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GRIERSON



VIVIAN'S LESSON















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They inadr such a jnvtty |>ictuiv that there was quite a

l)\irst of applause,
vi. PAGE 33.



VIVIAN'S LESSON



By



ELIZABETH W. GRIERSON

Author of

Children's Tales from Scottish Ballads'
The Children's Book of Edinburgh.' &c.



WITH TEN ILLUSTRATIONS
by

Hilda Cowham




LONDON AND EDINBURGH



W. & R. CHAMBERS, LIMITED

Philadelphia : J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

1907



,-.



Edinburgh :
Printed by W. & R. Chambers, Limited.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER PAGE

I. WHAT BEGAN IT 1

II. AN INVITATION 11

III. GOING TO LONDON 19

IV. THE CHRISTMAS TREE 29

V. A FALSE STEP 40

VI. A GAME OF HIDE-AND-SEEK 54

VII. ANOTHER INVITATION 70

VIII. THE BROKEN WINDOWS ...... 80

IX. THE MAN IN THE SUMMER-HOUSE ... 92

X. BURGLARS 103

xi. THE DOCTOR'S VISIT 121

XII. THE DARK SHADOW 135

XIII. A DREARY HOMECOMING 156

XIV. VIVIAN CONQUERS ....... 166

XV. ANOTHER MYSTERY ...... 179

XVI. A VAIN SEARCH 193

XVII. MADAME GENVIEVE 203

XVIII. RUNNING AWAY . 214

XIX. THE JOURNEY 223

XX. MONSIEUR THE VICOMTE DE CHOISIGNY . . 236

XXI. THE OPINION OF DR JULES 245

XXII. MR MAXWELL FINDS OUT THE TRUTH. . . 254

XXIII. A HAPPY MEETING ...... 265

XXIV. A FRESH BEGINNING . 277
XXV. WESTWARD HO ! 285



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



PAGE

They made such a pretty picture that there was quite a
burst of applause .... Frontispiece.

They were a merry party as they walked across the

snowy meadow to church . . . . . .17

The children set to work and transformed the hall into a

perfect bower 29

'But what is that bundle of rags for?' went on Vivian,

putting up his hand to pull them down ... 59

Isobel lay down with a story-book on the schoolroom

sofa, and soon fell into a heavy sleep .... 64

There, to his horror, looking through the gap, was a
rough-looking man, with a stubbly beard, and a
dirty white muffler twisted loosely round his neck . 92

At last a tiny red speck appeared under the yellow lamp,

and began to move slowly up the road . . . 162

' Thou lazy dreamer ! ' she said, pulling him to his feet

by the collar of his blue cotton blouse . . . 205

He sank gratefully into the soft bed of straw which the
kind countryman made up for him, and had fallen
into a feverish sleep 231

' Mother, oh mother ! ' he cried. . . . ' Can you forgive

me ' ' 66

1UC +*\J\J



VIVIAN'S LESSON.



CHAPTER 1.

WHAT BEGAN IT.

' /^OME on, Vivian, It is high time we were
going home ; you know we promised
mother that we would come off the ice at
half-past four.'

' Well, so we will ; but it is only five-and-
twenty past now, so we have plenty of time
for one turn more. Come on, old stupid ; you
are always frightened of being late;' and the
younger of the speakers, a brown-eyed, mis-
chievous-looking lad of about eleven. swun off

O ' O

with his three companions, leaving his brother
standing watching them, a troubled look on
his face.

He hated to make a fuss, and he did not
want to leave the ice a moment sooner than
he could help; but a promise is a promise, and

A



2 WHAT BEHAX IT.

he had given his word that they would be
ready to leave the pond at the half-hour. It
was later than they were generally allowed to
stay ; but it was Saturday afternoon, and there
were signs of a thaw, so, as the ice might
not last till Monday, their father had agreed
to an extra half-hour on condition that they
left the ice punctually and hurried home.

Vivian had given his word readily enough,
and had meant to keep it; but now, as he
flew round and round the pond, crying 'Just
one turn more/ he seemed to have forgotten
all about his promise.

Ronald sat down and took oft" his skates,
then stepped on the path, and stood buckling
them together.

' Come on, Vivi,' he entreated. ' It is the half-
hour now, and you know how anxious mother
will be/

' All right,' said Vivian a little sulkily, ' I
suppose I must; but it is an awful nuisance,
when we may not have such lovely ice all
winter again.'

' I should think so/ struck in Fergus Strange-

o o

ways. ' I am thankful that father doesn't
make us come in so soon. Why, the moon



WHAT BEGAN IT. 3

will be up in no time, and we will stay on
quite late. Captain Laing and he are coming
down before dinner, and Captain Laing promised
to show us how to cut the " Figure Eight." '

o o

' How jolly ! ' said Ronald a little wistfully,
while Vivian bent his head over his straps
and pretended not to hear.

'Couldn't you stay, really?' asked Charlie
Strangeways, Fergus's elder brother; 'you could
come in and have tea with us. I dare say
Dr Armitage would know where you were ; it
is going to be lovely moonlight, and it isn't
as if we were to be alone all the time. I
don't suppose that he would have minded if
he had known that the dad and Captain Laing



were coming.



' Oh, do let us stay, Ronald ! I 'm sure father
wouldn't mind. You know he did say that he
would have taken us out by moonlight himself
if he had not been so busy,' pleaded Vivian.

' No, Charlie/ said Ronald firmly. ' It is very
good of you to ask us, and it would have
been splendid fun ; but father didn't know about
your father and Captain Laing, and he would
wonder where we were. Besides, we promised.
So hurry up, Vivian.'



4 \YFTAT BEOAX IT.

' Wheat a stick you are, Ronald ! ' said Fergus ;

** O

' you can't change a bit, even when circum-
stances change. Just because Dr Armitage said
that you couldn't be out alone here after dark,
you spoil all the fun by going off, although it
is very different now that father and Captain
Laing are coming.'

' Don't be stupid, Fergus/ put in Charlie
good-naturedly. ' If they promised, they must
go. Besides, it is a long way over to Holm-
end ; it is easy for us with our house close by.'

Charlie was fifteen, and a public school boy,
so his word carried weight with it, and his
brother was silent, while Vivian took up his
skates more cheerfull} 7 .

' We '11 see you in the beginning of the
week,' went on Charlie ; ' we are going to
practise shooting on Tuesday if the frost
doesn't hold, we have got such jolly little
pistols from Uncle Don ; they carry quite a
long way, and one can kill a bird with them.
You must come over and bring yours ; the
Doctor is going to give you a pair for Christ-
inas, isn't he ? '

Poor Vivian turned hot all over. If there
was one thing in the world he was frightened

o o



WHAT BEGAN IT. 5

of, it was being laughed at. As a rule, the
b<tys were at liberty to choose their Christmas
presents ; and when, a fortnight before, Fergus
had told him of his uncle's intended present,
he had instantly agreed to ask his father for
the same, and great had been his disappoint-
ment and dismay when his request met with
a grave refusal.

'A pistol for your Christmas present! Not
if I know it, my boy. What ! Fergus and
Yere and Charlie going to have them ? Well,
if I mistake not, they will be in my hands
shortly. No, no; if their father likes to risk
their lives, that is no reason why I should
risk yours. Now, don't look so glum ; I know
what I am talking about. If you had seen the
case I saw over at Whitf orth the other day :
a lad older than either Ronald or you had
got hold of one of these pistols, and it went
off in his little brother's face. I don't want
to harrow your feelings, but,' and the Doctor's
voice dropped, and he spoke sadly, 'that poor
little chap will never be able to see again.
No ; I '11 give you anything you like, in reason,
for your Christmas present, but a pistol is out
of the question/



D WHAT BEGAN IT.

At the time the explanation had been suffi-
cient, but now Vivian's eager little spirit felt
very rebellious.

Fergus Strangcways was just a year older
than he was, and surely he was as capable of
being careful as Fergus. How Fergus and Vere
would laugh at him if they knew the whole
story ! He flashed a warning look at Ronald,
but Ronald did not seem to understand.

'We may come out to watch, 3 he said in his
quiet voice ; ' but father won't let us have
pistols yet. He says we are too young. He
has promised to give us proper guns when we
are sixteen. He will not let us shoot before
that/

The pitying looks on his companions' faces
were quite lost on Ronald, who was only
thinking of his promise to be home in good
time; but they stung Vivian even more than
the words that followed.

' What a nuisance it must be to be so well
looked after ! You 11 grow into regular muffs
if you don't look out.'

C I would give you a licking for that, just
to judge if the symptoms are beginning, but I
haven't time to-night,' said Ronald, with a laugh,



WHAT BEGAN IT.

conscious that none of the boys could stand
up against him; and he walked off whistling
through the woods, followed by Vivian, who
was fuming with rage and injured pride.

' What made you go and give me away like
that ? ' he asked presently. ' You know there is
a talk of our going to Aunt Dora's next week.
I know, anyhow, because mother had a letter,
and if only you had held your tongue I would
have said that very likely we would be away
from home, and they need never have known
anything about father not letting us have these
pistols. Now Fergus will go all over the place
laughing at us for a couple of babies ; ' and he
kicked at the fallen leaves viciously in his
vexation.

'As if I minded what Fergus Strangeways
says ! ' retorted Ronald scornfully ; ' why, he 's
the veriest little ass going. He may get a
pistol, but I bet you a sixpence that he daren't
let it off, in spite of all his bluster. Besides,
I knew nothing about any invitation to Aunt
Dora's ; and if I had, I wouldn't have been such
a sneak as to pretend that that was the reason
that we couldn't go to shoot with them. Of
course it is a nuisance. I would have liked a



8 WHAT BEGAN IT.

pistol as well as you ; but father would not
have hindered us having one if he had not
had good reasons, and now that he has pro-
mised us that lovely camera I 'm sure we can't
grumble.'

' That 's all very well for you/ growled
Vivian; 'you always were a bit of a muff,
with your music, and your photographs, and
your collections. " The paragon " the other boys
call you behind your back, for they say that
you haven't enough spirit in you to do any-
thing wrong.'

'They had better say it to my face then,
and I '11 give them what for, and you too for
listening to such rot,' said Ronald hotly ; and
then he laughed at his own vehemence. ' Don't
let us quarrel on Christmas Eve,' he went on
pleasantly ; ' I '11 race you across the meadow.'

They set off at a run, and b}^ the time
they had reached the garden gate, hot and
breathless, they had almost forgotten the cause
of their anger.

1 There is mother at the window, and Dorothy, 1
cried Vivian, waving his cap. ' Doesn't a lit-up
room look jolly and comfortable when one is
outside ? After all, I am rather glad that we



WHAT BEGAN IT. 9

didn't stay any longer at the lake, for I am
awfully hungry, and I expect there is a scrump-
tious tea in the schoolroom.'

As they went into the hall of the long, low
red house, a little figure in white ran out to
meet them.

' Hurry, quick ! ' she lisped, ' we 's going to
have tea wif muvver, an' then we 's going to
dec'rate. Black has brought in such a lot of
green stuff, heaps an' heaps, all p'ickles. Dorothy
knows, 'cause she hurted her fingers.'

'Dorothy was well warned, so it was her
own fault,' said a clear voice behind her, and
Mrs Armitage appeared in the hall. Tall, slim,
and graceful, with a wealth of rippling hair
and a sweet pale face, it was no wonder that
to the boys mother was the centre of their
world.

' Quickly, boys, run upstairs, get off those
dirty boots, and get ready for tea. Father has
been called out, and may not be home till quite
late, so I will have it with you in the school-
room, and afterwards we will try to get the
hall decorated before he comes back. You
know how he loves to see the greenery.'

After tea, Ellen the housemaid was pressed



10 WHAT BEGAN IT.

into the service, so the decorations went on
merrily; and as Vivian stood on a ladder
fastening up the wreaths of bright holly
which his mother's quick fingers wove so
rapidly, while little Dorothy ran about, proud
in the belief that she was helping every one,
he thought quite pityingly of the Strangeways,
who had no mother or little sister, although
they might possess pistols and skate in the
moonlight while he had to come home.



CHAPTER 11.

AN INVITATION.

/CHRISTMAS Day dawned clear and bright.
^^ All prospects of a thaw seemed to be
gone, for the frost had been very keen during
the night, and every little twig on the trees
glittered in the sunshine as if it were set
with diamonds.

' What a day for skating ! ' said Ronald at
breakfast-time, after good-mornings and good
wishes had been passed round. 'It almost
makes one wish that Christmas had not fallen
on a Sunday this year.'

' Oh Ronnie ! ' said little Dorothy aghast. ' You
touldn't go skating to-day. Tink of the pudding,
and we 's going to have 'sert. I saw muvver
putting it out oranges, an' nuts, an' 'nannas.'

' Yes ; but, Pussy, Christmas dinner is like
the frost, it doesn't last for ever,' said Ronald,
lifting his little sister into her place between
his mother's chair and his own, while every-
one laughed at her remark.

' Never mind,' said Mrs Armitage, ' even if



12 AN INVITATION.

it had been a week-day what with church,
and dinner, and presents there would not have
been much time for skating; besides/ glancing
out of the window as she spoke, ' I do not
think that it will last like this all day. I
fancy we will have a fresh fall of snow ere
night. Here comes father, so } T OU may begin,
boys.'

Dr Armitage was a pleasant-looking man, of
about middle age, with a kind, open face, and
keen gray eyes. The likeness between him and
his eldest son would have told a stranger at

o

once what relationship there was between them.

' Well, boys,' he said cheerfully, turning over
a pile of letters as he spoke, * has mother
told you the news yet? 5

' What news ? ' they asked eagerly, while
their mother shook her head in mock dis-
pleasure.

' Oh Jack, you cannot keep a secret ! ' she
said, laughing. ' I did not mean to tell them
till after church. It will keep running in
their heads all through the service. However,

O

there is no help for it now. How would you
like to go to London, boys ? To Aunt Dora's,
for a whole week by yourselves ? '



AN INVITATION. 13

' To Aunt Dora's, mother ? Has she asked

us ? Oh yes, I remember, Vivian said '

Ronald broke off abruptly.

Vivian's remark of the previous afternoon
about an invitation to Aunt Dora's had flashed
into his mind, and he was just going to ask
him how he had heard the news when a
frightened, warning look on his brother's face
checked him.

' Oh, how jolly ! ' he went on, in some
embarrassment, after a moment's hesitation ; ' we
have never been away ourselves before. Will
you let us go, mother ? '

His mother did not seem to notice his con-
fusion, nor the puzzled look which he wore
as he relapsed into silence, and sat watching
his brother, who was talking rapidly, his eager
little face flushed and his eyes sparkling.

'Yes, I think so,' she replied, 'if you promise
to be very good boys. You are old enough
now to be trusted away from home alone, so
father and Dorothy and I must make up our
minds to a quiet house for a week, for I
wrote to Aunt Dora yesterday to say that you
will be at Victoria at four o'clock on Monday
afternoon.'



14 AN INVITATION.



was finished amidst much excited
discussion as to what should be taken in the
way of garments and portmanteau. A listener
would have thought that the boys were going
to America at least ; but to lads of eleven
and thirteen a first visit to London alone is
a treat indeed.

As they were running upstairs to get ready
for church, Mrs Armitage laid her hand on
Vivian's shoulder and drew him into her
room.

' What did Ronald mean at breakfast by
saying that you had told him about Aunt
Dora's invitation, Vivian ? ' she asked. c How
did either of you come to hear of it ? '

The little boy rubbed the point of his toe
uneasily on the carpet.

' Ronald is always thinking that I say
things,' he answered evasive!}', 'and getting a
fellow into a scrape. If he would only mind
his own business.'

' Nay, Vivian, that is unjust ; you know
Ronald would be the last person in the world
to get you into a scrape ; and in this case
there is no scrape to get into, unless you
choose to make one. If by any chance you



AN INVITATION. 15

found out anything about the invitation, as it
seems you must have done, it probably was a
mistake.'

'Yes, mother, that was just it, it was a
mistake,' said Vivian, interrupting her eagerly.
' There was a letter of Aunt Dora's lying on
your desk, and I saw a bit of it when you
sent me to get those receipts.'

* But you must have taken time to read it,
did you not ? ' said his mother gravely ; ' that
could not be a mistake. I thought perhaps
you had heard father talking to me about it;
we sometimes hear things that are not intended
for us to hear, but then the honourable thing
to do is to say frankly that you did hear it.
To read a letter that is not intended for you
is quite a different matter. I did not think
a son of mine would have done that.'

The tears came into Vivian's eyes. He loved
his mother passionately, and any appeal from
her touched his proud little heart.

' It really was a mistake at first, mother.
When I was looking about for those receipts,
I saw the letter lying spread out, and I
could not help seeing one sentence. "I hope
you will let the boys," it began, and I did so



16 AN INVITATION.

much want to know what it was that Annt
Dora wanted you to let us do, so I took up
the piece of paper and looked over on the
other side. I was sorry in a moment, but I
did not like to tell.'

'No, that is just it/ said his mother. 'You
did not like to tell, and so you were tempted
at breakfast this morning to talk as if you
knew nothing about it. That was not exactly
telling a lie, Vivian ; but do you not think
that it was acting one ? I think that is your
besetting sin, my boy. You know that we all
have a sin that we must specially fight against,
and I want you to try and fight against yours.
You have not the moral courage to confess
when you have done something wrong, but
you try to shuffle and explain things away,
so as to hide what you have done. You have
plenty of courage in other wa}^s, quite as much,
if not more, than Ronald. You have the kind
of courage that would make you fight, or face
dano-er; but there is a higher kind of courage

c3 * ^J Zs

than that, and I want you to try and gain

it. I mean the courage that will tell the

truth, even when the truth is not pleasant,

and when you may get laughed at for telling




They were a merry party as they walked across the snowy

meadow to church.
v. L. PAGE 17.



uci












AN INVITATION. 17

it, and which will own up to a fault rather
than try to hide it.

* You are so quick and impulsive, you often
do things without thinking, not because you
do not mean to do what is right, but because
you do not take time to see that it is
wrong; and that leads to the worse sin of
covering up the matter and telling half-lies to
shield yourself. Now, as this is Christmas Day,
we won't say anything more about it; only,
dearie, try and remember who came this day
to help us to save us from our sins. That
is what His name means/

'Yes, mother,' said Vivian, beginning to fidget
with all a healthy boy's dislike to a 'sermon/
and his mother let him go with a sigh.

'Will I ever be able to train him to be a
brave and honourable man/ she thought to
herself, ' with his quick, ambitious nature, his
love of being first, coupled with his moral
cowardice and fear of being laughed at ? '

They were a merry party as they walked
across the snowy meadow to church. Little
Dorothy, who looked like a white woolly ball
in her fur coat and cap, clinging to her father
with one hand and to Ronald with the other,



Vivian.



18 AN INVITATION.

as they gave her slides along the slippery
footpath, while Vivian hovered round, now
sliding himself, now threatening to snowball
the others, all trace of the late conversation
seeming to have vanished from his mind. But

O

the good thoughts came back again in the old
church, where there was an atmosphere of
sober gladness, its gray stone pillars being
wreathed with glistening holly, and brightly
coloured banners hanging over the pulpit and
choir-stalls.

The rector took for his text the very verse
that his mother had spoken about ; and as the
old man talked simply to the congregation
of the battle that each one of us has to
wa^e ao-ainst the sin in ourselves before we

o o

can hope to fight successfully against the sin
that is in the world, and how the Bethlehem
Babe came to help and save us, Vivian, sitting
in his dark corner of the old-fashioned pew,
gave his mother's hand a little squeeze, and,
crushing his face against her cloak, made more
good resolutions for the future than ever he
had done before in the whole course of his
happy, careless, light-hearted life.



CHAPTER III.

GOING TO LONDON.

VI 7HO does not know the excitement of a
first visit away from home, unaccom-
panied by any grown-up person ?

The following morning the boys were down-
stairs twenty minutes before any one else, and
it seemed as if Ellen would never bring in
the coffee ; while so many important messages
came to take up their father's attention, it
appeared as if it must be at least ten o'clock
before breakfast and prayers were over, and
they were at liberty at last to run upstairs
to the schoolroom, where nurse was busy fold-
ing their clothes into their father's portmanteau,
which had been called into service for the
occasion.

And yet when that was done, and the straps
all fastened up, and Ronald had run down to
the surgery to get a clean white label, and
had printed ' Armitage, Victoria, London,' on it
in his best printing, and Vivian had tied it
on, while little Dorothy watched the proceed-



20 GOING TO LONDON.

ings in silent admiration there remained nearly
four hours before the time came for an early
lunch and the drive to the station.

The hours passed somehow, however, and at
last the carriage was brought round, and the
portmanteau was tucked away beside Black on
the box, while father packed the boys inside,
with mother and Dorothy, who were going to
see them off. Just at the last moment he
slipped two little paper packets into their
hands, telling them not to open them until
they were in the train. Then he shut the

carriage door and nodded to Black, and they

i
had actually started at last.

They felt quite important at the quiet little
station, when mother went to get the tickets,
and old Timms the porter came up, and, touch-
ing his cap, asked ' Where for, sir ? ' and Ronald
answered, 'London, Victoria/ in a careless tone
as if going to London were quite an everyday
event. Old Timms noticed the tone, and his
eyes twinkled, but he only touched hi.s cap
again, and said, ' Very good, sir,' and put the
portmanteau beside the other luggage which
was waiting ready for the London train.

Perhaps their hearts failed them a little,



GOING TO LONDON. 21

although they both would have scorned the
suggestion, as the train came roaring round
the curve, and mother gave them a last kiss,
saying, ' Give my love to Aunt Dora, and all
the others, and enjoy yourselves, and be my
own good boys ; and, Vivian, remember our
talk yesterday.' Then the guard hustled them
into a carriage, the door banged, and the train
moved on.

Now they had time to think about the little
packets which their father had given them,
and on opening them each was found to con-
tain two half-crowns. This discovery quite
raised their spirits again, for what may not
be bought for five shillings in the wonderful
shops in London !

It was a foggy afternoon, and Victoria Station
looked very big, and dark, and bustling, as
the train steamed into it ; and as a porter
threw open the door of their carriage, and
they stepped on to the platform, the boys felt
somewhat bewildered with the crowd of people
who were running about in all directions.

'Supposing Aunt Dora has mistaken the
train ? I don't see her anywhere,' said Ronald,


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Online LibraryElizabeth Wilson GriersonVivian's lesson → online text (page 1 of 13)