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- The Unclassed - 18/74 -
might have occurred. Throughout his lessons, his attention remained fixed upon her; he studied her face intently, and was constantly discovering in it new meanings. When she caught his eyes thus busy with her, she evinced, for a moment, trouble and uneasiness; he felt sure that she arranged her seat so as to have her back to him more frequently than she had been accustomed to do. Her work appeared to him to be done with less self-forgetfulness than formerly; the rioting and impertinence of the children seemed to trouble her more; she bore Mrs. Tootle's interference with something like fear. Once, when Master Felix had gone beyond his wonted licence, in his mother's absence, Waymark went so far as to call him to order. As soon as he had spoken, the girl looked up at him in a startled way, and seemed silently to beg him to refrain. All this only strengthened the influence she exercised upon Waymark.
Since the climax of wretchedness which had resulted in his advertisement and the forming of Julian Casti's acquaintance, a moderate cheerfulness had possessed him. Now he once more felt the clouds sinking about him, was aware of many a threatening portent, the meaning whereof he too well understood. There had been a week or two of prevailing bad weather, a state of things which always wrought harmfully upon him; his thoughts darkened under the dark sky, and the daily downpour of rain sapped his energies. It was within a few days of Easter, but the prospect of a holiday had no effect upon him. Night after night he lay in fever and unrest. He felt as though some voice were calling upon him to undertake a vaguely hazardous enterprise which yet he knew not the nature of.
On one of these evenings, Mr. O'Gree announced to him that Miss Enderby was going to give up her position at the end of the quarter. Philip had gathered this from a conversation heard during the day between Dr. Tootle and his wife.
"The light of my life will be gone out," exclaimed O'Gree, "when I am no longer able to catch a glimpse of her as she goes past the schoolroom door. And I've never even had a chance of speaking to her. You know the tale of Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. Suppose I were to rush out and throw my top-coat on the muddy door-step, just as she's going out; d'ye think she'd say thank you?"
"Probably," muttered Waymark, without knowing what he said. It was Mr. O'Gree's habit to affect this violent devotion to each new governess in turn, but Waymark did not seem to find the joke amusing at present.
"Bedad, I'll do it then! Or, rather, I would, if I'd two top-coats. Hang it! There's no behaving like a gentleman on twenty-five pounds a year."
Waymark walked about the streets the greater part of the night, and the next morning came to school rather late. Dr. Tootle had to consult with him about some matter as soon as he arrived.
"You seem indisposed, Mr. Waymark," the doctor remarked, when he had in vain tried to elicit intelligible replies to his questions.
"I am a little out of sorts," the other returned carelessly. "Perhaps we could talk about these things to-morrow."
"As you please," said Dr. Tootle, a little surprised at his assistant's indifference.
It was a drawing-lesson morning. As he went upstairs, his ears apprised him of the state of things he would find m Miss Enderby's room. The approach of the Easter holidays was making the youngsters even more than usually uproarious, and their insubordination had passed beyond all pretence of attending to tasks. When Waymark entered, his first glance, as always, was towards the governess. She looked harassed and ill; was in vain endeavouring to exert some authority with her gentle voice. Her eyes showed unmistakable gratitude as the teacher appeared, for his approach meant that she would be relieved from the three elder children. Waymark called sharply to his pupils to come and take their places, but without any attention on their part. Master Felix openly urged the rest to assume a defiant attitude, and began to improvise melodies on a trumpet formed by rolling up a copy-book.
"Felix," said Miss Enderby, "give me your copy-book and go to the drawing-lesson."
The boy removed the trumpet from his mouth, and, waving it once round his head, sent it flying across the room at the speaker; it hit her on the cheek. In the same minute, Waymark had bent across his knee a large pointer which stood in a corner of the room, and had snapped it into two pieces. Holding the lighter of these in one hand, with the other hand he suddenly caught Master Felix by the coat-collar, and in a second had him out of the room and on to the landing. Then did the echoes of the Academy wake to such a bellowing as they had probably never heard before. With a grip impossible even to struggle against, Waymark held the young imp under his arm, and plied the broken pointer with great vigour; the stripes were almost as loud as the roarings. There was a rush from the rooms below in the direction of the disturbance; all the boys were in a trice leaping about delightedly on the stairs, and behind them came O'Gree, Egger, and Dr. Tootle himself. From the room above rushed out all the young Tootles, yelling for help. Last of all, from still higher regions of the house there swept down a vision of disordered female attire, dishevelled hair, and glaring eyes; it was Mrs. Tootle, disturbed at her toilet, forgetting all considerations of personal appearance at the alarming outcry. Just as she reached the spot, Waymark's arm dropped in weariness; he flung the howling young monkey into one corner, the stick into another, and deliberately pulled his coat-sleeves into position once more. He felt vastly better for the exercise, and there was even a smile on his heated face.
"You brutal ruffian!" shrieked Mrs. Tootle. "How dare you touch my child? You shall answer for this in the police court, sir."
"Waymark," cried her husband, who had struggled to the scene through the crowd of cheering boys, "what's the meaning of this? You forget yourself, sir. Who gave you authority to use corporal chastisement?"
"The boy has long deserved a good thrashing," he said, "and I'm glad I lost my temper sufficiently to give him a portion of his deserts. If you wish to know the immediate cause, it simply was that he threw a book at his governess's head and hit her."
"Mr. O'Gree," called out the doctor, "take your boys back to their duties, sir! I am quite unable to understand this disgraceful lack of discipline. Every boy who is not at his seat in one minute will have five hundred verses of the Psalms to write out!--Mr. Waymark, I shall be obliged to you if you will step into my study."
Five minutes after, Waymark was closeted with Dr. Tootle. The latter had all at once put off his appearance of indignation.
"Really," he began, "it's a great pity you let yourself be carried away like that. I think it very probable indeed that Felix deserved castigation of some kind, but you would have done much better to report him to me, you know, and let me see to it. You have put me in an awkward position. I fear you must make an apology to Mrs. Tootle, and then perhaps the matter can be allowed to blow over."
"I think not," replied Waymark, whose mind was evidently made up. There was a look of recklessness on his face which one could at any time have detected lurking beneath the hard self-control which usually marked him. "I don't feel disposed to apologise, and I am tired of my position here. I must give it up."
Dr. Tootle was annoyed. It would not be easy to get another teacher of the kind at so cheap a rate.
"Come, you don't mean this," he said. "You are out of temper for the moment. Perhaps the apology could be dispensed with; I think I may promise that it can be. The lad will be no worse for his little correction. Possibly we can come to some more satisfactory arrangements for the future--"
"No," interposed Waymark; "I have quite made up my mind. I mean to give up teaching altogether; it doesn't suit me. Of course I am willing to come as usual the next two days."
"You are aware that this notice should have been given me at the beginning of the quarter?" hinted the principal.
"Oh yes. Of course you will legally owe me nothing. I am prepared for that."
"Well, I shall have to consider it. But I still think that you--"
"As far as I am concerned, the matter is decided. I go at Easter."
"Very well. I think you are blind to your own interest, but of course you do as you please. If Mrs. Tootle should press me to take out a summons against you for assault, of course I--"
"Good morning, Dr. Tootle."
The summons was not taken out, but Waymark's resolution suffered no change. There was another interview between him and the principal, from which he issued with the sum of six pounds ten in his pocket, being half the quarter's salary. He had not applied for this, but did not refuse it when it was offered. Seeing that the total amount of cash previously in his possession was something less than five shillings, he did wisely, perhaps, to compromise with his dignity, and let Dr. Tootle come out of the situation with a certain show of generosity.
BY THE WAYSIDE
"So there ends another chapter. How many more to the end of the story? How many more scenes till the farce is played out? There is something flattering to one's vanity in this careless playing with fate; it is edifying, moreover, to sot circumstances at defiance in this way, now and then, to assert one's freedom. Freedom! What a joke the word must be to whoever is pulling the wires and making us poor puppets dance at his pleasure. Pity that we have to pay the piper so heavily for our involuntary jigging!"
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