Alfred's pride was deeply mortified, not less by a certain cold repugnant manner than by the words. And there came over his heart a sickening feeling that he was now in the eyes of men an intellectual leper.
He went to another college directly, and applied to the vice-president, the vice-president sent him with a letter to the dean; the dean looked frightened; and told him hesitatingly the college was full; he might put his name down, and perhaps get in next year. Alfred retired, and learned from the porter that the college was not full. He sighed deeply, and the sickening feeling grew on him; an ineradicable stigma seemed upon him, and Mrs. Dodd was no worse than the rest of the world then; every mother in England would approve her resolutions. He wandered about the scenes of his intellectual triumphs: he stood in the great square of the schools, a place ugly to unprejudiced eyes, but withal somewhat grand and inspiring, especially to scholars who have fought their keen and bloodless battles there. He looked at the windows and gilt inscription of the Schola Metaphysices, in which he had met the scholars of his day and defeated them for the Ireland. He wandered into the theatre, and eyed the rostrum, whence he had not mumbled, but recited, his Latin prize poem with more than one thunder of academic applause: thunder compared with which Drury Lane's us a mere cracker. These places were unchanged; but he, sad scholar, wandered among them as if he was a ghost, and all these were stony phantoms of an intellectual past, never, never to return.
He telegraphed Sampson and Edward to furnish him with certificates that he had never been insane, but the victim of a foul conspiracy; and, when he received them, he went with them to St. Margaret's Hall; for he had bethought him that the new principal was a first-rate man, and had openly vowed he would raise that "refuge for the oft-times phoughed" to a place of learning.
Hardie called, sent in his card, and was admitted to the principal's study. He was about to explain who he was, when the doctor interrupted him, and told him politely he knew him by reputation. "Tell me rather," said he shrewdly, "to what I owe this application from an undergraduate so distinguished as Mr. Hardie?"
Then Alfred began to quake, and, instead of replying, put a hand suddenly before his face, and lost courage for one moment.
"Come, Mr. Hardie," said the principal, "don't be disconcerted: a fault regretted is half atoned; and I am not disposed to be hard on the errors of youth; I mean where there is merit to balance them."
"Sir," said Alfred sadly, "it is not a fault I have to acknowledge, but a misfortune."
"Tell me all about it," said Dr. Alder guardedly.