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hold of it and had extracted from its owner the name and address of the sender, and had then written to Dr. Usher.
Who is responsible for that precious production," he asked.
He read it aloud. And if I had been somebody else I might have admired the rich variety of sarcastic emphasis which he employed. As it was I should have much preferred to hear him read as many lines of some unknown classic author, with an obvious purpose of insisting on my immediately translating the same without a dictionary. "Well, Burscough!" he said, when he had finished.
And those two words were very eloquent. They summed up a most unflattering judgment of the author of the paper. He was sillier, more absurd, more worthy of derision, aye, and of reproof, than falls to the ordinary lot of boys.
On the serious side of the matter, as calculated to do harm to a corporation of schools already accused of being "Jesuitical," the Head Master laid but passing stress. Not, I think, because he was not himself High Church, but because he chose rather to seem
to regard the whole thing as an amazing exhibition of absurdity. Probably he knew very well what he was about.
Of the name of Fernando's society he did speak, and that with a kind of amazement of sardonic criticism. It was then that Fernando first understood that he had literally taken the name of the Jesuit Order for his guild of schoolboys.
More than once the Head Master laughed, and called out "Upon my word!"
But his laugh did not at all suggest any invitation to the culprit to join in his merriment. It was all for himself, and Fernando's depths of idiocy were the most unapproved occasion of it.
If I had an enemy I should think it very wicked to wish that he might be as uncomfortable as Fernando was that afternoon.
"And you you originated this precious scheme?" he exclaimed abruptly.
"It proceeds from what the poverty of the English language obliges me to call your brain?"
"But you found others to join you."
That was obvious, or it could never have been a society at all. So Fernando held his peace and he was not asked their names. "And even in other schools you sought and found others to join you Upon my word! upon my word! And the whole thing was to be private and confidential-a secret society! upon my word!"
A good deal more was said a great deal more than it was pleasant for Fernando to hear. But it would be tedious to try to recall it all.
That he was in disgrace, and very black disgrace, was made abundantly clear. What, he wondered, would be done to him? For a Prefect there were no minor punishments, and this was not a minor offence. Flogged he could hardly be for founding a Society of Jesus for Anglican schools; but might he not be expelled? And to him it seemed that expulsion might very possibly be decreed, especially if the whole thing were to be reported to the Warden. Then, he thought in his misery, people would know only that he had been expelled, few would know why; no doubt the cause would be assumed to be something very different.
Looking back now I can see how little likely
it would be he should have been expelled. Even had it seemed (as very possibly it might) to the Warden that the boy richly deserved the extremest penalty for such an offence, to inflict it would have been a great risk. Fernando's parents might have made the matter fully public, and the many who accused the Corporation of " Jesuitry " would have been loud in crying through the newspapers: "The boy only carried out the teaching he had imbibed: a juvenile Jesuit no doubt, but without any disguise. And who taught him?"
They would have been grossly unjust and unfair; but that never would have stopped them. Fernando's "Jesuitry was certainly not learned at St. Wolstan's but was utterly contemned by its rulers. There is no more passionately anti-Catholic spirit than that of a strongly Anglican school.
The Head Master talked long, but he said nothing about expulsion, and probably the idea of it never entered his mind. He had not the least idea of persecuting or bullying Fernando, but merely intended to squash him.
On one thing he was, of course, determined. There must be an instant and complete end of the guild. Like the Bourbon kings (whom
he particularly despised) he was resolved on suppression of the "Society of Jesus." And poor Fernando had to play Clement XIV to the Head Master's Louis and Charles; so the little society was suppressed.
But the originator of it was none the less determined to be a Catholic. He thought he was one, but he was quite sure he must be one. And why should not Saint Ignatius have prayed that his boyish plagiarist might find out his mistake, and set it right ?