was all eyes, looking first with awe at the great man who sat close to him, and was helped first, and who read a hard-looking book all the time he was eating; and when he got up and walked off to the fire, at the small boys round him, some of whom were reading, and the rest talking in whispers to one another, or stealing one another's bread, or shooting pellets, or digging their forks through the tablecloth. However, notwithstanding his curiosity, he managed to make a capital dinner by the time the big man called “ Stand up," and said grace.

As soon as dinner was over, and Tom had been questioned by such of his neighbours as were curious as to his birth, parentage, education, and other like matters, East, who evidently enjoyed his new dignity of patron and mentor, proposed having a look at the close, which Tom, athirst for knowledge, gladly assented to, and they went out through the quadrangle and past the big fives' court, into the great playground.

“ That's the chapel you see,” said East, 6 and there just behind it is the place for fights; you see it's 'most out of the way of the masters, who all live on the other side and don't come by here after first lesson or callings-over. That's when the fights come off. And all this part where we are is the little side-ground, right up to the trees, and on the other side of the trees is the big side-ground, where the great matches are pl And there's the island in the furthest corner; you'll know that well enough next half, when there's island fagging. I say, it's horrid cold, let's have a run across,” and



away went East, Tom close behind him. East was evidently putting his best foot foremost, and Tom, who was mighty proud of his running, and not a little anxious to show his friend that although a new boy he was no milk-sop, laid himself down to work in his very best style. Right across the close they went, each doing all he knew, and there wasn't a yard between them when they pulled up at the island moat.

" I say,” said East, as soon as he got his wind, looking with much increased respect at Tom, "you ain't a bad scud, not by no means. Well, I'm as warm as a toast now."

“But why do you wear white trousers in November?" said Tom. He had been struck by this peculiarity in the costume of almost all the school-house boys.

“ Why, bless us, don't you know? — No, I forgot. Why, to-day's the school-house match. Our house plays the whole of the school at football. And we all wear white trousers, to show 'em we don't care for hacks. You're in luck to come to-day. You just will see a match; and Brooke's going to let me play in quarters. That's more than he'll do for any other lower school-boy, except James, and he's fourteen."

66 Who's Brooke?"

“ Why, that big fellow who called-over at dinner, to be sure.

He's cock of the school, and head of the school-house side, and the best kick and charger in Rugby."

“Oh, but do show me where they play. And tell



me about it. I love football so, and I've played all my life. Won't Brooke let me play?"

“ Not be," said East, with some indignation ; “why you don't know the rules, you'll be a month learning them. And then it's no joke playing-up in a match, I can tell you. Quite another thing from your private school games. Why, there's been two collar-bones broken this half, and a dozen fellows lamed. And last year a fellow had his leg broken."

Tom listened with the profoundest respect to this chapter of accidents, and followed East across the level ground till they came to a sort of gigantic gallows of two poles eighteen feet high, fixed upright in the ground some fourteen feet apart, with a cross-bar running from one to the other at the height of ten feet or thereabouts.

6 This is one of the goals,” said East, “and you see the other, across there, right opposite, under the Doctor's wall. Well, the match is for the best of three goals; whichever side kicks two goals wins, and it won't do, you see, just to kick the ball through these posts, it must go over the cross-bar; any height'll do, so long as it's between the posts. You'll have to stay in goal to touch the ball when it rolls behind the posts, because if the other side touch it they have a try at goal. Then we fellows in quarters, we play just about in front of goal here, and have to turn the ball and kick it back, before the big fellows on the other side can follow it up. And in front of us all the big fellows play, and that's where the scrummages are mostly."

Tom's respect increased as he struggled to make



out his friend's technicalities, and the other set to work to explain the mysteries of “off your side," “drop-kicks,” “punts," "places," and the other intricacies of the great science of football.

“ But how do you keep the ball between the goals?” said he; "I can't see why it mightn't go right down to the chapel.”

“ Why, that's out of play," answered East. “ You see this gravel walk running down all along this side of the playing-ground, and the line of elms opposite on the other? Well, they're the bounds. As soon as the ball gets past them, it's in touch, and out of play. And then whoever first touches it, has to knock it straight out amongst the players-up, who make two lines with a space between them, every fellow going on his own side. Ain't there just fine scrummages then! and the three trees you see there which come out into the play, that's a tremendous place when the ball hangs there, for you get thrown against the trees, and that's worse than

any hack.”

Tom wondered within himself, as they strolled back again towards the fives' court, whether the matches were really such break-neck affairs as East represented, and whether, if they were, he should ever get to like them and play-up well.

He hadn't long to wonder, however, for next minute East cried out, “Hurra! here's the puntabout, come along and try your hand at a kick." The punt-about is the practice-ball, which is just · brought out and kicked about any how from one boy to another before callings-over and dinner, and

[blocks in formation]

at other odd times. They joined the boys who had brought it out, all small school-house fellows, friends of East, and Tom had the pleasure of trying his skill, and performed very creditably, after first driving his foot three inches into the ground, and then nearly kicking his leg into the air, in vigorous efforts to accomplish a drop-kick after the manner of East.

Presently more boys and bigger came out, and boys from other houses on their way to calling-over, and more balls were sent for. The crowd thickened as three o'clock approached; and when the hour struck, one hundred and fifty boys were hard at work. Then the balls were held, the master of the week came down in cap and gown to calling-over, and the whole school of three hundred boys swept into the big school to answer to their names.

"I may come in, mayn't I ?said Tom, catching East by the arm and longing to feel himself one or them.

“ Yes, come along, nobody'll say anything. You won't be so eager to get into calling-over after a month,” replied his friend; and they marched into the big school together, and up to the further end where that illustrious form, the lower fourth, which had the honour of East's patronage for the time being, stood.

The master mounted into the high desk by the door, and one of the præpostors of the week stood by him on the steps, the other three marching up and down the middle of the school with their canes, calling out “Silence, silence!The sixth-form stood close by the door on the left, some thirty in

« VorigeDoorgaan »