“I don’t know, sir,” Jack answered. “I can do exercises and translations and all that sort of thing well enough, but I always break down with verses, and I don’t see what good they are, except for fellows who want to write Latin verses for tombstones.”
“That has nothing to do with it,” the master said; “and I am not going to discuss the utility of verses with you. I shall report you to Dr. Wallace, and if you will not work in your holidays, you will have to do so in your play-hours.”
Jack retired to his seat, and for the next ten minutes indulged in a diatribe against classical learning in general, and hexameters and pentameters in particular.
Presently one of the sixth form came down to where Jack was sitting,—
“Archer, Dr. Wallace wants you.”
“Oh, lord,” Jack groaned, “now I’m in for it! I haven’t seen Marshall get out of his seat. I suppose he has written a report about those beastly verses.”
The greeting of Dr. Wallace was, however, of a different nature from that which he had anticipated.
“Archer,” he said, “I have just received a note from your father. You are to go home at once.”
Jack Archer opened his eyes in astonishment. It was but an hour and a half since he had started from Harbledown, a mile or so distant from the school. His father had said nothing at breakfast, and what on earth could he want him home again for?
With a mechanical “Yes, sir,” he returned to his place, gathered up his books hastily together, fastening them with a strap, and was soon on his way home at a rapid trot. He overtook ere long the servant who had brought the note—an old soldier, who had been Major Archer’s servant in the army.
“What is the matter, Jones? Is any one ill at home?”
“No, sir; no one is ill as I knows of. The major called me into his study, and told me to take a note to Dr. Wallace, and, of course, I asked the master no questions.”
“No,” Jack said, “I don’t suppose you did, Jones. I don’t suppose you’d ask any questions if you were told to take a letter straight to the man in the moon. I wonder what it can mean.”
And continuing his run, he soon left the steady-going old soldier far behind. Up High Street, under the great gate, along through the wide, straggling street beyond, into the open country, and then across through the fields to Harbledown. Jack never paused till, hot and panting, he entered the gate.
His father and his elder brother, who had seen him coming across the fields, were standing in the porch.
“Hurrah! Jack,” the latter shouted; “you’re going to be first out after all.”
“Going to be first out?” Jack gasped. “What on earth do you mean, Harry?”
“Come into the parlor, Jack,” his father said, “and you shall hear all about it.”
Here his mother and two sisters were sitting.
“My dear boy,” the former said, rising and throwing her arms round his neck, “this is sudden indeed.”