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THE SADDLE IS PUT ON TOM.
dow, and making night-lines and slings, and plotting expeditions to Brownsover Mills and Caldecott's Spinney? East and he had made up their minds to get this study, and then every night from lockingup till ten they would be together, to talk about fishing, drink bottled-beer, read Marryatt's novels, and sort birds' eggs. And this new boy would most likely never go out of the close, and would be afraid of wet feet, and always getting laughed at, and called Molly, or Jenny, or some derogatory feminine nickname.
The matron watched him for a moment, and saw what was passing in his mind, and so, like a wise negotiator, threw in an appeal to his warm heart. 6 Poor little fellow," said she in almost a whisper, 6 his father's dead, and he's got no brothers. And his mamma, such a kind sweet lady, almost broke her heart at leaving him this morning; and she said one of his sisters was like to die of decline, and
“ Well, well,” burst in Tom, with something like a sigh at the effort, “ I suppose I must give up East. Come along, young’un. What's your name? We'll go and have some supper, and then I'll show you our study.”
“ His name's George Arthur,” said the matron, walking up to him with Tom, who grasped his little delicate hand as the proper preliminary to making a chum of him, and felt as if he could have blown him away. “ I've had his books and things put into the study, which his mamma has had new papered, and
TEA WITH THE DOCTOR.
the sofa covered, and new green-baize curtains over the door," (the diplomatic matron threw this in, to show that the new boy was contributing largely to the partnership comforts.) “ And Mrs. Arnold told me to say,” she added, “ that she should like you both to come up to tea with her. You know the way, Master Brown, and the things are just gone up, I know.”
Here was an announcement for Master Tom! He was to go up to tea the first night, just as if he were a sixth or fifth-form boy, and of importance in the school world, instead of the most reckless young scapegrace amongst the fags. He felt himself lifted on to a higher moral and social platform at once. Nevertheless, he couldn't give up without a sigh the idea of the jolly supper in the housekeeper's room with East and the rest, and a rush round to all the studies of his friends afterwards, to pour out the deeds and wonders of the holidays, to plot fifty plans for the coming half-year, and to gather news of who had left, and what new boys had come, who had got who's study, and where the new præpostors slept. However, Tom consoled himself with thinking that he couldn't have done all this with the new boy at his heels, and so marched off along the passages to the Doctor's private house, with his young charge in tow, in monstrous good humour with himself and all the world.
It is needless, and would be impertinent to tell, how the two young boys were received in that drawing-room. The lady who presided there is still 238
TEA WITH THE DOCTOR.
living, and has carried with her to her peaceful home in the North the respect and love of all those who ever felt and shared that gentle and high-bred hospitality. Aye, many is the brave heart now doing its work and bearing its load in country curacies, London chambers, under the Indian sun, and in Australian towns and clearings, which looks back with fond and grateful memory to that school-house drawing-room, and dates much of its highest and best training to the lessons learnt there.
Besides Mrs. Arnold and one or two of the elder children, there were one of the younger masters, young Brooke, who was now in the sixth and had succeeded to his brother's position and influence, and another sixth-form boy there, talking together before the fire. The master and young Brooke, now a great strapping fellow six feet high, eighteen years old, and powerful as a coal-heaver, nodded kindly to Tom to his intense glory, and then went on talking; the other did not notice them. The hostess, after a few kind words, which led the boys at once and insensibly to feel at their ease, to begin talking to one another, left them with her own children while she finished a letter. The young ones got on fast and well, Torn holding forth about a prodigious pony he had been riding out hunting, and hearing stories of the winter glories of the lakes, when tea came in, and immediately after the Doctor himself.
How frank, and kind, and manly, was his greeting to the party by the fire ; it did Tom's heart good
TEA WITH THE DOCTOR.
to see him and young Brooke shake hands, and look one another in the face; and he didn't fail to remark that Brooke was nearly as tall, and quite as broad as the Doctor. And his cup was full, when in another moment his master turned to him with another warm shake of the hand, and, seemingly oblivious of all the late scrapes which he had been getting into, said, “ Ah, Brown, you here! I hope you left your father and all well at home.”
“ Yes, sir, quite well.”
“ And this is the little fellow who is to share your study. Well, he doesn't look as we should like to see him. He wants some Rugby air, and cricket. And you must take him some good long walks, to : Bilton Grange, and Caldecott's Spinney, and show him what little pretty country we have about here.”
Tom wondered if the Doctor knew that his visits to Bilton Grange were for the purpose of taking rooks' nests, (a proceeding strongly discountenanced by the owner thereof,) and those to Caldecott's Spinney, were prompted chiefly by the conveniences for setting night-lines. What didn't the Doctor know? And what a noble use he always made of it. He almost resolved to abjure rook-pies and night-lines forever. The tea went merrily off, the Doctor now talking of holiday doings, and then of the prospects of the half-year, what chance there was for the Balliol scholarship, whether the eleven would be a good one. Everybody was at their ease, and everybody felt that he, young as he might be, was of some use in the little school world, and had a work to do there.
Soon after tea the Doctor went off to his study, and the young boys a few minutes afterwards took their leave, and went out of the private door which led from the Doctor's house into the middle passage. . At the fire, at the further end of the passage, was a crowd of boys in loud talk and laughter. There was a sudden pause when the door opened, and then a great shout of greeting, as Tom was recognized marching down the passage.
“ Hullo, Brown, where do you come from ?”
“ Oh, I've been to tea with the Doctor," says Tom, with great dignity.'
“ My eye,” cried East. “Oh! so that's why Mary called you back, and you didn't come to supper. You lost something—that beef and pickles was no end good.”
“I say, young fellow," cried Hall, detecting Arthur and catching him by the collar, “what's your name? Where do you come from? How old are you?”.
Tom saw Arthur shrink back and look scared as all the group turned to him, but thought it best to let him answer, just standing by his side to support in case of need.”
6 Arthur, sir. I come from Devonshire."
6 Don't call me “sir, you young muff. How old are you?”
The poor boy was trembling and hesitating. Tom struck in—“ You be hanged, Tadpole. He'll