Tom at once felt the same impulse, and rose too. `Wait a minute, Maggie,' he said. `I must speak to Mr Stelling, and then we'll go.'

He thought he must go to the study where the pupils were, but on his way he met Mr Stelling, who had heard from his wife that Maggie appeared to be in trouble when she asked for her brother, and, now that he thought the brother and sister had been alone long enough, was coming to inquire and offer his sympathy.

`Please, sir, I must go home,' Tom said abruptly, as he met Mr Stelling in the passage. `I must go back with my sister directly. My father's lost his law-suit - he's lost all his property - and he's very ill.'

Mr Stelling felt like a kind-hearted man: he foresaw a probable money loss for himself, but this had no appreciable share in his feeling while he looked with grave pity at the brother and sister for whom youth and sorrow had begun together. When he knew how Maggie had come and how eager she was to get home again, he hurried their departure, only whispering something to Mrs Stelling, who had followed him, and who immediately left the room.

Tom and Maggie were standing on the door-step, ready to set out, when Mrs Stelling came with a little basket, which she hung on Maggie's arm, saying, `Do remember to eat something on the way, dear.' Maggie's heart went out towards this woman whom she had never liked, and she kissed her silently. It was the first sign within the poor child of that new sense which is the gift of sorrow - that susceptibility to the bare offices of humanity which raises them into a bond of loving fellowship, as to haggard men among the icebergs the mere presence of an ordinary comrade stirs the deep fountains of affection.

Mr Stelling put his hand on Tom's shoulder and said, `God bless you, my boy: let me know how you get on.' Then he pressed Maggie's hand; but there were no audible good-bys. Tom had so often thought how joyful he should be the day he left school `for good!' And now his school years seemed like a holiday that had come to an end.

The two slight youthful figures soon grew indistinct on the distant road - were soon lost behind the projecting hedgerow.

They had gone forth together into their new life of sorrow, and they would never more see the sunshine undimmed by remembered cares. They had entered the thorny wilderness, and the golden gates of their childhood had for ever closed behind them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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