BENNETT LAWRIE’S education began at the age of six, when, with his sister, Ph?be, he was every morning taken by Tibby to a little dame’s school where he learned the alphabet, the multiplication table, writing, and the stories of the Bible. He was also allowed to draw and taught to embroider little mats with rough silk and to make balls with pieces of wool. In five years he made a great many balls, but he was not allowed to play with them, for they were given to the poor . When he was ten he passed from this establishment to Wellington House, where there were no girls, but a great many rough boys who frightened him. Among them were his two elder brothers, who afforded him no protection but rather supplied the others with material for teasing. Bennett could not understand that small boys should fight merely out of bluster and cockiness. He only wanted to fight when rage mastered him, and then he was out to kill. He only had one fight at that school and that was enough, for he cut open his adversary’s eye and tore the lobe of his ear away from his scalp. Thereafter he suffered from collective rather than individual bullying . He learned arithmetic as far as fractions, algebra as far as surds, the first, second and third books of Euclid, English composition and literature, French grammar, composition and easy translations, Latin grammar, composition and [Pg 211]easy translations, Scripture (the books of Samuel, Kings, and the Acts of the Apostles in rotation), geography, history (Tudor and Stuarts alternatively), elocution and dancing. Without being in the least interested in anything, he had no difficulty in memorising for the purposes of each day the tasks that were set before him. He was said to be intelligent, industrious and eager in his work and generally satisfactory in his conduct. At the end of each year he found himself with a prize, though he knew not how or why, and his mother became quite amiable to him. There remained one member of her husband’s family with whom she had not (as yet) quarrelled, namely Bennett’s Aunt Louisa, an ex-governess who had retired upon receipt of a legacy and taken up her residence in our town in order to be near her brothers, James the failure, whom she loved, and Keith the successful merchant, whom she both feared and disliked. This gentle lady offered to pay Bennett’s fees, twelve guineas a year, at the Grammar School, and thither accordingly he repaired with a brand new handbag and a quaking heart to find himself one of five hundred boys, of all shapes and sizes and classes and nationalities and religions—the town in little. In his first term he was in the Lower Third Form, and sat between the son of a cab-driver and the son of a millionaire mill-owner .