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liked to have stopped at the Belle Savage, where they had been put down by the Star, just at dusk, that he might have gone roving about those endless, mysterious, gas-lit streets, which, with their glare and hum and moving crowds, excited him so that he couldn't talk even. But as soon as he found that the Peacock arrangement would get him to Rugby by twelve o'clock in the day, whereas otherwise he wouldn't be there till the evening, all other plans melted away; his one absorbing aim being
to become a public school-boy as fast as possible, w and six hours sooner or later seeming to him of the most alarming importance.
Tom and his father had alighted at the Peacock at about seven in the evening, and having heard with unfeigned joy the paternal order at the bar of steaks and oyster-sauce for supper in half-an-hour, and seen his father seated cozily by the bright fire in the coffee-room, with the paper in his hand, Tom had run out to see about him, had wondered at all the vehicles passing and repassing, and had fraternized with the boots and ostler, from whom he ascertained that the Tally-ho was a tip-top goer, ten miles an hour including stoppages, and so punctual, that all the road set their clocks by her.
Then being summoned to supper, he had regaled himself in one of the bright little boxes of the Pea
cock coffee-room, on the beefsteak and unlimited v oyster-sauce, and brown stout, (tasted then for the
first time—a day to be marked forever by Tom with a white stone); had at first attended to the excel
lent advice which his father was bestowing on him from over his glass of steaming brandy and water, and then begun nodding, from the united effects of the stout, the fire, and the lecture ; till the Squire observing Tom's state, and remembering that it was nearly nine o'clock, and that the Tally-ho left at three, sent the little fellow off to the chambermaid, with a shake of the hand (Tom having stipulated in the morning before starting, that kissing should now cease between them) and a few parting words.
“And now, Tom my boy," said the Squire, “remember you are going, at your own earnest request, to be chucked into this great school, like a young bear, with all your troubles before you—earlier than we should have sent you perhaps. If schools are what they were in my time, you'll see a great many cruel blackguard things done, and hear a deal of foul bad talk. But never fear. You tell the truth, keep a brave and kind heart, and never listen to or say any thing you wouldn't have your mother and sister hear, and you'll never feel ashamed to come home, or we to see you."
The allusion to his mother made Tom feel rather chokey, and he would have liked to have hugged his father well, if it hadn't been for the recent stipulation.
As it was, he only squeezed his father's hand, and looked bravely up and said, “ I'll try, father.”
“ I know you will, my boy. Is your money all safe?"
“ Yes," said Tom, diving into one pocket to make sure.
66 And your keys ?” said the Squire. 6 All right,” said Tom, diving into the other pocket.
“ Well then, good night. God bless you! I'll tell Boots to call you, and be up to see you off.”
Tom was carried off by the chambermaid in a brown study, from which he was roused in a clean little attic, by that buxom person calling him a little darling, and kissing him as she left the room ; which indignity he was too much surprised to resent. And still thinking of his father's last words, and the look with which they were spoken, he knelt down and prayed, that come what might, he might never bring shame or sorrow on the dear folk at home.
Indeed the Squire's last words deserved to have their effect, for they had been the result of much anxious thought. All the way up to London he had pondered what he should say to Tom by way of parting advice, something that the boy could keep in his head ready for use. By way of assisting meditation, he had even gone the length of taking out his flint and steel, and tinder, and hammering away for a quarter of an hour till he had manufactured a light for a long Trinchinopoli cheroot, which he silently puffed, to the no small wonder of Coachee, who was an old friend, and an institution on the Bath road; and who always expected a talk on the prospects and doings, agricul
tural and social, of the whole county, when he carried the Squire.
To condense the Squire's meditation, it was somewhat as follows : “ I won't tell him to read his Bible, and love and serve God; if he don't do that for his mother's sake and teaching, he won't for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptations he'll meet with ? No, I can't do that. Never do for an old fellow to go into such things with a boy. He won't understand me. Do him more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his work and say he's sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well, but he isn't sent to school for that—at any rate not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles, or the digamma, no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go. If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that's all I want,” thought the Squire ; and upon this view of the case framed his last words of advice to Tom, which were well enough suited to his purpose.
For they were Tom's first thoughts as he tumbled out of bed at the summons of Boots, and proceeded rapidly to wash and dress himself. At ten minutes to three he was down in the coffee-room in his stockings, carrying his hat-box, coat, and comforter in his hand; and there he found his father nursing a bright fire, and a cup of hot coffee and a hard biscuit on the table.
“Now, then, Tom, give us your things here, and drink that; there's nothing like starting warm, old fellow.”
Tom addressed himself to the coffee, and prattled away while he worked himself into his shoes and his great-coat, well warmed through; a Petersham coat with velvet collar, made tight after the abominable fashion of those days. And just as he is swallowing his last mouthful, winding his comforter round his throat, and tucking the ends into the breast of his coat, the horn sounds, Boots looks in and says: “ Tally-ho, sir ;” and they hear the ring and the rattle of the four fast trotters and the townmade drag, as it dashes up to the Peacock.
" Any thing for us, Bob?” says the burly guard, dropping down from behind, and slapping himself across the chest.
66 Young genl'm'n, Rugby; three parcels, Leicester; hamper o' game, Rugby,” answers Ostler.
“ Tell young gent to look alive," says Guard, opening the hind-boot and shooting in the parcels after examining them by the lamps. “ Here, shove the portmanteau up a-top— I'll fasten him presently. Now then, sir, jump up behind.” .“ Good-bye, father-my love at home.” A last shake of the hand. Up goes Tom, the guard catching his hatbox and holding on with one hand, while with the other he claps the horn to his mouth. Toot, toot, toot! the «ostler lets. go their heads, the four bays plunge at the collar, and away goes the Tally-ho into the darkness, forty-five seconds