Part 4 out of 6
notice him, till he pulled up right opposite, and began:
"I see'd some of you young gentlemen over this side a-fishing
"Hullo! who are you? What business is that of yours, old
"I'm the new under-keeper, and master's told me to keep a sharp
lookout on all o' you young chaps. And I tells 'ee I means
business, and you'd better keep on your own side, or we shall
"Well, that's right, Velveteens; speak out, and let's know your
mind at once."
"Look here, old boy," cried East, holding up a miserable, coarse
fish or two and a small jack; "would you like to smell 'em and
see which bank they lived under?"
"I'll give you a bit of advice, keeper," shouted Tom, who was
sitting in his shirt paddling with his feet in the river: "you'd
better go down there to Swift's, where the big boys are; they're
beggars at setting lines, and'll put you up to a wrinkle or two
for catching the five-pounders." Tom was nearest to the keeper,
and that officer, who was getting angry at the chaff, fixed his
eyes on our hero, as if to take a note of him for future use.
Tom returned his gaze with a steady stare, and then broke into a
laugh, and struck into the middle of a favourite School-house
"As I and my companions
Were setting of a snare
The gamekeeper was watching us;
For him we did not care:
For we can wrestle and fight, my boys,
And jump out anywhere.
For it's my delight of a likely night,
In the season of the year."
The chorus was taken up by the other boys with shouts of
laughter, and the keeper turned away with a grunt, but evidently
bent on mischief. The boys thought no more of the matter.
But now came on the May-fly season; the soft, hazy summer
weather lay sleepily along the rich meadows by Avon side, and
the green and gray flies flickered with their graceful, lazy up-
and-down flight over the reeds and the water and the meadows, in
myriads upon myriads. The May-flies must surely be the lotus-
eaters of the ephemerae--the happiest, laziest, carelessest fly
that dances and dreams out his few hours of sunshiny life by
Every little pitiful, coarse fish in the Avon was on the alert
for the flies, and gorging his wretched carcass with hundreds
daily, the gluttonous rogues! and every lover of the gentle
craft was out to avenge the poor May-flies.
So one fine Thursday afternoon, Tom, having borrowed East's new
rod, started by himself to the river. He fished for some time
with small success--not a fish would rise at him; but as he
prowled along the bank, he was presently aware of mighty ones
feeding in a pool on the opposite side, under the shade of a
huge willow-tree. The stream was deep here, but some fifty
yards below was a shallow, for which he made off hot-foot; and
forgetting landlords, keepers, solemn prohibitions of the
Doctor, and everything else, pulled up his trousers, plunged
across, and in three minutes was creeping along on all fours
towards the clump of willows.
It isn't often that great chub, or any other coarse fish, are in
earnest about anything; but just then they were thoroughly bent
on feeding, and in half an hour Master Tom had deposited three
thumping fellows at the foot of the giant willow. As he was
baiting for a fourth pounder, and just going to throw in again,
he became aware of a man coming up the bank not one hundred
yards off. Another look told him that it was the under-keeper.
Could he reach the shallow before him? No, not carrying his
rod. Nothing for it but the tree. So Tom laid his bones to it,
shinning up as fast as he could, and dragging up his rod after
him. He had just time to reach and crouch along upon a huge
branch some ten feet up, which stretched out over the river,
when the keeper arrived at the clump. Tom's heart beat fast as
he came under the tree; two steps more and he would have passed,
when, as ill-luck would have it, the gleam on the scales of the
dead fish caught his eye, and he made a dead point at the foot
of the tree. He picked up the fish one by one; his eye and
touch told him that they had been alive and feeding within the
hour. Tom crouched lower along the branch, and heard the keeper
beating the clump. "If I could only get the rod hidden,"
thought he, and began gently shifting it to get it alongside of
him; "willowtrees don't throw out straight hickory shoots twelve
feet long, with no leaves, worse luck." Alas! the keeper
catches the rustle, and then a sight of the rod, and then of
Tom's hand and arm.
"Oh, be up ther', be 'ee?" says he, running under the tree.
"Now you come down this minute."
"Tree'd at last," thinks Tom, making no answer, and keeping as
close as possible, but working away at the rod, which he takes
to pieces. "I'm in for it, unless I can starve him out." And
then he begins to meditate getting along the branch for a
plunge, and scramble to the other side; but the small branches
are so thick, and the opposite bank so difficult, that the
keeper will have lots of time to get round by the ford before he
can get out, so he gives that up. And now he hears the keeper
beginning to scramble up the trunk. That will never do; so he
scrambles himself back to where his branch joins the trunk; and
stands with lifted rod.
"Hullo, Velveteens; mind your fingers if you come any higher."
The keeper stops and looks up, and then with a grin says, "Oh!
be you, be it, young measter? Well, here's luck. Now I tells
'ee to come down at once, and 't'll be best for 'ee."
"Thank 'ee, Velveteens; I'm very comfortable," said Tom,
shortening the rod in his hand, and preparing for battle.
"Werry well; please yourself," says the keeper, descending,
however, to the ground again, and taking his seat on the bank.
"I bean't in no hurry, so you may take your time. I'll l'arn
'ee to gee honest folk names afore I've done with 'ee."
"My luck as usual," thinks Tom; "what a fool I was to give him a
black! If I'd called him 'keeper,' now, I might get off. The
return match is all his way."
The keeper quietly proceeded to take out his pipe, fill, and
light it, keeping an eye on Tom, who now sat disconsolately
across the branch, looking at keeper--a pitiful sight for men
and fishes. The more he thought of it the less he liked it.
"It must be getting near second calling-over," thinks he.
Keeper smokes on stolidly. "If he takes me up, I shall be
flogged safe enough. I can't sit here all night. Wonder if
he'll rise at silver."
"I say, keeper," said he meekly, "let me go for two bob?"
"Not for twenty neither," grunts his persecutor.
And so they sat on till long past second calling-over, and the
sun came slanting in through the willow-branches, and telling of
locking-up near at hand.
"I'm coming down, keeper," said Tom at last, with a sigh, fairly
tired out. "Now what are you going to do?"
"Walk 'ee up to School, and give 'ee over to the Doctor; them's
my orders," says Velveteens, knocking the ashes out of his
fourth pipe, and standing up and shaking himself.
"Very good," said Tom; "but hands off, you know. I'll go with
you quietly, so no collaring or that sort of thing."
Keeper looked at him a minute. "Werry good," said he at last.
And so Tom descended, and wended his way drearily by the side of
the keeper, up to the Schoolhouse, where they arrived just at
locking-up. As they passed the School-gates, the Tadpole and
several others who were standing there caught the state of
things, and rushed out, crying, "Rescue!" But Tom shook his
head; so they only followed to the Doctor's gate, and went back
How changed and stern the Doctor seemed from the last time that
Tom was up there, as the keeper told the story, not omitting to
state how Tom had called him blackguard names. "Indeed, sir,"
broke in the culprit, "it was only Velveteens." The Doctor only
asked one question.
"You know the rule about the banks, Brown?"
"Then wait for me to-morrow, after first lesson."
"I thought so," muttered Tom.
"And about the rod, sir?" went on the keeper. "Master's told we
as we might have all the rods--"
"Oh, please, sir," broke in Tom, "the rod isn't mine."
The Doctor looked puzzled; but the keeper, who was a good-
hearted fellow, and melted at Tom's evident distress, gave up
his claim. Tom was flogged next morning, and a few days
afterwards met Velveteens, and presented him with half a crown
for giving up the rod claim, and they became sworn friends; and
I regret to say that Tom had many more fish from under the
willow that May-fly season, and was never caught again by
It wasn't three weeks before Tom, and now East by his side, were
again in the awful presence. This time, however, the Doctor was
not so terrible. A few days before, they had been fagged at
fives to fetch the balls that went off the court. While
standing watching the game, they saw five or six nearly new
balls hit on the top of the School. "I say, Tom," said East,
when they were dismissed, "couldn't we get those balls somehow?"
"Let's try, anyhow."
So they reconnoitred the walls carefully, borrowed a coal-hammer
from old Stumps, bought some big nails, and after one or two
attempts, scaled the Schools, and possessed themselves of huge
quantities of fives balls. The place pleased them so much that
they spent all their spare time there, scratching and cutting
their names on the top of every tower; and at last, having
exhausted all other places, finished up with inscribing H.EAST,
T.BROWN, on the minute-hand of the great clock; in the doing of
which they held the minute-hand, and disturbed the clock's
economy. So next morning, when masters and boys came trooping
down to prayers, and entered the quadrangle, the injured minute-
hand was indicating three minutes to the hour. They all pulled
up, and took their time. When the hour struck, doors were
closed, and half the school late. Thomas being set to make
inquiry, discovers their names on the minute-hand, and reports
accordingly; and they are sent for, a knot of their friends
making derisive and pantomimic allusions to what their fate will
be as they walk off.
But the Doctor, after hearing their story, doesn't make much of
it, and only gives them thirty lines of Homer to learn by heart,
and a lecture on the likelihood of such exploits ending in
Alas! almost the next day was one of the great fairs in the
town; and as several rows and other disagreeable accidents had
of late taken place on these occasions, the Doctor gives out,
after prayers in the morning, that no boy is to go down into the
town. Wherefore East and Tom, for no earthly pleasure except
that of doing what they are told not to do, start away, after
second lesson, and making a short circuit through the fields,
strike a back lane which leads into the town, go down it, and
run plump upon one of the masters as they emerge into the High
Street. The master in question, though a very clever, is not a
righteous man. He has already caught several of his own pupils,
and gives them lines to learn, while he sends East and Tom, who
are not his pupils, up to the Doctor, who, on learning that they
had been at prayers in the morning, flogs them soundly.
The flogging did them no good at the time, for the injustice of
their captor was rankling in their minds; but it was just the
end of the half, and on the next evening but one Thomas knocks
at their door, and says the Doctor wants to see them. They look
at one another in silent dismay. What can it be now? Which of
their countless wrong-doings can he have heard of officially?
However, it's no use delaying, so up they go to the study.
There they find the Doctor, not angry, but very graver. "He has
sent for them to speak to very seriously before they go home.
They have each been flogged several times in the half-year for
direct and wilful breaches of rules. This cannot go on. They
are doing no good to themselves or others, and now they are
getting up in the School, and have influence. They seem to
think that rules are made capriciously, and for the pleasure of
the masters; but this is not so. They are made for the good of
the whole School, and must and shall be obeyed. Those who
thoughtlessly or wilfully break them will not be allowed to stay
at the School. He should be sorry if they had to leave, as the
School might do them both much good, and wishes them to think
very seriously in the holidays over what he has said. Good-
And so the two hurry off horribly scared; the idea of having to
leave has never crossed their minds, and is quite unbearable.
As they go out, they meet at the door old Holmes, a sturdy,
cheery prepostor of another house, who goes in to the Doctor;
and they hear his genial, hearty greeting of the newcomer, so
different to their own reception, as the door closes, and return
to their study with heavy hearts, and tremendous resolves to
break no more rules.
Five minutes afterwards the master of their form--a late
arrival and a model young master--knocks at the Doctor's study-
door. "Come in!" And as he enters, the Doctor goes on, to
Holmes--"You see, I do not know anything of the case
officially, and if I take any notice of it at all, I must
publicly expel the boy. I don't wish to do that, for I think
there is some good in him. There's nothing for it but a good
sound thrashing." He paused to shake hands with the master,
which Holmes does also, and then prepares to leave.
"I understand. Good-night, sir."
"Good-night, Holmes. And remember," added the Doctor,
emphasizing the words, "a good sound thrashing before the whole
The door closed on Holmes; and the Doctor, in answer to the
puzzled look of his lieutenant, explained shortly. "A gross
case of bullying. Wharton, the head of the house, is a very good
fellow, but slight and weak, and severe physical pain is the
only way to deal with such a case; so I have asked Holmes to
take it up. He is very careful and trustworthy, and has plenty
of strength. I wish all the sixth had as much. We must have it
here, if we are to keep order at all."
Now I don't want any wiseacres to read this book, but if they
should, of course they will prick up their long ears, and howl,
or rather bray, at the above story. Very good--I don't object;
but what I have to add for you boys is this, that Holmes called
a levy of his house after breakfast next morning, made them a
speech on the case of bullying in question, and then gave the
bully a "good sound thrashing;" and that years afterwards, that
boy sought out Holmes, and thanked him, saying it had been the
kindest act which had ever been done upon him, and the turning-
point in his character; and a very good fellow he became, and a
credit to his School.
After some other talk between them, the Doctor said, "I want to
speak to you about two boys in your form, East and Brown. I
have just been speaking to them. What do you think of them?"
"Well, they are not hard workers, and very thoughtless and full
of spirits; but I can't help liking them. I think they are
sound, good fellows at the bottom."
"I'm glad of it. I think so too: But they make me very uneasy.
They are taking the lead a good deal amongst the fags in my
house, for they are very active, bold fellows. I should be
sorry to lose them, but I shan't let them stay if I don't see
them gaining character and manliness. In another year they may
do great harm to all the younger boys."
"Oh, I hope you won't send them away," pleaded their master.
"Not if I can help it. But now I never feel sure, after any
half-holiday, that I shan't have to flog one of them next
morning, for some foolish, thoughtless scrape. I quite dread
seeing either of them."
They were both silent for a minute. Presently the Doctor began
"They don't feel that they have any duty or work to do in the
school, and how is one to make them feel it?"
"I think if either of them had some little boy to take care of,
it would steady them. Brown is the most reckless of the two, I
should say. East wouldn't get into so many scrapes without
"Well," said the Doctor, with something like a sigh, "I'll think
of it." And they went on to talk of other subjects.
"I [hold] it truth, with him who sings,
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things."
CHAPTER I - HOW THE TIDE TURNED.
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil
* * * * *
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified."
The turning-point in our hero's school career had now come, and
the manner of it was as follows. On the evening of the first
day of the next half-year, Tom, East, and another School-house
boy, who had just been dropped at the Spread Eagle by the old
Regulator, rushed into the matron's room in high spirits, such
as all real boys are in when they first get back, however fond
they may be of home.
"Well, Mrs. Wixie," shouted one, seizing on the methodical,
active, little dark-eyed woman, who was busy stowing away the
linen of the boys who had already arrived into their several
pigeon-holes, "here we are again, you see, as jolly as ever.
Let us help you put the things away."
"And, Mary," cried another (she was called indifferently by
either name), "who's come back? Has the Doctor made old Jones
leave? How many new boys are there?"
"Am I and East to have Gray's study? You know you promised to
get it for us if you could," shouted Tom.
"And am I to sleep in Number 4?" roared East.
"How's old Sam, and Bogle, and Sally?"
"Bless the boys!" cries Mary, at last getting in a word; "why,
you'll shake me to death. There, now, do go away up to the
housekeeper's room and get your suppers; you know I haven't time
to talk. You'll find plenty more in the house. --Now, Master
East, do let those things alone. You're mixing up three new
boys' things." And she rushed at East, who escaped round the
open trunks holding up a prize.
"Hullo! look here, Tommy," shouted he; "here's fun!" and he
brandished above his head some pretty little night-caps,
beautifully made and marked, the work of loving fingers in some
distant country home. The kind mother and sisters who sewed
that delicate stitching with aching hearts little thought of the
trouble they might be bringing on the young head for which they
were meant. The little matron was wiser, and snatched the caps
from East before he could look at the name on them.
"Now, Master East, I shall be very angry if you don't go," said
she; "there's some capital cold beef and pickles upstairs, and I
won't have you old boys in my room first night."
"Hurrah for the pickles! Come along, Tommy--come along, Smith.
We shall find out who the young count is, I'll be bound. I hope
he'll sleep in my room. Mary's always vicious first week."
As the boys turned to leave the room, the matron touched Tom's
arm, and said, "Master Brown, please stop a minute; I want to
speak to you."
"Very well, Mary. I'll come in a minute, East. Don't finish
"O Master Brown," went on the little matron, when the rest had
gone, "you're to have Gray's study, Mrs. Arnold says. And she
wants you to take in this young gentleman. He's a new boy, and
thirteen years old though he don't look it. He's very delicate,
and has never been from home before. And I told Mrs. Arnold I
thought you'd be kind to him, and see that they don't bully him
at first. He's put into your form, and I've given him the bed
next to yours in Number 4; so East can't sleep there this half."
Tom was rather put about by this speech. He had got the double
study which he coveted, but here were conditions attached which
greatly moderated his joy. He looked across the room, and in
the far corner of the sofa was aware of a slight, pale boy, with
large blue eyes and light fair hair, who seemed ready to shrink
through the floor. He saw at a glance that the little stranger
was just the boy whose first half-year at a public school would
be misery to himself if he were left alone, or constant anxiety
to any one who meant to see him through his troubles. Tom was
too honest to take in the youngster, and then let him shift for
himself; and if he took him as his chum instead of East, where
were all his pet plans of having a bottled-beer cellar under his
window, and making night-lines and slings, and plotting
expeditions to Brownsover Mills and Caldecott's Spinney? East
and he had made up their minds to get this study, and then every
night from locking-up till ten they would be together to talk
about fishing, drink bottled-beer, read Marryat's novels, and
sort birds' eggs. And this new boy would most likely never go
out of the close, and would be afraid of wet feet, and always
getting laughed at, and called Molly, or Jenny, or some
derogatory feminine nickname.
The matron watched him for a moment, and saw what was passing in
his mind, and so, like a wise negotiator, threw in an appeal to
his warm heart. "Poor little fellow," said she, in almost a
whisper; "his father's dead, and he's got no brothers. And his
mamma--such a kind, sweet lady--almost broke her heart at
leaving him this morning; and she said one of his sisters was
like to die of decline, and so--"
"Well, well," burst in Tom, with something like a sigh at the
effort, "I suppose I must give up East. --Come along, young un.
What's your name? We'll go and have some supper, and then I'll
show you our study."
"His name's George Arthur," said the matron, walking up to him
with Tom, who grasped his little delicate hand as the proper
preliminary to making a chum of him, and felt as if he could
have blown him away. "I've had his books and things put into
the study, which his mamma has had new papered, and the sofa
covered, and new green-baize curtains over the door" (the
diplomatic matron threw this in, to show that the new boy was
contributing largely to the partnership comforts). "And Mrs.
Arnold told me to say," she added, "that she should like you
both to come up to tea with her. You know the way, Master
Brown, and the things are just gone up, I know."
Here was an announcement for Master Tom! He was to go up to tea
the first night, just as if he were a sixth or fifth form boy,
and of importance in the School world, instead of the most
reckless young scapegrace amongst the fags. He felt himself
lifted on to a higher social and moral platform at once.
Nevertheless he couldn't give up without a sigh the idea of the
jolly supper in the housekeeper's room with East and the rest,
and a rush round to all the studies of his friends afterwards,
to pour out the deeds and wonders of the holidays, to plot fifty
plans for the coming half-year, and to gather news of who had
left and what new boys had come, who had got who's study, and
where the new prepostors slept. However, Tom consoled himself
with thinking that he couldn't have done all this with the new
boy at his heels, and so marched off along the passages to the
Doctor's private house with his young charge in tow, in
monstrous good-humour with himself and all the world.
It is needless, and would be impertinent, to tell how the two
young boys were received in that drawing-room. The lady who
presided there is still living, and has carried with her to her
peaceful home in the north the respect and love of all those who
ever felt and shared that gentle and high-bred hospitality. Ay,
many is the brave heart, now doing its work and bearing its load
in country curacies, London chambers, under the Indian sun, and
in Australian towns and clearings, which looks back with fond
and grateful memory to that School-house drawing-room, and dates
much of its highest and best training to the lessons learnt
Besides Mrs. Arnold and one or two of the elder children, there
were one of the younger masters, young Brooke (who was now in
the sixth, and had succeeded to his brother's position and
influence), and another sixth-form boy, talking together before
the fire. The master and young Brooke, now a great strapping
fellow six feet high, eighteen years old, and powerful as a
coal-heaver, nodded kindly to Tom, to his intense glory, and
then went on talking. The other did not notice them. The
hostess, after a few kind words, which led the boys at once and
insensibly to feel at their ease and to begin talking to one
another, left them with her own children while she finished a
letter. The young ones got on fast and well, Tom holding forth
about a prodigious pony he had been riding out hunting, and
hearing stories of the winter glories of the lakes, when tea
came in, and immediately after the Doctor himself.
How frank, and kind, and manly was his greeting to the party by
the fire! It did Tom's heart good to see him and young Brooke
shake hands, and look one another in the face; and he didn't
fail to remark that Brooke was nearly as tall and quite as broad
as the Doctor. And his cup was full when in another moment his
master turned to him with another warm shake of the hand, and,
seemingly oblivious of all the late scrapes which he had been
getting into, said, "Ah, Brown, you here! I hope you left your
father and all well at home?"
"Yes, sir, quite well."
"And this is the little fellow who is to share your study.
Well, he doesn't look as we should like to see him. He wants
some Rugby air, and cricket. And you must take him some good
long walks, to Bilton Grange, and Caldecott's Spinney, and show
him what a little pretty country we have about here."
Tom wondered if the Doctor knew that his visits to Bilton Grange
were for the purpose of taking rooks' nests (a proceeding
strongly discountenanced by the owner thereof), and those to
Caldecott's Spinney were prompted chiefly by the conveniences
for setting night-lines. What didn't the Doctor know? And what
a noble use he always made of it! He almost resolved to abjure
rook-pies and night-lines for ever. The tea went merrily off,
the Doctor now talking of holiday doings, and then of the
prospects of the half-year--what chance there was for the
Balliol scholarship, whether the eleven would be a good one.
Everybody was at his ease, and everybody felt that he, young as
he might be, was of some use in the little School world, and had
a work to do there.
Soon after tea the Doctor went off to his study, and the young
boys a few minutes afterwards took their leave and went out of
the private door which led from the Doctor's house into the
At the fire, at the farther end of the passage, was a crowd of
boys in loud talk and laughter. There was a sudden pause when
the door opened, and then a great shout of greeting, as Tom was
recognized marching down the passage.
"Hullo, Brown! where do you come from?"
"Oh, I've been to tea with the Doctor," says Tom, with great
"My eye!" cried East, "Oh! so that's why Mary called you back,
and you didn't come to supper. You lost something. That beef
and pickles was no end good."
"I say, young fellow," cried Hall, detecting Arthur and catching
him by the collar, "what's your name? Where do you come from?
How old are you?"
Tom saw Arthur shrink back and look scared as all the group
turned to him, but thought it best to let him answer, just
standing by his side to support in case of need.
"Arthur, sir. I come from Devonshire."
"Don't call me 'sir,' you young muff. How old are you?"
"Can you sing?"
The poor boy was trembling and hesitating. Tom struck in--"You
be hanged, Tadpole. He'll have to sing, whether he can or not,
Saturday twelve weeks, and that's long enough off yet."
"Do you know him at home, Brown?"
"No; but he's my chum in Gray's old study, and it's near prayer-
time, and I haven't had a look at it yet. --Come along,
Away went the two, Tom longing to get his charge safe under
cover, where he might advise him on his deportment.
"What a queer chum for Tom Brown," was the comment at the fire;
and it must be confessed so thought Tom himself, as he lighted
his candle, and surveyed the new green-baize curtains and the
carpet and sofa with much satisfaction.
"I say, Arthur, what a brick your mother is to make us so cozy!
But look here now; you must answer straight up when the fellows
speak to you, and don't be afraid. If you're afraid, you'll get
bullied. And don't you say you can sing; and don't you ever
talk about home, or your mother and sisters."
Poor little Arthur looked ready to cry.
"But, please," said he, "mayn't I talk about--about home to
"Oh yes; I like it. But don't talk to boys you don't know, or
they'll call you home-sick, or mamma's darling, or some such
stuff. What a jolly desk! Is that yours? And what stunning
binding! Why, your school-books look like novels."
And Tom was soon deep in Arthur's goods and chattels, all new,
and good enough for a fifth-form boy, and hardly thought of his
friends outside till the prayer-bell rang.
I have already described the School-house prayers. They were
the same on the first night as on the other nights, save for the
gaps caused by the absence of those boys who came late, and the
line of new boys who stood all together at the farther table--
of all sorts and sizes, like young bears with all their troubles
to come, as Tom's father had said to him when he was in the same
position. He thought of it as he looked at the line, and poor
little slight Arthur standing with them, and as he was leading
him upstairs to Number 4, directly after prayers, and showing
him his bed. It was a huge, high, airy room, with two large
windows looking on to the School close. There were twelve beds
in the room. The one in the farthest corner by the fireplace,
occupied by the sixth-form boy, who was responsible for the
discipline of the room, and the rest by boys in the lower-fifth
and other junior forms, all fags (for the fifth-form boys, as
has been said, slept in rooms by themselves). Being fags, the
eldest of them was not more than about sixteen years old, and
were all bound to be up and in bed by ten. The sixth-form boys
came to bed from ten to a quarter-past (at which time the old
verger came round to put the candles out), except when they sat
up to read.
Within a few minutes therefore of their entry, all the other
boys who slept in Number 4 had come up. The little fellows went
quietly to their own beds, and began undressing, and talking to
each other in whispers; while the elder, amongst whom was Tom,
sat chatting about on one another's beds, with their jackets and
waistcoats off. Poor little Arthur was overwhelmed with the
novelty of his position. The idea of sleeping in the room with
strange boys had clearly never crossed his mind before, and was
as painful as it was strange to him. He could hardly bear to
take his jacket off; however, presently, with an effort, off it
came, and then he paused and looked at Tom, who was sitting at
the bottom of his bed talking and laughing.
"Please, Brown," he whispered, "may I wash my face and hands?"
"Of course, if you like," said Tom, staring; "that's your
washhand-stand, under the window, second from your bed. You'll
have to go down for more water in the morning if you use it
all." And on he went with his talk, while Arthur stole timidly
from between the beds out to his washhand-stand, and began his
ablutions, thereby drawing for a moment on himself the attention
of the room.
On went the talk and laughter. Arthur finished his washing and
undressing, and put on his night-gown. He then looked round
more nervously than ever. Two or three of the little boys were
already in bed, sitting up with their chins on their knees. The
light burned clear, the noise went on. It was a trying moment
for the poor little lonely boy; however, this time he didn't ask
Tom what he might or might not do, but dropped on his knees by
his bedside, as he had done every day from his childhood, to
open his heart to Him who heareth the cry and beareth the
sorrows of the tender child, and the strong man in agony.
Tom was sitting at the bottom of his bed unlacing his boots, so
that his back was towards Arthur, and he didn't see what had
happened, and looked up in wonder at the sudden silence. Then
two or three boys laughed and sneered, and a big, brutal fellow
who was standing in the middle of the room picked up a slipper,
and shied it at the kneeling boy, calling him a snivelling young
shaver. Then Tom saw the whole, and the next moment the boot he
had just pulled off flew straight at the head of the bully, who
had just time to throw up his arm and catch it on his elbow.
"Confound you, Brown! what's that for?" roared he, stamping with
"Never mind what I mean," said Tom, stepping on to the floor,
every drop of blood in his body tingling; "if any fellow wants
the other boot, he knows how to get it."
What would have been the result is doubtful, for at this moment
the sixth-form boy came in, and not another word could be said.
Tom and the rest rushed into bed and finished their unrobing
there, and the old verger, as punctual as the clock, had put out
the candle in another minute, and toddled on to the next room,
shutting their door with his usual "Good-night, gen'lm'n."
There were many boys in the room by whom that little scene was
taken to heart before they slept. But sleep seemed to have
deserted the pillow of poor Tom. For some time his excitement,
and the flood of memories which chased one another through his
brain, kept him from thinking or resolving. His head throbbed,
his heart leapt, and he could hardly keep himself from springing
out of bed and rushing about the room. Then the thought of his
own mother came across him, and the promise he had made at her
knee, years ago, never to forget to kneel by his bedside, and
give himself up to his Father, before he laid his head on the
pillow, from which it might never rise; and he lay down gently,
and cried as if his heart would break. He was only fourteen
It was no light act of courage in those days, my dear boys, for
a little fellow to say his prayers publicly, even at Rugby. A
few years later, when Arnold's manly piety had begun to leaven
the School, the tables turned; before he died, in the School-
house at least, and I believe in the other house, the rule was
the other way. But poor Tom had come to school in other times.
The first few nights after he came he did not kneel down because
of the noise, but sat up in bed till the candle was out, and
then stole out and said his prayers, in fear lest some one
should find him out. So did many another poor little fellow.
Then he began to think that he might just as well say his
prayers in bed, and then that it didn't matter whether he was
kneeling, or sitting, or lying down. And so it had come to pass
with Tom, as with all who will not confess their Lord before
men; and for the last year he had probably not said his prayers
in earnest a dozen times.
Poor Tom! the first and bitterest feeling which was like to
break his heart was the sense of his own cowardice. The vice of
all others which he loathed was brought in and burnt in on his
own soul. He had lied to his mother, to his conscience, to his
God. How could he bear it? And then the poor little weak boy,
whom he had pitied and almost scorned for his weakness, had done
that which he, braggart as he was, dared not do. The first dawn
of comfort came to him in swearing to himself that he would
stand by that boy through thick and thin, and cheer him, and
help him, and bear his burdens for the good deed done that
night. Then he resolved to write home next day and tell his
mother all, and what a coward her son had been. And then peace
came to him as he resolved, lastly, to bear his testimony next
morning. The morning would be harder than the night to begin
with, but he felt that he could not afford to let one chance
slip. Several times he faltered, for the devil showed him first
all his old friends calling him "Saint" and "Square-toes," and a
dozen hard names, and whispered to him that his motives would be
misunderstood, and he would only be left alone with the new boy;
whereas it was his duty to keep all means of influence, that he
might do good to the largest number. And then came the more
subtle temptation, "Shall I not be showing myself braver than
others by doing this? Have I any right to begin it now? Ought
I not rather to pray in my own study, letting other boys know
that I do so, and trying to lead them to it, while in public at
least I should go on as I have done?" However, his good angel
was too strong that night, and he turned on his side and slept,
tired of trying to reason, but resolved to follow the impulse
which had been so strong, and in which he had found peace.
Next morning he was up and washed and dressed, all but his
jacket and waistcoat, just as the ten minutes' bell began to
ring, and then in the face of the whole room knelt down to pray.
Not five words could he say--the bell mocked him; he was
listening for every whisper in the room--what were they all
thinking of him? He was ashamed to go on kneeling, ashamed to
rise from his knees. At last, as it were from his inmost heart,
a still, small voice seemed to breathe forth the words of the
publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" He repeated them
over and over, clinging to them as for his life, and rose from
his knees comforted and humbled, and ready to face the whole
world. It was not needed: two other boys besides Arthur had
already followed his example, and he went down to the great
School with a glimmering of another lesson in his heart--the
lesson that he who has conquered his own coward spirit has
conquered the whole outward world; and that other one which the
old prophet learnt in the cave in Mount Horeb, when he hid his
face, and the still, small voice asked, "What doest thou here,
Elijah?" that however we may fancy ourselves alone on the side
of good, the King and Lord of men is nowhere without His
witnesses; for in every society, however seemingly corrupt and
godless, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
He found, too, how greatly he had exaggerated the effect to be
produced by his act. For a few nights there was a sneer or a
laugh when he knelt down, but this passed off soon, and one by
one all the other boys but three or four followed the lead. I
fear that this was in some measure owing to the fact that Tom
could probably have thrashed any boy in the room except the
prepostor; at any rate, every boy knew that he would try upon
very slight provocation, and didn't choose to run the risk of a
hard fight because Tom Brown had taken a fancy to say his
prayers. Some of the small boys of Number 4 communicated the
new state of things to their chums, and in several other rooms
the poor little fellows tried it on--in one instance or so,
where the prepostor heard of it and interfered very decidedly,
with partial success; but in the rest, after a short struggle,
the confessors were bullied or laughed down, and the old state
of things went on for some time longer. Before either Tom Brown
or Arthur left the School-house, there was no room in which it
had not become the regular custom. I trust it is so still, and
that the old heathen state of things has gone out for ever.
CHAPTER II - THE NEW BOY.
"And Heaven's rich instincts in him grew
As effortless as woodland nooks
Send violets up and paint them blue." - LOWELL.
I do not mean to recount all the little troubles and annoyances
which thronged upon Tom at the beginning of this half-year, in
his new character of bear-leader to a gentle little boy straight
from home. He seemed to himself to have become a new boy again,
without any of the long-suffering and meekness indispensable for
supporting that character with moderate success. From morning
till night he had the feeling of responsibility on his mind, and
even if he left Arthur in their study or in the close for an
hour, was never at ease till he had him in sight again. He
waited for him at the doors of the school after every lesson and
every calling-over; watched that no tricks were played him, and
none but the regulation questions asked; kept his eye on his
plate at dinner and breakfast, to see that no unfair
depredations were made upon his viands; in short, as East
remarked, cackled after him like a hen with one chick.
Arthur took a long time thawing, too, which made it all the
harder work; was sadly timid; scarcely ever spoke unless Tom
spoke to him first; and, worst of all, would agree with him in
everything--the hardest thing in the world for a Brown to bear.
He got quite angry sometimes, as they sat together of a night in
their study, at this provoking habit of agreement, and was on
the point of breaking out a dozen times with a lecture upon the
propriety of a fellow having a will of his own and speaking out,
but managed to restrain himself by the thought that he might
only frighten Arthur, and the remembrance of the lesson he had
learnt from him on his first night at Number 4. Then he would
resolve to sit still and not say a word till Arthur began; but
he was always beat at that game, and had presently to begin
talking in despair, fearing lest Arthur might think he was vexed
at something if he didn't, and dog-tired of sitting tongue-tied.
It was hard work. But Tom had taken it up, and meant to stick
to it, and go through with it so as to satisfy himself; in which
resolution he was much assisted by the chafing of East and his
other old friends, who began to call him "dry-nurse," and
otherwise to break their small wit on him. But when they took
other ground, as they did every now and then, Tom was sorely
"Tell you what, Tommy," East would say; "you'll spoil young
Hopeful with too much coddling. Why can't you let him go about
by himself and find his own level? He'll never be worth a
button if you go on keeping him under your skirts."
"Well, but he ain't fit to fight his own way yet; I'm trying to
get him to it every day, but he's very odd. Poor little beggar!
I can't make him out a bit. He ain't a bit like anything I've
ever seen or heard of--he seems all over nerves; anything you
say seems to hurt him like a cut or a blow."
"That sort of boy's no use here," said East; "he'll only spoil.
Now I'll tell you what to do, Tommy. Go and get a nice large
band-box made, and put him in with plenty of cotton-wool and a
pap-bottle, labelled 'With care--this side up,' and send him
back to mamma."
"I think I shall make a hand of him though," said Tom, smiling,
"say what you will. There's something about him, every now and
then, which shows me he's got pluck somewhere in him. That's
the only thing after all that'll wash, ain't it, old Scud? But
how to get at it and bring it out?"
Tom took one hand out of his breeches-pocket and stuck it in his
back hair for a scratch, giving his hat a tilt over his nose,
his one method of invoking wisdom. He stared at the ground with
a ludicrously puzzled look, and presently looked up and met
East's eyes. That young gentleman slapped him on the back, and
then put his arm round his shoulder, as they strolled through
the quadrangle together. "Tom," said he, "blest if you ain't
the best old fellow ever was. I do like to see you go into a
thing. Hang it, I wish I could take things as you do; but I
never can get higher than a joke. Everything's a joke. If I
was going to be flogged next minute, I should be in a blue funk,
but I couldn't help laughing at it for the life of me."
"Brown and East, you go and fag for Jones on the great fives
"Hullo, though, that's past a joke," broke out East, springing
at the young gentleman who addressed them, and catching him by
the collar. --"Here, Tommy, catch hold of him t'other side
before he can holla."
The youth was seized, and dragged, struggling, out of the
quadrangle into the School-house hall. He was one of the
miserable little pretty white-handed, curly-headed boys, petted
and pampered by some of the big fellows, who wrote their verses
for them, taught them to drink and use bad language, and did all
they could to spoil them for everything * in this world and the
next. One of the avocations in which these young gentlemen took
particular delight was in going about and getting fags for their
protectors, when those heroes were playing any game. They
carried about pencil and paper with them, putting down the names
of all the boys they sent, always sending five times as many as
were wanted, and getting all those thrashed who didn't go. The
present youth belonged to a house which was very jealous of the
School-house, and always picked out School-house fags when he
could find them. However, this time he'd got the wrong sow by
the ear. His captors slammed the great door of the hall, and
East put his back against it, while Tom gave the prisoner a
shake up, took away his list, and stood him up on the floor,
while he proceeded leisurely to examine that document.
* A kind and wise critic, an old Rugboean, notes here in the
margin: "The small friend system was not so utterly bad from
1841-1847." Before that, too, there were many noble friendships
between big and little boys; but I can't strike out the passage.
Many boys will know why it is left in.
"Let me out, let me go!" screamed the boy, in a furious
passion. "I'll go and tell Jones this minute, and he'll give
you both the --- thrashing you ever had."
"Pretty little dear," said East, patting the top of his hat. --
"Hark how he swears, Tom. Nicely brought up young man, ain't
he, I don't think."
"Let me alone, --- you," roared the boy, foaming with rage, and
kicking at East, who quietly tripped him up, and deposited him
on the floor in a place of safety.
"Gently, young fellow," said he; "'tain't improving for little
whippersnappers like you to be indulging in blasphemy; so you
stop that, or you'll get something you won't like."
"I'll have you both licked when I get out, that I will,"
rejoined the boy, beginning to snivel.
"Two can play at that game, mind you," said Tom, who had
finished his examination of the list. "Now you just listen
here. We've just come across the fives court, and Jones has
four fags there already--two more than he wants. If he'd
wanted us to change, he'd have stopped us himself. And here,
you little blackguard, you've got seven names down on your list
besides ours, and five of them School-house." Tom walked up to
him, and jerked him on to his legs; he was by this time whining
like a whipped puppy. "Now just listen to me. We ain't going
to fag for Jones. If you tell him you've sent us, we'll each of
us give you such a thrashing as you'll remember." And Tom tore
up the list and threw the pieces into the fire.
"And mind you, too," said East, "don't let me catch you again
sneaking about the School-house, and picking up our fags. You
haven't got the sort of hide to take a sound licking kindly."
And he opened the door and sent the young gentleman flying into
the quadrangle with a parting kick.
"Nice boy, Tommy," said East, shoving his hands in his pockets,
and strolling to the fire.
"Worst sort we breed," responded Tom, following his example.
"Thank goodness, no big fellow ever took to petting me."
"You'd never have been like that," said East. "I should like to
have put him in a museum: Christian young gentleman, nineteenth
century, highly educated. Stir him up with a long pole, Jack,
and hear him swear like a drunken sailor. He'd make a
respectable public open its eyes, I think."
"Think he'll tell Jones?" said Tom.
"No," said East. "Don't care if he does."
"Nor I," said Tom. And they went back to talk about Arthur.
The young gentleman had brains enough not to tell Jones,
reasoning that East and Brown, who were noted as some of the
toughest fags in the School, wouldn't care three straws for any
licking Jones might give them, and would be likely to keep their
words as to passing it on with interest.
After the above conversation, East came a good deal to their
study, and took notice of Arthur, and soon allowed to Tom that
he was a thorough little gentleman, and would get over his
shyness all in good time; which much comforted our hero. He
felt every day, too, the value of having an object in his life--
something that drew him out of himself; and it being the dull
time of the year, and no games going about for which he much
cared, was happier than he had ever yet been at school, which
was saying a great deal.
The time which Tom allowed himself away from his charge was from
locking-up till supper-time. During this hour or hour and a
half he used to take his fling, going round to the studies of
all his acquaintance, sparring or gossiping in the hall, now
jumping the old iron-bound tables, or carving a bit of his name
on them, then joining in some chorus of merry voices--in fact,
blowing off his steam, as we should now call it.
This process was so congenial to his temper, and Arthur showed
himself so pleased at the arrangement, that it was several weeks
before Tom was ever in their study before supper. One evening,
however, he rushed in to look for an old chisel, or some corks,
or other article essential to his pursuit for the time being,
and while rummaging about in the cupboards, looked up for a
moment, and was caught at once by the figure of poor little
Arthur. The boy was sitting with his elbows on the table, and
his head leaning on his hands, and before him an open book, on
which his tears were falling fast. Tom shut the door at once,
and sat down on the sofa by Arthur, putting his arm round his
"Why, young un, what's the matter?" said he kindly; "you ain't
unhappy, are you?"
"Oh no, Brown," said the little boy, looking up with the great
tears in his eyes; "you are so kind to me, I'm very happy."
"Why don't you call me Tom? Lots of boys do that I don't like
half so much as you. What are you reading, then? Hang it! you
must come about with me, and not mope yourself." And Tom cast
down his eyes on the book, and saw it was the Bible. He was
silent for a minute, and thought to himself, "Lesson Number 2,
Tom Brown;" and then said gently, "I'm very glad to see this,
Arthur, and ashamed that I don't read the Bible more myself. Do
you read it every night before supper while I'm out?"
"Well, I wish you'd wait till afterwards, and then we'd read
together. But, Arthur, why does it make you cry?"
"Oh, it isn't that I'm unhappy. But at home, while my father
was alive, we always read the lessons after tea; and I love to
read them over now, and try to remember what he said about them.
I can't remember all and I think I scarcely understand a great
deal of what I do remember. But it all comes back to me so
fresh that I can't help crying sometimes to think I shall never
read them again with him."
Arthur had never spoken of his home before, and Tom hadn't
encouraged him to do so, as his blundering schoolboy reasoning
made him think that Arthur would be softened and less manly for
thinking of home. But now he was fairly interested, and forgot
all about chisels and bottled beer; while with very little
encouragement Arthur launched into his home history, and the
prayer-bell put them both out sadly when it rang to call them to
From this time Arthur constantly spoke of his home, and above
all, of his father, who had been dead about a year, and whose
memory Tom soon got to love and reverence almost as much as his
own son did.
Arthur's father had been the clergyman of a parish in the
Midland counties, which had risen into a large town during the
war, and upon which the hard years which followed had fallen
with fearful weight. The trade had been half ruined; and then
came the old, sad story, of masters reducing their
establishments, men turned off and wandering about, hungry and
wan in body, and fierce in soul, from the thought of wives and
children starving at home, and the last sticks of furniture
going to the pawnshop; children taken from school, and lounging
about the dirty streets and courts, too listless almost to play,
and squalid in rags and misery; and then the fearful struggle
between the employers and men--lowerings of wages, strikes, and
the long course of oft-repeated crime, ending every now and then
with a riot, a fire, and the county yeomanry. There is no need
here to dwell upon such tales: the Englishman into whose soul
they have not sunk deep is not worthy the name. You English
boys, for whom this book is meant (God bless your bright faces
and kind hearts!), will learn it all soon enough.
Into such a parish and state of society Arthur's father had been
thrown at the age of twenty-five--a young married parson, full
of faith, hope, and love. He had battled with it like a man,
and had lots of fine Utopian ideas about the perfectibility of
mankind, glorious humanity, and such-like, knocked out of his
head, and a real, wholesome Christian love for the poor,
struggling, sinning men, of whom he felt himself one, and with
and for whom he spent fortune, and strength, and life, driven
into his heart. He had battled like a man, and gotten a man's
reward--no silver tea-pots or salvers, with flowery
inscriptions setting forth his virtues and the appreciation of a
genteel parish; no fat living or stall, for which he never
looked, and didn't care; no sighs and praises of comfortable
dowagers and well-got-up young women, who worked him slippers,
sugared his tea, and adored him as "a devoted man;" but a manly
respect, wrung from the unwilling souls of men who fancied his
order their natural enemies; the fear and hatred of every one
who was false or unjust in the district, were he master or man;
and the blessed sight of women and children daily becoming more
human and more homely, a comfort to themselves and to their
husbands and fathers.
These things, of course, took time, and had to be fought for
with toil and sweat of brain and heart, and with the life-blood
poured out. All that, Arthur had laid his account to give, and
took as a matter of course, neither pitying himself, nor looking
on himself as a martyr, when he felt the wear and tear making
him feel old before his time, and the stifling air of fever-dens
telling on his health. His wife seconded him in everything.
She had been rather fond of society, and much admired and run
after before her marriage; and the London world to which she had
belonged pitied poor Fanny Evelyn when she married the young
clergyman, and went to settle in that smoky hole Turley; a very
nest of Chartism and Atheism, in a part of the country which all
the decent families had had to leave for years. However,
somehow or other she didn't seem to care. If her husband's
living had been amongst green fields and near pleasant
neighbours she would have liked it better--that she never
pretended to deny. But there they were. The air wasn't bad,
after all; the people were very good sort of people--civil to
you if you were civil to them, after the first brush; and they
didn't expect to work miracles, and convert them all off-hand
into model Christians. So he and she went quietly among the
folk, talking to and treating them just as they would have done
people of their own rank. They didn't feel that they were doing
anything out of the common way, and so were perfectly natural,
and had none of that condescension or consciousness of manner
which so outrages the independent poor. And thus they gradually
won respect and confidence; and after sixteen years he was
looked up to by the whole neighbourhood as the just man, the man
to whom masters and men could go in their strikes, and in all
their quarrels and difficulties, and by whom the right and true
word would be said without fear or favour. And the women had
come round to take her advice, and go to her as a friend in all
their troubles; while the children all worshipped the very
ground she trod on.
They had three children, two daughters and a son, little Arthur,
who came between his sisters. He had been a very delicate boy
from his childhood; they thought he had a tendency to
consumption, and so he had been kept at home and taught by his
father, who had made a companion of him, and from whom he had
gained good scholarship, and a knowledge of and interest in many
subjects which boys in general never come across till they are
many years older.
Just as he reached his thirteenth year, and his father had
settled that he was strong enough to go to school, and, after
much debating with himself, had resolved to send him there, a
desperate typhus fever broke out in the town. Most of the other
clergy, and almost all the doctors, ran away; the work fell with
tenfold weight on those who stood to their work. Arthur and his
wife both caught the fever, of which he died in a few days; and
she recovered, having been able to nurse him to the end, and
store up his last words. He was sensible to the last, and calm
and happy, leaving his wife and children with fearless trust for
a few years in the hands of the Lord and Friend who had lived
and died for him, and for whom he, to the best of his power, had
lived and died. His widow's mourning was deep and gentle. She
was more affected by the request of the committee of a
freethinking club, established in the town by some of the
factory hands (which he had striven against with might and main,
and nearly suppressed), that some of their number might be
allowed to help bear the coffin, than by anything else. Two of
them were chosen, who, with six other labouring men, his own
fellow-workmen and friends, bore him to his grave--a man who
had fought the Lord's fight even unto the death. The shops were
closed and the factories shut that day in the parish, yet no
master stopped the day's wages; but for many a year afterwards
the townsfolk felt the want of that brave, hopeful, loving
parson and his wife, who had lived to teach them mutual
forbearance and helpfulness, and had almost at last given them a
glimpse of what this old world would be if people would live for
God and each other instead of for themselves.
What has all this to do with our story? Well, my dear boys, let
a fellow go on his own way, or you won't get anything out of him
worth having. I must show you what sort of a man it was who had
begotten and trained little Arthur, or else you won't believe in
him, which I am resolved you shall do; and you won't see how he,
the timid, weak boy, had points in him from which the bravest
and strongest recoiled, and made his presence and example felt
from the first on all sides, unconsciously to himself, and
without the least attempt at proselytizing. The spirit of his
father was in him, and the Friend to whom his father had left
him did not neglect the trust.
After supper that night, and almost nightly for years
afterwards, Tom and Arthur, and by degrees East occasionally,
and sometimes one, sometimes another, of their friends, read a
chapter of the Bible together, and talked it over afterwards.
Tom was at first utterly astonished, and almost shocked, at the
sort of way in which Arthur read the book and talked about the
men and women whose lives were there told. The first night they
happened to fall on the chapters about the famine in Egypt, and
Arthur began talking about Joseph as if he were a living
statesman--just as he might have talked about Lord Grey and the
Reform Bill, only that they were much more living realities to
him. The book was to him, Tom saw, the most vivid and
delightful history of real people, who might do right or wrong,
just like any one who was walking about in Rugby--the Doctor,
or the masters, or the sixth-form boys. But the astonishment
soon passed off, the scales seemed to drop from his eyes, and
the book became at once and for ever to him the great human and
divine book, and the men and women, whom he had looked upon as
something quite different from himself, became his friends and
For our purposes, however, the history of one night's reading
will be sufficient, which must be told here, now we are on the
subject, though it didn't happen till a year afterwards, and
long after the events recorded in the next chapter of our story.
Arthur, Tom, and East were together one night, and read the
story of Naaman coming to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy.
When the chapter was finished, Tom shut his Bible with a slap.
"I can't stand that fellow Naaman," said he, "after what he'd
seen and felt, going back and bowing himself down in the house
of Rimmon, because his effeminate scoundrel of a master did it.
I wonder Elisha took the trouble to heal him. How he must have
"Yes; there you go off as usual, with a shell on your head,"
struck in East, who always took the opposite side to Tom, half
from love of argument, half from conviction. "How do you know
he didn't think better of it? How do you know his master was a
scoundrel? His letter don't look like it, and the book don't
"I don't care," rejoined Tom; "why did Naaman talk about bowing
down, then, if he didn't mean to do it? He wasn't likely to get
more in earnest when he got back to court, and away from the
"Well, but, Tom," said Arthur, "look what Elisha says to him--
'Go in peace.' He wouldn't have said that if Naaman had been in
"I don't see that that means more than saying, 'You're not the
man I took you for.'"
"No, no; that won't do at all," said East. "Read the words
fairly, and take men as you find them. I like Naaman, and think
he was a very fine fellow."
"I don't," said Tom positively.
"Well, I think East is right," said Arthur; "I can't see but
what it's right to do the best you can, though it mayn't be the
best absolutely. Every man isn't born to be a martyr."
"Of course, of course," said East; "but he's on one of his pet
hobbies. --How often have I told you, Tom, that you must drive
a nail where it'll go."
"And how often have I told you," rejoined Tom, "that it'll
always go where you want, if you only stick to it and hit hard
enough. I hate half-measures and compromises."
"Yes, he's a whole-hog man, is Tom. Must have the whole animal-
hair and teeth, claws and tail," laughed East. "Sooner have no
bread any day than half the loaf."
"I don't know;" said Arthur--"it's rather puzzling; but ain't
most right things got by proper compromises--I mean where the
principle isn't given up?"
"That's just the point," said Tom; "I don't object to a
compromise, where you don't give up your principle."
"Not you," said East laughingly.--"I know him of old, Arthur,
and you'll find him out some day. There isn't such a reasonable
fellow in the world, to hear him talk. He never wants anything
but what's right and fair; only when you come to settle what's
right and fair, it's everything that he wants, and nothing that
you want. And that's his idea of a compromise. Give me the
Brown compromise when I'm on his side."
"Now, Harry," said Tom, "no more chaff. I'm serious. Look
here. This is what makes my blood tingle." And he turned over
the pages of his Bible and read, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-
nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not
careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God
whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery
furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But
if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve
thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
He read the last verse twice, emphasizing the nots, and dwelling
on them as if they gave him actual pleasure, and were hard to
They were silent a minute, and then Arthur said, "Yes, that's a
glorious story, but it don't prove your point, Tom, I think.
There are times when there is only one way, and that the
highest, and then the men are found to stand in the breach."
"There's always a highest way, and it's always the right one,"
said Tom. "How many times has the Doctor told us that in his
sermons in the last year, I should like to know?"
"Well, you ain't going to convince us--is he, Arthur? No Brown
compromise to-night," said East, looking at his watch. "But
it's past eight, and we must go to first lesson. What a bore!"
So they took down their books and fell to work; but Arthur
didn't forget, and thought long and often over the conversation.
CHAPTER III - ARTHUR MAKES A FRIEND.
"Let Nature be your teacher:
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings.
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things.
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art:
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives." - WORDSWORTH.
About six weeks after the beginning of the half, as Tom and
Arthur were sitting one night before supper beginning their
verses, Arthur suddenly stopped, and looked up, and said, "Tom,
do you know anything of Martin?"
"Yes," said Tom, taking his hand out of his back hair, and
delighted to throw his Gradus ad Parnassum on to the sofa; "I
know him pretty well. He's a very good fellow, but as mad as a
hatter. He's called Madman, you know. And never was such a
fellow for getting all sorts of rum things about him. He tamed
two snakes last half, and used to carry them about in his
pocket; and I'll be bound he's got some hedgehogs and rats in
his cupboard now, and no one knows what besides."
"I should like very much to know him," said Arthur; "he was next
to me in the form to-day, and he'd lost his book and looked over
mine, and he seemed so kind and gentle that I liked him very
"Ah, poor old Madman, he's always losing his books," said Tom,
"and getting called up and floored because he hasn't got them."
"I like him all the better," said Arthur.
"Well, he's great fun, I can tell you," said Tom, throwing
himself back on the sofa, and chuckling at the remembrance. "We
had such a game with him one day last half. He had been kicking
up horrid stinks for some time in his study, till I suppose some
fellow told Mary, and she told the Doctor. Anyhow, one day a
little before dinner, when he came down from the library, the
Doctor, instead of going home, came striding into the hall.
East and I and five or six other fellows were at the fire, and
preciously we stared, for he don't come in like that once a
year, unless it is a wet day and there's a fight in the hall.
'East,' says he, 'just come and show me Martin's study.' 'Oh,
here's a game,' whispered the rest of us; and we all cut
upstairs after the Doctor, East leading. As we got into the New
Row, which was hardly wide enough to hold the Doctor and his
gown, click, click, click, we heard in the old Madman's den.
Then that stopped all of a sudden, and the bolts went to like
fun. The Madman knew East's step, and thought there was going
to be a siege.
"'It's the Doctor, Martin. He's here and wants to see you,'
sings out East.
"Then the bolts went back slowly, and the door opened, and there
was the old Madman standing, looking precious scared--his
jacket off, his shirt-sleeves up to his elbows, and his long
skinny arms all covered with anchors and arrows and letters,
tattooed in with gunpowder like a sailor-boy's, and a stink fit
to knock you down coming out. 'Twas all the Doctor could do to
stand his ground, and East and I, who were looking in under his
arms, held our noses tight. The old magpie was standing on the
window-sill, all his feathers drooping, and looking disgusted
"'What can you be about, Martin?' says the Doctor. 'You really
mustn't go on in this way; you're a nuisance to the whole
"'Please, sir, I was only mixing up this powder; there isn't any
harm in it. And the Madman seized nervously on his pestle and
mortar, to show the Doctor the harmlessness of his pursuits, and
went on pounding--click, click, click. He hadn't given six
clicks before, puff! up went the whole into a great blaze, away
went the pestle and mortar across the study, and back we tumbled
into the passage. The magpie fluttered down into the court,
swearing, and the Madman danced out, howling, with his fingers
in his mouth. The Doctor caught hold of him, and called to us
to fetch some water. 'There, you silly fellow,' said he, quite
pleased, though, to find he wasn't much hurt, 'you see you don't
know the least what you're doing with all these things; and now,
mind, you must give up practising chemistry by yourself.' Then
he took hold of his arm and looked at it, and I saw he had to
bite his lip, and his eyes twinkled; but he said, quite grave,
'Here, you see, you've been making all these foolish marks on
yourself, which you can never get out, and you'll be very sorry
for it in a year or two. Now come down to the housekeeper's
room, and let us see if you are hurt.' And away went the two,
and we all stayed and had a regular turn-out of the den, till
Martin came back with his hand bandaged and turned us out.
However, I'll go and see what he's after, and tell him to come
in after prayers to supper." And away went Tom to find the boy
in question, who dwelt in a little study by himself, in New Row.
The aforesaid Martin, whom Arthur had taken such a fancy for,
was one of those unfortunates who were at that time of day (and
are, I fear, still) quite out of their places at a public
school. If we knew how to use our boys, Martin would have been
seized upon and educated as a natural philosopher. He had a
passion for birds, beasts, and insects, and knew more of them
and their habits than any one in Rugby--except perhaps the
Doctor, who knew everything. He was also an experimental
chemist on a small scale, and had made unto himself an electric
machine, from which it was his greatest pleasure and glory to
administer small shocks to any small boys who were rash enough
to venture into his study. And this was by no means an
adventure free from excitement; for besides the probability of a
snake dropping on to your head or twining lovingly up your leg,
or a rat getting into your breeches-pocket in search of food,
there was the animal and chemical odour to be faced, which
always hung about the den, and the chance of being blown up in
some of the many experiments which Martin was always trying,
with the most wondrous results in the shape of explosions and
smells that mortal boy ever heard of. Of course, poor Martin,
in consequence of his pursuits, had become an Ishmaelite in the
house. In the first place, he half-poisoned all his neighbours,
and they in turn were always on the lookout to pounce upon any
of his numerous live-stock, and drive him frantic by enticing
his pet old magpie out of his window into a neighbouring study,
and making the disreputable old bird drunk on toast soaked in
beer and sugar. Then Martin, for his sins, inhabited a study
looking into a small court some ten feet across, the window of
which was completely commanded by those of the studies opposite
in the Sick-room Row, these latter being at a slightly higher
elevation. East, and another boy of an equally tormenting and
ingenious turn of mind, now lived exactly opposite, and had
expended huge pains and time in the preparation of instruments
of annoyance for the behoof of Martin and his live colony. One
morning an old basket made its appearance, suspended by a short
cord outside Martin's window, in which were deposited an amateur
nest containing four young hungry jackdaws, the pride and glory
of Martin's life, for the time being, and which he was currently
asserted to have hatched upon his own person. Early in the
morning and late at night he was to be seen half out of window,
administering to the varied wants of his callow brood. After
deep cogitation, East and his chum had spliced a knife on to the
end of a fishing-rod; and having watched Martin out, had, after
half an hour's severe sawing, cut the string by which the basket
was suspended, and tumbled it on to the pavement below, with
hideous remonstrance from the occupants. Poor Martin, returning
from his short absence, collected the fragments and replaced his
brood (except one whose neck had been broken in the descent) in
their old location, suspending them this time by string and wire
twisted together, defiant of any sharp instrument which his
persecutors could command. But, like the Russian engineers at
Sebastopol, East and his chum had an answer for every move of
the adversary, and the next day had mounted a gun in the shape
of a pea-shooter upon the ledge of their window, trained so as
to bear exactly upon the spot which Martin had to occupy while
tending his nurslings. The moment he began to feed they began
to shoot. In vain did the enemy himself invest in a pea-
shooter, and endeavour to answer the fire while he fed the young
birds with his other hand; his attention was divided, and his
shots flew wild, while every one of theirs told on his face and
hands, and drove him into howlings and imprecations. He had
been driven to ensconce the nest in a corner of his already too-
His door was barricaded by a set of ingenious bolts of his own
invention, for the sieges were frequent by the neighbours when
any unusually ambrosial odour spread itself from the den to the
neighbouring studies. The door panels were in a normal state of
smash, but the frame of the door resisted all besiegers, and
behind it the owner carried on his varied pursuits--much in the
same state of mind, I should fancy, as a border-farmer lived in,
in the days of the moss-troopers, when his hold might be
summoned or his cattle carried off at any minute of night or
"Open, Martin, old boy; it's only I, Tom Brown."
"Oh, very well; stop a moment." One bolt went back. "You're
sure East isn't there?"
"No, no; hang it, open." Tom gave a kick, the other bolt
creaked, and he entered the den.
Den indeed it was--about five feet six inches long by five
wide, and seven feet high. About six tattered school-books, and
a few chemical books, Taxidermy, Stanley on Birds, and an odd
volume of Bewick, the latter in much better preservation,
occupied the top shelves. The other shelves, where they had not
been cut away and used by the owner for other purposes, were
fitted up for the abiding-places of birds, beasts, and reptiles.
There was no attempt at carpet or curtain. The table was
entirely occupied by the great work of Martin, the electric
machine, which was covered carefully with the remains of his
table-cloth. The jackdaw cage occupied one wall; and the other
was adorned by a small hatchet, a pair of climbing irons, and
his tin candle-box, in which he was for the time being
endeavouring to raise a hopeful young family of field-mice. As
nothing should be let to lie useless, it was well that the
candle-box was thus occupied, for candles Martin never had. A
pound was issued to him weekly, as to the other boys; but as
candles were available capital, and easily exchangeable for
birds' eggs or young birds, Martin's pound invariably found its
way in a few hours to Howlett's the bird-fancier's, in the
Bilton road, who would give a hawk's or nightingale's egg or
young linnet in exchange. Martin's ingenuity was therefore for
ever on the rack to supply himself with a light. Just now he
had hit upon a grand invention, and the den was lighted by a
flaring cotton wick issuing from a ginger-beer bottle full of
some doleful composition. When light altogether failed him,
Martin would loaf about by the fires in the passages or hall,
after the manner of Diggs, and try to do his verses or learn his
lines by the firelight.
"Well, old boy, you haven't got any sweeter in the den this
half. How that stuff in the bottle stinks! Never mind; I ain't
going to stop; but you come up after prayers to our study. You
know young Arthur. We've got Gray's study. We'll have a good
supper and talk about bird-nesting."
Martin was evidently highly pleased at the invitation, and
promised to be up without fail.
As soon as prayers were over, and the sixth and fifth form boys
had withdrawn to the aristocratic seclusion of their own room,
and the rest, or democracy, had sat down to their supper in the
hall, Tom and Arthur, having secured their allowances of bread
and cheese, started on their feet to catch the eye of the
prepostor of the week, who remained in charge during supper,
walking up and down the hall. He happened to be an easy-going
fellow, so they got a pleasant nod to their "Please may I go
out?" and away they scrambled to prepare for Martin a sumptuous
banquet. This Tom had insisted on, for he was in great delight
on the occasion, the reason of which delight must be expounded.
The fact was that this was the first attempt at a friendship of
his own which Arthur had made, and Tom hailed it as a grand
step. The ease with which he himself became hail-fellow-well-
met with anybody, and blundered into and out of twenty
friendships a half-year, made him sometimes sorry and sometimes
angry at Arthur's reserve and loneliness. True, Arthur was
always pleasant, and even jolly, with any boys who came with Tom
to their study; but Tom felt that it was only through him, as it
were, that his chum associated with others, and that but for him
Arthur would have been dwelling in a wilderness. This increased
his consciousness of responsibility; and though he hadn't
reasoned it out and made it clear to himself yet somehow he knew
that this responsibility, this trust which he had taken on him
without thinking about it, head over heels in fact, was the
centre and turning-point of his school-life, that which was to
make him or mar him, his appointed work and trial for the time
being. And Tom was becoming a new boy, though with frequent
tumbles in the dirt and perpetual hard battle with himself, and
was daily growing in manfulness and thoughtfulness, as every
high-couraged and well-principled boy must, when he finds
himself for the first time consciously at grips with self and
the devil. Already he could turn almost without a sigh from the
School-gates, from which had just scampered off East and three
or four others of his own particular set, bound for some jolly
lark not quite according to law, and involving probably a row
with louts, keepers, or farm-labourers, the skipping dinner or
calling-over, some of Phoebe Jennings's beer, and a very
possible flogging at the end of all as a relish. He had quite
got over the stage in which he would grumble to himself--"Well,
hang it, it's very hard of the Doctor to have saddled me with
Arthur. Why couldn't he have chummed him with Fogey, or
Thomkin, or any of the fellows who never do anything but walk
round the close, and finish their copies the first day they're
set?" But although all this was past, he longed, and felt that
he was right in longing, for more time for the legitimate
pastimes of cricket, fives, bathing, and fishing, within bounds,
in which Arthur could not yet be his companion; and he felt that
when the "young un" (as he now generally called him) had found a
pursuit and some other friend for himself, he should be able to
give more time to the education of his own body with a clear
And now what he so wished for had come to pass; he almost hailed
it as a special providence (as indeed it was, but not for the
reasons he gave for it--what providences are?) that Arthur
should have singled out Martin of all fellows for a friend.
"The old Madman is the very fellow," thought he; "he will take
him scrambling over half the country after birds' eggs and
flowers, make him run and swim and climb like an Indian, and not
teach him a word of anything bad, or keep him from his lessons.
What luck!" And so, with more than his usual heartiness, he
dived into his cupboard, and hauled out an old knuckle-bone of
ham, and two or three bottles of beer, together with the solemn
pewter only used on state occasions; while Arthur, equally
elated at the easy accomplishment of his first act of volition
in the joint establishment, produced from his side a bottle of
pickles and a pot of jam, and cleared the table. In a minute or
two the noise of the boys coming up from supper was heard, and
Martin knocked and was admitted, bearing his bread and cheese;
and the three fell to with hearty good-will upon the viands,
talking faster than they ate, for all shyness disappeared in a
moment before Tom's bottled-beer and hospitable ways. "Here's
Arthur, a regular young town-mouse, with a natural taste for the
woods, Martin, longing to break his neck climbing trees, and
with a passion for young snakes."
"Well, I say," sputtered out Martin eagerly, "will you come to-
morrow, both of you, to Caldecott's Spinney then? for I know of
a kestrel's nest, up a fir-tree. I can't get at it without help;
and, Brown, you can climb against any one."
"Oh yes, do let us go," said Arthur; "I never saw a hawk's nest
nor a hawk's egg."
"You just come down to my study, then, and I'll show you five
sorts," said Martin.
"Ay, the old Madman has got the best collection in the house,
out and out," said Tom; and then Martin, warming with
unaccustomed good cheer and the chance of a convert, launched
out into a proposed bird-nesting campaign, betraying all manner
of important secrets--a golden-crested wren's nest near
Butlin's Mound, a moor-hen who was sitting on nine eggs in a
pond down the Barby road, and a kingfisher's nest in a corner of
the old canal above Brownsover Mill. He had heard, he said,
that no one had ever got a kingfisher's nest out perfect, and
that the British Museum, or the Government, or somebody, had
offered 100 pounds to any one who could bring them a nest and eggs not
damaged. In the middle of which astounding announcement, to
which the others were listening with open ears, and already
considering the application of the 100 pounds, a knock came to the
door, and East's voice was heard craving admittance.
"There's Harry," said Tom; "we'll let him in. I'll keep him
steady, Martin. I thought the old boy would smell out the
The fact was, that Tom's heart had already smitten him for not
asking his fidus Achates to the feast, although only an
extempore affair; and though prudence and the desire to get
Martin and Arthur together alone at first had overcome his
scruples, he was now heartily glad to open the door, broach
another bottle of beer, and hand over the old ham-knuckle to the
searching of his old friend's pocket-knife.
"Ah, you greedy vagabonds," said East, with his mouth full, "I
knew there was something going on when I saw you cut off out of
hall so quick with your suppers. What a stunning tap, Tom! You
are a wunner for bottling the swipes."
"I've had practice enough for the sixth in my time, and it's
hard if I haven't picked up a wrinkle or two for my own
"Well, old Madman, and how goes the bird-nesting campaign?
How's Howlett? I expect the young rooks'll be out in another
fortnight, and then my turn comes."
"There'll be no young rooks fit for pies for a month yet; shows
how much you know about it," rejoined Martin, who, though very
good friends with East, regarded him with considerable suspicion
for his propensity to practical jokes.
"Scud knows nothing and cares for nothing but grub and
mischief," said Tom; "but young rook pie, specially when you've
had to climb for them, is very pretty eating. --However, I say,
Scud, we're all going after a hawk's nest to-morrow, in
Caldecott's Spinney; and if you'll come and behave yourself,
we'll have a stunning climb."
"And a bathe in Aganippe. Hooray! I'm your man."
"No, no; no bathing in Aganippe; that's where our betters go."
"Well, well, never mind. I'm for the hawk's nest, and anything
that turns up."
And the bottled-beer being finished, and his hunger appeased,
East departed to his study, "that sneak Jones," as he informed
them, who had just got into the sixth, and occupied the next
study, having instituted a nightly visitation upon East and his
chum, to their no small discomfort.
When he was gone Martin rose to follow, but Tom stopped him.
"No one goes near New Row," said he, "so you may just as well
stop here and do your verses, and then we'll have some more
talk. We'll be no end quiet. Besides, no prepostor comes here
now. We haven't been visited once this half."
So the table was cleared, the cloth restored, and the three fell
to work with Gradus and dictionary upon the morning's vulgus.
They were three very fair examples of the way in which such
tasks were done at Rugby, in the consulship of Plancus. And
doubtless the method is little changed, for there is nothing new
under the sun, especially at schools.
Now be it known unto all you boys who are at schools which do
not rejoice in the time-honoured institution of the vulgus
(commonly supposed to have been established by William of
Wykeham at Winchester, and imported to Rugby by Arnold more for
the sake of the lines which were learnt by heart with it than
for its own intrinsic value, as I've always understood), that it
is a short exercise in Greek or Latin verse, on a given subject,
the minimum number of lines being fixed for each form.
The master of the form gave out at fourth lesson on the previous
day the subject for next morning's vulgus, and at first lesson
each boy had to bring his vulgus ready to be looked over; and
with the vulgus, a certain number of lines from one of the Latin
or Greek poets then being construed in the form had to be got by
heart. The master at first lesson called up each boy in the
form in order, and put him on in the lines. If he couldn't say
them, or seem to say them, by reading them off the master's or
some other boy's book who stood near, he was sent back, and went
below all the boys who did so say or seem to say them; but in
either case his vulgus was looked over by the master, who gave
and entered in his book, to the credit or discredit of the boy,
so many marks as the composition merited. At Rugby vulgus and
lines were the first lesson every other day in the week, on
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and as there were thirty-
eight weeks in the school year, it is obvious to the meanest
capacity that the master of each form had to set one hundred and
fourteen subjects every year, two hundred and twenty-eight every
two years, and so on. Now, to persons of moderate invention
this was a considerable task, and human nature being prone to
repeat itself, it will not be wondered that the masters gave the
same subjects sometimes over again after a certain lapse of
time. To meet and rebuke this bad habit of the masters, the
schoolboy mind, with its accustomed ingenuity, had invented an
elaborate system of tradition. Almost every boy kept his own
vulgus written out in a book, and these books were duly handed
down from boy to boy, till (if the tradition has gone on till
now) I suppose the popular boys, in whose hands bequeathed
vulgus-books have accumulated, are prepared with three or four
vulguses on any subject in heaven or earth, or in "more worlds
than one," which an unfortunate master can pitch upon. At any
rate, such lucky fellows had generally one for themselves and
one for a friend in my time. The only objection to the
traditionary method of doing your vulguses was the risk that the
successions might have become confused, and so that you and
another follower of traditions should show up the same identical
vulgus some fine morning; in which case, when it happened,
considerable grief was the result. But when did such risk
hinder boys or men from short cuts and pleasant paths?
Now in the study that night Tom was the upholder of the
traditionary method of vulgus doing. He carefully produced two
large vulgus-books, and began diving into them, and picking out
a line here, and an ending there (tags, as they were vulgarly
called), till he had gotten all that he thought he could make
fit. He then proceeded to patch his tags together with the help
of his Gradus, producing an incongruous and feeble result of
eight elegiac lines, the minimum quantity for his form, and
finishing up with two highly moral lines extra, making ten in
all, which he cribbed entire from one of his books, beginning "O
genus humanum," and which he himself must have used a dozen
times before, whenever an unfortunate or wicked hero, of
whatever nation or language under the sun, was the subject.
Indeed he began to have great doubts whether the master wouldn't
remember them, and so only throw them in as extra lines, because
in any case they would call off attention from the other tags,
and if detected, being extra lines, he wouldn't be sent back to
do more in their place, while if they passed muster again he
would get marks for them.
The second method, pursued by Martin, may be called the dogged
or prosaic method. He, no more than Tom, took any pleasure in
the task, but having no old vulgus-books of his own, or any
one's else, could not follow the traditionary method, for which
too, as Tom remarked, he hadn't the genius. Martin then
proceeded to write down eight lines in English, of the most
matter-of-fact kind, the first that came into his head; and to
convert these, line by line, by main force of Gradus and
dictionary into Latin that would scan. This was all he cared
for--to produce eight lines with no false quantities or
concords: whether the words were apt, or what the sense was,
mattered nothing; and as the article was all new, not a line
beyond the minimum did the followers of the dogged method ever
The third, or artistic method, was Arthur's. He considered
first what point in the character or event which was the subject
could most neatly be brought out within the limits of a vulgus,
trying always to get his idea into the eight lines, but not
binding himself to ten or even twelve lines if he couldn't do
this. He then set to work as much as possible without Gradus or
other help, to clothe his idea in appropriate Latin or Greek,
and would not be satisfied till he had polished it well up with
the aptest and most poetic words and phrases he could get at.
A fourth method, indeed, was used in the school, but of too
simple a kind to require a comment. It may be called the
vicarious method, obtained amongst big boys of lazy or bullying
habits, and consisted simply in making clever boys whom they
could thrash do their whole vulgus for them, and construe it to
them afterwards; which latter is a method not to be encouraged,
and which I strongly advise you all not to practise. Of the
others, you will find the traditionary most troublesome, unless
you can steal your vulguses whole (experto crede), and that the
artistic method pays the best both in marks and other ways.
The vulguses being finished by nine o'clock, and Martin having
rejoiced above measure in the abundance of light, and of Gradus
and dictionary, and other conveniences almost unknown to him for
getting through the work, and having been pressed by Arthur to
come and do his verses there whenever he liked, the three boys
went down to Martin's den, and Arthur was initiated into the
lore of birds' eggs, to his great delight. The exquisite
colouring and forms astonished and charmed him, who had scarcely
ever seen any but a hen's egg or an ostrich's, and by the time
he was lugged away to bed he had learned the names of at least
twenty sorts, and dreamed of the glorious perils of tree-
climbing, and that he had found a roc's egg in the island as big
as Sinbad's, and clouded like a tit-lark's, in blowing which
Martin and he had nearly been drowned in the yolk.
CHAPTER IV - THE BIRD-FANCIERS.
"I have found out a gift for my fair -
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed;
But let me the plunder forbear,
She would say 'twas a barbarous deed." - ROWE.
"And now, my lad, take them five shilling,
And on my advice in future think;
So Billy pouched them all so willing,
And got that night disguised in drink." - MS. Ballad.
The next morning, at first lesson, Tom was turned back in his
lines, and so had to wait till the second round; while Martin
and Arthur said theirs all right, and got out of school at once.
When Tom got out and ran down to breakfast at Harrowell's they
were missing, and Stumps informed him that they had swallowed
down their breakfasts and gone off together--where, he couldn't
say. Tom hurried over his own breakfast, and went first to
Martin's study and then to his own; but no signs of the missing
boys were to be found. He felt half angry and jealous of
Martin. Where could they be gone?
He learnt second lesson with East and the rest in no very good
temper, and then went out into the quadrangle. About ten
minutes before school Martin and Arthur arrived in the
quadrangle breathless; and catching sight of him, Arthur rushed
up, all excitement, and with a bright glow on his face.
"O Tom, look here!" cried he, holding out three moor-hen's eggs;
"we've been down the Barby road, to the pool Martin told us of
last night, and just see what we've got."
Tom wouldn't be pleased, and only looked out for something to
find fault with.
"Why, young un," said he, "what have you been after? You don't
mean to say you've been wading?"
The tone of reproach made poor little Arthur shrink up in a
moment and look piteous; and Tom with a shrug of his shoulders
turned his anger on Martin.
"Well, I didn't think, Madman, that you'd have been such a muff
as to let him be getting wet through at this time of day. You
might have done the wading yourself."
"So I did, of course; only he would come in too, to see the
nest. We left six eggs in. They'll be hatched in a day or
"Hang the eggs!" said Tom; "a fellow can't turn his back for a
moment but all his work's undone. He'll be laid up for a week
for this precious lark, I'll be bound."
"Indeed, Tom, now," pleaded Arthur, "my feet ain't wet, for
Martin made me take off my shoes and stockings and trousers."
"But they are wet, and dirty too; can't I see?" answered Tom;
"and you'll be called up and floored when the master sees what a
state you're in. You haven't looked at second lesson, you
O Tom, you old humbug! you to be upbraiding any one with not
learning their lessons! If you hadn't been floored yourself now
at first lesson, do you mean to say you wouldn't have been with
them? And you've taken away all poor little Arthur's joy and
pride in his first birds' eggs, and he goes and puts them down
in the study, and takes down his books with a sigh, thinking he
has done something horribly wrong, whereas he has learnt on in
advance much more than will be done at second lesson.
But the old Madman hasn't, and gets called up, and makes some
frightful shots, losing about ten places, and all but getting
floored. This somewhat appeases Tom's wrath, and by the end of
the lesson he has regained his temper. And afterwards in their
study he begins to get right again, as he watches Arthur's
intense joy at seeing Martin blowing the eggs and gluing them
carefully on to bits of cardboard, and notes the anxious, loving
looks which the little fellow casts sidelong at him. And then
he thinks, "What an ill-tempered beast I am! Here's just what I
was wishing for last night come about, and I'm spoiling it all,"
and in another five minutes has swallowed the last mouthful of
his bile, and is repaid by seeing his little sensitive plant
expand again and sun itself in his smiles.
After dinner the Madman is busy with the preparations for their
expedition, fitting new straps on to his climbing-irons, filling
large pill-boxes with cotton-wool, and sharpening East's small
axe. They carry all their munitions into calling-overs and
directly afterwards, having dodged such prepostors as are on the
lookout for fags at cricket, the four set off at a smart trot
down the Lawford footpath, straight for Caldecott's Spinney and
the hawk's nest.
Martin leads the way in high feather; it is quite a new
sensation to him, getting companions, and he finds it very
pleasant, and means to show them all manner of proofs of his
science and skill. Brown and East may be better at cricket and
football and games, thinks he, but out in the fields and woods
see if I can't teach them something. He has taken the
leadership already, and strides away in front with his climbing-
irons strapped under one arm, his pecking-bag under the other,
and his pockets and hat full of pill-boxes, cotton-wool, and
other etceteras. Each of the others carries a pecking-bag, and
East his hatchet.
When they had crossed three or four fields without a check,
Arthur began to lag; and Tom seeing this shouted to Martin to
pull up a bit. "We ain't out hare-and-hounds. What's the good
of grinding on at this rate?"
"There's the Spinney," said Martin, pulling up on the brow of a
slope at the bottom of which lay Lawford brook, and pointing to
the top of the opposite slope; "the nest is in one of those high
fir-trees at this end. And down by the brook there I know of a
sedge-bird's nest. We'll go and look at it coming back."
"Oh, come on, don't let us stop," said Arthur, who was getting
excited at the sight of the wood. So they broke into a trot
again, and were soon across the brook, up the slope, and into
the Spinney. Here they advanced as noiselessly as possible,
lest keepers or other enemies should be about, and stopped at
the foot of a tall fir, at the top of which Martin pointed out
with pride the kestrel's nest, the object of their quest.
"Oh, where? which is it?" asks Arthur, gaping up in the air, and
having the most vague idea of what it would be like.
"There, don't you see?" said East, pointing to a lump of
mistletoe in the next tree, which was a beech. He saw that
Martin and Tom were busy with the climbing-irons, and couldn't
resist the temptation of hoaxing. Arthur stared and wondered
more than ever.
"Well, how curious! It doesn't look a bit like what I
expected," said he.
"Very odd birds, kestrels," said East, looking waggishly at his
victim, who was still star-gazing.
"But I thought it was in a fir-tree?" objected Arthur.
"Ah, don't you know? That's a new sort of fir which old
Caldecott brought from the Himalayas."
"Really!" said Arthur; "I'm glad I know that. How unlike our
firs they are! They do very well too here, don't they? The
Spinney's full of them."
"What's that humbug he's telling you?" cried Tom, looking up,