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« All right,” said Tom, diving into the other pocket.
“ Well then, good-night. God bless you! I'll tell Boots to call you, and be up to see you off.”
Tom was carried off by the chambermaid in a brown study, from which he was roused in a clean little attic, by that buxom person calling him a little darling, and kissing him as she left the room ; which indignity he was too much surprised to resent. And still thinking of his father's last words, and the look with which they were spoken, he knelt down and prayed, that come what might, he might never bring shame or sorrow on the dear folk at home.
Indeed the Squire's last words deserved to have their effect, for they had been the result of much anxious thought. All the way up to London he had pondered what he should say to Tom by way of parting advice, something that the boy could keep in his head ready for use. By way of assisting meditation, he had even gone the length of taking out his flint and steel, and tinder, and hammering away for a quarter of an hour till he had manufactured a light for a long Trinchinopoli cheroot, which he silently puffed, to the no small wonder of Coachee, who was an old friend, and an institution on the Bath road; and who always expected a talk on the prospects and doings, agricultural and social, of the whole county, when he carried the Squire.
To condense the Squire's meditation it was somewhat as follows: “I won't tell him to read his
Bible, and love and serve God; if he don't do that for his mother's sake and teaching, he won't for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptations he'll meet with? No, I can't do that. Never do for an old fellow to go into such things with a boy. He won't understand me. Do him more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his work and say he's sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well, but he isn't sent to school for that — at any rate not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles, or the digamma, no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go. If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that's all I want," thought the Squire; and upon this view of the case framed his last words of advice to Tom, which were well enough suited to his purpose.
For they were Tom's first thoughts as he tumbled out of bed at the summons of Boots, and proceeded rapidly to wash and dress himself. At ten minutes to three he was down in the coffee-room in his stockings, carrying his hat-box, coat, and comforter in his hand; and there he found his father nursing a bright fire, and a cup of hot coffee and a hard biscuit on the table.
“ Now, then, Tom, give us your things here, and drink that; there's nothing like starting warm, old fellow."
Tom addressed himself to the coffee, and prattled away while he worked himself into his shoes and his
great-coat, well warmed through; a Petersham coat with velvet collar, made tight after the abominable fashion of those days. And just as he is swallowing his last mouthful, winding his comforter round his throat, and tucking the ends into the breast of his coat, the horn sounds, Boots looks in and says, “ Tally-ho, sir;” and they hear the ring and the rattle of the four fast trotters and the town-made drag, as it dashes up to the Peacock.
“ Any thing for us, Bob?” says the burly guard, dropping down from behind, and slapping himself across the chest.
“ Young genl'm'n, Rugby; three parcels, Leicester; hamper o' game, Rugby," answers Ostler.
“ Tell young gent to look alive," says Guard, opening the hind-boot and shooting in the parcels after examining them by the lamps. “ Here, shove the portmanteau up a-top — I'll fasten him presently. Now then, sir, jump up behind.”
- Good-bye, father — my love at home.” A last shake of the hand. Up goes Tom, the guard catching his hatbox and holding on with one hand, while with the other he claps the horn to his mouth. Toot, toot, toot! the ostler lets go their heads, the four bays plunge at the collar, and away goes the Tally-ho into the darkness, forty-five seconds from the time they pulled up; Ostler, Boots, and the Squire stand looking after them under the Peacock lamp.
“ Sharp work,” says the Squire, and goes in again to his bed, the coach being well out of sight and hearing
Tom stands up on the coach and looks back at
his father's figure as long as he can see it, and then the guard having disposed of his luggage comes to an anchor, and finishes his buttonings and other preparations for facing the three hours before dawn; no joke for those who minded cold, on a fast coach in November, in the reign of his late Majesty.
I sometimes think that you boys of this generation are a deal tenderer fellows than we used to be. At any rate you're much more comfortable travellers, for I see every one of you with his rug or plaid, and other dodges for preserving the caloric, and most of you going in those fuzzy, dusty, padded first-class carriages. It was another affair altogether, a dark ride on the top of the Tally-ho, I can tell you, in a tight Petersham coat, and your feet dangling six inches from the floor. Then you knew what cold was, and what it was to be without legs, for not a bit of feeling had you in them after the first half-hour. But it had its pleasures, the old dark ride. First there was the consciousness of silent endurance, so dear to every Englishman, — of standing out against something, and not giving in. Then there was the music of the rattling harness, and the ring of the horses' feet on the hard road, and the glare of the two bright lamps through the steaming hoar-frost over the leaders' ears into the darkness; and the cheery toot of the guard's horn, to warn some drowsy pikeman or the ostler at the next change; and the looking forward to daylight, and last but not least, the delight of returning sensation in your toes.
Then the break of dawn and the sunrise, where can they be ever seen in perfection but from a coach roof? You want motion and change and music to see them in their glory; not the music of singing-men and singing-women, but good silent music, which sets itself in your own head, the accompaniment of work and getting over the ground.
The Tally-ho is past St. Alban's, and Tom is enjoying the ride though half-frozen. The guard, who is alone with him on the back of the coach, is silent, but has m uffled Toin's feet up in straw, and put the end of an oat-sack over his knees. The darkness has driven him inwards, and he has gone over his little past life, and thought of all his doings and promises, and of his mother and sister, and his father's last words; and has made fifty good resolutions, and means to bear himself like a brave Brown as he is, though a young one. Then he has been forward into the mysterious boy-future, speculating as to what sort of a place Rugby is, and what they do there, and calling up all the stories of public schools which he has heard from big boys in the holidays. He is chock full of hope and life, notwithstanding the cold, and kicks his heels against the backboard, and would like to sing, only he doesn't know how his friend, the silent guard, might take it.
And now the dawn breaks at the end of the fourth stage, and the coach pulls up at a little roadside inn with huge stables behind. There is a bright fire gleaming through the red curtains of the bar window, and the door is open. The coachman