The Professor HTML version

Chapter 3
I SERVED Edward as his second clerk faithfully, punctually, diligently. What was
given me to do I had the power and the determination to do well. Mr. Crimsworth
watched sharply for defects, but found none; he set Timothy Steighton, his
favourite and head man, to watch also. Tim was baffled; I was as exact as
himself, and quicker. Mr. Crimsworth made inquiries as to how I lived, whether I
got into debt--no, my accounts with my landlady were always straight. I had hired
small lodgings, which I contrived to pay for out of a slender fund--the
accumulated savings of my Eton pocket-money; for as it had ever been
abhorrent to my nature to ask pecuniary assistance, I had early acquired habits
of self-denying economy; husbanding my monthly allowance with anxious care,
in order to obviate the danger of being forced, in some moment of future
exigency, to beg additional aid. I remember many called me miser at the time,
and I used to couple the reproach with this consolation--better to be
misunderstood now than repulsed hereafter. At this day I had my reward; I had
had it before, when on parting with my irritated uncles one of them threw down
on the table before me a 5l. note, which I was able to leave there, saying that my
travelling expenses were already provided for. Mr. Crimsworth employed Tim to
find out whether my landlady had any complaint to make on the score of my
morals; she answered that she believed I was a very religious man, and asked
Tim, in her turn, if he thought I had any intention of going into the Church some
day; for, she said, she had had young curates to lodge in her house who were
nothing equal to me for steadiness and quietness. Tim was "a religious man"
himself; indeed, he was "a joined Methodist," which did not (be it understood)
prevent him from being at the same time an engrained rascal, and he came away
much posed at hearing this account of my piety. Having imparted it to Mr.
Crimsworth, that gentleman, who himself frequented no place of worship, and
owned no God but Mammon, turned the information into a weapon of attack
against the equability of my temper. He commenced a series of covert sneers, of
which I did not at first perceive the drift, till my landlady happened to relate the
conversation she had had with Mr. Steighton; this enlightened me; afterwards I
came to the counting-house prepared, and managed to receive the millowner's
blasphemous sarcasms, when next levelled at me, on a buckler of impenetrable
indifference. Ere long he tired of wasting his ammunition on a statue, but he did
not throw away the shafts--he only kept them quiet in his quiver.
Once during my clerkship I had an invitation to Crimsworth Hall; it was on the
occasion of a large party given in honour of the master's birthday; he had always
been accustomed to invite his clerks on similar anniversaries, and could not well
pass me over; I was, however, kept strictly in the background. Mrs. Crimsworth,
elegantly dressed in satin and lace, blooming in youth and health, vouchsafed
me no more notice than was expressed by a distant move; Crimsworth, of
course, never spoke to me; I was introduced to none of the band of young ladies,
who, enveloped in silvery clouds of white gauze and muslin, sat in array against