The Moral Reformers
THERE was no disguising the defeat. The victory was to Prout, but they grudged it not. If he had broken the rules of the game by calling in the Head, they had had a good run for their money.
The Reverend John sought the earliest opportunity of talking things over. Members of a bachelor Common- room, in a school where masters' studies are designedly dotted among studies and form-rooms, can, if they choose, see a great deal of their charges. Number Five had spent some cautious years in testing the Reverend John. He was emphatically a gentleman. He knocked at a study door before entering; he comported himself as a visitor and not a strayed lictor; he never prosed, and he never carried over into official life the confidences of idle hours. Prout was ever an unmitigated nuisance; King came solely as the avenger of blood; even little Hartopp, talking natural history, seldom forgot his office; but the Reverend John was a guest desired and beloved by Number Five.
Behold him, then, in their only arm-chair, a bent briar between his teeth, chin down in three folds on his clerical collar, and blowing like an amiable whale, while Number Five discoursed of life as it appeared to them, and specially of that last interview with the Head--in the matter of usury.
`One licking once a week would do you an immense amount of good,' he said, twinkling and shaking all over; `and, as you say, you were entirely in the right.'
`Ra-ather, Padre! We could have proved it if he'd let us talk,' said Stalky; `but he didn't. The Head's a downy bird.'
`He understands you perfectly. Ho! ho! Well, you worked hard enough for it.'
`But he's awfully fair. He doesn't lick a chap in the morning an' preach at him in the afternoon,' said Beetle.
`He can't; he ain't in Orders, thank goodness,' said M`Turk. Number Five held the very strongest views on clerical head-masters, and were ever ready to meet their pastor in argument.
`Almost all other schools have clerical Heads,' said the Reverend John gently.
`It isn't fair on the chaps,' Stalky replied. `Makes 'em sulky. Of course it's different with you, sir. You belong to the school--same as we do. I mean ordinary clergymen.'
`Well, I am a most ordinary clergyman; and Mr. Hartopp's in Orders too.'
`Ye--es, but he took 'em after he came to the Coll. We saw him go up for his exam. That's all right,' said Beetle. `But just think if the Head went and got ordained!'
`What would happen, Beetle?'
`Oh, the Coll. 'ud go to pieces in a year, sir. There's no doubt o'that.'
`How d'you know?' The Reverend John was smiling.
`We've been here nearly six years now. There are precious few things about the Coll. we don't know,' Stalky replied. `Why, even you came the term after I did, sir. I remember your asking our names in form your first lesson. Mr. King, Mr. Prout, and the Head, of course, are the only masters senior to us--in that way.'
`Yes, we've changed a good deal--in Commonroom.'
`Huh!' said Beetle, with a grunt. `They came here, an' they went away to get married. Jolly good riddance, too!'
`Doesn't our Beetle hold with matrimony?'
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