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The Way of All Flesh eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 485 pages of information about The Way of All Flesh.
mere bag of bones, with upper arms about as thick as the wrists of other boys of his age; his little chest was pigeon-breasted; he appeared to have no strength or stamina whatever, and finding he always went to the wall in physical encounters, whether undertaken in jest or earnest, even with boys shorter than himself, the timidity natural to childhood increased upon him to an extent that I am afraid amounted to cowardice.  This rendered him even less capable than he might otherwise have been, for as confidence increases power, so want of confidence increases impotence.  After he had had the breath knocked out of him and been well shinned half a dozen times in scrimmages at football—­scrimmages in which he had become involved sorely against his will—­he ceased to see any further fun in football, and shirked that noble game in a way that got him into trouble with the elder boys, who would stand no shirking on the part of the younger ones.

He was as useless and ill at ease with cricket as with football, nor in spite of all his efforts could he ever throw a ball or a stone.  It soon became plain, therefore, to everyone that Pontifex was a young muff, a mollycoddle, not to be tortured, but still not to be rated highly.  He was not however, actively unpopular, for it was seen that he was quite square inter pares, not at all vindictive, easily pleased, perfectly free with whatever little money he had, no greater lover of his school work than of the games, and generally more inclinable to moderate vice than to immoderate virtue.

These qualities will prevent any boy from sinking very low in the opinion of his schoolfellows; but Ernest thought he had fallen lower than he probably had, and hated and despised himself for what he, as much as anyone else, believed to be his cowardice.  He did not like the boys whom he thought like himself.  His heroes were strong and vigorous, and the less they inclined towards him the more he worshipped them.  All this made him very unhappy, for it never occurred to him that the instinct which made him keep out of games for which he was ill adapted, was more reasonable than the reason which would have driven him into them.  Nevertheless he followed his instinct for the most part, rather than his reason. Sapiens suam si sapientiam norit.

CHAPTER XXXI

With the masters Ernest was ere long in absolute disgrace.  He had more liberty now than he had known heretofore.  The heavy hand and watchful eye of Theobald were no longer about his path and about his bed and spying out all his ways; and punishment by way of copying out lines of Virgil was a very different thing from the savage beatings of his father.  The copying out in fact was often less trouble than the lesson.  Latin and Greek had nothing in them which commended them to his instinct as likely to bring him peace even at the last; still less did they hold out any hope of doing so within some more reasonable time.  The deadness inherent in these defunct languages themselves had never been artificially counteracted by a system of bona fide rewards for application.  There had been any amount of punishments for want of application, but no good comfortable bribes had baited the hook which was to allure him to his good.

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