TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
ARTHUR MAKES A FRIEND.
ARTHUR MAKES A FRIEND.
Nature be your teacher:
six weeks after the beginning of the half, as Tom and Arthur were sitting one
night before supper beginning their verses, Arthur suddenly stopped, and looked
up, and said, "Tom, do you know anything of Martin?"
said Tom, taking his hand out of his back hair, and delighted to throw his
Gradus ad Parnassum on to the sofa; "I know him pretty well.
He's a very good fellow, but as mad as a hatter.
He's called Madman, you know. And
never was such a fellow for getting all sorts of rum things about him.
He tamed two snakes last half, and used to carry them about in his
pocket; and I'll be bound he's got some hedgehogs and rats in his cupboard now,
and no one knows what besides."
should like very much to know him," said Arthur; "he was next to me in
the form to-day, and he'd lost his book and looked over mine, and he seemed so
kind and gentle that I liked him very much."
poor old Madman, he's always losing his books," said Tom, "and getting
called up and floored because he hasn't got them."
like him all the better," said Arthur.
he's great fun, I can tell you," said Tom, throwing himself back on the
sofa, and chuckling at the remembrance. "We
had such a game with him one day last half.
He had been kicking up horrid stinks for some time in his study, till I
suppose some fellow told Mary, and she told the Doctor.
Anyhow, one day a little before dinner, when he came down from the
library, the Doctor, instead of going home, came striding into the hall. East
and I and five or six other fellows were at the fire, and preciously we stared,
for he don't come in like that once a year, unless it is a wet day and there's a
fight in the hall. 'East,' says he, 'just come and show me Martin's study.'
'Oh, here's a game,' whispered the rest of us; and we all cut upstairs
after the Doctor, East leading. As
we got into the New Row, which was hardly wide enough to hold the Doctor and his
gown, click, click, click, we heard in the old Madman's den. Then that stopped
all of a sudden, and the bolts went to like fun.
The Madman knew East's step, and thought there was going to be a siege.
the Doctor, Martin. He's here and
wants to see you,' sings out East.
the bolts went back slowly, and the door opened, and there was the old Madman
standing, looking precious scared--his jacket off, his shirt-sleeves up to his
elbows, and his long skinny arms all covered with anchors and arrows and
letters, tattooed in with gunpowder like a sailor-boy's, and a stink fit to
knock you down coming out. 'Twas
all the Doctor could do to stand his ground, and East and I, who were looking in
under his arms, held our noses tight. The
old magpie was standing on the window-sill, all his feathers drooping, and
looking disgusted and half-poisoned.
can you be about, Martin?' says the Doctor.
'You really mustn't go on in this way; you're a nuisance to the whole
sir, I was only mixing up this powder; there isn't any harm in it.
And the Madman seized nervously on his pestle and mortar, to show the
Doctor the harmlessness of his pursuits, and went on pounding--click, click,
click. He hadn't given six clicks
before, puff! up went the whole into a great blaze, away went the pestle and
mortar across the study, and back we tumbled into the passage.
The magpie fluttered down into the court, swearing, and the Madman danced
out, howling, with his fingers in his mouth. The Doctor caught hold of him, and called to us to fetch some
water. 'There, you silly fellow,'
said he, quite pleased, though, to find he wasn't much hurt, 'you see you don't
know the least what you're doing with all these things; and now, mind, you must
give up practising chemistry by yourself.'
Then he took hold of his arm and looked at it, and I saw he had to bite
his lip, and his eyes twinkled; but he said, quite grave, 'Here, you see, you've
been making all these foolish marks on yourself, which you can never get out,
and you'll be very sorry for it in a year or two.
Now come down to the housekeeper's room, and let us see if you are hurt.'
And away went the two, and we all stayed and had a regular turn-out of
the den, till Martin came back with his hand bandaged and turned us out.
However, I'll go and see what he's after, and tell him to come in after prayers
to supper." And away went Tom
to find the boy in question, who dwelt in a little study by himself, in New Row.
aforesaid Martin, whom Arthur had taken such a fancy for, was one of those
unfortunates who were at that time of day (and are, I fear, still) quite out of
their places at a public school. If
we knew how to use our boys, Martin would have been seized upon and educated as
a natural philosopher. He had a
passion for birds, beasts, and insects, and knew more of them and their habits
than any one in Rugby--except perhaps the Doctor, who knew everything.
He was also an experimental chemist on a small scale, and had made unto
himself an electric machine, from which it was his greatest pleasure and glory
to administer small shocks to any small boys who were rash enough to venture
into his study. And this was by no
means an adventure free from excitement; for besides the probability of a snake
dropping on to your head or twining lovingly up your leg, or a rat getting into
your breeches-pocket in search of food, there was the animal and chemical odour
to be faced, which always hung about the den, and the chance of being blown up
in some of the many experiments which Martin was always trying, with the most
wondrous results in the shape of explosions and smells that mortal boy ever
heard of. Of course, poor Martin,
in consequence of his pursuits, had become an Ishmaelite in the house.
In the first place, he half-poisoned all his neighbours, and they in turn
were always on the lookout to pounce upon any of his numerous live-stock, and
drive him frantic by enticing his pet old magpie out of his window into a
neighbouring study, and making the disreputable old bird drunk on toast soaked
in beer and sugar. Then Martin, for
his sins, inhabited a study looking into a small court some ten feet across, the
window of which was completely commanded by those of the studies opposite in the
Sick-room Row, these latter being at a slightly higher elevation.
East, and another boy of an equally tormenting and ingenious turn of
mind, now lived exactly opposite, and had expended huge pains and time in the
preparation of instruments of annoyance for the behoof of Martin and his live
colony. One morning an old basket
made its appearance, suspended by a short cord outside Martin's window, in which
were deposited an amateur nest containing four young hungry jackdaws, the pride
and glory of Martin's life, for the time being, and which he was currently
asserted to have hatched upon his own person.
Early in the morning and late at night he was to be seen half out of
window, administering to the varied wants of his callow brood.
After deep cogitation, East and his chum had spliced a knife on to the
end of a fishing-rod; and having watched Martin out, had, after half an hour's
severe sawing, cut the string by which the basket was suspended, and tumbled it
on to the pavement below, with hideous remonstrance from the occupants.
Poor Martin, returning from his short absence, collected the fragments
and replaced his brood (except one whose neck had been broken in the descent) in
their old location, suspending them this time by string and wire twisted
together, defiant of any sharp instrument which his persecutors could command. But, like the Russian engineers at Sebastopol, East and his
chum had an answer for every move of the adversary, and the next day had mounted
a gun in the shape of a pea-shooter upon the ledge of their window, trained so
as to bear exactly upon the spot which Martin had to occupy while tending his
nurslings. The moment he began to
feed they began to shoot. In vain
did the enemy himself invest in a pea- shooter, and endeavour to answer the fire
while he fed the young birds with his other hand; his attention was divided, and
his shots flew wild, while every one of theirs told on his face and hands, and
drove him into howlings and imprecations. He
had been driven to ensconce the nest in a corner of his already too- well-filled
door was barricaded by a set of ingenious bolts of his own invention, for the
sieges were frequent by the neighbours when any unusually ambrosial odour spread
itself from the den to the neighbouring studies.
The door panels were in a normal state of smash, but the frame of the
door resisted all besiegers, and behind it the owner carried on his varied
pursuits--much in the same state of mind, I should fancy, as a border-farmer
lived in, in the days of the moss-troopers, when his hold might be summoned or
his cattle carried off at any minute of night or day.
Martin, old boy; it's only I, Tom Brown."
very well; stop a moment." One
bolt went back. "You're sure
East isn't there?"
no; hang it, open." Tom gave a
kick, the other bolt creaked, and he entered the den.
indeed it was--about five feet six inches long by five wide, and seven feet
high. About six tattered
school-books, and a few chemical books, Taxidermy, Stanley on Birds, and an odd
volume of Bewick, the latter in much better preservation, occupied the top
shelves. The other shelves, where
they had not been cut away and used by the owner for other purposes, were fitted
up for the abiding-places of birds, beasts, and reptiles. There was no attempt
at carpet or curtain. The table was
entirely occupied by the great work of Martin, the electric machine, which was
covered carefully with the remains of his table-cloth.
The jackdaw cage occupied one wall; and the other was adorned by a small
hatchet, a pair of climbing irons, and his tin candle-box, in which he was for
the time being endeavouring to raise a hopeful young family of field-mice.
As nothing should be let to lie useless, it was well that the candle-box
was thus occupied, for candles Martin never had.
A pound was issued to him weekly, as to the other boys; but as candles
were available capital, and easily exchangeable for birds' eggs or young birds,
Martin's pound invariably found its way in a few hours to Howlett's the
bird-fancier's, in the Bilton road, who would give a hawk's or nightingale's egg
or young linnet in exchange. Martin's
ingenuity was therefore for ever on the rack to supply himself with a light.
Just now he had hit upon a grand invention, and the den was lighted by a
flaring cotton wick issuing from a ginger-beer bottle full of some doleful
composition. When light altogether
failed him, Martin would loaf about by the fires in the passages or hall, after
the manner of Diggs, and try to do his verses or learn his lines by the
old boy, you haven't got any sweeter in the den this half.
How that stuff in the bottle stinks!
Never mind; I ain't going to stop; but you come up after prayers to our
study. You know young Arthur.
We've got Gray's study. We'll
have a good supper and talk about bird-nesting."
was evidently highly pleased at the invitation, and promised to be up without
soon as prayers were over, and the sixth and fifth form boys had withdrawn to
the aristocratic seclusion of their own room, and the rest, or democracy, had
sat down to their supper in the hall, Tom and Arthur, having secured their
allowances of bread and cheese, started on their feet to catch the eye of the
prepostor of the week, who remained in charge during supper, walking up and down
the hall. He happened to be an
easy-going fellow, so they got a pleasant nod to their "Please may I go
out?" and away they scrambled to prepare for Martin a sumptuous banquet.
This Tom had insisted on, for he was in great delight on the occasion,
the reason of which delight must be expounded. The fact was that this was the
first attempt at a friendship of his own which Arthur had made, and Tom hailed
it as a grand step. The ease with
which he himself became hail-fellow-well- met with anybody, and blundered into
and out of twenty friendships a half-year, made him sometimes sorry and
sometimes angry at Arthur's reserve and loneliness.
True, Arthur was always pleasant, and even jolly, with any boys who came
with Tom to their study; but Tom felt that it was only through him, as it were,
that his chum associated with others, and that but for him Arthur would have
been dwelling in a wilderness. This
increased his consciousness of responsibility; and though he hadn't reasoned it
out and made it clear to himself yet somehow he knew that this responsibility,
this trust which he had taken on him without thinking about it, head over heels
in fact, was the centre and turning-point of his school-life, that which was to
make him or mar him, his appointed work and trial for the time being.
And Tom was becoming a new boy, though with frequent tumbles in the dirt
and perpetual hard battle with himself, and was daily growing in manfulness and
thoughtfulness, as every high-couraged and well-principled boy must, when he
finds himself for the first time consciously at grips with self and the devil.
Already he could turn almost without a sigh from the School-gates, from
which had just scampered off East and three or four others of his own particular
set, bound for some jolly lark not quite according to law, and involving
probably a row with louts, keepers, or farm-labourers, the skipping dinner or
calling-over, some of Phoebe Jennings's beer, and a very possible flogging at
the end of all as a relish. He had
quite got over the stage in which he would grumble to himself--"Well, hang
it, it's very hard of the Doctor to have saddled me with Arthur.
Why couldn't he have chummed him with Fogey, or Thomkin, or any of the
fellows who never do anything but walk round the close, and finish their copies
the first day they're set?" But
although all this was past, he longed, and felt that he was right in longing,
for more time for the legitimate pastimes of cricket, fives, bathing, and
fishing, within bounds, in which Arthur could not yet be his companion; and he
felt that when the "young un" (as he now generally called him) had
found a pursuit and some other friend for himself, he should be able to give
more time to the education of his own body with a clear conscience.
now what he so wished for had come to pass; he almost hailed it as a special
providence (as indeed it was, but not for the reasons he gave for it--what
providences are?) that Arthur should have singled out Martin of all fellows for
a friend. "The old Madman is the very fellow," thought he; "he
will take him scrambling over half the country after birds' eggs and flowers,
make him run and swim and climb like an Indian, and not teach him a word of
anything bad, or keep him from his lessons. What luck!"
And so, with more than his usual heartiness, he dived into his cupboard,
and hauled out an old knuckle-bone of ham, and two or three bottles of beer,
together with the solemn pewter only used on state occasions; while Arthur,
equally elated at the easy accomplishment of his first act of volition in the
joint establishment, produced from his side a bottle of pickles and a pot of
jam, and cleared the table. In a
minute or two the noise of the boys coming up from supper was heard, and Martin
knocked and was admitted, bearing his bread and cheese; and the three fell to
with hearty good-will upon the viands, talking faster than they ate, for all
shyness disappeared in a moment before Tom's bottled-beer and hospitable ways. "Here's Arthur, a regular young town-mouse, with a
natural taste for the woods, Martin, longing to break his neck climbing trees,
and with a passion for young snakes."
I say," sputtered out Martin eagerly, "will you come to- morrow, both
of you, to Caldecott's Spinney then? for I know of a kestrel's nest, up a
fir-tree. I can't get at it without help; and, Brown, you can climb against any
yes, do let us go," said Arthur; "I never saw a hawk's nest nor a
just come down to my study, then, and I'll show you five sorts," said
the old Madman has got the best collection in the house, out and out," said
Tom; and then Martin, warming with unaccustomed good cheer and the chance of a
convert, launched out into a proposed bird-nesting campaign, betraying all
manner of important secrets--a golden-crested wren's nest near Butlin's Mound, a
moor-hen who was sitting on nine eggs in a pond down the Barby road, and a
kingfisher's nest in a corner of the old canal above Brownsover Mill.
He had heard, he said, that no one had ever got a kingfisher's nest out
perfect, and that the British Museum, or the Government, or somebody, had
offered 100 pounds to any one who could bring them a nest and eggs not damaged.
In the middle of which astounding announcement, to which the others were
listening with open ears, and already considering the application of the 100
pounds, a knock came to the door, and East's voice was heard craving admittance.
Harry," said Tom; "we'll let him in.
I'll keep him steady, Martin. I
thought the old boy would smell out the supper."
fact was, that Tom's heart had already smitten him for not asking his fidus
Achates to the feast, although only an extempore affair; and though prudence and
the desire to get Martin and Arthur together alone at first had overcome his
scruples, he was now heartily glad to open the door, broach another bottle of
beer, and hand over the old ham-knuckle to the searching of his old friend's
you greedy vagabonds," said East, with his mouth full, "I knew there
was something going on when I saw you cut off out of hall so quick with your
suppers. What a stunning tap, Tom!
You are a wunner for bottling the swipes."
"I've had practice enough for the sixth in my time, and it's hard if
I haven't picked up a wrinkle or two for my own benefit."
old Madman, and how goes the bird-nesting campaign? How's Howlett?
I expect the young rooks'll be out in another fortnight, and then my turn
be no young rooks fit for pies for a month yet; shows how much you know about
it," rejoined Martin, who, though very good friends with East, regarded him
with considerable suspicion for his propensity to practical jokes.
knows nothing and cares for nothing but grub and mischief," said Tom;
"but young rook pie, specially when you've had to climb for them, is very
pretty eating. --However, I say, Scud, we're all going after a hawk's nest
to-morrow, in Caldecott's Spinney; and if you'll come and behave yourself, we'll
have a stunning climb.
a bathe in Aganippe. Hooray!
I'm your man."
no; no bathing in Aganippe; that's where our betters go."
well, never mind. I'm for the
hawk's nest, and anything that turns up."
the bottled-beer being finished, and his hunger appeased, East departed to his
study, "that sneak Jones," as he informed them, who had just got into
the sixth, and occupied the next study, having instituted a nightly visitation
upon East and his chum, to their no small discomfort.
he was gone Martin rose to follow, but Tom stopped him. "No one goes near
New Row," said he, "so you may just as well stop here and do your
verses, and then we'll have some more talk.
We'll be no end quiet. Besides,
no prepostor comes here now. We
haven't been visited once this half."
the table was cleared, the cloth restored, and the three fell to work with
Gradus and dictionary upon the morning's vulgus.
were three very fair examples of the way in which such tasks were done at Rugby,
in the consulship of Plancus. And
doubtless the method is little changed, for there is nothing new under the sun,
especially at schools.
be it known unto all you boys who are at schools which do not rejoice in the
time-honoured institution of the vulgus (commonly supposed to have been
established by William of Wykeham at Winchester, and imported to Rugby by Arnold
more for the sake of the lines which were learnt by heart with it than for its
own intrinsic value, as I've always understood), that it is a short exercise in
Greek or Latin verse, on a given subject, the minimum number of lines being
fixed for each form.
master of the form gave out at fourth lesson on the previous day the subject for
next morning's vulgus, and at first lesson each boy had to bring his vulgus
ready to be looked over; and with the vulgus, a certain number of lines from one
of the Latin or Greek poets then being construed in the form had to be got by
heart. The master at first lesson
called up each boy in the form in order, and put him on in the lines.
If he couldn't say them, or seem to say them, by reading them off the
master's or some other boy's book who stood near, he was sent back, and went
below all the boys who did so say or seem to say them; but in either case his
vulgus was looked over by the master, who gave and entered in his book, to the
credit or discredit of the boy, so many marks as the composition merited. At Rugby vulgus and lines were the first lesson every other
day in the week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and as there were
thirty- eight weeks in the school year, it is obvious to the meanest capacity
that the master of each form had to set one hundred and fourteen subjects every
year, two hundred and twenty-eight every two years, and so on.
Now, to persons of moderate invention this was a considerable task, and
human nature being prone to repeat itself, it will not be wondered that the
masters gave the same subjects sometimes over again after a certain lapse of
time. To meet and rebuke this bad
habit of the masters, the schoolboy mind, with its accustomed ingenuity, had
invented an elaborate system of tradition.
Almost every boy kept his own vulgus written out in a book, and these
books were duly handed down from boy to boy, till (if the tradition has gone on
till now) I suppose the popular boys, in whose hands bequeathed vulgus-books
have accumulated, are prepared with three or four vulguses on any subject in
heaven or earth, or in "more worlds than one," which an unfortunate
master can pitch upon. At any rate,
such lucky fellows had generally one for themselves and one for a friend in my
time. The only objection to the
traditionary method of doing your vulguses was the risk that the successions
might have become confused, and so that you and another follower of traditions
should show up the same identical vulgus some fine morning; in which case, when
it happened, considerable grief was the result.
But when did such risk hinder boys or men from short cuts and pleasant
in the study that night Tom was the upholder of the traditionary method of
vulgus doing. He carefully produced
two large vulgus-books, and began diving into them, and picking out a line here,
and an ending there (tags, as they were vulgarly called), till he had gotten all
that he thought he could make fit. He
then proceeded to patch his tags together with the help of his Gradus, producing
an incongruous and feeble result of eight elegiac lines, the minimum quantity
for his form, and finishing up with two highly moral lines extra, making ten in
all, which he cribbed entire from one of his books, beginning "O genus
humanum," and which he himself must have used a dozen times before,
whenever an unfortunate or wicked hero, of whatever nation or language under the
sun, was the subject. Indeed he began to have great doubts whether the master
wouldn't remember them, and so only throw them in as extra lines, because in any
case they would call off attention from the other tags, and if detected, being
extra lines, he wouldn't be sent back to do more in their place, while if they
passed muster again he would get marks for them.
second method, pursued by Martin, may be called the dogged or prosaic method.
He, no more than Tom, took any pleasure in the task, but having no old
vulgus-books of his own, or any one's else, could not follow the traditionary
method, for which too, as Tom remarked, he hadn't the genius.
Martin then proceeded to write down eight lines in English, of the most
matter-of-fact kind, the first that came into his head; and to convert these,
line by line, by main force of Gradus and dictionary into Latin that would scan.
This was all he cared for--to produce eight lines with no false
quantities or concords: whether the
words were apt, or what the sense was, mattered nothing; and as the article was
all new, not a line beyond the minimum did the followers of the dogged method
third, or artistic method, was Arthur's. He
considered first what point in the character or event which was the subject
could most neatly be brought out within the limits of a vulgus, trying always to
get his idea into the eight lines, but not binding himself to ten or even twelve
lines if he couldn't do this. He
then set to work as much as possible without Gradus or other help, to clothe his
idea in appropriate Latin or Greek, and would not be satisfied till he had
polished it well up with the aptest and most poetic words and phrases he could
fourth method, indeed, was used in the school, but of too simple a kind to
require a comment. It may be called
the vicarious method, obtained amongst big boys of lazy or bullying habits, and
consisted simply in making clever boys whom they could thrash do their whole
vulgus for them, and construe it to them afterwards; which latter is a method
not to be encouraged, and which I strongly advise you all not to practise.
Of the others, you will find the traditionary most troublesome, unless
you can steal your vulguses whole (experto crede), and that the artistic method
pays the best both in marks and other ways.
vulguses being finished by nine o'clock, and Martin having rejoiced above
measure in the abundance of light, and of Gradus and dictionary, and other
conveniences almost unknown to him for getting through the work, and having been
pressed by Arthur to come and do his verses there whenever he liked, the three
boys went down to Martin's den, and Arthur was initiated into the lore of birds'
eggs, to his great delight. The
exquisite colouring and forms astonished and charmed him, who had scarcely ever
seen any but a hen's egg or an ostrich's, and by the time he was lugged away to
bed he had learned the names of at least twenty sorts, and dreamed of the
glorious perils of tree- climbing, and that he had found a roc's egg in the
island as big as Sinbad's, and clouded like a tit-lark's, in blowing which
Martin and he had nearly been drowned in the yolk.