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    A Slip Under the Microscope

    by H.G. Wells
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    Outside the laboratory windows was a watery-grey fog, and within a close
    warmth and the yellow light of the green-shaded gas lamps that stood two
    to each table down its narrow length. On each table stood a couple of
    glass jars containing the mangled vestiges of the crayfish, mussels,
    frogs, and guinea-pigs upon which the students had been working, and down
    the side of the room, facing the windows, were shelves bearing bleached
    dissections in spirits, surmounted by a row of beautifully executed
    anatomical drawings in white-wood frames and overhanging a row of cubical
    lockers. All the doors of the laboratory were panelled with blackboard,
    and on these were the half-erased diagrams of the previous day's work. The
    laboratory was empty, save for the demonstrator, who sat near the
    preparation-room door, and silent, save for a low, continuous murmur and
    the clicking of the rocker microtome at which he was working. But
    scattered about the room were traces of numerous students: hand-bags,
    polished boxes of instruments, in one place a large drawing covered by
    newspaper, and in another a prettily bound copy of _News from
    Nowhere_, a book oddly at variance with its surroundings. These things
    had been put down hastily as the students had arrived and hurried at once
    to secure their seats in the adjacent lecture theatre. Deadened by the
    closed door, the measured accents of the professor sounded as a
    featureless muttering.

    Presently, faint through the closed windows came the sound of the Oratory
    clock striking the hour of eleven. The clicking of the microtome ceased,
    and the demonstrator looked at his watch, rose, thrust his hands into his
    pockets, and walked slowly down the laboratory towards the lecture theatre
    door. He stood listening for a moment, and then his eye fell on the little
    volume by William Morris. He picked it up, glanced at the title, smiled,
    opened it, looked at the name on the fly-leaf, ran the leaves through with
    his hand, and put it down. Almost immediately the even murmur of the
    lecturer ceased, there was a sudden burst of pencils rattling on the desks
    in the lecture theatre, a stirring, a scraping of feet, and a number of
    voices speaking together. Then a firm footfall approached the door, which
    began to open, and stood ajar, as some indistinctly heard question
    arrested the new-comer.

    The demonstrator turned, walked slowly back past the microtome, and left
    the laboratory by the preparation-room door. As he did so, first one, and
    then several students carrying notebooks entered the laboratory from the
    lecture theatre, and distributed themselves among the little tables, or
    stood in a group about the doorway. They were an exceptionally
    heterogeneous assembly, for while Oxford and Cambridge still recoil from
    the blushing prospect of mixed classes, the College of Science anticipated
    America in the matter years ago--mixed socially, too, for the prestige of
    the College is high, and its scholarships, free of any age limit, dredge
    deeper even than do those of the Scotch universities. The class numbered
    one-and-twenty, but some remained in the theatre questioning the
    professor, copying the black-board diagrams before they were washed off,
    or examining the special specimens he had produced to illustrate the day's
    teaching. Of the nine who had come into the laboratory three were girls,
    one of whom, a little fair woman, wearing spectacles and dressed in
    greyish-green, was peering out of the window at the fog, while the other
    two, both wholesome-looking, plain-faced schoolgirls, unrolled and put on
    the brown holland aprons they wore while dissecting. Of the men, two went
    down the laboratory to their places, one a pallid, dark-bearded man, who
    had once been a tailor; the other a pleasant-featured, ruddy young man of
    twenty, dressed in a well-fitting brown suit; young Wedderburn, the son of
    Wedderburn, the eye specialist. The others formed a little knot near the
    theatre door. One of these, a dwarfed, spectacled figure, with a
    hunchback, sat on a bent wood stool; two others, one a short, dark
    youngster, and the other a flaxen-haired, reddish-complexioned young man,
    stood leaning side by side against the slate sink, while the fourth stood
    facing them, and maintained the larger share of the conversation.

    This last person was named Hill. He was a sturdily built young fellow, of
    the same age as Wedderburn; he had a white face, dark grey eyes, hair of
    an indeterminate colour, and prominent, irregular features. He talked
    rather louder than was needful, and thrust his hands deeply into his
    pockets. His collar was frayed and blue with the starch of a careless
    laundress, his clothes were evidently ready-made, and there was a patch on
    the side of his boot near the toe. And as he talked or listened to the
    others, he glanced now and again towards the lecture theatre door. They
    were discussing the depressing peroration of the lecture they had just
    heard, the last lecture it was in the introductory course in zoology.
    "From ovum to ovum is the goal of the higher vertebrata," the lecturer had
    said in his melancholy tones, and so had neatly rounded off the sketch
    of comparative anatomy he had been developing. The spectacled hunchback
    had repeated it, with noisy appreciation, had tossed it towards the
    fair-haired student with an evident provocation, and had started one of
    these vague, rambling discussions on generalities, so unaccountably dear
    to the student mind all the world over.

    "That is our goal, perhaps--I admit it, as far as science goes," said the
    fair-haired student, rising to the challenge. "But there are things above
    science."

    "Science," said Hill confidently, "is systematic knowledge. Ideas that
    don't come into the system--must anyhow--be loose ideas." He was not quite
    sure whether that was a clever saying or a fatuity until his hearers took
    it seriously.

    "The thing I cannot understand," said the hunchback, at large, "is whether
    Hill is a materialist or not."

    "There is one thing above matter," said Hill promptly, feeling he had a
    better thing this time; aware, too, of someone in the doorway behind him,
    and raising his voice a trifle for her benefit, "and that is, the delusion
    that there is something above matter."

    "So we have your gospel at last," said the fair student. "It's all a
    delusion, is it? All our aspirations to lead something more than dogs'
    lives, all our work for anything beyond ourselves. But see how
    inconsistent you are. Your socialism, for instance. Why do you trouble
    about the interests of the race? Why do you concern yourself about the
    beggar in the gutter? Why are you bothering yourself to lend that book "--
    he indicated William Morris by a movement of the head--"to everyone in the
    lab.?"

    "Girl," said the hunchback indistinctly, and glanced guiltily over his
    shoulder.

    The girl in brown, with the brown eyes, had come into the laboratory, and
    stood on the other side of the table behind him, with her rolled-up apron
    in one hand, looking over her shoulder, listening to the discussion. She
    did not notice the hunchback, because she was glancing from Hill to his
    interlocutor. Hill's consciousness of her presence betrayed itself to her
    only in his studious ignorance of the fact; but she understood that, and
    it pleased her. "I see no reason," said he, "why a man should live like a
    brute because he knows of nothing beyond matter, and does not expect to
    exist a hundred years hence."

    "Why shouldn't he?" said the fair-haired student.

    "Why _should_ he?" said Hill.

    "What inducement has he?"

    "That's the way with all you religious people. It's all a business of
    inducements. Cannot a man seek after righteousness for righteousness'
    sake?"

    There was a pause. The fair man answered, with a kind of vocal padding,
    "But--you see--inducement--when I said inducement," to gain time. And then
    the hunchback came to his rescue and inserted a question. He was a
    terrible person in the debating society with his questions, and they
    invariably took one form--a demand for a definition, "What's your
    definition of righteousness?" said the hunchback at this stage.

    Hill experienced a sudden loss of complacency at this question, but even
    as it was asked, relief came in the person of Brooks, the laboratory
    attendant, who entered by the preparation-room door, carrying a number of
    freshly killed guinea-pigs by their hind legs. "This is the last batch of
    material this session," said the youngster who had not previously spoken.
    Brooks advanced up the laboratory, smacking down a couple of guinea-pigs
    at each table. The rest of the class, scenting the prey from afar, came
    crowding in by the lecture theatre door, and the discussion perished
    abruptly as the students who were not already in their places hurried to
    them to secure the choice of a specimen. There was a noise of keys
    rattling on split rings as lockers were opened and dissecting instruments
    taken out. Hill was already standing by his table, and his box of scalpels
    was sticking out of his pocket. The girl in brown came a step towards him,
    and, leaning over his table, said softly, "Did you see that I returned
    your book, Mr. Hill?"

    During the whole scene she and the book had been vividly present in his
    consciousness; but he made a clumsy pretence of looking at the book and
    seeing it for the first time. "Oh, yes," he said, taking it up. "I see.
    Did you like it?"

    "I want to ask you some questions about it--some time."

    "Certainly," said Hill. "I shall be glad." He stopped awkwardly. "You
    liked it?" he said.

    "It's a wonderful book. Only some things I don't understand."

    Then suddenly the laboratory was hushed by a curious, braying noise. It
    was the demonstrator. He was at the blackboard ready to begin the day's
    instruction, and it was his custom to demand silence by a sound midway
    between the "Er" of common intercourse and the blast of a trumpet. The
    girl in brown slipped back to her place: it was immediately in front of
    Hill's, and Hill, forgetting her forthwith, took a notebook out of the
    drawer of his table, turned over its leaves hastily, drew a stumpy pencil
    from his pocket, and prepared to make a copious note of the coming
    demonstration. For demonstrations and lectures are the sacred text of the
    College students. Books, saving only the Professor's own, you may--it is
    even expedient to--ignore.

    Hill was the son of a Landport cobbler, and had been hooked by a chance
    blue paper the authorities had thrown out to the Landport Technical
    College. He kept himself in London on his allowance of a guinea a week,
    and found that, with proper care, this also covered his clothing
    allowance, an occasional waterproof collar, that is; and ink and needles
    and cotton, and such-like necessaries for a man about town. This was his
    first year and his first session, but the brown old man in Landport had
    already got himself detested in many public-houses by boasting of his son,
    "the Professor." Hill was a vigorous youngster, with a serene contempt for
    the clergy of all denominations, and a fine ambition to reconstruct the
    world. He regarded his scholarship as a brilliant opportunity. He had
    begun to read at seven, and had read steadily whatever came in his way,
    good or bad, since then. His worldly experience had been limited to the
    island of Portsea, and acquired chiefly in the wholesale boot factory in
    which he had worked by day, after passing the seventh standard of the
    Board school. He had a considerable gift of speech, as the College
    Debating Society, which met amidst the crushing machines and mine models
    in the metallurgical theatre downstairs, already recognised--recognised by
    a violent battering of desks whenever he rose. And he was just at that
    fine emotional age when life opens at the end of a narrow pass like a
    broad valley at one's feet, full of the promise of wonderful discoveries
    and tremendous achievements. And his own limitations, save that he knew
    that he knew neither Latin nor French, were all unknown to him.

    At first his interest had been divided pretty equally between his
    biological work at the College and social and theological theorising, an
    employment which he took in deadly earnest. Of a night, when the big
    museum library was not open, he would sit on the bed of his room in
    Chelsea with his coat and a muffler on, and write out the lecture notes
    and revise his dissection memoranda, until Thorpe called him out by a
    whistle--the landlady objected to open the door to attic visitors--and
    then the two would go prowling about the shadowy, shiny, gas-lit streets,
    talking, very much in the fashion of the sample just given, of the God
    idea, and Righteousness, and Carlyle, and the Reorganisation of Society.
    And in the midst of it all, Hill, arguing not only for Thorpe, but for the
    casual passer-by, would lose the thread of his argument glancing at some
    pretty painted face that looked meaningly at him as he passed. Science and
    Righteousness! But once or twice lately there had been signs that a third
    interest was creeping into his life, and he had found his attention
    wandering from the fate of the mesoblastic somites or the probable meaning
    of the blastopore, to the thought of the girl with the brown eyes who sat
    at the table before him.

    She was a paying student; she descended inconceivable social altitudes to
    speak to him. At the thought of the education she must have had, and the
    accomplishments she must possess, the soul of Hill became abject within
    him. She had spoken to him first over a difficulty about the alisphenoid
    of a rabbit's skull, and he had found that, in biology at least, he had no
    reason for self-abasement. And from that, after the manner of young people
    starting from any starting-point, they got to generalities, and while Hill
    attacked her upon the question of socialism--some instinct told him to
    spare her a direct assault upon her religion--she was gathering resolution
    to undertake what she told herself was his aesthetic education. She was a
    year or two older than he, though the thought never occurred to him. The
    loan of _News from Nowhere_ was the beginning of a series of cross
    loans. Upon some absurd first principle of his, Hill had never "wasted
    time" Upon poetry, and it seemed an appalling deficiency to her. One day
    in the lunch hour, when she chanced upon him alone in the little museum
    where the skeletons were arranged, shamefully eating the bun that
    constituted his midday meal, she retreated, and returned to lend him, with
    a slightly furtive air, a volume of Browning. He stood sideways towards
    her and took the book rather clumsily, because he was holding the bun in
    the other hand. And in the retrospect his voice lacked the cheerful
    clearness he could have wished.

    That occurred after the examination in comparative anatomy, on the day
    before the College turned out its students, and was carefully locked up by
    the officials, for the Christmas holidays. The excitement of cramming for
    the first trial of strength had for a little while dominated Hill, to the
    exclusion of his other interests. In the forecasts of the result in which
    everyone indulged he was surprised to find that no one regarded him as a
    possible competitor for the Harvey Commemoration Medal, of which this and
    the two subsequent examinations disposed. It was about this time that
    Wedderburn, who so far had lived inconspicuously on the uttermost margin
    of Hill's perceptions, began to take on the appearance of an obstacle. By
    a mutual agreement, the nocturnal prowlings with Thorpe ceased for the
    three weeks before the examination, and his landlady pointed out that she
    really could not supply so much lamp oil at the price. He walked to and
    fro from the College with little slips of mnemonics in his hand, lists of
    crayfish appendages, rabbits' skull-bones, and vertebrate nerves, for
    example, and became a positive nuisance to foot passengers in the opposite
    direction.

    But, by a natural reaction, Poetry and the girl with the brown eyes ruled
    the Christmas holiday. The pending results of the examination became such
    a secondary consideration that Hill marvelled at his father's excitement.
    Even had he wished it, there was no comparative anatomy to read in
    Landport, and he was too poor to buy books, but the stock of poets in the
    library was extensive, and Hill's attack was magnificently sustained. He
    saturated himself with the fluent numbers of Longfellow and Tennyson, and
    fortified himself with Shakespeare; found a kindred soul in Pope, and a
    master in Shelley, and heard and fled the siren voices of Eliza Cook and
    Mrs. Hemans. But he read no more Browning, because he hoped for the loan
    of other volumes from Miss Haysman when he returned to London.

    He walked from his lodgings to the College with that volume of Browning in
    his shiny black bag, and his mind teeming with the finest general
    propositions about poetry. Indeed, he framed first this little speech and
    then that with which to grace the return. The morning was an exceptionally
    pleasant one for London; there was a clear, hard frost and undeniable blue
    in the sky, a thin haze softened every outline, and warm shafts of
    sunlight struck between the house blocks and turned the sunny side of the
    street to amber and gold. In the hall of the College he pulled off his
    glove and signed his name with fingers so stiff with cold that the
    characteristic dash under the signature he cultivated became a quivering
    line. He imagined Miss Haysman about him everywhere. He turned at the
    staircase, and there, below, he saw a crowd struggling at the foot of the
    notice-board. This, possibly, was the biology list. He forgot Browning and
    Miss Haysman for the moment, and joined the scrimmage. And at last, with
    his cheek flattened against the sleeve of the man on the step above him,
    he read the list--

    CLASS I
    H. J. Somers Wedderburn
    William Hill

    and thereafter followed a second class that is outside our present
    sympathies. It was characteristic that he did not trouble to look for
    Thorpe on the physics list, but backed out of the struggle at once, and in
    a curious emotional state between pride over common second-class humanity
    and acute disappointment at Wedderburn's success, went on his way
    upstairs. At the top, as he was hanging up his coat in the passage, the
    zoological demonstrator, a young man from Oxford, who secretly regarded
    him as a blatant "mugger" of the very worst type, offered his heartiest
    congratulations.

    At the laboratory door Hill stopped for a second to get his breath, and
    then entered. He looked straight up the laboratory and saw all five girl
    students grouped in their places, and Wedderburn, the once retiring
    Wedderburn, leaning rather gracefully against the window, playing with the
    blind tassel and talking, apparently, to the five of them. Now, Hill could
    talk bravely enough and even overbearingly to one girl, and he could have
    made a speech to a roomful of girls, but this business of standing at ease
    and appreciating, fencing, and returning quick remarks round a group was,
    he knew, altogether beyond him. Coming up the staircase his feelings for
    Wedderburn had been generous, a certain admiration perhaps, a willingness
    to shake his hand conspicuously and heartily as one who had fought but the
    first round. But before Christmas Wedderburn had never gone up to that end
    of the room to talk. In a flash Hill's mist of vague excitement condensed
    abruptly to a vivid dislike of Wedderburn. Possibly his expression
    changed. As he came up to his place, Wedderburn nodded carelessly to him,
    and the others glanced round. Miss Haysman looked at him and away again,
    the faintest touch of her eyes. "I can't agree with you, Mr. Wedderburn,"
    she said.

    "I must congratulate you on your first-class, Mr. Hill," said the
    spectacled girl in green, turning round and beaming at him.

    "It's nothing," said Hill, staring at Wedderburn and Miss Haysman talking
    together, and eager to hear what they talked about.

    "We poor folks in the second class don't think so," said the girl in
    spectacles.

    What was it Wedderburn was saying? Something about William Morris! Hill
    did not answer the girl in spectacles, and the smile died out of his face.
    He could not hear, and failed to see how he could "cut in." Confound
    Wedderburn! He sat down, opened his bag, hesitated whether to return the
    volume of Browning forthwith, in the sight of all, and instead drew out
    his new notebooks for the short course in elementary botany that was now
    beginning, and which would terminate in February. As he did so, a fat,
    heavy man, with a white face and pale grey eyes--Bindon, the professor of
    botany, who came up from Kew for January and February--came in by the
    lecture theatre door, and passed, rubbing his hands together and smiling,
    in silent affability down the laboratory.

    * * * * *

    In the subsequent six weeks Hill experienced some very rapid and curiously
    complex emotional developments. For the most part he had Wedderburn in
    focus--a fact that Miss Haysman never suspected. She told Hill (for in the
    comparative privacy of the museum she talked a good deal to him of
    socialism and Browning and general propositions) that she had met
    Wedderburn at the house of some people she knew, and "he's inherited his
    cleverness; for his father, you know, is the great eye-specialist."

    "_My_ father is a cobbler," said Hill, quite irrelevantly, and
    perceived the want of dignity even as he said it. But the gleam of
    jealousy did not offend her. She conceived herself the fundamental source
    of it. He suffered bitterly from a sense of Wedderburn's unfairness, and a
    realisation of his own handicap. Here was this Wedderburn had picked up a
    prominent man for a father, and instead of his losing so many marks on the
    score of that advantage, it was counted to him for righteousness! And
    while Hill had to introduce himself and talk to Miss Haysman clumsily over
    mangled guinea-pigs in the laboratory, this Wedderburn, in some backstairs
    way, had access to her social altitudes, and could converse in a polished
    argot that Hill understood perhaps, but felt incapable of speaking. Not,
    of course, that he wanted to. Then it seemed to Hill that for Wedderburn
    to come there day after day with cuffs unfrayed, neatly tailored,
    precisely barbered, quietly perfect, was in itself an ill-bred, sneering
    sort of proceeding. Moreover, it was a stealthy thing for Wedderburn to
    behave insignificantly for a space, to mock modesty, to lead Hill to fancy
    that he himself was beyond dispute the man of the year, and then suddenly
    to dart in front of him, and incontinently to swell up in this fashion. In
    addition to these things, Wedderburn displayed an increasing disposition
    to join in any conversational grouping that included Miss Haysman, and
    would venture, and indeed seek occasion, to pass opinions derogatory to
    socialism and atheism. He goaded Hill to incivilities by neat, shallow,
    and exceedingly effective personalities about the socialist leaders,
    until Hill hated Bernard Shaw's graceful egotisms, William Morris's
    limited editions and luxurious wall-papers, and Walter Crane's charmingly
    absurd ideal working men, about as much as he hated Wedderburn. The
    dissertations in the laboratory, that had been his glory in the previous
    term, became a danger, degenerated into inglorious tussels with
    Wedderburn, and Hill kept to them only out of an obscure perception that
    his honour was involved. In the debating society Hill knew quite clearly
    that, to a thunderous accompaniment of banged desks, he could have
    pulverised Wedderburn. Only Wedderburn never attended the debating society
    to be pulverised, because--nauseous affectation!--he "dined late."

    You must not imagine that these things presented themselves in quite such
    a crude form to Hill's perception. Hill was a born generaliser. Wedderburn
    to him was not so much an individual obstacle as a type, the salient angle
    of a class. The economic theories that, after infinite ferment, had shaped
    themselves in Hill's mind, became abruptly concrete at the contact. The
    world became full of easy-mannered, graceful, gracefully-dressed,
    conversationally dexterous, finally shallow Wedderburns, Bishops
    Wedderburn, Wedderburn M.P.'s, Professors Wedderburn, Wedderburn
    landlords, all with finger-bowl shibboleths and epigrammatic cities of
    refuge from a sturdy debater. And everyone ill-clothed or ill-dressed,
    from the cobbler to the cab-runner, was a man and a brother, a
    fellow-sufferer, to Hill's imagination. So that he became, as it were, a
    champion of the fallen and oppressed, albeit to outward seeming only a
    self-assertive, ill-mannered young man, and an unsuccessful champion at
    that. Again and again a skirmish over the afternoon tea that the girl
    students had inaugurated left Hill with flushed cheeks and a tattered
    temper, and the debating society noticed a new quality of sarcastic
    bitterness in his speeches.

    You will understand now how it was necessary, if only in the interests of
    humanity, that Hill should demolish Wedderburn in the forthcoming
    examination and outshine him in the eyes of Miss Haysman; and you will
    perceive, too, how Miss Haysman fell into some common feminine
    misconceptions. The Hill-Wedderburn quarrel, for in his unostentatious way
    Wedderburn reciprocated Hill's ill-veiled rivalry, became a tribute to her
    indefinable charm; she was the Queen of Beauty in a tournament of scalpels
    and stumpy pencils. To her confidential friend's secret annoyance, it even
    troubled her conscience, for she was a good girl, and painfully aware,
    from Ruskin and contemporary fiction, how entirely men's activities are
    determined by women's attitudes. And if Hill never by any chance mentioned
    the topic of love to her, she only credited him with the finer modesty for
    that omission. So the time came on for the second examination, and Hill's
    increasing pallor confirmed the general rumour that he was working hard.
    In the aerated bread shop near South Kensington Station you would see him,
    breaking his bun and sipping his milk, with his eyes intent upon a paper
    of closely written notes. In his bedroom there were propositions about
    buds and stems round his looking-glass, a diagram to catch his eye, if
    soap should chance to spare it, above his washing basin. He missed several
    meetings of the debating society, but he found the chance encounters with
    Miss Haysman in the spacious ways of the adjacent art museum, or in the
    little museum at the top of the College, or in the College corridors, more
    frequent and very restful. In particular, they used to meet in a little
    gallery full of wrought-iron chests and gates, near the art library, and
    there Hill used to talk, under the gentle stimulus of her flattering
    attention, of Browning and his personal ambitions. A characteristic she
    found remarkable in him was his freedom from avarice. He contemplated
    quite calmly the prospect of living all his life on an income below a
    hundred pounds a year. But he was determined to be famous, to make,
    recognisably in his own proper person, the world a better place to live
    in. He took Bradlaugh and John Burns for his leaders and models, poor,
    even impecunious, great men. But Miss Haysman thought that such lives were
    deficient on the aesthetic side, by which, though she did not know it, she
    meant good wall-paper and upholstery, pretty books, tasteful clothes,
    concerts, and meals nicely cooked and respectfully served.

    At last came the day of the second examination, and the professor of
    botany, a fussy, conscientious man, rearranged all the tables in a long
    narrow laboratory to prevent copying, and put his demonstrator on a chair
    on a table (where he felt, he said, like a Hindoo god), to see all the
    cheating, and stuck a notice outside the door, "Door closed," for no
    earthly reason that any human being could discover. And all the morning
    from ten till one the quill of Wedderburn shrieked defiance at Hill's, and
    the quills of the others chased their leaders in a tireless pack, and so
    also it was in the afternoon. Wedderburn was a little quieter than usual,
    and Hill's face was hot all day, and his overcoat bulged with textbooks
    and notebooks against the last moment's revision. And the next day, in the
    morning and in the afternoon, was the practical examination, when sections
    had to be cut and slides identified. In the morning Hill was depressed
    because he knew he had cut a thick section, and in the afternoon came the
    mysterious slip.

    It was just the kind of thing that the botanical professor was always
    doing. Like the income tax, it offered a premium to the cheat. It was a
    preparation under the microscope, a little glass slip, held in its place
    on the stage of the instrument by light steel clips, and the inscription
    set forth that the slip was not to be moved. Each student was to go in
    turn to it, sketch it, write in his book of answers what he considered it
    to be, and return to his place. Now, to move such a slip is a thing one
    can do by a chance movement of the finger, and in a fraction of a second.
    The professor's reason for decreeing that the slip should not be moved
    depended on the fact that the object he wanted identified was
    characteristic of a certain tree stem. In the position in which it was
    placed it was a difficult thing to recognise, but once the slip was moved
    so as to bring other parts of the preparation into view, its nature was
    obvious enough.

    Hill came to this, flushed from a contest with staining re-agents, sat
    down on the little stool before the microscope, turned the mirror to get
    the best light, and then, out of sheer habit, shifted the slips. At once
    he remembered the prohibition, and, with an almost continuous motion of
    his hands, moved it back, and sat paralysed with astonishment at his
    action.

    Then, slowly, he turned his head. The professor was out of the room; the
    demonstrator sat aloft on his impromptu rostrum, reading the _Q. Jour.
    Mi. Sci_.; the rest of the examinees were busy, and with their backs to
    him. Should he own up to the accident now? He knew quite clearly what the
    thing was. It was a lenticel, a characteristic preparation from the
    elder-tree. His eyes roved over his intent fellow-students, and Wedderburn
    suddenly glanced over his shoulder at him with a queer expression in his
    eyes. The mental excitement that had kept Hill at an abnormal pitch of
    vigour these two days gave way to a curious nervous tension. His book of
    answers was beside him. He did not write down what the thing was, but with
    one eye at the microscope he began making a hasty sketch of it. His mind
    was full of this grotesque puzzle in ethics that had suddenly been sprung
    upon him. Should he identify it? or should he leave this question
    unanswered? In that case Wedderburn would probably come out first in the
    second result. How could he tell now whether he might not have identified
    the thing without shifting it? It was possible that Wedderburn had failed
    to recognise it, of course. Suppose Wedderburn too had shifted the slide?
    He looked up at the clock. There were fifteen minutes in which to make up
    his mind. He gathered up his book of answers and the coloured pencils he
    used in illustrating his replies and walked back to his seat.

    He read through his manuscript, and then sat thinking and gnawing his
    knuckle. It would look queer now if he owned up. He _must_ beat
    Wedderburn. He forgot the examples of those starry gentlemen, John Burns
    and Bradlaugh. Besides, he reflected, the glimpse of the rest of the slip
    he had had was, after all, quite accidental, forced upon him by chance, a
    kind of providential revelation rather than an unfair advantage. It was
    not nearly so dishonest to avail himself of that as it was of Broome, who
    believed in the efficacy of prayer, to pray daily for a first-class. "Five
    minutes more," said the demonstrator, folding up his paper and becoming
    observant. Hill watched the clock hands until two minutes remained; then
    he opened the book of answers, and, with hot ears and an affectation of
    ease, gave his drawing of the lenticel its name.

    When the second pass list appeared, the previous positions of Wedderburn
    and Hill were reversed, and the spectacled girl in green, who knew the
    demonstrator in private life (where he was practically human), said that
    in the result of the two examinations taken together Hill had the
    advantage of a mark--167 to 166 out of a possible 200. Everyone admired
    Hill in a way, though the suspicion of "mugging" clung to him. But Hill
    was to find congratulations and Miss Haysman's enhanced opinion of him,
    and even the decided decline in the crest of Wedderburn, tainted by an
    unhappy memory. He felt a remarkable access of energy at first, and the
    note of a democracy marching to triumph returned to his debating-society
    speeches; he worked at his comparative anatomy with tremendous zeal and
    effect, and he went on with his aesthetic education. But through it all, a
    vivid little picture was continually coming before his mind's eye--of a
    sneakish person manipulating a slide.

    No human being had witnessed the act, and he was cocksure that no higher
    power existed to see, it; but for all that it worried him. Memories are
    not dead things but alive; they dwindle in disuse, but they harden and
    develop in all sorts of queer ways if they are being continually fretted.
    Curiously enough, though at the time he perceived clearly that the
    shifting was accidental, as the days wore on, his memory became confused
    about it, until at last he was not sure--although he assured himself that
    he _was_ sure--whether the movement had been absolutely involuntary.
    Then it is possible that Hill's dietary was conducive to morbid
    conscientiousness; a breakfast frequently eaten in a hurry, a midday bun,
    and, at such hours after five as chanced to be convenient, such meat as
    his means determined, usually in a chop-house in a back street off the
    Brompton Road. Occasionally he treated himself to threepenny or ninepenny
    classics, and they usually represented a suppression of potatoes or chops.
    It is indisputable that outbreaks of self-abasement and emotional revival
    have a distinct relation to periods of scarcity. But apart from this
    influence on the feelings, there was in Hill a distinct aversion to
    falsity that the blasphemous Landport cobbler had inculcated by strap and
    tongue from his earliest years. Of one fact about professed atheists I am
    convinced; they may be--they usually are--fools, void of subtlety,
    revilers of holy institutions, brutal speakers, and mischievous knaves,
    but they lie with difficulty. If it were not so, if they had the faintest
    grasp of the idea of compromise, they would simply be liberal churchmen.
    And, moreover, this memory poisoned his regard for Miss Haysman. For she
    now so evidently preferred him to Wedderburn that he felt sure he cared
    for her, and began reciprocating her attentions by timid marks of personal
    regard; at one time he even bought a bunch of violets, carried it about in
    his pocket, and produced it, with a stumbling explanation, withered and
    dead, in the gallery of old iron. It poisoned, too, the denunciation of
    capitalist dishonesty that had been one of his life's pleasures. And,
    lastly, it poisoned his triumph in Wedderburn. Previously he had been
    Wedderburn's superior in his own eyes, and had raged simply at a want of
    recognition. Now he began to fret at the darker suspicion of positive
    inferiority. He fancied he found justifications for his position in
    Browning, but they vanished on analysis. At last--moved, curiously enough,
    by exactly the same motive forces that had resulted in his dishonesty--he
    went to Professor Bindon, and made a clean breast of the whole affair. As
    Hill was a paid student, Professor Bindon did not ask him to sit down, and
    he stood before the professor's desk as he made his confession.

    "It's a curious story," said Professor Bindon, slowly realising how the
    thing reflected on himself, and then letting his anger rise,--"a most
    remarkable story. I can't understand your doing it, and I can't understand
    this avowal. You're a type of student--Cambridge men would never dream--I
    suppose I ought to have thought--why _did_ you cheat?"

    "I didn't cheat," said Hill.

    "But you have just been telling me you did."

    "I thought I explained--"

    "Either you cheated or you did not cheat."

    "I said my motion was involuntary."

    "I am not a metaphysician, I am a servant of science--of fact. You
    were told not to move the slip. You did move the slip. If that is not
    cheating--"

    "If I was a cheat," said Hill, with the note of hysterics in his voice,
    "should I come here and tell you?"

    "Your repentance, of course, does you credit," said Professor Bindon, "but
    it does not alter the original facts."

    "No, sir," said Hill, giving in in utter self-abasement.

    "Even now you cause an enormous amount of trouble. The examination list
    will have to be revised."

    "I suppose so, sir."

    "Suppose so? Of course it must be revised. And I don't see how I can
    conscientiously pass you."

    "Not pass me?" said Hill. "Fail me?"

    "It's the rule in all examinations. Or where should we be? What else did
    you expect? You don't want to shirk the consequences of your own acts?"

    "I thought, perhaps----" said Hill. And then, "Fail me? I thought, as I
    told you, you would simply deduct the marks given for that slip."

    "Impossible!" said Bindon. "Besides, it would still leave you above
    Wedderburn. Deduct only the marks! Preposterous! The Departmental
    Regulations distinctly say----"

    "But it's my own admission, sir."

    "The Regulations say nothing whatever of the manner in which the matter
    comes to light. They simply provide----"

    "It will ruin me. If I fail this examination, they won't renew my
    scholarship."

    "You should have thought of that before."

    "But, sir, consider all my circumstances----"

    "I cannot consider anything. Professors in this College are machines. The
    Regulations will not even let us recommend our students for appointments.
    I am a machine, and you have worked me. I have to do----"

    "It's very hard, sir."

    "Possibly it is."

    "If I am to be failed this examination, I might as well go home at once."

    "That is as you think proper." Bindon's voice softened a little; he
    perceived he had been unjust, and, provided he did not contradict himself,
    he was disposed to amelioration. "As a private person," he said, "I think
    this confession of yours goes far to mitigate your offence. But you have
    set the machinery in motion, and now it must take its course. I--I am
    really sorry you gave way."

    A wave of emotion prevented Hill from answering. Suddenly, very vividly,
    he saw the heavily-lined face of the old Landport cobbler, his father.
    "Good God! What a fool I have been!" he said hotly and abruptly.

    "I hope," said Bindon, "that it will be a lesson to you."

    But, curiously enough, they were not thinking of quite the same
    indiscretion.

    There was a pause.

    "I would like a day to think, sir, and then I will let you know--about
    going home, I mean," said Hill, moving towards the door.

    * * * * *

    The next day Hill's place was vacant. The spectacled girl in green was, as
    usual, first with the news. Wedderburn and Miss Haysman were talking of a
    performance of _The Meistersingers_ when she came up to them.

    "Have you heard?" she said.

    "Heard what?"

    "There was cheating in the examination."

    "Cheating!" said Wedderburn, with his face suddenly hot. "How?"

    "That slide--"

    "Moved? Never!"

    "It was. That slide that we weren't to move--"

    "Nonsense!" said Wedderburn. "Why! How could they find out? Who do they
    say--?"

    "It was Mr. Hill."

    _Hill_!"

    "Mr. Hill!"

    "Not--surely not the immaculate Hill?" said Wedderburn, recovering.

    "I don't believe it," said Miss Haysman. "How do you know?"

    "I _didn't_," said the girl in spectacles. "But I know it now for a
    fact. Mr. Hill went and confessed to Professor Bindon himself."

    "By Jove!" said Wedderburn. "Hill of all people. But I am always inclined
    to distrust these philanthropists-on-principle--"

    "Are you quite sure?" said Miss Haysman, with a catch in her breath.

    "Quite. It's dreadful, isn't it? But, you know, what can you expect? His
    father is a cobbler."

    Then Miss Haysman astonished the girl in spectacles.

    "I don't care. I will not believe it," she said, flushing darkly under her
    warm-tinted skin. "I will not believe it until he has told me so himself--
    face to face. I would scarcely believe it then," and abruptly she turned
    her back on the girl in spectacles, and walked to her own place.

    "It's true, all the same," said the girl in spectacles, peering and
    smiling at Wedderburn.

    But Wedderburn did not answer her. She was indeed one of those people who
    seemed destined to make unanswered remarks.
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