Search this site with DuckDuckGo. No Tracking!

Or The Winning of a Continent

BY G. A. HENTY [1894]

Look up difficult words at The Free Dictionary.  You may want to keep it open in another window/tab.

Chapter 5
A Quiet Time

Vocabulary:  cruelly, emphatically, Gorgon, guardian, library, monstrous, obstinate, privilege, promptitude, regulations, reluctance, seclusion, virtually

1. As the sergeant was telling the story, the squire had sat with his face shaded by his hand, but more than one tear had dropped heavily on the table.

2. "I wish I could say as much," he said sadly, when the other ended. "I wish that I could say that my conscience is clear, Mr. Wilks. I have misjudged you cruelly, and that without a tithe of the reason, which you had, for thinking me utterly heartless and cruel. You will have heard that I never got those letters my son wrote me, after he was ill, and that, when I returned home and received them, I posted to Southampton, only to find that I was too late; and that, for a year, I did all in my power to find the child. Still, all this is no excuse. I refused to forgive him, returned his letters unanswered, and left him, as it seemed, to his fate.

3. "It is no excuse to say that I had made up my mind to forgive him, when he was, as I thought, sufficiently punished. He did not know that. As to the poverty in which you found him, I can only plead that I did not dream that he would come to that. He had, I knew, some money, for I had just sent him his half-year's allowance before he wrote to me about this business. Then there was the furniture of his rooms in London, his horses, jewels, and other matters. I had thought he could go on very well for a year.

4. "Of course, I was mistaken. Herbert was always careless about money, and, no doubt, he spent it freely after he was first married. He would naturally wish to have everything pretty and nice for his young wife, and, no doubt, he counted upon my forgiving him long before the money was spent.

5. "I am not excusing myself. God knows how bitterly I have condemned myself, all these years. I only want to show you that I had no idea of condemning him to starvation. He was my only son, and I loved him. I felt, perhaps, his rebellion all the more, because he had never before given me a day's trouble. I was harsh, obstinate, and cruel.

6. "I have only the one old excuse. I never thought it would turn out as it did. What would I give, if I could say, as you can, that you have a clear conscience, and that you acted always as it seemed to be your duty!

7. "And now, Mr. Wilks, now that I have heard your story, I trust that you will forgive my past suspicions of you, and let me say how much I honour and esteem you for your conduct. No words can tell you how I thank you, for your goodness and kindness to my little granddaughter; our little granddaughter, I should say. You have the better right, a
thousand-fold, to her than I have; and, had I been in your place, I could never have made such a sacrifice.

8. "We must be friends, sir, great friends. Our past has been saddened by the same blow. All our hopes, in the future, are centered on the same object."

9. The two men rose to their feet together, and their hands met in a firm clasp, and tears stood in both their eyes.

10. Then the squire put his hand on the other's shoulder, and said, "We will talk again, presently. Let us go into the next room. The little one is longing to see you, and we must not keep her."

11. For the next hour, the two men devoted themselves to the child. Now that she had her old friend with her, she felt no further misgivings, and was able to enter into the full delight of her new home.

12. The house and its wonders were explored, and, much as she was delighted with these, the gardens and park were an even greater excitement and pleasure. Dancing, chattering, asking questions of one or the other, she was half wild with pleasure, and the squire was no less delighted.  A new light and joy had come into his life, and with it the ten years, which sorrow and regret had laid upon him, had fallen off; for, although his habits of seclusion and quiet had caused him to be regarded as quite an old man by his neighbours, he was still three years short of sixty, while the sergeant was two years younger.

13. It was a happy morning for them, all three; and when John Petersham went in, after lunch, to the kitchen, he assured his fellow servants that it was as much as he could do to keep from crying with joy, at the sight of the squire's happy face, and to hear him laugh and joke, as he had not done for eight years now.

14. The sergeant had stopped to that meal, for he saw, by the manner in which the squire asked him, that he should give pain if he refused; and there was a simple dignity about the old soldier, which would have prevented his appearing out of place at the table of the highest in the land.

15. "Now, kitten," the squire said, when they had finished, "you must amuse yourself for a bit. You can go in the garden again, or sit with Mrs. Morcombe in her room. She will look you out some picture books from the library. I am afraid there is nothing very suited to your reading, but we will soon put all that right. Your grandfather and I want to have
another quiet chat together."

16. "Now I want your advice," he said when they were both comfortably seated in the study. "You see, you have been thinking and planning about the child for years, while it has all come new upon me, so I must rely upon you entirely. Of course, the child must have a governess, that is the first thing; not so much for the sake of teaching her, though, of course, she must be taught, but as a companion for her."

17. "Yes," the sergeant assented, "she must have a governess."

18. "It will be a troublesome matter to find one to suit," the squire said thoughtfully. "I don't want a harsh sort of Gorgon, to repress her spirits and bother her life out with rules and regulations; and I won't have a giddy young thing, because I should like to have the child with me at breakfast and lunch, and I don't want a fly-away young woman who
will expect all sorts of attention. Now, what is your idea? I have no doubt you have, pictured in your mind, the exact sort of woman you would like to have over her."

19. "I have," the sergeant answered quietly. "I don't know whether it would suit you, squire, or whether it could be managed; but it does seem, to me, that you have got the very woman close at hand. Aggie has been for two years with Mrs. Walsham, who is a lady in every way. She is very fond of the child, and the child is very fond of her. Everyone says she is an excellent teacher. She would be the very woman to take charge of her."

20. "The very thing!" the squire exclaimed, with great satisfaction. "But she has a school," he went on, his face falling a little, "and there is a son."

21. "I have thought of that," the sergeant said. "The school enables them to live, but it cannot do much more, so that I should think she would feel no reluctance at giving that up."

22. "Money would be no object," the squire said. "I am a wealthy man, Mr. Wilks, and have been laying by the best part of my income for the last eight years. I would pay any salary she chose, for the comfort of such an arrangement would be immense, to say nothing of the advantage and pleasure it would be to the child. But how about the boy?"

23. "We both owe a good deal to the boy, squire," the sergeant said gravely, "for if it had not been for him, the child would have been lost to us."

24. "So she was telling me last night," the squire said. "And he really saved her life?"

25. "He did," the sergeant replied. "But for his pluck and promptitude she must have been drowned. A moment's hesitation on his part, and nothing could have saved her."

26. "I made up my mind last night," the squire said, "to do something for him. I have seen him before, and was much struck with him."

27. "Then, in that case, squire, I think the thing could be managed. If the lad were sent to a good school, his mother might undertake the management of Aggie. She could either go home of an evening, or sleep here and shut up her house, as you might arrange with her; living, of course, at home, when the boy was home for his holidays, and only coming up for a portion of the day."

28. "That would be a capital plan," the squire agreed warmly. "The very thing. I should get off all the bother with strange women, and the child would have a lady she is already fond of, and who, I have no doubt, is thoroughly qualified for the work. Nothing could be better. I will walk down this afternoon and see her myself, and I have no doubt I shall be able to arrange it.

29. "And now about yourself--what are your plans?"

30. "I shall start tomorrow morning on my tramp, as usual," the sergeant answered quietly; "but I shall take care, in future, that I do not come with my box within thirty miles or so of Sidmouth. I do not want Aggie's future to be, in any way, associated with a showman's box. I shall come here, sometimes, to see her, as you have kindly said I may, but I will not abuse the privilege by coming too often. Perhaps you won't think a day, once every three months, to be too much?"

31. "I should think it altogether wrong and monstrous!" the squire exclaimed hotly. "You have been virtually the child's father, for the last seven years. You have cared for her, and loved her, and worked for her. She is everything to you, and I feel how vast are your claims to her, compared to mine; and now you talk about going away, and coming to
see her once every three months. The idea is unnatural. It is downright monstrous!

32. "No, you and I understand each other at last; would to Heaven we had done so eight years back! I feel how much more nobly you acted in that unhappy matter than I did, and I esteem and honour you. We are both getting on in life, we have one common love and interest, we stand in the same relation to the child, and I say, emphatically, that you have a right, and more than a right, to a half share in her. You must go away no more, but remain here as my friend, and as joint guardian of the child.

33. "I will have no refusal, man," he went on, as the sergeant shook his head. "Your presence here will be almost as great a comfort, to me, as to the child. I am a lonely man. For years, I have cut myself loose from the world. I have neither associates nor friends. But now that this great load is off my mind, my first want is a friend; and who
could be so great a friend, who could enter into my plans and hopes for the future so well, as yourself, who would have an interest in them equal to my own?"

1.    What did the squire shed while the sgt. was telling his story?


2.    How did Herbert handle money?  ____________________________

3.    How long did the men spend with Aggie?  _____________________

4.    How old was the squire?  __________________________________

5.    Who did the sgt. suggest to look after Aggie?  __________________

Vocabulary:  bewildered, conjecture, cordial, derogatory, Exeter, inordinately, masquerading, monotony, moors, obstinate, pupils, revenue, shoals, vulgar

34. The sergeant was much moved by the squire's earnestness. He saw that the latter had really at heart the proposal he made.

35. "You are very good, squire," he said in a low voice; "but even if I could bring myself to eat another man's bread, as long as I can work for my own, it would not do. I am neither by birth nor education fitted for such a position as that you offer to me."

36. "Pooh, nonsense!" the squire said hotly. "You have seen the world. You have travelled and mixed with men. You are fit to associate as an equal with anyone. Don't you deceive yourself; you certainly do not deceive me.

37. "It is pride that stands in your way. For that you are going to risk the happiness of your granddaughter, to say nothing of mine; for you don't suppose that either of us is going to feel comfortable and happy, when the snow is whirling round, and the wind sweeping the moors, to think of you trudging along about the country, while we are sitting snugly here by a warm fire.

38. "You are wanting to spoil everything, now that it has all come right at last, by just the same obstinate pride which wrecked the lives of our children. I won't have it, man. I won't hear of it.

39. "Come, say no more. I want a friend badly, and I am sure we shall suit each other. I want a companion. Why, man, if I were a rich old lady, and you were a poor old lady, and I asked you to come as my companion, you would see nothing derogatory in the offer. You shall come as my companion, now, or if you like as joint guardian to the child. You shall have your own rooms in the house; and when you feel inclined to be grumpy, and don't care to take your meals with the child and me, you can take them apart.

40. "At any rate, try it for a month, and if you are not comfortable then I will let you go, though your rooms shall always be in readiness for you, whenever you are disposed to come back.

41. "Come, give me your hand on the bargain."

42. Sergeant Wilks could resist no longer. The last two years work, without the child, had indeed been heavy, and especially in winter, when the wind blew strong across the uplands, he began to feel that he was no longer as strong as he used to be. The prospect of having Aggie always near him was, however, a far greater temptation than that of ending his days in quiet and comfort.

43. His hand and that of the squire met in a cordial grip, and the matter was settled. Fortunately, as the sergeant reflected, he had still his pension of ten shillings a week, which would suffice to supply clothes and other little necessaries which he might require, and would thus save him from being altogether dependent on the squire.

44. Aggie was wild with delight, when she was called in and informed of the arrangement. The thought of her grandfather tramping the country, alone, had been the one drawback to the pleasure of her life at Mrs. Walsham's, and many a time she had cried herself to sleep, as she pictured to herself his loneliness. That he was to be with her always, was to give up his work to settle down in comfort, was indeed a delight to her.

45. Greatly pleased was she, also, to hear that Mrs. Walsham was to be asked to come up to be her governess.

46. "Oh, it will be nice!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands. "Just like the fairy stories you used to tell me, grampa, when everyone was made happy at the end by the good fairy. Grandpapa is the good fairy, and you and I are the prince and princess; and James--and what is to be done with James? Is he to come up, too?"

47. "No, my dear," the squire said, smiling. "James is to go to a good school, but you will see him when he comes home for his holidays. But that part of it is not arranged yet, you know; but if you will put on your hat, you can walk down with us to the town, and introduce me to Mrs. Walsham."

48. Mrs. Walsham had just dismissed her pupils, when the party arrived, and was thinking how quiet and dull the house was without Aggie, when the door opened, and the child rushed in and threw her arms round her neck.

49. "Oh, I have such good news to tell you! Grandpapa is so good and kind, and grampa is going to live with us, and you are to come up, too, and James is to go to school. Isn't it all splendid?"

50. "What are you talking about, Aggie?" Mrs. Walsham asked, bewildered, as the child poured out her news.

51. "Aggie is too fast, madam," the squire said, entering the room accompanied by the sergeant. "She is taking it all for granted, while it has yet to be arranged. I must apologize for coming in without knocking; but the child opened the door and rushed in, and the best thing to do was, we thought, to follow her.

52. "I have come, in the first place, to thank you for your great kindness to my little granddaughter, and to tell your son how deeply I feel indebted to him, for having saved her life two years ago.

53. "Now, Aggie, you run away and look for your friend, while I talk matters over with Mrs. Walsham."

54. Aggie scampered away to find James, who was at work at his books, and to tell him the news, while the squire unfolded his plans to Mrs. Walsham.

55. His offers were so handsome that Mrs. Walsham accepted them, without an instant's hesitation. She was to have the entire charge of the child during the day, with the option of either returning home in the evening, when Aggie went in to dessert after dinner, or of living entirely at the Hall. The squire explained his intention of sending James to a good school at Exeter, as an installment of the debt he owed him for saving the child's life, and he pointed out that, when he was at home for his holidays, Aggie could have her holidays, too, and Mrs. Walsham need only come up to the Hall when she felt inclined.

56. Mrs. Walsham was delighted with the offer, even more for James's sake than her own, although the prospect for herself was most pleasant. To have only Aggie to teach, and walk with, would be delightful after the monotony of drilling successive batches of girls, often inordinately tiresome and stupid. She said, at once, that she should prefer
returning home at night--a decision which pleased the squire, for he had wondered what he should do with her in the evening.

57. The arrangement was at once carried into effect. The school was broken up, and, as the parents of the children were almost all tenants of the squire, they offered no objection to the girls being suddenly left on their hands, when they heard that their teacher was going to live as governess at the Hall. Indeed, the surprise of Sidmouth and the neighbourhood, at learning that the little girl at Mrs. Walsham's was the squire's granddaughter, and that the showman was therefore a connection of the squire, and was going also to live at the Hall, was so great, that there was no room for any other emotion. Save for wrecks, or the arrival of shoals of fish off the coast, or of troubles
between the smugglers and the revenue officers, Sidmouth had few excitements, and the present news afforded food for endless talk and conjecture.

58. On comparing notes, it appeared that there was not a woman in the place who had not been, all along, convinced that the little girl at Mrs. Walsham's was something more than she seemed to be, and that the showman was a man quite out of the ordinary way. And when, on the following Sunday, the sergeant, who had in the meantime been to Exeter, walked quietly into church with the squire, all agreed that the well-dressed military-looking man was a gentleman, and that he had only been masquerading under the name of Sergeant Wilks until, somehow or other, the quarrel between him and the squire was arranged, and the little heiress restored to her position; and Sidmouth remained in that belief to the end.

59. The sergeant's military title was henceforth dropped. Mr. Linthorne introduced him to his acquaintances--who soon began to flock in, when it was known that the squire's granddaughter had come home, and that he was willing to see his friends and join in society again--as "My friend Mr. Wilks, the father of my poor boy's wife."

60. And the impression made was generally favourable.

61. None had ever known the exact story of Herbert's marriage. It was generally supposed that he had married beneath him; but the opinion now was that this must have been a mistake, for there was nothing in any way vulgar about the quiet, military-looking gentleman, with whom the squire was evidently on terms of warm friendship.

62. The only person somewhat dissatisfied with the arrangement was James Walsham. He loved his mother so much, that he had never offered the slightest dissent to her plan, that he should follow in his father's footsteps. She was so much set on the matter, that he could never bring himself to utter a word in opposition. At heart, however, he longed for a more stirring and more adventurous life, such as that of a soldier or sailor, and he had all along cherished a secret hope, that something might occur to prevent his preparing for the medical profession, and so enable him to carry out his secret wishes. But the present arrangement seemed to put an end to all such hopes, and, although grateful to the squire for sending him to a good school, he wished, with all his heart,
that he had chosen some other way of manifesting his gratitude.

6.    Why did the squire think Sgt. Wilks was refusing his offer?  ________

7.    How much was Sgt. Wilks’ pension?  _________________________

8.    How did Mrs. Walsham feel about the squire’s offer?  ____________

9.    Where was Mrs. Walsham going to spend the evenings?  _________

10.    Who was not entirely happy?  _______________________________

Vocabulary:  anecdote, animosity, antipathy, awkward, conscious, emergencies, eradicated, haughtiness, inexpedient, ingratiate, lieutenant, nuisance, prejudiced, tyrannize

63. Four years passed quietly. James Walsham worked hard when at school, and, during his holidays, spent his time for the most part on board the fishermen's boats. Sometimes he went up to the Hall, generally at the invitation of Mr. Wilks.

64. "Why don't you come oftener, Jim?" the latter asked him one day. "Aggie was saying, only yesterday, that you used to be such friends with her, and now you hardly ever come near her. The squire is as pleased as I am to see you."

65. "I don't know," Jim replied. "You see, I am always comfortable with you. I can chat with you, and tell you about school, and about fishing, and so on. The squire is very kind, but I know it is only because of that picking Aggie out of the water, and I never seem to know what to talk about with him. And then, you see, Aggie is growing a young lady, and can't go rambling about at my heels as she used to do, when she was a little girl. I like her, you know, Mr. Wilks, just as I used to do; but I can't carry her on my shoulder now, and make a playfellow of her."

66. "I suppose that's all natural enough, Jim," Aggie's grandfather said; "but I do think it is a pity you don't come up more often. You know we are all fond of you, and it will give us a pleasure to have you here."

67. Jim was, in fact, getting to the awkward age with boys. When younger, they tyrannize over their little sisters, when older they may again take pleasure in girls' society; but there is an age, in every boy's life, when he is inclined to think girls a nuisance, as creatures incapable of joining in games, and as being apt to get in the way.

68. Still, Jim was very fond of his former playmate, and had she been still living down in Sidmouth with his mother, they would have been as great friends as ever.

69. At the end of the fourth year, Richard Horton came back, after an absence of five years. He was now nearly twenty, and had just passed as lieutenant. He was bronzed with the Eastern sun, and had grown from a good-looking boy into a handsome young man, and was perfectly conscious of his good looks. Among his comrades, he had gained the nickname of "The Dandy"--a name which he accepted in good part, although it had not been intended as complimentary, for Richard Horton was by no means a popular member of his mess.

70. Boys are quick to detect each other's failings, and several sharp thrashings, when he first joined, had taught Richard that it was very inexpedient to tell a lie on board a ship, if there was any chance of its being detected. As he had become one of the senior midshipmen, his natural haughtiness made him disliked by the younger lads; while, among those of his own standing, he had not one sincere friend, for there was a general feeling, among them, that although Richard Horton was a pleasant companion, and a very agreeable fellow when he liked, he was not somehow straight, not the sort of fellow to be depended upon in all emergencies.

71. By the captain and lieutenants, he was considered a smart young officer. He was always careful to do his duty, quiet, and gentlemanly in manner, and in point of appearance, and dress, a credit to the ship.  Accordingly, all the reports that his captain had sent home of him had been favourable.

72. Great as was the rage and disappointment which Richard had felt, when he received the letter from his uncle telling him of the discovery of his long-lost granddaughter, he had the tact to prevent any signs of his feelings being visible, in the letter in which he replied. The squire had told him that, although the discovery would, of course, make a considerable difference in his prospects, he should still, if the reports of his conduct continued satisfactory, feel it his duty to make a handsome provision for him.

73. "Thanks to my quiet life during the last ten years," the squire had written, "I have plenty for both of you. The estate will, of course, go to her; but, always supposing that your conduct will be satisfactory, I shall continue, during my lifetime, the allowance you at present receive, and you will find yourself set down, in my will, for the sum of twenty thousand pounds."

74. Richard had replied in terms which delighted the squire.

75. "You see, the boy has a good heart," he said, as he handed the letter to Mr. Wilks. "No one could express himself better."

76. His companion read the letter over in silence.

77. "Charmingly expressed," he said as he returned it. "Almost too charmingly, it seems to me."

78. "Come, come, Wilks, you are prejudiced against the young fellow, for that business with Aggie and young Walsham."

79. "I hope I am not prejudiced, squire," his friend replied; "but when I know that a lad is a liar, and that he will bring false accusations to shield himself, and when I know that he was detested by all who came in contact with him--John Petersham, the gardener, and the grooms--I require a good deal more than a few satisfactory reports from his captain, who can know very little of his private character, and a soft-soldering letter like that, to reinstate him in my good opinion. I will wager that, if you and I had been standing behind him when he opened your letter, you would have heard an expression of very
different sentiments from those he writes you here.

80. "Look at this: 'I regret, indeed, my dear uncle, that my new cousin must have such a bad opinion of me, owing to my roughness in that unfortunate affair, which I have never ceased to regret; but I hope that, when we meet, I shall be able to overcome the dislike which she must feel for me.'

81. "Bah!" the old soldier said scornfully. "I would lay all my pension, to a shilling, that boy has already made up his mind that someday he will marry Aggie, and so contrive to get the estates after all."

82. The squire burst into a good-humoured laugh.

83. "It's well I don't take up your wager. Such ideas as that might occur to you and me, but hardly to a lad not yet seventeen."

84. "Well, we shall see," the other said, cooling down. "I hope I may be mistaken in him. We shall see when he comes home."

85. When he did come home, the old soldier could find but little fault with the young man. He had a frank and open manner, such as is common to men of his profession. He was full of life and anecdote. His manner to the squire was admirable, affectionate, and quietly respectful, without any air of endeavouring especially to ingratiate himself with him. Nor could the ex-sergeant find anything to complain of in the young man's manner towards himself. He took the first opportunity, when they were alone, to say how glad he had been, to hear that his grandfather had met with a friend and companion in his lonely life, and to express a hope that the bad opinion, which he had doubtless formed of him from his conduct when a boy, would not be allowed to operate against him now.

86. But, though there was nothing he could find fault with, the old soldier's prejudices were in no way shaken, and, indeed, his antipathy was increased, rather than diminished, by the young officer's conduct towards Aggie. It might be, of course, that he was only striving to overcome the prejudiced feeling against him; but every time the old soldier saw him with his granddaughter, he felt angry.

87. In point of fact, Aggie was disposed to like Richard, even before his arrival. Six years had eradicated every tinge of animosity for that shove on the sand. His letters had been long, bright, and amusing, and with the mementos of travel which he picked up in the ports of India and China, and from time to time sent home to his uncle, there was
always a little box with some pretty trinket "for my cousin." She found him now a delightful companion. He treated her as if she had been seventeen, instead of eleven; was ready to ride or walk with her, or to tell her stories of the countries he had seen, as she might choose; and to humour all her whims and fancies.

88. "Confound him and his pleasant manners!" the ex-sergeant would mutter to himself, as he watched them together, and saw, as he believed, in the distance, the overthrow of the scheme he had at heart. "He is turning the child's head; and that foolish boy, James, is throwing away his chances."

89. James, indeed, came home from school for the last time, two or three weeks after Richard Horton's return. He was now nearly eighteen, and, although a broad and powerful fellow, was still a boy at heart. He did not show to advantage by the side of Richard Horton. The first time he went up to the Hall, after his return, the latter had met him with outstretched hand.

90. "I am glad to meet you again," he said. "I behaved like a blackguard, last time we met, and you gave me the thrashing which I deserved. I hope we shall get on better, in the future."

91. Aggie and her two grandfathers were present, and James Walsham certainly did not show to advantage, by the side of the easy and self-possessed young officer. He muttered something about its being all right, and then found nothing else to say, being uncomfortable, and ill at ease. He made some excuse about being wanted at home, and took his leave; nor did he again go up to call. Several times, the old soldier went down to Sidmouth to see him, and on one occasion remonstrated with him for not coming up to the Hall.

92. "What's the use?" James said, roughly. "I have got lots of reading to do, for in two months, you know, I am to go up to London, to walk the hospitals. No one wants me up there. Aggie has got that cousin of hers to amuse her, and I should feel only in the way, if I went."

93. Mr. Wilks was fairly out of temper at the way things were going. He was angry with James; angry with the squire, who evidently viewed with satisfaction the good understanding between his granddaughter and nephew; angry, for the first time in his life, with Aggie herself.

94. "You are growing a downright little tease, Miss Aggie," he said one day, when the girl came in from the garden, where she had been laughing and chatting with her cousin.

95. He had intended to speak playfully, but there was an earnestness in his tone which the girl, at once, detected.

96. "Are you really in earnest, grampa?" she asked, for she still retained the childish name for her grandfather--so distinguishing him from the squire, whom she always called grandpapa.

97. "No; I don't know that I am in earnest, Aggie," he said, trying to speak lightly; "and yet, perhaps, to some extent I am."

98. "I am sure you are," the girl said. "Oh, grampa! You are not really cross with me, are you?" and the tears at once sprang into her eyes. "I have not been doing anything wrong, have I?"

99. "No, my dear, not in the least wrong," her grandfather said hastily. "Still, you know, I don't like seeing Jim, who has always been so good and kind to you, quite neglected, now this young fellow, who is not fit to hold a candle to him, has turned up."

100. "Well, I haven't neglected him, grampa. He has neglected me. He has never been near since that first day, and you know I can't very well go round to Sidmouth, and say to him, 'Please come up to the Hall.'"

101. "No, my dear, I know you can't, and he is behaving like a young fool."

102. "Why is he?" Aggie asked, surprised. "If he likes sailing about better than coming up here, why shouldn't he?"

103. "I don't think it's for that he stays away, Aggie. In fact, you see, Jim has only just left school, and he feels he can't laugh, and talk, and tell you stories about foreign countries, as this young fellow can, and having been so long accustomed to have you to himself, he naturally would not like the playing second fiddle to Richard Horton."

104. "But he hasn't been here much," the girl said, "ever since I came here.  He used to be so nice, and so kind, in the old days when I lived down there, that I can't make out why he has changed so."

105. "My dear, I don't think he has changed. He has been only a boy, and the fact is, he is only a boy still. He is fond of sailing, and of the amusements boys take to, and he doesn't feel at home, and comfortable here, as he did with you when you were a little girl at his mother's.  But mind, Aggie, James is true as steel. He is an honourable and
upright young fellow. He is worth fifty of this self-satisfied, pleasant-spoken young sailor."

106. "I know James is good and kind, grampa," the girl said earnestly; "but you see, he is not very amusing, and Richard is very nice."

107. "Nice! Yes," the old soldier said; "a fair weather sort of niceness, Aggie. Richard Horton is the squire's nephew, and I don't wish to say anything against him; but mark my words, and remember them, there's more goodness in James's little finger, than there is in his whole body. But there, I am a fool to be talking about it. There is your cousin calling you, in the garden. Go along with you."

108. The girl went off slowly, wondering at her grandfather's earnestness.  She knew she liked her old playmate far better than Richard Horton, although the latter's attentions pleased and flattered her. The old soldier went straight off to the squire's study.

109. "Squire," he said, "you remember that talk we had, three years ago, when your nephew's answer came to your letter, telling him that Aggie was found. I told you that I would wager he had made up his mind to marry her. You laughed at me; but I was right. Child though she still is, he is already paving the way for the future."

110. "Master Richard certainly is carrying on a sort of flirtation with our granddaughter," the squire said, smiling; "but as she is such a mere child as you say, what does it matter?"

111. "I think it matters a great deal," the old soldier said seriously. "I see, squire, the young fellow has quite regained your good opinion; and unless I am mistaken, you have already thought, to yourself, that it would not be a bad thing if they were to come together someday.

112. "I have thought it over, and have made up my mind that, in spite of your four years' continued kindness to me, and of the warm friendship between us, I must go away for a time. My box is still lying at Exeter, and I would rather tramp the country again, and live on it and my pension, than stay here and see my darling growing up a woman with that
future before her. I am sorry to say, squire, that what you call my prejudice is as strong as ever. I doubt that young fellow as strongly as I did before he came home. Then, I only had his past conduct and his letter to go by. Now I have the evidence of my own senses. You may ask me what I have against him. I tell you--nothing; but I misdoubt him
from my heart. I feel that he is false, that what he was when a boy, he is now. There is no true ring about him."

113. The squire was silent for a minute or two. He had a very sincere friendship and liking for his companion, a thorough confidence in his judgment and principles. He knew his self-sacrificing nature, and that he was only speaking from his love for his grandchild.

114. "Do not let us talk about it now, old friend," he said quietly. "You and I put, before all other things, Aggie's happiness. Disagreement between us there can be none on the subject. Give me tonight to think over what you have said, and we will talk about it again tomorrow."

11.    How many years passed quietly?  ____________________________

12.    How did Jim feel about Aggie?  ______________________________

13.    How did Richard feel when he found out about Aggie?  ___________


14.    Did James or Richard act better in public?  _____________________

15.    Why did Mr. Wilks not like Richard?  __________________________

Go to Chapter 6.

Return To Chapter Titles.

Return To Home Page.