+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error



The drawing-room on that morningthat
room was to be the scene of the strugglehad
been partially cleared. A small table in the
centre, with pens, ink, and so forth, imparting
a general official air of execution, with three
chairs in a row, exactly in front. Beyond were
seats for the spectators. On the neighbouring
table were biscuits and golden sherry. I well
remember that to my astonishment I was
encouraged by warm embraces, and bidden not to
to be afraid and to do my best, and that was all
that could be expected. No one could do more.
I was likewise told that I had worked hard and
"been a very good boy of late." A more
appreciable incitement, and one which seemed to
me to have far more logic in it, was the private
administering of a glass of sherry, an unfrequent
luxury lest I should contract low tastes for
drinking. This reviver was thrown in just a
few seconds before the expected knock was
heard below. It had the best effect. I was
ready for the contest. I was also in my best
clothes. Blue jacket, gilt buttons, pink ribbon
round my neck, tied by female hands. Even
Miss Simpson was kindly.

They were coming up-stairs; Mr. Goodman
leading: a tall red-faced gentleman, long since
retired from the army where he had hectored
his men; he had now only his wife and " my
two boys, sir," to hector. I had often met
him with a stick on his shoulder, and he had
looked on those occasions as if he would like to
hector me also. He came in first in the
procession. Mrs. Goodman was a quiet lady, with
a chirruping voice, very gentle, but full of
pride about " our boys." The gladiators themselves
came last; they had eager eyes, and
were impatient. The elder and taller, William,
having, it seemed to our family, an insufferably
thoughtful air, interpreted as confident assurance
of victory. It had the corresponding effect of
depression on meArthur, smaller in height,
was a mean contemptible adversary. Mr.
Blackstone was already on the ground, engaged
in easy conversation with the ladies of the
family. I almost think he had a new frock-coat
for the occasioncertainly he wore the best
and shiniest of his wardrobe. There was a
suppressed agitation in his manner, his voice
was very low. The whole family were present,
with the addition of a female friendelderly
who, from the presence of the sherry and adjoining
cake, seemed to look on the whole as
something festival like, or after the manner of an
early tea-party.

Places were now taken with much rustling.
The three combatants were grouped together
in the centre; the spectators made an awful
circus round. Mr. Blackstone opened the first
of the volumes for examination, which lay in a
decent heap beside him; before him was a
neatly ruled and graduated scheme made out
in departments and cells, on which to record
the answering. He had half a dozen newly
made pens beside himin case of a crisis. He
opened the first volume of Adam's Roman
Antiquities, and began with me. The other
works selected were:

Alvarez Prosody.
The Latin Grammar.
The Greek Grammar.
The First Book of Virgil.
The First Book of Homer.
The First Book of Euclid.

The first gun was directed against me: " When
was the catapult first used?" A question
answered triumphantly, for mechanics were my
weakness, and I had often tried to construct what
seemed to resemble that engine of war. Down
went a mark for me. Arthur came next:
"Who were the first Decemvirs?" There
was a pause, decently long, to give him time to
reflect; but no information could be elicited.
But William was eager, and before Mr. Blackstone's
eye was turned to him, the answer was
out. We had twenty rounds in Adam's
Antiquities, and at the close Mr. Blackstone
"totted up" his marks, and in a low impressive
voice read out the result:

Sidney  .  .  .  .  .  .  18
William  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
Arthur  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 12

At this cheering news the delighted faces of
our family were turned to each other. The female
friend, who had small decency, audibly
congratulated the head of our family: glancing at the
same time at the far off sherry, as though this
were a proper opportunity to introduce it. But
Mr. Goodman's stick descended impatiently on
the floor, and he shifted himself uneasily in his
chair. His face assumed a savage tone. " Mind