Mark at the age of fifteen was a bitter, lonely, and unattractive boy. Three years of Haverton House, three years of Uncle Henry’s desiccated religion, three years of Mr. Palmer’s athletic education and Mr. Spaull’s milksop morality, three years of wearing clothes that were too small for him, three years of Haverton House cooking, three years of warts and bad haircutting, of ink and Aunt Helen’s confident purging had destroyed that gusto for life which when Mark first came to Slowbridge used to express itself in such loud laughter. Uncle Henry probably supposed that the cure of his nephew’s irritating laugh was the foundation stone of that successful career, which it would soon be time to discuss in detail. The few months between now and Mark’s sixteenth birthday would soon pass, however dreary the restrictions of Haverton House, and then it would be time to go and talk to Mr. Hitchcock about that articled clerkship toward the fees for which the small sum left by his mother would contribute. Mark was so anxious to be finished with Haverton House that he would have welcomed a prospect even less attractive than Mr. Hitchcock’s office in Finsbury Square; it never occurred to him that the money left by his mother could be spent to greater advantage for himself. By now it was over L500, and Uncle Henry on Sunday evenings when he was feeling comfortably replete with the day’s devotion would sometimes allude to his having left the interest to accumulate and would urge Mark to be up and doing in order to show his gratitude for all that he and Aunt Helen had conferred upon him. Mark felt no gratitude; in fact at this period he felt nothing except a kind of surly listlessness. He was like somebody who through the carelessness of his nurse or guardian has been crippled in youth, and who is preparing to enter the world with a suppressed resentment against everybody and everything.
“Not still hankering after a lighthouse?” Uncle Henry asked, and one seemed to hear his words snapping like dry twigs beneath the heavy tread of his mind.
“I’m not hankering after anything,” Mark replied sullenly.
“But you’re looking forward to Mr. Hitchcock’s office?” his uncle proceeded.
Mark grunted an assent in order to be left alone, and the entrance of Mr. Palmer who always had supper with his headmaster and employer on Sunday evening, brought the conversation to a close.