Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

266

TOM PLEDGES HIMSELF.

emphasizing the not's, and dwelling on them as if they gave him actual pleasure, and were hard to part with.

They were silent a minute, and then Arthur said, “ Yes, that's a glorious story, but it don't prove your point, Tom, I think. There are times when there is only one way, and that the highest, and then the men are found to stand in the breach."

“ There's always a highest way, and it's always the right one,” said Tom. “ How many times has the Doctor told us that in his sermons in the last year, I should like to know?"

« Well, you ain't going to convince us, is he Arthur? No Brown compromise to-night,” said East, looking at his watch. “But it's past eight, and we must go to first lesson. What a bore.”

So they took down their books and fell to work ; but Arthur didn't forget, and thought long and often over the conversation.

CHAPTER III.

ARTHUR MAKES A FRIEND.

“Let Nature be your teacher,
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things,
We murder to dissect-
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves,
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.”_WORDSWORTH.

ABOUT six weeks after the beginning of the half, as Tom and Arthur were sitting one night before supper beginning their verses, Arthur suddenly stopped, and looked up, and said, “ Tom, do you know any thing of Martin ?"

5 Yes,” said Tom, taking his hand out of his back hair, and delighted to throw his Gradus ad Parnas. sum on to the sofa ; " I know him pretty well. He's a very good fellow, but as mad as a hatter. He's called Madman, you know. And never was such a fellow for getting all sorts of rum things about him. He tamed two snakes last half, and used to carry them about in his pocket, and I'll be bound he's got some hedgehogs and rats in his cupboard now, and no one knows what besides.”

“ I should like very much to know him,” said Ar

268

TROUBLES OF A BOY-PHILOSOPHER.

thur; “ he was next to me in the form to-day, and he'd lost his book and looked over mine, and he seemed so kind and gentle, that I liked him very much."

“Ah, poor old madman, he's always losing his books," said Tom, " and getting called up and floored because he hasn't got them.”

“ I like him all the better,” said Arthur.

6 Well, he's great fun, I can tell you," said Tom, throwing himself back on the sofa and chuckling at the remembrance. “ We had such a game with him one day last half. He had been kicking up horrid stinks for some time in his study, till I suppose some fellow told Mary, and she told the Doctor. Any how, one day a little before dinner, when he came down from the library, the Doctor, instead of going home, came striding into the hall. East and I and five or six other fellows were at the fire, and preciously we stared, for he don't come in like that once a-year, unless it's a wet day and there's a fight in the hall. “East, says he, just come and show me Martin's study.' Oh, here's a game,' whispered the rest of us, and we all cut up stairs after the Doctor, East leading. As we got into the New Row, which was hardly wide enough to hold the Doctor and his gown, click, click, click, we heard in the old madman's den. Then that stopped all of a sudden, and the bolts went to like fun: the madman knew East's step, and thought there was going to be a siege.

TROUBLES OF A BOY-PHILOSOPHER.

269

66. It's the Doctor, Martin. He's here and wants to see you,' sings out East.

“ Then the bolts went back slowly, and the door opened, and there was the old madman standing, looking precious scared; his jacket off, his shirtsleeves up to his elbows, and his long skinny arms all covered with anchors and arrows and letters, tattooed in with gunpowder like a sailor-boy's, and a stink fit to knock you down coming out. 'Twas all the Doctor could do to stand his ground, and East and I, who were looking in under his arms, held our noses tight. The old magpie was standing on the window-sill, all his feathers drooping, and looking disgusted and half-poisoned.

6. What can you be about, Martin?' says the Doctor; “you really mustn't go on in this wayyou're a nuisance to the whole passage.'

666 Please, sir, I was only mixing up this powder, there isn't any harm in it; and the madman seized nervously on his pestle and mortar, to show the Doctor the harmlessness of his pursuits, and went off pounding: click, click, click; he hadn't given six clicks before, puff! up went the whole into a great blaze, away went the pestle and mortar across the study, and back we tumbled into the passage. The magpie fluttered down into the court, swearing, and the madman danced out, howling, with his fingers in his mouth. The Doctor caught hold of him, and called to us to fetch some water. There, you silly fellow,' said he, quite pleased though to find he wasn't much hurt, you see you don't know the 270

TROUBLES OF A BOY-PHILOSOPHER.

least what you are doing with all these things; and now, mind, you must give up practising chemistry by yourself. Then he took hold of his arm and looked at it, and I saw he had to bite his lip, and his eyes twinkled; but he said, quite grave, · Here, you see, you've been making all these foolish marks on yourself, which you can never get out, and you'll be very sorry for it in a year or two: now come down to the housekeeper's room, and let us see if you are hurt. And away went the two, and we all staid and had a regular turn-out of the den, till Martin came back with his hand bandaged and turned us out. However, I'll go and see what he's after, and tell him to come in after prayers to supper.” And away went Tom to find the boy in question, who dwelt in a little study by himself, in New Row.

The aforesaid Martin, whom Arthur had taken such a fancy for, was one of those unfortunates, who were at that time of day (and are I fear still) quite out of their places at a public-school. If we knew how to use our boys, Martin would have been seized upon and educated as a natural philosopher. He had a passion for birds, beasts, and insects, and knew more of them and their habits than any one in Rugby; except perhaps the Doctor, who knew everything. He was also an experimental chemist on a small scale, and had made unto himself an electric machine, from which it was his greatest pleasure and glory to administer small shocks to any small boys who were rash enough to venture

« VorigeDoorgaan »