Part 2 out of 15
expressing his repentance only to the Almighty. But he could not
understand why he should have been so genuinely affected by the story he
was making up. The tears that flowed down his grubby cheeks were real
tears. Then by some accident of association there occurred to him that
scene when Emma had told him of his mother's death, and, though he could
not speak for crying, he had insisted on going in to say good-bye to the
Misses Watkin so that they might see his grief and pity him.
Then a wave of religiosity passed through the school. Bad language was no
longer heard, and the little nastinesses of small boys were looked upon
with hostility; the bigger boys, like the lords temporal of the Middle
Ages, used the strength of their arms to persuade those weaker than
themselves to virtuous courses.
Philip, his restless mind avid for new things, became very devout. He
heard soon that it was possible to join a Bible League, and wrote to
London for particulars. These consisted in a form to be filled up with the
applicant's name, age, and school; a solemn declaration to be signed that
he would read a set portion of Holy Scripture every night for a year; and
a request for half a crown; this, it was explained, was demanded partly to
prove the earnestness of the applicant's desire to become a member of the
League, and partly to cover clerical expenses. Philip duly sent the papers
and the money, and in return received a calendar worth about a penny, on
which was set down the appointed passage to be read each day, and a sheet
of paper on one side of which was a picture of the Good Shepherd and a
lamb, and on the other, decoratively framed in red lines, a short prayer
which had to be said before beginning to read.
Every evening he undressed as quickly as possible in order to have time
for his task before the gas was put out. He read industriously, as he read
always, without criticism, stories of cruelty, deceit, ingratitude,
dishonesty, and low cunning. Actions which would have excited his horror
in the life about him, in the reading passed through his mind without
comment, because they were committed under the direct inspiration of God.
The method of the League was to alternate a book of the Old Testament with
a book of the New, and one night Philip came across these words of Jesus
If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done
to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou
removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
And all this, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall
They made no particular impression on him, but it happened that two or
three days later, being Sunday, the Canon in residence chose them for the
text of his sermon. Even if Philip had wanted to hear this it would have
been impossible, for the boys of King's School sit in the choir, and the
pulpit stands at the corner of the transept so that the preacher's back is
almost turned to them. The distance also is so great that it needs a man
with a fine voice and a knowledge of elocution to make himself heard in
the choir; and according to long usage the Canons of Tercanbury are chosen
for their learning rather than for any qualities which might be of use in
a cathedral church. But the words of the text, perhaps because he had read
them so short a while before, came clearly enough to Philip's ears, and
they seemed on a sudden to have a personal application. He thought about
them through most of the sermon, and that night, on getting into bed, he
turned over the pages of the Gospel and found once more the passage.
Though he believed implicitly everything he saw in print, he had learned
already that in the Bible things that said one thing quite clearly often
mysteriously meant another. There was no one he liked to ask at school, so
he kept the question he had in mind till the Christmas holidays, and then
one day he made an opportunity. It was after supper and prayers were just
finished. Mrs. Carey was counting the eggs that Mary Ann had brought in as
usual and writing on each one the date. Philip stood at the table and
pretended to turn listlessly the pages of the Bible.
"I say, Uncle William, this passage here, does it really mean that?"
He put his finger against it as though he had come across it accidentally.
Mr. Carey looked up over his spectacles. He was holding The Blackstable
Times in front of the fire. It had come in that evening damp from the
press, and the Vicar always aired it for ten minutes before he began to
"What passage is that?" he asked.
"Why, this about if you have faith you can remove mountains."
"If it says so in the Bible it is so, Philip," said Mrs. Carey gently,
taking up the plate-basket.
Philip looked at his uncle for an answer.
"It's a matter of faith."
"D'you mean to say that if you really believed you could move mountains
"By the grace of God," said the Vicar.
"Now, say good-night to your uncle, Philip," said Aunt Louisa. "You're not
wanting to move a mountain tonight, are you?"
Philip allowed himself to be kissed on the forehead by his uncle and
preceded Mrs. Carey upstairs. He had got the information he wanted. His
little room was icy, and he shivered when he put on his nightshirt. But he
always felt that his prayers were more pleasing to God when he said them
under conditions of discomfort. The coldness of his hands and feet were an
offering to the Almighty. And tonight he sank on his knees; buried his
face in his hands, and prayed to God with all his might that He would make
his club-foot whole. It was a very small thing beside the moving of
mountains. He knew that God could do it if He wished, and his own faith
was complete. Next morning, finishing his prayers with the same request,
he fixed a date for the miracle.
"Oh, God, in Thy loving mercy and goodness, if it be Thy will, please make
my foot all right on the night before I go back to school."
He was glad to get his petition into a formula, and he repeated it later
in the dining-room during the short pause which the Vicar always made
after prayers, before he rose from his knees. He said it again in the
evening and again, shivering in his nightshirt, before he got into bed.
And he believed. For once he looked forward with eagerness to the end of
the holidays. He laughed to himself as he thought of his uncle's
astonishment when he ran down the stairs three at a time; and after
breakfast he and Aunt Louisa would have to hurry out and buy a new pair of
boots. At school they would be astounded.
"Hulloa, Carey, what have you done with your foot?"
"Oh, it's all right now," he would answer casually, as though it were the
most natural thing in the world.
He would be able to play football. His heart leaped as he saw himself
running, running, faster than any of the other boys. At the end of the
Easter term there were the sports, and he would be able to go in for the
races; he rather fancied himself over the hurdles. It would be splendid to
be like everyone else, not to be stared at curiously by new boys who did
not know about his deformity, nor at the baths in summer to need
incredible precautions, while he was undressing, before he could hide his
foot in the water.
He prayed with all the power of his soul. No doubts assailed him. He was
confident in the word of God. And the night before he was to go back to
school he went up to bed tremulous with excitement. There was snow on the
ground, and Aunt Louisa had allowed herself the unaccustomed luxury of a
fire in her bed-room; but in Philip's little room it was so cold that his
fingers were numb, and he had great difficulty in undoing his collar. His
teeth chattered. The idea came to him that he must do something more than
usual to attract the attention of God, and he turned back the rug which
was in front of his bed so that he could kneel on the bare boards; and
then it struck him that his nightshirt was a softness that might displease
his Maker, so he took it off and said his prayers naked. When he got into
bed he was so cold that for some time he could not sleep, but when he did,
it was so soundly that Mary Ann had to shake him when she brought in his
hot water next morning. She talked to him while she drew the curtains, but
he did not answer; he had remembered at once that this was the morning for
the miracle. His heart was filled with joy and gratitude. His first
instinct was to put down his hand and feel the foot which was whole now,
but to do this seemed to doubt the goodness of God. He knew that his foot
was well. But at last he made up his mind, and with the toes of his right
foot he just touched his left. Then he passed his hand over it.
He limped downstairs just as Mary Ann was going into the dining-room for
prayers, and then he sat down to breakfast.
"You're very quiet this morning, Philip," said Aunt Louisa presently.
"He's thinking of the good breakfast he'll have at school to-morrow," said
When Philip answered, it was in a way that always irritated his uncle,
with something that had nothing to do with the matter in hand. He called
it a bad habit of wool-gathering.
"Supposing you'd asked God to do something," said Philip, "and really
believed it was going to happen, like moving a mountain, I mean, and you
had faith, and it didn't happen, what would it mean?"
"What a funny boy you are!" said Aunt Louisa. "You asked about moving
mountains two or three weeks ago."
"It would just mean that you hadn't got faith," answered Uncle William.
Philip accepted the explanation. If God had not cured him, it was because
he did not really believe. And yet he did not see how he could believe
more than he did. But perhaps he had not given God enough time. He had
only asked Him for nineteen days. In a day or two he began his prayer
again, and this time he fixed upon Easter. That was the day of His Son's
glorious resurrection, and God in His happiness might be mercifully
inclined. But now Philip added other means of attaining his desire: he
began to wish, when he saw a new moon or a dappled horse, and he looked
out for shooting stars; during exeat they had a chicken at the vicarage,
and he broke the lucky bone with Aunt Louisa and wished again, each time
that his foot might be made whole. He was appealing unconsciously to gods
older to his race than the God of Israel. And he bombarded the Almighty
with his prayer, at odd times of the day, whenever it occurred to him, in
identical words always, for it seemed to him important to make his request
in the same terms. But presently the feeling came to him that this time
also his faith would not be great enough. He could not resist the doubt
that assailed him. He made his own experience into a general rule.
"I suppose no one ever has faith enough," he said.
It was like the salt which his nurse used to tell him about: you could
catch any bird by putting salt on his tail; and once he had taken a little
bag of it into Kensington Gardens. But he could never get near enough to
put the salt on a bird's tail. Before Easter he had given up the struggle.
He felt a dull resentment against his uncle for taking him in. The text
which spoke of the moving of mountains was just one of those that said one
thing and meant another. He thought his uncle had been playing a practical
joke on him.
The King's School at Tercanbury, to which Philip went when he was
thirteen, prided itself on its antiquity. It traced its origin to an abbey
school, founded before the Conquest, where the rudiments of learning were
taught by Augustine monks; and, like many another establishment of this
sort, on the destruction of the monasteries it had been reorganised by the
officers of King Henry VIII and thus acquired its name. Since then,
pursuing its modest course, it had given to the sons of the local gentry
and of the professional people of Kent an education sufficient to their
needs. One or two men of letters, beginning with a poet, than whom only
Shakespeare had a more splendid genius, and ending with a writer of prose
whose view of life has affected profoundly the generation of which Philip
was a member, had gone forth from its gates to achieve fame; it had
produced one or two eminent lawyers, but eminent lawyers are common, and
one or two soldiers of distinction; but during the three centuries since
its separation from the monastic order it had trained especially men of
the church, bishops, deans, canons, and above all country clergymen: there
were boys in the school whose fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers,
had been educated there and had all been rectors of parishes in the
diocese of Tercanbury; and they came to it with their minds made up
already to be ordained. But there were signs notwithstanding that even
there changes were coming; for a few, repeating what they had heard at
home, said that the Church was no longer what it used to be. It wasn't so
much the money; but the class of people who went in for it weren't the
same; and two or three boys knew curates whose fathers were tradesmen:
they'd rather go out to the Colonies (in those days the Colonies were
still the last hope of those who could get nothing to do in England) than
be a curate under some chap who wasn't a gentleman. At King's School, as
at Blackstable Vicarage, a tradesman was anyone who was not lucky enough
to own land (and here a fine distinction was made between the gentleman
farmer and the landowner), or did not follow one of the four professions
to which it was possible for a gentleman to belong. Among the day-boys, of
whom there were about a hundred and fifty, sons of the local gentry and of
the men stationed at the depot, those whose fathers were engaged in
business were made to feel the degradation of their state.
The masters had no patience with modern ideas of education, which they
read of sometimes in The Times or The Guardian, and hoped fervently
that King's School would remain true to its old traditions. The dead
languages were taught with such thoroughness that an old boy seldom
thought of Homer or Virgil in after life without a qualm of boredom; and
though in the common room at dinner one or two bolder spirits suggested
that mathematics were of increasing importance, the general feeling was
that they were a less noble study than the classics. Neither German nor
chemistry was taught, and French only by the form-masters; they could keep
order better than a foreigner, and, since they knew the grammar as well as
any Frenchman, it seemed unimportant that none of them could have got a
cup of coffee in the restaurant at Boulogne unless the waiter had known a
little English. Geography was taught chiefly by making boys draw maps, and
this was a favourite occupation, especially when the country dealt with
was mountainous: it was possible to waste a great deal of time in drawing
the Andes or the Apennines. The masters, graduates of Oxford or Cambridge,
were ordained and unmarried; if by chance they wished to marry they could
only do so by accepting one of the smaller livings at the disposal of the
Chapter; but for many years none of them had cared to leave the refined
society of Tercanbury, which owing to the cavalry depot had a martial as
well as an ecclesiastical tone, for the monotony of life in a country
rectory; and they were now all men of middle age.
The headmaster, on the other hand, was obliged to be married and he
conducted the school till age began to tell upon him. When he retired he
was rewarded with a much better living than any of the under-masters could
hope for, and an honorary Canonry.
But a year before Philip entered the school a great change had come over
it. It had been obvious for some time that Dr. Fleming, who had been
headmaster for the quarter of a century, was become too deaf to continue
his work to the greater glory of God; and when one of the livings on the
outskirts of the city fell vacant, with a stipend of six hundred a year,
the Chapter offered it to him in such a manner as to imply that they
thought it high time for him to retire. He could nurse his ailments
comfortably on such an income. Two or three curates who had hoped for
preferment told their wives it was scandalous to give a parish that needed
a young, strong, and energetic man to an old fellow who knew nothing of
parochial work, and had feathered his nest already; but the mutterings of
the unbeneficed clergy do not reach the ears of a cathedral Chapter. And
as for the parishioners they had nothing to say in the matter, and
therefore nobody asked for their opinion. The Wesleyans and the Baptists
both had chapels in the village.
When Dr. Fleming was thus disposed of it became necessary to find a
successor. It was contrary to the traditions of the school that one of the
lower-masters should be chosen. The common-room was unanimous in desiring
the election of Mr. Watson, headmaster of the preparatory school; he could
hardly be described as already a master of King's School, they had all
known him for twenty years, and there was no danger that he would make a
nuisance of himself. But the Chapter sprang a surprise on them. It chose
a man called Perkins. At first nobody knew who Perkins was, and the name
favourably impressed no one; but before the shock of it had passed away,
it was realised that Perkins was the son of Perkins the linendraper. Dr.
Fleming informed the masters just before dinner, and his manner showed his
consternation. Such of them as were dining in, ate their meal almost in
silence, and no reference was made to the matter till the servants had
left the room. Then they set to. The names of those present on this
occasion are unimportant, but they had been known to generations of
school-boys as Sighs, Tar, Winks, Squirts, and Pat.
They all knew Tom Perkins. The first thing about him was that he was not
a gentleman. They remembered him quite well. He was a small, dark boy,
with untidy black hair and large eyes. He looked like a gipsy. He had come
to the school as a day-boy, with the best scholarship on their endowment,
so that his education had cost him nothing. Of course he was brilliant. At
every Speech-Day he was loaded with prizes. He was their show-boy, and
they remembered now bitterly their fear that he would try to get some
scholarship at one of the larger public schools and so pass out of their
hands. Dr. Fleming had gone to the linendraper his father--they all
remembered the shop, Perkins and Cooper, in St. Catherine's Street--and
said he hoped Tom would remain with them till he went to Oxford. The
school was Perkins and Cooper's best customer, and Mr. Perkins was only
too glad to give the required assurance. Tom Perkins continued to triumph,
he was the finest classical scholar that Dr. Fleming remembered, and on
leaving the school took with him the most valuable scholarship they had to
offer. He got another at Magdalen and settled down to a brilliant career
at the University. The school magazine recorded the distinctions he
achieved year after year, and when he got his double first Dr. Fleming
himself wrote a few words of eulogy on the front page. It was with greater
satisfaction that they welcomed his success, since Perkins and Cooper had
fallen upon evil days: Cooper drank like a fish, and just before Tom
Perkins took his degree the linendrapers filed their petition in
In due course Tom Perkins took Holy Orders and entered upon the profession
for which he was so admirably suited. He had been an assistant master at
Wellington and then at Rugby.
But there was quite a difference between welcoming his success at other
schools and serving under his leadership in their own. Tar had frequently
given him lines, and Squirts had boxed his ears. They could not imagine
how the Chapter had made such a mistake. No one could be expected to
forget that he was the son of a bankrupt linendraper, and the alcoholism
of Cooper seemed to increase the disgrace. It was understood that the Dean
had supported his candidature with zeal, so the Dean would probably ask
him to dinner; but would the pleasant little dinners in the precincts ever
be the same when Tom Perkins sat at the table? And what about the depot?
He really could not expect officers and gentlemen to receive him as one of
themselves. It would do the school incalculable harm. Parents would be
dissatisfied, and no one could be surprised if there were wholesale
withdrawals. And then the indignity of calling him Mr. Perkins! The
masters thought by way of protest of sending in their resignations in a
body, but the uneasy fear that they would be accepted with equanimity
"The only thing is to prepare ourselves for changes," said Sighs, who had
conducted the fifth form for five and twenty years with unparalleled
And when they saw him they were not reassured. Dr. Fleming invited them to
meet him at luncheon. He was now a man of thirty-two, tall and lean, but
with the same wild and unkempt look they remembered on him as a boy. His
clothes, ill-made and shabby, were put on untidily. His hair was as black
and as long as ever, and he had plainly never learned to brush it; it fell
over his forehead with every gesture, and he had a quick movement of the
hand with which he pushed it back from his eyes. He had a black moustache
and a beard which came high up on his face almost to the cheek-bones, He
talked to the masters quite easily, as though he had parted from them a
week or two before; he was evidently delighted to see them. He seemed
unconscious of the strangeness of the position and appeared not to notice
any oddness in being addressed as Mr. Perkins.
When he bade them good-bye, one of the masters, for something to say,
remarked that he was allowing himself plenty of time to catch his train.
"I want to go round and have a look at the shop," he answered cheerfully.
There was a distinct embarrassment. They wondered that he could be so
tactless, and to make it worse Dr. Fleming had not heard what he said. His
wife shouted it in his ear.
"He wants to go round and look at his father's old shop."
Only Tom Perkins was unconscious of the humiliation which the whole party
felt. He turned to Mrs. Fleming.
"Who's got it now, d'you know?"
She could hardly answer. She was very angry.
"It's still a linendraper's," she said bitterly. "Grove is the name. We
don't deal there any more."
"I wonder if he'd let me go over the house."
"I expect he would if you explain who you are."
It was not till the end of dinner that evening that any reference was made
in the common-room to the subject that was in all their minds. Then it was
Sighs who asked:
"Well, what did you think of our new head?" They thought of the
conversation at luncheon. It was hardly a conversation; it was a
monologue. Perkins had talked incessantly. He talked very quickly, with a
flow of easy words and in a deep, resonant voice. He had a short, odd
little laugh which showed his white teeth. They had followed him with
difficulty, for his mind darted from subject to subject with a connection
they did not always catch. He talked of pedagogics, and this was natural
enough; but he had much to say of modern theories in Germany which they
had never heard of and received with misgiving. He talked of the classics,
but he had been to Greece, and he discoursed of archaeology; he had once
spent a winter digging; they could not see how that helped a man to teach
boys to pass examinations, He talked of politics. It sounded odd to them
to hear him compare Lord Beaconsfield with Alcibiades. He talked of Mr.
Gladstone and Home Rule. They realised that he was a Liberal. Their hearts
sank. He talked of German philosophy and of French fiction. They could not
think a man profound whose interests were so diverse.
It was Winks who summed up the general impression and put it into a form
they all felt conclusively damning. Winks was the master of the upper
third, a weak-kneed man with drooping eye-lids, He was too tall for his
strength, and his movements were slow and languid. He gave an impression
of lassitude, and his nickname was eminently appropriate.
"He's very enthusiastic," said Winks.
Enthusiasm was ill-bred. Enthusiasm was ungentlemanly. They thought of the
Salvation Army with its braying trumpets and its drums. Enthusiasm meant
change. They had goose-flesh when they thought of all the pleasant old
habits which stood in imminent danger. They hardly dared to look forward
to the future.
"He looks more of a gipsy than ever," said one, after a pause.
"I wonder if the Dean and Chapter knew that he was a Radical when they
elected him," another observed bitterly.
But conversation halted. They were too much disturbed for words.
When Tar and Sighs were walking together to the Chapter House on
Speech-Day a week later, Tar, who had a bitter tongue, remarked to his
"Well, we've seen a good many Speech-Days here, haven't we? I wonder if we
shall see another."
Sighs was more melancholy even than usual.
"If anything worth having comes along in the way of a living I don't mind
when I retire."
A year passed, and when Philip came to the school the old masters were all
in their places; but a good many changes had taken place notwithstanding
their stubborn resistance, none the less formidable because it was
concealed under an apparent desire to fall in with the new head's ideas.
Though the form-masters still taught French to the lower school, another
master had come, with a degree of doctor of philology from the University
of Heidelberg and a record of three years spent in a French lycee, to
teach French to the upper forms and German to anyone who cared to take it
up instead of Greek. Another master was engaged to teach mathematics more
systematically than had been found necessary hitherto. Neither of these
was ordained. This was a real revolution, and when the pair arrived the
older masters received them with distrust. A laboratory had been fitted
up, army classes were instituted; they all said the character of the
school was changing. And heaven only knew what further projects Mr.
Perkins turned in that untidy head of his. The school was small as public
schools go, there were not more than two hundred boarders; and it was
difficult for it to grow larger, for it was huddled up against the
Cathedral; the precincts, with the exception of a house in which some of
the masters lodged, were occupied by the cathedral clergy; and there was
no more room for building. But Mr. Perkins devised an elaborate scheme by
which he might obtain sufficient space to make the school double its
present size. He wanted to attract boys from London. He thought it would
be good for them to be thrown in contact with the Kentish lads, and it
would sharpen the country wits of these.
"It's against all our traditions," said Sighs, when Mr. Perkins made the
suggestion to him. "We've rather gone out of our way to avoid the
contamination of boys from London."
"Oh, what nonsense!" said Mr. Perkins.
No one had ever told the form-master before that he talked nonsense, and
he was meditating an acid reply, in which perhaps he might insert a veiled
reference to hosiery, when Mr. Perkins in his impetuous way attacked him
"That house in the precincts--if you'd only marry I'd get the Chapter to
put another couple of stories on, and we'd make dormitories and studies,
and your wife could help you."
The elderly clergyman gasped. Why should he marry? He was fifty-seven, a
man couldn't marry at fifty-seven. He couldn't start looking after a house
at his time of life. He didn't want to marry. If the choice lay between
that and the country living he would much sooner resign. All he wanted now
was peace and quietness.
"I'm not thinking of marrying," he said.
Mr. Perkins looked at him with his dark, bright eyes, and if there was a
twinkle in them poor Sighs never saw it.
"What a pity! Couldn't you marry to oblige me? It would help me a great
deal with the Dean and Chapter when I suggest rebuilding your house."
But Mr. Perkins' most unpopular innovation was his system of taking
occasionally another man's form. He asked it as a favour, but after all it
was a favour which could not be refused, and as Tar, otherwise Mr. Turner,
said, it was undignified for all parties. He gave no warning, but after
morning prayers would say to one of the masters:
"I wonder if you'd mind taking the Sixth today at eleven. We'll change
over, shall we?"
They did not know whether this was usual at other schools, but certainly
it had never been done at Tercanbury. The results were curious. Mr.
Turner, who was the first victim, broke the news to his form that the
headmaster would take them for Latin that day, and on the pretence that
they might like to ask him a question or two so that they should not make
perfect fools of themselves, spent the last quarter of an hour of the
history lesson in construing for them the passage of Livy which had been
set for the day; but when he rejoined his class and looked at the paper on
which Mr. Perkins had written the marks, a surprise awaited him; for the
two boys at the top of the form seemed to have done very ill, while others
who had never distinguished themselves before were given full marks. When
he asked Eldridge, his cleverest boy, what was the meaning of this the
answer came sullenly:
"Mr. Perkins never gave us any construing to do. He asked me what I knew
about General Gordon."
Mr. Turner looked at him in astonishment. The boys evidently felt they had
been hardly used, and he could not help agreeing with their silent
dissatisfaction. He could not see either what General Gordon had to do
with Livy. He hazarded an inquiry afterwards.
"Eldridge was dreadfully put out because you asked him what he knew about
General Gordon," he said to the headmaster, with an attempt at a chuckle.
Mr. Perkins laughed.
"I saw they'd got to the agrarian laws of Caius Gracchus, and I wondered
if they knew anything about the agrarian troubles in Ireland. But all they
knew about Ireland was that Dublin was on the Liffey. So I wondered if
they'd ever heard of General Gordon."
Then the horrid fact was disclosed that the new head had a mania for
general information. He had doubts about the utility of examinations on
subjects which had been crammed for the occasion. He wanted common sense.
Sighs grew more worried every month; he could not get the thought out of
his head that Mr. Perkins would ask him to fix a day for his marriage; and
he hated the attitude the head adopted towards classical literature. There
was no doubt that he was a fine scholar, and he was engaged on a work
which was quite in the right tradition: he was writing a treatise on the
trees in Latin literature; but he talked of it flippantly, as though it
were a pastime of no great importance, like billiards, which engaged his
leisure but was not to be considered with seriousness. And Squirts, the
master of the Middle Third, grew more ill-tempered every day.
It was in his form that Philip was put on entering the school. The Rev. B.
B. Gordon was a man by nature ill-suited to be a schoolmaster: he was
impatient and choleric. With no one to call him to account, with only
small boys to face him, he had long lost all power of self-control. He
began his work in a rage and ended it in a passion. He was a man of middle
height and of a corpulent figure; he had sandy hair, worn very short and
now growing gray, and a small bristly moustache. His large face, with
indistinct features and small blue eyes, was naturally red, but during his
frequent attacks of anger it grew dark and purple. His nails were bitten
to the quick, for while some trembling boy was construing he would sit at
his desk shaking with the fury that consumed him, and gnaw his fingers.
Stories, perhaps exaggerated, were told of his violence, and two years
before there had been some excitement in the school when it was heard that
one father was threatening a prosecution: he had boxed the ears of a boy
named Walters with a book so violently that his hearing was affected and
the boy had to be taken away from the school. The boy's father lived in
Tercanbury, and there had been much indignation in the city, the local
paper had referred to the matter; but Mr. Walters was only a brewer, so
the sympathy was divided. The rest of the boys, for reasons best known to
themselves, though they loathed the master, took his side in the affair,
and, to show their indignation that the school's business had been dealt
with outside, made things as uncomfortable as they could for Walters'
younger brother, who still remained. But Mr. Gordon had only escaped the
country living by the skin of his teeth, and he had never hit a boy since.
The right the masters possessed to cane boys on the hand was taken away
from them, and Squirts could no longer emphasize his anger by beating his
desk with the cane. He never did more now than take a boy by the shoulders
and shake him. He still made a naughty or refractory lad stand with one
arm stretched out for anything from ten minutes to half an hour, and he
was as violent as before with his tongue.
No master could have been more unfitted to teach things to so shy a boy as
Philip. He had come to the school with fewer terrors than he had when
first he went to Mr. Watson's. He knew a good many boys who had been with
him at the preparatory school. He felt more grownup, and instinctively
realised that among the larger numbers his deformity would be less
noticeable. But from the first day Mr. Gordon struck terror in his heart;
and the master, quick to discern the boys who were frightened of him,
seemed on that account to take a peculiar dislike to him. Philip had
enjoyed his work, but now he began to look upon the hours passed in school
with horror. Rather than risk an answer which might be wrong and excite a
storm of abuse from the master, he would sit stupidly silent, and when it
came towards his turn to stand up and construe he grew sick and white with
apprehension. His happy moments were those when Mr. Perkins took the form.
He was able to gratify the passion for general knowledge which beset the
headmaster; he had read all sorts of strange books beyond his years, and
often Mr. Perkins, when a question was going round the room, would stop at
Philip with a smile that filled the boy with rapture, and say:
"Now, Carey, you tell them."
The good marks he got on these occasions increased Mr. Gordon's
indignation. One day it came to Philip's turn to translate, and the master
sat there glaring at him and furiously biting his thumb. He was in a
ferocious mood. Philip began to speak in a low voice.
"Don't mumble," shouted the master.
Something seemed to stick in Philip's throat.
"Go on. Go on. Go on."
Each time the words were screamed more loudly. The effect was to drive all
he knew out of Philip's head, and he looked at the printed page vacantly.
Mr. Gordon began to breathe heavily.
"If you don't know why don't you say so? Do you know it or not? Did you
hear all this construed last time or not? Why don't you speak? Speak, you
The master seized the arms of his chair and grasped them as though to
prevent himself from falling upon Philip. They knew that in past days he
often used to seize boys by the throat till they almost choked. The veins
in his forehead stood out and his face grew dark and threatening. He was
a man insane.
Philip had known the passage perfectly the day before, but now he could
"I don't know it," he gasped.
"Why don't you know it? Let's take the words one by one. We'll soon see if
you don't know it."
Philip stood silent, very white, trembling a little, with his head bent
down on the book. The master's breathing grew almost stertorous.
"The headmaster says you're clever. I don't know how he sees it. General
information." He laughed savagely. "I don't know what they put you in his
form for "Blockhead."
He was pleased with the word, and he repeated it at the top of his voice.
"Blockhead! Blockhead! Club-footed blockhead!"
That relieved him a little. He saw Philip redden suddenly. He told him to
fetch the Black Book. Philip put down his Caesar and went silently out.
The Black Book was a sombre volume in which the names of boys were written
with their misdeeds, and when a name was down three times it meant a
caning. Philip went to the headmaster's house and knocked at his
study-door. Mr. Perkins was seated at his table.
"May I have the Black Book, please, sir."
"There it is," answered Mr. Perkins, indicating its place by a nod of his
head. "What have you been doing that you shouldn't?"
"I don't know, sir."
Mr. Perkins gave him a quick look, but without answering went on with his
work. Philip took the book and went out. When the hour was up, a few
minutes later, he brought it back.
"Let me have a look at it," said the headmaster. "I see Mr. Gordon has
black-booked you for 'gross impertinence.' What was it?"
"I don't know, sir. Mr. Gordon said I was a club-footed blockhead."
Mr. Perkins looked at him again. He wondered whether there was sarcasm
behind the boy's reply, but he was still much too shaken. His face was
white and his eyes had a look of terrified distress. Mr. Perkins got up
and put the book down. As he did so he took up some photographs.
"A friend of mine sent me some pictures of Athens this morning," he said
casually. "Look here, there's the Akropolis."
He began explaining to Philip what he saw. The ruin grew vivid with his
words. He showed him the theatre of Dionysus and explained in what order
the people sat, and how beyond they could see the blue Aegean. And then
suddenly he said:
"I remember Mr. Gordon used to call me a gipsy counter-jumper when I was
in his form."
And before Philip, his mind fixed on the photographs, had time to gather
the meaning of the remark, Mr. Perkins was showing him a picture of
Salamis, and with his finger, a finger of which the nail had a little
black edge to it, was pointing out how the Greek ships were placed and how
Philip passed the next two years with comfortable monotony. He was not
bullied more than other boys of his size; and his deformity, withdrawing
him from games, acquired for him an insignificance for which he was
grateful. He was not popular, and he was very lonely. He spent a couple of
terms with Winks in the Upper Third. Winks, with his weary manner and his
drooping eyelids, looked infinitely bored. He did his duty, but he did it
with an abstracted mind. He was kind, gentle, and foolish. He had a great
belief in the honour of boys; he felt that the first thing to make them
truthful was not to let it enter your head for a moment that it was
possible for them to lie. "Ask much," he quoted, "and much shall be given
to you." Life was easy in the Upper Third. You knew exactly what lines
would come to your turn to construe, and with the crib that passed from
hand to hand you could find out all you wanted in two minutes; you could
hold a Latin Grammar open on your knees while questions were passing
round; and Winks never noticed anything odd in the fact that the same
incredible mistake was to be found in a dozen different exercises. He had
no great faith in examinations, for he noticed that boys never did so well
in them as in form: it was disappointing, but not significant. In due
course they were moved up, having learned little but a cheerful effrontery
in the distortion of truth, which was possibly of greater service to them
in after life than an ability to read Latin at sight.
Then they fell into the hands of Tar. His name was Turner; he was the most
vivacious of the old masters, a short man with an immense belly, a black
beard turning now to gray, and a swarthy skin. In his clerical dress there
was indeed something in him to suggest the tar-barrel; and though on
principle he gave five hundred lines to any boy on whose lips he overheard
his nickname, at dinner-parties in the precincts he often made little
jokes about it. He was the most worldly of the masters; he dined out more
frequently than any of the others, and the society he kept was not so
exclusively clerical. The boys looked upon him as rather a dog. He left
off his clerical attire during the holidays and had been seen in
Switzerland in gay tweeds. He liked a bottle of wine and a good dinner,
and having once been seen at the Cafe Royal with a lady who was very
probably a near relation, was thenceforward supposed by generations of
schoolboys to indulge in orgies the circumstantial details of which
pointed to an unbounded belief in human depravity.
Mr. Turner reckoned that it took him a term to lick boys into shape after
they had been in the Upper Third; and now and then he let fall a sly hint,
which showed that he knew perfectly what went on in his colleague's form.
He took it good-humouredly. He looked upon boys as young ruffians who were
more apt to be truthful if it was quite certain a lie would be found out,
whose sense of honour was peculiar to themselves and did not apply to
dealings with masters, and who were least likely to be troublesome when
they learned that it did not pay. He was proud of his form and as eager at
fifty-five that it should do better in examinations than any of the others
as he had been when he first came to the school. He had the choler of the
obese, easily roused and as easily calmed, and his boys soon discovered
that there was much kindliness beneath the invective with which he
constantly assailed them. He had no patience with fools, but was willing
to take much trouble with boys whom he suspected of concealing
intelligence behind their wilfulness. He was fond of inviting them to tea;
and, though vowing they never got a look in with him at the cakes and
muffins, for it was the fashion to believe that his corpulence pointed to
a voracious appetite, and his voracious appetite to tapeworms, they
accepted his invitations with real pleasure.
Philip was now more comfortable, for space was so limited that there were
only studies for boys in the upper school, and till then he had lived in
the great hall in which they all ate and in which the lower forms did
preparation in a promiscuity which was vaguely distasteful to him. Now and
then it made him restless to be with people and he wanted urgently to be
alone. He set out for solitary walks into the country. There was a little
stream, with pollards on both sides of it, that ran through green fields,
and it made him happy, he knew not why, to wander along its banks. When he
was tired he lay face-downward on the grass and watched the eager
scurrying of minnows and of tadpoles. It gave him a peculiar satisfaction
to saunter round the precincts. On the green in the middle they practised
at nets in the summer, but during the rest of the year it was quiet: boys
used to wander round sometimes arm in arm, or a studious fellow with
abstracted gaze walked slowly, repeating to himself something he had to
learn by heart. There was a colony of rooks in the great elms, and they
filled the air with melancholy cries. Along one side lay the Cathedral
with its great central tower, and Philip, who knew as yet nothing of
beauty, felt when he looked at it a troubling delight which he could not
understand. When he had a study (it was a little square room looking on a
slum, and four boys shared it), he bought a photograph of that view of the
Cathedral, and pinned it up over his desk. And he found himself taking a
new interest in what he saw from the window of the Fourth Form room. It
looked on to old lawns, carefully tended, and fine trees with foliage
dense and rich. It gave him an odd feeling in his heart, and he did not
know if it was pain or pleasure. It was the first dawn of the aesthetic
emotion. It accompanied other changes. His voice broke. It was no longer
quite under his control, and queer sounds issued from his throat.
Then he began to go to the classes which were held in the headmaster's
study, immediately after tea, to prepare boys for confirmation. Philip's
piety had not stood the test of time, and he had long since given up his
nightly reading of the Bible; but now, under the influence of Mr. Perkins,
with this new condition of the body which made him so restless, his old
feelings revived, and he reproached himself bitterly for his backsliding.
The fires of Hell burned fiercely before his mind's eye. If he had died
during that time when he was little better than an infidel he would have
been lost; he believed implicitly in pain everlasting, he believed in it
much more than in eternal happiness; and he shuddered at the dangers he
Since the day on which Mr. Perkins had spoken kindly to him, when he was
smarting under the particular form of abuse which he could least bear,
Philip had conceived for his headmaster a dog-like adoration. He racked
his brains vainly for some way to please him. He treasured the smallest
word of commendation which by chance fell from his lips. And when he came
to the quiet little meetings in his house he was prepared to surrender
himself entirely. He kept his eyes fixed on Mr. Perkins' shining eyes, and
sat with mouth half open, his head a little thrown forward so as to miss
no word. The ordinariness of the surroundings made the matters they dealt
with extraordinarily moving. And often the master, seized himself by the
wonder of his subject, would push back the book in front of him, and with
his hands clasped together over his heart, as though to still the beating,
would talk of the mysteries of their religion. Sometimes Philip did not
understand, but he did not want to understand, he felt vaguely that it was
enough to feel. It seemed to him then that the headmaster, with his black,
straggling hair and his pale face, was like those prophets of Israel who
feared not to take kings to task; and when he thought of the Redeemer he
saw Him only with the same dark eyes and those wan cheeks.
Mr. Perkins took this part of his work with great seriousness. There was
never here any of that flashing humour which made the other masters
suspect him of flippancy. Finding time for everything in his busy day, he
was able at certain intervals to take separately for a quarter of an hour
or twenty minutes the boys whom he was preparing for confirmation. He
wanted to make them feel that this was the first consciously serious step
in their lives; he tried to grope into the depths of their souls; he
wanted to instil in them his own vehement devotion. In Philip,
notwithstanding his shyness, he felt the possibility of a passion equal to
his own. The boy's temperament seemed to him essentially religious. One
day he broke off suddenly from the subject on which he had been talking.
"Have you thought at all what you're going to be when you grow up?" he
"My uncle wants me to be ordained," said Philip.
Philip looked away. He was ashamed to answer that he felt himself
"I don't know any life that's so full of happiness as ours. I wish I could
make you feel what a wonderful privilege it is. One can serve God in every
walk, but we stand nearer to Him. I don't want to influence you, but if
you made up your mind--oh, at once--you couldn't help feeling that joy and
relief which never desert one again."
Philip did not answer, but the headmaster read in his eyes that he
realised already something of what he tried to indicate.
"If you go on as you are now you'll find yourself head of the school one
of these days, and you ought to be pretty safe for a scholarship when you
leave. Have you got anything of your own?"
"My uncle says I shall have a hundred a year when I'm twenty-one."
"You'll be rich. I had nothing."
The headmaster hesitated a moment, and then, idly drawing lines with a
pencil on the blotting paper in front of him, went on.
"I'm afraid your choice of professions will be rather limited. You
naturally couldn't go in for anything that required physical activity."
Philip reddened to the roots of his hair, as he always did when any
reference was made to his club-foot. Mr. Perkins looked at him gravely.
"I wonder if you're not oversensitive about your misfortune. Has it ever
struck you to thank God for it?"
Philip looked up quickly. His lips tightened. He remembered how for
months, trusting in what they told him, he had implored God to heal him as
He had healed the Leper and made the Blind to see.
"As long as you accept it rebelliously it can only cause you shame. But if
you looked upon it as a cross that was given you to bear only because your
shoulders were strong enough to bear it, a sign of God's favour, then it
would be a source of happiness to you instead of misery."
He saw that the boy hated to discuss the matter and he let him go.
But Philip thought over all that the headmaster had said, and presently,
his mind taken up entirely with the ceremony that was before him, a
mystical rapture seized him. His spirit seemed to free itself from the
bonds of the flesh and he seemed to be living a new life. He aspired to
perfection with all the passion that was in him. He wanted to surrender
himself entirely to the service of God, and he made up his mind definitely
that he would be ordained. When the great day arrived, his soul deeply
moved by all the preparation, by the books he had studied and above all by
the overwhelming influence of the head, he could hardly contain himself
for fear and joy. One thought had tormented him. He knew that he would
have to walk alone through the chancel, and he dreaded showing his limp
thus obviously, not only to the whole school, who were attending the
service, but also to the strangers, people from the city or parents who
had come to see their sons confirmed. But when the time came he felt
suddenly that he could accept the humiliation joyfully; and as he limped
up the chancel, very small and insignificant beneath the lofty vaulting of
the Cathedral, he offered consciously his deformity as a sacrifice to the
God who loved him.
But Philip could not live long in the rarefied air of the hilltops. What
had happened to him when first he was seized by the religious emotion
happened to him now. Because he felt so keenly the beauty of faith,
because the desire for self-sacrifice burned in his heart with such a
gem-like glow, his strength seemed inadequate to his ambition. He was
tired out by the violence of his passion. His soul was filled on a sudden
with a singular aridity. He began to forget the presence of God which had
seemed so surrounding; and his religious exercises, still very punctually
performed, grew merely formal. At first he blamed himself for this falling
away, and the fear of hell-fire urged him to renewed vehemence; but the
passion was dead, and gradually other interests distracted his thoughts.
Philip had few friends. His habit of reading isolated him: it became such
a need that after being in company for some time he grew tired and
restless; he was vain of the wider knowledge he had acquired from the
perusal of so many books, his mind was alert, and he had not the skill to
hide his contempt for his companions' stupidity. They complained that he
was conceited; and, since he excelled only in matters which to them were
unimportant, they asked satirically what he had to be conceited about. He
was developing a sense of humour, and found that he had a knack of saying
bitter things, which caught people on the raw; he said them because they
amused him, hardly realising how much they hurt, and was much offended
when he found that his victims regarded him with active dislike. The
humiliations he suffered when first he went to school had caused in him a
shrinking from his fellows which he could never entirely overcome; he
remained shy and silent. But though he did everything to alienate the
sympathy of other boys he longed with all his heart for the popularity
which to some was so easily accorded. These from his distance he admired
extravagantly; and though he was inclined to be more sarcastic with them
than with others, though he made little jokes at their expense, he would
have given anything to change places with them. Indeed he would gladly
have changed places with the dullest boy in the school who was whole of
limb. He took to a singular habit. He would imagine that he was some boy
whom he had a particular fancy for; he would throw his soul, as it were,
into the other's body, talk with his voice and laugh with his heart; he
would imagine himself doing all the things the other did. It was so vivid
that he seemed for a moment really to be no longer himself. In this way he
enjoyed many intervals of fantastic happiness.
At the beginning of the Christmas term which followed on his confirmation
Philip found himself moved into another study. One of the boys who shared
it was called Rose. He was in the same form as Philip, and Philip had
always looked upon him with envious admiration. He was not good-looking;
though his large hands and big bones suggested that he would be a tall
man, he was clumsily made; but his eyes were charming, and when he laughed
(he was constantly laughing) his face wrinkled all round them in a jolly
way. He was neither clever nor stupid, but good enough at his work and
better at games. He was a favourite with masters and boys, and he in his
turn liked everyone.
When Philip was put in the study he could not help seeing that the others,
who had been together for three terms, welcomed him coldly. It made him
nervous to feel himself an intruder; but he had learned to hide his
feelings, and they found him quiet and unobtrusive. With Rose, because he
was as little able as anyone else to resist his charm, Philip was even
more than usually shy and abrupt; and whether on account of this,
unconsciously bent upon exerting the fascination he knew was his only by
the results, or whether from sheer kindness of heart, it was Rose who
first took Philip into the circle. One day, quite suddenly, he asked
Philip if he would walk to the football field with him. Philip flushed.
"I can't walk fast enough for you," he said.
"Rot. Come on."
And just before they were setting out some boy put his head in the
study-door and asked Rose to go with him.
"I can't," he answered. "I've already promised Carey."
"Don't bother about me," said Philip quickly. "I shan't mind."
"Rot," said Rose.
He looked at Philip with those good-natured eyes of his and laughed.
Philip felt a curious tremor in his heart.
In a little while, their friendship growing with boyish rapidity, the pair
were inseparable. Other fellows wondered at the sudden intimacy, and Rose
was asked what he saw in Philip.
"Oh, I don't know," he answered. "He's not half a bad chap really."
Soon they grew accustomed to the two walking into chapel arm in arm or
strolling round the precincts in conversation; wherever one was the other
could be found also, and, as though acknowledging his proprietorship, boys
who wanted Rose would leave messages with Carey. Philip at first was
reserved. He would not let himself yield entirely to the proud joy that
filled him; but presently his distrust of the fates gave way before a wild
happiness. He thought Rose the most wonderful fellow he had ever seen. His
books now were insignificant; he could not bother about them when there
was something infinitely more important to occupy him. Rose's friends used
to come in to tea in the study sometimes or sit about when there was
nothing better to do--Rose liked a crowd and the chance of a rag--and they
found that Philip was quite a decent fellow. Philip was happy.
When the last day of term came he and Rose arranged by which train they
should come back, so that they might meet at the station and have tea in
the town before returning to school. Philip went home with a heavy heart.
He thought of Rose all through the holidays, and his fancy was active with
the things they would do together next term. He was bored at the vicarage,
and when on the last day his uncle put him the usual question in the usual
"Well, are you glad to be going back to school?"
Philip answered joyfully.
In order to be sure of meeting Rose at the station he took an earlier
train than he usually did, and he waited about the platform for an hour.
When the train came in from Faversham, where he knew Rose had to change,
he ran along it excitedly. But Rose was not there. He got a porter to tell
him when another train was due, and he waited; but again he was
disappointed; and he was cold and hungry, so he walked, through
side-streets and slums, by a short cut to the school. He found Rose in the
study, with his feet on the chimney-piece, talking eighteen to the dozen
with half a dozen boys who were sitting on whatever there was to sit on.
He shook hands with Philip enthusiastically, but Philip's face fell, for
he realised that Rose had forgotten all about their appointment.
"I say, why are you so late?" said Rose. "I thought you were never
"You were at the station at half-past four," said another boy. "I saw you
when I came."
Philip blushed a little. He did not want Rose to know that he had been
such a fool as to wait for him.
"I had to see about a friend of my people's," he invented readily. "I was
asked to see her off."
But his disappointment made him a little sulky. He sat in silence, and
when spoken to answered in monosyllables. He was making up his mind to
have it out with Rose when they were alone. But when the others had gone
Rose at once came over and sat on the arm of the chair in which Philip was
"I say, I'm jolly glad we're in the same study this term. Ripping, isn't
He seemed so genuinely pleased to see Philip that Philip's annoyance
vanished. They began as if they had not been separated for five minutes to
talk eagerly of the thousand things that interested them.
At first Philip had been too grateful for Rose's friendship to make any
demands on him. He took things as they came and enjoyed life. But
presently he began to resent Rose's universal amiability; he wanted a more
exclusive attachment, and he claimed as a right what before he had
accepted as a favour. He watched jealously Rose's companionship with
others; and though he knew it was unreasonable could not help sometimes
saying bitter things to him. If Rose spent an hour playing the fool in
another study, Philip would receive him when he returned to his own with
a sullen frown. He would sulk for a day, and he suffered more because Rose
either did not notice his ill-humour or deliberately ignored it. Not
seldom Philip, knowing all the time how stupid he was, would force a
quarrel, and they would not speak to one another for a couple of days. But
Philip could not bear to be angry with him long, and even when convinced
that he was in the right, would apologise humbly. Then for a week they
would be as great friends as ever. But the best was over, and Philip could
see that Rose often walked with him merely from old habit or from fear of
his anger; they had not so much to say to one another as at first, and
Rose was often bored. Philip felt that his lameness began to irritate him.
Towards the end of the term two or three boys caught scarlet fever, and
there was much talk of sending them all home in order to escape an
epidemic; but the sufferers were isolated, and since no more were attacked
it was supposed that the outbreak was stopped. One of the stricken was
Philip. He remained in hospital through the Easter holidays, and at the
beginning of the summer term was sent home to the vicarage to get a little
fresh air. The Vicar, notwithstanding medical assurance that the boy was
no longer infectious, received him with suspicion; he thought it very
inconsiderate of the doctor to suggest that his nephew's convalescence
should be spent by the seaside, and consented to have him in the house
only because there was nowhere else he could go.
Philip went back to school at half-term. He had forgotten the quarrels he
had had with Rose, but remembered only that he was his greatest friend. He
knew that he had been silly. He made up his mind to be more reasonable.
During his illness Rose had sent him in a couple of little notes, and he
had ended each with the words: "Hurry up and come back." Philip thought
Rose must be looking forward as much to his return as he was himself to
He found that owing to the death from scarlet fever of one of the boys in
the Sixth there had been some shifting in the studies and Rose was no
longer in his. It was a bitter disappointment. But as soon as he arrived
he burst into Rose's study. Rose was sitting at his desk, working with a
boy called Hunter, and turned round crossly as Philip came in.
"Who the devil's that?" he cried. And then, seeing Philip: "Oh, it's you."
Philip stopped in embarrassment.
"I thought I'd come in and see how you were."
"We were just working."
Hunter broke into the conversation.
"When did you get back?"
"Five minutes ago."
They sat and looked at him as though he was disturbing them. They
evidently expected him to go quickly. Philip reddened.
"I'll be off. You might look in when you've done," he said to Rose.
Philip closed the door behind him and limped back to his own study. He
felt frightfully hurt. Rose, far from seeming glad to see him, had looked
almost put out. They might never have been more than acquaintances. Though
he waited in his study, not leaving it for a moment in case just then Rose
should come, his friend never appeared; and next morning when he went in
to prayers he saw Rose and Hunter singing along arm in arm. What he could
not see for himself others told him. He had forgotten that three months is
a long time in a schoolboy's life, and though he had passed them in
solitude Rose had lived in the world. Hunter had stepped into the vacant
place. Philip found that Rose was quietly avoiding him. But he was not the
boy to accept a situation without putting it into words; he waited till he
was sure Rose was alone in his study and went in.
"May I come in?" he asked.
Rose looked at him with an embarrassment that made him angry with Philip.
"Yes, if you want to."
"It's very kind of you," said Philip sarcastically.
"What d'you want?"
"I say, why have you been so rotten since I came back?"
"Oh, don't be an ass," said Rose.
"I don't know what you see in Hunter."
"That's my business."
Philip looked down. He could not bring himself to say what was in his
heart. He was afraid of humiliating himself. Rose got up.
"I've got to go to the Gym," he said.
When he was at the door Philip forced himself to speak.
"I say, Rose, don't be a perfect beast."
"Oh, go to hell."
Rose slammed the door behind him and left Philip alone. Philip shivered
with rage. He went back to his study and turned the conversation over in
his mind. He hated Rose now, he wanted to hurt him, he thought of biting
things he might have said to him. He brooded over the end to their
friendship and fancied that others were talking of it. In his
sensitiveness he saw sneers and wonderings in other fellows' manner when
they were not bothering their heads with him at all. He imagined to
himself what they were saying.
"After all, it wasn't likely to last long. I wonder he ever stuck Carey at
To show his indifference he struck up a violent friendship with a boy
called Sharp whom he hated and despised. He was a London boy, with a
loutish air, a heavy fellow with the beginnings of a moustache on his lip
and bushy eyebrows that joined one another across the bridge of his nose.
He had soft hands and manners too suave for his years. He spoke with the
suspicion of a cockney accent. He was one of those boys who are too slack
to play games, and he exercised great ingenuity in making excuses to avoid
such as were compulsory. He was regarded by boys and masters with a vague
dislike, and it was from arrogance that Philip now sought his society.
Sharp in a couple of terms was going to Germany for a year. He hated
school, which he looked upon as an indignity to be endured till he was old
enough to go out into the world. London was all he cared for, and he had
many stories to tell of his doings there during the holidays. From his
conversation--he spoke in a soft, deep-toned voice--there emerged the
vague rumour of the London streets by night. Philip listened to him at
once fascinated and repelled. With his vivid fancy he seemed to see the
surging throng round the pit-door of theatres, and the glitter of cheap
restaurants, bars where men, half drunk, sat on high stools talking with
barmaids; and under the street lamps the mysterious passing of dark crowds
bent upon pleasure. Sharp lent him cheap novels from Holywell Row, which
Philip read in his cubicle with a sort of wonderful fear.
Once Rose tried to effect a reconciliation. He was a good-natured fellow,
who did not like having enemies.
"I say, Carey, why are you being such a silly ass? It doesn't do you any
good cutting me and all that."
"I don't know what you mean," answered Philip.
"Well, I don't see why you shouldn't talk."
"You bore me," said Philip.
Rose shrugged his shoulders and left him. Philip was very white, as he
always became when he was moved, and his heart beat violently. When Rose
went away he felt suddenly sick with misery. He did not know why he had
answered in that fashion. He would have given anything to be friends with
Rose. He hated to have quarrelled with him, and now that he saw he had
given him pain he was very sorry. But at the moment he had not been master
of himself. It seemed that some devil had seized him, forcing him to say
bitter things against his will, even though at the time he wanted to shake
hands with Rose and meet him more than halfway. The desire to wound had
been too strong for him. He had wanted to revenge himself for the pain and
the humiliation he had endured. It was pride: it was folly too, for he
knew that Rose would not care at all, while he would suffer bitterly. The
thought came to him that he would go to Rose, and say:
"I say, I'm sorry I was such a beast. I couldn't help it. Let's make it
But he knew he would never be able to do it. He was afraid that Rose would
sneer at him. He was angry with himself, and when Sharp came in a little
while afterwards he seized upon the first opportunity to quarrel with him.
Philip had a fiendish instinct for discovering other people's raw spots,
and was able to say things that rankled because they were true. But Sharp
had the last word.
"I heard Rose talking about you to Mellor just now," he said. "Mellor
said: Why didn't you kick him? It would teach him manners. And Rose said:
I didn't like to. Damned cripple."
Philip suddenly became scarlet. He could not answer, for there was a lump
in his throat that almost choked him.
Philip was moved into the Sixth, but he hated school now with all his
heart, and, having lost his ambition, cared nothing whether he did ill or
well. He awoke in the morning with a sinking heart because he must go
through another day of drudgery. He was tired of having to do things
because he was told; and the restrictions irked him, not because they were
unreasonable, but because they were restrictions. He yearned for freedom.
He was weary of repeating things that he knew already and of the hammering
away, for the sake of a thick-witted fellow, at something that he
understood from the beginning.
With Mr. Perkins you could work or not as you chose. He was at once eager
and abstracted. The Sixth Form room was in a part of the old abbey which
had been restored, and it had a gothic window: Philip tried to cheat his
boredom by drawing this over and over again; and sometimes out of his head
he drew the great tower of the Cathedral or the gateway that led into the
precincts. He had a knack for drawing. Aunt Louisa during her youth had
painted in water colours, and she had several albums filled with sketches
of churches, old bridges, and picturesque cottages. They were often shown
at the vicarage tea-parties. She had once given Philip a paint-box as a
Christmas present, and he had started by copying her pictures. He copied
them better than anyone could have expected, and presently he did little
pictures of his own. Mrs. Carey encouraged him. It was a good way to keep
him out of mischief, and later on his sketches would be useful for
bazaars. Two or three of them had been framed and hung in his bed-room.
But one day, at the end of the morning's work, Mr. Perkins stopped him as
he was lounging out of the form-room.
"I want to speak to you, Carey."
Philip waited. Mr. Perkins ran his lean fingers through his beard and
looked at Philip. He seemed to be thinking over what he wanted to say.
"What's the matter with you, Carey?" he said abruptly.
Philip, flushing, looked at him quickly. But knowing him well by now,
without answering, he waited for him to go on.
"I've been dissatisfied with you lately. You've been slack and
inattentive. You seem to take no interest in your work. It's been slovenly
"I'm very sorry, sir," said Philip.
"Is that all you have to say for yourself?"
Philip looked down sulkily. How could he answer that he was bored to
"You know, this term you'll go down instead of up. I shan't give you a
very good report."
Philip wondered what he would say if he knew how the report was treated.
It arrived at breakfast, Mr. Carey glanced at it indifferently, and passed
it over to Philip.
"There's your report. You'd better see what it says," he remarked, as he
ran his fingers through the wrapper of a catalogue of second-hand books.
Philip read it.
"Is it good?" asked Aunt Louisa.
"Not so good as I deserve," answered Philip, with a smile, giving it to
"I'll read it afterwards when I've got my spectacles," she said.
But after breakfast Mary Ann came in to say the butcher was there, and she
Mr. Perkins went on.
"I'm disappointed with you. And I can't understand. I know you can do
things if you want to, but you don't seem to want to any more. I was going
to make you a monitor next term, but I think I'd better wait a bit."
Philip flushed. He did not like the thought of being passed over. He
tightened his lips.
"And there's something else. You must begin thinking of your scholarship
now. You won't get anything unless you start working very seriously."
Philip was irritated by the lecture. He was angry with the headmaster, and
angry with himself.
"I don't think I'm going up to Oxford," he said.
"Why not? I thought your idea was to be ordained."
"I've changed my mind."
Philip did not answer. Mr. Perkins, holding himself oddly as he always
did, like a figure in one of Perugino's pictures, drew his fingers
thoughtfully through his beard. He looked at Philip as though he were
trying to understand and then abruptly told him he might go.
Apparently he was not satisfied, for one evening, a week later, when
Philip had to go into his study with some papers, he resumed the
conversation; but this time he adopted a different method: he spoke to
Philip not as a schoolmaster with a boy but as one human being with
another. He did not seem to care now that Philip's work was poor, that he
ran small chance against keen rivals of carrying off the scholarship
necessary for him to go to Oxford: the important matter was his changed
intention about his life afterwards. Mr. Perkins set himself to revive his
eagerness to be ordained. With infinite skill he worked on his feelings,
and this was easier since he was himself genuinely moved. Philip's change
of mind caused him bitter distress, and he really thought he was throwing
away his chance of happiness in life for he knew not what. His voice was
very persuasive. And Philip, easily moved by the emotion of others, very
emotional himself notwithstanding a placid exterior--his face, partly by
nature but also from the habit of all these years at school, seldom except
by his quick flushing showed what he felt--Philip was deeply touched by
what the master said. He was very grateful to him for the interest he
showed, and he was conscience-stricken by the grief which he felt his
behaviour caused him. It was subtly flattering to know that with the whole
school to think about Mr. Perkins should trouble with him, but at the same
time something else in him, like another person standing at his elbow,
clung desperately to two words.
"I won't. I won't. I won't."
He felt himself slipping. He was powerless against the weakness that
seemed to well up in him; it was like the water that rises up in an empty
bottle held over a full basin; and he set his teeth, saying the words over
and over to himself.
"I won't. I won't. I won't."
At last Mr. Perkins put his hand on Philip's shoulder.
"I don't want to influence you," he said. "You must decide for yourself.
Pray to Almighty God for help and guidance."
When Philip came out of the headmaster's house there was a light rain
falling. He went under the archway that led to the precincts, there was
not a soul there, and the rooks were silent in the elms. He walked round
slowly. He felt hot, and the rain did him good. He thought over all that
Mr. Perkins had said, calmly now that he was withdrawn from the fervour of
his personality, and he was thankful he had not given way.
In the darkness he could but vaguely see the great mass of the Cathedral:
he hated it now because of the irksomeness of the long services which he
was forced to attend. The anthem was interminable, and you had to stand
drearily while it was being sung; you could not hear the droning sermon,
and your body twitched because you had to sit still when you wanted to
move about. Then philip thought of the two services every Sunday at
Blackstable. The church was bare and cold, and there was a smell all about
one of pomade and starched clothes. The curate preached once and his uncle
preached once. As he grew up he had learned to know his uncle; Philip was
downright and intolerant, and he could not understand that a man might
sincerely say things as a clergyman which he never acted up to as a man.
The deception outraged him. His uncle was a weak and selfish man, whose
chief desire it was to be saved trouble.
Mr. Perkins had spoken to him of the beauty of a life dedicated to the
service of God. Philip knew what sort of lives the clergy led in the
corner of East Anglia which was his home. There was the Vicar of
Whitestone, a parish a little way from Blackstable: he was a bachelor and
to give himself something to do had lately taken up farming: the local
paper constantly reported the cases he had in the county court against
this one and that, labourers he would not pay their wages to or tradesmen
whom he accused of cheating him; scandal said he starved his cows, and
there was much talk about some general action which should be taken
against him. Then there was the Vicar of Ferne, a bearded, fine figure of
a man: his wife had been forced to leave him because of his cruelty, and
she had filled the neighbourhood with stories of his immorality. The Vicar
of Surle, a tiny hamlet by the sea, was to be seen every evening in the
public house a stone's throw from his vicarage; and the churchwardens had
been to Mr. Carey to ask his advice. There was not a soul for any of them
to talk to except small farmers or fishermen; there were long winter
evenings when the wind blew, whistling drearily through the leafless
trees, and all around they saw nothing but the bare monotony of ploughed
fields; and there was poverty, and there was lack of any work that seemed
to matter; every kink in their characters had free play; there was nothing
to restrain them; they grew narrow and eccentric: Philip knew all this,
but in his young intolerance he did not offer it as an excuse. He shivered
at the thought of leading such a life; he wanted to get out into the
Mr. Perkins soon saw that his words had had no effect on Philip, and for
the rest of the term ignored him. He wrote a report which was vitriolic.
When it arrived and Aunt Louisa asked Philip what it was like, he answered
"Is it?" said the Vicar. "I must look at it again."
"Do you think there's any use in my staying on at Tercanbury? I should
have thought it would be better if I went to Germany for a bit."
"What has put that in your head?" said Aunt Louisa.
"Don't you think it's rather a good idea?"
Sharp had already left King's School and had written to Philip from
Hanover. He was really starting life, and it made Philip more restless to
think of it. He felt he could not bear another year of restraint.
"But then you wouldn't get a scholarship."
"I haven't a chance of getting one anyhow. And besides, I don't know that
I particularly want to go to Oxford."
"But if you're going to be ordained, Philip?" Aunt Louisa exclaimed in
"I've given up that idea long ago."
Mrs. Carey looked at him with startled eyes, and then, used to
self-restraint, she poured out another cup of tea for his uncle. They did
not speak. In a moment Philip saw tears slowly falling down her cheeks.
His heart was suddenly wrung because he caused her pain. In her tight
black dress, made by the dressmaker down the street, with her wrinkled
face and pale tired eyes, her gray hair still done in the frivolous
ringlets of her youth, she was a ridiculous but strangely pathetic figure.
Philip saw it for the first time.
Afterwards, when the Vicar was shut up in his study with the curate, he
put his arms round her waist.
"I say, I'm sorry you're upset, Aunt Louisa," he said. "But it's no good
my being ordained if I haven't a real vocation, is it?"
"I'm so disappointed, Philip," she moaned. "I'd set my heart on it. I
thought you could be your uncle's curate, and then when our time
came--after all, we can't last for ever, can we?--you might have taken his
Philip shivered. He was seized with panic. His heart beat like a pigeon in
a trap beating with its wings. His aunt wept softly, her head upon his
"I wish you'd persuade Uncle William to let me leave Tercanbury. I'm so
sick of it."
But the Vicar of Blackstable did not easily alter any arrangements he had
made, and it had always been intended that Philip should stay at King's
School till he was eighteen, and should then go to Oxford. At all events
he would not hear of Philip leaving then, for no notice had been given and
the term's fee would have to be paid in any case.
"Then will you give notice for me to leave at Christmas?" said Philip, at
the end of a long and often bitter conversation.
"I'll write to Mr. Perkins about it and see what he says."
"Oh, I wish to goodness I were twenty-one. It is awful to be at somebody
else's beck and call."
"Philip, you shouldn't speak to your uncle like that," said Mrs. Carey
"But don't you see that Perkins will want me to stay? He gets so much a
head for every chap in the school."
"Why don't you want to go to Oxford?"
"What's the good if I'm not going into the Church?"
"You can't go into the Church: you're in the Church already," said the
"Ordained then," replied Philip impatiently.
"What are you going to be, Philip?" asked Mrs. Carey.
"I don't know. I've not made up my mind. But whatever I am, it'll be
useful to know foreign languages. I shall get far more out of a year in
Germany than by staying on at that hole."
He would not say that he felt Oxford would be little better than a
continuation of his life at school. He wished immensely to be his own
master. Besides he would be known to a certain extent among old
schoolfellows, and he wanted to get away from them all. He felt that his
life at school had been a failure. He wanted to start fresh.
It happened that his desire to go to Germany fell in with certain ideas
which had been of late discussed at Blackstable. Sometimes friends came to
stay with the doctor and brought news of the world outside; and the
visitors spending August by the sea had their own way of looking at
things. The Vicar had heard that there were people who did not think the
old-fashioned education so useful nowadays as it had been in the past, and
modern languages were gaining an importance which they had not had in his
own youth. His own mind was divided, for a younger brother of his had been
sent to Germany when he failed in some examination, thus creating a
precedent but since he had there died of typhoid it was impossible to look
upon the experiment as other than dangerous. The result of innumerable
conversations was that Philip should go back to Tercanbury for another
term, and then should leave. With this agreement Philip was not
dissatisfied. But when he had been back a few days the headmaster spoke to
"I've had a letter from your uncle. It appears you want to go to Germany,
and he asks me what I think about it."
Philip was astounded. He was furious with his guardian for going back on
"I thought it was settled, sir," he said.
"Far from it. I've written to say I think it the greatest mistake to take
Philip immediately sat down and wrote a violent letter to his uncle. He
did not measure his language. He was so angry that he could not get to
sleep till quite late that night, and he awoke in the early morning and
began brooding over the way they had treated him. He waited impatiently
for an answer. In two or three days it came. It was a mild, pained letter
from Aunt Louisa, saying that he should not write such things to his
uncle, who was very much distressed. He was unkind and unchristian. He
must know they were only trying to do their best for him, and they were so
much older than he that they must be better judges of what was good for
him. Philip clenched his hands. He had heard that statement so often, and
he could not see why it was true; they did not know the conditions as he
did, why should they accept it as self-evident that their greater age gave
them greater wisdom? The letter ended with the information that Mr. Carey
had withdrawn the notice he had given.
Philip nursed his wrath till the next half-holiday. They had them on
Tuesdays and Thursdays, since on Saturday afternoons they had to go to a
service in the Cathedral. He stopped behind when the rest of the Sixth
"May I go to Blackstable this afternoon, please, sir?" he asked.
"No," said the headmaster briefly.
"I wanted to see my uncle about something very important."
"Didn't you hear me say no?"
Philip did not answer. He went out. He felt almost sick with humiliation,
the humiliation of having to ask and the humiliation of the curt refusal.
He hated the headmaster now. Philip writhed under that despotism which
never vouchsafed a reason for the most tyrannous act. He was too angry to
care what he did, and after dinner walked down to the station, by the back
ways he knew so well, just in time to catch the train to Blackstable. He
walked into the vicarage and found his uncle and aunt sitting in the
"Hulloa, where have you sprung from?" said the Vicar.
It was very clear that he was not pleased to see him. He looked a little
"I thought I'd come and see you about my leaving. I want to know what you
mean by promising me one thing when I was here, and doing something
different a week after."
He was a little frightened at his own boldness, but he had made up his
mind exactly what words to use, and, though his heart beat violently, he
forced himself to say them.
"Have you got leave to come here this afternoon?"
"No. I asked Perkins and he refused. If you like to write and tell him
I've been here you can get me into a really fine old row."
Mrs. Carey sat knitting with trembling hands. She was unused to scenes and
they agitated her extremely.
"It would serve you right if I told him," said Mr. Carey.
"If you like to be a perfect sneak you can. After writing to Perkins as
you did you're quite capable of it."
It was foolish of Philip to say that, because it gave the Vicar exactly
the opportunity he wanted.
"I'm not going to sit still while you say impertinent things to me," he
said with dignity.
He got up and walked quickly out of the room into his study. Philip heard
him shut the door and lock it.
"Oh, I wish to God I were twenty-one. It is awful to be tied down like
Aunt Louisa began to cry quietly.
"Oh, Philip, you oughtn't to have spoken to your uncle like that. Do
please go and tell him you're sorry."
"I'm not in the least sorry. He's taking a mean advantage. Of course it's
just waste of money keeping me on at school, but what does he care? It's
not his money. It was cruel to put me under the guardianship of people who
know nothing about things."
Philip in his voluble anger stopped suddenly at the sound of her voice. It
was heart-broken. He had not realised what bitter things he was saying.
"Philip, how can you be so unkind? You know we are only trying to do our
best for you, and we know that we have no experience; it isn't as if we'd
had any children of our own: that's why we consulted Mr. Perkins." Her
voice broke. "I've tried to be like a mother to you. I've loved you as if
you were my own son."
She was so small and frail, there was something so pathetic in her
old-maidish air, that Philip was touched. A great lump came suddenly in
his throat and his eyes filled with tears.
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to be beastly."
He knelt down beside her and took her in his arms, and kissed her wet,
withered cheeks. She sobbed bitterly, and he seemed to feel on a sudden
the pity of that wasted life. She had never surrendered herself before to
such a display of emotion.
"I know I've not been what I wanted to be to you, Philip, but I didn't
know how. It's been just as dreadful for me to have no children as for you
to have no mother."
Philip forgot his anger and his own concerns, but thought only of
consoling her, with broken words and clumsy little caresses. Then the
clock struck, and he had to bolt off at once to catch the only train that
would get him back to Tercanbury in time for call-over. As he sat in the
corner of the railway carriage he saw that he had done nothing. He was
angry with himself for his weakness. It was despicable to have allowed
himself to be turned from his purpose by the pompous airs of the Vicar and
the tears of his aunt. But as the result of he knew not what conversations
between the couple another letter was written to the headmaster. Mr.
Perkins read it with an impatient shrug of the shoulders. He showed it to
Philip. It ran:
Dear Mr. Perkins,
Forgive me for troubling you again about my ward, but both his Aunt and I
have been uneasy about him. He seems very anxious to leave school, and his
Aunt thinks he is unhappy. It is very difficult for us to know what to do
as we are not his parents. He does not seem to think he is doing very well
and he feels it is wasting his money to stay on. I should be very much
obliged if you would have a talk to him, and if he is still of the same
mind perhaps it would be better if he left at Christmas as I originally
Yours very truly,
Philip gave him back the letter. He felt a thrill of pride in his triumph.
He had got his own way, and he was satisfied. His will had gained a
victory over the wills of others.
"It's not much good my spending half an hour writing to your uncle if he
changes his mind the next letter he gets from you," said the headmaster
Philip said nothing, and his face was perfectly placid; but he could not
prevent the twinkle in his eyes. Mr. Perkins noticed it and broke into a
"You've rather scored, haven't you?" he said.
Then Philip smiled outright. He could not conceal his exultation.
"Is it true that you're very anxious to leave?"
"Are you unhappy here?"
Philip blushed. He hated instinctively any attempt to get into the depths
of his feelings.
"Oh, I don't know, sir."
Mr. Perkins, slowly dragging his fingers through his beard, looked at him
thoughtfully. He seemed to speak almost to himself.
"Of course schools are made for the average. The holes are all round, and
whatever shape the pegs are they must wedge in somehow. One hasn't time to
bother about anything but the average." Then suddenly he addressed himself
to Philip: "Look here, I've got a suggestion to make to you. It's getting
on towards the end of the term now. Another term won't kill you, and if
you want to go to Germany you'd better go after Easter than after
Christmas. It'll be much pleasanter in the spring than in midwinter. If at
the end of the next term you still want to go I'll make no objection. What
d'you say to that?"
"Thank you very much, sir."
Philip was so glad to have gained the last three months that he did not
mind the extra term. The school seemed less of a prison when he knew that
before Easter he would be free from it for ever. His heart danced within
him. That evening in chapel he looked round at the boys, standing
according to their forms, each in his due place, and he chuckled with
satisfaction at the thought that soon he would never see them again. It
made him regard them almost with a friendly feeling. His eyes rested on
Rose. Rose took his position as a monitor very seriously: he had quite an
idea of being a good influence in the school; it was his turn to read the
lesson that evening, and he read it very well. Philip smiled when he
thought that he would be rid of him for ever, and it would not matter in
six months whether Rose was tall and straight-limbed; and where would the
importance be that he was a monitor and captain of the eleven? Philip
looked at the masters in their gowns. Gordon was dead, he had died of
apoplexy two years before, but all the rest were there. Philip knew now
what a poor lot they were, except Turner perhaps, there was something of
a man in him; and he writhed at the thought of the subjection in which
they had held him. In six months they would not matter either. Their
praise would mean nothing to him, and he would shrug his shoulders at
Philip had learned not to express his emotions by outward signs, and
shyness still tormented him, but he had often very high spirits; and then,
though he limped about demurely, silent and reserved, it seemed to be
hallooing in his heart. He seemed to himself to walk more lightly. All
sorts of ideas danced through his head, fancies chased one another so
furiously that he could not catch them; but their coming and their going
filled him with exhilaration. Now, being happy, he was able to work, and
during the remaining weeks of the term set himself to make up for his long
neglect. His brain worked easily, and he took a keen pleasure in the
activity of his intellect. He did very well in the examinations that
closed the term. Mr. Perkins made only one remark: he was talking to him
about an essay he had written, and, after the usual criticisms, said:
"So you've made up your mind to stop playing the fool for a bit, have
He smiled at him with his shining teeth, and Philip, looking down, gave an
The half dozen boys who expected to divide between them the various prizes
which were given at the end of the summer term had ceased to look upon
Philip as a serious rival, but now they began to regard him with some
uneasiness. He told no one that he was leaving at Easter and so was in no
sense a competitor, but left them to their anxieties. He knew that Rose
flattered himself on his French, for he had spent two or three holidays in
France; and he expected to get the Dean's Prize for English essay; Philip
got a good deal of satisfaction in watching his dismay when he saw how
much better Philip was doing in these subjects than himself. Another
fellow, Norton, could not go to Oxford unless he got one of the
scholarships at the disposal of the school. He asked Philip if he was
going in for them.
"Have you any objection?" asked Philip.
It entertained him to think that he held someone else's future in his
hand. There was something romantic in getting these various rewards
actually in his grasp, and then leaving them to others because he
disdained them. At last the breaking-up day came, and he went to Mr.
Perkins to bid him good-bye.
"You don't mean to say you really want to leave?"
Philip's face fell at the headmaster's evident surprise.
"You said you wouldn't put any objection in the way, sir," he answered.
"I thought it was only a whim that I'd better humour. I know you're
obstinate and headstrong. What on earth d'you want to leave for now?
You've only got another term in any case. You can get the Magdalen
scholarship easily; you'll get half the prizes we've got to give."
Philip looked at him sullenly. He felt that he had been tricked; but he
had the promise, and Perkins would have to stand by it.
"You'll have a very pleasant time at Oxford. You needn't decide at once
what you're going to do afterwards. I wonder if you realise how delightful
the life is up there for anyone who has brains."
"I've made all my arrangements now to go to Germany, sir," said Philip.
"Are they arrangements that couldn't possibly be altered?" asked Mr.
Perkins, with his quizzical smile. "I shall be very sorry to lose you. In
schools the rather stupid boys who work always do better than the clever
boy who's idle, but when the clever boy works--why then, he does what
you've done this term."
Philip flushed darkly. He was unused to compliments, and no one had ever
told him he was clever. The headmaster put his hand on Philip's shoulder.
"You know, driving things into the heads of thick-witted boys is dull
work, but when now and then you have the chance of teaching a boy who
comes half-way towards you, who understands almost before you've got the
words out of your mouth, why, then teaching is the most exhilarating thing
in the world." Philip was melted by kindness; it had never occurred to him
that it mattered really to Mr. Perkins whether he went or stayed. He was
touched and immensely flattered. It would be pleasant to end up his
school-days with glory and then go to Oxford: in a flash there appeared
before him the life which he had heard described from boys who came back
to play in the O.K.S. match or in letters from the University read out in
one of the studies. But he was ashamed; he would look such a fool in his
own eyes if he gave in now; his uncle would chuckle at the success of the
headmaster's ruse. It was rather a come-down from the dramatic surrender
of all these prizes which were in his reach, because he disdained to take
them, to the plain, ordinary winning of them. It only required a little
more persuasion, just enough to save his self-respect, and Philip would
have done anything that Mr. Perkins wished; but his face showed nothing of
his conflicting emotions. It was placid and sullen.
"I think I'd rather go, sir," he said.
Mr. Perkins, like many men who manage things by their personal influence,
grew a little impatient when his power was not immediately manifest. He
had a great deal of work to do, and could not waste more time on a boy who
seemed to him insanely obstinate.
"Very well, I promised to let you if you really wanted it, and I keep my
promise. When do you go to Germany?"
Philip's heart beat violently. The battle was won, and he did not know
whether he had not rather lost it.
"At the beginning of May, sir," he answered.
"Well, you must come and see us when you get back."
He held out his hand. If he had given him one more chance Philip would
have changed his mind, but he seemed to look upon the matter as settled.
Philip walked out of the house. His school-days were over, and he was
free; but the wild exultation to which he had looked forward at that
moment was not there. He walked round the precincts slowly, and a profound
depression seized him. He wished now that he had not been foolish. He did
not want to go, but he knew he could never bring himself to go to the
headmaster and tell him he would stay. That was a humiliation he could
never put upon himself. He wondered whether he had done right. He was
dissatisfied with himself and with all his circumstances. He asked himself
dully whether whenever you got your way you wished afterwards that you
Philip's uncle had an old friend, called Miss Wilkinson, who lived in
Berlin. She was the daughter of a clergyman, and it was with her father,
the rector of a village in Lincolnshire, that Mr. Carey had spent his last
curacy; on his death, forced to earn her living, she had taken various
situations as a governess in France and Germany. She had kept up a
correspondence with Mrs. Carey, and two or three times had spent her
holidays at Blackstable Vicarage, paying as was usual with the Careys'
unfrequent guests a small sum for her keep. When it became clear that it
was less trouble to yield to Philip's wishes than to resist them, Mrs.
Carey wrote to ask her for advice. Miss Wilkinson recommended Heidelberg
as an excellent place to learn German in and the house of Frau Professor
Erlin as a comfortable home. Philip might live there for thirty marks a
week, and the Professor himself, a teacher at the local high school, would
Philip arrived in Heidelberg one morning in May. His things were put on a
barrow and he followed the porter out of the station. The sky was bright
blue, and the trees in the avenue through which they passed were thick
with leaves; there was something in the air fresh to Philip, and mingled
with the timidity he felt at entering on a new life, among strangers, was
a great exhilaration. He was a little disconsolate that no one had come to
meet him, and felt very shy when the porter left him at the front door of
a big white house. An untidy lad let him in and took him into a
drawing-room. It was filled with a large suite covered in green velvet,
and in the middle was a round table. On this in water stood a bouquet of
flowers tightly packed together in a paper frill like the bone of a mutton
chop, and carefully spaced round it were books in leather bindings. There
was a musty smell.
Presently, with an odour of cooking, the Frau Professor came in, a short,
very stout woman with tightly dressed hair and a red face; she had little
eyes, sparkling like beads, and an effusive manner. She took both Philip's
hands and asked him about Miss Wilkinson, who had twice spent a few weeks
with her. She spoke in German and in broken English. Philip could not make
her understand that he did not know Miss Wilkinson. Then her two daughters
appeared. They seemed hardly young to Philip, but perhaps they were not
more than twenty-five: the elder, Thekla, was as short as her mother, with
the same, rather shifty air, but with a pretty face and abundant dark
hair; Anna, her younger sister, was tall and plain, but since she had a
pleasant smile Philip immediately preferred her. After a few minutes of
polite conversation the Frau Professor took Philip to his room and left
him. It was in a turret, looking over the tops of the trees in the Anlage;
and the bed was in an alcove, so that when you sat at the desk it had not
the look of a bed-room at all. Philip unpacked his things and set out all
his books. He was his own master at last.
A bell summoned him to dinner at one o'clock, and he found the Frau
Professor's guests assembled in the drawing-room. He was introduced to her
husband, a tall man of middle age with a large fair head, turning now to
gray, and mild blue eyes. He spoke to Philip in correct, rather archaic
English, having learned it from a study of the English classics, not from
conversation; and it was odd to hear him use words colloquially which
Philip had only met in the plays of Shakespeare. Frau Professor Erlin
called her establishment a family and not a pension; but it would have
required the subtlety of a metaphysician to find out exactly where the
difference lay. When they sat down to dinner in a long dark apartment that
led out of the drawing-room, Philip, feeling very shy, saw that there were
sixteen people. The Frau Professor sat at one end and carved. The service
was conducted, with a great clattering of plates, by the same clumsy lout
who had opened the door for him; and though he was quick it happened that
the first persons to be served had finished before the last had received
their appointed portions. The Frau Professor insisted that nothing but
German should be spoken, so that Philip, even if his bashfulness had
permitted him to be talkative, was forced to hold his tongue. He looked at
the people among whom he was to live. By the Frau Professor sat several
old ladies, but Philip did not give them much of his attention. There were
two young girls, both fair and one of them very pretty, whom Philip heard
addressed as Fraulein Hedwig and Fraulein Cacilie. Fraulein Cacilie had a
long pig-tail hanging down her back. They sat side by side and chattered
to one another, with smothered laughter: now and then they glanced at
Philip and one of them said something in an undertone; they both giggled,
and Philip blushed awkwardly, feeling that they were making fun of him.
Near them sat a Chinaman, with a yellow face and an expansive smile, who
was studying Western conditions at the University. He spoke so quickly,
with a queer accent, that the girls could not always understand him, and
then they burst out laughing. He laughed too, good-humouredly, and his
almond eyes almost closed as he did so. There were two or three American
men, in black coats, rather yellow and dry of skin: they were theological
students; Philip heard the twang of their New England accent through their
bad German, and he glanced at them with suspicion; for he had been taught
to look upon Americans as wild and desperate barbarians.
Afterwards, when they had sat for a little on the stiff green velvet
chairs of the drawing-room, Fraulein Anna asked Philip if he would like to
go for a walk with them.
Philip accepted the invitation. They were quite a party. There were the
two daughters of the Frau Professor, the two other girls, one of the
American students, and Philip. Philip walked by the side of Anna and
Fraulein Hedwig. He was a little fluttered. He had never known any girls.
At Blackstable there were only the farmers' daughters and the girls of the
local tradesmen. He knew them by name and by sight, but he was timid, and
he thought they laughed at his deformity. He accepted willingly the
difference which the Vicar and Mrs. Carey put between their own exalted
rank and that of the farmers. The doctor had two daughters, but they were
both much older than Philip and had been married to successive assistants
while Philip was still a small boy. At school there had been two or three
girls of more boldness than modesty whom some of the boys knew; and
desperate stories, due in all probability to the masculine imagination,
were told of intrigues with them; but Philip had always concealed under a
lofty contempt the terror with which they filled him. His imagination and
the books he had read had inspired in him a desire for the Byronic
attitude; and he was torn between a morbid self-consciousness and a
conviction that he owed it to himself to be gallant. He felt now that he
should be bright and amusing, but his brain seemed empty and he could not
for the life of him think of anything to say. Fraulein Anna, the Frau