Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

school, and had never made up to, or been taken up by any big fellow or master, and that it was now quite a different place from what it was when he first came. And indeed, though he didn't actually boast of it, yet in his secret soul he did to a great extent believe, that the great reform in the school had been owing quite as much to himself as to any one else. Arthur, he acknowledged, had done him good, and taught him a good deal, so had other boys in different ways; but they had not had the same means of influence on the school in general; and as for the Doctor, why he was a splendid master, but every one knew that masters could do very little out of school hours. In short, he felt on terms of equality with his chief, so far as the-social state of the school was concerned, and thought that the Doctor would find it no easy matter to get on without him. Moreover, his school toryism was still strong, and he looked still with some jealousy on the Doctor, as somewhat of a fanatic in the matter of change; and thought it very desirable for the school that he should have some wise person (such as himself) to look sharply after vested school-rights, and see that nothing was done to the injury of the republic without due protest.

It was a new light to him to find, that besides teaching the sixth, and governing and guiding the whole school, editing classics, and writing histories, the great head-master had found time in those busy years to watch over the career, even of him, Tom Brown, and his particular friends, — and, no doubt, of fifty other boys at the same time; and all this

[ocr errors][merged small]

without taking the least credit to himself, or seeming to know, or let any one else know, that he ever thought particularly of any boy at all.

However, the Doctor's victory was complete from that moment over Tom Brown at any rate. He gave way at all points, and the enemy marched right over him, cavalry, infantry, and artillery, the land transport corps, and the camp followers. It had taken eight long years to do it, but now it was done thoroughly, and there wasn't a corner of him left which didn't believe in the Doctor. Had he returned to school again, and the Doctor begun the half-year by abolishing fagging, and football, and the Saturday half-holiday, or all or any of the most cherished school institutions, Tom would have supported him with the blindest faith. And so, after a half confession of his previous short-comings, and sorrowful adieus to his tutor, from whom he received two beautifully-bound volumes of the Doctor's Sermons, as a parting present, he marched down to the schoolhouse, a hero-worshipper, who would have satisfied the soul of Thomas Carlyle himself.

There he found the eleven at high jinks after supper, Jack Raggles shouting comic songs, and performing feats of strength; and was greeted by a chorus of mingled remonstrance at his desertion, and joy at his reappearance. And falling in with the humour of the evening, was soon as great a boy as all the rest ; and at ten o'clock was chaired round the quadrangle, on one of the hall benches, borne aloft by the eleven, shouting in chorus, " For he's a jolly good fellow," while old Thomas, in a melting

[blocks in formation]

mood, and the other school-house servants, stood looking on.

And the next morning after breakfast he squared up all the cricketing accounts, went round to his tradesmen and other acquaintance, and said his hearty good-byes; and by twelve o'clock was in the train, and away for London, no longer a school-boy, and divided in his thoughts between hero-worship, honest regrets over the long stage of his life. which was now slipping out of sight behind him, and hopes and resolves for the next stage, upon which he was entering with all the confidence of a young traveller.

CHAPTER IX.

FINIS.

“Strange friend, past, present, and to be;

Loved deeplier, darklier understood;

Behold, I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee.”

TENNYSON.

In the summer of 1842, our hero stopped once again at the well-known station; and, leaving his bag and fishing-rod with a porter, walked slowly and sadly up towards the town. It was now July. He had rushed away from Oxford the moment that term was over, for a fishing ramble in Scotland, with two college friends, and had been for three weeks living on oatcake, mutton-hams, and whiskey, in the wildest parts of Skye. They had descended one sultry evening on the little inn at Kyle Rhea ferry, and while Tom and another of the party put their tackle together and began exploring the stream for a sea-trout for supper, the third strolled into the house to arrange for their entertainment. Presently he came out in a loose blouse and slippers, a short pipe in his mouth, and an old newspaper in his hand, and threw himself on the heathery scrub, which met the shingle within easy hail of the fishermen. There he lay, the picture of free-and-easy

[blocks in formation]

loafing, hand-to-mouth young England, 'improving his mind,' as he shouted to them, by the perusal of the fortnight-old weekly paper, soiled with the marks of toddy-glasses and tobacco ashes, the legacy of the last traveller, which he had hunted out from the kitchen of the little hostelry, and being a youth of a communicative turn of mind, began imparting the contents to the fishermen as he went on.

“ What a bother they are making about these wretched corn laws; here's three or four columns full of nothing but sliding scales and fixed duties.Hang this tobacco, it's always going out! - Ah, here's something better — a splendid match between Kent and England, Brown! Kent winning by three wickets. Felix fifty-six runs without a chance, and not out!”

Tom, intent on a fish which had risen at him twice, answered only with a grunt.

“ Anything about the Goodwood ?” called out the third man.

“ Rory-o-more drawn. Butterfly colt amiss," shouted the student.

“ Just my luck," grumbled the inquirer, jerking his flies off the water, and throwing again with a heavy sullen splash, and frightening Tom's fish.

“ I say, can't you throw lighter over there ? we ain't fishing for grampuses,” shouted Tom across the stream.

“ Hullo, Brown! here's something for you,” called out the reading man next moment. “Why, your old master, Arnold of Rugby, is dead.”

Tom's hand stopped half-way in his cast, and his

« VorigeDoorgaan »