Imágenes de páginas

A hard-featured, middle-aged woman, noises outside and in the passage threatwho kept the house, was waiting, and ened some interruption. At last, when said. to Grey, “Mr. Jones told me to the writing was finished, the copy-books say, sir, he would not be here to-night, cleared away, and the class-books disas he has got a bad fever case-so you tributed, the door opened, and two or three was to take only the lower classes, sir, he big boys of fifteen or sixteen lounged said ; and the policeman would be near in, with their hands in their pockets to keep out the big boys if you wanted and their caps on. There was an inhim ; shall I go and tell him to step solent look about them which set Tom's round, sir?"

back up at once; however, he kept his Grey looked embarrassed for a mo- temper, made them take their caps off, ment, and then said, “No, never mind, and, as they said they wanted to read you can go ;" and then turning to Tom, with the rest, let them take their places added, "Jones is the curate; he won't on the benches. be here to-night; and some of the bigger B ut now came the tug of war. He boys are very noisy and troublesome, could not keep his eyes on the whole and only come to make a noise. How- lot at once, and, no sooner did he fix ever, if they come we must do our his attention on the stammering reader best."

for the time being and try to help him, Meantime, the crowd of small ragged than anarchy broke out all round him. urchins had filled the room, and were Small stones and shot were thrown swarming on to the benches and squab- about, and cries arose from the smaller bling for the copy-books which were fry, “ Please, sir, he's been and poured laid out on the thin desks. Grey set to some ink down my back," “ He's stole work to get them into order, and soon my book, sir," He's gone and stuck a the smallest were draughted off into the pin in my leg." The evil-doers were so inner room with slates and spelling- cunning that it was impossible to catch books, and the bigger ones, some dozen them ; but, as he was hastily turning in number, settled to their writing. in his own mind what to do, a cry arose, Tom seconded him so readily, and and one of the benches went suddenly seemed so much at home, that Grey felt over backwards on to the floor, carrying quite relieved.

with it its whole freight of boys, except " You seem to get on capitally," he two of the bigger ones, who were the said; “I will go into the inner room to evident authors of the mishap. the little ones, and you stay and take T om sprang at the one nearest him, these. There are the class-books when seized him by the collar, hauled him they have done their copies," and so into the passage, and sent him out of went off into the inner room and closed the street-door with a sound kick; and the door.

then, rushing back, caught hold of the My readers must account for the fact second, who went down on his back and as they please ; I only state that Tom, clung round Tom's legs, shouting for as he bent over one after another of the help to his remaining companions, and pupils, and guided the small grubby struggling and swearing. It was all the hands, which clutched the inky pens work of a moment, and now the door with cramped fingers, and went splutter- opened, and Grey appeared from the ing and blotching along the lines of the inner room. Tom left off hauling his copy-books, felt the yellow scales drop- prize towards the passage, and felt and ping from his eyes, and more warmth looked very foolish. coming back into his heart than he had “This fellow, and another whom I known there for many a day.

have turned out, upset that form with All went on well inside, notwith- all he little boys on it,” he said apolostanding a few small outbreaks between getically. the scholars, but every now and then “It's a lie, 'twasn't me,” roared the mud was thrown against the window, and captive, to whom Tom administered a

sound box on the ear, while the small boys, rubbing different parts of their bodies, chorused, “'Twas him, teacher 'twas him," and heaped further charges of pinching, pin-sticking, and other atrocities on him.

Grey astonished Tom by his firmness. “Don't strike him again,” he said. “Now, go out at once, or I will send for your father.” The fellow got up, and, after standing a moment and considering his chance of successful resistance to physical force in the person of Tom, and moral in that of Grey, slunk out. “You must go too, Murphy," went on Grey to another of the intruders.

“Oh, your honour, let me bide. I'll be as quiet as a mouse," pleaded the Irish boy; and Tom would have given in, but Grey was unyielding.

“You were turned out last week, and Ir. Jones said you were not to come back for a fortnight.”

“Well, good night to your honour," said Murphy, and took himself off.

“The rest may stop," said Grey. “You had better take the inner room now; I will stay here."

“I'm very sorry," said Tom.

“ You couldn't help it ; no one can manage those two. Murphy is quite different, but I should have spoiled him if I had let him stay now.”

The remaining half hour passed off quietly. Tom retired into the inner room, and took up Grey's lesson, which he had been reading to the boys from a large Bible with pictures. Out of consideration for their natural and acquired restlessness, the little fellows, who were all between eight and eleven years old, were only kept sitting at their pothooks and spelling for the first hour, and then were allowed to crowd round the teacher, who read and talked to them and showed them the pictures. Tom found the Bible open at the story of the prodigal son, and read it out to them as they clustered round his knees. Some of the outside ones fidgeted about a little, but those close round him listened with ears, and eyes, and bated breath; and two little blue-eyed boys without shoes-their ragged clothes

concealed by long pinafores which their widowed mother had put on clean to send them to school in-leaned against him and looked up in his face, and his heart warmed to the touch and the look. “Please, teacher, read it again," they said when he finished ; so he read it again, and sighed when Grey came in and lighted a candle (for the room was getting dark) and said it was time for prayers.

A few collects, and the Lord's Prayer, in which all the young voices joined, drowning for a minute the noises from the court outside, finished the evening's schooling. The children trooped out, and Grey went to speak to the woman who kept the house. Tom, left to himself, felt strangely happy, and, for something to do, took the snuffers and commenced a crusade against a large family of bugs, who, taking advantage of the quiet, came cruising out of a crack in the otherwise neatly papered wall. Some dozen had fallen on his spear when Grey re-appeared, and was much horrified at the sight. He called the woman, and told her to have the hole carefully fumigated and mended.

“I thought we had killed them all long ago," he said ; “but the place is tumbling down."

“ It looks well enough," said Tom.

“Yes, we have it kept as tidy as possible. It ought to be at least a little better than what the children see at home.” And so they left the school and court and walked up to college.

“Where are you going ?” Tom said, as they entered the gate.

“To Hardy's rooms : will you come?"

“No, not to-night,” said Tom, "? know that you want to be reading ; 1 should only interrupt."

“Well, good-night then,” said Grey, and went on, leaving Tom standing in the porch. On the way up from the school he had almost made up his mind to go to Hardy's rooms that night. H longed, and yet feared to do so; and, on the whole, was not sorry for an excus Their first meeting must be alone, and it would be a very embarrassing one 10 him at any rate. Grey, he hoped, wou


pose ?"

tell Hardy of his visit to the school, “Pay it! You may trust Benjamin and that would show that he was com- for that. He'll pull round his little usuries ing round, and make the meeting easier. somehow.” His talk with Grey, too, had removed “Only we have promised to pay on one great cause of uneasiness from his a certain day, you know." mind. It was now quite clear that he “Oh, of course, that's the form. That had no suspicion of the quarrel, and, if only means that he can't pinch us sooner.” Hardy had not told him, no one else “I do hope, though, Drysdale, that could know of it.

it will be paid on the day," said Tom, Altogether, he strolled into the who could not quite swallow the notion quadrangle a happier and sounder man of forfeiting his word, even though it than he had been since his first visit to were only a promise to pay to a scoundrel. the Choughs, and looked up and an “All right. You've nothing to do swered with his old look and voice when with it, remember. He won't bother he heard his name called from one of the you. Besides, you can plead infancy, first-floor windows.

if the worst comes to the worst. There's The hailer was Drysdale, who was such a queer old bird gone to your friend leaning out in lounging coat and velvet Hardy's rooms.” cap, and enjoying a cigar as usual, in The mention of Hardy broke the disthe midst of the flowers of his hanging agreeable train of thought into which garden.

Tom was falling, and he listened eagerly “You've heard the good news, I sup- as Drysdale went on.

“It was about half an hour ago. I “No, what do you mean ?”.

was looking out here, and saw an old “Why, Blake has got the Latin verse.” fellow come hobbling into quad on two “Hurra! I'm so glad.”

sticks, in a shady blue uniform coat “Come up and have a weed.” Tom and white trousers. The kind of old ran up the staircase and into Drysdale's boy you read about in books, you know: rooms, and was leaning out of the win- Commodore Trunnion, or Uncle Toby, dow at his side in another minute. or one of that sort. Well, I watched

“What does he get by it ?” he said, him backing and filing about the quad, “ do you know ?

and trying one staircase and another; "No, some books bound in Russia, I but there was nobody about. So down dare say, with the Oxford arms, and I trotted, and went up to him for fun, 'Dominus illuminatio mea'on the back.” and to see what he was after. It was as "No money ?

good as a play, if you could have seen “Not much—perhaps a ten'ner,” an- it. I was ass enough to take off my swered Drysdale, “but no end of kūdos cap and make a low bow as I came up to I suppose.”

him, and he pulled off his uniform cap " It makes it look well for his in return, and we stood there bowing to first, don't you think? But I wish he one another. He was a thorough old had got some money for it. I often gentleman, and I felt rather foolish for feel very uncomfortable about that bill, fear he should see that I expected a lark don't you ?

when I came out. But I don't think “Not I, what's the good? It's nothing he had an idea of it, and only set my when you are used to it. Besides, it capping him down to the wonderful good don't fall due for another month.” manners of the college. So we got quite

“But if Blake can't meet it then ?" thick, and I piloted him across to Hardy's said Tom.

staircase in the back quad. I wanted "Well, it will be vacation, and I'll him to come up and quench, but he trouble greasy Benjamin to catch me declined, with many apologies. I'm then."

sure he is a character." “But you don't mean to say you

“ He must be Hardy's father," said won't pay it ?" said Tom in horror.


“I shouldn't wonder. But is his father in the navy ?

“He is a retired captain.”

“Then no doubt you're right. What shall we do? Have a hand at picquet. Some men will be here directly. Only for love."

Tom declined the proffered game, and went off soon after to his own rooms, a happier man than he had been since his first night at the Choughs.


THE RECONCILIATION. Tom rose in the morning with a presentiment that all would be over now before long, and, to make his presentiment come true, resolved, before night, to go himself to Hardy and give in. All he reserved to himself was the liberty to do it in the manner which would be least painful to himself. He was greatly annoyed, therefore, when Hardy did not appear at morning chapel; for he had fixed on the leaving chapel as the least unpleasant time in which to begin his confession, and was going to catch Hardy then, and follow him to his rooms. All the morning, too, in answer to his inquiries by his scout Wiggins, Hardy's scout replied that his master was out, or busy. He did not come to the boats, he did not appear in hall; so that, after hall, when Tom went back to his own rooms, as he did at once, instead of sauntering out of college, or going to a wine party, he was quite out of heart at his bad luck, and began to be afraid that he would have to sleep on his unhealed wound another night.

He sat down in an arm-chair, and fell to musing, and thought how wonderfully his life had been changed in these few short weeks. He could hardly get back across the gulf which separated him from the self who came back into those rooms after Easter, full of anticipations of the pleasures and delights of the coming summer term and vacation. To his own surprise he didn't seem much to regret the loss of his châteaux en Espagne, and felt a sort of grim satisfaction in their utter overthrow.

While occupied with these thoughts, he heard talking on his stairs, accompanied by a strange lumbering tread. These came nearer; and at last stopped just outside his door, which opened in another moment, and Wiggins announced

“Capting Hardy, sir."

Tom jumped to his legs, and felt himself colour painfully. “Here, Wiggins," said he, “wheel round that armchair for Captain Hardy. I am so very glad to see you, sir,” and he hastened round himself to meet the old gentleman, holding out his hand, which the visitor took very cordially, as soon as he had passed his heavy stick to his left hand, and balanced himself safely upon it.

" Thank you, sir ; thank you," said the old man after a few moments' pause, “I find your companion ladders rather steep ;" and then he sat down with some difficulty.

Tom took the Captain's stick and undress cap, and put them reverentially on his sideboard ; and then, to get rid of some little nervousness which he couldn't help feeling, bustled to his cupboard, and helped Wiggins to place glasses and biscuits on the table. “Now, sir, what will you take? I have port, sherry, and whiskeywhere, and can get you anything else. Wiggins, run to Hinton's and get some dessert.”

“No dessert, thank you, for me," said the Captain ; “I'll take a cup of coffee, or a glass of grog, or anything you have ready. Don't open wine for me, pray, sir.”

"Oh, it is all the better for being opened,” said Tom, working away at a bottle of sherry with his corkscrew“and, Wiggins, get some coffee and anchovy toast in a quarter of an hour; and just put out some tumblers and toddy ladles, and bring up boiling water with the coffee.”

While making his hospitable preparations, Tom managed to get many sideglances at the old man, who sat looking steadily and abstractedly before him into the fireplace, and was much struck and touched by the picture. The sailor

wore a well-preserved old undress uni, up here ; I owe more to him than to any form coat and waistcoat, and white drill man in Oxford.” trousers; he was a man of middle The Captain's eye gleamed with pleaheight, but gaunt and massive, and sure as he replied, “Jack is a noble Tom recognised the framework of the fellow, Mr. Brown, though I say it who long arms and grand shoulders and chest am his father. I've often promised mywhich he had so often admired in the self a cruize to Oxford since he has been son. His right leg was quite stiff from here. I came here at last yesterday, and an old wound on the kneecap; the left have been having a long yarn with him. eye was sightless, and the scar of a cut. I found there was something on his las travelled down the drooping lid and mind. He can't keep anything from his on to the weather-beaten cheek below, old father : and so I drew out of him His head was high and broad, his hair that he loves you as David loved Jonaand whiskers silver white, while the than. He made my old eye very, dim shaggy eyebrows were scarcely grizzled. while he was talking of you, Mr. Brown, His face was deeply lined, and the long And then I found that you two are not clean-cut lower jaw, and drawn look as you used to be. Some coldness about the mouth, gave a grim expres- sprung up between you ; but what about sion to the face at the first glance, I couldn't get at! Young men are often which wore off as you looked, leaving, hasty-I know I was, forty years ago however, on most men who thought Jack says he has been hasty with you. about it, the impression which fastened Now, that boy is all I have in the on our hero, “An awkward man to have world, Mr. Brown. I know my boy's met at the head of boarders towards the friend will like to send an old man end of the great war.”

home with a light heart. So I made In a minute or two Tom, having com- up my mind to come over to you and pleted his duties, faced the old sailor, ask you to make it up with Jack. I much reassured by his covert inspection; gave him the slip after dinner and here and, pouring himself out a glass of I am.” sherry, pushed the decanter across, and “Oh, sir, did he really ask you to drank to his guest.

come to me ?” * Your health, sir," he said, “and “No, sir," said the Captain, “he did thank you very much for coming up to not~ I'm sorry for it--I think Jack see me."

must be in the wrong, for he said " Thank you, sir," said the Captain, he had been too hasty, and yet he rousing himself and filling, “I drink to wouldn't ask me to come to you and you, sir. The fact is, I took a great make it up. But he is young, sir; young liberty in coming up to your rooms in and proud. He said he couldn't move this off hand way, without calling or in it, his mind was made up; he was sending up, but you'll excuse it in an wretched enough over it, but the move old sailor." Here the captain took to must come from you. And so that's his glass, and seemed a little embarrassed. the favour I have to ask, that you will Tom felt embarrassed also, feeling that make it up with Jack. It isn't often a something was coming, and could only young man can do such a favour to an think of asking how the captain liked old one-to an old father with one son. the sherry. The captain liked the You'll not feel the worse for having sherry very much. Then, suddenly clear- done it, if it's ever so hard to do, when ing his throat, he went on. “I felt, sir, you come to be my age.” And the old that you would excuse me, for I have a man looked wistfully across the table, the favour to ask of you.” He paused again, muscles about his mouth quivering as while Tom muttered something about he ended. great pleasure, and then went on.

Tom sprang from his chair, and “You know my son, Mr. Brown?grasped the old sailor's hand, as he felt “ Yes, sir; he has been my best friend the load pass out of his heart. “Favour,

« AnteriorContinuar »