Tom Brown's Schooldays
Part 3 out of 6
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
(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
"East's and Tadpole's," answered the senior fag, who kept the
"I can't go," said East; "I'm dead lame."
"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
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 passage.
"Better than going down again though," as Tadpole remarked, "as
we should have had to do if those beggars had caught us."
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
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 one.
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
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
"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
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
"I suppose so--nothing else for it," grunted East. "If ever I
go out last day again." Growl, growl, 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
"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," answered East.
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 seen.
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, you know."
"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.
"Catch me. Look at the state I'm in," rejoined Hall, showing
the arms of his jacket. "I must get behind you two."
"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
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
"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
"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 Doctor.
"And I tumbled on my face, trying to get up behind," went on
"You're not hurt, I hope?" said the Doctor.
"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, sir." And away scuttled the three boys in high
"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
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 to Oxford.
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
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 Street.
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
"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," shouted others.
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
"All right, sir," shouted the grinning postboys.
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.
CHAPTER VIII - THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.
"They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three."
LOWELL, Stanzas on Freedom.
The lower-fourth form, in which Tom found himself at the
beginning of the next half-year, was the largest form in the
lower school, and numbered upwards of forty boys. Young
gentlemen of all ages from nine to fifteen were to be found
there, who expended such part of their energies as was devoted
to Latin and Greek upon a book of Livy, the "Bucolics" of
Virgil, and the "Hecuba" of Euripides, which were ground out in
small daily portions. The driving of this unlucky lower-fourth
must have been grievous work to the unfortunate master, for it
was the most unhappily constituted of any in the school. Here
stuck the great stupid boys, who, for the life of them, could
never master the accidence--the objects alternately of mirth
and terror to the youngsters, who were daily taking them up and
laughing at them in lesson, and getting kicked by them for so
doing in play-hours. There were no less than three unhappy
fellows in tail coats, with incipient down on their chins, whom
the Doctor and the master of the form were always endeavouring
to hoist into the upper school, but whose parsing and construing
resisted the most well-meant shoves. Then came the mass of the
form, boys of eleven and twelve, the most mischievous and
reckless age of British youth, of whom East and Tom Brown were
fair specimens. As full of tricks as monkeys, and of excuses as
Irishwomen, making fun of their master, one another, and their
lessons, Argus himself would have been puzzled to keep an eye on
them; and as for making them steady or serious for half an hour
together, it was simply hopeless. The remainder of the form
consisted of young prodigies of nine and ten, who were going up
the school at the rate of a form a half-year, all boys' hands
and wits being against them in their progress. It would have
been one man's work to see that the precocious youngsters had
fair play; and as the master had a good deal besides to do, they
hadn't, and were for ever being shoved down three or four
places, their verses stolen, their books inked, their jackets
whitened, and their lives otherwise made a burden to them.
The lower-fourth, and all the forms below it, were heard in the
great school, and were not trusted to prepare their lessons
before coming in, but were whipped into school three-quarters of
an hour before the lesson began by their respective masters, and
there, scattered about on the benches, with dictionary and
grammar, hammered out their twenty lines of Virgil and Euripides
in the midst of babel. The masters of the lower school walked
up and down the great school together during this three-quarters
of an hour, or sat in their desks reading or looking over
copies, and keeping such order as was possible. But the lower-
fourth was just now an overgrown form, too large for any one man
to attend to properly, and consequently the elysium or ideal
form of the young scapegraces who formed the staple of it.
Tom, as has been said, had come up from the third with a good
character, but the temptations of the lower-fourth soon proved
too strong for him, and he rapidly fell away, and became as
unmanageable as the rest. For some weeks, indeed, he succeeded
in maintaining the appearance of steadiness, and was looked upon
favourably by his new master, whose eyes were first opened by
the following little incident.
Besides the desk which the master himself occupied, there was
another large unoccupied desk in the corner of the great school,
which was untenanted. To rush and seize upon this desk, which
was ascended by three steps and held four boys, was the great
object of ambition of the lower-fourthers; and the contentions
for the occupation of it bred such disorder that at last the
master forbade its use altogether. This, of course, was a
challenge to the more adventurous spirits to occupy it; and as
it was capacious enough for two boys to lie hid there
completely, it was seldom that it remained empty,
notwithstanding the veto. Small holes were cut in the front,
through which the occupants watched the masters as they walked
up and down; and as lesson time approached, one boy at a time
stole out and down the steps, as the masters' backs were turned,
and mingled with the general crowd on the forms below. Tom and
East had successfully occupied the desk some half-dozen times,
and were grown so reckless that they were in the habit of
playing small games with fives balls inside when the masters
were at the other end of the big school. One day, as ill-luck
would have it, the game became more exciting than usual, and the
ball slipped through East's fingers, and rolled slowly down the
steps and out into the middle of the school, just as the masters
turned in their walk and faced round upon the desk. The young
delinquents watched their master, through the lookout holes,
march slowly down the school straight upon their retreat, while
all the boys in the neighbourhood, of course, stopped their work
to look on; and not only were they ignominiously drawn out, and
caned over the hand then and there, but their characters for
steadiness were gone from that time. However, as they only
shared the fate of some three-fourths of the rest of the form,
this did not weigh heavily upon them.
In fact, the only occasions on which they cared about the matter
were the monthly examinations, when the Doctor came round to
examine their form, for one long, awful hour, in the work which
they had done in the preceding month. The second monthly
examination came round soon after Tom's fall, and it was with
anything but lively anticipations that he and the other lower-
fourth boys came in to prayers on the morning of the examination
Prayers and calling-over seemed twice as short as usual, and
before they could get construes of a tithe of the hard passages
marked in the margin of their books, they were all seated round,
and the Doctor was standing in the middle, talking in whispers
to the master. Tom couldn't hear a word which passed, and never
lifted his eyes from his book; but he knew by a sort of magnetic
instinct that the Doctor's under-lip was coming out, and his eye
beginning to burn, and his gown getting gathered up more and
more tightly in his left hand. The suspense was agonizing, and
Tom knew that he was sure on such occasions to make an example
of the School-house boys. "If he would only begin," thought
Tom, "I shouldn't mind."
At last the whispering ceased, and the name which was called out
was not Brown. He looked up for a moment, but the Doctor's face
was too awful; Tom wouldn't have met his eye for all he was
worth, and buried himself in his book again.
The boy who was called up first was a clever, merry School-house
boy, one of their set; he was some connection of the Doctor's,
and a great favourite, and ran in and out of his house as he
liked, and so was selected for the first victim.
"Triste lupus stabulis," began the luckless youngster, and
stammered through some eight or ten lines.
"There, that will do," said the Doctor; "now construe."
On common occasions the boy could have construed the passage
well enough probably, but now his head was gone.
"Triste lupus, the sorrowful wolf," he began.
A shudder ran through the whole form, and the Doctor's wrath
fairly boiled over. He made three steps up to the construer,
and gave him a good box on the ear. The blow was not a hard
one, but the boy was so taken by surprise that he started back;
the form caught the back of his knees, and over he went on to
the floor behind. There was a dead silence over the whole
school. Never before and never again while Tom was at school
did the Doctor strike a boy in lesson. The provocation must
have been great. However, the victim had saved his form for
that occasion, for the Doctor turned to the top bench, and put
on the best boys for the rest of the hour and though, at the end
of the lesson, he gave them all such a rating as they did not
forget, this terrible field-day passed over without any severe
visitations in the shape of punishments or floggings. Forty
young scapegraces expressed their thanks to the "sorrowful wolf"
in their different ways before second lesson.
But a character for steadiness once gone is not easily
recovered, as Tom found; and for years afterwards he went up the
school without it, and the masters' hands were against him, and
his against them. And he regarded them, as a matter of course,
as his natural enemies.
Matters were not so comfortable, either, in the house as they
had been; for old Brooke left at Christmas, and one or two
others of the sixth-form boys at the following Easter. Their
rule had been rough, but strong and just in the main, and a
higher standard was beginning to be set up; in fact, there had
been a short foretaste of the good time which followed some
years later. Just now, however, all threatened to return into
darkness and chaos again. For the new prepostors were either
small young boys, whose cleverness had carried them up to the
top of the school, while in strength of body and character they
were not yet fit for a share in the government; or else big
fellows of the wrong sort--boys whose friendships and tastes
had a downward tendency, who had not caught the meaning of their
position and work, and felt none of its responsibilities. So
under this no-government the School-house began to see bad
times. The big fifth-form boys, who were a sporting and
drinking set, soon began to usurp power, and to fag the little
boys as if they were prepostors, and to bully and oppress any
who showed signs of resistance. The bigger sort of sixth-form
boys just described soon made common cause with the fifth, while
the smaller sort, hampered by their colleagues' desertion to the
enemy, could not make head against them. So the fags were
without their lawful masters and protectors, and ridden over
rough-shod by a set of boys whom they were not bound to obey,
and whose only right over them stood in their bodily powers;
and, as old Brooke had prophesied, the house by degrees broke up
into small sets and parties, and lost the strong feeling of
fellowship which he set so much store by, and with it much of
the prowess in games and the lead in all school matters which he
had done so much to keep up.
In no place in the world has individual character more weight
than at a public school. Remember this, I beseech you, all you
boys who are getting into the upper forms. Now is the time in
all your lives, probably, when you may have more wide influence
for good or evil on the society you live in than you ever can
have again. Quit yourselves like men, then; speak up, and
strike out if necessary, for whatsoever is true, and manly, and
lovely, and of good report; never try to be popular, but only to
do your duty and help others to do theirs, and you may leave the
tone of feeling in the school higher than you found it, and so
be doing good which no living soul can measure to generations of
your countrymen yet unborn. For boys follow one another in
herds like sheep, for good or evil; they hate thinking, and have
rarely any settled principles. Every school, indeed, has its
own traditionary standard of right and wrong, which cannot be
transgressed with impunity, marking certain things as low and
blackguard, and certain others as lawful and right. This
standard is ever varying, though it changes only slowly and
little by little; and, subject only to such standard, it is the
leading boys for the time being who give the tone to all the
rest, and make the School either a noble institution for the
training of Christian Englishmen, or a place where a young boy
will get more evil than he would if he were turned out to make
his way in London streets, or anything between these two
The change for the worse in the School-house, however, didn't
press very heavily on our youngsters for some time. They were
in a good bedroom, where slept the only prepostor left who was
able to keep thorough order, and their study was in his passage.
So, though they were fagged more or less, and occasionally
kicked or cuffed by the bullies, they were, on the whole, well
off; and the fresh, brave school-life, so full of games,
adventures, and good-fellowship, so ready at forgetting, so
capacious at enjoying, so bright at forecasting, outweighed a
thousand-fold their troubles with the master of their form, and
the occasional ill-usage of the big boys in the house. It
wasn't till some year or so after the events recorded above that
the prepostor of their room and passage left. None of the other
sixth-form boys would move into their passage, and, to the
disgust and indignation of Tom and East, one morning after
breakfast they were seized upon by Flashman, and made to carry
down his books and furniture into the unoccupied study, which he
had taken. From this time they began to feel the weight of the
tyranny of Flashman and his friends, and, now that trouble had
come home to their own doors, began to look out for sympathizers
and partners amongst the rest of the fags; and meetings of the
oppressed began to be held, and murmurs to arise, and plots to
be laid as to how they should free themselves and be avenged on
While matters were in this state, East and Tom were one evening
sitting in their study. They had done their work for first
lesson, and Tom was in a brown study, brooding, like a young
William Tell, upon the wrongs of fags in general, and his own in
"I say, Scud," said he at last, rousing himself to snuff the
candle, "what right have the fifth-form boys to fag us as they
"No more right than you have to fag them," answered East,
without looking up from an early number of "Pickwick," which was
just coming out, and which he was luxuriously devouring,
stretched on his back on the sofa.
Tom relapsed into his brown study, and East went on reading and
chuckling. The contrast of the boys' faces would have given
infinite amusement to a looker-on--the one so solemn and big
with mighty purpose, the other radiant and bubbling over with
"Do you know, old fellow, I've been thinking it over a good
deal," began Tom again.
"Oh yes, I know--fagging you are thinking of. Hang it all!
But listen here, Tom--here's fun. Mr. Winkle's horse--"
"And I've made up my mind," broke in Tom, "that I won't fag
except for the sixth."
"Quite right too, my boy," cried East, putting his finger on the
place and looking up; "but a pretty peck of troubles you'll get
into, if you're going to play that game. However, I'm all for a
strike myself, if we can get others to join. It's getting too
"Can't we get some sixth-form fellow to take it up?" asked Tom.
"Well, perhaps we might. Morgan would interfere, I think.
Only," added East, after a moment's pause, "you see, we should
have to tell him about it, and that's against School principles.
Don't you remember what old Brooke said about learning to take
our own parts?"
"Ah, I wish old Brooke were back again. It was all right in his
"Why, yes, you see, then the strongest and best fellows were in
the sixth, and the fifth-form fellows were afraid of them, and
they kept good order; but now our sixth-form fellows are too
small, and the fifth don't care for them, and do what they like
in the house."
"And so we get a double set of masters," cried Tom indignantly--
"the lawful ones, who are responsible to the Doctor at any rate,
and the unlawful, the tyrants, who are responsible to nobody."
"Down with the tyrants!" cried East; "I'm all for law and order,
and hurrah for a revolution."
"I shouldn't mind if it were only for young Brooke now," said
Tom; "he's such a good-hearted, gentlemanly fellow, and ought to
be in the sixth. I'd do anything for him. But that blackguard
Flashman, who never speaks to one without a kick or an oath--"
"The cowardly brute," broke in East--"how I hate him! And he
knows it too; he knows that you and I think him a coward. What
a bore that he's got a study in this passage! Don't you hear
them now at supper in his den? Brandy-punch going, I'll bet. I
wish the Doctor would come out and catch him. We must change
our study as soon as we can."
"Change or no change, I'll never fag for him again," said Tom,
thumping the table.
"Fa-a-a-ag!" sounded along the passage from Flashman's study.
The two boys looked at one another in silence. It had struck
nine, so the regular night-fags had left duty, and they were the
nearest to the supper-party. East sat up, and began to look
comical, as he always did under difficulties.
"Fa-a-a-ag!" again. No answer.
"Here, Brown! East! you cursed young skulks," roared out
Flashman, coming to his open door; "I know you're in; no
Tom stole to their door, and drew the bolts as noiselessly as he
could; East blew out the candle.
"Barricade the first," whispered he. "Now, Tom, mind, no
"Trust me for that," said Tom between his teeth.
In another minute they heard the supper-party turn out and come
down the passage to their door. They held their breaths, and
heard whispering, of which they only made out Flashman's words,
"I know the young brutes are in."
Then came summonses to open, which being unanswered, the assault
commenced. Luckily the door was a good strong oak one, and
resisted the united weight of Flashman's party. A pause
followed, and they heard a besieger remark, "They're in safe
enough. Don't you see how the door holds at top and bottom? So
the bolts must be drawn. We should have forced the lock long
ago." East gave Tom a nudge, to call attention to this
Then came attacks on particular panels, one of which at last
gave way to the repeated kicks; but it broke inwards, and the
broken pieces got jammed across (the door being lined with green
baize), and couldn't easily be removed from outside: and the
besieged, scorning further concealment, strengthened their
defences by pressing the end of their sofa against the door.
So, after one or two more ineffectual efforts, Flashman and
Company retired, vowing vengeance in no mild terms.
The first danger over, it only remained for the besieged to
effect a safe retreat, as it was now near bed-time. They
listened intently, and heard the supper-party resettle
themselves, and then gently drew back first one bolt and then
the other. Presently the convivial noises began again steadily.
"Now then, stand by for a run," said East, throwing the door
wide open and rushing into the passage, closely followed by Tom.
They were too quick to be caught; but Flashman was on the
lookout, and sent an empty pickle-jar whizzing after them, which
narrowly missed Tom's head, and broke into twenty pieces at the
end of the passage. "He wouldn't mind killing one, if he wasn't
caught," said East, as they turned the corner.
There was no pursuit, so the two turned into the hall, where
they found a knot of small boys round the fire. Their story was
told. The war of independence had broken out. Who would join
the revolutionary forces? Several others present bound
themselves not to fag for the fifth form at once. One or two
only edged off, and left the rebels. What else could they do?
"I've a good mind to go to the Doctor straight," said Tom.
"That'll never do. Don't you remember the levy of the school
last half?" put in another.
In fact, the solemn assembly, a levy of the School, had been
held, at which the captain of the School had got up, and after
premising that several instances had occurred of matters having
been reported to the masters; that this was against public
morality and School tradition; that a levy of the sixth had been
held on the subject, and they had resolved that the practice
must be stopped at once; and given out that any boy, in whatever
form, who should thenceforth appeal to a master, without having
first gone to some prepostor and laid the case before him,
should be thrashed publicly, and sent to Coventry.
"Well, then, let's try the sixth. Try Morgan," suggested
another. "No use"--"Blabbing won't do," was the general
"I'll give you fellows a piece of advice," said a voice from the
end of the hall. They all turned round with a start, and the
speaker got up from a bench on which he had been lying
unobserved, and gave himself a shake. He was a big, loose-made
fellow, with huge limbs which had grown too far through his
jacket and trousers. "Don't you go to anybody at all--you just
stand out; say you won't fag. They'll soon get tired of licking
you. I've tried it on years ago with their forerunners."
"No! Did you? Tell us how it was?" cried a chorus of voices,
as they clustered round him.
"Well, just as it is with you. The fifth form would fag us, and
I and some more struck, and we beat 'em. The good fellows left
off directly, and the bullies who kept on soon got afraid."
"Was Flashman here then?"
"Yes; and a dirty, little, snivelling, sneaking fellow he was
too. He never dared join us, and used to toady the bullies by
offering to fag for them, and peaching against the rest of us."
"Why wasn't he cut, then?" said East.
"Oh, toadies never get cut; they're too useful. Besides, he has
no end of great hampers from home, with wine and game in them;
so he toadied and fed himself into favour."
The quarter-to-ten bell now rang, and the small boys went off
upstairs, still consulting together, and praising their new
counsellor, who stretched himself out on the bench before the
hall fire again. There he lay, a very queer specimen of
boyhood, by name Diggs, and familiarly called "the Mucker." He
was young for his size, and a very clever fellow, nearly at the
top of the fifth. His friends at home, having regard, I
suppose, to his age, and not to his size and place in the
school, hadn't put him into tails; and even his jackets were
always too small; and he had a talent for destroying clothes and
making himself look shabby. He wasn't on terms with Flashman's
set, who sneered at his dress and ways behind his back; which he
knew, and revenged himself by asking Flashman the most
disagreeable questions, and treating him familiarly whenever a
crowd of boys were round him. Neither was he intimate with any
of the other bigger boys, who were warned off by his oddnesses,
for he was a very queer fellow; besides, amongst other failings,
he had that of impecuniosity in a remarkable degree. He brought
as much money as other boys to school, but got rid of it in no
time, no one knew how; and then, being also reckless, borrowed
from any one; and when his debts accumulated and creditors
pressed, would have an auction in the hall of everything he
possessed in the world, selling even his school-books,
candlestick, and study table. For weeks after one of these
auctions, having rendered his study uninhabitable, he would live
about in the fifth-form room and hall, doing his verses on old
letter-backs and odd scraps of paper, and learning his lessons
no one knew how. He never meddled with any little boy, and was
popular with them, though they all looked on him with a sort of
compassion, and called him "Poor Diggs," not being able to
resist appearances, or to disregard wholly even the sneers of
their enemy Flashman. However, he seemed equally indifferent to
the sneers of big boys and the pity of small ones, and lived his
own queer life with much apparent enjoyment to himself. It is
necessary to introduce Diggs thus particularly, as he not only
did Tom and East good service in their present warfare, as is
about to be told, but soon afterwards, when he got into the
sixth, chose them for his fags, and excused them from study-
fagging, thereby earning unto himself eternal gratitude from
them and all who are interested in their history.
And seldom had small boys more need of a friend, for the morning
after the siege the storm burst upon the rebels in all its
violence. Flashman laid wait, and caught Tom before second
lesson, and receiving a point-blank "No" when told to fetch his
hat, seized him and twisted his arm, and went through the other
methods of torture in use. "He couldn't make me cry, though,"
as Tom said triumphantly to the rest of the rebels; "and I
kicked his shins well, I know." And soon it crept out that a
lot of the fags were in league, and Flashman excited his
associates to join him in bringing the young vagabonds to their
senses; and the house was filled with constant chasings, and
sieges, and lickings of all sorts; and in return, the bullies'
beds were pulled to pieces and drenched with water, and their
names written up on the walls with every insulting epithet which
the fag invention could furnish. The war, in short, raged
fiercely; but soon, as Diggs had told them, all the better
fellows in the fifth gave up trying to fag them, and public
feeling began to set against Flashman and his two or three
intimates, and they were obliged to keep their doings more
secret, but being thorough bad fellows, missed no opportunity of
torturing in private. Flashman was an adept in all ways, but
above all in the power of saying cutting and cruel things, and
could often bring tears to the eyes of boys in this way, which
all the thrashings in the world wouldn't have wrung from them.
And as his operations were being cut short in other directions,
he now devoted himself chiefly to Tom and East, who lived at his
own door, and would force himself into their study whenever he
found a chance, and sit there, sometimes alone, and sometimes
with a companion, interrupting all their work, and exulting in
the evident pain which every now and then he could see he was
inflicting on one or the other.
The storm had cleared the air for the rest of the house, and a
better state of things now began than there had been since old
Brooke had left; but an angry, dark spot of thunder-cloud still
hung over the end of the passage where Flashman's study and that
of East and Tom lay.
He felt that they had been the first rebels, and that the
rebellion had been to a great extent successful; but what above
all stirred the hatred and bitterness of his heart against them
was that in the frequent collisions which there had been of late
they had openly called him coward and sneak. The taunts were
too true to be forgiven. While he was in the act of thrashing
them, they would roar out instances of his funking at football,
or shirking some encounter with a lout of half his own size.
These things were all well enough known in the house, but to
have his own disgrace shouted out by small boys, to feel that
they despised him, to be unable to silence them by any amount of
torture, and to see the open laugh and sneer of his own
associates (who were looking on, and took no trouble to hide
their scorn from him, though they neither interfered with his
bullying nor lived a bit the less intimately with him), made him
beside himself. Come what might, he would make those boys'
lives miserable. So the strife settled down into a personal
affair between Flashman and our youngsters--a war to the knife,
to be fought out in the little cockpit at the end of the bottom
Flashman, be it said, was about seventeen years old, and big and
strong of his age. He played well at all games where pluck
wasn't much wanted, and managed generally to keep up appearances
where it was; and having a bluff, off-hand manner, which passed
for heartiness, and considerable powers of being pleasant when
he liked, went down with the school in general for a good fellow
enough. Even in the School-house, by dint of his command of
money, the constant supply of good things which he kept up, and
his adroit toadyism, he had managed to make himself not only
tolerated, but rather popular amongst his own contemporaries;
although young Brooke scarcely spoke to him, and one or two
others of the right sort showed their opinions of him whenever a
chance offered. But the wrong sort happened to be in the
ascendant just now, and so Flashman was a formidable enemy for
small boys. This soon became plain enough. Flashman left no
slander unspoken, and no deed undone, which could in any way
hurt his victims, or isolate them from the rest of the house.
One by one most of the other rebels fell away from them, while
Flashman's cause prospered, and several other fifth-form boys
began to look black at them and ill-treat them as they passed
about the house. By keeping out of bounds, or at all events out
of the house and quadrangle, all day, and carefully barring
themselves in at night, East and Tom managed to hold on without
feeling very miserable; but it was as much as they could do.
Greatly were they drawn then towards old Diggs, who, in an
uncouth way, began to take a good deal of notice of them, and
once or twice came to their study when Flashman was there, who
immediately decamped in consequence. The boys thought that
Diggs must have been watching.
When therefore, about this time, an auction was one night
announced to take place in the hall, at which, amongst the
superfluities of other boys, all Diggs's penates for the time
being were going to the hammer, East and Tom laid their heads
together, and resolved to devote their ready cash (some four
shillings sterling) to redeem such articles as that sum would
cover. Accordingly, they duly attended to bid, and Tom became
the owner of two lots of Diggs's things: --Lot 1, price one-and-
threepence, consisting (as the auctioneer remarked) of a
"valuable assortment of old metals," in the shape of a mouse-
trap, a cheese-toaster without a handle, and a saucepan: Lot 2,
of a villainous dirty table-cloth and green-baize curtain; while
East, for one-and-sixpence, purchased a leather paper-case, with
a lock but no key, once handsome, but now much the worse for
wear. But they had still the point to settle of how to get
Diggs to take the things without hurting his feelings. This
they solved by leaving them in his study, which was never locked
when he was out. Diggs, who had attended the auction,
remembered who had bought the lots, and came to their study soon
after, and sat silent for some time, cracking his great red
finger-joints. Then he laid hold of their verses, and began
looking over and altering them, and at last got up, and turning
his back to them, said, "You're uncommon good-hearted little
beggars, you two. I value that paper-case; my sister gave it to
me last holidays. I won't forget." And so he tumbled out into
the passage, leaving them somewhat embarrassed, but not sorry
that he knew what they had done.
The next morning was Saturday, the day on which the allowances
of one shilling a week were paid--an important event to
spendthrift youngsters; and great was the disgust amongst the
small fry to hear that all the allowances had been impounded for
the Derby lottery. That great event in the English year, the
Derby, was celebrated at Rugby in those days by many lotteries.
It was not an improving custom, I own, gentle reader, and led to
making books, and betting, and other objectionable results; but
when our great Houses of Palaver think it right to stop the
nation's business on that day and many of the members bet
heavily themselves, can you blame us boys for following the
example of our betters? At any rate we did follow it. First
there was the great school lottery, where the first prize was
six or seven pounds; then each house had one or more separate
lotteries. These were all nominally voluntary, no boy being
compelled to put in his shilling who didn't choose to do so.
But besides Flashman, there were three or four other fast,
sporting young gentlemen in the Schoolhouse, who considered
subscription a matter of duty and necessity; and so, to make
their duty come easy to the small boys, quietly secured the
allowances in a lump when given out for distribution, and kept
them. It was no use grumbling--so many fewer tartlets and
apples were eaten and fives balls bought on that Saturday; and
after locking-up, when the money would otherwise have been
spent, consolation was carried to many a small boy by the sound
of the night-fags shouting along the passages, "Gentlemen
sportsmen of the School-house; the lottery's going to be drawn
in the hall." It was pleasant to be called a gentleman
sportsman, also to have a chance of drawing a favourite horse.
The hall was full of boys, and at the head of one of the long
tables stood the sporting interest, with a hat before them, in
which were the tickets folded up. One of them then began
calling out the list of the house. Each boy as his name was
called drew a ticket from the hat, and opened it; and most of
the bigger boys, after drawing, left the hall directly to go
back to their studies or the fifth-form room. The sporting
interest had all drawn blanks, and they were sulky accordingly;
neither of the favourites had yet been drawn, and it had come
down to the upper-fourth. So now, as each small boy came up and
drew his ticket, it was seized and opened by Flashman, or some
other of the standers-by. But no great favourite is drawn until
it comes to the Tadpole's turn, and he shuffles up and draws,
and tries to make off, but is caught, and his ticket is opened
like the rest.
"Here you are! Wanderer--the third favourite!" shouts the
"I say, just give me my ticket, please," remonstrates Tadpole.
"Hullo! don't be in a hurry," breaks in Flashman; "what'll you
sell Wanderer for now?"
"I don't want to sell," rejoins Tadpole.
"Oh, don't you! Now listen, you young fool: you don't know
anything about it; the horse is no use to you. He won't win,
but I want him as a hedge. Now, I'll give you half a crown for
him." Tadpole holds out, but between threats and cajoleries at
length sells half for one shilling and sixpence--about a fifth
of its fair market value; however, he is glad to realize
anything, and, as he wisely remarks, "Wanderer mayn't win, and
the tizzy is safe anyhow."
East presently comes up and draws a blank. Soon after comes
Tom's turn. His ticket, like the others, is seized and opened.
"Here you are then," shouts the opener, holding it up--
"Harkaway!--By Jove, Flashey, your young friend's in luck."
"Give me the ticket," says Flashman, with an oath, leaning
across the table with open hand and his face black with rage.
"Wouldn't you like it?" replies the opener, not a bad fellow at
the bottom, and no admirer of Flashman. "Here, Brown, catch
hold." And he hands the ticket to Tom, who pockets it.
Whereupon Flashman makes for the door at once, that Tom and the
ticket may not escape, and there keeps watch until the drawing
is over and all the boys are gone, except the sporting set of
five or six, who stay to compare books, make bets, and so on;
Tom, who doesn't choose to move while Flashman is at the door;
and East, who stays by his friend, anticipating trouble. The
sporting set now gathered round Tom. Public opinion wouldn't
allow them actually to rob him of his ticket, but any humbug or
intimidation by which he could be driven to sell the whole or
part at an undervalue was lawful.
"Now, young Brown, come, what'll you sell me Harkaway for? I
hear he isn't going to start. I'll give you five shillings for
him," begins the boy who had opened the ticket. Tom,
remembering his good deed, and moreover in his forlorn state
wishing to make a friend, is about to accept the offer, when
another cries out, "I'll give you seven shillings." Tom
hesitated and looked from one to the other.
"No, no!" said Flashman, pushing in, "leave me to deal with him;
we'll draw lots for it afterwards. Now sir, you know me: you'll
sell Harkaway to us for five shillings, or you'll repent it."
"I won't sell a bit of him," answered Tom shortly.
"You hear that now!" said Flashman, turning to the others.
"He's the coxiest young blackguard in the house. I always told
you so. We're to have all the trouble and risk of getting up
the lotteries for the benefit of such fellows as he."
Flashman forgets to explain what risk they ran, but he speaks to
willing ears. Gambling makes boys selfish and cruel as well as
"That's true. We always draw blanks," cried one. --"Now, sir,
you shall sell half, at any rate."
"I won't," said Tom, flushing up to his hair, and lumping them
all in his mind with his sworn enemy.
"Very well then; let's roast him," cried Flashman, and catches
hold of Tom by the collar. One or two boys hesitate, but the
rest join in. East seizes Tom's arm, and tries to pull him
away, but is knocked back by one of the boys, and Tom is dragged
along struggling. His shoulders are pushed against the
mantelpiece, and he is held by main force before the fire,
Flashman drawing his trousers tight by way of extra torture.
Poor East, in more pain even than Tom, suddenly thinks of Diggs,
and darts off to find him. "Will you sell now for ten
shillings?" says one boy who is relenting.
Tom only answers by groans and struggles.
"I say, Flashey, he has had enough," says the same boy, dropping
the arm he holds.
"No, no; another turn'll do it," answers Flashman. But poor Tom
is done already, turns deadly pale, and his head falls forward
on his breast, just as Diggs, in frantic excitement, rushes into
the hall with East at his heels.
"You cowardly brutes!" is all he can say, as he catches Tom from
them and supports him to the hall table. "Good God! he's dying.
Here, get some cold water--run for the housekeeper."
Flashman and one or two others slink away; the rest, ashamed and
sorry, bend over Tom or run for water, while East darts off for
the housekeeper. Water comes, and they throw it on his hands
and face, and he begins to come to. "Mother!"--the words came
feebly and slowly--"it's very cold to-night." Poor old Diggs
is blubbering like a child. "Where am I?" goes on Tom, opening
his eyes, "Ah! I remember now." And he shut his eyes again and
"I say," is whispered, "we can't do any good, and the
housekeeper will be here in a minute." And all but one steal
away. He stays with Diggs, silent and sorrowful, and fans Tom's
The housekeeper comes in with strong salts, and Tom soon
recovers enough to sit up. There is a smell of burning. She
examines his clothes, and looks up inquiringly. The boys are
"How did he come so?" No answer. "There's been some bad work
here," she adds, looking very serious, "and I shall speak to the
Doctor about it." Still no answer.
"Hadn't we better carry him to the sick-room?" suggests Diggs.
"Oh, I can walk now," says Tom; and, supported by East and the
housekeeper, goes to the sick-room. The boy who held his ground
is soon amongst the rest, who are all in fear of their lives.
"Did he peach?" "Does she know about it?"
"Not a word; he's a stanch little fellow." And pausing a
moment, he adds, "I'm sick of this work; what brutes we've
Meantime Tom is stretched on the sofa in the housekeeper's room,
with East by his side, while she gets wine and water and other
"Are you much hurt, dear old boy?" whispers East.
"Only the back of my legs," answers Tom. They are indeed badly
scorched, and part of his trousers burnt through. But soon he
is in bed with cold bandages. At first he feels broken, and
thinks of writing home and getting taken away; and the verse of
a hymn he had learned years ago sings through his head, and he
goes to sleep, murmuring, -
"Where the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest."
But after a sound night's rest, the old boy-spirit comes back
again. East comes in, reporting that the whole house is with
him; and he forgets everything, except their old resolve never
to be beaten by that bully Flashman.
Not a word could the housekeeper extract from either of them,
and though the Doctor knew all that she knew that morning, he
never knew any more.
I trust and believe that such scenes are not possible now at
school, and that lotteries and betting-books have gone out; but
I am writing of schools as they were in our time, and must give
the evil with the good.
CHAPTER IX - A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS.
"Wherein I [speak] of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth 'scapes." - SHAKESPEARE.
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 his way.
"What's that for?" growled the assaulted one.
"Because I choose. You've no business here. Go to your study."
"You can't send us."
"Can't I? Then I'll thrash you if you stay," said Flashman
"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 fair play."
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
"What the --- is it to you?" faltered Flashman, who began to
"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? Time's
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
"Fiddlesticks! 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
"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 blood."
"Is it though?" said Tom, putting up his hand; "I didn't know
"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 wounds.
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
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 swop?"
"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 comfort."
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
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