TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
V - RUGBY AND FOOTBALL.
RUGBY AND FOOTBALL.
"Foot and eye opposed
"And so here's Rugby, sir, at last, and
you'll be in plenty of time for dinner at the School-house, as I telled
you," said the old guard, pulling his horn out of its case and
tootle-tooing away, while the coachman shook up his horses, and carried them
along the side of the school close, round Dead-man's corner, past the
school-gates, and down the High Street to the Spread Eagle, the wheelers in a
spanking trot, and leaders cantering, in a style which would not have disgraced
"Cherry Bob," "ramping, stamping, tearing, swearing Billy
Harwood," or any other of the old coaching heroes.
Tom's heart beat quick as he passed the great
schoolfield or close, with its noble elms, in which several games at football
were going on, and tried to take in at once the long line of gray buildings,
beginning with the chapel, and ending with the School-house, the residence of
the head-master, where the great flag was lazily waving from the highest round
tower. And he began already to be
proud of being a Rugby boy, as he passed the schoolgates, with the oriel window
above, and saw the boys standing there, looking as if the town belonged to them,
and nodding in a familiar manner to the coachman, as if any one of them would be
quite equal to getting on the box, and working the team down street as well as
One of the young heroes, however, ran out from the
rest, and scrambled up behind; where, having righted himself, and nodded to the
guard, with "How do, Jem?" he turned short round to Tom, and after
looking him over for a minute, began, -
"I say, you fellow, is your name Brown?"
"Yes," said Tom, in considerable
astonishment, glad, however, to have lighted on some one already who seemed to
"Ah, I thought so. You know my old aunt, Miss
East. She lives somewhere down your
way in Berkshire. She wrote to me
that you were coming to-day, and asked me to give you a lift."
Tom was somewhat inclined to resent the
patronizing air of his new friend, a boy of just about his own height and age,
but gifted with the most transcendent coolness and assurance, which Tom felt to
be aggravating and hard to bear, but couldn't for the life of him help admiring
and envying--especially when young my lord begins hectoring two or three long
loafing fellows, half porter, half stableman, with a strong touch of the
blackguard, and in the end arranges with one of them, nicknamed Cooey, to carry
Tom's luggage up to the School-house for sixpence.
"And hark 'ee, Cooey; it must be up in ten
minutes, or no more jobs from me. Come
along, Brown." And away
swaggers the young potentate, with his hands in his pockets, and Tom at his
"All right, sir," says Cooey, touching
his hat, with a leer and a wink at his companions.
"Hullo though," says East, pulling up,
and taking another look at Tom; "this'll never do. Haven't you got a hat? We
never wear caps here. Only the
louts wear caps. Bless you, if you
were to go into the quadrangle with that thing on, I don't know what'd
happen." The very idea was
quite beyond young Master East, and he looked unutterable things.
Tom thought his cap a very knowing affair, but
confessed that he had a hat in his hat-box; which was accordingly at once
extracted from the hind-boot, and Tom equipped in his go-to- meeting roof, as
his new friend called it. But this
didn't quite suit his fastidious taste in another minute, being too shiny; so,
as they walk up the town, they dive into Nixon's the hatter's, and Tom is
arrayed, to his utter astonishment, and without paying for it, in a regulation
cat-skin at seven-and- sixpence, Nixon undertaking to send the best hat up to
the matron's room, School-house, in half an hour.
"You can send in a note for a tile on Monday,
and make it all right, you know," said Mentor; "we're allowed two
seven-and-sixers a half, besides what we bring from home."
Tom by this time began to be conscious of his new
social position and dignities, and to luxuriate in the realized ambition of
being a public school-boy at last, with a vested right of spoiling two
seven-and-sixers in half a year.
"You see," said his friend, as they
strolled up towards the school-gates, in explanation of his conduct, "a
great deal depends on how a fellow cuts up at first. If he's got nothing odd about him, and answers
straightforward, and holds his head up, he gets on.
Now, you'll do very well as to rig, all but that cap. You see I'm doing
the handsome thing by you, because my father knows yours; besides, I want to
please the old lady. She gave me half a sov. this half, and perhaps'll double it
next, if I keep in her good books."
There's nothing for candour like a lower-school
boy, and East was a genuine specimen--frank, hearty, and good-natured, well-
satisfied with himself and his position, and choke-full of life and spirits, and
all the Rugby prejudices and traditions which he had been able to get together
in the long course of one half- year during which he had been at the
And Tom, notwithstanding his bumptiousness, felt
friends with him at once, and began sucking in all his ways and prejudices, as
fast as he could understand them.
East was great in the character of cicerone.
He carried Tom through the great gates, where were only two or three
boys. These satisfied themselves with the stock questions, "You fellow,
what's your name? Where do you come
from? How old are you?
Where do you board?" and, "What form are you in?"
And so they passed on through the quadrangle and a small courtyard, upon
which looked down a lot of little windows (belonging, as his guide informed him,
to some of the School-house studies), into the matron's room, where East
introduced Tom to that dignitary; made him give up the key of his trunk, that
the matron might unpack his linen, and told the story of the hat and of his own
presence of mind: upon the relation
whereof the matron laughingly scolded him for the coolest new boy in the house;
and East, indignant at the accusation of newness, marched Tom off into the
quadrangle, and began showing him the schools, and examining him as to his
literary attainments; the result of which was a prophecy that they would be in
the same form, and could do their lessons together.
"And now come in and see my study--we shall
have just time before dinner; and afterwards, before calling over, we'll do the
Tom followed his guide through the School-house
hall, which opens into the quadrangle. It
is a great room, thirty feet long and eighteen high, or thereabouts, with two
great tables running the whole length, and two large fireplaces at the side,
with blazing fires in them, at one of which some dozen boys were standing and
lounging, some of whom shouted to East to stop; but he shot through with his
convoy, and landed him in the long, dark passages, with a large fire at the end
of each, upon which the studies opened. Into
one of these, in the bottom passage, East bolted with our hero, slamming and
bolting the door behind them, in case of pursuit from the hall, and Tom was for
the first time in a Rugby boy's citadel.
He hadn't been prepared for separate studies, and
was not a little astonished and delighted with the palace in question.
It wasn't very large, certainly, being about six
feet long by four broad. It
couldn't be called light, as there were bars and a grating to the window; which
little precautions were necessary in the studies on the ground-floor looking out
into the close, to prevent the exit of small boys after locking up, and the
entrance of contraband articles. But
it was uncommonly comfortable to look at, Tom thought. The space under the window at the farther end was occupied by
a square table covered with a reasonably clean and whole red and blue check
tablecloth; a hard-seated sofa covered with red stuff occupied one side, running
up to the end, and making a seat for one, or by sitting close, for two, at the
table and a good stout wooden chair
afforded a seat to another boy, so that three could sit and work together.
The walls were wainscoted half-way up, the wainscot being covered with
green baize, the remainder with a bright- patterned paper, on which hung three
or four prints of dogs' heads; Grimaldi winning the Aylesbury steeple-chase; Amy
Robsart, the reigning Waverley beauty of the day; and Tom Crib, in a posture of
defence, which did no credit to the science of that hero, if truly represented.
Over the door were a row of hat-pegs, and on each side bookcases with
cupboards at the bottom, shelves and cupboards being filled indiscriminately
with school-books, a cup or two, a mouse-trap and candlesticks, leather straps,
a fustian bag, and some curious-looking articles which puzzled Tom not a little,
until his friend explained that they were climbing-irons, and showed their use.
A cricket-bat and small fishing-rod stood up in one corner.
This was the residence of East and another boy in
the same form, and had more interest for Tom than Windsor Castle, or any other
residence in the British Isles. For
was he not about to become the joint owner of a similar home, the first place he
could call his own? One's own!
What a charm there is in the words!
How long it takes boy and man to find out their worth!
How fast most of us hold on to them--faster and more jealously, the
nearer we are to that general home into which we can take nothing, but must go
naked as we came into the world! When
shall we learn that he who multiplieth possessions multiplieth troubles, and
that the one single use of things which we call our own is that they may be his
who hath need of them?
"And shall I have a study like this
too?" said Tom.
"Yes, of course; you'll be chummed with some
fellow on Monday, and you can sit here till then."
"What nice places!"
"They're well enough," answered East,
patronizingly, "only uncommon cold at nights sometimes.
Gower--that's my chum--and I make a fire with paper on the floor after
supper generally, only that makes it so smoky."
"But there's a big fire out in the
passage," said Tom.
"Precious little we get out of that,
though," said East. "Jones the prepostor has the study at the fire
end, and he has rigged up an iron rod and green baize curtain across the
passage, which he draws at night, and sits there with his door open; so he gets
all the fire, and hears if we come out of our studies after eight, or make a
noise. However, he's taken to
sitting in the fifth-form room lately, so we do get a bit of fire now sometimes;
only to keep a sharp lookout that he don't catch you behind his curtain when he
comes down--that's all."
A quarter past one now struck, and the bell began
tolling for dinner; so they went into the hall and took their places, Tom at the
very bottom of the second table, next to the prepostor (who sat at the end to
keep order there), and East a few paces higher. And now Tom for the first time saw his future school- fellows
in a body. In they came, some hot
and ruddy from football or long walks, some pale and chilly from hard reading in
their studies, some from loitering over the fire at the pastrycook's, dainty
mortals, bringing with them pickles and saucebottles to help them with their
dinners. And a great big- bearded
man, whom Tom took for a master, began calling over the names, while the great
joints were being rapidly carved on the third table in the corner by the old
verger and the housekeeper. Tom's turn came last, and meanwhile he was all eyes,
looking first with awe at the great man, who sat close to him, and was helped
first, and who read a hard-looking book all the time he was eating; and when he
got up and walked off to the fire, at the small boys round him, some of whom
were reading, and the rest talking in whispers to one another, or stealing one
another's bread, or shooting pellets, or digging their forks through the
notwithstanding his curiosity, he managed to make a capital dinner by the time
the big man called "Stand up!" and said grace.
As soon as dinner was over, and Tom had been
questioned by such of his neighbours as were curious as to his birth, parentage,
education, and other like matters, East, who evidently enjoyed his new dignity
of patron and mentor, proposed having a look at the close, which Tom, athirst
for knowledge, gladly assented to; and they went out through the quadrangle and
past the big fives court, into the great playground.
"That's the chapel, you see," said East;
"and there, just behind it, is the place for fights.
You see it's most out of the way of the masters, who all live on the
other side, and don't come by here after first lesson or callings-over.
That's when the fights come off. And
all this part where we are is the little- side ground, right up to the trees;
and on the other side of the trees is the big-side ground, where the great
matches are played. And there's the
island in the farthest corner; you'll know that well enough next half, when
there's island fagging. I say, it's
horrid cold; let's have a run across."
And away went East, Tom close behind him.
East was evidently putting his best foot foremost; and Tom, who was
mighty proud of his running, and not a little anxious to show his friend that,
although a new boy, he was no milksop, laid himself down to work in his very
best style. Right across the close
they went, each doing all he knew, and there wasn't a yard between them when
they pulled up at the island moat.
"I say," said East, as soon as he got
his wind, looking with much increased respect at Tom, "you ain't a bad
scud, not by no means. Well, I'm as
warm as a toast now."
"But why do you wear white trousers in
November?" said Tom. He had
been struck by this peculiarity in the costume of almost all the School-house
"Why, bless us, don't you know?
No; I forgot. Why, to-day's the School-house match. Our house plays the whole of the School at football.
And we all wear white trousers, to show 'em we don't care for hacks.
You're in luck to come to-day. You
just will see a match; and Brooke's going to let me play in quarters. That's
more than he'll do for any other lower-school boy, except James, and he's
"Why, that big fellow who called over at
dinner, to be sure. He's cock of the school, and head of the School-house side,
and the best kick and charger in Rugby."
"Oh, but do show me where they play.
And tell me about it. I love
football so, and have played all my life. Won't
Brooke let me play?"
"Not he," said East, with some
indignation. "Why, you don't
know the rules; you'll be a month learning them.
And then it's no joke playing-up in a match, I can tell you--quite
another thing from your private school games.
Why, there's been two collar-bones broken this half, and a dozen fellows
lamed. And last year a fellow had
his leg broken."
Tom listened with the profoundest respect to this
chapter of accidents, and followed East across the level ground till they came
to a sort of gigantic gallows of two poles, eighteen feet high, fixed upright in
the ground some fourteen feet apart, with a cross-bar running from one to the
other at the height of ten feet or thereabouts.
"This is one of the goals," said East,
"and you see the other, across there, right opposite, under the Doctor's
wall. Well, the match is for the
best of three goals; whichever side kicks two goals wins: and it won't do, you see, just to kick the ball through these
posts--it must go over the cross-bar; any height'll do, so long as it's between
the posts. You'll have to stay in
goal to touch the ball when it rolls behind the posts, because if the other side
touch it they have a try at goal. Then we fellows in quarters, we play just
about in front of goal here, and have to turn the ball and kick it back before
the big fellows on the other side can follow it up. And in front of us all the big fellows play, and that's where
the scrummages are mostly."
Tom's respect increased as he struggled to make
out his friend's technicalities, and the other set to work to explain the
mysteries of "off your side," "drop-kicks,"
"punts," "places," and the other intricacies of the great
science of football.
"But how do you keep the ball between the
goals?" said he; "I can't see why it mightn't go right down to the
"Why; that's out of play," answered
East. "You see this gravel-
walk running down all along this side of the playing-ground, and the line of
elms opposite on the other? Well,
they're the bounds. As soon as the ball gets past them, it's in touch, and out
of play. And then whoever first
touches it has to knock it straight out amongst the players-up, who make two
lines with a space between them, every fellow going on his own side.
Ain't there just fine scrummages then!
And the three trees you see there which come out into the play, that's a
tremendous place when the ball hangs there, for you get thrown against the
trees, and that's worse than any hack."
Tom wondered within himself, as they strolled back
again towards the fives court, whether the matches were really such break-neck
affairs as East represented, and whether, if they were, he should ever get to
like them and play up well,
He hadn't long to wonder, however, for next minute
East cried out, "Hurrah! here's the punt-about; come along and try your
hand at a kick." The
punt-about is the practice-ball, which is just brought out and kicked about
anyhow from one boy to another before callings-over and dinner, and at other odd
times. They joined the boys who had
brought it out, all small School-house fellows, friends of East; and Tom had the
pleasure of trying his skill, and performed very creditably, after first driving
his foot three inches into the ground, and then nearly kicking his leg into the
air, in vigorous efforts to accomplish a drop-kick after the manner of East.
Presently more boys and bigger came out, and boys
from other houses on their way to calling-over, and more balls were sent for.
The crowd thickened as three o'clock approached; and when the hour
struck, one hundred and fifty boys were hard at work. Then the balls were held,
the master of the week came down in cap and gown to calling-over, and the whole
school of three hundred boys swept into the big school to answer to their names.
"I may come in, mayn't I?" said Tom,
catching East by the arm, and longing to feel one of them.
"Yes, come along; nobody'll say anything.
You won't be so eager to get into calling-over after a month,"
replied his friend; and they marched into the big school together, and up to the
farther end, where that illustrious form, the lower fourth, which had the honour
of East's patronage for the time being, stood.
The master mounted into the high desk by the door,
and one of the prepostors of the week stood by him on the steps, the other three
marching up and down the middle of the school with their canes, calling out,
"Silence, silence!" The
sixth form stood close by the door on the left, some thirty in number, mostly
great big grown men, as Tom thought, surveying them from a distance with awe;
the fifth form behind them, twice their number, and not quite so big.
These on the left; and on the right the lower fifth, shell, and all the
junior forms in order; while up the middle marched the three prepostors.
Then the prepostor who stands by the master calls
out the names, beginning with the sixth form; and as he calls each boy answers
"here" to his name, and walks out.
Some of the sixth stop at the door to turn the whole string of boys into
the close. It is a great match-day,
and every boy in the school, will he, will he, must be there.
The rest of the sixth go forwards into the close, to see that no one
escapes by any of the side gates.
To-day, however, being the School-house match,
none of the School-house prepostors stay by the door to watch for truants of
their side; there is carte blanche to the School-house fags to go where they
like. "They trust to our
honour," as East proudly informs Tom; "they know very well that no
School-house boy would cut the match. If
he did, we'd very soon cut him, I can tell you."
The master of the week being short-sighted, and
the prepostors of the week small and not well up to their work, the lower-
school boys employ the ten minutes which elapse before their names are called in
pelting one another vigorously with acorns, which fly about in all directions.
The small prepostors dash in every now and then, and generally chastise
some quiet, timid boy who is equally afraid of acorns and canes, while the
principal performers get dexterously out of the way.
And so calling-over rolls on somehow, much like the big world,
punishments lighting on wrong shoulders, and matters going generally in a queer,
cross-grained way, but the end coming somehow, which is, after all, the great
point. And now the master of the
week has finished, and locked up the big school; and the prepostors of the week
come out, sweeping the last remnant of the school fags, who had been loafing
about the corners by the fives court, in hopes of a chance of bolting, before
them into the close.
"Hold the punt-about!"
"To the goals!" are the cries; and all stray balls are
impounded by the authorities, and the whole mass of boys moves up towards the
two goals, dividing as they go into three bodies.
That little band on the left, consisting of from fifteen to twenty boys,
Tom amongst them, who are making for the goal under the School-house wall, are
the School-house boys who are not to play up, and have to stay in goal.
The larger body moving to the island goal are the School boys in a like
predicament. The great mass in the
middle are the players-up, both sides mingled together; they are hanging their
jackets (and all who mean real work), their hats, waistcoats, neck-
handkerchiefs, and braces, on the railings round the small trees; and there they
go by twos and threes up to their respective grounds.
There is none of the colour and tastiness of get-up, you will perceive,
which lends such a life to the present game at Rugby, making the dullest and
worst-fought match a pretty sight. Now
each house has its own uniform of cap and jersey, of some lively colour; but at
the time we are speaking of plush caps have not yet come in, or uniforms of any
sort, except the School-house white trousers, which are abominably cold to-day.
Let us get to work, bare-headed, and girded with our plain leather
straps. But we mean business,
And now that the two sides have fairly sundered,
and each occupies its own ground, and we get a good look at them, what absurdity
is this? You don't mean to say that
those fifty or sixty boys in white trousers, many of them quite small, are going
to play that huge mass opposite? Indeed
I do, gentlemen. They're going to try, at any rate, and won't make such a bad
fight of it either, mark my word; for hasn't old Brooke won the toss, with his
lucky halfpenny, and got choice of goals and kick-off?
The new ball you may see lie there quite by itself, in the middle,
pointing towards the School or island goal; in another minute it will be well on
its way there. Use that minute in
remarking how the Schoolhouse side is drilled.
You will see, in the first place, that the sixth-form boy, who has the
charge of goal, has spread his force (the goalkeepers) so as to occupy the whole
space behind the goal-posts, at distances of about five yards apart.
A safe and well-kept goal is the foundation of all good play. Old Brooke is talking to the captain of quarters, and now he
moves away. See how that youngster
spreads his men (the light brigade) carefully over the ground, half-way between
their own goal and the body of their own players-up (the heavy brigade).
These again play in several bodies.
There is young Brooke and the bull-dogs.
Mark them well. They are the "fighting brigade," the
"die-hards," larking about at leap-frog to keep themselves warm, and
playing tricks on one another. And
on each side of old Brooke, who is now standing in the middle of the ground and
just going to kick off, you see a separate wing of players-up, each with a boy
of acknowledged prowess to look to--here Warner, and there Hedge; but over all
is old Brooke, absolute as he of Russia, but wisely and bravely ruling over
willing and worshipping subjects, a true football king.
His face is earnest and careful as he glances a last time over his array,
but full of pluck and hope--the sort of look I hope to see in my general when I
go out to fight.
The School side is not organized in the same way.
The goal- keepers are all in lumps, anyhow and nohow; you can't
distinguish between the players-up and the boys in quarters, and there is
divided leadership. But with such odds in strength and weight it must take more
than that to hinder them from winning; and so their leaders seem to think, for
they let the players-up manage themselves.
But now look! there is a slight move forward of
the School-house wings, a shout of "Are you ready?" and loud
affirmative reply. Old Brooke takes half a dozen quick steps, and away goes the
ball spinning towards the School goal, seventy yards before it touches ground,
and at no point above twelve or fifteen feet high, a model kick-off; and the
School-house cheer and rush on. The ball is returned, and they meet it and drive
it back amongst the masses of the School already in motion.
Then the two sides close, and you can see nothing for minutes but a
swaying crowd of boys, at one point violently agitated.
That is where the ball is, and there are the keen players to be met, and
the glory and the hard knocks to be got. You
hear the dull thud, thud of the ball, and the shouts of "Off your
side," "Down with him," "Put him over,"
"Bravo." This is what we
call "a scrummage," gentlemen, and the first scrummage in a
School-house match was no joke in the consulship of Plancus.
But see! it has broken; the ball is driven out on
the School- house side, and a rush of the School carries it past the School-
house players-up. "Look out in
quarters," Brooke's and twenty other voices ring out.
No need to call, though: the
School- house captain of quarters has caught it on the bound, dodges the
foremost School boys, who are heading the rush, and sends it back with a good
drop-kick well into the enemy's country. And
then follows rush upon rush, and scrummage upon scrummage, the ball now driven
through into the School-house quarters, and now into the School goal; for the
School-house have not lost the advantage which the kick-off and a slight wind
gave them at the outset, and are slightly "penning" their adversaries.
You say you don't see much in it all--nothing but a struggling mass of
boys, and a leather ball which seems to excite them all to great fury, as a red
rag does a bull. My dear sir, a
battle would look much the same to you, except that the boys would be men, and
the balls iron; but a battle would be worth your looking at for all that, and so
is a football match. You can't be
expected to appreciate the delicate strokes of play, the turns by which a game
is lost and won--it takes an old player to do that; but the broad philosophy of
football you can understand if you will. Come along with me a little nearer, and
let us consider it together.
The ball has just fallen again where the two sides
are thickest, and they close rapidly around it in a scrummage.
It must be driven through now by force or skill, till it flies out on one
side or the other. Look how differently the boys face it! Here come two of the bulldogs, bursting through the
outsiders; in they go, straight to the heart of the scrummage, bent on driving
that ball out on the opposite side. That
is what they mean to do. My sons,
my sons! you are too hot; you have gone past the ball, and must struggle now
right through the scrummage, and get round and back again to your own side,
before you can be of any further use. Here
comes young Brooke; he goes in as straight as you, but keeps his head, and backs
and bends, holding himself still behind the ball, and driving it furiously when
he gets the chance. Take a leaf out
of his book, you young chargers. Here
comes Speedicut, and Flashman the School-house bully, with shouts and great
action. Won't you two come up to
young Brooke, after locking-up, by the School-house fire, with "Old fellow,
wasn't that just a splendid scrummage by the three trees?"
But he knows you, and so do we. You
don't really want to drive that ball through that scrummage, chancing all hurt
for the glory of the School-house, but to make us think that's what you want--a
vastly different thing; and fellows of your kidney will never go through more
than the skirts of a scrummage, where it's all push and no kicking.
We respect boys who keep out of it, and don't sham going in; but you--we
had rather not say what we think of you.
Then the boys who are bending and watching on the
outside, mark them: they are most
useful players, the dodgers, who seize on the ball the moment it rolls out from
amongst the chargers, and away with it across to the opposite goal.
They seldom go into the scrummage, but must have more coolness than the
chargers. As endless as are boys' characters, so are their ways of facing or not
facing a scrummage at football.
Three-quarters of an hour are gone; first winds
are failing, and weight and numbers beginning to tell. Yard by yard the School- house have been driven back,
contesting every inch of ground. The bull-dogs are the colour of mother earth
from shoulder to ankle, except young Brooke, who has a marvellous knack of
keeping his legs. The School-house
are being penned in their turn, and now the ball is behind their goal, under the
Doctor's wall. The Doctor and some
of his family are there looking on, and seem as anxious as any boy for the
success of the School- house. We
get a minute's breathing-time before old Brooke kicks out, and he gives the word
to play strongly for touch, by the three trees.
Away goes the ball, and the bull-dogs after it, and in another minute
there is shout of "In touch!" "Our ball!" Now's your time,
old Brooke, while your men are still fresh.
He stands with the ball in his hand, while the two sides form in deep
lines opposite one another; he must strike it straight out between them.
The lines are thickest close to him, but young Brooke and two or three of
his men are shifting up farther, where the opposite line is weak.
Old Brooke strikes it out straight and strong, and it falls opposite his
brother. Hurrah! that rush has
taken it right through the School line, and away past the three trees, far into
their quarters, and young Brooke and the bull-dogs are close upon it. The School leaders rush back, shouting, "Look out in
goal!" and strain every nerve to catch him, but they are after the fleetest
foot in Rugby. There they go
straight for the School goal-posts, quarters scattering before them.
One after another the bull-dogs go down, but young Brooke holds on.
"He is down." No!
a long stagger, but the danger is past. That
was the shock of Crew, the most dangerous of dodgers.
And now he is close to the School goal, the ball not three yards before
him. There is a hurried rush of the
School fags to the spot, but no one throws himself on the ball, the only chance,
and young Brooke has touched it right under the School goal-posts.
The School leaders come up furious, and administer
toco to the wretched fags nearest at hand.
They may well be angry, for it is all Lombard Street to a china orange
that the School-house kick a goal with the ball touched in such a good place.
Old Brooke, of course, will kick it out, but who shall catch and place
it? Call Crab Jones.
Here he comes, sauntering along with a straw in his mouth, the queerest,
coolest fish in Rugby. If he were tumbled into the moon this minute, he would
just pick himself up without taking his hands out of his pockets or turning a
hair. But it is a moment when the
boldest charger's heart beats quick. Old
Brooke stands with the ball under his arm motioning the School back; he will not
kick out till they are all in goal, behind the posts. They are all edging forwards, inch by inch, to get nearer for
the rush at Crab Jones, who stands there in front of old Brooke to catch the
ball. If they can reach and destroy
him before he catches, the danger is over; and with one and the same rush they
will carry it right away to the School-house goal.
Fond hope! it is kicked out and caught beautifully.
Crab strikes his heel into the ground, to mark the spot where the ball
was caught, beyond which the school line may not advance; but there they stand,
five deep, ready to rush the moment the ball touches the ground. Take plenty of
room. Don't give the rush a chance
of reaching you. Place it true and steady.
Trust Crab Jones. He has
made a small hole with his heel for the ball to lie on, by which he is resting
on one knee, with his eye on old Brooke. "Now!"
Crab places the ball at the word, old Brooke kicks, and it rises slowly and
truly as the School rush forward.
Then a moment's pause, while both sides look up at
the spinning ball. There it flies,
straight between the two posts, some five feet above the cross-bar, an
unquestioned goal; and a shout of real, genuine joy rings out from the
School-house players-up, and a faint echo of it comes over the close from the
goal- keepers under the Doctor's wall. A
goal in the first hour-- such a thing hasn't been done in the School-house match
these five years.
"Over!" is the cry.
The two sides change goals, and the School- house goal-keepers come
threading their way across through the masses of the School, the most openly
triumphant of them-- amongst whom is Tom, a School-house boy of two hours'
standing-- getting their ears boxed in the transit.
Tom indeed is excited beyond measure, and it is all the sixth-form boy,
kindest and safest of goal-keepers, has been able to do, to keep him from
rushing out whenever the ball has been near their goal.
So he holds him by his side, and instructs him in the science of
At this moment Griffith, the itinerant vender of
oranges from Hill Morton, enters the close with his heavy baskets.
There is a rush of small boys upon the little pale-faced man, the two
sides mingling together, subdued by the great goddess Thirst, like the English
and French by the streams in the Pyrenees.
The leaders are past oranges and apples, but some of them visit their
coats, and apply innocent-looking ginger-beer bottles to their mouths.
It is no ginger-beer though, I fear, and will do you no good.
One short mad rush, and then a stitch in the side, and no more honest
play. That's what comes of those
But now Griffith's baskets are empty, the ball is
placed again midway, and the School are going to kick off.
Their leaders have sent their lumber into goal, and rated the rest
soundly, and one hundred and twenty picked players-up are there, bent on
retrieving the game. They are to
keep the ball in front of the School-house goal, and then to drive it in by
sheer strength and weight. They
mean heavy play and no mistake, and so old Brooke sees, and places Crab Jones in
quarters just before the goal, with four or five picked players who are to keep
the ball away to the sides, where a try at goal, if obtained, will be less
dangerous than in front. He
himself, and Warner and Hedge, who have saved themselves till now, will lead the
"Are you ready?" "Yes." And
away comes the ball, kicked high in the air, to give the School time to rush on
and catch it as it falls. And here
they are amongst us. Meet them like
Englishmen, you Schoolhouse boys, and charge them home.
Now is the time to show what mettle is in you; and there shall be a warm
seat by the hall fire, and honour, and lots of bottled beer to-night for him who
does his duty in the next half-hour. And
they are well met. Again and again
the cloud of their players- up gathers before our goal, and comes threatening
on, and Warner or Hedge, with young Brooke and the relics of the bull-dogs,
break through and carry the ball back; and old Brooke ranges the field like
Job's war-horse. The thickest
scrummage parts asunder before his rush, like the waves before a clipper's bows;
his cheery voice rings out over the field, and his eye is everywhere.
And if these miss the ball, and it rolls dangerously in front of our
goal, Crab Jones and his men have seized it and sent it away towards the sides
with the unerring drop-kick. This
is worth living for--the whole sum of school- boy existence gathered up into one
straining, struggling half- hour, a half-hour worth a year of common life.
The quarter to five has struck, and the play
slackens for a minute before goal; but there is Crew, the artful dodger, driving
the ball in behind our goal, on the island side, where our quarters are weakest.
Is there no one to meet him? Yes;
look at little East! The ball is
just at equal distances between the two, and they rush together, the young man
of seventeen and the boy of twelve, and kick it at the same moment. Crew passes
on without a stagger; East is hurled forward by the shock, and plunges on his
shoulder, as if he would bury himself in the ground; but the ball rises straight
into the air, and falls behind Crew's back, while the "bravoes" of the
School- house attest the pluckiest charge of all that hard-fought day. Warner
picks East up lame and half stunned, and he hobbles back into goal, conscious of
having played the man.
And now the last minutes are come, and the School
gather for their last rush, every boy of the hundred and twenty who has a run
left in him. Reckless of the
defence of their own goal, on they come across the level big-side ground, the
ball well down amongst them, straight for our goal, like the column of the Old
Guard up the slope at Waterloo. All
former charges have been child's play to this.
Warner and Hedge have met them, but still on they come.
The bull-dogs rush in for the last time; they are hurled over or carried
back, striving hand, foot, and eyelids. Old Brooke comes sweeping round the
skirts of the play, and turning short round, picks out the very heart of the
scrummage, and plunges in. It
wavers for a moment; he has the ball. No,
it has passed him, and his voice rings out clear over the advancing tide,
"Look out in goal!" Crab
Jones catches it for a moment; but before he can kick, the rush is upon him and
passes over him; and he picks himself up behind them with his straw in his
mouth, a little dirtier, but as cool as ever.
The ball rolls slowly in behind the School-house
goal, not three yards in front of a dozen of the biggest School players-up.
There stands the School-house prepostor, safest of
goal-keepers, and Tom Brown by his side, who has learned his trade by this time.
Now is your time, Tom. The
blood of all the Browns is up, and the two rush in together, and throw
themselves on the ball, under the very feet of the advancing column--the
prepostor on his hands and knees, arching his back, and Tom all along on his
face. Over them topple the leaders
of the rush, shooting over the back of the prepostor, but falling flat on Tom,
and knocking all the wind out of his small carcass.
"Our ball," says the prepostor, rising with his prize;
"but get up there; there's a little fellow under you."
They are hauled and roll off him, and Tom is discovered, a motionless
Old Brooke picks him up. "Stand back, give him air," he says; and then
feeling his limbs, adds, "No bones broken. --How do you feel, young
"Hah-hah!" gasps Tom, as his wind comes
back; "pretty well, thank you--all right."
"Who is he?" says Brooke.
"Oh, it's Brown; he's a new boy; I know
him," says East, coming up.
"Well, he is a plucky youngster, and will
make a player," says Brooke.
And five o'clock strikes. "No side" is called, and the first day of the
School-house match is over.