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him so.

That, perhaps, was not her fault, for Victor had again begun to absent himself from her home in a most unaccountable manner. She was too proud to ask for an explanation of his conduct, or even to speak about it to her mother, especially as the latter gave her no encouragement to do so. Mr. and Mrs. Beverley at least understood each other. The Darvilles were not going on quite to Mr. Beverley's satisfaction at the counting-house. He did not blame Victor, or did not intend to blame him; but he had been obliged to speak to him more than once on his brother's account. He, being the elder, ought to have weight and influence with him. He did not think Victor ought to be offended at anything that he had said; and if he did not choose to come to Mulberry Lawn as usual, he must stay away. He could not help it, of course, and he hoped Joan would survive it. Mrs. Beverley quite agreed with this manner of thinking. Joan had seen very little of society; she had formed this romantic attachment for Victor Darville when she was quite a girl; it was not the kind of match they would have chosen for her, especially as Mr. Darville's estate had turned out so badly and so different from what they had anticipated. The young men would have nothing of their own—nothing except the business. If Victor behaved in this way, of course everything must be considered at an end between him and Joan. She must go more into society now, and would no doubt soon form other attachments.

But Joan did not care about society; did not care about anything now except church. The poor people in her district would have missed their Christmas visitors and their Christmas gifts if Mrs. Howard and her son had not undertaken to go round in Miss Beverley's stead. It was well that they had

. this occupation, for it was one which they both enjoyed, and it took Tom away from his books—those terrible books with which he employed himself early and late. Mrs. Howard was


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beginning to feel very uneasy about Tom's “head.” He laughed at her fears, and said his head was as thick and sound as anybody ought to wish. She very much wanted to consult a physician on that "point." But "it was not a point," Tom told her, “nor anything half so sharp-only a knob.” Thus, by his jests and banter, he contrived to relieve her anxiety, and to spare her guinea; he was merry enough when in her company; and the only thing she could do was to keep him by her side as much as possible; for the moment she left him his books were again before him, and the face again looked thin and careworn.

Before Tom had been at home a week he had a pressing invitation from Mr. Martin to go again to Brakeley. Not only had Mrs. Martin written to Mrs. Howard on the subject, intimating that if she would waive ceremony and come with her son she would be most welcome, but Mr. Strafford had sent a message to say he hoped they would both come and see him at the Hall. Young Martin also wrote, with the information that the house and furniture had been polished up and the decks holystoned; everything about the place was trim and taut; painters and paper-hangers had been at work for more than a month; the dog was gone, and the squire had a new dog-cart and a man who knew how to clean harness; Mr. Strafford himself did not look so old and withered as formerly, and it would be no surprise to any of them, after the great changes they had witnessed, if after Tom's next visit he should be seen driving tandem, with a man behind him blowing a post-horn. Already a school treat was talked of; and the neighbours expected there would be a dinner-party, a Christmas tree, or even a dance, by way of house-warming, in the old hall as soon as the workmen were out of it. It would bear warming again, after having been shut up so long, and they were all ready to do their part; so Tom must come-he must, he must.

Tom would have liked nothing better than to accept this invitation if his mother would have accompanied him; but she could not do so, and he would not go without her. Their Christmas and New Year were spent very quietly, but not the less happily perhaps on that account. The only really unsatisfactory part of it was that Tom persisted in giving so much time to his reading. He was evidently suffering from the effects of constant application to his books; yet nothing would induce him to be less studious. His mother knew that he was as fond of amusement as other boys, and he always managed to be lively and cheerful in her presence. He had never been much addicted to reading for its own sake, and probably if the rest of the party had been more “jolly,” or if he had had other companions, he might have been tempted to leave his books more frequently, and the relaxation would have been of infinite service to him. But Mr. and Mrs. Beverley and Joan were all rather dismal, and could not help showing it; and the Darvilles, when Tom went to see them, were not a bit better. The sight of their solemn and anxious faces, or their forced attempts at cheerfulness, was generally sufficient to send Tom away to his little room at the back of the house, where he had at least the satisfaction of feeling that his time was profitably if not pleasantly employed.

What was to be done with the boy ? that was his mother's constant thought. It was she who had encouraged him at first to embark in this competition for the scholarship, and it was still her ardent hope that he might succeed in his efforts to obtain it. But she was afraid, more and more as she watched him during the five weeks' holiday, that his health would fail; and she doubted whether, even if he should gain the prize for which he was working so hard, success would not be purchased too dearly. Mrs. Howard said so much on this topic to her son, and interrupted him so often, and at such critical moments, that he began to grow impatient. He must go on, he said; it would only be for two or three months longer; then the question would be settled, and he could be as idle as she liked. On the whole, he was scarcely sorry, when the holidays were ended, to return to his school. He wanted this period of labour and suspense to come to an end; while it lasted he could take neither rest nor recreation. Decidedly Mr. Grantly had been right when he said that he was of too nervous and anxious a temperament to compete on equal terms with other boys.

There were two scholarships to be awarded at Easter, and there were four or five boys who were supposed to have a fair chance of winning them. The running would be very close, everybody said. Tom did not feel very sorry when he heard it, but resolved to run with all his speed, nevertheless, and went into stricter and closer training, if possible, than before. One of the candidates, named Archer, was a boy of great ability, and it was tolerably certain that he would succeed if he would work; but he applied himself only by fits and starts; and unless he should change his habits, his competitors had not much to fear from him. Another, Willow, was a strong and tough, though sallow-faced boy from the north, who plodded on at his work in a thoroughly workmanlike manner, requiring, as it seemed, little or no recreation, incapable of fatigue either of mind or body, quiet in manner, not robust in appearance, and yet never ailing; always well up with his lessons, but submitting with apparent indifference to any reverse that might happen to him in his form; preserving the same equanimity in success or in failure, but resolute to get on and do well in the end. Out of school he was even-tempered and obliging, and, though not particularly intimate with any of the boys, friendly and well-disposed towards all. “ Willow will be sure to win,” every body said. “ Willow means to have one of the prizes, whoever may get the other.”

A third boy, named Tufton, had certain advantages in which the others did not share. His parents were rich, and he had been well tutored from an early age. He was quick and intelligent, but his chief qualification was a practised and retentive memory. Whatever he acquired he held. While others found it necessary to go over the same ground two or three times, Tufton, if he had once mastered a lesson, remembered it. He owed this partly to a natural gift, but more, perhaps, to the care which had been given to cultivate this faculty by constant practice in learning by heart. In the modern method of education this simple task-work is perhaps too much overlooked. We have gone from one extreme to the other. Tufton's memory had been strengthened as a child at home, and he was now able to make good use of the advantages offered by classes and lectures at school. He alone of the four competitors had a private tutor out of school hours, unless the same might be said of Tom Howard, to whom Mr. Grantly acted sometimes in that capacity, knowing how hard the boy worked, and how much depended upon his success. Tufton, it was well known, did not want the scholarship, except for the honour of it, but he meant to win it if he could, and was all the more anxious to succeed because the other candidates were, as he fancied, a little lower in the social scale than himself, and he would not like to have it said that they were superior to him in anything.

"Take it easy, Howard," Mr. Grantly would say, when the boy came to him with his book late in the evening. “You will gain nothing by overdoing it.”

“There is only a fortnight left," Tom replied on one occasion to a remonstrance of this kind, "and I have still so much to do. I seem to forget one thing as I learn another. I must go through all my books again, or I shall not know them.”

“What are you going to do to-morrow ?”

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