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TOM BROWN'S LAST MATCH.
“ Heaven grant the manlier heart, that timely, ere
The fruit of dreamy hoping
The curtain now rises upon the last act of our little drama — for hard-hearted publishers warn me that a single volume must of necessity have an end. Well, well! the pleasantest things must come to an end. I little thought last long vacation, when I began these pages to help while away some spare time at a watering-place, how vividly many an old scene, which had lain hid away for years in some dusty old corner of my brain, would come back again, and stand before me as clear and bright, as if it had happened yesterday. The book has been a most grateful task to me, and I only hope that all you, my dear young friends, who read it, (friends assuredly you must be, if you get as far as this,) will be half as sorry to come to the last stage as I am.
Not but what there has been a solemn and a sad side to it. As the old scenes became living, and the actors in them became living too, many a grave
in the Crimea and distant India, as well as in the quiet churchyards of our dear old country, seemed to open and send forth their dead, and their voices and looks and ways were again in one's ears and eyes, as in the old school days. But this was not sad; how should it be, if we believe as our Lord has taught us ? How should it be, when one more turn of the wheel, and we shall be by their sides again, learning from them again, perhaps, as we did when we were new boys?
Then there were others of the old faces so dear to us once, who had somehow or another just gone clean out of sight - are they dead or living? We know not, but the thought of them brings no sadness with it. Wherever they are, we can well believe they are doing God's work and getting His wages.
But are there not some, whom we still see sometimes in the streets, whose haunts and homes we know, whom we could probably find almost any day in the week if we were set to do it, yet from whom we are really farther than we are from the dead, and from those who have gone out of our ken? Yes, there are and must be such; and therein lies the sadness of old school memories. Yet of these our old comrades, from whom more than time and space separate us, there are some, by whose sides we can feel sure that we shall stand again when time shall be no more. We may think of one another now as dangerous fanatics or narrow bigots, with whom no truce is possible, from whom we shall only sever more and more to the end of
our lives, whom it would be our respective duties to imprison or hang, if we had the power. We must go our way, and they theirs, as long as fesh and spirit hold together; but let our own Rugby poet speak words of healing for this trial :
“ To veer how vain ! on, onward strain,
Brave barks! in light, in darkness too;
To that, and your own selves, be true.
Though ne'er that earliest parting past,
Together lead them home at last.
One purpose hold where'er they fare.
At last, at last, unite them there!” * This is not mere longing, it is prophecy. So over these too, our old friends who are friends no more, we sorrow not as men without hope. It is only for those who seem to us to have lost compass and purpose, and to be drifting helplessly on rocks and quicksands; whose lives are spent in the service of the world, the flesh and the devil; for self alone, and not for their fellow-men, their country, or their God, that we must mourn and pray without sure hope and without light; trusting only that He, in whose hands they as well as we are, who has died for them as well as for us, who sees all His creatures
- With larger, other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all,”
* CLOUGH. Ambarvalia.
will, in His own way and at His own time, lead them also home.
Another two years have passed, and it is again the end of the summer half-year at Rugby, in fact the school has broken up. The fifth-form examinations were over last week, and upon them have followed the speeches, and the sixth-form examinations for exhibitions; and they too are over now. The boys have gone to all the winds of heaven, except the town boys and the eleven, and the few enthusiasts besides who have asked leave to stay in their houses to see the result of the cricket matches. For this year the Wellesburn return match and the Marylebone match are played at Rugby, to the great delight of the town and neighbourhood, and the sorrow of those aspiring young cricketers who have been reckoning for the last three months on showing off at Lords' ground.
The Doctor started for the lakes yesterday morning, after an interview with the captain of the eleven, in the presence of Thomas, at which he arranged in what school the cricket dinners were to be, and all other matters necessary for the satisfactory carrying out of the festivities; and warned them as to keeping all spirituous liquors out of the close, and having the gates closed by nine o'clock.
The Wellesburn match was played out with great success yesterday, the school winning by three wickets; and to-day the great event of the cricketing year, the Marylebone match, is being played. What a match it has been! The Lon
don eleven came down by an afternoon train yesterday, in time to see the end of the Wellesburn match; and as soon as it was over their leading men and umpire inspected the ground, criticizing it rather unmercifully. The captain of the school eleven, and one or two others, who had played the Lords' match before and knew old Mr. Aislebie and several of the Lords' men, accompanied them; while the rest of the eleven looked on from under the Three Trees with admiring eyes, and asked one another the names of the illustrious strangers, and recounted how many runs each of them had made in the late matches in Bell's Life. They looked such hard-bitten, wiry, whiskered fellows, that their young adversaries felt rather desponding as to the result of the morrow's match. The ground was at last chosen, and two men set to work upon it to water and roll; and then, there being yet some half-hour of daylight, some one had suggested a dance on the turf. The close was half full of citizens and their families, and the idea was hailed with enthusiasm. The cornopean player was still on the ground; in five minutes the eleven and halfa-dozen of the Wellesburn and Marylebone men got partners somehow or another, and a merry country dance was going on, to which every one flocked, and new couples joined in every minute, till there were a hundred of them going down the middle and up again - and the long line of school buildings looked gravely down on them, every window glowing with the last rays of the western sun, and the rooks clanged about in the tops of the old elms,