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6 Well, but he ain't fit to fight his own way yet; I'm trying to get him to it every day—but he's very odd. Poor little beggar! I can't make him out a bit. He ain't a bit like anything I've ever seen or heard of—he seems all over nerves; anything you say seems to hurt him like a cut or a blow.”
66 That sort of boy's no use here,” said East, “he'll only spoil. Now I'll tell you what you do, Tommy. Go and get a nice large band-box made, and put him in with plenty of cotton-wool, and a pap-bottle, labelled “ With care—this side up," and send him back to mamma.”
“ I think I shall make a hand of him though," said Tom, smiling, “ say what you will. There's something about him, every now and then, which shows me he's got pluck somewhere in him. That's the only thing after all that'll wash, ain't it, old Scud? But how to get at it and bring it out?"
Tom took one hand out of his breeches-pocket and stuck it in his back hair for a scratch, giving his hat a tilt over his nose, his one method of invoking wisdom. He stared at the ground with a ludicrously puzzled look, and presently looked up and met East's eyes. That young gentleman slapped him on the back, and then put his arm round his shoulder, as they strolled through the quadrangle together. “ Tom,” said he, “ blest if you ain't the best old fellow ever was—I do like to see you go into a thing. Hang it, I wish I could take things as you do—but I never can get higher than
a joke. Everything's a joke. If I was going to be flogged next minute, I should be in a blue funk, but I couldn't help laughing at it for the life of me.”
“ Brown and East, you go and fag for Jones on the great fives’-court.”
“ Hullo, tho', that's past a joke," broke out East, springing at the young gentleman who addressed them, and catching him by the collar. Here, Tommy, catch hold of him t'other side before he can holla.”
The youth was seized, and dragged struggling out of the quadrangle, into the school-house hall. He was one of the miserable little pretty whitehanded, curly-headed boys, petted and pampered by some of the big fellows, who wrote their verses for them, taught them to drink and use bad language, and did all they could to spoil them for every thing * in this world and the next. One of the avocations in which these young gentlemen took particular delight, was in going about and getting fags for their protectors, when those heroes were playing any game. They carried about pencil and paper with them, putting down the names of all the boys they sent, always sending five times as many as were wanted, and getting all those thrashed who didn't go. The present youth belonged to a house which was very jealous of the school-house, and
* A kind and wise critic, and old Rugboan, notes here in the margin: The "small friend system was not so utterly bad from 1841-1847.” Before that, too, there were many noble friendships between big and little boys, but I can't strike out the passage; many boys will know why it is left in,
always picked out school-house fags when he could find them. However, this time he'd got the wrong sow by the ear. His captors slammed the great door of the hall, and East put his back against it while Tom gave the prisoner a shake-up, took away his list, and stood him up on the floor, while he proceeded leisurely to examine that document.
“Let me out, let me go!” screamed the boy in a furious passion. “ I'll go and tell Jones this minute, and he'll give you both the — thrashing you ever had.”
“ Pretty little dear,” said East, patting the top of his hat; “hark how he swears, Tom. Nicely brought-up young man, ain't he, I don't think.”
« Let me alone, - you!” roared the boy, foaming with rage and kicking at East, who quietly tripped him up, and deposited him on the floor in a place of safety.
6 Gently, young fellow," said he ; 'tain't improving for little whippersnappers like you to be indulging in blasphemy; so you stop that, or you'll get something you wont like.”
66 I'll have you both licked when I get out, that I will,” rejoined the boy, beginning to snivel.
“ Two can play at that game, mind you," said Tom, who had finished his examination of the list. 6 Now you just listen here. We've just come across the fives’-court; and Jones has four fags there already, two more than he wants. If he'd wanted uş to change, he'd have stopped us himself. And here, you little blackguard, you've got seven names
down on your list besides ours, and five of them school-house." Tom walked up to him and jerked him on to his legs; he was by this time whining like a whipped puppy.
“ Now, just listen to me. We ain't going to fag for Jones. If you tell him you've sent us, we'll each of us give you such a thrashing as you'll remember.” And Tom tore up the list and threw the pieces into the fire.
“ And mind you, too,” said East, “ don't let me catch you again sneaking about the school-house, and picking up our fags. You haven't got the sort of hide to take a sound licking kindly ;” and he opened the door and sent the young gentleman flying into the quadrangle, with a parting kick.
“ Nice boy, Tommy,” said East, shoving his hands in his pockets and strolling to the fire.
“ Worst sort we breed,” responded Tom, following his example." Thank goodness, no big fellow ever took to petting me.”
.66 You'd never have been like that,” said East. 6 I should like to have him put in a museum. Christian young gentleman, nineteenth century, highly educated. Stir him up with the long pole, Jack, and hear him swear like a drunken sailor. He'd make a respectable public open its eyes, I think.”
6 Think he'll tell Jones ?" said Tom.
“ Nor I,” said Tom. And they went back to talk about Arthur.
The young gentleman had brains enough not to tell Jones, reasoning that East and Brown, who were noted as some of the toughest fags in the school, wouldn't care three straws for any licking Jones might give them, and would be likely to keep their words as to passing it on with interest.
After the above conversation, East came a good deal to their study, and took notice of Arthur; and soon allowed to Tom that he was a thorough little gentleman, and would get over his shyness all in good time; which much comforted our hero. He felt every day, too, the value of having an object in his life, something that drew him out of himself; and, it being the dull time of the year, and no games going about which he much cared, was happier than he had ever yet been at school, which was saying a great deal.
The time which Tom allowed himself away from his charge, was from locking-up till supper-time. During this hour or hour-and-a-half he used to take his fling, going round to the studies of all his acquaintance, sparring or gossiping in the hall, now jumping the old iron-bound tables, or carving a bit of his name on them, then joining in some chorus of merry voices; in fact, blowing off his steam, as we should now call it.
This process was so congenial to his temper, and Arthur showed himself so pleased at the arrangement, that it was several weeks before Tom was ever in their study before supper. One evening, however, he rushed in to look for an old