The Master of the Shell

The Master of the Shell

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Twice Accepted.

The reader is requested kindly to glance through the following batch of letters, which, oddly enough, are all dated September 9th, 18—:

Number 1.—William Grover, M.A., Grandcourt School, to Mark Railsford, M.A., Lucerne.

“Grandcourt, September 9th.

“Dear Railsford,—I suppose this will catch you at Lucerne, on your way back to England. I was sorry to hear you had been seedy before you left London. Your trip is sure to have done you good, and if you only fell in with pleasant people I expect you will have enjoyed yourself considerably. What are you going to do when you get home—still follow the profession of a gentleman at large, or what? Term opened here again last week, and the Sixth came back to-day. I’m getting more reconciled to the place by this time; indeed, there is no work I like better than teaching, and if I was as certain it was as good for the boys as it is congenial to me I should be perfectly contented. My fellow-masters, with an exception or two, are good fellows, and let me alone. The exceptions are harder to get on with.

“As for the boys, I have a really nice lot in my house. One or two rowdies, who give me some bother, and one or two cads, with whom I am at war; but the rest are a festive, jovial crew, who tolerate their master when he lets them have their own way, and growl when he doesn’t; who work when they are so disposed, and drop idle with the least provocation; who lead me many a weary dance through the lobbies after the gas is out, and now and then come and make themselves agreeable in my rooms when I invite them.

“I fancied when I came here I should get lots of time to myself—enough perhaps to write my book on Comparative Political Economy. Vain hope! I haven’t time to turn round. If my days were twenty-six hours I should scarcely then do all I ought to do here. Ponsford is getting old, and leaves the executive to his lieutenants. He sits aloft like Zeus, hurls a thunderbolt now and then, and for the rest acts as a supreme court of appeal. Bickers, my opposite neighbour, is still a thorn in my side. I don’t know how it is, I try all I know, but I can’t get on with him, and have given him up. Moss, I believe, who is Master of the Shell and head of a house, has come to the end of his endurance, and there is some talk of his throwing up his place here. It would be a pity in many ways, and it might be hard to get a good man in his place.

“By the way, if there is a vacancy, why should not you enter the lists? I see you smile at the idea of anyone exchanging the profession of gentleman at large for that of Master of the Shell. But it’s worth a thought, any how. Let us know where and how you are; and if you can run down this way for a Sunday, do, and make glad the heart of your friend,—

“W. Grover.”

No. 2.—Arthur Herapath, Esquire, Lucerne, to Sir Digby Oakshott, Baronet, Grandcourt.

“Dear Dig,—Here’s a game! The gov’s been and lost a lot of the luggage, and ma won’t go home without it, so we’re booked here for a week more....