The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 27
I will give no more of the details of my hero's earlier years. Enough that he struggled
through them, and at twelve years old knew every page of his Latin and Greek Grammars
by heart. He had read the greater part of Virgil, Horace and Livy, and I do not know how
many Greek plays: he was proficient in arithmetic, knew the first four books of Euclid
thoroughly, and had a fair knowledge of French. It was now time he went to school, and
to school he was accordingly to go, under the famous Dr Skinner of Roughborough.
Theobald had known Dr Skinner slightly at Cambridge. He had been a burning and a
shining light in every position he had filled from his boyhood upwards. He was a very
great genius. Everyone knew this; they said, indeed, that he was one of the few people to
whom the word genius could be applied without exaggeration. Had he not taken I don't
know how many University Scholarships in his freshman's year? Had he not been
afterwards Senior Wrangler, First Chancellor's Medallist and I do not know how many
more things besides? And then, he was such a wonderful speaker; at the Union Debating
Club he had been without a rival, and had, of course, been president; his moral character,-
-a point on which so many geniuses were weak--was absolutely irreproachable; foremost
of all, however, among his many great qualities, and perhaps more remarkable even than
his genius was what biographers have called "the simple-minded and child-like
earnestness of his character," an earnestness which might be perceived by the solemnity
with which he spoke even about trifles. It is hardly necessary to say he was on the Liberal
side in politics.
His personal appearance was not particularly prepossessing. He was about the middle
height, portly, and had a couple of fierce grey eyes, that flashed fire from beneath a pair
of great bushy beetling eyebrows and overawed all who came near him. It was in respect
of his personal appearance, however, that, if he was vulnerable at all, his weak place was
to be found. His hair when he was a young man was red, but after he had taken his degree
he had a brain fever which caused him to have his head shaved; when he reappeared, he
did so wearing a wig, and one which was a good deal further off red than his own hair
had been. He not only had never discarded his wig, but year by year it had edged itself a
little more and a little more off red, till by the time he was forty, there was not a trace of
red remaining, and his wig was brown.
When Dr Skinner was a very young man, hardly more than five-and- twenty, the head-
mastership of Roughborough Grammar School had fallen vacant, and he had been
unhesitatingly appointed. The result justified the selection. Dr Skinner's pupils
distinguished themselves at whichever University they went to. He moulded their minds
after the model of his own, and stamped an impression upon them which was indelible in
after-life; whatever else a Roughborough man might be, he was sure to make everyone
feel that he was a God- fearing earnest Christian and a Liberal, if not a Radical, in
politics. Some boys, of course, were incapable of appreciating the beauty and loftiness of
Dr Skinner's nature. Some such boys, alas! there will be in every school; upon them Dr
Skinner's hand was very properly a heavy one. His hand was against them, and theirs