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   Chapter 2 No.2

That Scholarship Boy By Emma Leslie Characters: 15921

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Sending Him to Coventry.

Horace Howard sat longer over his lessons that night, and was quite undisturbed by any talking with his mother and brother, and when the time came for him to put the lessons aside and go to bed, he knew he had only half mastered them, for his thoughts had wandered continually from the subject of the lesson before him to the events of his day at school, trying to discover what he had done to offend his schoolfellows, that they should all at once send him to Coventry in this fashion. The study of mathematics, French, chemistry, and physics did not help him to the solution of this problem; but the school mystery greatly hindered the other subjects from becoming clear to his mind, and when he took his place in class the next morning he knew it would be a bad day for him with his class-work.

It was worse even than he feared, and as he lost place after place, and went down at last even below the dunces of the form, it hurt him more to see how gleeful the other boys were over his mistakes than to lose his place in the class.

At last, when Horace had blundered worse than usual over some lesson, the master said, 'What is the matter with you to-day, Howard? Are you ill? Have you got a headache?'

'No, sir,' answered Horace, for he was a truthful lad, and could not avail himself of the excuse the master had thus offered him.

'You could not have prepared your lessons last night, then; you know the rule about this, don't you?' said the master sternly.

'Yes, sir; I studied my lessons for more than two hours last night,' said Horace, reddening and growing more confused, for he knew all the class were staring at him, and, as he fancied, glorying in his discomfiture. In this he was not far wrong; but there were one or two who pitied him in his various dilemmas, and would have broken that ban of silence that had been decreed against him, but the leaders kept their eyes upon them, and they would not venture to brave the displeasure of their elders.

Altogether it was a cruelly hard day for Horace, and he felt strongly inclined to say when he went home, that he would never go near the school again, but become a carpenter like his brother. One trade would be as good as another, if he could not go on and learn more of the mysteries of chemistry and physics It was some consolation to him that his master had told him to prepare a special lesson in chemistry, in readiness for some practical experiments that were to take place the following day.

In his eagerness over this Horace forgot the vexations and trials of the day, and had mastered it so quickly, that he was able to look over again the lessons that had floored him in class. These imperfect lessons would be like the damaged links of a chain, and might bring him trouble again and again, if he did not repair the mischief at once; and so by the time he went to bed he had well-nigh mastered all the difficulties, and worked himself into a state of self-content, which was about the best preparation for the next day's work, for he went to sleep without a thought beyond his lessons, and took his place in the class looking bright and cheery once more.

To-day was to be a sort of recapitulation of the previous fortnight's work in chemistry, and the stupid blunders made the previous day were more than atoned for, and at last when the boy had worked out a brilliant result that greatly surprised the master he said, 'Why, you must have been ill yesterday.'

'No, sir, I was well,' said Horace, seeing the master waited for an answer. 'I was well enough, but I was not quite happy.'

'Well, then, let me advise you to make yourself happy in future under any circumstances.' And then he added in an undertone, 'You are a scholarship lad, and we expect more from you than from some of the others.'

'Thank you, sir, I'll try,' said Horace; and throughout that day he did not find it hard to try, as the master had suggested.

The others had their eyes upon him, and were puzzled to account for his success. They had made up their minds the previous day that they would only have to carry on their present tactics for a short time, and Horace would leave the school in disgust, or else he would be asked to leave by the head master, and thus Torrington's would be saved from going to the dogs through this scholarship boy. But this day's experience of what Horace could do under the terrible ban of their displeasure puzzled them, and they resolved to watch more closely, to make sure none of those who were suspected of faltering in allegiance to the decree of their leaders did not speak to him on their way home.

But Horace himself did not expect this now. The first bitterness of the trial had worn off, and as soon as he was beyond the school gate he set off home at a sharp trot, softly whistling to himself, as he pondered over what would be the probable effect if a certain acid they had been using was mixed with another substance entirely different from anything they had used in that day's experiments.

He whistled and thought, and turned the matter over and over in his mind, and finally ended by wishing that his mother could afford to give him pocket-money like most boys had to spend. This cost him a sigh, as he thought he might as well wish for a slice of the moon at once as for pocket-money, and by the time he got home he was whistling to himself again as happily as ever.

When he got in, his mother noticed his eager, animated looks.

'Why, what has happened to make you so merry?' she said, as he threw up his cap in sheer exuberance of spirits.

'Nothing much, mother; only I have got an idea.'

'Keep it, then, lad-keep it,' said his brother, laughing.

'All right,' said Horace, thinking he should be under no temptation to part with it, since his schoolfellows would not speak to him. 'It's a good idea, I know, if I can only find out the way to carry it out,' added Horace, at which his brother laughed, and his mother remarked that a good many people had ideas, but the difficulty was to carry them into effect, so that they were of practical use.

'Oh, it will want a good deal of thinking about, I know; but it has made me quite decide not to be a carpenter.'

'I thought you had made up your mind about that long ago,' said Fred.

'Ah, but I was thinking the other day it would be a great deal easier to be a carpenter, and earn money. I wasn't sure that I ought not to do something to help mother soon.'

'No, my boy,' interrupted Mrs. Howard; 'it would not be your duty to give up all opportunity of using the talents God has given you, when the way has been made clear for you to receive the education that will fit you to use them by-and-by. Fred always liked cutting wood and making boats and stools, just as you are fond of making chemical experiments, and watching what the result will be.'

'I wouldn't be anything but a carpenter; but I shall study mathematics more, that I may do better at my trade by-and-by,' said Fred. 'Every man to his trade, I suppose; but there's nothing like making things, I think,' he added.

So the brothers agreed to differ; but it was a very happy evening to Horace, and he thought he had overcome all his difficulties, and could be very happy, in spite of the ban that his schoolfellows had placed upon him. He learned his lessons that night without difficulty, and the next morning began to recover his place in the class; but the hour of recess tried him sorely.

A few of the boys who lived in the neighbourhood went home to dinner from one to two o'clock, but many who came from a distance brought luncheon with them, or had dinner provided for them at the school. There was a luncheon room provided for those who brought their meals with them, but Horace had preferred eating his slice of bread and butter or bread and dripping, walking about the playground. There were others who did the same thing, but they walked in g

roups and chatted and frolicked, or played games, and when he first came Horace had been invited to join these, and had been initiated into the mysteries of one game peculiar to the school, which was, therefore, very popular among the boys.

Now, however, this was altered. Horace was left severely alone, and though a boy might go shouting round for another to make up the game, no one ever asked Horace to take the vacant place. He was left to walk up and down the side of the playground until the bell rang for afternoon school, and then the boys who might be near, as they were passing in, took care to hold as far aloof from him as possible.

Horace wondered how long this was going to last. He had made several attempts to break through this silent persecution, but each boy to whom he had spoken had walked away as though he was stone deaf; and so at last Horace gave up the attempt, and tried to be happy in spite of this.

'I say, Morrison, how much longer is that beggar going to hold out?' said Taylor, one day speaking to Leonard, as though he ought to know all about it.

Taylor had lost his place in the class, and so had Leonard, and neither felt very amiable.

'Ask him, if you want to know. I'm nearly sick of it, I can tell you. It's lasted a month now, and I think we may as well give it up.'

'I daresay you do. My brother who has just come home from Oxford, says it is your people who have brought him into the school.'

'My people!' shouted Leonard, crimson with wrath at the insinuation. 'Who do you mean by "my people?" and why should you think so?'

'Now don't get mad, Len,' said Taylor in a quieter tone. 'But you know your father is on the County Council, and they say it was he who recommended that Howard should be sent to Torrington's.'

'I don't believe it!' blazed Leonard Morrison; and then with fine inconsistency he added, 'If he did, it was because the fellow got a scholarship, and he had to go somewhere.'

'Anywhere but at Torrington's would have done for him,' grumbled Taylor; 'and I think the master or the Council ought to turn him out, now they know the rest of the fellows don't like it.'

'But do they know we have sent him to Coventry?' asked Leonard.

'Are they bats-do they go about with their eyes shut-haven't you noticed that Howard has been up in the chemistry "lab." yesterday and to-day all the lunch time? I saw Skeats speaking to him yesterday just after we came into the playground, and the two walked away together. It was the same again to-day, only Howard was looking out for him, and went to meet him as soon as he appeared. Now what are we going to do, if the masters try to beat us at this game?'

'I say it isn't fair,' answered Morrison.

'Fair! I call it the meanest thing I ever heard of, and shows that Torrington's is going to the dogs, masters and all. I wish you'd speak to your pater about it, Morrison. I think you might, now Skeats has taken to interfering with us like this.'

Leonard shrugged his shoulders. 'I think it would be better for somebody else to come and see my father, if they think he had anything to do with sending that boy here. You don't know the pater. He'd just turn me inside out, and then laugh at me; but he couldn't serve any other fellow that way.'

But Taylor shook his head. It was true that he did not know Dr. Morrison, but he had heard that this gentleman had said it would be for the advantage of Torrington's to receive a few scholarship boys, for they were sure to be sharp, studious lads, and it would waken the other boys up and put them on their mettle. So he declined to go and see Mr. Morrison, but declared that Leonard ought to undertake the mission on behalf of the school.

'Look here, Curtis!' he called to another lad, who, like himself, was one of the elders of the class, and consequently domineered a good deal over the rest. 'Morrison won't do his duty in upholding the honour of the school. You come and talk to him.'

'What's the row?' asked Curtis loftily, sauntering up with his hands in his pockets, and looking down upon Leonard Morrison as a big overgrown lad likes to look at one of his smaller schoolfellows, as if to intimidate him with his superior height and bulk.

'Now, then, little Morrison, speak up. What is it?' he said in a sleepy tone, but trying to look fierce.

'Why, it's just this, Curtis, that beggar we have sent to Coventry don't seem inclined to take himself out of the school, and so somebody must be made to move him.'

'Of course,' said Curtis, who did not mind who the somebody might be, so long as he was not called upon to exert himself beyond a little bullying, 'you hear, little Morrison, just you do as you're told!' he commanded.

'This is what I want him to do,' explained Taylor. 'I have heard that it is all through his father that we have got the beggar here, and so it's Mr. Morrison and that precious Council that must move him.'

'Of course,' assented Curtis. 'You hear, Morrison?'

'I tell you it must be some of the other fellows that must go and explain to the pater that the school don't like scholarship boys. You don't know my pater,' he went on, a little plaintively. 'He would very likely report us to the head master for sending the fellow to Coventry, and then where should we be?'

'Where we are now, but that fellow wouldn't.'

'I tell you, Curtis, you don't know the pater. He would ask what he had done that the school had sent him to Coventry, and you know well enough that we haven't acted on the square with him.'

'Oh, that's it, is it? You are going to take his part now, and peach on us!' raved Taylor.

Curtis yawned. 'You'd better give in, and do as Taylor orders you.'

'Well, then, I should peach, and no mistake, if I told my father we had sent the fellow to Coventry for the last month. "What for?" he would say in his quiet way, while he looked into your very soul, so that you knew you must make a clean breast of everything. No, thank you. I don't mind going with you and Taylor and two or three other fellows as a sort of deputation from--'

'Deputation be bothered!' interrupted Taylor viciously. 'Why should we go cap in hand to ask your father to take the fellow away? It ought to be enough for you to tell him that the school don't like it, and that we are determined to uphold the honour of Torrington's.'

'Yes, that's it. We don't mean to let the school go to the dogs to please anybody,' said Curtis lazily.

'Yes; and what are we to do next, for the beggar don't seem to care now whether we send him to Coventry or not, and Skeats is giving the game away by letting him go to the chemistry "lab." every dinner hour.'

'Let's send Skeats to Coventry,' said Curtis.

Leonard laughed at the suggestion, but Taylor grew more angry.

'It's no good fooling over this now,' he said. 'I have been talking to some of the fellows in the sixth, and they have made up their minds not to have the beggar among them.'

'All right, let them get rid of him, then,' said Curtis. 'I don't see why we should do their dirty work. When's he going up?'

'He swats as though he expected to go next term,' complained Leonard Morrison, who had lost his place in the class that morning through Horace.

'Swats! It's shameful the pace that fellow goes with his lessons; and the masters think we ought to do the same,' foamed Taylor.

'Ah, they've tried to force it upon all of us,' observed Curtis; 'but I won't let it disturb me, I can tell you.'

'You don't mind being the dunce of the school,' said Leonard, with a short laugh.

'I don't care what the fellows call me, so long as they let me alone,' said the young giant, still with his hands in his pockets. He was getting tired of the discussion, and Taylor saw that it was of little use trying to threaten Leonard, and so he walked sulkily away, to try and think out some other means of getting rid of the obnoxious scholarship boy.

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