Montgomery writes thus: "Cambridge has been to me another golden memory. God who kept me from the temptations of school life did not desert me at college, and who can adequately tell the blessing of looking back over a university career without pain or remorse." He was at Trinity and took his degree in the Moral Sciences Tripos, being bracketed eighth with A. J. Balfour!
His first term was not all happy and it was of course a critical period. For the first time he had money in his pocket of which he did not know the value, and when Christmas came he had exceeded his allowance by £10. His father dealt wisely with him: "I am going to pay these bills for you, but I want you to realise that the money will have to come from the sum I have laid by for your brothers and sister." How ashamed Henry felt! He never exceeded again. His father gave him £200 a year and he found it ample, not only for his terms, but for the vacations when he stayed in country houses to shoot and hunt.
Then there was the liberty. You are your own master and your work depends entirely upon yourself. A Harrow boy is called upon by all Old Harrovians, many of whom at that time were a most undesirable lot, fond of drink and gambling, and very idle. Henry, too, was a cricket and football player, and the leading cricketers bore the worst reputations in the university. He was thrown with them in matches day after day when he played for the university, and but for his life-long friend, H. M. Stow, he would have been very lonely.
He made a wise resolution not to play cards for his first year, and thereby escaped temptations to gamble when asked out by senior men. After two years in lodgings, Henry got into college and tasted to the full the joys of college life. He writes glowingly of the peace and rest of the beautiful courts on moonlight nights, of the feats and the jokes and the ragging. His own greatest achievement consisted in jumping up the flight of steps leading out of the Old Court up to the hall. It is a peculiar jump, for it is ten feet long and four feet high at the top. There was a legend that it had only once been done before. Years after, when Montgomery took his wife to Cambridge on their honeymoon, the old porter did not recognize him, but when he heard his name his face lit up. "What! Mr. Montgomery who jumped up the steps!" In 1912 the Master of Trinity, Dr. Butler, wrote to him: "The other day I showed the King your jump up the steps. He stared, attonitus!" On future visits to Cambridge he used to be pointed out--"That's Montgomery who jumped up the steps in Trinity."
Montgomery was not a scholar. He did not win intellectual honours at school or college; but he was what was perhaps better, a plodder. He was always imbibing and taking notes and learning from others. At games he kept up his reputation as a cricketer. He was captain of the Trinity eleven in his second year; he played for the university, sometimes five times a week; but, to his great disappointment, he was never in the university eleven. Stow, his old Harrow friend, was Captain of the 'varsity eleven, and nothing gave him greater pain in 1869 than to say that Montgomery could not play against Oxford, though he had played in every match for the university that year. Lily white, the great cricketer, wrote in his handbook, "It is sufficient proof of the excellence of the Cambridge eleven in 1869 that Mr. Montgomery was left out of it."
Cambridge always remained a golden memory to Henry Montgomery. When he returned from Tasmania, his dear Harrow master, Dr. Butler, was Master of Trinity. For some ten years Henry's supreme joy was to go to the Lodge and spend hours in the company of Dr. Butler, who became his bosom friend. Once Dr. Butler gave each candidate for holy orders in the diocese of Ely a copy of Visions.