The Inked Surplice
But, no sooner was the symphony over, no sooner
had the first notes of the chorister sounded on Mr.
Pye's ear, than his face slightly flushed, and he lifted
his head with a sharp, quick gesture. That was not
the voice which ought to have sung this fine anthem;
that was a cracked, passee voice, belonging to the senior
chorister, a young gentleman of seventeen, who was
going out of the choir at Michaelmas. He had done good
service for the choir in his day, but his voice was break-
ing now; and the last time he had attempted a solo,
the bishop (who interfered most rarely with the execu-
tive of the cathedral; and, indeed, it was not his
province to do so) had spoken himself to Mr. Pye on
the conclusion of the service, and said the boy ought
not to be allowed to sing alone again.
Mr. Pye bent his head forward to catch a glimpse
of the choristers, five of whom sat on his side of the
choir, the decani: five on the opposite, or cantori side.
So far as he could see, the boy, Stephen Bywater, who
ought to have taken the anthem, was not in his place.
There appeared to be only four of them; but the
senior bov with his clean, starched-out surplice, par-
tiallv hid those below him. Mr. PNve wondered where
his eves could have been, not to have noticed the bov's
absence, when they had all been gathered round the
entrance, waiting for the judges.
Had Mr. Pye's attention not been fully engrossed
with his book, as the service had gone on, he might
have seen the boy opposite to him; for there sat
Bywater, before the bench of king's scholars, and
right in front of Mr. Pye. Mr. Pye's glance fell upon
him now, and he could scarcely believe it. He rubbed
his eyes, and looked, and rubbed again. Bywvater
there ! and without his surplice ! braving, as it were,
the head-master ! What could he possibly mean by
this act of insubordination Why was he not in his
place in the school WNhy was he mixing with the con-
gregation But Mr. Pye could as yet obtain no solution
to the mystery.
The anthem came to an end; the dean had bent his
brow sternly at the solo, but it did no good; and, the
pravers over, the sheriff's chaplain ascended to the
pulpit to preach the sermon. He selected his text from