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CHAPTER II.

BREAKING UP OLD FRIENDSHIPS.

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[Spell and write] triumphantly, bewildered, impatiently, disturbance, encountered,

excitedly, absolutely, interrupted, innocently, aggrieved, consolation, obstinacy.

John Archer thought he should be first in the schoolyard the next night, but James Knowle was there before him.

• Well, Knowle, this is a strange business,' he began.

'I thought you hadn't the money with you,' said Knowle. * You won't find it now, that's certain; but I think I know pretty well where it's gone.'

Bye this time Harry and Fred joined them, and they drew close into the corner of the yard, while James went on. It 's Charles Evans as has took it, and has got it.'

Daily ? cried Fred. "Oh, come, Master James, that won't do.'

Stop a bit,' said John; "how do you know this ?'

* Because I saw him do it,' said James triumphantly. 'Now, then.'

Saw him do it, and never stopped him, or said anything last night?'

• I saw him go in and take something, and I saw him come out, and I stopped him when he was in the street, to know what he was at; and first he told a lie, and said he hadn't been, and then he began saucing me, and ran off home; but the money never came into my head till this morning. I thought he was only spying about, and never dreamed he'd be so bad as that.'

Nor I neither,' said Freddie with a heightened colour.

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At this moment Charles came into the yard, and the bell rang.

Here, Charles,' said John, .we have lost all our money from the table last night, and James says you were at the house about the time it went; can you tell anything about it?'

The little lad looked round bewildered. I never saw any money,' he faltered.

What were you there for ?'
'I wanted to speak to Freddie Brown.'
• Then why did you tell James a different story?'

‘I never saw your money—I never did,' said Charlie, breaking out with sudden passion.

'If that's all you have to say,' said John, 'it looks very black; however, it's no use talking; I shall say no more about it for old-acquaintance' sake, but it looks black, Charles, and'

• Monitors, to your places !' was called from the room, and the bell rang again impatiently and loudly. Do what he would, Mr Morton could not command the usual attention that night. There had never been so much whispering and carelessness. It was not at all James's intention to say no more about it, and a rumour soon spread among the classes, that some one had lost some money, and that little Evans was the thief.

“What is that noise in the third class ?' said Mr Morton.

• Charles Evans has thrown his reading-book at George Vyse, sir,' answered the monitor.

• Evans, go down to the bottom of the class; your chance of the prize will go, sir, if there is any more disturbance.'

George Vyse, a cowardly, ill-natured little creature, had

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been egged on by the others to find out what was the matter, to which end he had given Charles a nudge, and said: 'I say, what have you been a-thieving, eh ?' and had been answered by having the reading-book thrown in his face. At length nine o'clock came, and the boys were dismissed.

• Stay a minute, John,' said Mr Morton ; 'I want a word with you.'

Not about Charles Evans, I hope, sir; I would much rather say nothing.'

But I must have something said.' Whereupon John told him the facts.

It is very sad,' said Mr Morton; ‘but I must question Charles in James's presence, before I settle about the prizes. Good-night, John--by the way, have you seen Evans's friends ?'

"I am going there, sir, and perhaps Charlie will give me the money back, and then it can be looked over, I hope, sir.'

*I don't know that,' said the master.

On going out of school, Freddie tried to see Charlie, but instead of that, he encountered George Vyse, who was picking up a stone. He had time to hurl it after little Evans, with a vicious cry of, 'Stop, thief !' and was about to send another after it, when Freddie's 'Ah! would you ?? interfered with his design, and he received a violent shaking. In ten minutes, John Archer knocked at Mrs Evans's door, and, without waiting for permission, walked into the kitchen. Charlie, his books and slate flung into the middle of the floor, was sobbing with his head in his mother's apron, while Richard walked excitedly up and down the room.

• I expected you here to-night, John,' said he; Charlie,

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lad, go out into the street, and stop your crying. Now, then,' he continued, when they were alone, what's this about hooting that child home through the street, and crying “thief" after him! I should like to know what it means.'

Richard's tone grated harshly on John's temper, but he answered quickly: 'I am sorry any such thing has happened, I knew nothing of it; but I have good reason to fear that Charles has taken some money out of our house, and as it may be only in play, if he will tell the truth, nothing more shall be said.'

* Are you no better than a born idiot, John Archer? If that's what you ’re come to say, the sooner you go about your

business the better !' John stood absolutely stunned with amazement; he had come with the most friendly meaning; anxious to give Charles a little lecture, and then do his best to screen him.

To have the tables turned like this-to be called an idiot, and told to get out of the house by his oldest friend, was too much for him ; but he was slow and cool, and before he could answer, Mrs Evans had put in her word: "To think as our little Charlie should be called a thief, and us disgraced by you, as used to be like a brother to Dick !'

Hold your tongue, mother !' interrupted Richard fiercely; 'no friend of mine calls Charlie thief, and John Archer won't darken our doors any longer!'

John contrasted his controlled temper with the fiery Evans's with a momentary satisfaction; it made him feel still more innocently aggrieved. He answered : 'No one need order me out of his house twice, and you 'll never see me inside your door-sill again, that's certain ; some time you 'll have to own who's right.' When Charlie

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had been sent out, he had gone crying down the street, till he was stopped by a timid pull at his sleeve. He looked up defiantly, but it was only Ann and Toddlekins, and he went on with his crying. Little Ann felt very much inclined to cry too, but she said : ‘Don't, Charlie don't take on, lad; I know what they say, and I don't believe any such thing: Harry doesn't, nor Fredoh! lots don't. Toddlekins wouldn't, if she was grown up, and had her sense.'

“They hooted me home !' sobbed Charlie, quivering with anger and distress. James Knowle set 'em on; I'U

pay him for it, if he was fifty times as big as me.'

No, Charlie, don't ; it'll all come right somehowdon't do nothing wrong and bad ; bear no malice nor hatred in your heart;' she used the well-known words with a winning mixture of shyness and earnest attempt at consolation.

“Me steal it !' said Charles ; 'I daresay James took it. himself; he's as like to as me, but they all say it's me.'

'Look here, Charlie, you know who was used so cruel, and said all manner of things against ; and He bore no malice, and forgave the people. Suppose it never does

, come out, why Jesus Christ knows you didn't take it, and He'll make it out to you.'

You never was hooted,' said poor Charles, and you're not a boy, and'

An impatient touch was laid on Ann's shoulder at this minute, and John Archer said sharply : “What are you doing-go home, do you hear?'

The tone admitted of no delay, and Ann walked on before him, quaking in silence. As soon as they were at home, her brother began : “Now, what were you doing ?

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