Part 5 out of 6
having caught the word Himalayas, and suspecting what East was
"Only about this fir," said Arthur, putting his hand on the stem
of the beech.
"Fir!" shouted Tom; "why, you don't mean to say, young un, you
don't know a beech when you see one?"
Poor little Arthur looked terribly ashamed, and East exploded in
laughter which made the wood ring.
"I've hardly ever seen any trees," faltered Arthur.
"What a shame to hoax him, Scud!" cried Martin. --"Never mind,
Arthur; you shall know more about trees than he does in a week
"And isn't that the kestrel's nest, then?" asked Arthur. "That!
Why, that's a piece of mistletoe. There's the nest, that lump
of sticks up this fir."
"Don't believe him, Arthur," struck in the incorrigible East; "I
just saw an old magpie go out of it."
Martin did not deign to reply to this sally, except by a grunt,
as he buckled the last buckle of his climbing-irons, and Arthur
looked reproachfully at East without speaking.
But now came the tug of war. It was a very difficult tree to
climb until the branches were reached, the first of which was
some fourteen feet up, for the trunk was too large at the bottom
to be swarmed; in fact, neither of the boys could reach more
than half round it with their arms. Martin and Tom, both of
whom had irons on, tried it without success at first; the fir
bark broke away where they stuck the irons in as soon as they
leant any weight on their feet, and the grip of their arms
wasn't enough to keep them up; so, after getting up three or
four feet, down they came slithering to the ground, barking
their arms and faces. They were furious, and East sat by
laughing and shouting at each failure, "Two to one on the old
"We must try a pyramid," said Tom at last. "Now, Scud, you lazy
rascal, stick yourself against the tree!"
"I dare say! and have you standing on my shoulders with the
irons on. What do you think my skin's made of?" However, up he
got, and leant against the tree, putting his head down and
clasping it with his arms as far as he could.
"Now then, Madman," said Tom, "you next."
"No, I'm lighter than you; you go next." So Tom got on East's
shoulders, and grasped the tree above, and then Martin scrambled
up on to Tom's shoulders, amidst the totterings and groanings of
the pyramid, and, with a spring which sent his supporters
howling to the ground, clasped the stem some ten feet up, and
remained clinging. For a moment or two they thought he couldn't
get up; but then, holding on with arms and teeth, he worked
first one iron then the other firmly into the bark, got another
grip with his arms, and in another minute had hold of the lowest
"All up with the old magpie now," said East; and after a
minute's rest, up went Martin, hand over hand, watched by Arthur
with fearful eagerness.
"Isn't it very dangerous?" said he.
"Not a bit," answered Tom; "you can't hurt if you only get good
hand-hold. Try every branch with a good pull before you trust
it, and then up you go."
Martin was now amongst the small branches close to the nest, and
away dashed the old bird, and soared up above the trees,
watching the intruder.
"All right--four eggs!" shouted he.
"Take 'em all!" shouted East; "that'll be one a-piece."
"No, no; leave one, and then she won t care, said Tom.
We boys had an idea that birds couldn't count, and were quite
content as long as you left one egg. I hope it is so.
Martin carefully put one egg into each of his boxes and the
third into his mouth, the only other place of safety, and came
down like a lamplighter. All went well till he was within ten
feet of the ground, when, as the trunk enlarged, his hold got
less and less firm, and at last down he came with a run,
tumbling on to his back on the turf, spluttering and spitting
out the remains of the great egg, which had broken by the jar of
"Ugh, ugh! something to drink--ugh! it was addled," spluttered
he, while the wood rang again with the merry laughter of East
Then they examined the prizes, gathered up their things, and
went off to the brook, where Martin swallowed huge draughts of
water to get rid of the taste; and they visited the sedge-bird's
nest, and from thence struck across the country in high glee,
beating the hedges and brakes as they went along; and Arthur at
last, to his intense delight, was allowed to climb a small
hedgerow oak for a magpie's nest with Tom, who kept all round
him like a mother, and showed him where to hold and how to throw
his weight; and though he was in a great fright, didn't show it,
and was applauded by all for his lissomness.
They crossed a road soon afterwards, and there, close to them,
lay a great heap of charming pebbles.
"Look here," shouted East; "here's luck! I've been longing for
some good, honest pecking this half-hour. Let's fill the bags,
and have no more of this foozling bird-nesting."
No one objected, so each boy filled the fustian bag he carried
full of stones. They crossed into the next field, Tom and East
taking one side of the hedges, and the other two the other side.
Noise enough they made certainly, but it was too early in the
season for the young birds, and the old birds were too strong on
the wing for our young marksmen, and flew out of shot after the
first discharge. But it was great fun, rushing along the
hedgerows, and discharging stone after stone at blackbirds and
chaffinches, though no result in the shape of slaughtered birds
was obtained; and Arthur soon entered into it, and rushed to
head back the birds, and shouted, and threw, and tumbled into
ditches, and over and through hedges, as wild as the Madman
Presently the party, in full cry after an old blackbird (who was
evidently used to the thing and enjoyed the fun, for he would
wait till they came close to him, and then fly on for forty
yards or so, and, with an impudent flicker of his tail, dart
into the depths of the quickset), came beating down a high
double hedge, two on each side.
"There he is again," "Head him," "Let drive," "I had him there,"
"Take care where you're throwing, Madman." The shouts might
have been heard a quarter of a mile off. They were heard some
two hundred yards off by a farmer and two of his shepherds, who
were doctoring sheep in a fold in the next field.
Now, the farmer in question rented a house and yard situate at
the end of the field in which the young bird-fanciers had
arrived, which house and yard he didn't occupy or keep any one
else in. Nevertheless, like a brainless and unreasoning Briton,
he persisted in maintaining on the premises a large stock of
cocks, hens, and other poultry. Of course, all sorts of
depredators visited the place from time to time: foxes and
gipsies wrought havoc in the night; while in the daytime, I
regret to have to confess that visits from the Rugby boys, and
consequent disappearances of ancient and respectable fowls were
not unfrequent. Tom and East had during the period of their
outlawry visited the farm in question for felonious purposes,
and on one occasion had conquered and slain a duck there, and
borne away the carcass triumphantly, hidden in their
handkerchiefs. However, they were sickened of the practice by
the trouble and anxiety which the wretched duck's body caused
them. They carried it to Sally Harrowell's, in hopes of a good
supper; but she, after examining it, made a long face, and
refused to dress or have anything to do with it. Then they took
it into their study, and began plucking it themselves; but what
to do with the feathers, where to hide them?
"Good gracious, Tom, what a lot of feathers a duck has!" groaned
East, holding a bagful in his hand, and looking disconsolately
at the carcass, not yet half plucked.
"And I do think he's getting high, too, already," said Tom,
smelling at him cautiously, "so we must finish him up soon."
"Yes, all very well; but how are we to cook him? I'm sure I
ain't going to try it on in the hall or passages; we can't
afford to be roasting ducks about--our character's too bad."
"I wish we were rid of the brute," said Tom, throwing him on the
table in disgust. And after a day or two more it became clear
that got rid of he must be; so they packed him and sealed him up
in brown paper, and put him in the cupboard of an unoccupied
study, where he was found in the holidays by the matron, a
They had never been duck-hunting there since, but others had,
and the bold yeoman was very sore on the subject, and bent on
making an example of the first boys he could catch. So he and
his shepherds crouched behind the hurdles, and watched the
party, who were approaching all unconscious. Why should that
old guinea-fowl be lying out in the hedge just at this
particular moment of all the year? Who can say? Guinea-fowls
always are; so are all other things, animals, and persons,
requisite for getting one into scrapes--always ready when any
mischief can come of them. At any rate, just under East's nose
popped out the old guinea-hen, scuttling along and shrieking,
"Come back, come back," at the top of her voice. Either of the
other three might perhaps have withstood the temptation, but
East first lets drive the stone he has in his hand at her, and
then rushes to turn her into the hedge again. He succeeds, and
then they are all at it for dear life, up and down the hedge in
full cry, the "Come back, come back," getting shriller and
fainter every minute.
Meantime, the farmer and his men steal over the hurdles and
creep down the hedge towards the scene of action. They are
almost within a stone's throw of Martin, who is pressing the
unlucky chase hard, when Tom catches sight of them, and sings
out, "Louts, 'ware louts, your side! Madman, look ahead!" and
then catching hold of Arthur, hurries him away across the field
towards Rugby as hard as they can tear. Had he been by himself,
he would have stayed to see it out with the others, but now his
heart sinks and all his pluck goes. The idea of being led up to
the Doctor with Arthur for bagging fowls quite unmans and takes
half the run out of him.
However, no boys are more able to take care of themselves than
East and Martin; they dodge the pursuers, slip through a gap,
and come pelting after Tom and Arthur, whom they catch up in no
time. The farmer and his men are making good running about a
field behind. Tom wishes to himself that they had made off in
any other direction, but now they are all in for it together,
and must see it out.
"You won't leave the young un, will you?" says he, as they haul
poor little Arthur, already losing wind from the fright, through
the next hedge. "Not we," is the answer from both. The next
hedge is a stiff one; the pursuers gain horribly on them, and
they only just pull Arthur through, with two great rents in his
trousers, as the foremost shepherd comes up on the other side.
As they start into the next field, they are aware of two figures
walking down the footpath in the middle of it, and recognize
Holmes and Diggs taking a constitutional. Those good-natured
fellows immediately shout, "On." "Let's go to them and
surrender," pants Tom. Agreed. And in another minute the four
boys, to the great astonishment of those worthies, rush
breathless up to Holmes and Diggs, who pull up to see what is
the matter; and then the whole is explained by the appearance of
the farmer and his men, who unite their forces and bear down on
the knot of boys.
There is no time to explain, and Tom's heart beats frightfully
quick, as he ponders, "Will they stand by us?"
The farmer makes a rush at East and collars him; and that young
gentleman, with unusual discretion, instead of kicking his
shins, looks appealingly at Holmes, and stands still.
"Hullo there; not so fast," says Holmes, who is bound to stand
up for them till they are proved in the wrong. "Now what's all
"I've got the young varmint at last, have I," pants the farmer;
"why, they've been a-skulking about my yard and stealing my
fowls--that's where 'tis; and if I doan't have they flogged for
it, every one on 'em, my name ain't Thompson."
Holmes looks grave and Diggs's face falls. They are quite ready
to fight--no boys in the school more so; but they are
prepostors, and understand their office, and can't uphold
"I haven't been near his old barn this half," cries East. "Nor
I," "Nor I," chime in Tom and Martin.
"Now, Willum, didn't you see 'em there last week?"
"Ees, I seen 'em sure enough," says Willum, grasping a prong he
carried, and preparing for action.
The boys deny stoutly, and Willum is driven to admit that "if it
worn't they 'twas chaps as like 'em as two peas'n;" and
"leastways he'll swear he see'd them two in the yard last
Martinmas," indicating East and Tom.
Holmes has had time to meditate. "Now, sir," says he to Willum,
"you see you can't remember what you have seen, and I believe
"I doan't care," blusters the farmer; "they was arter my fowls
to-day--that's enough for I. --Willum, you catch hold o'
t'other chap. They've been a-sneaking about this two hours, I
tells 'ee," shouted he, as Holmes stands between Martin and
Willum, "and have druv a matter of a dozen young pullets pretty
nigh to death."
"Oh, there's a whacker!" cried East; "we haven't been within a
hundred yards of his barn; we haven't been up here above ten
minutes, and we've seen nothing but a tough old guinea-hen, who
ran like a greyhound."
"Indeed, that's all true, Holmes, upon my honour," added Tom;
"we weren't after his fowls; guinea-hen ran out of the hedge
under our feet, and we've seen nothing else."
"Drat their talk. Thee catch hold o' t'other, Willum, and come
along wi' un."
"Farmer Thompson," said Holmes, warning off Willum and the prong
with his stick, while Diggs faced the other shepherd, cracking
his fingers like pistol-shots, "now listen to reason. The boys
haven't been after your fowls, that's plain."
"Tells 'ee I see'd'em. Who be you, I should like to know?"
"Never you mind, farmer," answered Holmes. "And now I'll just
tell you what it is: you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
leaving all that poultry about, with no one to watch it, so near
the School. You deserve to have it all stolen. So if you
choose to come up to the Doctor with them, I shall go with you,
and tell him what I think of it."
The farmer began to take Holmes for a master; besides, he wanted
to get back to his flock. Corporal punishment was out of the
question, the odds were too great; so he began to hint at paying
for the damage. Arthur jumped at this, offering to pay
anything, and the farmer immediately valued the guinea-hen at
half a sovereign.
"Half a sovereign!" cried East, now released from the farmer's
grip; "well, that is a good one! The old hen ain't hurt a bit,
and she's seven years old, I know, and as tough as whipcord; she
couldn't lay another egg to save her life."
It was at last settled that they should pay the farmer two
shillings, and his man one shilling; and so the matter ended, to
the unspeakable relief of Tom, who hadn't been able to say a
word, being sick at heart at the idea of what the Doctor would
think of him; and now the whole party of boys marched off down
the footpath towards Rugby. Holmes, who was one of the best
boys in the School, began to improve the occasion. "Now, you
youngsters," said he, as he marched along in the middle of them,
"mind this; you're very well out of this scrape. Don't you go
near Thompson's barn again; do you hear?"
Profuse promises from all, especially East.
"Mind, I don't ask questions," went on Mentor, "but I rather
think some of you have been there before this after his
chickens. Now, knocking over other people's chickens, and
running off with them, is stealing. It's a nasty word, but
that's the plain English of it. If the chickens were dead and
lying in a shop, you wouldn't take them, I know that, any more
than you would apples out of Griffith's basket; but there's no
real difference between chickens running about and apples on a
tree, and the same articles in a shop. I wish our morals were
sounder in such matters. There's nothing so mischievous as
these school distinctions, which jumble up right and wrong, and
justify things in us for which poor boys would be sent to
prison." And good old Holmes delivered his soul on the walk
home of many wise sayings, and, as the song says,
"Gee'd 'em a sight of good advice;"
which same sermon sank into them all, more or less, and very
penitent they were for several hours. But truth compels me to
admit that East, at any rate, forgot it all in a week, but
remembered the insult which had been put upon him by Farmer
Thompson, and with the Tadpole and other hair-brained youngsters
committed a raid on the barn soon afterwards, in which they were
caught by the shepherds and severely handled, besides having to
pay eight shillings--all the money they had in the world--to
escape being taken up to the Doctor.
Martin became a constant inmate in the joint study from this
time, and Arthur took to him so kindly that Tom couldn't resist
slight fits of jealousy, which, however, he managed to keep to
himself. The kestrel's eggs had not been broken, strange to
say, and formed the nucleus of Arthur's collection, at which
Martin worked heart and soul, and introduced Arthur to Howlett
the bird-fancier, and instructed him in the rudiments of the art
of stuffing. In token of his gratitude, Arthur allowed Martin
to tattoo a small anchor on one of his wrists; which decoration,
however, he carefully concealed from Tom. Before the end of the
half-year he had trained into a bold climber and good runner,
and, as Martin had foretold, knew twice as much about trees,
birds, flowers, and many other things, as our good-hearted and
facetious young friend Harry East.
CHAPTER V - THE FIGHT:
Et mox jactabat ultro,
Pugnabo tua gratia
Feroci hoc Mactwoltro." - Etonian.
There is a certain sort of fellow--we who are used to studying
boys all know him well enough--of whom you can predicate with
almost positive certainty, after he has been a month at school,
that he is sure to have a fight, and with almost equal certainty
that he will have but one. Tom Brown was one of these; and as
it is our well-weighed intention to give a full, true, and
correct account of Tom's only single combat with a school-fellow
in the manner of our old friend Bell's Life, let those young
persons whose stomachs are not strong, or who think a good set-
to with the weapons which God has given us all an uncivilized,
unchristian, or ungentlemanly affair, just skip this chapter at
once, for it won't be to their taste.
It was not at all usual in those days for two School-house boys
to have a fight. Of course there were exceptions, when some
cross-grained, hard-headed fellow came up who would never be
happy unless he was quarrelling with his nearest neighbours, or
when there was some class-dispute, between the fifth form and
the fags, for instance, which required blood-letting; and a
champion was picked out on each side tacitly, who settled the
matter by a good hearty mill. But, for the most part, the
constant use of those surest keepers of the peace, the boxing-
gloves, kept the School-house boys from fighting one another.
Two or three nights in every week the gloves were brought out,
either in the hall or fifth-form room; and every boy who was
ever likely to fight at all knew all his neighbours' prowess
perfectly well, and could tell to a nicety what chance he would
have in a stand-up fight with any other boy in the house. But,
of course, no such experience could be gotten as regarded boys
in other houses; and as most of the other houses were more or
less jealous of the School-house, collisions were frequent.
After all, what would life be without fighting, I should like to
know? From the cradle to the grave, fighting, rightly
understood, is the business, the real highest, honestest
business of every son of man. Every one who is worth his salt
has his enemies, who must be beaten, be they evil thoughts and
habits in himself, or spiritual wickednesses in high places, or
Russians, or Border-ruffians, or Bill, Tom, or Harry, who will
not let him live his life in quiet till he has thrashed them.
It is no good for quakers, or any other body of men, to uplift
their voices against fighting. Human nature is too strong for
them, and they don't follow their own precepts. Every soul of
them is doing his own piece of fighting, somehow and somewhere.
The world might be a better world without fighting, for anything
I know, but it wouldn't be our world; and therefore I am dead
against crying peace when there is no peace, and isn't meant to
be. I am as sorry as any man to see folk fighting the wrong
people and the wrong things, but I'd a deal sooner see them
doing that than that they should have no fight in them. So
having recorded, and being about to record, my hero's fights of
all sorts, with all sorts of enemies, I shall now proceed to
give an account of his passage-at-arms with the only one of his
school-fellows whom he ever had to encounter in this manner.
It was drawing towards the close of Arthur's first half-year,
and the May evenings were lengthening out. Locking-up was not
till eight o'clock, and everybody was beginning to talk about
what he would do in the holidays. The shell, in which form all
our dramatis personae now are, were reading, amongst other
things, the last book of Homer's "Iliad," and had worked through
it as far as the speeches of the women over Hector's body. It
is a whole school-day, and four or five of the School-house boys
(amongst whom are Arthur, Tom, and East) are preparing third
lesson together. They have finished the regulation forty lines,
and are for the most part getting very tired, notwithstanding
the exquisite pathos of Helen's lamentation. And now several
long four-syllabled words come together, and the boy with the
dictionary strikes work.
"I am not going to look out any more words," says he; "we've
done the quantity. Ten to one we shan't get so far. Let's go
out into the close."
"Come along, boys," cries East, always ready to leave "the
grind," as he called it; "our old coach is laid up, you know,
and we shall have one of the new masters, who's sure to go slow
and let us down easy."
So an adjournment to the close was carried nem. con., little
Arthur not daring to uplift his voice; but, being deeply
interested in what they were reading, stayed quietly behind, and
learnt on for his own pleasure.
As East had said, the regular master of the form was unwell, and
they were to be heard by one of the new masters--quite a young
man, who had only just left the university. Certainly it would
be hard lines if, by dawdling as much as possible in coming in
and taking their places, entering into long-winded explanations
of what was the usual course of the regular master of the form,
and others of the stock contrivances of boys for wasting time in
school, they could not spin out the lesson so that he should not
work them through more than the forty lines. As to which
quantity there was a perpetual fight going on between the master
and his form--the latter insisting, and enforcing by passive
resistance, that it was the prescribed quantity of Homer for a
shell lesson; the former, that there was no fixed quantity, but
that they must always be ready to go on to fifty or sixty lines
if there were time within the hour. However, notwithstanding
all their efforts, the new master got on horribly quick. He
seemed to have the bad taste to be really interested in the
lesson, and to be trying to work them up into something like
appreciation of it, giving them good, spirited English words,
instead of the wretched bald stuff into which they rendered poor
old Homer, and construing over each piece himself to them, after
each boy, to show them how it should be done.
Now the clock strikes the three-quarters; there is only a
quarter of an hour more, but the forty lines are all but done.
So the boys, one after another, who are called up, stick more
and more, and make balder and ever more bald work of it. The
poor young master is pretty near beat by this time, and feels
ready to knock his head against the wall, or his fingers against
somebody else's head. So he gives up altogether the lower and
middle parts of the form, and looks round in despair at the boys
on the top bench, to see if there is one out of whom he can
strike a spark or two, and who will be too chivalrous to murder
the most beautiful utterances of the most beautiful woman of the
old world. His eye rests on Arthur, and he calls him up to
finish construing Helen's speech. Whereupon all the other boys
draw long breaths, and begin to stare about and take it easy.
They are all safe: Arthur is the head of the form, and sure to
be able to construe, and that will tide on safely till the hour
Arthur proceeds to read out the passage in Greek before
construing it, as the custom is. Tom, who isn't paying much
attention, is suddenly caught by the falter in his voice as he
reads the two lines --
[greek text deleted]
He looks up at Arthur. "Why, bless us," thinks he, "what can be
the matter with the young un? He's never going to get floored.
He's sure to have learnt to the end." Next moment he is
reassured by the spirited tone in which Arthur begins
construing, and betakes himself to drawing dogs' heads in his
notebook, while the master, evidently enjoying the change, turns
his back on the middle bench and stands before Arthur, beating a
sort of time with his hand and foot, and saying; "Yes, yes,"
"Very well," as Arthur goes on.
But as he nears the fatal two lines, Tom catches that falter,
and again looks up. He sees that there is something the matter;
Arthur can hardly get on at all. What can it be?
Suddenly at this point Arthur breaks down altogether, and fairly
bursts out crying, and dashes the cuff of his jacket across his
eyes, blushing up to the roots of his hair, and feeling as if he
should like to go down suddenly through the floor. The whole
form are taken aback; most of them stare stupidly at him, while
those who are gifted with presence of mind find their places and
look steadily at their books, in hopes of not catching the
master's eye and getting called up in Arthur's place.
The master looks puzzled for a moment, and then seeing, as the
fact is, that the boy is really affected to tears by the most
touching thing in Homer, perhaps in all profane poetry put
together, steps up to him and lays his hand kindly on his
shoulder, saying, "Never mind, my little man, you've construed
very well. Stop a minute; there's no hurry."
Now, as luck would have it, there sat next above Tom on that
day, in the middle bench of the form, a big boy, by name
Williams, generally supposed to be the cock of the shell,
therefore of all the school below the fifths. The small boys,
who are great speculators on the prowess of their elders, used
to hold forth to one another about Williams's great strength,
and to discuss whether East or Brown would take a licking from
him. He was called Slogger Williams, from the force with which
it was supposed he could hit. In the main, he was a rough,
goodnatured fellow enough, but very much alive to his own
dignity. He reckoned himself the king of the form, and kept up
his position with the strong hand, especially in the matter of
forcing boys not to construe more than the legitimate forty
lines. He had already grunted and grumbled to himself when
Arthur went on reading beyond the forty lines; but now that he
had broken down just in the middle of all the long words, the
Slogger's wrath was fairly roused.
"Sneaking little brute," muttered he, regardless of prudence--
"clapping on the water-works just in the hardest place; see if I
don't punch his head after fourth lesson."
"Whose?" said Tom, to whom the remark seemed to be addressed.
"Why, that little sneak, Arthur's," replied Williams.
"No, you shan't," said Tom.
"Hullo!" exclaimed Williams, looking at Tom with great surprise
for a moment, and then giving him a sudden dig in the ribs with
his elbow, which sent Tom's books flying on to the floor, and
called the attention of the master, who turned suddenly round,
and seeing the state of things, said, -
"Williams, go down three places, and then go on."
The Slogger found his legs very slowly, and proceeded to go
below Tom and two other boys with great disgust; and then,
turning round and facing the master, said, "I haven't learnt any
more, sir; our lesson is only forty lines."
"Is that so?" said the master, appealing generally to the top
bench. No answer.
"Who is the head boy of the form?" said he, waxing wroth.
"Arthur, sir," answered three or four boys, indicating our
"Oh, your name's Arthur. Well, now, what is the length of your
Arthur hesitated a moment, and then said, "We call it only forty
"How do you mean--you call it?"
"Well, sir, Mr. Graham says we ain't to stop there when there's
time to construe more."
"I understand," said the master. --"Williams, go down three
more places, and write me out the lesson in Greek and English.
And now, Arthur, finish construing."
"Oh! would I be in Arthur's shoes after fourth lesson?" said the
little boys to one another; but Arthur finished Helen's speech
without any further catastrophe, and the clock struck four,
which ended third lesson.
Another hour was occupied in preparing and saying fourth lesson,
during which Williams was bottling up his wrath; and when five
struck, and the lessons for the day were over, he prepared to
take summary vengeance on the innocent cause of his misfortune.
Tom was detained in school a few minutes after the rest, and on
coming out into the quadrangle, the first thing he saw was a
small ring of boys, applauding Williams, who was holding Arthur
by the collar.
"There, you young sneak," said he, giving Arthur a cuff on the
head with his other hand; "what made you say that--"
"Hullo!" said Tom, shouldering into the crowd; "you drop that,
Williams; you shan't touch him."
"Who'll stop me?" said the Slogger, raising his hand again.
"I," said Tom; and suiting the action to the word he struck the
arm which held Arthur's arm so sharply that the Slogger dropped
it with a start, and turned the full current of his wrath on
"Will you fight?"
"Yes, of course."
"Huzza! There's going to be a fight between Slogger Williams
and Tom Brown!"
The news ran like wildfire about, and many boys who were on
their way to tea at their several houses turned back, and sought
the back of the chapel, where the fights come off.
"Just run and tell East to come and back me," said Tom to a
small School-house boy, who was off like a rocket to
Harrowell's, just stopping for a moment to poke his head into
the School-house hall, where the lower boys were already at tea,
and sing out, "Fight! Tom Brown and Slogger Williams."
Up start half the boys at once, leaving bread, eggs, butter,
sprats, and all the rest to take care of themselves. The
greater part of the remainder follow in a minute, after
swallowing their tea, carrying their food in their hands to
consume as they go. Three or four only remain, who steal the
butter of the more impetuous, and make to themselves an unctuous
In another minute East and Martin tear through the quadrangle,
carrying a sponge, and arrive at the scene of action just as the
combatants are beginning to strip.
Tom felt he had got his work cut out for him, as he stripped off
his jacket, waistcoat, and braces. East tied his handkerchief
round his waist, and rolled up his shirtsleeves for him. "Now,
old boy, don't you open your mouth to say a word, or try to help
yourself a bit--we'll do all that; you keep all your breath and
strength for the Slogger." Martin meanwhile folded the clothes,
and put them under the chapel rails; and now Tom, with East to
handle him, and Martin to give him a knee, steps out on the
turf, and is ready for all that may come; and here is the
Slogger too, all stripped, and thirsting for the fray.
It doesn't look a fair match at first glance: Williams is nearly
two inches taller, and probably a long year older than his
opponent, and he is very strongly made about the arms and
shoulders--"peels well," as the little knot of big fifth-form
boys, the amateurs, say, who stand outside the ring of little
boys, looking complacently on, but taking no active part in the
proceedings. But down below he is not so good by any means--no
spring from the loins, and feeblish, not to say shipwrecky,
about the knees. Tom, on the contrary, though not half so
strong in the arms, is good all over, straight, hard, and
springy, from neck to ankle, better perhaps in his legs than
anywhere. Besides, you can see by the clear white of his eye,
and fresh, bright look of his skin, that he is in tip-top
training, able to do all he knows; while the Slogger looks
rather sodden, as if he didn't take much exercise and ate too
much tuck. The time-keeper is chosen, a large ring made, and
the two stand up opposite one another for a moment, giving us
time just to make our little observations.
"If Tom'll only condescend to fight with his head and heels," as
East mutters to Martin, "we shall do."
But seemingly he won't, for there he goes in, making play with
both hands. Hard all is the word; the two stand to one another
like men; rally follows rally in quick succession, each fighting
as if he thought to finish the whole thing out of hand. "Can't
last at this rate," say the knowing ones, while the partisans of
each make the air ring with their shouts and counter-shouts of
encouragement, approval, and defiance.
"Take it easy, take it easy; keep away; let him come after you,"
implores East, as he wipes Tom's face after the first round with
a wet sponge, while he sits back on Martin's knee, supported by
the Madman's long arms which tremble a little from excitement.
"Time's up," calls the time-keeper.
"There he goes again, hang it all!" growls East, as his man is
at it again, as hard as ever. A very severe round follows, in
which Tom gets out and out the worst of it, and is at last hit
clean off his legs, and deposited on the grass by a right-hander
from the Slogger.
Loud shouts rise from the boys of Slogger's house, and the
School-house are silent and vicious, ready to pick quarrels
"Two to one in half-crowns on the big un," says Rattle, one of
the amateurs, a tall fellow, in thunder-and-lightning waistcoat,
and puffy, good-natured face.
"Done!" says Groove, another amateur of quieter look, taking out
his notebook to enter it, for our friend Rattle sometimes
forgets these little things.
Meantime East is freshening up Tom with the sponges for next
round, and has set two other boys to rub his hands.
"Tom, old boy," whispers he, "this may be fun for you, but it's
death to me. He'll hit all the fight out of you in another five
minutes, and then I shall go and drown myself in the island
ditch. Feint him; use your legs; draw him about. He'll lose
his wind then in no time, and you can go into him. Hit at his
body too; we'll take care of his frontispiece by-and-by."
Tom felt the wisdom of the counsel, and saw already that he
couldn't go in and finish the Slogger off at mere hammer and
tongs, so changed his tactics completely in the third round. He
now fights cautiously, getting away from and parrying the
Slogger's lunging hits, instead of trying to counter, and
leading his enemy a dance all round the ring after him. "He's
funking; go in, Williams," "Catch him up," "Finish him off,"
scream the small boys of the Slogger party.
"Just what we want," thinks East, chuckling to himself, as he
sees Williams, excited by these shouts, and thinking the game in
his own hands, blowing himself in his exertions to get to close
quarters again, while Tom is keeping away with perfect ease.
They quarter over the ground again and again, Tom always on the
The Slogger pulls up at last for a moment, fairly blown.
"Now, then, Tom," sings out East, dancing with delight. Tom
goes in in a twinkling, and hits two heavy body blows, and gets
away again before the Slogger can catch his wind, which when he
does he rushes with blind fury at Tom, and being skilfully
parried and avoided, overreaches himself and falls on his face,
amidst terrific cheers from the School-house boys.
"Double your two to one?" says Groove to Rattle, notebook in
"Stop a bit," says that hero, looking uncomfortably at Williams,
who is puffing away on his second's knee, winded enough, but
little the worse in any other way.
After another round the Slogger too seems to see that he can't
go in and win right off, and has met his match or thereabouts.
So he too begins to use his head, and tries to make Tom lose his
patience, and come in before his time. And so the fight sways
on, now one and now the other getting a trifling pull.
Tom's face begins to look very one-sided--there are little
queer bumps on his forehead, and his mouth is bleeding; but East
keeps the wet sponge going so scientifically that he comes up
looking as fresh and bright as ever. Williams is only slightly
marked in the face, but by the nervous movement of his elbows
you can see that Tom's body blows are telling. In fact, half
the vice of the Slogger's hitting is neutralized, for he daren't
lunge out freely for fear of exposing his sides. It is too
interesting by this time for much shouting, and the whole ring
is very quiet.
"All right, Tommy," whispers East; "hold on's the horse that's
to win. We've got the last. Keep your head, old boy."
But where is Arthur all this time? Words cannot paint the poor
little fellow's distress. He couldn't muster courage to come up
to the ring, but wandered up and down from the great fives court
to the corner of the chapel rails, now trying to make up his
mind to throw himself between them, and try to stop them; then
thinking of running in and telling his friend Mary, who, he
knew, would instantly report to the Doctor. The stories he had
heard of men being killed in prize-fights rose up horribly
Once only, when the shouts of "Well done, Brown!" "Huzza for the
School-house!" rose higher than ever, he ventured up to the
ring, thinking the victory was won. Catching sight of Tom's
face in the state I have described, all fear of consequences
vanishing out of his mind; he rushed straight off to the
matron's room, beseeching her to get the fight stopped, or he
But it's time for us to get back to the close. What is this
fierce tumult and confusion? The ring is broken, and high and
angry words are being bandied about. "It's all fair"--"It
isn't"--"No hugging!" The fight is stopped. The combatants,
however, sit there quietly, tended by their seconds, while their
adherents wrangle in the middle. East can't help shouting
challenges to two or three of the other side, though he never
leaves Tom for a moment, and plies the sponges as fast as ever.
The fact is, that at the end of the last round, Tom, seeing a
good opening, had closed with his opponent, and after a moment's
struggle, had thrown him heavily, by help of the fall he had
learnt from his village rival in the Vale of White Horse.
Williams hadn't the ghost of a chance with Tom at wrestling; and
the conviction broke at once on the Slogger faction that if this
were allowed their man must be licked. There was a strong
feeling in the School against catching hold and throwing, though
it was generally ruled all fair within limits; so the ring was
broken and the fight stopped.
The School-house are overruled--the fight is on again, but
there is to be no throwing; and East, in high wrath, threatens
to take his man away after next round (which he don't mean to
do, by the way), when suddenly young Brooke comes through the
small gate at the end of the chapel. The School-house faction
rush to him. "Oh, hurrah! now we shall get fair play."
"Please, Brooke, come up. They won't let Tom Brown throw him."
"Throw whom?" says Brooke, coming up to the ring. "Oh!
Williams, I see. Nonsense! Of course he may throw him, if he
catches him fairly above the waist."
Now, young Brooke, you're in the sixth, you know, and you ought
to stop all fights. He looks hard at both boys. "Anything
wrong?" says he to East, nodding at Tom.
"Not a bit."
"Not beat at all?"
"Bless you, no! Heaps of fight in him. --Ain't there, Tom?"
Tom looks at Brooke and grins.
"How's he?" nodding at Williams.
"So so; rather done, I think, since his last fall. He won't
stand above two more."
"Time's up!" The boys rise again and face one another. Brooke
can't find it in his heart to stop them just yet, so the round
goes on, the Slogger waiting for Tom, and reserving all his
strength to hit him out should he come in for the wrestling
dodge again, for he feels that that must be stopped, or his
sponge will soon go up in the air.
And now another newcomer appears on the field, to wit, the
under-porter, with his long brush and great wooden receptacle
for dust under his arm. He has been sweeping out the schools.
"You'd better stop, gentlemen," he says; "the Doctor knows that
Brown's fighting--he'll be out in a minute."
"You go to Bath, Bill," is all that that excellent servitor gets
by his advice; and being a man of his hands, and a stanch
upholder of the School-house, can't help stopping to look on for
a bit, and see Tom Brown, their pet craftsman, fight a round.
It is grim earnest now, and no mistake. Both boys feel this,
and summon every power of head, hand, and eye to their aid. A
piece of luck on either side, a foot slipping, a blow getting
well home, or another fall, may decide it. Tom works slowly
round for an opening; he has all the legs, and can choose his
own time. The Slogger waits for the attack, and hopes to finish
it by some heavy right-handed blow. As they quarter slowly over
the ground, the evening sun comes out from behind a cloud and
falls full on Williams's face. Tom darts in; the heavy right
hand is delivered, but only grazes his head. A short rally at
close quarters, and they close; in another moment the Slogger is
thrown again heavily for the third time.
"I'll give you three or two on the little one in half-crowns,"
said Groove to Rattle.
"No, thank 'ee," answers the other, diving his hands farther
into his coat-tails.
Just at this stage of the proceedings, the door of the turret
which leads to the Doctor's library suddenly opens, and he steps
into the close, and makes straight for the ring, in which Brown
and the Slogger are both seated on their seconds' knees for the
"The Doctor! the Doctor!" shouts some small boy who catches
sight of him, and the ring melts away in a few seconds, the
small boys tearing off, Tom collaring his jacket and waistcoat,
and slipping through the little gate by the chapel, and round
the corner to Harrowell's with his backers, as lively as need
be; Williams and his backers making off not quite so fast across
the close; Groove, Rattle, and the other bigger fellows trying
to combine dignity and prudence in a comical manner, and walking
off fast enough, they hope, not to be recognized, and not fast
enough to look like running away.
Young Brooke alone remains on the ground by the time the Doctor
gets there, and touches his hat, not without a slight inward
"Hah! Brooke. I am surprised to see you here. Don't you know
that I expect the sixth to stop fighting?"
Brooke felt much more uncomfortable than he had expected, but he
was rather a favourite with the Doctor for his openness and
plainness of speech, so blurted out, as he walked by the
Doctor's side, who had already turned back, -
"Yes, sir, generally. But I thought you wished us to exercise a
discretion in the matter too--not to interfere too soon."
"But they have been fighting this half-hour and more," said the
"Yes, sir; but neither was hurt. And they're the sort of boys
who'll be all the better friends now, which they wouldn't have
been if they had been stopped, any earlier--before it was so
"Who was fighting with Brown?" said the Doctor.
"Williams, sir, of Thompson's. He is bigger than Brown, and had
the best of it at first, but not when you came up, sir. There's
a good deal of jealousy between our house and Thompson's, and
there would have been more fights if this hadn't been let go on,
or if either of them had had much the worst of it."
"Well but, Brooke," said the Doctor, "doesn't this look a little
as if you exercised your discretion by only stopping a fight
when the School-house boy is getting the worst of it?"
Brooke, it must be confessed, felt rather gravelled.
"Now remember," added the Doctor, as he stopped at the turret-
door, "this fight is not to go on; you'll see to that. And I
expect you to stop all fights in future at once."
"Very well, sir," said young Brooke, touching his hat, and not
sorry to see the turret-door close behind the Doctor's back.
Meantime Tom and the stanchest of his adherents had reached
Harrowell's, and Sally was bustling about to get them a late
tea, while Stumps had been sent off to Tew, the butcher, to get
a piece of raw beef for Tom's eye, which was to be healed off-
hand, so that he might show well in the morning. He was not a
bit the worse, except a slight difficulty in his vision, a
singing in his ears, and a sprained thumb, which he kept in a
cold-water bandage, while he drank lots of tea, and listened to
the babel of voices talking and speculating of nothing but the
fight, and how Williams would have given in after another fall
(which he didn't in the least believe), and how on earth the
Doctor could have got to know of it--such bad luck! He
couldn't help thinking to himself that he was glad he hadn't
won; he liked it better as it was, and felt very friendly to the
Slogger. And then poor little Arthur crept in and sat down
quietly near him, and kept looking at him and the raw beef with
such plaintive looks that Tom at last burst out laughing.
"Don't make such eyes, young un," said he; "there's nothing the
"Oh, but, Tom, are you much hurt? I can't bear thinking it was
all for me."
"Not a bit of it; don't flatter yourself. We were sure to have
had it out sooner or later."
"Well, but you won't go on, will you? You'll promise me you
won't go on?"
"Can't tell about that--all depends on the houses. We're in
the hands of our countrymen, you know. Must fight for the
School-house flag, if so be."
However, the lovers of the science were doomed to disappointment
this time. Directly after locking-up, one of the night-fags
knocked at Tom's door.
"Brown, young Brooke wants you in the sixth-form room."
Up went Tom to the summons, and found the magnates sitting at
"Well, Brown," said young Brooke, nodding to him , "how do you
"Oh, very well, thank you, only I've sprained my thumb, I
"Sure to do that in a fight. Well, you hadn't the worst of it,
I could see. Where did you learn that throw?"
"Down in the country when I was a boy."
"Hullo! why, what are you now? Well, never mind, you're a
plucky fellow. Sit down and have some supper."
Tom obeyed, by no means loath. And the fifth-form boy next
filled him a tumbler of bottled beer, and he ate and drank,
listening to the pleasant talk, and wondering how soon he should
be in the fifth, and one of that much-envied society.
As he got up to leave, Brooke said, "You must shake hands to-
morrow morning; I shall come and see that done after first
And so he did. And Tom and the Slogger shook hands with great
satisfaction and mutual respect. And for the next year or two,
whenever fights were being talked of, the small boys who had
been present shook their heads wisely, saying, "Ah! but you
should just have seen the fight between Slogger Williams and Tom
And now, boys all, three words before we quit the subject. I
have put in this chapter on fighting of malice prepense, partly
because I want to give you a true picture of what everyday
school life was in my time, and not a kid-glove and go-to-
meeting-coat picture, and partly because of the cant and twaddle
that's talked of boxing and fighting with fists nowadays. Even
Thackeray has given in to it; and only a few weeks ago there was
some rampant stuff in the Times on the subject, in an article on
Boys will quarrel, and when they quarrel will sometimes fight.
Fighting with fists is the natural and English way for English
boys to settle their quarrels. What substitute for it is there,
or ever was there, amongst any nation under the sun? What would
you like to see take its place?
Learn to box, then, as you learn to play cricket and football.
Not one of you will be the worse, but very much the better, for
learning to box well. Should you never have to use it in
earnest, there's no exercise in the world so good for the temper
and for the muscles of the back and legs.
As to fighting, keep out of it if you can, by all means. When
the time comes, if it ever should, that you have to say "Yes" or
"No" to a challenge to fight, say "No" if you can--only take
care you make it clear to yourselves why you say "No." It's a
proof of the highest courage, if done from true Christian
motives. It's quite right and justifiable, if done from a
simple aversion to physical pain and danger. But don't say "No"
because you fear a licking, and say or think it's because you
fear God, for that's neither Christian nor honest. And if you
do fight, fight it out; and don't give in while you can stand
CHAPTER VI - FEVER IN THE SCHOOL.
"This our hope for all that's mortal
And we too shall burst the bond;
Death keeps watch beside the portal,
But 'tis life that dwells beyond."
Two years have passed since the events recorded in the last
chapter, and the end of the summer half-year is again drawing
on. Martin has left and gone on a cruise in the South Pacific,
in one of his uncle's ships; the old magpie, as disreputable as
ever, his last bequest to Arthur, lives in the joint study.
Arthur is nearly sixteen, and at the head of the twenty, having
gone up the school at the rate of a form a half-year. East and
Tom have been much more deliberate in their progress, and are
only a little way up the fifth form. Great strapping boys they
are, but still thorough boys, filling about the same place in
the house that young Brooke filled when they were new boys, and
much the same sort of fellows. Constant intercourse with Arthur
has done much for both of them, especially for Tom; but much
remains yet to be done, if they are to get all the good out of
Rugby which is to be got there in these times. Arthur is still
frail and delicate, with more spirit than body; but, thanks to
his intimacy with them and Martin, has learned to swim, and run,
and play cricket, and has never hurt himself by too much
One evening, as they were all sitting down to supper in the
fifth-form room, some one started a report that a fever had
broken out at one of the boarding-houses. "They say," he added,
"that Thompson is very ill, and that Dr. Robertson has been sent
for from Northampton."
"Then we shall all be sent home," cried another. "Hurrah! five
weeks' extra holidays, and no fifth-form examination!"
"I hope not," said Tom; "there'll be no Marylebone match then at
the end of the half."
Some thought one thing, some another, many didn't believe the
report; but the next day, Tuesday, Dr. Robertson arrived, and
stayed all day, and had long conferences with the Doctor.
On Wednesday morning, after prayers, the Doctor addressed the
whole school. There were several cases of fever in different
houses, he said; but Dr. Robertson, after the most careful
examination, had assured him that it was not infectious, and
that if proper care were taken, there could be no reason for
stopping the school-work at present. The examinations were just
coming on, and it would be very unadvisable to break up now.
However, any boys who chose to do so were at liberty to write
home, and, if their parents wished it, to leave at once. He
should send the whole school home if the fever spread.
The next day Arthur sickened, but there was no other case.
Before the end of the week thirty or forty boys had gone, but
the rest stayed on. There was a general wish to please the
Doctor, and a feeling that it was cowardly to run away.
On the Saturday Thompson died, in the bright afternoon, while
the cricket-match was going on as usual on the big-side ground.
The Doctor, coming from his deathbed, passed along the gravel-
walk at the side of the close, but no one knew what had happened
till the next day. At morning lecture it began to be rumoured,
and by afternoon chapel was known generally; and a feeling of
seriousness and awe at the actual presence of death among them
came over the whole school. In all the long years of his
ministry the Doctor perhaps never spoke words which sank deeper
than some of those in that day's sermon.
"When I came yesterday from visiting all but the very death-bed
of him who has been taken from us, and looked around upon all
the familiar objects and scenes within our own ground, where
your common amusements were going on with your common
cheerfulness and activity, I felt there was nothing painful in
witnessing that; it did not seem in any way shocking or out of
tune with those feelings which the sight of a dying Christian
must be supposed to awaken. The unsuitableness in point of
natural feeling between scenes of mourning and scenes of
liveliness did not at all present itself. But I did feel that
if at that moment any of those faults had been brought before me
which sometimes occur amongst us; had I heard that any of you
had been guilty of falsehood, or of drunkenness, or of any other
such sin; had I heard from any quarter the language of
profaneness, or of unkindness, or of indecency; had I heard or
seen any signs of that wretched folly which courts the laugh of
fools by affecting not to dread evil and not to care for good,
then the unsuitableness of any of these things with the scene I
had just quitted would indeed have been most intensely painful.
And why? Not because such things would really have been worse
than at any other time, but because at such a moment the eyes
are opened really to know good and evil, because we then feel
what it is so to live as that death becomes an infinite
blessing, and what it is so to live also that it were good for
us if we had never been born."
Tom had gone into chapel in sickening anxiety about Arthur, but
he came out cheered and strengthened by those grand words, and
walked up alone to their study. And when he sat down and looked
round, and saw Arthur's straw hat and cricket-jacket hanging on
their pegs, and marked all his little neat arrangements, not one
of which had been disturbed, the tears indeed rolled down his
cheeks; but they were calm and blessed tears, and he repeated to
himself, "Yes, Geordie's eyes are opened; he knows what it is so
to live as that death becomes an infinite blessing. But do I?
O God, can I bear to lose him?"
The week passed mournfully away. No more boys sickened, but
Arthur was reported worse each day, and his mother arrived early
in the week. Tom made many appeals to be allowed to see him,
and several times tried to get up to the sick-room; but the
housekeeper was always in the way, and at last spoke to the
Doctor, who kindly but peremptorily forbade him.
Thompson was buried on the Tuesday, and the burial service, so
soothing and grand always, but beyond all words solemn when read
over a boy's grave to his companions, brought him much comfort,
and many strange new thoughts and longings. He went back to his
regular life, and played cricket and bathed as usual. It seemed
to him that this was the right thing to do, and the new thoughts
and longings became more brave and healthy for the effort. The
crisis came on Saturday; the day week that Thompson had died;
and during that long afternoon Tom sat in his study reading his
Bible, and going every half-hour to the housekeeper's room,
expecting each time to hear that the gentle and brave little
spirit had gone home. But God had work for Arthur to do. The
crisis passed: on Sunday evening he was declared out of danger;
on Monday he sent a message to Tom that he was almost well, had
changed his room, and was to be allowed to see him the next day.
It was evening when the housekeeper summoned him to the sick-
room. Arthur was lying on the sofa by the open window, through
which the rays of the western sun stole gently, lighting up his
white face and golden hair. Tom remembered a German picture of
an angel which he knew; often had he thought how transparent and
golden and spirit-like it was; and he shuddered, to think how
like it Arthur looked, and felt a shock as if his blood had all
stopped short, as he realized how near the other world his
friend must have been to look like that. Never till that moment
had he felt how his little chum had twined himself round his
heart-strings, and as he stole gently across the room and knelt
down, and put his arm round Arthur's head on the pillow, felt
ashamed and half-angry at his own red and brown face, and the
bounding sense of health and power which filled every fibre of
his body, and made every movement of mere living a joy to him.
He needn't have troubled himself: it was this very strength and
power so different from his own which drew Arthur so to him.
Arthur laid his thin, white hand, on which the blue veins stood
out so plainly, on Tom's great brown fist, and smiled at him;
and then looked out of the window again, as if he couldn't bear
to lose a moment of the sunset, into the tops of the great
feathery elms, round which the rooks were circling and clanging,
returning in flocks from their evening's foraging parties. The
elms rustled, the sparrows in the ivy just outside the window
chirped and fluttered about, quarrelling, and making it up
again; the rooks, young and old, talked in chorus, and the merry
shouts of the boys and the sweet click of the cricket-bats came
up cheerily from below.
"Dear George," said Tom, "I am so glad to be let up to see you
at last. I've tried hard to come so often, but they wouldn't
let me before."
"Oh, I know, Tom; Mary has told me every day about you, and how
she was obliged to make the Doctor speak to you to keep you
away. I'm very glad you didn't get up, for you might have
caught it; and you couldn't stand being ill, with all the
matches going on. And you're in the eleven, too, I hear. I'm
"Yes; ain't it jolly?" said Tom proudly. "I'm ninth too. I
made forty at the last pie-match, and caught three fellows out.
So I was put in above Jones and Tucker. Tucker's so savage, for
he was head of the twenty-two."
"Well, I think you ought to be higher yet," said Arthur, who was
as jealous for the renown of Tom in games as Tom was for his as
"Never mind. I don't care about cricket or anything now you're
getting well, Geordie; and I shouldn't have hurt, I know, if
they'd have let me come up. Nothing hurts me. But you'll get
about now directly, won't you? You won't believe how clean I've
kept the study. All your things are just as you left them; and
I feed the old magpie just when you used, though I have to come
in from big-side for him, the old rip. He won't look pleased
all I can do, and sticks his head first on one side and then on
the other, and blinks at me before he'll begin to eat, till I'm
half inclined to box his ears. And whenever East comes in, you
should see him hop off to the window, dot and go one, though
Harry wouldn't touch a feather of him now."
Arthur laughed. "Old Gravey has a good memory; he can't forget
the sieges of poor Martin's den in old times." He paused a
moment, and then went on: "You can't think how often I've been
thinking of old Martin since I've been ill. I suppose one's
mind gets restless, and likes to wander off to strange, unknown
places. I wonder what queer new pets the old boy has got. How
he must be revelling in the thousand new birds, beasts, and
Tom felt a pang of jealousy, but kicked it out in a moment.
"Fancy him on a South Sea island, with the Cherokees, or
Patagonians, or some such wild niggers!" (Tom's ethnology and
geography were faulty, but sufficient for his needs.) "They'll
make the old Madman cock medicine-man, and tattoo him all over.
Perhaps he's cutting about now all blue, and has a squaw and a
wigwam. He'll improve their boomerangs, and be able to throw
them too, without having old Thomas sent after him by the Doctor
to take them away."
Arthur laughed at the remembrance of the boomerang story, but
then looked grave again, and said, "He'll convert all the
island, I know."
"Yes, if he don't blow it up first."
"Do you remember, Tom, how you and East used to laugh at him and
chaff him, because he said he was sure the rooks all had
calling-over or prayers, or something of the sort, when the
locking-up bell rang? Well, I declare," said Arthur, looking up
seriously into Tom's laughing eyes, "I do think he was right.
Since I've been lying here, I've watched them every night; and,
do you know, they really do come and perch, all of them, just
about locking-up time; and then first there's a regular chorus
of caws; and then they stop a bit, and one old fellow, or
perhaps two or three in different trees, caw solos; and then off
they all go again, fluttering about and cawing anyhow till they
"I wonder if the old blackies do talk," said Tom, looking up at
them. "How they must abuse me and East, and pray for the Doctor
for stopping the slinging!"
"There! look, look!" cried Arthur; "don't you see the old fellow
without a tail coming up? Martin used to call him the 'clerk.'
He can't steer himself. You never saw such fun as he is in a
high wind, when he can't steer himself home, and gets carried
right past the trees, and has to bear up again and again before
he can perch."
The locking-up bell began to toll, and the two boys were silent,
and listened to it. The sound soon carried Tom off to the river
and the woods, and he began to go over in his mind the many
occasions on which he had heard that toll coming faintly down
the breeze, and had to pack his rod in a hurry and make a run
for it, to get in before the gates were shut. He was roused
with a start from his memories by Arthur's voice, gentle and
weak from his late illness.
"Tom, will you be angry if I talk to you very seriously?"
"No, dear old boy, not I. But ain't you faint, Arthur, or ill?
What can I get you? Don't say anything to hurt yourself now--
you are very weak; let me come up again."
"No, no; I shan't hurt myself. I'd sooner speak to you now, if
you don't mind. I've asked Mary to tell the Doctor that you are
with me, so you needn't go down to calling-over; and I mayn't
have another chance, for I shall most likely have to go home for
change of air to get well, and mayn't come back this half."
"Oh, do you think you must go away before the end of the half?
I'm so sorry. It's more than five weeks yet to the holidays, and
all the fifth-form examination and half the cricket-matches to
come yet. And what shall I do all that time alone in our study?
Why, Arthur, it will be more than twelve weeks before I see you
again. Oh, hang it, I can't stand that! Besides who's to keep
me up to working at the examination books? I shall come out
bottom of the form, as sure as eggs is eggs."
Tom was rattling on, half in joke, half in earnest, for he
wanted to get Arthur out of his serious vein, thinking it would
do him harm; but Arthur broke in, -
"Oh, please, Tom, stop, or you'll drive all I had to say out of
my head. And I'm already horribly afraid I'm going to make you
"Don't gammon, young un," rejoined Tom (the use of the old name,
dear to him from old recollections, made Arthur start and smile
and feel quite happy); "you know you ain't afraid, and you've
never made me angry since the first month we chummed together.
Now I'm going to be quite sober for a quarter of an hour, which
is more than I am once in a year; so make the most of it; heave
ahead, and pitch into me right and left."
"Dear Tom, I ain't going to pitch into you," said Arthur
piteously; "and it seems so cocky in me to be advising you,
who've been my backbone ever since I've been at Rugby, and have
made the school a paradise to me. Ah, I see I shall never do
it, unless I go head over heels at once, as you said when you
taught me to swim. Tom, I want you to give up using vulgus-
books and cribs."
Arthur sank back on to his pillow with a sigh, as if the effort
had been great; but the worst was now over, and he looked
straight at Tom, who was evidently taken aback. He leant his
elbows on his knees, and stuck his hands into his hair, whistled
a verse of "Billy Taylor," and then was quite silent for another
minute. Not a shade crossed his face, but he was clearly
puzzled. At last he looked up, and caught Arthur's anxious
look, took his hand, and said simply, -
"Why, young un?"
"Because you're the honestest boy in Rugby, and that ain't
"I don't see that."
"What were you sent to Rugby for?"
"Well, I don't know exactly--nobody ever told me. I suppose
because all boys are sent to a public school in England."
"But what do you think yourself? What do you want to do here,
and to carry away?"
Tom thought a minute. "I want to be A1 at cricket and football,
and all the other games, and to make my hands keep my head
against any fellow, lout or gentleman. I want to get into the
sixth before I leave, and to please the Doctor; and I want to
carry away just as much Latin and Greek as will take me through
Oxford respectably. There, now, young un; I never thought of it
before, but that's pretty much about my figure. Ain't it all on
the square? What have you got to say to that?"
"Why, that you are pretty sure to do all that you want, then."
"Well, I hope so. But you've forgot one thing--what I want to
leave behind me. I want to leave behind me," said Tom, speaking
slow, and looking much moved, "the name of a fellow who never
bullied a little boy, or turned his back on a big one."
Arthur pressed his hand, and after a moment's silence went on,
"You say, Tom, you want to please the Doctor. Now, do you want
to please him by what he thinks you do, or by what you really
"By what I really do, of course."
"Does he think you use cribs and vulgus-books?"
Tom felt at once that his flank was turned, but he couldn't give
in. "He was at Winchester himself," said he; "he knows all
"Yes; but does he think you use them? Do you think he approves
"You young villain!" said Tom, shaking his fist at Arthur, half
vexed and half pleased, "I never think about it. Hang it!
there, perhaps he don't. Well, I suppose he don't."
Arthur saw that he had got his point; he knew his friend well,
and was wise in silence as in speech. He only said, "I would
sooner have the doctor's good opinion of me as I really am than
any man's in the world."
After another minute, Tom began again, "Look here, young un.
How on earth am I to get time to play the matches this half if I
give up cribs? We're in the middle of that long crabbed chorus
in the Agamemnon. I can only just make head or tail of it with
the crib. Then there's Pericles's speech coming on in
Thucydides, and 'The Birds' to get up for the examination,
besides the Tacitus." Tom groaned at the thought of his
accumulated labours. "I say, young un, there's only five weeks
or so left to holidays. Mayn't I go on as usual for this half?
I'll tell the Doctor about it some day, or you may."
Arthur looked out of the window. The twilight had come on, and
all was silent. He repeated in a low voice: "In this thing the
Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the
house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and
I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow down myself
in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this
Not a word more was said on the subject, and the boys were again
silent--one of those blessed, short silences in which the
resolves which colour a life are so often taken.
Tom was the first to break it. "You've been very ill indeed,
haven't you, Geordie?" said he, with a mixture of awe and
curiosity, feeling as if his friend had been 1n some strange
place or scene, of which he could form no idea, and full of the
memory of his own thoughts during the last week.
"Yes, very. I'm sure the Doctor thought I was going to die. He
gave me the Sacrament last Sunday, and you can't think what he
is when one is ill. He said such brave, and tender, and gentle
things to me, I felt quite light and strong after it, and never
had any more fear. My mother brought our old medical man, who
attended me when I was a poor sickly child. He said my
constitution was quite changed, and that I'm fit for anything
now. If it hadn't, I couldn't have stood three days of this
illness. That's all thanks to you, and the games you've made me
"More thanks to old Martin," said Tom; "he's been your real
"Nonsense, Tom; he never could have done for me what you have."
"Well, I don't know; I did little enough. Did they tell you--
you won't mind hearing it now, I know--that poor Thompson died
last week? The other three boys are getting quite round, like
"Oh yes, I heard of it."
Then Tom, who was quite full of it, told Arthur of the burial-
service in the chapel, and how it had impressed him, and, he
believed, all the other boys. "And though the Doctor never said
a word about it," said he, "and it was a half-holiday and match-
day, there wasn't a game played in the close all the afternoon,
and the boys all went about as if it were Sunday."
"I'm very glad of it," said Arthur. "But, Tom, I've had such
strange thoughts about death lately. I've never told a soul of
them, not even my mother. Sometimes I think they're wrong, but,
do you know, I don't think in my heart I could be sorry at the
death of any of my friends."
Tom was taken quite aback. "What in the world is the young un
after now?" thought he; "I've swallowed a good many of his
crotchets, but this altogether beats me. He can't be quite
right in his head." He didn't want to say a word, and shifted
about uneasily in the dark; however, Arthur seemed to be waiting
for an answer, so at last he said, "I don't think I quite see
what you mean, Geordie. One's told so often to think about
death that I've tried it on sometimes, especially this last
week. But we won't talk of it now. I'd better go. You're
getting tired, and I shall do you harm."
"No, no; indeed I ain't, Tom. You must stop till nine; there's
only twenty minutes. I've settled you shall stop till nine.
And oh! do let me talk to you--I must talk to you. I see it's
just as I feared. You think I'm half mad. Don't you, now?"
"Well, I did think it odd what you said, Geordie, as you ask
Arthur paused a moment, and then said quickly, "I'll tell you
how it all happened. At first, when I was sent to the sick-
room, and found I had really got the fever, I was terribly
frightened. I thought I should die, and I could not face it for
a moment. I don't think it was sheer cowardice at first, but I
thought how hard it was to be taken away from my mother and
sisters and you all, just as I was beginning to see my way to
many things, and to feel that I might be a man and do a man's
work. To die without having fought, and worked, and given one's
life away, was too hard to bear. I got terribly impatient, and
accused God of injustice, and strove to justify myself. And the
harder I strove the deeper I sank. Then the image of my dear
father often came across me, but I turned from it. Whenever it
came, a heavy, numbing throb seemed to take hold of my heart,
and say, 'Dead-dead-dead.' And I cried out, 'The living, the
living shall praise Thee, O God; the dead cannot praise thee.
There is no work in the grave; in the night no man can work.
But I can work. I can do great things. I will do great things.
Why wilt thou slay me?' And so I struggled and plunged, deeper
and deeper, and went down into a living black tomb. I was alone
there, with no power to stir or think; alone with myself; beyond
the reach of all human fellowship; beyond Christ's reach, I
thought, in my nightmare. You, who are brave and bright and
strong, can have no idea of that agony. Pray to God you never
may. Pray as for your life."
Arthur stopped--from exhaustion, Tom thought; but what between
his fear lest Arthur should hurt himself, his awe, and his
longing for him to go on, he couldn't ask, or stir to help him.
Presently he went on, but quite calm and slow. "I don't know
how long I was in that state--for more than a day, I know; for
I was quite conscious, and lived my outer life all the time, and
took my medicines, and spoke to my mother, and heard what they
said. But I didn't take much note of time. I thought time was
over for me, and that that tomb was what was beyond. Well, on
last Sunday morning, as I seemed to lie in that tomb, alone, as
I thought, for ever and ever, the black, dead wall was cleft in
two, and I was caught up and borne through into the light by
some great power, some living, mighty spirit. Tom, do you
remember the living creatures and the wheels in Ezekiel? It was
just like that. 'When they went, I heard the noise of their
wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the
Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host; when
they stood, they let down their wings.' 'And they went every
one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went;
and they turned not when they went.' And we rushed through the
bright air, which was full of myriads of living creatures, and
paused on the brink of a great river. And the power held me up,
and I knew that that great river was the grave, and death dwelt
there, but not the death I had met in the black tomb. That, I
felt, was gone for ever. For on the other bank of the great
river I saw men and women and children rising up pure and
bright, and the tears were wiped from their eyes, and they put
on glory and strength, and all weariness and pain fell away.
And beyond were a multitude which no man could number, and they
worked at some great work; and they who rose from the river went
on and joined in the work. They all worked, and each worked in
a different way, but all at the same work. And I saw there my
father, and the men in the old town whom I knew when I was a
child--many a hard, stern man, who never came to church, and
whom they called atheist and infidel. There they were, side by
side with my father, whom I had seen toil and die for them, and
women and little children, and the seal was on the foreheads of
all. And I longed to see what the work was, and could not; so I
tried to plunge in the river, for I thought I would join them,
but I could not. Then I looked about to see how they got into
the river. And this I could not see, but I saw myriads on this
side, and they too worked, and I knew that it was the same work,
and the same seal was on their foreheads. And though I saw that
there was toil and anguish in the work of these, and that most
that were working were blind and feeble, yet I longed no more to
plunge into the river, but more and more to know what the work
was. And as I looked I saw my mother and my sisters, and I saw
the Doctor, and you, Tom, and hundreds more whom I knew; and at
last I saw myself too, and I was toiling and doing ever so
little a piece of the great work. Then it all melted away, and
the power left me, and as it left me I thought I heard a voice
say, 'The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait
for it, for in the end it shall speak and not lie, it shall
surely come, it shall not tarry.' It was early morning I know,
then--it was so quiet and cool, and my mother was fast asleep
in the chair by my bedside; but it wasn't only a dream of mine.
I know it wasn't a dream. Then I fell into a deep sleep, and
only woke after afternoon chapel; and the Doctor came and gave
me the Sacrament, as I told you. I told him and my mother I
should get well--I knew I should; but I couldn't tell them why.
Tom," said Arthur gently, after another minute, "do you see why
I could not grieve now to see my dearest friend die? It can't
be--it isn't--all fever or illness. God would never have let
me see it so clear if it wasn't true. I don't understand it all
yet; it will take me my life and longer to do that--to find out
what the work is."
When Arthur stopped there was a long pause. Tom could not
speak; he was almost afraid to breathe, lest he should break the
train of Arthur's thoughts. He longed to hear more, and to ask
questions. In another minute nine o'clock struck, and a gentle
tap at the door called them both back into the world again.
They did not answer, however, for a moment; and so the door
opened, and a lady came in carrying a candle.
She went straight to the sofa, and took hold of Arthur's hand,
and then stooped down and kissed him.
"My dearest boy, you feel a little feverish again. Why didn't
you have lights? You've talked too much, and excited yourself
in the dark."
"Oh no, mother; you can't think how well I feel. I shall start
with you to-morrow for Devonshire. But, mother, here's my
friend--here's Tom Brown. You know him?"
"Yes, indeed; I've known him for years," she said, and held out
her hand to Tom, who was now standing up behind the sofa. This
was Arthur's mother: tall and slight and fair, with masses of
golden hair drawn back from the broad, white forehead, and the
calm blue eye meeting his so deep and open--the eye that he
knew so well, for it was his friend's over again, and the
lovely, tender mouth that trembled while he looked--she stood
there, a woman of thirty-eight, old enough to be his mother, and
one whose face showed the lines which must be written on the
faces of good men's wives and widows, but he thought he had
never seen anything so beautiful. He couldn't help wondering if
Arthur's sisters were like her.
Tom held her hand, and looked on straight in her face; he could
neither let it go nor speak.
"Now, Tom," said Arthur, laughing, "where are your manners?
You'll stare my mother out of countenance." Tom dropped the
little hand with a sigh. "There, sit down, both of you. --
Here, dearest mother; there's room here." And he made a place
on the sofa for her. --"Tom, you needn't go; I'm sure you won't
be called up at first lesson." Tom felt that he would risk
being floored at every lesson for the rest of his natural
school-life sooner than go, so sat down. "And now," said
Arthur, "I have realized one of the dearest wishes of my life--
to see you two together."
And then he led away the talk to their home in Devonshire, and
the red, bright earth, and the deep green combes, and the peat
streams like cairngorm pebbles, and the wild moor with its high,
cloudy tors for a giant background to the picture, till Tom got
jealous, and stood up for the clear chalk streams, and the
emerald water meadows and great elms and willows of the dear old
royal county, as he gloried to call it. And the mother sat on
quiet and loving, rejoicing in their life. The quarter to ten
struck, and the bell rang for bed, before they had well begun
their talk, as it seemed.
Then Tom rose with a sigh to go.
"Shall I see you in the morning, Geordie?" said he, as he shook
his friend's hand. "Never mind, though; you'll be back next
half. And I shan't forget the house of Rimmon."
Arthur's mother got up and walked with him to the door, and
there gave him her hand again; and again his eyes met that deep,
loving look, which was like a spell upon him. Her voice
trembled slightly as she said, "Good-night. You are one who
knows what our Father has promised to the friend of the widow
and the fatherless. May He deal with you as you have dealt with
me and mine!"
Tom was quite upset; he mumbled something about owing everything
good in him to Geordie, looked in her face again, pressed her
hand to his lips, and rushed downstairs to his study, where he
sat till old Thomas came kicking at the door, to tell him his
allowance would be stopped if he didn't go off to bed. (It
would have been stopped anyhow, but that he was a great
favourite with the old gentleman, who loved to come out in the
afternoons into the close to Tom's wicket, and bowl slow
twisters to him, and talk of the glories of bygone Surrey
heroes, with whom he had played former generations.) So Tom
roused himself, and took up his candle to go to bed; and then
for the first time was aware of a beautiful new fishing-rod,
with old Eton's mark on it, and a splendidly-bound Bible, which
lay on his table, on the title-page of which was written--"TOM
BROWN, from his affectionate and grateful friends, Frances Jane
Arthur; George Arthur."
I leave you all to guess how he slept, and what he dreamt of.
CHAPTER VII - HARRY EAST'S DILEMMAS AND DELIVERANCES.
"The Holy Supper is kept indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need
Not that which we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.
Who bestows himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbour and Me."
LOWELL, The Vision of Sir Launfal.
The next morning, after breakfast, Tom, East, and Gower met as
usual to learn their second lesson together. Tom had been
considering how to break his proposal of giving up the crib to
the others, and having found no better way (as indeed none
better can ever be found by man or boy), told them simply what
had happened; how he had been to see Arthur, who had talked to
him upon the subject, and what he had said, and for his part he
had made up his mind, and wasn't going to use cribs any more;
and not being quite sure of his ground, took the high and
pathetic tone, and was proceeding to say "how that, having
learnt his lessons with them for so many years, it would grieve
him much to put an end to the arrangement, and he hoped, at any
rate, that if they wouldn't go on with him, they should still be
just as good friends, and respect one another's motives; but--"
Here the other boys, who had been listening with open eyes and
ears, burst in, -
"Stuff and nonsense!" cried Gower. "Here, East, get down the
crib and find the place."
"O Tommy, Tommy!" said East, proceeding to do as he was bidden,
"that it should ever have come to this! I knew Arthur'd be the
ruin of you some day, and you of me. And now the time's come."
And he made a doleful face.
"I don't know about ruin," answered Tom; "I know that you and I
would have had the sack long ago if it hadn't been for him. And
you know it as well as I."
"Well, we were in a baddish way before he came, I own; but this
new crotchet of his is past a joke."
"Let's give it a trial, Harry; come. You know how often he has
been right and we wrong."
"Now, don't you two be jawing away about young Square-toes,"
struck in Gower. "He's no end of a sucking wiseacre, I dare
say; but we've no time to lose, and I've got the fives court at
"I say, Gower," said Tom appealingly, "be a good fellow, and
let's try if we can't get on without the crib."
"What! in this chorus? Why, we shan't get through ten lines."
"I say, Tom," cried East, having hit on a new idea, "don't you
remember, when we were in the upper fourth, and old Momus caught
me construing off the leaf of a crib which I'd torn out and put
in my book, and which would float out on to the floor, he sent
me up to be flogged for it?"
"Yes, I remember it very well."
"Well, the Doctor, after he'd flogged me, told me himself that
he didn't flog me for using a translation, but for taking it in
to lesson, and using it there when I hadn't learnt a word before
I came in. He said there was no harm in using a translation to
get a clue to hard passages, if you tried all you could first to
make them out without."
"Did he, though?" said Tom; "then Arthur must be wrong,"
"Of course he is," said Gower--"the little prig. We'll only
use the crib when we can't construe without it. --Go ahead,
And on this agreement they started--Tom, satisfied with having
made his confession, and not sorry to have a locus penitentiae,
and not to be deprived altogether of the use of his old and
The boys went on as usual, each taking a sentence in turn, and
the crib being handed to the one whose turn it was to construe.
Of course Tom couldn't object to this, as, was it not simply
lying there to be appealed to in case the sentence should prove
too hard altogether for the construer? But it must be owned
that Gower and East did not make very tremendous exertions to
conquer their sentences before having recourse to its help. Tom,
however, with the most heroic virtue and gallantry, rushed into
his sentence, searching in a high-minded manner for nominative
and verb, and turning over his dictionary frantically for the
first hard word that stopped him. But in the meantime Gower,
who was bent on getting to fives, would peep quietly into the
crib, and then suggest, "Don't you think this is the meaning?"
"I think you must take it this way, Brown." And as Tom didn't
see his way to not profiting by these suggestions, the lesson
went on about as quickly as usual, and Gower was able to start
for the fives court within five minutes of the half-hour.
When Tom and East were left face to face, they looked at one
another for a minute, Tom puzzled, and East chokefull of fun,
and then burst into a roar of laughter.
"Well, Tom," said East, recovering himself, "I don t see any
objection to the new way. It's about as good as the old one, I
think, besides the advantage it gives one of feeling virtuous,
and looking down on one's neighbours."
Tom shoved his hand into his back hair. "I ain't so sure," said
he; "you two fellows carried me off my legs. I don't think we
really tried one sentence fairly. Are you sure you remember
what the Doctor said to you?"
"Yes. And I'll swear I couldn't make out one of my sentences
to-day--no, nor ever could. I really don't remember," said
East, speaking slowly and impressively, "to have come across one
Latin or Greek sentence this half that I could go and construe
by the light of nature. Whereby I am sure Providence intended
cribs to be used."
"The thing to find out," said Tom meditatively, "is how long one
ought to grind at a sentence without looking at the crib. Now I
think if one fairly looks out all the words one don't know, and
then can't hit it, that's enough."
"To be sure, Tommy," said East demurely, but with a merry
twinkle in his eye. "Your new doctrine too, old fellow," added
he, "when one comes to think of it, is a cutting at the root of
all school morality. You'll take away mutual help, brotherly
love, or, in the vulgar tongue, giving construes, which I hold
to be one of our highest virtues. For how can you distinguish
between getting a construe from another boy and using a crib?
Hang it, Tom, if you're going to deprive all our school-fellows
of the chance of exercising Christian benevolence and being good
Samaritans, I shall cut the concern."
"I wish you wouldn't joke about it, Harry; it's hard enough to
see one's way--a precious sight harder than I thought last
night. But I suppose there's a use and an abuse of both, and
one'll get straight enough somehow. But you can't make out,
anyhow, that one has a right to use old vulgus-books and copy-
"Hullo, more heresy! How fast a fellow goes downhill when he
once gets his head before his legs. Listen to me, Tom. Not use
old vulgus-books! Why, you Goth, ain't we to take the benefit
of the wisdom and admire and use the work of past generations?
Not use old copy-books! Why, you might as well say we ought to
pull down Westminster Abbey, and put up a go-to-meeting shop
with churchwarden windows; or never read Shakespeare, but only
Sheridan Knowles. Think of all the work and labour that our
predecessors have bestowed on these very books; and are we to
make their work of no value?"
"I say, Harry, please don't chaff; I'm really serious."
"And then, is it not our duty to consult the pleasure of others
rather than our own, and above all, that of our masters? Fancy,
then, the difference to them in looking over a vulgus which has
been carefully touched and retouched by themselves and others,
and which must bring them a sort of dreamy pleasure, as if
they'd met the thought or expression of it somewhere or another
- before they were born perhaps--and that of cutting up, and
making picture-frames round all your and my false quantities,
and other monstrosities. Why, Tom, you wouldn't be so cruel as
never to let old Momus hum over the 'O genus humanum' again, and
then look up doubtingly through his spectacles, and end by
smiling and giving three extra marks for it--just for old
sake's sake, I suppose."
"Well," said Tom, getting up in something as like a huff as he
was capable of, "it's deuced hard that when a fellow's really
trying to do what he ought, his best friends'll do nothing but
chaff him and try to put him down." And he stuck his books
under his arm and his hat on his head, preparatory to rushing
out into the quadrangle, to testify with his own soul of the
faithlessness of friendships.
"Now don't be an ass, Tom," said East, catching hold of him;
"you know me well enough by this time; my bark's worse than my
bite. You can't expect to ride your new crotchet without
anybody's trying to stick a nettle under his tail and make him
kick you off--especially as we shall all have to go on foot
still. But now sit down, and let's go over it again. I'll be
as serious as a judge."
Then Tom sat himself down on the table, and waxed eloquent about
all the righteousnesses and advantages of the new plan, as was
his wont whenever he took up anything, going into it as if his
life depended upon it, and sparing no abuse which he could think
of, of the opposite method, which he denounced as ungentlemanly,
cowardly, mean, lying, and no one knows what besides. "Very
cool of Tom," as East thought, but didn't say, "seeing as how he
only came out of Egypt himself last night at bedtime."
"Well, Tom," said he at last, "you see, when you and I came to
school there were none of these sort of notions. You may be
right--I dare say you are. Only what one has always felt about
the masters is, that it's a fair trial of skill and last between
us and them--like a match at football or a battle. We're
natural enemies in school--that's the fact. We've got to learn
so much Latin and Greek, and do so many verses, and they've got
to see that we do it. If we can slip the collar and do so much
less without getting caught, that's one to us. If they can get
more out of us, or catch us shirking, that's one to them. All's
fair in war but lying. If I run my luck against theirs, and go
into school without looking at my lessons, and don't get called
up, why am I a snob or a sneak? I don't tell the master I've
learnt it. He's got to find out whether I have or not. What's
he paid for? If he calls me up and I get floored, he makes me
write it out in Greek and English. Very good. He's caught me,
and I don't grumble. I grant you, if I go and snivel to him,
and tell him I've really tried to learn it, but found it so hard
without a translation, or say I've had a toothache, or any
humbug of that kind, I'm a snob. That's my school morality;
it's served me, and you too, Tom, for the matter of that, these
five years. And it's all clear and fair, no mistake about it.
We understand it, and they understand it, and I don't know what
we're to come to with any other."
Tom looked at him pleased and a little puzzled. He had never
heard East speak his mind seriously before, and couldn't help
feeling how completely he had hit his own theory and practice up
to that time.
"Thank you, old fellow," said he. "You're a good old brick to
be serious, and not put out with me. I said more than I meant,
I dare say, only you see I know I'm right. Whatever you and
Gower and the rest do, I shall hold on. I must. And as it's
all new and an uphill game, you see, one must hit hard and hold
on tight at first."
"Very good," said East; "hold on and hit away, only don't hit
under the line."
"But I must bring you over, Harry, or I shan't be comfortable.
Now, I'll allow all you've said. We've always been honourable
enemies with the masters. We found a state of war when we came,
and went into it of course. Only don't you think things are
altered a good deal? I don't feel as I used to the masters.
They seem to me to treat one quite differently."
"Yes, perhaps they do," said East; "there's a new set you see,
mostly, who don't feel sure of themselves yet. They don't want
to fight till they know the ground."
"I don't think it's only that," said Tom. "And then the Doctor,
he does treat one so openly, and like a gentleman, and as if one
was working with him."
"Well, so he does," said East; "he's a splendid fellow, and when
I get into the sixth I shall act accordingly. Only you know he
has nothing to do with our lessons now, except examining us. I
say, though," looking at his watch, "it's just the quarter.
As they walked out they got a message, to say that Arthur was
just starting, and would like to say goodbye. So they went down
to the private entrance of the School-house, and found an open
carriage, with Arthur propped up with pillows in it, looking
already better, Tom thought.
They jumped up on to the steps to shake hands with him, and Tom
mumbled thanks for the presents he had found in his study, and
looked round anxiously for Arthur's mother.
East, who had fallen back into his usual humour, looked quaintly
at Arthur, and said, -
"So you've been at it again, through that hot-headed convert of
yours there. He's been making our lives a burden to us all the
morning about using cribs. I shall get floored to a certainty
at second lesson, if I'm called up."
Arthur blushed and looked down. Tom struck in, -
"Oh, it's all right. He's converted already; he always comes
through the mud after us, grumbling and sputtering."