Montagu’s lip trembled, but he said nothing, and quietly putting on his coat, waved back the throng of boys with a proud sweep of his arm, and left the room with Duncan.
“Come along, Wright,” he said.
“Nay, leave him,” said Eric with a touch of remorse. “Much as you think me beneath you, I have honor enough to see that no one hurts him.”
The group of boys gradually dispersed, but one or two remained with Eric, although he was excessively wearied by their observations.
“You didn’t fight half like yourself,” said Wildney.
“Can’t you tell why? I had the wrong side to fight for.” And getting up abruptly, he left the room, to be alone in his study, and bathe his swollen and aching face.
In a few minutes Vernon joined him, and at the mere sight of him Eric burst into tears of shame. That evening with Vernon in the study, after the dinner at the Jolly Herring, had revived all his really warm affection for his little brother; and as he could no longer conceal the line he took in the school, they had been often together since then; and Eric’s moral obliquity was not so great as to prevent him from feeling deep joy at the change for the better in Vernon’s character.
“Verny, Verny,” he said, as the boy came up and affectionately took his hand, “it was you who lost me that fight.”
“Oh, but, Eric, you were fighting with Montagu.”
“Don’t you remember the days, Eric,” he continued, “when we were home-boarders, and how kind Monty used to be to me even then, and how mother liked him, and thought him quite your truest friend, except poor Russell?”
“I do, indeed. I didn’t think then that it would come to this.”
“I’ve always been so sorry,” said Vernon, “that I joined the fellows in playing him tricks. I can’t think how I came to do it, except that I’ve done such lots of bad things here. But he’s forgiven and forgotten that long ago, and is very kind to me now.”
It was true; but Eric didn’t know that half the kindness which Montagu showed to his brother was shown solely for his sake.
“Do you know, I’ve thought of a plan for making you two friends again? I’ve written to Aunt Trevor to ask him to Fairholm with us next holidays.”
“Oh, have you? Good Verny! Yes; there we might be friends. Perhaps there,” he added, half to himself, “I might be more like what I was in better days.”
“But it’s a long time to look forward to. Easter hasn’t come yet,” said Vernon.
So the two young boys proposed; but God had disposed it otherwise.
“Et motae ad Lunam trepidabis arundinis umbram.”
Juv. X. 21.
“How awfully dull it is, Charlie,” said Eric, a few weeks before Easter, as he sat with Wildney in his study one holiday afternoon.