SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A PRIVATE PUPIL
FRANK E. SMEDLEY
"How now! good lack! what present have we here? A Book that goes in peril of the press; But now it's past those pikes, and doth appear To keep the lookers-on from heaviness. What stuff contains it?"
Davies of Hereford
WITH TWENTY-EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK
A NEW EDITION
METHUEN & CO. LONDON
THIS Issue is founded on the First Edition, published by A. Hall, Virtue, & Co., in the year 1850.
I. All Right! Off We Go! 1
II. Loss and Gain 12
III. Cold-water Cure for the Heartache 21
IV. Wherein is Commenced the Adventure of the Macintosh and Other Matters 28
V. Mad Bess 39
VI. Lawless Gets Thoroughly Pot Oot 46
VII. The Board of Green Cloth 59
VIII. Good Resolutions 71
IX. A Denouement 81
X. The Boating Party 93
XI. Breakers Ahead! 100
XII. Death and Change 106
XIII. Catching a Shrimp 114
XIV. The Ball 122
XV. Ringing the Curfew 129
XVI. The Roman Father 136
XVII. The Invisible Girl 145
XVIII. The Game in Barstone Park 150
XIX. Turning the Tables 155
XX. Alma Mater 160
XXI. The Wine Party 163
XXII. Taming a Shrew 173
XXIII. What Harry and I Found When We Lost Our Way 182
XXIV. How Oaklands Broke His Horsewhip 190
XXV. The Challenge 198
XXVI. Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before 205
XXVII. The Duel 212
XXVIII. The Substance of the Shadow 220
XXIX. The Struggle in Chesterton Meadow 229
XXX. Mr. Frampton's Introduction to a Tiger 234
XXXI. How I Rise a Degree, and Mr. Frampton Gets Elevated in More Ways Than One 242
XXXII. Catching Sight of an Old Flame 250
XXXIII. Woman's a Riddle 257
XXXIV. The Riddle Baffles Me! 264
XXXV. A Mysterious Letter 272
XXXVI. The Riddle Solved 280
XXXVII. The Forlorn Hope 288
XXXVIII. Facing the Enemy 296
XXXIX. The Council of War 304
XL. Lawless's Matinee Musicale 313
XLI. How Lawless Became a Lady's Man 322
XLII. The Meet at Eversley Gorse 331
XLIII. A Charade—Not All Acting 340
XLIV. Confessions 350
XLV. Helping a Lame Dog Over a Stile 360
XLVI. Tears and Smiles 369
XLVII. A Cure for the Heartache 378
XLVHI. Paying Off Old Scores 389
XLIX. Mr. Frampton Makes a Discovery 399
L. A Ray of Sunshine 408
LI. Freddy Coleman Falls into Difficulties 417
LII. Lawless Astonishes Mr. Coleman 425
LIII. A Comedy of Errors 432
LIV. Mr. Vernor Meets His Match 440
LV. The Pursuit 447
LVI. Retribution 454
LVII. Woo'd and Married 463
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Frank Fairlegh Caught in the Trap 27
Lawless Ornamenting Frank's Writing-desk 29
Mad Bess 44
Lawless Finds his Level 56
The Doctor Makes a Discovery 79
The Doctor Expels a Pupil 90
Frank Rescues Coleman 104
The Fall op the Candelabrum 124
Freddy Coleman mystifies the Beadle 133
Lawless Eloping with the Fire-engine 135
The Wine Party 167
The Roused Lion 190
The Results ok giving Satisfaction 216
Fairlegh to the Rescue 231
Hurra! Hurra! Room for the Governor 246
The Shy Young Gentleman Favours the Company with a Song 249
A Mysterious Bonnet 253
An Unexpected Reverse 266
The Discovery 281
The Lover's Leap 338
A Charade—Not all Acting 345
A New Cure for the Heartache 382
A Striking Position 398
The Reconciliation 418
Mammon Worship 430
A Messenger of Evil 447
The Retribution 457
The Rescue 459
SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A PRIVATE PUPIL
CHAPTER I — ALL RIGHT! OFF WE GO!
"Yet here... you are stayed for ... There; my blessing with you, And these few precepts in thy memory See thou character——-"
"Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits. I rather would entreat thy company To see the wonders of the world abroad, Than living dully, sluggardis'd at home, Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness."
"Where unbruised youth, with unstuff'd brain, Doth couch his limbs, there golden sleep doth reign." Shakspeare
"NEVER forget, under any circumstances, to think and act like a gentleman, and don't exceed your allowance," said my father.
"Mind you read your Bible, and remember what I told you about wearing flannel waistcoats," cried my mother.
And with their united "God bless you, my boy!" still ringing in my ears, I found myself inside the stage-coach, on my way to London.
Now, I am well aware that the correct thing for a boy in my situation (i.e. leaving home for the first time) would be to fall back on his seat, and into a reverie, during which, utterly lost to all external impressions, he should entertain the thoughts and feelings of a well-informed man of thirty; the same thoughts and feelings being clothed in ~2~~the semi-poetic prose of a fashionable novel-writer. Deeply grieved, therefore, am I at being forced both to set at nought so laudable an established precedent, and to expose my own degeneracy. But the truth must be told at all hazards. The only feeling I experienced, beyond a vague sense of loneliness and desolation, was one of great personal discomfort. It rained hard, so that a small stream of water, which descended from the roof of the coach as I entered it, had insinuated itself between one of the flannel waistcoats, which formed so important an item in the maternal valediction, and my skin, whence, endeavouring to carry out what a logician would call the "law of its being," by finding its own level, it placed me in the undesirable position of an involuntary disciple of the cold-water cure taking a "sitz-bad". As to my thoughts, the reader shall have the full benefit of them, in the exact order in which they flitted through my brain.
First came a vague desire to render my position more comfortable, ending in a forlorn hope that intense and continued sitting might, by some undefined process of evaporation, cure the evil. This suggested a speculation, half pleasing and half painful, as to what would be my mother's feelings could she be aware of the state of things; the pleasure being the result of that mysterious preternatural delight which a boy always takes in everything at all likely to injure his health, or endanger his existence, and the pain arising from the knowledge that there was now no one near me to care whether I was comfortable or not. Again, these speculations merged into a sort of dreamy wonder, as to why a queer little old gentleman opposite (my sole fellow-traveller) was grunting like a pig, at intervals of about a minute, though he was wide awake the whole time; and whether a small tuft of hair, on a mole at the tip of his nose, could have anything to do with it. At this point my meditations were interrupted by the old gentleman himself, who, after a louder grunt than usual, gave vent to his feelings in the following speech, which was partly addressed to me and partly a soliloquy.
"Umph! going to school, my boy, eh?" then, in a lower tone, "Wonder why I called him my boy, when he's no such thing: just like me, umph!"
I replied by informing him that I was not exactly going to school—(I was nearly fifteen, and the word "school" sounded derogatory to my dignity)—but that, having been up to the present time educated at home by my father, I was now on my way to complete my studies under the care of a private tutor, who only received six pupils, a very different thing from a school, as I took the liberty of insinuating.
"Umph! different thing? You will cost more, learn less, and fancy yourself a man when you are a boy; that's the only difference I can see:" then came the aside—"Snubbing the poor child, when he's a peg too low already, just like me; umph!"
After which he relapsed into a silence which continued uninterrupted until we reached London, save once, while we were changing horses, when he produced a flask with a silver top, and, taking a sip himself, asked me if I drank brandy. On my shaking my head, with a smile caused by what appeared to me the utter wildness and desperation of the notion, he muttered:—
"Umph! of course he doesn't; how should he?—just like me".
In due course of time we reached the Old Bell Inn, Holborn, where the coach stopped, and where my trunk and myself were to be handed over to the tender mercies of the coachman of the Rocket, a fast coach (I speak of the slow old days when railroads were unknown) which then ran to Helmstone, the watering-place where my future tutor, the Rev. Dr. Mildman, resided. My first impressions of London are scarcely worth recording, for the simple reason that they consisted solely of intense and unmitigated surprise at everything and everybody I saw and heard; which may be more readily believed when I add the fact that my preconceived notions of the metropolis had led me to imagine it perhaps might be twice the size of the town nearest to my father's house; in short, almost as large as Grosvenor Square.
Here, then, I parted company with my fellow-traveller, who took leave of me thus:—
"Umph! well, good-bye; be a good boy—good man, you'd like me to say, I suppose; man, indeed! umph! don't forget what your parents told you"; then adding, "Of course he will, what's the use of telling him not? just like me";—he dived into the recesses of a hackney-coach, and disappeared.
Nothing worthy of note occurred during my journey to Helmstone, where we arrived at about half-past four in the afternoon. My feelings of surprise and admiration were destined once more to be excited on this (to me) memorable day, as, in my way from the coach-office to Langdale Terrace, where Dr. Mildman resided, I beheld, for the first time, that most stupendous work of God, the mighty Ocean; which, alike in its wild resistless freedom, and its ~4~~miraculous obedience to the command, "Thus far shalt thou come, and no further," bears at once the plainest print of its Almighty Creator's hand, while it affords a strong and convincing proof of His omnipotence.
On knocking at the door of Dr. Mildman's house (if the truth must be told, it was with a trembling hand I did so) it was opened by a man-servant, whose singularly plain features were characterised by an expression alternating between extreme civility and an intense appreciation of the ludicrous.
On mentioning my name, and asking if Dr. Mildman was at home, he replied:—
"Yes, sir, master's in, sir; so you're Mr. Fairlegh, sir, our new young gent, sir?" (here the ludicrous expression predominated); "hope you'll be comfortable, sir" (here he nearly burst into a laugh); "show you into master's study, sir, directly" (here he became preternaturally grave again); and, opening the study door, ushered me into the presence of the dreaded tutor.
On my entrance Dr. Mildman (for such I presumed a middle-aged gentleman, the sole tenant of the apartment, to be) rose from a library table, at which he had been seated, and, shaking me kindly by the hand, inquired after the health of my father and mother, what sort of journey I had had, and sundry other particulars of the like nature, evidently with the good-humoured design of putting me a little more at my ease, as I have no doubt the trepidation I was well aware of feeling inwardly, at finding myself tete-a-tete with a real live tutor, was written in very legible characters on my countenance. Dr. Mildman, whose appearance I studied with an anxious eye, was a gentlemanly-looking man of five-and-forty, or thereabouts, with a high bald forehead, and good features, the prevailing expression of which, naturally mild and benevolent, was at times chequered by that look which all schoolmasters sooner or later acquire-a look which seems to say, "Now, sir, do you intend to mind me or do you not?" Had it not been for this, and for an appearance of irresolution about the mouth, he would have been a decidedly fine-looking man. While I was making these observations he informed me that I had arrived just in time for dinner, and that the servant should show me to my sleeping apartment, whence, when I had sacrificed to the Graces (as he was pleased to call dressing), I was to descend to the drawing-room, and be introduced to Mrs. Mildman and my future companions.
My sleeping-room, which was rather a small garret than otherwise, was furnished, as it appeared to me, with more ~5~~regard to economy than to the comfort of its inmate. At one end stood a small four-post bedstead, which, owing to some mysterious cause, chose to hold its near fore-leg up in the air, and slightly advanced, thereby impressing the beholder with the idea that it was about to trot into the middle of the room. On an unpainted deal table stood a looking-glass, which, from a habit it had of altering and embellishing the face of any one who consulted it, must evidently have possessed a strong natural taste for the ludicrous: an ancient washing-stand, supporting a basin and towel, and a dissipated-looking chair completed the catalogue.
And here, while preparing for the alarming ordeal I was so soon to undergo, let me present to the reader a slight sketch of myself, mental and bodily; and, as mind ought to take precedence of matter, I will attempt, as far as I am able after the lapse of time, to paint my character in true colours, "nought extenuating, nor setting down aught in malice". I was, then, as the phrase goes, "a very well-behaved young gentleman"; that is, I had a great respect for all properly constituted authorities, and an extreme regard for the proprieties of life; was very particular about my shoes being clean, and my hat nicely brushed; always said "Thank you" when a servant handed me a plate, and "May I trouble you?" when I asked for a bit of bread. In short, I bade fair in time to become a thorough old bachelor; one of those unhappy mortals whose lives are alike a burthen to themselves and others-men who, by magnifying the minor household miseries into events of importance, are uneasy and suspicious about the things from the wash having been properly aired, and become low and anxious as the dreadful time approaches when clean sheets are inevitable! My ideas of a private tutor, derived chiefly from Sandford and Merton, and Evenings at Home, were rather wide of the mark, leading me to expect that Dr. Mildman would impart instruction to us during long rambles over green fields, and in the form of moral allegories, to which we should listen with respectful attention and affectionate esteem. With regard to my outward man, or rather boy, I should have been obliged to confine myself to such particulars as I could remember, namely, that I was tall for my age, but slightly built, and so thin, as often to provoke the application of such epithets as "hop-pole," "thread-paper," etc., had it not been that, in turning over some papers a few days since, I stumbled on a water-colour sketch of myself, which I well remember being taken by a young artist in the neighbourhood, just ~6~~before I left home, in the hope of consoling my mother for my departure. It represented a lad about fifteen, in a picturesque attitude, feeding a pony out of a very elegant little basket, with what appeared to be white currants, though I have every reason to believe they were meant for oats. The aforesaid youth rejoiced in an open shirt-collar and black ribbon a la Byron, curling hair of a dark chestnut colour, regular features, a high forehead, complexion like a girl's, very pink and white, and a pair of large blue eyes, engaged in regarding the white currant oats with intense surprise, as well indeed they might. Whether this young gentleman bore more resemblance to me than the currants did to oats, I am, of course, unable to judge; but, as the portrait represented a very handsome boy, I hope none of my readers will be rude enough to doubt that it was a striking likeness.
I now proceeded to render myself thoroughly wretched, by attempting to extricate the articles necessary for a change of dress from the very bottom of my trunk, where, according to the nature of such things, they had hidden themselves; grammars, lexicons, and other like "Amenities of Literature," being the things that came to hand most readily. Scarcely had I contrived to discover a wearable suit when I was informed that dinner was on the table; so, hastily tumbling into my clothes, and giving a final peep at the facetious looking-glass, the result of which was to twist the bow of my Byron tie under my left ear, in the belief that I was thereby putting it straight, I rushed downstairs, just in time to see the back of the hindmost pupil disappear through the dining-room door.
"Better late than never, Fairlegh. Mrs. Mildman, this is Fairlegh; he can sit by you, Coleman;-'For what we are going to receive,' etc.;—Thomas, the carving-knife."
Such was the address with which my tutor greeted my entrance, and, during its progress, I popped into a seat indicated by a sort of half wink from Thomas, resisting by a powerful act of self-control a sudden impulse which seized me to bolt out of the room, and do something rash but indefinite, between going to sea and taking prussic acid; not quite either, but partaking of the nature of both. "Take soup, Fairlegh?" said Dr. Mildman. "Thank you, sir, if you please."
"A pleasant journey, had you?" inquired Mrs. Mildman.
"Not any, I am much obliged to you," I replied, thinking of the fish.
This produced a total silence, during which the pupils ~7~~exchanged glances, and Thomas concealed an illicit smile behind the bread-basket.
"Does your father," began Dr. Mildman in a very grave and deliberate manner, "does your father shoot?—boiled mutton, my dear?"
I replied that he had given it up of late years, as the fatigue was too much for him.
"Oh! I was very fond of carrying a gun-pepper-when I was-a spoon-at Oxford; I could hit a-mashed potato-bird as well as most men; yes, I was very sorry to give up my double-barrel-ale, Thomas."
"You came inside, I believe?" questioned Mrs. Mildman, a lady possessing a shadowy outline, indistinct features faintly characterised by an indefinite expression, long ringlets of an almost impossible shade of whity-brown, and a complexion and general appearance only to be described by the term "washed out".
"Yes, all the way, ma'am."
"Did you not dislike it very much? it creases one's gown so, unless it is a merino or mousseline-de-laine; but one can't always wear them, you know."
Not being in the least prepared with a suitable answer, I merely made what I intended to be an affirmative ahem, in doing which a crumb of bread chose to go the wrong way, producing a violent fit of coughing, in the agonies of which I seized and drank off Dr. Mildman's tumbler of ale, mistaking it for my own small beer. The effect of this, my crowning gaucherie, was to call forth a languid smile on the countenance of the senior pupil, a tall young man, with dark hair, and a rather forbidding expression of face, which struggled only too successfully with an attempt to look exceedingly amiable; which smile was repeated with variations by all the others.
"I'm afraid you do not distinctly perceive the difference between those important pronouns, meum and tuum, Fairlegh? Thomas, a clean glass!" said Dr. Mildman, with a forced attempt at drollery; but Thomas had evaporated suddenly, leaving no clue to his whereabouts, unless sundry faint sounds of suppressed laughter outside the door, indicating, as I fancied, his extreme appreciation of my unfortunate mistake, proceeded from him.
It is, I believe, a generally received axiom that all mortal affairs must sooner or later come to an end; at all events, the dinner I have been describing did not form an exception to the rule. In due time Mrs. Mildman disappeared, after which Dr. Mildman addressed a remark or two about Greek tragedy to the tall pupil, which led to a ~8~~dissertation on the merits of a gentleman named Prometheus, who, it seemed, was bound in some peculiar way, but whether this referred to his apprenticeship to any trade, or to the cover of the book containing his history, did not appear. This conversation lasted about ten minutes, at the expiration of which the senior pupil "grinned horribly a ghastly smile" at the others, who instantly rose, and conveyed themselves out of the room with such rapidity that I, being quite unprepared for such a proceeding, sat for a moment in silent amazement, and then, becoming suddenly alive to a sense of my situation, rushed frantically after them. My speed was checked somewhat abruptly by a door at the end of the passage being violently slammed in my face, for which polite attention I was indebted to the philanthropy of the hindmost pupil, who thereby imposed upon me the agreeable task of feeling in the dark for a door-handle in an unknown locality. After fumbling for some time, in a state of the greatest bewilderment I at length opened the door, and beheld the interior of the "pupils' room," which, for the benefit of such of my readers as may never have seen the like, I will now endeavour shortly to describe.
The parlour devoted to the pupils' use was of a good size, nearly square, and, like the cabin of a certain "ould Irish gentleman," appeared to be fitted up with "nothing at all for show". In three of the corners stood small tables covered with books and writing materials for the use of Dr. Mildman and the two senior pupils; in the fourth was a book-case. The centre of the room was occupied by a large square table, the common property of the other pupils; while a carpet, "a little the worse for wear," and sundry veteran chairs, rather crazy from the treatment to which many generations of pupils had subjected them (a chair being the favourite projectile in the event of a shindy), completed the catalogue. Mr. Richard Cumberland, the senior pupil, was lounging in an easy attitude on one side of the fireplace; on the other stood, bolt upright, a lad rather older than myself, with a long unmeaning face, and a set of arms and legs which appeared not to belong to one another. This worthy, as I soon learned, responded to the name of Nathaniel Mullins, and usually served as the butt of the party in the absence of newer or worthier game. Exactly in front of the fire, with his coat-tails under his arms, and his legs extended like a pair of compasses, was stationed Mr. George Lawless, who, having been expelled from one of the upper forms at Eton for some heroic exploit which the head master could not be persuaded to ~9~~view in its proper light, was sent to vegetate for a year or two at Dr. Mildman's ere he proceeded to one of the universities. This gentleman was of rather a short thick-set figure, with a large head, and an expression of countenance resembling that of a bull when the animal "means mischief," and was supposed by his friends to be more "thoroughly wide awake" than any one of his years in the three kingdoms. The quartette was completed by Mr. Frederick Coleman, a small lad, with a round merry face, who was perched on the back of a chair, with his feet resting on the hob, and his person so disposed as effectually to screen every ray of fire from Nathaniel Mullins.
"You are not cold, Fairlegh? Don't let me keep the fire from you," said Lawless, without, however, showing the slightest intention of moving. "Not very, thank you."
"Eh! quite right—glad to hear it. It's Mildman's wish that, during the first half, no pupil should come on the hearthrug. I made a point of conscience of it myself when I first came. The Spartans, you know, never allowed their little boys to do so, and even the Athenians, a much more luxurious people, always had their pinafores made of asbestos, or some such fireproof stuff. You are well read in Walker's History of Greece, I hope?" I replied that I was afraid I was not. "Never read Hookeyus Magnus? Your father ought to be ashamed of himself for neglecting you so. You are aware, I suppose, that the Greeks had a different sort of fire from what we burn nowadays? You've heard of Greek fire?"
I answered that I had, but did not exactly understand what it meant.
"Not know that, either? disgraceful! Well, it was a kind of way they had of flaring up in those times a sort of 'light of other days,' which enabled them to give their friends a warm reception; so much so, indeed, that their friends found it too warm sometimes, and latterly they usually reserved it for their enemies. Mind you remember all this, for it is one of the first things old Sam will be sure to ask you."
Did my ears deceive me? Could he have called the tutor, the dreaded tutor, "old Sam"? I trembled as I stood—plain, unhonoured "Sam," as though he had spoken of a footman! The room turned round with me. Alas for Sandford and Merton, and affectionate and respectful esteem!
"But how's this?" continued Lawless, "we have ~10~~forgotten to introduce you in form to your companions, and to enter your name in the books of the establishment; why, Cumberland, what were you thinking of?"
"Beg pardon," rejoined Cumberland, "I really was so buried in thought, trying to solve that problem about bisecting the Siamese twins—you know it, Lawless? However, it is not too late, is it? Allow me to introduce you, Mr. Fairplay———"
"Legh, sir," interrupted I.
"Ah, exactly; well, then, Mr. Fairlegh, let me introduce this gentleman, Mr. George Lawless, who has, if I mistake not, been already trying, with his usual benevolence, to supply a few of your deficiencies; he is, if he will allow me to say so, one of the most rising young men of his generation, one of the firmest props of the glorious edifice of our rights and privileges."
"A regular brick," interposed Coleman. "Hold your tongue, Freddy: little boys should be seen and not heard, as Tacitus tells us," said Lawless, reprovingly.
The only reply to this, if reply it could be called, was something which sounded to me like a muttered reference to the Greek historian Walker, whom Lawless had so lately mentioned; and Cumberland continued:—
"You will pay great attention to everything Lawless tells you, and endeavour to improve by following his example, at a respectful distance—ahem! The gentleman on your right hand, Mr. Mullins, who is chiefly remarkable for looking ['like a fool,' put in Coleman, sotto voce], before he leaps, so long, that in general he postpones leaping altogether, and is in the habit of making ['an ass of himself,' suggested Coleman]—really, Freddy, I am surprised at you—of making two bites at a cherry—you will be better able to appreciate when you know more of him. As to my young friend Freddy here, his naturally good abilities and amiable temper ['Draw it mild, old fellow!' interrupted the young gentleman in question] have interested us so much in his favour that we cannot but view with regret a habit he has of late fallen into, of turning everything into ridicule ['What a pity!' from the same individual], together with a lamentable addiction to the use of slang terms. Let me hope his association with such a polished young gentleman as Mr. Fairlegh may improve him in these particulars."
"Who drank Mildman's ale at dinner?" asked Coleman; "if that's a specimen of his polished manners, I think mine take the shine out of them, rather." ~11~~"I assure you," interrupted I, eagerly, "I never was more distressed in my life; it was quite a mistake."
"Pretty good mistake—Hodgson's pale ale for Muddytub's swipes—eh, Mull?" rejoined Coleman.
"I believe you," replied Mullins.
"Well, now for entering your name; that's important, you know," said Lawless; "you had better ring the bell, and tell Thomas to bring the books."
I obeyed, and when Thomas made his appearance informed him of my desire to enter my name in the books of the establishment, which I begged he would bring for that purpose. A look of bewilderment that came over his face on hearing my request changed to an expression of intelligence, as, after receiving some masonic sign from Lawless, he replied:—
"The books, sir; yes, sir; bring 'em directly, sir ".
After a few minutes he returned with two small, not overclean, books, ruled with blue lines. One of these Lawless took from him, opened with much ceremony, and, covering the upper part of the page with a bit of blotting paper, pointed to a line, and desired me to write my name and age, as well as the date of my arrival, upon it. The .same ceremony was repeated with the second.
"That's all right: now let's see how it reads," said he, and, removing the blotting paper, read as follows: "'Pair of Wellingtons, L1 15s.; satin stock, 25s.; cap ribbon for Sally Duster, 2s. 6d.; box of cigars, L1 16s. (mem. shocking bad lot)—5th Nov., Francis Fairlegh, aged 15'.—So much for that; now, let's see the next: 'Five shirts, four pair of stockings, six pocket-handkerchiefs, two pair of white ducks—5th Nov., Francis Fairlegh, aged 15'."
Here his voice was drowned in a roar of laughter from the whole party assembled, Thomas included, during which the true state of the case dawned upon me, viz.—that I had, with much pomp and ceremony, entered my name, age, and the date of my arrival in Mr. George Lawless's private account and washing books!
My thoughts, as I laid my aching head upon my pillow that night, were not of the most enviable nature. Leaving for the first time the home where I had lived from childhood, and in which I had met with affection and kindness from all around me, had been a trial under which my fortitude would most assuredly have given way, but for the brilliant picture my imagination had very obligingly sketched of the happy family of which I was about to become a member; in the foreground of which stood a group of fellow-pupils, a united brotherhood of congenial ~12~~souls,, containing three bosom friends at the very least, anxiously awaiting my arrival with outstretched arms of welcome. Now, however, this last hope had failed me; for, innocent (or, as Coleman would have termed it, green) as I then was, I could not but perceive that the tone of mock politeness assumed towards me by Cumberland and Lawless was merely a convenient cloak for impertinence, which could be thrown aside at any moment when a more open display of their powers of tormenting should seem advisable. In fact (though I was little aware of the pleasures in store for me), I had already seen enough to prove that the life of a private pupil was not exactly "all my fancy painted it"; and, as the misery of leaving those I loved proved in its "sad reality" a much more serious affair than I had imagined, the result of my cogitations was, that I was a very unhappy boy (I did not feel the smallest inclination to boast myself man at that moment), and that, if something very much to my advantage did not turn up in the course of the next twenty-four hours, my friends would have the melancholy satisfaction of depositing a broken heart (which, on the principle of the Kilkenny cats, was all I expected would remain of me by that time) in an early grave. Hereabouts my feelings becoming too many for me at the thought of my own funeral, I fairly gave up the struggle, and, bursting into a flood of tears, cried myself to sleep, like a child.
CHAPTER II — LOSS AND GAIN
"And youthful still, in your doublet and hose, this raw rheumatic day?"
"His thefts were too open; his filching was like an unskilful singer, he kept not time.... Convey, the wise it call. 'Steal!' foh! a fico for the phrase!"— Shakspeare.
"From Greenland's icy mountains."—Heber.
AMONGST the minor phenomena which are hourly occurring in the details of everyday life, although we are seldom sufficiently close observers to perceive them, there is none more remarkable than the change wrought in our feelings and ideas by a good night's rest; and never was this change more strikingly exemplified than on the present occasion. I had fallen asleep in the act of performing the character of chief-mourner at my own funeral, and I awoke ~13~~in the highest possible health and spirits, with a strong determination never to "say die" under any conceivable aspect affairs might assume. "What in the world," said I to myself, as I sprang out of bed, and began to dress,—"What in the world was there for me to make myself so miserable about last night? Suppose Cumberland and Lawless should laugh at, and tease me a little at first, what does it signify? I must take it in good part as long as I can, and if that does not do I must speak seriously to them—tell them they really annoy me and make me uncomfortable, and then, of course, they will leave off. As to Coleman, I am certain———Well, it's very odd!"—this last remark was elicited by the fact that a search I had been making for some minutes, in every place possible and impossible, for that indispensable article of male attire, my trousers, had proved wholly ineffectual, although I had a distinct recollection of having placed them carefully on a chair by my bedside the previous night. There, however, they certainly were not now, nor, as far as I could discover, anywhere else in the room. Under these circumstances, ringing the bell for Thomas seemed advisable, as it occurred to me that he had probably abstracted the missing garment for the purpose of brushing. In a few moments he answered the summons, and, with a face bright from the combined effects of a light heart and a severe application of yellow soap, inquired, "if I had rung for my shaving water?"
"Why, no—-I do not—that is, it was not—I seldom shave of a morning; for the fact is, I have no beard to shave as yet."
"Oh, sir, that's no reason; there's Mr. Coleman's not got the leastest westige of a hair upon his chin, and he's been mowing away with the greatest of persewerance for the last six months, and sends his rashier to be ground every three weeks, regilar, in order to get a beard—but what can I do for you, sir?"
"Why," replied I, trying to look grave, "it's very odd, but I have lost—that is, I can't find—my trousers anywhere. I put them on this chair last night, I know."
"Umph! that's sing'lar, too; I was just a coming upstairs to brush 'em for you; you did not hear anybody come into your room after you went to bed, did you, sir?"
"No; but then I was so tired—I slept as sound as a top."
"Ah! I shouldn't much wonder if Mr. Coleman knew something about 'em: perhaps you had better put on another pair, and, if I can find 'em, I'll bring 'em back after breakfast."
This was very good advice, and, therefore, of course, ~14~~impossible to follow; for, on examining my trunk, lo and behold! dress pantaloons, white ducks, et hoc genus omne, had totally disappeared, and I seemed to stand a very good chance of making my first appearance at my tutor's breakfast-table in an extemporary "kilt," improvised for the occasion out of two towels and a checked neckcloth. In this extremity Thomas, as a last resource, knocked at Coleman's door, informing him that I should be glad to speak to him—a proceeding speedily followed by the appearance of that gentleman in propria persona.
"Good-morning, Fairlegh! hope you slept well. You are looking cold; had not you better get some clothes on? Mildman will be down in a minute, and there will be a pretty row if we are not all there; he's precious particular, I can tell you."
"That is exactly what I want to do," replied I; "but the fact is, somebody has taken away all my trousers in the night."
"Bless me! you don't say so? Another case of pilfering! this is getting serious: I will call Lawless—I say, Lawless!" "Well, what's the row?" was the reply. "Have the French landed? or is the kitchen chimney on fire? eh! What do I behold! Fairlegh, lightly and elegantly attired in nothing but his shirt, and Thomas standing like Niobe, the picture of woe! Here's a sight for a father!"
"Why, it's a bad job," said Coleman; "do you know, here's another case of pilfering; Fairlegh has had all his trousers stolen in the night."
"You don't say so!" rejoined Lawless: "what is to be done? It must be stopped somehow: we had better tell him all we know about it. Thomas, leave the room."
Thomas obeyed, giving me a look of great intelligence, the meaning of which, however, I was totally at a loss to conceive, as he went; and Lawless continued:—
"I am afraid you will hardly believe us,—it is really a most unheard-of thing,—but we have lately missed a great many of our clothes, and we have every reason to suspect (I declare I can scarcely bear to mention it) that Mildman takes them himself, fancying, of course, that, placed by his position so entirely above suspicion, he may do it with impunity. We have suspected this for some time; and lately one or two circumstances—old clothesmen having been observed leaving his study, a pawn-ticket falling out of his waistcoat pocket one day as he went out of our parlour, etc.—have put the matter beyond a doubt; but he has never gone to such an extent as this before. Mind you don't mention a word of this to Thomas, for, bad as ~15~~Mildman is, one would not wish to show him up before his own servant."
"Good gracious!" cried I, "but you are joking, it never can be really true!" Reading, however, in the solemn, not to say distressed, expression of their faces indisputable evidence of the reality of the accusation, I continued: "I had no idea such things ever could take place, and he a clergyman, too!—dreadful! but what in the world am I to do? I have not got a pair of trousers to put on. Oh! if he would but have taken anything else, even my watch instead, I should not have minded—what shall I do?"
"Why really," replied Coleman, "it is not so easy to advise: you can't go down as you are, that's certain. Suppose you were to wrap yourself up in a blanket, and go and tell him you have found him out, and that you will call a policeman if he does not give you your clothes instantly; have it out with him fairly, and check the thing effectually once for all—eh?"
"No, that won't do," said Lawless. "I should say, sit down quietly (how cold you must be!) and write him a civil note, saying, that you had reason to believe he had borrowed your trousers (that's the way I should put it), and that you would be very much gratified by his lending you a pair to wear to-day; and then you can stick in something about your having been always accustomed to live with people who were very particular in regard to dress, and that you are sorry you are obliged to trouble him for such a trifle; in fact, do a bit of the respectful, and then pull up short with 'obedient pupil,' etc."
"Ay, that's the way to do it," said Coleman, "in the shop-fellow's style, you know—much obliged for past favours, and hope for a continuance of the same—more than you do, though, Fairlegh, I should fancy; but there goes the bell—I am off," and away he scudded, followed by Lawless humming:—
"Brian O'Lynn had no breeches to wear, So he took an old catskin, and made him a pair."
Here was a pretty state of things: the breakfast bell had rung, and I, who considered being too late a crime of the first magnitude, was unable even to begin dressing from the melancholy fact that every pair of trousers I possessed in the world had disappeared; while, to complete my misery, I was led to believe the delinquent who had abstracted them was no less a person than the tutor, whom I had come fully prepared to regard with feelings of the utmost respect and veneration.
~16~~However, in such a situation, thinking over my miseries was worse than useless; something must be done at once—but what? Write the note as Lawless had advised? No, it was useless to think of that; I felt I could not do it. "Ah! a bright idea!—I'll try it." So, suiting the action to the word, I rang the bell, and then jumping into bed muffled myself up in the bedclothes.
"Well, sir, have you found them?" asked Thomas, entering.
"No, Thomas," replied I dolefully, "nor ever shall, I fear; but will you go to 'Dr. Mildman, and tell him, with my respects, that I cannot get up to breakfast this morning, and, if he asks what is the matter with me, say that I am prevented from coming down by severe cold. I am sure that is true enough," added I, shivering.
"Well, sir, I will, if you wish it; but I don't exactly see the good of it; you must get up some time or other."
"I don't know," replied I gloomily, "we shall see; only do you take my message."
And he accordingly left the room, muttering as he did so, "Well, I calls this a great deal too bad, and I'll tell master of it myself, if nobody else won't".
"Tell master of it himself!"—he also suspected him then. This crushed my last faint hope that, after all, it might turn out to be only a trick of the pupils; and, overpowered by the utter vileness and depravity of him who was set in authority over me, I buried my face in the pillow, feeling a strong inclination to renew the lamentations of the preceding night. Not many minutes had elapsed when the sound of a heavy footstep slowly ascending the stairs attracted my attention. I raised my head, and beheld the benevolent countenance (for even then it certainly did wear a benevolent expression) of my wicked tutor, regarding me with a mingled look of scrutiny and pity.
"Why, Fairlegh, what's all this?—Thomas tells me you are not able to come down to breakfast; you are not ill, I hope?"
"No, sir," replied I, "I don't think I am very ill, but I can't come down to breakfast."
"Not ill, and yet you can't come down to breakfast! pray, what in the world prevents you?"
"Perhaps," said I (for I was becoming angry at what I considered his unparalleled effrontery, and thought I would give him a hint that he could not deceive me so easily as he seemed to expect), "perhaps you can tell that better than I can."
~17~~"I, my boy!—I'm afraid not; my pretensions to the title of doctor are based on divinity, not physic:—however, put out your tongue—that's right enough; let me feel your hand—a little cold or so, but nothing to signify; did this kind of seizure ever happen to you at home?"
Well, this was adding insult to injury with a vengeance; not content with stealing my clothes himself, but actually asking me whether such things did not happen at home! The wretch! thought I; does he suppose that everybody is as wicked as himself?
"No," I answered, my voice trembling with the anger I was scarcely able to repress; "no, sir, such a thing never could happen in my dear father's house."
"There, don't agitate yourself; you seem excited: perhaps you had better lie in bed a little longer; I will send you up something warm, and after that you may feel more inclined to get up," said he kindly, adding to himself, as he left the room, "Very strange boy—I can't make him out at all".
The door closed, and I was once more alone. "Is he guilty or not guilty?" thought I; "if he really has taken the clothes, he is the most accomplished hypocrite I ever heard of; yet he must have done so, everything combines to prove it—Thomas's speech—nay, even his own offer of sending me 'something warm'; something warm, indeed! what do I want with anything warm, except my trousers? No! the fact was beyond dispute; they were gone, and he had stolen them, whilst I, unhappy youth, was entirely in his power, and had not therefore a chance of redress. 'But I will not bear it,' cried I, 'I'll write to my father—I'll run away—I'll———'"
"Hurrah!" shouted Thomas, rushing into the room with his arm full of clothes, "here they are, sir; I have found the whole kit of them at last."
"Where?" exclaimed I eagerly.
"Where? why in such a queer place!" replied he, "stuffed up the chimbley in master's study; but I have given them a good brushing, and they are none the worse for it, except them blessed white ducks; they are almost black ducks now, though they will wash, so that don't signify none."
"Up the chimney, in master's study!" here was at last proof positive; my clothes had been actually found in his possession—oh, the wickedness of this world!
"But how did you ever find them?" asked I.
"Why! I happened to go in to fetch something, and I see'd a little bit of the leg of one of them hanging down ~18~~the chimbley, so I guessed how it all was, directly. I think I know how they got there, too; they did not walk there by themselves, I should say."
"I wish they had," muttered I.
"I thought somebody was up too early this morning to be about any good," continued he; "he is never out of bed till the last moment, without there's some mischief in the wind."
This was pretty plain speaking, however. Thomas was clearly as well aware of his master's nefarious practices as the pupils themselves, and Lawless's amiable desire to conceal Dr. Mildman's sins from his servant's knowledge was no longer of any avail. I hastened, therefore (the only reason for silence being thus removed), to relieve my mind from the burden of just indignation which was oppressing it.
"And can you, Thomas," exclaimed I, with flashing eyes, "remain the servant of a man who dares thus to outrage every law, human and divine? one who having taken upon himself the sacred office of a clergyman of the Church of England, and so made it his especial duty to set a good example to all around him, can take advantage of the situation in which he is placed in regard to his pupils, and actually demean himself by purloining the clothes of the young men" (I felt five-and-twenty at the very least at that moment) "committed to his charge?—why, my father———"
What I imagined my father would have said or done under these circumstances was fated to remain a mystery, as my eloquence was brought to a sudden conclusion by my consternation, when a series of remarkable phenomena, which had been developing themselves during my harangue in the countenance of Thomas, terminated abruptly in what appeared to me a fit of most unmitigated insanity. A look of extreme astonishment, which he had assumed at the beginning of my speech, had given place to an expression of mingled surprise and anger as I continued; which again in its turn had yielded to a grin of intense amusement, growing every moment broader and broader, accompanied by a spasmodic twitching of his whole person; and, as I mentioned his master's purloining my trousers, he suddenly sprang up from the floor nearly a yard high, and commenced an extempore pas seul of a Jim Crow character, which he continued with unabated vigour during several minutes. This "Mazurka d'ecstase," or whatever a ballet-master would have called it, having at length, to my great joy, concluded, the performer of it sank exhausted into a chair, and regarding me with a face still ~19~~somewhat the worse for his late violent exertions favoured me with the following geographical remark:—
"Well, I never did believe in the existence of sich a place as Greenland before, but there's nowhere else as you could have come from, sir, I am certain."
"Eh! why! what's the matter with you? have I done anything particularly 'green,' as you call it? what are you talking about?" said I, not feeling exactly pleased at the reception my virtuous indignation had met with.
"Oh! don't be angry, sir; I am sure I did not mean to offend you; but really I could not help it, when I heard you say about master's having stole your things. Oh lor!" he added, holding his sides with both hands, "how my precious sides do ache, sure-ly!"
"Do you consider that any laughing matter?" said I, still in the dark.
"Oh! don't, sir, don't say it again, or you will be the death of me," replied Thomas, struggling against a relapse; "why, bless your innocence, what could ever make you think master would take your clothes?"
"Make me think? why, Lawless told me so," answered I, "and he also said it was not the first time such a thing had occurred either."
"You'll have enough to do, sir, if you believe all our young gents tell you; why, master would as soon think of flying as of stealing anything. It was Mr. Coleman as put them up the chimbley; he's always a playing some trick or another for everlasting."
A pause ensued, during which the whole affair in its true bearings became for the first time clear to my mind's eye; the result of my cogitations may be gathered from the following remark, which escaped me as it were involuntarily—"What a confounded ass I have made of myself, to be sure!"
Should any of my readers be rude enough to agree with me in this particular, let them reflect for a moment on the peculiar position in which I was placed. Having lived from childhood in a quiet country parsonage, with my father and mother, and a sister younger than myself, as my sole companions, "mystification"—that is, telling deliberate falsehoods by way of a joke—was a perfectly novel idea to me; and, when that joke involved the possibility of such serious consequences as offending the tutor under whose care we were placed, I (wholly ignorant of the impudence and recklessness of public school boys) considered such a solution of the mystery inconceivable. Moreover, everything around me was so strange, and so entirely ~20~~different from the habits of life in which I had been hitherto brought up, that for the time my mind was completely bewildered. I appeared to have lost my powers of judgment, and to have relapsed, as far as intellect was concerned, into childhood again. My readers must excuse this digression, but it appeared to me necessary to explain how it was possible for a lad of fifteen to have been made the victim of such a palpably absurd deception without its involving the necessity of his not being "so sharp as he should be".
The promised "something warm" made its appearance ere long, in the shape of tea and toast, which, despite my alarming seizure, I demolished with great gusto in bed (for I did not dare to get up), feeling, from the fact of my having obtained it under false pretences, very like a culprit all the while. Having finished my breakfast, and allowed sufficient time to elapse for my recovery, I got up, and, selecting a pair of trousers which appeared to have suffered less from their sojourn in the chimney than the others, dressed myself, and soon after eleven o'clock made my appearance in the pupils' room, where I found Dr. Mildman seated at his desk, and the pupils apparently very hard at work.
"How do you find yourself now you are up, Fairlegh?" inquired my tutor kindly.
"Quite well, sir, thank you," I replied, feeling like an impostor.
"Quite recovered?" continued he.
"Everything—entirely, I mean," stammered I, thinking of my trousers.
"That's well, and now let us see what kind of Latin and Greek lining you have got to your head."
So saying, without appearing to notice the tittering of the pupils, he pointed to a seat by his side, and commenced what I considered a very formidable examination, with the view of eliciting the extent of my acquaintance with the writers of antiquity, which proved to be extremely select. When he had thoroughly satisfied (or dissatisfied) himself upon this point, he recommended Horace and Xenophon to my particular notice, adding, that Coleman was also directing his attention to the sayings and doings of the same honourable and learned gentlemen—and that, therefore, we were to work together. He then explained to me certain rules and regulations of his establishment, to which he added a few moral remarks, conveying the information, that, if I always did exactly what he considered right, and scrupulously avoided everything he deemed wrong, I might relieve my mind from all fears of ~21~~his displeasure, which was, to say the least, satisfactory, if not particularly original.
Exactly as the clock struck one Dr. Mildman left the room (the morning's "study," as it was called, ending at that hour), leaving us our own masters till five, at which time we dined. Lest any kind reader should fancy we were starved, let me add, that at half-past one a substantial luncheon was provided, of which we might partake or not as we pleased. As well as I remember we generally did graciously incline towards the demolition of the viands, unless "metal more attractive" awaited us elsewhere—but I am digressing.
CHAPTER III — COLD-WATER CURE FOR THE HEARTACHE
"Oh! grief for words too deep, From all his loved ones parted,
He could not choose but weep, He was so lonely-hearted." —Shortfellow.
"How does the water come down at Lodore?
Dashing and flashing, and splashing and clashing, All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar, And this way the water comes down at Lodore." —Southey.
"PRAY, Fairlegh, what did you mean by not coming down till eleven o'clock?" asked Cumberland in an angry tone.
"Did its mamma say it was always to have its breakfast in bed, a dear?" sneered Lawless.
"When she fastened that pretty square collar round its neck," chimed in Coleman.
"Just like a great gal," added Mullins.
"Mildman was exceedingly angry about it, I can tell you," continued Cumberland, "and desired me to speak seriously to you on the subject; such abominable idleness is not to be tolerated."
"It was not idleness," answered I, warmly; "you all know very well, why I could not come down, and I don't think it was at all right or kind of you to play me such a trick."
"Eh—now don't say that—you will hurt my feelings; I declare it is quite affecting," said Coleman, wiping his eyes with Mullins's handkerchief, of which he had just picked his pocket.
~22~~"I'd have given five pounds to have seen old Sam's phiz, when he was trying to make out what ailed young stupid here, whether he was really ill, or only shamming," said Lawless; "depend upon it, he thinks it was all pretence, and he can't bear anything of that sort; that was why he began spinning him that long yarn about 'meriting his approbation by upright and straightforward conduct,' this morning. I saw what the old boy was aiming at in a minute; there's nothing puts him out so much as being deceived."
"Won't he set him all the hard lines to construe? that's all," said Mullins.
"It will be 'hard lines' upon him if he does," observed Coleman.
"Hold your tongue, Freddy! your puns are enough to make one ill," said Cumberland.
"Well, I don't know whether you are going to stand here all day baiting your pinafore, Cumberland?" interrupted Lawless; "I'm not, for I've got a horse waiting for me down at Snaffles's, and I am going to ride over to Hookley; there's a pigeon-match coming off to-day between Clayton, of the Lancers—(he was just above me at Eton, you know)—and Tom Horton, who won the great match at Pinchley, and I have backed Clayton pretty heavily—shall you come?"
"No," replied Cumberland, "no, I am going down to F———Street."
"As usual, the board of green cloth, eh? you will go there once too often, if you don't mind, old fellow." "That's my look out," replied Cumberland. And away they went to their different pursuits, each, as he left the room, making me a very low obeisance; Coleman taking the trouble to open the door again after he had gone out, to beg, "that, if I were going to write to my mother, I would tell her, with his love, that she need not make herself in the least uneasy, as he had quite got over his last little attack". In a few minutes they had all quitted the house, and I remained the sole tenant of the pupils' room.
Many a long year has passed over my head since the day I am now describing, and each (though my life has been on the whole as free from care as that of most of the sons of Adam) has brought with it some portion of sorrow or suffering to temper the happiness I have enjoyed, and teach me the much-required lesson, that "here we have no abiding place". I have lived to see bright hopes fade—high and noble aspirations fall to the ground, checked 23~by the sordid policy of worldly men—and the proud hearts which gave them birth become gradually debased to the level of those around them, or break in the unequal struggle—and these things have pained me. I have beheld those dear to me stretched upon the bed of sickness, and taken from me by the icy hand of death; and have deemed, as the grave closed over them, that my happiness, as far as this world was concerned, was buried with them. I have known (and this was grief indeed) those loved with all the warm and trustful confidence of youth prove false and unworthy of such deep affection; and have wished, in the bitterness of my soul, that the pit had shut her mouth upon me also, so I had but died with my faith in them unshaken. Still, although such sorrows as these may have produced a more deep and lasting effect, I do not remember ever to have felt more thoroughly desolate than upon the present occasion. The last scene, though trifling in itself, had made a great impression upon me, from the fact that it proved, as I considered, the animus of the pupils towards me. "Every man's hand was against me." Even the oaf Mullins might insult me with impunity; secure that, in so doing, if in nothing else, he would be supported by the rest. Then I had offended my tutor, all my predilections in whose favour had returned with double force, since I had satisfied myself that he was not addicted to the commission of petty larceny; offended him by allowing him to suppose that I had practised a mean deception upon him. Moreover, it was impossible to explain my conduct to him without showing up Coleman, an extreme measure for which I was by no means prepared. Besides, every one would think, if I were to do so, that I was actuated by a paltry spirit of malice, and that would have been worse to bear than anything. No—turn my gaze to whichever side I. would, the horizon seemed alike clouded; there was no comfort for me anywhere. I looked at my watch—two o'clock! Three long hours to dinner-time, in which I might do what I liked. What I liked! there was mockery in the very sound. What was there for me to do? go out and see more new faces looking coldly on me, and wander up and down in strange places alone, amidst a crowd? No! I had not the heart to do that. Sit down, and write home, and by telling them how miserable I was, render them unhappy too?—that was worst of all. At length I found a book, and began reading as it were mechanically, but so little was I able to fix my attention that, had I been questioned at the end of the time as to the subject of the work I had been ~24~~perusing, I should have been utterly at a loss for an answer. I had fairly given it up as hopeless, and closed the book, when I heard footsteps in the passage, followed by the sudden apparition of the ever-smiling Mr. Frederick Coleman, who, closing the door after him, accosted me as follows:—
"What, Fairlegh, all in the downs, old fellow?—'never say die!'—come, be jolly—look at me".
As he said this I involuntarily raised my eyes to his features, and certainly if ever there were a face formed for banishing blue devils by a glance, it was his. It was a round face, not remarkable for beauty of outline, inasmuch as it bore a strong resemblance to that of the gentleman on the blue China plates, in two pigtails and a petticoat, who appears to pass a mild ornithological and botanical existence in studying intently certain fishy-looking birds, and a cannon-ball tree, which form the leading feature of the landscape in his vicinity. With regard to expression, however, Coleman had a decided advantage over the Chinese horticulturist, for, whereas the countenance of the latter gentleman expresses (if indeed it can be said to express anything) only meek astonishment, Coleman's small black eyes danced and sparkled with such a spirit of mischief and devilry, while such a fund of merriment, and, as it now for the first time struck me, of good-nature also, lurked about the corners of his mouth, that it seemed impossible to look at him without feeling that there was something contagious in his hilarity.
"Why," said I, "everything here is so new to me, so entirely different from all I have been accustomed to before, and the unkind—that is, the odd way in which Lawless and the rest of you seem to behave to me, treating me as if you thought I was either a fool or a baby—it all seems so strange, that I confess I am not over-happy."
"Precious odd if you were, I think," replied Coleman; "and it was a horrid shame of me to hide your trousers as I did this morning. Oh! how delightfully miserable you did look, as you stood shivering up in the cold! I'm sorry for it now, but I'm such a chap for a bit of fun, that if a trick like that comes into my head, do it I must. Oh! I get into no end of scrapes that way! Why it was but the other day I put a piece of cobbler's wax on the seat of Mildman's chair, and ruined his best Sunday-going sit-upons; he knew, too, who did it, I'm sure, for the next day he gave me a double dose of Euclid, to take the nonsense out of me, I suppose. He had better mind what he's at, though! I have got another dodge ready for him ~25~~if he does not take care! But I did not mean to annoy you: you behaved like a brick, too, in not saying anything about it—I am really very sorry."
"Never mind," said I; "it's all right again now: I like a joke as well as anybody when I know it's only fun; the thing I am afraid of now is, that Dr. Mildman may think I wanted to deceive him, by pretending to be ill, when I was not."
"I daresay he has got a pretty good notion how it is," said Coleman, "but we'll get Thomas to tell him what I was up to, and that will set it all straight again."
"That will be very kind indeed," replied I; "but will not Dr. Mildman be angry with you about it?"
"Not he," said Coleman, "he never finds fault unless there's real necessity for it; he's as good a fellow as ever lived, is old Sam, only he's so precious slow."
"I am glad you like him, he seems so very kind and good-natured," said I, "just the sort of person one should wish one's tutor to be. But about Cumberland and Lawless; what kind of fellows are they when you come to know them?"
"Oh, you will like Lawless well enough when he gets tired of bullying you," replied Coleman; "though you need not stand so much of that as I was obliged to bear; you are a good head taller than I am—let's look at your arm; it would be all the better for a little more muscle, but that will soon improve. I'll put on the gloves with you for an hour or so every day."
"Put on the gloves!" repeated I; "how do you mean?—what has that to do with Lawless?"
"Oh, you muff! don't you understand?—of course, I mean the boxing-gloves; and when you know how to use your fists, if Lawless comes it too strong, slip into him."
"He must bully a good deal before I am driven to that," replied I; "I never struck a blow in anger in my life."
"You will see before long," rejoined Coleman; "but at all events there is no harm in learning to use your fists; a man should always be able to defend himself if he is attacked."
"Yes, that's very true," observed I; "but you have not told me anything of Cumberland. Shall I ever like him, do you think?"
"Not if you are the sort of fellow I take you to be," replied he; "there's something about Cumberland not altogether right, I fancy; I'm not very strait-laced myself, particularly if there's any fun in a thing, not so much so as I should be, I suspect; but Cumberland is too bad even ~26~~for me; besides, there's no fun in what he does, and then he's such a humbug—not straightforward and honest, you know. Lawless would not be half such a bully either, if Cumberland did not set him on. But don't you say a word about this to any one; Cumberland would be ready to murder me, or to get somebody else to do it for him—that's more in his way."
"Do not fear my repeating anything told me in confidence," replied I; "but what do you mean when you say there's something wrong about Cumberland?"
"Do you know what Lawless meant by the 'board of green cloth' this morning?"
"No—it puzzled me."
"I will tell you then," replied Coleman, sinking his voice almost to a whisper—"the billiard table!"
After telling me this, Coleman, evidently fearing to commit himself further with one of whom he knew so little, turned the conversation, and, finding it still wanted more than an hour to dinner, proposed that we should take a stroll along the shore together. In the course of our walk I acquired the additional information that another pupil was expected in a few days—the only son of Sir John Oaklands, a baronet of large fortune in Hertfordshire; and that an acquaintance of Coleman's, who knew him, said he was a capital fellow, but very odd—though in what the oddity consisted did not appear. Moreover, Coleman confirmed me in my preconceived idea, that Mullins's genius lay at present chiefly in the eating, drinking, and sleeping line—adding that, in his opinion, he bore a striking resemblance to those somewhat dissimilar articles, a muff and a spoon. In converse such as this, the time slipped away, till we suddenly discovered that we had only a quarter of an hour left in which to walk back to Langdale Terrace, and prepare for dinner; whereupon a race began, in which my longer legs gave me so decided an advantage over Coleman that he declared he would deliver me up to the tender mercies of the "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," for what he was pleased to call "an aggravated case of over-driving a private pupil".
We had not more than five minutes left when we arrived at Dr. Mildman's door, Coleman affording a practical illustration of the truth of the aphorism, that "it is the pace that kills"; so that Thomas's injunction, "Look sharp, gentlemen," was scarcely necessary to induce us to rush upstairs two steps at a time. In the same hurry I entered my bedroom, without observing that the door was standing ajar rather suspiciously, for which piece of inattention I ~27~~was rewarded by a deluge of water, which wetted me from head to foot, and a violent blow on the shoulder, which stretched me on the ground in the midst of a puddle. That I may not keep the reader in suspense I will at once inform him that I was indebted for this agreeable surprise to the kindness and skill of Lawless, who, having returned from his pigeon-match half-an-hour sooner than was necessary, had devoted it to the construction of what he called a "booby trap," which ingenious piece of mechanism was arranged in the following manner: The victim's room-door was placed ajar, and upon the top thereof a Greek Lexicon, or any other equally ponderous volume, was carefully balanced, and upon this was set in its turn a jug of water. If all these were properly adjusted, the catastrophe above described was certain to ensue when the door was opened.
"Fairly caught, by Jove," cried Lawless, who had been on the watch.
"By Jupiter Pluvius, you should have said," joined in Coleman, helping me up again; for so sudden and unexpected had been the shock that I had remained for a moment just as I had fallen, with a kind of vague expectation that the roof of the house would come down upon me.
"I suppose I have to thank you for that," said I, turning to Lawless.
"Pray, don't mention it, Pinafore," was the answer; "what little trouble I had in making the arrangement, I can assure you, was quite repaid by its success."
"I'll certainly put on the gloves to-morrow," whispered I to Coleman—to which he replied by a sympathetic wink, adding:—
"And now I think you had better get ready, more particularly as you will have to find out 'how to dress jugged hair,' as the cookery-books say".
By dint of almost superhuman exertions I did just contrive to get down in time for dinner, though my unfortunate "jugged hair," which was anything but dry, must have presented rather a singular appearance. In the course of dinner Dr. Mildman told us that we should have the whole of the next day to ourselves, as he was obliged to go to London on business, and should not return till the middle of the day following—an announcement which seemed to afford great satisfaction to his hearers, despite an attempt made by Cumberland to keep up appearances, by putting on a look of mournful resignation, which, being imitated by Coleman, who, as might be expected, rather overdid the thing, failed most signally. ~28~~
CHAPTER IV — WHEREIN IS COMMENCED THE ADVENTURE OF THE MACINTOSH, AND OTHER MATTERS
"How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds, Makes ill deeds done."
"Come, tailor, let us see't;
Oh! mercy.... What masking stuff is here?
What's this? a sleeve?"
"Disguise, I see; thou art a wickedness Wherein the pregnant enemy does much."
"A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" —Shakspeare.
ON returning to the pupils' room Lawless commenced (to my great delight, as I thereby enjoyed a complete immunity from his somewhat troublesome attentions) a full, true, and particular account of the pigeon-match, in which his friend Clayton had, with unrivalled skill, slain a sufficient number of victims to furnish forth pies for the supply of the whole mess during the ensuing fortnight. At length, however, all was said that could be said, even upon this interesting subject, and the narrator, casting his eyes around in search of wherewithal to amuse himself, chanced to espy my new writing-desk, a parting gift from my little sister Fanny, who, with the self-denial of true affection, had saved up her pocket-money during many previous months in order to provide funds for this munificent present.
"Pinafore, is that desk yours?" demanded Lawless.
Not much admiring the sobriquet by which he chose to address me, I did not feel myself called upon to reply.
"Are you deaf, stupid? don't you hear me speaking to you?—where did you get that writing-desk?"
Still I did not answer.
"Sulky, eh? I shall have to lick him before long, I see. Here you, what's your name? Fairlegh, did your grand-mother give you that writing-desk?"
"No," replied I, "my sister Fanny gave it to me the day before I left home."
"Oh, you have got a sister Fanny, have you? how old is she, and what is she like?"
"She is just thirteen, and she has got the dearest little face in the world," answered I, earnestly, as the recollection of her bright blue eyes and sunny smile came across me.
~29~~"How interesting!" sighed Coleman; "it quite makes my heart beat; you could not send for her, could you?"
"And she gave you that desk, did she?—how very kind of her," resumed Lawless, putting the poker in the fire.
"Yes, was it not?" said I, eagerly. "I would not have any harm happen to it for more than I can tell."
"So I suppose," replied Lawless, still devoting himself to the poker, which was rapidly becoming red-hot. "Have you ever," continued he, "seen this new way they have of ornamenting things? encaustic work, I think they call it:—it's done by the application of heat, you know."
"I never even heard of it," said I.
"Ah! I thought not," rejoined Lawless. "Well, as I happen to understand the process, I'll condescend to enlighten your ignorance. Mullins, give me that desk."
"Don't touch it," cried I, bounding forward to the rescue; "I won't have anything done to it."
My design was, however, frustrated by Cumberland and Lawless, who, both throwing themselves upon me at the same moment, succeeded, despite my struggles, in forcing me into a chair, where they held me, while Mullins, by their direction, with the aid of sundry neckcloths, braces, etc., tied me hand and foot; Coleman, who attempted to interfere in my behalf, receiving a push which sent him reeling across the room, and a hint that if he did not mind his own business he would be served in the same manner.
Having thus effectually placed me hors de combat, Lawless took possession of my poor writing-desk, and commenced tracing on the top thereof, with the red-hot poker, what he was pleased to term a "design from the antique," which consisted of a spirited outline of that riddle-loving female the Sphinx, as she appeared when dressed in top-boots and a wide-awake, and regaling herself with a choice cigar! He was giving the finishing touch to a large pair of moustaches, with which he had embellished her countenance, and which he declared was the only thing wanting to complete the likeness to an old aunt of Dr. Mildman's, whom the pupils usually designated by the endearing appellation of "Growler," when the door opened, and Thomas announced that "Smithson" was waiting to see Mr. Lawless.
"Oh yes, to be sure, let him come in; no, wait a minute. Here, you, Coleman and Mullins, untie Fairlegh; be quick!—confound that desk, how it smells of burning, and I have made my hands all black too. Well, Smithson, have you brought the things?"
The person to whom this query was addressed was a ~30~~young man, attired in the extreme of the fashion, who lounged into the room with a "quite at home" kind of air, and, nodding familiarly all around, arranged his curls with a ring-adorned hand, as he replied in a drawling tone:—
"Ya'as, Mr. Lawless, we're all right—punctual to a moment—always ready 'to come to time,' as we say in the ring".
"Who is he?" whispered I to Coleman.
"Who is he?" replied Coleman; "why the best fellow in the world, to be sure'. Not know Smithson, the prince of tailors, the tailor par excellence! I suppose you never heard of the Duke of Wellington, have you?"
I replied humbly that I believed I had heard the name of that illustrious individual mentioned in connection with Waterloo and the Peninsula—and that I was accustomed to regard him as the first man of the age.
"Aye, well then, Smithson is the second; though I really don't know whether he is not quite as great in his way as Wellington, upon my honour. The last pair of trousers he made for Lawless were something sublime, too good for this wicked world, a great deal."
During this brief conversation Smithson had been engaged in extricating a somewhat voluminous garment from the interior of a blue bag, which a boy, who accompanied him, had just placed inside the study-door.
"There, this is the new invention I told you about; a man named Macintosh hit upon it. Now, with this coat on, you might stand under a water-fall without getting even damp. Try it on, Mr. Lawless; just the thing, eh, gents?"
Our curiosity being roused by this panegyric, we gathered round Lawless to examine the garment which had called it forth. Such of my readers as recollect the first introduction of Macintoshes will doubtless remember that the earlier specimens of the race differed very materially in form from those which are in use at the present day. The one we were now inspecting was of a whity-brown colour, and, though it had sleeves like a coat, hung in straight folds from the waist to the ankles, somewhat after the fashion of a carter's frock, having huge pockets at the side, and fastening round the neck with a hook and eye.
"How does it do?" asked Lawless, screwing himself round in an insane effort to look at the small of his own back, a thing a man is certain to attempt when trying on a coat. "It does not make a fellow look like a Guy, does it?"
~31~~"No, I rather admire the sort of thing," said Cumberland.
"A jolly dodge for a shower of rain, and no mistake," put in Coleman.
"It is deucedly fashionable, really," said Smithson—"this one of yours, and one we made for Augustus Flareaway, Lord Fitz-scamper's son, the man in the Guards, you know, are the only two out yet."
"I have just got it at the right time then," said Lawless; "I knew old Sam was going to town, so I settled to drive Clayton over to Woodend, in the tandem, to-morrow. The harriers meet there at eleven, and this will be the very thing to hide the leathers, and tops, and the green cutaway. I saw you at the match, by-the-by, Smithey, this morning."
"Ya'as, I was there; did you see the thing I was on?"
"A bright bay, with a star on the forehead! a spicy-looking nag enough—whose is it?"
"Why, young Robarts, who came into a lot of tin the other day, has just bought it; Snaffles charged him ninety guineas for it."
"And what is it worth?" asked Lawless.
"Oh! he would not do a dirty thing by any gent I introduced," replied Smithson. "I took young Robarts there: he merely made his fair profit out of it; he gave forty pounds for it himself to a man who bred it, only the week before, to my certain knowledge: it's a very sweet thing, and would carry him well, but he's afraid to ride it; that's how I was on it to-day. I'm getting it steady for him."
"A thing it will take you some time to accomplish, eh? A mount like that is not to be had for nothing, every day, is it?"
"Ya'as, you're about right there, Mr. Lawless; you're down to every move, I see, as usual. Any orders to-day, gents? your two vests will be home to-morrow, Mr. Coleman."
"Here, Smithson, wait a moment," said Cumberland, drawing him on one side; "I was deucedly unlucky with the balls this morning," continued he in a lower tone, "can you let me have five-and-twenty pounds?"
"What you please, sir," replied Smithson, bowing.
"On the old terms, I suppose?" observed Cumberland.
"All right," answered Smithson; "stay, I can leave it with you now," added he, drawing out a leather case; "oblige me by writing your name here—thank you."
So saying, he handed some bank-notes to Cumberland, carefully replaced the paper he had received from him in his pocket-book, and withdrew.
~32~~"Smithey was in great force to-night," observed Lawless, as the door closed behind him—"nicely they are bleeding that young ass Robarts among them—he has got into good hands to help him to get rid of his money, at all events. I don't believe Snaffles gave forty pounds for that bay horse; he has got a decided curb on the off hock, if I ever saw one, and I fancy he's a little touched in the wind, too and there's another thing I should say——"
What other failing might be attributed to Mr. Robarts' bay steed we were, however, not destined to learn, as tea was at this moment announced. In due time followed evening prayers, after which we retired for the night. Being very sleepy I threw off my clothes, and jumped hastily into bed, by which act I became painfully aware of the presence of what a surgeon would term "certain foreign bodies"—i.e., not, as might be imagined, sundry French, German, and Italian corpses, but various hard substances, totally opposed to one's preconceived ideas of the component parts of a feather-bed. Sleep being out of the question on a couch so constituted, I immediately commenced an active search, in the course of which I succeeded in bringing to light two clothes-brushes, a boot-jack, a pair of spurs, Lempriere's Classical Dictionary and a brick-bat. Having freed myself from these undesirable bed-fellows I soon fell asleep, and passed (as it seemed to me) the whole night in dreaming that I was a pigeon, or thereabouts, and that Smithson, mounted on the top-booted Sphinx, was inciting Lawless to shoot at me with a red-hot poker.
As Coleman and I were standing at the window of the pupils' room, about ten o'clock on the following morning, watching the vehicle destined to convey Dr. Mildman to the coach-office, Lawless made his appearance, prepared for his expedition, with his hunting-costume effectually concealed under the new Macintosh.
"Isn't Mildman gone yet? Deuce take it, what a time he is! I ought to be off—I'm too late already!"
"They have not even put his carpet-bag in yet," said I.
"Well, I shall make a bolt, and chance it about his seeing me," exclaimed Lawless; "he'll only think I'm going out for a walk rather earlier than usual, if he does catch a glimpse of me, so here's off."
Thus saying, he placed his hat upon his head, with the air of a man determined to do or die, and vanished.
Fortune is currently reported to favour the brave, and so, to do her justice, she generally does; still, at the best of times, she is but a fickle jade, at all events she appeared determined to prove herself so in the present instance; for ~33~~scarcely had Lawless got a dozen paces from the house, before Dr. Mildman appeared at the front door with his great coat and hat on, followed by Thomas bearing a carpet-bag and umbrella, and, his attention being attracted by footsteps, he turned his head, and beheld Lawless. As soon as he perceived him he gave a start of surprise, and, pulling out his eye-glass (he was rather short-sighted), gazed long and fixedly after the retreating figure. At length, having apparently satisfied himself as to the identity of the person he was examining, he replaced his glass, stood for a moment as if confounded by what he had seen, and then turning, abruptly re-entered the house, and shut his study-door behind him with a bang, leaving Thomas and the fly-driver mute with astonishment. In about five minutes he re-appeared, and saying to Thomas, in a stern tone, "Let that note be given to Mr. Lawless the moment he returns," got into the fly and drove off.
"There's a precious go," observed Coleman; "I wonder what's in the wind now. I have not seen old Sam get up the steam like that since I have been here. He was not half so angry when I put Thomas's hat on the peg where he hangs his own, and he, never noticing the difference, put it on, and walked to church in it, gold band and all."
"I wouldn't be Lawless for something," observed I; "I wonder what the note's about?"
"That's just what puzzles me," said Coleman. "I should have thought he had seen the sporting togs, but that's impossible; he must have a penetrating glance indeed if he could see through that Macintosh."
"Lawless was too impatient," said Cumberland; "he should have waited a few minutes longer, and then Mildman would have gone off without knowing anything about him. Depend upon it, the grand rule of life is to take things coolly, and wait for an opportunity: you have the game in your own hands then, and can take advantage of the follies and passions of others, instead of allowing them to avail themselves of yours."
"In plain English, cheat instead of being cheated," put in Coleman.
"You're not far wrong there, Freddy; the world is made up of knaves and fools—those who cheat, and those who are cheated—and I, for one, have no taste for being a fool," said Cumberland.
"Nor I," said Mullins; "I should not like to be a fool at all; I had rather be——"
"A butterfly," interrupted Coleman, thereby astonishing Mullins to such a degree that he remained silent for ~34~~some moments, with his mouth wide open as if in the act of speaking.
"You cannot mean what you say; you surely would not wish to cheat people," said I to Cumberland; "if it were really true that one must be either a knave or a fool, I'd rather be a fool by far—I'm sure you could never be happy if you cheated any one," continued I. "What does the Bible say about doing to others as you would have others do to you?"
"There, don't preach to me, you canting young prig," said Cumberland angrily, and immediately left the room.
"You hit him pretty hard then," whispered Coleman; "a very bad piece of business happened just before I came, about his winning a lot of tin from a young fellow here, at billiards, and they do say that Cumberland did not play fairly. It was rather unlucky your saying it; he will be your enemy from henceforth, depend upon it. He never forgets nor forgives a thing of that sort."
"I meant no harm by the remark," replied I; "I knew nothing of his having cheated any one; however, I do not care; I don't like him, and I'm just as well pleased he should not like me. But now, as my foreign relations seem to be rapidly assuming a warlike character (as the newspapers have it), what do you say to giving me a lesson in sparring, as you proposed, by way of preparation?"
"With all my heart," replied Coleman.
And accordingly the gloves were produced, and my initiatory lesson in the pugilistic art commenced by Coleman's first placing me in an exceedingly uncomfortable attitude, and then very considerately knocking me out of it again, thereby depositing me with much skill and science flat upon the hearth-rug. This manouvre he repeated with great success during some half hour or so, at the end of which time I began to discover the knack with which it was done, and proceeded to demonstrate the proficiency I was making, by a well-directed blow, which, being delivered with much greater force than I had intended, sent Coleman flying across the room. Chancing to encounter Mullins in the course, of his transit he overturned that worthy against the table in the centre of the apartment, which, yielding to their combined weight, fell over with a grand crash, dragging them down with it, in the midst of an avalanche of books, papers, and inkstands.
This grand coup brought, as might be expected, our lesson to a close for the day, Coleman declaring that such another hit would inevitably knock him into the middle of next week, if not farther, and that he really should not feel ~35~~justified in allowing such a serious interruption to his studies to take place.
"And now, what are we going to do with ourselves?" asked I; "as this is a holiday, we ought to do something."
"Are you fond of riding?" inquired Coleman.
"Nothing I like better," replied I; "I have been used to it all my life; I have had a pony ever since I was four years old."
"I wish I was used to it," said Coleman. "My governor living in London, I never crossed a horse till I came here, and I'm a regular muff at it; but I want to learn. What do you say to a ride this afternoon?"
"Just the thing," said I, "if it is not too expensive for my pocket."
"Oh no," replied Coleman; "Snaffles lets horses at as cheap a rate as any one, and good 'uns to go, too; does not he, Cumberland?"
"Eh, what are you talking about?" said Cumberland, who had just entered the room; "Snaffles? Oh yes, he's the man for horse flesh. Are you going to amuse yourself by tumbling off that fat little cob of his again, Fred?"
"I was thinking of having another try," replied Coleman; "what do you say, Fairlegh? Never mind the tin; I daresay you have got plenty, and can get more when that's gone."
"I have got a ten-pound note," answered I; "but that must last me all this quarter: however, we'll have our ride to-day."
"I'll walk down with you," said Cumberland; "I'm going that way; besides, it's worth a walk any day to see Coleman mount; it took him ten minutes the last time I saw him, and then he threw the wrong leg over, so that he turned his face to the tail."
"Scandalum magnatum! not a true bill," replied Coleman.
"Now, come along, Fairlegh, let's get ready, and be off." During our walk down to Snaffles' stables Cumberland (who seemed entirely to have forgotten my mal a propos remark) talked to me in a much more amiable manner than he had yet done; and the conversation naturally turning upon horses and riding, a theme always interesting to me, I was induced to enter into sundry details of my own exploits in that line. We reached the livery stables just as I had concluded a somewhat egotistical relation concerning a horse which a gentleman in our neighbourhood had bought for his invalid son, but which, proving at first too spirited, I had undertaken to ride every day for a ~36~~month in order to get him quiet; a feat I was rather proud of having satisfactorily accomplished.
"Good-morning, Mr. Snaffles; is Punch at home?" asked Coleman of a stout red-faced man, attired in a bright green Newmarket coat and top-boots.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Lawless told me your governor was gone to town, so I kept him in, thinking perhaps you would want him."
"That's all right," said Coleman; "and here's my friend, Mr. Fairlegh, will want a nag too."
"Proud to serve any gent as is a friend of yours, Mr. Coleman," replied Snaffles, with a bob of his head towards me, intended as a bow. "What stamp of horse do you like, sir? Most of my cattle are out with the harriers to-day."