Read CHAPTER II of Left at Home / The Heart's Resting Place, free online book, by Mary L. Code, on ReadCentral.com.

GOING TO INDIA

The home seemed very sad and silent indeed without the little child who had been laid in the low green-covered grave, and a sadness seemed to have fallen upon it. At first Arthur went about the house silently and slowly, and it was some time before his boyish spirits came back to him; but he was only a boy after all, and a very young boy, and by and by, when the green leaves came budding on the trees and the spring voice was waking in the valleys and the fields, when the young lambs answered with their bleating and the young birds sung a chorus of bursting joy, Arthur’s face brightened, and his step was bounding again. And his mother was glad to see him with the weary cloud gone, only her heart ached with a deep throb as she thought of the new care that was hanging over him, and of which he knew nothing as yet.

One day, when Arthur was passing the door of his mother’s morning-room, he heard his father’s voice within, saying, “I think you had better tell him, Louisa.” The door was partly open, and if he listened he would easily be able to hear what they were saying. The temptation was very strong, and Arthur yielded to it. It was very wrong, and he knew it.

“Oh, no!” he heard his mother say, “I could not tell him; I don’t think I could. It almost breaks my heart to think of it myself.”

“Louisa,” said his father and Arthur thought his voice sounded rather sad “you know it is your own choice, and even now you can change if you like.”

“Oh, no, no, dear Ronald!” said his mother and he could hear that her voice was quivering and trembling “you know very well I could not. Forgive me, I ought to be very thankful I have you still; and so I am. But tell him yourself, Ronald; you know I am so foolish.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Vivyan, rising and stirring the fire with great energy, as if he were then acting what he had made up his mind to do.

And then Arthur stole away, feeling very strange with various mingled feelings. Something seemed to say that the conversation concerned him, but what it was all about he could not imagine. Something terrible seemed to be going to happen; something that his mother could not make up her mind to tell. And then he remembered how very wrong it had been for him to listen to this conversation. He had always been taught never to do such a thing, and the consciousness of his fault weighed heavily on his mind. He wished very much that he had not waited at the door, when he had seen it stand so temptingly open. Indeed, so much did he think about what he had done, that the strange things he had heard hardly troubled him.

But by and by, when he was walking through the lanes, where the primroses were dotting the hedgerows with green and yellow tufts, he began to think again of what he had heard, and his step was slow and steady as he thought. He was not the same Arthur who generally bounded along, startling the little lambs who were feeding on the other side of the hedge; and Hector seemed puzzled by the unusual quiet as he ran on first, inviting his master to follow. Altogether it was a very grave and thoughtful walk, and when Arthur came in, the quiet look was on his face still, and a very troubled expression could be seen there.

“Arthur dear, is anything the matter?” asked his mother in the evening, as he sat on his low stool before the fire doing nothing, and thinking again of what he had heard and what he had done.

Arthur started, and blushed a very deep red.

“Why should you think there was anything the matter, mother?”

“Because I see there is,” she said quietly.

He did not answer, and Mr. Vivyan looked out keenly at him, from behind the book he was reading. But still Arthur had nothing to say, and the troubled look came deeper on his face. He came nearer to his mother’s chair, and presently when he found himself there he laid his head on her lap.

“What is it, my darling?” she asked, laying her hand on his brown hair. Then the tears came into his eyes, and it was not directly that he was able to say, “Mother, I know it was very wrong of me; but I heard what you and papa were saying this morning when you were in the boudoir.”

“It was very wrong indeed,” said Mr. Vivyan; “I did not think you would have done such a thing, Arthur.”

“Oh, Arthur, Arthur!” said his mother very gently and sadly, “why did you, why did you not remember?”

He was crying now, and he did not need to be told that he had done very wrong.

“Well, then, you know all about it, I suppose?” said Arthur’s father.

“No, I don’t, papa. I only heard that something dreadful was going to happen; and you told mother to tell some one, and she said she couldn’t; and then you said you would, and I don’t remember the rest.”

Mr. Vivyan smiled rather sadly, and Arthur felt his mother’s arm more closely clasped around him.

“Was it about me?” asked Arthur presently.

Mr. Vivyan looked up at his wife, and then he said, “Arthur, my boy, when I was in India before, why did your mother stay in England?”

“I don’t know,” said Arthur, somewhat surprised at the question. “To take care of me, I suppose. Oh no, it wasn’t, though; it was because she was ill, and she couldn’t live in India, the doctor said.”

“Yes; and now, is she as ill as she was then?”

“Oh no, I should think not!” said Arthur brightly. “She is ever so much better, aren’t you, mother?”

“Yes, dear,” she said gently.

“Well,” said Mr. Vivyan, speaking very slowly, and laying his hand kindly on Arthur’s curls, “did you know, Arthur, that my time for being in England is very nearly over? there are only six weeks more left.”

“Yes, father,” said Arthur, and feeling his father’s hand laid so tenderly on his head, he felt more sorry at the thought that he was going than he had ever done before. “I’m very sorry.”

“But then, don’t you see, my boy,” Mr. Vivyan said, looking anxious and as if he had great difficulty in expressing himself, “your mother need not stay at home this time?”

“No,” said Arthur, after a pause, “I suppose not. And am I going to India too?”

“Why no, my dear child. You know how glad we should be to take you with us; and very likely you do not know, Arthur, what it costs us to leave you at home. But you know you could not go; children of your age would very likely not live.”

Arthur turned quickly round, and gazed with an incredulous, questioning look at his father and mother. He could not see his mother’s face, for it was hidden by her hand; but if he had looked closely he might have seen that her whole form was trembling, though she did not speak a word.

“Papa,” said Arthur presently, “what can you mean? Do you really mean that you and mother are going out to India, and that you are going to leave me in England by myself?”

“Dear Arthur, you know we must.”

Arthur turned away, and for a little while he said nothing. Presently he spoke it seemed as if half to himself “No, I don’t believe that,” he said. “I don’t believe that could be true.”

“Arthur, my darling, darling boy, come here,” said his mother, after some time when nobody had spoken.

Arthur came nearer to his mother, and laid his head upon her knee. He was feeling almost stunned, and as if he had not understood yet what he had heard. Then a sudden thought came over him, that it meant he would soon not be able to do this any more.

“Mamma,” he said in a low voice, which was very touchingly sad in its hopelessness, “need you go? Wouldn’t you rather stay at home with me?”

“Oh, Arthur,” said Mrs. Vivyan, “you must not say those things, dear.”

“Won’t you take me with you, then? I don’t believe I could stay at home without you. Won’t you take me? Oh, do! please, do!”

All this was said in a very low, mournful voice; for Arthur felt almost as if he had not strength to cry about it.

“Arthur,” said Mr. Vivyan, speaking gravely but kindly, “I tell you we would if we could; but you must be contented to believe that it cannot be.”

“But I am sure it would do me no harm, father; you don’t know how much heat I can bear. I believe I am better sometimes in hot weather. And oh! I don’t believe I could live in England by myself.”

He gave a very weary sigh, and leant his head heavily on his mother. Presently he felt a tear on his forehead, and he knew that she must be crying.

“My own darling little mamma,” said Arthur, “I love you with my whole heart. Oh, you don’t know how very much I love you!” and he gave a deep, weary sigh.

She put her arm round him, and pressed him very closely to her heart; and he felt as if he were a tired little baby, and that it was very nice to have his mother’s arm around him. By and by he began crying; not with a hard, passionate feeling, but in a weak, weary way, the tears flowing down one after another over his mother’s hands.

“My dear child,” said Mr. Vivyan, as the time came nearer for Arthur to go to bed, “you don’t know what it is to your mother and to me to leave you; but we hope you will be happy by and by, for your aunt will be very kind to you, and will love you very much. She lives in a very nice part of the country. You may be sure, Arthur, we should be quite certain that every one would be kind to you.”

“Do you mean that I am to live with some other person?” asked Arthur listlessly.

“Yes, with my sister; that is, your aunt.”

It did not seem to matter very much to Arthur just then where he was going, or what was to become of him. He knew his father and mother were going away, and that he was to be left all alone, quite alone it seemed to him, and a very desolate, forlorn feeling fell over his heart, and seemed to make him feel numbed and heavy.

“Good night, my own dear mother,” said Arthur, as he took his candle. He was not crying, and there was almost a little wan smile on his face as he said it, making him look very different from the bright, joyous boy who generally threw his arms around her neck with an embrace, which was most emphatic as well as affectionate. He did not know how her heart was aching for him, and he knew still less of the pain his father felt, but could not show.

As Arthur sunk on his knees that night by the side of his little bed where the firelight was brightening and glowing, a deep sob came up from the very depths of his heart; and when he tried to pray, all he could say was, “O God, take care of me; for there is nobody else.”

Arthur knew what it was to have put his trust in the Saviour of the world, but hitherto everything had been so bright, and things had come and gone so smoothly, that he had not thought much about Him. He stayed awake a very long time, waiting to see if his mother would come and talk to him, as she very often did when there was anything to say. He did not know what had passed when he had left the library, that his mother’s head had sunk low, and her heart had shed the tears that he had not seen, and that now came flowing from her eyes. And he did not know that she was utterly unfit to speak to any one, so that when she stopped at his door, and seemed to be going in, his father had said

“No, Louisa, you must not; I will go and tell him that you would come, but that you can’t.”

So that was how it was when Arthur heard his bedroom door open, and looked round with an eager longing in his eye. He sunk back again on his pillow when he saw that it was his father that was coming towards him, and he lay there quite quietly without moving, so that Mr. Vivyan almost thought he was asleep.

“Arthur,” he said, “your mother wished me to tell you that she would have come to see you herself, only she was not able. You know, my dear little boy, she is quite ill with the thought of your trouble; and won’t you try and be cheerful, for I am sure you would not like to make her ill, would you, Arthur?”

“No, father,” said Arthur, in a very quiet voice, without lifting his head or looking up.

“Good night, my child,” said his father, stooping down and kissing him; and then as he took his candle and went away from the room he said to himself, “He is a very strange boy very strange indeed. After all, I don’t think he takes it so very much to heart as Louisa imagines.”

But he did not know. When Arthur heard his door shut, and when he knew that no one would come in again, the storm began, and it was a storm of passion when sorrow, and anger, and affection all raged together.

Arthur had always been a passionate child, and now the wild tempest that nobody saw showed plainly his uncontrolled feelings. “Oh, dear! oh, dear! what shall I do?” moaned the poor child to himself, tossing on his bed. “And am I making mamma ill too? But how can I help it? How can I help it? I can’t help being most frightfully miserable; yes, and angry too. I am angry. Why did he come back from India to take mother away? I don’t believe she wants to go. Yes, I suppose she does though. Oh, I wish, I wish he had never come back from India! Everything has gone wrong since. I don’t love him one bit. I wish, oh, I wish it was as it used to be once!”

Poor Arthur, he sobbed and moaned until he was tired, and the knowledge that he was very wicked did not certainly make him happier.

He sobbed himself to sleep that night, and when the morning sunbeams stole into the room and lighted on the white curtains of his bed, he awoke with a dull, desolate feeling of a great pain in his heart.