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LAST LOYAL STRAINS.
and song-book; Bill pounced on the big table, and began to rattle it away to its place outside the buttery-door. The lower-passage boys carried off their small tables aided by their friends, while above all, standing on the great hall-table, a knot of untiring sons of harmony made night doleful by a prolonged performance of “ God save the King." His Majesty King William IV. then reigned over us, a monarch deservedly popular amongst the boys addicted to melody, to whom he was chiefly known from the beginning of that excellent, if slightly vulgar song in which they much delighted
“ Come, neighbours all, both great and small,
Perform your duties here,
For bating the tax upon beer.” Others of the more learned in songs also celebrated his praises in a sort of ballad, which I take to have been written by some Irish loyalist. I have forgotten all but the chorus, which ran “ God save our good King William, be his name for ever blest,
He's the father of all his people, and the guardian of all the rest.” In troth we were loyal subjects in those days, in a rough way. I trust that our successors make as much of her present Majesty, and, having regard to the greater refinement of the times, have adopted or written other songs equally hearty, but more civilized, in her honour. Then the quarter to
struck, and the prayer-bell rang.
The sixth and fifth-form boys ranged themselves in their school order along the wall, on either side of the great fires, the mid
dle fifth and upper school-boys round the long table in the middle of the hall, and the lower school-boys round the upper part of the second long table, which ran down the side of the hall furthest from the fires. Here Tom found himself at the bottom of all, in a state of mind and body not at all fit for prayers, as he thought; and so tried hard to make himself serious, but couldn't for the life of him, do anything but repeat in his head the choruses of some of the songs, and stare at all the boys opposite, wondering at the brilliancy of their waistcoats, and speculating what sort of fellows they were.
The steps of the head-porter are heard on the stairs, and a light gleams at the door. “ Hush," from the fifth-form boys who stand there, and then in strides the Doctor, cap on head, book in one hand, and gathering up his gown in the other. He walks up the middle, and takes his post by Warner, who begins calling over the names. The Doctor takes no notice of anything, but quietly turns over his book and finds the place, and then stands, cap in hand and finger in book, looking straight before his nose. He knows better than any one when to look, and when to nothing; to-night is singing night, and there's been lots of noise and no harm done; nothing but beer drunk, and nobody the worse for it; though some of them do look hot and excited. So the Doctor sees nothing, but fascinates Tom in a horrible manner he stands there, and reads out the Psalm in that deep, ringing, searching voice of
his. Prayers are over, and Tom still stares openmouthed after the Doctor's retiring figure, when he feels a pull at his sleeve, and turning round sees East.
“ I say, were you ever tossed in a blanket?" “ No," said Tom; “ why?"
65 'Cause there'll be tossing to-night most likely, before the sixth come up to bed. So
So if you funk, you just come along and hide, or else they'll catch you and toss you."
“ Were you ever tossed ? Does it hurt ? ” inquired Tom.
« Oh yes, bless you, a dozen times,” said East, as he hobbled along by Tom's side up stairs. " It don't hurt unless you fall on the floor. But most fellows don't like it."
They stopped at the fireplace in the top passage, where were a crowd of small boys whispering together, and evidently unwilling to go up into the bedrooms. In a minute, however, a study door opened and a sixth-form boy came out, and off they all scuttled up the stairs, and then noiselessly dispersed to their different rooms. Tom's heart beat rather quick as he and East reached their room, but he had made up his mind.
“ I shan't hide, East," said he.
Very well, old fellow," replied East, evidently pleased; “no more shall I - they'll be here for us directly."
The room was a great big one with a dozen beds in it, but not a boy that Tom could see, except East and himself. East pulled off his coat and waistcoat,
and then sat on the bottom of his bed, whistling and pulling off his boots ; Tom followed his example.
A noise and steps are heard in the passage, the door opens, and in rush four or five great fifth-form boys, headed by Flashman in his glory.
Tom and East slept in the further corner of the room, and were not seen at first.
“ Gone to ground, eh?” roared Flashman; “push 'em out then, boys! look under the beds :" and he pulled up the little white curtain of the one nearest him. “ Who-o-op,” he roared, pulling away at the leg of a small boy, who held on tight to the leg of the bed, and sung out lustily for mercy.
“ Here, lend a hand, one of you, and help me pull out this young howling brute. Hold your tongue,
, sir, or I'll kill you."
" Oh, please, Flashman, please, Walker, don't toss me! I'll fag for you, I'll do anything, only don't toss me.”
“ You be hanged,” said Flashman, lugging the wretched boy along, “ 'twon't hurt you, Come along, boys, here he is.”
“ I say, Flashey," sung out another of the big boys, “ drop that; you heard what old Pater Brooks said to-night. I'll be hanged if we'll toss any one against their will — no more bullying. Let him go, I say.”
Flashman, with an oath and a kick, released his prey, who rushed headlong under his bed again, for fear they should change their minds, and crept along underneath the other beds, till he got under that
EAST AND TOM DEVOTE THEMSELVES.
of the sixth-form boy, which he knew they daren't disturb.
“ There's plenty of youngsters don't care about it," said Walker. “ Here, here's Scud East - you'll be tossed, won't you, young’un." Scud was East's nickname, or Black, as we called it, gained by his fleetness of foot.
“ Yes,” said East, “if you like, only mind my foot."
66 And here's another who didn't hide. Hullo! new boy, what's your name, sir?”
“ Well, Whitey Brown, you don't mind being tost?"
“ No," said Tom, setting his teeth.
“ Come along then, boys,” sung out Walker, and away they all went, carrying along Tom and East, to the intense relief of four or five other small boys, who crept out from under the beds and behind them.
“ What a trump Scud is,” said one. They won't come back here now."
“ And that new boy, too, he must be a good plucked one."
" Ah, wait till he's been tossed on to the floor ; see how he'll like it then!"
Meantime the procession went down the passage to Number 7, the largest room, and the scene of tossing, in the middle of which was a great open space. Here they joined other parties of the bigger boys, each with a captive or two, some willing to be tossed, some sullen, and some frightened to death.