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138

BROOKE STANDETH UP FOR

THE DOCTOR.'

has he put down? There was the good old custom of taking the lynch-pins out of the farmers' and bagmen's gigs at the fairs, and a cowardly blackguard custom it was. We all know what came of it, and no wonder the Doctor objected to it.

But, come now, any of you, name a custom that he has put down."

“ The hounds,” calls out a fifth-form boy, clad in a green cutaway with brass buttons and cord trousers, the leader of the sporting interest, and reputed a great rider and keen hand generally.

“ Well, we had six or seven mangey harriers and beagles belonging to the house, I'll allow, and had had them for years, and that the Doctor put them down. But what good ever came of them ? Only rows with all the keepers for ten miles round; and big-side Hare and Hounds is better fun ten times

What else ?” No answer. “ Well, I won't go on.

Think it over for yourselves : you'll find, I believe, that he don't meddle with any one that's worth keeping. And mind now, I say again, look out for squalls, if you will go your own way, and that way ain't the Doctor's, for it'll lead to grief. You all know that I'm not the fellow to back a master through thick and thin. If I saw him stopping football, or cricket, or bathing, or sparring, I'd be as ready as any fellow to stand up about it. But he don't he encourages them ; didn't you see him out today for half-an-hour watching us? (Loud cheers for the Doctor.) And he's a strong true man,

over.

OLD BROOKE'S ADVICE.

139

aye, no

And now

and a wise one too, and a public-school man too (Cheers.) And so let's stick to him, and talk no more rot, and drink his health as the head of the house. (Loud cheers.) And now I've done blowing up, and very glad I am to have done. But it's a solemn thing to be thinking of leaving a place which one has lived in and loved for eight years ; and if one can say a word for the good of the old house at such a time, why it should be said, whether bitter or sweet. If I hadn't been proud of the house and you

one knows how proud — I shouldn't be blowing you up. let's get to singing. But before I sit down I must give you a toast to be drunk with threetimes-three and all the honours. It's a toast which I hope every one of us, wherever he may go hereafter, will never fail to drink when he thinks of the brave bright days of his boyhood. It's a toast which should bind us all together, and to those who've gone before, and who'll come after us here. It is the dear old schoolhouse the best house of the best school in England!”

My dear boys, old and young, you who have belonged, or do belong, to other schools and other houses, don't begin throwing my poor little book about the room, and abusing me and it, and vowing you'll read no more when you get to this point. I allow you've provocation for it. But, come now would you, any of you, give a fig for a fellow who didn't believe in, and stand up for his own house and his own school ? You know you wouldn't.

140

OLD BROOKE'S TOAST.

Then don't object to my cracking up the old schoolhouse, Rugby. Haven't I a right to do it, when I'm taking all the trouble of writing this true history for all of your benefits. If you ain't satisfied, go and write the history of your own houses in your own times, and say all you know for your own schools and houses, provided it's true, and I'll read it without abusing you.

The last few words hit the audience in their weakest place; they had been not altogether enthusiastic at several parts of old Brooke's speech; but “the best house of the best school in England" was too much for them all, and carried even the sporting and drinking interests off their legs into rapturous applause, and it is to be hoped) resolutions to lead a new life, and remember old Brooke's words; which, however, they didn't altogether do, as will appear hereafter.

But it required all old Brooke's popularity to carry down parts of his speech, especially that re. lating to the Doctor. For there are no such bigoted holders by established forms and customs, be they never so foolish or meaningless as English schoolboys, at least as the school-boys of our generation. We magnified into heroes every boy who had left, and looked

him with awe and reverence, when i he revisited the place a year or so afterwards on his way to or from Oxford or Cambridge; and happy was the boy who remembered him, and sure of an audience as he expounded what he used to do and say, though it were sad enough stuff to make angels, not to say head-masters, weep.

upon

SCHOOL IDOLATRIES.

141

We looked upon every trumpery little custom and habit which had obtained in the school, as though it had been a law of the Medes and Persians, and regarded the infringement or variation of it as a sort of sacrilege. And the Doctor, than whom no man or boy had a stronger liking for old school customs, which were good and sensible, had, as has already been hinted, come into most decided collision with several which were neither the one or the other. And as old Brooke had said, when he came into collision with boys or customs, there was nothing for them but to give in or take themselves off; because what he said had to be done, and no mistake about it. And this was beginning to be pretty clearly understood; the boys felt that there was a strong man over them, who would have things his own way; and hadn't yet learned that he was a wise and loving man also. His personal character and influence had not had time to make itself felt, except by a very few of the bigger boys with whom he came more directly in contact, and he was looked upon with great fear and dislike by the great majority even of his own house. For he had found school and school-house in a state of monstrous license and misrule, and was still employed in the necessary but unpopular work of setting up order with a strong hand.

However, as has been said, old Brooke triumphed, and the boys cheered him, and then the Doctor. And then more songs came, and the healths of the other boys about to leave, who each made a speech, one flowery, another maudlin, a third prosy, and so on, which are not necessary to be here recorded.

142

BREAK UP OF SINGING.

Half-past nine struck in the middle of the per formance of “ Auld Lang Syne," a most obstreporous proceeding; during which there was an immense amount of standing with one foot on the table, knocking mugs together and shaking hands, without which accompaniments it seems impossible for the youth of Britain to take part in that famous old song. The under-porter of the school-house entered during the performance, bearing five or six long wooden candlesticks, with lighted dips in them, which he proceeded to stick into their holes in such part of the great tables as he could get at; and then stood outside the ring till the end of the song, when he was hailed with shouts.

“Bill, you old muff, the half-hour hasn't struck."

“Here, Bill, drink some cocktail,” “Sing us a song, old boy,” “Don't you wish you may get the table?” Bill drank the proffered cocktail not unwillingly, and putting down the empty glass remonstrated, “ Now, gentlemen, there's only ten minutes to prayers, and we must get the hall straight."

Shouts of “ No, no," and a violent effort to strike up “Billy Taylor” for the third time. Bill looked appealingly to old Brooke, who got up and stopped the noise. “ Now then, lend a hand you young. sters, and get the tables back, clear away the jugs and glasses. Bill's right. Open the windows, Warner.” The boy addressed, who sat by the long ropes, proceeded to pull up the great windows, and let in a clear fresh rush of night air, which made the candles flicker and gutter, and the fires roar.

The circle broke up, each collaring his own jug, glass,

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