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MENTOR EAST AND HIS MOTIVES.

103

Tom by this time began to be conscious of his new social position and dignities, and to luxuriate in the realized ambition of being a public school-boy at last, with a vested right of spoiling two seven-and-sixers

in half a year.

“ You see,” said his friend, as they strolled up towards the school-gates, in explanation of his conduct, "a great deal depends on how a fellow cuts up at first. If he's got nothing odd about him, and answers straightforward, and holds his head up, he gets on. Now you'll do very well as to rig, all but that сар. . You see I'm doing the handsome thing by you, because my father knows yours : besides, I want to please the old lady. She gave me half-a-sov this half, and perhaps 'll double it next, if I keep in her good books."

There's nothing for candour like a lower schoolboy, and East was a genuine specimen. Frank, hearty, and good-natured, well satisfied with himself and his position, and chock full of life and spirits, and all the Rugby prejudices and traditions which he had been able to get together, in the long course of one half year, during which he had been at the school-house.

And Tom, notwithstanding his bumptiousness, felt friends with him at once, and began sucking in all his ways and prejudices, as fast as he could understand them.

East was great in the character of cicerone; he carried Tom through the great gates, where were only two or three boys. These satisfied themselves with the stock questions, “ You fellow, what's your

104

INTRODUCTION TO THE MATRON.

name? Where do you come from? How old are you? Where do you board ? and what form are you in?” and so they passed on through the quad. rangle and a small court-yard, upon which looked down a lot of little windows, belonging, as his gui le informed him, to some of the school-house studies, into the matron's room, where East introduced Tom to that dignitary; made him give up the key of his trunk, that the matron might unpack his linen, and told the story of t'e hat, and of his own presence of mind ; upon the relation whereof, the matron laughingly scolded him, for the coolest new boy in the house; and East, indignant at the accusation of newness, marched Tom off into the quadrangle, and began showing him the schools, and examining him as to his literary attainments ; the result of which was, a prophecy that they would be in the same form, and could do their lessons together.

“ And now come in and see my study; we shall have just time before dinner; and afterwards, before calling over, we'll do the close.”

Tom followed bis guide through the school-house hall, which opens into the quadrangle. It is a great room thirty feet long and eighteen high, or thereabouts, with two great tables running the whole length, and two large fireplaces at the side, with blazing fires in them, at one of which some dozen boys were standing and lounging, some of whom shouted to East to stop; but he shot through with his convoy, and landed him in the long dark pas. sages with a large fire at the end of each, upon

EAST'S STUDY, AND THE FURNISHING THEREOF.

105

which the studies opened. Into one of these, in the bottom passage, East bolted with our hero, slamming and bolting the door behind them, in case of pursuit from the hall, and Tom was for the first time in a Rugby boy's citadel.

He hadn't been prepared for separate studies, and was not a little astonished and delighted with the palace in question.

It wasn't very large certainly, being about six feet long by four broad. It couldn't be called light, as there were bars and a grating to the window, which little precautions were necessary in the studies on the ground floor looking out into the close, to prevent the exit of small boys after locking up, and the entrance of contraband articles.

But it was uncommonly comfortable to look at, Tom thought. The space under the window at the further end was occupied by a square table covered with a reasonably clean and whole red-and-blue check tablecloth; a hard-seated sofa covered with red stuff occupied one side, running up to the end, and making a seat for one, or by sitting close for two, at the table; and a good stout wooden chair afforded a seat to another boy, so that three could sit and work together. The walls were wainscoted half-way up, the wainscot being covered with green baize, the remainder with a bright-patterned paper, on which hung three or four prints, of dogs' heads, Grimaldi winning the Aylesbury steeple-chase, Amy Robsart, the reigning Waverley beauty of the day, and Tom Crib in a posture of defence, which did no great credit to the science of that hero, if truly represented.

106

OUR OWN

AND THE USE THEREOF.

Over the door were a row of hat pegs, and on each side bookcases with cupboards at the bottom; shelves and cupboards being filled indiscriminately with school-books, a cup or two, a mouse-trap, and brass candlesticks, leather straps, a fustian bag, and some curious looking articles, which puzzled Tom not a little, until his friend explained that they were climbing irons, and showed their use. A cricket-bat and small fishing-rod stood up in one corner.

This was the residence of East and another boy in the same form, and had more interest for Tom than Windsor Castle, or any other residence in the British Isles. For was he not about to become the joint owner of a similar home, the first place which he could call his own ? One's own what a charm there is in the words! How long it takes boy and man to find out their worth! how fast most of us hold on to them ! faster and more jealously, the nearer we are to the general home, into which we can take nothing, but must go naked as we came into the world. When shall we learn that he who multiplieth possessions multiplieth troubles, and that the one single use of things which we call our own, is that they may be his who hath need of them ?

“ And shall I have a study like this, too?" said Tom.

“ Yes, of course, you'll be chummed with some fellow on Monday, and you can sit here till then.”

“ What nice places ! ”

“ They're well enough,” answered East, patronize ingly, “only uncommon cold at nights sometimes. Gower, that's my chum, and I make a fire with

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paper on the floor after supper generally, only that makes it so smoky.

“ But there's a big fire out in the passage,” said Tom.

“ Precious little good we get of that, tho',” said East; “ Jones, the præpostor, has the study at the fire end, and he has rigged up an iron rod and green-baize curtain across the passage, which he draws at night, and sits there with his door open, so he gets all the fire, and hears if we come out of our studies after eight, or make a noise. However, he's taken to sitting in the fifth-form room lately, so we

do get a bit of fire now sometimes; only keep a i sharp look-out that he don't catch you behind his curtain when he comes down, that's all.”

A quarter past one now struck, and the bell bei gan tolling for dinner, so they went into the hall

and took their places, Tom at the very bottom of bi the second table, next to the præpostor, who sat at

the end to keep order there, and East a few places et higher. And now Tom for the first time saw his

future school-fellows in a body. In they came, some

hot and ruddy from football or long walks, some 1 pale and chilly from hard reading in their studies, ny some from loitering over the fire at the pastry-cook's,

dainty mortals, bringing with them pickles and

sauce-bottles to help them with their dinners. Aud lez' a great big bearded man, whom Tom took for a master, began calling over the

calling over the names, while the great joints were being rapidly carved on a third table in the corner by the old verger and the housekeeper. Tom's turn came last, and meanwhile he

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