The Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's, by Talbot Baines Reed.
This is a rather famous book about life in a boys' boarding school. We start off with the entry to the school of a little new boy, not quite eleven years old, who also happens to have an older brother in the school. We learn about the school at the same time as little Steevie does.
Steevie is appointed to be the fag of one Loman, and as the story unfolds we begin to see life through the eyes of the older boy. There is an interesting moment when Steevie refuses to do the work of fag to Loman, and is soundly beaten up for his refusal.
There is a rather unsuitable public-house owner, Cripps, and Loman becomes indebted to him for a large sum of money. What Loman does to try to liquidate his debt is what much of the latter part of the book is about. We do not wish to spoil the story for you, so we will not go into any details of this.
There is a rather nice episode during the summer holidays when some of the boys row down the river Thames from Oxford to London, which your reviewer has also done more than once. Many of the landmarks that they saw are still there. You will enjoy reading or listening to this book.
THE FIFTH FORM AT SAINT DOMINIC'S, BY TALBOT BAINES REED.
The Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's is a story of public-school life, and was written for the Boy's Own Paper, in the Fourth Volume of which it appeared. The numbers containing it are now either entirely out of print or difficult to obtain; and many and urgent have been the requests—from boys themselves, as well as from parents, head masters, and others—for its re-issue as a book.
Of the story itself little need be said. It deals in a bright and vigorous style with the kaleidoscopic, throbbing life of a great public school—that world in miniature which, in its daily opportunities and temptations, ambitions and failures, has so often afforded superabundant material for narratives powerful to enchain the attention and sway the emotions, whether to smiles or tears. This will take its place, amongst the best of them.
Though the story is one of school life, its interest is by no means limited to school or college walls. Boys of all sorts and conditions— ay, and their parents too—will follow its fortunes with unflagging zest from the first page to the last; and it is difficult to conceive of any reader, be he young or old, who would not be the better for its vivid portraiture and bracing atmosphere. There is a breeziness about it calculated to stir the better life in the most sluggish; and without pretence or affectation it rings out its warnings, no less than its notes of cheer, clear and rousing as trumpet blasts.
"Do right, and thou hast nought to fear, Right hath a power that makes thee strong; The night is dark, but light is near, The grief is short, the joy is long."
Without the most distant approach to that fatal kind of sermonising which all but inevitably repels those whom it is meant to benefit, the story forcefully illustrates how rapidly they may sink who once tamper, for seeming present advantage, with truth, and how surely, sooner or later, a noble character comes to vindication and honour; and in all such respects it is eminently true to life. These boys of Saint Dominic's, even the best of them, are very human—neither angels nor monstrosities, but, for the most part, ardent, impulsive, out-and-out, work-a-day lads; with the faults and failings of inexperience and impetuosity, no doubt, but also with that moral grit and downright honesty of purpose that are still, we believe, the distinguishing mark of the true British public-school boy. Hence one is impelled to take from the outset a most genuine interest in them and their affairs, and to feel quite as though one had known many of them personally for years, and been distinctly the better, too, for that knowledge. Such boys stand at the antipodes alike of the unreal abstractions of an effeminate sentimentalism—the paragons who prate platitudes and die young—and of the morbid specimens of youthful infamy only too frequently paraded by the equally unreal sensationalism of to-day to meet the cravings of a vitiated taste.
The Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's is the kind of book we should place with confidence in the hands of our own boys when leaving the home shelter, whether for school or the sterner after-battle; and we cannot conceive of the parent who, having read it with care and pleasure, as we have done, and knowing at the same time anything of the stress and strain of daily life, would not, with gratitude to the author, gladly do the same. With all their faults, Oliver Greenfield and Wraysford are splendid boys, of just the fibre that the Church needs, and the world cannot afford to do without; and yet their school career proves by no means a bed of roses. To drift with the current is proverbially easy; to seek to stem it manfully, and steer by the stars, may, and often does, lay one open to misapprehension or envy, and all the ills that follow in their train; yet—
"God is God, and right is right, And truth the day must win; To doubt would be disloyalty, To falter would be sin."
Our heroes had their full share of trouble—what real hero has not?—but they come out of the ordeal purified and strengthened, with nobler aspirations after duty, and tenderer thoughts of helpfulness towards those needing, if far from seeking, their succouring arm.
How all this comes about it is not for us to tell. Readers will find that out for themselves, and thank us for allowing them, unaided, to do so. The school cricket match, the grand football struggle, the ever-memorable prize-day—these are matters that no alien pen may touch. Our prayer is that God may abundantly bless the book to the building up in our schools and families of strong Christian characters, who in the after days shall do valiant service for Christ and humanity.
THE NOTICE BOARD.
The four o'clock bell was sounding up the staircase and down the passages of Saint Dominic's school. It was a minute behind its time, and had old Roach, the school janitor, guessed at half the abuse privately aimed at his devoted head for this piece of negligence, he might have pulled the rope with a good deal more vivacity than he at present displayed.
At the signal there was a general shuffling of feet and uproar of voices—twelve doors swung open almost simultaneously, and next moment five hundred boys poured out, flooding the staircases and passages, shouting, scuffling, and laughing, and throwing off by one easy effort the restraint and gravity of the last six hours.
The usual rush and scramble ensued. Some boys, taking off their coats and tucking up their sleeves as they ran, made headlong for the playground. Some, with books under their arms, scuttled off to their studies. The heroes of the Sixth stalked majestically to their quarters. The day boarders hurried away to catch the train at Maltby. A few slunk sulkily to answer to their names in the detention-room, and others, with the air of men to whom time is no object and exertion no temptation, lounged about in the corridors with hands in pockets, regarding listlessly the general stampede of their fellows, and apparently not knowing exactly what to do with themselves.
Among these last happened to be Bullinger of the Fifth and his particular friend Ricketts, who, neither of them having any more tempting occupation, were comfortably leaning up against the door of the Fourth junior class-room, thereby making prisoners of some twenty or thirty youngsters, whose infuriated yells and howls from within appeared to afford the two gentlemen a certain languid satisfaction.
"Open the door! do you hear?" shrieked one little treble voice.
"All right!" piped another. "I know who you are, you cads. See if I don't tell Dr Senior!"
"Oh, please, I say, I shall lose my train!" whimpered a third.
"Wait till I get out; see if I don't kick your shins!" howled a fourth.
It was no use. In vain these bantams stormed and raved, and entreated and blubbered. The handle would not turn, and the door would not yield. Mr Bullinger and his friend vouchsafed no reply, either to their threats or their supplications, and how long the blockade might have lasted it is impossible to say, had not a fresh dissension called the beleaguerers away. A cluster of boys at a corner of the big corridor near the main entrance attracted their curiosity, and suggested a possibility of even more entertainment than the goading into fury of a parcel of little boys, so, taking advantage of a moment when the besieged had combined, shoulder to shoulder, to make one magnificent and desperate onslaught on to the obdurate door, they quietly "raised the siege," and quitting their hold, left the phalanx of small heroes to topple head over heels and one over another on to the stone floor of the passage, while they sauntered off arm-in-arm to the scene of the new excitement.
The object which had attracted the knot of boys whom they now joined was the School Notice Board, on which, from time to time, were posted notices of general and particular interest to the school. On this particular afternoon (the first Friday of the Summer term) it was, as usual, crowded with announcements, each interesting in its way.
The first was in the handwriting of Dr Senior's secretary, and ran as follows:—
"A Nightingale Scholarship, value 50 pounds a year for three years, will fall vacant at Michaelmas. Boys under seventeen are eligible. Particulars and subject of examination can be had any evening next week in the secretary's room."
"Fifty-pounds a year for three years!" exclaimed a small boy, with a half whistle. "I wouldn't mind getting that!"
"Well, why don't you, you avaricious young Jew? You're under seventeen, I suppose?" retorted the amiable Mr Bullinger, thereby raising a laugh at the expense of this little boy of eleven, who retired from the scene extinguished.
The next notice was in the classical handwriting of the secretary of the Sixth Form Literary Society, and ran as follows:—
"This Society will meet on Tuesday. Subject for debate, 'That the present age is degenerate,' moved by A.E. Callander, opposed by T. Winter. Boys from the Senior Fifth are invited as auditors."
This notice, even with the patronising postscript, would have passed without comment, as Sixth Form notices usually did, had not some audacious hand ventured to alter a word and make the subject of debate, instead of "That the present age is degenerate," read "That the present Sixth is degenerate." Who the perpetrator of this outrage might be was a mystery, but the alteration was quite enough to render the notice very amusing to many of the readers, especially the Fifth Form boys, and very terrible to others, especially the small boys, who looked nervous and guilty, and did not dare by the slightest sign to join in the mirth of their irreverent seniors. Most of the assembly agreed that "there would be a row about it," with which assurance they passed on to the next notice.
"Wanted, a Smart Fag. No Tadpoles or Guinea-pigs need apply. Horace Wraysford, Fifth Form."
"Bravo, Horatius!" said Ricketts. "A lucky young cub it will be that he takes on," added he, turning to a group of the small boys near. "He'll do your sums and look over your exercises for you like one o'clock. Ugh! though, I suppose every man Jack of you is a Tadpole or a Pig?"
Tadpoles and Guinea-pigs, I should say, were the names given to two combinations or clubs in the clannish Junior School, the mysteries of which were known only to their members, but which were not regarded with favour by the older boys.
As no one answered this charge, Ricketts indulged in a few general threats, and a few not very complimentary comments on the clubs in question, and then returned to the notice board, which contained two more announcements.
"Cricket Notices. To-morrow will be a final big practice, when the elevens for the 'A to M versus N to Z' match on the 25th will be chosen. 'Sixth versus School' will be played on the 1st proxo. The School Eleven will be selected from among players in the two above matches."
"A private meeting of the Fifth will be held this afternoon at 4.30 to discuss an important matter."
"Hullo!" said Bullinger, looking up at the clock, "it's half-past now! Come along, Rick."
And the two demagogues disappeared arm-in-arm down the passage, followed by the admiring glances of the juniors, who spent the next half-hour in wondering what could be the important matter under consideration at the private meeting of the Fifth. The universal conclusion was that it had reference to the suppression of the Tadpoles and Guinea-pigs—a proceeding the very suggestion of which made those small animals tremble with mingled rage and fear, and sent them off wriggling to their own quarters, there to deliberate on the means of defence necessary to protect themselves from the common enemy.
The meeting in the Fifth, however, was to consider a far more important subject than the rebellious clubs of the Junior School.
The reader will doubtless have inferred, from what has already been said, that the young gentlemen of the Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's entertained, among other emotions, a sentiment something like jealousy of their seniors and superiors in the sixth. Perhaps Saint Dominic's is not the only school in which such a feeling has existed; but, at any rate during the particular period to which I am referring, it was pretty strong there. Not that the two Forms were at war, or that there was any fear of actual hostilities. It was not so bad as all that. But the Fifth were too near the heroes of the top Form to consent to submit to their authority. They would be Sixth men themselves soon, and then of course they would expect the whole school to reverence them. But till that time they resented the idea of bowing before these future comrades; and not only that, they took every opportunity of asserting their authority among the juniors, and claiming the allegiance for themselves they refused to render to others. And they succeeded in this very well, for they took pains to make themselves popular in the school, and to appear as the champions quite as much as the bullies of the small fry. The consequence was that while Tadpoles and Guinea-pigs quaked and blushed in the presence of the majestic Sixth, they quaked and smirked in the presence of the Fifth, and took their thrashings meekly, in the hope of getting a Latin exercise looked over or a minor tyrant punished later on.
Just at the present time, too, the Fifth was made up of a set of fellows well able to maintain the peculiar traditions of their fellowship. They numbered one or two of the cleverest boys (for their age) in Saint Dominic's; and, more important still in the estimation of many, they numbered not a few of the best cricketers, boxers, football-players, and runners in the school. With these advantages their popularity as a body was very great—and it is only due to them to say that they bore their honours magnanimously, and distributed their kicks and favours with the strictest impartiality.
Such was the company which assembled on this afternoon in their own class-room, with closed doors, to deliberate on "private and important business." About twenty boys were present, and the reader must let me introduce a few of them, before his curiosity as to the occasion of their assembling themselves together can be satisfied.
That handsome, jovial-looking boy of sixteen who is sitting there astride of a chair, in the middle of the floor, biting the end of a quill pen, is the redoubtable Horace Wraysford, the gentleman, it will be remembered, who is in want of a fag. Wraysford is one of the best "all-round men" in the Fifth, or indeed in the school. He is certain to be in the School Eleven against the County, certain to win the mile race and the "hurdles" at the Athletic Sports, and is not at all unlikely to carry off the Nightingale Scholarship next autumn, even though one of the Sixth is in for it too. Indeed, it is said he would be quite certain of this honour, were it not that his friend and rival Oliver Greenfield, who is standing there against the wall, with his head resting on a map of Greece, is also in for it. Greenfield does not strike one as nearly so brilliant a fellow as his friend. He is quieter and more lazy, and more solemn. Some say he has a temper, and others that he is selfish; and generally he is not the most popular boy in Saint Dominic's. Wraysford, however, sticks to him through thick and thin, and declares that, so far from being ill-tempered and selfish, he is one of the best fellows in the school, and one of the cleverest. And Mr Wraysford is prepared to maintain his allegation at the point of the—knuckle! That hulking, ugly youth is Braddy, the bully, the terror of the Guinea-pigs, and the laughing-stock of his own class-mates. The boy who is fastening a chalk duster on to the collar of Braddy's coat is Tom Senior, the Doctor's eldest son, who, one would have imagined, might have learned better manners. Last, not least (for we need not re-introduce Messrs. Ricketts or Bullinger, or go out of our way to present Simon, the donkey of the Form, to the reader), is Master Anthony Pembury, the boy now mounting up onto a chair with the aid of two friends. Anthony is lame, and one of the most dreaded boys in Saint Dominic's. His father is editor of the Great Britain, and the son seems to have inherited his talent for saying sharp things. Woe betide the Dominican who raises Tony's dander! He cannot box, he cannot pursue; but he can talk, and he can ridicule, as his victims all the school over know.
He it is who has, of his own sweet will, summoned together the present meeting, and the business he is now about to explain.
"The fact is, you fellows," he begins, "I wanted to ask your opinion about a little idea of my own. You know the Sixth Form Magazine?"
"Rather," says Ricketts; "awful rubbish too! Papers a mile long in it about Greek roots; and poetry about the death of Seneca, and all that sort of thing."
"That's just it," continued Pembury; "it's rubbish, and unreadable; and though they condescend to let us see it, I don't suppose two fellows in the Form ever wade through it."
"I know I don't, for one," says Wraysford, laughing; "I did make a start at that ode on the birth of Senior junior in the last, which began with—
"'Hark, 'tis the wail of an infant that wakes the still echoes of lofty Olympus,'
"but I got no farther."
"Yes," says Tom Senior, "Wren wrote that. I felt it my duty to challenge him for insulting the family, you know. But he said it was meant as a compliment, and that the Doctor was greatly pleased with it."
"Well," resumed Pembury, laughing, "they won't allow any of us to contribute. I suggested it to the editor, and he said (you know his stuck-up way), 'They saw no reason for opening their columns to any but Sixth Form fellows.' So what I propose is, that we get up a paper of our own!"
"Upon my word, it's a splendid idea!" exclaimed Wraysford, jumping up in raptures. And every one else applauded Pembury's proposition.
"We've as good a right, you know," he continued, "as they have, and ought to be able to turn out quite as respectable a paper."
"Rather," says Ricketts, "if you'll only get the fellows to write."
"Oh, I'll manage that," said Anthony.
"Of course you'll have to be editor, Tony," says Bullinger.
"If you like," says the bashful Tony, who had no notion of not being editor.
"Well, I call that a splendid idea," says Braddy. "Won't they be in a fury? (Look here, Senior, I wish you wouldn't stick your pins into my neck, do you hear?)"
"What shall we call it?" some one asks.
"Ah, yes," says Pembury, "we ought to give it a good name."
"Call it the Senior Wrangler," suggested Ricketts.
"Sounds too like a family concern," cried Tom Senior.
"Suppose we call it the Fifth Form War Whoop," proposed Wraysford, amid much laughter.
"Or the Anti-Sixth," says Braddy, who always professes an implacable enmity towards the Sixth when none of them are near to hear him.
"Not at all," says Greenfield, speaking now for the first time. "What's the use of making fools of ourselves? Call it the Dominican, and let it be a paper for the whole school."
"Greenfield is right," adds Pembury. "If we can make it a regular school paper it will be a far better slap at the Sixth than if we did nothing but pitch into them. Look here, you fellows, leave it to me to get out the first number. We'll astonish the lives out of them—you see!"
Every one is far too confident of Tony's capacity to raise an objection to this proposal; and after a good deal more talk, in which the idea of the Dominican excites quite an enthusiasm among these amiable young gentlemen, the meeting breaks up.
That evening, as the fellows passed down the corridor to prayers, a new notice appeared on the board:
"The first number of the Dominican will appear on the 24th inst."
"What does it mean?" asked Raleigh of the Sixth, the school captain, of his companion, as they stopped to examine this mysterious announcement; "there's no name to it."
"I suppose it's another prank of the Fifth. By the way, do you see how one of them has altered this debating society notice?"
"Upon my word," said Raleigh reading it, and smiling in spite of himself, "they are getting far too impudent. I must send a monitor to complain of this."
And so the two grandees walked on.
Later in the evening Greenfield and Wraysford sat together in the study of the former.
"Well, I see the Nightingale is vacant at last. Of course you are going in, old man?" said Wraysford.
"Yes, I suppose so; and you?" asked the other.
"Oh, yes. I'll have a shot, and do my best."
"I don't mean to let you have it, though," said Greenfield, "for the money would be valuable to me if I ever go up to Oxford."
"Just the reason I want to get it," said Wraysford, laughing. "By the way, when is your young brother coming?"
"This week, I expect."
"I wonder if he'll fag for me?" asked Wraysford, mindful of his destitute condition.
Greenfield laughed. "You'd better ask the captain about that. I can't answer for him. But I must be off now. Good-night."
And an hour after that Saint Dominic's was as still and silent as, during the day, it had been bustling and noisy.
A NEW BOY.
"Good-Bye, my boy; God bless you! and don't forget to tell the housekeeper about airing your flannel vests."
With this final benediction ringing in his ears, the train which was to carry Master Stephen Greenfield from London to Saint Dominic's steamed slowly out of the station, leaving his widowed mother to return lonely and sorrowful to the home from which, before this day, her youngest son had never wandered far without her.
Stephen, if the truth must be told, was hardly as affected by the parting as his poor mother. Not that he was not sorry to leave home, or that he did not love her he left behind; but with all the world before him, he was at present far too excited to think of anything rationally. Besides, that last remark about the flannel vests had greatly disturbed him. The carriage was full of people, who must have heard it, and would be sure to set him down as no end of a milksop and mollycoddle.
He blushed to the roots of his hair as he pulled up the window and sat down in his corner, feeling quite certain every one of his fellow-travellers must be secretly smiling at his expense. He wished his mother would have whispered that last sentence. It wasn't fair to him. In short, Stephen felt a trifle aggrieved; and, with a view to manifesting his hardihood, and dispelling all false impressions caused by the maternal injunction, he let down the window and put his bare head out of it for about a quarter of an hour, until a speck of dust settled in his eye and drove him back to his seat.
It is decidedly awkward to get dust in your eye when you want to figure as a hero, for the eyes will water, and must be wiped, and that looks particularly like weeping. Stephen refrained from using his handkerchief as long as he could; but it was no use; he must wipe his eye in the presence of his fellow-passengers. However, if he whistled a tune while doing so, no one could suspect him of real tears; so he struck up, "Glide along, my bonny boat," as cheerfully as he could, and mopped his smarting eye at the same time. Alas! the dust only got farther in, and the music, after half an hour's heroic perseverance, flagged altogether. It was no use trying to appear heroic any longer, so, what with pain and a dawning sense of loneliness and home-sickness, Stephen shed a few real tears into his handkerchief, an indulgence which did him good in every way, for it not only relieved his drooping spirits, but washed that wretched piece of dust fairly out of its hiding-place.
This relief, with the aid of a bun and a bottle of ginger-beer at one of the stations, set him, so to speak, on his feet again, and he was able to occupy the rest of his journey very pleasantly in drumming his heels on the floor, and imagining to himself all the marvellous exploits which were to mark his career at Saint Dominic's. He was to be a prodigy in his new school from the very first; in a few terms he was to be captain of the cricket club, and meanwhile was to gain the favour of the Sixth by helping them regularly in their lessons, and fighting any one against whom a special champion should be requisite. He was, indeed, just being invited to dinner with the Doctor, who was about to consult him concerning some points of school management, when the train suddenly pulled up at Maltby, and his brother Oliver's head looked in at the window with a "Hullo! here you are! Tumble out!"
Oliver and Stephen were Mrs Greenfield's only children. Their father had died twelve years ago, when Stephen was a baby, and the two boys had been left in charge of an uncle, who had carefully watched over their education, and persuaded his sister to allow her elder boy to go to a public school. Mrs Greenfield had consented, with many tremblings, and Oliver had, four years ago, been sent to Saint Dominic's, where he was now one of the head boys in the Fifth Form. Only a few weeks before the opening of this story the boys' uncle had died, leaving in his will a provision for sending Stephen to the same school as his brother, or any other his mother might select. The poor widow, loth to give up her boy, yet fain to accept the offer held out, chose to send Stephen to Saint Dominic's too, and this was the reason of that young gentleman's present appearance on the stage at that centre of learning.
"I'll send up your traps by the carter; we can walk," said Oliver, taking his young brother into charge.
Stephen was only too glad, as it gave him time to breathe before plunging at once into the scene of his future exploits. "Is it far?" he asked.
"Only a mile," said Oliver; "come on. Hullo, Rick, where have you been to?"
This was addressed to Ricketts, whom they met just outside the station.
"Oh! to Sherren's about my togs. I wanted them for the match to-morrow, you know. I've told him if he doesn't send them up in time we'll all get our things made in London, so I guess he'll hurry himself for once. Oh, look here! did you get a paper with the result of the American match? Bother! Here, you kid, what's your name, cut back to the station and get a daily. Look sharp! Bring it to me in my room. Come on, Greenfield."
Master Stephen looked so astonished at this cool request from a total stranger that both the elder boys laughed.
"This is my young brother, Rick, just come—"
"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Mr Ricketts, blushing, "I'll go—"
"No, I'll go," said Stephen, darting off, and expending a penny of his own to get this magnifico of the Fifth his paper.
This little incident served to break the ice for the new boy, who felt highly honoured when Ricketts said he was "much obliged to him."
"By the way," said Oliver, suddenly, "I ought to get my togs up too. Bother that Sherren! I say, Rick, see my young brother up to the school, will you? while I cut back; he can wait in my study."
Stephen felt very desolate to be left thus alone the moment after his arrival, and it did not add to his pleasure to observe that Ricketts by no means appeared to look upon the task of seeing him to Saint Dominic's as a privilege. They walked on in silence for about half a mile, and then encountered several groups of boys strolling out along the road. Ricketts stopped to talk to several of them, and was very nearly going off with one of the party, when he suddenly remembered his charge. It was rather humiliating this, for Stephen; and already his triumphal entry into Saint Dominic's was beginning to be shorn of some of its glory. No one noticed him; and the only one that paid him the least attention appeared to look upon him as a nuisance.
"Here, Tony," suddenly shouted Ricketts to Pembury, who was jogging along on his crutches a little way ahead, towards the school; "do you mind showing this kid the way up? I have to go back with Wren. There's a good fellow."
"Well, that's cool," replied Master Pembury; "I'm not a kid-conductor! Come on, youngster; I suppose you haven't got a name, have you?"
"Yes, Stephen Greenfield."
"Oh, brother of our dear friend Oliver; I hope you'll turn out a better boy than him, he's a shocking character."
Stephen looked concerned. "I'm sure he doesn't mean to do what's wrong," began he, apologetically.
"That's just it, my boy. If he doesn't mean to do it, why on earth does he do it? I shall be sorry if he's expelled, very sorry. But come on; don't mind if I walk too fast," added he, hobbling along by Stephen's side.
Stephen did not know what to think. If Ricketts had not addressed his companion as "Tony" he would have fancied he was one of the masters, he spoke with such an air of condescension. Stephen felt very uncomfortable, too, to hear what had been told him about Oliver. If he had not been told, he could not have believed his brother was anything but perfection.
"I'm lame, you see," said Pembury, presently. "You are quite sure you see? Look at my left leg."
"I see," said Stephen, blushing; "I—I hope it doesn't hurt."
"Only when I wash my face. But never mind that Vulcan was lame too, but then he never washed. You know who Vulcan was, of course?"
"No, I don't think so," faltered Stephen, beginning to feel very uneasy and ignorant.
"Not know Vulcan! My eye! where have you been brought up? Then of course you don't know anything about the Tenth Fiji War? No? I thought not. Dreadful! We shall have to see what you do know. Come on."
Stephen entered Saint Dominic's thoroughly crestfallen, and fully convinced he was the most ignorant boy that ever entered a public school. The crowds of boys in the playground frightened him, and even the little boys inspired him with awe. They, at any rate, had heard of Vulcan, and knew about the Tenth Fiji War!
"Here," said Anthony, "is your brother's study. Sit here till he returns, and make the most of your time, for you'll have to put your best foot foremost to-morrow in the Doctor's examination."
So saying, he left abruptly, and the poor lad found himself alone, in about as miserable a frame of mind as a new boy would wish to be in.
He looked about the study; there were some shelves with books on them. There was a little bed let into the wall on one side; there was an easy-chair, and what professed to be a sofa; and there was a pile of miscellanies, consisting of bats and boots and collars and papers, heaped up in the corner, which appeared to be the most abundantly furnished portion of the little room. Stephen sat there, very dismal, and wishing himself home again once more, when the door suddenly opened and a small boy of his own age appeared.
"Hullo! What do you want?" demanded this hero.
"I'm waiting for my brother."
"Who's your brother?"
"Oh, all right! you can get his tea as well as I can; you'll find all the things in the cupboard there. And look here, tell him Bullinger wants to know if he can lend him some jam—about half a pint, tell him."
Poor Stephen! even the small boys ordered him about, and regarded him as nobody. He would fain have inquired of this young gentleman something about Vulcan, and have had the advantage of his experience in the preparation of his brother's tea; but the youth seemed pressed for time, and vanished.
As well as he could, Stephen extricated the paraphernalia of his brother's tea-table from the cupboard, and set it out in order on the table, making the tea as well as profound inexperience of the mystery and a kettle full of lukewarm water would permit. Then he sat and waited.
Before Oliver arrived, four visitors broke in upon Stephen's vigil. The first came "to borrow" some tea, and helped himself coolly to two teaspoonfuls out of Oliver's canister. Stephen stood by aghast and speechless.
"Tell him I'll owe it him," calmly remarked the young gentleman, as he departed with his booty, whistling a cheerful ditty.
Then a fag came in and took a spoon, and after him another fag, with a mug, into which he poured half of the contents of Oliver's milk-jug; and finally a big fellow rushed in in a desperate hurry and snatched up a chair and made off with it.
Stephen wondered the roof of Saint Dominic's did not fall in upon these shameless marauders, and was just contemplating putting the stores all back again into the cupboard to prevent further piracy, when the welcome sound of Oliver's voice in the passage put an end to further suspense.
"Well, here you are," said Oliver, entering with a friend. "Wray, this is my young brother, just turned up."
"How are you?" said Wraysford, in a voice which won over Stephen at once; "I heard you were coming. Have you—"
"Oh!" suddenly ejaculated Oliver, lifting up the lid of his teapot. "If that young wretch Paul hasn't been and made my tea with coal-dust and cold water! I'd like to scrag him! And—upon my word—oh, this is too much!—just look, Wray, how he's laid the table out! Those Guinea-pigs are beyond all patience. Where is the beggar?"
"Oh!" exclaimed Stephen, starting up, very red in the face, as his brother went to the door; "it wasn't him. I made the tea. The boy told me to, and I didn't know the way. I had to guess."
Oliver and Wraysford both burst out laughing.
"A pretty good guess, too, youngster," said Wraysford. "When you come and fag for me I'll give you a few lessons to begin with."
"Oh! by the way, Wray," said Oliver, "that's all knocked on the head. Loman makes out the captain promised him the first new boy that came. I'm awfully sorry."
"Just like Loman's cheek. I believe he did it on purpose to spite me or you. I say, Greenfield, I'd kick-up a row about it if I were you."
"What's the use, if the captain says so?" answered Oliver. "Besides, Loman's a monitor, bad luck to him!"
"Loman's a fellow I don't take a great fancy to," said Wraysford. "I wouldn't care for a young brother of mine to fag to him."
"You are prejudiced, old man," said Oliver. "But I wish all the same Stephen was to fag for you. It's a pity, but it can't be helped."
"I'll speak to the captain, anyhow," growled Wraysford, sitting down to his tea.
All this was not very pleasant for Stephen, who gathered that he was destined to serve a not very desirable personage in the capacity of fag, instead of, as he would have liked, his brother's friend Wraysford.
However, he did justice to the tea, bad as it was, and the sardines Oliver had brought from Maltby. He was relieved, too, to find that his brother was not greatly exasperated on hearing of the various raids which had been made on his provisions, or greatly disconcerted at Mr Bullinger's modest request for half a pint of jam.
Then, as the talk fell upon home, and cricket, and other cheerful topics, the small boy gradually forgot his troubles, even down to the Fiji War, and finished up his first evening at Saint Dominic's in a good deal more cheerful frame of mind than that in which he had begun it.
A MORNING WITH A TADPOLE.
It so happened that on the day following Stephen Greenfield's arrival at Saint Dominic's, the head master, Dr Senior, was absent.
This circumstance gave great satisfaction to the new boy when his brother told him of it, as it put off for another twenty-four hours the awful moment when he would be forced to expose his ignorance before that terrible personage.
"You'd better stick about in my room while I'm in school," said Oliver, "and then you can come down to the cricket-field and see the practice. By the way, some of the fellows may be in to bag my ink; they always run short on Friday; but don't let them take it, for I shall want it to-night. Ta, ta; give my love to the mater if you're writing home. I'll be back for you after the twelve bell."
And off he went, leaving Stephen to follow his own sweet devices for three hours.
That young gentleman was at no loss how to occupy part of the time. He must write home. So after much searching he unearthed a crumpled sheet of note-paper from one of the drawers, and set himself to his task. As he wrote, and his thoughts flew back to the home and the mother he had left only yesterday, his spirits fell, and the home-sickness came over him worse than ever. What would he not give to change places with this very letter, and go back home!
Here, no one cared for him, every one seemed to despise him. He wasn't used to those rough public schools, and would never get on at Saint Dominic's. Ah! that wretched Tenth Fiji War. What would become of him to-morrow when the Doctor would be back? There was no one to help him. Even Oliver seemed determined to let him fight his own battles.
Poor boy! He sat back in his chair and let his mind wander once more back to the snug little home he had left. And, as he did so, his eyes unconsciously filled with tears, and he felt as if he would give anything to escape from Saint Dominic's.
At this moment the door opened and a small boy entered.
He did not seem to expect to find any one in the room, for he uttered a hurried "Hullo!" as he caught sight of Stephen.
Stephen quickly dashed away a tear and looked up.
"Where's Greenfield?" demanded the small boy.
"He's in school," replied Stephen.
"Hullo! what are you blubbering at?" cried the small boy, growing very bold and patronising all of a sudden, "eh?"
Stephen did not answer this home question.
"I suppose you are a new kid, just left your mammy?" observed the other, with the air of a man of forty; "what's your name, young 'un?"
"Oh, my! is it? What form are you in?"
"I don't know yet."
"Haven't you been examined?"
"No, not yet."
"Oh, of course; old Senior's away. Never mind, you'll catch it to-morrow, blub-baby!"
This last epithet was thrown in in such a very gratuitous and offensive way, that Stephen did not exactly like it.
The small youth, however, finding himself in a bantering mood, pursued his questions with increasing venom.
"I suppose they call you Steenie at home?" he observed, with a sneer that was meant to be quite annihilating.
"No, they don't," replied Stephen; "mother calls me Steevie."
"Oh, Steevie, does she? Well, Steevie, were you ever licked over the knuckles with a ruler?"
"No," replied Stephen; "why?"
"Because you will be—I know who'll do it, too, and kick you on the shins, too, if you're cheeky!"
Stephen was quite at a loss whether to receive this piece of news in the light of information or a threat. He was inclined to believe it the latter; and as he was a rash youth, he somewhat tartly replied, "You won't!"
The small boy looked astounded—not that he ever contemplated attempting the chastisement about which he had talked; but the idea of a new boy defying him, one of the chosen leaders of the Tadpoles, who had been at Saint Dominic's two years, was amazing. He glared at the rash Stephen for half a minute, and then broke out, "Won't I? that's all! you see, you pretty little blubber boy! Yow-ow-ow! little sneak! why don't you cut behind your mammy's skirt, if you're afraid? I would cry if I were you. Where's his bottle? Poor infant! Yow-ow-boo-boo!"
This tornado, delivered with increasing vehemence and offensiveness, quite overpowered Stephen, who stared at the boy as if he had been a talking frog.
That youth evidently seemed to expect that his speech would produce a far deeper impression than it did, for he looked quite angry when Stephen made no reply.
"Wretched little sneak!" the amiable one continued; "I suppose he'll go peaching to his big brother. Never mind, we'll pay you out, see if we don't! Go and kiss your mammy, and tell your big brother what they did to little duckie Steevie, did they then? they shouldn't! Give him a suck of his bottle! oh, my!" and he finished up with a most withering laugh. Then, suddenly remembering his errand, he walked up to the table, and said, "I want that inkpot!"
Now was Stephen's time. He was just in the humour for an argument with this young Philistine.
"What's that to you? give it up!"
"I shan't give it up; Oliver said it was not to be taken."
"What do you say?" yelled the small boy, almost beside himself with rage and astonishment. "It's my brother's ink, and I'm not to give it up," said Stephen, shutting the top and keeping his hand on it.
It was enough! The patriarch of the Tadpoles knew his strong point was in words rather than action; but this could not be endured. At whatever risk, the dignity of his order must be maintained, and this insolent, mad new boy must be—kicked.
"I'll kick you on the legs if you don't give it up," said the Tadpole, in a suppressed white heat.
Stephen said nothing, but kept his hand on the pot, and awaited what was to follow.
The hero stepped back a pace or two, to allow of a run worthy of the coming kick; and what might have happened no one knows. At that moment the door opened, and Pembury entered on his crutches.
At sight of this Fifth Form celebrity the Tadpole cringed and cowered, and tried to sneak out of the study unobserved. But Anthony was too quick for him. Gently hooking him by the coat-collar with the end of a crutch, he brought him back.
"What are you doing here?"
"Yes, he is," shouted Stephen; "he's been trying to take, away Oliver's ink."
"Silence, young gentleman, pray!" said Pembury, very grandly. Then, turning to the Tadpole, he added, "Oh, so you've been trying to bag some ink, have you?"
"Well, I only wanted a little; and this—"
"Silence! how much ink did you want?"
"Only half a potful."
"You shall have half a potful!" said Pembury. "Come here."
The Tadpole obeyed, and glared triumphantly at Stephen.
"Now, Master Greenfield," said Pembury, addressing Stephen; "have the kindness to hand me the ink."
Stephen hesitated; he felt sure Anthony was a master; and yet Oliver's directions had been explicit.
"Do you hear?" thundered Anthony.
"Do you hear?" squeaked the Tadpole, delighted to have the tables turned on his adversary.
"Oliver said I wasn't to let it go," faltered Stephen.
"Do you hear me, sir?" again demanded Anthony.
"Do you hear? give it up!" again squeaked the Tadpole.
Stephen sighed, and surrendered the inkpot. There was an air of authority about Pembury which he dared not defy.
"Now, Master Tadpole, here's your ink; half a pot you said? Put your hands behind you, and stir if you dare!" and Pembury looked so awful as he spoke that the wretched boy was quite petrified.
The Fifth Form boy then solemnly emptied half the inkpot on to the top of the young gentleman's head, who ventured neither by word nor gesture to protest.
"Now you can go, sir!" and without another word he led the small youth, down whose face trickled a dozen tiny streams of black, making it look very like a gridiron, to the door, and there gently but firmly handed him into the passage. The wretched youth flew off to proclaim his sorrows to his confederates, and vow vengeance all over Tadpole and Guinea-pig-land against his tormentor and the new boy, who was the author of all his humiliation.
Pembury meanwhile returned to Stephen. That young gentleman had felt his belief in Pembury's authority somewhat shaken by this unusual mode of punishment, but the Fifth Form boy soon reassumed his ascendency. He produced from his pocket a paper, and thus addressed Stephen: "Dr Senior regrets that he should be absent at such an important time in the history of Saint Dominic's as the day of your arrival, Master Greenfield, but he will be back to-morrow. Meanwhile, you are to occupy yourself with answering the questions on this paper, and take the answers to the head master's study at ten to-morrow. Of course you will not be so dishonourable as to show the questions to any one, not even your brother, or attempt to get the slightest help in answering them. Good-bye, my boy. Don't trouble to stare at my left leg, if it is shorter than the other. Good-bye."
Poor Stephen felt so confused by the whole of this oration, particularly the last sentence, which made him blush scarlet with shame, that for some time after the lame boy had hobbled off he could not bring himself to look at the paper. At last, however, he took it up.
This, then, was the awful examination paper which was to determine his position at Saint Dominic's, or else expose his ignorance to the scorn of his masters. How he wished he was on the other side of it, and that the ordeal was over!
"Question 1. Grammar. Parse the sentence, 'Oh, ah!' and state the gender of the following substantives: 'and,' 'look,' 'here.'"
Stephen scratched his head and rubbed his eyes. This was not like anything he had learned at home. They must learn out of quite different books at Saint Dominic's.
"Question 2. History—"
"Hullo," thought Stephen, "they don't give many questions in grammar; that's a good job."
"Question 2. History. Whose daughter was Stephen the Second, and why was he nicknamed the 'Green?'"
Stephen laughed. He had found out a mistake in his examiners. "'Daughter,' the paper said, should be 'son' of course. Funny for Dr Senior to make such a slip," thought he.
"Question 3. History and Geography. Who built England? and state the latitude and longitude of Saint Dominic's, and the boundaries of Gusset Weir."
"However am I to know?" murmured Stephen, in despair. "I was never here before in my life. Oh, dear, I shall never pass!"
"Question 4. Compound Theology. Give a sketch of the rise and history of the Dominicans from the time of Herod the Conqueror to the death of Titmus."
"Whew!" was Stephen's despairing ejaculation. "I never heard of Titmus; it sounds like a Latin name."
"Question 5. Pure Theology. Who was Mr Finis? Give a list of the works bearing his signature, with a short abstract of their contents. What is he particularly celebrated for?"
"Mr Finis?" groaned Stephen. "How can they expect a boy like me to know who he was? And yet I seem to know the name. Oh dear me!"
"Question 6, and last but one," ("That's a comfort," sighed Stephen). "Mathematics. What is a minus? Describe its shape, and say how many are left when the whole is divided by seven. Reduce your answer to vulgar decimals."
"I'm certain I can never do that. Minus? Minus? I know the name, too. But here's the last."
"Question 7. Miscellaneous. Give a brief history of your own life from the earliest times, being particular to state your vicious deeds in chronological order."
Stephen sighed a sigh of relief. "I can answer that, after a fashion," he said; "but I can't even then be sure of all the dates. As for the others—" and he dashed the paper down on the table with an air of bewildered despair.
"What am I to do? They are all too hard for me. Oh! I wish I might just show them to Oliver. If I was only at home, mother could help me. Oh, dear! I wish I had never come here!"
And he gave himself over to the extreme of misery, and sat staring at the wall until the twelve bell rang, and Oliver and Wraysford broke in on his solitude.
"Hullo, young 'un; in the dumps? Never mind; you'll be used to it in a day or two, won't he, Wray?"
"Of course you will," said Wraysford, cheerily; "it's hard lines at first. Keep your pecker up, young 'un."
The young 'un, despite this friendly advice, felt very far from keeping up his pecker. But he did his best, and worked his face into a melancholy sort of a smile.
"Fish us my spike shoes out of that cupboard, Stee, there's a good fellow," said Oliver, "and come along to the cricket-field. There's a big practice on this afternoon."
"I've got to do my exam before ten to-morrow. Some one brought me up the paper and said so. Perhaps I'd better stop here and do it?"
"I thought you weren't to be had up till the Doctor came back. Who brought you the paper? I suppose it was Jellicott, the second master?"
"I suppose so," said Stephen, who had never heard of Mr Jellicott in his life before.
"Let's have a look at it," said the elder brother.
"I promised I wouldn't."
"Oh, all serene; I only wanted to see the questions. It's a new dodge giving papers, isn't it, Wray? We were examined viva voce in the Doctor's study. Well, come on, old man, or we shall be late. You'll have lots of time for that this evening."
And off they went, the wretched Stephen wrestling mentally with his problems all the while.
Of course, profound reader, you have made the brilliant discovery by this time that Master Stephen Greenfield was a very green boy. So were you and I at his age; and so, after all, we are now. For the more we think we know, the greener we shall find we are; that's a fact!
There is a queer elasticity about boys which no one, least of all themselves, can account for. A quarter of an hour after the big practice had begun Stephen had forgotten all about his examination, and could think of nothing but cricket.
As he sat cross-legged on the grass among half a dozen youngsters like himself, he even began to forget that he was a new boy, and was surprised to find himself holding familiar converse with one and another of his companions.
"Well bowled, sir!" shouted Master Paul, as a very swift ball from Ricketts took Bullinger's middle stump clean out of the ground—"rattling well bowled! I say," he added, turning round; "if Ricketts bowls like that to-day week, the others will be nowhere."
"Oh," said Stephen, to whom this remark seemed to be addressed.
Master Paul looked sharply round.
"Hullo, young 'un, is that you? Jolly good play, isn't it? Who are you for, A or Z?"
"What do you mean?"
"Mean? Do you back the A's or the Z's? that's what I mean. Oh, I suppose you don't twig, though. A to M, you know, against N to Z."
"Oh," said Stephen, "I back the A to M's, of course; my brother is in that half."
"So he is—isn't that him going in now? Yes; you see if Ricketts doesn't get him out in the first over!"
Stephen watched most eagerly and anxiously. They were not playing a regular game, only standing up to be bowled at in front of the nets, or fielding at fixed places; but each ball, and each hit, and each piece of fielding, was watched and applauded as if a victory depended on it, for out of those playing to-day the two elevens for the Alphabet match were to be chosen; and out of those two elevens, as every one knew, the School eleven, which would play the County in June, was to be selected. Oliver, despite Paul's prophecy, stood out several overs of Rickett's, and Loman's, and the school captain's, one after the other, cutting some of their balls very hard, and keeping a very steady guard over his wicket. At last a ball of Loman's got past him and snicked off his bails.
Stephen looked inquiringly round at Paul, and then at the small knot of Sixth fellows who were making notes of each candidate's play.
"He's all right," said Paul; "I guess Raleigh," (that was the school captain) "didn't fancy his balls being licked about like that. Never mind—there goes Braddy in."
And so the practice went on, each candidate for the honour of a place in the eleven submitting to the ordeal, and being applauded or despised according as he acquitted himself. Wraysford, of course, came out of the trial well, as he always did.
"I declare, the Fifth could lick the Sixth this year, Tom," said Pembury to Tom Senior, as they sat together looking on.
"I'm sure they could; I hope we challenge them."
Just then a Sixth Form fellow strolled up to where the speakers were standing.
"I say, Loman," said Pembury, "we were just saying our men could lick yours all to fits. Don't you think so yourself?"
"Can't say I do; but you are such a wonderful lot of heroes, you Fifth, that there's no saying what you couldn't do if you tried," replied Loman, with a sneer.
"But you take such precious good care we shall not try, that's just it," said Pembury, winking at his companion. "Never mind, we'll astonish you some day," growled the editor of the Dominican as he hobbled away.
Loman strolled up to where the small boys were sitting.
"Which of you is young Greenfield?" he said.
"I am," said Stephen, promptly.
"Run with this letter to the post, then, and bring me back some stamps while you are there, and get tea ready for two in my study by half-past six—do you hear?"
And off he went, leaving Stephen gaping at the letter in his hand, and quite bewildered as to the orders about tea.
Master Paul enjoyed his perplexity.
"I suppose you thought you were going to get off fagging. I say, you'll have to take that letter sharp, or you'll be late."
"Where's the post-office?"
"About a mile down Maltby Road. Look here, as you are going there, get me a pound of raisins, will you?—there's a good chap. We'll square up to-night."
Stephen got up and started on his errands in great disgust.
He didn't see why he was to be ordered about and sent jobs for the other boys, just at a time, too, when he was enjoying himself. However, it couldn't be helped.
Three or four fellows stopped him as he walked with the letter in his hand to the gates.
"Oh, are you going to the post? Look here, young 'un, just call in at Splicer's about my bat, will you? thanks awfully!" said one.
Another wanted him to buy a sixpenny novel at the library; a third commissioned him to invest threepence in "mixed sweets, chiefly peppermint;" and a fourth to call at Grounding, the naturalist's, with a dead white mouse which the owner wanted stuffed.
After this, Stephen—already becoming a little more knowing—stuffed the letter in his pocket, and took care, if ever he passed any one, not to look as if he was going anywhere, for fear of being entrusted with a further mission.
He discharged all his errands to the best of his ability, including that relating to the dead mouse, which he had great difficulty in rescuing from the clutches of a hungry dog on the way down, and then returned with Paul's raisins in one pocket, the mixed sweets in another, the book in another, and the other boy's bat over his shoulder.
Paul was awaiting him at the gate of Saint Dominic's.
"Got them?" he shouted out, when Stephen was still twenty yards off.
"How much?" inquired Paul.
"You duffer! I didn't mean them—pudding raisins I meant, about sixpence. I say, you'd better take them back, hadn't you?"
This was gratitude! "I can't now," said Stephen.
"I've got to get somebody's tea ready—I say, where's his study?"
"Whose? Loman's? Oh, it's about the eighth on the right in the third passage; next to the one with the kicks on it. What a young muff you are to get this kind of raisin! I say, you'd have plenty of time to change them."
"I really wouldn't," said Stephen, hurrying off, and perhaps guessing that before he met Mr Paul again the raisins would be past changing.
The boy to whom belonged the mixed sweets was no more grateful than Paul had been.
"You've chosen the very ones I hate," he said, surveying the selection with a look of disgust.
"You said peppermint," said Stephen.
"But I didn't say green, beastly things!" grumbled the other. "Here, you can have one of them, it's sure to make you sick!"
Stephen said "Thank you," and went off to deliver up the bat.
"What a time you've been!" was all the thanks he got in that quarter. "Why couldn't you come straight back with it?"
This was gratifying. Stephen was learning at least one lesson that afternoon—that a fag, if he ever expects to be thanked for anything he does, is greatly mistaken. He went off in a highly injured frame of mind to Loman's study.
Master Paul's directions might have been more explicit—"The eighth door on the right; next to the one with the kicks." Now, as it happened, the door with the kicks on it was itself the eighth door on the right, with a study on either side of it, and which of these two was Loman's Stephen could not by the unaided light of nature determine. He peeped into Number 7; it was empty.
"Perhaps he's cut his name on the door," thought Stephen.
He might have done so, but as there were about fifty different letters cut on the door, he was not much wiser for that.
"I'd better look and see if his name is on his collars," Stephen next reflected, remembering with what care his mother had marked his own linen.
He opened a drawer; it was full of jam-pots. At that moment the door opened behind him, and the next thing Stephen was conscious of was that he was half-stunned with a terrific box on the ears.
"Take that, you young thief!" said the indignant owner of the study; "I'll teach you to stick your finger in my jam. What do you mean by it?" and a cuff served as a comma between each sentence.
"I really didn't—I only wanted—I was looking for—"
"That'll do; don't tell lies as well as steal; get away."
"I never stole anything!" began Stephen, whose confusion was being rapidly followed by indignation at this unjust suspicion.
"That'll do. A little boy like you shouldn't practise cheating. Off you go! If I catch you again I'll take you to the Doctor."
In vain Stephen, now utterly indignant, and burning with a sense of injustice, protested his innocence. He could not get a hearing, and presently found himself out in the passage, the most miserable boy in all Saint Dominic's.
He wandered disconsolately along the corridor, trying hard to keep down his tears, and determined to beg and beseech his brother to let him return home that very evening, when Loman and a friend confronted him.
"Hullo, I say, is tea ready?" demanded the former.
"No," said Stephen, half choking.
"Why ever not, when I told you?"
Stephen looked at him, and tried to speak, and then finally burst into tears.
"Here's an oddity for you! Why, what's the row, youngster?"
"Nothing," stammered Stephen.
"That's a queer thing to howl at. If you were weeping because you hadn't made my tea, I could understand it. Come along, I'll show you how to do it this time, young greenhorn."
Stephen accompanied him mechanically, and was ushered into the study on the other side of the door with the kicks to that in which he had been so grievously wronged.
He watched Loman prepare the meal, and was then allowed to depart, with orders to be in the way, in case he should be wanted.
Poor Stephen! Things were going from bad to worse, and life was already a burden to him. And besides—that exam paper! It now suddenly dawned upon him. Here it was nearly seven o'clock, and by ten to-morrow he was to deliver it up to Dr Senior!
How ever was he to get through it? He darted off to Oliver's study. It was empty, and he sat down, and drawing out the paper, made a dash at the first question.
The answer wouldn't come! Parse "Oh, ah!"
"Oh" is an interjection agreeing with "ah."
"Ah" is an interjection agreeing with "oh." It wouldn't do. He must try again.
"Why," cried the voice of Wraysford, half an hour later, "here's a picture of industry for you, Greenfield. That young brother of yours is beginning well!"
Stephen hurriedly caught up his papers for fear any one should catch a glimpse of the hopeless attempts at answers which he had written. He was greatly tempted to ask Oliver about "Mr Finis," only he had promised not to get any help.
"Let's have a look at the questions," again demanded Oliver, but at that moment Loman's voice sounded down the passage.
"Greenfield junior, where are you?"
Stephen, quite glad of this excuse for again refusing to show that wretched paper, jumped up, and saying, "There's Loman wants his tea cleared away," vanished out of the room.
Poor Stephen! There was little chance of another turn at his paper that night. By the time Loman's wants had been attended to, and his directions for future fagging delivered, the prayer-bell rang, and for the half-hour following prayers the new boy was hauled away by Master Paul into the land of the Guinea-pigs, there to make the acquaintance of some of his future class-fellows, and to take part in a monster indignation meeting against the monitors for forbidding single wicket cricket in the passage, with a door for the wicket, an old inkpot for the ball, and a ruler for the bat. Stephen quite boiled with rage to hear of this act of tyranny, and vowed vengeance along with all the rest twenty times over, and almost became reconciled with his enemy of the morning (but not quite) in the sympathy of emotion which this demonstration evoked.
Then, just as the memory of that awful paper rushed back into his mind, and he was meditating sneaking off to his brother's study, the first bed-bell sounded.
"Come on," said Paul, "or they'll bag our blankets."
Stephen, wondering, and shivering at the bare idea, raced along the passage and up the staircase with his youthful ally to the dormitory. There they found they had been anticipated by the blanket-snatchers; and as they entered, one of these, the hero of the inky head, was deliberately abstracting one of those articles of comfort from Stephen's own bed.
"There's young Bramble got your blanket, Greenfield," cried Paul, "pitch into him!"
Stephen, nothing loth, marched up to Master Bramble and demanded his blanket. A general engagement ensued, some of the inhabitants of the dormitory siding with Stephen, and some with Bramble, until it seemed as if the coveted blanket would have parted in twain. In the midst of the confusion a sentry at the door suddenly put his head in and shouted "Nix!" The signal had a magical effect on all but the uninitiated Stephen, who, profiting by his adversaries' surprise, made one desperate tug at his blanket, which he triumphantly rescued.
"Look sharp," said Paul, "here comes Rastle." Mr Rastle was the small boys' tutor and governor. Stephen took the hint, and was very soon curled up, with his brave blanket round him, in bed, where, despite the despairing thought of his paper, the cruel injustice of the owner of the jam-pots, and the general hardness of his lot, he could not help feeling he was a good deal more at home at Saint Dominic's than he had ever yet found himself.
Of one thing he was determined. He would be up at six next morning, and make one last desperate dash at his exam paper.
SHAKING DOWN TO WORK.
"Master Greenfield, junior, is to go to the head master's study at half-past nine," called out Mr Roach, the school porter, putting his head into the dormitory, at seven o'clock next morning.
Stephen had been up an hour, making fearful and wonderful shots of answers to his awful questions, half of which he had already ticked off as done for better or worse. "If I write something down to each," thought he to himself, "I might happen to get one thing right; it'll be better than putting down no answer at all."
"Half-past nine!" said he to Paul, on hearing this announcement; "ten was the time I was told."
"Who told you?"
"The gentleman who gave me my paper."
"What paper? you don't have papers. It's viva voce."
"I've got a paper, anyhow," said Stephen, "and a precious hard one, too, and I've only half done it."
"Well, you'll have to go at half-past nine, or you'll catch it," said Paul. "I say, there's Loman calling you."
Stephen, who, since the indignation meeting last night, had felt himself grow very rebellious against the monitors, did not choose to hear the call in question, and tried his hardest to make another shot at his paper. But he could not keep deaf when Loman himself opened the door, and pulling his ear inquired what he meant by not coming when he was told? The new boy then had to submit, and sulkily followed his lord to his study, there to toast some bread at a smoky fire, and look for about half an hour for a stud that Loman said had rolled under the chest of drawers, but which really had fallen into one of that gentleman's boots.
By the time these labours were over, and Stephen had secured a mouthful of breakfast in his brother's study, it was time to go down to prayers; and after prayers he had but just time to wonder what excuse he should make for only answering half his questions, when the clock pointed to the half-hour, and he had to scuttle off as hard as he could to the Doctor's study.
Dr Senior was a tall, bald man, with small, sharp eyes, and with a face as solemn as an owl's. He looked up as Stephen entered.
"Come in, my man. Let me see; Greenfield? Oh, yes. You got here on Tuesday. How old are you?"
"Nearly eleven, sir," said Stephen, with the paper burning in his pocket.
"Just so; and I dare say your brother has shown you over the school, and helped to make you feel at home. Now suppose we just run through what you have learned at home."
Now was the time. With a sigh as deep as the pocket from which he pulled it, Stephen produced that miserable paper.
"I'm very sorry, sir," he began, "I've not had time—"
"Tut, tut!" said the Doctor; "put that away, and let us get on."
Stephen stared. "It's the paper you gave me!" he said.
The Doctor frowned. "I hope you are not a silly boy," he said, rather crossly.
"I'm afraid they are all wrong," said Stephen; "the questions were— were—rather hard."
"What questions?" exclaimed the Doctor, a trifle impatient, and a trifle puzzled.
"These you sent me," said Stephen, humbly handing in the paper.
"Hum! some mistake; let's see, perhaps Jellicott—ah!" and he put on his glasses and unfolded the paper.
"Question 1. Grammar!" and then a cloud of amazement fell over the Doctor's face. He looked sharply out from under his spectacles at Stephen, who stood anxiously and nervously before him. Then he glanced again at the paper, and his mouth twitched now and then as he read the string of questions, and the boy's desperate attempts to answer them.
"Humph!" he said, when the operation was over, "I'm afraid, Greenfield, you are not a very clever boy—"
"I know I'm not, sir," said Stephen, quite relieved that the Doctor did not at once order him to quit Saint Dominic's.
"Or you would have seen that this paper was a practical joke." Then it burst all of a sudden on Stephen. And all this about "Mr Finis", "Oh, ah," and the rest of it had been a cruel hoax, and no more!
"Come, now, let us waste no more time. I'm not surprised," said the Doctor, suppressing a smile by a very hard twitch; "I'm not surprised you found these questions hard. How far have you got in arithmetic?"
And then the Doctor launched Stephen into a viva voce examination, in which that young prodigy of learning acquitted himself far more favourably than could have been imagined, and at the end of which he heard that he would be placed in the fourth junior class, where it would be his duty to strain every nerve to advance, and make the best use of his time at Saint Dominic's. Then the Doctor rang his bell.
"Tell Mr Rastle kindly to step here," said he to the porter.
Mr Rastle appeared, and to his charge, after solemnly shaking hands and promising to be a paragon of industry and good conduct, Stephen was consigned by the head master.
"By the way," said the Doctor, as Stephen was leaving, "will you tell the boy who gave you this paper I wish to see him?"
Stephen, who had been too much elated by the result of the real examination to recollect for the moment the trickery of the sham one, now blushed very red as he remembered what a goose he had been, and undertook to obey the Doctor's order. And this it was very easy to do. For as he opened the study-door he saw Pembury just outside, leaning against the wall with his eyes on the clock as it struck ten.
As he caught sight of Stephen emerging from the head master's study, his countenance fell, and he said eagerly and half-anxiously, "Didn't I tell you ten o'clock, Greenfield?"
"Yes, but the Doctor said half-past nine. And you are a cad to make a fool of me," added Stephen, rising with indignation, "and—and—and—" and here he choked.
"Calm yourself, my young friend," said Pembury. "It's such a hard thing to make a fool of you that, you know, and—and—and—!"
"I shall not speak to you," stammered Stephen.
"Oh, don't apologise," laughed Pembury. "Perhaps it would comfort you to kick me. Please choose my right leg, as the other is off the ground, eh?"
"The Doctor wants to speak to you, he says," said Stephen.
Pembury's face fell again. "Do you mean to say he saw the paper, and you told him?" he said, angrily.
"I showed him the paper, because I thought he had sent it; but I didn't tell him who gave it to me."
"Then why does he want me?"
"He wants the boy who gave me the paper, that's all he said," answered Stephen, walking off sulkily to his quarters, and leaving Anthony to receive the rebukes of Dr Senior, and make his apologies for his evil deeds as best he could.
The offence after all was not a very terrible one, and Pembury got off with a mild reprimand on the evils of practical joking, at the end of which he found himself in his usual amiable frame of mind, and harbouring no malice against his innocent victim.
"Greenfield," said he, when shortly afterwards he met Oliver, "I owe your young brother an apology."
"What on earth for?"
"I set him an examination paper to answer, which I'm afraid caused him some labour. Never mind, it was all for the best."
"What, did that paper he was groaning over come from you? What a shame, Tony, to take advantage of a little beggar like him!"
"I'm awfully sorry, tell him; but I say, Greenfield, it'll make a splendid paragraph for the Dominican. By the way, are you going to let me have that poem you promised on the Guinea-pigs?"
"I can't get on with it at all," said Oliver. "I'm stuck for a rhyme in the second line."
"Oh, stick down anything. How does it begin?"
"'Oh, dwellers in the land of dim perpetual,'"
"Very good; let's see; how would this do?—
"'I hate the day when first I met you all, And this I undertake to bet you all, One day I'll into trouble get you all, And down the playground steps upset you all, And with a garden hose I'll wet you all, And then—'"
"Oh, look here," said Oliver, "that'll do. You may as well finish the thing right out at that rate."
"Not at all, my dear fellow. It was just a sudden inspiration, you know. Don't mention it, and you may like to get off that rhyme into another. But I say, Greenfield, we shall have a stunning paper for the first one. Tom Senior has written no end of a report of the last meeting of the Sixth Form Debating Society, quite in the parliamentary style; and Bullinger is writing a history of Saint Dominic's, 'gathered from the earliest sources,' as he says, in which he's taking off most of the Sixth. Simon is writing a love-ballad, which is sure to be fun; and Ricketts is writing a review of Liddell and Scott's Lexicon; and Wraysford is engaged on 'The Diary of the Sixth Form Mouse.'"
"Good!" said Oliver, "and what are you writing?"
"Oh, the leading article, you know, and the personal notes, and 'Squeaks from Guineapigland and Tadpoleopolis,' and some of the advertisements. Come up to my study, you and Wray, this evening after prayers, I say, and we'll go through it."
And off hobbled the editor of the Dominican, leaving Oliver greatly impressed with his literary talents, especially in the matter of finding rhymes for "perpetual."
By the time he and Wraysford went in the evening to read over what had been sent in, the poem on the Guinea-pigs was complete.
They found Pembury busy over a huge sheet of paper, the size of his table.
"What on earth have you got there?" cried Wraysford.
"The Dominican, to be sure," said Anthony, gravely.
"Nonsense! you are not going to get it out in that shape?"
"I am, though. Look here, you fellows," said Anthony, "I'll show you the dodge of the thing. The different articles will either be copied or pasted into this big sheet. You see each of these columns is just the width of a sheet of school paper. Well, here's a margin all round—do you twig?—so that when the whole thing's made up it'll be ready for framing."
"Framing!" exclaimed Greenfield and his friend.
"To be sure. I'm getting a big frame, with glass, made for it, with the title of the paper in big letters painted on the wood. So the way we shall publish it will be to hang it outside our class-room, and then every one can come and read it who likes—much better than passing it round to one fellow at a time."
"Upon my word, Tony, it's a capital notion," exclaimed Wraysford, clapping the lame boy on the back; "it does you credit, my boy."
"Don't mention it," said Tony; "and don't whack me like that again, or I'll refuse to insert your 'Diary of the Sixth Form Mouse.'"
"But, I say," said Greenfield, "are you sure they'll allow it to hang out there? It may get knocked about."
"I dare say we may have a row with the monitors about it; but we must square them somehow. We shall have to keep a fag posted beside it, though, to protect it."
"And to say 'Move on!' like the policemen," added Wraysford. "Well, it's evident you don't want any help, Tony, so I'll go."
"Good-bye; don't ask me to your study for supper, please."
"I'm awfully sorry, I promised Bullinger. I know he has a dozen sausages in his cupboard. Come along there. Are you coming, Greenfield?"
And the worthy friends separated for a season.
Meanwhile, Stephen had made his debut in the Fourth Junior. He was put to sit at the bottom desk of the class, which happened to be next to the desk owned by Master Bramble, the inky-headed blanket-snatcher. This young gentleman, bearing in mind his double humiliation, seemed by no means gratified to find who his new neighbour was.
"Horrid young blub-baby!" was his affectionate greeting, "I don't want you next to me."
"I can't help it," said Stephen. "I was put here."
"Oh, yes, because you're such an ignorant young sneak; that's why."
"I suppose that's why you were at the bottom before I came—oh!"
The last exclamation was uttered aloud, being evoked by a dig from the amiable Master Bramble's inky pen into Stephen's leg.
"Who was that?" said Mr Rastle, looking up from his desk.
"Now then," whispered Bramble, "sneak away—tell tales, and get me into a row—I'll pay you!"
Stephen, feeling himself called upon, stood up.
"It was me," he said.
"It was I, would be better grammar," said Mr Rastle, quietly.
Mr Rastle was a ruddy young man, with a very good-humoured face, and a sly smile constantly playing at the corners of his mouth. He no doubt guessed the cause of the disturbance, for he asked, "Was any one pinching you?"
"Go it," growled Bramble, in a savage whisper. "Say it was me, you sneak."
Stephen said, No, no one had pinched him; but finished up his sentence with another "Oh!" as the gentle Bramble gave him a sharp side-kick on the ankle as he stood.
Mr Rastle's face darkened as he perceived this last piece of by-play.
"Bramble," said he, "oblige me by standing on the form for half an hour. I should be sorry to think you were as objectionable as your name implies. Sit down, Greenfield."
And then the class resumed, with Master Bramble perched like a statue of the sulky deity on his form, muttering threats against Greenfield all the while, and the most scathing denunciations against all who might be even remotely connected with big brothers, and mammies, and blub-babies.
Stephen, who was beginning to feel himself much more at home at Saint Dominic's, betrayed no visible terror at these menaces, and only once took any notice of his exalted enemy, when the latter attempted not only to stand on the form, but upon a tail of Stephen's jacket, and a bit of the flesh of his leg at the same time. Then he gave the offending foot a knock with his fist and an admonitory push.
"Please, sir," squeaked the lordly Bramble, "Greenfield junior is trying to knock me over."
"I was not," shouted Stephen; "he was squashing me with his foot, and I moved it away."
"Really, Bramble," said Mr Rastle, "you are either very unfortunate or very badly behaved. Come and stand on this empty form beside my desk. There will be no danger here of 'squashing' any one's leg or of being knocked over. Come at once."
So Mr Bramble took no advantage by his last motion, and served the rest of his term of penal servitude, in the face of the entire class, under the immediate eye of Mr Rastle.
Directly class was over, Stephen had to go and wait upon Loman for a particular purpose, which the reader must hear of in due time.
MR CRIPPS THE YOUNGER.
Loman was a comparatively new boy at Saint Dominic's. He had entered eighteen months ago, in the Fifth Form, having come direct from another school. He was what many persons would call an agreeable boy, although for some reason or other he was never very popular. What that something was, no one could exactly define. He was clever, and good-tempered, and inoffensive. He rarely quarrelled or interfered with any one, and he had been known to do more than one good-natured act. But whether it was that he was conceited, or selfish, or not quite straight, or a little bit of all three, he never made any very great friends at Saint Dominic's, and since he had got into the Sixth and been made a monitor, he had quite lost the favour of his old comrades in the Fifth.
As far as Wraysford and Greenfield were concerned, this absence of goodwill had ripened into something like soreness, by the way in which Loman had made use of his own position as a monitor, on a casual reference by Oliver to the probable coming of Stephen to Saint Dominic's, to secure that young gentleman as his fag, although he quite well knew that Wraysford was counting on having him. Though of course the captain's word was final, the two friends felt that they had not been quite fairly dealt with in the matter. They took no trouble to conceal what they thought from Loman himself, who seemed to derive considerable satisfaction from the fact, and to determine to keep his hand on the new boy quite as much for the sake of "scoring off" his rivals as on the fag's own account.
Loman, Wraysford, and Greenfield were rivals in more matters than one. They were all three candidates for a place in the school eleven, and all three candidates for the Nightingale Scholarship next autumn; and besides this, they each of them aspired to control the Junior Dominicans; and it was a sore mortification to Loman to find that, though a monitor, his influence among the small fry was by no means as great as that of the two Fifth Form boys, who were notoriously popular, and thought much of by their juniors.
For these and other reasons, the relations between the two friends and Loman were at the present time a little "strained."
To Stephen, however, Loman was all civility. He helped him in his lessons, and gave him the reversion of his feasts, and exercised his monitorial authority against Master Bramble in a way that quite charmed the new boy, and made him consider himself fortunate to have fallen into the hands of so considerate a lord.
When he entered Loman's study after his first morning's work in class, he found that youth in a highly amiable frame of mind, and delighted to see him.
"Hullo, Greenfield!" he said; "how are you? and how are you getting on? I hear you are in the Fourth Junior; all among the Guinea-pigs and Tadpoles, eh? Which do you belong to?"
"I don't know," said Stephen; "they are going to draw lots for me to-morrow."
"That's a nice way of being elected! I say, have you any classes this afternoon?"
"No; Mr Rastle has given us a half-holiday."
"That's just the thing. I'm going to scull up the river a bit after dinner, and if you'd like you can come and steer for me."
Stephen was delighted. Of all things he liked boating. They lived near a river at home, he said, and he always used to steer for Oliver there.
So, as soon as dinner was over, the two went down to the boathouse and embarked.
"Which way shall you row?" asked Stephen, as he made himself comfortable in the stern of the boat, and took charge of the rudder-lines.
"Oh, up stream. Keep close in to the bank, out of the current."
It was a beautiful afternoon, and Loman paddled lazily and luxuriously up, giving ample time to Stephen, if so inclined, to admire the wooded banks and picturesque windings of the Shar. Gusset Lock was reached in due time, and here Loman suggested that Stephen should get out and go round and look at the weir, while he went on and took the boat through. Stephen acceded and landed, and Loman paddled on to the lock.
"Hello, maister," called down a feeble old voice, as he got up to the gate.
"Hullo, Jeff, is Cripps about?" replied Loman.
"Yas; he be inside or somewheres, maister," replied the old lock-keeper.
"All right! take the boat up; I want to see Cripps."
Cripps was the son of the old man whom Loman had addressed as Jeff. He was not exactly a gentleman, for he kept the Cockchafer public-house at Maltby, and often served behind the bar in his own person. Neither was he altogether a reputable person, for he frequently helped himself to an overdose of his own beverages, besides being a sharp hand at billiards, and possessing several packs of cards with extra aces in them. Neither was he a particularly refined personage, for his choice of words was often more expressive than romantic, and his ordinary conversation was frequently the reverse of edifying; it mainly had to do with details of the stable or the card-room, and the anecdotes with which he enlivened it were often "broader than they were long," to put it mildly. In short, Cripps was a blackguard by practice, whatever he was by profession. He had, however, one redeeming virtue; he was very partial to young gentlemen, and would go a good bit out of his way to meet one. He always managed to know of something that young gentlemen had a fancy for. He could put them into the way of getting a thoroughbred bull-dog dirt-cheap; he could put them up to all the tips at billiards and "Nap," and he could make up a book for them on the Derby or any other race, that was bound to win. And he did it all in such a pleasant, frank way that the young gentlemen quite fell in love with him, and entrusted their cash to him with as much confidence as if he were the Bank of England.
Of all the young gentlemen whose privilege it had been to make the acquaintance of Mr Cripps—and there were a good many—he professed the greatest esteem and admiration for Loman, of Saint Dominic's school, to whom he had been only recently introduced. The two had met at the lock-keeper's house a week ago, when Loman was detained there an hour or two by stress of weather, and, getting into conversation, as gentlemen naturally would, Loman chanced to mention that he wanted to come across a really good fishing-rod.
By a most curious coincidence, Mr Cripps had only the other day been asked by a particular friend of his, who was removing from the country to London—"where," said Mr Cripps, "there ain't over much use for a rod,"—if he knew of any one in want of a really good fishing-rod. It was none of your ordinary ones, made out of green wood with pewter joints, but a regular first-class article, and would do for trout or perch or jack, or any mortal fish you could think of. Cripps had seen it, and flattered himself he knew something about rods, but had never seen one to beat this. Reel and all, too, and a book of flies into the bargain, if he liked. He had been strongly tempted to get it for himself—it seemed a downright sin to let such a beauty go—and would have it if he had not already got a rod, but of a far inferior sort, of his own. And he believed his friend would part with it cheap.
"I tell you what, young gentleman," said he, "I'll bring it up with me next time I come, and you shall have a look at it. Of course, you can take it or not, as you like, but if my advice is worth anything—well, never mind, I suppose you are sure to be up stream in the course of the next week or so."
"Oh, yes," said Loman, who in the presence of this universal genius was quite deferential; "when can you bring it?"
"Well, my time ain't so very valuable, and I'd like to oblige you over this little affair. Suppose we say to-day week. I'll have the rod here, and you can try him."
"Thank you—have you—that is—about what—"
"You mean, about what figure will he want for it? Well, I don't know exactly. They run so very various, do good rods. You could get what they call a rod for ten bob, I dare say. But you wouldn't hardly fancy that style of thing."
"Oh no; if it was a really good one," said Loman, "I wouldn't mind giving a good price. I don't want a rotten one."
"That's just it. This one I'm telling you of is as sound as a bell, and as strong as iron. And you know, as well as I do, these things are always all the better after a little use. My friend has only used this twice. But I'll find out about the price, and drop you a line, you know. May be 2 pounds or 3 pounds, or so."
"I suppose that's about what a really good rod ought to cost?" said Loman, who liked to appear to know what was what, but secretly rather taken aback by this estimate.
"So it is. It's just a guess of mine though; but I know for me he'll put it as low as he can."
"I'm sure I shall be very much obliged to you," said Loman, "if you can manage it for me."
"Not at all, young gentleman. I always like to oblige where I can; besides, you would do as much for me, I'll wager. Well, good-day, Mr— what's your name?"
"Loman—at Saint Dominic's. You'll send me a line, then about the price?"
"Yes, sir. Good-day, sir."
But Mr Cripps had forgotten to send the line, and to-day, when Loman, according to arrangement, came up to the lock-keeper's to receive the rod, the keeper of the Cockchafer was most profuse in his apologies. He was most sorry, but his friend had been ill and not able to attend to business. He had been a trifle afraid from what he heard that he was not quite as anxious to part with that rod as formerly. But Cripps had gone over on purpose and seen him, and got his promise that he should have it to-morrow certain, and if Mr Loman would call or send up, it should be ready for him, without fail.
At this stage, Stephen, having explored the weir, rejoined his schoolfellow, and the two, after partaking of a bottle of ginger-beer at Mr Cripps's urgent request, returned with the stream to Saint Dominic's.
The result of this delay was to make Loman doubly anxious to secure this famous fishing-rod, on which his heart was set. Next day, however, he had classes all the afternoon, and could not go himself. He therefore determined to send Stephen.
"I want you to run up to Gusset Weir," said he to his fag, "to fetch me a rod the keeper's son is getting for me. Be quick back, will you? and ask him what the price is."
So off Stephen trotted, as soon as school was over, in spite of the counter attraction of a Guinea-pig cricket match. When he reached the lock, Cripps had not arrived.
"He warn't be long, young maister," said old Jeff, who was one of the snivelling order. "Take a seat, do 'ee. Nice to be a young gemm'un, I says—us poor coves as works wery 'ard, we'd like to be young gemm'un too, with lots o' money, and all so comfortable off. Why, young maister, you don't know now what it is to be in want of a shillun. I do!"
Stephen promptly pulled out one of his five shillings of pocket-money in answer to this appeal, and felt rather ashamed to appear "comfortable off" in the presence of this patriarch.
"Not that I complains o' my lot, young gemm'un," continued old Cripps, pulling his forelock with one hand and pocketing the shilling with the other. "No, I says, the honest working man don't do no good a-grumblin', but when he's got his famerly to feed," [old Cripps was a widower, and his family consisted of the landlord of the Cockchafer], "and on'y this here shillin' to do it with—"
Stephen was very green. He almost cried at the sight of this destitute, tottering, honest old man, and before the latter could get farther in his lament another shilling was in his palsied old hand, and the grey old forelock was enduring another tug.
It was well for Stephen that Mr Cripps junior turned up at this juncture, or the entire five shillings might have made its way into the old man's pouch.
Mr Cripps junior had the rod. He had had a rare job, he said, to get it, for his friend had only yesterday had an offer of 3 pounds 15 shillings, and was all but taking it. However, here it was, and for only 3 pounds 10 shillings tell Mr Loman; such a bargain as he wouldn't often make in his life, and he could get him the fly-book for a sovereign if he liked. And Mr Cripps would charge him nothing for his trouble.
After this Mr Cripps junior and the boy got quite friendly. The former was greatly interested in hearing about Saint Dominic's, especially when he understood Stephen was a new boy. Cripps could remember the day when he was a new boy, and had to fight three boys in three hours the first afternoon. He was awfully fond of cricket when he was a boy. Was Stephen?
"Oh, yes," said Stephen; "I like it more than anything."
"Ah, you should have seen the way we played. Bless me! I'd a bat, my boy, that could tip the balls clean over the school-house. You've got a bat, of course, or else—"
"No, I haven't," said Stephen. "I shall get one as soon as I can."
"Well, that is lucky! Look here, young gentleman," continued Cripps confidentially; "I've taken a fancy to you. It's best to be plain and speak out. I've taken a fancy to you, and you shall have that bat. It's just your size, and the finest bit of willow you ever set eyes on. I'll wager you'll make top score every time you use it. You shall have it. Never mind about the stumpy—"
"Stumpy!" ejaculated Stephen; "I don't want stumps, only a bat."
"What I meant to say was, never mind about the price. You can give me what you like for it. I wish I could make you a present of it. My eye, it's a prime bat! Spliced! Yes. Treble-cane, as I'm a poor man. I'll send it up to you, see if I don't, and you can pay when you like."
And so he chattered on, in a way which quite charmed Stephen, and made him rejoice in his new friend, and still more at the prospect of the bat.
"If it's awfully dear," he said, at parting, with a sort of sigh, "I couldn't afford it. My pocket-money's nearly all gone."