"Sally! remember where it is said, 'He that spareth the rod, spoileth the child,'" said Mr. Benson austerely.
"Ay, I remember; and I remember a bit more than you want me to remember, I reckon. It were King Solomon as spoke them words, and it were King Solomon's son that were King Rehoboam, and no great shakes either. I can remember what is said on him, 2 Chronicles, xii. chapter, 14th v.: 'And he'--that's King Rehoboam, the lad that tasted the rod--'did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.' I've not been reading my chapters every night for fifty year to be caught napping by a Dissenter, neither!" said she triumphantly. "Come along, Leonard." She stretched out her hand to the child, thinking that she had conquered.
But Leonard did not stir. He looked wistfully at Mr. Benson. "Come!" said she impatiently. The boy's mouth quivered.
"If you want to whip me, uncle, you may do it. I don't much mind."
Put in this form, it was impossible to carry out his intentions; and so Mr. Benson told the lad he might go--that he would speak to him another time. Leonard went away, more subdued in spirit than if he had been whipped. Sally lingered a moment. She stopped to add: "I think it's for them without sin to throw stones at a poor child, and cut up good laburnum-branches to whip him. I only do as my betters do, when I call Leonard's mother Mrs. Denbigh."The moment she had said this she was sorry; it was an ungenerous advantage after the enemy had acknowledged himself defeated. Mr. Benson dropped his head upon his hands and bid his face, and sighed deeply.
Leonard flew in search of his mother, as in search of a refuge. If he had found her calm, he would have burst into a passion of crying after his agitation; as it was, he came upon her kneeling and sobbing, and he stood quite still. Then he threw his arms round her neck, and said, "Mamma! mamma! I will be good--I make a promise; I will speak true--I make a promise." And he kept his word.
Miss Benson piqued herself upon being less carried away by her love for this child than any one else in the house; she talked severely, and had capital theories; but her severity ended in talk, and her theories would not work. However, she read several books on education, knitting socks for Leonard all the while; and, upon the whole, I think, the hands were more usefully employed than the head, and the good honest heart better than either. She looked older than when we first knew her, but it was a ripe, kindly age that was coming over her. Her excellent practical sense, perhaps, made her a more masculine character than her brother. He was often so much perplexed by the problems of life, that he let the time for action go by; but she kept him in check by her clear, pithy talk, which brought back his wandering thoughts to the duty that lay straight before him, waiting for action; and then he remembered that it was the faithful part to "wait patiently upon God," and leave the ends in His hands, who alone knows why Evil exists in this world, and why it ever hovers on either side of Good. In this respect, Miss Benson had more faith than her brother--or so it seemed; for quick, resolute action in the next step of Life was all she required, while he deliberated and trembled, and often did wrong from his very deliberation, when his first instinct would have led him right.
But, although decided and prompt as ever, Miss Benson was grown older since the summer afternoon when she dismounted from the coach at the foot of the long Welsh hill that led to Llan-dhu, where her brother awaited her to consult her about Ruth. Though her eye was as bright and straight-looking as ever, quick and brave in its glances, her hair had become almost snowy white; and it was on this point she consulted Sally, soon after the date of Leonard's last untruth. The two were arranging Miss Benson's room one morning, when, after dusting the looking-glass, she suddenly stopped in her operation, and after a close inspection of herself, startled Sally by this speech--
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