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Philistia (Chapter22)

2006-08-28 23:26

  Chapter XXII. The Philistines Triumph.

  'My dear,' said Dr. Greatrex, looking up in alarm from the lunch table one morning, in the third term of Ernest Le Breton's stay at Pilbury, 'what an awful apparition! Do you know, I positively see Mr. Blenkinsopp, father of that odious boy Blenkinsopp major, distinctly visible to the naked eye, walking across the front lawn——on the grass too——to our doorway. The pupil's parent is really the very greatest bane of all the banes that beset a poor harassed overdriven schoolmaster's unfortunate existence!'

  'Blenkinsopp?' Mrs. Greatrex said reflectively. 'Blenkinsopp? Who is he? Oh, I remember, a tobacco-pipe manufacturer somewhere in the midland counties, isn't he? Mr. Blenkinsopp, of Staffordshire, I always say to other parents——not Brosely——Brosely sounds decidedly commercial and unpresentable. No nice people would naturally like their sons to mix with miscellaneous boys from a place called Brosely. Now, what on earth can he be coming here for, I wonder, Joseph?'

  'Oh, I know,' the doctor answered with a deep-drawn sigh. 'I know, Maria, only too well. It's the way of all parents. He's come to inquire after Blenkinsopp major's health and progress. They all do it. They seem to think the sole object of a head-master's existence is to look after the comfort and morals of their own particular Tommy, or Bobby, or Dicky, or Harry. For heaven's sake, what form is Blenkinsopp major in? For heaven's sake, what's his Christian name, and age last birthday, and place in French and mathematics, and general state of health for past quarter? Where's the prompt-book, with house-master's and form-master's report, Maria? Oh, here it is, thank goodness! Let me see; let me see——he's ringing at the door this very instant. "Blenkinsopp…… major…… Charles Warrington…… fifteen…… fifth form…… average, twelfth boy of twelve…… idle, inattentive, naturally stupid; bad disposition…… health invariably excellent…… second eleven…… bats well." That'll do. Run my eye down once again, and I shall remember all about him. How about the other? "Blenkinsopp…… minor…… Cyril Anastasius Guy Waterbury Macfarlane"——heavens, what a name!…… "thirteen…… fourth form…… average, seventh boy of eighteen…… industrious and well-meaning, but heavy and ineffective…… health good…… fourth eleven…… fields badly." Ah, that's the most important one. Now I'm primed. Blenkinsopp major I remember something about, for he's one of the worst and most hopelessly stupid boys in the whole school——I've caned him frequently this term, and that keeps a boy green in one's memory; but Blenkinsopp minor, Cyril Anastasius Guy Thingumbob Whatyoumaycallit,——I don't remember him a bit. I suppose he's one of those inoffensive, mildly mediocre sort of boys who fail to impress their individuality upon one in any way. My experience is that you can always bear in mind the three cleverest boys at the top of each form, and the three stupidest or most mischievous boys at the bottom; but the nine or a dozen meritorious nobodies in the middle of the class are all so like one another in every way that you might as well try to discriminate between every individual sheep of a flock in a pasture. And yet, such is the natural contradictiousness and vexatious disposition of the British parent, that you'll always find him coming to inquire after just one of those very particular Tommies or Bobbies. Charles Warrington:——Cyril Anastasius Guy Whatyoumay——call it: that'll do: I shall remember now all about them.' And the doctor arranged his hair before the looking glass into the most professional stiffness, as a preparatory step to facing Mr. Blenkinsopp's parental inquiries in the head-master's study.

  'What! Mr. Blenkinsopp! Yes, it is really. My dear sir, how do you do? This is a most unexpected pleasure. We hadn't the least idea you were in Pilbury. When did you come here?'

  'I came last night, Dr. Greatrex,' answered the dreaded parent respectfully: 'we've come down from Staffordshire for a week at the seaside, and we thought we might as well be within hail of Guy and Charlie.'

  'Quite right, quite right, my dear sir,' said the doctor, mentally noting that Blenkinsopp minor was familiarly known as Guy, not Cyril; 'we're delighted to see you. And now you want to know all about our two young friends, don't you?'

  'Well, yes, Dr. Greatrex; I should like to know how they are getting on.'

  'Ah, of course, of course. Very right. It's such a pleasure to us when parents give us their active and hearty co-operation! You'd hardly believe, Mr. Blenkinsopp, how little interest some parents seem to feel in their boys' progress. To us, you know, who devote our whole time and energy assiduously to their ultimate welfare, it's sometimes quite discouraging to see how very little the parents themselves seem to care about it. But your boys are both doing capitally. The eldest——Blenkinsopp major, we call him; Charles Warrington, isn't it? (His home name's Charlie, if I recollect right. Ah, quite so.) Well, Charlie's the very picture of perfect health, as usual.' ('Health is his only strong point, it seems to me,' the doctor thought to himself instinctively. 'We must put that first and foremost.') 'In excellent health and very good spirits. He's in the second eleven now, and a capital batter: I've no doubt he'll go into the first eleven next term, if we lose Biddlecomb Tertius to the university. In work, as you know, he's not very great; doesn't do his abilities full justice, Mr. Blenkinsopp, through his dreadful inattention. He's generally near the bottom of the form, I'm sorry to say; generally near the bottom of the form.'

  'Well, I dare say there's no harm in that, sir,' said Mr. Blenkinsopp, senior, warmly. 'I was always at the bottom of the form at school myself, Doctor, but I've picked it up in after life; I've picked it up, sir, as you see, and I'm fully equal with most other people nowadays, as you'll find if you inquire of any town councilman or man of position down our way, at Brosely.'

  'Ah, I dare say you were, Mr. Blenkinsopp,' the doctor answered blandly, with just the faintest tinge of unconscious satire, peering at his square unintelligent features as a fancier peers at the face of a bull-dog; 'I dare say you were now. After all, however clever a set of boys may be, one of them must be at the bottom of the form, in the nature of things, mustn't he? And your Charlie, I think, is only fifteen. Ah, yes; well, well; he'll do better, no doubt, if we keep him here a year or two longer. So then there's the second: Guy, you call him, if I remember right——Cyril Anastasius Guy——our Blenkinsopp minor. Guy's a good boy; an excellent boy: to tell you the plain truth, Mr. Blenkinsopp, I don't know much of him personally myself, which is a fact that tells greatly in his favour. Charlie I must admit I have to call up some times for reproof: Guy, never. Charlie's in the fifth form: Guy's seventh in the fourth. A capital place for a boy of his age! He's very industrious, you know——what we call a plodder. They call it a plodder, you see, at thirteen, Mr. Blenkinsopp, but a man of ability at forty.' Dr. Greatrex delivered that last effective shot point-blank at the eyes of the inquiring parent, and felt in a moment that its delicate generalised flattery had gone home straight to the parent's susceptible heart.

  'But there's one thing, Doctor,' Mr. Blenkinsopp began, after a few minutes' further conversation on the merits and failings of Guy and Charlie, 'there's one other thing I feel I should like to speak to you about, and that's the teaching of your fifth form master, Mr. Le Breton. From what Charlie tells me, I don't quite like that young man's political ideas and opinions. It's said things to his form sometimes that are quite horrifying, I assure you; things about Property, and about our duty to the poor, and so on, that are positively enough to appal you. Now, for example, he told them——I don't quite like to repeat it, for it's sheer blasphemy I call it——but he told them in a Greek Testament lesson that the Apostles themselves were a sort of Republicans——Socialists, I think Charlie said, or else Chartists, or dynamiters. I'm not sure he didn't say St. Peter himself was a regular communist!'

  Dr. Greatrex drew a long breath. 'I should think, Mr. Blenkinsopp,' he suggested blandly, 'Charlie must really have misunderstood Mr. Le Breton. You see, they've been reading the Acts of the Apostles in their Greek Testament this term. Now, of course, you remember that, during the first days of the infant Church, while its necessities were yet so great, as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. You see, here's the passage, Mr. Blenkinsopp, in the authorised version. I won't trouble you with the original. You've forgotten most of your Greek, I dare say: ah, I thought go. It doesn't stick to us like the Latin, does it? Now, perhaps, in expounding that passage, Mr. Le Breton may have referred in passing——as an illustration merely——to the unhappily prevalent modern doctrines of socialism and communism. He may have warned his boys, for example, against confounding a Christian communism like this, if I may so style it, with the rapacious, aggressive, immoral forms of communism now proposed to us, which are based upon the forcible disregard of all Property and all vested interests of every sort. I don't say he did, you know, for I haven't conferred with him upon the subject: but he may have done so; and he may even have used, as I have used, the phrase "Christian communism," to define the temporary attitude of the apostles and the early Church in this matter. That, perhaps, my dear sir, may be the origin of the misapprehension.'

  Mr. Blenkinsopp looked hard at the three verses in the big Bible the doctor had handed him, with a somewhat suspicious glare. He was a self-made man, with land and houses of his own in plenty, and he didn't quite like this suggestive talk about selling them and laying the prices at the apostles' feet. It savoured to him both of communism and priestcraft. 'That's an awkward text, you know,' he said, looking up curiously from the Bible in his hand into the doctor's face, 'a very awkward text; and I should say it was rather a dangerous one to set too fully before young people. It seems to me to make too little altogether of Property. You know, Dr. Greatrex, at first sight it does look just a little like communism.'

  'Precisely what Mr. Le Breton probably said,' the doctor answered, following up his advantage quickly. 'At first sight, no doubt, but at first sight only, I assure you, Mr. Blenkinsopp. If you look on to the fourth verse of the next chapter, you'll see that St. Peter, at least, was no communist,——which is perhaps what Mr. Le Breton really said. St. Peter there argues in favour of purely voluntary beneficence, you observe; as when you, Mr. Blenkinsopp, contribute a guinea to our chapel window:——you see, we're grateful to our kind benefactors: we don't forget them. And if you'll look at the Thirty-eighth Article of the Church of England, my dear sir, you'll find that the riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same as certain Anabaptists——(Gracious heavens, is he a Baptist, I wonder?——if so, I've put my foot in it)——certain Anabaptists do falsely boast——referring, of course, to sundry German fanatics of the time——followers of one Kniperdoling, a crazy enthusiast, not to the respectable English Baptist denomination; but that nevertheless every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor. That, you see, is the doctrine of the Church of England, and that, I've no doubt, is the doctrine that Mr. Le Breton pointed out to your boys as the true Christian communism of St. Peter and the apostles.'

  'Well, I hope so, Dr. Greatrex,' Mr. Blenkinsopp answered resignedly. 'I'm sure I hope so, for his own sake, as well as for his pupils'. Still, in these days, you know, when infidelity and Radicalism are so rife, one ought to be on one's guard against atheism and revolution, and attacks on Property in every form; oughtn't one, Doctor? These opinions are getting so rampant all around us, Property itself isn't safe. One really hardly knows what people are coming to nowadays. Why, last night I came down here and stopped at the Royal Marine, on the Parade, and having nothing else to do, while my wife was looking after the little ones, I turned into a hall down in Combe Street, where I saw a lot of placards up about a Grand National Social Democratic meeting. Well, I turned in, Dr. Greatrex, and there I heard a German refugee fellow from London——a white-haired man of the name of Schurts, or something of the sort'——Mr. Blenkinsopp pronounced it to rhyme with 'hurts'——'who was declaiming away in a fashion to make your hair stand on end, and frighten you half out of your wits with his dreadful communistic notions. I assure you, he positively took my breath away. I ran out of the hall at last, while he was still speaking, for fear the roof should fall in upon our heads and crush us to pieces. I declare to you, sir, I quite expected a visible judgment!'

  'Did you really now?' said Dr. Greatrex, languidly. 'Well, I dare say, for I know there's a sad prevalence of revolutionary feeling among our workmen here, Mr, Blenkinsopp. Now, what was this man Schurz talking about?'

  'Why, sheer communism, sir,' said Mr. Blenkinsopp, severely: 'sheer communism, I can tell you. Co-operation of workmen to rob their employers of profits; gross denunciation of capital and capitalists; and regular inciting of them against the Property of the landlords, by quoting Scripture, too, Doctor, by quoting the very words of Scripture. They say the devil can quote Scripture to his own destruction, don't they, Doctor? Well, he quoted something out of the Bible about woe unto them that join field to field, or words to that effect, to make themselves a solitude in the midst of the earth. Do you know, it strikes me that it's a very dangerous book, the Bible——in the hands of these socialistic demagogues, I mean. Look now, at that passage, and at what Mr. Le Breton said about Christian communism!'

  'But, my dear Mr. Blenkinsopp,' the doctor cried, in a tone of gentle deprecation, 'I hope you don't confound a person like this man Schurz, a German refugee of the worst type, with our Mr. Le Breton, an Oxford graduate and an English gentleman of excellent family. I know Schurz by name through the papers: he's the author of a dreadful book called "Gold and the Proletariate," or something of that sort——a revolutionary work like Tom Paine's "Age of Reason," I believe——and he goes about the country now and then, lecturing and agitating, to make money, no doubt, out of the poor, misguided, credulous workmen. You quite pain me when you mention him in the same breath with a hard-working, conscientious, able teacher like our Mr. Le Breton.'

  'Oh,' Mr. Blenkinsopp went on, a little mollified, 'then Mr. Le Breton's of a good family, is he? That's a great safeguard, at any rate, for you don't find people of good family running recklessly after these bloodthirsty doctrines, and disregarding the claims of Property.'

  'My dear sir,' the doctor continued, 'we know his mother, Lady Le Breton, personally. His father, Sir Owen, was a distinguished officer-general in the Indian army in fact; and all his people are extremely well connected with some of our best county families. Nothing wrong about him in any way, I can answer for it. He came here direct from Lord Exmoor's, where he'd been acting as tutor to Viscount Lynmouth, the eldest son of the Tregellis family: and you may be sure they wouldn't have anybody about them in any capacity who wasn't thoroughly and perfectly responsible, and free from any prejudice against the just rights of property.'

  At each successive step of this collective guarantee to Ernest Le Breton's perfect respectability, Mr. Blenkinsopp's square face beamed brighter and brighter, till at last when the name of Lord Exmour was finally reached, his mouth relaxed slowly into a broad smile, and he felt that he might implicitly trust the education of his boys to a person so intimately bound up with the best and highest interests of religion and Property in this kingdom. 'Of course,' he said placidly, 'that puts quite a different complexion upon the matter, Dr. Greatrex. I'm very glad to hear young Mr. Le Breton's such an excellent and trustworthy person. But the fact is, that Schurts man gave me quite a turn for the moment, with his sanguinary notions. I wish you could see the man, sir; a long white-haired, savage-bearded, fierce-eyed old revolutionist if ever there was one. It made me shudder to look at him, not raving and ranting like a madman——I shouldn't have minded so much if he'd a done that; but talking as cool and calm and collected, Doctor, about "eliminating the capitalist"——cutting off my head, in fact——as we two are talking here together at this moment. His very words were, sir, "we must eliminate the capitalist." Why, bless my soul,'——and here Mr. Blenkinsopp rushed to the window excitedly——'who on earth's this coming across your lawn, here, arm in arm with Mr. Le Breton, into the school-house? Man alive, Dr. Greatrex, whatever you choose to say, hanged if it isn't realty that German cut-throat fellow himself, and no mistake at all about it!'

  Dr. Greatrex rose from his magisterial chair and glanced with dignified composure out of the window. Yes, there was positively no denying it! Ernest Le Breton, in cap and gown, with Edie by his side, was walking arm in arm up to the school-house with a long-bearded, large-headed German-looking man, whose placid powerful face the Doctor immediately recognised as the one he had seen in the illustrated papers above the name of Max Schurz, the defendant in the coming state trial for unlawfully uttering a seditious libel! He could hardly believe his eyes. Though he knew Ernest's opinions were dreadfully advanced, he could not have suspected him of thus consorting with positive murderous political criminals. In spite of his natural and kindly desire to screen his own junior master, he felt that this public exhibition of irreconcilable views was quite unpardonable and irretrievable. 'Mr. Blenkinsopp,' he said gravely, turning to the awe-struck tobacco-pipe manufacturer with an expression of sympathetic dismay upon his practised face, 'I must retract all I have just been saying to you about our junior master. I was not aware of this. Mr. Le Breton must no longer retain his post as an assistant at Pilbury Regis Grammar School.'

  Mr. Blenkinsopp sank amazed into an easy-chair, and sat in dumb astonishment to see the end of this extraordinary and unprecedented adventure. The Doctor walked out severely to the school porch, and stood there in solemn state to await the approach of the unsuspecting offender.

  'It's so delightful, dear Herr Max,' Ernest was saying at that exact moment, 'to have you down here with us even for a single night. You can't imagine what an oasis your coming has been to us both. I'm sure Edie has enjoyed it just as much as I have, and is just as anxious you should stop a little time here with us as I myself could possibly be.

  'Oh, yes, Herr Schurz,' Edie put in persuasively with her sweet little pleading manner; 'do stay a little longer. I don't know when dear Ernest has enjoyed anything in the world so much as he has enjoyed seeing you. You've no idea how dull it is down here for him, and for me too, for that matter; everybody here is so borne, and narrow-minded and self-centred; nothing expansive or sympathetic about them, as there used to be about Ernest's set in dear, quiet, peaceable old Oxford. It's been such a pleasure to us to hear some conversation again that wasn't about the school, and the rector, and the Haigh Park people, and the flower show, and old Mrs. Jenkins's quarrel with the vicar of St. Barnabas. Except when Mr. Berkeley runs down sometimes for a Saturday to Monday trip to see us, and takes Ernest out for a good blow with him on the top of the breezy downs over yonder, we really never hear anything at all except the gossip and the small-talk of Pilbury Regis.'

  'And what makes it worse, Herr Max,' said Ernest, looking up in the old man's calm strong face with the same reverent almost filial love and respect as ever, 'is the fact that I can't feel any real interest and enthusiasm in the work that's set before me. I try to do it as well as I can, and I believe Dr. Greatrex, who's a kind-hearted good sort of man in his way, is perfectly satisfied with it; but my heart isn't in it, you see, and can't be in it. What sort of good is one doing the world by dinning the same foolish round of Horace and Livy and Latin elegiacs into the heads of all these useless, eat-all, do-nothing young fellows, who'll only be fit to fight or preach or idle as soon as we've finished cramming them with our indigestible unserviceable nostrums!'

  'Ah, Ernest, Ernest,' said Herr Max, nodding his heavy head gravely, 'you always will look too seriously altogether at your social duties. I can't get other people to do it enough; and I can't get you not to do it too much entirely. Remember, my dear boy, my pet old saying about a little leaven. You're doing more good by just unobtrusively holding your own opinions here at Pilbury, and getting in the thin end of the wedge by slowly influencing the minds of a few middle-class boys in your form, than you could possibly be doing by making shoes or weaving clothes for the fractional benefit of general humanity. Don't be so abstract, Ernest; concrete yourself a little; isn't it enough that you're earning a livelihood for your dear little wife here, whom I'm glad to know at last and to receive as a worthy daughter? I may call you, Edie, mayn't I, my daughter? So this is your school, is it? A pleasant building! And that stern-looking old gentleman yonder, I suppose, is your head master?'

  'Dr. Greatrex,' said Edie innocently, stepping up to him in her bright elastic fashion, 'let me introduce you to our friend Herr Schurz, whose name I dare say you know——the German political economist. He's come down to Pilbury to deliver a lecture here, and we've been fortunate enough to put him up at our little lodging.'

  The doctor bowed very stiffly. 'I have heard of Herr Schurz's reputation already,' he said with as much diplomatic politeness as he could command, fortunately bethinking himself at the right moment of the exact phrase that would cover the situation without committing him to any further courtesy towards the terrible stranger. 'Will you excuse my saying, Mrs. Le Breton, that we're very busy this afternoon, and I want to have a few words with your husband in private immediately? Perhaps you'd better take Herr Schurz on to the downs' ('safer there than on the Parade, at any rate,' he thought to himself quickly), 'and Le Breton will join you in the combe a little later in the afternoon. I'll take the fifth form myself, and let him have a holiday with his friend here if he'd like one. Le Breton, will you step this way please?' And lifting his square cap with stern solemnity to Edie, the doctor disappeared under the porch into the corridor, closely followed by poor frightened and wondering Ernest.

  Edie looked at Herr Max in dismay, for she saw clearly there was something serious the matter with the doctor. The old man shook his head sadly. 'It was very wrong of me,' he said bitterly: 'very wrong and very thoughtless. I ought to have remembered it and stopped away. I'm a caput lupinum, it seems, in Pilbury Regis, a sort of moral scarecrow or political leper, to be carefully avoided like some horrid contagion by a respectable, prosperous head-master. I might have known it, I might have known it, Edie; and now I'm afraid by my stupidity I've got dear Ernest unintentionally into a pack of troubles. Come on, my child, my poor dear child, come on to the downs, as he told us; I won't compromise you any longer by being seen with you in the streets, in the decent decorous whited sepulchres of Pilbury Regis.' And the grey old apostle, with two tears trickling unreproved down his wrinkled cheek, took Edie's arm tenderly in his, and led her like a father up to the green grassy slope that overlooks the little seaward combe by the nestling village of Nether Pilbury.

  Meanwhile, Dr. Greatrex had taken Ernest into the breakfast-room——the study was already monopolised by Mr. Blenkinsopp——and had seated himself nervously, with his hands folded before him, on a straight-backed chair There was a long and awkward pause, for the doctor didn't care to begin the interview; but at last he sighed deeply and said in a tone of genuine disappointment and difficulty, 'My dear Le Breton, this is really very unpleasant.'

  Ernest looked at him, and said nothing.

  'Do you know,' the doctor went on kindly after a minute, 'I really do like you and sympathise with you. But what am I to do after this? I can't keep you at the school any longer, can I now? I put it to your own common-sense. I'm afraid, Le Breton——it gives me sincere pain to say so——but I'm afraid we must part at the end of the quarter.'

  Ernest only muttered that he was very sorry.

  'But what are we to do about it, Le Breton?' the doctor continued more kindly than ever. 'What are we ever to do about it? For my own sake, and for the boys' sake, and for respectability's pake, it's quite impossible to let you remain here any longer. The first thing you must do is to send away this Schurz creature'——Ernest started a little——'and then we must try to let it blow over as best we can. Everybody'll be talking about it; you know the man's become quite notorious lately; and it'll be quite necessary to say distinctly, Le Breton, before the whole of Pilbury, that we've been obliged to dismiss you summarily. So much we positively must do for our own protection. But what on earth are we to do for you, my poor fellow? I'm afraid you've cut your own throat, and I don't see any way on earth out of it.'

  'How so?' asked Ernest, half stunned by the suddenness of this unexpected dismissal.

  'Why, just look the thing in the face yourself, Le Breton. I can't very well give you a recommendation to any other head master without mentioning to him why I had to ask you for your resignation. And I'm afraid if I told them, nobody else would ever take you.'

  'Indeed?' said Ernest, very softly. 'Is it such a heinous offence to know so good a man as Herr Schurz——the best follower of the apostles I ever knew?'

  'My dear fellow,' said the doctor, confidentially, with an unusual burst of outspoken frankness, 'so far as my own private feelings are concerned, I don't in the least object to your knowing Herr Schurz or any other socialist whatsoever. To tell you the truth, I dare say he really is an excellent and most well-meaning person at bottom. Between ourselves, I've always thought that there was nothing very heterodox in socialism; in fact, I often think, Le Breton, the Bible's the most thoroughly democratic book that ever was written. But we haven't got to deal in practice with first principles; we have to deal with Society——with men and women as we find them. Now, Society doesn't like your Herr Schurz, objects to him, anathematises him, wants to imprison him. If you walk about with him in public, Society won't send its sons to your school. Therefore, you should disguise your affection, and if you want to visit him, you should visit him, like Nicodemus, by night only.'

  'I'm afraid,' said Ernest very fixedly, 'I shall never be able so far to accommodate myself to the wishes of Society.'

  'I'm afraid not, myself, Le Breton,' the doctor went on with imperturbable good temper. 'I'm afraid not, and I'm sorry for it. The fact is, you've chosen the wrong profession. You haven't pliability enough for a schoolmaster; you're too isolated, too much out of the common run; your ideas are too peculiar. Now, you've got me to-day into a dreadful pickle, and I might very easily be angry with you about it, and part with you in bad blood; but I really like you, Le Breton, and I don't want to do that; so I only tell you plainly, you've mistaken your natural calling. What it can be I don't know; but we must put our two heads together, and see what we can do for you before the end of the quarter. Now, go up to the combe to your wife, and try to get that terrible bugbear of a German out of Pilbury as quickly and as quietly as possible. Good-bye for to-day, Le Breton; no coolness between us, for this, I hope, my dear fellow.'

  Ernest grasped his hand warmly. 'You're very kind, Dr. Greatrex,' he said with genuine feeling. 'I see you mean well by me, and I'm very, very sorry if I've unintentionally caused you any embarrassment.'

  'Not at all, not at all, my dear fellow. Don't mention it. We'll tide it over somehow, and I'll see whether I can get you anything else to do that you're better fitted for.'

  As the door closed on Ernest, the doctor just gently wiped a certain unusual dew off his gold spectacles with a corner of his spotless handkerchief. 'He's a good fellow,' he murmured to himself, 'an excellent fellow; but he doesn't manage to combine with the innocence of the dove the wisdom of the serpent. Poor boy, poor boy, I'm afraid he'll sink, but we must do what we can to keep his chin floating above the water. And now I must go back to the study to have out my explanation with that detestable thick-headed old pig of a Blenkinsopp! "Your views about young Le Breton," I must say to him, "are unfortunately only too well founded; and I have been compelled to dismiss him this very hour from Pilbury Grammar School." Ugh——how humiliating! the profession's really enough to give one a perfect sickening of life altogether!'

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