Nothing could be nicer or more proper. It really did seem as though he were inclined to turn over a new leaf. The boys had all come back, the examinations were over, and the routine of the half year began; Ernest found that his fears about being kicked about and bullied were exaggerated. Nobody did anything very dreadful to him. He had to run errands between certain hours for the elder boys, and to take his turn at greasing the footballs, and so forth, but there was an excellent spirit in .
Nevertheless, he was far from happy. Dr. Skinner was much too like his father. True, Ernest was not thrown in with him much yet, but he was always there; there was no knowing at what moment he might not put in an appearance, and whenever he did show, it was to storm about something. He was like the lion in the Bishop of Oxford’s Sunday story — always liable to rush out from behind some bush and devour someone when he was least expected. He called Ernest “an audacious reptile” and said he wondered the earth did not open and swallow him up because he pronounced Thalia with a short i. “And this to me,” he thundered, “who never made a false quantity in my life.” Surely he would have been a much nicer person if he had made false quantities in his youth like other people. Ernest could not imagine how the boys in Dr. Skinner’s form. continued to live; but yet they did, and even throve, and, strange as it may seem, idolised him, or professed to do so, in after life. To Ernest it seemed like living on the crater of Vesuvius.
He was himself, as has been said, in Mr. Templer’s form, who was snappish, but not downright wicked, and was very easy to crib under. Ernest used to wonder how Mr. Templer could be so blind, for he supposed Mr. Templer must have cribbed when he was at school, and would ask himself whether he should forget his youth when he got old, as Mr. Templer had forgotten his. He used to think he never could possibly forget any part of it.
Then there was Mrs. Jay, who was sometimes very alarming. A few days after the half year had commenced, there being some little extra noise in the hall, she rushed in with her spectacles on her forehead and her cap strings flying, and called the boy whom Ernest had selected as his hero the “rampingest-scampingest-rackety-tackety-tow-row-roaringest boy in the whole school.” But she used to say things that Ernest liked. If the Doctor went out to dinner, and there were no prayers, she would come in and say, “Young gentlemen, prayers are excused this evening”; and, take her for all in all, she was a kindly old soul enough.