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  • 1922
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little creatures seize the other party, and throw them with great violence into something like a snuffbox, which they shut down, and one threw it away with incredible velocity; then turning to me, he said they whom he had secured were a party of devils, who had wandered from their proper habitation; and that the vehicle in which they were inclosed would fly with unabating rapidity for ten thousand years, when it would burst of its own accord, and the devils would recover their liberty and faculties, as at the present moment. He had no sooner finished this relation than the music ceased, and they all disappeared, leaving me in a state of mind bordering on the confines of despair.

When I had recomposed myself a little, I looked before me with inexpressible pleasure, and observed that the eagles were preparing to light on the peak of Teneriffe: they descended to the top of a rock, but seeing no possible means of escape if I dismounted, I determined to remain where I was. The eagles sat down seemingly fatigued, when the heat of the sun soon caused them both to fall asleep, nor did I long resist its fascinating power. In the cool of the evening, when the sun had retired below the horizon, I was aroused from sleep by the eagle moving under me; and have stretched myself along its back, I sat up, and reassumed my traveling position, when they both took wing, and having placed themselves as before, directed their course to South America. The moon shining bright during the whole night, I had a fine view of all the islands in those seas.

About the break of day we reached the great continent of America, that part called Terra-Firma, and descended on the top of a very high mountain. At this time, the moon, far distant in the west, and obscured by dark clouds, but just afforded light sufficient for me to discover a kind of shrubbery all around bearing fruit something like cabbages, which the eagles began to feed on very eagerly. I endeavored to discover my situation, but fogs and passing clouds involved me in the thickest darkness, and what rendered the scene still more shocking was the tremendous howling of wild beasts, some of which appeared to be very near: however, I determined to keep my seat, imagining that the eagle would carry me away if any of them should make a hostile attempt. When daylight began to appear I thought of examining the fruit which I had seen the eagles eat, and as some was hanging which I could easily come at, I took out my knife and cut a slice; but how great was my surprise to see that it had all the appearance of roast beef regularly mixed, both fat and lean! I tasted it, and found it well-flavored and delicious, then cut several large slices, and put in my pocket, where I found a crust of bread which I had brought from Margate; took it out, and found three musket-balls that had been lodged in it on Dover Cliff. I extracted them, and cutting a few slices more, made a hearty meal of bread and cold beef fruit. I then cut down two of the largest that grew near me, and tying them together with one of my garters, hung them over the eagle’s neck for another occasion, filling my pockets at the same time. While I was settling these affairs, I observed a large fruit like an inflated bladder which I wished to try an experiment upon; and when I struck my knife into one of them, a fine pure liquor like Holland gin rushed out, which the eagles observing, eagerly drank up from the ground. I cut down the bladder as fast as I could, and saved about half a pint in the bottom of it, which I tasted, and could not distinguish it from the best mountain wine. I drank it all, and found myself greatly refreshed. By this time the eagles began to stagger against the shrubs. I endeavored to keep my seat, but was soon thrown to some distance among the bushes. In attempting to rise, I put my hand upon a large hedgehog, which happened to lie among the grass upon its back; it instantly closed round my hand, so that I found it impossible to shake it off. I struck it several times against the ground without effect; but while I was thus employed I heard a rustling among the shrubbery, and looking up, I saw a huge animal within three yards of me; I could make no defence, but held out both my hands, when it rushed upon me and seized that on which the hedgehog was fixed. My hand being soon released, I ran to some distance where I saw the creature suddenly drop down and expire with the hedgehog in its throat. When the danger was past, I went to view the eagles, and found them lying on the grass fast asleep, being intoxicated with the liquor they had drunk. Indeed, I found myself considerably elevated by it, and seeing everything quiet, I began to search for some more, which I soon found; and having cut down two large bladders, about a gallon each, I tied them together, and hung them over the neck of the other eagle, and the two smaller ones I tied with a cord round my own waist. Having secured a good stock of provisions, and perceiving the eagles begin to recover, I again took my seat. In half an hour they arose majestically from the place, without taking the least notice of their encumbrance. Each reassumed its former station; and directing their course to the northward, they crossed the Gulf of Mexico, entered North America, and steered directly for the Polar regions, which gave me the finest opportunity of viewing this vast continent that can possibly be imagined.

Before we entered the frigid zone the cold began to affect me; but piercing one of my bladders I took a draught, and found that it could make no impression on me afterwards. Passing over Hudson’s Bay, I saw several of the company’s ships lying at anchor, and many tribes of Indians marching with their furs to market.

By this time I was so reconciled to my seat, and become such an expert rider, that I could sit up and look around me; but in general I lay along the eagle’s neck, grasping it in my arms, with my hands immersed in its feathers, in order to keep them warm.

In these cold climates I observed that the eagles flew with greater rapidity, in order, I suppose, to keep their blood in circulation. In passing Baffin’s Bay I saw several large Greenlandmen to the eastward, and many surprising mountains of ice in those seas.

While I was surveying these wonders of nature it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to discover the northwest passage, if any such thing existed, and not only obtain the reward offered by government, but the honor of a discovery pregnant with so many advantages to every European nation. But while my thoughts were absorbed in this pleasing reverie I was alarmed by the first eagle striking its head against a solid transparent substance, and in a moment that which I rode experienced the same fate, and both fell down seemingly dead.

Here our lives must inevitably have terminated, had not a sense of danger and the singularity of my situation inspired me with a degree of skill and dexterity which enabled us to fall near two miles perpendicular with as little inconvenience as if we had been let down with a rope; for no sooner did I perceive the eagles strike against a frozen cloud, which is very common near the poles, than (they being close together) I laid myself along the back of the foremost and took hold of its wings to keep them extended, at the same time stretching out my legs behind to support the wings of the other. This had the desired effect, and we descended very safe on a mountain of ice, which I supposed to be about three miles above the level of the sea.

I dismounted, unloading the eagles, opened one of the bladders, and administered some of the liquor to each of them, without once considering that the horrors of destruction seemed to have conspired against me. The roaring of waves, crashing of ice, and the howling of bears, conspired to form a scene the most awful and tremendous; but, notwithstanding this, my concern for the recovery of the eagles was so great that I was insensible of the danger to which I was exposed. Having rendered them every assistance in my power, I stood over them in painful anxiety, fully sensible that it was only by means of them that I could possibly be delivered from these abodes of despair.

But suddenly a monstrous bear began to roar behind me, with a voice like thunder. I turned round, and seeing the creature just ready to devour me, having the bladder of liquor in my hands, through fear I squeezed it so hard that it burst, and the liquor, flying in the eyes of the animal, totally deprived it of sight. It instantly turned from me, ran away in a state of distraction, and soon fell over a precipice of ice into the sea, where I saw it no more.

The danger being over, I again turned my attention to the eagles, whom I found in a fair way of recovery, and suspecting that they were faint for want of victuals, I took one of the beef fruit, cut it into small slices, and presented them with it, which they devoured with avidity.

Having given them plenty to eat and drink, and disposed of the remainder of my provisions, I took possession of my seat as before. After composing myself and adjusting everything in the best manner, I began to eat and drink very heartily; and through the effects of the mountain, as I called it, was very cheerful, and began to sing a few verses of a song which I had learned when I was a boy: but the noise soon alarmed the eagles, who had been asleep, through the quantity of liquor which they had drunk, and they arose seemingly much terrified.


Happily for me, however, when I was feeding them I had accidentally turned their heads towards the southeast, which course they pursued with a rapid motion. In a few hours I saw the Western Isles, and soon after had the inexpressible pleasure of seeing Old England. I took no notice of the seas or islands over which I passed.

The eagles descended gradually as they drew near the shore, intending, as I supposed, to alight on one of the Welsh mountains; but when they came to the distance of about sixty yards, two guns were fired at them, loaded with balls, one of which penetrated a bladder of liquor that hung to my waist; the other entered the breast of the foremost eagle, who fell to the ground, while that which I rode, having received no injury, flew away with amazing swiftness.

This circumstance alarmed me exceedingly, and I began to think it was impossible for me to escape with my life; but recovering a little, I once more looked down upon the earth, when, to my inexpressible joy, I saw Margate at a little distance, and the eagle descending on the old tower whence it had carried me on the morning of the day before. It no sooner came down than I threw myself off, happy to find that I was once more restored to the world. The eagle flew away in a few minutes, and I sat down to compose my fluttering spirits, which I did in a few hours.

I soon paid a visit to my friends, and related these adventures. Amazement stood in every countenance; their congratulations on my returning in safety were repeated with an unaffected degree of pleasure, and we passed the evening as we are doing now, every person present paying the highest compliments to my COURAGE and VERACITY.



Little Rock lay on my way to Texas, and as I left it several companions accompanied me a short distance from the village. We were talking briskly together as we drew near the Washita River, and imagined ourselves the only travelers in that vicinity. In a lull in the conversation we were somewhat startled by the sound of music, evidently not far away. We checked our horses and listened, while the music continued.

“What can all that mean?” asked I.

“Blast my old shoes if I know,” said one of the party.

We listened again and heard _Hail Columbia! Happy Land!_ played in first-rate style.

“That’s fine,” said I.

“Fine as silk, Colonel, and a leetle finer,” said another; “but hark! the tune is changed.”

We listened again, and the musician struck up in a brisk and lively manner, _Over the Water to Charlie_.

“That’s mighty mysterious,” said one of my friends.

“Can’t cipher it out nohow,” said another.

“A notch beyant my measure,” said a third.

“Then let’s see what it is,” said I, and off we dashed at a rapid gait.

As we approached the river, we saw to the right of the road a new clearing on a hill, from which several men were running down toward the river like wild Indians. There appeared no time to be lost, so we all cut ahead for the crossing. All this time the music kept growing stronger and stronger, every note distinctly saying, _Over the Water to Charlie._

When we reached the crossing, we were astonished to see a man seated in a sulky in the middle of the river and playing for his life on a fiddle. The horse was up to his middle in water, and it seemed as if the flimsy vehicle was ready to be swept away by the current. Still the fiddler fiddled on composedly as if his life had been insured. We thought he was mad, and shouted to him. He heard us and stopped the music.

“You have missed the crossing,” shouted one of the men.

“I know I have,” replied the fiddler.

“If you go ten feet farther you will be drowned.”

“I know I shall.”

“Turn back,” cried the man.

“I can’t,” said the fiddler.

“Then how the deuce will you get out?”

“I’m sure I don’t know; come and help me.”

The men from the clearing, who understood the river, took our horses, rode up to the sulky, and after some difficulty succeeded in bringing the traveler safe to shore. Then we recognized him as the worthy parson, who had played for us at a puppet show in Little Rock.

“You have had a narrow escape,” said we.

“I found that out an hour ago,” he said. “I have been fiddling to the fishes all the time, and played everything I can play without notes.”

[Illustration: THE PARSON FIDDLED]

“What made you think of fiddling in the time of such peril?” he was asked.

“I have found in my progress through life,” said he, “that there is nothing so well calculated to draw people together as the sound of a fiddle. I might bawl for help till I was hoarse, and no one would stir a peg, but as soon as people hear the scraping of a fiddle, they will quit all other business and come to the spot in flocks.”

We laughed heartily at the knowledge the parson showed of human nature; and he was right.


[Footnote 1: This selection, with _On Comic Songs_, which follows, is taken from _Three Men in a Boat_, by Jerome K. Jerome The complete title of the book is _Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the Dog_)]


There were four of us–George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking and talking about how bad we were–bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.

We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that _he_ had fits of giddiness, too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with, in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch–hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began indolently to study diseases generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into–some fearful, devastating scourge, I know–and, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for a while, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever–read the symptoms–discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it–wondered what else I had got; turned up Saint Vitus’s Dance–found, as I had expected, that I had that, too–began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically–read up ague, and learned that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me. I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diplomas.

Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.

I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.

I went to my medical man. He was an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I’m ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. “What a doctor wants,” I said, “is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each.” So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:

“Well, what’s the matter with you?”

I said:

“I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got housemaid’s knee. Why I have not got housemaid’s knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything, else, however, I _have_ got.”

And I told him how I came to discover it all.

Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and then hit me over the chest when I wasn’t expecting it–a cowardly thing to do, I call it–and immediately afterward butted me with the side of his head. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it to me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.

I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist’s, and handed it in. The man read it, and then handed it back.

He said he didn’t keep it.

I said:

“You are a chemist?”

“I am a chemist. If I were a co-operative store and family hotel combined, I might be able to oblige you. Being only a chemist hampers me.”

I read the prescription. It ran:

“1 lb. beefsteak, with
1 pt. bitter beer
every six hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.

And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”

I followed the directions, with the happy result–speaking for myself–that my life was preserved, and is still going on.

* * * * *

George said:

“Let’s go up the river.”

He said we should have fresh air, exercise and quiet; the constant change of scene would occupy our minds (including what there was of Harris’s); and the hard work would give us an appetite, and make us sleep well.

Harris said he didn’t think George ought to do anything that would have a tendency to make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous. He said he didn’t very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day, summer and winter, alike; but thought that if he _did_ sleep any more, he might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.

Harris said, however, that the river would suit him to a “T.” It suited me to a “T,” too, and Harris and I both said it was a good idea of George’s; and we said in a tone that seemed to imply somehow that we were surprised that George should have come out so sensible.

The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency. He never did care for the river, did Montmorency.

“It’s all very well for you fellows,” he says; “you like it, but _I_ don’t. There’s nothing for me to do. Scenery is not in my line, and I don’t smoke. If I see a rat, you won’t stop; and if I go to sleep, you get fooling about with the boat, and slop me overboard. If you ask me, I call the whole thing bally foolishness.”

We were three to one, however, and the motion was carried.

* * * * *

We made a list of the things to be taken, and a pretty lengthy one it was, before we parted that evening. The next day, which was Friday, we got them all together, and met in the evening to pack. We got a big Gladstone for the clothes, and a couple of hampers for the victuals and the cooking utensils. We moved the table up against the window, piled everything in a heap in the middle of the floor, and sat round and looked at it. I said I’d pack.

I rather pride myself on my packing. Packing is one of those many things that I feel I know more about than any other person living. (It surprises me myself, sometimes, how many of these subjects there are.) I impressed the fact upon George and Harris, and told them they had better leave the whole matter entirely to me. They fell into the suggestion with a readiness that had something uncanny about it. George put on a pipe and spread himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked his legs on the table and lit a cigar.

This was hardly what I intended. What I meant, of course, was, that I should boss the job, and that Harris and George should potter about under my directions, I pushing them aside every now and then with, “Oh, you–!” “Here, let me do it.” “There you are, simple enough!”–really teaching them, as you might say. Their taking it in the way they did irritated me. There is nothing does irritate me more than seeing other people sitting about doing nothing when I’m working.

I lived with a man once who used to make me mad that way. He would loll on the sofa and watch me doing things by the hour together, following me round the room with his eyes, wherever I went. He said it did him real good to look on at me, messing about. He said it made him feel that life was not an idle dream to be gaped and yawned through, but a noble task, full of duty and stern work. He said he often wondered now how he could have gone on before he met me, never having anybody to look at while they worked.

Now, I’m not like that. I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.

However, I did not say anything, but started the packing. It seemed a longer job than I had thought it was going to be, but I got the bag finished at last, and I sat on it and strapped it.

“Ain’t you going to put the boots in?” said Harris.

And I looked round and found I had forgotten them. That’s just like Harris. He couldn’t have said a word until I’d got the bag shut and strapped, of course. And George laughed–one of those irritating, senseless, chuckle-headed, crack-jawed laughs of his. They do make me so wild.

I opened the bag and packed the boots in; and then, just as I was going to close it, a horrible idea occurred to me. Had I packed my toothbrush? I don’t know how it is, but I never do know whether I’ve packed my toothbrush.

My toothbrush is a thing that haunts me when I’m traveling, and makes my life a misery. I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it. And, in the morning, I pack it before I have used it, and have to unpack again to get it, and it is always the last thing I turn out of the bag; and then I repack and forget it, and have to rush upstairs for it at the last moment and carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket handkerchief.

Of course I had to turn every mortal thing out now, and, of course, I could not find it. I rummaged the things up into much the same state that they must have been in before the world was created, and when chaos reigned. Of course, I found George’s and Harris’s eighteen times over, but I couldn’t find my own. I put the things back one by one, and held everything up and shook it. Then I found it inside a boot. I repacked once more. When I had finished, George asked if the soap was in. I said I didn’t care a hang whether the soap was in or whether it wasn’t; and I slammed the bag to and strapped it, and found that I had packed my tobacco pouch in it and had to reopen it. It got shut up finally at 10:05 p.m., and then there remained the hampers to do. Harris said that we should be wanting to start in less than twelve hours’ time, and thought that he and George had better do the rest; and I agreed and sat down, and they had a go.

They began in a light-hearted spirit, evidently intending to show me how to do it. I made no comment. I only waited. When George is hanged, Harris will be the worst packer in this world; and I looked at the piles of plates and cups, and kettles, and bottles and jars, and pies, and stoves, and cakes, and tomatoes, etc., and felt that the thing would soon become exciting.

It did. They started with breaking a cup. That was the first thing they did. They did that just to show you what they _could_ do, and to get you interested.

Then Harris packed the strawberry jam on top of a tomato and squashed it, and they had to pick out the tomato with a teaspoon.

And then it was George’s turn, and he trod on the butter. I didn’t say anything, but I came over and sat on the edge of the table and watched them. It irritated them more than anything I could have said. I felt that. It made them nervous and excited, and they stepped on things, and put things behind them, and then couldn’t find them when they wanted them; and they packed the pies at the bottom, and put heavy things on top, and smashed the pies in.

They upset salt over everything, and as for the butter! I never saw two men do more with one-and-two pence worth of butter in my whole life than they did. After George had got it off his slipper, they tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn’t go in, and what _was_ in wouldn’t come out. They did scrape it out at last, and put it down on a chair, and Harris sat on it, and it stuck to him, and they went looking for it all over the room.

“I’ll take my oath I put it down on that chair,” said George, staring at the empty seat.

“I saw you do it myself, not a minute ago,” said Harris.

Then they started round the room again looking for it; and then they met again in the center, and stared at one another.

“Most extraordinary thing I ever heard of,” said George.

“So mysterious!” said Harris.

Then George got around at the back of Harris and saw it. “Why, here it is all the time,” he exclaimed indignantly.

“Where?” cried Harris, spinning round.

“Stand still, can’t you!” roared George, flying after him.

And they got it off, and packed it in the teapot.

Montmorency was in it all, of course. Montmorency’s ambition in life is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere where he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.


He came and sat down on things, just when they were wanted to be packed; and he labored under the fixed belief that, whenever Harris or George reached out a hand for anything, it was his cold, damp nose that they wanted. He put his leg into the jam, and he worried the teaspoons, and he pretended that the lemons were rats, and got into the hamper and killed three of them before Harris could land him with the frying-pan.

Harris said I encouraged him. I didn’t encourage him. A dog like that doesn’t want any encouragement. It’s the natural, original sin that is born in him that makes him do things like that.

The packing was done at 12:50; and Harris sat on the big hamper, and said he hoped nothing would be found broken. George said that if anything was broken it _was_ broken, which reflection seemed to comfort him. He also said he was ready for bed. We were all ready for bed.




Harris has a fixed idea that he _can_ sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harris’s friends who have heard him try, is that he _can’t_, and never will be able to, and that he ought not to be allowed to try.

When Harris is at a party and is asked to sing, he replies: “Well, I can only sing a _comic_ song, you know”; and he says it in a tone that implies that his singing of _that_, however, is a thing that you ought to hear once, and then die.

“Oh, that _is_ nice,” says the hostess. “Do sing one, Mr. Harris,” and Harris gets up and makes for the piano, with the beaming cheeriness of a generous-minded man who is just about to give somebody something.

“Now, silence, please, everybody,” says the hostess, turning round; “Mr. Harris is going to sing a comic song!”

“Oh, how jolly!” they murmur; and they hurry in from the conservatory, and come up from the stairs, and go and fetch each other from all over the house, and crowd into the drawing-room, and sit round, all smirking in anticipation.

Then Harris begins.

Well, you don’t look for much of a voice in a comic song. You don’t expect correct phrasing or vocalization. You don’t mind if a man does find out, when in the middle of a note, that he is too high, and comes down with a jerk. You don’t bother about time. You don’t mind a man being two bars in front of the accompaniment, and easing up in the middle of a line to argue it out with the pianist, and then starting the verse afresh. But you do expect the words.

You don’t expect a man never to remember more than the first three lines of the first verse, and to keep on repeating these until it is time to begin the chorus. You don’t expect a man to break off in the middle of a line, and snigger, and say, it’s very funny, but he’s blest if he can think of the rest of it, and then try and make it up for himself, and, afterward, suddenly recollect it, when he has got to an entirely different part of the song, and break off, without a word of warning, to go back and let you have it then and there. You don’t–well, I will just give you an idea of Harris’s comic singing, and then you can judge of it for yourself.

HARRIS (_standing up in front of piano and addressing the expectant mob_): “I’m afraid it’s a very old thing, you know. I expect you all know it, you know. But it’s the only thing I know. It’s the Judge’s song out of _Pinafore_–no, I don’t mean _Pinafore_–I mean–you know what I mean–the other thing, you know. You must all join in the chorus, you know.”

[_Murmurs of delight and anxiety to join in the chorus. Brilliant performance of prelude to the Judge’s song in “Trial by Jury” by nervous pianist. Moment arrives for Harris to join in. Harris takes no notice of it. Nervous pianist commences prelude over again, and Harris, commencing singing at the same time, dashes off the first two lines of the First Lord’s song out of “Pinafore.” Nervous pianist tries to push on with prelude, gives it up, and tries to follow Harris with the accompaniment to the Judge’s song out of “Trial by Jury,” finds that doesn’t answer, and tries to recollect what he is doing, and where he is, feels his mind giving way, and stops short_.]

HARRIS (_with kindly encouragement_): “It’s all right. You’re doing very well, indeed–go on.”

NERVOUS PIANIST: “I’m afraid there’s a mistake somewhere. What are you singing?”

HARRIS _(promptly):_ “Why, the Judge’s song out of _Trial by Jury_. Don’t you know it?”

SOME FRIEND OF HARRIS’S (_from the back of the room_): “No, you’re not, you chucklehead, you’re singing the Admiral’s song from _Pinafore_.”

[_Long argument between Harris and Harris’s friend as to what Harris is really singing. Friend finally suggests that it doesn’t matter what Harris is singing so long as Harris gets on and sings it, and Harris, with an evident sense of injustice rankling inside him, requests pianist to begin again. Pianist, thereupon, starts prelude to the Admiral’s song, and Harris, seizing what he considers to be a favorable opening in the music, begins:_]


“‘When I was young and called to the Bar.'”

[_General roar of laughter, taken by Harris as a compliment. Pianist, thinking of his wife and family, gives up the unequal contest and retires: his place being taken by a stronger-nerved man._]

THE NEW PIANIST _(cheerily):_ “Now then, old man, you start off, and I’ll follow. We won’t bother about any prelude.”

HARRIS (_upon whom the explanation of matters has slowly dawned–laughing_): “By Jove! I beg your pardon. Of course–I’ve been mixing up the two songs. It was Jenkins confused me, you know. Now then.”

[_Singing; his voice appearing to come from the cellar, and suggesting the first low warnings of an approaching earthquake_.]

“‘When I was young I served a term As office-boy to an attorney’s firm.'”

_(Aside to pianist_): “It is too low, old man; we’ll have that over again, if you don’t mind.”

[_Sings first two lines over again, in a high falsetto this time. Great surprise on the part of the audience. Nervous old lady begins to cry, and has to be led out_].

HARRIS _(continuing):_

“‘I swept the windows and I swept the door, And I–‘”

No–no, I cleaned the windows of the big front door. And I polished up the floor–no, dash it–I beg your pardon–funny thing, I can’t think of that line. And I–and I–oh, well, we’ll get on the chorus and chance it _(sings):_

“‘And I diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-de, Till now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navee.”

[Illustration: “WHEN I WAS YOUNG”]

“Now then chorus–it’s the last two lines repeated, you know.”


“‘And he diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-did-dle-dee’d, Till now he is the ruler of the Queen’s navee.'”

And Harris never sees what an ass he is making of himself, and how he is annoying a lot of people who never did him any harm. He honestly imagines that he has given them a treat, and says he will sing another comic song after supper.

Speaking of comic songs and parties, reminds me of a rather curious incident at which I once assisted; which, as it throws much light upon the inner mental working of human nature in general, ought, I think, to be recorded in these pages.

We were a fashionable and highly cultured party. We had on our best clothes, and we talked pretty, and were very happy–all except two young fellows, students, just returned from Germany, commonplace young men, who seemed restless and uncomfortable, as if they found the proceedings slow. The truth was, we were too clever for them. Our brilliant but polished conversation, and our high-class tastes, were beyond them. They were out of place among us. They never ought to have been there at all. Everybody agreed upon that, later on.

We discussed philosophy and ethics. We flirted with graceful dignity. We were even humorous–in a high-class way.

Somebody recited a French poem after supper, and we said it was beautiful; and then a lady sang a sentimental ballad in Spanish and it made one or two of us weep–it was so pathetic.

And then those two young men got up, and asked us if we had ever heard Herr Slossenn Boschen (who had just arrived, and was then down in the supper room) sing his great German comic song.

None of us had heard it, that we could remember.

The young men said it was the funniest song that had ever been written, and that, if we liked, they would get Herr Slossenn Boschen, whom they knew very well, to sing it. They said it was so funny that, when Herr Slossenn Boschen had sung it once before the German Emperor, he (the German Emperor) had had to be carried off to bed.

They said nobody could sing it like Herr Slossenn Boschen; he was so intensely serious all through it that you might fancy he was reciting a tragedy, and that, of course, made it all the funnier. They said he never once suggested by his tone or manner that he was singing anything funny–that would spoil it. It was his air of seriousness, almost of pathos, that made it so irresistibly amusing.

We said we yearned to hear it, that we wanted a good laugh; and they went downstairs, and fetched Herr Slossenn Boschen.

He appeared to be quite pleased to sing it, for he came up at once, and sat down to the piano without another word.

“Oh, it will amuse you. You will laugh,” whispered the two young men, as they passed through the room and took up an unobtrusive position behind the Professor’s back.

Herr Slossenn Boschen accompanied himself. The prelude did not suggest a comic song exactly. It was a weird, soulful air. It quite made one’s flesh creep; but we murmured to one another that it was the German method, and prepared to enjoy it.

I don’t understand German myself. I learned it at school, but forgot every word of it two years after I had left, and have felt much better ever since. Still, I did not want the people there to guess my ignorance; so I hit upon what I thought to be rather a good idea. I kept my eye on the two young students, and followed them. When they tittered, I tittered; when they roared, I roared; and I also threw in a little snigger all by myself now and then, as if I had seen a bit of humor that had escaped the others. I considered this particularly artful on my part.

I noticed, as the song progressed, that a good many other people seemed to have their eyes fixed on the two young men, as well as myself. These other people also tittered when the young men tittered, and roared when the young men roared; and, as the two young men tittered and roared and exploded with laughter pretty continuously all through the song, it went exceedingly well.

And yet that German professor did not seem happy. At first, when we began to laugh, the expression of his face was one of intense surprise, as if laughter were the very last thing he had expected to be greeted with. We thought this very funny: we said his earnest manner was half the humor. The slightest hint on his part that he knew how funny he was would have completely ruined it all. As we continued to laugh, his surprise gave way to an air of annoyance and indignation, and he scowled fiercely round upon us all (except the two young men, who, being behind him, could not be seen). That sent us into convulsions. We told each other it would be the death of us, this thing. The words alone, we said, were enough to send us into fits, but added to his mock seriousness–oh, it was too much!

In the last verse, he surpassed himself. He glowered round upon us with a look of such concentrated ferocity that, but for our being forewarned as to the German method of comic singing, we should have been nervous; and he threw such a wailing note of agony into the weird music that, if we had not known it was a funny song, we might have wept.

He finished amid a perfect shriek of laughter. We said it was the funniest thing we had ever heard in all our lives. We said how strange it was that, in the face of things like these, there should be a popular notion that the Germans hadn’t any sense of humor. And we asked the Professor why he didn’t translate the song into English, so that the common people could understand it, and hear what a real comic song was like.

Then Herr Slossenn Boschen got up, and went on awful. He swore at us in German (which I should judge to be a singularly effective language for that purpose), and he danced, and shook his fists, and called us all the English he knew. He said he had never been so insulted in all his life.

It appeared that the song was not a comic song at all. It was about a young girl who lived in the Harz Mountains, and who had given up her life to save her lover’s soul; and he died, and met her spirit in the air; and then, in the last verse, he jilted her spirit, and went on with another spirit–I’m not quite sure of the details, but it was something very sad, I know. Herr Boschen said he had sung it once before the German Emperor, and he (the German Emperor) had sobbed like a little child. He (Herr Boschen) said it was generally acknowledged to be one of the most tragic and pathetic songs in the German language.

It was a trying situation for us–very trying. There seemed to be no answer. We looked around for the two young men who had done this thing, but they had left the house in an unostentatious manner immediately after the end of the song.

That was the end of that party. I never saw a party break up so quietly, and with so little fuss. We never said good-night even to one another. We came downstairs one at a time, walking softly, and keeping the shady side. We asked the servant for our hats and coats in whispers, and opened the door, and slipped out, and got round the corner quickly, avoiding each other as much as possible.

I have never taken much interest in German songs since then.



NOTE.–The Inchcape Rock, or Bell Rock, is a dangerous reef in the North Sea, east of the Firth of Tay, in Scotland, and twelve miles from all land. The story of the forethought of the abbot of Aberbrothok in placing the bell on the buoy as a warning to sailors is an ancient one, and one old writer thus gives the tradition made use of by Southey in this poem:

“In old times upon the said rocke there was a bell fixed upon a timber, which rang continually, being moved by the sea, giving notice to saylers of the danger. The bell was put there and maintained by the abbot of Aberbrothok, but being taken down by a sea-pirate, a yeare thereafter he perished upon the same rocke, with ship and goodes, in the righteous judgment of God.”

A lighthouse, built with the greatest difficulty, has stood on the rock since 1810.

No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,– The ship was still as she might be;
Her sails from heaven received no motion; Her keel was steady in the ocean.

Without either sign or sound of their shock, The waves flowed over the Inchcape Rock; So little they rose, so little they fell, They did not move the Inchcape bell.

The holy abbot of Aberbrothok
Had floated that bell on the Inchcape Rock; On the waves of the storm it floated and swung, And louder and louder its warning rung.

When the rock was hid by the tempest’s swell, The mariners heard the warning bell;
And then they knew the perilous rock, And blessed the priest of Aberbrothok.

The sun in heaven shone so gay,–
All things were joyful on that day; The sea-birds screamed as they sported round, And there was pleasure in their sound.

The float of the Inchcape bell was seen, A darker speck on the ocean green;
Sir Ralph, the rover, walked his deck, And he fixed his eye on the darker speck.

He felt the cheering power of spring,– It made him whistle, it made him sing;
His heart was mirthful to excess;
But the rover’s mirth was wickedness.

His eye was on the bell and float:
Quoth he, “My men, pull out the boat; And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
And I’ll plague the priest of Aberbrothok.”

The boat is lowered, the boatmen row, And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat, And cut the warning bell from the float.

Down sank the bell with a gurgling sound; The bubbles rose, and burst around.
Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the rock Will not bless the priest of Aberbrothok.”

Sir Ralph, the rover, sailed away,– He scoured the seas for many a day;
And now, grown rich with plundered store, He steers his course to Scotland’s shore.

So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky
They could not see the sun on high; The wind hath blown a gale all day;
At evening it hath died away.

On the deck the rover takes his stand; So dark it is they see no land.
Quoth Sir Ralph, “It will be lighter soon, For there is the dawn of the rising moon.”

“Canst hear,” said one, “the breakers roar? For yonder, methinks, should be the shore. Now where we are I cannot tell,
But I wish we could hear the Inchcape bell.”

They hear no sound; the swell is strong, Though the wind hath fallen, they drift along; Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,– O Christ! it is the Inchcape Rock!

Sir Ralph, the rover, tore his hair; He beat himself in wild despair.
The waves rush in on every side;
The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

But ever in his dying fear
One dreadful sound he seemed to hear,– A sound as if with the Inchcape bell
The evil spirit was ringing his knell.



[Footnote 1: _Tom Brown’s School Days_, a description of life at the great English public school of Rugby, is one of the best known and best-liked books ever written for boys. The author, Thomas Hughes, was himself a Rugby boy, and many of the incidents of the story are drawn from his own experience. One of the most interesting things about the book is the picture it gives of Thomas Arnold, head-master of Rugby from 1828 to 1842. The influence for good of this famous scholar and educator, called affectionately “the doctor,” can scarcely be overestimated.

He held that fully as much attention should be paid to the development of manly character in the boys as to mental training, and that the prime object of a school was not to turn out scholars, but to turn out men. This Doctor Arnold was the father of Matthew Arnold, the poet.]



It was a huge, high, airy room, with two large windows looking on to the school close.[2] There were twelve beds in the room, the one in the furthest corner by the fireplace occupied by the sixth-form[3] boy who was responsible for the discipline of the room, and the rest by boys in the lower-fifth and other junior forms, all fags[1] (for the fifth-form boys, as has been said, slept in rooms by themselves). Being fags, the eldest of them was not more than about sixteen years old, and all were bound to be up and in bed by ten; the sixth-form boys came to bed from ten to a quarter-past (at which time the old verger came round to put the candles out), except when they sat up to read.

[Footnote: 2: Tom Brown, an old Rugby boy, has come back after his vacation, full of plans for the good times which he expects to have with his chum East and other cronies. He is, however, called into the housekeeper’s room and introduced to a shy, frail boy, whom he is asked to receive as his roommate and to look out for in the early days of his life at Rugby. Although greatly disappointed, Tom sees no way to refuse the request, and at the beginning of the selection here given we find him with young Arthur in the boys’ dormitory.]

[Footnote 3: The word _form_ is used in English schools instead of _class_.]

[Footnote 1: In English schools the name _fag_ is applied to a boy who does, under compulsion, menial work for a boy of a higher form. The fagging system used to be greatly abused, the boys of the higher classes treating their fags with the greatest cruelty; but the bad points of the custom have been largely done away with.]

Within a few minutes, therefore, of their entry, all the other boys who slept in Number 4, had come up. The little fellows went quietly to their own beds, and began undressing and talking to each other in whispers; while the elder, among whom was Tom, sat chatting about on one another’s beds. Poor little Arthur was overwhelmed with the novelty of his position. The idea of sleeping in the room with strange boys had clearly never crossed his mind before, and was as painful as it was strange to him. He could hardly bear to take his jacket off; however, presently, with an effort, off it came, and then he paused and looked at Tom, who was sitting at the bottom of his bed talking and laughing.

“Please, Brown,” he whispered, “may I wash my face and hands?”

“Of course, if you like,” said Tom, staring; “that’s your washhand-stand, under the window, second from your bed. You’ll have to go down for more water in the morning if you use it all.” And on he went with his talk, while Arthur stole timidly from between the beds out to his washhand-stand, and began his ablutions, thereby drawing for a moment on himself the attention of the room.


On went the talk and laughter. Arthur finished his washing and undressing, and put on his nightgown. He then looked round more nervously than ever. Two or three of the little boys were already in bed, sitting up with their chins on their knees. The light burned clear, the noise went on. It was a trying moment for the poor little lonely boy; however, this time he didn’t ask Tom what he might or might not do, but dropped on his knees by his bedside, as he had done every day from his childhood, to open his heart to Him who heareth the cry and beareth the sorrows of the tender child, and the strong man in agony.

Tom was sitting at the bottom of his bed unlacing his boots, so that his back was toward Arthur, and he didn’t see what had happened, and looked up in wonder at the sudden silence. Then two or three boys laughed and sneered, and a big brutal fellow, who was standing in the middle of the room, picked up a slipper, and shied it at the kneeling boy, calling him a sniveling young shaver. Then Tom saw the whole, and the next moment the boot he had just pulled off flew straight at the head of the bully, who had just time to throw up his arm and catch it on his elbow.

“Confound you, Brown, what’s that for?” roared he, stamping with pain.

“Never mind what I mean,” said Tom, stepping on to the floor, every drop of blood in his body tingling; “if any fellow wants the other boot, he knows how to get it.”

What would have been the result is doubtful, for at this moment the sixth-form boy came in, and not another word could be said. Tom and the rest rushed into bed and finished unrobing there, and the old verger, as punctual as the clock, had put out the candle in another minute, and toddled on to the next room, shutting the door with his usual “Good night, genl’m’n.”

There were many boys in the room by whom that little scene was taken to heart before they slept. But sleep seemed to have deserted the pillow of poor Tom. For some time his excitement, and the flood of memories which chased one another through his brain, kept him from thinking or resolving. His head throbbed, his heart leaped, and he could hardly keep himself from springing out of bed and rushing about the room. Then the thought of his own mother came across him, and the promise he had made at her knee, years ago, never to forget to kneel by his bedside, and give himself up to his Father, before he laid his head on the pillow, from which it might never rise; and he lay down gently and cried as if his heart would break. He was only fourteen years old.

[Illustration: Rugby School]

It was no light act of courage in those days, my dear boys, for a little fellow to say his prayers publicly even at Rugby. A few years later, when Arnold’s manly piety had begun to leaven the school, the tables turned; before he died, in the schoolhouse at least, and I believe in the other houses, the rule was the other way. But poor Tom had come to school in other times. The first few nights after he came he did not kneel down because of the noise, but sat up in bed till the candle was out, and then stole out and said his prayers in fear, lest some one should find him out. So did many another poor little fellow. Then he began to think that he might just as well say his prayers in bed, and then that it didn’t matter whether he was kneeling, or sitting, or lying down. And so it had come to pass with Tom as with all who will not confess their Lord before men: and for the last year he had probably not said his prayers in earnest a dozen times.

Poor Tom! the first and bitterest feeling which was like to break his heart was the sense of his own cowardice. The vice of all others which he loathed was brought in and burned in on his own soul. He had lied to his mother, to his conscience, to his God. How could he bear it? And then the poor little weak boy, whom he had pitied and almost scorned for his weakness, had done that which he, braggart as he was, dared not do. The first dawn of comfort came to him in swearing to himself that he would stand by that boy through thick and thin, and cheer him, and help him, and bear his burdens, for the good deed done that night. Then he resolved to write home next day and tell his mother all, and what a coward her son had been. And then peace came to him as he resolved, lastly, to bear his testimony next morning. The morning would be harder than the night to begin with, but he felt that he could not afford to let one chance slip. Several times he faltered, for the devil showed him, first, all his old friends calling him “Saint” and “Square-toes,” and a dozen hard names, and whispered to him that his motives would be misunderstood, and he would only be left alone with the new boy; whereas it was his duty to keep all means of influence, that he might do good to the largest number. And then came the more subtle temptation, “Shall I not be showing myself braver than others by doing this? Have I any right to begin it now? Ought I not rather to pray in my own study, letting other boys know that I do so, and trying to lead them to it, while in public at least I should go on as I have done?” However, his good angel was too strong that night, and he turned on his side and slept, tired of trying to reason, but resolved to follow the impulse which had been so strong, and in which he had found peace.

Next morning he was up and washed and dressed, all but his jacket and waistcoat, just as the ten minute’s bell began to ring, and then in the face of the whole room knelt down to pray. Not five words could he say–the bell mocked him; he was listening for every whisper in the room–what were they all thinking of him? He was ashamed to go on kneeling, ashamed to rise from his knees. At last, as it were from his inmost heart, a still small voice seemed to breathe forth words of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” He repeated them over and over, clinging to them as for his life, and rose from his knees comforted and humbled, and ready to face the whole world. It was not needed: two other boys besides Arthur had already followed his example, and he went down to the great school with a glimmering of another lesson in his heart–the lesson that he who has conquered his own coward spirit has conquered the whole outward world; and that other one which the old prophet learned in the cave of Mount Horeb, when he hid his face, and the still small voice asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” that however we may fancy ourselves alone on the side of good, the King and Lord of men is nowhere without His witnesses; for in every society, however seemingly corrupt and godless, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

He found too how greatly he had exaggerated the effect to be produced by his act. For a few nights there was a sneer or a laugh when he knelt down, but this passed off soon and one by one all the other boys but three or four followed the lead. I fear that this was in some measure owing to the fact, that Tom could probably have thrashed any boy in the room except the praepostor;[5] at any rate, every boy knew that he would try upon very slight provocation, and didn’t choose to run the risk of a hard fight because Tom Brown had taken a fancy to say his prayers.

[Footnote 5: A praepostor is a monitor, a scholar appointed to oversee other scholars.]


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, let those young persons whose stomachs are not strong, or who think a good set-to with the weapons which God has given to 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 quarreling with his nearest neighbors, 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 neighbors’ 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 wickedness 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 toward 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,[6] in which form all our _dramatis personae_ now are, were reading among 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 (among 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.

[Footnote 6: _Shell_ is the name applied, in some public schools, to a sort of intermediate class.]

“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._,[7] little Arthur not daring to lift up his voice; but, being deeply interested in what they were reading, he stayed quietly behind, and learned on for his own pleasure.

[Footnote 7: _Nemine contradicente_ is a Latin expression meaning _no one speaking in opposition_.]

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 strikes.

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: alla su ton g’ epeessi maraiphamenos katrukes, Sae t’ aganophrosunae kai sois aganois epeessin.][1]

[Footnote 1: Pope’s free rendering of these lines is as follows:

If some proud brother eyed me with disdain, Or scornful sister with her sweeping train, Thy gentle accents softened all my pain.]

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 learned 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 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’ 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, good-natured fellow enough, but very much alive to his own dignity. He reckoned himself the king of the form, and kept up his position with a 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 waterworks 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 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 learned 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 friend.

“Oh, your name’s Arthur. Well now, what is the length of your regular lesson?”

Arthur hesitated a moment, and then said, “We call it only forty lines, sir.”

“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, 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 Tom.

“Will you fight?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Huzza, there’s going to be a fight between Slogger Williams and Tom Brown!”

The news ran like wild-fire about, and many boys 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 feast.

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 shirt-sleeves 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.

[Illustration: “A FIGHT!”]

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 feebleish, 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.[9] 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.

[Footnote: 9. _Tuck_ is a slang name for pastry or sweetmeats.]

“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 anywhere.


“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 note-book to enter it–for our friend Rattle sometimes forgets these little things.

Meantime East is freshening up Tom with the sponges for the 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 cautious, 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 defensive.

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 skillfully parried and avoided, over-reaches himself and falls on his face, amid terrific cheers from the school-house boys.

“Double your two to one?” says Groove to Rattle, note-book in hand.

“Stop a bit,” says the 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 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 Mary, the matron, who he knew would instantly report it to the doctor. The stories he had heard of men being killed in prize-fights rose up horribly before him.

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 should die.

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 the help of the fall he had learned 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 certain 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 the 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, hurra! 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, he 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’ face. Tom starts 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 to two on the little one in half-crowns,” said Groove to Rattle.

“No, thank ‘ee,” answers the other, diving his hands further into his coat-tails.

Just at this stage of the proceedings, the door of 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 last time.

“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 qualm.

“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 favorite 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 doctor.

“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 equal.”

“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 graveled.

“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, 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 gotten 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 matter.”

“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.”

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 every-day school life was in my time and partly because of the cant and twaddle that’s talked of boxing and fighting with fists now-a-days. Even Thackeray has given in to it; and only a few weeks ago there was some rampant stuff in the _Times_ on the subject.

Boys will quarrel, and when they quarrel will sometimes fight. Fighting with fists is the natural English way for English boys to settle their quarrels. What substitute for it is there, or ever was there, among 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 and see.


NOTE.–The pronunciation of difficult words is indicated by respelling them phonetically. _N_ is used to indicate the French nasal sound; _K_ the sound of _ch_ in German; _ue_ the sound of the German _ue_, and French _u; oe_ the sound of _oe_ in foreign languages.

AGINCOURT, _aj’ in kort_, or _ah zhaN koor’_

ATHELSTANE, _ath’ el stane_

AYTOUN, (Wai. E.) _ay’ toon_

CAERLEON, _kahr le’ on_

CHEYENNE, _shi en’_

DUQUESNE, _du kayn’_

FROUDE, _frood_

GALAHAD, _gal’ a had_

GHENT, _gent_

GRANTMESNIL, _groN ma neel’_

GUINEVERE, _gwin’ e veer_

HOUYHNHNMS, _hoo’ in ‘ms_

LEIODES, _le o’ deez_

MARACAIBO, _mahr ah ki’ bo_

OTAHEITE, _o tah he’ te_

POITIERS, _pwaht ya’_

SEINE, _sayn_

SIOUX, _soo_

SKALD, _skawld_

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