Part 2 out of 6
seeming to him of the most alarming importance.
Tom and his father had alighted at the Peacock at about seven in
the evening; and having heard with unfeigned joy the paternal
order, at the bar, of steaks and oyster-sauce for supper in half
an hour, and seen his father seated cozily by the bright fire in
the coffee-room with the paper in his hand, Tom had run out to
see about him, had wondered at all the vehicles passing and
repassing, and had fraternized with the boots and hostler, from
whom he ascertained that the Tally-ho was a tip-top goer--ten
miles an hour including stoppages--and so punctual that all the
road set their clocks by her.
Then being summoned to supper, he had regaled himself in one of
the bright little boxes of the Peacock coffee-room, on the beef-
steak and unlimited oyster-sauce and brown stout (tasted then
for the first time--a day to be marked for ever by Tom with a
white stone); had at first attended to the excellent advice
which his father was bestowing on him from over his glass of
steaming brandy-and-water, and then began nodding, from the
united effects of the stout, the fire, and the lecture; till the
Squire, observing Tom's state, and remembering that it was
nearly nine o'clock, and that the Tally-ho left at three, sent
the little fellow off to the chambermaid, with a shake of the
hand (Tom having stipulated in the morning before starting that
kissing should now cease between them), and a few parting words:
"And now, Tom, my boy," said the Squire, "remember you are
going, at your own earnest request, to be chucked into this
great school, like a young bear, with all your troubles before
you--earlier than we should have sent you perhaps. If schools
are what they were in my time, you'll see a great many cruel
blackguard things done, and hear a deal of foul, bad talk. But
never fear. You tell the truth, keep a brave and kind heart,
and never listen to or say anything you wouldn't have your
mother and sister hear, and you'll never feel ashamed to come
home, or we to see you."
The allusion to his mother made Tom feel rather choky, and he
would have liked to have hugged his father well, if it hadn't
been for the recent stipulation.
As it was, he only squeezed his father's hand, and looked
bravely up and said, "I'll try, father."
"I know you will, my boy. Is your money all safe?
"Yes," said Tom, diving into one pocket to make sure.
"And your keys?" said the Squire.
"All right," said Tom, diving into the other pocket.
"Well, then, good-night. God bless you! I'll tell boots to
call you, and be up to see you off."
Tom was carried off by the chambermaid in a brown study, from
which he was roused in a clean little attic, by that buxom
person calling him a little darling and kissing him as she left
the room; which indignity he was too much surprised to resent.
And still thinking of his father's last words, and the look with
which they were spoken, he knelt down and prayed that, come what
might, he might never bring shame or sorrow on the dear folk at
Indeed, the Squire's last words deserved to have their effect,
for they had been the result of much anxious thought. All the
way up to London he had pondered what he should say to Tom by
way of parting advice--something that the boy could keep in his
head ready for use. By way of assisting meditation, he had even
gone the length of taking out his flint and steel and tinder,
and hammering away for a quarter of an hour till he had
manufactured a light for a long Trichinopoli cheroot, which he
silently puffed, to the no small wonder of coachee, who was an
old friend, and an institution on the Bath road, and who always
expected a talk on the prospects and doings, agricultural and
social, of the whole country, when he carried the Squire.
To condense the Squire's meditation, it was somewhat as follows:
"I won't tell him to read his Bible, and love and serve God; if
he don't do that for his mother's sake and teaching, he won't
for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptations he'll meet
with? No, I can't do that. Never do for an old fellow to go
into such things with a boy. He won't understand me. Do him
more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his
work, and say he's sent to school to make himself a good
scholar? Well, but he isn't sent to school for that--at any
rate, not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek
particles, or the digamma; no more does his mother. What is he
sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go.
If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling
Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that's all I
want," thought the Squire; and upon this view of the case he
framed his last words of advice to Tom, which were well enough
suited to his purpose.
For they were Tom's first thoughts as he tumbled out of bed at
the summons of boots, and proceeded rapidly to wash and dress
himself. At ten minutes to three he was down in the coffee-room
in his stockings, carrying his hat-box, coat, and comforter in
his hand; and there he found his father nursing a bright fire,
and a cup of hot coffee and a hard biscuit on the table.
"Now, then, Tom, give us your things here, and drink this.
There's nothing like starting warm, old fellow."
Tom addressed himself to the coffee, and prattled away while he
worked himself into his shoes and his greatcoat, well warmed
through--a Petersham coat with velvet collar, made tight after
the abominable fashion of those days. And just as he is
swallowing his last mouthful, winding his comforter round his
throat, and tucking the ends into the breast of his coat, the
horn sounds; boots looks in and says, "Tally-ho, sir;" and they
hear the ring and the rattle of the four fast trotters and the
town-made drag, as it dashes up to the Peacock.
"Anything for us, Bob?" says the burly guard, dropping down from
behind, and slapping himself across the chest.
"Young gen'lm'n, Rugby; three parcels, Leicester; hamper o'
game, Rugby," answers hostler.
"Tell young gent to look alive," says guard, opening the hind-
boot and shooting in the parcels after examining them by the
lamps. "Here; shove the portmanteau up a-top. I'll fasten him
presently. --Now then, sir, jump up behind."
"Good-bye, father--my love at home." A last shake of the hand.
Up goes Tom, the guard catching his hatbox and holding on with
one hand, while with the other he claps the horn to his mouth.
Toot, toot, toot! the hostlers let go their heads, the four bays
plunge at the collar, and away goes the Tally-ho into the
darkness, forty-five seconds from the time they pulled up.
Hostler, boots, and the Squire stand looking after them under
the Peacock lamp.
"Sharp work!" says the Squire, and goes in again to his bed, the
coach being well out of sight and hearing.
Tom stands up on the coach and looks back at his father's figure
as long as he can see it; and then the guard, having disposed of
his luggage, comes to an anchor, and finishes his buttonings and
other preparations for facing the three hours before dawn--no
joke for those who minded cold, on a fast coach in November, in
the reign of his late Majesty.
I sometimes think that you boys of this generation are a deal
tenderer fellows than we used to be. At any rate you're much
more comfortable travellers, for I see every one of you with his
rug or plaid, and other dodges for preserving the caloric, and
most of you going in, those fuzzy, dusty, padded first-class
carriages. It was another affair altogether, a dark ride on the
top of the Tally-ho, I can tell you, in a tight Petersham coat,
and your feet dangling six inches from the floor. Then you knew
what cold was, and what it was to be without legs, for not a bit
of feeling had you in them after the first half-hour. But it
had its pleasures, the old dark ride. First there was the
consciousness of silent endurance, so dear to every Englishman--
of standing out against something, and not giving in. Then
there was the music of the rattling harness, and the ring of the
horses' feet on the hard road, and the glare of the two bright
lamps through the steaming hoar frost, over the leaders' ears,
into the darkness, and the cheery toot of the guard's horn, to
warn some drowsy pikeman or the hostler at the next change; and
the looking forward to daylight; and last, but not least, the
delight of returning sensation in your toes.
Then the break of dawn and the sunrise, where can they be ever
seen in perfection but from a coach roof? You want motion and
change and music to see them in their glory--not the music of
singing men and singing women, but good, silent music, which
sets itself in your own head, the accompaniment of work and
getting over the ground.
The Tally-ho is past St. Albans, and Tom is enjoying the ride,
though half-frozen. The guard, who is alone with him on the
back of the coach, is silent, but has muffled Tom's feet up in
straw, and put the end of an oat-sack over his knees. The
darkness has driven him inwards, and he has gone over his little
past life, and thought of all his doings and promises, and of
his mother and sister, and his father's last words; and has made
fifty good resolutions, and means to bear himself like a brave
Brown as he is, though a young one. Then he has been forward
into the mysterious boy-future, speculating as to what sort of
place Rugby is, and what they do there, and calling up all the
stories of public schools which he has heard from big boys in
the holidays. He is choke-full of hope and life,
notwithstanding the cold, and kicks his heels against the back-
board, and would like to sing, only he doesn't know how his
friend the silent guard might take it.
And now the dawn breaks at the end of the fourth stage, and the
coach pulls up at a little roadside inn with huge stables
behind. There is a bright fire gleaming through the red
curtains of the bar window, and the door is open. The coachman
catches his whip into a double thong, and throws it to the
hostler; the steam of the horses rises straight up into the air.
He has put them along over the last two miles, and is two
minutes before his time. He rolls down from the box and into
the inn. The guard rolls off behind. "Now, sir," says he to
Tom, "you just jump down, and I'll give you a drop of something
to keep the cold out."
Tom finds a difficulty in jumping, or indeed in finding the top
of the wheel with his feet, which may be in the next world for
all he feels; so the guard picks him off the coach top, and sets
him on his legs, and they stump off into the bar, and join the
coachman and the other outside passengers.
Here a fresh-looking barmaid serves them each with a glass of
early purl as they stand before the fire, coachman and guard
exchanging business remarks. The purl warms the cockles of
Tom's heart, and makes him cough.
"Rare tackle that, sir, of a cold morning," says the coachman,
smiling. "Time's up." They are out again and up; coachee the
last, gathering the reins into his hands and talking to Jem the
hostler about the mare's shoulder, and then swinging himself up
on to the box--the horses dashing off in a canter before he
falls into his seat. Toot-toot-tootle-too goes the horn, and
away they are again, five-and-thirty miles on their road (nearly
half-way to Rugby, thinks Tom), and the prospect of breakfast at
the end of the stage.
And now they begin to see, and the early life of the country-
side comes out--a market cart or two; men in smock-frocks going
to their work, pipe in mouth, a whiff of which is no bad smell
this bright morning. The sun gets up, and the mist shines like
silver gauze. They pass the hounds jogging along to a distant
meet, at the heels of the huntsman's back, whose face is about
the colour of the tails of his old pink, as he exchanges
greetings with coachman and guard. Now they pull up at a lodge,
and take on board a well-muffled-up sportsman, with his gun-case
and carpet-bag, An early up-coach meets them, and the coachmen
gather up their horses, and pass one another with the accustomed
lift of the elbow, each team doing eleven miles an hour, with a
mile to spare behind if necessary. And here comes breakfast.
"Twenty minutes here, gentlemen," says the coachman, as they
pull up at half-past seven at the inn-door.
Have we not endured nobly this morning? and is not this a worthy
reward for much endurance? There is the low, dark wainscoted
room hung with sporting prints; the hat-stand (with a whip or
two standing up in it belonging to bagmen who are still snug in
bed) by the door; the blazing fire, with the quaint old glass
over the mantelpiece, in which is stuck a large card with the
list of the meets for the week of the county hounds; the table
covered with the whitest of cloths and of china, and bearing a
pigeon-pie, ham, round of cold boiled beef cut from a mammoth
ox, and the great loaf of household bread on a wooden trencher.
And here comes in the stout head waiter, puffing under a tray of
hot viands--kidneys and a steak, transparent rashers and
poached eggs, buttered toast and muffins, coffee and tea, all
smoking hot. The table can never hold it all. The cold meats
are removed to the sideboard--they were only put on for show
and to give us an appetite. And now fall on, gentlemen all. It
is a well-known sporting-house, and the breakfasts are famous.
Two or three men in pink, on their way to the meet, drop in, and
are very jovial and sharp-set, as indeed we all are.
"Tea or coffee, sir?" says head waiter, coming round to Tom.
"Coffee, please," says Tom, with his mouth full of muffin and
kidney. Coffee is a treat to him, tea is not.
Our coachman, I perceive, who breakfasts with us, is a cold beef
man. He also eschews hot potations, and addicts himself to a
tankard of ale, which is brought him by the barmaid. Sportsman
looks on approvingly, and orders a ditto for himself.
Tom has eaten kidney and pigeon-pie, and imbibed coffee, till
his little skin is as tight as a drum; and then has the further
pleasure of paying head waiter out of his own purse, in a
dignified manner, and walks out before the inn-door to see the
horses put to. This is done leisurely and in a highly-finished
manner by the hostlers, as if they enjoyed the not being
hurried. Coachman comes out with his waybill, and puffing a fat
cigar which the sportsman has given him. Guard emerges from the
tap, where he prefers breakfasting, licking round a tough-
looking doubtful cheroot, which you might tie round your finger,
and three whiffs of which would knock any one else out of time.
The pinks stand about the inn-door lighting cigars and waiting
to see us start, while their hacks are led up and down the
market-place, on which the inn looks. They all know our
sportsman, and we feel a reflected credit when we see him
chatting and laughing with them.
"Now, sir, please," says the coachman. All the rest of the
passengers are up; the guard is locking up the hind-boot.
"A good run to you!" says the sportsman to the pinks, and is by
the coachman's side in no time.
"Let 'em go, Dick!" The hostlers fly back, drawing off the
cloths from their glossy loins, and away we go through the
market-place and down the High Street, looking in at the first-
floor windows, and seeing several worthy burgesses shaving
thereat; while all the shopboys who are cleaning the windows,
and housemaids who are doing the steps, stop and look pleased as
we rattle past, as if we were a part of their legitimate
morning's amusement. We clear the town, and are well out
between the hedgerows again as the town clock strikes eight.
The sun shines almost warmly, and breakfast has oiled all
springs and loosened all tongues. Tom is encouraged by a remark
or two of the guard's between the puffs of his oily cheroot, and
besides is getting tired of not talking. He is too full of his
destination to talk about anything else, and so asks the guard
if he knows Rugby.
"Goes through it every day of my life. Twenty minutes afore
twelve down--ten o'clock up."
"What sort of place is it, please?" says Tom.
Guard looks at him with a comical expression. "Werry out-o'-
the-way place, sir; no paving to streets, nor no lighting.
'Mazin' big horse and cattle fair in autumn--lasts a week--
just over now. Takes town a week to get clean after it.
Fairish hunting country. But slow place, sir, slow place-off
the main road, you see--only three coaches a day, and one on
'em a two-oss wan, more like a hearse nor a coach--Regulator--
comes from Oxford. Young genl'm'n at school calls her Pig and
Whistle, and goes up to college by her (six miles an hour) when
they goes to enter. Belong to school, sir?"
"Yes," says Tom, not unwilling for a moment that the guard
should think him an old boy. But then, having some qualms as to
the truth of the assertion, and seeing that if he were to assume
the character of an old boy he couldn't go on asking the
questions he wanted, added--"That is to say, I'm on my way
there. I'm a new boy."
The guard looked as if he knew this quite as well as Tom.
"You're werry late, sir," says the guard; "only six weeks to-day
to the end of the half." Tom assented. "We takes up fine loads
this day six weeks, and Monday and Tuesday arter. Hopes we
shall have the pleasure of carrying you back."
Tom said he hoped they would; but he thought within himself that
his fate would probably be the Pig and Whistle.
"It pays uncommon cert'nly," continues the guard. "Werry free
with their cash is the young genl'm'n. But, Lor' bless you, we
gets into such rows all 'long the road, what wi' their pea-
shooters, and long whips, and hollering, and upsetting every one
as comes by, I'd a sight sooner carry one or two on 'em, sir, as
I may be a-carryin' of you now, than a coach-load."
"What do they do with the pea-shooters?" inquires Tom.
"Do wi' 'em! Why, peppers every one's faces as we comes near,
'cept the young gals, and breaks windows wi' them too, some on
'em shoots so hard. Now 'twas just here last June, as we was a-
driving up the first-day boys, they was mendin' a quarter-mile
of road, and there was a lot of Irish chaps, reg'lar roughs, a-
breaking stones. As we comes up, 'Now, boys,' says young gent
on the box (smart young fellow and desper't reckless), 'here's
fun! Let the Pats have it about the ears.' 'God's sake sir!'
says Bob (that's my mate the coachman); 'don't go for to shoot
at 'em. They'll knock us off the coach.' 'Damme, coachee,'
says young my lord, 'you ain't afraid. --Hoora, boys! let 'em
have it.' 'Hoora!' sings out the others, and fill their mouths
choke-full of peas to last the whole line. Bob, seeing as 'twas
to come, knocks his hat over his eyes, hollers to his osses, and
shakes 'em up; and away we goes up to the line on 'em, twenty
miles an hour. The Pats begin to hoora too, thinking it was a
runaway; and first lot on 'em stands grinnin' and wavin' their
old hats as we comes abreast on 'em; and then you'd ha' laughed
to see how took aback and choking savage they looked, when they
gets the peas a-stinging all over 'em. But bless you, the laugh
weren't all of our side, sir, by a long way. We was going so
fast, and they was so took aback, that they didn't take what was
up till we was half-way up the line. Then 'twas, 'Look out
all!' surely. They howls all down the line fit to frighten you;
some on 'em runs arter us and tries to clamber up behind, only
we hits 'em over the fingers and pulls their hands off; one as
had had it very sharp act'ly runs right at the leaders, as
though he'd ketch 'em by the heads, only luck'ly for him he
misses his tip and comes over a heap o' stones first. The rest
picks up stones, and gives it us right away till we gets out of
shot, the young gents holding out werry manful with the pea-
shooters and such stones as lodged on us, and a pretty many
there was too. Then Bob picks hisself up again, and looks at
young gent on box werry solemn. Bob'd had a rum un in the ribs,
which'd like to ha' knocked him off the box, or made him drop
the reins. Young gent on box picks hisself up, and so does we
all, and looks round to count damage. Box's head cut open and
his hat gone; 'nother young gent's hat gone; mine knocked in at
the side, and not one on us as wasn't black and blue somewheres
or another, most on 'em all over. Two pound ten to pay for
damage to paint, which they subscribed for there and then, and
give Bob and me a extra half-sovereign each; but I wouldn't go
down that line again not for twenty half-sovereigns." And the
guard shook his head slowly, and got up and blew a clear, brisk
"What fun!" said Tom, who could scarcely contain his pride at
this exploit of his future school-fellows. He longed already
for the end of the half, that he might join them.
"'Taint such good fun, though, sir, for the folk as meets the
coach, nor for we who has to go back with it next day. Them
Irishers last summer had all got stones ready for us, and was
all but letting drive, and we'd got two reverend gents aboard
too. We pulled up at the beginning of the line, and pacified
them, and we're never going to carry no more pea-shooters,
unless they promises not to fire where there's a line of Irish
chaps a-stonebreaking." The guard stopped and pulled away at
his cheroot, regarding Tom benignantly the while.
"Oh, don't stop! Tell us something more about the pea-
"Well, there'd like to have been a pretty piece of work over it
at Bicester, a while back. We was six mile from the town, when
we meets an old square-headed gray-haired yeoman chap, a-jogging
along quite quiet. He looks up at the coach, and just then a
pea hits him on the nose, and some catches his cob behind and
makes him dance up on his hind legs. I see'd the old boy's face
flush and look plaguy awkward, and I thought we was in for
"He turns his cob's head and rides quietly after us just out of
shot. How that 'ere cob did step! We never shook him off not a
dozen yards in the six miles. At first the young gents was
werry lively on him; but afore we got in, seeing how steady the
old chap come on, they was quite quiet, and laid their heads
together what they should do. Some was for fighting, some for
axing his pardon. He rides into the town close after us, comes
up when we stops, and says the two as shot at him must come
before a magistrate; and a great crowd comes round, and we
couldn't get the osses to. But the young uns they all stand by
one another, and says all or none must go, and as how they'd
fight it out, and have to be carried. Just as 'twas gettin'
serious, and the old boy and the mob was going to pull 'em off
the coach, one little fellow jumps up and says, 'Here--I'll
stay. I'm only going three miles farther. My father's name's
Davis; he's known about here, and I'll go before the magistrate
with this gentleman.' 'What! be thee parson Davis's son?' says
the old boy. 'Yes,' says the young un. 'Well, I be mortal
sorry to meet thee in such company; but for thy father's sake
and thine (for thee bist a brave young chap) I'll say no more
about it.' Didn't the boys cheer him, and the mob cheered the
young chap; and then one of the biggest gets down, and begs his
pardon werry gentlemanly for all the rest, saying as they all
had been plaguy vexed from the first, but didn't like to ax his
pardon till then, 'cause they felt they hadn't ought to shirk
the consequences of their joke. And then they all got down, and
shook hands with the old boy, and asked him to all parts of the
country, to their homes; and we drives off twenty minutes behind
time, with cheering and hollering as if we was county 'members.
But, Lor' bless you, sir," says the guard, smacking his hand
down on his knee and looking full into Tom's face, "ten minutes
arter they was all as bad as ever."
Tom showed such undisguised and open-mouthed interest in his
narrations that the old guard rubbed up his memory, and launched
out into a graphic history of all the performances of the boys
on the roads for the last twenty years. Off the road he
couldn't go; the exploit must have been connected with horses or
vehicles to hang in the old fellow's head. Tom tried him off
his own ground once or twice, but found he knew nothing beyond,
and so let him have his head, and the rest of the road bowled
easily away; for old Blow-hard (as the boys called him) was a
dry old file, with much kindness and humour, and a capital
spinner of a yarn when he had broken the neck of his day's work,
and got plenty of ale under his belt.
What struck Tom's youthful imagination most was the desperate
and lawless character of most of the stories. Was the guard
hoaxing him? He couldn't help hoping that they were true. It's
very odd how almost all English boys love danger. You can get
ten to join a game, or climb a tree, or swim a stream, when
there's a chance of breaking their limbs or getting drowned, for
one who'll stay on level ground, or in his depth, or play quoits
The guard had just finished an account of a desperate fight
which had happened at one of the fairs between the drovers and
the farmers with their whips, and the boys with cricket-bats and
wickets, which arose out of a playful but objectionable practice
of the boys going round to the public-houses and taking the
linch-pins out of the wheels of the gigs, and was moralizing
upon the way in which the Doctor, "a terrible stern man he'd
heard tell," had come down upon several of the performers,
"sending three on 'em off next morning in a po-shay with a
parish constable," when they turned a corner and neared the
milestone, the third from Rugby. By the stone two boys stood,
their jackets buttoned tight, waiting for the coach.
"Look here, sir," says the guard, after giving a sharp toot-
toot; "there's two on 'em; out-and-out runners they be. They
comes out about twice or three times a week, and spirts a mile
alongside of us."
And as they came up, sure enough, away went two boys along the
footpath, keeping up with the horses--the first a light, clean-
made fellow going on springs; the other stout and round-
shouldered, labouring in his pace, but going as dogged as a
Old Blow-hard looked on admiringly. "See how beautiful that
there un holds hisself together, and goes from his hips, sir,"
said he; "he's a 'mazin' fine runner. Now many coachmen as
drives a first-rate team'd put it on, and try and pass 'em. But
Bob, sir, bless you, he's tender-hearted; he'd sooner pull in a
bit if he see'd 'em a-gettin' beat. I do b'lieve, too, as that
there un'd sooner break his heart than let us go by him afore
At the second milestone the boys pulled up short, and waved
their hats to the guard, who had his watch out and shouted
"4.56," thereby indicating that the mile had been done in four
seconds under the five minutes. They passed several more
parties of boys, all of them objects of the deepest interest to
Tom, and came in sight of the town at ten minutes before twelve.
Tom fetched a long breath, and thought he had never spent a
pleasanter day. Before he went to bed he had quite settled that
it must be the greatest day he should ever spend, and didn't
alter his opinion for many a long year--if he has yet.
CHAPTER V - RUGBY AND FOOTBALL.
"Foot and eye opposed
In dubious strife." - Scott.
"And so here's Rugby, sir, at last, and you'll be in plenty of
time for dinner at the School-house, as I telled you," said the
old guard, pulling his horn out of its case and tootle-tooing
away, while the coachman shook up his horses, and carried them
along the side of the school close, round Dead-man's corner,
past the school-gates, and down the High Street to the Spread
Eagle, the wheelers in a spanking trot, and leaders cantering,
in a style which would not have disgraced "Cherry Bob,"
"ramping, stamping, tearing, swearing Billy Harwood," or any
other of the old coaching heroes.
Tom's heart beat quick as he passed the great schoolfield or
close, with its noble elms, in which several games at football
were going on, and tried to take in at once the long line of
gray buildings, beginning with the chapel, and ending with the
School-house, the residence of the head-master, where the great
flag was lazily waving from the highest round tower. And he
began already to be proud of being a Rugby boy, as he passed the
schoolgates, with the oriel window above, and saw the boys
standing there, looking as if the town belonged to them, and
nodding in a familiar manner to the coachman, as if any one of
them would be quite equal to getting on the box, and working the
team down street as well as he.
One of the young heroes, however, ran out from the rest, and
scrambled up behind; where, having righted himself, and nodded
to the guard, with "How do, Jem?" he turned short round to Tom,
and after looking him over for a minute, began, -
"I say, you fellow, is your name Brown?"
"Yes," said Tom, in considerable astonishment, glad, however, to
have lighted on some one already who seemed to know him.
"Ah, I thought so. You know my old aunt, Miss East. She lives
somewhere down your way in Berkshire. She wrote to me that you
were coming to-day, and asked me to give you a lift."
Tom was somewhat inclined to resent the patronizing air of his
new friend, a boy of just about his own height and age, but
gifted with the most transcendent coolness and assurance, which
Tom felt to be aggravating and hard to bear, but couldn't for
the life of him help admiring and envying--especially when
young my lord begins hectoring two or three long loafing
fellows, half porter, half stableman, with a strong touch of the
blackguard, and in the end arranges with one of them, nicknamed
Cooey, to carry Tom's luggage up to the School-house for
"And hark 'ee, Cooey; it must be up in ten minutes, or no more
jobs from me. Come along, Brown." And away swaggers the young
potentate, with his hands in his pockets, and Tom at his side.
"All right, sir," says Cooey, touching his hat, with a leer and
a wink at his companions.
"Hullo though," says East, pulling up, and taking another look
at Tom; "this'll never do. Haven't you got a hat? We never
wear caps here. Only the louts wear caps. Bless you, if you
were to go into the quadrangle with that thing on, I don't know
what'd happen." The very idea was quite beyond young Master
East, and he looked unutterable things.
Tom thought his cap a very knowing affair, but confessed that he
had a hat in his hat-box; which was accordingly at once
extracted from the hind-boot, and Tom equipped in his go-to-
meeting roof, as his new friend called it. But this didn't
quite suit his fastidious taste in another minute, being too
shiny; so, as they walk up the town, they dive into Nixon's the
hatter's, and Tom is arrayed, to his utter astonishment, and
without paying for it, in a regulation cat-skin at seven-and-
sixpence, Nixon undertaking to send the best hat up to the
matron's room, School-house, in half an hour.
"You can send in a note for a tile on Monday, and make it all
right, you know," said Mentor; "we're allowed two seven-and-
sixers a half, besides what we bring from home."
Tom by this time began to be conscious of his new social
position and dignities, and to luxuriate in the realized
ambition of being a public school-boy at last, with a vested
right of spoiling two seven-and-sixers in half a year.
"You see," said his friend, as they strolled up towards the
school-gates, in explanation of his conduct, "a great deal
depends on how a fellow cuts up at first. If he's got nothing
odd about him, and answers straightforward, and holds his head
up, he gets on. Now, you'll do very well as to rig, all but
that cap. You see I'm doing the handsome thing by you, because
my father knows yours; besides, I want to please the old lady.
She gave me half a sov. this half, and perhaps'll double it
next, if I keep in her good books."
There's nothing for candour like a lower-school boy, and East
was a genuine specimen--frank, hearty, and good-natured, well-
satisfied with himself and his position, and choke-full of life
and spirits, and all the Rugby prejudices and traditions which
he had been able to get together in the long course of one half-
year during which he had been at the School-house.
And Tom, notwithstanding his bumptiousness, felt friends with
him at once, and began sucking in all his ways and prejudices,
as fast as he could understand them.
East was great in the character of cicerone. He carried Tom
through the great gates, where were only two or three boys.
These satisfied themselves with the stock questions, "You
fellow, what's your name? Where do you come from? How old are
you? Where do you board?" and, "What form are you in?" And so
they passed on through the quadrangle and a small courtyard,
upon which looked down a lot of little windows (belonging, as
his guide informed him, to some of the School-house studies),
into the matron's room, where East introduced Tom to that
dignitary; made him give up the key of his trunk, that the
matron might unpack his linen, and told the story of the hat and
of his own presence of mind: upon the relation whereof the
matron laughingly scolded him for the coolest new boy in the
house; and East, indignant at the accusation of newness, marched
Tom off into the quadrangle, and began showing him the schools,
and examining him as to his literary attainments; the result of
which was a prophecy that they would be in the same form, and
could do their lessons together.
"And now come in and see my study--we shall have just time
before dinner; and afterwards, before calling over, we'll do the
Tom followed his guide through the School-house hall, which
opens into the quadrangle. It is a great room, thirty feet long
and eighteen high, or thereabouts, with two great tables running
the whole length, and two large fireplaces at the side, with
blazing fires in them, at one of which some dozen boys were
standing and lounging, some of whom shouted to East to stop; but
he shot through with his convoy, and landed him in the long,
dark passages, with a large fire at the end of each, upon which
the studies opened. Into one of these, in the bottom passage,
East bolted with our hero, slamming and bolting the door behind
them, in case of pursuit from the hall, and Tom was for the
first time in a Rugby boy's citadel.
He hadn't been prepared for separate studies, and was not a
little astonished and delighted with the palace in question.
It wasn't very large, certainly, being about six feet long by
four broad. It couldn't be called light, as there were bars and
a grating to the window; which little precautions were necessary
in the studies on the ground-floor looking out into the close,
to prevent the exit of small boys after locking up, and the
entrance of contraband articles. But it was uncommonly
comfortable to look at, Tom thought. The space under the window
at the farther end was occupied by a square table covered with a
reasonably clean and whole red and blue check tablecloth; a
hard-seated sofa covered with red stuff occupied one side,
running up to the end, and making a seat for one, or by sitting
close, for two, at the table and a good stout wooden chair
afforded a seat to another boy, so that three could sit and work
together. The walls were wainscoted half-way up, the wainscot
being covered with green baize, the remainder with a bright-
patterned paper, on which hung three or four prints of dogs'
heads; Grimaldi winning the Aylesbury steeple-chase; Amy
Robsart, the reigning Waverley beauty of the day; and Tom Crib,
in a posture of defence, which did no credit to the science of
that hero, if truly represented. Over the door were a row of
hat-pegs, and on each side bookcases with cupboards at the
bottom, shelves and cupboards being filled indiscriminately with
school-books, a cup or two, a mouse-trap and candlesticks,
leather straps, a fustian bag, and some curious-looking articles
which puzzled Tom not a little, until his friend explained that
they were climbing-irons, and showed their use. A cricket-bat
and small fishing-rod stood up in one corner.
This was the residence of East and another boy in the same form,
and had more interest for Tom than Windsor Castle, or any other
residence in the British Isles. For was he not about to become
the joint owner of a similar home, the first place he could call
his own? One's own! What a charm there is in the words! How
long it takes boy and man to find out their worth! How fast
most of us hold on to them--faster and more jealously, the
nearer we are to that general home into which we can take
nothing, but must go naked as we came into the world! When
shall we learn that he who multiplieth possessions multiplieth
troubles, and that the one single use of things which we call
our own is that they may be his who hath need of them?
"And shall I have a study like this too?" said Tom.
"Yes, of course; you'll be chummed with some fellow on Monday,
and you can sit here till then."
"What nice places!"
"They're well enough," answered East, patronizingly, "only
uncommon cold at nights sometimes. Gower--that's my chum--and
I make a fire with paper on the floor after supper generally,
only that makes it so smoky."
"But there's a big fire out in the passage," said Tom.
"Precious little we get out of that, though," said East. "Jones
the prepostor has the study at the fire end, and he has rigged
up an iron rod and green baize curtain across the passage, which
he draws at night, and sits there with his door open; so he gets
all the fire, and hears if we come out of our studies after
eight, or make a noise. However, he's taken to sitting in the
fifth-form room lately, so we do get a bit of fire now
sometimes; only to keep a sharp lookout that he don't catch you
behind his curtain when he comes down--that's all."
A quarter past one now struck, and the bell began tolling for
dinner; so they went into the hall and took their places, Tom at
the very bottom of the second table, next to the prepostor (who
sat at the end to keep order there), and East a few paces
higher. And now Tom for the first time saw his future school-
fellows in a body. In they came, some hot and ruddy from
football or long walks, some pale and chilly from hard reading
in their studies, some from loitering over the fire at the
pastrycook's, dainty mortals, bringing with them pickles and
saucebottles to help them with their dinners. And a great big-
bearded man, whom Tom took for a master, began calling over the
names, while the great joints were being rapidly carved on the
third table in the corner by the old verger and the housekeeper.
Tom's turn came last, and meanwhile he was all eyes, looking
first with awe at the great man, who sat close to him, and was
helped first, and who read a hard-looking book all the time he
was eating; and when he got up and walked off to the fire, at
the small boys round him, some of whom were reading, and the
rest talking in whispers to one another, or stealing one
another's bread, or shooting pellets, or digging their forks
through the tablecloth. However, notwithstanding his curiosity,
he managed to make a capital dinner by the time the big man
called "Stand up!" and said grace.
As soon as dinner was over, and Tom had been questioned by such
of his neighbours as were curious as to his birth, parentage,
education, and other like matters, East, who evidently enjoyed
his new dignity of patron and mentor, proposed having a look at
the close, which Tom, athirst for knowledge, gladly assented to;
and they went out through the quadrangle and past the big fives
court, into the great playground.
"That's the chapel, you see," said East; "and there, just behind
it, is the place for fights. You see it's most out of the way
of the masters, who all live on the other side, and don't come
by here after first lesson or callings-over. That's when the
fights come off. And all this part where we are is the little-
side ground, right up to the trees; and on the other side of the
trees is the big-side ground, where the great matches are
played. And there's the island in the farthest corner; you'll
know that well enough next half, when there's island fagging. I
say, it's horrid cold; let's have a run across." And away went
East, Tom close behind him. East was evidently putting his best
foot foremost; and Tom, who was mighty proud of his running, and
not a little anxious to show his friend that, although a new
boy, he was no milksop, laid himself down to work in his very
best style. Right across the close they went, each doing all he
knew, and there wasn't a yard between them when they pulled up
at the island moat.
"I say," said East, as soon as he got his wind, looking with
much increased respect at Tom, "you ain't a bad scud, not by no
means. Well, I'm as warm as a toast now."
"But why do you wear white trousers in November?" said Tom. He
had been struck by this peculiarity in the costume of almost all
the School-house boys.
"Why, bless us, don't you know? No; I forgot. Why, to-day's
the School-house match. Our house plays the whole of the School
at football. And we all wear white trousers, to show 'em we
don't care for hacks. You're in luck to come to-day. You just
will see a match; and Brooke's going to let me play in quarters.
That's more than he'll do for any other lower-school boy, except
James, and he's fourteen."
"Why, that big fellow who called over at dinner, to be sure.
He's cock of the school, and head of the School-house side, and
the best kick and charger in Rugby."
"Oh, but do show me where they play. And tell me about it. I
love football so, and have played all my life. Won't Brooke let
"Not he," said East, with some indignation. "Why, you don't
know the rules; you'll be a month learning them. And then it's
no joke playing-up in a match, I can tell you--quite another
thing from your private school games. Why, there's been two
collar-bones broken this half, and a dozen fellows lamed. And
last year a fellow had his leg broken."
Tom listened with the profoundest respect to this chapter of
accidents, and followed East across the level ground till they
came to a sort of gigantic gallows of two poles, eighteen feet
high, fixed upright in the ground some fourteen feet apart, with
a cross-bar running from one to the other at the height of ten
feet or thereabouts.
"This is one of the goals," said East, "and you see the other,
across there, right opposite, under the Doctor's wall. Well,
the match is for the best of three goals; whichever side kicks
two goals wins: and it won't do, you see, just to kick the ball
through these posts--it must go over the cross-bar; any
height'll do, so long as it's between the posts. You'll have to
stay in goal to touch the ball when it rolls behind the posts,
because if the other side touch it they have a try at goal.
Then we fellows in quarters, we play just about in front of goal
here, and have to turn the ball and kick it back before the big
fellows on the other side can follow it up. And in front of us
all the big fellows play, and that's where the scrummages are
Tom's respect increased as he struggled to make out his friend's
technicalities, and the other set to work to explain the
mysteries of "off your side," "drop-kicks," "punts," "places,"
and the other intricacies of the great science of football.
"But how do you keep the ball between the goals?" said he; "I
can't see why it mightn't go right down to the chapel."
"Why; that's out of play," answered East. "You see this gravel-
walk running down all along this side of the playing-ground, and
the line of elms opposite on the other? Well, they're the
bounds. As soon as the ball gets past them, it's in touch, and
out of play. And then whoever first touches it has to knock it
straight out amongst the players-up, who make two lines with a
space between them, every fellow going on his own side. Ain't
there just fine scrummages then! And the three trees you see
there which come out into the play, that's a tremendous place
when the ball hangs there, for you get thrown against the trees,
and that's worse than any hack."
Tom wondered within himself, as they strolled back again towards
the fives court, whether the matches were really such break-neck
affairs as East represented, and whether, if they were, he
should ever get to like them and play up well,
He hadn't long to wonder, however, for next minute East cried
out, "Hurrah! here's the punt-about; come along and try your
hand at a kick." The punt-about is the practice-ball, which is
just brought out and kicked about anyhow from one boy to another
before callings-over and dinner, and at other odd times. They
joined the boys who had brought it out, all small School-house
fellows, friends of East; and Tom had the pleasure of trying his
skill, and performed very creditably, after first driving his
foot three inches into the ground, and then nearly kicking his
leg into the air, in vigorous efforts to accomplish a drop-kick
after the manner of East.
Presently more boys and bigger came out, and boys from other
houses on their way to calling-over, and more balls were sent
for. The crowd thickened as three o'clock approached; and when
the hour struck, one hundred and fifty boys were hard at work.
Then the balls were held, the master of the week came down in
cap and gown to calling-over, and the whole school of three
hundred boys swept into the big school to answer to their names.
"I may come in, mayn't I?" said Tom, catching East by the arm,
and longing to feel one of them.
"Yes, come along; nobody'll say anything. You won't be so eager
to get into calling-over after a month," replied his friend; and
they marched into the big school together, and up to the farther
end, where that illustrious form, the lower fourth, which had
the honour of East's patronage for the time being, stood.
The master mounted into the high desk by the door, and one of
the prepostors of the week stood by him on the steps, the other
three marching up and down the middle of the school with their
canes, calling out, "Silence, silence!" The sixth form stood
close by the door on the left, some thirty in number, mostly
great big grown men, as Tom thought, surveying them from a
distance with awe; the fifth form behind them, twice their
number, and not quite so big. These on the left; and on the
right the lower fifth, shell, and all the junior forms in order;
while up the middle marched the three prepostors.
Then the prepostor who stands by the master calls out the names,
beginning with the sixth form; and as he calls each boy answers
"here" to his name, and walks out. Some of the sixth stop at
the door to turn the whole string of boys into the close. It is
a great match-day, and every boy in the school, will he, nill
he, must be there. The rest of the sixth go forwards into the
close, to see that no one escapes by any of the side gates.
To-day, however, being the School-house match, none of the
School-house prepostors stay by the door to watch for truants of
their side; there is carte blanche to the School-house fags to
go where they like. "They trust to our honour," as East proudly
informs Tom; "they know very well that no School-house boy would
cut the match. If he did, we'd very soon cut him, I can tell
The master of the week being short-sighted, and the prepostors
of the week small and not well up to their work, the lower-
school boys employ the ten minutes which elapse before their
names are called in pelting one another vigorously with acorns,
which fly about in all directions. The small prepostors dash in
every now and then, and generally chastise some quiet, timid boy
who is equally afraid of acorns and canes, while the principal
performers get dexterously out of the way. And so calling-over
rolls on somehow, much like the big world, punishments lighting
on wrong shoulders, and matters going generally in a queer,
cross-grained way, but the end coming somehow, which is, after
all, the great point. And now the master of the week has
finished, and locked up the big school; and the prepostors of
the week come out, sweeping the last remnant of the school fags,
who had been loafing about the corners by the fives court, in
hopes of a chance of bolting, before them into the close.
"Hold the punt-about!" "To the goals!" are the cries; and all
stray balls are impounded by the authorities, and the whole mass
of boys moves up towards the two goals, dividing as they go into
three bodies. That little band on the left, consisting of from
fifteen to twenty boys, Tom amongst them, who are making for the
goal under the School-house wall, are the School-house boys who
are not to play up, and have to stay in goal. The larger body
moving to the island goal are the School boys in a like
predicament. The great mass in the middle are the players-up,
both sides mingled together; they are hanging their jackets (and
all who mean real work), their hats, waistcoats, neck-
handkerchiefs, and braces, on the railings round the small
trees; and there they go by twos and threes up to their
respective grounds. There is none of the colour and tastiness
of get-up, you will perceive, which lends such a life to the
present game at Rugby, making the dullest and worst-fought match
a pretty sight. Now each house has its own uniform of cap and
jersey, of some lively colour; but at the time we are speaking
of plush caps have not yet come in, or uniforms of any sort,
except the School-house white trousers, which are abominably
cold to-day. Let us get to work, bare-headed, and girded with
our plain leather straps. But we mean business, gentlemen.
And now that the two sides have fairly sundered, and each
occupies its own ground, and we get a good look at them, what
absurdity is this? You don't mean to say that those fifty or
sixty boys in white trousers, many of them quite small, are
going to play that huge mass opposite? Indeed I do, gentlemen.
They're going to try, at any rate, and won't make such a bad
fight of it either, mark my word; for hasn't old Brooke won the
toss, with his lucky halfpenny, and got choice of goals and
kick-off? The new ball you may see lie there quite by itself,
in the middle, pointing towards the School or island goal; in
another minute it will be well on its way there. Use that
minute in remarking how the Schoolhouse side is drilled. You
will see, in the first place, that the sixth-form boy, who has
the charge of goal, has spread his force (the goalkeepers) so as
to occupy the whole space behind the goal-posts, at distances of
about five yards apart. A safe and well-kept goal is the
foundation of all good play. Old Brooke is talking to the
captain of quarters, and now he moves away. See how that
youngster spreads his men (the light brigade) carefully over the
ground, half-way between their own goal and the body of their
own players-up (the heavy brigade). These again play in several
bodies. There is young Brooke and the bull-dogs. Mark them
well. They are the "fighting brigade," the "die-hards," larking
about at leap-frog to keep themselves warm, and playing tricks
on one another. And on each side of old Brooke, who is now
standing in the middle of the ground and just going to kick off,
you see a separate wing of players-up, each with a boy of
acknowledged prowess to look to--here Warner, and there Hedge;
but over all is old Brooke, absolute as he of Russia, but wisely
and bravely ruling over willing and worshipping subjects, a true
football king. His face is earnest and careful as he glances a
last time over his array, but full of pluck and hope--the sort
of look I hope to see in my general when I go out to fight.
The School side is not organized in the same way. The goal-
keepers are all in lumps, anyhow and nohow; you can't
distinguish between the players-up and the boys in quarters, and
there is divided leadership. But with such odds in strength and
weight it must take more than that to hinder them from winning;
and so their leaders seem to think, for they let the players-up
But now look! there is a slight move forward of the School-house
wings, a shout of "Are you ready?" and loud affirmative reply.
Old Brooke takes half a dozen quick steps, and away goes the
ball spinning towards the School goal, seventy yards before it
touches ground, and at no point above twelve or fifteen feet
high, a model kick-off; and the School-house cheer and rush on.
The ball is returned, and they meet it and drive it back amongst
the masses of the School already in motion. Then the two sides
close, and you can see nothing for minutes but a swaying crowd
of boys, at one point violently agitated. That is where the
ball is, and there are the keen players to be met, and the glory
and the hard knocks to be got. You hear the dull thud, thud of
the ball, and the shouts of "Off your side," "Down with him,"
"Put him over," "Bravo." This is what we call "a scrummage,"
gentlemen, and the first scrummage in a School-house match was
no joke in the consulship of Plancus.
But see! it has broken; the ball is driven out on the School-
house side, and a rush of the School carries it past the School-
house players-up. "Look out in quarters," Brooke's and twenty
other voices ring out. No need to call, though: the School-
house captain of quarters has caught it on the bound, dodges the
foremost School boys, who are heading the rush, and sends it
back with a good drop-kick well into the enemy's country. And
then follows rush upon rush, and scrummage upon scrummage, the
ball now driven through into the School-house quarters, and now
into the School goal; for the School-house have not lost the
advantage which the kick-off and a slight wind gave them at the
outset, and are slightly "penning" their adversaries. You say
you don't see much in it all--nothing but a struggling mass of
boys, and a leather ball which seems to excite them all to great
fury, as a red rag does a bull. My dear sir, a battle would
look much the same to you, except that the boys would be men,
and the balls iron; but a battle would be worth your looking at
for all that, and so is a football match. You can't be expected
to appreciate the delicate strokes of play, the turns by which a
game is lost and won--it takes an old player to do that; but
the broad philosophy of football you can understand if you will.
Come along with me a little nearer, and let us consider it
The ball has just fallen again where the two sides are thickest,
and they close rapidly around it in a scrummage. It must be
driven through now by force or skill, till it flies out on one
side or the other. Look how differently the boys face it! Here
come two of the bulldogs, bursting through the outsiders; in
they go, straight to the heart of the scrummage, bent on driving
that ball out on the opposite side. That is what they mean to
do. My sons, my sons! you are too hot; you have gone past the
ball, and must struggle now right through the scrummage, and get
round and back again to your own side, before you can be of any
further use. Here comes young Brooke; he goes in as straight as
you, but keeps his head, and backs and bends, holding himself
still behind the ball, and driving it furiously when he gets the
chance. Take a leaf out of his book, you young chargers. Here
comes Speedicut, and Flashman the School-house bully, with
shouts and great action. Won't you two come up to young Brooke,
after locking-up, by the School-house fire, with "Old fellow,
wasn't that just a splendid scrummage by the three trees?" But
he knows you, and so do we. You don't really want to drive that
ball through that scrummage, chancing all hurt for the glory of
the School-house, but to make us think that's what you want--a
vastly different thing; and fellows of your kidney will never go
through more than the skirts of a scrummage, where it's all push
and no kicking. We respect boys who keep out of it, and don't
sham going in; but you--we had rather not say what we think of
Then the boys who are bending and watching on the outside, mark
them: they are most useful players, the dodgers, who seize on
the ball the moment it rolls out from amongst the chargers, and
away with it across to the opposite goal. They seldom go into
the scrummage, but must have more coolness than the chargers.
As endless as are boys' characters, so are their ways of facing
or not facing a scrummage at football.
Three-quarters of an hour are gone; first winds are failing, and
weight and numbers beginning to tell. Yard by yard the School-
house have been driven back, contesting every inch of ground.
The bull-dogs are the colour of mother earth from shoulder to
ankle, except young Brooke, who has a marvellous knack of
keeping his legs. The School-house are being penned in their
turn, and now the ball is behind their goal, under the Doctor's
wall. The Doctor and some of his family are there looking on,
and seem as anxious as any boy for the success of the School-
house. We get a minute's breathing-time before old Brooke kicks
out, and he gives the word to play strongly for touch, by the
three trees. Away goes the ball, and the bull-dogs after it,
and in another minute there is shout of "In touch!" "Our ball!"
Now's your time, old Brooke, while your men are still fresh. He
stands with the ball in his hand, while the two sides form in
deep lines opposite one another; he must strike it straight out
between them. The lines are thickest close to him, but young
Brooke and two or three of his men are shifting up farther,
where the opposite line is weak. Old Brooke strikes it out
straight and strong, and it falls opposite his brother. Hurrah!
that rush has taken it right through the School line, and away
past the three trees, far into their quarters, and young Brooke
and the bull-dogs are close upon it. The School leaders rush
back, shouting, "Look out in goal!" and strain every nerve to
catch him, but they are after the fleetest foot in Rugby. There
they go straight for the School goal-posts, quarters scattering
before them. One after another the bull-dogs go down, but young
Brooke holds on. "He is down." No! a long stagger, but the
danger is past. That was the shock of Crew, the most dangerous
of dodgers. And now he is close to the School goal, the ball
not three yards before him. There is a hurried rush of the
School fags to the spot, but no one throws himself on the ball,
the only chance, and young Brooke has touched it right under the
The School leaders come up furious, and administer toco to the
wretched fags nearest at hand. They may well be angry, for it
is all Lombard Street to a china orange that the School-house
kick a goal with the ball touched in such a good place. Old
Brooke, of course, will kick it out, but who shall catch and
place it? Call Crab Jones. Here he comes, sauntering along
with a straw in his mouth, the queerest, coolest fish in Rugby.
If he were tumbled into the moon this minute, he would just pick
himself up without taking his hands out of his pockets or
turning a hair. But it is a moment when the boldest charger's
heart beats quick. Old Brooke stands with the ball under his
arm motioning the School back; he will not kick out till they
are all in goal, behind the posts. They are all edging
forwards, inch by inch, to get nearer for the rush at Crab
Jones, who stands there in front of old Brooke to catch the
ball. If they can reach and destroy him before he catches, the
danger is over; and with one and the same rush they will carry
it right away to the School-house goal. Fond hope! it is kicked
out and caught beautifully. Crab strikes his heel into the
ground, to mark the spot where the ball was caught, beyond which
the school line may not advance; but there they stand, five
deep, ready to rush the moment the ball touches the ground.
Take plenty of room. Don't give the rush a chance of reaching
you. Place it true and steady. Trust Crab Jones. He has made
a small hole with his heel for the ball to lie on, by which he
is resting on one knee, with his eye on old Brooke. "Now!"
Crab places the ball at the word, old Brooke kicks, and it rises
slowly and truly as the School rush forward.
Then a moment's pause, while both sides look up at the spinning
ball. There it flies, straight between the two posts, some five
feet above the cross-bar, an unquestioned goal; and a shout of
real, genuine joy rings out from the School-house players-up,
and a faint echo of it comes over the close from the goal-
keepers under the Doctor's wall. A goal in the first hour--
such a thing hasn't been done in the School-house match these
"Over!" is the cry. The two sides change goals, and the School-
house goal-keepers come threading their way across through the
masses of the School, the most openly triumphant of them--
amongst whom is Tom, a School-house boy of two hours' standing--
getting their ears boxed in the transit. Tom indeed is excited
beyond measure, and it is all the sixth-form boy, kindest and
safest of goal-keepers, has been able to do, to keep him from
rushing out whenever the ball has been near their goal. So he
holds him by his side, and instructs him in the science of
At this moment Griffith, the itinerant vender of oranges from
Hill Morton, enters the close with his heavy baskets. There is
a rush of small boys upon the little pale-faced man, the two
sides mingling together, subdued by the great goddess Thirst,
like the English and French by the streams in the Pyrenees. The
leaders are past oranges and apples, but some of them visit
their coats, and apply innocent-looking ginger-beer bottles to
their mouths. It is no ginger-beer though, I fear, and will do
you no good. One short mad rush, and then a stitch in the side,
and no more honest play. That's what comes of those bottles.
But now Griffith's baskets are empty, the ball is placed again
midway, and the School are going to kick off. Their leaders
have sent their lumber into goal, and rated the rest soundly,
and one hundred and twenty picked players-up are there, bent on
retrieving the game. They are to keep the ball in front of the
School-house goal, and then to drive it in by sheer strength and
weight. They mean heavy play and no mistake, and so old Brooke
sees, and places Crab Jones in quarters just before the goal,
with four or five picked players who are to keep the ball away
to the sides, where a try at goal, if obtained, will be less
dangerous than in front. He himself, and Warner and Hedge, who
have saved themselves till now, will lead the charges.
"Are you ready?" "Yes." And away comes the ball, kicked high
in the air, to give the School time to rush on and catch it as
it falls. And here they are amongst us. Meet them like
Englishmen, you Schoolhouse boys, and charge them home. Now is
the time to show what mettle is in you; and there shall be a
warm seat by the hall fire, and honour, and lots of bottled beer
to-night for him who does his duty in the next half-hour. And
they are well met. Again and again the cloud of their players-
up gathers before our goal, and comes threatening on, and Warner
or Hedge, with young Brooke and the relics of the bull-dogs,
break through and carry the ball back; and old Brooke ranges the
field like Job's war-horse. The thickest scrummage parts
asunder before his rush, like the waves before a clipper's bows;
his cheery voice rings out over the field, and his eye is
everywhere. And if these miss the ball, and it rolls
dangerously in front of our goal, Crab Jones and his men have
seized it and sent it away towards the sides with the unerring
drop-kick. This is worth living for--the whole sum of school-
boy existence gathered up into one straining, struggling half-
hour, a half-hour worth a year of common life.
The quarter to five has struck, and the play slackens for a
minute before goal; but there is Crew, the artful dodger,
driving the ball in behind our goal, on the island side, where
our quarters are weakest. Is there no one to meet him? Yes;
look at little East! The ball is just at equal distances
between the two, and they rush together, the young man of
seventeen and the boy of twelve, and kick it at the same moment.
Crew passes on without a stagger; East is hurled forward by the
shock, and plunges on his shoulder, as if he would bury himself
in the ground; but the ball rises straight into the air, and
falls behind Crew's back, while the "bravoes" of the School-
house attest the pluckiest charge of all that hard-fought day.
Warner picks East up lame and half stunned, and he hobbles back
into goal, conscious of having played the man.
And now the last minutes are come, and the School gather for
their last rush, every boy of the hundred and twenty who has a
run left in him. Reckless of the defence of their own goal, on
they come across the level big-side ground, the ball well down
amongst them, straight for our goal, like the column of the Old
Guard up the slope at Waterloo. All former charges have been
child's play to this. Warner and Hedge have met them, but still
on they come. The bull-dogs rush in for the last time; they are
hurled over or carried back, striving hand, foot, and eyelids.
Old Brooke comes sweeping round the skirts of the play, and
turning short round, picks out the very heart of the scrummage,
and plunges in. It wavers for a moment; he has the ball. No,
it has passed him, and his voice rings out clear over the
advancing tide, "Look out in goal!" Crab Jones catches it for a
moment; but before he can kick, the rush is upon him and passes
over him; and he picks himself up behind them with his straw in
his mouth, a little dirtier, but as cool as ever.
The ball rolls slowly in behind the School-house goal, not three
yards in front of a dozen of the biggest School players-up.
There stands the School-house prepostor, safest of goal-keepers,
and Tom Brown by his side, who has learned his trade by this
time. Now is your time, Tom. The blood of all the Browns is
up, and the two rush in together, and throw themselves on the
ball, under the very feet of the advancing column--the
prepostor on his hands and knees, arching his back, and Tom all
along on his face. Over them topple the leaders of the rush,
shooting over the back of the prepostor, but falling flat on
Tom, and knocking all the wind out of his small carcass. "Our
ball," says the prepostor, rising with his prize; "but get up
there; there's a little fellow under you." They are hauled and
roll off him, and Tom is discovered, a motionless body.
Old Brooke picks him up. "Stand back, give him air," he says;
and then feeling his limbs, adds, "No bones broken. --How do
you feel, young un?"
"Hah-hah!" gasps Tom, as his wind comes back; "pretty well,
thank you--all right."
"Who is he?" says Brooke.
"Oh, it's Brown; he's a new boy; I know him," says East, coming
"Well, he is a plucky youngster, and will make a player," says
And five o'clock strikes. "No side" is called, and the first
day of the School-house match is over.
CHAPTER VI - AFTER THE MATCH.
"Some food we had." - Shakespeare.
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As the boys scattered away from the ground, and East, leaning on
Tom's arm, and limping along, was beginning to consider what
luxury they should go and buy for tea to celebrate that glorious
victory, the two Brookes came striding by. Old Brooke caught
sight of East, and stopped; put his hand kindly on his shoulder,
and said, "Bravo, youngster; you played famously. Not much the
matter, I hope?"
"No, nothing at all," said East--" only a little twist from
"Well, mind and get all right for next Saturday." And the
leader passed on, leaving East better for those few words than
all the opodeldoc in England would have made him, and Tom ready
to give one of his ears for as much notice. Ah! light words of
those whom we love and honour, what a power ye are, and how
carelessly wielded by those who can use you! Surely for these
things also God will ask an account.
"Tea's directly after locking-up, you see," said East, hobbling
along as fast as he could, "so you come along down to Sally
Harrowell's; that's our School-house tuck-shop. She bakes such
stunning murphies, we'll have a penn'orth each for tea. Come
along, or they'll all be gone."
Tom's new purse and money burnt in his pocket; he wondered, as
they toddled through the quadrangle and along the street,
whether East would be insulted if he suggested further
extravagance, as he had not sufficient faith in a pennyworth of
potatoes. At last he blurted out, -
"I say, East, can't we get something else besides potatoes?
I've got lots of money, you know."
"Bless us, yes; I forgot," said East, "you've only just come.
You see all my tin's been gone this twelve weeks--it hardly
ever lasts beyond the first fortnight; and our allowances were
all stopped this morning for broken windows, so I haven't got a
penny. I've got a tick at Sally's, of course; but then I hate
running it high, you see, towards the end of the half, 'cause
one has to shell out for it all directly one comes back, and
that's a bore."
Tom didn't understand much of this talk, but seized on the fact
that East had no money, and was denying himself some little pet
luxury in consequence. "Well, what shall I buy?" said he, "I'm
"I say," said East, stopping to look at him and rest his leg,
"you're a trump, Brown. I'll do the same by you next half.
Let's have a pound of sausages then. That's the best grub for
tea I know of."
"Very well," said Tom, as pleased as possible; "where do they
"Oh, over here, just opposite." And they crossed the street and
walked into the cleanest little front room of a small house,
half parlour, half shop, and bought a pound of most particular
sausages, East talking pleasantly to Mrs. Porter while she put
them in paper, and Tom doing the paying part.
From Porter's they adjourned to Sally Harrowell's, where they
found a lot of School-house boys waiting for the roast potatoes,
and relating their own exploits in the day's match at the top of
their voices. The street opened at once into Sally's kitchen, a
low brick-floored room, with large recess for fire, and chimney-
corner seats. Poor little Sally, the most good-natured and
much-enduring of womankind, was bustling about, with a napkin in
her hand, from her own oven to those of the neighbours' cottages
up the yard at the back of the house. Stumps, her husband, a
short, easy-going shoemaker, with a beery, humorous eye and
ponderous calves, who lived mostly on his wife's earnings, stood
in a corner of the room, exchanging shots of the roughest
description of repartee with every boy in turn. "Stumps, you
lout, you've had too much beer again to-day." "'Twasn't of your
paying for, then." "Stumps's calves are running down into his
ankles; they want to get to grass." "Better be doing that than
gone altogether like yours," etc. Very poor stuff it was, but
it served to make time pass; and every now and then Sally
arrived in the middle with a smoking tin of potatoes, which was
cleared off in a few seconds, each boy as he seized his lot
running off to the house with "Put me down two-penn'orth,
Sally;" "Put down three-penn'orth between me and Davis," etc.
How she ever kept the accounts so straight as she did, in her
head and on her slate, was a perfect wonder.
East and Tom got served at last, and started back for the
School-house, just as the locking-up bell began to ring, East on
the way recounting the life and adventures of Stumps, who was a
character. Amongst his other small avocations, he was the hind
carrier of a sedan-chair, the last of its race, in which the
Rugby ladies still went out to tea, and in which, when he was
fairly harnessed and carrying a load, it was the delight of
small and mischievous boys to follow him and whip his calves.
This was too much for the temper even of Stumps, and he would
pursue his tormentors in a vindictive and apoplectic manner when
released, but was easily pacified by twopence to buy beer with.
The lower-school boys of the School-house, some fifteen in
number, had tea in the lower-fifth school, and were presided
over by the old verger or head-porter. Each boy had a quarter
of a loaf of bread and pat of butter, and as much tea as he
pleased; and there was scarcely one who didn't add to this some
further luxury, such as baked potatoes, a herring, sprats, or
something of the sort. But few at this period of the half-year
could live up to a pound of Porter's sausages, and East was in
great magnificence upon the strength of theirs. He had produced
a toasting-fork from his study, and set Tom to toast the
sausages, while he mounted guard over their butter and potatoes.
"'Cause," as he explained, "you're a new boy, and they'll play
you some trick and get our butter; but you can toast just as
well as I." So Tom, in the midst of three or four more urchins
similarly employed, toasted his face and the sausages at the
same time before the huge fire, till the latter cracked; when
East from his watch-tower shouted that they were done, and then
the feast proceeded, and the festive cups of tea were filled and
emptied, and Tom imparted of the sausages in small bits to many
neighbours, and thought he had never tasted such good potatoes
or seen such jolly boys. They on their parts waived all
ceremony, and pegged away at the sausages and potatoes, and
remembering Tom's performance in goal, voted East's new crony a
brick. After tea, and while the things were being cleared away,
they gathered round the fire, and the talk on the match still
went on; and those who had them to show pulled up their trousers
and showed the hacks they had received in the good cause.
They were soon, however, all turned out of the school; and East
conducted Tom up to his bedroom, that he might get on clean
things, and wash himself before singing.
"What's singing?" said Tom, taking his head out of his basin,
where he had been plunging it in cold water.
"Well, you are jolly green," answered his friend, from a
neighbouring basin. "Why, the last six Saturdays of every half
we sing of course; and this is the first of them. No first
lesson to do, you know, and lie in bed to-morrow morning."
"But who sings?"
"Why, everybody, of course; you'll see soon enough. We begin
directly after supper, and sing till bed-time. It ain't such
good fun now, though, as in the summer half; 'cause then we sing
in the little fives court, under the library, you know. We take
out tables, and the big boys sit round and drink beer--double
allowance on Saturday nights; and we cut about the quadrangle
between the songs, and it looks like a lot of robbers in a cave.
And the louts come and pound at the great gates, and we pound
back again, and shout at them. But this half we only sing in
the hall. Come along down to my study."
Their principal employment in the study was to clear out East's
table; removing the drawers and ornaments and tablecloth; for he
lived in the bottom passage, and his table was in requisition
for the singing.
Supper came in due course at seven o'clock, consisting of bread
and cheese and beer, which was all saved for the singing; and
directly afterwards the fags went to work to prepare the hall.
The School-house hall, as has been said, is a great long high
room, with two large fires on one side, and two large iron-bound
tables, one running down the middle, and the other along the
wall opposite the fireplaces. Around the upper fire the fags
placed the tables in the form of a horse-shoe, and upon them the
jugs with the Saturday night's allowance of beer. Then the big
boys used to drop in and take their seats, bringing with them
bottled beer and song books; for although they all knew the
songs by heart, it was the thing to have an old manuscript book
descended from some departed hero, in which they were all
carefully written out.
The sixth-form boys had not yet appeared; so, to fill up the
gap, an interesting and time-honoured ceremony was gone through.
Each new boy was placed on the table in turn, and made to sing a
solo, under the penalty of drinking a large mug of salt and
water if he resisted or broke down. However, the new boys all
sing like nightingales to-night, and the salt water is not in
requisition--Tom, as his part, performing the old west-country
song of "The Leather Bottel" with considerable applause. And at
the half-hour down come the sixth and fifth form boys, and take
their places at the tables, which are filled up by the next
biggest boys, the rest, for whom there is no room at the table,
standing round outside.
The glasses and mugs are filled, and then the fugleman strikes
up the old sea-song,
"A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
And a wind that follows fast," etc.,
which is the invariable first song in the School-house; and all
the seventy voices join in, not mindful of harmony, but bent on
noise, which they attain decidedly, but the general effect isn't
bad. And then follow "The British Grenadiers," "Billy Taylor,"
"The Siege of Seringapatam," "Three Jolly Postboys," and other
vociferous songs in rapid succession, including "The Chesapeake
and Shannon," a song lately introduced in honour of old Brooke;
and when they come to the words,
"Brave Broke he waved his sword, crying, Now, my lads, aboard,
And we'll stop their playing Yankee-doodle-dandy oh!"
you expect the roof to come down. The sixth and fifth know that
"brave Broke" of the Shannon was no sort of relation to our old
Brooke. The fourth form are uncertain in their belief, but for
the most part hold that old Brooke was a midshipman then on
board his uncle's ship. And the lower school never doubt for a
moment that it was our old Brooke who led the boarders, in what
capacity they care not a straw. During the pauses the bottled-
beer corks fly rapidly, and the talk is fast and merry, and the
big boys--at least all of them who have a fellow-feeling for
dry throats--hand their mugs over their shoulders to be emptied
by the small ones who stand round behind.
Then Warner, the head of the house, gets up and wants to speak;
but he can't, for every boy knows what's coming. And the big
boys who sit at the tables pound them and cheer; and the small
boys who stand behind pound one another, and cheer, and rush
about the hall cheering. Then silence being made, Warner
reminds them of the old School-house custom of drinking the
healths, on the first night of singing, of those who are going
to leave at the end of the half. "He sees that they know what
he is going to say already" (loud cheers), "and so won't keep
them, but only ask them to treat the toast as it deserves. It
is the head of the eleven, the head of big-side football, their
leader on this glorious day--Pater Brooke!"
And away goes the pounding and cheering again, becoming
deafening when old Brooke gets on his legs; till, a table having
broken down, and a gallon or so of beer been upset, and all
throats getting dry, silence ensues, and the hero speaks,
leaning his hands on the table, and bending a little forwards.
No action, no tricks of oratory--plain, strong, and straight,
like his play.
"Gentlemen of the School-house! I am very proud of the way in
which you have received my name, and I wish I could say all I
should like in return. But I know I shan't. However, I'll do
the best I can to say what seems to me ought to be said by a
fellow who's just going to leave, and who has spent a good slice
of his life here. Eight years it is, and eight such years as I
can never hope to have again. So now I hope you'll all listen
to me" (loud cheers of "That we will"), "for I'm going to talk
seriously. You're bound to listen to me for what's the use of
calling me 'pater,' and all that, if you don't mind what I say?
And I'm going to talk seriously, because I feel so. It's a
jolly time, too, getting to the end of the half, and a goal
kicked by us first day" (tremendous applause), "after one of the
hardest and fiercest day's play I can remember in eight years."
(Frantic shoutings.) "The School played splendidly, too, I will
say, and kept it up to the last. That last charge of theirs
would have carried away a house. I never thought to see
anything again of old Crab there, except little pieces, when I
saw him tumbled over by it." (Laughter and shouting, and great
slapping on the back of Jones by the boys nearest him.) "Well,
but we beat 'em." (Cheers.) "Ay, but why did we beat 'em?
Answer me that." (Shouts of "Your play.") "Nonsense! 'Twasn't
the wind and kick-off either--that wouldn't do it. 'Twasn't
because we've half a dozen of the best players in the school, as
we have. I wouldn't change Warner, and Hedge, and Crab, and the
young un, for any six on their side." (Violent cheers.) "But
half a dozen fellows can't keep it up for two hours against two
hundred. Why is it, then? I'll tell you what I think. It's
because we've more reliance on one another, more of a house
feeling, more fellowship than the School can have. Each of us
knows and can depend on his next-hand man better. That's why we
beat 'em to-day. We've union, they've division--there's the
secret." (Cheers.) "But how's this to be kept up? How's it to
be improved? That's the question. For I take it we're all in
earnest about beating the School, whatever else we care about.
I know I'd sooner win two School-house matches running than get
the Balliol scholarship any day." (Frantic cheers.)
"Now, I'm as proud of the house as any one. I believe it's the
best house in the school, out and out." (Cheers.) "But it's a
long way from what I want to see it. First, there's a deal of
bullying going on. I know it well. I don't pry about and
interfere; that only makes it more underhand, and encourages the
small boys to come to us with their fingers in their eyes
telling tales, and so we should be worse off than ever. It's
very little kindness for the sixth to meddle generally--you
youngsters mind that. You'll be all the better football players
for learning to stand it, and to take your own parts, and fight
it through. But depend on it, there's nothing breaks up a house
like bullying. Bullies are cowards, and one coward makes many;
so good-bye to the School-house match if bullying gets ahead
here." (Loud applause from the small boys, who look meaningly
at Flashman and other boys at the tables.) "Then there's
fuddling about in the public-house, and drinking bad spirits,
and punch, and such rot-gut stuff. That won't make good drop-
kicks or chargers of you, take my word for it. You get plenty
of good beer here, and that's enough for you; and drinking isn't
fine or manly, whatever some of you may think of it.
"One other thing I must have a word about. A lot of you think
and say, for I've heard you, 'There's this new Doctor hasn't
been here so long as some of us, and he's changing all the old
customs. Rugby, and the Schoolhouse especially, are going to
the dogs. Stand up for the good old ways, and down with the
Doctor!' Now I'm as fond of old Rugby customs and ways as any
of you, and I've been here longer than any of you, and I'll give
you a word of advice in time, for I shouldn't like to see any of
you getting sacked. 'Down with the Doctor's' easier said than
done. You'll find him pretty tight on his perch, I take it, and
an awkwardish customer to handle in that line. Besides now,
what customs has he put down? There was the good old custom of
taking the linchpins out of the farmers' and bagmen's gigs at
the fairs, and a cowardly, blackguard custom it was. We all
know what came of it, and no wonder the Doctor objected to it.
But come now, any of you, name a custom that he has put down."
"The hounds," calls out a fifth-form boy, clad in a green
cutaway with brass buttons and cord trousers, the leader of the
sporting interest, and reputed a great rider and keen hand
"Well, we had six or seven mangy harriers and beagles belonging
to the house, I'll allow, and had had them for years, and that
the Doctor put them down. But what good ever came of them?
Only rows with all the keepers for ten miles round; and big-side
hare-and-hounds is better fun ten times over. What else?"
"Well, I won't go on. Think it over for yourselves. You'll
find, I believe, that he don't meddle with any one that's worth
keeping. And mind now, I say again, look out for squalls if you
will go your own way, and that way ain't the Doctor's, for it'll
lead to grief. You all know that I'm not the fellow to back a
master through thick and thin. If I saw him stopping football,
or cricket, or bathing, or sparring, I'd be as ready as any
fellow to stand up about it. But he don't; he encourages them.
Didn't you see him out to-day for half an hour watching us?"
(loud cheers for the Doctor); "and he's a strong, true man, and
a wise one too, and a public-school man too" (cheers), "and so
let's stick to him, and talk no more rot, and drink his health
as the head of the house." (Loud cheers.) "And now I've done
blowing up, and very glad I am to have done. But it's a solemn
thing to be thinking of leaving a place which one has lived in
and loved for eight years; and if one can say a word for the
good of the old house at such a time, why, it should be said,
whether bitter or sweet. If I hadn't been proud of the house
and you--ay, no one knows how proud--I shouldn't be blowing
you up. And now let's get to singing. But before I sit down I
must give you a toast to be drunk with three-times-three and all
the honours. It's a toast which I hope every one of us,
wherever he may go hereafter, will never fail to drink when he
thinks of the brave, bright days of his boyhood. It's a toast
which should bind us all together, and to those who've gone
before and who'll come after us here. It is the dear old
School-house--the best house of the best school in England!"
My dear boys, old and young, you who have belonged, or do
belong, to other schools and other houses, don't begin throwing
my poor little book about the room, and abusing me and it, and
vowing you'll read no more when you get to this point. I allow
you've provocation for it. But come now--would you, any of
you, give a fig for a fellow who didn't believe in and stand up
for his own house and his own school? You know you wouldn't.
Then don't object to me cracking up the old School house, Rugby.
Haven't I a right to do it, when I'm taking all the trouble of
writing this true history for all of your benefits? If you
ain't satisfied, go and write the history of your own houses in
your own times, and say all you know for your own schools and
houses, provided it's true, and I'll read it without abusing
The last few words hit the audience in their weakest place.
They had been not altogether enthusiastic at several parts of
old Brooke's speech; but "the best house of the best school in
England" was too much for them all, and carried even the
sporting and drinking interests off their legs into rapturous
applause, and (it is to be hoped} resolutions to lead a new life
and remember old Brooke's words--which, however, they didn't
altogether do, as will appear hereafter.
But it required all old Brooke's popularity to carry down parts
of his speech--especially that relating to the Doctor. For
there are no such bigoted holders by established forms and
customs, be they never so foolish or meaningless, as English
school-boys--at least, as the school-boys of our generation.
We magnified into heroes every boy who had left, and looked upon
him with awe and reverence when he revisited the place a year or
so afterwards, on his way to or from Oxford or Cambridge; and
happy was the boy who remembered him, and sure of an audience as
he expounded what he used to do and say, though it were sad
enough stuff to make angels, not to say head-masters, weep.
We looked upon every trumpery little custom and habit which had
obtained in the School as though it had been a law of the Medes
and Persians, and regarded the infringement or variation of it
as a sort of sacrilege. And the Doctor, than whom no man or boy
had a stronger liking for old school customs which were good and
sensible, had, as has already been hinted, come into most
decided collision with several which were neither the one nor
the other. And as old Brooke had said, when he came into
collision with boys or customs, there was nothing for them but
to give in or take themselves off; because what he said had to
be done, and no mistake about it. And this was beginning to be
pretty clearly understood. The boys felt that there was a
strong man over them, who would have things his own way, and
hadn't yet learnt that he was a wise and loving man also. His
personal character and influence had not had time to make itself
felt, except by a very few of the bigger boys with whom he came
more directly into contact; and he was looked upon with great
fear and dislike by the great majority even of his own house.
For he had found School and School-house in a state of monstrous
license and misrule, and was still employed in the necessary but
unpopular work of setting up order with a strong hand.
However, as has been said, old Brooke triumphed, and the boys
cheered him and then the Doctor. And then more songs came, and
the healths of the other boys about to leave, who each made a
speech, one flowery, another maudlin, a third prosy, and so on,
which are not necessary to be here recorded.
Half-past nine struck in the middle of the performance of "Auld
Lang Syne," a most obstreperous proceeding, during which there
was an immense amount of standing with one foot on the table,
knocking mugs together and shaking hands, without which
accompaniments it seems impossible for the youths of Britain to
take part in that famous old song. The under-porter of the
School-house entered during the performance, bearing five or six
long wooden candlesticks with lighted dips in them, which he
proceeded to stick into their holes in such part of the great
tables as he could get at; and then stood outside the ring till
the end of the song, when he was hailed with shouts.
"Bill you old muff, the half-hour hasn't struck." "Here, Bill,
drink some cocktail." "Sing us a song, old boy." "Don't you
wish you may get the table?" Bill drank the proffered cocktail
not unwillingly, and putting down the empty glass, remonstrated.
"Now gentlemen, there's only ten minutes to prayers, and we must
get the hall straight."
Shouts of "No, no!" and a violent effort to strike up "Billy
Taylor" for the third time. Bill looked appealingly to old
Brooke, who got up and stopped the noise. "Now then, lend a
hand, you youngsters, and get the tables back; clear away the
jugs and glasses. Bill's right. Open the windows, Warner."
The boy addressed, who sat by the long ropes, proceeded to pull
up the great windows, and let in a clear, fresh rush of night
air, which made the candles flicker and gutter, and the fires
roar. The circle broke up, each collaring his own jug, glass,
and song-book; Bill pounced on the big table, and began to
rattle it away to its place outside the buttery door. The
lower-passage boys carried off their small tables, aided by
their friends; while above all, standing on the great hall-
table, a knot of untiring sons of harmony made night doleful by
a prolonged performance of "God Save the King." His Majesty
King William the Fourth then reigned over us, a monarch
deservedly popular amongst the boys addicted to melody, to whom
he was chiefly known from the beginning of that excellent if
slightly vulgar song in which they much delighted, -
"Come, neighbours all, both great and small,
Perform your duties here,
And loudly sing, 'Live Billy, our king,'
For bating the tax upon veer."
Others of the more learned in songs also celebrated his praises
in a sort of ballad, which I take to have been written by some
Irish loyalist. I have forgotten all but the chorus, which ran,
"God save our good King William, be his name for ever blest;
He's the father of all his people, and the guardian of all the
In troth we were loyal subjects in those days, in a rough way.
I trust that our successors make as much of her present Majesty,
and, having regard to the greater refinement of the times, have
adopted or written other songs equally hearty, but more
civilized, in her honour.
Then the quarter to ten struck, and the prayer-bell rang. The
sixth and fifth form boys ranged themselves in their school
order along the wall, on either side of the great fires, the
middle-fifth and upper-school boys round the long table in the
middle of the hall, and the lower-school boys round the upper
part of the second long table, which ran down the side of the
hall farthest from the fires. Here Tom found himself at the
bottom of all, in a state of mind and body not at all fit for
prayers, as he thought; and so tried hard to make himself
serious, but couldn't, for the life of him, do anything but
repeat in his head the choruses of some of the songs, and stare
at all the boys opposite, wondering at the brilliancy of their
waistcoats, and speculating what sort of fellows they were. The
steps of the head-porter are heard on the stairs, and a light
gleams at the door. "Hush!" from the fifth-form boys who stand
there, and then in strides the Doctor, cap on head, book in one
hand, and gathering up his gown in the other. He walks up the
middle, and takes his post by Warner, who begins calling over
the names. The Doctor takes no notice of anything, but quietly
turns over his book and finds the place, and then stands, cap in
hand and finger in book, looking straight before his nose. He
knows better than any one when to look, and when to see nothing.
To-night is singing night, and there's been lots of noise and no
harm done--nothing but beer drunk, and nobody the worse for it,
though some of them do look hot and excited. So the Doctor sees
nothing, but fascinates Tom in a horrible manner as he stands
there, and reads out the psalm, in that deep, ringing, searching
voice of his. Prayers are over, and Tom still stares open-
mouthed after the Doctor's retiring figure, when he feels a pull
at his sleeve, and turning round, sees East.
"I say, were you ever tossed in a blanket?"
"No," said Tom; "why?"
"'Cause there'll be tossing to-night, most likely, before the
sixth come up to bed. So if you funk, you just come along and
hide, or else they'll catch you and toss you."
"Were you ever tossed? Does it hurt?" inquired Tom.
"Oh yes, bless you, a dozen times," said East, as he hobbled
along by Tom's side upstairs. "It don't hurt unless you fall on
the floor. But most fellows don't like it."
They stopped at the fireplace in the top passage, where were a
crowd of small boys whispering together, and evidently unwilling
to go up into the bedrooms. In a minute, however, a study door
opened, and a sixth-form boy came out, and off they all scuttled
up the stairs, and then noiselessly dispersed to their different
rooms. Tom's heart beat rather quick as he and East reached
their room, but he had made up his mind. "I shan't hide, East,"
"Very well, old fellow," replied East, evidently pleased; "no
more shall I. They'll be here for us directly."
The room was a great big one, with a dozen beds in it, but not a
boy that Tom could see except East and himself. East pulled off
his coat and waistcoat, and then sat on the bottom of his bed
whistling and pulling off his boots. Tom followed his example.
A noise and steps are heard in the passage, the door opens, and
in rush four or five great fifth-form boys, headed by Flashman
in his glory.
Tom and East slept in the farther corner of the room, and were
not seen at first.
" Gone to ground, eh?" roared Flashman. "Push 'em out then,
boys; look under the beds." And he pulled up the little white
curtain of the one nearest him. "Who-o-op!" he roared, pulling
away at the leg of a small boy, who held on tight to the leg of
the bed, and sang out lustily for mercy.
"Here, lend a hand, one of you, and help me pull out this young
howling brute. --Hold your tongue, sir, or I'll kill you."
"Oh, please, Flashman, please, Walker, don't toss me! I'll fag
for you--I'll do anything--only don't toss me."
"You be hanged," said Flashman, lugging the wretched boy along;
"'twon't hurt you,--you !--Come along, boys; here he is."
"I say, Flashey," sang out another of the big boys; "drop that;
you heard what old Pater Brooke said to-night. I'll be hanged
if we'll toss any one against their will. No more bullying.
Let him go, I say."
Flashman, with an oath and a kick, released his prey, who rushed
headlong under his bed again, for fear they should change their
minds, and crept along underneath the other beds, till he got
under that of the sixth-form boy, which he knew they daren't
"There's plenty of youngsters don't care about it," said Walker.
"Here, here's Scud East--you'll be tossed, won't you, young
un?" Scud was East's nickname, or Black, as we called it,
gained by his fleetness of foot.
"Yes," said East, "if you like, only mind my foot."
"And here's another who didn't hide. --Hullo! new boy; what's
your name, sir?"
"Well, Whitey Brown, you don't mind being tossed?"
"No," said Tom, setting his teeth.
"Come along then, boys," sang out Walker; and away they all
went, carrying along Tom and East, to the intense relief of four
or five other small boys, who crept out from under the beds and
"What a trump Scud is!" said one. "They won't come back here
"And that new boy, too; he must be a good-plucked one."
"Ah! wait till he has been tossed on to the floor; see how he'll
like it then!"
Meantime the procession went down the passage to Number 7, the
largest room, and the scene of the tossing, in the middle of
which was a great open space. Here they joined other parties of
the bigger boys, each with a captive or two, some willing to be
tossed, some sullen, and some frightened to death. At Walker's
suggestion all who were afraid were let off, in honour of Pater
Then a dozen big boys seized hold of a blanket, dragged from one
of the beds. "In with Scud; quick! there's no time to lose."
East was chucked into the blanket. "Once, twice, thrice, and
away!" Up he went like a shuttlecock, but not quite up to the
"Now, boys, with a will," cried Walker; "once, twice, thrice,
and away!" This time he went clean up, and kept himself from
touching the ceiling with his hand, and so again a third time,
when he was turned out, and up went another boy. And then came
Tom's turn. He lay quite still, by East's advice, and didn't
dislike the "once, twice, thrice;" but the "away" wasn't so
pleasant. They were in good wind now, and sent him slap up to
the ceiling first time, against which his knees came rather
sharply. But the moment's pause before descending was the rub--
the feeling of utter helplessness and of leaving his whole
inside behind him sticking to the ceiling. Tom was very near
shouting to be set down when he found himself back in the
blanket, but thought of East, and didn't; and so took his three
tosses without a kick or a cry, and was called a young trump for
He and East, having earned it, stood now looking on. No
catastrophe happened, as all the captives were cool hands, and
didn't struggle. This didn't suit Flashman. What your real
bully likes in tossing is when the boys kick and struggle, or
hold on to one side of the blanket, and so get pitched bodily on
to the floor; it's no fun to him when no one is hurt or
"Let's toss two of them together, Walker," suggested he.
"What a cursed bully you are, Flashey!" rejoined the other. "Up
with another one."
And so now two boys were tossed together, the peculiar hardship
of which is, that it's too much for human nature to lie still
then and share troubles; and so the wretched pair of small boys
struggle in the air which shall fall a-top in the descent, to
the no small risk of both falling out of the blanket, and the
huge delight of brutes like Flashman.
But now there's a cry that the prepostor of the room is coming;
so the tossing stops, and all scatter to their different rooms;
and Tom is left to turn in, with the first day's experience of a
public school to meditate upon.
CHAPTER VII - SETTLING TO THE COLLAR.
"Says Giles, ''Tis mortal hard to go,
But if so be's I must
I means to follow arter he
As goes hisself the fust.'" - Ballad.
Everybody, I suppose, knows the dreamy, delicious state in which
one lies, half asleep, half awake, while consciousness begins to
return after a sound night's rest in a new place which we are
glad to be in, following upon a day of unwonted excitement and
exertion. There are few pleasanter pieces of life. The worst
of it is that they last such a short time; for nurse them as you
will, by lying perfectly passive in mind and body, you can't
make more than five minutes or so of them. After which time the
stupid, obtrusive, wakeful entity which we call "I", as
impatient as he is stiff-necked, spite of our teeth will force
himself back again, and take possession of us down to our very
It was in this state that Master Tom lay at half-past seven on
the morning following the day of his arrival, and from his clean
little white bed watched the movements of Bogle (the generic
name by which the successive shoeblacks of the School-house were
known), as he marched round from bed to bed, collecting the
dirty shoes and boots, and depositing clean ones in their
There he lay, half doubtful as to where exactly in the universe
he was, but conscious that he had made a step in life which he
had been anxious to make. It was only just light as he looked
lazily out of the wide windows, and saw the tops of the great
elms, and the rooks circling about and cawing remonstrances to
the lazy ones of their commonwealth before starting in a body
for the neighbouring ploughed fields. The noise of the room-
door closing behind Bogle, as he made his exit with the
shoebasket under his arm, roused him thoroughly, and he sat up
in bed and looked round the room. What in the world could be
the matter with his shoulders and loins? He felt as if he had
been severely beaten all down his back--the natural results of