TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
"Says Giles, ''Tis mortal hard to go,
Everybody, I suppose, knows the dreamy, delicious
state in which one lies, half asleep, half awake, while consciousness begins to
return after a sound night's rest in a new place which we are glad to be in,
following upon a day of unwonted excitement and exertion.
There are few pleasanter pieces of life.
The worst of it is that they last such a short time; for nurse them as
you will, by lying perfectly passive in mind and body, you can't make more than
five minutes or so of them. After
which time the stupid, obtrusive, wakeful entity which we call "I", as
impatient as he is stiff-necked, spite of our teeth will force himself back
again, and take possession of us down to our very toes.
It was in this state that Master Tom lay at
half-past seven on the morning following the day of his arrival, and from his
clean little white bed watched the movements of Bogle (the generic name by which
the successive shoeblacks of the School-house were known), as he marched round
from bed to bed, collecting the dirty shoes and boots, and depositing clean ones
in their places.
There he lay, half doubtful as to where exactly in
the universe he was, but conscious that he had made a step in life which he had
been anxious to make. It was only
just light as he looked lazily out of the wide windows, and saw the tops of the
great elms, and the rooks circling about and cawing remonstrances to the lazy
ones of their commonwealth before starting in a body for the neighbouring
ploughed fields. The noise of the
room- door closing behind Bogle, as he made his exit with the shoebasket under
his arm, roused him thoroughly, and he sat up in bed and looked round the room.
What in the world could be the matter with his shoulders and loins?
He felt as if he had been severely beaten all down his back--the natural
results of his performance at his first match.
He drew up his knees and rested his chin on them, and went over all the
events of yesterday, rejoicing in his new life, what he had seen of it, and all
that was to come.
Presently one or two of the other boys roused
themselves, and began to sit up and talk to one another in low tones.
Then East, after a roll or two, came to an anchor also, and nodding to
Tom, began examining his ankle.
"What a pull," said he, "that it's
lie-in-bed, for I shall be as lame as a tree, I think."
It was Sunday morning, and Sunday lectures had not
yet been established; so that nothing but breakfast intervened between bed and
eleven o'clock chapel--a gap by no means easy to fill up:
in fact, though received with the correct amount of grumbling, the first
lecture instituted by the Doctor shortly afterwards was a great boon to the
School. It was lie-in-bed, and no
one was in a hurry to get up, especially in rooms where the sixth-form boy was a
good-tempered fellow, as was the case in Tom's room, and allowed the small boys
to talk and laugh and do pretty much what they pleased, so long as they didn't
disturb him. His bed was a bigger
one than the rest, standing in the corner by the fireplace, with a washing-stand
and large basin by the side, where he lay in state with his white curtains
tucked in so as to form a retiring place--an awful subject of contemplation to
Tom, who slept nearly opposite, and watched the great man rouse himself and take
a book from under his pillow, and begin reading, leaning his head on his hand,
and turning his back to the room. Soon,
however, a noise of striving urchins arose, and muttered encouragements from the
neighbouring boys of "Go it, Tadpole!" "Now, young Green!"
"Haul away his blanket!" "Slipper him on the hands!"
Young Green and little Hall, commonly called Tadpole, from his great
black head and thin legs, slept side by side far away by the door, and were for
ever playing one another tricks, which usually ended, as on this morning, in
open and violent collision; and now, unmindful of all order and authority, there
they were, each hauling away at the other's bedclothes with one hand, and with
the other, armed with a slipper, belabouring whatever portion of the body of his
adversary came within reach.
"Hold that noise up in the corner,"
called out the prepostor, sitting up and looking round his curtains; and the
Tadpole and young Green sank down into their disordered beds; and then, looking
at his watch, added, "Hullo! past eight.
Whose turn for hot water?"
(Where the prepostor was particular in his
ablutions, the fags in his room had to descend in turn to the kitchen, and beg
or steal hot water for him; and often the custom extended farther, and two boys
went down every morning to get a supply for the whole room.)
"East's and Tadpole's," answered the
senior fag, who kept the rota.
"I can't go," said East; "I'm dead
"Well, be quick some of you, that's
all," said the great man, as he turned out of bed, and putting on his
slippers, went out into the great passage, which runs the whole length of the
bedrooms, to get his Sunday habiliments out of his portmanteau.
"Let me go for you," said Tom to East;
"I should like it."
"Well, thank 'ee, that's a good fellow.
Just pull on your trousers, and take your jug and mine.
Tadpole will show you the way."
And so Tom and the Tadpole, in nightshirts and
trousers, started off downstairs, and through "Thos's hole," as the
little buttery, where candles and beer and bread and cheese were served out at
night, was called, across the School-house court, down a long passage, and into
the kitchen; where, after some parley with the stalwart, handsome cook, who
declared that she had filled a dozen jugs already, they got their hot water, and
returned with all speed and great caution.
As it was, they narrowly escaped capture by some privateers from the
fifth-form rooms, who were on the lookout for the hot-water convoys, and pursued
them up to the very door of their room, making them spill half their load in the
"Better than going down again though,"
as Tadpole remarked, "as we should have had to do if those beggars had
By the time that the calling-over bell rang, Tom
and his new comrades were all down, dressed in their best clothes, and he had
the satisfaction of answering "here" to his name for the first time,
the prepostor of the week having put it in at the bottom of his list.
And then came breakfast and a saunter about the close and town with East,
whose lameness only became severe when any fagging had to be done.
And so they whiled away the time until morning chapel.
It was a fine November morning, and the close soon
became alive with boys of all ages, who sauntered about on the grass, or walked
round the gravel walk, in parties of two or three. East, still doing the cicerone, pointed out all the
remarkable characters to Tom as they passed:
Osbert, who could throw a cricket-ball from the little-side ground over
the rook-trees to the Doctor's wall; Gray, who had got the Balliol scholarship,
and, what East evidently thought of much more importance, a half-holiday for the
School by his success; Thorne, who had run ten miles in two minutes over the
hour; Black, who had held his own against the cock of the town in the last row
with the louts; and many more heroes, who then and there walked about and were
worshipped, all trace of whom has long since vanished from the scene of their
fame. And the fourth-form boy who
reads their names rudely cut on the old hall tables, or painted upon the
big-side cupboard (if hall tables and big-side cupboards still exist), wonders
what manner of boys they were. It
will be the same with you who wonder, my sons, whatever your prowess may be in
cricket, or scholarship, or football. Two
or three years, more or less, and then the steadily advancing, blessed wave will
pass over your names as it has passed over ours.
Nevertheless, play your games and do your work manfully--see only that
that be done--and let the remembrance of it take care of itself.
The chapel-bell began to ring at a quarter to
eleven, and Tom got in early and took his place in the lowest row, and watched
all the other boys come in and take their places, filling row after row; and
tried to construe the Greek text which was inscribed over the door with the
slightest possible success, and wondered which of the masters, who walked down
the chapel and took their seats in the exalted boxes at the end, would be his
lord. And then came the closing of
the doors, and the Doctor in his robes, and the service, which, however, didn't
impress him much, for his feeling of wonder and curiosity was too strong. And
the boy on one side of him was scratching his name on the oak panelling in
front, and he couldn't help watching to see what the name was, and whether it
was well scratched; and the boy on the other side went to sleep, and kept
falling against him; and on the whole, though many boys even in that part of the
school were serious and attentive, the general atmosphere was by no means
devotional; and when he got out into the close again, he didn't feel at all
comfortable, or as if he had been to church.
But at afternoon chapel it was quite another
thing. He had spent the time after
dinner in writing home to his mother, and so was in a better frame of mind; and
his first curiosity was over, and he could attend more to the service.
As the hymn after the prayers was being sung, and the chapel was getting
a little dark, he was beginning to feel that he had been really worshipping.
And then came that great event in his, as in every Rugby boy's life of
that day--the first sermon from the Doctor.
More worthy pens than mine have described that
scene--the oak pulpit standing out by itself above the School seats; the tall,
gallant form, the kindling eye, the voice, now soft as the low notes of a flute,
now clear and stirring as the call of the light-infantry bugle, of him who stood
there Sunday after Sunday, witnessing and pleading for his Lord, the King of
righteousness and love and glory, with whose Spirit he was filled, and in whose
power he spoke; the long lines of young faces, rising tier above tier down the
whole length of the chapel, from the little boy's who had just left his mother
to the young man's who was going out next week into the great world, rejoicing
in his strength. It was a great and
solemn sight, and never more so than at this time of year, when the only lights
in the chapel were in the pulpit and at the seats of the prepostors of the week,
and the soft twilight stole over the rest of the chapel, deepening into darkness
in the high gallery behind the organ.
But what was it, after all, which seized and held
these three hundred boys, dragging them out of themselves, willing or unwilling,
for twenty minutes, on Sunday afternoons? True, there always were boys scattered up and down the
School, who in heart and head were worthy to hear and able to carry away the
deepest and wisest words there spoken. But
these were a minority always, generally a very small one, often so small a one
as to be countable on the fingers of your hand. What was it that moved and held us, the rest of the three
hundred reckless, childish boys, who feared the Doctor with all our hearts, and
very little besides in heaven or earth; who thought more of our sets in the
School than of the Church of Christ, and put the traditions of Rugby and the
public opinion of boys in our daily life above the laws of God?
We couldn't enter into half that we heard; we hadn't the knowledge of our
own hearts or the knowledge of one another, and little enough of the faith,
hope, and love needed to that end. But
we listened, as all boys in their better moods will listen (ay, and men too for
the matter of that), to a man whom we felt to be, with all his heart and soul
and strength, striving against whatever was mean and unmanly and unrighteous in
our little world. It was not the
cold, clear voice of one giving advice and warning from serene heights to those
who were struggling and sinning below, but the warm, living voice of one who was
fighting for us and by our sides, and calling on us to help him and ourselves
and one another. And so, wearily
and little by little, but surely and steadily on the whole, was brought home to
the young boy, for the first time, the meaning of his life--that it was no
fool's or sluggard's paradise into which he had wandered by chance, but a
battlefield ordained from of old, where there are no spectators, but the
youngest must take his side, and the stakes are life and death.
And he who roused this consciousness in them showed them at the same
time, by every word he spoke in the pulpit, and by his whole daily life, how
that battle was to be fought, and stood there before them their fellow-soldier
and the captain of their band--the true sort of captain, too, for a boy's
army--one who had no misgivings, and gave no uncertain word of command, and, let
who would yield or make truce, would fight the fight out (so every boy felt) to
the last gasp and the last drop of blood. Other
sides of his character might take hold of and influence boys here and there; but
it was this thoroughness and undaunted courage which, more than anything else,
won his way to the hearts of the great mass of those on whom he left his mark,
and made them believe first in him and then in his Master.
It was this quality above all others which moved
such boys as our hero, who had nothing whatever remarkable about him except
excess of boyishness--by which I mean animal life in its fullest measure, good
nature and honest impulses, hatred of injustice and meanness, and
thoughtlessness enough to sink a three-decker.
And so, during the next two years, in which it was more than doubtful
whether he would get good or evil from the School, and before any steady purpose
or principle grew up in him, whatever his week's sins and shortcomings might
have been, he hardly ever left the chapel on Sunday evenings without a serious
resolve to stand by and follow the Doctor, and a feeling that it was only
cowardice (the incarnation of all other sins in such a boy's mind) which
hindered him from doing so with all his heart.
The next day Tom was duly placed in the third
form, and began his lessons in a corner of the big School. He found the work very easy, as he had been well grounded,
and knew his grammar by heart; and, as he had no intimate companions to make him
idle (East and his other School-house friends being in the lower fourth, the
form above him), soon gained golden opinions from his master, who said he was
placed too low, and should be put out at the end of the half-year.
So all went well with him in School, and he wrote the most flourishing
letters home to his mother, full of his own success and the unspeakable delights
of a public school.
In the house, too, all went well.
The end of the half-year was drawing near, which kept everybody in a good
humour, and the house was ruled well and strongly by Warner and Brooke.
True, the general system was rough and hard, and there was bullying in
nooks and corners--bad signs for the future; but it never got farther, or dared
show itself openly, stalking about the passages and hall and bedrooms, and
making the life of the small boys a continual fear.
Tom, as a new boy, was of right excused fagging
for the first month, but in his enthusiasm for his new life this privilege
hardly pleased him; and East and others of his young friends, discovering this,
kindly allowed him to indulge his fancy, and take their turns at night fagging
and cleaning studies. These were
the principal duties of the fags in the house.
From supper until nine o'clock three fags taken in order stood in the
passages, and answered any prepostor who called "Fag," racing to the
door, the last comer having to do the work.
This consisted generally of going to the buttery for beer and bread and
cheese (for the great men did not sup with the rest, but had each his own
allowance in his study or the fifth-form room), cleaning candlesticks and
putting in new candles, toasting cheese, bottling beer, and carrying messages
about the house; and Tom, in the first blush of his hero-worship, felt it a high
privilege to receive orders from and be the bearer of the supper of old Brooke.
And besides this night-work, each prepostor had three or four fags
specially allotted to him, of whom he was supposed to be the guide, philosopher,
and friend, and who in return for these good offices had to clean out his study
every morning by turns, directly after first lesson and before he returned from
breakfast. And the pleasure of
seeing the great men's studies, and looking at their pictures, and peeping into
their books, made Tom a ready substitute for any boy who was too lazy to do his
own work. And so he soon gained the
character of a good- natured, willing fellow, who was ready to do a turn for any
In all the games, too, he joined with all his
heart, and soon became well versed in all the mysteries of football, by
continual practice at the School-house little-side, which played daily.
The only incident worth recording here, however,
was his first run at hare-and-hounds. On
the last Tuesday but one of the half-year he was passing through the hall after
dinner, when he was hailed with shouts from Tadpole and several other fags
seated at one of the long tables, the chorus of which was, "Come and help
us tear up scent."
Tom approached the table in obedience to the
mysterious summons, always ready to help, and found the party engaged in tearing
up old newspapers, copy-books, and magazines, into small pieces, with which they
were filling four large canvas bags.
"It's the turn of our house to find scent for
big-side hare-and- hounds," exclaimed Tadpole. "Tear away; there's no time to lose before
"I think it's a great shame," said
another small boy, "to have such a hard run for the last day."
"Which run is it?" said Tadpole.
"Oh, the Barby run, I hear," answered
the other; "nine miles at least, and hard ground; no chance of getting in
at the finish, unless you're a first-rate scud."
"Well, I'm going to have a try," said
Tadpole; "it's the last run of the half, and if a fellow gets in at the end
big-side stands ale and bread and cheese and a bowl of punch; and the Cock's
such a famous place for ale."
"I should like to try too," said Tom.
"Well, then, leave your waistcoat behind, and
listen at the door, after calling-over, and you'll hear where the meet is."
After calling-over, sure enough there were two
boys at the door, calling out, "Big-side hare-and-hounds meet at White
Hall;" and Tom, having girded himself with leather strap, and left all
superfluous clothing behind, set off for White Hall, an old gable-ended house
some quarter of a mile from the town, with East, whom he had persuaded to join,
notwithstanding his prophecy that they could never get in, as it was the hardest
run of the year.
At the meet they found some forty or fifty boys,
and Tom felt sure, from having seen many of them run at football, that he and
East were more likely to get in than they.
After a few minutes' waiting, two well-known
runners, chosen for the hares, buckled on the four bags filled with scent,
compared their watches with those of young Brooke and Thorne, and started off at
a long, slinging trot across the fields in the direction of Barby.
Then the hounds clustered round Thorne, who
explained shortly, "They're to have six minutes' law.
We run into the Cock, and every one who comes in within a quarter of an
hour of the hares'll be counted, if he has been round Barby church."
Then came a minute's pause or so, and then the watches are pocketed, and
the pack is led through the gateway into the field which the hares had first
crossed. Here they break into a
trot, scattering over the field to find the first traces of the scent which the
hares throw out as they go along. The
old hounds make straight for the likely points, and in a minute a cry of
"Forward" comes from one of them, and the whole pack, quickening their
pace, make for the spot, while the boy who hit the scent first, and the two or
three nearest to him, are over the first fence, and making play along the
hedgerow in the long grass- field beyond. The
rest of the pack rush at the gap already made, and scramble through, jostling
one another. "Forward"
again, before they are half through. The
pace quickens into a sharp run, the tail hounds all straining to get up to the
lucky leaders. They are gallant
hares, and the scent lies thick right across another meadow and into a ploughed
field, where the pace begins to tell; then over a good wattle with a ditch on
the other side, and down a large pasture studded with old thorns, which slopes
down to the first brook. The great
Leicestershire sheep charge away across the field as the pack comes racing down
the slope. The brook is a small
one, and the scent lies right ahead up the opposite slope, and as thick as
ever--not a turn or a check to favour the tail hounds, who strain on, now
trailing in a long line, many a youngster beginning to drag his legs heavily,
and feel his heart beat like a hammer, and the bad-plucked ones thinking that
after all it isn't worth while to keep it up.
Tom, East, and the Tadpole had a good start, and
are well up for such young hands, and after rising the slope and crossing the
next field, find themselves up with the leading hounds, who have overrun the
scent, and are trying back. They
have come a mile and a half in about eleven minutes, a pace which shows that it
is the last day. About twenty-five
of the original starters only show here, the rest having already given in; the
leaders are busy making casts into the fields on the left and right, and the
others get their second winds.
Then comes the cry of "Forward" again
from young Brooke, from the extreme left, and the pack settles down to work
again steadily and doggedly, the whole keeping pretty well together. The scent,
though still good, is not so thick; there is no need of that, for in this part
of the run every one knows the line which must be taken, and so there are no
casts to be made, but good downright running and fencing to be done.
All who are now up mean coming in, and they come to the foot of Barby
Hill without losing more than two or three more of the pack.
This last straight two miles and a half is always a vantage ground for
the hounds, and the hares know it well; they are generally viewed on the side of
Barby Hill, and all eyes are on the lookout for them to-day.
But not a sign of them appears, so now will be the hard work for the
hounds, and there is nothing for it but to cast about for the scent, for it is
now the hares' turn, and they may baffle the pack dreadfully in the next two
Ill fares it now with our youngsters, that they
are School-house boys, and so follow young Brooke, for he takes the wide casts
round to the left, conscious of his own powers, and loving the hard work.
For if you would consider for a moment, you small boys, you would
remember that the Cock, where the run ends and the good ale will be going, lies
far out to the right on the Dunchurch road, so that every cast you take to the
left is so much extra work. And at
this stage of the run, when the evening is closing in already, no one remarks
whether you run a little cunning or not; so you should stick to those crafty
hounds who keep edging away to the right, and not follow a prodigal like young
Brooke, whose legs are twice as long as yours and of cast- iron, wholly
indifferent to one or two miles more or less. However, they struggle after him,
sobbing and plunging along, Tom and East pretty close, and Tadpole, whose big
head begins to pull him down, some thirty yards behind.
Now comes a brook, with stiff clay banks, from
which they can hardly drag their legs, and they hear faint cries for help from
the wretched Tadpole, who has fairly stuck fast.
But they have too little run left in themselves to pull up for their own
brothers. Three fields more, and
another check, and then "Forward" called away to the extreme right.
The two boys' souls die within them; they can
never do it. Young Brooke thinks so too, and says kindly, "You'll cross a
lane after next field; keep down it, and you'll hit the Dunchurch road below the
Cock," and then steams away for the run in, in which he's sure to be first,
as if he were just starting. They struggle on across the next field, the
"forwards" getting fainter and fainter, and then ceasing.
The whole hunt is out of ear-shot, and all hope of coming in is over.
"Hang it all!" broke out East, as soon
as he had got wind enough, pulling off his hat and mopping at his face, all
spattered with dirt and lined with sweat, from which went up a thick steam into
the still, cold air. "I told
you how it would be. What a thick I
was to come! Here we are, dead
beat, and yet I know we're close to the run in, if we knew the country."
"Well," said Tom, mopping away, and
gulping down his disappointment, "it can't be helped.
We did our best anyhow. Hadn't we better find this lane, and go down it,
as young Brooke told us?"
"I suppose so--nothing else for it,"
grunted East. "If ever I go
out last day again." Growl,
So they tried back slowly and sorrowfully, and
found the lane, and went limping down it, plashing in the cold puddly ruts, and
beginning to feel how the run had taken it out of them.
The evening closed in fast, and clouded over, dark, cold, and dreary.
"I say, it must be locking-up, I should
think," remarked East, breaking the silence--"it's so dark."
"What if we're late?" said Tom.
"No tea, and sent up to the Doctor,"
The thought didn't add to their cheerfulness.
Presently a faint halloo was heard from an adjoining field.
They answered it and stopped, hoping for some competent rustic to guide
them, when over a gate some twenty yards ahead crawled the wretched Tadpole, in
a state of collapse. He had lost a
shoe in the brook, and had been groping after it up to his elbows in the stiff,
wet clay, and a more miserable creature in the shape of boy seldom has been
The sight of him, notwithstanding, cheered them,
for he was some degrees more wretched than they.
They also cheered him, as he was no longer under the dread of passing his
night alone in the fields. And so,
in better heart, the three plashed painfully down the never-ending lane.
At last it widened, just as utter darkness set in, and they came out on a
turnpike road, and there paused, bewildered, for they had lost all bearings, and
knew not whether to turn to the right or left.
Luckily for them they had not to decide, for
lumbering along the road, with one lamp lighted and two spavined horses in the
shafts, came a heavy coach, which after a moment's suspense they recognized as
the Oxford coach, the redoubtable Pig and Whistle.
It lumbered slowly up, and the boys, mustering
their last run, caught it as it passed, and began clambering up behind, in which
exploit East missed his footing and fell flat on his nose along the road.
Then the others hailed the old scarecrow of a coachman, who pulled up and
agreed to take them in for a shilling; so there they sat on the back seat,
drubbing with their heels, and their teeth chattering with cold, and jogged into
Rugby some forty minutes after locking-up.
Five minutes afterwards three small, limping,
shivering figures steal along through the Doctor's garden, and into the house by
the servants' entrance (all the other gates have been closed long since), where
the first thing they light upon in the passage is old Thomas, ambling along,
candle in one hand and keys in the other.
He stops and examines their condition with a grim
smile. "Ah! East, Hall, and
Brown, late for locking-up. Must go
up to the Doctor's study at once."
"Well but, Thomas, mayn't we go and wash
first? You can put down the time,
"Doctor's study d'rectly you come in--that's
the orders," replied old Thomas, motioning towards the stairs at the end of
the passage which led up into the Doctor's house; and the boys turned ruefully
down it, not cheered by the old verger's muttered remark, "What a pickle
they boys be in!" Thomas
referred to their faces and habiliments, but they construed it as indicating the
Doctor's state of mind. Upon the
short flight of stairs they paused to hold counsel.
"Who'll go in first?" inquires Tadpole.
"You--you're the senior," answered East.
Look at the state I'm in," rejoined Hall, showing the arms of his
jacket. "I must get behind you
"Well, but look at me," said East,
indicating the mass of clay behind which he was standing; "I'm worse than
you, two to one. You might grow
cabbages on my trousers."
"That's all down below, and you can keep your
legs behind the sofa," said Hall.
"Here, Brown; you're the show-figure.
You must lead."
"But my face is all muddy," argued Tom.
"Oh, we're all in one boat for that matter;
but come on; we're only making it worse, dawdling here."
"Well, just give us a brush then," said
Tom. And they began trying to rub
off the superfluous dirt from each other's jackets; but it was not dry enough,
and the rubbing made them worse; so in despair they pushed through the
swing-door at the head of the stairs, and found themselves in the Doctor's hall.
"That's the library door," said East in
a whisper, pushing Tom forwards. The
sound of merry voices and laughter came from within, and his first hesitating
knock was unanswered. But at the
second, the Doctor's voice said, "Come in;" and Tom turned the handle,
and he, with the others behind him, sidled into the room.
The Doctor looked up from his task; he was working
away with a great chisel at the bottom of a boy's sailing boat, the lines of
which he was no doubt fashioning on the model of one of Nicias's galleys.
Round him stood three or four children; the candles burnt brightly on a
large table at the farther end, covered with books and papers, and a great fire
threw a ruddy glow over the rest of the room.
All looked so kindly, and homely, and comfortable that the boys took
heart in a moment, and Tom advanced from behind the shelter of the great sofa.
The Doctor nodded to the children, who went out, casting curious and
amused glances at the three young scarecrows.
"Well, my little fellows," began the
Doctor, drawing himself up with his back to the fire, the chisel in one hand and
his coat- tails in the other, and his eyes twinkling as he looked them over;
"what makes you so late?"
"Please, sir, we've been out big-side
hare-and-hounds, and lost our way."
"Hah! you couldn't keep up, I suppose?"
"Well, sir," said East, stepping out,
and not liking that the Doctor should think lightly of his running powers,
"we got round Barby all right; but then -"
"Why, what a state you're in, my boy!"
interrupted the Doctor, as the pitiful condition of East's garments was fully
revealed to him.
"That's the fall I got, sir, in the
road," said East, looking down at himself; "the Old Pig came by
"The what?" said the Doctor.
"The Oxford coach, sir," explained Hall.
"Hah! yes, the Regulator," said the
"And I tumbled on my face, trying to get up
behind," went on East.
"You're not hurt, I hope?" said the
"Oh no, sir."
"Well now, run upstairs, all three of you,
and get clean things on, and then tell the housekeeper to give you some tea.
You're too young to try such long runs.
Let Warner know I've seen you. Good-night."
And away scuttled the three boys in high glee.
"What a brick, not to give us even twenty
lines to learn!" said the Tadpole, as they reached their bedroom; and in
half an hour afterwards they were sitting by the fire in the housekeeper's room
at a sumptuous tea, with cold meat--"Twice as good a grub as we should have
got in the hall," as the Tadpole remarked with a grin, his mouth full of
buttered toast. All their
grievances were forgotten, and they were resolving to go out the first big- side
next half, and thinking hare-and-hounds the most delightful of games.
A day or two afterwards the great passage outside
the bedrooms was cleared of the boxes and portmanteaus, which went down to be
packed by the matron, and great games of chariot-racing, and cock-fighting, and
bolstering went on in the vacant space, the sure sign of a closing half-year.
Then came the making up of parties for the journey
home, and Tom joined a party who were to hire a coach, and post with four horses
Then the last Saturday, on which the Doctor came
round to each form to give out the prizes, and hear the master's last reports of
how they and their charges had been conducting themselves; and Tom, to his huge
delight, was praised, and got his remove into the lower fourth, in which all his
School-house friends were.
On the next Tuesday morning at four o'clock hot
coffee was going on in the housekeeper's and matron's rooms; boys wrapped in
great-coats and mufflers were swallowing hasty mouthfuls, rushing about,
tumbling over luggage, and asking questions all at once of the matron; outside
the School-gates were drawn up several chaises and the four-horse coach which
Tom's party had chartered, the postboys in their best jackets and breeches, and
a cornopean player, hired for the occasion, blowing away "A southerly wind
and a cloudy sky," waking all peaceful inhabitants half-way down the High
Every minute the bustle and hubbub increased:
porters staggered about with boxes and bags, the cornopean played louder.
Old Thomas sat in his den with a great yellow bag by his side, out of
which he was paying journey-money to each boy, comparing by the light of a
solitary dip the dirty, crabbed little list in his own handwriting with the
Doctor's list and the amount of his cash; his head was on one side, his mouth
screwed up, and his spectacles dim from early toil.
He had prudently locked the door, and carried on his operations solely
through the window, or he would have been driven wild and lost all his money.
"Thomas, do be quick; we shall never catch
the Highflyer at Dunchurch."
"That's your money all right, Green."
"Hullo, Thomas, the Doctor said I was to have
two pound ten; you've only given me two pound." (I fear that Master Green is not confining himself strictly
to truth.) Thomas turns his head
more on one side than ever, and spells away at the dirty list. Green is forced
away from the window.
"Here, Thomas--never mind him; mine's thirty
shillings." "And mine
too," "And mine,"
One way or another, the party to which Tom
belonged all got packed and paid, and sallied out to the gates, the cornopean
playing frantically "Drops of Brandy," in allusion, probably, to the
slight potations in which the musician and postboys had been already indulging.
All luggage was carefully stowed away inside the coach and in the front
and hind boots, so that not a hat-box was visible outside.
Five or six small boys, with pea-shooters, and the cornopean player, got
up behind; in front the big boys, mostly smoking, not for pleasure, but because
they are now gentlemen at large, and this is the most correct public method of
notifying the fact.
"Robinson's coach will be down the road in a
minute; it has gone up to Bird's to pick up.
We'll wait till they're close, and make a race of it," says the
leader. "Now, boys, half a
sovereign apiece if you beat 'em into Dunchurch by one hundred yards."
"All right, sir," shouted the grinning
Down comes Robinson's coach in a minute or two,
with a rival cornopean, and away go the two vehicles, horses galloping, boys
cheering, horns playing loud. There
is a special providence over school-boys as well as sailors, or they must have
upset twenty times in the first five miles--sometimes actually abreast of one
another, and the boys on the roofs exchanging volleys of peas; now nearly
running over a post-chaise which had started before them; now half-way up a
bank; now with a wheel and a half over a yawning ditch:
and all this in a dark morning, with nothing but their own lamps to guide
them. However, it's all over at
last, and they have run over nothing but an old pig in Southam Street.
The last peas are distributed in the Corn Market at Oxford, where they
arrive between eleven and twelve, and sit down to a sumptuous breakfast at the
Angel, which they are made to pay for accordingly.
Here the party breaks up, all going now different ways; and Tom orders
out a chaise and pair as grand as a lord, though he has scarcely five shillings
left in his pocket, and more than twenty miles to get home.
"Where to, sir?"
"Red Lion, Farringdon," says Tom, giving
hostler a shilling.
"All right, sir.--Red Lion, Jem," to the
postboy; and Tom rattles away towards home.
At Farringdon, being known to the innkeeper, he gets that worthy to pay
for the Oxford horses, and forward him in another chaise at once; and so the
gorgeous young gentleman arrives at the paternal mansion, and Squire Brown looks
rather blue at having to pay two pound ten shillings for the posting expenses
from Oxford. But the boy's intense
joy at getting home, and the wonderful health he is in, and the good character
he brings, and the brave stories he tells of Rugby, its doings and delights,
soon mollify the Squire, and three happier people didn't sit down to dinner that
day in England (it is the boy's first dinner at six o'clock at home--great
promotion already) than the Squire and his wife and Tom Brown, at the end of his
first half-year at Rugby.