[blocks in formation]

sausages then, that's the best grub for tea I know

[ocr errors]

6 Very well,” said Tom, as pleased as possible, 6 where do they sell them ?

“Oh, over here, just opposite;" and they crossed the street, and walked into the cleanest little frontroom of a small house, half parlour, half shop, and bought a pound of most particular sausages; East talking pleasantly to Mrs. Porter while she put them in paper, and Tom doing the paying part.

From Porter's they adjourned to Sally Harrowell's, where they found a lot of school-house boys waiting for the roast potatoes, and relating their own exploits in the day's match at the top of their voices. The street opened at once into Sally's kitchen, a low brick-floored room, with large recess for fire, and chimney-corner seats. Poor little Sally, the most good-natured and much enduring of womankind, was bustling about with a napkin in her hand, from her own oven to those of the neighbour's cottages, up the yard at the back of her house. Stumps, her husband, a short easy-going shoemaker, with a beery humourous eye and ponderous calves, who lived mostly on his wife's earnings, stood in a corner of the room, exchanging shots of the roughest description of repartee with every boy in turn. “ Stumps, you lout, you've had too much beer again to-day.” “'Twasn't of your paying for then.”—“ Stumps's calves are running down into his ancles, they want to get to grass.” “Better be doing that, than gone altogether like yours," &c., &c. Very poor stuff it STUMPS AND HIS TRIBULATIONS.


was, but it served to make time pass, and every now and then Sally arrived in the middle with a smoking tin of potatoes, which was cleared off in a few seconds, each boy as he seized his lot, running off to the house with “ Put me down two penn'orth, Sally;" “ Put down three penn'orth between me and Davis,” &c. How she ever kept the accounts so straight as she did, in her head, and on her slate, was a perfect wonder.

East and Tom got served at last, and started back for the school-house just as the locking-up bell began to ring; East on the way recounting the life and adventures of Stumps, who was a character. Amongst his other small avocations, he was the hind carrier of a sedan-chair, the last of its race, in which the Rugby ladies still went out to tea, and in which, when he was fairly harnessed and carrying a load, it was the delight of small and mischievous boys to follow him and whip his calves. This was too much for the temper even of Stumps, and he would pursue his tormentors in a vindictive and apoplectic manner when released, but was easily pacified by twopence to buy beer with.

The lower school boys of the school-house, some fifteen in number, had tea in the lower-fifth school, and were presided over by the old verger or headporter. Each boy had a quarter of a loaf of bread and pat of butter, and as much tea as he pleased, and there was scarcely one who didn't add to this some further luxury, such as baked potatoes, a herring, sprats, or something of the sort; but few, at

is 128


this period of the half-year, could live up to a pound of Porter's sausages, and East was in great magnificence upon the strength of theirs. He had produced a toasting-fork from his study, and set Tom to toast the sausages, while he mounted guard over their butter and potatoes ; "'cause," as he explained, “ you're a new boy, and they'll play you some trick and get our butter, but you can toast just as well as I.” So Tom, in the midst of three or four more urchins similarly employed, toasted his face and the sausages at the same time before the huge fire, till the latter cracked ; when East, from his watch-tower shouted that they were done, and then the feast proceeded, and the festive cups of tea were filled and emptied, and Tom imparted of the sausages in small bits to many neighbours, and thought he had never tasted such good potatoes or seen such jolly boys. They on their parts waived all ceremony, and pegged away at the sausages and potatoes, and remembering Tom's performance in goal voted East's new crony a brick. After tea, and while the things were being cleared away, they gathered round the fire, and the talk on the match still went on; and those who had them to show, pulled up their trousers and showed the hacks they had received in the good cause.

They were soon, however, all turned out of the school, and East conducted Tom up to his bedroom, that he might get on clean things and wash himself before singing.

“ What's singing ?” said Tom, taking his head

[blocks in formation]

out of his basin, where he had been plunging it in cold water.

“ Well, you are jolly green,” answered his friend from a neighbouring basin. " Why the last six Saturdays of every half, we sing of course; and this is the first of them. No first lesson to do, you know, and lie in bed to-morrow morning."

“ But who sings ?

66 Why everybody, of course ; you'll see soon enough. We begin directly after supper, and sing till bed-time. It ain't such good fun now tho' as in the summer half, 'cause then we sing in the little fives' court, under the library you know. We take out tables, and the big boys sit -round, and drink beer ; double allowance on Saturday nights; and we cut about the quadrangle between the songs, and it looks like a lot of robbers in a cave. And the louts come and pound at the great gates, and we pound back again, and shout at them. But this half we only sing in the hall. Come along down to my study.”

Their principal employment in the study was to clear out East's table, removing the drawers and ornaments and table-cloth, for he lived in the bottom passage, and his table was in requisition for the singing.

Supper came in due course at seven o'clock, consisting of bread and cheese and beer, which was all saved for the singing; and directly afterwards the fags went to work to prepare the hall. The schoolhouse hall, as has been said, is a great long high



room, with two large fires on one side, and two large iron-bound tables, one running down the middle, and the other along the wall opposite the fire-places. Around the upper fire the fags placed the tables in the form of a horseshoe, and upon them the jugs, with the Saturday night's allowance of beer. Then the big boys began to drop in and take their seats, bringing with them bottled beer and song-books; for although they all knew the songs by heart, it was the thing to have an old manuscript book descended from some departed hero, in which they were all carefully written out.

The sixth-form boys had not yet appeared, so to fill up the gap, an interesting and time-honoured ceremony was gone through. Each new boy was placed on the table in turn, and made to sing a solo, under the penalty of drinking a large mug of salt and water if he resisted or broke down. However, the new boys all sing like nightingales to-night, and the salt water is not in requisition ; Tom as his part performing the old west-country song of “ The Leather Bottèl,” with considerable applause. And at the half-hour down come the sixth and fifth form boys, and take their places at the tables, which are filled up by the next biggest boys, the rest, for whom there is no room at table, standing round outside,

The glasses and mugs are filled, and then the fugleman strikes up the old sea song

"A wet sheet and a flowing sea,

And a wind that follows fast,” &c, which is the invariable first song in the school

« VorigeDoorgaan »