Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 5

The Vacation was over, and Vivian returned to Burnsley Vicarage. He bowed cavalierly to Mr. Dallas on his arrival, and immediately sauntered up into the school-room, where he found a tolerable quantity of wretches looking as miserable as schoolboys who have left their pleasant homes generally do for some four-and-twenty hours. “How d’ye do, Grey? How d’ye do, Grey?” burst from a knot of unhappy fellows, who would have felt quite delighted had their newly arrived co-mate condescended to entertain them, as usual, with some capital good story fresh from town. But they were disappointed.

“We can make room for you at the fire, Grey,” said Theophilus

“I thank you, I am not cold.”

“I suppose you know that Poynings and Etherege don’t come back, Grey?”

“Everybody knew that last half:” and so he walked on.

“Grey, Grey!” halloed King, “don’t go into the dining-room; Mallett is there alone, and told us not to disturb him. By Jove, the fellow is going in: there will be a greater row this half between Grey and Mallett than ever.”

Days, the heavy first days of the half, rolled on, and all the citizens of the little commonwealth had returned.

“What a dull half this will be!” said Eardley; “how one misses Grey’s set! After all, they kept the school alive: Poynings was a first-rate fellow, and Etherege so deuced good-natured! I wonder whom Grey will crony with this half; have you seen him and Dallas speak together yet? He cut the Doctor quite dead at Greek to-day.”

“Why, Eardley! Eardley! there is Grey walking round playing fields with Mallett!” halloed a sawney who was killing the half-holiday by looking out of the window.

“The devil! I say, Matthews, whose flute is that? It is a devilish handsome one!”

“It’s Grey’s! I clean it for him,” squeaked a little boy. “He gives me sixpence a week!”

“Oh, you sneak!” said one.

“Cut him over!”

“Roast him!” cried a third.

“To whom are you going to take the flute?” asked a fourth.

“To Mallett,” squeaked the little fellow. “Grey lends his flute to Mallett every day.”

“Grey lends his flute to Mallett! The deuce he does! So Grey and Mallett are going to crony!”

A wild exclamation burst forth from the little party; and away each of them ran, to spread in all directions the astounding intelligence.

If the rule of the ushers had hitherto been light at Burnsley Vicarage, its character was materially changed during this half-year. The vexatious and tyrannical influence of Mallett was now experienced in all directions, meeting and interfering with the comforts of the boys in every possible manner. His malice was accompanied, too, by a tact which could not have been expected from his vulgar mind, and which, at the same time, could not have been produced by the experience of one in his situation. It was quite evident to the whole community that his conduct was dictated by another mind, and that that mind was one versed in all the secrets of a school-boy’s life, and acquainted with all the workings of a school-boy’s mind: a species of knowledge which no pedagogue in the world ever yet attained. There was no difficulty in discovering whose was the power behind the throne. Vivian Grey was the perpetual companion of Mallett in his walks, and even in the school; he shunned also the converse of every one of the boys, and did not affect to conceal that his quarrel was universal. Superior power, exercised by a superior mind, was for a long time more than a match even for the united exertions of the whole school. If any one complained, Mallett’s written answer (and such Dallas always required) was immediately ready, explaining everything in the most satisfactory manner, and refuting every complaint with the most triumphant spirit. Dallas, of course, supported his deputy, and was soon equally detested. This tyranny had continued through a great part of the long half-year, and the spirit of the school was almost broken, when a fresh outrage occurred, of such a nature that the nearly enslaved multitude conspired.

The plot was admirably formed. On the first bell ringing for school, the door was to be immediately barred, to prevent the entrance of Dallas. Instant vengeance was then to be taken on Mallett and his companion — the sneak! the spy! the traitor! The bell rang: the door was barred: four stout fellows seized on Mallett, four rushed to Vivian Grey: but stop: he sprang upon his desk, and, placing his back against the wall, held a pistol at the foremost: “Not an inch nearer, Smith, or I fire. Let me not, however, baulk your vengeance on yonder hound: if I could suggest any refinements in torture, they would be at your service.” Vivian Grey smiled, while the horrid cries of Mallett indicated that the boys were “roasting” him. He then walked to the door and admitted the barred-out Dominie. Silence was restored. There was an explanation and no defence; and Vivian Grey was expelled.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19