“No?” said Eric, “have I really?—you’re not joking? Oh! hurrah!—I must rush in and tell them;” and he bounded off.
In a second he was back at Russell’s side. “What a selfish animal I am! Where are you placed, Russell?”
“Oh! magnificent; I’m third;—far higher than I expected.”
“I’m so glad,” said Eric. “Come in with me and tell them. I’m head remove, mother,” he shouted, springing into the parlor where his father and mother sat.
In the lively joy that this announcement excited, Russell stood by for the moment unheeded; and when Eric took him by the hand to tell them that he was third, he hung his head, and a tear was in his eye.
“Poor boy! I’m afraid you’re disappointed,” said Mrs. Williams kindly, drawing him to her side.
“Oh no, no! it’s not that,” said Russell, hastily, as he lifted his swimming eyes towards her face.
“Are you hurt, Russell?” asked Eric, surprised.
“Oh! no; don’t ask me; I am only foolish to-day;” and with a burst of sorrow he flung his arms round Mrs. Williams’ neck. She folded him to her heart, and kissed him tenderly; and when his sobs would let him speak, he whispered to her in a low tone, “It is but a year since I became an orphan.”
“Dearest child,” she said, “look on me as a mother; I love you very dearly for your own sake as well as Eric’s.”
Gradually he grew calmer. They made him stay to dinner and spend the rest of the day there, and by the evening he had recovered all his usual sprightliness. Towards sunset he and Eric went for a stroll down the bay, and talked over the term and the examination.
They sat down on a green bank just beyond the beach, and watched the tide come in, while the sea-distance was crimson with the glory of evening. The beauty and the murmur filled them with a quiet happiness, not untinged with the melancholy thought of parting the next day.
At last Eric broke the silence. “Russell, let me always call you Edwin, and call me Eric.”
“Very gladly, Eric. Your coming here has made me so happy.” And the two boys squeezed each other’s hands, and looked into each other’s faces, and silently promised that they would be loving friends for ever.
THE SECOND TERM
“Take us the foxes,
the little foxes that spoil our vines; for our
vines have tender grapes.”—CANT. ii. 15.
The second term at school is generally the great test of the strength of a boy’s principles and resolutions. During the first term the novelty, the loneliness, the dread of unknown punishments, the respect for authorities, the desire to measure himself with his companions—all tend to keep him right and diligent. But many of these incentives are removed after the first brush of novelty, and many a lad who has given good promise at first, turns out, after a short probation, idle, or vicious, or indifferent.