O schoolmasters—if any of you read this book—bear in mind when any particularly timid drivelling urchin is brought by his papa into your study, and you treat him with the contempt which he deserves, and afterwards make his life a burden to him for years—bear in mind that it is exactly in the disguise of such a boy as this that your future chronicler will appear. Never see a wretched little heavy-eyed mite sitting on the edge of a chair against your study wall without saying to yourselves, “perhaps this boy is he who, if I am not careful, will one day tell the world what manner of man I was.” If even two or three schoolmasters learn this lesson and remember it, the preceding chapters will not have been written in vain.
Soon after his father and mother had left him Ernest dropped asleep over a book which Mrs Jay had given him, and he did not awake till dusk. Then he sat down on a stool in front of the fire, which showed pleasantly in the late January twilight, and began to muse. He felt weak, feeble, ill at ease and unable to see his way out of the innumerable troubles that were before him. Perhaps, he said to himself, he might even die, but this, far from being an end of his troubles, would prove the beginning of new ones; for at the best he would only go to Grandpapa Pontifex and Grandmamma Allaby, and though they would perhaps be more easy to get on with than Papa and Mamma, yet they were undoubtedly not so really good, and were more worldly; moreover they were grown-up people—especially Grandpapa Pontifex, who so far as he could understand had been very much grown-up, and he did not know why, but there was always something that kept him from loving any grown-up people very much—except one or two of the servants, who had indeed been as nice as anything that he could imagine. Besides even if he were to die and go to Heaven he supposed he should have to complete his education somewhere.
In the meantime his father and mother were rolling along the muddy roads, each in his or her own corner of the carriage, and each revolving many things which were and were not to come to pass. Times have changed since I last showed them to the reader as sitting together silently in a carriage, but except as regards their mutual relations, they have altered singularly little. When I was younger I used to think the Prayer Book was wrong in requiring us to say the General Confession twice a week from childhood to old age, without making provision for our not being quite such great sinners at seventy as we had been at seven; granted that we should go to the wash like table-cloths at least once a week, still I used to think a day ought to come when we should want rather less rubbing and scrubbing at. Now that I have grown older myself I have seen that the Church has estimated probabilities better than I had done.