“Poor child,” thought Eric; “dear little Vernon; and he is to be flogged, perhaps birched, to-morrow.”
He went off sadly to bed, and hardly once remembered, that he too would come in for certain punishment the next day.
MR. ROSE AND BRIGSON
Deseruit pede Poena claudo.”—HOR.
After prayers the next morning Dr. Rowlands spoke to his boarders on the previous day’s discovery, and in a few forcible vivid words set before them, the enormity of the offence. He ended by announcing that the boys who were caught would be birched,—“except the elder ones, Bull and Brigson, who will bring me one hundred lines every hour of the half-holidays till further notice. There are some,” he said, “I am well aware, who, though present yesterday, were not detected. I am sorry for it, for their sakes; they will be more likely to sin again. In cases like this, punishment is a blessing, and impunity a burden.” On leaving the room he bade Eric follow him into his study. Eric obeyed, and stood before the head-master with downcast eyes.
“Williams,” he said, “I have had a great regard for you, and felt a deep interest in you from the day I first saw you, and knew your excellent parents. At one time I had conceived great hopes of your future course, and your abilities seemed likely to blossom into noble fruit. But you fell off greatly, and grew idle and careless. At last an event happened, in which for a time you acted worthily of yourself, and which seemed to arouse you from your negligence and indifference. All my hopes in you revived; but as I continued to watch your course (more closely, perhaps, than you supposed), I observed with pain that those hopes must be again disappointed. It needs but a glance at your countenance to be sure that you are not so upright or right-minded a boy as you were two years ago. I can judge only from your outward course; but I deeply fear, Williams, I deeply fear, that in other respects also you are going the down-hill road. And what am I to think now, when on the same morning, you and your little brother both come before me for such serious and heavy faults? I cannot free you from blame even for his misdoings, for you are his natural guardian here; I am only glad that you were not involved with him in that charge.”
“Let me bear the punishment, sir, instead of him,” said Eric, by a sudden impulse; “for I misled him, and was there myself.”
Dr. Rowlands paced the room in deep sorrow. “You, Williams! on the verge of the sixth form. Alas! I fear, from this, that the state of things among you is even worse than I had supposed.”
Eric again hung his head.
“No; you have confessed the sin voluntarily, and therefore at present I shall not notice it; only, let me entreat you to beware. But I must turn to the other matter. What excuse have you for your intolerable conduct to Mr. Rose, who, as I know, has shown you from the first the most unusual and disinterested kindness?”