And so at Roslyn, owing mainly to the wickedness of one depraved boy, and the weak fear of man which actuated others, all was disunion, misery, and deterioration. The community which had once been peaceful, happy, and united, was filled with violent jealousy and heart-burnings; every boy’s hand seemed to be against his neighbor; lying, bad language, dishonesty, grew fearfully rife, and the few who, like Owen and Montagu, remained uncontaminated by the general mischief, walked alone and despondent amid their uncongenial and degraded schoolfellow.
the best to bear
That follows soonest on the sin,
And guilt’s a game where losers fare
Better than those who seem to win.”
At the beginning of this quarter Eric and Duncan had succeeded to one of the studies, and Owen shared with Montagu the one which adjoined it.
Latterly the small boys, in the universal spirit of disobedience, had frequented the studies a good deal, but it was generally understood that no study-boy might ask any one to be a regular visitor to his room without the leave of its other occupant.
So one evening Duncan said to Eric, “Do you know little Wildney?”
“You mean that jolly fearless-looking little fellow, with, the great black eyes, who came at the beginning of the quarter? No, I don’t know him.”
“Well, he’s a very nice little fellow; a regular devil”
“Humph!” said Eric, laughing; “I shall bring out a new Duncan-dictionary, in which. [Greek: chezchochezons chos] = very nice little fellow.”
“Pooh!” said Duncan; “you know well enough what I mean; I mean he’s not one of your white-faced, lily-hearted new boys, but has lots of fun in him.”
“Well, what of him?”
“Have you any objection to my asking him to sit in the study when he likes?”
“Not the least in the world.”
“Very well, I’ll go and fetch him now. But wouldn’t you like to ask your brother Vernon to come in too whenever he’s inclined?”
“No,” said Eric, “I don’t care. He does come every now and then.”
Duncan went to fetch Wildney, and while he was gone, Brie was thinking why he didn’t give Vernon the free run of his study. He would not admit to himself the true reason, which was, that he had too much ground to fear that his example would do his brother no good.
Eric soon learned to like Wildney, who was a very bright, engaging, spirited boy, with a dash of pleasant impudence about him which took Eric’s fancy. He had been one of the most mischievous of the lower fellows, but, although clever, did little or nothing in school, and was in the worst repute with the masters. Until he was “taken up” by Eric, he had been a regular little hero among his compeers, because he was game for any kind of mischief, and, in the new tone of popular morality, his fearless disregard of rules made him the object of general admiration. From this time, however, he was much in the studies, and unhappily carried with him to those upper regions the temptation to a deeper and more injurious class of transgressions than had yet penetrated there.