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Vice Versa - or A Lesson to Fathers
by F. Anstey
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There was no attempt to answer this question, it being felt probably that it was, like the conventional "How do you do?" one to which an answer is neither desired nor expected, especially as he continued almost immediately, "I took my boy Tom up to town the week before Christmas to see the representation of the 'Agamemnon' at St. George's Hall. The 'Agamemnon,' as most of you are doubtless aware, is a drama by AEschylus, a Greek poet of established reputation. I was much pleased by the intelligent appreciation Tom showed during the performance. He distinctly recognised several words from his Greek Grammar in the course of the dialogue."

No one seemed capable of responding except Mr. Bultitude, who dashed into the breach with an almost pathetic effort to maintain his accustomed stiffness.

"I may be old-fashioned," he said, "very likely I am; but I—ah—decidedly disapprove of taking children to dramatic exhibitions of any kind. It unsettles them, sir—unsettles them!"

Dr. Grimstone made no answer, but he put a hand on each knee, and glared with pursed lips and a leonine bristle of the beard at his youthful critic for some moments, after which he returned to his Globe with a short ominous cough.

"I've offended him now," thought Paul. "I must be more careful what I say. But I'll get him into conversation again presently."

So he began at the first opportunity: "You have this evening's paper, I see. No telegrams of importance, I suppose?"

"No, sir," said the Doctor shortly.

"I saw a report in to-day's Times," said poor Mr. Bultitude, with a desperate attempt at his most conversational and instructive manner, "I saw a report that the camphor crop was likely to be a failure this season. Now, it's a very singular thing about camphor, that the Japanese——" (he hoped to lead the conversation round to colonial produce, and thus open the Doctor's eyes by the extent of his acquaintance with the subject).

"I am already acquainted with the method of obtaining camphor, thank you, Bultitude," said the Doctor, with dangerous politeness.

"I was about to observe, when you interrupted me," said Paul, "(and this is really a fact that I doubt if you are aware of), that the Japanese never——"

"Well, well," said the Doctor, with some impatience, "probably they never do, sir, but I shall have other opportunities of finding out what you have read about the Japanese."

But he glanced over the top of the paper at the indignant Paul, who was not accustomed to have his information received in this manner, with less suspicion and a growing conviction that some influence during the holidays had changed the boy from a graceless young scapegrace into a prig of the first water.

"He's most uncivil"—Mr. Bultitude told himself—"almost insulting, but I'll go on. I'm rousing his curiosity. I'm making way with him; he sees a difference already." And so he applied himself once more.

"You're a smoker, of course, Dr. Grimstone?" he began. "We don't stop anywhere, I think, on the way, and I must confess myself, after dinner, a whiff or two—I think I can give you a cigar you'll appreciate."

And he felt for his cigar-case, really forgetting that it was gone, like all other incidents of his old self; while Jolland giggled with unrestrained delight at such charming effrontery.

"If I did not know, sir," said the Doctor, now effectually roused, "that this was ill-timed buffoonery, and not an intentional insult, I should be seriously angry. As it is, I can overlook any exuberance of mirth which is, perhaps, pardonable when the mind is elated by the return to the cheerful bustle and activity of school-life. But be very careful."

"He needn't be so angry," thought Paul, "how could I know he doesn't smoke? But I'm afraid he doesn't quite know me, even now."

So he began again: "Did I hear you mention the name of Kiffin amongst those of your pupils here, Doctor? I thought so. Not the son of Jordan Kiffin, of College Hill, surely? Yes? Why, bless my soul, your father and I, my little fellow, were old friends in days before you were born or thought of—born or thought of. He was in a very small way then, a very small—— Eh, Dr. Grimstone, don't you feel well?"

"I see what you're aiming at, sir. You wish to prove to me that I'm making a mistake in my treatment of you."

"That was my idea, certainly," said Paul, much pleased. "I'm very glad you take me, Doctor."

"I shall take you in a way you won't appreciate soon, if this goes on," said the Doctor under his breath.

"When the time comes I shall know how to deal with you. Till then you'll have the goodness to hold your tongue," he said aloud.

"It's not a very polite way of putting it," Paul said to himself, "but, at any rate, he sees how the case stands now, and after all, perhaps, he only speaks like that to put the boys off the scent. If so, it's uncommonly considerate and thoughtful of him, by Gad. I won't say any more."

But by-and-by, the open window made him break his resolution. "I'm sorry to inconvenience you, Dr. Grimstone," he said, with the air of one used to having his way in these matters, "but I positively must ask you either to allow me to have this window up or to change places with you. The night air, sir, at this time of the year is fatal, my doctor tells me, simply fatal to a man of my constitution."

The Doctor pulled up the window with a frown, and yet a somewhat puzzled expression. "I warn you, Bultitude," he said, "you are acting very imprudently."

"So I am," thought Paul, "so I am. Good of him to remind me. I must keep it up before all these boys. This unpleasant business mustn't get about. I'll hold my tongue till we get in. Then, I daresay, Grimstone will see me off by the next train up, if there is one, and lend me enough for a bed at an hotel for the night. I couldn't get to St. Pancras till very late, of course. Or he might offer to put me up at the school. If he does, I think I shall very possibly accept. It might be better."

And he leant back in his seat in a much easier frame of mind; it was annoying, of course, to have been turned out of his warm dining-room, and sent all the way down to Market Rodwell on a fool's errand like this; but still, if nothing worse came of it, he could put up with the temporary inconvenience, and it was a great relief to be spared the necessity of an explanation.

The other boys watched him furtively with growing admiration, which expressed itself in subdued whispers, varied by little gurgles and "squirks" of laughter; they tried to catch his eye and stimulate him to further feats of audacity, but Mr. Bultitude, of course, repulsed all such overtures with a coldness and severity which at once baffled and piqued them.

At last his eccentricity took a shape which considerably lessened their enthusiasm. Kiffin, the new boy, occupied the seat next to Paul; he was a nervous-looking little fellow, with a pale face and big pathetic brown eyes like a seal's, and his dress bore plain evidence of a mother's careful supervision, having all the uncreased trimness and specklessness rarely to be observed except in the toilettes of the waxen prodigies in a shop-window.

It happened that, as he lay back in the padded seat between the sheltering partitions, watching the sickly yellow dregs of oil surging dismally to and fro with the motion in the lamp overhead, or the black indistinct forms flitting past through the misty blue outside, the pathos of his situation became all at once too much for him.

He was a home-bred boy, without any of that taste for the companionship and pursuits of his fellows, or capacity for adapting himself to their prejudices and requirements, which give some home-bred boys a ready passport into the roughest communities.

His heart throbbed with no excited curiosity, no conscious pride, at this his first important step in life; he was a forlorn little stranger, in an unsympathetic strange land, and was only too well aware of his position.

So that it is not surprising that as he thought of the home he had left an hour or two ago which now seemed so shadowy, so inaccessible and remote, his eyes began to smart and sting, and his chest to heave ominously, until he felt it necessary to do something to give a partial vent to his emotions and prevent a public and disgraceful exhibition of grief.

Unhappily for him he found this safety-valve in a series of suppressed but distinctly audible sniffs.

Mr. Bultitude bore this for some time with no other protest than an occasional indignant bounce or a lowering frown in the offender's direction, but at last his nerves, strung already to a high pitch by all he had undergone, could stand it no longer.

"Dr. Grimstone," he said with polite determination, "I'm not a man to complain without good reason, but really I must ask you to interfere. Will you tell this boy here, on my right, either to control his feelings or to cry into his pocket-handkerchief, like an ordinary human being? A good honest bellow I can understand, but this infernal whiffling and sniffing, sir, I will not put up with. It's nothing less than unnatural in a boy of that size."

"Kiffin," said the Doctor, "are you crying?"

"N—no, sir," faltered Kiffin; "I—I think I must have caught cold, sir."

"I hope you are telling me the truth, because I should be sorry to believe you were beginning your new life in a spirit of captiousness and rebellion. I'll have no mutineers in my camp. I'll establish a spirit of trustful happiness and unmurmuring content in this school, if I have to flog every boy in it as long as I can stand over him! As for you, Richard Bultitude, I have no words to express my pain and disgust at the heartless irreverence with which you persist in mimicking and burlesquing a fond and excellent parent. Unless I perceive, sir, in a very short time a due sense of your error and a lively repentance, my disapproval will take a very practical form."

Mr. Bultitude fell back into his seat with a gasp. It was hard to be accused of caricaturing one's own self, particularly when conscious of entire innocence in that respect, but even this was slight in comparison with the discovery that he had been so blindly deceiving himself!

The Doctor evidently had failed to penetrate his disguise, and the dreaded scene of elaborate explanation must be gone through after all.

The boys (with the exception of Kiffin) still found exquisite enjoyment in this extraordinary and original exhibition, and waited eagerly for further experiment on the Doctor's patience.

They were soon gratified. If there was one thing Paul detested more than another, it was the smell of peppermint—no less than three office boys had been discharged by him because, as he alleged, they made the clerks' room reek with it,—and now the subtle searching odour of the hated confection was gradually stealing into the compartment and influencing its atmosphere.

He looked at Coggs, who sat on the seat opposite to him, and saw his cheeks and lips moving in slow and appreciative absorption of something. Coggs was clearly the culprit.

"Do you encourage your boys to make common nuisances of themselves in a public place, may I ask, Dr. Grimstone?" he inquired, fuming.

"Some scarcely seem to require encouragement, Bultitude," said the Doctor pointedly: "what is the matter now?"

"If he takes it medicinally," said Paul, "he should choose some other time and place to treat his complaint. If he has a depraved liking for the abominable stuff, for Heaven's sake make him refrain from it on occasions when it is a serious annoyance to others!"

"Will you explain? Who and what are you talking about?"

"That boy opposite," said Paul, pointing the finger of denunciation at the astonished Coggs; "he's sucking an infernal peppermint lozenge strong enough to throw the train off the rails!"

"Is what Bultitude tells me true, Coggs?" demanded the Doctor in an awful voice.

Coggs, after making several attempts to bolt the offending lozenge, and turning scarlet meanwhile with confusion and coughing, stammered huskily something to the effect that he had "bought the lozenges at a chemist's," which he seemed to consider, for some reason, a mitigating circumstance.

"Have you any more of this pernicious stuff about you?" said the Doctor.

Very slowly and reluctantly Coggs brought out of one pocket after another three or four neat little white packets, make up with that lavish expenditure of time, string, and sealing-wax, by which the struggling chemist seeks to reconcile the public mind to a charge of two hundred and fifty per cent. on cost price, and handed them to Dr. Grimstone, who solemnly unfastened them one by one, glanced at their contents with infinite disgust, and flung them out of window.

Then he turned to Paul with a look of more favour than he had yet shown him. "Bultitude," he said, "I am obliged to you. A severe cold in the head has rendered me incapable of detecting this insidious act of insubordination and self-indulgence, on which I shall have more to say on another occasion. Your moral courage and promptness in denouncing the evil thing are much to your credit."

"Not at all," said Paul, "not at all, my dear sir. I mentioned it because I—ah—happen to be peculiarly sensitive on the subject and——" Here he broke off with a sharp yell, and began to rub his ankle. "One of these young savages has just given me a severe kick; it's that fellow over there, with the blue necktie. I have given him no provocation, and he attacks me in this brutal manner, sir; I appeal to you for protection!"

"So, Coker" (Coker wore a blue necktie), said the Doctor, "you emulate the wild ass in more qualities than those of stupidity and stubbornness, do you? You lash out with your hind legs at an inoffensive school-fellow, with all the viciousness of a kangaroo, eh? Write out all you find in Buffon's Natural History upon those two animals a dozen times, and bring it to me by to-morrow evening. If I am to stable wild asses, sir, they shall be broken in!"

Six pairs of sulky glowering eyes were fixed upon the unconscious Paul for the rest of the journey; indignant protests and dark vows of vengeance were muttered under cover of the friendly roar and rattle of tunnels. But the object of them heard nothing; his composure was returning once more in the sunshine of Dr. Grimstone's approbation, and he almost decided on declaring himself in the station fly.

And now at last the train was grinding along discordantly with the brakes on, and, after a little preliminary jolting and banging over the points, drew up at a long lighted platform, where melancholy porters paced up and down, croaking "Market Rodwell!" like so many Solomon Eagles predicting woe.

Paul got out with the others, and walked forward to the guard's van, where he stood shivering in the raw night air by a small heap of portmanteaux and white clamped boxes.

"I should like to tell him all about it now," he thought, "if he wasn't so busy. I'll get him to go in a cab alone with me, and get it over before we reach the house."

Dr. Grimstone certainly did not seem in a very receptive mood for confidences just then. No flys were to be seen, which he took as a personal outrage, and visited upon the station-master in hot indignation.

"It's scandalous, I tell you," he was saying: "scandalous! No cabs to meet the train. My school reassembles to-day, and here I find no arrangements made for their accommodation! Not even an omnibus! I shall write to the manager and report this. Let some one go for a fly immediately. Boys, go into the waiting room till I come to you. Stay—there are too many for one fly. Coker, Coggs, and, let me see, yes, Bultitude, you all know your way. Walk on and tell Mrs. Grimstone we are coming."

Paul Bultitude was perhaps more relieved than disappointed by this postponement of a disagreeable interview, though, if he had seen Coker dig Coggs in the side with a chuckle of exultant triumph, he might have had misgivings as to the prudence of trusting himself alone with them.

As it was he almost determined to trust the pair with his secret. "They will be valuable witnesses," he said to himself, "that, whoever else I may be, I am not Dick."

So he went on briskly ahead over a covered bridge and down some break-neck wooden steps, and passed through the wicket out upon the railed-in space, where the cabs and omnibuses should have been, but which was now a blank spectral waste with a white ground-fog lurking round its borders.

Here he was joined by his companions, who, after a little whispering, came up one on either side and put an arm through each of his.

"Well," said Paul, thinking to banter them agreeably; "here you are, young men, eh? Holidays all over now! Work while you're young, and then—— Gad, you're walking me off my legs. Stop; I'm not as young as I used to be——"

"Grim can't see us here, can he, Coker?" said Coggs when they had cleared the gates and palings.

"Not he!" said Coker.

"Very well, then. Now then, young Bultitude, you used to be a decent fellow enough last term, though you were coxy. So, before we go any further—what do you mean by this sort of thing?"

"Because," put in Coker, "if you aren't quite right in your head, through your old governor acting like a brute all the holidays, as you said he does, just say so, and we won't be hard on you."

"I—he—always an excellent father," stammered Paul. "What am I to explain?"

"Why, what did you go and sneak of him for bringing tuck back to school for, eh?" demanded Coker.

"Yes, and sing out when he hacked your shin?" added Coggs; "and tell Grimstone that new fellow was blubbing? Where's the joke in all that, eh? Where's the joke?"

"You don't suppose I was bound to sit calmly down and allow you to suck your villainous peppermints under my very nose, do you?" said Mr. Bultitude. "Why shouldn't I complain if a boy annoys me by sniffing, or kicks me on the ankle? Just tell me that? Suppose my neighbour has a noisy dog or a smoky chimney, am I not to venture to tell him of it? Is he to——"

But his arguments, convincing as they promised to be, were brought to a sudden and premature close by Coker, who slipped behind him and administered a sharp jog below his back, which jarred his spine and caused him infinite agony.

"You little brute!" cried Paul, "I could have you up for assault for that!"

But upon this Coggs did the very same thing only harder. "Last term you'd have shown fight for much less, Bultitude," they both observed severely, as some justification for repeating the process.

"Now, perhaps, you'll drop it for the future," said Coker. "Look here! we'll give you one more chance. This sneaking dodge is all very well for Chawner. Chawner could do that sort of thing without getting sat upon, because he's a big fellow; but we're not going to stand it from you. Will you promise on your sacred word of honour, now, to be a decent sort of chap again, as you were last term?"

But Mr. Bultitude, though he longed for peace and quietness, dreaded doing or saying anything to favour the impression that he was the schoolboy he unluckily appeared to be, and he had not skill and tact enough to dissemble and assume a familiar genial tone of equality with these rough boys.

"You don't understand," he protested feebly. "If I could only tell you——"

"We don't want any fine language, you know," said the relentless Coggs. "Yes or no. Will you promise to be your old self again?"

"I only wish I could," said poor Mr. Bultitude—"but I can't!"

"Very well, then," said Coggs firmly, "we must try the torture. Coker, will you screw the back of his hand, while I show him how they make barley-sugar?"

And he gave Paul an interesting illustration of the latter branch of industry by twisting his right arm round and round till he nearly wrenched it out of the socket, while Coker seized his left hand and pounded it vigorously with the first joint of his forefinger, causing the unfortunate Paul to yell for mercy.

At last he could bear no more, and breaking away from his tormentors with a violent effort, he ran frantically down the silent road towards a house which he knew from former visits to be Dr. Grimstone's.

He was but languidly pursued, and, as the distance was short, he soon gained a gate on the stuccoed posts of which he could read "Crichton House" by the light of a neighbouring gas-lamp.

"This is a nice way," he thought, as he reached it breathless and trembling, "for a father to visit his son's school!"

He had hoped to reach sanctuary before the other two could overtake him; but he soon discovered that the gate was shut fast, and all his efforts would not bring him within reach of the bell-handle—he was too short.

So he sat down on the doorstep in resigned despair, and waited for his enemies. Behind the gate was a large many-windowed house, with steps leading up to a portico. In the playground to his right the school gymnasium, a great gallows-like erection, loomed black and grim through the mist, the night wind favouring the ghastliness of its appearance by swaying the ropes till they creaked and moaned weirdly on the hooks, and the metal stirrups clinked and clashed against one another in irregular cadence.

He had no time to observe more, as Coker and Coggs joined him, and, on finding he had not rung the bell, seized the occasion to pummel him at their leisure before announcing their arrival.

Then the gate was opened, and the three—the revengeful pair assuming an air of lamb-like inoffensiveness—entered the hall and were met by Mrs. Grimstone.

"Why, here you are!" she said, with an air of surprise, and kissing them with real kindness. "How cold you look! So you actually had to walk. No cabs as usual. You poor boys! come in and warm yourselves. You'll find all your old friends in the schoolroom."

Mr. Bultitude submitted to be kissed with some reluctance, inwardly hoping that Dr. Grimstone might never hear of it.

Mrs. Grimstone, it may be said here, was a stout, fair woman, not in the least intellectual or imposing, but with a warm heart, and a way of talking to and about boys that secured her the confidence of mothers more effectually, perhaps, than the most polished conversation and irreproachable deportment could have done.

She did not reserve her motherliness for the reception room either, as some schoolmasters' wives have a tendency to do, and the smallest boy felt less homesick when he saw her.

She opened a green baize outer door, and the door beyond it, and led them into a long high room, with desks and forms placed against the walls, and a writing table, and line of brown-stained tables down the middle. Opposite the windows there was a curious structure of shelves partitioned into lockers, and filled with rows of shabby schoolbooks.

The room had been originally intended for a drawing-room, as was evident from the inevitable white and gold wall-paper and the tarnished gilt beading round the doors and window shutters; the mantelpiece, too, was of white marble, and the gaselier fitted with dingy crystal lustres.

But sad-coloured maps hung on the ink-splashed walls, and a clock with a blank idiotic face (it is not every clock that possesses a decently intelligent expression) ticked over the gilt pier-glass. The boards were uncarpeted, and stained with patches of ink of all sizes and ages; while the atmosphere, in spite of the blazing fire, had a scholastic blending of soap and water, ink and slate-pencil in its composition, which produced a chill and depressing effect.

On the forms opposite the fire some ten or twelve boys were sitting, a few comparing notes as to their holiday experiences with some approach to vivacity. The rest, with hands in pockets and feet stretched towards the blaze, seemed lost in melancholy abstraction.

"There!" said Mrs. Grimstone cheerfully, "you'll have plenty to talk to one another about. I'll send Tom in to see you presently!" And she left them with a reassuring nod, though the prospect of Tom's company did not perhaps elate them as much as it was intended to do.

Mr. Bultitude felt much as if he had suddenly been dropped down a bear-pit, and, avoiding welcome and observation as well as he could, got away into a corner, from which he observed his new companions with uneasy apprehension.

"I say," said one boy, resuming the interrupted conversation, "did you go to Drury Lane? Wasn't it stunning! That goose, you know, and the lion in the forest, and all the wooden animals lumbering in out of the toy Noah's Ark!"

"Why couldn't you come to our party on Twelfth-night?" asked another. "We had great larks. I wish you'd been there!"

"I had to go to young Skidmore's instead," said a pale, spiteful-looking boy, with fair hair carefully parted in the middle. "It was like his cheek to ask me, but I thought I'd go, you know, just to see what it was like."

"What was it like?" asked one or two near him languidly.

"Oh, awfully slow! They've a poky little house in Brompton somewhere, and there was no dancing, only boshy games and a conjurer, without any presents. And, oh! I say, at supper there was a big cake on the table, and no one was allowed to cut it, because it was hired. They're so poor, you know. Skidmore's pater is only a clerk, and you should see his sisters!"

"Why, are they pretty?"

"Pretty! they're just like young Skidmore—only uglier; and just fancy, his mother asked me 'if I was Skidmore's favourite companion, and if he helped me in my studies?'"

The unfortunate Skidmore, when he returned, soon found reason to regret his rash hospitality, for he never heard the last of the cake (which had, as it happened, been paid for in the usual manner) during the rest of the term.

There was a slight laugh at the enormity of Mrs. Skidmore's presumption, and then a long pause, after which some one asked suddenly, "Does any one know whether Chawner really has left this time?"

"I hope so," said a big, heavy boy, and his hope seemed echoed with a general fervour. "He's been going to leave every term for the last year, but I believe he really has done it this time. He wrote and told me he wasn't coming back."

"Thank goodness!" said several, with an evident relief, and some one was just observing that they had had enough of the sneaking business, when a fly was heard to drive up, and the bell rang, whereupon everyone abandoned his easy attitude, and seemed to brace himself up for a trying encounter.

"Look out—here's Grimstone!" they whispered under their breaths, as voices and footsteps were heard in the hall outside.

Presently the door of the schoolroom opened, and another boy entered the room. Dr. Grimstone, it appeared, had not been the occupant of the fly, after all. The new-comer was a tall, narrow-shouldered, stooping fellow, with a sallow, unwholesome complexion, thin lips, and small sunken brown eyes. His cheeks were creased with a dimpling subsmile, half uneasy, half malicious, and his tread was mincing and catlike.

"Well, you fellows?" he said.

All rose at once, and shook hands effusively. "Why, Chawner!" they cried, "how are you, old fellow? We thought you weren't coming back!"

There was a heartiness in their manner somewhat at variance with their recent expressions of opinion; but they had doubtless excellent reasons for any inconsistency.

"Well," said Chawner, in a low, soft voice, which had a suggestion of feminine spitefulness, "I was going to leave, but I thought you'd be getting into mischief here without me to watch over you. Appleton, and Lench, and Coker want looking after badly, I know. So, you see, I've come back after all."

He laughed with a little malevolent cackle as he spoke, and the three boys named laughed too, though with no great heartiness, and shifting the while uneasily on their seats.

After this sally the conversation languished until Tom Grimstone's appearance. He strolled in with a semi-professional air, and shook hands with affability.

Tom was a short, flabby, sandy-haired youth, not particularly beloved of his comrades, and his first remark was, "I say, you chaps, have you done your holiday task? Pa says he shall keep everyone in who hasn't. I've done mine;" which, as a contribution to the general liveliness, was a distinct failure.

Needless to say, the work imposed as a holiday occupation had been first deferred, then forgotten, then remembered too late, and recklessly defied with the confidence begotten in a home atmosphere.

Amidst a general silence Chawner happened to see Mr. Bultitude in his corner, and crossed over to him. "Why, there's Dicky Bultitude there all the time, and he never came to shake hands! Aren't you going to speak to me?"

Paul growled something indistinctly, feeling strangely uncomfortable and confused.

"What's the matter with him?" asked Chawner. "Does anyone know? Has he lost his tongue?"

"He hadn't lost it coming down in the train," said Coker: "I wish he had. I tell you what, you fellows—He—here's Grim at last! I'll tell you all about it up in the bedroom."

And Dr. Grimstone really did arrive at this point, much to Paul's relief, and looked in to give a grip of the hand and a few words to those of the boys he had not seen.

Biddlecomb, Tipping, and the rest, came in with him, and the schoolroom soon filled with others arriving by later trains, amongst the later comers being the two house-masters, Mr. Blinkhorn and Mr. Tinkler; and there followed a season of bustle and conversation, which lasted until the Doctor touched a small hand-bell, and ordered them to sit down round the tables while supper was brought in.

Mr. Bultitude was not sorry to hear the word "supper." He was faint and dispirited, and although he had dined not very long since, thought that perhaps a little cold beef and beer, or some warmed-up trifle, might give him courage to tell his misfortunes before bedtime.

Of one thing he felt certain. Nothing should induce him to trust his person in a bedroom with any of those violent and vindictive boys; whether he succeeded in declaring himself that night or not, he would at least insist on a separate bedroom. Meantime he looked forward to supper as likely to restore geniality and confidence.

But the supper announced so imposingly proved to consist of nothing more than two plates piled with small pieces of thinly-buttered bread, which a page handed round together with tumblers of water; and Paul, in his disappointment, refused this refreshment with more firmness than politeness, as Dr. Grimstone observed.

"You got into trouble last term, Bultitude," he said sternly, "on account of this same fastidious daintiness. Your excellent father has informed me of your waste and gluttony at his own bountifully spread table. Don't let me have occasion to reprove you for this again."

Mr. Bultitude, feeling the necessity of propitiating him, hastened to take the two largest squares of bread and butter on the plate. They were moist and thick, and he had considerable difficulty in disposing of them, besides the gratification of hearing himself described as a "pig" by his neighbours, who reproved him with a refreshing candour.

"I must get away from here," he thought, ruefully. "Dick seems very unpopular. I wish I didn't feel so low-spirited and unwell. Why can't I carry it off easily as—as a kind of joke? How hard these forms are, and how those infernal boys did jog my back!"

Bedtime came at length. The boys filed, one by one, out of the room, and the Doctor stood by the door to shake hands with them as they passed.

Mr. Bultitude lingered until the others had gone, for he had made up his mind to seize this opportunity to open the Doctor's eyes to the mistake he was making. But he felt unaccountably nervous; the diplomatic and well-chosen introduction he had carefully prepared had left him at the critical moment; all power of thought was gone with it, and he went tremblingly up to the schoolmaster, feeling hopelessly at the mercy of anything that chose to come out of his mouth.

"Dr. Grimstone," he began; "before retiring I—I must insist—I mean I must request—— What I wish to say is——"

"I see," said the Doctor, catching him up sharply. "You wish to apologise for your extraordinary behaviour in the railway carriage? Well, though you made some amends afterwards, an apology is very right and proper. Say no more about it."

"It's not that," said Paul hopelessly; "I wanted to explain——"

"Your conduct with regard to the bread and butter? If it was simply want of appetite, of course there is no more to be said. But I have an abhorrence of——"

"Quite right," said Paul, recovering himself; "I hate waste myself, but there is something I must tell you before——"

"If it concerns that disgraceful conduct of Coker's," said the Doctor, "you may speak on. I shall have to consider his case to-morrow. Has any similar case of disobedience come to your knowledge? If so, I expect you to disclose it to me. You have found some other boy with sweetmeats in his possession?"

"Good Heavens, sir!" said Mr. Bultitude, losing his temper; "I haven't been searching the whole school for sweetmeats! I have other things to occupy my mind, sir. And, once for all, I demand to be heard! Dr. Grimstone, there are, ahem, domestic secrets that can only be alluded to in the strictest privacy. I see that one of your assistants is writing at his table there. Cannot we go where there will be less risk of interruption? You have a study, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir," said the Doctor with terrible grimness, "I have a study—and I have a cane. I can convince you of both facts, if you wish it. If you insult me again by this brazen buffoonery, I will! Be off to your dormitory, sir, before you provoke me to punish you. Not another word! Go!"

And, incredible as it may appear to all who have never been in his position, Mr. Bultitude went. It was almost an abdication, it was treachery to his true self; he knew the vital importance of firmness at this crisis. But nevertheless his courage gave way all at once, and he crawled up the bare, uncarpeted stairs without any further protest!

"Good night, Master Bultitude," said a housemaid, meeting him on the staircase: "you know your bedroom. No. 6, with Master Coker, and Master Biddlecomb, and the others."

Paul dragged himself up to the highest landing-stage, and, with a sick foreboding, opened the door on which the figure 6 was painted.

It was a large bare plainly papered room, with several curtainless windows, the blinds of which were drawn, a long deal stand of wash-hand basins, and eight little white beds against the walls.

A fire was lighted in consideration of its being the first night, and several boys were talking excitedly round it. "Here he is! He's stayed behind to tell more tales!" they cried, as Paul entered nervously. "Now then, Bultitude, what have you got to say for yourself?"

Mr. Bultitude felt powerless among all these young wolves. He had no knowledge of boys, nor any notion of acquiring an influence over them, having hitherto regarded them as necessary nuisances, to be rather repressed than studied. He could only stare hopelessly at them in fascinated silence.

"You see he hasn't a word to say for himself!" said Tipping. "Look here, what shall we do to him? Shall we try tossing in a blanket? I've never tried tossing a fellow in one myself, but as long as you don't jerk him too high, or out on the floor, you can't hurt him dangerously."

"No, I say, don't toss him in a blanket," pleaded Biddlecomb, and Paul felt gratefully towards him at the words; "anyone coming up would see what was going on. I vote we flick at him with towels."

"Now just you understand this clearly," said Paul, thinking, not without reason, that this course of treatment was likely to prove painful; "I refuse to allow myself to be flicked at with towels. No one has ever offered me such an indignity in my life! Oh, do you think I've not enough on my mind as it is without the barbarities of a set of young brutes like you!"

As this appeal was not of a very conciliatory nature they at once proceeded to form a circle round him and, judging their distance with great accuracy, jerked towels at his person with such diabolical dexterity that the wet corners cut him at all points like so many fine thongs, and he span round like a top, dancing, and, I regret to add, swearing violently, at the pain.

When he was worked up almost to frenzy pitch Biddlecomb's sweet low voice cried, "Cave, you fellows! I hear Grim. Let him undress now, and we can lam it into him afterwards with slippers!"

At this they all cast off such of their clothes as they still wore, and slipped modestly and peacefully into bed, just as Dr. Grimstone's large form appeared at the doorway. Mr. Bultitude made as much haste as he could, but did not escape a reprimand from the Doctor as he turned the gas out; and as soon as he had made the round of the bedrooms and his heavy tread had died away down the staircase, the light-hearted occupants of No. 6 "lammed" it into the unhappy Paul until they were tired of the exercise and left him to creep sore and trembling with rage and fright into his cold hard bed.

Then, after a little desultory conversation, one by one sank from incoherence into silence, and rose from silence to snores, while Paul alone lay sleepless, listening to the creeping tinkle of the dying fire, drearily wondering at the marvellous change that had come over his life and fortunes in the last few hours, and feverishly composing impassioned appeals which were to touch the Doctor's heart and convince his reason.



5. Disgrace

"Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace The day's disasters in his morning's face."

Sleep came at last, and brought too brief forgetfulness. It was not till the dull grey light of morning was glimmering through the blinds that Mr. Bultitude awoke to his troubles.

The room was bitterly cold, and he remained shivering in bed for some time, trying to realise and prepare for his altered condition.

He was the only one awake. Now and then from one of the beds around a boy would be heard talking in his sleep, or laughing with holiday glee—at the drolleries possibly of some pantomime performed for his amusement in the Theatre Royal, Dreamland—a theatre mercifully open to all boys free of charge, long after the holidays have come to an end, the only drawbacks being a certain want of definiteness in the plot and scenery, and a liability to premature termination of the vaguely splendid performance.

Once Kiffin, the new boy, awoke with a start and a heavy sigh, but he cried himself to sleep again almost immediately.

Mr. Bultitude could bear being inactive no longer. He thought, if he got up, he might perhaps see his misfortunes shrink to a more bearable, less hopeless scale, and besides, he judged it prudent, for many reasons, to finish his toilet before the sleepers began theirs.

Very stealthily, dreading to rouse anyone and attract attention in the form of slippers, he broke the clinking crust of ice in one of the basins and, shuddering from the shock, bathed face and hands in the biting water. He parted his hair, which from natural causes he had been unable to accomplish for some years, and now found an awkwardness in accomplishing neatly, and then stole down the dark creaking staircase just as the butler in the hall began to swing the big railway bell which was to din stern reality into the sleepy ears above.

In the schoolroom a yawning maid had just lighted the fire, from which turbid yellow clouds of sulphurous smoke were pouring into the room, making it necessary to open the windows and lower a temperature that was far from high originally.

Paul stood shaking by the mantelpiece in a very bad temper for some minutes. If the Doctor had come in then, he might have been spurred by indignation to utter his woes, and even claim and obtain his freedom. But that was not to be.

The door did open presently, however, and a little girl appeared; a very charming little maiden indeed, in a neat dark costume relieved by a fresh white pinafore. She had deep grey eyes and glossy brown hair falling over her forehead and down her back in soft straight masses, her face was oval rather than round, and slightly serious, though her smile was pretty and gay.

She ran towards Mr. Bultitude with a glad little cry, stretching out her hands.

"Dick! dear Dick!" she said, "I am so glad! I thought you'd be down early; as you used to be. I wanted to sit up last night so very much, but mamma wouldn't let me."

Some might have been very glad to be welcomed in this way, even vicariously. As for boys, it must have been a very bad school indeed which Dulcie Grimstone could not have robbed of much of its terrors.

Mr. Bultitude, however, as has been explained, did not appreciate children—being a family man himself. When one sees their petty squabbles and jealousies, hears their cruel din, and pays for their monkeyish mischief, perhaps the daintiest children seem but an earthly order of cherubim. He was only annoyed and embarrassed by the interruption, though he endured it.

"Ah," he said with condescension, "and so you're Dr. Grimstone's little girl, are you? How d'ye do, my dear?"

Dulcie stopped and looked at him, with drawn eyebrows and her soft mouth quivering. "What makes you talk like that?" she asked.

"How ought I to talk?" said Paul.

"You didn't talk like that before," said Dulcie plaintively. "I—I thought perhaps you'd be glad to see me. You were once. And—and—when you went away last you asked me to—to—kiss you, and I did, and I wish I hadn't. And you gave me a ginger lozenge with your name written on it in lead pencil, and I gave you a cough-lozenge with mine; and you said it was to show that you were my sweetheart and I was yours. But I suppose you've eaten the one I gave you?"

"This is dreadful!" thought Mr. Bultitude. "What shall I do now? The child evidently takes me for that little scoundrel Dick." "Tut-tut," he said aloud, "little girls like you are too young for such nonsense. You ought to think about—about your dolls, and—ah, your needlework—not sweethearts!"

"You say that now!" cried Dulcie indignantly. "You know I'm not a little girl, and I've left off playing with dolls—almost. Oh, Dick, don't be unkind! You haven't changed your mind, have you?"

"No," said Paul dismally, "I've changed my body. But there—you wouldn't understand. Run away and play somewhere, like a good little girl!"

"I know what it is!" said Dulcie. "You've been out to parties, or somewhere, and seen some horrid girl ... you like ... better than me!"

"This is absurd, you know," said Mr. Bultitude. "You can't think how absurd it is! Now, you'll be a very foolish little girl if you cry. You're making a mistake. I'm not the Dick you used to know!"

"I know you're not!" sobbed Dulcie. "But oh, Dick, you will be. Promise me you will be!" And, to Paul's horror and alarm, she put her arms round his neck, and cried piteously on his shoulder.

"Good gracious!" he cried, "let me go. Don't do that, for Heaven's sake! I can hear some one coming. If it's your father, it will ruin me!"

But it was too late. Over her head he saw Tipping enter the room, and stand glaring at them menacingly. Dulcie saw him too, and sprang away to the window, where she tried to dry her eyes unperceived, and then ran past him with a hurried good morning, and escaped, leaving Paul alone with the formidable Tipping.

There was an awkward silence at first, which Tipping broke by saying, "What have you been saying to make her cry, eh?"

"What's that to you, sir?" said Paul, trying to keep his voice firm.

"Why, it's just this to me," said Tipping, "that I've been spoons on Dulcie myself ever since I came, and she never would have a word to say to me. I never could think why, and now it turns out to be you! What do you mean by cutting me out like this? I heard her call you 'dear Dick.'"

"Don't be an ass, sir!" said Paul angrily.

"Now, none of your cheek, you know!" said Tipping, edging up against him with a dangerous inclination first to jostle aggressively, and then maul his unconscious rival. "You just mind what I say. I'm not going to have Dulcie bothered by a young beggar in the second form; she deserves something better than that, anyway, and I tell you that if I once catch you talking to her in the way you did just now, or if I hear of her favouring you more than any other fellows, I'll give you the very juiciest licking you ever had in your life. So look out!"

At this point the other boys began to straggle down and cluster round the fire, and Paul withdrew from the aggrieved Tipping, and looked drearily out of the window on the hard road and bare black trees outside.

"I must tell the Doctor how I'm situated!" he thought; "and yet directly I open my mouth, he threatens to flog me. If I stay here, that little girl will be always trying to speak to me, and I shall be thrashed by the red-haired boy. If I could only manage to speak out after breakfast!"

It was not without satisfaction that he remembered that he paid extra for "meat for breakfast" in his son's school-bills, for he was beginning to look forward to meal-time with the natural desire of a young and healthy frame for nourishment.

At eight o'clock the Doctor came in and announced breakfast, leading the way himself to what was known in the school as the "Dining Hall." It scarcely deserved so high-sounding a name perhaps, being a long low room on the basement floor, with a big fireplace, fitted with taps, and baking ovens, which provoked the suspicion that it had begun existence as a back kitchen.

The Doctor took his seat alone at a cross table forming the top of one of the two rows of tables, set with white cups and saucers, and plates well heaped with the square pieces of bread and butter, while Mrs. Grimstone with Dulcie and Tom, sat at the foot of the same row, behind two ugly urns of dull block-tin.

But when Mr. Bultitude, more hungry than he had felt for years, found his place at one of the tables, he was disgusted to find upon his plate—not, as he had confidently expected, a couple of plump poached eggs, with their appetising contrast of ruddy gold and silvery white, not a crisp and crackling sausage or a mottled omelette, not even the homely but luscious rasher, but a brace of chill forbidding sardines, lying grim and headless in bilious green oil!

It was a fish he positively loathed, nor could it be reasonably expected that the confidence necessary for a declaration was to be forgotten by so sepulchral a form of nutriment.

He roused himself, however, to swallow them, together with some of the thin and tin-flavoured coffee. But the meal as a whole was so different from the plentiful well-cooked breakfasts he had sat down before for years as a matter of course, that it made him feel extremely unwell.

No talking was allowed during the meal. The Doctor now and then looked up from his dish of kidneys on toast (at which envious glances were occasionally cast) to address a casual remark to his wife across the long row of plates and cups, but, as a rule, the dull champing sound of boys solemnly and steadily munching was all that broke the silence.

Towards the end, when the plates had been generally cleared, and the boys sat staring with the stolidity of repletion at one another across the tables, the junior house-master, Mr. Tinkler, made his appearance. He had lately left a small and little-known college at Cambridge, where he had contrived, contrary to expectation, to evade the uncoveted wooden spoon by just two places, which enabled the Doctor to announce himself as being "assisted by a graduate of the University of Cambridge who has taken honours in the Mathematical Tripos."

For the rest, he was a small insignificant-looking person, who evidently disliked the notice his late appearance drew upon himself.

"Mr. Tinkler," said the Doctor in his most awful voice, "if it were my custom to rebuke my assistants before the school (which it is not), I should feel forced to remind you that this tardiness in rising is a bad beginning of the day's work, and sets a bad example to those under your authority."

Mr. Tinkler made no articulate reply, but sat down with a crushed expression, and set himself to devour bread and butter with an energy which he hoped would divert attention from his blushes; and almost immediately the Doctor looked at his watch and said, "Now, boys, you have half-an-hour for 'chevy'—make the most of it. When you come in I shall have something to say to you all. Don't rise, Mr. Tinkler, unless you have quite finished."

Mr. Tinkler preferred leaving his breakfast to continuing it under the trying ordeal of his principal's inspection. So, hastily murmuring that he had "made an excellent breakfast"—which he had not—he followed the others, who clattered upstairs to put on their boots and go out into the playground.

It was noticeable that they did so without much of the enthusiasm which might be looked for from boys dismissed to their sports. But the fact was that this particular sport, "chevy," commonly known as "prisoners' base," was by no means a popular amusement, being of a somewhat monotonous nature, and calling for no special skill on the part of the performers. Besides this, moreover, it had the additional disadvantage (which would have been fatal to a far more fascinating diversion) of being in a great measure compulsory.

Football and cricket were of course reserved for half-holidays, and played in a neighbouring field rented by the Doctor, and in the playground he restricted them to "chevy," which he considered, rightly enough, both gave them abundant exercise and kept them out of mischief. Accordingly, if any adventurous spirit started a rival game, it was usually abandoned sooner or later in deference to suggestions from headquarters which were not intended to be disregarded.

This, though undoubtedly well meant, did not serve to stimulate their affection for the game, an excellent one in moderation, but one which, if played "by special desire" two or three hours a day for weeks in succession is apt to lose its freshness and pall upon the youthful mind.

It was a bright morning. There had been a hard frost during the night, and the ground was hard, sparkling with rime and ringing to the foot. The air was keen and invigorating, and the bare black branches of the trees were outlined clear and sharp against the pale pure blue of the morning sky.

Just the weather for a long day's skating over the dark green glassy ice, or a bracing tramp on country roads into cheery red-roofed market towns. But now it had lost all power to charm. It was almost depressing by the contrast between the boundless liberty suggested, and the dull reality of a round of uninteresting work which was all it heralded.

So they lounged listlessly about, gravitating finally towards the end of the playground, where a deep furrow marked the line of the base. There was no attempt to play. They stood gossiping in knots, grumbling and stamping their feet to keep warm. By-and-by the day-boarders began to drop in one by one, several of them, from a want of tact in adapting themselves to the general tone, earning decided unpopularity at once by a cheerful briskness and an undisguised satisfaction at having something definite to do once more.

If Mr. Tinkler, who had joined one of the groups, had not particularly distinguished himself at breakfast, he made ample amends now, and by the grandeur and manliness of his conversation succeeded in producing a decided impression upon some of the smaller boys.

"The bore of a place like this, you know," he was saying with magnificent disdain, "is that a fellow can't have his pipe of a morning. I've been used to it, and so, of course, I miss it. If I chose to insist on it Grimstone couldn't say anything; but with a lot of young fellows like you, you see, it wouldn't look well!"

It could hardly have looked worse than little Mr. Tinkler himself would have done, if he had ventured upon more than the mildest of cigarettes, for he was a poor but pertinacious smoker, and his love for the weed was chastened by wholesome fear. There, however, he was in no danger of betraying this, and indeed it would have been injudicious to admit it.

"Talking of smoking," he went on, with a soft chuckle, as at recollections of unspeakable devilry, "did I ever tell you chaps of a tremendous scrape I very nearly got into up at the 'Varsity? Well, you must know there's a foolish rule there against smoking in the streets. Not that that made any difference to some of us! Well, one night about nine, I was strolling down Petty Cury with two other men, smoking (Bosher of "Pothouse," and Peebles of "Cats," both pretty well known up there for general rowdiness, you know—great pals of mine!) and, just as we turned the corner, who should we see coming straight down on us but a Proctor with his bull-dogs (not dogs, you know, but the strongest 'gyps' in college). Bosher said, 'Let's cut it!' and he and Peebles bolted. (They were neither of them funks, of course, but they lost their heads.) I went calmly on, smoking my cigar as if nothing was the matter. That put the Proctor in a bait, I can tell you! He came fuming up to me. 'What do you mean, sir,' says he, quite pale with anger (he was a great bull-headed fellow, one of the strongest dons of his year, that's why they made him a Proctor)—'what do you mean by breaking the University Statutes in this way?' 'It is a fine evening,' said I (I was determined to keep cool). 'Do you mean to insult me?' said he. 'No, old boy,' said I, 'I don't; have a cigar?' He couldn't stand that, so he called up his bull-dogs. 'I give him in charge!' he screamed out. 'I'll have him sent down!' 'I'll send you down first,' said I, and I just gave him a push—I never meant to hurt the fellow—and over he went. I rolled over a bull-dog to keep him company, and, as the other fellow didn't want any more and stood aside to let me pass, I finished my stroll and my cigar."

"Was the Proctor hurt, sir?" inquired a small boy with great respect.

"More frightened than hurt, I always said," said Mr. Tinkler lightly, "but somehow he never would proctorise any more—it spoilt his nerve. He was a good deal chaffed about it, but of course no one ever knew I'd had anything to do with it!"

With such tales of Homeric exploit did Mr. Tinkler inculcate a spirit of discipline and respect for authority. But although he had indeed once encountered a Proctor, and at night, he did himself great injustice by this version of the proceedings, which were, as a matter of fact, of a most peaceable and law-abiding character, and though followed by a pecuniary transaction the next day in which six-and-eightpence changed pockets, the Proctors continued their duties much as before, while Mr. Tinkler's feelings towards them, which had ever been reverential in the extreme, were, if anything, intensified by the experience.

Upon this incident, however, he had gradually embroidered the above exciting episode, until he grew to believe at intervals that he really had been a devil of a fellow in his time, which, to do him justice, was far from the case.

He might have gone on still further to calumniate himself, and excite general envy and admiration thereby, if at that moment Dr. Grimstone had not happened to appear at the head of the cast-iron staircase that led down into the playground; whereupon Mr. Tinkler affected to be intensely interested in the game, which, as a kind of involuntary compliment to the principal, about this time was galvanised into a sort of vigour.

But the Doctor, after frowning gloomily down upon them for a minute or so, suddenly called "All in!"

He had several ways of saying this. Sometimes he would do so in a half-regretful tone, as one himself obeying the call of duty; sometimes he would appear for some minutes, a benignant spectator, upon the balcony, and summon them to work at length with a lenient pity—for he was by no means a hard-hearted man; but at other times he would step sharply and suddenly out and shout the word of command with a grim and ominous expression. On these last occasions the school generally prepared itself for a rather formidable quarter of an hour.

This was the case now and, as a further portent, Mr. Blinkhorn was observed to come down and, after a few words with Mr. Tinkler, withdrew with him through the school gate.

"He's sent them out for a walk," said Siggers, who was skilled in omens. "It's a row!"

Rows at Crichton House, although periodical, and therefore things to be forearmed against in some degree, were serious matters. Dr. Grimstone was a quick-tempered man, with a copious flow of words and a taste for indulging it. He was also strongly prejudiced against many breaches of discipline which others might have considered trifling, and whenever he had discovered any such breach he could not rest until by all the means in his power he had ascertained exactly how many were implicated in the offence, and to what extent.

His usual method of doing this was to summon the school formally together and deliver an elaborate harangue, during which he worked himself by degrees into such a state of indignation that his hearers were most of them terrified out of their senses, and very often conscience-stricken offenders would give themselves up as hopelessly detected and reveal transgressions altogether unsuspected by him—much as a net brings up fish of all degrees of merit, or as heavy firing will raise drowned corpses to the surface.

Paul naturally knew nothing of this peculiarity; he had kept himself as usual apart from the others, and was now trying to compel himself to brave the terrors of an avowal at the first opportunity. He followed the others up the steps with an uneasy wonder whether, after all, he would not find himself ignominiously set down to learn lessons.

The boys filed into the schoolroom in solemn silence, and took their seats at the desks and along the brown tables. The Doctor was there before them, standing up with one elbow resting upon a reading-stand, and with a suggestion of coming thunder in his look and attitude that, combined with the oppressive silence, made some of the boys feel positively ill.

Presently he began. He said that, since they had come together again, he had made a discovery concerning one among them which, astounding as it was to him, and painful as he felt it to be compelled to make it known, concerned them all to be aware of.

Mr. Bultitude could scarcely believe his ears. His secret was discovered, then; the injury done him by Dick about to be repaired, and open restitution and apology offered him! It was not perhaps precisely delicate on the Doctor's part to make so public an affair of it, but so long as it ended well, he could afford to overlook that.

So he settled himself comfortably on a form with his back against a desk and his legs crossed, his expression indicating plainly that he knew what was coming and, on the whole, approved of it.

"Ever since I have devoted myself to the cause of tuition," continued the Doctor, "I have made it my object to provide boys under my roof with fare so abundant and so palatable that they should have no excuse for obtaining extraneous luxuries. I have presided myself at their meals, I have superintended their very sports with a fatherly eye——"

Here he paused, and fixed one or two of those nearest him with the fatherly eye in such a manner that they writhed with confusion.

"He's wandering from the point," thought Paul, a little puzzled.

"I have done all this on one understanding—that the robustness of your constitutions, acquired by the plain, simple, but abundant regimen of my table, shall not be tampered with by the indulgence in any of the pampering products of confectionery. They are absolutely and unconditionally prohibited—as every boy who hears me now knows perfectly well!

"And yet" (here he began gradually to relax his self-restraint and lash himself into a frenzy of indignation), "what do I find? There are some natures so essentially base, so incapable of being affected by kindness, so dead to honour and generosity, that they will not scruple to conspire or set themselves individually to escape and baffle the wise precautions undertaken for their benefit. I will not name the dastards at present—they themselves can look into their hearts and see their guilt reflected there——"

At this every boy, beginning to see the tendency of his denunciations, tried hard to assume an air of conscious innocence and grieved interest, the majority achieving conspicuous failure.

"I do not like to think," said Dr. Grimstone, "that the evil has a wider existence than I yet know of. It may be so; nothing will surprise me now. There may be some before me trembling with the consciousness of secret guilt. If so, let those boys make the only reparation in their power, and give themselves up in an honourable and straightforward manner!"

To this invitation, which indeed resembled that of the duck-destroying Mrs. Bond, no one made any response. They had grown too wary, and now preferred to play a waiting game.

"Then let the being—for I will not call him boy—who is known to me, step forth and confess his fault publicly, and sue for pardon!" thundered the Doctor, now warmed to his theme.

But the being declined from a feeling of modesty, and a faint hope that somebody else might, after all, be the person aimed at.

"Then I name him!" stormed Dr. Grimstone; "Cornelius Coggs—stand up!"

Coggs half rose in a limp manner, whimpering feebly, "Me, sir? Oh, please sir—no, not me, sir!"

"Yes, you, sir, and let your companions regard you with the contempt and abhorrence you so richly merit!" Here, needless to say, the whole school glared at poor Coggs with as much virtuous indignation as they could summon up at such short notice; for contempt is very infectious when communicated from high quarters.

"So, Coggs," said the Doctor, with a slow and withering scorn, "so you thought to defy me; to smuggle compressed illness and concentrated unhealthiness into this school with impunity? You flattered yourself that after I had once confiscated your contraband poisons, you would hear no more of it! You deceived yourself, sir! I tell you, once for all, that I will not allow you to contaminate your innocent schoolmates with your gifts of surreptitious sweetmeats; they shall not be perverted with your pernicious peppermints, sir; you shall not deprave them by jujubes, or enervate them with Turkish Delight! I will not expose myself or them to the inroads of disease invited here by a hypocritical inmate of my walls. The traitor shall have his reward!"

All of which simply meant that the Doctor, having once had a small boy taken seriously ill from the effects of overeating himself, was naturally anxious to avoid such an inconvenience for the future. "Thanks to the fearless honesty of a youth," continued the Doctor, "who, in an eccentric manner, certainly, but with, I do not doubt, the best of motives, opened my eyes to the fell evil, I am enabled to cope with it at its birth. Richard Bultitude, I take this occasion of publicly thanking and commending you; your conduct was noble!"

Mr. Bultitude was too angry and disappointed to speak. He had thought his path was going to be made smooth, and now all this ridiculous fuss was being made about a few peppermint lozenges. He wished he had never mentioned them. It was not the last time he breathed that wish. "As for you, Coggs," said the Doctor, suddenly producing a lithe brown cane, "I shall make a public example of you."

Coggs stared idiotically and protested, but after a short and painful scene, was sent off up to his bedroom, yelping like a kicked puppy.

"One word more," said the Doctor, now almost calm again. "I know that you all think with me in your horror of the treachery I have just exposed. I know that you would scorn to participate in it." (A thrill and murmur, expressive of intense horror and scorn, went round the benches.) "You are anxious to prove that you do so beyond a doubt." (Again a murmur of assent.) "I give you all that opportunity. I have implicit trust and confidence in you—let every boarder go down into the box-room and fetch up his playbox, just as it is, and open it here before me."

There was a general fall of jaws at this very unexpected conclusion; but contriving to overcome their dismay, they went outside and down through the playground into the box-room, Paul amongst the rest, and amidst universal confusion, everyone opened his box, and, with a consideration especially laudable in heedless boyhood, thoughtfully and carefully removed from it all such dainties as might be calculated to shock or pain their preceptor.

Mr. Bultitude found a key which was labelled "playbox," and began to open a box which bore Dick's initials cut upon the lid; without any apprehensions, however, for he had given too strict orders to his daughter, to fear that any luxuries would be concealed there.

But no sooner had he raised the lid than he staggered back with disgust. It was crammed with cakes, butterscotch, hardbake, pots of jam, and even a bottle of ginger wine—enough to compromise a chameleon!

He set himself to pitch them all out as soon as possible with feverish haste, but Tipping was too quick for him. "Hallo!" he cried: "oh, I say, you fellows, come here! Just look at this! Here's this impudent young beggar, who sneaked of poor old Coggs for sucking jujubes, and very nearly got us all into a jolly good row, with his own box full all the time; butterscotch, if you please, and jam, and ginger wine! You'll just put 'em all back again, will you, you young humbug!"

"Do you use those words to me, sir?" said Paul angrily, for he did not like to be called a humbug.

"Yes, sir, please, sir," jeered Tipping; "I did venture to take such a liberty, sir."

"Then it was like your infernal impudence," growled Paul. "You be kind enough to leave my affairs alone. Upon my word, what boys are coming to nowadays!"

"Are you going to put that tuck back?" said Tipping impatiently.

"No, sir, I'm not. Don't interfere with what you're not expected to understand!"

"Well, if you won't," said Tipping easily, "I suppose we must. Biddlecomb, kindly knock him down, and sit on his head while I fill his playbox for him."

This was neatly and quickly done. Biddlecomb tripped Mr. Bultitude up, and sat firmly on him, while Tipping carefully replaced the good things in Dick's box, after which he locked it, and courteously returned the key. "As the box is heavy," he said, with a wicked wink, "I'll carry it up for you myself," which he did, Paul following, more dead than alive, and too shaken even to expostulate.

"Bultitude's box was rather too heavy for him, sir," he explained as he came in; and Dr. Grimstone, who had quite recovered his equanimity, smiled indulgently, and remarked that he "liked to see the strong assisting the weak."

All the boxes had by this time been brought up, and were ranged upon the tables, while the Doctor went round, making an almost formal inspection, like a Custom House officer searching compatriots, and becoming milder and milder as box after box opened to reveal a fair and innocent interior.

Paul's turn was coming very near, and his heart seemed to shrivel like a burst bladder. He fumbled with his key, and tried hard to lose it. It was terrible to have oneself to apply the match which is to blow one to the winds. If—if—the idea was almost too horrible—but if he, a blameless and respectable city merchant, were actually to find himself served like the miserable Coggs!

At last the Doctor actually stood by him. "Well, my boy," he said, not unkindly, "I'm not afraid of anything wrong here, at any rate."

Mr. Bultitude, who had the best reasons for not sharing his confidence, made some inarticulate sounds, and pretended to have a difficulty in turning the key.

"Eh? Come, open the box," said the Doctor with an altered manner. "What are you fumbling at it for in this—this highly suspicious manner? I'll open it myself."

He took the key and opened the lid, when the cakes and wine stood revealed in all their damning profusion. The Doctor stepped back dramatically. "Hardbake!" he gasped; "wine, pots of strawberry jam! Oh, Bultitude, this is a revelation indeed! So I have nourished one more viper in my bosom, have I? A crawling reptile which curries favour by denouncing the very crime it conceals in its playbox! Bultitude, I was not prepared for such duplicity as this!"

"I—I swear I never put them in!" protested the unhappy Paul. "I—I never touch such things: they would bring on my gout in half-an-hour. It's ridiculous to punish me. I never knew they were there!"

"Then why were you so anxious to avoid opening the box?" rejoined the Doctor. "No, sir, you're too ingenious; your guilt is clear. Go to your dormitory, and wait there till I come to you!"

Paul went upstairs, feeling utterly abandoned and helpless. Though a word as to his real character might have saved him, he could not have said it, and, worse still, knew now that he could not.

"I shall be caned," he told himself, and the thought nearly drove him mad. "I know I shall be caned! What on earth shall I do?"

He opened the door of his bedroom. Coggs was rocking and moaning on his bed in one corner of the room, but looked up with red furious eyes as Paul came in.

"What do you want up here?" he said savagely. "Go away, can't you!"

"I wish I could go away," said Paul dolefully; "but I'm—hum—I'm sent up here too," he explained, with some natural embarrassment.

"What!" cried Coggs, slipping off his bed and staring wildly: "you don't mean to say you're going to catch it too?"

"I've—ah—every reason to fear," said Mr. Bultitude stiffly, "that I am indeed going to 'catch it,' as you call it."

"Hooray!" shouted Coggs hysterically: "I don't care now. And I'll have some revenge on my own account as well. I don't mind an extra licking, and you're in for one as it is. Will you stand up to me or not?"

"I don't understand you," said Paul. "Don't come so near. Keep off, you young demon, will you!" he cried presently, as Coggs, exasperated by all his wrongs, was rushing at him with an evidently hostile intent. "There, don't be annoyed, my good boy," he pleaded, catching up a chair as a bulwark. "It was a misunderstanding. I wish you no harm. There, my dear young friend! Don't!"

The "dear young friend" was grappling with him and attempting to wrest the chair away by brute force. "When I get at you," he said, his hot breath hissing through the chair rungs, "I'll jolly well teach you to sneak of me!"

"Murder!" Paul gasped, feeling his hold on the chair relaxing. "Unless help comes this young fiend will have my blood!"

They were revolving slowly round the chair, watching each other's eyes like gladiators, when Paul noticed a sudden blankness and fixity in his antagonist's expression, and, looking round, saw Dr. Grimstone's awful form framed in the doorway, and gave himself up for lost.



6. Learning and Accomplishments

"I subscribe to Lucian: 'tis an elegant thing which cheareth up the mind, exerciseth the body, delights the spectators, which teacheth many comely gestures, equally affecting the ears, eyes and soul itself."—BURTON, on Dancing.

"What is this?" asked Dr. Grimstone in his most blood-curdling tone, after a most impressive pause at the dormitory door.

Mr. Bultitude held his tongue, but kept fast hold of his chair, which he held before him as a defence against either party, while Coggs remained motionless in the centre of the room, with crooked knees and hands dangling impotently.

"Will one of you be good enough to explain how you come to be found struggling in this unseemly manner? I sent you up here to meditate on your past behaviour."

"I should be most happy to meditate, sir," protested Paul, lowering his chair on discovering that there was no immediate danger, "if that—that bloodthirsty young ruffian there would allow me to do so. I am going about in bodily fear of him, Dr. Grimstone. I want him bound over to keep the peace. I decline to be left alone with him—he's not safe!"

"Is that so, Coggs? Are you mean and base enough to take this cowardly revenge on a boy who has had the moral courage to expose your deceit—for your ultimate good—a boy who is unable to defend himself against you?"

"He can fight when he chooses, sir," said Coggs; "he blacked my eye last term, sir!"

"I assure you," said Paul, with the convincing earnestness of truth, "that I never blacked anybody's eye in the whole course of my life. I am not—ah—a pugnacious man. My age, and—hum—my position, ought to protect me from these scandals——"

"You've come back this year, sir," said Dr. Grimstone, "with a very odd way of talking of yourself—an exceedingly odd way. Unless I see you abandoning it, and behaving like a reasonable boy again, I shall be forced to conclude you intend some disrespect and open defiance by it."

"If you would allow me an opportunity of explaining my position, sir," said Paul, "I would undertake to clear your mind directly of such a monstrous idea. I am trying to assert my rights, Dr. Grimstone—my rights as a citizen, as a householder! This is no place for me, and I appeal to you to set me free. If you only knew one tenth——"

"Let us understand one another, Bultitude," interrupted the Doctor. "You may think it an excellent joke to talk nonsense to me like this. But let me tell you there is a point where a jest becomes an insult. I've spared you hitherto out of consideration for the feelings of your excellent father, who is so anxious that you should become an object of pride and credit to him; but if you dare to treat me to any more of this bombast about 'explaining your rights,' you will force me to exercise one of mine—the right to inflict corporal punishment, sir—which you have just seen in operation upon another."

"Oh!" said Mr. Bultitude faintly, feeling utterly crestfallen—and he could say nothing more.

"As for those illicit luxuries in your playbox," continued the Doctor, "the fact that you brought the box up as it was is in your favour; and I am inclined on reflection to overlook the affair, if you can assure me that you were no party to their being put there?"

"On the contrary," said Paul, "I gave the strictest orders that there was to be no such useless extravagance. I objected to have the kitchen and housekeeper's room ransacked to make a set of rascally boys ill for a fortnight at my expense!"

The Doctor stared slightly at this creditable but unnatural view of the subject. However, as he could not quarrel with the sentiment, he let the manner of expressing it pass unrebuked for the present, and, after sentencing Coggs to two days' detention and the copying of innumerable French verbs, he sent the ill-matched pair down to the schoolroom to join their respective classes.

Paul went resignedly downstairs and into the room, where he found Mr. Blinkhorn at the head of one of the long tables, taking a class of about a dozen boys.

"Take your Livy and Latin Primer, Bultitude," said Mr. Blinkhorn mildly, "and sit down."

Mr. Blinkhorn was a tall angular man, with a long neck and slightly drooping head. He had thin wiry brown hair, and a plain face, with shortsighted kind brown eyes. In character he was mild and reserved, too conscientious to allow himself the luxury of either favourites or aversions among the boys, all of whom in his secret soul he probably disliked about equally, though he neither said nor did anything to show it.

Paul took a book—any book, for he did not know or care to know one from another—and sat down at the end furthest from the master, inwardly rebelling at having education thus forced upon him at his advanced years, but seeing no escape.

"At dinner time," he resolved desperately, "I will insist on speaking out, but just now it is simply prudent to humour them."

The rest of the class drew away from him with marked coldness and occasionally saluted him (when Mr. Blinkhorn's attention was called away) with terms and grimaces which Paul, although he failed thoroughly to understand them, felt instinctively were not intended as compliments.

Mr. Blinkhorn's notions of discipline were qualified by a sportsmanlike instinct which forbade him to harass a boy already in trouble, as he understood young Bultitude had been, and so he forbore from pressing him to take any share in the class work.

Mr. Bultitude therefore was saved from any necessity of betraying his total ignorance of his author, and sat gloomily on the hard form, impatiently watching the minute-hand skulk round the mean dull face of the clock above the chimney-piece, while around him one boy after another droned out a listless translation of the work before him, interrupted by mild corrections and comments from the master.

What a preposterous change from all his ordinary habits! At this very time, only twenty-four hours since, he was stepping slowly and majestically towards his accustomed omnibus, which was waiting with deference for him to overtake it; he was taking his seat, saluted respectfully by the conductor and cheerily by his fellow-passengers, as a man of recognised mark and position.

Now that omnibus would halt at the corner of Westbourne Terrace in vain, and go on its way Bankwards without him. He was many miles away—in the very last place where anyone would be likely to look for him, occupying the post of "whipping-boy" to his miserable son!

Was ever an inoffensive and respectable gentleman placed in a more false and ridiculous position?

If he had only kept his drawer locked, and hidden the abominable Garuda Stone away from Dick's prying eyes; if he had let the moralising alone; if Boaler had not been so long fetching that cab, or if he had not happened to faint at the critical moment—what an immense difference any one of these apparent trifles would have made.

And now what was he to do to get out of this incongruous and distasteful place? It was all very well to say that he had only to insist upon a hearing from the Doctor, but what if, as he had very grave reason to fear, the Doctor should absolutely refuse to listen, should even proceed to carry out his horrible threat? Must he remain there till the holidays came to release him? Suppose Dick—as he certainly would unless he was quite a fool—declined to receive him during the holidays? It was absolutely necessary to return home at once; every additional hour he passed in imprisonment made it harder to regain his lost self.

Now and then he roused himself from all these gloomy thoughts to observe his companions. The boys at the upper end, near Mr. Blinkhorn, were fairly attentive, and he noticed one small smug-faced boy about half-way up, who, while a class-mate was faltering and blundering over some question, would cry "I know, sir. Let me tell him. Ask me, sir!" in a restless agony of superior information.

Down by Paul, however, the discipline was relaxed enough, as perhaps could only be expected on the first day of term. One wild-eyed long-haired boy had brought out a small china figure with which, and the assistance of his right hand draped in a pocket handkerchief, and wielding a penholder, he was busy enacting a drama based on the lines of Punch and Judy, to the breathless amusement of his neighbours.

Mr. Bultitude might have hoped to escape notice by a policy of judicious self-effacement, but unhappily his long, blank, uninterested face was held by his companions to bear an implied reproach; and being delicately sensitive on this point, they kicked his legs viciously, which made him extremely glad when dinnertime came, although he felt too faint and bilious to be tempted by anything but the lightest and daintiest luncheon.

But at dinner he found, with a shudder, that he was expected to swallow a thick ragged section of boiled mutton which had been carved and helped so long before he sat down to it, that the stagnant gravy was chilled and congealed into patches of greasy white. He managed to swallow it with many pauses of invincible disgust—only to find it replaced by a solid slab of pale brown suet pudding, sparsely bedewed with unctuous black treacle.

This, though a plentiful, and by no means unwholesome fare for growing boys, was not what he had been accustomed to, and feeling far too heavy and unwell after it to venture upon an encounter with the Doctor, he wandered slow and melancholy round the bare gravelled playground during the half-hour after dinner devoted to the inevitable "chevy," until the Doctor appeared at the head of the staircase.

It is always sad for the historian to have to record a departure from principle, and I have to confess with shame on Mr. Bultitude's account that, feeling the Doctor's eye upon him, and striving to propitiate him, he humiliated himself so far as to run about with an elaborate affection of zest, and his exertions were rewarded by hearing himself cordially encouraged to further efforts.

It cheered and emboldened him. "I've put him in a good temper," he told himself; "if I can only keep him in one till the evening, I really think I might be able to go up and tell him what a ridiculous mess I've got into. Why should I care, after all? At least I've done nothing to be ashamed of. It's an accident that might have happened to any man!"

It is a curious and unpleasant thing that, however reassuring and convincing the arguments may be with which we succeed in bracing ourselves to meet or disregard unpleasantness, the force of those arguments seldom or never outlasts the frame of mind in which they are composed, and when the unpleasantness is at hand, there we are, just as unreasonably alarmed at it as ever.

Mr. Bultitude's confidence faded away almost as soon as he found himself in the schoolroom again. He found himself assigned to a class at one end of the room, where Mr. Tinkler presently introduced a new rule in Algebra to them, in such a manner as to procure for it a lasting unpopularity with all those who were not too much engaged in drawing duels and railway trains upon their slates to attend.

Although Paul did not draw upon his slate, his utter ignorance of Algebra prevented him from being much edified by the cabalistic signs on the blackboard, which Mr. Tinkler seemed to chalk up dubiously, and rub out again as soon as possible, with an air of being ashamed of them. So he tried to nerve himself for the coming ordeal by furtively watching and studying the Doctor, who was taking a Xenophon class at the upper end of the room, and, being in fairly good humour, was combining instruction with amusement in a manner peculiarly his own.

He stopped the construing occasionally to illustrate some word or passage by an anecdote; he condescended to enliven the translation here and there by a familiar and colloquial paraphrase; he magnanimously refrained from pressing any obviously inconvenient questions; and his manner generally was marked by a geniality which was additionally piquant from its extreme uncertainty.

Mr. Bultitude could not help thinking it a rather ghastly form of gaiety, but he hoped it might last.

Presently, however, some one brought him a blue envelope on a tray. He read it, and a frown gathered on his face. The boy who was translating at the time went on again in his former slipshod manner (which had hitherto provoked only jovial criticism and correction) with complete self-complacency, but found himself sternly brought to book, and burdened by a heavy imposition, before he quite realised that his blunders had ceased to amuse.

Then began a season of sore trial and tribulation for the class. The Doctor suddenly withdrew the light of his countenance from them, and sunshine was succeeded by blackest thunderclouds. The wind was no longer tempered to the more closely shorn of the flock; the weakest vessels were put on unexpectedly at crucial passages, and, coming hopelessly to grief, were denounced as impostors and idlers, till half the class was dissolved in tears.

A few of the better grounded stood the fire, like a remnant of the Old Guard. With faces pale from alarm, and trembling voices, but perfect accuracy, they answered all the Doctor's searching inquiries after the paradigms of Greek verbs that seemed irregular to the verge of impropriety.

Paul saw it all with renewed misgiving. "If I were there," he thought, "I should have been run out and flogged long ago! How angry those stupid young idiots are making him! How can I go up and speak to him when he's like that? And yet I must. I'm sitting on dynamite as it is. The very first time they want me to answer any questions from some of their books, I shall be ruined! Why wasn't I better educated when I was a boy, or why didn't I make a better use of my opportunities! It will be a bitter thing if they thrash me for not knowing as much as Dick. Grimstone's coming this way now; it's all over with me!"

The Greek class had managed to repel the enemy, with some loss to themselves, and the Doctor now left his place for a moment, and came down towards the bench on which Paul sat trembling.

The storm, however, had passed over for the present, and he only said with restored calmness, "Who were the boys who learnt dancing last term?"

One or two of them said they had done so, and Dr. Grimstone continued: "Mr. Burdekin was unable to give you the last lesson of his course last term, and has arranged to take you to-day, as he will be in the neighbourhood. So be off at once to Mrs. Grimstone and change your shoes. Bultitude, you learnt last term, too. Go with the others."

Mr. Bultitude was too overcome by this unexpected attack to contradict it, though of course he was quite able to do so; but then, if he had, he must have explained all, and he felt strongly that just then was neither the time nor the place for particulars.

It would have been wiser perhaps, it would certainly have brought matters to a crisis, if he could have forced himself to tell everything—the whole truth in all its outrageous improbability—but he could not.

Let those who feel inclined to blame him for lack of firmness consider how difficult and delicate a business it must almost of necessity be for anyone to declare openly, in the teeth of common sense and plain facts, that there has been a mistake, and, in point of fact, he is not his own son, but his own father.

"I suppose I must go," he thought. "I needn't dance. Haven't danced since I was a young man. But I can't afford to offend him just now."

And so he followed the rest into a sort of cloak-room, where the tall hats which the boys wore on Sundays were all kept on shelves in white bandboxes; and there his hair was brushed, his feet were thrust into very shiny patent leather shoes, and a pair of kid gloves was given out to him to put on.

The dancing lesson was to be held in the "Dining Hall," from which the savour of mutton had not altogether departed. When Paul came in he found the floor cleared and the tables and forms piled up on one side of the room.

Biddlecomb and Tipping and some of the smaller boys were there already, their gloves and shiny shoes giving them a feeling of ceremony and constraint which they tried to carry off by an uncouth parody of politeness.

Siggers was telling stories of the dances he had been to in town, and the fine girls whose step had exactly suited his own, and Tipping was leaning gloomily against the wall listening to something Chawner was whispering in his ear.

There was a rustle of dresses down the stairs outside, and two thin little girls, looking excessively proper and prim, came in with an elderly gentlewoman who was their governess and wore a pince-nez to impart the necessary suggestion of a superior intellect. They were the Miss Mutlows, sisters of one of the day-boarders, and attended the course by special favour as friends of Dulcie's, who followed them in with a little gleam of shy anticipation in her eyes.

The Miss Mutlows sat stiffly down on a form, one on each side of her governess, and all three stared solemnly at the boys, who began to blush vividly under the inspection, to unbutton and rebutton their gloves with great care, and to shift from leg to leg in an embarrassed manner.

Dulcie soon singled out poor Mr. Bultitude, who, mindful of Tipping's warning, was doing his very best to avoid her.

She ran straight to him, laid her hand on his arm and looked into his face pleadingly. "Dick," she said, "you're not sulky still, are you?"

Mr. Bultitude had borne a good deal already, and, not being remarkably sweet-natured, he shook the little hand away, half petulant and half alarmed. "I do wish you wouldn't do this sort of thing in public. You'll compromise me, you know!" he said nervously.

Dulcie opened her grey eyes wide, and then a flush came into her cheeks, and she made a little disdainful upward movement of her chin.

"You didn't mind it once," she said. "I thought you might want to dance with me. You liked to last term. But I'm sure I don't care if you choose to be disagreeable. Go and dance with Mary Mutlow if you want to, though you did say she danced like a pair of compasses, and I shall tell her you said so, too. And you know you're not a good dancer yourself. Are you going to dance with Mary?"

Paul stamped. "I tell you I never dance," he said. "I can't dance any more than a lamp-post. You don't seem an ill-natured little girl, but why on earth can't you let me alone?"

Dulcie's eyes flashed. "You're a nasty sulky boy," she said in an angry undertone (all the conversation had, of course, been carried on in whispers). "I'll never speak to you or look at you again. You're the most horrid boy in the school—and the ugliest!"

And she turned proudly away, though anyone who looked might have seen the fire in her eyes extinguished as she did so. Perhaps Tipping did see it, for he scowled at them from his corner.

There was another sound outside, as of fiddlestrings being twanged by the finger, and, as the boys hastily formed up in two lines down the centre of the room and the Miss Mutlows and Dulcie prepared themselves for the curtsey of state, there came in a little fat man, with mutton-chop whiskers and a white face, upon which was written an unalterable conviction that his manner and deportment were perfection itself.

The two rows of boys bent themselves stiffly from the back, and Mr. Burdekin returned the compliment by an inclusive and stately inclination.

"Good afternoon, madam. Young ladies, I trust I find you well. (The curtsey just a leetle lower, Miss Mutlow—the right foot less drawn back. Beautiful! Feet closer at the recovery. Perfect!) Young gentlemen, good evening. Take your usual places, please, all of you, for our preliminary exercises. Now, the chassee round the room. Will you lead off, please, Dummer; the hands just lightly touching the shoulders, the head thrown negligently back to balance the figure; the whole deportment easy, but not careless. Now, please!"

And, talking all the time with a metrical fluency, he scraped a little jig on the violin, while Dummer led off a procession which solemnly capered round the room in sundry stages of conscious awkwardness. Mr. Bultitude shuffled along somehow after the rest, with rebellion at his heart and a deep sense of degradation. "If my clerks were to see me now!" he thought.

After some minutes of this, Mr. Burdekin stopped them and directed sets to be formed for "The Lancers."

"Bultitude," said Mr. Burdekin, "you will take Miss Mutlow, please."

"Thank you," said Paul, "but—ah—I don't dance."

"Nonsense, nonsense, sir, you are one of my most promising pupils. You mustn't tell me that. Not another word! Come, select your partners."

Paul had no option. He was paired off with the tall and rather angular young lady mentioned, while Dulcie looked on pouting, and snubbed Tipping, who humbly asked for the pleasure of dancing with her, by declaring that she meant to dance with Tom.

The dance began to a sort of rhythmical accompaniment by Mr. Burdekin, who intoned "Tops advance, retire and cross. Balance at corners. (Very nice, Miss Grimstone!) More 'abandon,' Chawner! Lift the feet more from the floor. Not so high as that! Oh, dear me! that last figure over again. And slide the feet, oh, slide the feet! (Bultitude, you're leaving out all the steps!")

Paul was dragged, unwilling but unresisting, through it all by his partner, who jerked and pushed him into his place without a word, being apparently under strict orders from the governess not on any account to speak to the boys.

After the dance the couples promenaded in a stiff but stately manner round the room to a dirge-like march scraped upon the violin, the boys taking the parts of ladies jibbing away from their partners in a highly unlady-like fashion, and the boy burdened with the companionship of the younger Miss Mutlow walking along in a very agony of bashfulness.

"I suppose," thought Paul, as he led the way with Miss Mary Mutlow, "if Dick were ever to hear of this, he'd think it funny. Oh, if I ever get the upper hand of him again——. How much longer, I wonder, shall I have to play the fool to this infernal fiddle!"

But, if this was bad, worse was to come.

There was another pause, in which Mr. Burdekin said blandly, "I wonder now if we have forgotten our sailor's hornpipe. Perhaps Bultitude will prove the contrary. If I remember right, he used to perform it with singular correctness. And, let me tell you, there are a great number of spurious hornpipe steps in circulation. Come, sir, oblige me by dancing it alone!"

This was the final straw. It was not to be supposed for one moment that Mr. Bultitude would lower his dignity in such a preposterous manner. Besides, he did not know how to dance the hornpipe.

So he said, "I shall do nothing of the sort. I've had quite enough of this—ah—tomfoolery!"

"That is a very impolite manner of declining, Bultitude; highly discourteous and unpolished. I must insist now—really, as a personal matter—upon your going through the sailor's hornpipe. Come, you won't make a scene, I'm sure. You'll oblige me, as a gentleman?"

"I tell you I can't!" said Mr. Bultitude sullenly. "I never did such a thing in my life; it would be enough to kill me at my age!"

"This is untrue, sir. Do you mean to say you will not dance the hornpipe?"

"No," said Paul, "I'll be damned if I do!"

There was unfortunately no possible doubt about the nature of the word used—he said it so very distinctly. The governess screamed and called her charges to her. Dulcie hid her face, and some of the boys tittered.

Mr. Burdekin turned pink. "After that disgraceful language, sir, in the presence of the fairer sex, I have no more to do with you. You will have the goodness to stand in the centre of that form. Gentlemen, select your partners for the Highland schottische!"

Mr. Bultitude, by no means sorry to be freed from the irksome necessity of dancing with a heart ill-attuned for enjoyment, got up on the form and stood looking, sullenly enough, upon the proceedings. The governess glowered at him now and then as a monster of youthful depravity; the Miss Mutlows glanced up at him as they tripped past, with curiosity not unmixed with admiration, but Dulcie steadily avoided looking in his direction.

Paul was just congratulating himself upon his escape when the door opened wide, and the Doctor marched slowly and imposingly into the room.

He did this occasionally, partly to superintend matters, and partly as an encouraging mark of approbation. He looked round the class at first with benignant toleration, until his glance took in the bench upon which Mr. Bultitude was set up. Then his eye slowly travelled up to the level of Paul's head, his expression changing meanwhile to a petrifying glare.

It was not, as Paul instinctively felt, exactly the position in which a gentleman who wished to stand well with those in authority over him would prefer to be found. He felt his heart turn to water within him, and stared limp and helpless at the Doctor.

There was an awful silence (Dr. Grimstone was addicted to awful silences; and, indeed, if seldom strictly "golden," silence may often be called "iron"), but at last he inquired, "And pray what may you be doing up there, sir?"

"Upon my soul I can't say," said Mr. Bultitude feebly. "Ask that gentleman there with the fiddle—he knows."

Mr. Burdekin was a good-natured, easy-tempered little man, and had already forgotten the affront to his dignity. He was anxious not to get the boy into more trouble.

"Bultitude was a little inattentive and, I may say, wanting in respect, Dr. Grimstone," he said, putting it as mildly as he could with any accuracy; "so I ventured to place him there as a punishment."

"Quite right, Mr. Burdekin," said the Doctor: "quite right. I am sorry that any boy of mine should have caused you to do so. You are again beginning your career of disorder and rebellion, are you, sir? Go up into the schoolroom at once, and write a dozen copies before tea-time! A very little more eccentricity and insubordination from you, Bultitude, and you will reap a full reward—a full reward, sir!"

So Mr. Bultitude was driven out of the dancing class in dire disgrace—which would not have distressed him particularly, being only one more drop in his bitter cup—but that he recognised that now his hopes of approaching the Doctor with his burden of woe were fallen like a card castle. They were fiddled and danced away for at least twenty-four hours—perhaps for ever!

Bitterly did he brood over this as he slowly and laboriously copied out sundry vain repetitions of such axioms as, "Cultivate Habits of Courtesy and Self-control," and "True Happiness is to be sought in Contentment." He saw the prospect of a tolerably severe flogging growing more and more distinct, and felt that he could not present himself to his family with the consciousness of having suffered such an indelible disgrace. His family! What would become of them in his absence? Would he ever see his comfortable home in Bayswater again?

Tea-time came, and after it evening preparation, when Mr. Tinkler presided in a feeble and ineffective manner, perpetually suspecting that the faint sniggers he heard were indulged in at his own expense, and calling perfectly innocent victims to account for them.

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