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CELEBRATING THE VICTORY.
East, hobbling along as fast as he could, “ so you come along down to Sally Harrowell's ; that's our school-house tuck-shop — she bakes such stunning murphies, we'll have a penn'orth each for tea; come along, or they'll all be gone.”
Tom's new purse and money burnt in his pocket; he wondered, as they toddled through the quadrangle and along the street, whether East would be insulted if he suggested further extravagance, as he had not sufficient faith in a pennyworth of potatoes. At last he blurted out —
“I say, East, can't we get something else besides potatoes ? I've got lots of money, you know.”
“Bless us, yes, I forgot,” said East, "you've only just come. You see all my tin's been gone this twelve weeks, it hardly ever lasts beyond the first fortnight; and our allowances were all stopped this morning for broken windows, so I haven't got a penny. I've got a tick at Sally's, of course ; but then I hate running it high, you see, towards the end of the half, 'cause one has to shell out for it all directly one comes back, and that's a bore.”
Tom didn't understand much of this talk, but seized on the fact that East had no money, and was denying himself some little pet luxury in consequence. « Well, what shall I buy?” said he, “ I'm uncommon hungry."
“I say,” said East, stopping to look at him and rest his leg, “ you're a trump, Brown. I'll do the same by you next half. Let's have a pound of sausages, then, that's the best grub for tea I know of.”
• Very well,” said Tom, as pleased as possible, “where do they sell them ?”
“ Oh, over here, just opposite;" and they crossed the street, and walked into the cleanest little frontroom of a small house, half parlour, half shop, and bought a pound of most particular sausages; East talking pleasantly to Mrs. Porter while she put them in paper, and Tom doing the paying part.
From Porter's they adjourned to Sally Harrowell's, where they found a lot of school-house boys waiting for the roast potatoes, and relating their own exploits in the day's match at the top of their voices. The street opened at once into Sally's kitchen, a low brick-floored room, with large recess for fire, and chimney-corner seats. Poor little Sally, the most good-natured and much-enduring of womankind, was bustling about with a napkin in her hand, from her own oven to those of the neighbour's cottages, up the yard at the back of her house. Stumps, her husband, a short easy-going shoemaker, with a beery humourous eye and ponderous calves, who lived mostly on his wife's earnings, stood in a corner of the room, exchanging shots of the roughest description of repartee with every boy in turn. “Stumps, you lout, you've had too much beer again to-day.” “ 'Twasn't of your paying for then.” — “ Stumps's calves are running down into his ankles, they want to get to grass.” “ Better be doing that, than gone altogether like yours," &c., &c. Very poor stuff it was, but it served to make time pass, and every now and then Sally arrived in the middle with a smoking tin of potatoes, which was cleared off in a
STUMPS AND HIS TRIBULATIONS.
few seconds, each boy as he seized his lot, running off to the house with “ Put me down two penn'orth, Sally;” “ Put down three penn'orth between me and Davis,” &c. How she ever kept the accounts so straight as she did, in her head, and on her slate, was a perfect wonder.
East and Tom got served at last, and started back for the school-house just as the locking-up bell began to ring; East on the way recounting the life and adventures of Stumps, who was a character. Amongst his other small avocations, he was the hind carrier of a sedan-chair, the last of its race, in which the Rugby ladies still went out to tea, and in which, when he was fairly harnessed and carrying a load, it was the delight of small and mischievous boys to follow him and whip his calves. This was too much for the temper even of Stumps, and he would pursue his tormentors in a vindictive and apoplectic manner when released, but was easily pacified by twopence to buy beer with.
The lower school boys of the school-house, some fifteen in number, had tea in the lower-fifth school, and were presided over by the old verger or headporter. Each boy had a quarter of a loaf of bread and pat of butter, and as much tea as he pleased, and there was scarcely one who didn't add to this some further luxury, such as baked potatoes, a herring, sprats, or something of the sort; but few, at this period of the half-year, could live up to a pound of Porter's sausages, and East was in great magnificence upon the strength of theirs. He had produced a toasting-fork from his study, and set Tom
TEA AND ITS LUXURIES.
to toast the sausages, while he mounted guard over their butter and potatoes; “ 'cause," as he explained, “ you're a new boy, and they'll play you some trick and get our butter, but you can toast just as well as I.” So Tom, in the midst of three or four more urchins similarly employed, toasted his face and the sausages at the same time before the huge fire, till the latter cracked; when East, from his watch-tower shouted that they were done, and then the feast proceeded, and the festive cups of tea were filled and emptied, and Tom imparted of the sausages in small bits to many neighbours, and thought he had never tasted such good potatoes or seen such jolly boys. They, on their parts, waived all ceremony, and pegged away at the sausages and potatoes, and remembering Tom's performance in goal, voted East's new crony a brick. After tea, and while the things were being cleared away, they gathered round the fire, and the talk on the match still went on; and those who had them to show, pulled up their trousers and showed the hacks they had received in the good cause.
They were soon, however, all turned out of the school, and East.conducted Tom up to his bedroom, that he might get on clean things and wash himself before singing.
“ What's singing ?” said Tom, taking his head out of his basin, where he had been plunging it in cold water.
“ Well, you are jolly green,” answered his friend from a neighbouring basin. “Why the last six Saturdays of every half, we sing of course; and this
is the first of them. No first lesson to do, you know, and lie in bed to-morrow morning."
“ But who sings?”
“ Why everybody, of course; you'll see soon enough. We begin directly after supper, and sing till bed-time. It ain't such good fun now tho' as in the summer half, 'cause then we sing in the little fives' court, under the library, you know. We take our tables, and the big boys sit round, and drink beer; double allowance on Saturday nights; and we cut about the quadrangle between the songs, and it looks like a lot of robbers in a cave. And the louts come and pound at the great gates, and we pound back again, and shout at them. But this half we only sing in the hall. Come along down to my study."
Their principal employment in the study was to clear out East's table, removing the drawers and ornaments and table-cloth, for he lived in the bottom passage, and his table was in requisition for the singing
Supper came in due course at seven o'clock, consisting of bread and cheese and beer, which was all saved for the singing; and directly afterwards the fags went to work to prepare the .hall. The schoolhouse hall, as has been said, is a great long high room, with two large fires on one side, and two large iron-bound tables, one running down the middle, and the other along the wall opposite the fireplaces. Around the upper fire the fags placed the tables in the form of a horseshoe, and upon them the jugs, with the Saturday night's allowance of beer.