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TOM DRAWS THE FAVOURITE.
Flashman, or some other of the standers-by. But no great favourite is drawn until it comes to the Tadpole's turn, and he shuffles up and draws, and tries to make off, but is caught, and his ticket is opened like the rest.
“ Here you are! Wanderer! the third favourite," shouts the opener.
" I say, just give me my ticket, please,” remonstrates Tadpole.
“ Hullo, don't be in a hurry," breaks in Flashman, “ what'll you sell Wanderer for now?"
“ I don't want to sell," rejoins Tadpole.
“ Oh, don't you! Now listen, you young fool you don't know anything about it; the horse is no use to you. He won't win, but I want him as a hedge. Now I'll give you half-a-crown for him.” Tadpole holds out, but between threats and cajoleries, at length sells half for one-shilling-and-sixpence, about a fifth of its fair market value; however, he is glad to realize anything, and as he wisely remarks, “ Wanderer mayn't win," and the tizzy is safe any how.
East presently comes up and draws a blank. Soon after comes Tom's turn; his ticket, like the others, is seized and opened. “Here you are then," shouts the opener, holding it up, “ Harkaway! By Jove, Flashey, your young friend's in luck.”
“ Give me the ticket," says Flashman with an oath, leaning across the table with open hand, and his face black with rage.
6 Wouldn't you like it?” replies the opener, not a bad fellow at the bottom, and no admirer of
Flashman's. “ Here Brown, catch hold," and he hands the ticket to Tom, who pockets it; whereupon Flashman makes for the door at once, that Tom and the ticket may not escape, and there keeps watch until the drawing is over, and all the boys are gone, except the sporting set of five or six, who stay to compare books, make bets, and so on; Tom, who doesn't choose to move while Flash man is at the door, and East, who stays by his friend, anticipating trouble.
The sporting set now gathered round Tom. Public opinion wouldn't allow them actually to rob him of his ticket, but any humbug or intimidation by which he could be driven to sell the whole or part at an undervalue was lawful.
“ Now, young Brown, come, what'll you sell me Harkaway for? I hear he isn't going to start. I'll give you five shillings for him," begins the boy who had opened the ticket. Tom, remembering his good deed, and moreover in his forlorn state wishing to make a friend, is about to accept the offer, when another cries out, “ I'll give you seven shillings.” Tom hesitated and looked from one to the other.
“No, no!” said Flashman, pushing in," leave me to deal with him ; we'll draw lots for it afterwards. Now, sir, you know me — you'll sell Harkaway to us for five shillings, or you'll repent it.”
"I won't sell a bit of him," answered Tom shortly.
6 You hear that now !” said Flashman, turning to the others. “ He's the coxiest young blackguard in the house — I always told you so.
We're to have
all the trouble and risk of getting up the lotteries for the benefit of such fellows as he.”
Flashman forgets to explain what risk they ran, but he speaks to willing ears. Gambling makes boys selfish and cruel as well as men. “ That's true, — we always draw blanks,” cries
“Now, sir, you shall sell half at any rate." “I won't,” said Tom, flushing up to his hair, and umping them all in his mind with his sworn enemy.
Very well then, let's roast him,” cried Flashman, and catches hold of Tom by the collar: one or two boys hesitate, but the rest join in. East seizes Tom's arm and tries to pull him away, but is knocked back by one of the boys, and Tom is dragged along struggling. His shoulders are pushed against the mantel-piece, and he is held by main force before the fire, Flashman drawing his trousers tight by way of extra torture. Poor East, in more pain even than Tom, suddenly thinks of Diggs, and darts off to find him. “ Will you sell now for ten shillings?” says one boy who is relenting.
Tom only answers by groans and struggles.
" I say, Flashey, he has had enough,” says the same boy, dropping the arm he holds. No, no, another turn'll do it," answers Flash
But poor Tom is done already, turns deadly pale, and his head falls forward on his breast, just as Diggs in frantic excitement rushes into the hall with East at his heels.
4 You cowardly brutes !" is all he can say, as he catches Tom from them and supports him to the hall table. “ Good God! he's dying. Here, get some cold water — run for the housekeeper."
Flashman and one or two others slink away; the rest ashamed and sorry bend over Tom or run for water, while East darts off for the housekeeper. Water comes, and they throw it on his hands and face, and he begins to come to. 66 Mother!” - the words came feebly and slowly "it's very cold tonight.” Poor old Diggs is blubbering like a child. “ Where am I?” goes on Tom, opening his eyes. “Ah! I remember now," and he shut his eyes again and groaned.
“I say,” is whispered, “ we can't do any good, and the housekeeper will be here in a minute," and all but one steal away; he stays with Diggs, silent and sorrowful, and fans Tom's face.
The housekeeper comes in with strong salts, and Tom soon recovers enough to sit up. There is a smell of burning; she examines his clothes, and looks up inquiringly. The boys are all silent.
6. How did he come so ?” No answer.
“There's been some bad work here,” she adds, looking very serious," and I shall speak to the Doctor about it." Still no answer.
“ Hadn't we better carry him to the sick-room?" suggests Diggs.
“Oh, I can walk now," says Tom, and supported by East and the housekeeper, goes to the sick-room. The boy who held his ground is soon amongst the rest, who are all in fear of their lives. « Did he
6 Does she know about it?" “ Not a word, - he's a stanch little fellow." And pausing a moment he adds, “ I'm sick of this work : what brutes we've been."
LAST DAYS OF THE WAR.
Meantime Tom is stretched on the sofa in the housekeeper's room, with East by his side, while she gets wine-and-water and other restoratives.
" Are you much hurt, dear old boy?” whispers East.
“ Only the back of my legs,” answers Tom. They are indeed badly scorched, and part of his trousers burnt through. But soon he is in bed with cold bandages. At first he feels broken, and thinks of writing home and getting taken away; and the verse of a hymn he had learned years ago sings through his head, and he goes to sleep, murmuring “Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”
But after a sound night's rest, the old boy-spirit comes back again. East comes in reporting that the whole house is with him, and he forgets every thing except their old resolve, never to be beaten by that bully Flashman.
Not a word could the housekeeper extract from either of them; and though the Doctor knew all that she knew that morning, he never knew any more.
I trust and believe that such scenes are not possible now at school, and that lotteries and bettingbooks have gone out; but I am writing of schools as they were in our time, and must give the evil with the good.