“Well, Eric, this is all true. Yet, knowing this, I say, by all means let Vernon come to Roslyn. The innocence of mere ignorance is a poor thing; it cannot, under any circumstances, be permanent, nor is it at all valuable as a foundation of character. The true preparation for life, the true basis of a manly character, is not to have been ignorant of evil, but to have known it and avoided it; not to hare been sheltered from temptation, but to have passed through it and overcome it by God’s help. Many have drawn exaggerated pictures of the lowness of public school morality; the best answer is to point to the good and splendid men that have been trained in public schools, and who lose no opportunity of recurring to them with affection. It is quite possible to be in the little world of school-life, and yet not of it. The ruin of human souls can never be achieved by enemies from without, unless they be aided by traitors from within. Remember our lost friend; the peculiar lustre of his piety was caused by the circumstances under which he was placed. He often told me before his last hour, that he rejoiced to have been at Roslyn; that he had experienced there much real happiness, and derived in every way lasting good.
“I hope you have been enjoying your holidays, and that you will come back with the ‘spell of home affection’ alive in your heart. I shall rejoice to make Vernon’s acquaintance, and will do for him all I can. Bring him with you to me in the library as soon as you arrive.—Ever, dear Eric,
END OF PART I
“Sed revocare gradum.”—VIRGIL.
* * * * *
[Greek: Phtheirousin aethae chraesth’ omiliai kakai].—MENANDEB.
A year had passed since the events narrated in the last chapter, and had brought with it many changes.
To Eric the changes were not for good. The memories of Russell were getting dim; the resolutions made during his illness had vanished; the bad habits laid aside after his death had been resumed. AH this took place very gradually; there were many inward struggles, much occasional remorse, but the struggles by degrees grew weaker, and remorse lost its sting, and Eric Williams soon learned again to follow the multitude to do evil.
He was now sixteen years old, and high in the fifth form, and, besides this, he was captain of the school eleven. In work he had fallen off and no one now expected the fulfilment of that promise of genius which he had given when he first came. But in all school sports he had improved, and was the acknowledged leader and champion in matters requiring boldness and courage. His popularity made him giddy; favor of man led him to forgetfulness of God; and even a glance at his countenance showed a self-sufficiency and arrogance which ill became the refinement of his features, and ill replaced the ingenuous modesty of former years.