Glyn Severn's Schooldays, by George Manville Fenn.
Glyn Severn and the Maharajah of Dour, both about 15 or 16, have been sent together to an English Boarding School. Glyn's father has been for many years a Colonel in the Maharajah's father's army, but now the old Maharajah is dead, and his son, known at school as "Singh", has inherited the title. The Colonel is Singh's guardian.
There are the usual schoolboyish rivalries and fights, in particular involving a nasty individual called Slegge. A menagerie owner lives nearby, and among his animals is an elephant who is sometimes in a bad mood. It turns out that Glyn and Singh, who have had dealings with elephants in India, are rather good at bringing it under control.
Singh has brought one of his Princely regalia, a heavily bejewelled belt. One day it disappears. Several people are known to be short of cash, so are suspected of the theft. Nearly half the book is spent in chasing out the culprit, but we get there in the end.
However, there is a surprise ending to the book.
It should be mentioned that the title is a little misleading, for "schooldays" covers well over a decade, but the action in this book covers only a few days. NH
GLYN SEVERN'S SCHOOLDAYS, BY GEORGE MANVILE FENN.
THE NEW BOYS.
Slegge said it was all "bosh;" for fifty years ago a boy at school had not learned to declare that everything which did not suit his taste was "rot." So Slegge stood leaning up against the playground wall with a supercilious sneer upon his lip, and said it was all "bosh," and only fit for children.
The other fellows, he said, might make idiots of themselves if they liked, he should stop in and read; for Dr Bewley, DD, Principal of the world-famed establishment—a grey, handsome, elderly gentleman in the truest sense of the word—had smilingly said after grace at breakfast that when he was a boy he used to take a great deal of interest in natural history, and that he presumed his pupils would feel much the same as he did, and would have no objection to setting aside their classical and mathematical studies for the morning and watching the entrance of the procession when it entered the town at twelve o'clock.
The boys, who were all standing and waiting for the Doctor to leave the dining-hall, gave a hearty cheer at this; and as the ragged volley died out, after being unduly prolonged by the younger pupils, instead of crossing to the door from the table, the Doctor continued, turning to the mathematical master:
"I think, Mr Morris, you might be kind enough to tell Wrench to get the boy to help him and place a line of forms by the wall, so that the young gentlemen can enjoy the privilege of having a prolonged private box above the crowd; or, shall I say, a high bank in this modern form of the classic amphitheatre?"
"Hear, hear!" said Mr Rampson, the heavy, solid-looking classical master, impressed by the Principal's allusion to the Roman sports; and he grumbled out something in a subdued voice, with his eyes shut. What it was the boys did not hear, but it was evidently a Latin quotation, and ended in ibus.
The Doctor then marched slowly towards the door, with his black gown floating out around him, and carrying his mortar-board cap by the limp corner; for while everything about him was spick and span—his cravat of the stiffest and whitest as it supported his plump, pink, well-shaven chin, and his gown of the glossiest black—a habit of holding his college cap by its right-hand corner had resulted in the formation of a kind of hinge which made the University headpiece float up and down in concert with his stately steps as he turned his head from side to side and nodded benignantly at first one and then another of his junior pupils.
The masters followed, looking very severe indeed; and, following the example set by Mr Morris, they all frowned and shook their heads at the great waste of time that would follow the passing of the procession.
"So childish of the old man," said Morris to the French master, Monsieur Brohanne, a particularly plump-looking Gaul. "The boys will be fit for nothing afterwards."
"Certainement!" said the French master.
"But I suppose I must give orders for these seats to be placed;" and as soon as he was outside he summoned Wrench—the pale-faced and red-nosed official whose principal duty it was, with the assistance of a sturdy hobbledehoy (Mounseer Hobby-de-Hoy, as the boys called him) to keep well-blackened the whole of the boots in the big establishment—and gave orders to carry out and run a line of forms all along the outer wall of the great playground, which was continued farther on by the cricket-field hedge.
"A great waste of time," said Morris; but he gave very strict orders to the man-servant that the biggest and strongest form was to be chalked "Number One," and reserved for the masters only.
There was a buzz in the dining-hall which grew into a roar as the door closed. The boys, who had sat down to breakfast rather wanting in appetite—from the fact that their consciences were not very clear regarding studies in English and French or certain algebraic solutions or arrangements in angles specified by "A B C" and "D E F," according to the declarations of a well-known gentleman named Euclid—felt in their great relief as if they would like another cup of coffee and two slices more, for the holiday was quite unexpected.
It was about this time that Slegge gave his opinion to his following, which was rather large, he being the senior pupil and considering himself head-chief of the school, not from his distinguished position as a scholar, but from the fact that his allowance of cash from home was the largest of that furnished to any pupil of the establishment, without counting extra tips. Slegge, Senior—not the pupil, for there was no other boy of the same name in the school, but Slegge pere, as Monsieur Brohanne would have termed him—being sole proprietor of the great wholesale mercantile firm of Slegge, Gorrock and Dredge, Italian warehousemen, whose place of business was in the City of London, and was, as Slegge insisted, "not a shop."
"You fellows," he said, "can do as you like. Some of you had better set up a wicket and the net, and come and bowl to me. Ha, ha! look at Thames and the Nigger! It will just suit them. Those Indian chaps think of nothing else but show. I shan't be at all surprised if the nigger goes up to dress and comes down again in white muslin and a turban.—I say! Hi! Thames! Rivers! What's your stupid name? It's going to be a hot day. You ought to come out with the chow-chow."
"No, no," whispered a boy beside him, "chowri."
"Well, chow-chow, chowri; it's all the same," said the big lad impatiently. "Horse-tail to whisk the flies away.—Hi! do you hear?"
"Are you speaking to me?" said the tall, very English-looking lad addressed.
"Of course I am."
"Well, you might address me by my name."
"Well, so I did. Thames. No, I remember, Severn! What idiots your people were to give themselves names like that!"
"Well, it's as good as Slegge anyhow," said the lad.
There was a little laugh at this, which made the owner of the latter name turn sharply and fiercely upon the nearest boy, who shut his mouth instantly and looked as innocent as a lamb.
"Look here," said Slegge, turning again to the lad he had addressed, "don't you be cheeky, sir, or you'll find yourself walked down behind the tennis-court some morning to have a first breakfast; and you won't be the first that I have taught his place in this school."
"Oh," said the lad quietly, "you mean fighting?"
"Yes," said Slegge, thrusting out his chin, "I mean fighting. You are new to this place, and you have been coming the stuck-up on the strength of your father being a poor half-pay Company's colonel. Honourable East India Company indeed! Shabby set of sham soldiers got-up to look like the real."
The face of the boy he addressed changed colour a little, and he drew a deep breath as he compressed his lips.
"And don't you look at me like that," continued Slegge, who was delighted to find a large audience gathering round him to listen while he gave one of the new boys a good setting down, "or you may find that, after I have done with you, you won't be fit to show your ugly mug in the row of grinning boobies staring over the wall at a twopenny-halfpenny wild-beast show."
"I don't want to quarrel," said the lad quietly.
"Oh, don't you!" continued Slegge, with a sneering laugh. "Well, perhaps I do, and if I do I shall just give your master one for himself as well."
"My master," said the lad staring.
"Yes, your master, the nigger—Howdah, Squashee, or whatever he calls himself. Here! hi! you, Aziz Singh-Song, or whatever your name is, why don't you dress up and go and get leave from the Doctor to ride the elephant in the procession? Your father is a mahout out there in India, isn't he?"
The boy he addressed, who had just come up to lay his hand upon the shoulder of Severn, to whisper, "What's the matter, Glyn?" started on hearing this address, and his dark face, which was about the tint of a young Spaniard's, whom he resembled greatly in mien, flushed up and the lips closed very tightly, but only to part again and show his glistening white teeth. "My father—" he began.
"Bother! come on," cried Severn, putting his arm round the other and half-pushing, half-dragging him through the crowd of lads who were clustering round in expectation of a coming set-to.
There was a low murmur as of disgust as the two lads elbowed their way through, whilst Slegge shouted after them.
"Sneaks!" he cried. "Cowards! But I haven't done with you yet;" and as they passed out through the door into the great playground he drew himself up, giving his head a jerk, and then moistening his hands in a very objectionable way, he gave them a rub together, doubled his fists, and threw himself into a fighting attitude, jerking his head to and fro in the most approved manner; and, bringing forth a roar of delight from the little crowd around him, as quick as lightning he delivered two sharp blows right and left to a couple of unoffending schoolfellows, picking out, though, two who were not likely to retaliate.
"That'll be it, boys, the pair together—one down and t'other come on. Both together if they like. They want putting in their places. I mean to strike against it."
"Hit hard then, Sleggy," cried one of his parasites.
"I will," was the reply. "There you have it;" and to the last speaker's disgust he received a sharp blow in the chest which sent him staggering back. "Now, don't you call me Sleggy again, young man. Next time it will be one in the mouth.—Yes, boys," he continued, drawing himself up, "I do mean to hit hard, and let the Principal and the masters see that we are not going to have favouritism here. Indian prince, indeed! Yah! who's he? Why, I could sell him for a ten-pun note, stock and lock and bag and baggage, to Madame Tussaud's. That's about all he's fit for. Dressed up to imitate an English gentleman! Look at him! His clothes don't fit, even if they are made by a proper tailor."
"It's he who doesn't fit his clothes," cried one of the circle.
"Well done, Burney!" cried Slegge approvingly. "That's it. Look at his hands and feet. Bah! I haven't patience with it. The Doctor ought to be ashamed of himself, taking a nigger like that! Why didn't he come dressed like a native, instead of disguised as an English lad? And he's no more like it than chalk's like cheese. Yes, I say the Doctor ought to be ashamed of himself, bringing a fellow like that into an establishment for the sons of gentlemen; and I'll tell him so before I have done."
"Do," said the lad nearest to him; "only do it when we are all there. I should like to hear you give the Doctor a bit of your mind."
Slegge turned round upon him sharply. "Do you mean that," he said, "or is it chaff?"
"Mean it? Of course!" cried the boy hastily.
"Lucky for you, then," continued Slegge. "I suppose you haven't forgotten me giving you porridge before breakfast this time last year?"
"Here, what a chap you are! I didn't mean any harm. But I say, Slegge, old chap, you did scare them off. I wish the Principal wouldn't have any more new boys. I say, though, you don't mean to get the wickets pitched this morning, do you?"
"Of course I do," cried Slegge. "Do you want to go idling and staring over the wall and look at the show?"
"There, that will do," cried Slegge. "I know. Just as if there weren't monkeys enough in the collection without you!"
At this would-be witticism on the part of the tyrant of the school there was a fresh roar of laughter, which made the unfortunate against whom it was directed writhe with annoyance, and hurry off to conciliate his schoolfellow by getting the wickets pitched.
DECLARATION OF WAR.
Meanwhile the two lads, who had retired from the field, strolled off together across the playground down to the pleasant lawn-like level which the Doctor, an old lover of the Surrey game, took a pride in having well kept for the benefit of his pupils, giving them a fair amount of privilege for this way of keeping themselves in health. But to quote his words in one of his social lectures, he said:
"You boys think me a dreadful old tyrant for keeping you slaving away at your classics and mathematics, because you recollect the work that you are often so unwilling to do, while the hours I give you for play quite slip your minds. Now, this is my invariable rule, that you shall do everything well: work hard when it's work, and play hard when it's play."
The two lads, Glyn Severn and his companion of many years, Aziz Singh, a dark English boy in appearance and speech, but maharajah in his own right over a powerful principality in Southern India, strolled right away over the grass to the extreme end of the Doctor's extensive grounds, chatting together as boys will talk about the incidents of the morning.
"Oh," cried the Indian lad angrily, "I wish you hadn't stopped me. I was just ready."
"Why, what did you want to do, Singhy?" cried the other.
"Fight," said the boy, with his eyes flashing and his dark brows drawn down close together.
"Oh, you shouldn't fight directly after breakfast," said Glyn Severn, laughing good-humouredly.
"Why not?" cried the other fiercely. "I felt just then as if I could kill him."
"Then I am glad I lugged you away."
"But you shouldn't," cried the young Indian. "You nearly made me hit you."
"You had better not," said Glyn, laughing merrily.
"Yes, of course; I know, and I don't want to."
"That's right; and you mustn't kill people in England because you fall out with them."
"No, of course not; I know that too. But I don't like that boy. He keeps on saying nasty things to us, and—and—what do you call it? I know—bullies you, and says insulting things to me. How dare he call me a nigger and say my father was a mahout?"
"The insulting brute!" said Glyn.
"Why should he do it?" cried Singh.
"Oh, it's plain enough. It's because he is big and strong, and he wants to pick a quarrel with us."
"But what for?" cried Singh. "We never did him any harm."
"Love of conquest, I suppose, so as to make us humble ourselves to him same as the other fellows do. He wants to be cock of the school."
"Oh—oh!" cried Singh. "It does make me feel so hot. What did he say to me: was I going to ride on the elephant?—Yes. Well, suppose I was. It wouldn't be the first time."
"Not by hundreds," cried Glyn. "I say, used it not to be grand? Don't you wish we were going over the plains to-day on the back of old Sultan?"
He pronounced it Sool-tann.
"Ah, yes!" cried Singh, with his eyes flashing now. "I do, I do! instead of being shut up in this old school to be bullied by a boy like that. I should like to knock his head off."
"No, you wouldn't. There, don't think anything more about it. He isn't worth your notice."
"No, I suppose not," said the Indian boy;—"but what makes me so angry is that he despises me, and has treated me ever since we came here as if I were his inferior. It is not the first time he has called me a nigger.—There, I won't think anything more about it. Tell me, what's this grand procession to-day? Is it to be like a durbar at home, when all the rajahs and nawabs come together with their elephants and trains?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Glyn, laughing. "Nothing of the kind."
"Then, why are they making all this fuss? It said on the bills we saw yesterday in the town, 'Ramball's Wild-Beast Show. Grand Procession.'"
"I don't know much about it," said Glyn; "only here in England in country places they make a great fuss over things like this. I asked Wrench yesterday, and he said that this was a menagerie belonging to a man who lives near and keeps his wild-beasts at a big farm-like place just outside the town."
"But why a procession?" said Singh impatiently.
"Oh, he takes them all round the country, going from town to town, and they are away for months, and now they are coming back."
"Menagerie! beast show!" said Singh thoughtfully. "They are all tame, of course?"
"Yes, of course," said Glyn. "It said lions and tigers and elephants and camels, and a lot more things on the bills. I should like to see them."
"You English are a wonderful people. My father used to have tigers— three of them—a tiger, a tigress, and a nearly full-grown cub. But they were so fierce he got tired of keeping them, and when the tigress killed one of the keepers, you remember, he asked your father about it, and they settled that it would be best to kill them."
"Of course, I remember," said Glyn; "and they had a tiger-hunt, and let one out at a time, and had beaters to drive them out of the nullahs, and shot all three."
"Yes," said Singh thoughtfully; "and my father wouldn't let me go with him on his elephant, because he said it wouldn't be safe. Then these will all be tame tigers and lions? Well, I shall like to see them all the same, because it will make me feel like being at home once more. I say, when is your father coming down again?"
"Don't know," said Glyn quietly. "I did ask in my last weekly letter."
"Ah!" said the Indian boy with a sigh, "I wish I were you."
"Well, let's change," said Glyn laughing. "You envy me! Why, I ought to envy you."
"Why?" said Singh, staring.
"Why, because you are a maharajah, a prince; and when you grow old enough you are going back to Dour to rule over your subjects and be one of the biggest pots in Southern India."
"Well, what of that?" said Singh quietly. "What good will that do me? But of course the Colonel will come too."
"Ah, that remains to be seen," said Glyn. "That'll be years to come, and who knows what will happen before then?"
"I don't care what happens," cried Singh hotly. "He's coming back to India when I go. Why, he told me himself that my father made him my guardian, and that he promised to look after me as long as he lived. He said he promised to be a father to me. It was that day when I got into a passion about something, and made him so cross. But I was very sorry afterwards," said the boy quietly, "he's such a good old fellow, and made me like him as much as I did my own father."
"Well," said Glyn merrily, "you have always had your share of him. It has made me feel quite jealous sometimes."
"Jealous! Why?" said Singh wonderingly.
"Because he seemed to like you better than he did me."
"What a shame!" cried Singh. "Oh, I say, you don't mean that, do you, Glyn, old chap? Why, you don't know how fond he is of you."
"No; you should hear what he says about you sometimes."
"Says about me? What does he say about me?"
"Oh, perhaps I oughtn't to tell you," said Singh, showing his white teeth.
"Yes, do, there's a good fellow," cried Glyn, catching the other by the arm.
"Well, he said he should be proud to see me grow up such a boy as you are, and that my father wished me to take you for an example, for he wanted me to become thoroughly English—oh, and a lot more like that."
Glyn Severn was silent, and soon after, as the two boys turned, they saw a group of their schoolfellows coming down the field laden with bats and stumps, while one carried a couple of iron-shod stakes round which was rolled a stout piece of netting.
"Here," said Glyn suddenly, "let's go round the other side of the field. Old Slegge's along with them, and he'll be getting up a quarrel again. I don't want to fight; but if he keeps on aggravating like he did this morning I suppose I shall have to."
"But if we go now," said Singh, "it will look as if we are frightened. We seemed to run away before, only you made me come."
"Oh, it doesn't matter what seems," cried Severn irritably. "We know we are not frightened, and that's enough. Come on."
The two boys began to move slowly away; but they had not gone far before Slegge shouted after them, "Hi, you, sirs! I want you to come and field."
"Then want will be your master," said Severn between his teeth.—"Come on, Singh. Don't look round. Let's pretend we can't hear."
They walked steadily on for a few paces, Severn making-believe to be talking earnestly to his companion, when:
"Do you hear, there, you, sirs? Come here directly. I want you to field!"
"I dare say you do; cheeky great bully!" said Glyn softly. "I shan't come and field for you. The Doctor did not give us a holiday to-day to come and be your slaves."
"Hi, there! Are you coming, or am I to come and fetch you?" shouted Slegge, without any effect, and the big lad turned to Burney and gave him an order. The next minute the boy, armed with a stump, came running at full speed across the grass, shouting to the two companions to stop, but without their paying the slightest heed or increasing their pace.
The consequence was that the lad soon overtook them, to cry, rather out of breath, "Did you hear the captain call to you to come and field?"
Singh glanced at Glyn, who gave him a sharp look as he replied, "Yes, I heard him quite plainly."
The messenger stared with open eyes and mouth, as if it was beyond his comprehension.
"Then, why don't you come?" he cried.
"Because we are going up to the house," replied Glyn coolly, "to our dormitory."
"That you are not," cried Burney. "The rules say that the fellows are not to go up to their rooms between hours, and you have been here long enough to know that. Now then, no nonsense. Here, you, Singh, you've got to come and field while old Slegge practises batting, and Tompkins has got to bowl."
As the boy spoke in an unpleasant dictatorial way he made a thrust at Singh with the pointed stump he held; but quick as thought and before it was driven home, this third-part of a wicket was wrenched from his hand by Severn and sent flying through the air.
"How dare you!" shouted Burney, and he made a rush at Glyn to collar him and make him prisoner; but before he could reach the offending lad a foot was thrust out by Singh, over which he tripped and fell sprawling upon his face.
"Oh!" he shouted, half-beside himself with rage; and, scrambling up, he made a rush with clenched fists at the two boys, who now stood perfectly still awaiting his onslaught.
It was a thoroughly angry charge, but not a charge home; for Burney stopped some three or four yards short of the distance, with his rage evaporating fast and beginning to feel quite discreet.
For quite a minute the opponents stood gazing fiercely, and then what had threatened to become a cuffing encounter became verbal.
"Look here," cried Burney, "you two will get it for this. What am I to say to the captain?"
"Tell him to bowl for himself," said Singh sharply.
"Here! Hi! Burney, bring 'em along!" came from across the field and from between Slegge's hands. "Tell these beggars they had better not keep me waiting much longer!"
"All right!" shouted back Burney; and then to the two lads, "There, you hear. Come on at once, and as you are new chaps I won't tell on you. You had better come, or he'll pay you out by keeping you on bowling so that you can't go and see the show."
"Yes," said Glyn quietly. "Go back and tell him what Singh said."
"What!" cried Burney, staring with wonder. "Tell the captain he's to bowl for himself?"
"Yes," said Glyn coolly, "as long as he likes.—Come along, Singh;" and, throwing his arm over his Indian companion's shoulder, the two lads fell into military step and marched slowly towards the Doctor's mansion-like house.
"I am afraid it means a fight, Singh," said Glyn quietly. "Well, I dare say we can get over it. I am not going to knuckle down to that fellow. Are you?"
"Am I?" cried the boy, flashing a fierce look at his English companion. "What do you think?"
Glyn laughed softly and merrily.
"Shall I tell you?" he said.
"Yes, of course," cried the Indian boy hotly.
"Well, I think you will."
"When you can't lift hand or foot, and your eyes are closing up so as you can hardly see."
"And I won't give up then!" cried the boy passionately.
"Well, don't get into a wax about it, old chap," said Glyn in a dry, slow way. "I don't suppose you'll have to, for the big chuckle-headed bully will have to lick me first, and I dare say I can manage to tire him so that you can easily lick him in turn."
"You are not going to fight him," cried Singh hotly.
"Yes, I am."
"You are not. He insulted my dead father. A mahout indeed!"
"So he did mine," said Glyn. "A shabby half-pay military officer indeed! I'll make him look shabby before I have done."
"Now, look here," cried Singh, "don't be a beast, Glynny, and make me more angry than I am. I am bad enough as it is."
"So am I, so don't you get putting on the Indian tyrant. Recollect you are in England now. This is my job, and I know if father were here he'd say I was to have the first go in. He's such a big fellow that I believe he'll lick me easily. But, as I said before, I shall pretty well tire him out, and then you being the reserve, he'll come at you, and then he'll find out his mistake. And I say, Singhy, old chap, I do hope that my eyes won't be so closed that I can't see. Now then, come up to our room. It's a holiday, and the rules won't count to-day. Come on, and we'll talk it over."
"But—" began Singh.
"Now, don't be obstinate. You promised father you'd try and give way to me over English matters. Now, didn't you?"
"Well," said the lad hesitatingly, "I suppose I did."
"Come on, then. You see war's begun, and we have got to settle our plan of campaign."
The young Maharajah nodded his head and smiled.
"Yes," he said, "come up to our room. We ought to dress, oughtn't we, to see the procession? I say, I don't know how it is, I always like fighting against any one who tries to bully. I am not sorry that war has begun."
"Neither am I," said the English lad quietly, "for things have been very unpleasant ever since we came here, and when we've got this over perhaps we shall be at peace."
THE PRINCE'S REGALIA.
The bedroom shared by Glyn Severn and Singh was one of a series, small and particularly comfortable, in the new annexe the Doctor had built expressly for lecture-room and dormitories when his establishment began to increase.
The comfortably furnished room just sufficed for two narrow beds and the customary furniture; and as soon as the two lads had entered, Singh hurried to his chest of drawers, unlocked one, took out a second bunch of keys to that he carried in his pocket, and was then crossing to a sea-going portmanteau standing in one corner, when Glyn, who was looking very thoughtful and abstracted, followed, and as Singh knelt down and threw open the travelling-case, laid his hand upon the lad's shoulder. "What are you going to do?" he said shortly. "Only look out two or three things that there's not room for in the drawer."
"Why, to dress for the procession."
"Stuff and nonsense! You are quite right as you are," cried Glyn half-mockingly. "You must learn to remember that you are in England, where nobody dresses up except soldiers. Why, what were you going to do?"
"I was going to put on a white suit and belt."
"Nonsense!" cried Glyn. "This isn't India, but Devonshire. Why, if you were to come down dressed like that the boys would all laugh at you, and the crowd out in the road shout and cheer."
"Well, of course," said Singh; "they'd see I was a prince."
"Oh, what a rum fellow you are!" cried Glyn, gripping his companion's shoulders and laughingly shaking him to and fro. "I thought that I had made you understand that now we are over here you were to dress just the same as an English boy. Why, don't you know that when we had a king in England he used to dress just like any ordinary gentleman, only sometimes he would wear a star on his breast."
"Oh, but surely," began Singh, in a disappointed tone, "he must have—"
"Yes, yes, yes; sometimes," cried Glyn. "I know what you mean. On state occasions, or when he went to review troops, he would wear grand robes or a field-marshal's uniform."
"But didn't he wear his crown?"
"No," cried Glyn, bursting out laughing. "That's only put on for a little while when he's made king."
"What does he do with it, then, at other times?"
"Nothing," cried Glyn merrily. "It's kept shut up in a glass case at the Tower, for people to go and see."
"England seems a queer place," said Singh quietly.
"Very," cried Glyn drily. "You never want those Indian clothes, and you ought to have done as I told you—left them behind."
"But the Colonel didn't say so," replied the boy warmly. "He said that some day he might take me with him to Court. It was when I asked him for the emeralds."
"What do you mean—the belt?" said Glyn quickly.
"You never told me that you had got them."
"No; the Colonel said that I was not to make a fuss about them nor show them to people, but keep them locked up in the case. Here they are," cried the boy; and, thrusting down one hand, he drew from beneath some folded garments a small flat scarlet morocco case, which he opened by pressing a spring, and drew out from where it lay neatly doubled, a gold-embroidered waistbelt of some soft yellow leather, whose fastening was formed of a gold clasp covered by a large flat emerald, two others of similar shape being arranged so that when the belt was fastened round the waist they lay on either side. It was a magnificent piece of ornamentation, but barbaric, and such as would be worn by an Indian prince.
Apparently it was of great value, for the largest glittering green stone was fully two inches in length and an inch and a half wide, the others being about half the size, and all three engraved with lines of large Arabic characters, so that either stone could have been utilised as a gigantic seal.
"I don't see why one shouldn't wear a thing like this," said Singh. "My father always used to wear it out at home wherever he went, even when he wore nothing else but a long white muslin robe. On grand Court days he would be covered with jewels, and his turban was full of diamonds."
"Yes," said Glyn drily and with a half-contemptuous smile upon his lips; "but that was in India, where all the rajahs and princes wear such things."
"Well," said the boy proudly, "I am still a maharajah, even if I have come to England to be educated; so why shouldn't I put on a belt like this on a grand day if I like?"
Glyn took the brilliant belt from his companion's hand and held it towards the light, inspecting curiously the beautiful gems, which were of a lustrous green marked with flaws.
"Ah," he said, "it looks nice, and is worth a lot of money I suppose."
"Of course," said the young Indian; and he added haughtily, "I shouldn't wear it if it were not."
"Well, you can't wear it," said Glyn, passing the embroidered leather through his hands and turning it over in the bright sunlight which came through the window.
"But why?" cried Singh, frowning slightly at having his will challenged.
"Well," said Glyn, "first of all, as I told you, because the boys would laugh at you."
"They dare not," cried the boy proudly.
"What!" cried Glyn laughing. "Why, English boys dare do anything. What did Slegge say this morning?"
"Slegge is what you call a blackguard," cried Singh angrily.
"Well, he isn't nice certainly," said Glyn; "but he'd begin at you again directly, and chaff, and say that you ought to ride on the elephant."
"Well," said the boy, "and that would be my place if there were a howdah. Of course I shouldn't ride on the great brute's neck."
"Yes, in India; but can't you recollect that you are still in England?"
"Of course I can," cried the boy, with flashing eyes; "but I can't forget that I am a prince."
"Now, look here," said Glyn, "what did dad say to you when the Doctor left us with him in the drawing-room? I mean before father went away. Have you forgotten?"
"Of course not. He said, 'Never mind about being a prince. Be content with the rank of an English gentleman till you go back to your own country.' And that's what I am going to do."
"Well done," cried Glyn merrily. "Then, now, put this thing away; you don't want it. But stop a moment. I never had a close look at it before."
"No; the Colonel told me to keep it locked up and not to go showing it about so as to tempt some budmash to steal it."
"Well, we haven't got any budmashes in England," said Glyn merrily, as he began to inspect the emeralds again and took out his handkerchief to rub off a finger-mark or two and make the gems send off scintillations of sunlight which formed jack-o'-lanterns on the ceiling. "But we have plenty of blackguards who would like to get a chance to carry it off."
"What, among our schoolfellows?" cried Singh hastily.
"Bah! No! There, put it away. But I should like to know what that writing means."
"It's out of the Koran," said the boy as he took the jewelled belt back reverently and held it up to the light in turn. "It's very, very old, and means greatness to my family. It is a holy relic, and the Maharajahs of Dour have worn that in turn for hundreds of years."
"Well, you put it away," said Glyn; "and I wouldn't show it to anybody again, nor yet talk about it. I wonder the dad let you have it."
"Why?" said Singh proudly. "It is mine."
"Yes, of course; but it is not suited for a boy like you."
"A boy like me!" cried Singh half—angrily. "Why, I am as old as you."
"Well, I know that; but my father doesn't give me emeralds and diamonds to take with me to school. He could, though, if he liked, for he's got all those beautiful Indian jewels the Maharajah gave him."
"Yes," said Singh, "and that diamond—hilted tulwar."
"Yes, that's a grand sword," cried Glyn, with his eyes sparkling. "I should like to have that."
Singh laughed mockingly.
"Why, you are as bad as I am," he cried.
"That I am not! Why, if I had it, do you think I should buckle it on to go and see a country wild-beast show?"
"Well, no, I don't suppose you would," said Singh quietly, as he gravely replaced the emeralds in their receptacle and curled the belt around them before shutting down the velvet-lined and quilted cover with a loud snap. "But some day, when we have both grown older, and we are back in India—I mean when I am at home in state and you are one of my officers—you will have to get the Colonel to let you wear it then."
"Ah," said Glyn, slowly and thoughtfully, "some day; but that's a long time off. I suppose I shall be a soldier like the dad is, and in your army."
"Why, of course," cried Singh. "You will be my greatest general, just the same as your father was when mine was alive. He was always a great general there, though he was only colonel in the Company's army. There, I suppose you are right. I like to look at that belt, but I won't show it about; but I say, Glyn, I shall be glad when we get older and have both begun learning to be—no, what do you call it?—not learning—I mean, being taught to be soldiers."
"Training," said Glyn.
"Yes, training—that's it; and we shall go together to that place where your father was, not far from London. You know—the place he used to talk to us about, where he was trained before he came out to India."
"Addiscombe," said Glyn quietly, as he stood watching his companion thrust the case back into the bottom of the portmanteau and rearrange the garments he had moved, while his hand lingered for a few moments about a soft white robe, which he covered over with a sigh before closing the lid and turning the key of the great leather case.
"Yes," he said, "Addiscombe. What stories he used to tell us about the young officers there! What did he call them? I forget."
"Cadets," said Glyn thoughtfully.
"That's it. I wish I didn't forget so many of those English words; but," continued the boy, "I liked it best when he told us about the battles out at home, when all the chiefs around were fighting against my father the Maharajah, so as to slay him and divide his possessions. You know, my father has talked about it to me as well—how he was so nearly beaten and weakened, and so many of his bravest officers killed, that it made him apply to the great Company for help, and they sent your father. Oh, what a brave man he was!"
"Who said that?" cried Glyn, flushing up.
"My father the Maharajah. He said so to me many times, and that he was his best and truest friend. Oh yes, I used to like to hear about it all, and he used to tell me that the Colonel would always be my truest friend as well, and that I was to love him and obey him, and always believe that what he told me to do was right. And I always do."
"Of course you do," said Glyn flushing. "Yes, Singh, he is some one to be proud of, isn't he? But I am like you; I don't much like coming to this school, though the Doctor is very nice and kind to us both."
"Yes, I like him better than the masters," said Singh; "but I don't like the boys, and I don't think they like me."
"Oh, wait a bit," said Glyn. "It's because everything seems so different to being in India; but, as father says, there is such a lot one ought to learn, and we shall get used to it by-and-by; only, I say, you know what the dad said?"
"You mean about trying to be an English gentle man and leaving the maharajah till I get back home?"
"Yes, that's it," cried Glyn eagerly.
"Yes; but it's hard work, for everything is so different here, and the boys are not like you."
"Oh yes, they are," cried Glyn merrily; "just the same. Here, come on; let's go down and see whether Wrench has put up those forms by the wall. We want to see the show."
"Yes," cried Singh. "It puts one in mind of Dour again, and I have been thinking that we don't get on with the other boys through me."
"What do you mean with your 'through me'?" said Glyn.
"Well, I don't quite know. It's because I am an Indian, I suppose; and when they talk to me as they do, and bully me, as you call it, it makes my heart feel hot and as if I should like to do something strange. But I am going to try. And look here, Glyn," said the lad very seriously, "I shall begin at once."
"Trying to make them like me. I shall make friends with that big fellow Slegge, and bear it all, and if he goes on again like he did this morning I have quite made up my mind I won't fight."
"Oh," said Glyn drily. "Well, come on down the grounds now. We shall see."
THE ELEPHANT CRIES "PHOOMP!"
Plymborough was out in street and road excepting those who lived on the line of route and had windows that looked down upon the coming procession, which was to be timed to reach the town, after a long march from Duncombe, at noon precisely.
Small things please country people, and there was not much work being done that day. It was an excuse for a holiday, as eagerly seized upon by the townsfolk, old and young, as by the young gentlemen of Dr Bewley's establishment.
But that was not all. The villages near Plymborough were many, and the people for miles round flocked into the place to see the procession and stop afterwards about the market-place to visit the exhibition of beasts and listen to the band.
The day was gloriously fine, and all promised a famous harvest of sixpences for the great Ramball himself, a man as punctual in his appointments as he was in the feeding of his beasts, this being carried out regularly at certain times, but, unfortunately for the animals, in uncertain quantities dependent upon the supplies.
Dr Bewley's boys took their places along the forms quite an hour before noon, this punctuality having something to do with getting the best places, as they put it, though—as the forms were in a line under the brick wall, which was low enough with their help for the shortest boy to see over, and the procession would pass close beneath—it was hard to see any difference in the positions, or why the form reserved for the masters was any better than that at the extreme end.
But certainly the masters' form was considered the best from the fact that it stood first, while the nearest end of the next form was taken up in spite of his declaration by Slegge, whose greatest admirers got as close to him as they could or as he would allow.
"Let's go and stand with them," said Singh, as they crossed over to the wall.
"Oh, I don't know," replied his companion. "I vote we go right to the other end along with the juniors."
"Very well," said Singh with a laugh; "but they'll say it's because we're afraid."
"Yes," replied Glyn coolly; "but let them. I don't think we are." And leading the way, he made for the last form, which they had all to themselves, and stood there quietly looking down at the crowd below and along the Duncombe road, which was pretty well lined with people standing about or seated in cart or chaise waiting for the coming sight.
The masters were not in such a hurry, and they remained in the house talking together, so that they were not present to see the skylarking and listen to the banter going on, a good deal of which was set going by Slegge, who was in a high state of glee, and scattered a great deal of chaff, to the great delight of his parasites, who eagerly conveyed insulting messages from their chief to the two new pupils at the other end of the line—at least, they bore those that were not too offensive; others that seemed likely to produce some form of resentment from the lads they attacked were sent on by the youngest boys.
All this palled after a time, and a certain amount of whispering beginning close at hand, Slegge asked sharply what the whisperers were talking about, when silence ensued, no one present daring to repeat the remark which Burney had made, which was to the effect that old Slegge had said that he was not going to stoop to see the miserable procession, but all the same he had taken the best place.
The consequence was that Slegge guessed pretty correctly that something was being whispered dealing with him, and he was just growing fiercely insistent and threatening what he would do if somebody did not confess, when the masters came upon the scene and took their places; while directly after there was a loud cheer, for from out of the distance came the faintly heard throbbing of a drum.
Everything else was now forgotten. Eyes and ears were strained, and minutes elapsed before the pulsations caused by the beating of two balls upon the tightly stretched skin began to grow nearer, and Mr Rampson commenced a discussion to fill up the time by throwing quotations from the old Roman authors at his fellow-tutors and the older boys.
It was a favourable moment for calling a drum a tympanum and giving descriptions of the different forms, curves, and lengths of the various trumpets used by the Roman soldiery in their warlike processions, all of which Slegge voted bosh, and intimated his opinion to the next boy that old Rampson had better go to the other end of the forms and pour it out on the two new fellows.
At last, though, the pulsations of the well-belaboured drum came nearer and were mingled with the mournfully plaintive notes of the wind instruments being blown by the band, the performers seated in a tall triumphal car decorated in scarlet and gold, and ornamented by a gilt carving meant to represent the giant anaconda of South America embracing and crushing the twenty bandsmen of Ramball's show, gentlemen who, by the way, wore a richly worsted-embroidered uniform of scarlet baize, the braid being yellow ochre of the deepest dye.
The carving round the car was either a two-headed anaconda or a combination of two performing an evolution in twists about the musicians, tying them up apparently, from the spectators' point of view, in horrible knots and giving them a terrible aspect of suffering, the apparent pressure of the serpents' folds causing their faces and cheeks to swell out in an appalling way, and their eyes to start from their sockets, while their sufferings seemed to produce wails, shrieks, and cries for help or mercy, mingled with groans, as the men worked hard with a perfect battery of old-fashioned key-bugles, supported by ophicleide and bassoon.
Most painful were the shrieking, strident cries produced by a pair of clarinets, and altogether there came from out of the knots of the serpents a hideous chaos of sound, drawn onward by a team of six horses, and received with wild cheers by the crowd, for it was really the new triumphal march freshly down from town, but in which the bandsmen were not perfect as regarded their parts.
"Is that music or the roarings and cries of some of the beasts?" whispered Singh.
There was a burst of laughter from the boys who heard the native remark, which made Singh turn round upon them angrily; but at a touch from Glyn he smiled good-humouredly, and then laughed aloud.
"Well, it was a stupid thing to say," he cried. "Of course it's the music."
"I say, Singh," burst in Glyn, and he nodded towards the huge drum that was suspended at the back in the highest part of the car, hung, as it were, between the curling tails of the two gilt serpents. "I say," he cried, "wouldn't that astonish the people at Dour? What would they say to that for a tom-tom?"
"Ah!" cried Singh, "I'll buy one like that, and take it back with us when we go home."
"No, I say, don't," cried Glyn. "They make noise enough there as it is."
"Noise!" echoed Singh. "They don't call that noise."
As they were speaking the great six-horse car rumbled slowly by, with the drummer beating hard and the buglers and trombonists blowing their best; while the crowd, taking up the cheer started by the boys, sent it echoing along towards the main street, where, coming slowly along, and stretching as far as eye could reach, there was a long line of caravans, all exceedingly plain and of a uniform yellow colour, with the names of their contents painted on them in black letters.
The place of honour was given to the king of beasts, for the first of the cars bore the word "Lions;" but probably his majesty was asleep, for not so much as a muttering purr on a large scale came from the narrow grating at the top.
Tigers followed; the next car held leopards, each carriage being of the same uniform level, with the black letters; and, coming slowly after them, were about two score, kept a good distance apart so as to lengthen the line as much as possible.
But at first there was nothing else to see, and Singh turned impatiently to his companion, and said: "When does the procession begin?"
"Why, that's the procession," said a small boy close to him, taking the answer upon himself. "The wild beasts are inside. Didn't you know?" And then he proceeded to display his own knowledge. "They draw all the vans up in a square," he began excitedly, "out there in the home-field behind the 'King's Arms,' and then they open the sides of the vans, which are like great shutters on hinges at the top and bottom, so that when they are opened one shutter falls down and covers the wheels, and the other is pulled up, leaving the side all iron bars. Don't you see? Then, instead of being vans, they are turned into dens and cages."
"Is that so?" said Singh quietly.
"Oh, I suppose so," replied Glyn. "I have never seen one of these affairs; but it seems a very reasonable way for building up a place all dens and cages in very short time."
"Oh, look here!" cried another of the boys. "Here's a game! Look at that nigger!"
Singh started as if he had been stung, and was about to turn furiously upon the boy, under the impression that he was the nigger in question; but at the same moment he caught sight of a full-blooded, woolly-headed West Coast African leading a very large camel by a rope, the great ungainly beast mincing and blinking as it gently put down, one after the other, its soft, spongy feet, which seemed to spread out on the gravelled road, while their high-shouldered owner kept on turning its bird-like head from side to side, muttering and whining discontentedly, as if objecting to be seen by such an elongated crowd, and murmuring against being made the one visible object of the show.
The camel was not an attractive creature, for, in addition to its natural peculiarities of shape, it was the time of year for shedding its long hairy coat, and this was hanging in ragged ungainly locks and flakes all along its flanks and about its loping, unhealthy-looking hump.
This was something to look at, and the excited boys shouted, cheered, and gave forth remark after remark such as must have been painful to the dignity of the melancholy-looking beast, which kept on turning its half-closed, plaintive-looking eyes at the noisy groups, wincing and seeming to protest against the unkindly and insulting remarks.
"Oh, I say, isn't he a beauty?" cried one.
"Yes; it's just like a four-legged bird," shouted another.
"That's right. They've caught Sindbad's roc and clipped his wings."
"Cut them right off," said Glyn laughingly, joining in the mirth. "Poor fellow, look how he's moulting!"
There was a burst of laughter at this, and as it ceased another boy shouted:
"Ought its hump to wobble like that, and hang over all on one side?"
"That isn't its hump," cried Burney; "that's its cistern in which it carries its drinking-water. Don't you know they can go for days without wanting any more? Can't you see it's empty now?"
"Poor camel!" said one of the boys.
"Yes, poor, and no mistake! Why, it's all in rags," cried Burney, and the unhappy-looking beast went mincing on, to be followed by another van labelled "Birds." Then came one labelled ominously and in very large letters, "Serpents;" those next in succession containing antelopes, nylghaus, crocodiles, eagles, rhinoceroses, zebras, monkeys, orang-outangs, chimpanzees, rib-nosed baboons, and so on, and so on, cage after cage, den after den, a procession of so many painted yellow vans drawn by very unsatisfactory-looking horses, till, as the last one came into sight far on the right, it was observed by the boys as they stood leaning their elbows on the wall that there was something special being kept for the finale, for the crowd was closing in behind and coming on surrounding this last van.
"Oh, I shall be so glad when it's all over," said Singh. "I would have said let's go away ever so long ago, only the Doctor might think it disagreeable after he had given us leave to see."
"Yes, it would have looked bad," replied Glyn. "It seems to me such a shame," he continued, "getting us all here to see a procession of wild beasts, and all we have seen is a camel."
"But don't you see—" began Singh.
"Of course; I said so. I have seen a camel. But if the man let the people see all his wild beasts they wouldn't pay to go into his show."
"Oh," cried Singh, "that's it. I never thought of that. Of course. But what are the people all crowding up for behind that last van?"
"Because it's the end," said the small boy who had spoken before.
"No; but there's something they can see, for they are all pressing close up, and the boys are stooping down to look underneath."
"Yes, and there's a man with a whip trying to keep them back."
That was all plain enough to view as the great van, drawn by four stout cart-horses, came nearer, with the whip-armed carter who walked by their side varying his position to cross round by the back, making-believe to use his whip and keep the boys from getting too close.
"Well, they can see something," said Glyn, as the great vehicle came nearly abreast; and as it did the lad gripped his companion by the shoulder.
"Look, look!" he cried. "My word, it is queer!"
"What is?" said Singh excitedly.
"Two pairs of giants' trousers walking underneath the van. There, can't you see? Oh, isn't it comic. And they don't fit."
"Nonsense," cried Singh excitedly. "It's a big elephant underneath there, and he's so heavy he has broken through the bottom of the wagon."
It certainly gave a stranger that impression; but the young Indian was not right. It was only the showman's ingenious device to convey his huge attraction from town to town unseen save just so much as would whet the spectator's curiosity and make him wish to see more.
"Dear me," said a rich, unctuous voice just behind the lads; and the boys started round at the familiar tones, to see the benignant-looking Doctor blinking through his gold-rimmed spectacles and commenting upon the spectacle for the benefit of his younger pupils. "You see, my dear lads," he began, "a monstrous animal like that must weigh tons, and would be too heavy for the horses to—"
The Doctor's words were drowned by the roar of laughter that arose from behind the wall, for Glyn's comment had been taken up quickly, and ran from end to end of the line, with the result that, like a chorus dominating their laughter, the boys joined in one insane shout of:
The next moment it was over the wall and running through the crowd, who caught it up and began to yell out the name of the familiar object of attire, staid elderly men holding their sides and laughing, boys shrieking with delight and pointing under the van at the two pairs of huge pillar-like legs with the loose skin hanging about them like some specimen of giant frieze, till, as the van moved on, the driver grew frantic and began to smack his whip; while, to add to the tumult, there arose from within a peculiar hoarse trumpeting roar that can only be put into print by the words: Phoomp! phoomp! phoomp!
"Ha!" cried Singh excitedly, and he gripped at Glyn's arm so sharply that he made him wince. "Hark at him! Hark at him!" he whispered hoarsely in the boy's ear. "The jungle! the jungle! Why, it must be a big bull elephant. Oh, we must go and see him to-night!"
Singh saw him the next minute; for, startled by the terrific roar behind them, and probably knowing well the power of the utterer, the four draught horses began to suffer from panic. One began to rear and plunge, and before the driver, who was close to the hind wheels, could force his way through the crowd and seize its rein, it made a dash for the sidewalk farthest from the Doctor's wall. Like gregarious beasts, its companions went with it; the front of the van was wrenched round and the off fore-wheel ascended the path, while at the same moment, as the furious trumpeting continued, there was a crash, one side of the van was heaved up as if by an internal earthquake, and the next moment, amidst the noise of splintering wood, the plunging of horses, and the elephant's deafening roar, the great yellow vehicle lay over on its side, and the monstrous beast, fully ten feet high, stood panting and trumpeting with uplifted trunk by the side of the ruins, glaring round as if seeking which enemy to charge.
AN AL-FRESCO LUNCH.
There were plenty of those whom the great beast looked upon as foes lying prostrate, for with yells of dismay the crowd dashed off helter-skelter, trampling each other down in their efforts to escape, clearing the way as rapidly as they could; but the only object that offered itself for attack was one of the big van horses, which had swung round in the alarm, to stand right in the elephant's way.
And now, flapping its ears, giving its miserable little tail a twist in the air, and uttering a pig-like squeak, the elephant charged, catching the horse in the ribs and knocking it over on to its side; and then, without stopping to trample upon the poor animal, the monster indulged in a peculiar caper resembling a triumphant war-dance, a movement which but for the suggestion of danger would have been comical in the extreme. Then, stopping short as if to make a survey of its position with its piercing eyes, the elephant looked at the ruined van, then at the villa residences opposite the Doctor's great mansion, then at the blank wall (which seemed to puzzle it, with what looked like a palisade of boys' heads), and next up the road.
At last, turning sharply round to point with uplifted trunk down the road in the direction from which it had come, it went off in its curious shuffling shamble as if in pursuit of the flying crowd; while, now in a state of the greatest excitement, about a score of the wild-beast van-drivers, headed by the man who had the elephant in charge, cracking his whip and shouting for it to come back, started in pursuit.
The Doctor's pupils, evidently feeling that they were safe behind the wall, for the elephant displayed no intention of using his trunk to pick their heads as if they were gigantic cherries, all stood fast, most probably too much startled to stir; and having an excellent view of this unexpected episode in the procession, had the satisfaction of seeing the principal actor trotting away the whole length of the playground wall, his hind-quarters looking more than ever like an enormous pair of ill-made, ill-fitting trousers.
"Will he catch them—overtake any of them?" cried Glyn, as the elephant passed the spot where he and Singh were watching the proceedings, the latter with his dark eyes glittering and nostrils quivering, as the whole business brought back something he had once seen in his native state.
But as he spoke the loud shouting of the frightened crowd tearing away down the road suddenly ceased, as those nearest became conscious of the fact that their pursuit by the great beast had ceased.
Soon after passing the end of the Doctor's wall, the elephant, now fully at liberty, found itself by the tall, well-clipped mingled hawthorn-and-privet hedge that enclosed the lawn-like, verdant cricket-field, at the far side of which there was a grand row of old elms which brought back to the escaped animal memories of Indian forests and pendant boughs covered with fresh green leaves that could be torn down and eaten; and, stopping short in the rapid pace which it had pursued, swinging its massive head from side to side, it once more turned itself "half-right," as if upon a pivot, stared at the tall green hedge for a few moments, and then, curling its trunk right backwards over its neck, it uttered another trumpeting note which was no longer angry, but sounded cracked and partook of the nature of a squeak. Then it did not charge the hedge, but just walked through it; and as soon as its great circular feet began to feel the soft, yielding grass into which they sank, for the ground was moist, the great brute began to twitch its tail in the most absurd way, squeak with delight, and indulge in the most clumsily ridiculous gambol ever executed by monster ten feet high.
It was for all the world such a dance, magnified, as a fat, chubby little Shetland pony would display when, freed from bit, bridle, or halter, it was turned out to grass. And now, as the elephant began careering right across the cricket-field in the direction of the row of elms, there was a shout of dismay from the row occupying the forms; and, headed by Mr Morris, a retreat was made to a place of safety, that being represented by the doors opening on to the playground—Mr Morris, the mathematical master, charged as he was with his long study of Euclid, evidently considering it to be his duty for the benefit of his pupils to describe a straight line.
But he was soon distanced by the boys, whose wind was much better. The last, as if he considered it his duty to protect the rear, was the Doctor himself, looking exceedingly red in the face and breathing very hard. But, truth to tell, he—not being either a general, admiral, or even captain of a vessel of war—was not influenced by any brave intention to leave the field or vessel only after the last of his men. The Doctor's proceedings were caused by inability to keep up.
But he was not the last. The sight of an elephant cantering across country, or in its customary shuffling gait, was nothing new to Singh and Glyn. Experience gained in more than one hunt, and in a land where these mammoth-like creatures are beasts of burden, as well as perhaps a feeling that if they did happen to be pursued youth and activity would enable them to get out of the brute's way, caused the two boys to stand fast alone upon the last form, thoroughly enjoying the acts of the performer, and wondering what he would do next.
"Oh, Glyn," cried Singh, clapping his hands as hard as he could, "and I was grumbling! Why, this is a procession! I haven't seen anything like this since we left home."
"No," panted Glyn, who was as excited as his companion. "Why, it's like old Rajah Jamjar, as we used to call him, on the rampage. Here come the men," he continued.—"Hi! I say, the Doctor won't like you breaking through his hedge," he shouted, though his words were not heard.—"He's broken a way for them, though."
"Here," shouted Singh, with his hands to his mouth, "you mustn't go after that elephant with whips. He's raging, and if you go near he'll turn upon you perhaps, and kill you."
But the men could not hear his words, and, each with his big carter's whip, they followed slowly across the field, unheeded by the elephant, and evidently without the slightest intention of overtaking the fugitive.
The great brute turned neither to the right nor left, but stopped as soon as he reached the row of elms, beyond which were the garden and grounds of the most important resident in Plymborough, a very wealthy retired merchant, who took great pride in his estate, and whose orchard annually displayed a vast abundance of red and gold temptations of the kind beloved by boys in other counties as well as sunny Devon.
It was pleasant and shady beneath the elms, and a faintly heard grunt of satisfaction came to the two boys' ears as they saw the great fugitive reach up, twist its indiarubber-like trunk, and gather together a bunch of twigs, which it snapped off, and then, reversing its elastic organ, stood tucking them into its peculiarly moist mouth.
"Oh, he's quiet and tame enough," said Glyn.
"No, he isn't," cried Singh; "he's in a fury."
"But it's a regular tame one," said Glyn. "I dare say they might walk up and drive it in now. I'll go and help them if you will."
"Well," said Singh, slowly and thoughtfully, "I don't know. It's a strange elephant; he's been scared, and I saw as he passed that he was in a temper; but I dare say we know as much about elephants as they do."
"Yes, let's go."
But as they were speaking, and the elephant stood refreshing itself with another bunch of green leaves, it appeared to catch sight of the group of drivers, who, whip-armed, had now stopped together to consult in the middle of the field, where they were being joined by a fat, chuffy-looking little man, who was hurrying to them, hat in one hand, yellow silk pocket-handkerchief in the other, with which he kept on dabbing his very smooth and shiny white bald head.
The elephant was evidently watching, and had recognised this white shiny head, for he raised his trunk and let fall the twigs, blew a defiant blast upon his natural trumpet, and, wheeling round once more, did not charge, but made a crashing sound as he walked right through the park-palings which divided the two estates, where beneath the trees a green hedge would not grow.
As the elephant disappeared in the next field, only a glimpse being obtained of it through the one panel of the split oak fence, every one seemed to recover his departed courage. The men, now joined by the bald-headed personage, who was really the proprietor of the great show, began to follow the fugitive to the boundary of the Doctor's grounds.
The two boys sprang off the form and ran to join them, while away to the right, bodies began to appear from the Doctor's premises where heads only had been seen; and chief amongst these was Mr Morris, the mathematical master, who, influenced by his conscience, and reminded of the fact that he had gone on drawing that line very straight till he reached the shelter of the house, an act which he felt must have rather lowered his reputation for bravery amongst the boys, now came out a few yards into the playground; and, as the boys began to gather round him, he moved on again a little way, making a point of keeping himself nearest to the danger, if any danger there were, but not going so far as to preclude an easy retreat.
Now, in naval law, during an action there is a tradition that the safest place for a sailor, and where he is least likely to be hit, is the hole through which a cannon-ball or shell has crashed into the ship. Possibly, being a mathematician, Mr Morris may have calculated the possibilities against the elephant that had marched through that piece of fence coming back through it again. And so it was that as the Doctor's grounds were clear, the enemy having departed, he followed farther and farther out into the cricket-field, and then headed a cluster of the first-form boys who, unknown to the Doctor, were making for the broken fence. The fact that they soon saw the elephant's pursuers pass through, and with them the bald-headed man, with their fellow-pupils Glyn and Singh on each side leading, had doubtless something to do with the forward movement.
Slegge, too, was the biggest and loudest there. He was looking very white, almost as white as Ramball's bald head, but he said it was all a "jolly lark;" and then for want of something else to say to express how he was enjoying himself, he made the same remark again, and then laughed aloud. But it was the same sort of laugh as would be uttered by the victim of a practical joke who has suddenly sat down upon a tin-tack or a pin.
Mr Morris, too, grew braver and braver, and he smiled a ghastly smile which rather distorted his features as he addressed his pupils.
"Come along, boys," he said. "This is a holiday indeed. We are going to search for the unknown quantity. An elephant hunt in the Doctor's grounds! It is quite a novelty."
"But it isn't in the Doctor's grounds now, sir," said Burney.
This was meant to be facetious; but it turned Mr Morris's smile into a glare, and brought down upon the boy's head a rebuke from Slegge.
"Here, don't you be so fast, youngster," cried the latter, with the wisdom of a sage in his stern look. "Just remember whom you are talking to, if you please." Then, to curry favour with the master, "I beg your pardon, Mr Morris, would this be an Indian or an African elephant?"
"Well, Mr Slegge," said the mathematical master, with his ghastly smile coming back, "now if this were a question of a surd in a compound equation I should be happy to tell you; but as soon as the captive is taken again, and the 'lark,' as you call it, is over, I should recommend you to ask Mr Rampson. He'll tell you, and give you some information as well respecting the Carthaginian army and the elephants with their towers that they marched against the Romans. My mathematical studies take up all my brain-power, and I never venture upon another master's ground. By the way, who are those boys that we just saw walk through that fence with the show-people? Trespassers, of course. We don't want any of the town boys here. No violence, mind; but I think you might give them a lesson and turn them out."
"But they were the two new pupils, sir."
"What! Severn and the Prince?"
"Yes, sir," came in chorus.
"Dear me! The Doctor would be very angry if he knew. He strongly objects to his young gentlemen making friends with strangers."
"Yes, sir," said Burney; "and they have gone out of bounds."
"Will you keep your mouth shut?" whispered Slegge; and, dropping a pace behind the master, he clenched and held up one fist very close to Burney's nose as if it were a curiosity that the boy might like to see.
"Ah, well," said Mr Morris, "perhaps they thought that it would be the safest place behind the elephant's keepers. These tamed animals have a great dread of the whip."
All was beautifully calm now out in the field. The grass seemed greener than ever. There was an excited crowd in the main road by the damaged hedge, and quite a cluster of pupils, masters, and servants up by the house; but Morris and his little party were alone, and all seemed so safe that they grew thoroughly brave, and quite nonchalantly edged their way on towards the broken panel which looked temptingly clear.
All was still, and there was no suggestion of danger, while as they slowly went close up there was no sound of voice. It was perfectly evident that the elephant must have been followed far away, and had probably gone right on through the neighbouring grounds and made his way somewhere out at the back.
They were approaching diagonally, and as they came very near to the opening a curious electric kind of feeling such as is called by old women "the creeps," manifested itself in what doctors term the "lumbar regions" of every one's back.
But they were all very brave, and Morris suddenly became conscious of the fact that the boys were all looking at him in a very questioning way, so he could not help feeling that there were drawbacks to being the leader of a party when there is possible danger somewhere ahead, and it is impossible for the sake of one's credit to retreat.
This is especially the case in connection with dogs that are supposed to be mad and have to be driven away, or in haunted rooms, and the walking of ghosts and other vapours of that kind which a puff of the wind of common-sense would always blow away.
Somehow or other, Morris began to talk very loudly to his young companions as he screwed his courage up to the sticking-point, feeling as he did that at all hazards he must go right up to that opening and just look through. And with this intent, followed not quite closely by the boys, he went so near that he had but to take one more step to be able to look through into the next field; in fact, he was in the act of stretching out his hand to lay it upon one of the big oaken splints that hung from its copper nail, when there was a sharp report as if a pistol had been fired just on the other side, and in an instant the whole party were in retreat.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Morris. At least it was supposed to be a laugh; but the sounds were very peculiar, and he looked strangely white as he shouted, "Stop, boys, stop! What are you afraid of? It was only one of those carter fellows who cracked his whip.—Well, my man," he continued, in a husky voice that did not seem like his own, to one of the van-drivers who now appeared in the opening, "have you caught the elephant?"
As the man replied the boys began to collect again from their ignominious flight, and it was observable that they were all laughing at one another in an accusatory manner, each feeling full of contempt for the pusillanimous behaviour of the others, while the looks of Morris might have given the whole party a conscious sting.
But there was the van-driver answering as the boys clustered hurriedly up.
"No, sir, and I've had enough of it," said the man. "It aren't my business. I'm monkeys, I am; and got enough to do to keep they mischievous imps in their cage. I don't hold with elephants; they are too big for me, and I know that chap of old."
"Indeed!" said Morris, eager to cover his last retreat by drawing the man into conversation.
"Yes, sir, he's a treacherous beggar. Pretends to be fond of a man, and gets him up against a wall or the side of a tree, and then plays pussy cat."
"Plays what?" cried Slegge.
"Pussy cat, sir. You know: rubs hisself up again' a man same as a kitten does against your leg. But it aren't the same, because if the pore chap don't dodge him he gets rubbed out like a nought on the slate."
"Dear me! Extraordinary!" said Morris. "But—er—er—where is the fugitive beast now?"
"Ah, you may well call him a fugity beast, sir. I don't quite know what it means; but that's a good name for him, and he desarves it. Oh, he's over yonder now, right in the middle of yon orchard, and nobody durst go near him. Every time any one makes a start he begins to roosh, and then goes back in amongst the trees, and when I come away I never see anything like it in my life. It was bushels then."
"Bushels—bushels, my man?"
"Yes, sir, he was a-picking the apples with that trunk of his, and tucking them in as fast as ever they'd go. A beast! he'll fill hisself before he's done. He won't leave off now he's got the chance, and he'll kill anybody who goes nigh him. You see, the master keeps him pretty short to tame him down and keep him from going on the rampage. It's all a mistake having a thing like that in a show. You take my word for it, sir. If you goes in for a mennar-gerry you take to monkeys. They don't take nothing to keep, for the public feeds them on nuts and buns, and if it warn't for their catching cold and going on the sick-list they'd be profit every ounce."
"Er—thank you, my man," said Morris haughtily; "but I don't think it probable that I shall venture upon a peripatetic zoo—eh, young gentlemen?"
"Oh no, sir!" came in chorus.
"Can we see the huge pachyderm from here?"
"Packing apples, sir? No, no, don't you alter that there, sir. You called him fugity beast just now, and you can't beat that.—No, you can't see him. He's in there among them apple-trees."
"Why, he's got into old Bunton's orchard, sir," cried Slegge, and he stepped forward to the opening. "Yes, you can't see the elephant, sir, but you can see the men all round. I think they are tying him up to a tree, sir."
"Yes, that's likely," said the man grimly. "I dare say they've all got a bit of string in their pockets as will just hold him."
"Er—do you think we could go up a little closer, my man, without the young gentlemen getting into danger?" said Morris, in the full expectation that he would be told it would be dangerous in the extreme.
"Go closer, sir? Yes, of course you can. He won't hurt none of you so long as you don't try to take his apples away. If yer did I shouldn't like to be you."
"Let's go, then, sir," cried Burney eagerly, and the desire seemed to be growing in the other boys' breasts.
"Well, I don't know," said Morris; "that is, if you will promise not to go too close."
"Oh, we won't go too close, sir," cried Slegge warmly, and he looked as if he were speaking the truth.
The result was that the master, trying very hard to carry off his disinclination to go with the remark, "We don't often have such an opportunity as this, boys," led the way across the park-like field of the Doctor's neighbour towards an extensive orchard, in which, nearly hidden by the trees, the escaped monster was having his banquet of apples, and turning a deaf ear, or rather two deaf ears of the largest size, to all orders to come out.
GLYN AND SINGH TO THE RESCUE.
As the party from the school drew nearer they could hear the occasional crack of a whip and a loud order given in a rather highly pitched tone to the beast, bidding him come out.
Then followed the snapping of twigs and a peculiarly dull grumbling sound as if the elephant were muttering his objections to the orders of his master, the bald-headed man, who still held his hat in one hand, his yellow handkerchief in the other, and dabbed the big white billiard-ball-like expanse as if he felt that it was very warm work.
Then there was a crunch, crunch, crunch, as if pippins were being reduced to pulp, and more twigs were heard to snap.
"Let him hear the whip again, Jem," shouted Mr Ramball.
"Oh, he won't come for that, sir," growled the man addressed; but he made the long cart-whip he carried crack loudly three times in obedience to the order; and as the fresh party drew as near to the orchard as they cared to go, after all had given a furtive glance round for a way to escape, the low grumbling muttering grew louder; while as the animal moved right into sight so did those who were watching him, and Slegge and his companions saw Glyn and Singh approach.
There was another movement on the part of the elephant, whose towering form came through the thickly growing orchard trees to one whose burden was of a deep rich-red, and here it stood bowing its head up and down, and slowly shaking it from side to side, while the trunk swung and turned and turned and swung here and there, till its owner had selected the fruit most pleasing to its little pig-like eye, when with serpent-like motion it rose in the air, and the end curled round the selected fruit, which was lowered and tucked out of sight on the instant.
"Now, look here, my lads," cried the proprietor of the menagerie to his men, "I can't have you all standing here gaping like a set of idiots as if you had never seen the brute before. Go in round behind him with your whips and drive him out."
There was a murmur of grumbles from the men, that seemed to be echoed by the elephant, which went on swinging its head up and down as if it were balanced on a spring. But no one stirred.
"Do you hear me?" cried the proprietor, his highly pitched voice growing quite shrill. "Here, I shall have no end of damages to pay for what he's doing. They'll be putting it in the lawyers' hands, and they'll be charging me a shilling for every apple he eats.—Eh! what's that? Not safe?"
"No; he's got one of his nasty fits o' temper on," said the driver of the great van which had come to grief.
"Tchah! Nonsense! You are a coward, Jem."
"Mebbe I am," grumbled the man; "but, coward or no, he knocked me flat over on my back, and once is quite enough for one day."
"Yah!" shouted his master. "You are ready enough to come on Saturday night for your pay; but if I want anything a little extra done, where am I?—Here, give me the whip." And he snatched it from the man's hand and walked towards the great beast, half-hidden among the trees.
"Say, you boys," growled the driver, "if I was you I'd just be ready to run. You've only just got to dodge him. Stop and make sure which way he's going, and then get in among the trees."
"Yes, quick: in amongst the trees," cried Morris, and he set the example.
"Nay," growled the man. "Not yet. Wait and see first which way he means to go."
Morris set the example of running in another direction, followed by his boys and by the voice of the driver.
"Why, that's worse," he cried. "That's about the way he'd go."
"Then which—what—why—Here, what are you two laughing at?" This to Glyn, who was stamping about with delight.
"Oh, I couldn't help it, sir," cried the boy, and before he could say more there was another loud crack of the whip as Ramball made his way round behind his rebellious beast and shouted at him to "Come out of that."
He had hardly uttered the words when there was a crashing and breaking of wood as if the elephant were making its way quickly through the trees in obedience to the command; and as the sounds ceased, the menagerie proprietor came staggering out without his handkerchief or whip, to stand in the middle of his men looking half-stunned and confused.
"Did he ketch you, sir?" said the driver, with a laugh of satisfaction in his twinkling eyes.
"Brought down his trunk across my back," panted the proprietor. "My word, he can hit hard!"
"Yes, sir; I know. Knocked me flat on my back, he did."
"Knocked me on my face," cried the proprietor angrily. "Look here," he said, "is there any skin off my nose? I fell against a tree."
"Took a little bit of the bark off," grumbled the man, who did not seem at all sympathetic. "Hadn't you better let him fill hisself full, sir, and have a rest? He'll come easy, perhaps, then."
"Do you want me to stand still here and see a devouring elephant go on eating till he ruins me? We must all join together and drive him out."
"But he'll drive us out, sir," said the man in a tone full of remonstrance.
"Then we must try again. I am not going to be beaten by a beast like that."
"Look here, my man," said Morris, "hadn't you better tie him up to one of the trees and leave him till to-morrow? They do this sort of thing abroad, I hear, by tying the elephant's legs or ankles to the trunks of trees."
"What!" shouted Ramball. "Why, he'd take them all up by the roots and go cantering through the town, doing no end of mischief, with them hanging to his legs. Think I want to have to pay for the trees as well as the apples?"
"Then—er—lasso him and lead him home."
"Lass which, sir?"
"Lasso him, my man, with ropes."
"Why, he ain't a wild ostrich of the desert, sir. Look at him!—Here, one on yer run off and fetch the longest cart-rope. This 'ere gentleman would like to have a try."
The boys were roaring with laughter by this time, the mathematical master's parasites joining in as heartily as Glyn and Singh.
"Don't be rude, fellow," said Morris.
"Don't be rude?" cried Ramball, who was fuming with disappointment and rage. "Rude yourself. If you give me much more of your sarce I'll set the animile at you."
As this was proceeding, the elephant, whose taste for apples had been satiated, came slowly out into the open, to stand bending and bowing his massive head, which he swayed slowly from side to side and blinked and flapped his ears, as he watched the assembly with his little reddish eyes in a way which made the mathematical master grip Slegge by the arm.
"I am getting uneasy," he whispered, "about you boys. Don't run, but follow me slowly back to the fence. Tell the other boys, and we will go at once."