|Chapter Number||PART I.-I.|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Unforgiven: In Two Parts|
THE CHILDBJBJSTS CORNER
I . Unforgiven. j
IN TWO PARTS.
[WBITTES SPECIALIST FOE. YOUNO AND OLD UEADEES.]
PART I.-CHAPTER I.
On a bench in a corner of the playground of a large school-in what part of England it mattors aot-Charlie Elliot sat one evening in a very dis consolate, not to say very dismal, mood. No wonder. Charlie had lost-lost the great prize of tho school. Many years-indeed very many years -before, some great patron of education^ svhen education required patronage more than it does at present,-had left money to provide for the maintenance of a pupil for three years at a certain college in one of our Universi ties ; the conditions for this triennial prize being that he should have boen educated, ex clusively, in this school, and that his proficiency should bo fairly tested by examination, This year Charlio was, until his failure, "first favo rite," so to speak, in the race. He had been con sidered so, not only by his own relatives, which would be a mero matter of course, but by both masters and pupils. And yot Charlie had lost, and Frank Warden, upon whom no one, except his own mother, perhaps, had founded any expec tations, had won. The morning of this day the successful competitor bad been declared, and for some hours Charlie could hardly get over the stunning shock ; and as there was nothing to do, for the holidays had virtually begun, and to morrow would see all the boys at home, or going homo, he was still revolving the7 matter in his ! mind. He had just dispatched to his father tho letter which was to supplement the head master's official notice. It was altogether a tough subject for reflection. He could not understand it ; not in tho least"-so ran his cogitations-"Frank Warden was no dunce, ho was rather studious in fact, in a desultory way ; but ho never made any figure in examinations, and in some of the most important subjects of this examination ho was known to have been lamentably backward, and yet Frank had won." Then came other reflections quite as disacreeablo if not as puzzling. " His father would be very angry; and, what was worse, very sarcastic." "His mother would be very sorry;" and, to say the truth, this last was the hardest blow. He was a fine, manly young fellow, and, therefore, although a good and obedient son, was not to be cowed by unjust anger on his father's part ; and the anger, in this case, would be unjust, for Charlie had tried hard, vory hard, for tho prize. But his mother, " who had been so jolly kind "-that was his way of putting it, as, not withstanding his 17 years, he nearly cried when ho thought how sorry she would be. " His mother who had always been good tempered, who had never scolded, far less punished, him for the long past childish scrapes of torn or dirtied clothes, or accidentally-broken crockery or windows ; who had nursed him, and played with him, and read to him." He revolved all thia and more -all tho additional unpleasant concomitants of going home next day, to meet the anger and the sorrow, and, what was nearly as bad, the commiseration of neighbors and acquaintances, and the sympathy, real or affected, of so-called friends-and, when ho had revolved it over and over again, he was surprised to find he had not yet got one crumb of comfort from all his ruminations, for he was not yet old enough to know what most of us know too well that ruminating in this manner, in such cases, is not calculated to bring comfort, but rather the reverse. As to not going to college, which he knew he should not do now, that, in itself, was, to his mind, no evil. Charlie was no idler by nature any more than he was a dunce. He had very good abilities ; and he had worked hard to please his parents ; and also to gratify his own ambition, for what human being is worth anything who is without ambition ; but, he had no taBte for a student's life, and would have preferred to use his abilities in other work. On the other hand, Frank "Warden, without as good abilities as Charlie, has a decided taste for such a life, and poor Charlie would have been very glad to see Frank get the prize if only his own credit had not been Sowered by an unsuccessful competition ; and so
he actual result of all his cogitations was ummed up in "I'm sorry I went in for it at all. . ,'m sorry I didn't toll my father that I didn't care to go to the University, and that I'd rather have taken my uncle's offer j" and he was as far
from comfort as ever.
A voice hailing "Elliot" roused him, and he saw George Plymley-whom, perhaps^ of all his companions he would just then rather have not seen, although he could scarcely have said why, Plymley was there, however, and he must speak, or rather let Plymley sneak to him. So he looked up and said " WeU ?"
'* Why you look awfully cast down, old fellow," said George. " I would not worry so much if I were you. After all, college must be a tremen
" They will bo vexed at home," said Charlie, obliged to say something.
" Oh, well ; they always are vexed at home, you know, no matter what a fellow does. If a chap reads a great deal and is up in everything, then he's good for nothing but to bo put on a shelf-s bookworm. If he does not read at all he's idle,
I've given up trying to make myself pleasant ai
Perhaps Charlie thought that Plymley hac never tried to make himself pleasant anywhere ; had, in fact, never tried for anything in his life and might not have succeeded very well if he hac -since, besides being essentially ono of thost human beings who drift along, whether in businos: or on pleasure, in a haphazard fashion, his gift; and graces had not as yet procured him inucl esteem either from his teachers or his companions But it must be confessed, in excuso for George that the homo belongings to whom he had " giver np trying to make himself pleasant," consisted o: a father who drank every night a great deal mort "wine than was good for him, and on a goot many nights gambled for larger sums than h<
found it quito convenient to pay, but who expected hiB son to bo a model of all schoolboy virtues; and a mother, whoso highest ambition was to wear finer clothes than her neighbors, and whoso chief occupations woro taking modi cino and talking gossip, who naturally, therefore, found no society so agreeable as that of her doctor an d her waiting maid, each of whom ministered those things in their several capacities, and who, of all society, found that of her son particularly
" I would not worry so much/' George repeated ; and then added, as a clincher to his argument, "you'veoften said you did not caro to go to col lege-no more do I." To which Charlie only re joined " I don't suppose you do j I don't suppose you caro for anything."
"A Tommy don't care. Well may be I am; but, all the eamo, you did say so yourself."
" Look hore, Plymley," said Charlio, driven out of his unschoolboy reticence, " it is not that I do I caro to go to college, but, beside that, they'll be
vexed at home. No one likes to fail. I worked hard for tho thing, and I can't help being disap pointed."
" I'm very sorry," said George, sitting down beside him. " I thought you really did not care whether you got it or nov."
" I don't know how you could think so."
" Well, all the same, I did, and I'm vory sorry ; and Frank Warden should not have had it neither. He did not deserve it."
" That's nonsense," said Charlie. " There's not a school anywhere in which everything is done fairer. The old doctor has no favorites, and, be side, he had nothing to do with tho examination."
George shook his head. " I'm very sorry Frank got it. You ought to have had it."
" How can you make that out ?" said Charlie. "Thero were tho examination papers to show that he was highest, all*to nothing ?"
" He was not so good in the viva voce though," said George, eagerly-that is eagerly for him.
" Frank is a nervous fellow. He'd be always in danger there," said Charlie, good-naturedly.
" Upon my word, I think somebody ought to have said something for you though/'said George, " about the viva voce, I mean, you were so much better there ; and, you seo, there can be nothing
unfair about that."
" Nor about tho other, as far as I can see. I don't mean that there absolutely couldn't j but I
am sure that there wasn't."
" Oh ! I meant a crib," said George, who was drifting a little out of his depth.
" Look here, Plymley," said Charlie, " if you have got any moaning say it. Somebody ought to have said something for me, but what was somebody to have said, and who was to have been tho somebody ? As to a ' crib,' I don't
know whether it could or could not have been
got ; or who could have given it. If you know of anything wrong, you've a right to tell it."
" I didn't say" I know," said George, rather sulkily, and then added, " if I did know what would be tho use of saying it now ?"
" Well, if you don't know,"'said Charlio, "you suspect. You have some meaning in all this."
" I said I was very sorry for you," said George. " I mean that of course, and I said I didn't think you'd take it so much to heart, and-and-I don't half like Frank Warden myself; I'd much rather you'd have had it, that is if I'd known you wished for it-that makes all the difference you know." And by the end of this speech George was vaguely conscious himself that ho had drifted out of his depth, and Charlie Elliot had not a doubt about it. Ho started up. " Where are you going ?" said George.
" I am going to the doctor. He must know of this. You are either aware of something George, which you won't tell, or you are throwing out hints for which you have no foundation, and it is for the doctor to clear it or have it cleared up."
" I'm throwing out no hints," said George.
" Then why do you say'since I take it so much to heart,' and ' you don't half like Frank Warden ?' There's no use in your pretending you have no meaning ; and if you won't tell your meaning to me, of course I must refer to the doctor."
" And if T did mean something, I'm not obliged to say what it is. ' Don't telltales out of Behool,' you know. Everyone calls that mean."
"We're not mere children now," said Charlie, looking at the same time very like a child, with the tears straggling in his honest blue eyes j " and I'll tell you what's more mean, to know that any wrong has been done to a fellow, and not tell him. That's making yourself a party to it ; and anyone who does that is no gentleman."
" I did not say I knew," said George.
" Not exactly ; though what your are saying now is tantamount to doing so;" and Charlie bogan to move on.
"Stop," said George. " I did not know it; not when it was any use, you know ; and what would be the good of having a precious row after it was all over. At the same time I'd half determined
to tell you j that is, if you'd promise never to tell it again."
" I can't do that," said Charlie.
" Oh ! Well ; I'm not obliged to bring myself, and-and perhaps a lot of other fellows into trouble ; especially as I'd nothing to do with it. Look here, Charlie, I'll take my oath of that if you wish ; I mean that I did nothing, and if I tell you as a friend, it will be a very sneaky thing if you get me into a scrape, and make me get a lot of others, too."
It is a very lamentable fact that drifty, shifty people, whether boys or men, sometimes do con tinue to get the better of their earnest straight forward companions. Charlie Elliot was an earnest straightforward fellow, but he was not quito a hero. He knew that George Plymley was a fool; but he also knew that, like most fools, he could bo stubborn ; and so, although Charlie was conscious that his right course would have been an appeal to tho doctor, he allowed the burning desire ho felt for getting at the facts if facts they wero-to overcome hi3 judgment : and after a little moro, not vory pleasant, tall on each '¿ide, gave in.
'^You'll never tell anyone," said George.
" There wouldn't be much use in my telling anyone if I am not to tell the doctor," he re torted.
" But, then, anyone you told it to might tell the doctor," said George.
Charlie's toinper waa rising. *' You mean that I might manage to send it to the doctor's ears, even if I did not tell him myself ; and that would bo the same as a lie, and I never tell lies."
"You mightn't intend it, yon know; but it might happon ; and if you promise not to let the doctor know, what use, as you said yourself, would thoro bo in letting anyone else."
"I'll not tell anyone," said Charlie.
George sat down, and began in quite a comfort able, confidential sort of way : " Well ; you see this was the way of it, that Darrell is a regular suoak you know." Darrell was tho second master.
" I don't know," said Charlie, " but go on."
" Oh, there's not much to go on about, it was he did it. He gave the exam, papers, at least copies of them, to Frank Warden, when they were sent down a week before tho exam., so he had all that time to prepare, and Darrell helped
him, of course."
! " Aro you sure of that ?" asked Charlie.
"Quite sure," said George. "Brooke picked up one of the copies, which Warden dropped in the corridor, and compared it with the paper at tho
" Before or after tho examination ?" said Charlie.
" Well, I don't exactly know that; but it would make no difference you know."
" No difference to Brooke I dare say, whether he knew I was cheated before or after the thing was done ; but what puzzles me is how Frank Warden should venture to ask Darrell for the
papers; I have often thought he was not all right, but Warden must have been quite sure he
" Well, Darrell might have refused of course," said George; "but you know," he added, "it would have beon as bad for Darrell to have told on him as it was for him to ask ; and, after all, everyone likes to win, and-"
"To win honestly you mean," interrupted
" Oh, of course ; but then only you were so very far ahead, and ought to havo had it, there wouldn't have been anything so very bad in it after all; I daresay Warden was very well up
with all the rest."
"It was bad, very bad," said Charlie; "no matter who lost or who won. Bad for Warden, bad for Darrell. An imposition, a cheat; I wonder how you can speak of it in that way."
" Well, you see, I didn't seem to care much j not until I saw that you took it so much to
" Bad," repeated Charlie, not replying tc George's last utterance ; " I don't know whal could be worse. I'll never forgive Frank Warden never ! As to Darrell, he's below my anger ; and, beside, he's only a master." Only a master! " But for ono fellow to cheat another that way No, I'll never forgive him."
" But you promised not to tell," said George anxiously; and then added, "I wonder mysell why Darrell should do it for Warden any more than for anyone else." Perhaps, in saying this ho had some purpose of turning Charlie's mooc from indignation to curiosity, fearing the formei feeling might not bode well for the keeping of hii promise ; the general obligation of promise in hii own case depending much more on mood thai principle. He did not succeed. " That does noi much matter." retorted Charlie; too much ex cited oven to perceive the obvious influence ii what he had said. " He did do it ; and that'i enough for Darrell, and Warden won ; won un fairly, and that's enough for him and me.' " Yes," he added, after a little pause, " I'll kee] my promise; but I'll never forgive Frank never." He turned away without more words but after a little time he did begin to wondo: " why Darrell had done it for Frank Warden mor than anyone else ;" and also to wonder whethe George, in saying this, had not unintentionall; disclosed the fact that Darrell was known to b accessible, and on this knowledge! had been poa sibly applied to, though unsuccessfully, by som others of the competitors-George Plymley him self among the number, although he did conside " college a bore," His curiosity, however, speedil; passed away; while every hour increased th bitterness of his anger, and he repeated, "I'J never forgive him, never," so often, that at las the words came like a refrain, almost uncon sciously, through every other thought.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)