There had been an unobserved spectator of the whole scene, in the person of Mr. Williams himself, and it was his strong hand that now griped Barker’s shoulder. He was greatly respected by the boys, who all knew his tall handsome figure by sight, and he frequently stood a quiet and pleased observer of their games. The boys in the playground came crowding round, and Barker in vain struggled to escape. Mr. Williams held him firmly, and said in a calm voice, “I have just seen you treat one of your schoolfellows with the grossest violence. It makes me blush for you, Roslyn Boys,” he continued, turning to the group that surrounded him, “that you can stand by unmoved, and see such things done. You know that you despise any one who tells a master, yet you allow this bullying to go on, and that, too, without any provocation. Now, mark; it makes no difference that the boy hurt is my own son; I would have punished this scoundrel, whoever it had been, and I shall punish him now.” With these words he lifted the riding-whip which he happened to be carrying, and gave Barker one of the most satisfactory castigations he had ever undergone; the boys declared that Dr. Rowlands’ “swishings” were nothing to it. Mr. Williams saw that the offender was a tough subject, and determined that he should not soon forget the punishment he then received. He had never heard from Eric how this boy had been treating him, but he had heard it from Russell, and now he had seen one of the worst specimens of it with his own eyes. He therefore belabored him till his sullen obstinacy gave way to a roar for mercy, and promises never so to offend again.
At this crisis he flung the boy from him with a “phew” of disgust, and said, “I give nothing for your word; but if ever you do bully in this way again, and I see or hear of it, your present punishment shall be a trifle to what I shall then administer. At present, thank me for not informing your master.” So saying, he made Barker pick up the cap, and, turning away, walked home with Eric leaning on his arm.
Barker, too, carried himself off with the best grace be could; but it certainly didn’t mend matters when he heard numbers of fellows, even little boys, say openly, “I’m so glad; serves you right.”
From that day Eric was never troubled with personal violence from Barker or any other boy. But rancor smouldered deep in the mind of the baffled tyrant, and, as we shall see hereafter, there are subtler means of making an enemy wretched than striking or kicking him.
“Et nos ergo manum forulae subduximus.”—Juv. i. 15.
It must not be thought that Eric’s year as a home boarder was made up of dark experiences. Roslyn had a very bright as well as a dark side, and Eric enjoyed it “to the finger-tips.” School-life, like all other life, is an April day of shower and sunshine. Its joys may be more childish, its sorrows more trifling than those of after years;—but they are more keenly felt.