This note, too, brought much comfort to the poor boy’s lonely and passionate heart. He put it into his pocket, and determined at once to accept Mr. Rose’s kind offer of allowing him to sit for the present in the library.
There were several boys in the room while he was reading his notes, but none of them spoke to him, and he was too proud to notice them, or interrupt the constrained silence. As he went out he met Duncan and Montagu, who at once addressed him in the hearing of the rest.
“Ha! Williams,” said Duncan, “we have been looking everywhere for you, dear fellow. Cheer up, you shall be cleared yet. I, for one, and Monty for another, will maintain your innocence before the whole school.”
Montagu said nothing, but Eric understood full well the trustful kindness of his soft pressure of the hand. His heart was too full to speak, and he went on towards the library.
“I wonder at your speaking to that fellow,” said Bull, as the two new comers joined the group at the fire-place.
“You will be yourself ashamed of having ever suspected him before long,” said Montagu warmly; “ay, the whole lot of you; and you are very unkind to condemn him before you are certain.”
“I wish you joy of your friend, Duncan,” sneered Barker.
“Friend?” said Duncan, firing up; “yes! he is my friend, and I’m not ashamed of him. It would be well for the school if all the fellows were as honorable as Williams.”
Barker took the hint, and although he was too brazen to blush, thought it better to say no more.
“A plot, a plot, a plot, to ruin all.” TENNYSON, The Princess.
On the Monday evening, the head boy reported to Dr. Rowlands that the perpetrator of the offence had not been discovered, but that one boy was very generally suspected, and on grounds that seemed plausible. “I admit,” he added, “that from the little I know of him he seems to me a very unlikely sort of boy to do it.”
“I think,” suggested the Doctor, “that the best way would be for you to have a regular trial on the subject, and hear the evidence. Do you think that you can be trusted to carry on the investigation publicly, with good order and fairness?”
“I think so, sir,” said Avonley.
“Very well. Put up a notice, asking all the school to meet by themselves in the boarders’ room tomorrow afternoon at three, and see what you can do among you.”
Avonley did as the Doctor suggested. At first, when the boys assembled, they seemed inclined to treat the matter as a joke, and were rather disorderly; but Avonley briefly begged them, if they determined to have a trial, to see that it was conducted sensibly; and by general consent he was himself voted into the desk as president. He then got up and said—
“There must be no sham or nonsense about this affair. Let all the boys take their seats quietly down the room.”