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Emerald Uthwart
by [?]

See him then as he stands! counting now the hours that remain, on the eve of that first emigration, and look away next at the other place, which through centuries has been forming to receive him; from those garden-beds, now at their richest, but where all is so winsomely little, to that place of “great matters,” great stones, great memories out of reach. Why! the Uthwarts had scarcely had more memories than their woods, noiselessly deciduous; or their prehistoric, entirely unprogressive, unrecording forefathers, in or before the days of the Druids. Centuries of almost “still” life–of birth, death, and the rest, as merely natural processes–had made them and their home what we find them. Centuries of conscious endeavour, on the other hand, had builded, shaped, and coloured the place, a small cell, which Emerald Uthwart was now to occupy; a place such as our most characteristic English education has rightly tended to “find itself a house” in–a place full, for those who came within its influence, of a will of its own. Here everything, one’s very games, have gone by rule onwards from the dim old monastic days, and the Benedictine school for novices with the wholesome severities which have descended to our own time. Like its customs,–there’s a book in the cathedral archives with the names, for centuries Past, of the “scholars” who have missed church at the proper times for going there–like its customs, well-worn yet well-preserved, time-stained, time-engrained, time-mellowed, the venerable Norman or English stones of this austere, beautifully proportioned place look like marble, to which Emerald’s softly nurtured being, his careless wild-growth must now adapt itself, though somewhat painfully recoiling from contact with what seems so hard also, and bright, and cold. From his native world of soft garden touches, carnation and rose (they had been everywhere in those last weeks), where every one did just what he liked, he was passed now to this world of grey stone; and here it was always the decisive word of command. That old warrior Uthwart’s record in the church at home, so fine, yet so wretched, so unspeakably great and difficult! seemed written here everywhere around him, as he stood feeling himself fit only to be taught, to be drilled into, his small compartment; in every movement of his companions, with their quaint confining little cloth gowns; in the keen, clear, well-authorised dominancy of some, the instant submission of others. In fact, by one of our wise English compromises, we still teach our so modern boys the Classics; a lesson in attention and patience, at the least. Nay! by a double compromise, with delightful physiognomic results sometimes, we teach them their pagan Latin and Greek under the shadow of medieval church-towers, amid the haunts, the traditions, and with something of the discipline, of monasticism; for which, as is noticeable, the English have never wholly lost an early inclination. The French and others have swept their scholastic houses empty of it, with pedantic fidelity to their theories. English pedants may succeed in doing the like. But the result of our older method has had its value so far, at least, say! for the careful aesthetic observer. It is of such diagonal influences, through complication of influence, that expression comes, in life, in our culture, in the very faces of men and boys–of these boys. Nothing could better harmonise present with past than the sight of them just here, as they shout at their games, or recite their lessons, over-arched by the work of medieval priors, or pass to church meekly, into the seats occupied by the young monks before them.

If summer comes reluctantly to our English shores, it is also apt to linger with us;–its flora of red and gold leaves on the branches wellnigh to Christmas; the hot days that surprise you, and persist, though heralded by white mornings, hinting that it is but the year’s indulgence so to deal with us. To the fanciful, such days may seem most at home in the places where England has thus preferred to locate the somewhat pensive education of its more favoured youth. As Uthwart passes through the old ecclesiastical city, upon which any more modern touch, modern door or window, seems a thing out of place through negligence, the diluted sunlight itself seems driven along with a sparing trace of gilded vane or red tile in it, under the wholesome active wind from the East coast. The long, finely weathered, leaden roof, and the great square tower, gravely magnificent, emphatic from the first view of it over the grey down above the hop-gardens, the gently-watered meadows, dwarf now everything beside; have the bigness of nature’s work, seated up there so steadily amid the winds, as rain and fog and heat pass by. More and more persistently, as he proceeds, in the “Green Court” at last, they occupy the outlook. He is shown the narrow cubicle in which he is to sleep; and there it still is, with nothing else, in the window-pane, as he lies;–“our tower,” the “Angel Steeple,” noblest of its kind. Here, from morning to night, everything seems challenged to follow the upward lead of its long, bold, “perpendicular” lines. The very place one is in, its stone-work, its empty spaces, invade you; invade all who belong to them, as Uthwart belongs, yielding wholly from the first; seem to question you masterfully as to your purpose in being here at all, amid the great memories of the past, of this school;–challenge you, so to speak, to make moral philosophy one of your acquirements, if you can, and to systematise your vagrant self; which however will in any case be here systematised for you. In Uthwart, then, is the plain tablet, for the influences of place to inscribe. Say if you will, that he is under the power of an “embodied ideal,” somewhat repellent, but which he cannot despise. He sits in the schoolroom–ancient, transformed chapel of the pilgrims; sits in the sober white and brown place, at the heavy old desks, carved this way and that, crowded as an old churchyard with forgotten names, side by side with sympathetic or antipathetic competitors, as it may chance. In a delightful, exactly measured, quarter of an hour’s rest, they come about him, seem to wish to be friends at once, good and bad alike, dull and clever; wonder a little at the name, and the owner. A family name–he explains, good-humouredly; tries to tell some story no one could ever remember precisely of the ancestor from whom it came, the one story of the Uthwarts; is spared; nay! petulantly forbidden to proceed. But the name sticks the faster. Nicknames mark, for the most part, popularity. Emerald! so every one called Uthwart, but shortened to Aldy. They disperse; flock out into the court; acquaint him hastily with the curiosities of the Precincts, the “dark entry,” the rich heraldries of the blackened and mouldering cloister, the ruined overgrown spaces where the old monastery stood, the stones of which furnished material for the rambling prebends houses, now “antediluvian” in their turn; are ready also to climb the scaffold-poles always to be found somewhere about the great church, or dive along the odd, secret passages of the old builders, with quite learned explanations (being proud of, and therefore painstaking about, the place) of architectural periods, of Gothic “late” and “early,” layer upon layer, down to round-arched “Norman,” like the famous staircase of their school.