TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
VIII - TOM BROWN'S LAST MATCH.
grant the manlier heart, that timely ere
The curtain now rises upon the last act of our
little drama, for hard-hearted publishers warn me that a single volume must of
necessity have an end. Well, well!
the pleasantest things must come to an end.
I little thought last long vacation, when I began these pages to help
while away some spare time at a watering-place, how vividly many an old scene
which had lain hid away for years in some dusty old corner of my brain, would
come back again, and stand before me as clear and bright as if it had happened
yesterday. The book has been a most
grateful task to me, and I only hope that all you, my dear young friends, who
read it (friends assuredly you must be, if you get as far as this), will be half
as sorry to come to the last stage as I am.
Not but what there has been a solemn and a sad
side to it. As the old scenes
became living, and the actors in them became living too, many a grave in the
Crimea and distant India, as well as in the quiet churchyards of our dear old
country, seemed to open and send forth their dead, and their voices and looks
and ways were again in one's ears and eyes, as in the old School-days.
But this was not sad. How
should it be, if we believe as our Lord has taught us?
How should it be, when one more turn of the wheel, and we shall be by
their sides again, learning from them again, perhaps, as we did when we were new
Then there were others of the old faces so dear to
us once who had somehow or another just gone clean out of sight.
Are they dead or living? We
know not, but the thought of them brings no sadness with it.
Wherever they are, we can well believe they are doing God's work and
getting His wages.
But are there not some, whom we still see
sometimes in the streets, whose haunts and homes we know, whom we could probably
find almost any day in the week if we were set to do it, yet from whom we are
really farther than we are from the dead, and from those who have gone out of
our ken? Yes, there are and must be
such; and therein lies the sadness of old School memories. Yet of these our old comrades, from whom more than time and
space separate us, there are some by whose sides we can feel sure that we shall
stand again when time shall be no more. We may think of one another now as
dangerous fanatics or narrow bigots, with whom no truce is possible, from whom
we shall only sever more and more to the end of our lives, whom it would be our
respective duties to imprison or hang, if we had the power. We must go our way,
and they theirs, as long as flesh and spirit hold together; but let our own
Rugby poet speak words of healing for this trial:-
"To veer how vain! on, onward strain, Brave
barks, in light, in darkness too; Through winds and tides one compass guides,-
To that, and your own selves, be true.
"But, O blithe breeze, and O great seas,
Though ne'er that earliest parting past, On your wide plain they join again;
Together lead them home at last.
"One port, methought, alike they sought, One
purpose hold where'er they fare. O bounding breeze, O rushing seas, At last, at
last, unite them there!" *
* Clough, Ambarvalia.
This is not mere longing; it is prophecy.
So over these too, our old friends, who are friends no more, we sorrow
not as men without hope. It is only for those who seem to us to have lost compass and
purpose, and to be driven helplessly on rocks and quicksands, whose lives are
spent in the service of the world, the flesh, and the devil, for self alone, and
not for their fellow-men, their country, or their God, that we must mourn and
pray without sure hope and without light, trusting only that He, in whose hands
they as well as we are, who has died for them as well as for us, who sees all
"With larger other eyes than ours, To make
allowance for us all," will, in His own way and at His own time, lead them
Another two years have passed, and it is again the
end of the summer half-year at Rugby; in fact, the School has broken up. The
fifth-form examinations were over last week, and upon them have followed the
speeches, and the sixth-form examinations for exhibitions; and they too are over
now. The boys have gone to all the
winds of heaven, except the town boys and the eleven, and the few enthusiasts
besides who have asked leave to stay in their houses to see the result of the
cricket matches. For this year the
Wellesburn return match and the Marylebone match are played at Rugby, to the
great delight of the town and neighbourhood, and the sorrow of those aspiring
young cricketers who have been reckoning for the last three months on showing
off at Lord's ground.
The Doctor started for the Lakes yesterday
morning, after an interview with the captain of the eleven, in the presence of
Thomas, at which he arranged in what school the cricket dinners were to be, and
all other matters necessary for the satisfactory carrying out of the
festivities, and warned them as to keeping all spirituous liquors out of the
close, and having the gates closed by nine o'clock.
The Wellesburn match was played out with great
success yesterday, the School winning by three wickets; and to-day the great
event of the cricketing year, the Marylebone match, is being played.
What a match it has been! The
London eleven came down by an afternoon train yesterday, in time to see the end
of the Wellesburn match; and as soon as it was over, their leading men and
umpire inspected the ground, criticising it rather unmercifully.
The captain of the School eleven, and one or two others, who had played
the Lord's match before, and knew old Mr. Aislabie and several of the Lord's
men, accompanied them; while the rest of the eleven looked on from under the
Three Trees with admiring eyes, and asked one another the names of the
illustrious strangers, and recounted how many runs each of them had made in the
late matches in Bell's Life. They
looked such hard-bitten, wiry, whiskered fellows that their young adversaries
felt rather desponding as to the result of the morrow's match.
The ground was at last chosen, and two men set to work upon it to water
and roll; and then, there being yet some half-hour of daylight, some one had
suggested a dance on the turf. The
close was half full of citizens and their families, and the idea was hailed with
enthusiasm. The cornopean player
was still on the ground. In five
minutes the eleven and half a dozen of the Wellesburn and Marylebone men got
partners somehow or another, and a merry country-dance was going on, to which
every one flocked, and new couples joined in every minute, till there were a
hundred of them going down the middle and up again; and the long line of school
buildings looked gravely down on them, every window glowing with the last rays
of the western sun; and the rooks clanged about in the tops of the old elms,
greatly excited, and resolved on having their country- dance too; and the great
flag flapped lazily in the gentle western breeze. Altogether it was a sight which would have made glad the
heart of our brave old founder, Lawrence Sheriff, if he were half as good a
fellow as I take him to have been. It
was a cheerful sight to see. But
what made it so valuable in the sight of the captain of the School eleven was
that he there saw his young hands shaking off their shyness and awe of the
Lord's men, as they crossed hands and capered about on the grass together; for
the strangers entered into it all, and threw away their cigars, and danced and
shouted like boys; while old Mr. Aislabie stood by looking on in his white hat,
leaning on a bat, in benevolent enjoyment.
"This hop will be worth thirty runs to us to-morrow, and will be the
making of Raggles and Johnson," thinks the young leader, as he revolves
many things in his mind, standing by the side of Mr. Aislabie, whom he will not
leave for a minute, for he feels that the character of the School for courtesy
is resting on his shoulders.
But when a quarter to nine struck, and he saw old
Thomas beginning to fidget about with the keys in his hand, he thought of the
Doctor's parting monition, and stopped the cornopean at once, notwithstanding
the loud-voiced remonstrances from all sides; and the crowd scattered away from
the close, the eleven all going into the School-house, where supper and beds
were provided for them by the Doctor's orders.
Deep had been the consultations at supper as to
the order of going in, who should bowl the first over, whether it would be best
to play steady or freely; and the youngest hands declared that they shouldn't be
a bit nervous, and praised their opponents as the jolliest fellows in the world,
except perhaps their old friends the Wellesburn men. How far a little good- nature from their elders will go with
the right sort of boys!
The morning had dawned bright and warm, to the
intense relief of many an anxious youngster, up betimes to mark the signs of the
weather. The eleven went down in a
body before breakfast, for a plunge in the cold bath in a corner of the close.
The ground was in splendid order, and soon after ten o'clock, before
spectators had arrived, all was ready, and two of the Lord's men took their
places at the wickets--the School, with the usual liberality of young hands,
having put their adversaries in first. Old
Bailey stepped up to the wicket, and called play, and the match has begun.
"Oh, well bowled! well bowled, Johnson!"
cries the captain, catching up the ball and sending it high above the rook
trees, while the third Marylebone man walks away from the wicket, and old Bailey
gravely sets up the middle stump again and puts the bails on.
"How many runs?" Away scamper three boys to the scoring table, and are back
again in a minute amongst the rest of the eleven, who are collected together in
a knot between wicket. "Only
eighteen runs, and three wickets down!"
"Huzza for old Rugby!" sings out Jack Raggles, the long-stop,
toughest and burliest of boys, commonly called "Swiper Jack," and
forthwith stands on his head, and brandishes his legs in the air in triumph,
till the next boy catches hold of his heels, and throws him over on to his back.
"Steady there; don't be such an ass,
Jack," says the captain; "we haven't got the best wicket yet.
Ah, look out now at cover- point," adds he, as he sees a long-armed
bare-headed, slashing- looking player coming to the wicket.
"And, Jack, mind your hits. He
steals more runs than any man in England."
And they all find that they have got their work to
do now. The newcomer's off-hitting
is tremendous, and his running like a flash of lightning.
He is never in his ground except when his wicket is down.
Nothing in the whole game so trying to boys. He has stolen three byes in
the first ten minutes, and Jack Raggles is furious, and begins throwing over
savagely to the farther wicket, until he is sternly stopped by the captain. It is all that young gentlemen can do to keep his team
steady, but he knows that everything depends on it, and faces his work bravely.
The score creeps up to fifty; the boys begin to look blank; and the
spectators, who are now mustering strong, are very silent.
The ball flies off his bat to all parts of the field, and he gives no
rest and no catches to any one. But
cricket is full of glorious chances, and the goddess who presides over it loves
to bring down the most skilful players. Johnson, the young bowler, is getting
wild, and bowls a ball almost wide to the off; the batter steps out and cuts it
beautifully to where cover-point is standing very deep--in fact almost off the
ground. The ball comes skimming and twisting along about three feet
from the ground; he rushes at it, and it sticks somehow or other in the fingers
of his left hand, to the utter astonishment of himself and the whole field.
Such a catch hasn't been made in the close for years, and the cheering is
cricket," says the captain, throwing himself on the ground by the deserted
wicket with a long breath. He feels that a crisis has passed.
I wish I had space to describe the match--how the
captain stumped the next man off a leg-shooter, and bowled small cobs to old Mr.
Aislabie, who came in for the last wicket; how the Lord's men were out by
half-past twelve o'clock for ninety-eight runs; how the captain of the School
eleven went in first to give his men pluck, and scored twenty-five in beautiful
style; how Rugby was only four behind in the first innings; what a glorious
dinner they had in the fourth-form school; and how the cover- point hitter sang
the most topping comic songs, and old Mr. Aislabie made the best speeches that
ever were heard, afterwards. But I
haven't space--that's the fact; and so you must fancy it all, and carry
yourselves on to half-past seven o'clock, when the School are again in, with
five wickets down, and only thirty-two runs to make to win.
The Marylebone men played carelessly in their second innings, but they
are working like horses now to save the match.
There is much healthy, hearty, happy life
scattered up and down the close; but the group to which I beg to call your
especial attention is there, on the slope of the island, which looks towards the
cricket-ground. It consists of
three figures; two are seated on a bench, and one on the ground at their feet.
The first, a tall, slight and rather gaunt man, with a bushy eyebrow and
a dry, humorous smile, is evidently a clergyman.
He is carelessly dressed, and looks rather used up, which isn't much to
be wondered at, seeing that he has just finished six weeks of examination work;
but there he basks, and spreads himself out in the evening sun, bent on enjoying
life, though he doesn't quite know what to do with his arms and legs. Surely it is our friend the young master, whom we have had
glimpses of before, but his face has gained a great deal since we last came
And by his side, in white flannel shirt and
trousers, straw hat, the captain's belt, and the untanned yellow cricket shoes
which all the eleven wear, sits a strapping figure, near six feet high, with
ruddy, tanned face and whiskers, curly brown hair, and a laughing, dancing eye.
He is leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees, and dandling
his favourite bat, with which he has made thirty or forty runs to-day, in his
strong brown hands. It is Tom
Brown, grown into a young man nineteen years old, a prepostor and captain of the
eleven, spending his last day as a Rugby boy, and, let us hope, as much wiser as
he is bigger, since we last had the pleasure of coming across him.
And at their feet on the warm, dry ground,
similarly dressed, sits Arthur, Turkish fashion, with his bat across his knees.
He too is no longer a boy--less of a boy, in fact, than Tom, if one may
judge from the thoughtfulness of his face, which is somewhat paler, too, than
one could wish; but his figure, though slight, is well knit and active, and all
his old timidity has disappeared, and is replaced by silent, quaint fun, with
which his face twinkles all over, as he listens to the broken talk between the
other two, in which he joins every now and then.
All three are watching the game eagerly, and
joining in the cheering which follows every good hit.
It is pleasing to see the easy, friendly footing which the pupils are on
with their master, perfectly respectful, yet with no reserve and nothing forced
in their intercourse. Tom has
clearly abandoned the old theory of "natural enemies" in this case at
But it is time to listen to what they are saying,
and see what we can gather out of it.
"I don't object to your theory," says
the master, "and I allow you have made a fair case for yourself.
But now, in such books as Aristophanes, for instance, you've been reading
a play this half with the Doctor, haven't you?"
"Yes, the Knights," answered Tom.
"Well, I'm sure you would have enjoyed the
wonderful humour of it twice as much if you had taken more pains with your
"Well, sir, I don't believe any boy in the
form enjoyed the sets-to between Cleon and the Sausage-seller more than I did--
eh, Arthur?" said Tom, giving him a stir with his foot.
"Yes, I must say he did," said Arthur.
"I think, sir, you've hit upon the wrong book there."
"Not a bit of it," said the master.
"Why, in those very passages of arms, how can you thoroughly
appreciate them unless you are master of the weapons? and the weapons are the
language, which you, Brown, have never half worked at; and so, as I say, you
must have lost all the delicate shades of meaning which make the best part of
"Oh, well played! bravo, Johnson!"
shouted Arthur, dropping his bat and clapping furiously, and Tom joined in with
a "Bravo, Johnson!" which might have been heard at the chapel.
"Eh! what was it? I didn't see," inquired the master.
"They only got one run, I thought?"
"No, but such a ball, three-quarters length,
and coming straight for his leg bail. Nothing
but that turn of the wrist could have saved him, and he drew it away to leg for
a safe one. --Bravo, Johnson!"
"How well they are bowling, though,"
said Arthur; "they don't mean to be beat, I can see."
"There now," struck in the master;
"you see that's just what I have been preaching this half-hour.
The delicate play is the true thing.
I don't understand cricket, so I don't enjoy those fine draws which you
tell me are the best play, though when you or Raggles hit a ball hard away for
six I am as delighted as any one. Don't
you see the analogy?"
"Yes, sir," answered Tom, looking up
roguishly, "I see; only the question remains whether I should have got most
good by understanding Greek particles or cricket thoroughly.
I'm such a thick, I never should have had time for both."
"I see you are an incorrigible," said
the master, with a chuckle; "but I refute you by an example.
Arthur there has taken in Greek and cricket too."
"Yes, but no thanks to him; Greek came
natural to him. Why, when he first
came I remember he used to read Herodotus for pleasure as I did Don Quixote, and
couldn't have made a false concord if he'd tried ever so hard; and then I looked
after his cricket."
has given him out. Do you see,
Tom?" cries Arthur. "How
foolish of them to run so hard."
"Well, it can't be helped; he has played very
well. Whose turn is it to go
"I don't know; they've got your list in the
"Let's go and see," said Tom, rising;
but at this moment Jack Raggles and two or three more came running to the island
"O Brown, mayn't I go in next?" shouts
"Whose name is next on the list?" says
"Winter's, and then Arthur's," answers
the boy who carries it; "but there are only twenty-six runs to get, and no
time to lose. I heard Mr. Aislabie say that the stumps must be drawn at a
quarter past eight exactly."
"Oh, do let the Swiper go in," chorus
the boys; so Tom yields against his better judgment.
"I dare say now I've lost the match by this
nonsense," he says, as he sits down again; "they'll be sure to get
Jack's wicket in three or four minutes; however, you'll have the chance, sir, of
seeing a hard hit or two," adds he, smiling, and turning to the master.
"Come, none of your irony, Brown,"
answers the master. "I'm
beginning to understand the game scientifically.
What a noble game it is, too!"
But it's more than a game. It's
an institution," said Tom.
"Yes," said Arthur--"the birthright
of British boys old and young, as habeas corpus and trial by jury are of British
"The discipline and reliance on one another
which it teaches is so valuable, I think," went on the master, "it
ought to be such an unselfish game. It
merges the individual in the eleven; he doesn't play that he may win, but that
his side may."
"That's very true," said Tom, "and
that's why football and cricket, now one comes to think of it, are such much
better games than fives or hare-and-hounds, or any others where the object is to
come in first or to win for oneself, and not that one's side may win."
"And then the captain of the eleven!"
said the master; "what a post is his in our School-world! almost as hard as
the Doctor's - requiring skill and gentleness and firmness, and I know not what
other rare qualities."
"Which don't he may wish he may get!"
said Tom, laughing; "at any rate he hasn't got them yet, or he wouldn't
have been such a flat to-night as to let Jack Raggles go in out of his
"Ah, the Doctor never would have done
that," said Arthur demurely. "Tom,
you've a great deal to learn yet in the art of ruling."
"Well, I wish you'd tell the Doctor so then,
and get him to let me stop till I'm twenty.
I don't want to leave, I'm sure."
"What a sight it is," broke in the
master, "the Doctor as a ruler! Perhaps
ours is the only little corner of the British Empire which is thoroughly,
wisely, and strongly ruled just now. I'm more and more thankful every day of my
life that I came here to be under him."
"So am I, I'm sure," said Tom, "and
more and more sorry that I've got to leave."
"Every place and thing one sees here reminds
one of some wise act of his," went on the master. "This island now--you remember the time, Brown, when it
was laid out in small gardens, and cultivated by frost-bitten fags in February
"Of course I do," said Tom; "didn't
I hate spending two hours in the afternoon grubbing in the tough dirt with the
stump of a fives bat? But turf-cart
was good fun enough."
"I dare say it was, but it was always leading
to fights with the townspeople; and then the stealing flowers out of all the
gardens in Rugby for the Easter show was abominable."
"Well, so it was," said Tom, looking
down, "but we fags couldn't help ourselves.
But what has that to do with the Doctor's ruling?"
"A great deal, I think," said the
master; "what brought island- fagging to an end?"
"Why, the Easter speeches were put off till
midsummer," said Tom, "and the sixth had the gymnastic poles put up
"Well, and who changed the time of the
speeches, and put the idea of gymnastic poles into the heads of their worships
the sixth form?" said the master.
"The Doctor, I suppose," said Tom.
"I never thought of that."
"Of course you didn't," said the master,
"or else, fag as you were, you would have shouted with the whole school
against putting down old customs. And
that's the way that all the Doctor's reforms have been carried out when he has
been left to himself--quietly and naturally, putting a good thing in the place
of a bad, and letting the bad die out; no wavering, and no hurry--the best thing
that could be done for the time being, and patience for the rest."
"Just Tom's own way," chimed in Arthur,
nudging Tom with his elbow--"driving a nail where it will go;" to
which allusion Tom answered by a sly kick.
"Exactly so," said the master, innocent
of the allusion and by- play.
Meantime Jack Raggles, with his sleeves tucked up
above his great brown elbows, scorning pads and gloves, has presented himself at
the wicket; and having run one for a forward drive of Johnson's, is about to
receive his first ball. There are
only twenty-four runs to make, and four wickets to go down--a winning match if
they play decently steady. The ball
is a very swift one, and rises fast, catching Jack on the outside of the thigh,
and bounding away as if from india-rubber, while they run two for a leg-bye
amidst great applause and shouts from Jack's many admirers. The next ball is a beautifully-pitched ball for the outer
stump, which the reckless and unfeeling Jack catches hold of, and hits right
round to leg for five, while the applause becomes deafening. Only seventeen runs to get with four wickets!
The game is all but ours!
It is over now, and Jack walks swaggering about
his wicket, with his bat over his shoulder, while Mr. Aislabie holds a short
parley with his men. Then the
cover-point hitter, that cunning man, goes on to bowl slow twisters.
Jack waves his hand triumphantly towards the tent, as much as to say,
"See if I don't finish it all off now in three hits."
Alas, my son Jack, the enemy is too old for thee.
The first ball of the over Jack steps out and meets, swiping with all his
force. If he had only allowed for the twist! But he hasn't, and so the ball goes spinning up straight in
the air, as if it would never come down again.
Away runs Jack, shouting and trusting to the chapter of accidents; but
the bowler runs steadily under it, judging every spin, and calling out, "I
have it," catches it, and playfully pitches it on to the back of the
stalwart Jack, who is departing with a rueful countenance.
"I knew how it would be," says Tom,
rising. "Come along; the
game's getting very serious."
So they leave the island and go to the tent; and
after deep consultation, Arthur is sent in, and goes off to the wicket with a
last exhortation from Tom to play steady and keep his bat straight.
To the suggestions that Winter is the best bat left, Tom only replies,
"Arthur is the steadiest, and Johnson will make the runs if the wicket is
only kept up."
"I am surprised to see Arthur in the
eleven," said the master, as they stood together in front of the dense
crowd, which was now closing in round the ground.
"Well, I'm not quite sure that he ought to be
in for his play," said Tom, "but I couldn't help putting him in.
It will do him so much good, and you can't think what I owe him."
The master smiled.
The clock strikes eight, and the whole field becomes fevered with
excitement. Arthur, after two
narrow escapes, scores one, and Johnson gets the ball. The bowling and fielding are superb, and Johnson's batting
worthy the occasion. He makes here a two, and there a one, managing to keep the
ball to himself, and Arthur backs up and runs perfectly. Only eleven runs to make now, and the crowd scarcely breathe.
At last Arthur gets the ball again, and actually drives it forward for
two, and feels prouder than when he got the three best prizes, at hearing Tom's
shout of joy, "Well played, well played, young un!"
But the next ball is too much for the young hand,
and his bails fly different ways. Nine
runs to make, and two wickets to go down: it
is too much for human nerves.
Before Winter can get in, the omnibus which is to
take the Lord's men to the train pulls up at the side of the close, and Mr.
Aislabie and Tom consult, and give out that the stumps will be drawn after the
next over. And so ends the great
match. Winter and Johnson carry out their bats, and, it being a one day's match,
the Lord's men are declared the winners, they having scored the most in the
But such a defeat is a victory:
so think Tom and all the School eleven, as they accompany their
conquerors to the omnibus, and send them off with three ringing cheers, after
Mr. Aislabie has shaken hands all round, saying to Tom, "I must compliment
you, sir, on your eleven, and I hope we shall have you for a member if you come
up to town."
As Tom and the rest of the eleven were turning
back into the close, and everybody was beginning to cry out for another
country-dance, encouraged by the success of the night before, the young master,
who was just leaving the close, stopped him, and asked him to come up to tea at
half-past eight, adding, "I won't keep you more than half an hour, and ask
Arthur to come up too."
"I'll come up with you directly, if you'll
let me," said Tom, "for I feel rather melancholy, and not quite up to
the country- dance and supper with the rest."
"Do, by all means," said the master;
"I'll wait here for you."
So Tom went off to get his boots and things from
the tent, to tell Arthur of the invitation, and to speak to his second in
command about stopping the dancing and shutting up the close as soon as it grew
dusk. Arthur promised to follow as
soon as he had had a dance. So Tom
handed his things over to the man in charge of the tent, and walked quietly away
to the gate where the master was waiting, and the two took their way together up
the Hillmorton road.
Of course they found the master's house locked up,
and all the servants away in the close--about this time, no doubt, footing it
away on the grass, with extreme delight to themselves, and in utter oblivion of
the unfortunate bachelor their master, whose one enjoyment in the shape of meals
was his "dish of tea" (as our grandmothers called it) in the evening;
and the phrase was apt in his case, for he always poured his out into the saucer
before drinking. Great was the good
man's horror at finding himself shut out of his own house.
Had he been alone he would have treated it as a matter of course, and
would have strolled contentedly up and down his gravel walk until some one came
home; but he was hurt at the stain on his character of host, especially as the
guest was a pupil. However, the
guest seemed to think it a great joke, and presently, as they poked about round
the house, mounted a wall, from which he could reach a passage window.
The window, as it turned out, was not bolted, so in another minute Tom
was in the house and down at the front door, which he opened from inside. The master chuckled grimly at this burglarious entry, and
insisted on leaving the hall-door and two of the front windows open, to frighten
the truants on their return; and then the two set about foraging for tea, in
which operation the master was much at fault, having the faintest possible idea
of where to find anything, and being, moreover, wondrously short-sighted; but
Tom, by a sort of instinct, knew the right cupboards in the kitchen and pantry,
and soon managed to place on the snuggery table better materials for a meal than
had appeared there probably during the reign of his tutor, who was then and
there initiated, amongst other things, into the excellence of that mysterious
condiment, a dripping-cake. The
cake was newly baked, and all rich and flaky; Tom had found it reposing in the
cook's private cupboard, awaiting her return; and as a warning to her they
finished it to the last crumb. The
kettle sang away merrily on the hob of the snuggery, for, notwithstanding the
time of year, they lighted a fire, throwing both the windows wide open at the
same time; the heaps of books and papers were pushed away to the other end of
the table, and the great solitary engraving of King's College Chapel over the
mantelpiece looked less stiff than usual, as they settled themselves down in the
twilight to the serious drinking of tea.
After some talk on the match, and other
indifferent subjects, the conversation came naturally back to Tom's approaching
departure, over which he began again to make his moan.
"Well, we shall all miss you quite as much as
you will miss us," said the master. "You
are the Nestor of the School now, are you not?"
"Yes, ever since East left," answered
Tom. "By-the-bye, have you
heard from him?"
"Yes, I had a letter in February, just before
he started for India to join his regiment."
"He will make a capital officer."
"Ay, won't he!" said Tom, brightening.
"No fellow could handle boys better, and I suppose soldiers are very
like boys. And he'll never tell
them to go where he won't go himself. No
mistake about that. A braver fellow
"His year in the sixth will have taught him a
good deal that will be useful to him now."
"So it will,"' said Tom, staring into
the fire. "Poor dear
Harry," he went on--"how well I remember the day we were put out of
the twenty! How he rose to the
situation, and burnt his cigar-cases, and gave away his pistols, and pondered on
the constitutional authority of the sixth, and his new duties to the Doctor, and
the fifth form, and the fags! Ay,
and no fellow ever acted up to them better, though he was always a people's
man--for the fags, and against constituted authorities.
He couldn't help that, you know. I'm
sure the Doctor must have liked him?" said Tom, looking up inquiringly.
"The Doctor sees the good in every one, and
appreciates it," said the master dogmatically; "but I hope East will
get a good colonel. He won't do if
he can't respect those above him. How
long it took him, even here, to learn the lesson of obeying!"
"Well, I wish I were alongside of him,"
said Tom. "If I can't be at
Rugby, I want to be at work in the world, and not dawdling away three years at
"What do you mean by 'at work in the
world'?" said the master, pausing with his lips close to his saucerful of
tea, and peering at Tom over it.
"Well, I mean real work--one's
profession--whatever one will have really to do and make one's living by.
I want to be doing some real good, feeling that I am not only at play in
the world," answered Tom, rather puzzled to find out himself what he really
"You are mixing up two very different things
in your head, I think, Brown," said the master, putting down the empty
saucer, "and you ought to get clear about them. You talk of 'working to get your living,' and 'doing some
real good in the world,' in the same breath.
Now, you may be getting a very good living in a profession, and yet doing
no good at all in the world, but quite the contrary, at the same time.
Keep the latter before you as your one object, and you will be right,
whether you make a living or not; but if you dwell on the other, you'll very
likely drop into mere money-making, and let the world take care of itself for
good or evil. Don't be in a hurry about finding your work in the world for
yourself--you are not old enough to judge for yourself yet; but just look about
you in the place you find yourself in, and try to make things a little better
and honester there. You'll find
plenty to keep your hand in at Oxford, or wherever else you go.
And don't be led away to think this part of the world important and that
unimportant. Every corner of the
world is important. No man knows
whether this part or that is most so, but every man may do some honest work in
his own corner." And then the
good man went on to talk wisely to Tom of the sort of work which he might take
up as an undergraduate, and warned him of the prevalent university sins, and
explained to him the many and great differences between university and school
life, till the twilight changed into darkness, and they heard the truant
servants stealing in by the back entrance.
"I wonder where Arthur can be," said Tom
at last, looking at his watch; "why, it's nearly half-past nine
"Oh, he is comfortably at supper with the
eleven, forgetful of his oldest friends," said the master.
"Nothing has given me greater pleasure," he went on, "than
your friendship for him; it has been the making of you both."
"Of me, at any rate," answered Tom;
"I should never have been here now but for him. It was the luckiest chance in the world that sent him to
Rugby and made him my chum."
"Why do you talk of lucky chances?" said
the master. "I don't know that
there are any such things in the world; at any rate, there was neither luck nor
chance in that matter."
Tom looked at him inquiringly, and he went on.
"Do you remember when the Doctor lectured you and East at the end of one
half- year, when you were in the shell, and had been getting into all sorts of
"Yes, well enough," said Tom; "it
was the half-year before Arthur came."
"Exactly so," answered the master.
"Now, I was with him a few minutes afterwards, and he was in great
distress about you two. And after some talk, we both agreed that you in
particular wanted some object in the School beyond games and mischief; for it
was quite clear that you never would make the regular school work your first
object. And so the Doctor, at the
beginning of the next half-year, looked out the best of the new boys, and
separated you and East, and put the young boy into your study, in the hope that
when you had somebody to lean on you, you would begin to stand a little steadier
yourself, and get manliness and thoughtfulness.
And I can assure you he has watched the experiment ever since with great
satisfaction. Ah! not one of you
boys will ever know the anxiety you have given him, or the care with which he
has watched over every step in your school lives."
Up to this time Tom had never given wholly in to
or understood the Doctor. At first
he had thoroughly feared him. For
some years, as I have tried to show, he had learnt to regard him with love and
respect, and to think him a very great and wise and good man. But as regarded his own position in the School, of which he
was no little proud, Tom had no idea of giving any one credit for it but
himself, and, truth to tell, was a very self- conceited young gentleman on the
subject. He was wont to boast that
he had fought his own way fairly up the School, and had never made up to or been
taken up by any big fellow or master, and that it was now quite a different
place from what it was when he first came.
And, indeed, though he didn't actually boast of it, yet in his secret
soul he did to a great extent believe that the great reform in the School had
been owing quite as much to himself as to any one else.
Arthur, he acknowledged, had done him good, and taught him a good deal;
so had other boys in different ways, but they had not had the same means of
influence on the School in general. And
as for the Doctor, why, he was a splendid master; but every one knew that
masters could do very little out of school hours.
In short, he felt on terms of equality with his chief, so far as the
social state of the School was concerned, and thought that the Doctor would find
it no easy matter to get on without him. Moreover,
his School Toryism was still strong, and he looked still with some jealousy on
the Doctor, as somewhat of a fanatic in the matter of change, and thought it
very desirable for the School that he should have some wise person (such as
himself) to look sharply after vested School-rights, and see that nothing was
done to the injury of the republic without due protest.
It was a new light to him to find that, besides
teaching the sixth, and governing and guiding the whole School, editing
classics, and writing histories, the great headmaster had found time in those
busy years to watch over the career even of him, Tom Brown, and his particular
friends, and, no doubt, of fifty other boys at the same time, and all this
without taking the least credit to himself, or seeming to know, or let any one
else know, that he ever thought particularly of any boy at all.
However, the Doctor's victory was complete from
that moment over Tom Brown at any rate. He
gave way at all points, and the enemy marched right over him--cavalry, infantry,
and artillery, and the land transport corps, and the camp followers.
It had taken eight long years to do it; but now it was done thoroughly,
and there wasn't a corner of him left which didn't believe in the Doctor.
Had he returned to School again, and the Doctor begun the half-year by
abolishing fagging, and football, and the Saturday half-holiday, or all or any
of the most cherished School institutions, Tom would have supported him with the
blindest faith. And so, after a
half confession of his previous shortcomings, and sorrowful adieus to his tutor,
from whom he received two beautifully-bound volumes of the Doctor's sermons, as
a parting present, he marched down to the Schoolhouse, a hero-worshipper, who
would have satisfied the soul of Thomas Carlyle himself.
There he found the eleven at high jinks after
supper, Jack Raggles shouting comic songs and performing feats of strength, and
was greeted by a chorus of mingled remonstrance at his desertion and joy at his
reappearance. And falling in with
the humour of the evening, he was soon as great a boy as all the rest; and at
ten o'clock was chaired round the quadrangle, on one of the hall benches, borne
aloft by the eleven, shouting in chorus, "For he's a jolly good
fellow," while old Thomas, in a melting mood, and the other School-house
servants, stood looking on.
And the next morning after breakfast he squared up
all the cricketing accounts, went round to his tradesmen and other acquaintance,
and said his hearty good-byes; and by twelve o'clock was in the train, and away
for London, no longer a school-boy, and divided in his thoughts between
hero-worship, honest regrets over the long stage of his life which was now
slipping out of sight behind him, and hopes and resolves for the next stage upon
which he was entering with all the confidence of a young traveller.