TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
THE NEW BOY.
THE NEW BOY.
Heaven's rich instincts in him grew
I do not mean to recount all the little troubles
and annoyances which thronged upon Tom at the beginning of this half-year, in
his new character of bear-leader to a gentle little boy straight from home.
He seemed to himself to have become a new boy again, without any of the
long-suffering and meekness indispensable for supporting that character with
moderate success. From morning till night he had the feeling of responsibility
on his mind, and even if he left Arthur in their study or in the close for an
hour, was never at ease till he had him in sight again.
He waited for him at the doors of the school after every lesson and every
calling-over; watched that no tricks were played him, and none but the
regulation questions asked; kept his eye on his plate at dinner and breakfast,
to see that no unfair depredations were made upon his viands; in short, as East
remarked, cackled after him like a hen with one chick.
Arthur took a long time thawing, too, which made
it all the harder work; was sadly timid; scarcely ever spoke unless Tom spoke to
him first; and, worst of all, would agree with him in everything--the hardest
thing in the world for a Brown to bear. He got quite angry sometimes, as they
sat together of a night in their study, at this provoking habit of agreement,
and was on the point of breaking out a dozen times with a lecture upon the
propriety of a fellow having a will of his own and speaking out, but managed to
restrain himself by the thought that he might only frighten Arthur, and the
remembrance of the lesson he had learnt from him on his first night at Number 4.
Then he would resolve to sit still and not say a word till Arthur began;
but he was always beat at that game, and had presently to begin talking in
despair, fearing lest Arthur might think he was vexed at something if he didn't,
and dog-tired of sitting tongue-tied.
It was hard work.
But Tom had taken it up, and meant to stick to it, and go through with it
so as to satisfy himself; in which resolution he was much assisted by the
chafing of East and his other old friends, who began to call him
"dry-nurse," and otherwise to break their small wit on him.
But when they took other ground, as they did every now and then, Tom was
"Tell you what, Tommy," East would say;
"you'll spoil young Hopeful with too much coddling.
Why can't you let him go about by himself and find his own level?
He'll never be worth a button if you go on keeping him under your
"Well, but he ain't fit to fight his own way
yet; I'm trying to get him to it every day, but he's very odd.
Poor little beggar! I can't make him out a bit.
He ain't a bit like anything I've ever seen or heard of--he seems all
over nerves; anything you say seems to hurt him like a cut or a blow."
"That sort of boy's no use here," said
East; "he'll only spoil. Now I'll tell you what to do, Tommy.
Go and get a nice large band-box made, and put him in with plenty of
cotton-wool and a pap-bottle, labelled 'With care--this side up,' and send him
back to mamma."
"I think I shall make a hand of him
though," said Tom, smiling, "say what you will.
There's something about him, every now and then, which shows me he's got
pluck somewhere in him. That's the only thing after all that'll wash, ain't it, old
Scud? But how to get at it and
bring it out?"
Tom took one hand out of his breeches-pocket and
stuck it in his back hair for a scratch, giving his hat a tilt over his nose,
his one method of invoking wisdom. He
stared at the ground with a ludicrously puzzled look, and presently looked up
and met East's eyes. That young
gentleman slapped him on the back, and then put his arm round his shoulder, as
they strolled through the quadrangle together.
"Tom," said he, "blest if you ain't the best old fellow
ever was. I do like to see you go
into a thing. Hang it, I wish I
could take things as you do; but I never can get higher than a joke.
Everything's a joke. If I
was going to be flogged next minute, I should be in a blue funk, but I couldn't
help laughing at it for the life of me."
"Brown and East, you go and fag for Jones on
the great fives court."
"Hullo, though, that's past a joke,"
broke out East, springing at the young gentleman who addressed them, and
catching him by the collar. --"Here, Tommy, catch hold of him t'other side
before he can holla."
The youth was seized, and dragged, struggling, out
of the quadrangle into the School-house hall.
He was one of the miserable little pretty white-handed, curly-headed
boys, petted and pampered by some of the big fellows, who wrote their verses for
them, taught them to drink and use bad language, and did all they could to spoil
them for everything * in this world and the next.
One of the avocations in which these young gentlemen took particular
delight was in going about and getting fags for their protectors, when those
heroes were playing any game. They carried about pencil and paper with them, putting down
the names of all the boys they sent, always sending five times as many as were
wanted, and getting all those thrashed who didn't go. The present youth belonged to a house which was very jealous
of the School-house, and always picked out School-house fags when he could find
them. However, this time he'd got
the wrong sow by the ear. His
captors slammed the great door of the hall, and East put his back against it,
while Tom gave the prisoner a shake up, took away his list, and stood him up on
the floor, while he proceeded leisurely to examine that document.
* A kind and wise critic, an old Rugboean, notes
here in the margin: "The small
friend system was not so utterly bad from 1841-1847."
Before that, too, there were many noble friendships between big and
little boys; but I can't strike out the passage. Many boys will know why it is
"Let me out, let me go!"
screamed the boy, in a furious passion.
"I'll go and tell Jones this minute, and he'll give you both the ---
thrashing you ever had."
"Pretty little dear," said East, patting
the top of his hat. -- "Hark how he swears, Tom. Nicely brought up young man, ain't he, I don't think."
"Let me alone, --- you," roared the boy,
foaming with rage, and kicking at East, who quietly tripped him up, and
deposited him on the floor in a place of safety.
"Gently, young fellow," said he; "'tain't
improving for little whippersnappers like you to be indulging in blasphemy; so
you stop that, or you'll get something you won't like."
"I'll have you both licked when I get out,
that I will," rejoined the boy, beginning to snivel.
"Two can play at that game, mind you,"
said Tom, who had finished his examination of the list.
"Now you just listen here. We've
just come across the fives court, and Jones has four fags there already--two
more than he wants. If he'd wanted
us to change, he'd have stopped us himself.
And here, you little blackguard, you've got seven names down on your list
besides ours, and five of them School-house."
Tom walked up to him, and jerked him on to his legs; he was by this time
whining like a whipped puppy. "Now
just listen to me. We ain't going
to fag for Jones. If you tell him
you've sent us, we'll each of us give you such a thrashing as you'll
remember." And Tom tore up the
list and threw the pieces into the fire.
"And mind you, too," said East,
"don't let me catch you again sneaking about the School-house, and picking
up our fags. You haven't got the
sort of hide to take a sound licking kindly." And he opened the door and
sent the young gentleman flying into the quadrangle with a parting kick.
"Nice boy, Tommy," said East, shoving
his hands in his pockets, and strolling to the fire.
"Worst sort we breed," responded Tom,
following his example. "Thank goodness, no big fellow ever took to petting
"You'd never have been like that," said
East. "I should like to have
put him in a museum: Christian
young gentleman, nineteenth century, highly educated. Stir him up with a long pole, Jack, and hear him swear like a
drunken sailor. He'd make a
respectable public open its eyes, I think."
"Think he'll tell Jones?" said Tom.
"No," said East. "Don't care if he does."
"Nor I," said Tom.
And they went back to talk about Arthur.
The young gentleman had brains enough not to tell
Jones, reasoning that East and Brown, who were noted as some of the toughest
fags in the School, wouldn't care three straws for any licking Jones might give
them, and would be likely to keep their words as to passing it on with interest.
After the above conversation, East came a good
deal to their study, and took notice of Arthur, and soon allowed to Tom that he
was a thorough little gentleman, and would get over his shyness all in good
time; which much comforted our hero. He
felt every day, too, the value of having an object in his life-- something that
drew him out of himself; and it being the dull time of the year, and no games
going about for which he much cared, was happier than he had ever yet been at
school, which was saying a great deal.
The time which Tom allowed himself away from his
charge was from locking-up till supper-time.
During this hour or hour and a half he used to take his fling, going
round to the studies of all his acquaintance, sparring or gossiping in the hall,
now jumping the old iron-bound tables, or carving a bit of his name on them,
then joining in some chorus of merry voices--in fact, blowing off his steam, as
we should now call it.
This process was so congenial to his temper, and
Arthur showed himself so pleased at the arrangement, that it was several weeks
before Tom was ever in their study before supper. One evening, however, he rushed in to look for an old chisel,
or some corks, or other article essential to his pursuit for the time being, and
while rummaging about in the cupboards, looked up for a moment, and was caught
at once by the figure of poor little Arthur.
The boy was sitting with his elbows on the table, and his head leaning on
his hands, and before him an open book, on which his tears were falling fast.
Tom shut the door at once, and sat down on the sofa by Arthur, putting
his arm round his neck.
"Why, young un, what's the matter?" said
he kindly; "you ain't unhappy, are you?"
"Oh no, Brown," said the little boy,
looking up with the great tears in his eyes; "you are so kind to me, I'm
"Why don't you call me Tom?
Lots of boys do that I don't like half so much as you.
What are you reading, then? Hang
it! you must come about with me, and not mope yourself."
And Tom cast down his eyes on the book, and saw it was the Bible.
He was silent for a minute, and thought to himself, "Lesson Number
2, Tom Brown;" and then said gently, "I'm very glad to see this,
Arthur, and ashamed that I don't read the Bible more myself.
Do you read it every night before supper while I'm out?"
"Well, I wish you'd wait till afterwards, and
then we'd read together. But,
Arthur, why does it make you cry?"
"Oh, it isn't that I'm unhappy.
But at home, while my father was alive, we always read the lessons after
tea; and I love to read them over now, and try to remember what he said about
them. I can't remember all and I think I scarcely understand a great deal of
what I do remember. But it all
comes back to me so fresh that I can't help crying sometimes to think I shall
never read them again with him."
Arthur had never spoken of his home before, and
Tom hadn't encouraged him to do so, as his blundering schoolboy reasoning made
him think that Arthur would be softened and less manly for thinking of home.
But now he was fairly interested, and forgot all about chisels and
bottled beer; while with very little encouragement Arthur launched into his home
history, and the prayer-bell put them both out sadly when it rang to call them
to the hall.
From this time Arthur constantly spoke of his
home, and above all, of his father, who had been dead about a year, and whose
memory Tom soon got to love and reverence almost as much as his own son did.
Arthur's father had been the clergyman of a parish
in the Midland counties, which had risen into a large town during the war, and
upon which the hard years which followed had fallen with fearful weight.
The trade had been half ruined; and then came the old, sad story, of
masters reducing their establishments, men turned off and wandering about,
hungry and wan in body, and fierce in soul, from the thought of wives and
children starving at home, and the last sticks of furniture going to the
pawnshop; children taken from school, and lounging about the dirty streets and
courts, too listless almost to play, and squalid in rags and misery; and then
the fearful struggle between the employers and men--lowerings of wages, strikes,
and the long course of oft-repeated crime, ending every now and then with a
riot, a fire, and the county yeomanry. There
is no need here to dwell upon such tales: the
Englishman into whose soul they have not sunk deep is not worthy the name. You English boys, for whom this book is meant (God bless your
bright faces and kind hearts!), will learn it all soon enough.
Into such a parish and state of society Arthur's
father had been thrown at the age of twenty-five--a young married parson, full
of faith, hope, and love. He had
battled with it like a man, and had lots of fine Utopian ideas about the
perfectibility of mankind, glorious humanity, and such-like, knocked out of his
head, and a real, wholesome Christian love for the poor, struggling, sinning
men, of whom he felt himself one, and with and for whom he spent fortune, and
strength, and life, driven into his heart.
He had battled like a man, and gotten a man's reward--no silver tea-pots
or salvers, with flowery inscriptions setting forth his virtues and the
appreciation of a genteel parish; no fat living or stall, for which he never
looked, and didn't care; no sighs and praises of comfortable dowagers and
well-got-up young women, who worked him slippers, sugared his tea, and adored
him as "a devoted man;" but a manly respect, wrung from the unwilling
souls of men who fancied his order their natural enemies; the fear and hatred of
every one who was false or unjust in the district, were he master or man; and
the blessed sight of women and children daily becoming more human and more
homely, a comfort to themselves and to their husbands and fathers.
These things, of course, took time, and had to be
fought for with toil and sweat of brain and heart, and with the life-blood
poured out. All that, Arthur had
laid his account to give, and took as a matter of course, neither pitying
himself, nor looking on himself as a martyr, when he felt the wear and tear
making him feel old before his time, and the stifling air of fever-dens telling
on his health. His wife seconded
him in everything. She had been rather fond of society, and much admired and run
after before her marriage; and the London world to which she had belonged pitied
poor Fanny Evelyn when she married the young clergyman, and went to settle in
that smoky hole Turley; a very nest of Chartism and Atheism, in a part of the
country which all the decent families had had to leave for years.
However, somehow or other she didn't seem to care.
If her husband's living had been amongst green fields and near pleasant
neighbours she would have liked it better--that she never pretended to deny.
But there they were. The air
wasn't bad, after all; the people were very good sort of people--civil to you if
you were civil to them, after the first brush; and they didn't expect to work
miracles, and convert them all off-hand into model Christians.
So he and she went quietly among the folk, talking to and treating them
just as they would have done people of their own rank.
They didn't feel that they were doing anything out of the common way, and
so were perfectly natural, and had none of that condescension or consciousness
of manner which so outrages the independent poor.
And thus they gradually won respect and confidence; and after sixteen
years he was looked up to by the whole neighbourhood as the just man, the man to
whom masters and men could go in their strikes, and in all their quarrels and
difficulties, and by whom the right and true word would be said without fear or
favour. And the women had come
round to take her advice, and go to her as a friend in all their troubles; while
the children all worshipped the very ground she trod on.
They had three children, two daughters and a son,
little Arthur, who came between his sisters.
He had been a very delicate boy from his childhood; they thought he had a
tendency to consumption, and so he had been kept at home and taught by his
father, who had made a companion of him, and from whom he had gained good
scholarship, and a knowledge of and interest in many subjects which boys in
general never come across till they are many years older.
Just as he reached his thirteenth year, and his
father had settled that he was strong enough to go to school, and, after much
debating with himself, had resolved to send him there, a desperate typhus fever
broke out in the town. Most of the
other clergy, and almost all the doctors, ran away; the work fell with tenfold
weight on those who stood to their work. Arthur
and his wife both caught the fever, of which he died in a few days; and she
recovered, having been able to nurse him to the end, and store up his last
words. He was sensible to the last,
and calm and happy, leaving his wife and children with fearless trust for a few
years in the hands of the Lord and Friend who had lived and died for him, and
for whom he, to the best of his power, had lived and died.
His widow's mourning was deep and gentle.
She was more affected by the request of the committee of a freethinking
club, established in the town by some of the factory hands (which he had striven
against with might and main, and nearly suppressed), that some of their number
might be allowed to help bear the coffin, than by anything else.
Two of them were chosen, who, with six other labouring men, his own
fellow-workmen and friends, bore him to his grave--a man who had fought the
Lord's fight even unto the death. The
shops were closed and the factories shut that day in the parish, yet no master
stopped the day's wages; but for many a year afterwards the townsfolk felt the
want of that brave, hopeful, loving parson and his wife, who had lived to teach
them mutual forbearance and helpfulness, and had almost at last given them a
glimpse of what this old world would be if people would live for God and each
other instead of for themselves.
What has all this to do with our story?
Well, my dear boys, let a fellow go on his own way, or you won't get
anything out of him worth having. I
must show you what sort of a man it was who had begotten and trained little
Arthur, or else you won't believe in him, which I am resolved you shall do; and
you won't see how he, the timid, weak boy, had points in him from which the
bravest and strongest recoiled, and made his presence and example felt from the
first on all sides, unconsciously to himself, and without the least attempt at
proselytizing. The spirit of his
father was in him, and the Friend to whom his father had left him did not
neglect the trust.
After supper that night, and almost nightly for
years afterwards, Tom and Arthur, and by degrees East occasionally, and
sometimes one, sometimes another, of their friends, read a chapter of the Bible
together, and talked it over afterwards. Tom was at first utterly astonished,
and almost shocked, at the sort of way in which Arthur read the book and talked
about the men and women whose lives were there told. The first night they happened to fall on the chapters about
the famine in Egypt, and Arthur began talking about Joseph as if he were a
living statesman--just as he might have talked about Lord Grey and the Reform
Bill, only that they were much more living realities to him.
The book was to him, Tom saw, the most vivid and delightful history of
real people, who might do right or wrong, just like any one who was walking
about in Rugby--the Doctor, or the masters, or the sixth-form boys.
But the astonishment soon passed off, the scales seemed to drop from his
eyes, and the book became at once and for ever to him the great human and divine
book, and the men and women, whom he had looked upon as something quite
different from himself, became his friends and counsellors.
For our purposes, however, the history of one
night's reading will be sufficient, which must be told here, now we are on the
subject, though it didn't happen till a year afterwards, and long after the
events recorded in the next chapter of our story.
Arthur, Tom, and East were together one night, and
read the story of Naaman coming to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy. When the
chapter was finished, Tom shut his Bible with a slap.
"I can't stand that fellow Naaman," said
he, "after what he'd seen and felt, going back and bowing himself down in
the house of Rimmon, because his effeminate scoundrel of a master did it. I
wonder Elisha took the trouble to heal him.
How he must have despised him!"
"Yes; there you go off as usual, with a shell
on your head," struck in East, who always took the opposite side to Tom,
half from love of argument, half from conviction. "How do you know he didn't think better of it?
How do you know his master was a scoundrel?
His letter don't look like it, and the book don't say so."
"I don't care," rejoined Tom; "why
did Naaman talk about bowing down, then, if he didn't mean to do it?
He wasn't likely to get more in earnest when he got back to court, and
away from the prophet."
"Well, but, Tom," said Arthur,
"look what Elisha says to him-- 'Go in peace.'
He wouldn't have said that if Naaman had been in the wrong."
"I don't see that that means more than
saying, 'You're not the man I took you for.'"
"No, no; that won't do at all," said
East. "Read the words fairly,
and take men as you find them. I
like Naaman, and think he was a very fine fellow."
"I don't," said Tom positively.
"Well, I think East is right," said
Arthur; "I can't see but what it's right to do the best you can, though it
mayn't be the best absolutely. Every
man isn't born to be a martyr."
"Of course, of course," said East;
"but he's on one of his pet hobbies. --How often have I told you, Tom, that
you must drive a nail where it'll go."
"And how often have I told you,"
rejoined Tom, "that it'll always go where you want, if you only stick to it
and hit hard enough. I hate
half-measures and compromises."
"Yes, he's a whole-hog man, is Tom.
Must have the whole animal- hair and teeth, claws and tail," laughed
East. "Sooner have no bread
any day than half the loaf."
"I don't know;" said Arthur--"it's
rather puzzling; but ain't most right things got by proper compromises--I mean
where the principle isn't given up?"
"That's just the point," said Tom;
"I don't object to a compromise, where you don't give up your
"Not you," said East
laughingly.--"I know him of old, Arthur, and you'll find him out some day.
There isn't such a reasonable fellow in the world, to hear him talk.
He never wants anything but what's right and fair; only when you come to
settle what's right and fair, it's everything that he wants, and nothing that
you want. And that's his idea of a
compromise. Give me the Brown
compromise when I'm on his side."
"Now, Harry," said Tom, "no more
chaff. I'm serious.
Look here. This is what
makes my blood tingle." And he turned over the pages of his Bible and read,
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed- nego answered and said to the king, O
Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning
fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy
gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." He read the
last verse twice, emphasizing the nots, and dwelling on them as if they gave him
actual pleasure, and were hard to part with.
They were silent a minute, and then Arthur said,
"Yes, that's a glorious story, but it don't prove your point, Tom, I think.
There are times when there is only one way, and that the highest, and
then the men are found to stand in the breach."
"There's always a highest way, and it's
always the right one," said Tom. "How many times has the Doctor told us that in his
sermons in the last year, I should like to know?"
"Well, you ain't going to convince us--is he,
Arthur? No Brown compromise
to-night," said East, looking at his watch. "But it's past eight, and we must go to first lesson.
What a bore!"
So they took down their books and fell to work;
but Arthur didn't forget, and thought long and often over the conversation.