CHAPTER V. BRAINS AND NO BRAINS.
I do say, thou art quick in answers:
Thou heatest my blood.-Love’s Labours Lost.
Kem’ster, as county tradition pronounced what was spelt Kenminster, a name meaning St. Kenelm’s minster, had a grand collegiate church and a foundation-school which, in the hands of the Commissioners, had of late years passed into the rule of David Ogilvie, Esq., a spare, pale, nervous, sensitive-looking man of eight or nine and twenty, who sat one April evening under his lamp, with his sister at work a little way off, listening with some amusement to his sighs and groans at the holiday tasks that lay before him.
“Here’s an answer, Mary. What was Magna Charta? The first map of the world.”
“Who’s that ingenious person?”
“Brownlow Major, of course; and here’s French, who says it was a new sort of cow invented by Henry VIII.-a happy feminine, I suppose, to the Papal Bull. Here’s a third! The French fleet defeated by Queen Elizabeth. Most have passed it over entirely.”
“Well, you know this is the first time you have tried such an examination, and boys never do learn history.”
“Nor anything else in this happy town,” was the answer, accompanied by a ruffling over of the papers.
“For shame, David! The first day of the term!”
“It is the dead weight of Brownlows, my dear. Only think! There’s another lot coming! A set of duplicates. They haven’t even the sense to vary the Christian names. Three more to be admitted to-morrow.”
“That accounts for a good deal!”
“You are laughing at me, Mary; but did you never know what it is to feel like Sisyphus? Whenever you think you have rolled it a little way, down it comes, a regular dead weight again, down the slope of utter indifference and dulness, till it seems to crush the very heart out of you !”
“Have you really nobody that is hopeful?”
“Nobody who does not regard me as his worst enemy, and treat all my approaches with distrust and hostility. Mary, how am I to live it down?”
“You speak as if it were a crime!”
“I feel as if it were one. Not of mine, but of the pedagogic race before me, who have spoilt the relations between man and boy; so that I cannot even get one to act as a medium.”
“That would be contrary to esprit de corps.”
“Exactly; and the worst of it is, I am not one of those genial fellows, half boys themselves, who can join in the sports con amore; I should only make a mountebank of myself if I tried, and the boys would distrust me the more.”
“Quite true. The only way is to be oneself, and one’s best self, and the rest will come.”
“I’m not so sure of that. Some people mistake their vocation.”
“Well, when you have given it a fair trial, you can turn to something else. You are getting the school up again, which is at least one testimony.”