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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XXVI. Victory won from Defeat

BERT had reached an age and stage of development when the raising of a decided issue between right and wrong was a matter of vital consequence. Although he had little more than rounded out a dozen years of life, his natural bent of mind and the influences surrounding him had been such as to make him seem at least two years older when compared with his contemporaries. He thought much, and, considering his age, deeply. His parents had always admitted him into full fellowship with themselves, and he had thus acquired their way of thinking upon many subjects. Then his religious training had been more than ordinarily thorough. The influences and inspiration of a Christian home had been supplemented and strengthened by the teaching at Sunday school of one who possessed a rare gift in the management of boys. Mr. Silver not only understood his boys: he was in hearty and complete sympathy with them; and the truth came from him with peculiar force, as he met them Sunday after Sunday.

Bert therefore would appear to have everything in his favour when set upon by the tempter, and it might seem strange that in this case he should dally so long with the danger. But the fact is there were unusual elements in this temptation, such as have been already set forth, and Bert’s course of action from the time when he first saw the translation of Sallust in Regie Selwyn’s room, until when at length after days of indecision, of halting between two opinions, of now listening to, and again spurning the suggestions of the tempter, he had a copy of the same book hidden away in his own room, was but another illustration of the familiar experience, that he who stops to argue with the tempter, has as good as lost his case.

He tried hard to persuade himself that it was all right, and that it would be all right, but nevertheless it was with none too easy a conscience that he slipped into Gossip’s one afternoon, and timidly inquired for the Sallust translation. The clerk did not understand at first, and when he asked Bert to repeat his question a cold shiver went down the boy’s back, for he felt sure the man must have divined his purpose in procuring the book. But, of course, it was only an unnecessary alarm, and soon with the volume under his arm, and breathing much more freely, he was hastening homeward.

At first he kept very faithfully to the programme he had laid down of not resorting to the “pony” until he had done his best without it. Then little by little he fell into the way of referring to it whenever he was at a loss regarding a word, until at last he came to depend upon it altogether, and the fluent translations that won Dr. Johnston’s approbation day after day were really nothing better than stolen matter.

Yet all this time he was far from having peace of mind. That troublesome conscience of his acted as though it would never become reconciled to this method of studying the classics. On the contrary, it seemed to grow increasingly sensitive upon the point. Finally the matter was brought to a head in a very unsuspected manner.

No mention has been made in these pages of one who occupied a very large place in Bert’s affection and admiration—namely, the Rev. Dr. Chrystal, the pastor of Calvary Church. Dr. Chrystal was a man of middle age and medium height, with a countenance so winning and manners so attractive, that Mr. Lloyd was wont to call him St. John, the beloved disciple, because his name was John, and everybody who knew him loved him. It was not merely by the elders of his congregation, who could fully appreciate the breadth and soundness of his scholarship, the richness of his rhetoric, and the warmth of his eloquence, but by the younger members also, who loved his sunny smile, and hearty laugh, that Dr. Chrystal was little short of worshipped.

Bert had been his warm admirer ever since the time when on his pastoral visits he would take the little fellow up on his knee, and draw him out about his own amusements and ambitions, giving such interested attention to his childish prattle that Bert could not fail to feel he had in him a real friend. As he grew older, his liking for the minister deepened. He never had that foolish fear of “the cloth” which is so apt to be found in boys of his age. Dr. Chrystal was a frequent visitor at Bert’s home. Mr. Lloyd was one of the main supporters of his church, and the two men had much to consult about. Besides that, the preacher loved to discuss the subjects of the day with the keen-witted, far-seeing lawyer, who helped him to many a telling point for the sermon in preparation.

This, of course, was quite beyond Bert, but what he could and did fully appreciate was the skill and strength with which Dr. Chrystal, having laid aside his clerical coat, would handle a pair of sculls when he went out boating with them, in the fine summer evenings.

“I tell you what it is, Frank,” said he, enthusiastically to his friend one day. “There’s nothing soft about our minister. He can pull just as well as any man in the harbour. That’s the sort of minister I like. Don’t you?”

One Sunday evening, after Bert had been using his “pony” some little time—for although his father had returned, he had come so to depend upon it, that he continued to resort to it in secret—Dr. Chrystal preached a sermon of more than usual power from the text, “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” It was a frank, faithful address, in which he sought to speak the truth in tenderness, and yet with direct application to his hearers. If any among them were disbelievers in the doctrine that honesty is the best policy, and acted accordingly, they could hardly hope to dodge the arrows of argument and appeal shot forth from the pulpit that evening.

Bert was one of the first to be transfixed. When the text was announced he wriggled a bit, as though it pricked him somewhere; but when, further on, Dr. Chrystal spoke in plain terms of the dishonesty of false pretences, of claiming to be what you really are not, of seeking credit for what is not actually your own work, Bert’s head sank lower and lower, his cheeks burned with shame, and, feeling that the speaker must in some mysterious way have divined his guilty secret, and be preaching directly at him, he sank back in his seat, and wished with wild longing that he could run away from those flashing eyes that seemed to be looking right through him, and from the sound of that clear, strong voice, whose every tone went straight to his heart.

But, of course, there was no escape, and he had to listen to the sermon to the end, although, had it been possible, he would gladly have thrust his fingers in his ears that he might hear no more. He felt immensely relieved when the service was over, and he could go out into the cool, dark evening air. He was very silent as he walked home with his parents, and so soon as prayers were over went off to his room, saying that he was tired.

For the next few days there was not a more miserable boy in Halifax than Cuthbert Lloyd. He was a prey to contending feelings that gave him not one moment’s peace. His better nature said, “Be manly, and confess.” The tempter whispered, “Be wise, and keep it to yourself.” As for the cause of all this trouble, it lay untouched in the bottom drawer of his bureau. He could not bear to look at it, and he worked out his Sallust as best he could, causing Dr. Johnston much surprise by the unexpected mistakes he made in translating. He became so quiet and sober that his mother grew quite concerned, and asked him more than once if he felt ill, to which, with a pretence of a laugh, he replied:

“Not a bit of it. I’m all right”

But he wasn’t all right, by any means, as his father’s keen eyes soon discovered. Mr. Lloyd, like his wife, thought at first that Bert’s queer ways must be due to ill health; but after watching him awhile he came to the conclusion that the boy’s trouble was mental, rather than physical, and he determined to take the first opportunity of probing the matter. The opportunity soon came. Mrs. Lloyd and Mary were out for the evening, leaving Bert and his father at home. Bert was studying his lessons at the table, while his father sat in the arm-chair near by, reading the paper. Every now and then, as he bent over his books, Bert gave a deep sigh that seemed to well up from the very bottom of his heart. Mr. Lloyd noted this, and presently, laying his paper down, said, pleasantly:

“Bert, dear, put your lessons aside for a few minutes, and come over here. I want to have a talk with you.”

Bert started and flushed slightly, but obeyed at once, drawing his chair close up beside his father’s. Laying his hand upon Bert’s knee, and looking him full in the face, Mr. Lloyd asked:

“Now, Bert, tell me what’s the matter with you? There’s something on your mind, I know; and it has not been your way to keep any secrets from me. Won’t you tell me what is troubling you?”

Bert fidgeted in his chair, the flush deepened in his face, his eyes dropped before his father’s searching gaze, and his hands worked nervously. At last, with an apparent effort, he replied, in a low tone:

“There’s nothing the matter with me, father.”

Mr. Lloyd sighed, and looked troubled.

“Yes, there is, Bert. You know there is. Now, don’t conceal it from me, but speak right out. Remember your motto, Bert: ‘Quit you like men.’” The working of Bert’s countenance showed clearly the struggle that was going on within, and there was silence for a moment, while Mr. Lloyd awaited his answer, praying earnestly the while that his boy might be helped to do the right. Then, suddenly, Bert sprang up, darted toward the door, and heeding not his father’s surprised exclamation of— “Bert, Bert, aren’t you going to answer me?” ran up the stairs to his own room. An instant more and he returned, bearing a volume which he placed in Mr. Lloyd’s hands; and then, throwing himself on the sofa, he buried his head in the cushions, and burst into a passion of tears.

Bewildered by this unexpected action, Mr. Lloyd’s first impulse was to take his boy in his arms and try to soothe him. Then he bethought himself of the book lying in his lap, and turned to it for an explanation of the mystery. It was an innocent-enough looking volume, and seemed at first glance to make matters no clearer, but as he held it in his hands there came back to him the recollection of his own schoolboy days, and like a flash the thing was plain to him. Bert had been using a “pony,” and in some way had come to realise the extent of his wrongdoing.

With feelings divided between sorrow that his boy should fall a victim to this temptation, and gladness that he should have the courage to confess it, Mr. Lloyd went over to the sofa, lifted Bert up gently, and placed him on the chair beside him.

“Come, now, Bert, dear,” said he, in his tenderest tones, “don’t be afraid, but just tell me all about it.”

In a voice much broken by sobs, Bert then told the whole story, beginning with the first conversation with Regie Selwyn, and leaving out nothing. His father listened intently, and it was clear the recital moved him deeply. When it ended, he silently lifted up his heart in praise to God that his darling boy had been delivered from so great a danger, and he determined that Dr. Chrystal should not fail to hear how effective his faithful preaching had been.

“I need not tell you, Bert, how sad this makes my heart, but I will not add my reproaches to the remorse you already feel,” said he, gravely. “You have done very, very wrong, dear, and it is now your duty to make that wrong right again, so far as is in your power. What do you think yourself you ought to do?”

“I must ask God to forgive me, father,” answered Bert, almost in a whisper.

“But is that all? Is there no one else of whom you should ask forgiveness?”

“Yes, of you.”

“I have forgiven you already, Bert, for I know that you are sincerely sorry. But I think there is some one else still. Ought you not to ask Dr. Johnston’s forgiveness?”

“Why, father,” exclaimed Bert, looking up with an expression of surprise, “Dr. Johnston does not know anything about it.”

“Ah, yes, Bert, true enough; but remember that ever since you’ve been using the translation you’ve been getting credit from him for work you had not really done. Was that providing things honest in the sight of all men, do you think?”

Bert flushed and looked down again. He was silent for a little while, and then said:

“But, father, I could never tell Dr. Johnston. He is so stern and severe.”

“Do you think God will ever fully forgive you while you are concealing from Dr. Johnston what you ought in common honesty to tell him?”

This question evidently staggered him, and Mr. Lloyd, seeing what a struggle was going on within him, put his hand upon his shoulder, and said, with tender emphasis:

“Remember, Bert: ‘Quit you like men, be strong.’” For a moment longer Bert seemed irresolute. Then suddenly his countenance brightened, his features settled into an expression of firm determination, and rising to his feet, with hands clenched and eyes flashing, he stood before his father, and almost shouted: “Yes, father, I will; I’ll tell him. I don’t care what he does to me.”

“God bless you, my brave boy!” exclaimed Mr. Lloyd, as, almost over-mastered by his emotions, he threw his arms around his neck, and hugged him to his heart, the big tears pouring down his happy face.

Just at that moment the door opened, and Mrs. Lloyd and Mary entered. Great was their surprise at the scene they witnessed. But they soon understood it all, and when the whole story was known to them they were no less thankful than Mr. Lloyd that Bert had come off conqueror in this sharp struggle with the enemy of souls.

It was a hard task that lay before Bert, and he would have been something more than mortal if his resolution did not falter as he thought about it. But he strengthened himself by repeating the words “Quit you like men, be strong,” laying much emphasis on the latter clause. His father thought it best for him to go very early the next morning, taking the book with him, and to seek an interview with Dr. Johnston before he went into the school.

Accordingly, in the morning, with throbbing heart and feverish pulse, Bert knocked at the doctor’s private entrance. On asking for the master he was at once shown into the study, where the dread doctor was glancing over the morning paper before he took up the work of the day.

“Well, Lloyd, what brings you here so early?” he asked, in some surprise.

With much difficulty, and in broken sentences, Bert explained the object of his visit, the doctor listening with an impassive countenance that gave no hint of how the story affected him. When he had ended, Dr. Johnston remained silent a moment as if lost in reflection, then placing his hand upon the boy’s shoulder, and looking at him with an expression of deep tenderness such as Bert had never seen in his countenance before, he said, in tones whose kindness there could be no mistaking:

“You have done well, Lloyd, to tell me this. I honour you for your confession, and I feel confident that never so long as you are a pupil in this school will you fall into like wrong-doing. You may tell your father what I have said. Good-morning.” And he turned away, perhaps to hide something that made his eyes moist.

Feeling much as Christian must have felt when the burden broke from his back and rolled into the sepulchre gaping to receive it, Bert went to his seat in the schoolroom. The ordeal was over, and his penance complete.

His frank penitence was destined to exert a far wider influence than he ever imagined, and that immediately. The volume he placed in Dr. Johnston’s hands set the master thinking. “If,” he reasoned, “Bert Lloyd, one of the best boys in my school, has fallen into this wrong-doing, it must be more common than I supposed. Perhaps were I to tell the school what Lloyd has just told me, it might do good. The experiment is worth trying, at all events.”

Acting upon this thought, Dr. Johnston, shortly after the school had settled down for the day’s work, rapped upon his desk as a signal that he had something to say to the scholars, and then, when the attention of all had been secured, he proceeded to tell, in clear, concise language, the incident of the morning. Many eyes were turned upon Bert while the doctor was speaking, but he kept his fixed closely upon his desk, for he knew that his cheeks were burning, and he wondered what the other boys were thinking of him. In concluding, Dr. Johnston made the following appeal, which was indeed his chief purpose in mentioning the matter at all :

“Now, scholars,” said he, in tones of mingled kindliness and firmness, “I feel very sure that Lloyd is not the only boy in this school who has been using a translation to assist him in his classical work, and my object in telling you what he told me is that it may perhaps inspire those who have been doing as he did to confess it in the manly, honest way that he has done, and for which we must all honour him. Boys, I appeal to your honour,” he continued, raising his voice until it rang through the room, startling his hearers by its unaccustomed volume. “Who among you, like Bert Lloyd, will confess that you have been using a translation?”

There was a thrilling silence, during which one might almost have heard the boys’ hearts beat as the doctor paused, and with his piercing eyes glanced up and down the long rows of awe-stricken boys. For a moment no one moved. Then there was a stir, a shuffling of feet, and Regie Selwyn, with cheeks aflame, rose slowly in his seat, and said in a low but distinct voice:

“I have, sir.”

A gleam of joy flashed in the doctor’s dark eyes as he looked toward the speaker, but he said nothing. Then another and another rose and made a like confession, until some six in all had thus acknowledged their fault. There was no mistaking the pleasure that shone in the master’s face at this answer to his appeal. When it became clear that, however many more might be no less guilty, no more were going to confess it, he spoke again:

“While it grieves me to know that the use of translations has been so extensive, I am also glad to find that so many of my boys possess the true spirit of manliness. I ask them to promise me that they will never look at those books again, and if there be others in the school who might have admitted the same impropriety, but have not, I appeal to you to show by your contempt of such helps your determination that nothing but what is honest, fair, and manly shall characterise the actions of the scholars of this school.”

And with this the doctor resumed his seat.

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