But the two brothers returned to the study, and there, sorrowful in his penitence, with his heart still aching with remorse, Eric sat down on a chair facing the window, and drew Vernon to his side. The sun was setting behind the purple hills, flooding the green fields and silver sea with the crimson of his parting rays. The air was fall of peace and coolness, and the merry sounds of the cricket field blended joyously with the whisper of the evening breeze. Eric was fond of beauty in every shape, and his father had early taught him a keen appreciation of the glories of nature. He had often gazed before on that splendid scene, as he was new gazing on it thoughtfully with his brother by his side. He looked long and wistfully at the gorgeous pageantry of quiet clouds, and passed his arm more fondly round Vernon’s shoulder.
“What are you thinking of, Eric? Why, I declare you are crying still,” said Vernon playfully, as he wiped a tear which had overflowed on his brother’s cheek, “aren’t you glad that the Doctor has forgiven you?”
“Gladder, far gladder than I can say, Verny. O Verny, Verny, I hope your school-life may be happier than mine has been. I would give up all I have, Verny, to have kept free from the sins I have learnt. God grant that I may yet have time and space to do better.”
“Let us pray together, Eric,” whispered his brother reverently, and they knelt down and prayed; they prayed for their distant parents and friends; they prayed for their schoolfellows and for each other, and for Wildney, and they thanked God for all his goodness to them; and then Eric poured out his heart in a fervent prayer that a holier and happier future might atone for his desecrated past, and that his sins might be forgiven for his Saviour’s sake.
The brothers rose from their knees calmer and more light-hearted, and gave each other a solemn affectionate kiss, before they went down again to the play-ground. But they avoided the rest of the boys, and took a stroll together along the sands, talking quietly, and happily, and hoping bright hopes for future days.
WHOM THE GODS LOVE DIE YOUNG
“Oh is it weed,
or fish, or floating hair?
A tress of maiden’s hair,
Of drowned maiden’s hair,
Above the nets at sea?”—KINGSLEY.
Eric and Wildney were flogged and confined to gates for a time instead of being expelled, and they both bore the punishment in a manly and penitent way, and set themselves with all their might to repair the injury which their characters had received. Eric, especially, seemed to be devoting himself with every energy to regain, if possible, his long lost position, and by the altered complexion of his remaining school-life, to atone in some poor measure for its earlier sins. And he carried Wildney with him, influencing others also of his late companions in a greater or less degree.