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have to sing, whether he can or not, Saturday twelve weeks, and that's long enough off yet.”
6 Do you know him at home, Brown?”.
“ No, but he's my chum in Gray's old study, and it's near prayer time, and I haven't had a look at it yet. Come along, Arthur.”
Away went the two, Tom longing to get his charge safe under cover, where he might advise him on his deportment.
6 What a queer chum for Tom Brown,” was the comment at the fire; and it must be confessed so thought Tom himself, as he lighted his candle, and surveyed the new green-baize curtains, and the carpet and sofa with much satisfaction.
“ I say, Arthur, what a brick your mother is to make us so cosy. But look here now, you must answer straight up when the fellows speak to you, and don't be afraid. If you're afraid, you'll get bullied. And don't you say you can sing; and don't you ever talk about home, or your mother and sisters.”
Poor little Arthur looked ready to cry.
“ But please,” said he, “mayn't I talk aboutabout home to you?”
6 Oh, yes, I like it. But don't talk to boys you don't know, or they'll call you home-sick, or mamma's darling, or some such stuff. What a jolly desk! is that your's? And what stunning binding! why, your school-books look like novels.”
And Tom was soon deep in Arthur's goods and chattels, all new and good enough for a fifth-form
boy, and hardly thought of his friend's outside, till the prayer-bell rung.
I have already described the school-house prayers; they were the same on the first night as on the other nights, save for the gaps caused by the absence of those boys who came late, and the line of new boys who stood all together at the further table—of all sorts and sizes, like young bears, with all their troubles to come, as Tom's father had said to him when he was in the same position. He thought of it as he looked at the line, and poor little slight Arthur standing with them, and as he was leading him up stairs to Number 4, directly after prayers, and showing him his bed. It was a huge high airy room, with two large windows looking on to the school-close. There were twelve beds in the room. The one in the furthest corner by the fireplace, occupied by the sixth-form boy who was responsible for the discipline of the room, and the rest by boys in the lower-fifth and other junior forms, all fags, (for the fifth-form boys, as has been said, slept in rooms by themselves.) Being fags, the eldest of them was not more than about sixteen years old, and were all bound to be up and in bed by ten; the sixth-form boys came to bed from ten to a quarter past, (at which time the old verger came round to put the candles out,) except when they sat up to read.
Within a few minutes therefore of their entry, all the other boys who slept in Number 4 had come up. The little fellows went quietly to their own beds,
and began undressing and talking to one another in whispers; while the elder, amongst whom was Tom, sat chatting about on one another's beds, with their jackets and waistcoats off. Poor little Arthur was overwhelmed with the novelty of his position. The idea of sleeping in the room with strange boys had clearly never crossed his mind before, and was as painful as it was strange to him. He could hardly bear to take his jacket off; however, presently with an effort off it came, and then he paused and looked at Tom, who was sitting at the bottom of his bed, talking and laughing.
“ Please, Brown,” he whispered, “ may I wash my face and hands ? "
6 Of course, if you like," said Tom staring; " that's your washhand-stand under the window, second from your bed. You'll have to go down for more water in the morning if you use it all.” And on he went with his talk, while Arthur stole timidly from between the beds out to his washhand-stand, and began his ablutions, thereby drawing for a moment on himself the attention of the room.
On went the talk and laughter. Arthur finished his washing and undressing, and put on his nightgown. He then looked round more nervously than ever. Two or three of the little boys were already in bed, sitting up with their chins on their knees. The light burned clear, the noise went on. It was a trying moment for the poor little lonely boy; however this time he didn't ask Tom what he might or might not do, but dropped on his knees by his
bedside, as he had done every day from his childhood, to open his heart to Him, who heareth the cry and beareth the sorrows of the tender child, and the strong man in agony.
Tom was sitting at the bottom of his bed unlacing his boots, so that his back was towards Arthur, and he didn't see what had happened, and looked up in wonder at the sudden silence. Then two or three boys laughed and sneered, and a big brutal fellow, who was standing in the middle of the room, picked up a slipper, and shied it at the kneeling boy, calling him a snivelling young shaver. Then Tom saw the whole, and the next moment the boot he had just pulled off flew straight at the head of the bully, who had just time to throw up his arm and catch it on his elbow.
“ Confound you, Brown, what's that for?” roared he, stamping with pain.
• Never mind what I mean," said Tom, stepping on to the floor, every drop of blood in his body ting. ling; “ if any fellow wants the other boot, he knows how to get it."
What would have been the result is doubtful, for at this moment the sixth-form boy came in, and not another word could be said. Tom.and the rest rushed into bed and finished their unrobing there, and the old verger, as punctual as the clock, had put out the candle in another minute, and toddled on to the next room, shutting their door with his usual “ Good night, genl'm'n.”
There were many boys in the room by whom that
little scene was taken to heart before they slept. But sleep seemed to have deserted the pillow of poor Tom. For some time his excitement, and the flood of memories which chased one another through his brain, kept him from thinking or resolving. His head throbbed, his heart leapt, and he could hardly keep himself from springing out of bed and rushing about the room. Then the thought of his own mother came across him, and the promise he had made at her knee, years ago, never to forget to kneel by his bedside, and give himself up to his Father, before he laid his head on the pillow, from which it might never rise; and he lay down gently and cried as if his heart would break. He was only fourteen years old.
It was no light act of courage in those days, my dear boys, for a little fellow to say his prayers publicly, even at Rugby. A few years later, when Arnold's manly piety had begun to leaven the school, the tables turned ; before he died, in the schoolhouse at least, and I believe in the other houses, the rule was the other way. But poor Tom had come to school in other times. The first few nights after he came he did not kneel down because of the noise, but sat up in bed till the candle was out, and then stole out and said his prayers, in fear lest some one should find him out. So did many another poor little fellow. Then he began to think that he might just as well say his prayers in bed, and then that it didn't matter whether he was kneeling, or sitting, or lying down. And so it had come to pass