Escape, and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 212 pages of information about Escape, and Other Essays.

At the end of my time I rose to moderate distinction.  I began to read the classics privately, I reached sixth form, and even was elected into Pop.  But I was always unadventurous, and in a way timid.  I nurtured a private life of my own on books and talk, and felt that the centre of life had insensibly shifted from home to school.  But in and through it all, I never gained any deep patriotism, any unselfish ambition, any visions which could have inspired me to play a noble part in the world.  I am sure that was as much the result of my own temperament as of the spirit of the place; but the spirit of the place was potent, and taught me to acquiesce in an ideal of decorum, of subordination, of regular, courteous, unenthusiastic life.

Leaving the school was a melancholy business; one’s roots were entwined very deep with the soil, the buildings, the memories, the happiness of the place—­for happy above all things it was—­in the last few weeks there were many strange emotional outbursts from boys who had seemed conventional enough; and there was a dreary sense that life was at an end, and would have little of future brightness or excitement to provide.  I packed, I made my farewells, I distributed presents; and as I drove away, the carriage, ascending the bridge by the beloved playing-fields, with its lawns and elms, the gliding river and the castle towering up behind, showed me in a glance the old red-brick walls, the turrets, the high chapel, with its pinnacles and great buttresses, where seven good years had been spent.  I burst, I remember, into unashamed tears; but no sense of regret for failure, or idleness, or vacuous case, or absence of all fine intention, came over me, though I had been guilty of all these things.  I wish that I had felt remorse!  But I was only grateful and fond and sad at leaving so untroubled and delightful a piece of life behind me.  The world ahead did not seem to me to hold out anything which I burned to do or to achieve; it was but the closing of a door, the end of a chapter, the sudden silencing of a music, sweet to hear, which could not come again.

That was all five-and-thirty years ago!  Since that time—­I have seen it unmistakably, both as a schoolmaster and as a don—­a different spirit has grown up, a sense of corporate and social duty, a larger idea of national service, not loudly advertised but deeply rooted, and far removed from the undisciplined individualism of my boyhood.  It has been a secret growth, not an educational programme.  The Boer War, I think, revealed its presence, and the war we are now waging has testified to its mature strength.  It has come partly by organisation, and still more through the workings of a more generous and self-sacrificing ideal.  In any case it is a great and noble harvest; and I rejoice with all my heart that it has thus ripened and borne fruit, in courage and disinterestedness, and high-hearted public spirit.

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Escape, and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.