The Convict by G P R James Page 1 of 462



It may be very well in most cases to plunge, according to the rule of the Latin poet, into the middle of things. It may be very well even, according to the recommendation of Count Antoine Hamilton, to 'begin with the beginning.' But there are other cases where there may be antecedents to the actual story, which require to be known before the tale itself is rightly comprehended.

With this view, then, I will give one short scene not strictly attached to that which is to follow, ere I proceed with my history.

In a small high room of the oldest part of St. John's College, Cambridge, in a warm and glowing day of the early spring, and at about seven o'clock in the morning, there sat a young man with his cheek leaning on his hand, and his eyes fixed upon the page of an open book.

There were many others closed and unclosed upon the table around him, as well as various pieces of paper, traced with every sort of curious figure which geometrical science ever discovered or measured.

The page, too, on which his eyes were bent, was well nigh as full of ciphers as of words, and it was evident, from everything around, that the studies of the tenant of that chamber were of a very abstruse character.

And yet to gaze at him as he sits there, and to consider attentively the lines of the face, and the development of the organs of the head, the physiognomist or phrenologist would, at once pronounce that, although by no means wanting in any of the powers of mind, that young man was by nature disposed to seek the pleasures of imagination rather than the dry and less exciting, though more satisfactory, results of science.

There were some slight indications, too, about his room, of such tastes and propensities.

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