Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

hand, and eye to their aid. A piece of luck on either side, a foot slipping, a blow getting well home, or another fall, may decide it. Tom works slowly round for an opening, he has all the legs, and can choose his own time; the Slogger waits for the attack, and hopes to finish it by some heavy right-handed. blow. As they quarter slowly over the ground, the evening sun comes out from behind a cloud and falls full on Williams's face. Tom darts in, the heavy right-hand is delivered, but only grazes his head. A short rally at close quarters, and they close; in another moment the Slogger is thrown again heavily for the third time.

“ I'll give you three to two on the little one, in half crowns," says Groove to Rattle.

“ No thank’ee," answers the other, diving his hands further into his coat-tails.

Just at this stage of the proceedings the door of the turret which leads to the Doctor's library suddenly opens, and he steps into the close, and makes straight for the ring, in which Brown and the Slogger are doth seated on their second's knees for the last time.

6 The Doctor! the Doctor!” shouts some small boy who catches sight of him, and the ring melts away in a few seconds, the small boys tearing off, . Tom collaring his jacket and waistcoat, and slipping through the little gate by the chapel, and round the corner to Harrowell's, with his backers, as lively as need be. Williams, and his backers, making off not quite so fast across the close. Groove, Rattle, 322

THE DOCTOR ARRIVES.

and the other bigger fellows trying to combine dignity and prudence in a comical manner, and walking off fast enough, they hope, not to be recognized, and not fast enough to look like running away.

Young Brooke alone remains on the ground by the time the Doctor gets there, and touches his hat, not without a slight inward qualm.

“ Hah! Brooke. I am surprised to see you here. Don't you know that I expect the sixth to stop fighting ?”

Brooke felt much more uncomfortable than he had expected, but he was rather a favourite with the Doctor for his openness and plainness of speech; so blurted out, as he walked by the Doctor's side, who had already turned back

6 Yes, sir, generally. But I thought you wished us to exercise a discretion in the matter too—not to interfere too soon.”

“ But they have been fighting this half-hour and more," said the Doctor.

“ Yes, sir ;. but neither was hurt. And they're the sort of boys who'll be all the better friends now, which they wouldn't have been if they had been stopped any earlier-before it was so equal."

“ Who was fighting with Brown ?” said the Doctor.

“ Williams, sir, of Thompson's. He is bigger than Brown, and had the best of it at first, but not when you came up, sir. There's a good deal of jealousy between our house and Thompson's, and there would have been more fights if this

THE DOCTOR'S VIEWS.

323

hadn't been let go on, or if either of them had had much the worst of it.”

“ Well, but Brooke," said the Doctor, “ doesn't this look a little as if you exercised your discretion by only stopping a fight when the school-house boy is getting the worst of it ?”

Brooke, it must be confessed, felt rather gravelled. 6 Now remember,” added the Doctor, as he stopped at the turret-door, “ this fight is not to go on -you'll see to that. And I expect you to stop all fights in future at once."

“ Very well, sir," said young Brooke, touching his hat, and not sorry to see the turret-door close behind the Doctor's back.

Meantime Tom and the staunchest of his adherents had reached Harrowell's, and Sally was bustling about to get them a late tea, while Stumps had been sent off to Tew, the butcher, to get a piece of raw beef for Tom's eye, which was to be healed off-hand, so that he might show well in the morning. He was not a bit the worse except a slight difficulty in his vision, a singing in his ears, and a sprained thumb, which he kept in a cold-water bandage, while he drank lots of tea, and listened to the Babel of voices talking and speculating of nothing but the fight, and how Williams would have given in after another fall (which he didn't in the least believe,) and how on earth the Doctor could have got to know of it, such bad luck! He couldn't help thinking to himself that he was glad he

324

EVENING AFTER THE FIGHT.

hadn't won; he liked it better as it was, and felt very friendly to the Slogger. And then poor little Arthur crept in and sat down quietly near him, and kept looking at him and the raw beef with such plaintive looks, that Tom at last burst out laughing

" Don't make such eyes, young'un," said he, 6 there's nothing the matter."

“Oh but, Tom, are you much hurt? I can't bear thinking it was all for me.”

“ Not a bit of it, don't flatter yourself. We were sure to have had it out sooner or later."

“ Well, but you won't go on, will you? You'll promise me you won't go on?

“ Can't tell about that—all depends on the houses. We're in the hands of our countrymen, you know. Must fight for the school-house flag, if so be.”

However, the lovers of the science were doomed to disappointment this time. Directly after locking-up, one of the night fags knocked at Tom's door.

“ Brown, young Brooke wants you in the sixthform room."

Up went Tom to the summons, and found the magnates sitting at their supper.

“ Well, Brown,” said young Brooke, nodding to him,“ how do you feel?”

" Oh, very well thank you, only I've sprained my thumb I think.”

“ Sure to do that in a fight. Well, you hadn't the worst of it I could see. Where did you learn that throw ? "

[blocks in formation]

“ Down in the country, when I was a boy."

6 Hullo! why what are you now? Well, never mind, you're a plucky fellow. Sit down and have some supper.”

* Tom obeyed, by no means loth. And the fifthform boy next him filled him a tumbler of bottled beer, and he eat and drank; listening to the pleasant talk, and, wondering how soon he should be in the fifth, and one of that much envied society.

As he got up to leave, Brooke said, “ You must shake hands to-morrow morning; I shall come and see that done after first lesson."

And so he did. And Tom and the Slogger shook hands with great satisfaction and mutual respect. And for the next year or two, whenever fights were being talked of, the small boys who had been present shook their heads wisely, saying, “ Ah! but you should just have seen the fight between Slogger Williams and Tom Brown!”

And now, boys all, three words before we quit the subject. I have put in this chapter on fighting of malice prepense, partly because I want to give you a true picture of what every-day school life was in my time, and not a kid glove and go-to-meeting-coat picture; and partly because of the cant and twaddle that's talked of boxing and fighting with fists now-a-days. Even Thackeray has given in to it; and only a few weeks ago there was some rampant stuff in the Times on the subject, in an article on field sports.

Boys will quarrel, and when they quarrel will

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »