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She watched him wistfully as his long thin fingers crept smoothly and steadily over the keys and his voice rose for the instant clear and high, then sank lower, and then fell almost to a whisper.
Yes; she liked Edwin-Edwin who was so clever -could do, too, Greek and Latin with his tutor.
"In my Cottage near a Wood" that Miss Polwhele was always talking about! Why, the two things were as different as possible. The one was music; the other wasn't.
The player paused; laid his hands once more lovingly upon the keys, and was beginning again. "Edwin!"
"You, Eva! I didn't know you were here," he said. "What a girl you are for taking one by surprise!"
"Listen. I've a lot to tell you." "Help me down, then, Eva."
A strange request indeed, it seemed, from a boy of his age, and addressed, too, to a girl.
"Your crutches-where are they? Oh, yes--I see, in the corner there. Wait a moment. Don't stir, whatever you do," and the next instant she had darted into the corner already spoken of.
"There they are, Edwin. Now then, lean on me; you know how strong I am."
Eva spoke very lightly: for she knew well that Edwin had not yet learned to bear much pity.
His trouble already seemed bad enough-to be always lame, crippled for life-without being continually reminded of it by others.
With great difficulty Edwin descended from his stool. One of the crutches had slipped, but Eva had again picked it up quickly, placed it under Edwin's other arm, and led him towards the armchair.
Wilton still lay idly upon the sofa just opposite. His mind, it would appear, was always wandering in one long dream.
"Funny!" thought Eva. "Here am I-only a girl, and a little one, too-with more strength in my whole body, I do believe, than both my brothers put together. Strange, isn't it?"
CHAPTER V.-JACK TRIES TO FURTHER MOTHER'S SCHOOL.
T had been raining ever since early morning, and it was now past four o'clock in the afternoon.
A "hansom" cab was driven along the noisy main street of Islington, and then came to a standstill before a bookseller's shop.
"Wait a moment," said a voice from within. "Have been on the look-out all the way up the
street for a shop of this kind. Want to buy a London Directory. The idea of no one in these parts knowing where Mistletoe Grove is! Ridiculous!"
The gentleman had by this time sprung out and entered the shop in question.
"A Directory for London-have you such a thing in hand?"
"No, sir. Just sold the last copy." "Tiresome!"
“Am sorry, sir. Can order one for you.” No; that's of no use. Tiresome! You can, however, direct me, it may be, to Mistletoe Grove?" "Mistletoe Grove? Yes, sir. It's almost a new row of houses, not ten minutes' walk from this. Second turning on the right and fifth on the left. Any particular number, sir?”
"Mrs. Moran's school;" said Mr. Joe Moran. "You don't happen to know anything about it, I suppose?"
Jack rather thought he did. Oh, number three: quite at the farther end."
"A good school, is it thought?"
"Yes, sir, very." How heartily Jack hoped that he was thus lending a hand in the helping on of mother's school.
"What sort, for boys or girls?"
"You wish to send some, perhaps, sir?"
"Never you mind whom I wish to send; it's no earthly business of yours. What sort, I repeat?"
"It's what's called, then, sir, 'A Preparatory School for Little Boys.' You'll see it written upon the door-plate in large letters; and Mrs. Moran "oh how very bold this was of dear Jack, only that again he could not help it-" gets them all on beautifully, and they all like her very much indeed."
Who was the gentleman? he wondered. And what did he want at mother's?
But we will leave Jack for a while, and settle ourselves down at once at No. 3, Mistletoe Grove.
Oh! the busy hum that was going on at that hour in the schoolroom: the number of sums that were being added up, and subtracted, and multiplied, and divided, as the case might be, by this boy and that the number of sums that were wrong, and the very few that were right.
The number, too, of very small boys who would
fidgeting with his feet and quarrelling with his neighbours.
"Seven times seven, now?" she asked a punyfaced boy, who had already been turned back thrice in his sum, and seemed altogether in a regular dream.
No answer for a moment or two.
"Seven times seven are sixty," then came slowly and doubtfully.
"Forty-nine!" came sharply, the next instant, from the clever boy of the school, and he looked, too, as if he really thought himself extremely clever.
persist in not knowing their multiplication table: one saying that six times six made exactly eightyone; another that three times four made seventeen ; another that five times five made one hundred, and
Then there was one rosy-faced boy who, in adding up, always forgot to carry the left-hand figure, and another who always pretended that he never remembered how to prove his sums, although he had been taught to do so at least a dozen times.
And then, of course, there was the cleverest boy in mother's school, who remembered everything, answered every question well-nigh before it was out of the questioner's mouth, was always
And then there came a rapid shuffling of feet, for the clever boy had, of course, taken the place of the blundering one, and gone up in triumph to the top of the class.
"Don't be cast down, Tom," whispered Mrs. Moran encouragingly. "Never lose heart in any. thing. You'll go up again another day, I dare say; only do keep your wits always about you."
"But I shall miss the prize;" and he spoke disappointedly.
"No one yet knows who will either win or lose it," returned Mrs. Moran. "All can but do their best, and try. What's my favourite text, Tom, that I tried to teach you all only the other day?" Tom evidently did not recollect it in the least.
His memory was certainly in a very sad condition that day, and his temper also seemed all awry.
"I may speak, mother? I remember ;" and Nell held out her soft, plump little hand as she spoke. "Yes, dear."
"Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.' Wasn't that it, mother?"
"Yes, darling. Which means, fight hard always to do your very best in whatever you undertake; in whatever, in fact, comes in your path to do, if it's only in the sweeping of a crossing or in the sweeping out of a room. Don't leave a fragment of dust anywhere."
And then mother and Nell at once thought of Jack.
"And mother has another favourite sort of text," ventured Nell.
The slates were for the instant all laid down, and every pair of eyes in the entire group was peering steadily into mother's face. They all liked being talked to dearly.
"I know what you mean, Nell that we should all improve to the very best of our power both the time and the talents which God has given us. Yes, 'tis very true."
"Or else they may both be taken away from us, mother, you have often said."
"Yes, dear; there is little doubt they will. Such gifts are only lent us for a little space, and if we don't improve them, the chances are that we shall lose them altogether. They will not always be left with us.
Don't waste anything of the kind that is ever given you; that's my advice. Tom, Tom! what are you about?"
"Why, he's actually standing on his head," said Nell. He certainly does do things in a hurry, as he calls it. Why, Tom, you're the queerest, funniest, and most tiresome boy in the whole of mother's school."
CHAPTER VI.-ALL HARD AT WORK.
Y foot slipped, and then I think my head slipped," stammered Tom.
"And therefore you stood upon it," interrupted Nell, after Tom had once more righted himself, his hair now being in a more disorderly condition even than usual. It stood at the present moment, in fact, quite on end.
"And mother's advice? You've quite forgotten it, I suppose?" broke in Nell.
"What, not to waste anything? No, I haven't." "Standing upon your head seems to have improved your memory, at any rate," observed one of his companions.
"Don't laugh at him." It was Mrs. Moran who
spoke. "The golden rule--you have forgotten it— to do to others exactly as you would have them do to you."
“And not to waste food," said Tom stoutly and suddenly, wishing to show that he was for once listening with all his heart and soul.
"Neither food, nor anything else, Tom."
"Haven't got anything else," retorted he blankly; "excepting"-glancing down meanwhile at his rather short waistcoat and knickerbockers-" my clothes." Every one laughed heartily, excepting Mrs. Moran.
"You've plenty of other gifts, Tom," she said brightly.
"My pocket-money. Oh, you mean that ;" and without another instant's delay Tom turned out on the desk before him the contents of both his pockets, consisting of some rather dirty-looking halfpence, which, of course, did not consent to lie quietly on the desk at all, but insisted upon tumbling down one after the other upon the schoolroom matting.
Away they rolled, every one of them, into all sorts of corners.
"You shall pick them up presently, Tom. Nell will help you. Only listen to me for another instant."
Tom looked very miserable indeed at the fate of his prized halfpence, but tried hard, poor little man, to be obedient, and fixed his round eyes resolutely upon Mrs. Moran's face.
"You have, all of you, a great many other blessings. Count them on your fingers. Health, for instance. I suppose you are pretty well,
sided. "I dare say they're all very good and kind, in spite of that."
Tom thought that on the whole" they were.
"And now your blessings number three, at any rate. Then you have your wits-your brains-by which I mean the talents which God has given you.”
Tom thought a moment.
"That's when they don't go a-wool-gathering, as you sometimes call it, isn't it?" remarked he again. "That's your own fault entirely," began Mrs. Moran; whilst Nell could not help exclaiming"Why, Tom, what a comical boy you are !—the very funniest boy, I think, that I ever met with in all my life."
Tom coloured up to the roots of his hair, and then Nell felt sorry that she had said so much.
However, she would do all she could now to make up matters with him. She would dive about afterwards for his halfpence underneath benches and tables, until she had managed to find them every one; and then-
And you've plenty of time, too, Tom," resumed Mrs. Moran. "That's another important blessing. Don't forget."
"Oh!" this breathlessly. "And I always try to get through things in a great hurry," interrupted Tom, evidently thinking that this was a great virtue on his part.
"Always being in a hurry doesn't in the least mean that you always make the most of time." But Mrs. Moran was suddenly interrupted.
There was a loud peal at the front door bell; then such a thundering rat-tat, too, as the knocker had not known for many a long day, and the boys and Nell had peeped out of the window before her mother had even time to tell them to remain in their places.
"A"hansom cab!'" exclaimed Tom. "And it's waiting. And "-this with a yawn-"I'm sure it's past twelve o'clock."
"Perhaps it's a new pupil," thought Nell; and, indeed, she said so.
Again fell upon their ears that terrible row that Nance always so much dreaded.
It did really seem to-day as if every member of the noisy party possessed four feet instead of the usual number-only two.
Clatter, clatter! clamp, clamp! chatter, chatter! Why, Nance wondered, had any gentle man, with such an expensive gold watch and chain, too, come to call upon the mistress at that particular hour, when it was utterly impossible to receive him quietly or decently?
"Is Mrs. Moran at home?"
"Yes, sir,” replied she, looking up at him.
Well, she wouldn't be presently, if he would walk in. The young gentlemen were just coming out of school.
Down came the "young gentlemen" of whom she had just spoken, one after the other, shuffling and sliding, hopping and jumping.
Tom ran back again to Nell.
He had caught a hasty glance of the visitor. "Can't be a new pupil at all, I think, Nell: he's too tall. A man-quite."
"Perhaps he's the father of one, Tom," suggested Nell shrewdly.
Tom had evidently not thought over the matter in this new light. Nell, on the contrary, knew that little boys did not, as a rule, come to school-the first day, at any rate-quite alone, saying, "Please take me in."
Mrs. Moran knew well enough whom she was going to see.
Half an hour later on, the dining-room bell rang, and Nell was sent for.
Nance had made her put on her best frock in the meanwhile, as she was sure she would be sent for.
"And so this is my new little niece. How are you, Nell?" and he had drawn her towards him.
But Nell-foolish child that she certainly wassuddenly remembered that he was rich and that they were very poor; and so-why, she could not in reality have explained-she drew herself away somewhat funnily on one side, and then crept up close to her mother.
"Tied to her mother's apron-string-eh? that it, little Nell?"
"Not quite that, Uncle Joe," and Mrs. Moran spoke brightly. "Uncle Joe, dear Nell, wants to take you back with him;" and then the tears started suddenly into her eyes, and Nell gave a slight start.
"Yes; I want to take you off your mother's hands for a while, Nell."
And still Nell did not speak.
"What say you, little woman?" he asked.
"Oh! please-please-I don't know anything at all about it. But just as mother thinks best; only that I think I'd rather not."
"Well, that is comical reasoning," exclaimed Uncle Joe. "Eva and you would get on capitally together, if I don't mistake. You shall have lessons with her governess, and
"And oh please," said Nell, "if you don't mind my saying so, Uncle Joe "-this was the very first time she had mustered the courage to call him by his name "I would so very much rather have lessons with mother, here."
"What! amongst all the boys?" said her uncle.
Joe," and Nell's eyes brightened up quite beautifully, "I love music better than anything else in all the world, I think, excepting, of course, mother and Jack."
"That's right, then. The piano is a beauty. I gave it to Eva on her last birthday, and gave an organ to Edwin on his."
"What is it, mother?" asked Nell.
"Why can't Eva come here for a little while?" Mrs. Moran suggested.
The rich man shook his head decisively.
There were many reasons why he should not like to part with Eva just now. He wished Nell to come and stay with them instead, he said.
But Mrs. Moran was not to be tempted into altering her mind, and forcing her little daughter to accept the invitation to which she was so averse. Uncle Joe's wife having died years ago, there was no real head in the household excepting himself;
no one either
to take the
lead when he was absent.
Yes; Uncle Joe must indeed be rich.
And Nell had not even an old piano to practise upon.
She did not, however, even now seem tempted in the least to change her mind.
"And I have another plan to propose, Nell, by which you and Eva may become acquainted."
No; Nell would tum
having entrusted her child away. If Eva would come so as to stay with them for, say, a few days: that would be quite a different matter, she thought. But Uncle Joe was also resolute; and soon afterwards, having inquired about Jack, he left.
ble into all sorts of mischief, and then she should, per
"How strange!" thought Mrs. Moran, as she saw him out at the front door, "he has not once spoken about his own two poor boys, Wilton and Edwin. Everything has been about Eva-Eva this, Eva that. Perhaps he had no heart to speak of them. But I could speak frankly and happily of my Jack having gone into a shop. Indeed, I feel quite proud of him."
As, indeed, she was yet more two hours later. (To be continued.)