The Gods and Mr. Perrin. A Tragi-Comedy - Hugh Walpole - ebook

The Gods and Mr. Perrin. A Tragi-Comedy ebook

Hugh Walpole

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This is a wonderful story of English school life, depicting the driving of boys and the hungry, cramped life of the masters, as well as the tragedy that captures and leads Mr. Perrin. We are set up so as not to love the school teacher Mr. Perrin, who is falling into our eyes into some kind of paranoid delusion. Nevertheless, at every step, the author deviates from the expected result, truly not letting us understand why this was not so inevitable as he drew it up to this point.

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Liczba stron: 338

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Contents

CHAPTER I. MR. VINCENT PERRIN DRINKS HIS TEA AND GIVES MR. TRAILL SOUND ADVICE

CHAPTER II. INTRODUCES A CONFUSING COMPANY OF PERSONS, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON MRS. COMBER

CHAPTER III. CONCERNS ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS THAT MAY HAPPEN BETWEEN SOUP AND DESSERT

CHAPTER IV. BIRKLAND LOQUITUR

CHAPTER V. A GAME OF FOOTBALL AND A DANCE IN PENDRAGON HAVE THEIR PART IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS

CHAPTER VI. SÆVA INDIGNATIO

CHAPTER VII. THE BATTLE OF THE UMBRELLA; THEY OPEN FIRE

CHAPTER VIII. THE BATTLE OF THE UMBRELLA; CAMPS ARE FORMED—ALSO SOME SKIRMISHING

CHAPTER IX. THE BATTLE OF THE UMBRELLA; WITH THE LADIES

CHAPTER X. THE BATTLE OF THE UMBRELLA; “WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY . . .”

CHAPTER XI. MR. PERRIN SEES DOUBLE

CHAPTER XII. MR. PERRIN WALKS IN HIS SLEEP

CHAPTER XIII. MR. PERRIN LISTENS WHILE THEY ALL MAKE SPEECHES

CHAPTER XIV. MR. PERRIN REACHES THE HEART OF HIS KINGDOM

CHAPTER XV. THE GOLDEN VIEW

CHAPTER I. MR. VINCENT PERRIN DRINKS HIS TEA AND GIVES MR. TRAILL SOUND ADVICE

I

Vincent Perrin said to himself again and again as he climbed the hill: “It shall be all right this term”–and then, “It shall be”–and then, “This term.” A cold wintry sun watched him from above the brown shaggy wood on the horizon; the sky was a pale and watery blue, and on its surface white clouds edged with gray lay like saucers. A little wind sighed and struggled amongst the hedges, because Mr. Perrin had nearly reached the top of the hill, and there was always a breeze there. He stopped for a moment and looked back. The hill on which he was stood straight out from the surrounding country; it was shaped like a sugar-loaf, and the red-brown earth of its fields seemed to catch the red light of the sun; behind it was green, undulating country, in front of it the blue, vast sweep of the sea.

“It shall be all right this term,” said Mr. Perrin, and he pulled his rather faded greatcoat about his ears, because the little wind was playing with the short bristly hairs at the back of his neck. He was long and gaunt; his face might have been considered strong had it not been for the weak chin and a shaggy, unkempt mustache of a nondescript pale brown. His hands were long and bony, and the collar that he wore was too high, and propped his neck up, so that he had the effect of someone who strained to overlook something. His eyes were pale and watery, and his eyebrows of the same sandy color as his mustache. His age was about forty-five, and he had been a master at Moffatt’s for over twenty years. His back was a little bent as he walked; his hands were folded behind his back, and carried a rough, ugly walking-stick that trailed along the ground.

His eyes were fixed on the enormous brown block of buildings on the top of the hill in front of him: he did not see the sea, or the sky, or the distant Brown Wood.

The air was still with the clear suspense of an early autumn day. The sound of a distant mining stamp drove across space with the ring of a hammer, and the tiny whisper–as of someone who tells eagerly, but mysteriously, a secret–was the beating of the waves far at the bottom of the hill against the rocks.

Faint blue smoke hung against the saucer-shaped clouds above the chimneys of Moffatt’s; in the air there was a sharp scented smell of some hidden bonfire.

The silence was broken by the sound of wheels, and an open cab drove up the hill. In it were seated four small boys, surrounded by a multitude of bags, hockey-sticks, and rugs. The four small boys were all very small indeed, but they all sat up when they saw Mr. Perrin, and touched their hats with a simultaneous movement. Mr. Perrin nodded sternly, glanced at them for a moment, and then switched his eyes back to the brown buildings again.

“Barker Minor, French, Doggett, and Rogers,” he said to himself quickly; “Barker Minor, French...;” then his mind swung back to its earlier theme again, and he said out loud, hitting the road with his stick, “It shall be all right this term.”

The school clock–he knew the sound so well that he often thought he heard it at home in Buckinghamshire–struck half-past three. He hastened his steps. His holidays had been good–better than usual; he had played golf well; the men at the Club had not been quite such idiots and fools as they usually were: they had listened to him quite patiently about Education–shall it be Greek or German? Public School Morality, and What a Mother can do for her Boy–all favorite subjects of his.

Perhaps this term was not going to be so bad–perhaps the new man would be an acquisition: he could not, at any rate, be worse than Searle of the preceding term. The new man was, Perrin had heard, only just down from the University–he would probably do what Perrin suggested.

No, this term was to be all right. He never liked the autumn term; but there were a great many new boys, his house was full, and then–he stopped once more and drew a deep breath–there was Miss Desart. He tried to twist the end of his mustache, but some hairs were longer than others, and he never could obtain a combined movement.... Miss Desart.... He coughed.

He passed in through the black school gates, his shabby coat flapping at his heels.

The distant Brown Wood, as it surrendered to the sun, flamed with gold; the dark green hedges on the hill slowly caught the light.

II

The master’s common room in the Lower School was a small square room that was inclined in the summer to get very stuffy indeed. It stood, moreover, exactly between the kitchen, where meals were prepared, and the long dining-room, where meals were eaten, and there was therefore a perpetual odor of food in the air. On a “mutton day”–there were three “mutton” days a week–this odor hung in heavy, clammy folds about the ceiling, and on those days there were always more boys kept in than on the other days–on so small a thing may punishment hang.

To-day–this being the first day of the term–the room was exceedingly tidy. On the right wall, touching the windows, were two rows of pigeon-holes, and above each pigeon-hole was printed, on a white label, a name–“Mr. Perrin,” “Mr. Dormer,” “Mr. Clinton,” “Mr. Traill.”

Each master had two pigeon-holes into which he might put his papers and his letters; considerable friction had been caused by people putting their papers into other people’s pigeon-holes. On the opposite wall was an enormous, shiny map of the world, with strange blue and red lines running across it. The third wall was filled with the fireplace, over which were two stern and dusty photographs of the Parthenon, Athens, and St. Peter’s, Rome.

Although the air was sharp with the first early hint of autumn, the windows were open, and a little part of the garden could be seen–a gravel path down which golden-brown leaves were fluttering, a round empty flower-bed, a stone wall.

On the large table in the middle of the room tea was laid, one plate of bread and butter, and a plate of rock buns. Dormer, a round, red-faced, cheerful-looking person with white hair, aged about fifty, and Clinton, a short, athletic youth, with close-cropped hair and a large mouth, were drinking tea. Clinton had poured his into his saucer and was blowing at it–a practice that Perrin greatly disliked.

However, this was the first day of term, and everyone was very friendly. Perrin paused a moment in the doorway. “Ah! here we are again!” he said, with easy jocularity.

Dormer gave him a hand, and said, “Glad to see you, Perrin; had good holidays?”

Clinton took the last rock bun, and shouted with a kind of roar, “You old nut!”

Perrin, as he moved to the table, thought that it was a little hard that all the things that irritated him most should happen just when he was most inclined to be easy and pleasant.

“Ha! no cake!” he said, with a surprised air.

“Oh! I say, I’m so sorry,” said Clinton, with his mouth full, “I took the last. Ring the bell.”

Perrin gulped down his annoyance, sat down, and poured out his tea. It was cold and leathery. Dormer was busily writing lists of names. The Lower School was divided into two houses–Dormer was house-master of one, and Perrin of the other. The other two junior men were under house-masters: Clinton belonged to Dormer; and Traill, the new man, to Perrin. Both houses were in the same building, but the sense of rival camps gave a pleasant spur of emulation and competition both to work and play.

“I say, Perrin, have you made out your bath-lists? Then there are locker-names–I want...” Perrin snapped at his bread and butter. “Ah, Dormer, please–my tea first.”

“All right; only, it’s getting on to four.”

For some moments there was silence. Then there came timid raps on the door. Perrin, in his most stentorian voice, shouted, “Come in!”

The door slowly opened, and there might be seen dimly in the passage a misty cloud of white Eton collars and round, white faces. There was a shuffling of feet.

Perrin walked slowly to the door.

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