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phorus in his guilty hand. Lucifer-matches and all the present facilities for getting acquainted with fire were then unknown; the very name of phosphorus had something diabolic in it to the boy-mind; so Tom's ally, at the cost of a sound flogging, earned what many older folk covet much, the most decided fear of most of his companions. He was a remarkable boy, and by no means a bad one.
Tom stuck to him till he left, and got into many scrapes by so doing. But he was the great opponent of the tale-bearing habits of the school, and the open enemy of the ushers, and so worthy of all support.
Tom imbibed a fair amount of Latin and Greek at the school, but somehow on the whole it didn't suit him, or he it, and in the holidays he was constantly working the Squire to send him at once to a public school. Great was his joy then, when, in the middle of his third half-year in October, 183-, a fever broke out in the village, and the master having himself slightly sickened of it, the whole of the boys were sent off at a day's notice to their respective homes.
The Squire was not quite so pleased as Master Tom to see that young gentleman's brown merry face appear at home, some two months before the proper time for Christmas holidays; and so after putting on his thinking cap, he retired to his study and wrote several letters, the result of which was, that one morning at the breakfast-table, about a fortnight after Tom's return, he addressed his wife with — " My dear, I have arranged that Tom shall
go to Rugby at once, for the last six weeks of this half-year, instead of wasting them, riding and loitering about home. It is very kind of the Doctor to allow it. Will you see that his things are all ready by Friday, when I shall take him up to town, and send him down the next day by himself.”
Mrs. Brown was prepared for the announcement, and merely suggested a doubt whether Tom were yet old enough to travel by himself. However, finding both father and son against her on this point, she gave in like a wise woman, and proceeded to prepare Tom's kit for his launch into a public school.
“ Let the steam-pot hiss till it's hot,
Vulgar Coaching Song - Author unknown.
“ Now, sir, time to get up, if you please. Tallyho coach for Leicester 'll be round in half-an-hour, and don't wait for nobody.” So spake the Boots of the Peacock Inn, Islington, at half past two o'clock on the morning of a day in the early part of November, 183–, giving Tom at the same time a shake by the shoulder, and then putting down a candle and carrying off his shoes to clean.
Tom and his father had arrived in town from Berkshire the day before, and finding on inquiry that the Birmingham coaches which ran from the city did not pass through Rugby, but deposited their passengers at Dunchurch, a village three miles distant on the main road, where said passengers had to wait for the Oxford and Leicester coach in the evening, or to take a post-chaise, had resolved that Tom should travel down by the Tally-ho, which diverged from the main road and passed through Rugby itself. And as the Tally-ho was an early coach, they had driven out to the Peacock to be on the road.
Tom had never been in London, and would have liked to have stopped at the Belle Savage, where
they had been put down by the Star, just at dusk, that he might have gone roving about those endless, mysterious, gas-lit streets, which, with their glare and hum and moving crowds, excited him so that he couldn't talk even. But as soon as he found that the Peacock arrangement would get him to Rugby by twelve o'clock in the day, whereas otherwise he wouldn't be there till the evening, all other plans melted away; his one absorbing aim being to become a public school-boy as fast as possible, and six hours sooner or later seeming to him of the most alarming importance.
Tom and his father had alighted at the Peacock at about seven in the evening, and having heard with unfeigned joy the paternal order at the bar of steaks and oyster-sauce for supper in half-an-hour, and seen his father seated cozily by the bright fire in the coffee-room, with the paper in his hand, Tom had run out to see about him, had wondered at all the vehicles passing and repassing, and had fraternized with the boots and ostler, from whom he ascertained that the Tally-ho was a tip-top goer, ten miles an hour including stoppages, and so punctual, that all the road set their clocks by her.
Then being summoned to supper, he had regaled himself in one of the bright little boxes of the Peacock coffee-room, on the beefsteak and unlimited oyster-sauce, and brown stout, (tasted then for the first time-- a day to be marked forever by Tom with a white stone); had at first attended to the excellent advice which his father was bestowing on him from over his glass of steaming brandy and water,
SQUIRE BROWN'S PARTING WORDS.
and then began nodding, from the united effects of the stout, the fire, and the lecture; till the Squire observing Tom's state, and remembering that it was nearly nine o'clock, and that the Tally-ho left at three, sent the little fellow off to the chambermaid, with a shake of the hand (Tom having stipulated in the morning before starting, that kissing should now cease between them) and a few parting words.
6 And now, Tom, my boy,” said the Squire, “remember you are going, at your own earnest request, to be chucked into this great school, like a young bear, with all your troubles before you — earlier than we should have sent you perhaps. If schools are what they were in my time, you'll see a great many cruel blackguard things done, and hear a deal of foul bad talk. But never fear. You tell the truth, keep a brave and kind heart, and never listen to or say any thing you wouldn't have your mother and sister hear, and you'll never feel ashamed to come home, or we to see you.”
The allusion to his mother made Tom feel rather chokey, and he would have liked to have hugged his father well, if it hadn't been for the recent stipulation.
As it was, he only squeezed his father's hand, and looked bravely up and said, “ I'll try, father.”
“ I know you will, my boy. Is your money all safe?"
“ Yes,” said Tom, diving into one pocket to make sure.
“ And your keys?” said the Squire.