study I had brought up from Wimblehurst. I had displayed myself, as the Registrar put it, "an unmitigated rotter." My failure to get marks in the written examination had only been equalled by the insufficiency of my practical work.
"I ask you," the Registrar had said, "what will become of you when your scholarship runs out?"
It certainly was an interesting question. What was going to become of me?
It was clear there would be nothing for me in the schools as I had once dared to hope; there seemed, indeed, scarcely anything in the world except an ill-paid assistantship in some provincial organized Science School or grammar school. I knew that for that sort of work, without a degree or any qualification, one earned hardly a bare living and had little leisure to struggle up to anything better. If only I had even as little as fifty pounds I might hold out in London and take my B.Sc. degree, and quadruple my chances! My bitterness against my uncle returned at the thought. After all, he had some of my money still, or ought to have. Why shouldn't I act within my rights, threaten to "take proceedings"? I meditated for a space on the idea, and then returned to the Science library and wrote him a very considerable and occasionally pungent letter.
That letter to my uncle was the nadir of my failure. Its remarkable consequences which ended my student days altogether, I will tell in the next chapter.
I say "my failure." Yet there are times when I can even doubt whether that period was a failure at all, when I become defensively critical of those exacting courses I did not follow, the encyclopædic process of scientific exhaustion from which I was distracted.