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346 ARTHUR's MOTHER.
and a gentle tap at the door called them both back into the world again. They did not answer however for a moment, and so the door opened, and a lady came in carrying a candle. She went straight to the sofa, and took hold of Arthur's hand, and then stooped down and kissed him. “My dearest boy, you feel a little feverish again. Why didn't you have lights? You've talked too much and excited yourself in the dark.” “Oh no, mother, you can't think how well I feel. I shall start with you to-morrow for Devonshire. But, mother, here's my friend, here's Tom Brown— you know him ''' “Yes, indeed, I’ve known him for years,” she said, and held out her hand to Tom, who was now standing up behind the sofa. This was Arthur's mother. Tall and slight and fair, with masses of golden hair drawn back from the broad white forehead, and the calm blue eye meeting his so deep and open—the eye that he knew so well, for it was his friend's over again, and the lovely tender mouth that trembled while he looked. She stood there a woman of thirty-eight, old enough to be his mother, and one whose face showed the lines which must be written on the faces of good men's wives and widows—but he thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. . He couldn't help wondering if Arthur's sisters were * ... like her. Tom held her hand, and looked on straight in her face; he could neither let it go nor speak.
ARTHUR'S MOTHER. - 347
“Now, Tom,” said Arthur, laughing, “where are your manners ? you'll stare my mother out of countenance.” Tom dropped the little hand with a sigh. “There, sit down, both of you. Here, dearest mother, there's room here,” and he made a place on the sofa for her. “Tom, you needn't go; I'm sure you won’t be called up at first lesson.” Tom felt that he would risk being floored at every lesson for the rest of his natural school-life, sooner than go; so sat down. “And now,” said Arthur, “I have realized one of the dearest wishes of my life—to see you two together.” And then he led away the talk to their home in Devonshire, and the red bright earth, and the deep green combes, and the peat streams like cairn-gorm pebbles, and the wild moor with its high cloudy Tors for a giant background to the picture—till Tom got jealous, and stood up for the clear chalk streams, and the emerald water meadows and great elms and willows of the dear old Royal county, as he gloried to call it. And the mother sat on quiet and loving, rejoicing in their life. The quarter-toten struck, and the bell rang for bed, before they had well begun their talk as it seemed. Then Tom rose with a sigh to go. “Shall I see you in the morning, Geordie!” said he, as he shook his friend's hand. “Never mind though, you'll be back next half, and I shan’t forget the house of Rimmon.” Arthur's mother got up and walked with him to the door, and there gave him her hand again, and again
348 TOM'S REWARDS.
his eyes met that deep loving look, which was like a spell upon him. Her voice trembled slightly as she said “Good night—you are one who knows what our Father has promised to the friend of the widow and the fatherless. May He deal with you as you have dealt with me and mine!” Tom was quite upset; he mumbled something about owing everything good in him to Geordie— looked in her face again, pressed her hand to his lips, and rushed down stairs to his study, where he sat till old Thomas came kicking at the door, to tell him his allowance would be stopped if he didn’t go off to bed. (It would have been stopped anyhow, but that he was a great favourite with the old gentleman, who loved to come out in the afternoons into the close to Tom’s wicket, and bowl slow twisters to him, and talk of the glories of by-gone Surrey heroes, with whom he had played in former generations.) So Tom roused himself and took up his candle to go to bed; and then for the first time was aware of a beautiful new fishing-rod, with old Eton's mark on it, and a splendidly bound Bible, which lay on his table, on the titlepage of which was written—“ToM BRowN, from his affectionate and grateful friends, Frances Jane Arthur; George Arthur.” I leave you all to guess how he slept, and what he dreamt of.
HARRY EAST's DILEMMAS AND DELIVERANCEs.
“The Holy Supper is kept indeed,
THE next morning after breakfast, Tom, East, and Gower met as usual to learn their second lesson together. Tom had been considering how to break his proposal of giving up the crib to the others, and having found no better way, (as indeed none better can ever be found by man or boy,) told them simply what had happened; how he had been to see Arthur, who had talked to him upon the subject, and what he had said, and for his part he had made up his mind and wasn't going to use cribs any more. And not being quite sure of his ground, took the high and pathetic tone, and was proceeding to say, “how that having learnt his lessons with them for so many years, it would grieve him much to put an end to the arrangement, and he hoped at any rate that if they wouldn't go on with him, they should still be just as good friends, and respect one
o another's motives—but—”
350 TOM SPRINGS HIS MINE.
Here the other boys, who had been listening with open eyes and ears, burst in— “Stuff and nonsense!” cried Gower, “Here, East, get down the crib and find the place.” “Oh, Tommy, Tommy!” said East, proceeding to do as he was bidden, “that it should ever have come to this. I knew Arthur 'd be the ruin of you some day, and you of me. And now the time's come "—and he made a doleful face. “I don't know about ruin,” answered Tom; “I know that you and I would have had the sack long ago, if it hadn't been for him. And you know it as well as I.” “Well, we were in a baddish way before he came, I own, but this new crotchet of his is past a joke.” “Let's give it a trial, Harry; come—you know how often he has been right and we wrong.” “Now don't you two be jawing away about young Square-toes,” struck in Gower, “He’s no end of a sucking wiseacre, I dare say, but we’ve no time to lose, and I’ve got the fives’-court at half-past nine.” “I say, Gower,” said Tom appealingly, “be a good fellow, and let's try if we can’t get on without the crib.” “What! in this chorus : Why we shan't get through ten lines.” “I say, Tom,” cried East, having hit on a new idea, “don’t you remember, when we were in the upper-fourth, and old Momus caught me construing off the leaf of a crib which I'd torn out and put in