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A COUNTRY GENTLEMAN
AND HIS FAMILY


BY

MRS. OLIPHANT

AUTHOR OF 'THE WIZARD'S SON,' 'HESTER,' ETC.


London

MACMILLAN AND CO.

AND NEW YORK

1887

_All rights reserved_


_Printed (3 Vols. Crown 8vo) by_ R. & R. CLARK, _1886_.
_Printed, Crown 8vo, 1 Vol., 1887._




A COUNTRY GENTLEMAN.




CHAPTER I.


Theodore Warrender was still at Oxford when his father died. He was a
youth who had come up from his school with the highest hopes of what he
was to do at the university. It had indeed been laid out for him by an
admiring tutor with anticipations which were almost certainties: "If you
will only work as well as you have done these last two years!" These
years had been spent in the dignified ranks of Sixth Form, where he had
done almost everything that boy can do. It was expected that the School
would have had a holiday when he and Brunson went up for the scholarships
in their chosen college, and everybody calculated on the "double event."
Brunson got the scholarship in question, but Warrender failed, which at
first astonished everybody, but was afterwards more than accounted for
by the fact that his fine and fastidious mind had been carried away by
the Ęschylus paper, which he made into an exhaustive analysis of the
famous trilogy, to the neglect of other less inviting subjects. His
tutor was thus almost more proud of him for having failed than if he
had succeeded, and Sixth Form in general accepted Brunson's success
apologetically as that of an "all-round" man, whose triumph did not mean
so much. But if there is any place where the finer scholarship ought to
tell, it should be in Oxford, and his school tutor, as has been said,
laid out for him a sort of little map of what he was to do. There
were the Hertford and the Ireland scholarships, almost as a matter of
course; a first in moderations, but that went without saying; at least
one of the Vice-Chancellor's prizes--probably the Newdigate, or some
other unconsidered trifle of the kind; another first class in Greats; a
fellowship. "If you don't do more than this I will be disappointed in
you," the school tutor said.

The college tutors received Warrender with suppressed enthusiasm,
with that excitement which the acquisition of a man who is likely to
distinguish himself (and his college) naturally calls forth. It was not
long before they took his measure and decided that his school tutor was
right. He had it in him to bring glory and honour to their doors. They
surrounded him with that genial warmth of incubation which brings a
future first class tenderly to the top of the lists. Young Warrender
was flattered, his heart was touched. He thought, with the credulity of
youth, that the dons loved him for himself; that it was because of the
attractions of his own noble nature that they vied with each other
in breakfasting and dining him, in making him the companion of their
refined and elevated pleasures. He thought, even, that the Rector--that
name of fear--had at last found in himself the ideal which he had vainly
sought in so many examples of lettered youth. He became vain, perhaps,
but certainly a little self-willed, as was his nature, feeling himself
to be on the top of the wave, and above those precautions for keeping
himself there which had once seemed necessary. He did not, indeed, turn
to any harm, for that was not in his nature; but feeling himself no longer
a schoolboy, but a man, and the chosen friend of half the dons of his
college, he turned aside with a fine contempt from the ordinary ways of
fame-making, and betook himself to the pursuit of his own predilections
in the way of learning. He had a fancy for out-of-the-way studies, for
authors who don't pay, for eccentricities in literature; in short, for
having his own way and reading what he chose. Signals of danger became
gradually visible upon his path, and troubled consultations were held
over him in the common room. "He is paying no attention to his books,"
remarked one; "he is reading at large whatever pleases him." Much was
to be said for this principle, but still, alas, these gentlemen were all
agreed that it does not pay.

"If he does not mind, he will get nothing but a pass," the Rector said,
bending his brows. The learned society shrank, as if a sentence of death
had been pronounced.

"Oh no, not so bad as that!" they cried, with one voice.

"What do you call so bad as that? Is not a third worse than that? Is not
a second quite as bad?" said the majestic presiding voice. "In the gulf
there are no names mentioned. We are not credited with a mistake. It will
be better, if he does not stick to his books, that he should drop."

Young Warrender's special tutor made frantic efforts to arrest this
doom. He pointed out to the young man the evil of his ways. "In one
sense all my sympathies are with you," he said; "but, my dear fellow,
if you don't read your books you may be as learned as ----, and as
clear-sighted as ----" (the historian, being unlearned, does not know
what names were here inserted), "but you will never get to the head of
the lists, where we have hoped to see you."

"What does it matter?" said Warrender, in boyish splendour. "The lists
are merely symbols. You know one's capabilities without that; and as for
the opinion of the common mass, of what consequence is it to me?"

A cold perspiration came out on the tutor's brow. "It is of great
consequence to--the college," he said. "My dear fellow, so long as we
are merely mortal we can't despise symbols; and the Rector has set his
heart on having so many first classes. He doesn't like to be disappointed.
Come, after it's all over you will have plenty of time to read as you
like."

"But why shouldn't I read as I like now?" said Warrender. He was very
self-willed. He was apt to start off at a tangent if anybody interfered
with him,--a youth full of fads and ways of his own, scorning the common
path, caring nothing for results. And by what except by results is a
college to be known and assert itself? The tutor whose hopes had been
so high was in a state of depression for some time after. He even made
an appeal to the school tutor, the enthusiast who had sent up this
troublesome original with so many fine prognostications: who replied
to the appeal, and descended one day upon the youth in his room, quite
unexpectedly.

"Well, Theo, my fine fellow, how are you getting on? I hope you are
keeping your eyes on the examination, and not neglecting your books."

"I am delighted to see you, sir," said the lad. "I was just thinking I
should like to consult you upon"--and here he entered into a fine question
of scholarship,--a most delicate question, which probably would be
beyond the majority of readers, as it is of the writer. The face of the
public-school man was a wonder to see. It was lighted up with pleasure,
for he was an excellent scholar, yet clouded with alarm, for he knew the
penalties of such behaviour in a "man" with an examination before him.

"My dear boy," he said, "in which of your books do you find any reference
to that?"

"In none of them, I suppose," said the young scholar. "But, you don't
think there is any sanctity in a set of prescribed books?"

"Oh no, no sanctity: but use," said the alarmed master. "Come, Theo,
there's a good fellow, don't despise the tools we all must work with.
It's your duty to the old place, you know, which all these newspaper
fellows are throwing stones at whenever they have a chance: and it's
your duty to your college. I know what you are worth, of course: but
how can work be tested to the public eye except by the lists?"

"Why should I care for the public eye?" said the magnanimous young man.
"_We_ know that the lists don't mean everything. A headache might make
the best scholar that ever was lose his place. A fellow that knows
nothing might carry the day by a fluke. Don't you remember, sir, that
time when Daws got the Lincoln because of that old examiner, who gave
us all his own old fads in the papers? Every fellow that was any good
was out of it, and Daws got the scholarship. I am sure you can't have
forgotten that."

"Oh no, I have not forgotten it," said the master ruefully. "But that was
only once in a way. Come, Theo, be reasonable. As long as you are in
training, you know, you must keep in the beaten way. Think, my boy, of
your school--and of me, if you care for my credit as a tutor."

"You know, sir, I care for you, and to please you," said Warrender,
with feeling. "But as for your credit as a tutor, who can touch that?
And even I am not unknown here," he added, with a little boyish pride.
"Everybody who is of any importance knows that the Rector himself has
always treated me quite as a friend. I don't think"--this with the
ineffable simple self-assurance of youth, so happy in the discrimination
of those who approve of it that the gratification scarcely feels like
vanity--"that I shall be misunderstood here."

"Oh, the young ass!" said the master to himself, as he went away. "Oh,
the young idiot! Poor dear Theo, what will be his feelings when he finds
out that all they care for is the credit of the college?" But he was
not so barbarous as to say this, and Warrender was left to find out by
himself, by the lessening number of the breakfasts, by the absence of
his name on the lists of the Rector's dinner-parties, by the gradual
cooling of the incubating warmth, what had been the foundation of all
the affection shown him. It was not for some time that he perceived the
change which made itself slowly apparent, the gradual loss of interest
in him who had been the object of so much interest. The nest was, so to
speak, left cold, no father bird lending his aid to the development; his
books were no longer forced on his consideration; his tutor no longer
made anxious remarks. Like other silly younglings, the lad for a while
rejoiced in his freedom, and believed that he had succeeded in making
his pastors and teachers aware of a better way.



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