The boys, taken completely by surprise, but accepting this decree as they accepted everything else, because it never occurred to them it could be otherwise, trotted off, not very disconsolate, to the school- room. It was very hot out of doors; it was cool in the third division school-room.
They got out their steel pens, their double-lined copy books, and began mechanically copying out the Greek irregular verbs, with which they were so superficially familiar, and from which they were so fundamentally divorced.
"Whitey," said Gordon, "was in an awful wax!"
"I don't care," said Smith. "I'd just as soon sit here as look on at that beastly match."
"But why," said Hart, "have we got to do two hours' work?"
"Oh," said Gordon, "he's just in a wax, that's all."
And the matter was not further discussed. At six o'clock the boys had tea. The cricket match had, of course, resulted in a crushing and overwhelming defeat for St. James's. The rival eleven had been asked to tea; there were cherries for tea in their honour.
When Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor entered the dining-room they at once perceived that an atmosphere of gloom and menacing storm was overhanging the school. Their spirits had hitherto been unflagging; they sat next to each other at the tea-table, but no sooner had they sat down than they were seized by that terrible, uncomfortable feeling so familiar to schoolboys, that something unpleasant was impending, some crime, some accusation; some doom, the nature of which they could not guess, was lying in ambush. This was written on the headmaster's face. The headmaster sat at a square table in the centre of the dining-room. The boys sat round on the further side of three tables which formed the three sides of the square room.