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13. OUT OF SCHOOL (continued)
James, for his part, was all against the Colonies. As a setting for his career, that is to say. He was no Little Englander. He had no earthly objection to Great Britain having Colonies. By all means have Colonies. They could rely on him for moral support. But when it came to legging it out to West Australia to act as a sort of valet to Uncle Frederick's beastly sheep--no. Not for James. For him the literary life. Yes, that was James's dream--to have a stab at the literary life. At Oxford he had contributed to the Isis, and since coming down had been endeavouring to do the same to the papers of the Metropolis. He had had no success so far. But some inward voice seemed to tell him--(Read on. Read on. This is no story about the young beginner's struggles in London. We do not get within fifty miles of Fleet Street.)
A temporary compromise was effected between the two parties by the securing for James of a post as assistant-master at Harrow House, the private school of one Blatherwick, M.A., the understanding being that if he could hold the job he could remain in England and write, if it pleased him, in his spare time. But if he fell short in any way as a handler of small boys he was to descend a step in the animal kingdom and be matched against the West Australian sheep. There was to be no second chance in the event of failure. From the way Uncle Frederick talked James almost got the idea that he attached a spiritual importance to a connexion with sheep. He seemed to strive with a sort of religious frenzy to convert James to West Australia. So James went to Harrow House with much the same emotions that the Old Guard must have felt on their way up the hill at Waterloo.
Harrow House was a grim mansion on the outskirts of Dover. It is better, of course, to be on the outskirts of Dover than actually in it, but when you have said that you have said everything. James's impressions of that portion of his life were made up almost entirely of chalk. Chalk in the school-room, chalk all over the country-side, chalk in the milk. In this universe of chalk he taught bored boys the rudiments of Latin, geography, and arithmetic, and in the evenings, after a stately cup of coffee with Mr Blatherwick in his study, went to his room and wrote stories. The life had the advantage of offering few distractions. Except for Mr Blatherwick and a weird freak who came up from Dover on Tuesdays and Fridays to teach French, he saw nobody.
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