The two boys strolled on silently. That night Eric knelt at his bedside, and prayed as he had not done for many a long day.
“DEAD FLIES,” OR “YE SHALL BE AS GODS”
“In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.” PROV. vii. 9.
At Roslyn, even in summer, the hour for going to bed was half-past nine. It was hardly likely that so many boys, overflowing with turbulent life, should lie down quietly, and get to sleep. They never dreamt of doing so. Very soon after the masters were gone, the sconces were often relighted, sometimes in separate dormitories, sometimes in all of them, and the boys amused themselves by reading novels or making a row. They would play various games about the bedrooms, vaulting or jumping over the beds, running races in sheets, getting through the windows upon the roofs, to frighten the study-boys with sham ghosts, or playing the thousand other pranks which suggested themselves to the fertile imagination of fifteen. But the favorite amusement was a bolstering match. One room would challenge another, and, stripping the covers off their bolsters, would meet in mortal fray. A bolster well wielded, especially when dexterously applied to the legs, is a very efficient instrument to bring a boy to the ground; but it doesn’t hurt very much, even when the blows fall on the head. Hence these matches were excellent trials of strength and temper, and were generally accompanied with shouts of laughter, never ending until one side was driven back to its own room. Many a long and tough struggle had Eric enjoyed, and his prowess was so universally acknowledged, that his dormitory, No. 7, was a match for any other, and far stronger in this warfare than most of the rest. At bolstering, Duncan was a perfect champion; his strength and activity were marvellous, and his mirth uproarious. Eric and Graham backed him up brilliantly; while Llewellyn and Attlay, with sturdy vigor, supported the skirmishers. Bull, the sixth boy in No. 7, was the only faineant among them, though he did occasionally help to keep off the smaller fry.
Happy would it have been for all of them if Bull had never been placed in No. 7; happier still if he had never come to Roslyn school. Backward in work, overflowing with vanity at his supposed good looks, of mean disposition and feeble intellect, he was the very worst specimen of a boy that Eric had ever seen. Not even Barker so deeply excited Eric’s repulsion and contempt. And yet, since the affair of Upton, Barker and Eric were declared enemies, and, much to the satisfaction of the latter, never spoke to each other; but with Bull—much as he inwardly loathed him—he was professedly and apparently on good terms. His silly love of universal popularity made him accept and tolerate the society even of this worthless boy.
Any two boys talking to each other about Bull would probably profess to like him “well enough,” but if they were honest, they would generally end by allowing their contempt.