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WHAT IS LARCENY?
and enjoyed the fun, for he would wait till they came close to him and then fly on for forty yards or so, and with an impudent flicker of his tail dart into the depths of the quickset), came beating down a high double hedge, two on each side.
There he is again," "head him," « let drive,” “1 had him there,” “take care where you're throwing, Madman,” the shouts might have been heard a cuarter of a mile off. They were heard some two hundred yards off by a farmer and two of his shepherds, who were doctoring sheep in a fold in the next field.
Now the farmer in question rented a house and yard situate at the end of the field in which the young bird-fanciers had arrived, which house and yard he didn't occupy or keep any one else in. Nevertheless, like a brainless and unreasoning Briton, he persisted in maintaining on the premises a large stock of cocks, hens, and other poultry. Of course all sorts of depredators visited the place from time to time: foxes and gypsies wrought havoc in the night; while in the day-time I regret to have to confess, that visits from the Rugby boys, and consequent disappearances of ancient and respectable fowls, were not unfrequent. Tom and East had during the period of their outlawry visited the barn in question for felonious purposes, and on one occasion had conquered and slain a duck there, and borne away the carcass triumphantly, hidden in their handkerchiefs. However, they were sickened of the practice by the trouble and anxiety which the wretched duck's body
THE TROUBLESOME DUCK.
caused them. They carried it to Sally Harrowell's in hopes of a good supper, but she, after examining it, made a long face and refused to dress or have any thing to do with it. Then they took it into their study and began plucking it themselves; but what to do with the feathers, where to hide them?
“Good gracious, Tom, what a lot of feathers a duck has," groaned East, holding a bag full in his hands, and looking disconsolately at the carcass not yet half plucked.
“ And I do think he's getting high too, already," said Tom, smelling at him cautiously, “ so we must finish him up soon."
“ Yes, all very well, but how are we to cook him ? I'm sure I ain't going to try it on in the hall or passages; we can't afford to be roasting ducks about, our character's too bad.”
“I wish we were rid of the brute," said Tom, throwing him on the table in disgust. And after a day or two more it became clear, that got rid of he must be; so they packed him and sealed him up in brown paper, and put him in the cupboard of an unoccupied study, where he was found in the holidays by the matron, a grewsome body.
They had never been duck-hunting there since, but others had, and the bold yeoman was very sore on the subject, and bent on making an example of the first boys he could catch. So he and his shepherds crouched behind the hurdles, and watched the party who were approaching all unconscious.
Why should that old guinea-fowl be lying out in
THE OLD GUINEA-HEN.
the hedge just at this particular moment of all the year? Who can say ? Guinea-fowls always are so are all other things, animals, and persons, requisite for getting one into scrapes, always ready when any mischief can come of them. At any rate, just under East's nose popped out the old guinea-hen, scuttling along and shrieking “come back, come back," at the top of her voice. Either of the other three might perhaps have withstood the temptation, but East first lets drive the stone he has in his hand at her, and then rushes to turn her into the hedge again. He succeeds, and then they are all at it for dear life, up and down the hedge in full cry, the 66 come back, come back” getting shriller and fainter every minute.
Meantime the farmer and his men steal over the hurdles and creep down the hedge towards the scene of action. They are almost within a stone's throw of Martin, who is pressing the unlucky chase hard, when Tom catches sight of them and sings out, “ Louts, ware louts, your side! Madman, look ahead!” and then catching hold of Arthur, hurries him away across the field towards Rugby as hard as they can tear. Had he been by himself he would have stayed to see it out with the others, but now his heart sinks and all his pluck goes. The idea of being led up to the Doctor with Arthur for bagging fowls, quite unmans and takes half the run out of him.
However, no boys are more able to take care of themselves than East and Martin ; they dodge the pursuers, slip through a gap, and come pelting after 296
RUNNING FOR A CONVOY.
Tom and Arthur, whom they catch up in no time; the farmer and his men are making good running about a field behind. Tom wishes to himself that they had made off in any other direction, but now they are all in for it together, and must see it out. “ You won't leave the young'un, will you ?" says he, as they haul poor little Arthur, already losing wind from the fright, through the next hedge. « Not we,” is the answer from both. The next hedge is a stiff one; the pursuers gain horribly on them, and they only just pull Arthur through with two great rents in his trousers, as the foremost shepherd comes up on the other side. As they start into the next field they are aware of two figures walking down the footpath in the middle of it, and recognize Holmes and Diggs taking a constitutional. Those goodnatured fellows immediately shout “ On.” “ Let's go to them and surrender,” pants Tom. — Agreed. — And in another minute the four boys, to the great astonishment of those worthies, rush breathless up to Holmes and Diggs, who pull up to see what is the matter, and then the whole is explained by the appearance of the farmer and his men, who unite their forces and bear down on the knot of boys.
There is no time to explain, and Tom's heart beats frightfully quick, as he ponders, “ Will they stand by us?”
The farmer makes a rush at East and collars him; and that young gentleman, with unusual discretion, instead of kicking his shins looks appealingly at Holmes, and stands still.
“ Hullo there, not so fast,” says Holmes, who is
bound to stand up for them till they are proved in the wrong. “ Now what's all this about?”
“ I've got the young varmint at last, have I,” pants the farmer; “ why they've been a skulking about my yard and stealing my fowls, that's where 'tis; and if I doan't have they flogged for it, every one on 'em, my name ain't Thompson."
Holmes looks grave, and Diggs's face falls. They are quite ready to fight, no boys in the school more so; but they are præpostors, and understand their office, and can't uphold unrighteous causes.
“I haven't been near his old barn this half,” cries East. “ Nor 1,” “nor 1,” chime in Tom and Martin.
“ Now, Willum, didn't you see 'em there last week?"
“Ees, I seen 'em sure enough,” says Willum, grasping a prong he carried, and preparing for action.
The boys deny stoutly, and Willum is driven to admit that, “ if it worn't they 'twas chaps as like 'em as two peas'n ;” and “ leastways he'll swear he see'd them two in the yard last Martinmas,” indicating East and Tom.
Holmes has had time to meditate.“ Now, sir,” says he to Willum," you see you can't remember what you have seen, and I believe the boys."
"I doan't care," blusters the farmer; "they was arter my fowls to-day, that's enough for I. Willum, you catch hold o’t’other chap. They've been a sneaking about this two hours, I tells 'ee,” shouted he, as Holmes stands between Martin and Willum,