Part 6 out of 6
The clock struck, and they had to go off to school, wishing
Arthur a pleasant holiday, Tom, lingering behind a moment to
send his thanks and love to Arthur's mother.
Tom renewed the discussion after second lesson, and succeeded so
far as to get East to promise to give the new plan a fair trial.
Encouraged by his success, in the evening, when they were
sitting alone in the large study, where East lived now almost,
"vice Arthur on leave," after examining the new fishing-rod,
which both pronounced to be the genuine article ("play enough to
throw a midge tied on a single hair against the wind, and
strength enough to hold a grampus"), they naturally began
talking about Arthur. Tom, who was still bubbling over with
last night's scene and all the thoughts of the last week, and
wanting to clinch and fix the whole in his own mind, which he
could never do without first going through the process of
belabouring somebody else with it all, suddenly rushed into the
subject of Arthur's illness, and what he had said about death.
East had given him the desired opening. After a serio-comic
grumble, "that life wasn't worth having, now they were tied to a
young beggar who was always 'raising his standard;' and that he,
East, was like a prophet's donkey, who was obliged to struggle
on after the donkey-man who went after the prophet; that he had
none of the pleasure of starting the new crotchets, and didn't
half understand them, but had to take the kicks and carry the
luggage as if he had all the fun," he threw his legs up on to
the sofa, and put his hands behind his head, and said, -
"Well, after all, he's the most wonderful little fellow I ever
came across. There ain't such a meek, humble boy in the school.
Hanged if I don't think now, really, Tom, that he believes
himself a much worse fellow than you or I, and that he don't
think he has more influence in the house than Dot Bowles, who
came last quarter, and isn't ten yet. But he turns you and me
round his little finger, old boy--there's no mistake about
that." And East nodded at Tom sagaciously.
"Now or never!" thought Tom; so, shutting his eyes and hardening
his heart, he went straight at it, repeating all that Arthur had
said, as near as he could remember it, in the very words, and
all he had himself thought. The life seemed to ooze out of it
as he went on, and several times he felt inclined to stop, give
it all up, and change the subject. But somehow he was borne on;
he had a necessity upon him to speak it all out, and did so. At
the end he looked at East with some anxiety, and was delighted
to see that that young gentleman was thoughtful and attentive.
The fact is, that in the stage of his inner life at which Tom
had lately arrived, his intimacy with and friendship for East
could not have lasted if he had not made him aware of, and a
sharer in, the thoughts that were beginning to exercise him.
Nor indeed could the friendship have lasted if East had shown no
sympathy with these thoughts; so that it was a great relief to
have unbosomed himself, and to have found that his friend could
Tom had always had a sort of instinct that East's levity was
only skin-deep, and this instinct was a true one. East had no
want of reverence for anything he felt to be real; but his was
one of those natures that burst into what is generally called
recklessness and impiety the moment they feel that anything is
being poured upon them for their good which does not come home
to their inborn sense of right, or which appeals to anything
like self-interest in them. Daring and honest by nature, and
outspoken to an extent which alarmed all respectabilities, with
a constant fund of animal health and spirits which he did not
feel bound to curb in any way, he had gained for himself with
the steady part of the school (including as well those who
wished to appear steady as those who really were so) the
character of a boy with whom it would be dangerous to be
intimate; while his own hatred of everything cruel, or
underhand, or false, and his hearty respect for what he would
see to be good and true, kept off the rest.
Tom, besides being very like East in many points of character,
had largely developed in his composition the capacity for taking
the weakest side. This is not putting it strongly enough: it
was a necessity with him; he couldn't help it any more than he
could eating or drinking. He could never play on the strongest
side with any heart at football or cricket, and was sure to make
friends with any boy who was unpopular, or down on his luck.
Now, though East was not what is generally called unpopular, Tom
felt more and more every day, as their characters developed,
that he stood alone, and did not make friends among their
contemporaries, and therefore sought him out. Tom was himself
much more popular, for his power of detecting humbug was much
less acute, and his instincts were much more sociable. He was
at this period of his life, too, largely given to taking people
for what they gave themselves out to be; but his singleness of
heart, fearlessness, and honesty were just what East
appreciated, and thus the two had been drawn into great
This intimacy had not been interrupted by Tom's guardianship of
East had often, as has been said, joined them in reading the
Bible; but their discussions had almost always turned upon the
characters of the men and women of whom they read, and not
become personal to themselves. In fact, the two had shrunk from
personal religious discussion, not knowing how it might end, and
fearful of risking a friendship very dear to both, and which
they felt somehow, without quite knowing why, would never be the
same, but either tenfold stronger or sapped at its foundation,
after such a communing together.
What a bother all this explaining is! I wish we could get on
without it. But we can't. However, you'll all find, if you
haven't found it out already, that a time comes in every human
friendship when you must go down into the depths of yourself,
and lay bare what is there to your friend, and wait in fear for
his answer. A few moments may do it; and it may be (most likely
will be, as you are English boys) that you will never do it but
once. But done it must be, if the friendship is to be worth the
name. You must find what is there, at the very root and bottom
of one another's hearts; and if you are at one there, nothing on
earth can or at least ought to sunder you.
East had remained lying down until Tom finished speaking, as if
fearing to interrupt him; he now sat up at the table, and leant
his head on one hand, taking up a pencil with the other, and
working little holes with it in the table-cover. After a bit he
looked up, stopped the pencil, and said, "Thank you very much,
old fellow. There's no other boy in the house would have done
it for me but you or Arthur. I can see well enough," he went
on, after a pause, "all the best big fellows look on me with
suspicion; they think I'm a devil-may-care, reckless young
scamp. So I am--eleven hours out of twelve, but not the
twelfth. Then all of our contemporaries worth knowing follow
suit, of course: we're very good friends at games and all that,
but not a soul of them but you and Arthur ever tried to break
through the crust, and see whether there was anything at the
bottom of me; and then the bad ones I won't stand and they know
"Don't you think that's half fancy, Harry?"
"Not a bit of it," said East bitterly, pegging away with his
pencil. "I see it all plain enough. Bless you, you think
everybody's as straightforward and kindhearted as you are."
"Well, but what's the reason of it? There must be a reason.
You can play all the games as well as any one and sing the best
song, and are the best company in the house. You fancy you're
not liked, Harry. It's all fancy."
"I only wish it was, Tom. I know I could be popular enough with
all the bad ones, but that I won't have, and the good ones won't
"Why not?" persisted Tom; "you don't drink or swear, or get out
at night; you never bully, or cheat at lessons. If you only
showed you liked it, you'd have all the best fellows in the
house running after you."
"Not I," said East. Then with an effort he went on, "I'll tell
you what it is. I never stop the Sacrament. I can see, from
the Doctor downwards, how that tells against me."
"Yes, I've seen that," said Tom, "and I've been very sorry for
it, and Arthur and I have talked about it. I've often thought
of speaking to you, but it's so hard to begin on such subjects.
I'm very glad you've opened it. Now, why don't you?"
"I've never been confirmed," said East.
"Not been confirmed!" said Tom, in astonishment. "I never
thought of that. Why weren't you confirmed with the rest of us
nearly three years ago? I always thought you'd been confirmed
"No," answered East sorrowfully; "you see this was how it
happened. Last Confirmation was soon after Arthur came, and you
were so taken up with him I hardly saw either of you. Well,
when the Doctor sent round for us about it, I was living mostly
with Green's set. You know the sort. They all went in. I dare
say it was all right, and they got good by it; I don't want to
judge them. Only all I could see of their reasons drove me just
the other way. 'Twas 'because the Doctor liked it;' 'no boy got
on who didn't stay the Sacrament;' it was the 'correct thing,'
in fact, like having a good hat to wear on Sundays. I couldn't
stand it. I didn't feel that I wanted to lead a different life.
I was very well content as I was, and I wasn't going to sham
religious to curry favour with the Doctor, or any one else."
East stopped speaking, and pegged away more diligently than ever
with his pencil. Tom was ready to cry. He felt half sorry at
first that he had been confirmed himself. He seemed to have
deserted his earliest friend--to have left him by himself at
his worst need for those long years. He got up and went and sat
by East, and put his arm over his shoulder.
"Dear old boy," he said, "how careless and selfish I've been.
But why didn't you come and talk to Arthur and me?"
"I wish to Heaven I had," said East, "but I was a fool. It's
too late talking of it now."
"Why too late? You want to be confirmed now, don't you?"
"I think so," said East. "I've thought about it a good deal;
only, often I fancy I must be changing, because I see it's to do
me good here--just what stopped me last time. And then I go
"I'll tell you now how 'twas with me," said Tom warmly. "If it
hadn't been for Arthur, I should have done just as you did. I
hope I should. I honour you for it. But then he made it out
just as if it was taking the weak side before all the world--
going in once for all against everything that's strong and rich,
and proud and respectable, a little band of brothers against the
whole world. And the Doctor seemed to say so too, only he said
a great deal more."
"Ah!" groaned East, "but there again, that's just another of my
difficulties whenever I think about the matter. I don't want to
be one of your saints, one of your elect, whatever the right
phrase is. My sympathies are all the other way--with the many,
the poor devils who run about the streets and don't go to
church. Don't stare, Tom; mind, I'm telling you all that's in
my heart--as far as I know it--but it's all a muddle. You
must be gentle with me if you want to land me. Now I've seen a
deal of this sort of religion; I was bred up in it, and I can't
stand it. If nineteen-twentieths of the world are to be left to
uncovenanted mercies, and that sort of thing, which means in
plain English to go to hell, and the other twentieth are to
rejoice at it all, why--"
"Oh! but, Harry, they ain't, they don't," broke in Tom, really
shocked. "Oh, how I wish Arthur hadn't gone! I'm such a fool
about these things. But it's all you want too, East; it is
indeed. It cuts both ways somehow, being confirmed and taking
the Sacrament. It makes you feel on the side of all the good
and all the bad too, of everybody in the world. Only there's
some great dark strong power, which is crushing you and
everybody else. That's what Christ conquered, and we've got to
fight. What a fool I am! I can't explain. If Arthur were only
"I begin to get a glimmering of what you mean," said East.
"I say, now," said Tom eagerly, "do you remember how we both
"Of course I do," said East; "I hate him still. What then?"
"Well, when I came to take the Sacrament, I had a great struggle
about that. I tried to put him out of my head; and when I
couldn't do that, I tried to think of him as evil--as something
that the Lord who was loving me hated, and which I might hate
too. But it wouldn't do. I broke down; I believe Christ
Himself broke me down. And when the Doctor gave me the bread
and wine, and leant over me praying, I prayed for poor Flashman,
as if it had been you or Arthur."
East buried his face in his hands on the table. Tom could feel
the table tremble. At last he looked up. "Thank you again,
Tom," said he; "you don't know what you may have done for me to-
night. I think I see now how the right sort of sympathy with
poor devils is got at."
"And you'll stop the Sacrament next time, won't you?" said Tom.
"Can I, before I'm confirmed?"
"Go and ask the Doctor."
That very night, after prayers, East followed the Doctor, and
the old verger bearing the candle, upstairs. Tom watched, and
saw the Doctor turn round when he heard footsteps following him
closer than usual, and say, "Hah, East! Do you want to speak to
me, my man?"
"If you please, sir." And the private door closed, and Tom went
to his study in a state of great trouble of mind.
It was almost an hour before East came back. Then he rushed in
"Well, it's all right," he shouted, seizing Tom by the hand. "I
feel as if a ton weight were off my mind."
"Hurrah," said Tom. "I knew it would be; but tell us all about
"Well, I just told him all about it. You can't think how kind
and gentle he was, the great grim man, whom I've feared more
than anybody on earth. When I stuck, he lifted me just as if
I'd been a little child. And he seemed to know all I'd felt,
and to have gone through it all. And I burst out crying--more
than I've done this five years; and he sat down by me, and
stroked my head; and I went blundering on, and told him all--
much worse things than I've told you. And he wasn't shocked a
bit, and didn't snub me, or tell me I was a fool, and it was all
nothing but pride or wickedness, though I dare say it was. And
he didn't tell me not to follow out my thoughts, and he didn't
give me any cut-and-dried explanation. But when I'd done he
just talked a bit. I can hardly remember what he said yet; but
it seemed to spread round me like healing, and strength, and
light, and to bear me up, and plant me on a rock, where I could
hold my footing and fight for myself. I don't know what to do,
I feel so happy. And it's all owing to you, dear old boy!" And
he seized Tom's hand again.
"And you're to come to the Communion?" said Tom.
"Yes, and to be confirmed in the holidays."
Tom's delight was as great as his friend's. But he hadn't yet
had out all his own talk, and was bent on improving the
occasion: so he proceeded to propound Arthur's theory about not
being sorry for his friends' deaths, which he had hitherto kept
in the background, and by which he was much exercised; for he
didn't feel it honest to take what pleased him, and throw over
the rest, and was trying vigorously to persuade himself that he
should like all his best friends to die off-hand.
But East's powers of remaining serious were exhausted, and in
five minutes he was saying the most ridiculous things he could
think of, till Tom was almost getting angry again.
Despite of himself, however, he couldn't help laughing and
giving it up, when East appealed to him with, "Well, Tom, you
ain't going to punch my head, I hope, because I insist upon
being sorry when you got to earth?"
And so their talk finished for that time, and they tried to
learn first lesson, with very poor success, as appeared next
morning, when they were called up and narrowly escaped being
floored, which ill-luck, however, did not sit heavily on either
of their souls.
CHAPTER VIII - TOM BROWN'S LAST MATCH.
"Heaven grant the manlier heart, that timely ere
Youth fly, with life's real tempest would be coping;
The fruit of dreamy hoping
Is, waking, blank despair." - CLOUGH, Ambarvalia.
The curtain now rises upon the last act of our little drama, for
hard-hearted publishers warn me that a single volume must of
necessity have an end. Well, well! the pleasantest things must
come to an end. I little thought last long vacation, when I
began these pages to help while away some spare time at a
watering-place, how vividly many an old scene which had lain hid
away for years in some dusty old corner of my brain, would come
back again, and stand before me as clear and bright as if it had
happened yesterday. The book has been a most grateful task to
me, and I only hope that all you, my dear young friends, who
read it (friends assuredly you must be, if you get as far as
this), will be half as sorry to come to the last stage as I am.
Not but what there has been a solemn and a sad side to it. As
the old scenes became living, and the actors in them became
living too, many a grave in the Crimea and distant India, as
well as in the quiet churchyards of our dear old country, seemed
to open and send forth their dead, and their voices and looks
and ways were again in one's ears and eyes, as in the old
School-days. But this was not sad. How should it be, if we
believe as our Lord has taught us? How should it be, when one
more turn of the wheel, and we shall be by their sides again,
learning from them again, perhaps, as we did when we were new
Then there were others of the old faces so dear to us once who
had somehow or another just gone clean out of sight. Are they
dead or living? We know not, but the thought of them brings no
sadness with it. Wherever they are, we can well believe they
are doing God's work and getting His wages.
But are there not some, whom we still see sometimes in the
streets, whose haunts and homes we know, whom we could probably
find almost any day in the week if we were set to do it, yet
from whom we are really farther than we are from the dead, and
from those who have gone out of our ken? Yes, there are and
must be such; and therein lies the sadness of old School
memories. Yet of these our old comrades, from whom more than
time and space separate us, there are some by whose sides we can
feel sure that we shall stand again when time shall be no more.
We may think of one another now as dangerous fanatics or narrow
bigots, with whom no truce is possible, from whom we shall only
sever more and more to the end of our lives, whom it would be
our respective duties to imprison or hang, if we had the power.
We must go our way, and they theirs, as long as flesh and spirit
hold together; but let our own Rugby poet speak words of healing
for this trial:-
"To veer how vain! on, onward strain,
Brave barks, in light, in darkness too;
Through winds and tides one compass guides,-
To that, and your own selves, be true.
"But, O blithe breeze, and O great seas,
Though ne'er that earliest parting past,
On your wide plain they join again;
Together lead them home at last.
"One port, methought, alike they sought,
One purpose hold where'er they fare.
O bounding breeze, O rushing seas,
At last, at last, unite them there!" *
* Clough, Ambarvalia.
This is not mere longing; it is prophecy. So over these too,
our old friends, who are friends no more, we sorrow not as men
without hope. It is only for those who seem to us to have lost
compass and purpose, and to be driven helplessly on rocks and
quicksands, whose lives are spent in the service of the world,
the flesh, and the devil, for self alone, and not for their
fellow-men, their country, or their God, that we must mourn and
pray without sure hope and without light, trusting only that He,
in whose hands they as well as we are, who has died for them as
well as for us, who sees all His creatures
"With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all,"
will, in His own way and at His own time, lead them also home.
Another two years have passed, and it is again the end of the
summer half-year at Rugby; in fact, the School has broken up.
The fifth-form examinations were over last week, and upon them
have followed the speeches, and the sixth-form examinations for
exhibitions; and they too are over now. The boys have gone to
all the winds of heaven, except the town boys and the eleven,
and the few enthusiasts besides who have asked leave to stay in
their houses to see the result of the cricket matches. For this
year the Wellesburn return match and the Marylebone match are
played at Rugby, to the great delight of the town and
neighbourhood, and the sorrow of those aspiring young cricketers
who have been reckoning for the last three months on showing off
at Lord's ground.
The Doctor started for the Lakes yesterday morning, after an
interview with the captain of the eleven, in the presence of
Thomas, at which he arranged in what school the cricket dinners
were to be, and all other matters necessary for the satisfactory
carrying out of the festivities, and warned them as to keeping
all spirituous liquors out of the close, and having the gates
closed by nine o'clock.
The Wellesburn match was played out with great success
yesterday, the School winning by three wickets; and to-day the
great event of the cricketing year, the Marylebone match, is
being played. What a match it has been! The London eleven came
down by an afternoon train yesterday, in time to see the end of
the Wellesburn match; and as soon as it was over, their leading
men and umpire inspected the ground, criticising it rather
unmercifully. The captain of the School eleven, and one or two
others, who had played the Lord's match before, and knew old Mr.
Aislabie and several of the Lord's men, accompanied them; while
the rest of the eleven looked on from under the Three Trees with
admiring eyes, and asked one another the names of the
illustrious strangers, and recounted how many runs each of them
had made in the late matches in Bell's Life. They looked such
hard-bitten, wiry, whiskered fellows that their young
adversaries felt rather desponding as to the result of the
morrow's match. The ground was at last chosen, and two men set
to work upon it to water and roll; and then, there being yet
some half-hour of daylight, some one had suggested a dance on
the turf. The close was half full of citizens and their
families, and the idea was hailed with enthusiasm. The
cornopean player was still on the ground. In five minutes the
eleven and half a dozen of the Wellesburn and Marylebone men got
partners somehow or another, and a merry country-dance was going
on, to which every one flocked, and new couples joined in every
minute, till there were a hundred of them going down the middle
and up again; and the long line of school buildings looked
gravely down on them, every window glowing with the last rays of
the western sun; and the rooks clanged about in the tops of the
old elms, greatly excited, and resolved on having their country-
dance too; and the great flag flapped lazily in the gentle
western breeze. Altogether it was a sight which would have made
glad the heart of our brave old founder, Lawrence Sheriff, if he
were half as good a fellow as I take him to have been. It was a
cheerful sight to see. But what made it so valuable in the
sight of the captain of the School eleven was that he there saw
his young hands shaking off their shyness and awe of the Lord's
men, as they crossed hands and capered about on the grass
together; for the strangers entered into it all, and threw away
their cigars, and danced and shouted like boys; while old Mr.
Aislabie stood by looking on in his white hat, leaning on a bat,
in benevolent enjoyment. "This hop will be worth thirty runs to
us to-morrow, and will be the making of Raggles and Johnson,"
thinks the young leader, as he revolves many things in his mind,
standing by the side of Mr. Aislabie, whom he will not leave for
a minute, for he feels that the character of the School for
courtesy is resting on his shoulders.
But when a quarter to nine struck, and he saw old Thomas
beginning to fidget about with the keys in his hand, he thought
of the Doctor's parting monition, and stopped the cornopean at
once, notwithstanding the loud-voiced remonstrances from all
sides; and the crowd scattered away from the close, the eleven
all going into the School-house, where supper and beds were
provided for them by the Doctor's orders.
Deep had been the consultations at supper as to the order of
going in, who should bowl the first over, whether it would be
best to play steady or freely; and the youngest hands declared
that they shouldn't be a bit nervous, and praised their
opponents as the jolliest fellows in the world, except perhaps
their old friends the Wellesburn men. How far a little good-
nature from their elders will go with the right sort of boys!
The morning had dawned bright and warm, to the intense relief of
many an anxious youngster, up betimes to mark the signs of the
weather. The eleven went down in a body before breakfast, for a
plunge in the cold bath in a corner of the close. The ground
was in splendid order, and soon after ten o'clock, before
spectators had arrived, all was ready, and two of the Lord's men
took their places at the wickets--the School, with the usual
liberality of young hands, having put their adversaries in
first. Old Bailey stepped up to the wicket, and called play,
and the match has begun.
"Oh, well bowled! well bowled, Johnson!" cries the captain,
catching up the ball and sending it high above the rook trees,
while the third Marylebone man walks away from the wicket, and
old Bailey gravely sets up the middle stump again and puts the
"How many runs?" Away scamper three boys to the scoring table,
and are back again in a minute amongst the rest of the eleven,
who are collected together in a knot between wicket. "Only
eighteen runs, and three wickets down!" "Huzza for old Rugby!"
sings out Jack Raggles, the long-stop, toughest and burliest of
boys, commonly called "Swiper Jack," and forthwith stands on his
head, and brandishes his legs in the air in triumph, till the
next boy catches hold of his heels, and throws him over on to
"Steady there; don't be such an ass, Jack," says the captain;
"we haven't got the best wicket yet. Ah, look out now at cover-
point," adds he, as he sees a long-armed bare-headed, slashing-
looking player coming to the wicket. "And, Jack, mind your
hits. He steals more runs than any man in England."
And they all find that they have got their work to do now. The
newcomer's off-hitting is tremendous, and his running like a
flash of lightning. He is never in his ground except when his
wicket is down. Nothing in the whole game so trying to boys.
He has stolen three byes in the first ten minutes, and Jack
Raggles is furious, and begins throwing over savagely to the
farther wicket, until he is sternly stopped by the captain. It
is all that young gentlemen can do to keep his team steady, but
he knows that everything depends on it, and faces his work
bravely. The score creeps up to fifty; the boys begin to look
blank; and the spectators, who are now mustering strong, are
very silent. The ball flies off his bat to all parts of the
field, and he gives no rest and no catches to any one. But
cricket is full of glorious chances, and the goddess who
presides over it loves to bring down the most skilful players.
Johnson, the young bowler, is getting wild, and bowls a ball
almost wide to the off; the batter steps out and cuts it
beautifully to where cover-point is standing very deep--in fact
almost off the ground. The ball comes skimming and twisting
along about three feet from the ground; he rushes at it, and it
sticks somehow or other in the fingers of his left hand, to the
utter astonishment of himself and the whole field. Such a catch
hasn't been made in the close for years, and the cheering is
maddening. "Pretty cricket," says the captain, throwing himself
on the ground by the deserted wicket with a long breath. He
feels that a crisis has passed.
I wish I had space to describe the match--how the captain
stumped the next man off a leg-shooter, and bowled small cobs to
old Mr. Aislabie, who came in for the last wicket; how the
Lord's men were out by half-past twelve o'clock for ninety-eight
runs; how the captain of the School eleven went in first to give
his men pluck, and scored twenty-five in beautiful style; how
Rugby was only four behind in the first innings; what a glorious
dinner they had in the fourth-form school; and how the cover-
point hitter sang the most topping comic songs, and old Mr.
Aislabie made the best speeches that ever were heard,
afterwards. But I haven't space--that's the fact; and so you
must fancy it all, and carry yourselves on to half-past seven
o'clock, when the School are again in, with five wickets down,
and only thirty-two runs to make to win. The Marylebone men
played carelessly in their second innings, but they are working
like horses now to save the match.
There is much healthy, hearty, happy life scattered up and down
the close; but the group to which I beg to call your especial
attention is there, on the slope of the island, which looks
towards the cricket-ground. It consists of three figures; two
are seated on a bench, and one on the ground at their feet. The
first, a tall, slight and rather gaunt man, with a bushy eyebrow
and a dry, humorous smile, is evidently a clergyman. He is
carelessly dressed, and looks rather used up, which isn't much
to be wondered at, seeing that he has just finished six weeks of
examination work; but there he basks, and spreads himself out in
the evening sun, bent on enjoying life, though he doesn't quite
know what to do with his arms and legs. Surely it is our friend
the young master, whom we have had glimpses of before, but his
face has gained a great deal since we last came across him.
And by his side, in white flannel shirt and trousers, straw hat,
the captain's belt, and the untanned yellow cricket shoes which
all the eleven wear, sits a strapping figure, near six feet
high, with ruddy, tanned face and whiskers, curly brown hair,
and a laughing, dancing eye. He is leaning forward with his
elbows resting on his knees, and dandling his favourite bat,
with which he has made thirty or forty runs to-day, in his
strong brown hands. It is Tom Brown, grown into a young man
nineteen years old, a prepostor and captain of the eleven,
spending his last day as a Rugby boy, and, let us hope, as much
wiser as he is bigger, since we last had the pleasure of coming
And at their feet on the warm, dry ground, similarly dressed,
sits Arthur, Turkish fashion, with his bat across his knees. He
too is no longer a boy--less of a boy, in fact, than Tom, if
one may judge from the thoughtfulness of his face, which is
somewhat paler, too, than one could wish; but his figure, though
slight, is well knit and active, and all his old timidity has
disappeared, and is replaced by silent, quaint fun, with which
his face twinkles all over, as he listens to the broken talk
between the other two, in which he joins every now and then.
All three are watching the game eagerly, and joining in the
cheering which follows every good hit. It is pleasing to see
the easy, friendly footing which the pupils are on with their
master, perfectly respectful, yet with no reserve and nothing
forced in their intercourse. Tom has clearly abandoned the old
theory of "natural enemies" in this case at any rate.
But it is time to listen to what they are saying, and see what
we can gather out of it.
"I don't object to your theory," says the master, "and I allow
you have made a fair case for yourself. But now, in such books
as Aristophanes, for instance, you've been reading a play this
half with the Doctor, haven't you?"
"Yes, the Knights," answered Tom.
"Well, I'm sure you would have enjoyed the wonderful humour of
it twice as much if you had taken more pains with your
"Well, sir, I don't believe any boy in the form enjoyed the
sets-to between Cleon and the Sausage-seller more than I did--
eh, Arthur?" said Tom, giving him a stir with his foot.
"Yes, I must say he did," said Arthur. "I think, sir, you've hit
upon the wrong book there."
"Not a bit of it," said the master. "Why, in those very
passages of arms, how can you thoroughly appreciate them unless
you are master of the weapons? and the weapons are the language,
which you, Brown, have never half worked at; and so, as I say,
you must have lost all the delicate shades of meaning which make
the best part of the fun."
"Oh, well played! bravo, Johnson!" shouted Arthur, dropping his
bat and clapping furiously, and Tom joined in with a "Bravo,
Johnson!" which might have been heard at the chapel.
"Eh! what was it? I didn't see," inquired the master. "They
only got one run, I thought?"
"No, but such a ball, three-quarters length, and coming straight
for his leg bail. Nothing but that turn of the wrist could have
saved him, and he drew it away to leg for a safe one. --Bravo,
"How well they are bowling, though," said Arthur; "they don't
mean to be beat, I can see."
"There now," struck in the master; "you see that's just what I
have been preaching this half-hour. The delicate play is the
true thing. I don't understand cricket, so I don't enjoy those
fine draws which you tell me are the best play, though when you
or Raggles hit a ball hard away for six I am as delighted as any
one. Don't you see the analogy?"
"Yes, sir," answered Tom, looking up roguishly, "I see; only the
question remains whether I should have got most good by
understanding Greek particles or cricket thoroughly. I'm such a
thick, I never should have had time for both."
"I see you are an incorrigible," said the master, with a
chuckle; "but I refute you by an example. Arthur there has
taken in Greek and cricket too."
"Yes, but no thanks to him; Greek came natural to him. Why,
when he first came I remember he used to read Herodotus for
pleasure as I did Don Quixote, and couldn't have made a false
concord if he'd tried ever so hard; and then I looked after his
"Out! Bailey has given him out. Do you see, Tom?" cries
Arthur. "How foolish of them to run so hard."
"Well, it can't be helped; he has played very well. Whose turn
is it to go in?"
"I don't know; they've got your list in the tent."
"Let's go and see," said Tom, rising; but at this moment Jack
Raggles and two or three more came running to the island moat.
"O Brown, mayn't I go in next?" shouts the Swiper.
"Whose name is next on the list?" says the captain.
"Winter's, and then Arthur's," answers the boy who carries it;
"but there are only twenty-six runs to get, and no time to lose.
I heard Mr. Aislabie say that the stumps must be drawn at a
quarter past eight exactly."
"Oh, do let the Swiper go in," chorus the boys; so Tom yields
against his better judgment.
"I dare say now I've lost the match by this nonsense," he says,
as he sits down again; "they'll be sure to get Jack's wicket in
three or four minutes; however, you'll have the chance, sir, of
seeing a hard hit or two," adds he, smiling, and turning to the
"Come, none of your irony, Brown," answers the master. "I'm
beginning to understand the game scientifically. What a noble
game it is, too!"
"Isn't it? But it's more than a game. It's an institution,"
"Yes," said Arthur--"the birthright of British boys old and
young, as habeas corpus and trial by jury are of British men."
"The discipline and reliance on one another which it teaches is
so valuable, I think," went on the master, "it ought to be such
an unselfish game. It merges the individual in the eleven; he
doesn't play that he may win, but that his side may."
"That's very true," said Tom, "and that's why football and
cricket, now one comes to think of it, are such much better
games than fives or hare-and-hounds, or any others where the
object is to come in first or to win for oneself, and not that
one's side may win."
"And then the captain of the eleven!" said the master; "what a
post is his in our School-world! almost as hard as the Doctor's
- requiring skill and gentleness and firmness, and I know not
what other rare qualities."
"Which don't he may wish he may get!" said Tom, laughing; "at
any rate he hasn't got them yet, or he wouldn't have been such a
flat to-night as to let Jack Raggles go in out of his turn."
"Ah, the Doctor never would have done that," said Arthur
demurely. "Tom, you've a great deal to learn yet in the art of
"Well, I wish you'd tell the Doctor so then, and get him to let
me stop till I'm twenty. I don't want to leave, I'm sure."
"What a sight it is," broke in the master, "the Doctor as a
ruler! Perhaps ours is the only little corner of the British
Empire which is thoroughly, wisely, and strongly ruled just now.
I'm more and more thankful every day of my life that I came here
to be under him."
"So am I, I'm sure," said Tom, "and more and more sorry that
I've got to leave."
"Every place and thing one sees here reminds one of some wise
act of his," went on the master. "This island now--you
remember the time, Brown, when it was laid out in small gardens,
and cultivated by frost-bitten fags in February and March?"
"Of course I do," said Tom; "didn't I hate spending two hours in
the afternoon grubbing in the tough dirt with the stump of a
fives bat? But turf-cart was good fun enough."
"I dare say it was, but it was always leading to fights with the
townspeople; and then the stealing flowers out of all the
gardens in Rugby for the Easter show was abominable."
"Well, so it was," said Tom, looking down, "but we fags couldn't
help ourselves. But what has that to do with the Doctor's
"A great deal, I think," said the master; "what brought island-
fagging to an end?"
"Why, the Easter speeches were put off till midsummer," said
Tom, "and the sixth had the gymnastic poles put up here."
"Well, and who changed the time of the speeches, and put the
idea of gymnastic poles into the heads of their worships the
sixth form?" said the master.
"The Doctor, I suppose," said Tom. "I never thought of that."
"Of course you didn't," said the master, "or else, fag as you
were, you would have shouted with the whole school against
putting down old customs. And that's the way that all the
Doctor's reforms have been carried out when he has been left to
himself--quietly and naturally, putting a good thing in the
place of a bad, and letting the bad die out; no wavering, and no
hurry--the best thing that could be done for the time being,
and patience for the rest."
"Just Tom's own way," chimed in Arthur, nudging Tom with his
elbow--"driving a nail where it will go;" to which allusion Tom
answered by a sly kick.
"Exactly so," said the master, innocent of the allusion and by-
Meantime Jack Raggles, with his sleeves tucked up above his
great brown elbows, scorning pads and gloves, has presented
himself at the wicket; and having run one for a forward drive of
Johnson's, is about to receive his first ball. There are only
twenty-four runs to make, and four wickets to go down--a
winning match if they play decently steady. The ball is a very
swift one, and rises fast, catching Jack on the outside of the
thigh, and bounding away as if from india-rubber, while they run
two for a leg-bye amidst great applause and shouts from Jack's
many admirers. The next ball is a beautifully-pitched ball for
the outer stump, which the reckless and unfeeling Jack catches
hold of, and hits right round to leg for five, while the
applause becomes deafening. Only seventeen runs to get with
four wickets! The game is all but ours!
It is over now, and Jack walks swaggering about his wicket, with
his bat over his shoulder, while Mr. Aislabie holds a short
parley with his men. Then the cover-point hitter, that cunning
man, goes on to bowl slow twisters. Jack waves his hand
triumphantly towards the tent, as much as to say, "See if I
don't finish it all off now in three hits."
Alas, my son Jack, the enemy is too old for thee. The first
ball of the over Jack steps out and meets, swiping with all his
force. If he had only allowed for the twist! But he hasn't,
and so the ball goes spinning up straight in the air, as if it
would never come down again. Away runs Jack, shouting and
trusting to the chapter of accidents; but the bowler runs
steadily under it, judging every spin, and calling out, "I have
it," catches it, and playfully pitches it on to the back of the
stalwart Jack, who is departing with a rueful countenance.
"I knew how it would be," says Tom, rising. "Come along; the
game's getting very serious."
So they leave the island and go to the tent; and after deep
consultation, Arthur is sent in, and goes off to the wicket with
a last exhortation from Tom to play steady and keep his bat
straight. To the suggestions that Winter is the best bat left,
Tom only replies, "Arthur is the steadiest, and Johnson will
make the runs if the wicket is only kept up."
"I am surprised to see Arthur in the eleven," said the master,
as they stood together in front of the dense crowd, which was
now closing in round the ground.
"Well, I'm not quite sure that he ought to be in for his play,"
said Tom, "but I couldn't help putting him in. It will do him
so much good, and you can't think what I owe him."
The master smiled. The clock strikes eight, and the whole field
becomes fevered with excitement. Arthur, after two narrow
escapes, scores one, and Johnson gets the ball. The bowling and
fielding are superb, and Johnson's batting worthy the occasion.
He makes here a two, and there a one, managing to keep the ball
to himself, and Arthur backs up and runs perfectly. Only eleven
runs to make now, and the crowd scarcely breathe. At last
Arthur gets the ball again, and actually drives it forward for
two, and feels prouder than when he got the three best prizes,
at hearing Tom's shout of joy, "Well played, well played, young
But the next ball is too much for the young hand, and his bails
fly different ways. Nine runs to make, and two wickets to go
down: it is too much for human nerves.
Before Winter can get in, the omnibus which is to take the
Lord's men to the train pulls up at the side of the close, and
Mr. Aislabie and Tom consult, and give out that the stumps will
be drawn after the next over. And so ends the great match.
Winter and Johnson carry out their bats, and, it being a one
day's match, the Lord's men are declared the winners, they
having scored the most in the first innings.
But such a defeat is a victory: so think Tom and all the School
eleven, as they accompany their conquerors to the omnibus, and
send them off with three ringing cheers, after Mr. Aislabie has
shaken hands all round, saying to Tom, "I must compliment you,
sir, on your eleven, and I hope we shall have you for a member
if you come up to town."
As Tom and the rest of the eleven were turning back into the
close, and everybody was beginning to cry out for another
country-dance, encouraged by the success of the night before,
the young master, who was just leaving the close, stopped him,
and asked him to come up to tea at half-past eight, adding, "I
won't keep you more than half an hour, and ask Arthur to come up
"I'll come up with you directly, if you'll let me," said Tom,
"for I feel rather melancholy, and not quite up to the country-
dance and supper with the rest."
"Do, by all means," said the master; "I'll wait here for you."
So Tom went off to get his boots and things from the tent, to
tell Arthur of the invitation, and to speak to his second in
command about stopping the dancing and shutting up the close as
soon as it grew dusk. Arthur promised to follow as soon as he
had had a dance. So Tom handed his things over to the man in
charge of the tent, and walked quietly away to the gate where
the master was waiting, and the two took their way together up
the Hillmorton road.
Of course they found the master's house locked up, and all the
servants away in the close--about this time, no doubt, footing
it away on the grass, with extreme delight to themselves, and in
utter oblivion of the unfortunate bachelor their master, whose
one enjoyment in the shape of meals was his "dish of tea" (as
our grandmothers called it) in the evening; and the phrase was
apt in his case, for he always poured his out into the saucer
before drinking. Great was the good man's horror at finding
himself shut out of his own house. Had he been alone he would
have treated it as a matter of course, and would have strolled
contentedly up and down his gravel walk until some one came
home; but he was hurt at the stain on his character of host,
especially as the guest was a pupil. However, the guest seemed
to think it a great joke, and presently, as they poked about
round the house, mounted a wall, from which he could reach a
passage window. The window, as it turned out, was not bolted,
so in another minute Tom was in the house and down at the front
door, which he opened from inside. The master chuckled grimly
at this burglarious entry, and insisted on leaving the hall-door
and two of the front windows open, to frighten the truants on
their return; and then the two set about foraging for tea, in
which operation the master was much at fault, having the
faintest possible idea of where to find anything, and being,
moreover, wondrously short-sighted; but Tom, by a sort of
instinct, knew the right cupboards in the kitchen and pantry,
and soon managed to place on the snuggery table better materials
for a meal than had appeared there probably during the reign of
his tutor, who was then and there initiated, amongst other
things, into the excellence of that mysterious condiment, a
dripping-cake. The cake was newly baked, and all rich and
flaky; Tom had found it reposing in the cook's private cupboard,
awaiting her return; and as a warning to her they finished it to
the last crumb. The kettle sang away merrily on the hob of the
snuggery, for, notwithstanding the time of year, they lighted a
fire, throwing both the windows wide open at the same time; the
heaps of books and papers were pushed away to the other end of
the table, and the great solitary engraving of King's College
Chapel over the mantelpiece looked less stiff than usual, as
they settled themselves down in the twilight to the serious
drinking of tea.
After some talk on the match, and other indifferent subjects,
the conversation came naturally back to Tom's approaching
departure, over which he began again to make his moan.
"Well, we shall all miss you quite as much as you will miss us,"
said the master. "You are the Nestor of the School now, are you
"Yes, ever since East left," answered Tom. "By-the-bye, have
you heard from him?"
"Yes, I had a letter in February, just before he started for
India to join his regiment."
"He will make a capital officer."
"Ay, won't he!" said Tom, brightening. "No fellow could handle
boys better, and I suppose soldiers are very like boys. And
he'll never tell them to go where he won't go himself. No
mistake about that. A braver fellow never walked."
"His year in the sixth will have taught him a good deal that
will be useful to him now."
"So it will,"' said Tom, staring into the fire. "Poor dear
Harry," he went on--"how well I remember the day we were put
out of the twenty! How he rose to the situation, and burnt his
cigar-cases, and gave away his pistols, and pondered on the
constitutional authority of the sixth, and his new duties to the
Doctor, and the fifth form, and the fags! Ay, and no fellow
ever acted up to them better, though he was always a people's
man--for the fags, and against constituted authorities. He
couldn't help that, you know. I'm sure the Doctor must have
liked him?" said Tom, looking up inquiringly.
"The Doctor sees the good in every one, and appreciates it,"
said the master dogmatically; "but I hope East will get a good
colonel. He won't do if he can't respect those above him. How
long it took him, even here, to learn the lesson of obeying!"
"Well, I wish I were alongside of him," said Tom. "If I can't
be at Rugby, I want to be at work in the world, and not dawdling
away three years at Oxford."
"What do you mean by 'at work in the world'?" said the master,
pausing with his lips close to his saucerful of tea, and peering
at Tom over it.
"Well, I mean real work--one's profession--whatever one will
have really to do and make one's living by. I want to be doing
some real good, feeling that I am not only at play in the
world," answered Tom, rather puzzled to find out himself what he
really did mean.
"You are mixing up two very different things in your head, I
think, Brown," said the master, putting down the empty saucer,
"and you ought to get clear about them. You talk of 'working to
get your living,' and 'doing some real good in the world,' in
the same breath. Now, you may be getting a very good living in
a profession, and yet doing no good at all in the world, but
quite the contrary, at the same time. Keep the latter before
you as your one object, and you will be right, whether you make
a living or not; but if you dwell on the other, you'll very
likely drop into mere money-making, and let the world take care
of itself for good or evil. Don't be in a hurry about finding
your work in the world for yourself--you are not old enough to
judge for yourself yet; but just look about you in the place you
find yourself in, and try to make things a little better and
honester there. You'll find plenty to keep your hand in at
Oxford, or wherever else you go. And don't be led away to think
this part of the world important and that unimportant. Every
corner of the world is important. No man knows whether this
part or that is most so, but every man may do some honest work
in his own corner." And then the good man went on to talk
wisely to Tom of the sort of work which he might take up as an
undergraduate, and warned him of the prevalent university sins,
and explained to him the many and great differences between
university and school life, till the twilight changed into
darkness, and they heard the truant servants stealing in by the
"I wonder where Arthur can be," said Tom at last, looking at his
watch; "why, it's nearly half-past nine already."
"Oh, he is comfortably at supper with the eleven, forgetful of
his oldest friends," said the master. "Nothing has given me
greater pleasure," he went on, "than your friendship for him; it
has been the making of you both."
"Of me, at any rate," answered Tom; "I should never have been
here now but for him. It was the luckiest chance in the world
that sent him to Rugby and made him my chum."
"Why do you talk of lucky chances?" said the master. "I don't
know that there are any such things in the world; at any rate,
there was neither luck nor chance in that matter."
Tom looked at him inquiringly, and he went on. "Do you remember
when the Doctor lectured you and East at the end of one half-
year, when you were in the shell, and had been getting into all
sorts of scrapes?"
"Yes, well enough," said Tom; "it was the half-year before
"Exactly so," answered the master. "Now, I was with him a few
minutes afterwards, and he was in great distress about you two.
And after some talk, we both agreed that you in particular
wanted some object in the School beyond games and mischief; for
it was quite clear that you never would make the regular school
work your first object. And so the Doctor, at the beginning of
the next half-year, looked out the best of the new boys, and
separated you and East, and put the young boy into your study,
in the hope that when you had somebody to lean on you, you would
begin to stand a little steadier yourself, and get manliness and
thoughtfulness. And I can assure you he has watched the
experiment ever since with great satisfaction. Ah! not one of
you boys will ever know the anxiety you have given him, or the
care with which he has watched over every step in your school
Up to this time Tom had never given wholly in to or understood
the Doctor. At first he had thoroughly feared him. For some
years, as I have tried to show, he had learnt to regard him with
love and respect, and to think him a very great and wise and
good man. But as regarded his own position in the School, of
which he was no little proud, Tom had no idea of giving any one
credit for it but himself, and, truth to tell, was a very self-
conceited young gentleman on the subject. He was wont to boast
that he had fought his own way fairly up the School, and had
never made up to or been taken up by any big fellow or master,
and that it was now quite a different place from what it was
when he first came. And, indeed, though he didn't actually
boast of it, yet in his secret soul he did to a great extent
believe that the great reform in the School had been owing quite
as much to himself as to any one else. Arthur, he acknowledged,
had done him good, and taught him a good deal; so had other boys
in different ways, but they had not had the same means of
influence on the School in general. And as for the Doctor, why,
he was a splendid master; but every one knew that masters could
do very little out of school hours. In short, he felt on terms
of equality with his chief, so far as the social state of the
School was concerned, and thought that the Doctor would find it
no easy matter to get on without him. Moreover, his School
Toryism was still strong, and he looked still with some jealousy
on the Doctor, as somewhat of a fanatic in the matter of change,
and thought it very desirable for the School that he should have
some wise person (such as himself) to look sharply after vested
School-rights, and see that nothing was done to the injury of
the republic without due protest.
It was a new light to him to find that, besides teaching the
sixth, and governing and guiding the whole School, editing
classics, and writing histories, the great headmaster had found
time in those busy years to watch over the career even of him,
Tom Brown, and his particular friends, and, no doubt, of fifty
other boys at the same time, and all this without taking the
least credit to himself, or seeming to know, or let any one else
know, that he ever thought particularly of any boy at all.
However, the Doctor's victory was complete from that moment over
Tom Brown at any rate. He gave way at all points, and the enemy
marched right over him--cavalry, infantry, and artillery, and
the land transport corps, and the camp followers. It had taken
eight long years to do it; but now it was done thoroughly, and
there wasn't a corner of him left which didn't believe in the
Doctor. Had he returned to School again, and the Doctor begun
the half-year by abolishing fagging, and football, and the
Saturday half-holiday, or all or any of the most cherished
School institutions, Tom would have supported him with the
blindest faith. And so, after a half confession of his previous
shortcomings, and sorrowful adieus to his tutor, from whom he
received two beautifully-bound volumes of the Doctor's sermons,
as a parting present, he marched down to the Schoolhouse, a
hero-worshipper, who would have satisfied the soul of Thomas
There he found the eleven at high jinks after supper, Jack
Raggles shouting comic songs and performing feats of strength,
and was greeted by a chorus of mingled remonstrance at his
desertion and joy at his reappearance. And falling in with the
humour of the evening, he was soon as great a boy as all the
rest; and at ten o'clock was chaired round the quadrangle, on
one of the hall benches, borne aloft by the eleven, shouting in
chorus, "For he's a jolly good fellow," while old Thomas, in a
melting mood, and the other School-house servants, stood looking
And the next morning after breakfast he squared up all the
cricketing accounts, went round to his tradesmen and other
acquaintance, and said his hearty good-byes; and by twelve
o'clock was in the train, and away for London, no longer a
school-boy, and divided in his thoughts between hero-worship,
honest regrets over the long stage of his life which was now
slipping out of sight behind him, and hopes and resolves for the
next stage upon which he was entering with all the confidence of
a young traveller.
CHAPTER IX - FINIS.
"Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
Loved deeplier, darklier understood;
Behold I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee." - TENNYSON.
In the summer of 1842, our hero stopped once again at the well-
known station; and leaving his bag and fishing-rod with a
porter, walked slowly and sadly up towards the town. It was now
July. He had rushed away from Oxford the moment that term was
over, for a fishing ramble in Scotland with two college friends,
and had been for three weeks living on oatcake, mutton-hams, and
whisky, in the wildest parts of Skye. They had descended one
sultry evening on the little inn at Kyle Rhea ferry; and while
Tom and another of the party put their tackle together and began
exploring the stream for a sea-trout for supper, the third
strolled into the house to arrange for their entertainment.
Presently he came out in a loose blouse and slippers, a short
pipe in his mouth, and an old newspaper in his hand, and threw
himself on the heathery scrub which met the shingle, within easy
hail of the fishermen. There he lay, the picture of free-and-
easy, loafing, hand-to-mouth young England, "improving his
mind," as he shouted to them, by the perusal of the fortnight-
old weekly paper, soiled with the marks of toddy-glasses and
tobacco-ashes, the legacy of the last traveller, which he had
hunted out from the kitchen of the little hostelry, and, being a
youth of a communicative turn of mind, began imparting the
contents to the fishermen as he went on.
"What a bother they are making about these wretched corn-laws!
Here's three or four columns full of nothing but sliding scales
and fixed duties. Hang this tobacco, it's always going out!
Ah, here's something better--a splendid match between Kent and
England, Brown, Kent winning by three wickets. Felix fifty-six
runs without a chance, and not out!"
Tom, intent on a fish which had risen at him twice, answered
only with a grunt.
"Anything about the Goodwood?" called out the third man.
"Rory O'More drawn. Butterfly colt amiss," shouted the student.
"Just my luck," grumbled the inquirer, jerking his flies off the
water, and throwing again with a heavy, sullen splash, and
frightening Tom's fish.
"I say, can't you throw lighter over there? We ain't fishing
for grampuses," shouted Tom across the stream.
"Hullo, Brown! here's something for you," called out the reading
man next moment. "Why, your old master, Arnold of Rugby, is
Tom's hand stopped half-way in his cast, and his line and flies
went all tangling round and round his rod; you might have
knocked him over with a feather. Neither of his companions took
any notice of him, luckily; and with a violent effort he set to
work mechanically to disentangle his line. He felt completely
carried off his moral and intellectual legs, as if he had lost
his standing-point in the invisible world. Besides which, the
deep, loving loyalty which he felt for his old leader made the
shock intensely painful. It was the first great wrench of his
life, the first gap which the angel Death had made in his
circle, and he felt numbed, and beaten down, and spiritless.
Well, well! I believe it was good for him and for many others
in like case, who had to learn by that loss that the soul of man
cannot stand or lean upon any human prop, however strong, and
wise, and good; but that He upon whom alone it can stand and
lean will knock away all such props in His own wise and merciful
way, until there is no ground or stay left but Himself, the Rock
of Ages, upon whom alone a sure foundation for every soul of man
As he wearily laboured at his line, the thought struck him, "It
may be all false--a mere newspaper lie." And he strode up to
the recumbent smoker.
"Let me look at the paper," said he.
"Nothing else in it," answered the other, handing it up to him
listlessly. "Hullo, Brown! what's the matter, old fellow?
Ain't you well?"
"Where is it?" said Tom, turning over the leaves, his hands
trembling, and his eyes swimming, so that he could not read.
"What? What are you looking for?" said his friend, jumping up
and looking over his shoulder.
"That--about Arnold," said Tom.
"Oh, here," said the other, putting his finger on the paragraph.
Tom read it over and over again. There could be no mistake of
identity, though the account was short enough.
"Thank you," said he at last, dropping the paper. "I shall go
for a walk. Don't you and Herbert wait supper for me." And
away he strode, up over the moor at the back of the house, to be
alone, and master his grief if possible.
His friend looked after him, sympathizing and wondering, and,
knocking the ashes out of his pipe, walked over to Herbert.
After a short parley they walked together up to the house.
"I'm afraid that confounded newspaper has spoiled Brown's fun
for this trip."
"How odd that he should be so fond of his old master," said
Herbert. Yet they also were both public-school men.
The two, however, notwithstanding Tom's prohibition, waited
supper for him, and had everything ready when he came back some
half an hour afterwards. But he could not join in their
cheerful talk, and the party was soon silent, notwithstanding
the efforts of all three. One thing only had Tom resolved, and
that was, that he couldn't stay in Scotland any longer: he felt
an irresistible longing to get to Rugby, and then home, and soon
broke it to the others, who had too much tact to oppose.
So by daylight the next morning he was marching through Ross-
shire, and in the evening hit the Caledonian Canal, took the
next steamer, and travelled as fast as boat and railway could
carry him to the Rugby station.
As he walked up to the town, he felt shy and afraid of being
seen, and took the back streets--why, he didn't know, but he
followed his instinct. At the School-gates he made a dead
pause; there was not a soul in the quadrangle--all was lonely,
and silent, and sad. So with another effort he strode through
the quadrangle, and into the School-house offices.
He found the little matron in her room in deep mourning; shook
her hand, tried to talk, and moved nervously about. She was
evidently thinking of the same subject as he, but he couldn't
"Where shall I find Thomas?" said he at last, getting desperate.
"In the servants' hall, I think, sir. But won't you take
anything?" said the matron, looking rather disappointed.
"No, thank you," said he, and strode off again to find the old
verger, who was sitting in his little den, as of old, puzzling
He looked up through his spectacles as Tom seized his hand and
"Ah! you've heard all about it, sir, I see," said he. Tom
nodded, and then sat down on the shoe-board, while the old man
told his tale, and wiped his spectacles, and fairly flowed over
with quaint, homely, honest sorrow.
By the time he had done Tom felt much better.
"Where is he buried, Thomas?" said he at last.
"Under the altar in the chapel, sir," answered Thomas. "You'd
like to have the key, I dare say?"
"Thank you, Thomas--yes, I should, very much."
And the old man fumbled among his bunch, and then got up, as
though he would go with him; but after a few steps stopped
short, and said, "Perhaps you'd like to go by yourself, sir?"
Tom nodded, and the bunch of keys were handed to him, with an
injunction to be sure and lock the door after him, and bring
them back before eight o'clock.
He walked quickly through the quadrangle and out into the close.
The longing which had been upon him and driven him thus far,
like the gad-fly in the Greek legends, giving him no rest in
mind or body, seemed all of a sudden not to be satisfied, but to
shrivel up and pall. "Why should I go on? It's no use," he
thought, and threw himself at full length on the turf, and
looked vaguely and listlessly at all the well-known objects.
There were a few of the town boys playing cricket, their wicket
pitched on the best piece in the middle of the big-side ground--
a sin about equal to sacrilege in the eyes of a captain of the
eleven. He was very nearly getting up to go and send them off.
"Pshaw! they won't remember me. They've more right there than
I," he muttered. And the thought that his sceptre had departed,
and his mark was wearing out, came home to him for the first
time, and bitterly enough. He was lying on the very spot where
the fights came off--where he himself had fought six years ago
his first and last battle. He conjured up the scene till he
could almost hear the shouts of the ring, and East's whisper in
his ear; and looking across the close to the Doctor's private
door, half expected to see it open, and the tall figure in cap
and gown come striding under the elm-trees towards him.
No, no; that sight could never be seen again. There was no flag
flying on the round tower; the School-house windows were all
shuttered up; and when the flag went up again, and the shutters
came down, it would be to welcome a stranger. All that was left
on earth of him whom he had honoured was lying cold and still
under the chapel floor. He would go in and see the place once
more, and then leave it once for all. New men and new methods
might do for other people; let those who would, worship the
rising star; he, at least, would be faithful to the sun which
had set. And so he got up, and walked to the chapel door, and
unlocked it, fancying himself the only mourner in all the broad
land, and feeding on his own selfish sorrow.
He passed through the vestibule, and then paused for a moment to
glance over the empty benches. His heart was still proud and
high, and he walked up to the seat which he had last occupied as
a sixth-form boy, and sat himself down there to collect his
And, truth to tell, they needed collecting and setting in order
not a little. The memories of eight years were all dancing
through his brain, and carrying him about whither they would;
while, beneath them all, his heart was throbbing with the dull
sense of a loss that could never be made up to him. The rays of
the evening sun came solemnly through the painted windows above
his head, and fell in gorgeous colours on the opposite wall, and
the perfect stillness soothed his spirit by little and little.
And he turned to the pulpit, and looked at it, and then, leaning
forward with his head on his hands, groaned aloud. If he could
only have seen the Doctor again for one five minutes--have told
him all that was in his heart, what he owed to him, how he loved
and reverenced him, and would, by God's help, follow his steps
in life and death--he could have borne it all without a murmur.
But that he should have gone away for ever without knowing it
all, was too much to bear. "But am I sure that he does not know
it all?" The thought made him start. "May he not even now be
near me, in this very chapel? If he be, am I sorrowing as he
would have me sorrow, as I should wish to have sorrowed when I
shall meet him again?"
He raised himself up and looked round, and after a minute rose
and walked humbly down to the lowest bench, and sat down on the
very seat which he had occupied on his first Sunday at Rugby.
And then the old memories rushed back again, but softened and
subdued, and soothing him as he let himself be carried away by
them. And he looked up at the great painted window above the
altar, and remembered how, when a little boy, he used to try not
to look through it at the elm-trees and the rooks, before the
painted glass came; and the subscription for the painted glass,
and the letter he wrote home for money to give to it. And
there, down below, was the very name of the boy who sat on his
right hand on that first day, scratched rudely in the oak
And then came the thought of all his old schoolfellows; and form
after form of boys nobler, and braver, and purer than he rose up
and seemed to rebuke him. Could he not think of them, and what
they had felt and were feeling--they who had honoured and loved
from the first the man whom he had taken years to know and love?
Could he not think of those yet dearer to him who was gone, who
bore his name and shared his blood, and were now without a
husband or a father? Then the grief which he began to share
with others became gentle and holy, and he rose up once more,
and walked up the steps to the altar, and while the tears flowed
freely down his cheeks, knelt down humbly and hopefully, to lay
down there his share of a burden which had proved itself too
heavy for him to bear in his own strength.
Here let us leave him. Where better could we leave him than at
the altar before which he had first caught a glimpse of the
glory of his birthright, and felt the drawing of the bond which
links all living souls together in one brotherhood--at the
grave beneath the altar of him who had opened his eyes to see
that glory, and softened his heart till it could feel that bond?
And let us not be hard on him, if at that moment his soul is
fuller of the tomb and him who lies there than of the altar and
Him of whom it speaks. Such stages have to be gone through, I
believe, by all young and brave souls, who must win their way
through hero-worship to the worship of Him who is the King and
Lord of heroes. For it is only through our mysterious human
relationships--through the love and tenderness and purity of
mothers and sisters and wives, through the strength and courage
and wisdom of fathers and brothers and teachers--that we can
come to the knowledge of Him in whom alone the love, and the
tenderness, and the purity, and the strength, and the courage,
and the wisdom of all these dwell for ever and ever in perfect