TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
have found out a gift for my fair -
now, my lad, take them five shilling,
The next morning, at first lesson, Tom was turned
back in his lines, and so had to wait till the second round; while Martin and
Arthur said theirs all right, and got out of school at once. When Tom got out
and ran down to breakfast at Harrowell's they were missing, and Stumps informed
him that they had swallowed down their breakfasts and gone off together--where,
he couldn't say. Tom hurried over
his own breakfast, and went first to Martin's study and then to his own; but no
signs of the missing boys were to be found.
He felt half angry and jealous of Martin. Where could they be gone?
He learnt second lesson with East and the rest in
no very good temper, and then went out into the quadrangle.
About ten minutes before school Martin and Arthur arrived in the
quadrangle breathless; and catching sight of him, Arthur rushed up, all
excitement, and with a bright glow on his face.
"O Tom, look here!" cried he, holding
out three moor-hen's eggs; "we've been down the Barby road, to the pool
Martin told us of last night, and just see what we've got."
Tom wouldn't be pleased, and only looked out for
something to find fault with.
"Why, young un," said he, "what
have you been after? You don't mean
to say you've been wading?"
The tone of reproach made poor little Arthur
shrink up in a moment and look piteous; and Tom with a shrug of his shoulders
turned his anger on Martin.
"Well, I didn't think, Madman, that you'd
have been such a muff as to let him be getting wet through at this time of day.
You might have done the wading yourself."
"So I did, of course; only he would come in
too, to see the nest. We left six
eggs in. They'll be hatched in a
day or two."
"Hang the eggs!" said Tom; "a
fellow can't turn his back for a moment but all his work's undone.
He'll be laid up for a week for this precious lark, I'll be bound."
"Indeed, Tom, now," pleaded Arthur,
"my feet ain't wet, for Martin made me take off my shoes and stockings and
"But they are wet, and dirty too; can't I
see?" answered Tom; "and you'll be called up and floored when the
master sees what a state you're in. You
haven't looked at second lesson, you know."
O Tom, you old humbug! you to be upbraiding any
one with not learning their lessons! If
you hadn't been floored yourself now at first lesson, do you mean to say you
wouldn't have been with them? And
you've taken away all poor little Arthur's joy and pride in his first birds'
eggs, and he goes and puts them down in the study, and takes down his books with
a sigh, thinking he has done something horribly wrong, whereas he has learnt on
in advance much more than will be done at second lesson.
But the old Madman hasn't, and gets called up, and
makes some frightful shots, losing about ten places, and all but getting
floored. This somewhat appeases
Tom's wrath, and by the end of the lesson he has regained his temper.
And afterwards in their study he begins to get right again, as he watches
Arthur's intense joy at seeing Martin blowing the eggs and gluing them carefully
on to bits of cardboard, and notes the anxious, loving looks which the little
fellow casts sidelong at him. And
then he thinks, "What an ill-tempered beast I am!
Here's just what I was wishing for last night come about, and I'm
spoiling it all," and in another five minutes has swallowed the last
mouthful of his bile, and is repaid by seeing his little sensitive plant expand
again and sun itself in his smiles.
After dinner the Madman is busy with the
preparations for their expedition, fitting new straps on to his climbing-irons,
filling large pill-boxes with cotton-wool, and sharpening East's small axe.
They carry all their munitions into calling-overs and directly
afterwards, having dodged such prepostors as are on the lookout for fags at
cricket, the four set off at a smart trot down the Lawford footpath, straight
for Caldecott's Spinney and the hawk's nest.
Martin leads the way in high feather; it is quite
a new sensation to him, getting companions, and he finds it very pleasant, and
means to show them all manner of proofs of his science and skill.
Brown and East may be better at cricket and football and games, thinks
he, but out in the fields and woods see if I can't teach them something.
He has taken the leadership already, and strides away in front with his
climbing- irons strapped under one arm, his pecking-bag under the other, and his
pockets and hat full of pill-boxes, cotton-wool, and other etceteras.
Each of the others carries a pecking-bag, and East his hatchet.
When they had crossed three or four fields without
a check, Arthur began to lag; and Tom seeing this shouted to Martin to pull up a
bit. "We ain't out
hare-and-hounds. What's the good of
grinding on at this rate?"
"There's the Spinney," said Martin,
pulling up on the brow of a slope at the bottom of which lay Lawford brook, and
pointing to the top of the opposite slope; "the nest is in one of those
high fir-trees at this end. And
down by the brook there I know of a sedge-bird's nest.
We'll go and look at it coming back."
"Oh, come on, don't let us stop," said
Arthur, who was getting excited at the sight of the wood.
So they broke into a trot again, and were soon across the brook, up the
slope, and into the Spinney. Here
they advanced as noiselessly as possible, lest keepers or other enemies should
be about, and stopped at the foot of a tall fir, at the top of which Martin
pointed out with pride the kestrel's nest, the object of their quest.
"Oh, where? which is it?" asks Arthur,
gaping up in the air, and having the most vague idea of what it would be like.
"There, don't you see?" said East,
pointing to a lump of mistletoe in the next tree, which was a beech.
He saw that Martin and Tom were busy with the climbing-irons, and
couldn't resist the temptation of hoaxing.
Arthur stared and wondered more than ever.
"Well, how curious! It doesn't look a bit like what I expected," said he.
"Very odd birds, kestrels," said East,
looking waggishly at his victim, who was still star-gazing.
"But I thought it was in a fir-tree?"
"Ah, don't you know? That's a new sort of fir which old Caldecott brought from the
"Really!" said Arthur; "I'm glad I
know that. How unlike our firs they
are! They do very well too here,
don't they? The Spinney's full of
"What's that humbug he's telling you?"
cried Tom, looking up, having caught the word Himalayas, and suspecting what
East was after.
"Only about this fir," said Arthur,
putting his hand on the stem of the beech.
"Fir!" shouted Tom; "why, you don't
mean to say, young un, you don't know a beech when you see one?"
Poor little Arthur looked terribly ashamed, and
East exploded in laughter which made the wood ring.
"I've hardly ever seen any trees,"
"What a shame to hoax him, Scud!" cried
Martin. --"Never mind, Arthur; you shall know more about trees than he does
in a week or two."
"And isn't that the kestrel's nest,
then?" asked Arthur. "That!
Why, that's a piece of mistletoe. There's
the nest, that lump of sticks up this fir."
"Don't believe him, Arthur," struck in
the incorrigible East; "I just saw an old magpie go out of it."
Martin did not deign to reply to this sally,
except by a grunt, as he buckled the last buckle of his climbing-irons, and
Arthur looked reproachfully at East without speaking.
But now came the tug of war.
It was a very difficult tree to climb until the branches were reached,
the first of which was some fourteen feet up, for the trunk was too large at the
bottom to be swarmed; in fact, neither of the boys could reach more than half
round it with their arms. Martin
and Tom, both of whom had irons on, tried it without success at first; the fir
bark broke away where they stuck the irons in as soon as they leant any weight
on their feet, and the grip of their arms wasn't enough to keep them up; so,
after getting up three or four feet, down they came slithering to the ground,
barking their arms and faces. They
were furious, and East sat by laughing and shouting at each failure, "Two
to one on the old magpie!"
"We must try a pyramid," said Tom at
last. "Now, Scud, you lazy
rascal, stick yourself against the tree!"
"I dare say! and have you standing on my
shoulders with the irons on. What
do you think my skin's made of?" However,
up he got, and leant against the tree, putting his head down and clasping it
with his arms as far as he could.
"Now then, Madman," said Tom, "you
"No, I'm lighter than you; you go next."
So Tom got on East's shoulders, and grasped the tree above, and then
Martin scrambled up on to Tom's shoulders, amidst the totterings and groanings
of the pyramid, and, with a spring which sent his supporters howling to the
ground, clasped the stem some ten feet up, and remained clinging.
For a moment or two they thought he couldn't get up; but then, holding on
with arms and teeth, he worked first one iron then the other firmly into the
bark, got another grip with his arms, and in another minute had hold of the
"All up with the old magpie now," said
East; and after a minute's rest, up went Martin, hand over hand, watched by
Arthur with fearful eagerness.
"Isn't it very dangerous?" said he.
"Not a bit," answered Tom; "you
can't hurt if you only get good hand-hold.
Try every branch with a good pull before you trust it, and then up you
Martin was now amongst the small branches close to
the nest, and away dashed the old bird, and soared up above the trees, watching
"All right--four eggs!" shouted he.
"Take 'em all!" shouted East;
"that'll be one a-piece."
"No, no; leave one, and then she won t care,
We boys had an idea that birds couldn't count, and
were quite content as long as you left one egg. I hope it is so.
Martin carefully put one egg into each of his
boxes and the third into his mouth, the only other place of safety, and came
down like a lamplighter. All went
well till he was within ten feet of the ground, when, as the trunk enlarged, his
hold got less and less firm, and at last down he came with a run, tumbling on to
his back on the turf, spluttering and spitting out the remains of the great egg,
which had broken by the jar of his fall.
"Ugh, ugh! something to drink--ugh! it was
addled," spluttered he, while the wood rang again with the merry laughter
of East and Tom.
Then they examined the prizes, gathered up their
things, and went off to the brook, where Martin swallowed huge draughts of water
to get rid of the taste; and they visited the sedge-bird's nest, and from thence
struck across the country in high glee, beating the hedges and brakes as they
went along; and Arthur at last, to his intense delight, was allowed to climb a
small hedgerow oak for a magpie's nest with Tom, who kept all round him like a
mother, and showed him where to hold and how to throw his weight; and though he
was in a great fright, didn't show it, and was applauded by all for his
They crossed a road soon afterwards, and there,
close to them, lay a great heap of charming pebbles.
"Look here," shouted East; "here's
luck! I've been longing for some
good, honest pecking this half-hour. Let's
fill the bags, and have no more of this foozling bird-nesting."
No one objected, so each boy filled the fustian
bag he carried full of stones. They
crossed into the next field, Tom and East taking one side of the hedges, and the
other two the other side. Noise enough they made certainly, but it was too early
in the season for the young birds, and the old birds were too strong on the wing
for our young marksmen, and flew out of shot after the first discharge.
But it was great fun, rushing along the hedgerows, and discharging stone
after stone at blackbirds and chaffinches, though no result in the shape of
slaughtered birds was obtained; and Arthur soon entered into it, and rushed to
head back the birds, and shouted, and threw, and tumbled into ditches, and over
and through hedges, as wild as the Madman himself.
Presently the party, in full cry after an old
blackbird (who was evidently used to the thing and enjoyed the fun, for he would
wait till they came close to him, and then fly on for forty yards or so, and,
with an impudent flicker of his tail, dart into the depths of the quickset),
came beating down a high double hedge, two on each side.
"There he is again," "Head
him," "Let drive," "I had him there," "Take care
where you're throwing, Madman." The
shouts might have been heard a quarter of a mile off. They were heard some two hundred yards off by a farmer and
two of his shepherds, who were doctoring sheep in a fold in the next field.
Now, the farmer in question rented a house and
yard situate at the end of the field in which the young bird-fanciers had
arrived, which house and yard he didn't occupy or keep any one else in.
Nevertheless, like a brainless and unreasoning Briton, he persisted in
maintaining on the premises a large stock of cocks, hens, and other poultry.
Of course, all sorts of depredators visited the place from time to time:
foxes and gipsies wrought havoc in the night; while in the daytime, I
regret to have to confess that visits from the Rugby boys, and consequent
disappearances of ancient and respectable fowls were not unfrequent.
Tom and East had during the period of their outlawry visited the farm in
question for felonious purposes, and on one occasion had conquered and slain a
duck there, and borne away the carcass triumphantly, hidden in their
handkerchiefs. However, they were sickened of the practice by the trouble
and anxiety which the wretched duck's body caused them. They carried it to Sally Harrowell's, in hopes of a good
supper; but she, after examining it, made a long face, and refused to dress or
have anything to do with it. Then
they took it into their study, and began plucking it themselves; but what to do
with the feathers, where to hide them?
"Good gracious, Tom, what a lot of feathers a
duck has!" groaned East, holding a bagful in his hand, and looking
disconsolately at the carcass, not yet half plucked.
"And I do think he's getting high, too,
already," said Tom, smelling at him cautiously, "so we must finish him
"Yes, all very well; but how are we to cook
him? I'm sure I ain't going to try
it on in the hall or passages; we can't afford to be roasting ducks about--our
character's too bad."
"I wish we were rid of the brute," said
Tom, throwing him on the table in disgust.
And after a day or two more it became clear that got rid of he must be;
so they packed him and sealed him up in brown paper, and put him in the cupboard
of an unoccupied study, where he was found in the holidays by the matron, a
They had never been duck-hunting there since, but
others had, and the bold yeoman was very sore on the subject, and bent on making
an example of the first boys he could catch. So he and his shepherds crouched behind the hurdles, and
watched the party, who were approaching all unconscious. Why should that old guinea-fowl be lying out in the hedge
just at this particular moment of all the year?
Who can say? Guinea-fowls
always are; so are all other things, animals, and persons, requisite for getting
one into scrapes--always ready when any mischief can come of them.
At any rate, just under East's nose popped out the old guinea-hen,
scuttling along and shrieking, "Come back, come back," at the top of
her voice. Either of the other
three might perhaps have withstood the temptation, but East first lets drive the
stone he has in his hand at her, and then rushes to turn her into the hedge
again. He succeeds, and then they
are all at it for dear life, up and down the hedge in full cry, the "Come
back, come back," getting shriller and fainter every minute.
Meantime, the farmer and his men steal over the
hurdles and creep down the hedge towards the scene of action.
They are almost within a stone's throw of Martin, who is pressing the
unlucky chase hard, when Tom catches sight of them, and sings out, "Louts,
'ware louts, your side! Madman, look ahead!" and then catching hold of Arthur,
hurries him away across the field towards Rugby as hard as they can tear.
Had he been by himself, he would have stayed to see it out with the
others, but now his heart sinks and all his pluck goes.
The idea of being led up to the Doctor with Arthur for bagging fowls
quite unmans and takes half the run out of him.
However, no boys are more able to take care of
themselves than East and Martin; they dodge the pursuers, slip through a gap,
and come pelting after Tom and Arthur, whom they catch up in no time.
The farmer and his men are making good running about a field behind.
Tom wishes to himself that they had made off in any other direction, but
now they are all in for it together, and must see it out.
"You won't leave the young un, will
you?" says he, as they haul poor little Arthur, already losing wind from
the fright, through the next hedge. "Not
we," is the answer from both. The
next hedge is a stiff one; the pursuers gain horribly on them, and they only
just pull Arthur through, with two great rents in his trousers, as the foremost
shepherd comes up on the other side. As they start into the next field, they are
aware of two figures walking down the footpath in the middle of it, and
recognize Holmes and Diggs taking a constitutional. Those good-natured fellows immediately shout, "On."
"Let's go to them and surrender," pants Tom.
Agreed. And in another
minute the four boys, to the great astonishment of those worthies, rush
breathless up to Holmes and Diggs, who pull up to see what is the matter; and
then the whole is explained by the appearance of the farmer and his men, who
unite their forces and bear down on the knot of boys.
There is no time to explain, and Tom's heart beats
frightfully quick, as he ponders, "Will they stand by us?"
The farmer makes a rush at East and collars him;
and that young gentleman, with unusual discretion, instead of kicking his shins,
looks appealingly at Holmes, and stands still.
"Hullo there; not so fast," says Holmes,
who is bound to stand up for them till they are proved in the wrong.
"Now what's all this about?"
"I've got the young varmint at last, have
I," pants the farmer; "why, they've been a-skulking about my yard and
stealing my fowls--that's where 'tis; and if I doan't have they flogged for it,
every one on 'em, my name ain't Thompson."
Holmes looks grave and Diggs's face falls.
They are quite ready to fight--no boys in the school more so; but they
are prepostors, and understand their office, and can't uphold unrighteous
"I haven't been near his old barn this
half," cries East. "Nor
I," "Nor I," chime in Tom and Martin.
"Now, Willum, didn't you see 'em there last
"Ees, I seen 'em sure enough," says
Willum, grasping a prong he carried, and preparing for action.
The boys deny stoutly, and Willum is driven to
admit that "if it worn't they 'twas chaps as like 'em as two peas'n;"
and "leastways he'll swear he see'd them two in the yard last Martinmas,"
indicating East and Tom.
Holmes has had time to meditate.
"Now, sir," says he to Willum, "you see you can't remember
what you have seen, and I believe the boys."
"I doan't care," blusters the farmer;
"they was arter my fowls to-day--that's enough for I. --Willum, you catch
hold o' t'other chap. They've been
a-sneaking about this two hours, I tells 'ee," shouted he, as Holmes stands
between Martin and Willum, "and have druv a matter of a dozen young pullets
pretty nigh to death."
"Oh, there's a whacker!" cried East;
"we haven't been within a hundred yards of his barn; we haven't been up
here above ten minutes, and we've seen nothing but a tough old guinea-hen, who
ran like a greyhound."
"Indeed, that's all true, Holmes, upon my
honour," added Tom; "we weren't after his fowls; guinea-hen ran out of
the hedge under our feet, and we've seen nothing else."
"Drat their talk. Thee catch hold o' t'other, Willum, and come along wi'
"Farmer Thompson," said Holmes, warning
off Willum and the prong with his stick, while Diggs faced the other shepherd,
cracking his fingers like pistol-shots, "now listen to reason.
The boys haven't been after your fowls, that's plain."
"Tells 'ee I see'd'em.
Who be you, I should like to know?"
"Never you mind, farmer," answered
Holmes. "And now I'll just
tell you what it is: you ought to
be ashamed of yourself for leaving all that poultry about, with no one to watch
it, so near the School. You deserve
to have it all stolen. So if you
choose to come up to the Doctor with them, I shall go with you, and tell him
what I think of it."
The farmer began to take Holmes for a master;
besides, he wanted to get back to his flock.
Corporal punishment was out of the question, the odds were too great; so
he began to hint at paying for the damage.
Arthur jumped at this, offering to pay anything, and the farmer
immediately valued the guinea-hen at half a sovereign.
"Half a sovereign!" cried East, now
released from the farmer's grip; "well, that is a good one!
The old hen ain't hurt a bit, and she's seven years old, I know, and as
tough as whipcord; she couldn't lay another egg to save her life."
It was at last settled that they should pay the
farmer two shillings, and his man one shilling; and so the matter ended, to the
unspeakable relief of Tom, who hadn't been able to say a word, being sick at
heart at the idea of what the Doctor would think of him; and now the whole party
of boys marched off down the footpath towards Rugby.
Holmes, who was one of the best boys in the School, began to improve the
occasion. "Now, you
youngsters," said he, as he marched along in the middle of them, "mind
this; you're very well out of this scrape. Don't
you go near Thompson's barn again; do you hear?"
Profuse promises from all, especially East.
"Mind, I don't ask questions," went on
Mentor, "but I rather think some of you have been there before this after
his chickens. Now, knocking over
other people's chickens, and running off with them, is stealing.
It's a nasty word, but that's the plain English of it.
If the chickens were dead and lying in a shop, you wouldn't take them, I
know that, any more than you would apples out of Griffith's basket; but there's
no real difference between chickens running about and apples on a tree, and the
same articles in a shop. I wish our
morals were sounder in such matters. There's
nothing so mischievous as these school distinctions, which jumble up right and
wrong, and justify things in us for which poor boys would be sent to
prison." And good old Holmes
delivered his soul on the walk home of many wise sayings, and, as the song says,
"Gee'd 'em a sight of good advice;"
which same sermon sank into them all, more or
less, and very penitent they were for several hours.
But truth compels me to admit that East, at any rate, forgot it all in a
week, but remembered the insult which had been put upon him by Farmer Thompson,
and with the Tadpole and other hair-brained youngsters committed a raid on the
barn soon afterwards, in which they were caught by the shepherds and severely
handled, besides having to pay eight shillings--all the money they had in the
world--to escape being taken up to the Doctor.
Martin became a constant inmate in the joint study
from this time, and Arthur took to him so kindly that Tom couldn't resist slight
fits of jealousy, which, however, he managed to keep to himself.
The kestrel's eggs had not been broken, strange to say, and formed the
nucleus of Arthur's collection, at which Martin worked heart and soul, and
introduced Arthur to Howlett the bird-fancier, and instructed him in the
rudiments of the art of stuffing. In
token of his gratitude, Arthur allowed Martin to tattoo a small anchor on one of
his wrists; which decoration, however, he carefully concealed from Tom.
Before the end of the half-year he had trained into a bold climber and
good runner, and, as Martin had foretold, knew twice as much about trees, birds,
flowers, and many other things, as our good-hearted and facetious young friend