. She would not have been "the soul
of honour" if she had done such a thing as that.