AL Af?..0h I!' j;jli a ';, l ll A
"GIVE IT HI M!" Page 14.
S H1 I1 !' H
YOUNG HEADS ON OLD
ASCOTT R. HOPE,
AUTHOR OF A PECK OF TROULBES," THE YOUNG REBELS," STORIES OF
WHITMINBTER," ETC., ETC.
SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION,
50, OLD BAILEY, E.C.
UNWIN BROTHERS, P1INTEIS BY WATER ; POWER.
ERE are a few good old-fashioned-looking
S stories under a title that needs a word of
S- explanation. We have all heard of Feuds,
Conspiracies, Injured Innocents, and so on;
and now, as in a puppet show, the performance is to
consist of these well-worn plots, with the chief parts
played by small actors, who will often be found laugh-
ing at us out of the corner of their eyes all the time
that they are mimicking the lofty strut and tragic
frown of their elders in fiction. The readers are ex-
pected to laugh, too, at the figure cut by these Young
Heads on old Shoulders; but when they have done
laughing the writer hopes that he will have helped to
put some kindly and sensible thoughts into the real
heads that are still upon young shoulders.
A. R. H.
THE FEUD: A SNOWBALL STORY ... .............. 1
THE CONSPIRACY: A CHAPTER OF SCHOOL-BOY HISTORY 81
THE INJURED INNOCENT: THE SORROWS OF A LAD
AND A LADY ... ... ... ... ...' ... .... ...... 59
THE MYSTERY; OR, THE YOUNG PHILOSOPHER AND THE
STRANGE PHENOMENON ...... ... ... ... ... ... 97
THE PENITENTS: A STORY WRITTEN ON FOOLSCAP ... 111
THE BENIGHTED TRAVELLER: AN ADVENTURE
AMONG THE INDIANS... ...... ....... .. ....... 148
THE BITER BIT: A TALE OF A SPIDER AND A FLY ... 163
LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.
" GIVE IT HIM ... ...
OG AND GOG ... ... ...
A MIDNIGHT ALARM ......
HIT ... ... ... ...
NOTHING TO LAUGH AT ...
... ...... Frontispiece
... ... ... ... ... 24
... ... ... ... ... 73
... ... ... ... ... 124
... ... ... ... ... 177
A SNOWBALL STORY.
SAM an old fogey, and I regret the good old-
fashioned winters. Not for myself, you will
understand; to tell the truth, I begin to be
somewhat wheezy and rheumatic, and I want
no ice to slide on towards my grave. But I lament
for the youth of my country, who seem nowadays to be
too indulgently dealt with by our degenerate Decembers.
I should like to know what is the good of being a boy
if one has not the satisfaction of bidding defiance to
stern nature, feeling one's spirits go up as the mercury
goes down! For my part, I distrust any system of
education which does not include a due proportion of
chilblains and blue noses. It was so in my day, sir,
and see what it made us! A dull old age, at all
events, is that which they must look forward to who
cannot have the delight of looking back on a time
when, four weeks together, they never got up in the
dark early mornings without finding the water frozen
A Snowball Story.
in their basins, and never stirred out of doors without
feeling it so cold that they were positively obliged to
run about and work themselves into a glow of invigor-
ating warmth and jovial mirth.
The winters must have changed since then- or is
it I who lie longer in bed, sit oftener by a cosy fireside,
and never venture forth without a thick overcoat and
an umbrella ? Surely the snow used to fall heavier
and lie much longer on either side of our Christmases,
which were, I affirm, a hundred times warmer and
brighter than the dull holidays of this generation.
My young nephew, who at the age of fourteen wears
spectacles, attends scientific lectures, despises story
books, and requires antibilious pills, admits the
change, and explains it by a theory of his own. He
has written a paper showing, as I understand, that
the heat given out by our vast network of railways,
not only from the engine fires, but from the friction
over so many thousand miles of rail, radiating into
the air, has a perceptible effect upon our climate. Be
this as it may, it certainly appears to me that boys
are not the same as they used to be. These boys
have more useful information, more elevated tastes,
more expensive games, more abundant pocket-money,
and other doubtful advantages. Those seem to have
had simpler ways, thicker skins, a larger capacity for
pudding and pleasure, which were dealt out to them
in smaller allowances, and greater readiness to make
the best of circumstances and not to lose any chance
Houses of York-not Lancaster.
of fun which might be going. Perhaps if I saw the
matter from the inside of a modern boy's jacket rather
than from my present height of contemplation, I
might judge differently, and approve the wisdom of
the second example of the tenth rule of our Latin
grammar, which declared, if I am not mistaken, that
it is easier to find another climate than to change our
nature. But without further speculation, I will get
on to my story, merely remarking that a great many
things have altered, for the better or the worse, since
I was at school with Dr. O'Donnell at a small town in
Everybody knows that schools in Yorkshire are, or
were, as thick as the plums were not in our puddings.
A friend of mine, who is a philologist, informs me
that the Yorkshire dialect is peculiarly rich in phrases
expressive of personal chastisement-a fact no doubt
closely related to Mr. Squeers' connection with that
country. There were two schools in this town, a
classical and a commercial academy. The masters of
them were Dr. O'Donnell and Mr. Macnab, respec-
tively nicknamed Og and Gog bytheir irreverent flocks.
They were both big men, but here the resemblance
ended. Dr. O'Donnell was stout, fair, and rubicund;
Mr. Macnab was thin, dark, and of sallow complexion.
Og was an Irishman and a Doctor of Divinity; Gog
came from very far north and wrote himself Master of
Arts. The one was a Tory and a Churchman, the
other a Whig and a Dissenter. The doctor's temper
A Snowball Story.
was hot and hasty; his rival had the reputation of
being patient and sulky. The former-infandum re-
novare dolorem !-used the birch and made jokes;
the latter kept a cane and was prone to lecturing.
The bee and butterfly are not more unlike than were
these instructors of youth.
As with the pedagogues so with the pupils. Ours
was, of course, the superior establishment in our own
opinion, which counted for much among us. We
were understood to be receiving a sound," they a
"practical," education. Latin was our strong point;
we had a boy in our school who, it was whispered,
could write Latin hexameters all by himself, while
their champion boasted of a contemptible skill in
vulgar fractions. We went to church; most of them,
I believe, to chapel. The Archdeacon gave away our
prizes; the Mayor theirs. They had their pudding
before meat; we rejoiced in ours-occasionally-in the
proper place. We could beat them at cricket; they
sometimes had the best of it at football. Most of our
boys were boarders, most of theirs were day boys;
and the antithesis was complete in many other re-
spects for which, in these days of rapid reading, I
cannot hope to gain attention.
These things being so, it will at once be evident to
the merest schoolboy that what the Montagues were
to the Capulets, the Mohawks to the Delawares, the
MacDonalds to the Campbells, the Cavaliers to the
Roundheads, the Platonists to the Aristotelians, the
" Arma, Virumque Cano "
Carthaginians to the Romans, the Blue party to the
Yellow, the partisans of Tweedledum all the world
over to the fanatics of Tweedledee, and the two factions
who to this day divide my native village on the ques-
tion of a new pump, to each other-that were we to the
neighboring school, and theyto us, from one scholastic
generation to another.
Thence arose, as may be imagined, many contests
and skirmishes, not alone on the peaceful field of
sport, but in bloodier and more bitter frays, with
varying results. In my time the Ogs, as we called
ourselves, had one great advantage over the Gogs,
which often turned the tide of victory in our favour.
They had more big boys, I think, but our head boy
was himself a tower of strength. His name was Lamb
-a name more than half belied by his nature and his
tastes, which were decidedly martial. To his friends
and the weak, indeed, he was gentle as a Quaker grand-
-mother; but towards a defying foe he was a very
Achilles of eagerness and ferocity. It followed that
they regarded him with as much fear as we with
affectionate admiration. Their chief captains and
men of war had a standing challenge to come forth
and do single combat with our champion, but sad ex-
perience had taught them to shrink from such an
ordeal. The very name of Lamb was enough for them;
they would scatter and fly at the cry that he was
coming round the corner. Often he must have wished
to be less redoubtable, for it was the struggle rather
A Snowball Story.
than the triumph in which his spirit took delight; and
since his soul was too noble to fight without cause or
against an unworthy foe, there would be days and
weeks together in which he would be like a stabled
war-horse, pawing and champing for battle.
The frost and snow had come, and Lamb was in his
element. To skim the frozen pond, to "make one
long sliding of a holiday," these things were not un-
loved by him, but most of all dear to his amiably
bellicose disposition were the mimic operations of a
snow war. He was equally skilful to build forts of
snow sand daring to head some desperate charge
through a volley of balls. One of our boys, who was
a great reader, prophesied that Lamb would turn out
a second Napoleon and alter the face of Europe. No-
thing of the kind; he became a doctor at Sheffield, and
has a great reputation in nursery practice.
Well, one morning when we got up in the dark, and
ran out to warm our shivering little selves before going
into school, we were horrified to find that salt had been
sprinkled on our slides. What enemy had done this?
Not the doctor or his myrmidons; he had his faults,
but was as wholly incapable of such an act as any
other sound divine in the kingdom. We were not
long left in doubt. A trail of footsteps in the snow
led right to the other school. And if this indication
were not enough, there were certain chalk-marks on
the wall, expressive of exultation and derision; in these
we recognized the totems of the tribe of Gog.
"A Chieftain's Vengeance ye shall feel !"
Great was our indignation, loud were our demands
of vengeance. It was proposed that we should way-
lay the Gog day boys going singly or in small parties
to school, and exact a tenfold retribution on their puny
persons. But Lamb was too chivalrous for such war-
fare. He vowed that though they were not ashamed
to make sneaking forays by night, no Gog should
suffer harm from us till they were gathered together,
with due warning of our intentions, and every oppor-
tunity of defending themselves.
One small boy on his way to the other school our
captain ordered to be captured, but not a hair of his
head was to be hurt. When this prisoner was led
trembling into Lamb's presence, he delivered to him
an enormous snowball, wrapped in a sheet of brown
paper. This he was charged to convey to the heads
of his own people, who, without further ceremony,
could not fail to receive it as a declaration of war.
I need not say how impatiently we went through our
morning lessons, or how eagerly we swallowed down
our breakfast. The word had been handed round that
at the very first available moment, Lamb was to lead
us against the foe. When at last we were free to as-
semble in the playground, the utmost enthusiasm
prevailed. Every boy of us was eager for the attack,
or, if he had not this virtue, was fain to assume it.
When the doughty Lamb took the war path, none
dared linger at home.
Our leader was a man of deeds rather than words;
A Snowball Story.
indeed, there was no time for speeches. We had not
three-quarters of an hour clear, and in three minutes
we were on the march for the scene of action, a
tumultuous but determined band.
The Gog institution stood just outside of the town,
its playground bordering the high road. We had
expected to find scouts posted to give warning of our
approach, but no: a reconnoitring party thrown out in
advance reported them to be disporting themselves in
confidence and security. At the last turn of the road
we were halted and received a few final directions from
our general. Then we moved on cautiously, stooping
under the wall so as not to be seen till the moment of
attack, and each warrior hastily providing himself as
he went with as many snowballs as he could carry in
In spite of our warning, the Gogs were off their
guard. We could see them scattered over their play-
ground, some sliding, some playing leap-frog, some
poor creatures moving about with their hands in their
pockets to keep them warm. The first notice they had
of our approach was a tremendous cheer; then from
behind the wall we started up into view, and a volley
of snowballs was poured in upon them. Taken by
surprise, their impulse was to run. Lamb, leading
the forlorn hope, flew to the gate. Through this, or
bounding over the low wall, we rushed into their play-
ground with our terrible war-whoop, and half the field
was in our hands before they had fired a shot. 1
The Combat Deepens. On, ye Brave 11
But soon some of their big fellows came hurrying up
to check our onset, and the rest, recovering from their
surprise, flocked round their leaders and began to de-
fend themselves. Sing, Muse, the varying fortunes of
the field, where now in battle closed the adverse lines!
Loud rose the martial cries of either band. Fast flew
the snowballs, whitening all the air. Unheeded
moaned the timid, they who slunk to the safe rear, pre-
tending to be hurt. With hand and voice each warrior
fiercely strove; defiance answering triumph, as the fray
waxed hot and hotter, and the swaying ranks charged
but to waver, yielded to return. Thus, for a little space,
the battle raged, and victory, hovering o'er the doubt-
ful scene, now to this side inclined, and now to that.
But not long did the issue hang thus in suspense.
The advantage which we had gained at first, inspired
us with courage, and we pressed with irresistible
ardour on the faltering ranks of the foe. They give
ground, they move back; the movement becomes a
retreat, the retreat quickens into a run, and we are at
their heels, turning it into a rout. Nor is this all.
Lamb, who has been fighting in the thick of the fray,
dashing up to the very ranks of the enemy, and dis-
daining to hurl his unerring missile till he can see
the whites of their eyes, is not for all his valour for-
getful of cunning strategy. With six or seven chosen
braves, he has been creeping to our right wing, and
now rushes on impetuously, out-flanking the enemy's
left, and cutting them off from their schoolhouse, in
A Snowball Story.
which they would fain take refuge. Panic-stricken,
they heed not what they do, but, like a flock of silly
sheep, turn their headlong course, and skurry across
to the opposite corner of the playground, with not a
moment's time for consideration, till they are brought
up by the high wall, and breathlessly turn to bay.
What! oh, what have they done ? Huddled into
their fives-court, they find us closing round them in
a joyfully shouting semicircle. Their new position is
all slides and hard-beaten snow; theyhave scarcely any
ammunition, and can only return a rare and random
shot at our warriors leaping free in the open, who
hurl snowballs as fast as they can make them, and
every shot tells on the helpless crowd penned up be-
tween the three walls of the court. Once and again
they attempt to break out, but in vain. Our fire
redoubles; the boldest of them tries to shrink back;
they struggle and press and hold craven hands before
their faces, and bend their heads under the merciless
fire which we pour in upon them from every side.
Thus, in five minutes, have we made ourselves masters
of the scene, and the proud foe is beleaguered, block-
aded, and bombarded to the utmost point of despair.
The bravest hearts among them cannot hold ot
against such a reverse of fortune. Five more minutes
have not passed before they demand a parley. They
declare that they must go to school, and sue for
The word is given to cease firing, and the conditions
" There's many a,Slip twixtt the Czzp and the Lip." 13
of surrender are entered upon. But during the ar-
mistice we busy ourselves in preparing a battery of
snowballs, for use at the first sign of renewed hostility.
Such a victory justified severe terms. Lamb re-
quired of the enemy that they should surrender at
discretion. We were then to form into two lines,
down which they were to pass one by one, and be
pelted to our hearts' content. Their leader's honour
must be pledged that the besieged force would march
out in this and no other way. Two minutes were
given them for reflection; at the end of that time our
batteries would reopen.
Naturally, the Gogs hesitated to accept these pro-
posals, granting them as little of the honours of war
as fell to the lot of the Roman army at the Caudine
Forks. But while they were consulting, and, urged
by the straitness of their predicament and the relent-
lessness of our preparations, were perhaps about to
yield to their ignominious fate, our own rashness
undid the success which we had won, and at the very
moment of triumph wrested the prize from our too
Beyond one wall of the playground was a walk lead-
ing to the private entrance of Mr. Macnab's house,
and in the middle of the wall a barred gate communi-
cated with this walk. Along the top of- the wall was
now seen slowly and steadily moving, a high hat worn
by a tall man, and some foolish urchin was moved to
exclaim, Here's Gog himself! "
A Snowball Story.
Flushed with easy conquest, we were in no mood
for consideration. Give it him! was the cry, and
a score of us took good aim at the opening made by
the gate. Then, the instant that the wearer of the
hat presented himself, a cloud of snowballs flew
through the air and burst on and around the head of
the amazed pedagogue. Checked in his stately stride,
he staggered and toppled down, throwing out his arms
in vain, and reaching wildly after his dislodged beaver.
Roars of laughter from both sides greeted his down-
fall, and we laughed loudest, thinking we had nought
to fear from his vengeance. But when he picked him-
selfup, shook off the snow by which his black garments
were plentifully bespattered, and turned his red and
wrathful countenance upon us, lo! it was Dr. O'Donnell.
It was our turn to quail. One small and heedless
boy, still too excited to see the fact of the case, hurled
a snowball with so true an aim that it hit our vener-
able preceptor full in the face and dismounted his
spectacles. But the rest of us were overwhelmed by
contrition and alarm. We stayed our sacrilegious
hands, the snowballs with which we were about to
rake the gateway dropped to the ground, and we stood
not knowing where to look, and looking anywhere but
in the face of our outraged and irate master. Not
long had we to stand this ordeal. Shaking his stick
at us, and muttering certain words, which we heard not
but guessed their purport only too well, he disappeared
and went on his way without further molestation.
"Alarms, Retreats, Excursions."
And this was the time which our enemies chose to
make a sudden rush forward, basely taking advantage
of our abashment and confusion. Before we could
brace our spirits anew to the battle, they had broken
our lines, driven us right and left, captured our maga-
zines of ammunition, and thus in a few seconds the tide
was turned, and we fled pell-mell before our lately
Twice, thrice, we rallied and made a short stand,
while Lamb fought desperately at every point of the
battle, and was a host in himself. The last to retreat,
and the first to return to the charge, more than once,
like a second Horatius, he stood singly against the
advancing foe, and by his sole prowess held back the
pursuit. But when we saw him in the enemy's hands,
borne down by a rush, surrounded with yells of savage
joy, rolled ignominiously on the ground, and rubbed
in the face with snow, then our hearts fairly failed us.
A faint attempt we made to rescue our leader, but as
his captors came on with fresh fury, a panic seized
us, and we fled from the field. Nor did we halt now,
till we had run forth into the road and were out of fire.
Lamb came bounding after us, his face glowing like a
red-hot coal, his eyes shining with indignation, his
cap lost, and his tawny mane, all wet with. snow,
streaming in the wind, his voice raised in reproof, en-
treaty, exhortation. It was too late. Our forces were
already melting away. There was nothing for it but
to set our faces towards home, and confess our defeat.
r s ,T was, indeed, time to be returning to school.
SwVe had already got too far wrong with our
')' ~~i' master to be able to afford giving him fresh
cause of displeasure by being late. Do-
minies were dominies in these days, and by no means
to be offended with impunity. If we had been
victorious in the recent encounter, we might have
made lighter of his wrath; but, in the depression of
defeat, we were fain to consider with some anxiety
what would now befall us in a contest where all the
blows would be on one side. A few short minutes had
changed us from lions into most tail-drooping lambs.
We heard the school-bell, and quickened our reluc-
tant steps. As soon as we entered the schoolroom
we saw signs to justify our fears. The Doctor, gene-
rally the last to appear upon the scholastic scene, was
already seated on his lofty chair, and one glance
showed his storm-compelling brow darkened by an
Conscience does make Cowards of us all." 17
'sos cloud. He had not opened his desk; no pile
I/:fl:s was laid before him, nor did he address him-
-elf to mending a mighty pen, the usual preliminaries
of beginning.work. It was painfully evident that the
proceedings were to be of a special character. The
mind of the boldest was moved, and the knees of the
timid shook beneath them. All eyes were fixed on a
little closet behind the Doctor's chair. When that
dread receptacle should be opened, full well we knew
what blasts of dread and doom were let loose. The
.key was in the door. As if that key had been inserted
at the nape of the neck and slid downwards with cold
and gruesome touch along the spine, such wa., the
shudder which the very sight of it sent through every
There was no need to command silence. We took
our places with unwonted sedateness, and when the
DI,:c-tor's heavy knuckles rapped on the desk, such a
luiish ensued as if the curtain was being drawn up for
tLh last scene of some familiar tragedy. Our precep-
tor's stentorian voice rolled out upon ears which could
Lave caught his slightest whisper. Like a classical
s-scholar that he was, he plunged right in the middle of
his tale, according to the Horatian maxim.
Boys," he exclaimed, sternly frowning, "I have
i I't:.u grossly insulted! "
What a sight were our faces Some tried to affect
surprise, even incredulity. Some were seen struggling
with a faint smile, which faded into preternatural
A Snowball Story.
solemnity as they thought the Doctor's awful eye
rested upon them. Some preserved looks of stolid
immobility, and seemed to desire that he would come
to business at once and have done with it. Some were
in a too evident state of apprehension.
When he had paused a moment to let this announce-
ment sink duly into our minds, the Doctor went ma-
jestically on, with a thump upon the desk that made
half of us jump in our creeping skins.
This morning I was going to call on Mr. Macnab,
for the purpose of complaining of an outrage, which,
as you are aware, was last night perpetrated upon my
premises by the pupils of his establishment. You are
all acquainted with the matter to which I allude."
Having proceeded thus far in measured tones, the
Doctor looked round to observe the effect of this com-
munication. We were all much interested-alas! only
too much interested-but well we knew that the point
was yet to come, and felt as uncomfortable as a mouse
no doubt does while a cruel cat is playing with its
helpless agonies and delaying the fatal moment of
While on the way to Mr. Macnab's house," con-
tinued the Doctor, raising his voice and drawing him-
self up, as if calling heaven and earth to witness that
such things were, I was-I was attacked by a mob of
rude boys I was pelted with snowballs! Myhatwas
knocked off-my glasses were broken It is a mercy
that no worse injury followed this most unseemly be-
" You lie-under a Mistake."
haviour. I never was so treated before in all my life! "
declared the Doctor, and we could well believe him,
for it had never entered our heads to conceive of him
as a boy, without dignity, learning, a white necktie,
Sand an enormous shirt collar. He must have been
Born above all the rude accidents of human existence.
At each statement of his injuries he made a full stop,
which fell like a blow upon our consciences. Already
SI, for one, began to feel a tingling anticipation of what
Might come next. Even Lamb's face wore a shade of
serious anxiety. The climax was approaching.
Do you know who these boys were ?"
We modestly looked down.
'- This is not by any means the first time that I
L.hi- been insulted by Mr. Macnab's pupils."
We quickly looked up.
i" l'..iplaint in the proper quarter is useless, as I
L i,: x .-.rned by experience. Therefore I have deter-
,iL~.:.1 to appeal to you to vindicate the honour of
o:iur -lchool, and the respect due to your master."
W- opened our eyes.
I lk:ve it to you, then, to chastise the presump.
til~i a;il impertinence of these fellows. If it's snow-
lbIil- they want, give them snowballs to their hearts'
c-:oit.ut. Pelt them, drive them out of your sight,
t.ta.h them to interfere with us at their peril."
We opened our mouths.
Fo. this purpose," said the Doctor, speaking with
mo:ire deliberation than ever, I have resolved to- "
A Snowball Story.
he looked round and held us in suspense-" to give
you a holiday."
We burst into cheers, and under cover of the cheers
rose shouts of laughter from those who saw the mistake
which our master had made, and of glee from those
who, not quite understanding how it was, yet rejoiced
at the unexpected and undeserved result of his indig-
nation. A holiday gained in such a manner came
with a double relish, and fears dissipated in such a
form left a double sense of relief. We felt as a mariner
might feel, who, just escaped from shipwreck, had
come suddenly upon a treasure. I fear none of us re-
flected in our surprise that we were not acting quite
fairly in allowing the Doctor to remain under his delu-
sion. We.were all eager to be off. And our master,
touched by our outburst of enthusiasm and affection,
as he thought it, relaxed his brow, and dismissed us
with a jovial smile, relapsing, as at such moments he
was apt to do, into his native accent.
Off with ye And don't be after hurting any of
these fellows more than ye can help, but just give
them a hint that they had better not meddle with
your slides or your master again. Make the best of
the day, my boys, for it's all your own! "
Away we ran, giving three cheers for the Doctor,.
and quickly, with new courage, we hastened back
towards the strongholds of Gog.
"Now they shan't have the best of it!" vowed
Lamb, bounding onwards like a hungry lion.
" The Day is Ours."
But now we found the enemy safe behind their
walls. Their master kept them mewed up in school
all the forenoon. How they must have chafed as
they heard our shouts of derision and defiance be-
neath the windows, and were not suffered to come
forth to the stirring encounter, but, chained to the
weary desk, must slave with numbed fingers at the
miserable art of ornamental handwriting, and strive
to fix their wandering wits on the loathsome problems
of compound proportion !
We remained scouting round their premises for
some time. Once only it seemed that our challenge
was about to be accepted. The door of the schoolroom
opened, and Mr. Macnab sallied forth in person, to be
speedily driven back by a volley of snowballs and not
to reappear. We were almost as tickled by the joke
of pelting the other boys' master as we were by the
results of our unnatural onslaught upon our own.
But when no further notice was taken of us we gave
up the siege, and went off to amuse ourselves as best
we could by our own devices, and in this you may be
sure we had no difficulty.
After dinner, and it was roast beef day, the Doctor
had some more good news for us. He had been to
look at a large pond not far from the town, and
finding that the ice would bear, proposed to take us
there for an afternoon's skating. This was more
excellent sport than the other. Mirthfully we slung
our skates over our shoulders, and set forth, the
A Snowball Story.
Doctor stalking before us in that high good-humour
which with him always followed an outburst of wrath,
as surely as fine weather comes at the heel of a Whit-
We had arrived in sight of the pond, when we be-
held a like procession advancing from an opposite
direction. It was the boys of the other school,
headed by their master. Both parties reached the
banks of the pond at the same time, and we made
towards each other, like two bands of gallant knights
bent on meeting midway in these icy lists. And as Sir
Lancelot and the mighty Knight of the Red Lawns
might have towered above the press, so strode our
learned leaders, a head and shoulders over the tallest
of their following tail. Or rather, like some great
admiral" did each of them lead into the fight, for
some instinct told us that a combat of words at least
was now at hand, and the boldest held his tongue and
sailed silent towards that strange encounter. Were
Og and Gog going to fall foul of each other ? If so,
we did not doubt that our flagship would prove to
carry the heavier metal.
As soon as they bore down within hailing distance,
the two armaments, following the motions of their
leaders, heaved to, and formed into confronting lines,
with the commanders anchored broadside to broad-
side in the space between. Like courteous antago-
nists they saluted each other, while we stood at quar-
ters, so to speak, with decks cleared for action and
K C ;
OG AND GOG.
"Sweet Masters, be Patient."
ready to obey signals. Then Gog fired the first
"Good-morning, Dr. O'Donnell! I am glad I have
met you, sir. I had proposed to wait upon you to
complain of the conduct of your boys."
"Indeed, sir I fancied that I had some reason to
make a similar complaint to you."
Are you aware, sir, that your boys invaded my
playground this morning, and attacked my pupils as
they were peacefully amusing themselves there ? "
"Well, well, boys will be boys," said the Doctor,
smiling pleasantly, and helping himself to a pinch of
They rolled in the snow two small boys who had
colds in the head! They interrupted our work in
school to such an extent that the morning was as
good as wasted They cracked two panes of glass in
my windows! Is this the conduct of young gentle-
Aye, aye," said the Doctor, inwardly chuckling,
but outwardly trying to look a little-a very little-
concerned as he politely handed his snuff-box to the
other dominie. I am sorry if they have done any
mischief: but you know, when there is a good fall
of snow, one winks at a little fun. My boys are so
industrious most days of the year, that I cannot
grudge them a harmless prank now and then."
"They threw snowballs at me, sir Surely this is
more serious matter than you seem to consider it?"
A Snowball Story.
"Come, Mr. Macnab," said the Doctor, in his
blandest style, "we have been young ourselves once,
and we know that the high spirits of youth will some-
times trifle with our dignity. Surely we can afford
to smile at it for once in a way? "
This honeyed speech had gall in it, for Dr. Og
seemed to imply that while his own dignity was
above question, his rival had not much of that article
to come and go upon. At least Mr. Macnab under-
stood-him in some such sense, for he raised his voice
and exclaimed with increasing heat-
"Well, sir, you may like to be insulted and snow-
balled by your pupils "
My pupils have too much respect for me to do
anything of the kind," quoth our doctor benignantly,
looking round on us, as if for a response to this senti-
ment, which of course was not forthcoming.
Why, sir, didn't I see them with my own eyes ?
Not content with attacking my boys and driving them
out of their playground, I saw them assault you as
you were coming to my house, to concert measures, as
I was weak enough to suppose, for suppressing this
lawlessness and quarrelling. I saw you almost
knocked down by the snowballs which your own boys
hurled at you, and fearing you might be seriously
injured, I was on the point of rushing out of the house
to offer you my services. I am heartily glad, sir,
that you are none the worse for the treatment you
received on my premises, and if you are quite satisfied
" "What! Wilt Thou flout me thus unto my Face ? 27
with what happened, I am none the less thankful to
say that my boys had no hand in it."
What is this ?" faltered the Doctor, regarding
us with astonishment and severity, while a new light
dawned upon him as he saw the conscious guilt of
some faces, and the scarcely repressed laughter on
"Is it possible that you are ignorant of your
assailants ? There is the ringleader! declared Mr.
Macnab, pointing out Lamb.
"Lamb said Dr. O'Donnell in his most awful
voice. "What do I hear? Explain-give me the
truth, sir Have I been disgracefully insulted as a
preliminary to being grossly deceived ? Speak, sir."
But poor Lamb at the best of times was, like some
other heroes of history, no less unready of speech than
he was prompt in action. He was better at bearing
punishment than at making excuses. And now, when
he would fain have told a soothing tale and depre-
cated the rising ire of our preceptor, as might well
have been done and with honesty, he found himself
able only to stammer and blunder and bluntly confess
in a way which put the worst instead of the best
aspect on what had happened. The Doctor heard
and stood struggling with unutterable thoughts, till
his feelings found vent in a portentous Go, sir "
Come, Dr. O'Donnell," said the other master
with malicious civility, don't be too hard on them.
Boys will be boys, we all know."
A Snowball Story.
What a dreadful moment for us! And, worst of all,
the other boys were visibly sniggering over our sad
We were young ourselves once," suggested that
dreadful Macnab. We can afford to smile at these
pranks-when they don't go too far."
"This is intolerable! This is scandalous! muttered
the Doctor, still trying to keep his wrath from public
outburst; then in a voice whose tones were pregnant
with dire meaning, he ordered us to go home forth-
with and await his arrival in the schoolroom.
We slunk off downcast beneath the grins of Gog,
leaving our master in close and far from friendly
confabulation with theirs. Ah we were now about
to pay the price of that brief triumph. We might
have known that the truth would leak out sooner or
later. But in spite of our humiliation and of our
danger, we could not but laugh as we recalled the
scene which had just passed before our eyes. Thus
with mixed emotions we came back to the school and
awaited the Doctor's return.
When he came, the laughing was at an end. Here
however, the curtain must be dropped, for like the
old tragedians, I do not choose to enact scenes of
horror upon the open stage. Suffice it to say that
before the sun had set there was a certain soreness
in the feelings with which some of us looked back to
the events of the day, and all of us had reason to
vow vengeance more than ever against the rival school.
"Peace hath her Victories."
But a boy's will, we know, is the wind's will, and
our ill-will, in this case, was specially at the mercy of
the weather. Through the night came a rapid thaw,
and in the morning there was no snow wherewith to
mark our sense of injury and to wreak our wrath upon
the enemy. Besides, as we learned, our master had
informed theirs of their clever trick of getting out at
night to spoil our slides, and the result was that they
were punished by being shut up and kept out of our
way for a time.
So when we did meet, it was with kindlier feelings,
community of suffering having bred in us an un-
wonted sympathy. We made peace for the moment,
and ascribed our joint misfortunes to the cause of so
many woes since the days of Troy: quicquid reges
delirant, plectuntur Achivi; that is to say, when rulers
fall out, their subjects are apt to pay the piper.
This is a thing which could not happen nowadays of
course, but my story is one of the old school.
** ^ ..,;--'^ < *-^'. t -_ A ^
A CHAPTER OF SCHOOLBOY HISTORY.
THE CONSPIRE AY.
--i7 T is thirty years since I was a small pupil
at a Cheltenham boarding- school, kept by
S a certain Mr. Monk. My school days there
seem now, so far as I can recollect, to have
been uneventful enough; but there was one episode
in our history which will, perhaps, be found worth
Mr. Monk's boys were chiefly little fellows ; there
were, however, two rather bigger and older than the
rest, who took the lead in most things. These two,
Collins and Biggs by name, were very different in
character, though they drew pretty well together, as
became their position as the aristocracy of our little
community. Collins was a dull, heavy boy, who, being
left an orphan, poor fellow! at a very early age, had
lived almost always at various schools, and had been
longer at ours than most of us, so that he had become
learned, if in nothing else, in the customs and tradi-
34 A Chapter of Schoolboy History.
tions of school life, and was looked up to by us not
only with dread for his rough, domineering propen-
sities, but with unfeigned respect, such as we thought
due to a boy who had seen so much of the juvenile
world, and was so experienced in all things boyish;
his word was law as to the rules of any game, or in
deciding upon any point of schoolboy honour. Biggs,
on the other hand, was a youth of a more amiable
disposition, and of greater talents and accomplish-
ments. Though he was not such a hero as Collins in
our eyes, we took pride in him as being no ordinary
boy. He was no great favourite with Mr. Monk,
being, indeed, rather given to idling and dreaming
over his work, but he was undoubtedly clever. He
took the first prize for history. He was understood
to have written poetry. He read a great deal, and
used finer words than the rest of us: "long-nibbed"
words, that was what we used to call them. He was
of a decidedly sentimental and imaginative turn of
mind, as we had reason to know to our cost, when the
first class were put into a Latin book containing lives
of the great men of antiquity. Then Biggs was seized
with a violent taste for the spirit of ancient history.
He had no sooner studied the life of Lycurgus, than
nothing would serve him but turning the whole of us
into a set of young Spartans. He incited us to run
pins into our legs, and drop hot sealing-wax on our
arms, that we might learn to bear pain without calling
out. Collins joined him readily in this, taking what
"Mischief, thou art Afoot! "
may be called an active rather than a passive part in
Spartan discipline, which, in his hands, became noth-
ing but a kind of rough bullying, with a slight veil of
sentiment thrown over it; but Biggs was too sincere
in his enthusiasm to inflict any tortures on others
which he did not bear' cheerfully himself. At first
some of us were not altogether averse to this strange
diversion, congenial, in some degree, to the schoolboy
mind; but we soon found that it was being pushed
too far, and thought the Spartan boys must have had
a bad time of it. And when Biggs and Collins openly
spoke of setting up an altar of Diana, at which we
were to be invited to test our fortitude at a competitive
ordeal of stripes, our dissatisfaction with the institu-
tions of ancient history might have been very clearly
shown, if fortune had not, about this time, given a
new turn to Biggs' classical tastes.
There was a spirit of discontent abroad in our
school; such a spirit will occasionally creep into even
the best regulated establishment, as unexpectedly,
and with as little apparent cause or cure as an east
wind or a thick fog. I believe the main reason in our
case was that we had nothing particular to do in our
playtime. Football was just over; cricket had not
yet begun; and that year, as it so happened, no game
came into fashion to occupy our energies in the in-
terval, so we had time for grumbling. We had griev-
ances, too, undoubted grievances, to grumble about.
Mr. 1onk had recently added an hour to the school-
36 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
time of the elder boys, an hour gained by getting up
earlier, now that the long dark nights were over. More-
over, he made us go to bed sooner, and stopped our
frugal supper, the slices of bread and cheese that it
had been the custom to serve out to each boy on
some frivolous pretext of suppers being unwholesome,
forsooth. We knew better; it was nothing but stingi-
ness, and Collins did not scruple to denounce our
master as dishonest. Some boys went the length of
writing home on the subject, and suggested in vain
that they should be taken away from such a school.
But perhaps the most galling grievance was one for
which Miss Sickles was to blame. Miss Sickles-
"Icicles we called her-was the housekeeper, who,
our master being a bachelor, had great power in the
establishment, and used it in a high-handed manner;
it was whispered that even Mr. Monk himself stood in
awe of her. Miss Sickles had a great regard for neat-
ness and order; our notions of these matters did not
square with hers, hence arose many troubles and dis-
agreements, in which the younger boys invariably got
the worst of it in dealing with Miss Sickles, and the
elder ones did not always come off best. Utterly
regardless of our feelings and our customs, she had
recently procured the enactment of a decree that she
should be allowed to inflict small fines upon boys who
spoiled their clothes, or neglected to take a bath regu-
larly, or came to dinner without brushing their hair.
It was easy for her to carry out this kind of discipline
" Who so Base as be a Slave ? "
for she had the distribution of our pocket-money in
her hands, and never failed to deduct the fine whenever
any of her rules were broken. This roused our utmost
indignation. To be obliged to obey a woman, and to
have our pocket-money taken from us, this was
wounding boys and Britons in their most sensitive
points. I fear we became as rude and troublesome
as we could to Miss Sickles. Among the elder boys it
was a point of honour to set her wishes at nought.
Then the housekeeper called in the aid of Mr. Monk,
and the dispute became a sore point in more senses
than one. The power of the law was too much for us,
however; we were forced to submit sullenly, and our
discontent grew from day to day. Biggs declared that
the thirty tyrants of Athens were nothing to Miss
Sickles. We all agreed with him, having a very vague
notion as to the oppressive power of the said tyrants,
and we enthusiastically applauded when with great
spirit he spouted out of our school reading-book
several stirring poetical sentiments, such as-
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free ;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall."
I don't know who it was that first suggested the idea
of armed resistance to these unpopular measures. I
am telling of the year when Louis Philippe was driven
from his throne, and there was a political storm in the
air of every European capital. Our quiet school at
Cheltenham did not wholly escape this disturbing in-
38 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
fluence; we took in a newspaper, and read with eager
interest about barricades, insurrections, constitutions,
secret societies, chartist meetings, and the like. Then
it occurred to some of the most daring of us that if
kings and emperors could be made to tremble for their
crowns, even Mr. Monk and Miss Sickles might prove
If Biggs and Collins were not the proposers of a
revolt, they readily fell in with the notion, and gave
all the weight of their experience and authority to
organising it. Collins was a revolutionist, desirous
of new things," as the Latin phrase has it, because
his credit was so bad with the authorities, and so
many black marks were set down against him, that
he had nothing to lose by taking a prominent part in
such a movement. Biggs was no less eager; he had
just got into the story of the Tarquins, and was filled
with a fervent admiration for liberty, and tickled with
the idea of playing the part of Brutus, Tell, and Gari-
baldi all at once. Through his influence, we took
the important step of forming ourselves at once into a
republic, upon the Roman model. Biggs and Collins
were, of course, elected consuls with dictatorial power.
The next office filled up, and the most sought after,
was that of Master of the Horse. All the boys of the
first class envied this dignity, and to save disputes we
made six masters of the horse, and six lictors, who
were to carry sticks and inflict punishments, so that
this latter office was also much run after. The other
" Let us then be Up and Doing.
magistrates, prmtors, mdiles, tribunes, and censors
were appointed more sparingly; and when all these
posts were filled, there remained some half a dozen
small boys, who, that in a private capacity they
might not have cause for dissatisfaction, were named
decemvirs, and took great pride in the honour con-
ferred upon them. So our forces were formed some-
what on the model of that potentate's who
"-swore a feud against the elan MacTavish,
And marched into their land to plunder and to ravish,
For he did resolve to extirpate the vipers,
With four-and-twenty men and five-and-thirty pipers !"
The republic being thus constituted, it was in-
augurated by all the boys walking in procession round
the playground with bare legs and arms-it had been
proposed, indeed, that the consuls should wear
paper cooked hats and top-boots, but Biggs, true to
republican simplicity, declined all such marks of
distinction, and Collins thrashed one of the prmtors
who had the presumption to insist on putting a
feather in his cap. In the evening we celebrated our
declaration of independence by a grand banquet in
our bedrooms, which, for want of funds to provide
better, consisted chiefly of toffee and gingerbread-
excellent things in their way, but rather apt to make
a mess of clean sheets, as one or two ardent sons of
liberty found to their cost, when they got into trouble
with Miss Sickles in consequence. The fear of Miss
Sickles, Biggs finely said, was the sword of Damocles,
hanging always over our midnight feasts.
40 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
All this delighted Biggs beyond measure. If left to
himself, he would have gone no further, but his un-
romantic colleague looked upon such proceedings as
mere useless tomfoolery, and kept urging us to action.
It was easier, however, to talk of conspiring than to
find any active form which our conspiracy might
conveniently take. Biggs read to us, out of his Latin
book, a story of a certain Roman general, who, when
a wicked schoolmaster offered to betray the children of
his enemies into his power, ordered the treacherous
pedagogue's hands to be bound behind him, and that
he should be beaten back into the city by his own
pupils -I think this was the story, but my classics
are a little rusty by this time, and I may have told it
wrongly. Anyhow, this seemed to Collins an example
worthy of being imitated, but unfortunately no person
was likely to appear to play for us the part of the
Roman general, or Mr. Monk would have been most
unwise to drum such notions into the heads of his
pupils, as he did with so much labour. It was lucky
for him that, while the histories of Greece and Rome
contain a great deal of very revolutionary sentiment,
they are wanting in what may be called practical
suggestions adapted to the means of youthful mal-
contents. Biggs certainly made a great point of us
all taking a solemn oath of secrecy, as a preliminary
to further action; Collins, however, declared that
this was quite unnecessary, and that he would punch
the head of any boy who should breathe a word of
" Lay the Proud Usurpers Low "
our intentions to the government. We must take
them by surprise," both Collins and Biggs said, and
the necessity of this was too evident to be contradicted.
Up to this point, it will be plain, most of the con-
spirators had a very vague idea of what they meant
to be at. Some of us went into it all as a piece of fun ;
others, like Biggs, had no serious intention of going
beyond a harmless demonstration. But now Collins
began to talk boldly of a barring out. He professed
to be well versed in the history of such undertakings,
which, according to him, always ended successfully.
He had seen in the flesh and spoken with boys who
had taken part in barring out, and we listened with
reverence and kindling spirit to his legends of the
humiliation of schoolmasters, and the triumph of
oppressed scholars. Indeed, after a time, he got the
length of giving us to understand that he himself
had played a prominent part in more than one move-
ment of the kind. He could tell us exactly how to
set about it; he would lead us on to victory; there
could be no fear of disaster if we only stuck to one
another. Biggs, also, grew more and more daring in
his imaginations. He took to writing Down with the
tyrant! all over the playground in red chalk; he
spoke scornfully of Mr. Monk as Tarquin," and
more than hinted that he would be found ready to
meet him in single combat when the moment of
action came. The rest of us, fired with contagious
ardour, gave what aid we could to the preparations for
42 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
revolt. We laid by the best part of our pocket-money
to supply provisions. We secreted arms in our play-
boxes, rulers, hockey-sticks, catapults, stones, and
bullets. Some boys bought squibs and crackers ; one
had a pistol, which Collins insisted on taking posses-
sion of in the public interest, and it was agreed that
he would be likely to make the best use of it. For
my part I was luckily able to contribute a dark lantern
to the common weal, and this was admitted on all
hands to be a most valuable acquisition; nothing
could be more necessary to a conspiracy, we thought,
with a confused reminiscence of Guy Fawkes.
Thus did we drift into an undertaking, of which
few of us had realized the seriousness, when one
morning we were astonished by a declaration from
Collins and Biggs, that the plan of revolt was now
fully determined upon, and that very evening fixed for
its execution. This certainly seemed rather precipitate,
but the fact was that an event had occurred that morn-
ing which goaded Biggs' revolutionary disposition into
desperate action. Coming in rather late to breakfast,
as he often did, for his poetic soul was far above
petty considerations of punctuality, he met Miss
Sickles' sharp eye fixed upon him.
Master Biggs," she said, in full hearing of all the
small boys, who were wont to tremble at her voice,
you have not washed your face again, this morning.
You will please go back and do it at once before you
sit down to breakfast."
This it is when Men are Ruled by Women 43
Biggs pretended not to hear, but he turned very red.
Miss Sickles repeated her command in a sterner tone,
and Mr. Monk looked up from his seat at the other
end of the table. There was no help for it. Abashed
and enraged, our leader turned back to the door, and
retired to his ablutions. But before he left the room
he darted one look towards the imperious house-
keeper, a look of stern purpose and fixed resolve which
seemed to say: No matter A time will come.
In that basin Biggs washed away all thoughts of
indecision and delay. It was half an hour afterwards
that we were summoned together and informed by
our leaders of their sudden determination. They
had actually settled that at a given signal, a little
before bed-time, we should rise and take possession
of the schoolroom. Mr. Wilkins, the assistant
master, was to be overpowered, and either driven out
or held in our hands as a hostage. There was a
division of opinion on this point, but in any case,
"not a hair of his head should be hurt," Biggs
declared. Then the door was to be fastened with
nails and screws, and a huge barricade of tables and
forms to be heaped up behind it; the barricade was
the fashionable feature at revolutions at that day,
and must on no account be omitted. Through an
aperture for ventilation in the upper part of the door,
we could then hold parley with the enemy, who
would doubtless lose no time in coming to the attack;
and the only terms we should listen to were the
44 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
redress of our grievances, as set forth in a manifesto
drawn up by Biggs, under three heads, viz.:-
Art. I. Return to the old hours of study.
Art. II. Restoration of our supper.
Art. III. The abolition of Miss Sickles' penal juris-
To these conditions must of course be added the
promise of a full amnesty to all concerned, and
security that our oppressors would not revoke their
concessions as soon as we had laid down our arms.
The last was a quid pro quo, as Biggs said, warned by
the experience of other European revolutions. I
rather think he meant sine qud non, but one phrase
impressed us just as much as the other, and gave us
confidence in a leader so well acquainted with the
forms of diplomatic negotiations. If these terms
should not be at once granted, we were to hold out,
keeping watch turn about and sleeping on the forms,
and if attacked we must resist by force of arms to the
last extremity. But our position would be impregnable
if the door were only well barricaded. The windows
were strongly barred; we should be provisioned for a
siege; all would depend on our own resolution. Our
leaders did not conceal from us, however, that the
matter would be no child's play. Collins openly said
that in all probability Mr. Monk would bring in the
police to his aid; he even darkly hinted that in such
cases the military were sometimes called out. On
the other hand, it was cheering to learn on such good
" Be Men to-day, Quirites, or be for ever Slaves 45
authority that if we only held out for twenty-four
hours, our master was bound to accept our con-
ditions : such was the etiquette of barring out, Collins
This was the project fully disclosed to all the boys
except the very youngest, who were merely desired to
hold themselves in readiness to obey orders. There
was no retreat possible; and the fact of the time fixed
being so near at hand was perhaps favourable to our
fidelity. We had not time to think the matter over
soberly, and, carried away by the enthusiasm of our
leaders, we vowed to stand by them to the last drop of
our blood. To animate us still further, Biggs recited
one of the Lays of Ancient Rome," which all the boys
who slept in his room had been made to learn off by
heart, as a punishment for engaging in a pillow fight.
It may be imagined that few of us were in a mood
to pay much attention to our studies that morning, so
little so, indeed, that it is a wonder Mr. Monk did not
suspect there was something wrong. As it was, he
seemed not very well pleased, and gave the first and
second classes a long imposition to write out for next
morning, which, in their eyes, was only another reason
for bringing on the rebellion. It had been proposed
to include the abolition of impositions in the charter
of liberties to be presented to our master; but some
of the more prudent and moderate minded of the con-
spirators suggested that this might be reserved for
consideration till we saw how our other demands
46 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
were received. "We have only to teach them that
they cannot trample on us with impunity!" quoth
Biggs. "That will be enough."
There was no afternoon school; this day had been
chosen partly because it was a half-holiday, allowing
plenty of time for our preparations, and one of the
days, moreover, on which we might go out to the
town for an hour to spend what money we had -
we had not much; for, like the poet and his school-
A little weekly stipend, and we lived
Through three divisions of the quartered year
In penniless poverty "-
tempered in our case by occasional windfalls in the
way of "tips," a word scarcely admissible into Words-
worth's dignified verse. But what we had we gave
freely to the common fund which was raised to furnish
supplies, or, if we did not give freely, Collins made us
give otherwise. Still our .public treasury would have
contained only a few shillings if Biggs had not mag-
nanimously come forward with a whole sovereign,
which his grandmother had just sent him on his birth-
day, and which he unreservedly handed over to the
common stock. In return for this liberality, we could
do no less than appoint Biggs treasurer. The sum at
his disposal was exactly one pound seven shillings and
eightpence, and a short consultation was held to settle
how this should be expended.
Biggs was decidedly in favour of Spartan fare; our
" The Ides of March are Come."
garrison should be provisioned with nothing but the
bare necessaries of life, and all luxury banished till
our cause was triumphant. He even suggested raw
turnips, bringing forward the example of a remarkably
incorruptible Roman hero, who had been accustomed
to nourish his integrity on this vegetable. Collins, on
the other hand, had more generous notions of the fare
appropriate to conspirators, and mentioned currant
wine as a highly revolutionary beverage. He also
proposed a supply of raw beef-steaks, to be cooked in
the intervals of military operations. Hereupon a
serious division of opinion arose between our leaders;
but after an animated debate, we found, on calculating
our ways and means, that if we were to sustain a siege
of twenty-four hours, we must be content with meagre
rations. It never occurred to us that no water was to
be got at in our fortress, and we arranged to provide
nothing but eatables.
If, just before dinner-time, the government officials
had been on the look-out, they would have seen each
boy stealing up to the schoolroom by a back way,
with a half-quartern loaf and a great lump of cheese
hid away under his jacket. Eggs had also been
bought, two a-piece, and a saucepan to boil them in, as
well as salt and pepper enough for a whole regiment.
Twenty Brazil nuts per boy were served out; and
Biggs was understood to have a reserve store of cap-
tains' biscuits, under lock and key, to be used only as
a last resource. The rest of the provisions were stowed
48 A Chapter in Schoolboy History.
away in our play boxes, which stood round the school-
room. As the night might be cold, coals and
wood were brought from the cellar stolen, I ought
to say, if it had not been done in such a noble cause-
and smuggled into the house in some of our hat-boxes.
All'this was accomplished without any apparent sus-
picion on the part of the authorities. They did not
notice even that the poker and tongs had been abstracted
from the dining-room.
No games were played that afternoon. Even if we
had been in the mind for such frivolity, it was a wet
afternoon, and we spent it in the schoolroom, discuss-
ing the forthcoming event and looking to our arms.
Biggs and Collins formed the various classes into
companies, appointed captains, and tried to drill us.
The first company were to be armed with catapults
and fire-irons; the second with cricket-stumps; the
third with hockey-sticks; the smallest boys were to act
as powder-monkeys and supply ammunition to the
front ranks. Several of the desks were turned into
magazines of pebbles and small lumps of coal. My
dark lantern was filled with oil and concealed in a
corner. Biggs exhibited to our great admiration a
blood-red sash, which he meant to put on as soon as
the fighting began. Then we rehearsed, as far as pos-
sible, the scene of the evening. Each of us was told
off to some special duty; some were to turn out the
lights, some to nail up the door, some to drag up
benches for the barricade. It would all be done in a
Jam non satis.
minute if everyone played his part like a man. We
made such a noise, practising our various parts, that
Wilkins, the usher, who was supposed to be looking
after us, popped his head into the room, and wanted
to know what we were about. We told him we were
playing at soldiers, and he withdrew, smiling at our
childish sport! If he had only known that it was in
grim earnest we were under arms!
Tea passed off as usual, except that we had jam
that evening for a treat. If the matter had not gone
so far, this mark of liberality on the part of our rulers
might have made us relent; but it was too late.
Collins frowned threateningly at a boy who expressed
gratitude to Miss Sickles for the jam. We would eat
it, but it could not change our resolution. Indeed, the
word was passed round to eat as much at tea as we
could, to save our own stores.
After tea there came an interval of play, before we
were called upon to prepare our lessons for the next
day. It might be thought that this would have been
the best time to raise the standard of revolt; but the
fact was, we had reason to believe that Mr. Monk
would probably be out later in the evening, and, with
all our determination, we would rather not have him
to deal with till our barricades were made sure. Be-
sides, in Biggs' eyes, an.insurrection would be nothing
if not theatrical, and he had the idea of letting the
signal come from our oppressors themselves. When
the clock in the passage struck eight, it was usual for
50 A Chapter of Schoolboy History.
Mr. Wilkins, or whoever might be superintending our
studies, to let us rise from our seats. Then we would
spring up, and shout out our war-cry. Horatius
Codes! was to be the watchword, and the counter-
sign, "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality!"
It now occurred to one of the conspirators, who had
studied the newspapers of the day to some purpose,
that at this point we ought to elect a provisional
government, and the notion met with approval. But
here signs of dissension again appeared between our
leaders. A provisional government, it was stated,
should have a president, and as neither Biggs nor
Collins was willing to play the second part, the Roman
machinery of government, admitting as it did of two
chief magistrates, was evidently better suited to the
circumstances of our republic. Yet even Biggs de-
clared that in times of war it was desirable to appoint
a dictator with supreme power. Luckily his classical
reading enabled him to suggest a compromise. Biggs
and Collins agreed to be dictators in turn, hour about,
as soon as the fighting began. They should draw lots
for the first turn of office, and when the cause was
victorious, a president might be elected by free vote
of all the rebels.
The final arrangements were thus made. Brandy-
balls were distributed among the younger boys, to
keep up their courage and ensure their fidelity. Col-
lins was very violent towards some fellows who began
to show signs of cowardice now that the hour drew
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen! "
near. He boxed the ears of one boy for simply sug-
gesting that some traitor might betray the plot to Mr.
Monk, and that then we should probably get the worst
of it. Biggs mounted upon a form, and would have
made us an inspiriting harangue.
We must remember," he said, that this was the
most important day of our lives. Our conduct on
this night would decide whether we were to be free for
ever, or slaves who deserved all that Miss Sickles
could do to them. The eyes of all the other schools
in the town would be fixed on us when it was known
what we had done, and we should be awfully laughed
at if we didn't behave with courage. More than we
thought depended on us; we were about to fight for
the rights and privileges of schoolboys all over the
world. For his own part, he could promise that he
would never submit till- "
Take your seats cried Mr. Wilkins, entering at
this moment; and such is the force of habit, that we
obediently got out our books, and sat down as usual
in our places.
"Now, boys, let us see how quiet and industrious
you can be to-night," said the assistant-master, rub-
bing his hands, and trying to look cheerful, as if he
quite expected us to do what he wished.
Mr. Wilkins was a mild, easy-going man, to whom
the task of keeping us in order was a heavy burden.
This night he must have been surprised at the calm-
ness which reigned throughout the schoolroom. It
52 A Chapter of Schoolboy History.
was the calm before a thunderstorm. A volcano was
about to burst beneath his feet, and there he sat
unconscious and indifferent, only glancing round him
now and then, as if suspicious that some mischief
must be brewing under this unusual good behaviour.
But he could detect nothing. We did not trouble
about our lessons for next day, but we sat still, and
thought on the approaching crisis, and kept looking
to our leaders for encouragement. No sign of fear
was to be read upon their serene countenances. Col-
lins was polishing the barrel of his pistol under the
table. Biggs was copying out in his best hand our
declaration of revolt and a memorial of the grievances
which we required to be redressed before returning to
our allegiance. He was writing with red ink upon
blue foolscap, and this declaration of rights was to be
signed by us all presently, in a form not yet agreed
upon by our leaders. Collins, who had stories of
mutinies running in his head, insisted upon a round
robin, while Biggs' historical studies led him to prefer
Magna Charta as a model.
The hour went slowly by. Mr. Wilkins was reading
a newspaper; he seemed to be nodding as if about to
drop off to sleep. Silence still prevailed along our
benches, and there was a serious look upon most of
the boys' faces. The more we thought over what we
were about to do, the more some of us began to see
the gravity of it. Some were excited and restless.
Some looked anxious; others merely puzzled at the
" What is 't o'clock ? "
prospect of the new experience which was before us.
Young soldiers, I should think, look so, when they
know that only a wood or a hill is between them and
the enemy's guns, and that in a few minutes they will
be for the first time under fire.
Never were watches, consulted more frequently by
those among us who had them, and who were con-
stantly employed in telegraphing the time to their
friends in various parts of the room. These watches
differed, and we could not be certain how the time
was going by the clock in the hall, which we could
hear ticking towards the stroke of that hour which
was to be our tocsin. Never did an hour seem to
pass more irksomely. Even the great-souled Biggs
began to fidget on his seat.
At last we thought we heard the hall clock give a
louder tick, as was its nature to, a few minutes
before striking. There was a slight stir on our
benches, and a whisper ran along that the time was
at hand. The suspense became terrible. All eyes
were turned on Biggs; his face lighted up, and he
cast round him glances of encouragement, as if calling
upon us to be ready and bold. Collins was scowling,
while his fingers played beneath the table with the
trigger of his pistol.
All ears were listening for the striking of the clock,
when a soft but firm tread was heard without; the
door opened wide, and Miss Sickles stood before us.
With one look round the room, she walked up to Mr.
54 A Chapter of Schoolboy History.
Wilkins and whispered something in his ear. The
"Master Collins, you are to come with me! she
We started. Could she have discovered our plot ?
What meant this sudden summons? What would
Collins do ? He did not budge, but growled out-
I'm at my lessons."
You come this moment! repeated Miss Sickles,
in such a tone, and with such an eye, as few of us
were able to say nay to. When Miss Sickles chose
to exercise it, she seemed to be possessed of an almost
magnetic power of having her own way.
Collins looked round at us. We made no move-
ment. Every eye was fixed anxiously upon him. It
was a critical moment. He hesitated; he wriggled
about on the form; he gave in; he rose from his
"You are to come, too, Master Biggs," said the
housekeeper, in her commanding way, and Biggs also
was fain to obey. He thought he was about to be
called upon to play the part of a martyr, and rather
liked the notion than otherwise, I believe.
Fancy our surprise and dismay, when we saw our
leaders following Miss Sickles out of the room, Collins
with a sullen frown on his face, Biggs with the lofty
look becoming a hero who was being led off to pine in
the dungeons of the tyrant. The first impression of
the rest of us also was that we had been betrayed;
"Now's the Day and now's the Hour !" 55
and when the door had closed upon Biggs and Collins
we felt that our strength was indeed gone from us.
But before we had time to realise the situation, Mr.
Wilkins-pleased, no doubt, at our quiet behaviour,
and wishing to reward it by letting us off a few
minutes before the proper time--got up from his
chair, yawned, and said-
That will do for to-night, boys. You may put
away your books."
No one moved.
"I said you might go."
It was his turn to be surprised. Instead of leaping
up with noisy glee, we all sat preternaturally still, and
looked round us, as if to ask one another what we
were to do.
Suddenly the clock struck, and at this sound one
bold boy jumped to his feet and raised a shout. Most
of us only stared at him, but a few made some attempt
to back him up. A form was overturned; two or
three books flew across the room; there was a clatter
as of fire-irons beneath the table. But still the insur-
rection was hanging fire, when Miss Sickles again
appeared at the door, and the noise ceased all at
"Are you going to make a disturbance because
Mr. Monk is out ?" she said severely. I won't have
it. The hair-cutter has come, and those who hadn't
their hair cut last week will go to him in the dining-
room, as soon as he is done with Master Biggs and
56 A Chapter of Schoolboy History.
Collins. The rest of you had better go to bed and be
out of the way. Come, be off! "
She addressed particularly the youngest boys, who
stood nearest the door. It was assailing us in our
weakest point. They durst not set her at defiance.
:They wavered-they went. And the others, except
some half-dozen who were to stay and have their hair
cut, went also, filing out in an orderly manner, as the
custom was. No one liked to begin resistance to her
commands. Deprived of our leaders, our numbers
melting away every moment, even the most deter-
mined spirits saw that all was lost. In three minutes
we were bestowed in our bedrooms in separate parts
of the house.
Here was an ignominious end to our plot! Our
courage was all gone now, and we began to tremble
at the consequences of a discovery. Presently Biggs
and Collins came upstairs, with close-cropped heads,
and countenances full of disgust. They went from
room to room, consoling their adherents, and assuring
them that the rising was only postponed till next day.
But we did not respond heartily to their appeals to
remain faithful to the cause. I think most of us were
on the whole much relieved not to find ourselves in
arms, as at that hour we had expected to be. It was
much more satisfactory to lie in bed and talk over
what we should have done if our project had not thus
come to nought, and of what we should do next day,
" To-morrow to Fresh Fields! "
Next day it so happened that a box of new cricket
things arrived from London, and created such an ex-
citement that we had time to think of nothing else.
Even Biggs and Collins, earnest as they were about
their conspiracy, were still more enthusiastic about
cricket. So the matter dropped somehow. We recon-
ciled ourselves to the oppression of our rulers as best
we could, and all the rest of the time I was at that
school nothing more was heard of a barring-out, or
of any other form of insurrection.
I hope, in conclusion, that no other schoolboys will
follow our example ; but if they fancy themselves ill-
used, let them remember that few persons in this
world are able to be contented, and take to their
hearts the sound advice of a certain poet-
Use not complaints unseemly,
Though 3 ou must work like bricks;
And it is cold, extremely,
Rising at half-past six.
Soon sunnier will the day grow,
And the east wind not blow so,
Soon, as of yore, L'Allegro
Succeed II Penseroso.
"Stick to your Mangnall's Questions,'
And Long-Division sums,
And come-with good digestions-
Home when next Christmas comes.'
THE INJURED INNOCENT.
THE SOBRROS OF A LAD AND A LADY.
THE INJURED INNOCENT.
HE visitor to the venerable fane of Whit-
minster will do well to give sixpence to the
officious verger for the privilege of ascending
the tower, from which he will get a bird's-
eye view of the quaint old town and a pleasant pros-
pect over a wide stretch of characteristically English
scenery. And one of the first spots on which his eye
falls will probably be a curious patch of irregularly
shaped and sized gardens, lying snug and green at his
feet, and enclosed, as he will see, in a triangle formed
by the backs of three short rows of houses-Westgate,
or one of the divisions of the street so named, irregular
ancient stone buildings, held in high respect; the
Paragon, tall, square, dingy brick mansions, nearly
a hundred years old and quite genteel; and Albert
Terrace, all stucco, bow windows, green blinds, and
This triangular block of buildings was irreverently
---~- ~p~ I
62 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
termed the "Asses' Bridge" by clever young gentlemen
of the neighbourhood who went to school and learned
Euclid, and who, in exercising their wit at its expense,
were conscious of not fouling their own nest, since their
noisy kind was conspicuous by its absence from the
Triangle, which had therefore the reputation of being
one of the quietest parts of the town. Albert Terrace
was chiefly tenanted by young married couples; the
Paragon by grave citizens, with grown-up families or
tribes of girls, as chance had it; and the four detached
houses of Westgate by single ladies, or unmarried
clergymen. Strange to say, at the time of which I
write there existed in the refined precincts of the
Triangle abundance of small children, a swarm of
great girls, a sufficiency of promising young men, but
only one actual boy. A definition of the word boy is
wanting; I venture to supply one. A boy may be
considered as a male human creature during that
second octavo of life in which he is least under the
influence of the other sex. When a child is free from
the power of the nursery-maid, and can no longer be
constrained to put on a clean pinafore, he becomes a
boy; and he is ceasing to be one as soon as he volun-
tarily wears his best clothes to gain favour in female
In the Triangle, then, there was only one person
answering to this definition, and that was the boy
Wyld, twelve or thirteen years old, freckled, untidy,
rough, and restless, as boys are apt to be. He was the
"A kind of Boy, a little scrubbed Boy." 63
orphan son of a sea-captain. Years before, the father's
vessel, on board of which were his wife and child, had
foundered in the middle of the Atlantic, and among
the few souls picked up to tell the tale was this boy,
lashed to a spar by his father, five minutes before he
went down with his ship, like an English sailor, while
the terrified passengers were madly struggling to
swamp the overcrowded boats. The mother's body
was there too, but she was dead of cold and exhaustion.
Some of my readers may remember the story in the
newspapers of the day. The boy had been brought to
England and somewhat grudgingly adopted by his
unmarried uncle, Dr. Wyld, a hard, dry, disappointed
man, who for more than twenty years had lived in the
smallest and ugliest house of the Paragon, and for
some reason or other, probably because of his surly,
forbidding manner, had never advanced far in the
more profitable paths of his profession, though at the
Union and the Dispensary his services were considered
invaluable in repressing pauper ailments.
When this friendless little fellow first came to live
in his uncle's dull house, the whole neighbourhood was
disposed to look on him with great interest and
sympathy. At home he was treated with cold neglect,
fed and lodged, but little more; out of doors for a time
he was pitied and petted to a degree that would spoil
any child. All the ladies of the Triangle were willing
to make much of him, and it was with real concern
that they soon found he was not a material to be made
64 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
much of by them. With his romantic antecedents,
it was a pity he should turn out such a rebellious little
imp, with no sense of juvenile propriety, and only
increasing in turbulence with years. He altogether
refused to behave prettily; he romped in the most
decorous drawing-rooms; he could keep his fingers off
nothing, and put his foot into everything; he showed
himself either helplessly shy or irrepressibly noisy; he
had no graces or accomplishments, except such as
whistling or standing on his head, which he insisted
on exhibiting on all inconvenient occasions. Clearly
he was not an ornament or an acquisition to well-be-
haved society, and his lady friends began to give him
up, with many a lament over the way in which Dr. Wyld
was neglecting his training. But their disapproval of
the uncle was transferred in full to the nephew, as the
propensities of the latter were developed. Soon his
conduct became such as to withdraw the last rag of
their favour from him; and when the boy Wyld had
attained to trousers and jackets his character was
fully revealed in all its objectionable features. The
only boy of the Triangle was considered as great a
plague to it as a round dozen of them might have been
expected to be. He teased the girls; he was impudent
to the young gentlemen; the old ones tumbled on slides
of his making; he upset children out of their perambu-
lators, not so much from ill-nature as from an excess
of zeal; he indulged in unseemly levity towards the
servant-maids, and would not speak civilly to their
" It was his Nature to."
mistresses; he made friends with low street boys, and
fought with them, too, in public; he broke windows,
chased cats, and entertained strange dogs; he climbed
anywhere, he tumbled into everything, he seemed
afraid of nothing and nobody; in fact, he was generally
rude, boisterous, and mischievous, and might well be
held a scandal to such a sober neighbourhood. Com-
plaints about his pranks were, from time to time,
made to his uncle, who was not wanting in due
severity; but punishment and scolding were all thrown
away on the boy Wyld, who, moreover, would probably
not be long of playing some impudent trick at the ex-
pense of the person who had sneaked about him,"
as he expressed it. So it came.to pass that he was a
young Ishmaelite among the other inhabitants of the
Triangle; his rough hands were against all of them,
and all of them looked on him as a most dangerous
and undesirable neighbour.
Luckily for these good people and for himself, he
was sent to the Grammar School as soon as he could
read, and took to it as readily as a dog to water.
There was no creeping unwillingly in the case of
this boy, who scarcely knew what home was. The
school was his club, where he found friends and fun
and full scope for his energies. Not that he showed
much love for his books, but I am writing of a date
before country grammar schools had got hopelessly
enclosed in the net of competitive examinations, and
when a lad with a tolerably thick skin and easy con-
66 The Sorrows of a -L:d and a Lady.
science could make shift to pass through the lower
forms without being over-much laborious. Wyld did
as little work and as much play as possible, and
passed at school as neither better nor worse than
most of his comrades, among whom he was rather a
favourite than otherwise.
,All day, then, the boy Wyld was out of the way,
but in the evening his uncle's rule was for him to stay
at home that he might learn his lessons, and as likely
as not he smuggled some companion into the back
garden for a little congenial amusement, involving
probably a catapult or a ball, and climbing into the
other gardens to get it. Then perhaps there would
be a shout and a crash, as of broken glass, and Miss
Telfer, sitting in the drawing-room at the back of her
house in Westgate, would lay down her teacup, and
That boy Wyld "
"That boy Wyld would echo Poll, her parrot,
trying to stretch his fat green neck between the bars
of his cage to see what was the matter. Then the
starling would choke and gurgle and try to repeat the
same phrase, and all the canary birds and bullfinches
would twitter and hop in sympathy.
Miss Telfer lived next door to Dr. Wyld, or rather
round the corner, the back of their gardens being
contiguous. Her pretty little house was quite an
aviary. There were forty-three birds, without reckon-
ing its mistress, who was so tiny and timid and
" A Parlous Boy Go to !"
smooth and elegant that she might be thought to
have partly grown into the nature of her feathered
friends. She looked as if a puff of wind could blow
her off her perch in this rough world, and was, indeed,
one of the most nervous, delicate, sensitive old maids
in Whitminster. So it may readily be imagined that
she was not fond of boys.
But she had tried to be friendly with the boy Wyld.
Report said that Miss Telfer had once been engaged
to a naval officer, killed in the Crimea; be that as it
may, her tender heart was unusually soft towards the
sailor's orphan, and she had done her best to show
kindness to him, and was long-suffering before she
admitted him to be hopelessly undeserving of it. Her
splendid King Parrot, the monarch of her menagerie,
had from the first shown himself ill-disposed towards
the boy Wyld, and took an early opportunity of biting
his fingers, whereupon the graceless urchin pulled a
feather out of the screaming bird's tail; but not even
then did Miss Telfer withdraw her countenance wholly
from him. His perverse and mischievous disposition,
however, rendered him more and more unbearable,
and he was finally cast out as reprobate when the
good lady discovered him knocking down a poor spar-
row with a stone in her very garden. If the sparrow
had been consulted, he might have preferred a violent
death in this way to perpetual imprisonment in a
Scage; but Miss Telfer was like the majority of the
civilised world, who think cruelty to mean nothing but
68 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
blood and bruises; and from that day she renounced
the boy Wyld, falling back upon her principle that
all boys were the pariahs of good society, and among
the main troubles of life, permitted to afflict the earth
by a mysterious dispensation of Providence.
They have such disagreeable voices and such
awkward manners," she used to chirp out, looking
round with affectionate pride at her feathered flock.
There was another race besides that of boys which
Miss Telfer could not but look upon with aversion-
cats. And at that time the gardens of the Triangle
actually swarmed with a plague of cats-
"Black cats, brown cats, grey cats, tawny cats,
Big cats, small cats, thin cats, brawny cats;
Grave old baskers, gay young friskers,
Tabby cats with claws and whiskers."
Each household in the three streets had its author-
ised and domesticated puss, except only that of Miss
Telfer, where of course no such insidious beast of prey
was entertained to disturb the peace of mind of her
birds. But besides these regular forces, there were
troops of guerilla cats, cats of fortune, so to speak,
which prowled about, gaunt and unkempt, from roof
to roof and from wall to wall, without visible means of
subsistence. Where they came from nobody knew, but
there they were, a nuisance to the whole neighbourhood,
and, like gipsies, could not be got rid of. They made
their way into cellars; they stole scraps; they wrought
havoc in flower-beds; they fought and made love in an
" The Harmless Necessary Cat."
obstrusively public manner; and the most noisy and
unprincipled of them delighted in choosing the dead
of night for the hour of their disturbances, when even
boys were safe in bed. To do the boy Wyld justice,
when other people only talked of the nuisance, he took
the field and kept up a perpetual war against the
feline race. But it was only the more inoffensive civil-
ised cats which he succeeded in terrifying; the rogues
and vagabonds seemed rather to like the fun than
otherwise, and increased in number and impudence in
spite of his sticks and catapults, which added a zest
of adventure to their precarious existence.
Oh dear, oh dear! sighed Miss Telfer, as she
turned about in her great feather bed, and tried not
to listen to one of her whiskered enemies, which was
screaming in the next garden like a child in pain.
Then, when it had tired itself out, and she had begun
to doze off into a restless nightmare, in which she
thought a gigantic cat's jaws were closing on her
orange-breasted wax-bill, the pearl of her aviary, she
would start up to hear the shrieking and squealing of
a battle-royal beneath her window, and, when this had
died away, the discordant notes of a lovesick Tom
caterwauling to the moon among the chimney-pots,
alternating with the faint miauings of a deserted
kitten in the distance, would keep her in such a state
of restlessness that the poor lady could not get an
honest wink of sleep all night.
At last she could bear it no longer, and sought con-
70 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
isolation and counsel from Dr. Grey, her medical and
general adviser. He listened to her story with all the
attention due to a profitable patient, and sympathised
with her in the ready way which made nervous old
ladies think him the best of doctors.
Cats you may well grumble at them, Miss Telfer.
For my part, I wish the whole breed had been drowned
in the Deluge. There is no other creature that
occupies such a conspicuous place in the catalogue of
human ills," chuckled Dr. Grey, who was a chatty old
gentleman and loved his little joke.
What am I to do, doctor ? entreated Miss Telfer,
in a sorrowful twitter. "I assure you I can't sleep
for them, and my nerves are in such a state all day."
If I were so much troubled, I'll tell you what I
should do," said the doctor, "I should get a squib
and put a light to it and fling it out among them some
of these nights. That would give them a scare, I'll
be bound. But we must see to this, Miss Telfer, or I
shall have to send you to Weston again. We must
brace up the system, ma'am; we must brace up the
So spoke Dr. Grey and wrote out a prescription,
and Miss Telfer departed, strengthened in mind by
the prospect of having her system braced up. But
that part of the doctor's advice which perhaps he had
scarcely given seriously had also made a great im-
pression on her. Miss Telfer's gentle nature was
stirred up to the point of combating her feline foes,
A Beggarly Account of Empty Boxes." 71
even by gunpowder; and on her way home, happening
to pass by a shop in an obscure part of the town,
where a card announced that fireworks were to be
bought, she stopped, turned, hesitated, and at last
fluttered into the shop and shyly made request for a
"What sort of a squib, ma'am ?" said the shop-
keeper, staring at her a little, which did not diminish
"Any kind the largest the best," said Miss
Telfer, and the tradesman of course to ok her as mean-
ing the most expensive.
The fact was that, the fifth of November being still
far off, he had no stock of fireworks on hand. But
rummaging through a box, he picked out a huge
cracker, remaining from last year's supply, and asked
if that would do.
"It won't go off in my fingers ?" was the only
stipulation Miss Telfer had to make; and the man
assured her that it was quite harmless, and instructed
her how to light and throw it. I don't quite know
what kind of firework it was that Miss Telfer became
possessed of, but from the sequel it was clearly one
of a complicated nature, and it cost her sixpence.
When she got home Miss Telfer made haste to lock
her dangerous acquisition away in a drawer, all by
itself, and it was three days before she ventured to
make any use of it. But on the third night the cats
became more noisy than ever, and the bracing-up
72 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
medicine seemed to have no effect. Moreover, the
parrot had been waked up, too, and was screaming
downstairs at the pitch of his voice, The boy Wyld!
The boy Wyld I want my dinner! Pretty Poll! "
"I can't endure this," piped Miss Telfer, at last
getting up and putting on her dressing-gown. She
opened her window just a little bit, and, having satis-
fied herself that the wind was not in the east, peeped
out with a scarf round her head, looking as like Lady
Macbeth as a nervous little old dame can do. The
cats stopped for a moment, then renewed their hideous
concert with double fury. Miss Telfer in her excite-
ment fancied that there were at least a dozen of them
in her neighbour's garden. She drew back and stood
screwing up her courage for a minute; then her reso-
lution was taken. She stole on tiptoe to the drawer
where her artillery was hidden, unlocked it, lit a
taper, and with trembling hands applied it to the
match of the cracker, which she then hastily flung
out of the window as far as she could, which was not
far, for it fell upon the roof of her little conservatory.
For a moment there was silence, but in a moment
more the cracker began to burst. Bang, fizz it
went, and the cats fled howling in all directions as it
jumped, banging and dancing, among them. Bang,
bang! and at every detonation somebody leaped out
of bed in alarm. Windows were thrown up, heads
thrust out, screams might be heard, cries of "Police "
were echoed back-the whole of the Triangle was
ll ^ 'yv ''
; 'i!. A' >iti)Y
r; 'r'1 ^
A MIDNIGHT ALARM !
"Macbeth hath Murdered Sleep."
aroused. Then steps were trampling in the gardens,
lights moved about, voices here and there, and the
commotion went on increasing long after the cause of
it had banged and burned itself out. Nobody knew
exactly what had happened. Some spoke of an earth-
quake, some of a thunderbolt; some thought the gas-
works had been blown up, and some that a murder
had been committed. And when fathers and brothers
were able to soothe the fears of their families and
pronounce the affair a mischievous trick, there re-
mained the indignant question, Who did it ? "
Who indeed Poor Miss Telfer, struck with horror
at the unexpected performances of her fatalis machine,
had fled into bed, and lay quaking with her head
buried beneath the blankets.
._ - ,. --.
" ,- ." -- b.j_- _,..-:. r-=_: .. .
EXT morning the night's disturbance was
the theme of conversation at most of the
breakfast-tables of the Triangle, and there
was complete unanimity of suspicion as to
the author of it. There was only one boy in the three
streets, and he, no doubt, was at that moment exult-
ing with his rude companions over the success of his
freak. His impudence was no longer to be put up
with; it was intolerable that quiet, respectable people
should be frightened out of their sleep by such mali-
cious tricks. Something must be done.
In the course of the day Miss Telfer had a call from
Mrs. Gargoyle, of the Paragon, the minor canon's
wife, who came to condole with her over the agitation
she must have undergone, and to tell her what steps
were being taken for the punishment of the culprit.
I never heard of such a thing Mrs. Gargoyle
declared indignantly, at least half a dozen times.
" What a Pestilent Knave is this Same!"
" There's poor Mrs. Browne, with her heart complaint;
it's a mercy she was not terrified to death."
Oh dear Miss Telfer gave a little cry.
"And you, Miss Telfer, in the state of your nerves !
I assure you, I fully expected to find you in bed."
It has quite upset me; it has indeed said Miss
Telfer, pecking at her smelling-bottle.
"But of course we know who did it-oh, the little
wretch said Mrs. Gargoyle.
That boy Wyld! That boy Wyld I screamed the
parrot above her head.
"Yes; that dreadful boy Wyld! But his uncle
can't have a grain of sense if he does not punish him
severely as he deserves. Mr. Gargoyle is going to
speak to Dr. Wyld about it at the dispensary meeting;
and I do hope the child will get a lesson against these
Oh, I don't think he did it," said poor Miss Telfer,
all in a twitter.
"My dear, there can be no doubt about it. Have
you ever seen the way in which that boy fidgets about
when Mr. Gargoyle is preaching ? The dreadful
creature is always playing with fireworks and danger-
ous things of that sort, and it was in the Wylds'
garden, you know, that the explosion took place.
Oh, Miss Telfer, I wonder that you weren't frightened
out of your life! But now I must go and ask how
poor Mrs. Browne is."
When her visitor was gone Miss Telfer flew out into
78 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
her little conservatory, and sat down, with fluttering
heart, to think over what she had just heard. The
very idea of any one being punished for her fault
filled her with dismay. She longed to have had the
courage to tell Mrs. Gargoyle the truth; she half re-
solved to sit down and write a note to her containing
a full confession. But then there would be the aston-
ishment, the scandal, the ridicule Miss Telfer quite
trembled to think of what people would say. She felt
as if she were a great criminal; no forger or burglar,
hiding from the police, had ever such a troubled
mind. It would be found out somehow; she could
never show her cap again at the tea-parties of Whit-
minster; and, worst of all, in the meanwhile this in-
nocent boy would bear the shame and the punishment.
Oh that she had never meddled with such things as
squibs For the first time she lost faith in Dr. Grey,
But what was she to do? what could she do? She
could not confess. To be the joke of the whole com-
munity was more than ladylike flesh and blood could
bear; yet her tender conscience would give her no
rest, if an injustice were committed through her
cowardice. She would run away to Weston, and let
the truth be disclosed, and not return for years till the
public indignation had died away. This way and that
her excited mind was swayed, and meanwhile the
parrot screamed unheeded in the drawing-room behind,
and one of the leanest and most disreputable-looking
of the marauding cats had crept along the wall of her
"Ask Me not what the Maciden Feels '
garden, and was crouching within ten feet of her,
looking slyly out of his half-open eyes, as if pleased
to see into what a scrape she had brought herself.
"Oh these cats! these cats!" murmured Miss
Telfer, and shook her handkerchief at it, calling out
with as much anger as was in her nature, Go away!
Go away!" Away went the cat like a rocket, but
less in obedience to Miss Telfer's injunction than by
reason of a broken bottle which at the same moment
was thrown at it from the other side of the wall,
showing that the boy Wyld had returned from school,
and was disporting himself according to his wont in
his uncle's back premises. Suddenly Miss Telfer
heard the loud, harsh voice of Dr. Wyld through the
open door of the surgery.
Come here, sir, and tell me what you mean by
this fine prank. I'll teach you to throw fireworks out
of my windows in the middle of the night."
Miss Telfer thought she would have fainted. She
almost embraced a geranium-pot in her agitation.
For a minute she could make out nothing distinctly,
except that Dr. Wyld was talking angrily. "Don't
say you didn't do it, sir. You are the worry of my
life; there is scarcely a day that somebody does not
complain to me of your conduct, and I am determined
to take it out of you. I tell you I will teach you- "
So much Miss Telfer heard and wished to rise and
call out, but she could not, and sat pale and shudder-
ing. Then the surgery door was shut with a bang,
80 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
and within there was a dull sound of blows. There
were none of the screams which she expected to follow,
but if the boy Wyld did not cry, Miss Telfer did most
She had another wretched night. The cats left her
in peace this time, but conscience is more trouble-
some than cats, and Miss Telfer thought she would
never sleep sound again, now that her hands were
stained with the blood of this innocent victim. The
details of corporal punishment being unfamiliar to her,
her fancy kept calling up a sickening scene of horror,
for which her cowardice was responsible. And crime
will always out, she said to herself. Oh, where should
she hide herself when Mrs. Gargoyle knew the truth
and had set forth to bear the news from drawing-
room to drawing-room ?
Early in the morning she was up feeding her birds,
but that gave her no comfort. She caught herself
again and again peeping out from the drawn blind of
her front parlour, in fearful hope of catching a sight of
the injured boy, pale, suffering, and resentful. At last
she did see him, on his way to school.
He did not seem much the worse for whatever he
had undergone; his cap was stuck the wrong way
on the back of his head as usual; he was whistling a
vulgar tune, and stopped for a second in front of Miss
Telfer's window to give a kick to an abandoned cab-
bage-stalk on the pavement. Another second and
Miss Telfer could no longer have restrained herself
In Perplexity and Doubtful Dilemma.
from knocking at the window, beckoning him in, and
overwhelming him with cake and wine and all the
silver in her purse. But while she hesitated he
caught sight of a schoolfellow and scampered after
him, and she was glad she had not ventured to meet
his eye. He would suspect, he would denounce her;
her crime would come to light at once. No as long
as possible she must lock the secret in her breast.
Miss Telfer felt that in the last two days she had
grown years older.
A few days passed away, and with them the danger
of discovery. The neighbours appeared to have
forgotten all about it; but Miss Telfer did not forget.
Her conscience kept on accusing her, and she never
heard the boy Wyld's voice without a fresh prick.
She durst not look him in the face, but she thought
often how she might make up for the injury done to
him. She sometimes meditated buying a cricket-bat
and sending it to him anonymously; then, again,
she fancied it would be a good thing to speak a word
for him to his master at the school, who was a friend
of hers. But her habitual hesitation kept her from
doing anything else than distressing herself to no
purpose. Jane, the maid, did not know what had
come to her mistress. She thought it must be the
death 'f the prettiest of her love-birds in moulting.
But no ; Miss Telfer would have given a wilderness of
love-birds that this should not have happened which
we know of. She fretted over it till she felt really ill.
82 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
Then she sent for Dr. Grey, and had half made up
her mind to take him into her confidence. But again
her courage failed her; the wrongs of the boy Wyld
remained unredressed, and Dr. Grey's tonics minis-
tered in vain to the mental disease of his patient.
As poor Miss Telfer feared, a dire punishment was
not long of falling upon her guilty head, a worse
calamity than even the epidemic which seemed to have
broken out among her small birds. She had been
to forenoon service at the minster, she had heard
the parable of Nathan against David, and with a pang
had taken the lesson home to herself; she came back
to her house, meditating over the consequences of that
unfortunate night, and at the door was met by Jane,
who was waiting with a thunderbolt on her lips.
"Oh, Miss Telfer, the parrot has got out of his
Oh, dear! exclaimed Miss Telfer, scarcely
realising the calamity at first, till she had hurried
into the drawing-room and saw the empty and open
cage of her favourite-favourite is a weak word to
express Miss Telfer's love for that parrot, which in
its youth had been given her, so people said, by the
naval officer before mentioned, and was now the
familiar friend and companion of her old age. Jane
followed breathlessly, giving details of, the catas-
trophe, caused, it appeared, by the carelessness of the
new girl, Kitty, who was now cowering in the kitchen,
not daring to meet her mistress's eyes.
" Come into the Garden."
And where has my darling gone to ? cried poor
Miss Telfer. "Oh, Jane, we must not lose him -
I can't bear to think of losing him."
"He is sitting on the pear-tree in the garden,
and I asked the boy Wyld to come over and catch
him," was Jane's reply, and Miss Telfer flew into the
There, sure enough, was the erring Poll, sitting
lordly in the middle of the pear-tree, altogether dis-
dainful of the blandishments of the boy Wyld, who
was standing below fishing for him with a bone
fastened to a long pole. He had been standing thus
for the last half-hour, patiently awaiting the pleasure
of his old enemy; for the boy Wyld, whatever his
faults may have been, was always willing to be of use
where his peculiar talents came into play, and as it
was now the holidays, he had plenty of time on his
hands. Being engaged in serious business, he scarcely
turned his head when Miss Telfer appeared, but went
on poking his bait up into the tree. At such a junc-
ture Miss Telfer forgot everything else, and hailed
with joy the presence of this shock-haired, sunburnt
lad with the patched trousers and rough hands, that
had so often shocked her sensibilities when there was
no parrot to be caught.
Oh, Johnny, can't you get him down ? cried Miss
Telfer, in her emotion using the familiar name of the
boy Wyld's childish and more innocent days.
"No; the stupid thing !" said he, and laying
84 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
down his pole, began to look at the tree with a
climber's eye, while the malicious Poll shifted to a
higher branch, and croaked out-
That boy Wyld! "
"Just you wait till I come to you, and I'll make
you be quiet; and then the boy spat on his hands,
an action which Miss Telfer actually beheld without
disgust, and bid Jane run to fetch Poll's cage, if
haply the wanderer might be tempted to return to it.
"Take care and don't hurt him she called out
as the boy began to swing himself up the tree. But
Poll intended to have his fling while he was about it,
and, allowing his pursuer to get just near enough to
be confident of success, he, so to speak, weighed his
anchor and sailed deliberately across to the next tree.
Nothing daunted, the boy Wyld slipped down and pre-
pared to follow him to his new fastness.
Oh, Johnny, dear, catch him and I will give you
this! cried Miss Telfer, holding up sixpence-she
meant it to have been half a sovereign, but the smaller
sum which she had produced in her agitation was
quite enough for the encouragement of the boy
Wyld. To tell the truth, he had not looked forward
to any reward; virtue is its own reward to boys
when chasing birds or beasts is in question.
"All right," said he, with a grin, and resumed his
Again Polly gave him the slip, and again he
followed the provoking bird, which had the sense not
"I Prithee, Hear me Speak."
to go far away from home, but flapped about in its
mistress's garden, perching now on one stunted tree
and now on another, but always taking care not to
come within reach of its importunate friends.
It was an exciting scene. A slight shower had
begun to fall, but, heedless of it, the distracted Miss
Telfer, holding up her dove-coloured dress, hopped
over the wet grass, and vainly reproached and be-
sought her erring favourite. Behind her came Jane,
bearing the great gilt cage with its door enticingly
open, and, chuck-chucking sweetly, endeavoured with
no better results to charm down the perverse parrot.
In the rear stood careless Kitty, who, seeing her
mistress's countenance more in sorrow than in anger,
had ventured forth to assist at the proceedings with
ejaculations of deep concern. Idle servant-maids
from the other houses had taken the excuse to leave
their work and come out to look. Children and
ladies watched from the back windows all round. For
the moment the whole neighbourhood was interested
in the boy Wyld's prowess.
At last Poll was caught napping. When his
pursuer was close upon him, he delayed too long to
be off, and when he did flap his wings he found him-
self hard put to it in the leafy bunch of a pollard
lime. Then there was a quick shoving aside of the
branches, and the boy's hand closed upon the bird's
neck. It struggled, screeched, and tried to bite him,
but he held fast to Polly, not to the tree. Finding his
86 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
footing insecure, he dropped down with the parrot in
his hand, and only let it go when he fell on the ground
and sprained his ankle.
Brute was the boy Wyld's exclamation of pain,
and Polly, amazed, alarmed, and indignant, bounced
right into the familiar shelter of his cage, and was
promptly secured by joyful Jane and her mistress,
who, however, ceased rejoicing when they found that
their young ally was hurt.
WO or three hours later John Wyld was
lying on Miss Telfer's best sofa in the
drawing -room, where the blinds were
drawn down to keep him cool; his
injured foot rested on the most daintily-worked
cushion in the house, and opposite him, at the
other side of the room, the re-captured parrot
brooded silent and sulky in his cage. Dr. Wyld
had been sent for in haste, had ordered leeches,
and done what else he could to reduce the sprain.
He wished to take his nephew home, but this Miss
Telfer, in the exuberance of her gratitude, would not
hear of for a moment. So there the boy lay in state,
surrounded by pictures, story-books, biscuits, jelly,
preserves, wine, and whatever else of refreshment for
mind or body Miss Telfer's establishment could
furnish, and, the smart of the leeches set apart, was
88 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
having rather a good time of it in this novel expe-
rience of laziness and luxury. Miss Telfer anxiously
hovered round him; she had not even allowed her-
self to be driven away at the sight of the leeches.
She had banished the starling and the cockatoo to the
top bedroom, and ordered the abodes of her various
finches to be covered up lest their twittering should
annoy the patient; she kept pressing him to eat or
drink, and worrying him with reiterated praises of
his gallantry and obligingness; in fact, she had been
doing everything she could think of to make up to
the boy Wyld for the injuries she had been the means
of bringing upon him. And with heroic resolution
she was now nerving herself to an ordeal requiring
far more courage than her young friend had shown.
He should learn how greatly she had wronged him.
The leeches had been taken off, the foot bound up,
Jane had gone out of the room, and Miss Telfer took
a seat beside the sofa and prepared to unburden her
Take some more jelly, John," she began earnestly.
You can't think how much I am obliged to you.
You don't know how fond I am of that naughty
"It's no matter," said the boy Wyld, awkwardly.
"Shall I give you one of my birds? You may
choose any one you like."
"No, thanks. I don't care for keeping birds. I
wish there were no birds in the world, because then
"I will a Tale Unfold."
nobody would blame you for bagging their eggs," he
said, taking up the thread of an old argument between
them; but Miss Telfer was in no mood to argue now.
Oh, John, what a gallant little fellow you are !
If you only knew how I felt when you tumbled
The object of this praise looked uncomfortable,
and the parrot seized the opportunity to add his
mite to the conversation. That boy Wyld! I want
"Hush, Polly! cried Miss Telfer, with as much
authority as she could assume. And now, John,"
she went on, I am going to tell you a secret."
Her tone was decidedly alarming, and the boy
Wyld fidgeted. about on the sofa. He was not used
to confidential tMte-a-tetes with ladies, and when they
got to telling him secrets, he might well be disquieted.
Miss Telfer's voice sank almost to a whisper, and
she turned her head away. It was I who fired that
What squib ? asked the boy Wyld, with genuine
"Oh, don't you remember? They said it was you,
but it was I. I threw it out of the window to frighten
"You! cried John, and seemed struggling with
a grin. "I remember now. Did you do it ? What
a joke The rude boy almost laughed outright.
"Yes, John. But I assure you I did not mean to
90 The Sorrows of a Lad and a Lady.
get you into trouble, and I have never passed a, day
without feeling bitterly the injustice done to you."
"It's no matter. I had forgotten all about it."
But I did not. I heard you had been punished,
and I have been longing for. an opportunity of con-
fessing the truth; but I could not do it, I was so
afraid of what people would think. Oh, John, John,
what wicked hearts we have "
The boy Wyld, without quite understanding it, saw
that Miss Telfer was deeply moved, and tried to
comfort her in his rough way.
What's the good of talking about it, Miss Telfer ?
It can't be helped now. I didn't mind much."
"Noble boy!" exclaimed the lady. "But not
another moment shall you rest under this imputa-
tion. Every one shall know how badly I have
behaved to you."
The boy began to get an insight into her trouble
Look here, Miss Telfer," he said, you don't want
people to know who did it. You needn't tell them."
"But think of your character! Oh I can't be so
The boy Wyld smiled when he thought of his
"I don't care a button. Don't you say a word
about it, Miss Telfer, and I'll never tell."
"Oh, Johnny! I have never done anything to
deserve such kindness from you "