"Good night, my dear child," said he; "and may God comfort you in your affliction. I have given your poor mother a composing draught, and trust to find her better in the morning. Fortunately, you require nothing of that kind. God bless you, dear! It will be a consolation to you, as it is to me, to know that your father, my dear old friend, went off perfectly placid and peacefully."
The ser-vice was plain. There was a hymn, a pray-er, a few words, then the read-ing of Lin-coln’s sec-ond in-au-gu-ral ad-dress.
His impressions of headmasters were for the most part taken against a background of white-flannelled boys in playing-fields or grey-flannelled boys in walled court-yards. Eton gave him its river effects and a bright, unforgetable boatman in a coat of wonderful blue; Harrow displayed its view and insisted upon its hill. Physically he liked almost all the schools he saw, except Winchester, which he visited on a rainy day. Almost always there were fine architectural effects; now there was a nucleus of Gothic, now it was time-worn Tudor red brick, now well-proportioned grey Georgian. Most of these establishments had the dignity of age, but Caxton was wealthily new. Caxton was a nest of new buildings of honey-coloured stone; it was growing energetically but tidily; it waved its hand to a busy wilderness of rocks and plants and said, ??our botanical garden,?? to a piece of field and said ??our museum group.?? But it had science laboratories with big apparatus, and the machinery for a small engineering factory. Oswald with an experienced eye approved of its biological equipment. All these great schools were visibly full of life and activity. At times Oswald was so impressed by this life and activity that he felt ashamed of his enquiries; it seemed ungracious not to suppose that all was going well here, that almost any of these schools was good enough and that almost any casual or sentimental considerations, Sydenham family traditions or the like, should suffice to determine which was to have the moulding of Peter. But he had set his heart now on getting to the very essentials of this problem; he was resolved to be blinded by no fair appearances, and though these schools looked as firmly rooted and stoutly prosperous as British oaks and as naturally grown as they, though they had an air of discharging a function as necessary as the beating of a heart and as inevitably, 261he still kept his grip on the idea that they were artificial things of men??s contriving, and still pressed his questions: What are you trying to do? What are you doing? How are you doing it? How do you fit in to the imperial scheme of things?
The wise Se-cret-a-ry Sew-ard said that though he was in fa-vor of such a draft, he thought the time was not ripe for it. He thought it would be best to wait un-til the troops had won more fights. It was then de-cid-ed that at least some months should go by ere this “draft” should be made known.
So thereupon I left the compliments to him, as I never made any pretence to skill in the art, and proceeded to get our baggage in order.
“‘And now, dame,’ said the husbandman, ‘I will tell thee the story in my own and my father’s way. The last of the name of Vernon was renowned far and wide for the hospitality and magnificence of his house, for the splendor of his retinue, and more for the beauty of his daughters, Margaret and Dorothy. This is speaking in thy own manner, dame Foljambe; but truth’s truth. He was much given to hunting and hawking, and jousting, with lances either blunt or sharp; and though a harquebuss generally was found in the hand of the gallant hunters of that time, the year of grace 1560, Sir George Vernon despised that foreign weapon; and well he might, for he bent the strongest bow, and shot the surest shaft, of any man in England. His chase-dogs, too, were all of the most expert and famous kinds, his falcons had the fairest and most certain flight; and though he had seen foreign lands, he chiefly prided himself in maintaining unimpaired the old baronial grandeur of his house. I have heard my grandsire say, how his great-grandsire told him, that the like of the Knight of Haddon, for a stately form and a noble, free, and natural grace of manner, was not to be seen in court or camp. He was hailed, in common tale and in minstrel song, by the name of the King of the Peak; and it is said his handsome person and witchery of tongue chiefly prevented his mistress, good Queen Bess, from abridging his provincial designation with the headsman’s axe.
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