Ravenshoe, by Henry Kingsley

Chapter 7.

In which Charles and Lord Welter Distinguish Themselves at the University.

It is a curious sensation, that of meeting, as a young man of two or three and twenty, a man one has last seen as a little lad of ten, or thereabouts. One is almost in a way disappointed. You may be asked out to dinner to meet a man called, say, Jones (or if you like the name better, Delamere D’Eresby), whom you believe to be your old friend Jones, and whom you have not seen for a month or so; and on getting to the house find it is not your Jones at all, but another Jones whom you don’t know. He may be cleverer, handsomer, more agreeable than your old friend — a man whom you are glad to know; and yet you are disappointed. You don’t meet the man you expected, and are rather disposed to be prejudiced against his representative.

So it is when you meet a friend in manhood whom you have not seen since you were at school. You have been picturing to yourself the sort of man your friend must have developed into, and you find him different from what you thought. So, instead of foregathering with an old friend, you discover that you have to make a new acquaintance.

You will now have to resume the acquaintance of Charles Ravenshoe at two and twenty. I hope you will not be much disappointed in him. He was a very nice boy, if you remember, and you will see immediately that he has developed into a very nice young man indeed. It is possible that I may not be about to introduce him to you under the most favourable circumstances; but he created those circumstances for himself, and must abide by them. As it is not my intention to follow him through any part of his University life, but only to resume his history when he quits it, so it becomes imperatively necessary upon me to state, without any sort of disguise, the reason why he did leave it. And, as two or three other important characters in the story had something to do with it, I shall do so more at length than would at first seem necessary.

It was nine o’clock on the 6th of November. The sun, which had been doing duty for her Majesty all night at Calcutta, Sydney, &c, had by this time reached Oxford, and was shining aslant into two pretty little Gothic windows in the inner, or library quadrangle of St. Paul’s College, and illuminating the features of a young man who was standing in the middle of the room and scratching his head.

He was a stout-built fellow, not particularly handsome, but with a very pleasing face. His hair was very dark brown, short, and curling; his forehead was broad and open, and below it were two uncommonly pleasant-looking dark grey eyes. His face was rather marked, is nose very slightly aquiline, and plenty of it, his mouth large and good-humoured, which, when opened to laugh, as it very frequently was, showed a splendid set of white teeth, which were well contrasted with a fine healthy brown and red complexion. Altogether a very pleasant young fellow to look on, and looking none the worse just now, for an expression of droll perplexity, not unmixed with a certain amount of terror, which he had on his face.

It was Charles Ravenshoe.

He stood in his shirt and trousers only, in the midst of a scene of desolation so awful, that I who have had to describe some of the most terrible scenes and circumstances conceivable, pause, before attempting to give any idea of it in black and white. Every moveable article in the room — furniture, crockery, fender, fire-irons — lay in one vast heap of broken confusion in the corner of the room. Not a pane of glass remained in the windows; the bedroom door was broken down; and the door which opened into the corridor was minus the two upper panels. Well might Charles Ravenshoe stand there and scratch his head.

“By George,” he said at last, soliloquising, “how deuced lucky it is that I never get drunk. If I had been screwed last night, those fellows would have burnt the college down. What a devil that Welter is when he gets drink into him; and Marlow is not much better. The fellows were mad with fighting, too. I wish thev hadn’t come here and made hay afterwards. There’ll be an awful row about this. It’s all up, I am afraid. It’s impossible to say, though.”

At this moment, a man appeared in the passage, and, looking in through the broken door, as if from a witness-box, announced, “Tbe dean wishes to see you at once, sir.” And exit.

Charles replied by using an expression then just coming into use among our youth, “All serene!” dressed himself by putting on a pilot coat, a pair of boots, and a cap and gown, and with a sigh descended into the quadrangle.

There were a good many men about, gathered in groups. The same subject was in everybody’s mouth. There had been, the night before, without warning or apparent cause, the most frightful disturbance which, in the opinion of the porter, had graced the college for fifty years. It had begun suddenly at half-past twelve, and had been continued till three. The dons had been afraid to come and interfere, the noise was so terrible. Five out-college men had knocked out at a quarter to three, refusing to give any name but the dean’s. A rocket had been let up, and a five-barrel revolver had been let off, and — Charles Ravenshoe had been sent for.

A party of young gentlemen, who looked very seedy and guilty, stood in his way, and as he came up shook their heads sorrowfully; one, a tall one, with large whiskers, sat down in the gravel walk, and made as though he would have cast dust upon his head.

“This is a bad job, Charley,” said one of them.

“Some heads must fall,” said Charles; “I hope mine is not among the number. Rather a shame if it is, eh?”

The man with the big whiskers shook his head. “The state of your room,” he said.

“Who has seen it?” eagerly asked Charles.

“Sleeping innocent,” replied the other, “the porter was up there by eight o’clock, and at half-past the dean himself was gazing on your unconscious face as you lay peacefully sleeping in the arms of desolation.”

Charles whistled long and loud, and proceeded with a sinking heart towards the dean’s rooms.

A tall pale man, with a hard, marked countenance, was sitting at his breakfast, who, as soon as he saw his visitor, regarded him with the greatest interest, and buttered a piece of toast.

“Well, Mr. Ravenshoe,” was his remark.

“I believe you sent for me, sir,” said Charles, adding to himself, “Confound you, you cruel old brute, you are amusing yourself with my tortures.”

“This is a pretty business,” said the dean.

Charles would be glad to know to what he alluded.

“Well,” said the dean, laughing, “I don’t exactly know where to begin. However, I am not sure it much matters. You will be wanted in the common room at two. The proctor has sent for your character also. Altogether, I congratulate you. Your career at the University has been brilliant; but, your orbit being highly elliptical, it is to be feared that you will remain but a short time above the horizon. Good morning”

Charles rejoined the eager knot of friends outside; and, when he spoke the awful word “common room,” every countenance wore a look of dismay. Five more, it appeared, were sent for, and three were wanted by the proctor at eleven. It was a disastrous morning,

There was a large breakfast in the rooms of the man with the whiskers, to which all the unfortunates were of course going. One or two were in a state of badly concealed terror, and fidgetted and were peevish, until they got slightly tipsy. Others laughed a good deal, rather nervously, and took the thing pluckily — the terror was there, but they fought against it; but the behaviour of Charles extorted applause from everybody. He was as cool and as merry as if he was just going down for the long vacation; he gave the most comical account of the whole proceedings last night from beginning to end, as he was well competent to do, being the only sober man who had witnessed them; he ate heartily and laughed naturally, to the admiration of every one.

One of the poor fellows who had shown greatest signs of terror, and who was as near crying as he could possibly be without actually doing so, looked up and complimented him on his courage, with an oath.

“In me, my dear Dick,” said Charles, good-naturedly, you see the courage of despair. Had I half your chances I should be as bad as you. I know there are but a few more ceremonies to be gone through, and then — ”

The other rose and leit the room. “Well,” said he, as he went, with a choking voice, “I expect my old governor will cut his throat, or something; I’m fifteen hundred in debt.” And so the door closed on the poor lad, and the party was silent.

There came in now a young man, to whom I wish especially to call your attention. He was an ordinary young man enough, in the morning livery of a groom. He was a moderately well-looking fellow, and there seems at first nothing in any way remarkable about him. But look at him again, and you are struck with a resemblance to some one you know, and yet at first you hardly know to whom. It is not decidedly, either, in any one feature, and you are puzzled for a time, till you come to the conclusion that everyone else does. That man is a handsome likeness of Charles Ravenshoe.

This is Charles’s foster-brother William, whom we saw on a former occasion taking refreshment with that young gentleman, and who had for some time been elevated to the rank of Mr. Charles’s “lad.” He had come for orders.

There were no orders but to exercise the horses, Charles believed; he would tell him in the afternoon if there were, he added sorrowfully.

“I saw Lord Welter coining away from the proctor’s, sir,” said William, “He told me to ask what train you were going down by. His lordship told me to say, sir, that Lord Welter of Christchurch would leave the University at twelve tomorrow, and would not come into residence again till next Michaelmas term.”

“By Jove,” said Charles, “he has got a dose! I didn’t think they’d have given him a year. Well, here goes.”

Charles went to the proctor’s, but his troubles there were not so severe as he had expected. He had been seen fighting several times during the evening, but half the University had been doing the same. He had been sent home three times, and had reappeared; that was nothing so very bad. On his word of honour he had not tripped up the marshal; Brown himself thought he must have slipped on a piece of orange peel. Altogether it came to this; that Ravenshoe of Paul’s had better be in by nine for the rest of term, and mind what he was about for the future.

But the common room at two was the thing by which poor Charles was to stand or fall. There were terrible odds against him — the master and six tutors. It was no use, he said, sniveling, or funking the thing; so he went in to do battle valiantly.

The Master opened the ball, in a voice suggestive of mild remonstrance. In all his experience of college life, extending over a period of forty-five years, he had never even heard of proceedings so insubordinate, so unparalleled, so — so — monstrous, as had taken place the night before, in a college only a twelvemonth ago considered to be the quietest in the University. A work of fiction of a low and vicious tendency, professing to describe scenes of headlong riot and debauchery at the sister University, called, he believed, “Peter Priggins,” had een written, and was, he understood, greatly read by the youth of both seats of learning; but he was given to understand that the worst described in that book sank into nothing, actually dwindled into insignificance, before last night’s proceedings. It appeared, he continued referring to a paper through his gold eye-glasses), that at half-past twelve a band of intoxicated and frantic young men had rushed howling into the college, refusing to give their names to the porter (among whom was recognised Mr. Ravenshoe); that from that moment a scene of brutal riot had commenced in the usually peaceful quadrangle, and had continued till half-past three; loaded weapons had been resorted to, and fireworks had been exhibited; and, finally, that five members of another college had knocked out at half-three, stating to the poller (without the slightest foundation) that they had been having tea with the dean. Now you know, really and truly, it simply resolved itself into this. Were they going to keep St. Paul’s College open, or were they not? If the institution which had flourished now for above five hundred years was to continue to receive undergraduates, the disturbers of last night must be sternly eliminated. In the last case of this kind, where a man was only convicted of — eh, Mr. Dean? — pump handle — thank you — was only convicted of playfully secreting the handle of the college pump, rustication had been inflicted. In this case the college would do its duty, however painful. iaries was understood to say that he was quite sober, and had tried to keep the fellows out of mischief.

The Master believed Mr. Ravenshoe would hardly deny having let off a rocket on the grass-plat.

Charles was ill advised enough to say that he did it to keep the fellows quiet; but the excuse fell dead, and there was a slight pause. After which,

The Dean rose, with his hands in his pockets, and remarked that this sort of thing was all mighty fine, you know; but they weren’t going to stand it, and the sooner this was understood the better. He, for one, as long as he remained dean of that college, was not going to have a parcel of drunken young idiots making a row under his windows at all hours in the morning. He should have come out himself last night, but that he was afraid, positively afraid, of personal violence; and the odds were too heavy against him. He, for one, did not want more words about it. He allowed the fact of Mr. Ravenshoe being perfectly sober, though whether that could be pleaded in extenuation was very doubtful (Did you speak, Mr. Bursar? No. I beg pardon, I thought you did.) He proposed that Mr. Ravenshoe should be rusticated for a year, and that the Dean of Christchurch should be informed that Lord Welter was one of the most active of the rioters. That promising young nobleman had done them the honour to create a disturbance in the college on a previous occasion, when he was, as last night, the guest of Mr. Ravenshoe.

Charles said that Lord Welter had been rusticated for a year.

The Dean was excessively glad to hear it, and hoped that he would stay at home and give his family the benefit of his high spirits. As there were five other gentlemen to come before them he would suggest that they should come to a determination.

The Bursar thought that Mr. Ravenshoe’s plea of sobriety should be taken in extenuation. Air. Ravenshoe had never been previously accused of having resorted to stimulants. He thought it should be taken in extenuation.

The Dean was sorry to be of a diametrically opposite opinion.

No one else taking up the cudgels for poor Charles, the Master said he was afraid he must rusticate him.

Charles said he hoped they wouldn’t.

The DEAN gave a short laugh, and said that if that was all he had to say he might as well have held his tongue. And then the Master pronounced sentence of rustication for a year, and Charles, having bowed, withdrew.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44