TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS
IX - A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS.
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS.
I [speak] of most disastrous chances,
When Tom came back into school after a couple of
days in the sick-room, he found matters much changed for the better, as East had
led him to expect. Flashman's
brutality had disgusted most even of his intimate friends, and his cowardice had
once more been made plain to the house; for Diggs had encountered him on the
morning after the lottery, and after high words on both sides, had struck him,
and the blow was not returned. However,
Flashey was not unused to this sort of thing, and had lived through as awkward
affairs before, and, as Diggs had said, fed and toadied himself back into favour
again. Two or three of the boys who
had helped to roast Tom came up and begged his pardon, and thanked him for not
telling anything. Morgan sent for
him, and was inclined to take the matter up warmly, but Tom begged him not to do
it; to which he agreed, on Tom's promising to come to him at once in future--a
promise which, I regret to say, he didn't keep.
Tom kept Harkaway all to himself, and won the second prize in the
lottery, some thirty shillings, which he and East contrived to spend in about
three days in the purchase of pictures for their study, two new bats and a
cricket-ball--all the best that could be got--and a supper of sausages, kidneys,
and beef-steak pies to all the rebels. Light
come, light go; they wouldn't have been comfortable with money in their pockets
in the middle of the half.
The embers of Flashman's wrath, however, were
still smouldering, and burst out every now and then in sly blows and taunts, and
they both felt that they hadn't quite done with him yet. It wasn't long, however, before the last act of that drama
came, and with it the end of bullying for Tom and East at Rugby.
They now often stole out into the hall at nights, incited thereto partly
by the hope of finding Diggs there and having a talk with him, partly by the
excitement of doing something which was against rules; for, sad to say, both of
our youngsters, since their loss of character for steadiness in their form, had
got into the habit of doing things which were forbidden, as a matter of
adventure,--just in the same way, I should fancy, as men fall into smuggling,
and for the same sort of reasons-- thoughtlessness in the first place.
It never occurred to them to consider why such and such rules were laid
down: the reason was nothing to
them, and they only looked upon rules as a sort of challenge from the
rule-makers, which it would be rather bad pluck in them not to accept; and then
again, in the lower parts of the school they hadn't enough to do.
The work of the form they could manage to get through pretty easily,
keeping a good enough place to get their regular yearly remove; and not having
much ambition beyond this, their whole superfluous steam was available for games
and scrapes. Now, one rule of the
house which it was a daily pleasure of all such boys to break was that after
supper all fags, except the three on duty in the passages, should remain in
their own studies until nine o'clock; and if caught about the passages or hall,
or in one another's studies, they were liable to punishments or caning.
The rule was stricter than its observance; for most of the sixth spent
their evenings in the fifth-form room, where the library was, and the lessons
were learnt in common. Every now and then, however, a prepostor would be seized with
a fit of district visiting, and would make a tour of the passages and hall and
the fags' studies. Then, if the
owner were entertaining a friend or two, the first kick at the door and ominous
"Open here" had the effect of the shadow of a hawk over a
chicken-yard: every one cut to
cover--one small boy diving under the sofa, another under the table, while the
owner would hastily pull down a book or two and open them, and cry out in a meek
voice, "Hullo, who's there?" casting an anxious eye round to see that
no protruding leg or elbow could betray the hidden boys.
"Open, sir, directly; it's Snooks."
"Oh, I'm very sorry; I didn't know it was you, Snooks."
And then with well-feigned zeal the door would be opened, young hopeful
praying that that beast Snooks mightn't have heard the scuffle caused by his
coming. If a study was empty,
Snooks proceeded to draw the passages and hall to find the truants.
Well, one evening, in forbidden hours, Tom and
East were in the hall. They
occupied the seats before the fire nearest the door, while Diggs sprawled as
usual before the farther fire. He
was busy with a copy of verses, and East and Tom were chatting together in
whispers by the light of the fire, and splicing a favourite old fives bat which
had sprung. Presently a step came
down the bottom passage. They
listened a moment, assured themselves that it wasn't a prepostor, and then went
on with their work, and the door swung open, and in walked Flashman.
He didn't see Diggs, and thought it a good chance to keep his hand in;
and as the boys didn't move for him, struck one of them, to make them get out of
"What's that for?" growled the assaulted
"Because I choose. You've no business here.
Go to your study."
"You can't send us."
Then I'll thrash you if you stay," said Flashman savagely.
"I say, you two," said Diggs, from the
end of the hall, rousing up and resting himself on his elbow--"you'll never
get rid of that fellow till you lick him. Go
in at him, both of you. I'll see
Flashman was taken aback, and retreated two steps.
East looked at Tom. "Shall
we try!" said he. "Yes,"
said Tom desperately. So the two advanced on Flashman, with clenched fists and
beating hearts. They were about up
to his shoulder, but tough boys of their age, and in perfect training; while he,
though strong and big, was in poor condition from his monstrous habit of
stuffing and want of exercise. Coward
as he was, however, Flashman couldn't swallow such an insult as this; besides,
he was confident of having easy work, and so faced the boys, saying, "You
impudent young blackguards!" Before
he could finish his abuse, they rushed in on him, and began pummelling at all of
him which they could reach. He hit
out wildly and savagely; but the full force of his blows didn't tell--they were
too near to him. It was long odds, though, in point of strength; and in another
minute Tom went spinning backwards over a form, and Flashman turned to demolish
East with a savage grin. But now
Diggs jumped down from the table on which he had seated himself. "Stop
there," shouted he; "the round's over--half-minute time allowed."
"What the --- is it to you?" faltered
Flashman, who began to lose heart.
"I'm going to see fair, I tell you,"
said Diggs, with a grin, and snapping his great red fingers; "'taint fair
for you to be fighting one of them at a time. --Are you ready, Brown?
The small boys rushed in again.
Closing, they saw, was their best chance, and Flashman was wilder and
more flurried than ever: he caught East by the throat, and tried to force him back on
the iron-bound table. Tom grasped
his waist, and remembering the old throw he had learned in the Vale from Harry
Winburn, crooked his leg inside Flashman's, and threw his whole weight forward.
The three tottered for a moment, and then over they went on to the floor,
Flashman striking his head against a form in the hall.
The two youngsters sprang to their legs, but he
lay there still. They began to be
frightened. Tom stooped down, and
then cried out, scared out of his wits, "He's bleeding awfully.
Come here, East! Diggs, he's dying!"
"Not he," said Diggs, getting leisurely
off the table; "it's all sham; he's only afraid to fight it out."
East was as frightened as Tom.
Diggs lifted Flashman's head, and he groaned.
"What's the matter?" shouted Diggs.
"My skull's fractured," sobbed Flashman.
"Oh, let me run for the housekeeper!"
cried Tom. "What shall we
It's nothing but the skin broken," said the relentless Diggs,
feeling his head. "Cold water
and a bit of rag's all he'll want."
"Let me go," said Flashman surlily,
sitting up; "I don't want your help."
"We're really very sorry--" began East.
"Hang your sorrow!" answered Flashman,
holding his handkerchief to the place; "you shall pay for this, I can tell
you, both of you." And he
walked out of the hall.
"He can't be very bad," said Tom, with a
deep sigh, much relieved to see his enemy march so well.
"Not he," said Diggs; "and you'll
see you won't be troubled with him any more.
But, I say, your head's broken too; your collar is covered with
"Is it though?" said Tom, putting up his
hand; "I didn't know it."
"Well, mop it up, or you'll have your jacket
spoilt. And you have got a nasty
eye, Scud. You'd better go and
bathe it well in cold water."
"Cheap enough too, if we're done with our old
friend Flashey," said East, as they made off upstairs to bathe their
They had done with Flashman in one sense, for he
never laid finger on either of them again; but whatever harm a spiteful heart
and venomous tongue could do them, he took care should be done.
Only throw dirt enough, and some of it is sure to stick; and so it was
with the fifth form and the bigger boys in general, with whom he associated more
or less, and they not at all. Flashman
managed to get Tom and East into disfavour, which did not wear off for some time
after the author of it had disappeared from the School world.
This event, much prayed for by the small fry in general, took place a few
months after the above encounter. One
fine summer evening Flashman had been regaling himself on gin-punch, at
Brownsover; and, having exceeded his usual limits, started home uproarious.
He fell in with a friend or two coming back from bathing, proposed a
glass of beer, to which they assented, the weather being hot, and they thirsty
souls, and unaware of the quantity of drink which Flashman had already on board.
The short result was, that Flashey became beastly drunk. They tried to get him along, but couldn't; so they chartered
a hurdle and two men to carry him. One of the masters came upon them, and they
naturally enough fled. The flight
of the rest raised the master's suspicions, and the good angel of the fags
incited him to examine the freight, and, after examination, to convoy the hurdle
himself up to the School-house; and the Doctor, who had long had his eye on
Flashman, arranged for his withdrawal next morning.
The evil that men and boys too do lives after
them: Flashman was gone, but our
boys, as hinted above, still felt the effects of his hate. Besides, they had been the movers of the strike against
unlawful fagging. The cause was
righteous--the result had been triumphant to a great extent; but the best of the
fifth - even those who had never fagged the small boys, or had given up the
practice cheerfully--couldn't help feeling a small grudge against the first
rebels. After all, their form had
been defied, on just grounds, no doubt--so just, indeed, that they had at once
acknowledged the wrong, and remained passive in the strife.
Had they sided with Flashman and his set, the rebels must have given way
at once. They couldn't help, on the
whole, being glad that they had so acted, and that the resistance had been
successful against such of their own form as had shown fight; they felt that law
and order had gained thereby, but the ringleaders they couldn't quite pardon at
once. "Confoundedly coxy those
young rascals will get, if we don't mind," was the general feeling.
So it is, and must be always, my dear boys.
If the angel Gabriel were to come down from heaven, and head a successful
rise against the most abominable and unrighteous vested interest which this poor
old world groans under, he would most certainly lose his character for many
years, probably for centuries, not only with the upholders of said vested
interest, but with the respectable mass of the people whom he had delivered.
They wouldn't ask him to dinner, or let their names appear with his in
the papers; they would be very careful how they spoke of him in the Palaver, or
at their clubs. What can we expect,
then, when we have only poor gallant blundering men like Kossuth, Garibaldi,
Mazzini, and righteous causes which do not triumph in their hands--men who have
holes enough in their armour, God knows, easy to be hit by respectabilities
sitting in their lounging chairs, and having large balances at their bankers'?
But you are brave, gallant boys, who hate easy-chairs, and have no balances or
bankers. You only want to have your
heads set straight, to take the right side; so bear in mind that majorities,
especially respectable ones, are nine times out of ten in the wrong; and that if
you see a man or boy striving earnestly on the weak side, however wrong-headed
or blundering he may be, you are not to go and join the cry against him.
If you can't join him and help him, and make him wiser, at any rate
remember that he has found something in the world which he will fight and suffer
for, which is just what you have got to do for yourselves; and so think and
speak of him tenderly.
So East and Tom, the Tadpole, and one or two more,
became a sort of young Ishmaelites, their hands against every one, and every
one's hand against them. It has
been already told how they got to war with the masters and the fifth form, and
with the sixth it was much the same. They
saw the prepostors cowed by or joining with the fifth and shirking their own
duties; so they didn't respect them, and rendered no willing obedience.
It had been one thing to clean out studies for sons of heroes like old
Brooke, but was quite another to do the like for Snooks and Green, who had never
faced a good scrummage at football, and couldn't keep the passages in order at
night. So they only slurred through
their fagging just well enough to escape a licking, and not always that, and got
the character of sulky, unwilling fags. In
the fifth-form room, after supper, when such matters were often discussed and
arranged, their names were for ever coming up.
"I say, Green," Snooks began one night,
"isn't that new boy, Harrison, your fag?"
"Oh, I know something of him at home, and
should like to excuse him. Will you
"Who will you give me?"
"Well, let's see. There's Willis, Johnson.
No, that won't do. Yes, I
have it. There's young East; I'll
give you him."
"Don't you wish you may get it?" replied
Green. "I'll give you two for Willis, if you like."
"Who, then?" asked Snooks.
"Hall and Brown."
"Wouldn't have 'em at a gift."
"Better than East, though; for they ain't
quite so sharp," said Green, getting up and leaning his back against the
mantelpiece. He wasn't a bad
fellow, and couldn't help not being able to put down the unruly fifth form.
His eye twinkled as he went on, "Did I ever tell you how the young
vagabond sold me last half?"
"Well, he never half cleaned my study
out--only just stuck the candlesticks in the cupboard, and swept the crumbs on
to the floor. So at last I was
mortal angry, and had him up, and made him go through the whole performance
under my eyes. The dust the young
scamp made nearly choked me, and showed that he hadn't swept the carpet before.
Well, when it was all finished, 'Now, young gentleman,' says I, 'mind, I
expect this to be done every morning--floor swept, table-cloth taken off and
shaken, and everything dusted.' 'Very
well,' grunts he. Not a bit of it
though. I was quite sure, in a day
or two, that he never took the table-cloth off even.
So I laid a trap for him. I
tore up some paper, and put half a dozen bits on my table one night, and the
cloth over them as usual. Next
morning after breakfast up I came, pulled off the cloth, and, sure enough, there
was the paper, which fluttered down on to the floor.
I was in a towering rage. 'I've
got you now,' thought I, and sent for him, while I got out my cane. Up he came as cool as you please, with his hands in his
pockets. 'Didn't I tell you to
shake my table- cloth every morning?' roared I.
'Yes,' says he. 'Did you do
it this morning?' 'Yes.'
'You young liar! I put these pieces of paper on the table last night, and if
you'd taken the table- cloth off you'd have seen them, so I'm going to give you
a good licking.' Then my youngster
takes one hand out of his pocket, and just stoops down and picks up two of the
bits of paper, and holds them out to me. There
was written on each, in great round text, 'Harry East, his mark.'
The young rogue had found my trap out, taken away my paper, and put some
of his there, every bit ear-marked. I'd
a great mind to lick him for his impudence; but, after all, one has no right to
be laying traps, so I didn't. Of
course I was at his mercy till the end of the half, and in his weeks my study
was so frowzy I couldn't sit in it."
"They spoil one's things so, too,"
chimed in a third boy. "Hall
and Brown were night-fags last week. I
called 'fag,' and gave them my candlesticks to clean.
Away they went, and didn't appear again. When they'd had time enough to clean them three times over, I
went out to look after them. They
weren't in the passages so down I went into the hall, where I heard music; and
there I found them sitting on the table, listening to Johnson, who was playing
the flute, and my candlesticks stuck between the bars well into the fire,
red-hot, clean spoiled. They've
never stood straight since, and I must get some more. However, I gave them a good licking; that's one
Such were the sort of scrapes they were always
getting into; and so, partly by their own faults, partly from circumstances,
partly from the faults of others, they found themselves outlaws, ticket-of-leave
men, or what you will in that line--in short, dangerous parties--and lived the
sort of hand-to-mouth, wild, reckless life which such parties generally have to
put up with. Nevertheless they never quite lost favour with young Brooke, who
was now the cock of the house, and just getting into the sixth; and Diggs stuck
to them like a man, and gave them store of good advice, by which they never in
the least profited.
And even after the house mended, and law and order
had been restored, which soon happened after young Brooke and Diggs got into the
sixth, they couldn't easily or at once return into the paths of steadiness, and
many of the old, wild, out-of-bounds habits stuck to them as firmly as ever.
While they had been quite little boys, the scrapes they got into in the
School hadn't much mattered to any one; but now they were in the upper school,
all wrong-doers from which were sent up straight to the Doctor at once.
So they began to come under his notice; and as they were a sort of
leaders in a small way amongst their own contemporaries, his eye, which was
everywhere, was upon them.
It was a toss-up whether they turned out well or
ill, and so they were just the boys who caused most anxiety to such a master.
You have been told of the first occasion on which they were sent up to
the Doctor, and the remembrance of it was so pleasant that they had much less
fear of him than most boys of their standing had.
"It's all his look," Tom used to say to East, "that
frightens fellows. Don't you
remember, he never said anything to us my first half-year for being an hour late
The next time that Tom came before him, however,
the interview was of a very different kind.
It happened just about the time at which we have now arrived, and was the
first of a series of scrapes into which our hero managed now to tumble.
The river Avon at Rugby is a slow and not very
clear stream, in which chub, dace, roach, and other coarse fish are (or were)
plentiful enough, together with a fair sprinkling of small jack, but no fish
worth sixpence either for sport or food. It
is, however, a capital river for bathing, as it has many nice small pools and
several good reaches for swimming, all within about a mile of one another, and
at an easy twenty minutes' walk from the school.
This mile of water is rented, or used to be rented, for bathing purposes
by the trustees of the School, for the boys.
The footpath to Brownsover crosses the river by "the Planks," a
curious old single-plank bridge running for fifty or sixty yards into the flat
meadows on each side of the river-- for in the winter there are frequent floods.
Above the Planks were the bathing-places for the smaller boys--Sleath's,
the first bathing-place, where all new boys had to begin, until they had proved
to the bathing men (three steady individuals, who were paid to attend daily
through the summer to prevent accidents) that they could swim pretty decently,
when they were allowed to go on to Anstey's, about one hundred and fifty yards
below. Here there was a hole about
six feet deep and twelve feet across, over which the puffing urchins struggled
to the opposite side, and thought no small beer of themselves for having been
out of their depths. Below the
Planks came larger and deeper holes, the first of which was Wratislaw's, and the
last Swift's, a famous hole, ten or twelve feet deep in parts, and thirty yards
across, from which there was a fine swimming reach right down to the mill.
Swift's was reserved for the sixth and fifth forms, and had a spring
board and two sets of steps: the others had one set of steps each, and were used
indifferently by all the lower boys, though each house addicted itself more to
one hole than to another. The
School-house at this time affected Wratislaw's hole, and Tom and East, who had
learnt to swim like fishes, were to be found there as regular as the clock
through the summer, always twice, and often three times a day.
Now the boys either had, or fancied they had, a
right also to fish at their pleasure over the whole of this part of the river,
and would not understand that the right (if any) only extended to the Rugby
side. As ill-luck would have it,
the gentleman who owned the opposite bank, after allowing it for some time
without interference, had ordered his keepers not to let the boys fish on his
side--the consequence of which had been that there had been first wranglings and
then fights between the keepers and boys; and so keen had the quarrel become
that the landlord and his keepers, after a ducking had been inflicted on one of
the latter, and a fierce fight ensued thereon, had been up to the great school
at calling-over to identify the delinquents, and it was all the Doctor himself
and five or six masters could do to keep the peace. Not even his authority could prevent the hissing; and so
strong was the feeling that the four prepostors of the week walked up the school
with their canes, shouting "S- s-s-s-i-lenc-c-c-c-e" at the top of
their voices. However, the chief
offenders for the time were flogged and kept in bounds; but the victorious party
had brought a nice hornet's nest about their ears.
The landlord was hissed at the School-gates as he rode past, and when he
charged his horse at the mob of boys, and tried to thrash them with his whip,
was driven back by cricket- bats and wickets, and pursued with pebbles and fives
balls; while the wretched keepers' lives were a burden to them, from having to
watch the waters so closely.
The School-house boys of Tom's standing, one and
all, as a protest against this tyranny and cutting short of their lawful
amusements, took to fishing in all ways, and especially by means of night-lines.
The little tacklemaker at the bottom of the town would soon have made his
fortune had the rage lasted, and several of the barbers began to lay in
fishing-tackle. The boys had this
great advantage over their enemies, that they spent a large portion of the day
in nature's garb by the river-side, and so, when tired of swimming, would get
out on the other side and fish, or set night-lines, till the keepers hove in
sight, and then plunge in and swim back and mix with the other bathers, and the
keepers were too wise to follow across the stream.
While things were in this state, one day Tom and
three or four others were bathing at Wratislaw's, and had, as a matter of
course, been taking up and re-setting night-lines. They had all left the water, and were sitting or standing
about at their toilets, in all costumes, from a shirt upwards, when they were
aware of a man in a velveteen shooting-coat approaching from the other side.
He was a new keeper, so they didn't recognize or notice him, till he
pulled up right opposite, and began:
"I see'd some of you young gentlemen over
this side a-fishing just now."
"Hullo! who are you? What business is that of yours, old Velveteens?"
"I'm the new under-keeper, and master's told
me to keep a sharp lookout on all o' you young chaps. And I tells 'ee I means business, and you'd better keep on
your own side, or we shall fall out."
"Well, that's right, Velveteens; speak out,
and let's know your mind at once."
"Look here, old boy," cried East,
holding up a miserable, coarse fish or two and a small jack; "would you
like to smell 'em and see which bank they lived under?"
"I'll give you a bit of advice, keeper,"
shouted Tom, who was sitting in his shirt paddling with his feet in the river:
"you'd better go down there to Swift's, where the big boys are;
they're beggars at setting lines, and'll put you up to a wrinkle or two for
catching the five-pounders." Tom
was nearest to the keeper, and that officer, who was getting angry at the chaff,
fixed his eyes on our hero, as if to take a note of him for future use. Tom
returned his gaze with a steady stare, and then broke into a laugh, and struck
into the middle of a favourite School-house song, -
"As I and my companions
The chorus was taken up by the other boys with
shouts of laughter, and the keeper turned away with a grunt, but evidently bent
on mischief. The boys thought no
more of the matter.
But now came on the May-fly season; the soft, hazy
summer weather lay sleepily along the rich meadows by Avon side, and the green
and gray flies flickered with their graceful, lazy up- and-down flight over the
reeds and the water and the meadows, in myriads upon myriads.
The May-flies must surely be the lotus- eaters of the ephemerae--the
happiest, laziest, carelessest fly that dances and dreams out his few hours of
sunshiny life by English rivers.
Every little pitiful, coarse fish in the Avon was
on the alert for the flies, and gorging his wretched carcass with hundreds
daily, the gluttonous rogues! and every lover of the gentle craft was out to
avenge the poor May-flies.
So one fine Thursday afternoon, Tom, having
borrowed East's new rod, started by himself to the river. He fished for some time with small success--not a fish would
rise at him; but as he prowled along the bank, he was presently aware of mighty
ones feeding in a pool on the opposite side, under the shade of a huge
willow-tree. The stream was deep
here, but some fifty yards below was a shallow, for which he made off hot-foot;
and forgetting landlords, keepers, solemn prohibitions of the Doctor, and
everything else, pulled up his trousers, plunged across, and in three minutes
was creeping along on all fours towards the clump of willows.
It isn't often that great chub, or any other
coarse fish, are in earnest about anything; but just then they were thoroughly
bent on feeding, and in half an hour Master Tom had deposited three thumping
fellows at the foot of the giant willow. As
he was baiting for a fourth pounder, and just going to throw in again, he became
aware of a man coming up the bank not one hundred yards off.
Another look told him that it was the under-keeper. Could he reach the
shallow before him? No, not carrying his rod.
Nothing for it but the tree. So
Tom laid his bones to it, shinning up as fast as he could, and dragging up his
rod after him. He had just time to
reach and crouch along upon a huge branch some ten feet up, which stretched out
over the river, when the keeper arrived at the clump. Tom's heart beat fast as he came under the tree; two steps
more and he would have passed, when, as ill-luck would have it, the gleam on the
scales of the dead fish caught his eye, and he made a dead point at the foot of
the tree. He picked up the fish one
by one; his eye and touch told him that they had been alive and feeding within
the hour. Tom crouched lower along
the branch, and heard the keeper beating the clump. "If I could only get the rod hidden," thought he,
and began gently shifting it to get it alongside of him; "willowtrees don't
throw out straight hickory shoots twelve feet long, with no leaves, worse
luck." Alas! the keeper
catches the rustle, and then a sight of the rod, and then of Tom's hand and arm.
"Oh, be up ther', be 'ee?" says he,
running under the tree. "Now
you come down this minute."
"Tree'd at last," thinks Tom, making no
answer, and keeping as close as possible, but working away at the rod, which he
takes to pieces. "I'm in for
it, unless I can starve him out." And
then he begins to meditate getting along the branch for a plunge, and scramble
to the other side; but the small branches are so thick, and the opposite bank so
difficult, that the keeper will have lots of time to get round by the ford
before he can get out, so he gives that up.
And now he hears the keeper beginning to scramble up the trunk.
That will never do; so he scrambles himself back to where his branch
joins the trunk; and stands with lifted rod.
"Hullo, Velveteens; mind your fingers if you
come any higher."
The keeper stops and looks up, and then with a
grin says, "Oh! be you, be it, young measter?
Well, here's luck. Now I
tells 'ee to come down at once, and 't'll be best for 'ee."
"Thank 'ee, Velveteens; I'm very
comfortable," said Tom, shortening the rod in his hand, and preparing for
"Werry well; please yourself," says the
keeper, descending, however, to the ground again, and taking his seat on the
bank. "I bean't in no hurry, so you may take your time.
I'll l'arn 'ee to gee honest folk names afore I've done with 'ee."
"My luck as usual," thinks Tom;
"what a fool I was to give him a black!
If I'd called him 'keeper,' now, I might get off.
The return match is all his way."
The keeper quietly proceeded to take out his pipe,
fill, and light it, keeping an eye on Tom, who now sat disconsolately across the
branch, looking at keeper--a pitiful sight for men and fishes.
The more he thought of it the less he liked it. "It must be getting
near second calling-over," thinks he. Keeper smokes on stolidly.
"If he takes me up, I shall be flogged safe enough.
I can't sit here all night. Wonder
if he'll rise at silver."
"I say, keeper," said he meekly,
"let me go for two bob?"
"Not for twenty neither," grunts his
And so they sat on till long past second
calling-over, and the sun came slanting in through the willow-branches, and
telling of locking-up near at hand.
"I'm coming down, keeper," said Tom at
last, with a sigh, fairly tired out. "Now
what are you going to do?"
"Walk 'ee up to School, and give 'ee over to
the Doctor; them's my orders," says Velveteens, knocking the ashes out of
his fourth pipe, and standing up and shaking himself.
"Very good," said Tom; "but hands
off, you know. I'll go with you
quietly, so no collaring or that sort of thing."
Keeper looked at him a minute.
"Werry good," said he at last. And so Tom descended, and wended
his way drearily by the side of the keeper, up to the Schoolhouse, where they
arrived just at locking-up. As they
passed the School-gates, the Tadpole and several others who were standing there
caught the state of things, and rushed out, crying, "Rescue!"
But Tom shook his head; so they only followed to the Doctor's gate, and
went back sorely puzzled.
How changed and stern the Doctor seemed from the
last time that Tom was up there, as the keeper told the story, not omitting to
state how Tom had called him blackguard names.
"Indeed, sir," broke in the culprit, "it was only
Velveteens." The Doctor only
asked one question.
"You know the rule about the banks, Brown?"
"Then wait for me to-morrow, after first
"I thought so," muttered Tom.
"And about the rod, sir?" went on the
keeper. "Master's told we as
we might have all the rods--"
"Oh, please, sir," broke in Tom,
"the rod isn't mine."
The Doctor looked puzzled; but the keeper, who was
a good- hearted fellow, and melted at Tom's evident distress, gave up his claim.
Tom was flogged next morning, and a few days afterwards met Velveteens,
and presented him with half a crown for giving up the rod claim, and they became
sworn friends; and I regret to say that Tom had many more fish from under the
willow that May-fly season, and was never caught again by Velveteens.
It wasn't three weeks before Tom, and now East by
his side, were again in the awful presence.
This time, however, the Doctor was not so terrible.
A few days before, they had been fagged at fives to fetch the balls that
went off the court. While standing watching the game, they saw five or six nearly
new balls hit on the top of the School. "I
say, Tom," said East, when they were dismissed, "couldn't we get those
"Let's try, anyhow."
So they reconnoitred the walls carefully, borrowed
a coal-hammer from old Stumps, bought some big nails, and after one or two
attempts, scaled the Schools, and possessed themselves of huge quantities of
fives balls. The place pleased them
so much that they spent all their spare time there, scratching and cutting their
names on the top of every tower; and at last, having exhausted all other places,
finished up with inscribing H. EAST, T. BROWN, on the minute-hand of the great
clock; in the doing of which they held the minute-hand, and disturbed the
clock's economy. So next morning,
when masters and boys came trooping down to prayers, and entered the quadrangle,
the injured minute- hand was indicating three minutes to the hour.
They all pulled up, and took their time.
When the hour struck, doors were closed, and half the school late.
Thomas being set to make inquiry, discovers their names on the
minute-hand, and reports accordingly; and they are sent for, a knot of their
friends making derisive and pantomimic allusions to what their fate will be as
they walk off.
But the Doctor, after hearing their story, doesn't
make much of it, and only gives them thirty lines of Homer to learn by heart,
and a lecture on the likelihood of such exploits ending in broken bones.
Alas! almost the next day was one of the great
fairs in the town; and as several rows and other disagreeable accidents had of
late taken place on these occasions, the Doctor gives out, after prayers in the
morning, that no boy is to go down into the town. Wherefore East and Tom, for no earthly pleasure except that
of doing what they are told not to do, start away, after second lesson, and
making a short circuit through the fields, strike a back lane which leads into
the town, go down it, and run plump upon one of the masters as they emerge into
the High Street. The master in
question, though a very clever, is not a righteous man.
He has already caught several of his own pupils, and gives them lines to
learn, while he sends East and Tom, who are not his pupils, up to the Doctor,
who, on learning that they had been at prayers in the morning, flogs them
The flogging did them no good at the time, for the
injustice of their captor was rankling in their minds; but it was just the end
of the half, and on the next evening but one Thomas knocks at their door, and
says the Doctor wants to see them. They
look at one another in silent dismay. What
can it be now? Which of their
countless wrong-doings can he have heard of officially? However, it's no use
delaying, so up they go to the study. There they find the Doctor, not angry, but
very graver. "He has sent for
them to speak to very seriously before they go home. They have each been flogged
several times in the half-year for direct and wilful breaches of rules.
This cannot go on. They are
doing no good to themselves or others, and now they are getting up in the
School, and have influence. They
seem to think that rules are made capriciously, and for the pleasure of the
masters; but this is not so. They
are made for the good of the whole School, and must and shall be obeyed.
Those who thoughtlessly or wilfully break them will not be allowed to
stay at the School. He should be
sorry if they had to leave, as the School might do them both much good, and
wishes them to think very seriously in the holidays over what he has said.
And so the two hurry off horribly scared; the idea
of having to leave has never crossed their minds, and is quite unbearable.
As they go out, they meet at the door old Holmes,
a sturdy, cheery prepostor of another house, who goes in to the Doctor; and they
hear his genial, hearty greeting of the newcomer, so different to their own
reception, as the door closes, and return to their study with heavy hearts, and
tremendous resolves to break no more rules.
Five minutes afterwards the master of their
form--a late arrival and a model young master--knocks at the Doctor's study-
door. "Come in!"
And as he enters, the Doctor goes on, to Holmes--"You see, I do not
know anything of the case officially, and if I take any notice of it at all, I
must publicly expel the boy. I
don't wish to do that, for I think there is some good in him.
There's nothing for it but a good sound thrashing."
He paused to shake hands with the master, which Holmes does also, and
then prepares to leave.
"Good-night, Holmes. And remember," added the Doctor, emphasizing the words,
"a good sound thrashing before the whole house."
The door closed on Holmes; and the Doctor, in
answer to the puzzled look of his lieutenant, explained shortly.
"A gross case of bullying. Wharton, the head of the house, is a very
good fellow, but slight and weak, and severe physical pain is the only way to
deal with such a case; so I have asked Holmes to take it up.
He is very careful and trustworthy, and has plenty of strength.
I wish all the sixth had as much. We
must have it here, if we are to keep order at all."
Now I don't want any wiseacres to read this book,
but if they should, of course they will prick up their long ears, and howl, or
rather bray, at the above story. Very
good--I don't object; but what I have to add for you boys is this, that Holmes
called a levy of his house after breakfast next morning, made them a speech on
the case of bullying in question, and then gave the bully a "good sound
thrashing;" and that years afterwards, that boy sought out Holmes, and
thanked him, saying it had been the kindest act which had ever been done upon
him, and the turning- point in his character; and a very good fellow he became,
and a credit to his School.
After some other talk between them, the Doctor
said, "I want to speak to you about two boys in your form, East and Brown.
I have just been speaking to them. What
do you think of them?"
"Well, they are not hard workers, and very
thoughtless and full of spirits; but I can't help liking them.
I think they are sound, good fellows at the bottom."
"I'm glad of it. I think so too: But
they make me very uneasy. They are taking the lead a good deal amongst the fags
in my house, for they are very active, bold fellows. I should be sorry to lose them, but I shan't let them stay if
I don't see them gaining character and manliness. In another year they may do great harm to all the younger
"Oh, I hope you won't send them away,"
pleaded their master.
"Not if I can help it.
But now I never feel sure, after any half-holiday, that I shan't have to
flog one of them next morning, for some foolish, thoughtless scrape.
I quite dread seeing either of them."
They were both silent for a minute.
Presently the Doctor began again:-
"They don't feel that they have any duty or
work to do in the school, and how is one to make them feel it?"
"I think if either of them had some little
boy to take care of, it would steady them.
Brown is the most reckless of the two, I should say.
East wouldn't get into so many scrapes without him."
"Well," said the Doctor, with something
like a sigh, "I'll think of it."
And they went on to talk of other subjects.