If any one has so far forgotten his own boyhood as to think this description exaggerated, let him just fancy what our comfortable civilised life would be, if we could become boys in character and custom. Let us suppose that you are elected to a new club, of which most of the members are strangers to you. You enter the doors for the first time, when two older members, who have been gossiping in the hall, pounce upon you with the exclamation, “Hullo, here’s a new fellow! You fellow, what’s your name?” You reply, let us say, “Johnson.” “I don’t believe it, it’s such a rum name. What’s your father?” Perhaps you are constrained to answer “a Duke” or (more probably) “a solicitor.” In the former case your friends bound up into the smoking-room, howling, “Here’s a new fellow says his father is a Duke. Let’s take the cheek out of him.” And they “take it out” with umbrellas, slippers, and other surgical instruments. Or, in the latter case (your parent being a solicitor) they reply, “Then your father must be a beastly cad. All solicitors are sharks. My father says so, and he knows. How many sisters have you?” The new member answers, “Four.” “Any of them married?” “No.” “How awfully awkward for you.”
By this time, perhaps, luncheon is ready, or the evening papers come in, and you are released for a moment. You sneak up into the library, where you naturally expect to be entirely alone, and you settle on a sofa with a novel. But an old member bursts into the room, spies a new fellow, and puts him through the usual catechism. He ends with, “How much tin have you got?” You answer “twenty pounds,” or whatever the sum may be, for perhaps you had contemplated playing whist. “Very well, fork it out; you must give a dinner, all new fellows must, and you are not going to begin by being a stingy beast?” Thus addressed, as your friend is a big bald man, who looks mischievous, you do “fork out” all your ready money, and your new friend goes off to consult the cook. Meanwhile you “shed a blooming tear,” as Homer says, and go home heart-broken. Now, does any grown-up man call this state of society civilisation? Would life be worth living (whatever one’s religious consolations) on these terms? Of course not, and yet this picture is a not overdrawn sketch of the career of some new boy, at some schools new or old. The existence of a small schoolboy is, in other respects, not unlike that of an outsider in a lawless “Brotherhood,” as the Irish playfully call their murder clubs.
The small boy is in the society, but not of it, as far as any benefits go. He has to field out (and I admit that the discipline is salutary) while other boys bat. Other boys commit the faults, and compel him to copy out the impositions—say five hundred lines of Virgil—with which their sins are visited. Other boys enjoy the pleasures of football, while the small boy has to run vaguely about, never within five yards of the