The Way of All Flesh
Ernest had heard awful accounts of Dr Skinner's temper, and of the bullying which the
younger boys at Roughborough had to put up with at the hands of the bigger ones. He had
now got about as much as he could stand, and felt as though it must go hard with him if
his burdens of whatever kind were to be increased. He did not cry on leaving home, but I
am afraid he did on being told that he was getting near Roughborough. His father and
mother were with him, having posted from home in their own carriage; Roughborough
had as yet no railway, and as it was only some forty miles from Battersby, this was the
easiest way of getting there.
On seeing him cry, his mother felt flattered and caressed him. She said she knew he must
feel very sad at leaving such a happy home, and going among people who, though they
would be very good to him, could never, never be as good as his dear papa and she had
been; still, she was herself, if he only knew it, much more deserving of pity than he was,
for the parting was more painful to her than it could possibly be to him, etc., and Ernest,
on being told that his tears were for grief at leaving home, took it all on trust, and did not
trouble to investigate the real cause of his tears. As they approached Roughborough he
pulled himself together, and was fairly calm by the time he reached Dr Skinner's.
On their arrival they had luncheon with the Doctor and his wife, and then Mrs Skinner
took Christina over the bedrooms, and showed her where her dear little boy was to sleep.
Whatever men may think about the study of man, women do really believe the noblest
study for womankind to be woman, and Christina was too much engrossed with Mrs
Skinner to pay much attention to anything else; I daresay Mrs Skinner, too, was taking
pretty accurate stock of Christina. Christina was charmed, as indeed she generally was
with any new acquaintance, for she found in them (and so must we all) something of the
nature of a cross; as for Mrs Skinner, I imagine she had seen too many Christinas to find
much regeneration in the sample now before her; I believe her private opinion echoed the
dictum of a well-known head-master who declared that all parents were fools, but more
especially mothers; she was, however, all smiles and sweetness, and Christina devoured
these graciously as tributes paid more particularly to herself, and such as no other mother
would have been at all likely to have won.
In the meantime Theobald and Ernest were with Dr Skinner in his library--the room
where new boys were examined and old ones had up for rebuke or chastisement. If the
walls of that room could speak, what an amount of blundering and capricious cruelty
would they not bear witness to!
Like all houses, Dr Skinner's had its peculiar smell. In this case the prevailing odour was
one of Russia leather, but along with it there was a subordinate savour as of a chemist's
shop. This came from a small laboratory in one corner of the room--the possession of
which, together with the free chattery and smattery use of such words as "carbonate,"