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CHAPTER XXV

ST. WOLSTAN'S

FOR the reason given in the last chapter I cannot say as much about Fernando's schooldays at St. Wolstan's as I might wish, and perhaps my readers may not be sorry.

But some first impressions, and then one or two particular small episodes may be given. As to the former, it was late evening when Fernando got his first glimpse of the school, and very fine it looked, covering the rich green hill with a noble yet simple pile of buildings. The meadows about it were almost like a great park, with a wealth of trees, very few roads, and hardly any other houses anywhere in sight.

Up the steep road from the village where the station was hidden from the college in a deep dell full of trees-scores and scores of boys were walking in groups, with loud talk and laughter; and, somehow, that young noise seemed not to intrude upon the evening stillness but to lie upon it.

Other scores and scores of boys, who had come by earlier trains were sauntering in the huge playing field; and in the cloisters were yet other scores, all talking with a clatter of noise like that of a rookery.

The entrance to the cloisters above the playground was by an arched gate, above which in a niche was a statue of St. Wolstan, in "apparelled" alb, chasuble, dalmatic and tunicle, with a mitre on his head and a crozier in one hand. With the other he seemed to bless the boys who passed beneath into the house called by his name.

First of all Fernando was shown his own room, high up in a block of buildings at the end of one arm of the open quadrangle, in which block was the Warden's Lodge. In the opposite block was the Head Master's House.

It was in quality of being a "Foundation Probationer " that Fernando had a room to himself. These F.P.'s, as they were generally called for short, after certain years of study, were supposed to pass certain examinations, and, if they succeeded, were given masterships either at St. Wolstan's or at other schools of

the Corporation. Adjoining Fernando's room was that of another F.P., and also that of a

very queer old master whose name was Dickory, but who was commonly known as Grubs because he was deeply versed in entomology, as he was also in many other things, especially in philology and literature. The F.P., who was Fernando's other neighbour, was almost a young man, and his name may be given here as Bruce Tudor. He had walked up from the station with Fernando and had already impressed him with the dignities, privileges and rights of F.P.'s.

After a little unpacking, he came into Fernando's room and said it was time to go to hall for supper.

The real dining-hall was not then built and the Great School was used as one; it was a very fine room, much finer than the dining-halls of many famous schools that Fernando came to know afterwards. At one end was the dais, on which were the tables for the Upper and Lower masters, set T-fashion.

There sat the Head Master, with the Captain of the School standing beside him, calling the roll. As each name was called the owner of it stood up and cried " Adsum," which of course made Fernando think of Colonel Newcomeand perhaps not of course, gave him a lump in his throat.

Beside the Head, but seated, and round the corner of the table, sat the Second Master, who smiled so as to show his teeth at every name, as if there were some joke in it.

The table where Fernando sat was rather a short one, being used only by the Prefects and F.P.'s. As soon as the roll was called the same noise began that the cloister had been full of; everybody talked, and no one talked in whispers.

Bruce Tudor introduced Fernando to the others at his table and they were all very friendly and civil. But supper did not last long; then there was a sort of walk (or talk) in the cloisters, and then Compline; very short, of course, and I think the most popular service of the day. The boys all sang the psalms and hymn by heart, and seemed to like it.

After that there was no talking, but all trooped up to the dormitories except Prefects not on duty, who went to the Sixth Form Room, and the F.P.'s who went to their own rooms. So ended Fernando's first day-or part of a day at St. Wolstan's.

Next morning he had to be examined, and I daresay the Head Master found him backward and ignorant-hardly entitled to his ex officio

position of Sixth Form boy and Prefect. Still, human nature being human nature (Mr. Lowell says there's a deal of human nature in a man, and I expect there's more in a boy), it was soon a satisfaction to him to discover that he was not the most ignorant and backward of the Sixth. Bruce Tudor was three years older, and had been at school all his life, but he seemed predestined never to remember what he learned. He was SO manly, and so big, it always made Fernando blush and shiver to hear him put up to translate, especially as Fernando soon liked him very much. The Prefects were taken in all classics by the Head Master, and he loved classics, and sneered at all mathematics as "sums." That endeared him to Fernando, who was always an idiot at any sums." Even algebra seemed to him a fiendish Islamic invention for the torment of Nazarenes.

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It may as well be said that from first to last the Head Master was very kind to Fernando. And it may as well be said he did a marvellous work for the school, quite in its infancy, into which he infused a spirit that was like a fine tradition. To give a new school a sense of

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