Mr. Rose sadly remarked the failure of promise in his character and abilities, and did all that could be done, by gentle firmness and unwavering kindness, to recal his pupil to a sense of duty. One night he sent for him to supper, and invited no one else. During the evening he drew out Eric’s exercise, and compared it with, those of Russell and Owen, who were now getting easily ahead of him in marks. Eric’s was careless, hurried, and untidy; the other two were neat, spirited, and painstaking, and had, therefore, been marked much higher.
“Your exercises used to be far better—I may say incomparably better,” said Mr. Rose; “what is the cause of this falling off?”
Eric was silent.
Mr. Rose laid his hand gently on his head. “I fear, my boy, you have not been improving lately. You have got into many scrapes, and are letting boys beat you in form who are far your inferiors in ability. That is a very bad sign, Eric; in itself it is a discouraging fact, but I fear it indicates worse evils. You are wasting the golden hours, my boy, that can never return. I only hope and trust that no other change for the worse is going on in your character.”
And so he talked on till the boy’s sorrow was undisguised. “Come,” he said gently, “let us kneel down together before we part.”
Boy and master knelt down humbly side by side, and, from a full heart, the young man poured out his fervent petitions for the child beside him. Eric’s heart seemed to catch a glow from his words, and he loved him as a brother. He rose from his knees full of the strongest resolutions, and earnestly promised amendment for the future.
But poor Eric did not yet know his own infirmity. For a time, indeed, there was a marked improvement; but daily life flowed on with its usual allurements, and when the hours of temptation came, his good intentions melted away, so that, in a few more weeks, the prayer, and the vows that followed it, had been obliterated from his memory without leaving any traces in his life.
ERIC IN COVENTRY
either greet him not
Or else disdainfully, which shall shake him more
Than if not looked on.”—TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, iii. 3.
Upton, expatriated from his study, was allowed to use one of the smaller class-rooms which were occupied during play-hours by those boys who were too high in the school for “the boarders’ room,” and who were waiting to succeed to the studies as they fell vacant. There were three or four others with him in this class-room, and although it was less pleasant than his old quarters, it was yet far more comfortable than the Pandemonium of the shell and fourth-form boys.