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43. CHAPTER XLIII (continued)
It so happened that the bishop had held a confirmation at the school on the fifth of November. Dr Skinner had not quite liked the selection of this day, but the bishop was pressed by many engagements, and had been compelled to make the arrangement as it then stood. Ernest was among those who had to be confirmed, and was deeply impressed with the solemn importance of the ceremony. When he felt the huge old bishop drawing down upon him as he knelt in chapel he could hardly breathe, and when the apparition paused before him and laid its hands upon his head he was frightened almost out of his wits. He felt that he had arrived at one of the great turning points of his life, and that the Ernest of the future could resemble only very faintly the Ernest of the past.
This happened at about noon, but by the one o'clock dinner-hour the effect of the confirmation had worn off, and he saw no reason why he should forego his annual amusement with the bonfire; so he went with the others and was very valiant till the image was actually produced and was about to be burnt; then he felt a little frightened. It was a poor thing enough, made of paper, calico and straw, but they had christened it The Rev. Theobald Pontifex, and he had a revulsion of feeling as he saw it being carried towards the bonfire. Still he held his ground, and in a few minutes when all was over felt none the worse for having assisted at a ceremony which, after all, was prompted by a boyish love of mischief rather than by rancour.
I should say that Ernest had written to his father, and told him of the unprecedented way in which he was being treated; he even ventured to suggest that Theobald should interfere for his protection and reminded him how the story had been got out of him, but Theobald had had enough of Dr Skinner for the present; the burning of the school list had been a rebuff which did not encourage him to meddle a second time in the internal economics of Roughborough. He therefore replied that he must either remove Ernest from Roughborough altogether, which would for many reasons be undesirable, or trust to the discretion of the head master as regards the treatment he might think best for any of his pupils. Ernest said no more; he still felt that it was so discreditable to him to have allowed any confession to be wrung from him, that he could not press the promised amnesty for himself.
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