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“ So am I, I'm sure," said Tom ; " and more and more sorry that I've got to leave.”
“Every place and thing one sees here reminds one of some wise act of his,” went on the master. “ This island now—you remember the time, Brown, when it was laid out in small gardens, and cultivated by frost-bitten fags in February and March ?”
6 Of course I do," said Tom; “ didn't I hate spending two hours in the afternoons grubbing in the tough dirt with the stump. of a fives' bat? But turf-cart was good fun enough.”
“ I dare say it was, but it was always leading to fights with the townspeople ; and then the stealing flowers out of all the gardens in Rugby for the Easter show was abominable.”
“ Well, so it was," said Tom, looking down, “but we fags couldn't help ourselves. But what has that to do with the Doctor's ruling ?”
“ A great deal, I think,” said the master; "what brought island-fagging to an end ?”
“ Why, the Easter speeches were put off till Midsummer," said Tom, " and the sixth had the gymnastic poles put up here.”
6 Well, and who changed the time of the speeches, and put the idea of gymnastic poles into the heads of their worships the sixth form?” said the master.
« The Doctor, I suppose," said Tom. “I never thought of that.”
“Of course you didn't,” said the master, “ or else, fag as you were, you would have shouted with the whole school against putting down old customs.
And that's the way that all the Doctor's reforms have been carried out when he has been left to himself—quietly and naturally, putting a good thing in the place of a bad, and letting the bad die out; no wavering and no hurry—the best thing that could be done for the time being, and patience for the rest."
“Just Tom's own way,” chimed in Arthur, nudging Tom with his elbow, “ driving a nail where it will go ;” to which allusion Tom answered by a sly kick.
6 Exactly so," said the master, innocent of the allusion and by-play.
Meantime Jack Raggles, with his sleeves tucked up above his great brown elbows, scorning pads and gloves, has presented himself at the wicket; and having run one for a forward drive of Johnson's, is about to receive his first ball. There are only twenty-four runs to make, and four wickets to go down, a winning match if they play decently steady. The ball is a very swift one, and rises fast, catching Jack on the outside of the thigh, and bounding away as if from india-rubber, while they run two for a leg-bye amidst great applause, and shouts from Jack's many admirers. The next ball is a beautifully pitched ball for the outer stump, which the reckless and unfeeling Jack catches hold of, and hits right round to leg for five, while the applause becomes deafening; only seventeen runs to get with four wickets—the game is all but ours !
It is over now, and Jack walks swaggering about 388
JACK RAGGLES' INNINGS.
his wicket, with the bat over his shoulder, wbile Mr. Aislebie holds a short parley with his men. Then the cover-point hitter, that cunning man, goes on to bowl slow twisters. Jack waves his hand triumphantly towards the tent, as much as to say, “ see if I don't finish it all off now in three hits.”
Alas, my son Jack! the enemy is too old for thee. The first ball of the over Jack steps out and meets, swiping with all his force. If he had only allowed for the twist! but he hasn't, and so the ball goes spinning up straight into the air, as if it would never come down again. Away runs Jack, shouting and trusting to the chapter of accidents, but the bowler runs steadily under it, judging every spin, and calling out “ I have it,” catches it, and playfully pitches it on to the back of the stalwart Jack, who is departing with a rueful countenance.
“I knew how it would be,” says Tom, rising. " Come along, the game's getting very serious.”
So they leave the island and go to the tent, and after deep consultation Arthur is sent in, and goes off to the wicket with a last exhortation from Tom, to play steady and keep his bat straight. To the suggestions that Winter is the best þat left, Tom only replies, “ Arthur is the steadiest, and Johnson will make the runs if the wicket is only kept up."
“ I am surprised to see Arthur in the eleven," said the master, as they stood together in front of the dense crowd, which was now closing in round the ground.
66 Well, I'm not quite sure that he ought to be in
for his play,” said Tom, “but I couldn't help putting him in. It will do him so much good, and you can't think what I owe him.”
The master smiled. The clock strikes eight, and the whole field becomes fevered with excitement. Arthur, after two narrow escapes, scores one; and Johnson gets the ball. The bowling and fielding are superb, and Johnson's batting worthy the occasion. He makes here a two and there a one, managing to keep the ball to himself, and Arthur backs up and runs perfectly; only eleven runs to make now, and the crowd scarcely breathe. At last Arthur gets the ball again, and actually drives it forward for two, and feels prouder than when he got the three best prizes, at hearing Tom's shout of joy, “ Well played, well played, young ’un!”
But the next ball is too much for a young hand, and his bails fly different ways. Nine runs to make, and two wickets to go down—it is too much for human nerves.
Before Winter can get in, the omnibus which is to take the Lords' men to the train pulls up at the side of the close, and Mr. Aislebie and Tom consult, and give out that the stumps will be drawn after the next over. And so ends the great match. Winter and Johnson carry out their bats, and, it being a one day's match, the Lords' men are declared the winners, they having scored the most in the first innings.
But such a defeat is a victory: so think Tom and all the school eleven, as they accompany their con
querors to the omnibus, and send them off with three ringing cheers, after Mr. Aislebie has shaken hands all round, saying to Tom, “I must compliment you, sir, on your eleven, and I hope we shall have you for a member if you come up to town."
As Tom and the rest of the eleven were turning back into the close, and everybody was beginning to cry out for another country dance, encouraged by the success of the night before, the young master who was just leaving the close, stopped him, and asked him to come up to tea at half-past eight, adding, “ I won't keep you more than half-an-hour, and ask Arthur to come up too."
“ I'll come up with you directly if you'll let me,” said Tom, " for I feel rather melancholy, and not quite up to the country dance and supper with the rest.”
“ Do, by all means," said the master, “ I'll wait here for you.”
So Tom went off to get his boots and things from the tent, to tell Arthur of the invitation, and to speak to his second in command about stopping the dancing and shutting up the close as soon as it grew dusk. Arthur promised to follow as soon as he had had a dance. So Tom handed his things over to the man in charge of the tent, and walked quietly away to the gate where the master was waiting, and the two took their way together up the Hilmorton road.
Of course they found the master's house locked up, and all the servants away in the close, about