Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

28. CHAPTER XXVIII (continued)

Dr Skinner was telling Theobald all about his pamphlet, and I doubt whether this gentleman was much more comfortable than Ernest himself. He was bored, for in his heart he hated Liberalism, though he was ashamed to say so, and, as I have said, professed to be on the Whig side. He did not want to be reconciled to the Church of Rome; he wanted to make all Roman Catholics turn Protestants, and could never understand why they would not do so; but the Doctor talked in such a truly liberal spirit, and shut him up so sharply when he tried to edge in a word or two, that he had to let him have it all his own way, and this was not what he was accustomed to. He was wondering how he could bring it to an end, when a diversion was created by the discovery that Ernest had begun to cry--doubtless through an intense but inarticulate sense of a boredom greater than he could bear. He was evidently in a highly nervous state, and a good deal upset by the excitement of the morning, Mrs Skinner therefore, who came in with Christina at this juncture, proposed that he should spend the afternoon with Mrs Jay, the matron, and not be introduced to his young companions until the following morning. His father and mother now bade him an affectionate farewell, and the lad was handed over to Mrs Jay.

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.

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