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6 and have druv a matter of a dozen young pullets pretty nigh to death.”
“ Oh, there's a whacker!” cried East;“ we haven't been within a hundred yards of his barn; we haven't been up here above ten minutes, and we've seen nothing but a tough old guinea-hen, who ran like a greyhound.”
“ Indeed that's all true, Holmes, upon my honor," added Tom; “ we weren't after his fowls; guineahen ran out of the hedge under our feet, and we've seen nothing else.”
“ Drat their talk. Thee catch hold o' t'other, Willum, and come along wi' 'un.”
“ Farmer Thompson," said Holmes, warning off Willum and the prong with his stick, while Diggs faced the other shepherd, cracking his fingers like pistol shots, “now listen to reason — the boys haven't been after your fowls, that's plain.”
66 Tells 'ee I seed 'em. Who be you, I should like to know?"
“ Never you mind, Farmer, answered Holmes. And now I'll just tell you what it is — you ought to be ashamed of yourself for leaving all that poultry about with no one to watch it so near the school. You deserve to have it all stolen. So if you choose to come up to the Doctor with them, I shall go with you and tell him what I think of it.”
The farmer began to take Holmes for a master; besides, he wanted to get back to his flock. Corporal punishment was out of the question, the odds were too great; so he began to hint at paying for
the damage. Arthur jumped at this, offering to pay anything, and the farmer immediately valued the guinea-hen at half-a-sovereign.
“ Half-a-sovereign!” cried East, now released from the farmer's grip; “ well, that is a good one! the old hen ain't hurt a bit, and she's seven years old I know, and as tough as whipcord; she couldn't lay another egg to save her life.” . It was at last settled that they should pay the farmer two shillings and his man one shilling, and so the matter ended, to the unspeakable relief of Tom, who hadn't been able to say a word, being sick at heart at the idea of what the Doctor would think of him: and now the whole party of boys marched off down the footpath towards Rugby. Holmes, who was one of the best boys in the school, began to improve the occasion. “ Now, you youngsters,” said he, as he marched along in the middle of them, “ mind this, you're very well out of this scrape. Don't you go near Thompson's barn again, do you hear ?"
Profuse promises from all, especially East.
“ Mind I don't ask questions," went on Mentor, “but I rather think some of you have been there before this after his chickens. Now knocking over other people's chickens, and running off with them, is stealing. It's a nasty word, but that's the plain English of it. If the chickens were dead and lying in a shop you wouldn't take them, I know that, any more than you would apples out of Griffith's basket; but there's no real difference between chickens running about and apples on a tree, and the same
HOLMES LECTURES ON SCHOOL LARCENY.
articles in a shop. I wish our morals were sounder in such matters. There's nothing so mischievous as these school distinctions, which jumble up right and wrong, and justify things in us for which poor boys would be sent to prison.” And good old Holmes delivered his soul on the walk home of many wise sayings, and as the song says —
which same sermon sank into them all more or less, and very penitent they were for several hours. But truth compels me to admit that East at any rate forgot it all in a week, but remembered the insult which had been put upon him by Farmer Thompson, and with the Tadpole and other hairbrained youngsters, committed a raid upon the barn soon afterwards, in which they were caught by the shepherds and severely handled, besides having to pay eight shillings, all the money they had in the world, to escape being taken up to the Doctor.
Martin became a constant inmate in the joint study from this time, and Arthur took to him so kindly that Tom couldn't resist slight fits of jeal. ousy, which, however, he managed to keep to himself. The kestrel's eggs had not been broken, strange to say, and formed the nucleus of Arthur's collection, at which Martin worked heart and soul; and introduced Arthur to Howlett the bird-fancier, and instructed him in the rudiments of the art of stuffing. In token of his gratitude, Arthur allowed Martin to tattoo a small anchor on one of his wrists, which decoration, however, he carefully concealed
ARTHUR SEALS HIS FRIENDSHIP.
from Tom. Before the end of the half-year he had trained into a bold climber and good runner, and, as Martin had foretold, knew twice as much about trees, birds, flowers, and many other things, as our good-hearted and facetious young friend Harry East.
There is a certain sort of fellow, we who are used to studying boys all know him well enough, of whom you can predicate with almost positive certainty, after he has been a month at school, that he is sure to have a fight, and with almost equal certainty that he will have but one. Tom Brown was one of these; and as it is our well-weighed intention to give a full, true, and correct account of Torn's only single combat with a school-fellow in the manner of our old friend Bell's Life, let those young persons whose stomachs are not strong, or who think a good set-to with the weapons which God has given us all, an uncivilized, unchristian, or ungentlemanly affair, just skip this chapter at once, for it won't be to their taste.
It was not at all usual in those days for two schoolhouse boys to have a fight. Of course there were exceptions, when some cross-grained hard-headed fellow came up, who would never be happy unless he was quarrelling with his nearest neighbours, or