« VorigeDoorgaan »
Then the big boys began to drop in and take their seats, bringing with them bottled beer and songbooks; for although they all knew the songs by heart, it was the thing to have an old manuscript book descended from some departed hero, in which they were all carefully written out.
The sixth-form boys had not yet appeared, so to fill up the gap, an interesting and time-honoured ceremony was gone through. Each new boy was placed on the table in turn, and made to sing a solo, under the penalty of drinking a large mug of salt and water if he resisted or broke down. However, the new boys all sing like nightingales to-night, and the salt water is not in requisition; Tom as his part performing the old west-country song of “ The Leather Bottèl,” with considerable applause. And at the halfhour down come the sixth and fifth-form boys, and take their places at the tables, which are filled up by the next biggest boys, the rest, for whom there is no room at table, standing round outside.
The glasses and mugs are filled, and then the fugleman strikes up the old sea song
“ A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
And a wind that follows fast,” &c. which is the invariable first song in the school-house, and all the seventy voices join in, not mindful of harmony, but bent on noise, which they attain decidedly,
but the general effect isn't bad. And then follow “ The British Grenadiers,” “ Billy Taylor,” “The Siege of Seringapatam,” “ Three Jolly Post-boys," and other vociferous songs in rapid succession, including the “ Chesapeake and Shannon," a song
lately introduced in honour of old Brooke; and when they come to the words
“ Brave Broke he waved his sword, crying, Now my lads aboard,
And we'll stop their playing Yankee-doodle-dandy, oh!”
you expect the roof to come down. The sixth and fifth know that “brave Broke," of the Shannon, was no sort of relation to our old Brooke. The fourthform are uncertain in their belief, but for the most part hold that old Brooke was a midshipman then, on board his uncle's ship. And the lower school never doubt for a moment that it was our old Brooke who led the boarders, in what capacity they care not a straw. During the pauses the bottled beer corks fly rapidly, and the talk is fast and merry, and the big boys, at least all of them who have a fellowfeeling for dry throats, hand their mugs over their shoulders to be emptied by the small ones who stand round behind.
Then Warner, the head of the house, gets up and wants to speak, but he can't, for every boy knows what's coming, and the big boys who sit at the table pound them and cheer; and the small boys who stand behind pound one another, and cheer, and rush about the hall cheering. Then silence being made, Warner reminds them of the old school-house custom of drinking the healths, on the first night of singing, of those who are going to leave at the end of the half. “He sees that they know what he is going to say already - (loud cheers) — and so won't keep them, but only ask them to treat the toast as it deserves. It is, the head of the eleven, the head of
big-side football, their leader on this glorious day --> Pater Brooke !"
And away goes the pounding and cheering again, becoming deafening when old Brooke gets on his legs : till, a table having broken down, and a gallon or so of beer been upset, and all throats getting dry, silence ensues, and the hero speaks, leaning his hands on the table, and bending a little forwards. No action, no tricks of oratory, - plain, strong and straight, like his play. “ Gentlemen of the school-house!
school-house! I am very proud of the way in which you have received my name, and I wish I could say all I should like in return. But I know I shan't. However, I'll do the best I can to say what seems to me ought to be said by a fellow who's just going to leave, and who has spent a good slice of his life here. Eight years it is, and eight such years as I can never hope to have again. So now I hope you'll all listen to me -(loud cries of that we will ') — for I'm going to talk seriously. You're bound to listen to me, for what's the use of calling me 'pater,' and all that, if you won't mind what I say? And I'm going to talk seriously, because I feel so. It's a jolly time, too, getting to the end of the half, and a goal kicked by us first day - (tremendous applause) — after one of the hardest and fiercest day's play I can remember in eight years — (frantic shoutings.) The school played splendidly too, I will say, and kept it up to the last. That last charge of theirs would have carried away a house. I never thought to see any thing again of old Crab there, except
BROOKE ON UNION.
little pieces, when I saw him tumbled over by it (laughter and shouting, and great slapping on the back of Jones by the boys nearest him.) Well, but we beat 'em - (cheers.) Aye, but why did we beat 'em ? answer me that - (shouts of your play.') Nonsense. 'Twasn't the wind and kick-off either, that wouldn't do it. 'Twasn't because we've half-adozen of the best players in the school, as we have. I wouldn't change Warner, and Hedge, and Crab, and the young'un, for any six on their side — (violent cheers.) But half-a-dozen fellows can't keep it up for two hours against two hundred. Why is it then? I'll tell you what I think. It's because we've more reliance on one another, more of a house feeling, more fellowship than the school can have. Each of us knows and can depend on his next hand man better — that's why we beat 'em to day. We've union, they've division — there's the secret — (cheers.) But how's this to be kept up? How's it to be improved? That's the question. For I take it, we're all in earnest about beating the school, whatever else we care about. I know I'd sooner win two schoolhouse matches running than get the Balliol scholarship any day — (frantic cheers.)
“Now I'm as proud of the house as any one; I believe it is the best house in the school, out-andout. (Cheers.) But it's a long way from what I want to see it. First, there's a deal of bullying going on. I know it well. I don't pry about and interfere ; that only makes it more underhand, and encourages the small boys to come to their fingers in their eyes telling tales, and so we
BROOKE AGAINST BULLYING.
should be worse off than ever. It's very little kindness for the sixth to meddle generally — you young sters mind that. You'll be all the better football players for learning to stand it, and to take your own parts, and fight it through. But depend on it, there's nothing breaks up a house like bullying. Bullies are cowards, and one coward makes many; so good-bye to the school-house match if bullying gets ahead here. (Loud applause from the small boys, who look meaningly at Flashman and other boys at the tables.) Then there's fuddling about in the pnblic-house, and drinking bad spirits, and punch, and such rot-gut stuff. That won't make good drop-kicks or chargers of you, take my word for it. You get plenty of good beer here, and that's enough for you; and drinking isn't fine or manly, whatever some of you may think of it.
“ One other thing I must have a word about. A lot of you think and say, for I've heard you, " There's this new Doctor hasn't been here so long as some of us, and he's changing all the old customs. Rugby, and the school-house especially, are going to the dogs. Stand up for the good old ways, and down with the Doctor!' Now I'm as fond of old Rugby customs and ways as any of you, and I've been here longer than any of you, and I'll give you a word of advice in time, for I shouldn't like to see any of you getting sacked. •Down with the Doctor' is easier said than done. You'll find him pretty tight on his perch, I take it, and an awkwardish customer to handle in that line. Besides now, what customs