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3 > Page 3 of Channings / by Mrs. Henry Wood.

The Inked Surplice 3 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