GOD knows (Who alone knows the conditions under which each soul blunders and spells on through life’s hard lessons) if they were a mockery. I know they were unworthy to be offered to Him, but that the habit helped to keep me straight I am equally sure. Then I had a good home to go to during the holidays. That was everything, and it is in all humbleness that I say that I do not think the ill experiences of those years degraded me much. I managed to keep some truth and tenderness about me; and I am thankful to remember that I no more cringed to Crayshaw than Lorraine did, and that though I stayed there till I was a big boy, I never maltreated a little one.
“Whose powers shed round him in the common strife
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
* * * * * *
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need.”
WORDSWORTH’S Happy Warrior.
Judgement came at last. During my first holidays I had posted a letter from Lewis Lorraine to the uncle in India to whom he had before endeavoured to appeal. The envelope did not lack stamps, but the address was very imperfect, and it was many months in reaching him. He wrote a letter, which Lewis never received, Mr. Crayshaw probably knew why. But twelve months after that Colonel Jervois came to England, and he lost no time in betaking himself to Crayshaw’s. From Crayshaw’s he came to my father, the only “unexceptionable reference” left to Snuffy to put forward.
The Colonel came with a soldier’s promptness, and, with the utmost courtesy of manner, went straight to the point. His life had not accustomed him to our neighbourly unwillingness to interfere with anything that did not personally concern us, nor to the prudent patience with which country folk will wink long at local evils. In the upshot what he asked was what my mother had asked three years before. Had my father personal knowledge or good authority for believing the school to be a well-conducted one, and Mr. Crayshaw a fit man for his responsible post? Had he ever heard rumours to the man’s discredit?
Replies that must do for a wife will not always answer a man who puts the same questions. My great-grandfather’s memory was not evoked on this occasion, and my father frankly confessed that his personal knowledge of Crayshaw’s was very small, and that the man on whose recommendation he had sent us to school there had just proved to be a rascal and a swindler. Our mother had certainly heard rumours of severity, but he had regarded her maternal anxiety as excessive, etc., etc. In short, my dear father saw that he had been wrong, and confessed it, and was now as ready as the Colonel to expose Snuffy’s misdeeds.
No elaborate investigation was needed. An attack once made on Mr. Crayshaw’s hollow reputation, it cracked on every side; first hints crept out, then scandals flew. The Colonel gave no quarter, and he did not limit his interest to his own nephew.