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28. CHAPTER XXVIII (continued)
The table of the library was loaded with books many deep; MSS. of all kinds were confusedly mixed up with them,--boys' exercises, probably, and examination papers--but all littering untidily about. The room in fact was as depressing from its slatternliness as from its atmosphere of erudition. Theobald and Ernest as they entered it, stumbled over a large hole in the Turkey carpet, and the dust that rose showed how long it was since it had been taken up and beaten. This, I should say, was no fault of Mrs Skinner's but was due to the Doctor himself, who declared that if his papers were once disturbed it would be the death of him. Near the window was a green cage containing a pair of turtle doves, whose plaintive cooing added to the melancholy of the place. The walls were covered with book shelves from floor to ceiling, and on every shelf the books stood in double rows. It was horrible. Prominent among the most prominent upon the most prominent shelf were a series of splendidly bound volumes entitled "Skinner's Works."
Boys are sadly apt to rush to conclusions, and Ernest believed that Dr Skinner knew all the books in this terrible library, and that he, if he were to be any good, should have to learn them too. His heart fainted within him.
He was told to sit on a chair against the wall and did so, while Dr Skinner talked to Theobald upon the topics of the day. He talked about the Hampden Controversy then raging, and discoursed learnedly about "Praemunire"; then he talked about the revolution which had just broken out in Sicily, and rejoiced that the Pope had refused to allow foreign troops to pass through his dominions in order to crush it. Dr Skinner and the other masters took in the Times among them, and Dr Skinner echoed the Times' leaders. In those days there were no penny papers and Theobald only took in the Spectator--for he was at that time on the Whig side in politics; besides this he used to receive the Ecclesiastical Gazette once a month, but he saw no other papers, and was amazed at the ease and fluency with which Dr Skinner ran from subject to subject.
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