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Then the boys who are bending and watching on the outside, mark them—they are most useful players, the dodgers; who seize on the ball the moment it rolls out from amongst the chargers, and away with it across to the opposite goal; they seldom go into the scrummage, but must have more coolness than the chargers; as endless as are boys' characters, so are their ways of facing or not meeting a scrummage at football.
Three-quarters of an hour are gone; first winds are failing, and weights and numbers beginning to tell. Yard by yard the school-house have been driven back, contesting every inch of ground. The bulldogs are the colour of mother earth from shoulder to ancle, except young Brooke, who has a marvellous knack of keeping his legs. The school-house are being penned in their turn, and now the ball is behind their goal, under the Doctor's wall. The Doctor and some of his family are there looking on, and seem as anxious as any boy for the success of the school-house. We get a minute's breathing time before old Brooke kicks out, and he gives the word to play strongly for touch, by the three trees. Away goes the ball, and the bull-dogs after it, and in another minute there is a shout of “In touch," “ Our ball.” Now's your time, old Brooke, while your men are still fresh. He stands with the ball in his hand, while the two sides form in deep lines opposite one another; he must strike it straight out between them. The lines are thickest close to him, but young Brooke and two or three of his men are
YOUNG BROOKE'S RUSH.
shifting up further, where the opposite line is weak. Old Brooke strikes it out straight and strong, and it falls opposite his brother. Hurra! that rush has taken it right through the school line, and away past the three trees, far into their quarters, and young Brooke and the bull-dogs are close upon it. The school leaders rush back shouting “ Look out in goal,” and strain every nerve to catch him, but they are after the fleetest foot in Rugby. There they go straight for the goal-posts, quarters scattering before them. One after another the bull-dogs go down, but young Brooke holds on. “ He is down." No! a long stagger, but the danger is past; that was the shock of Crew, the most dangerous of dodgers. And now he is close to the school goal, the ball not three yards before him. There is a hurried rush of the school fags to the spot, but no one throws himself on the ball, the only chance, and young Brooke has touched it right under the school goal-posts.
The school leaders come up furious, and administer toco to the wretched fags nearest at hand; they may well be angry, for it is all Lombard street to a China orange that the school-house kick a goal with the ball touched in such a good place. Old Brooke of course will kick it out, but who shall catch and place it? Call Crab Jones. Here he comes, sauntering along with a straw in his mouth, the queerest, coolest fish in Rugby: if he were tumbled into the moon this minute, he would just pick himself up without taking his hands out of his pockets
or turning a hair. But it is a moment when the boldest charger's heart beats quick. Old Brooke stands with the ball under his arm motioning the school back; he will not kick-out till they are all in goal, behind the posts; they are all edging forwards, inch by inch, to get nearer for the rush at Crab Jones, who stands there in front of old Brooke to catch the ball. If they can reach and destroy him before he catches, the danger is over, and with one and the same rush they will carry it right away to the school-house goal. Fond hope, it is kicked out and caught beautifully. Crab strikes his heel into the ground, to mark the spot where the ball was caught, beyond which the school line may not advance; but there they stand five deep, ready to rush the moment the ball touches the ground. Take plenty of room! don't give the rush a chance of reaching you! place it true and steady! Trust Crab Jones—he has made a small hole with his heel for the ball to lie on, by which he is resting on one knee, with his eye on old Brooke. “ Now!” Crab places the ball at the word, old Brooke kicks, and it rises slowly and truly as the school rush forward.
Then a moment's pause, while both sides look up at the spinning ball. There it flies straight between the two posts, some five feet above the cross-bar, an unquestioned goal; and a shout of real genuine joy rings out from the school-house players-up, and a faint echo of it comes over the close from the goalkeepers under the Doctor's wall. A goal in the first
hour-such a thing hasn't been done in the schoolhouse match this five years.
6 Over!” is the cry: the two sides change goals, and the school-house goal-keepers come threading their way across through the masses of the school; the most openly triumphant of them, amongst whom is Tom, a school-house boy of two hours' standing, getting their ears boxed in the transit. Tom indeed is excited beyond measure, and it is all the sixthform boy, kindest and safest of goal-keepers, has been able to do to keep him from rushing out whenever the ball has been near their goal. So he holds him by his side, and instructs him in the science of touching.
At this moment Griffith, the itinerant vendor of oranges from Hill Morton, enters the close with his heavy baksets; there is a rush of small boys upon the little pale-faced man, the two sides mingling together subdued by the great goddess Thirst, like the English and French by the streams in the Pyrennees. The leaders are past oranges and apples, but some of them visit their coats, and apply innocent looking ginger-beer bottles to their mouths. It is no ginger-beer though I fear, and will do you no good. One short mad rush, and then a stitch in the side, and no more honest play; that's what comes of those bottles.
But now Griffith’s baskets are empty, the ball is placed again midway, and the school are going to kick off. Their leaders have sent their lumber into goal, and rated the rest soundly, and one hundred
THE SECOND HOUR.
and twenty picked players-up are there, bent on retrieving the game. They are to keep the ball in front of the school-house goal, and then to drive it in by sheer strength and weight. They mean heavy play and no mistake, and so old Brooke sees; and places Crab Jones in quarters just before the goal, with four or five picked players, who are to keep the ball away to the sides, where a try at goal, if obtained, will be less dangerous than in front. He himself, and Warner, and Hedge, who have saved themselves till now, will lead the chargers.
“ Are you ready?” “ Yes.” And away comes the ball kicked high in the air, to give the school time to rush on and catch it as it falls. And here they are amongst us. Meet them like Englishmen, you school-house boys, and charge them home. Now is the time to show what mettle is in youand there shall be a warm seat by the hall fire, and honour, and lots of bottled beer to-night, for him who does his duty in the next half-hour. And they are well met. Again and again the cloud of their players-up gathers before our goal, and comes threatening on, and Warner or Hedge, with young Brooke and the relics of the bull-dogs, break through and carry the ball back; and old Brooke ranges the field like Job's war-horse, the thickest scrummage parts asunder before his rush, like the waves before a clipper's bows; his cheery voice rings over the field, and his eye is everywhere. And if these miss the ball, and it rolls dangerously in front of our goal, Crab Jones and his men have seized it and sent it