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THE OLD BOY MORALIZETH THEREON.
In no place in the world has individual character more weight than at a public school. Remember this, I beseech you, all you boys who are getting into the upper-forms. Now is the time in all your lives, probably, when you may have more wide influence for good or evil on the society you live in, than you ever can have again. Quit yourselves like men, then ; speak up, and strike out if necessary,
for whatsoever is true, and manly, and lovely, and of good report ; never try to be popular, but only to do your duty and help others to do theirs, and you may leave the tone of feeling in the school higher than you found it, and so be doing good, which no living soul can measure, to generations of your countrymen yet unborn. For boys follow one another in herds like sheep, for good or evil; they hate thinking, and have rarely any settled principles. Every school, indeed, has its own traditionary standard of right and wrong, which cannot be transgressed with impunity, marking certain things as low and blackguard, and certain others as lawful and right. This standard is ever varying, though it changes only slowly, and little by little, and, subject only to such standard, it is the leading boys for the time being who give the tone to all the rest, and make the school either a noble institution for the training of Christian Englishmen, or a place where a young boy will get more evil than he would if he were turned out to make his way in London streets, or any thing between these two extremes.
The change for the worse in the school-house, however, didn't press very heavily on our youngsters
THE SHOE BEGINS TO PINCH.
for some time; they were in a good bedroom, where slept the only præpostor left who was able to keep thorough order, and their study was in his passage ; so, though they were fagged more or less, and occasionally kicked or cuffed by the bullies, they were on the whole well off; and the fresh brave schoollife, so full of games, adventures, and good fellowship, so ready at forgetting, so capacious at enjoying, so bright at forecasting, outweighed a thousandfold their troubles with the master of their form, and the occasional ill-usage of the big boys in the house. It wasn't till some year or so after the events recorded above, that the præpostor of their room and
None of the other sixth-form boys would move into their passage, and, to the disgust and indignation of Tom and East, one morning after breakfast they were seized upon by Flashman, and made to carry down his books and furniture into the unoccupied study which he had taken. From this time they began to feel the weight of the tyranny of Flashman and his friends, and, now that trouble had come home to their own doors, began to look out for sympathizers and partners amongst the rest of the fags; and meetings of the oppressed began to be held, and murmurs to arise, and plots to be laid, as to how they should free themselves and be avenged on their enemies.
While matters were in this state, East and Tom were one evening sitting in their study. They had done their work for first lesson, and Tom was in a brown study, brooding like a young William Tell, upon the wrongs of fags in general, and his own in particular.
I say, Scud,” said he at last, rousing himself to snuff the candle, “what right have the fifth-form boys to fag us as they do?”
“ No more right than you have to fag them," ansviered East, without looking up from an early number of Pickwick, which was just coming out, and which he was luxuriously devouring, stretched on his back on the sofa.
Tom relapsed into his brown study, and East went on reading and chuckling. The contrast of the boys' faces would have given infinite amusement to a looker-on, the one so solemn and big with mighty purpose, the other radiant and bubbling over with fun.
“ Do you know, old fellow, I've been thinking it over a good deal,” began Tom again.
« Oh yes, I know, fagging you're thinking of. Hang it all, but listen here, Tom — here's fun. Mr. Winkle's horse
" And I've made up my mind," broke in Tom, 6 that I won't fag except for the sixth."
“ Quite right, too, my boy,” cried East, putting his finger in the place and looking up; “ but a pretty peck of troubles you'll get into, if you're going to play that game. However, I'm all for a strike myself, if we can get others to join — it's getting too bad.”
“ Can't we get some sixth-form fellow to take it up?” asked Tom.
6 Well, perhaps we might; Morgan would interfere, I think. Only,” added East, after a moment's pause, “ you see we should have to tell him about
it, and that's against school principles. Don't you remember what old Brooke said about learning to take our own parts ? ”
“Ah, I wish old Brooke were back again - it was all right in his time."
“ Why yes, you see then the strongest and best fellows were in the sixth, and the fifth-form fellows were afraid of them, and they kept good order; but now our sixth-form fellows are too small, and the fifth don't care for them, and do what they like in in the house."
“ And so we get a double set of masters,” cried Tom indignantly; "the lawful ones, who are responsible to the Doctor at any rate, and the unlawful the tyrants, who are responsible to nobody."
“ Down with the tyrants!” cried East; “ I'm all for law and order, and hurra for a revolution."
“I shouldn't mind if it were only for young Brooke now," said Tom, “he's such a good-hearted gentlemanly fellow, and ought to be in the sixth I'd do anything for him. But that blackguard Flashman, who never speaks to one without a kick or an oath
“ The cowardly brute," broke in East, “how I hate him. And he knows it too, he knows that you and I think him a coward. What a bore that he's got a study in this passage; don't you hear them now at supper in his den? Brandy punch going, I'll bet. I wish the Doctor would come out and catch him. We must 'change our study as soon as we can."
“ Change or no change, I'll never fag, for him *again,” said Tom, thumping the table
“Fa-a-a-ag," sounded along the Flashman's study. The two boys looked at one another in silence. It had struck nine, so the regular night-fags had left duty, and they were the nearest to the supper-party. East sat up, and began to look comical, as he always did under difficul. ties.
“ Fa-a-a-ag," again. No answer.
“ Here, Brown! East! you cursed young skulks," roared out Flashman, coming to his open door, “I know you're in — no shirking."
Tom stole to their door, and drew the bolts as noiselessly as he could; East blew out the candle. " Barricade the first," whispered he. “Now, Tom, mind, no surrender."
“ Trust me for that,” said Tom between his teeth.
In another minute they heard the supper-party turn out and come down the passage to their door. They held their breaths, and heard whispering, of which they only made out Flashman's words, “I know the young brutes are in.”
Then came summonses to open, which being unanswered, the assault commenced : luckily the door was a good strong oak one, and resisted the united weight of Flashman's party. A pause followed, and they heard a besieger remark, “ They're in safe enough — don't you see how the door holds at top and bottom ? so the bolts must be drawn. should have forced the lock long ago." East gave Tom a nudge to call attention to this scientific remark.