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Young Barbarians
by Ian Maclaren
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It were not possible to imagine anything more different than a Muirtown boy and the Count; but boys judge by an instinct which never fails within its own range, and Muirtown Seminary knew that, with all his foreign ways, the Count was a man. Legends gathered around him and flourished exceedingly, being largely invented by Nestie, and offered for consumption at the mouth of the pistol by Speug, who let it be understood that to deny or even to smile at Nestie's most incredible invention would be a ground of personal offence. The Count was in turn a foreign nobleman, who had fallen in love with the Emperor of Austria's daughter and had been exiled by the imperial parent, but that the Princess was true to the Count, and that any day he might be called from Mistress Jamieson's lodgings to the palace of Vienna; that he was himself a king of some mysterious European State, who had been driven out by conspirators, but whose people were going to restore him, and that some day Speug would be staying with the Count in his royal abode and possibly sitting beside him on the throne. During this romance Speug felt it right to assume an air of demure modesty, which was quite consistent with keeping a watchful eye on any impertinent young rascal who might venture to jeer, when Speug would politely ask him what he was laughing at, and offer to give him something to laugh for. That the Count was himself a conspirator, and the head of a secret society which extended all over Europe, with signs and passwords, and that whenever any tyrant became intolerable, the warrant for his death was sent from Mistress Jamieson's. Whenever one fable grew hackneyed Nestie produced another, and it was no longer necessary in Muirtown Seminary to buy Indian tales or detective stories, for the whole library of fiction was now bound up and walking about in the Count.



Between him and the boys there grew up a fast friendship, and he was never thoroughly happy now unless he was with his "jolly dogs." He attended every cricket match, and at last, after he had learned how, kept the score, giving a cheer at every new run and tearing his hair when any of his boys were bowled out. He rushed round the football field without his cane, and generally without his hat; and high above all cheers could be heard his "Bravo—bravo, forwards! Speug!" as that enterprising player cleft his way through the opponent's ranks. It mattered nothing to the Count that his boots were ruined, and his speckless clothes soiled, he would not have cared though he had burst his stays, so long as the "dogs" won, and he could go up in glory with them to Janet MacWhae's and drink to their health in flowing ginger-beer. During the play hour his walk seemed ever to bring him to the North Meadow, and if a ball by accident, for none would have done it by intention, knocked off the Count's hat, he cried "Hoor-r-rah!" in his own pronunciation and bowed in response to this mark of attention. It was a pretty sight to see him bending forward, his hands resting on his knees, watching a battle royal between the tops of Speug and Howieson; and if anything could be better it was to see the Count trying to spin a top himself, and expostulating with it in unknown tongues.

As the boys came to the school in the morning and went home in the evening up Breadalbane Street, the Count was always sitting at one of the windows which had been broken, ready to wave his hand to any one who saluted him, and in the afternoon he would often open the window to get the school news and to learn whether there would be a match on Saturday. As time went on this alliance told upon the Count's outer man; he never lost his gay manner, nor his pretty little waist, nor could he ever have been taken for a Scot, nor ever, if he had lived to the age of Methuselah, have been made an elder of the Kirk; but his boots grew thicker, though they were always neat, and his clothes grew rougher, though they were always well made, and his ties became quieter, and his week-day hat was like that of other men, and, except on Sundays, Muirtown never saw the glory of the former days. With his new interest in life, everyone noticed that the Count had grown simpler and kindlier, and Muirtown folk, who used to laugh at him with a flavour of contempt, began to love him through their boys. He would walk home with Bulldog on a summer evening, the strangest pair that ever went together; and it was said that many little improvements for the comfort of the lads, and many little schemes for their happiness at Muirtown Seminary, were due to the Count. It was believed that the time did come when he could have returned to his own land, but that he did not go because he was a lonely man and had found his friends in Muirtown; and when he died, now many years ago, he left his little all for the benefit of his "jolly dogs," and the Count, who had no mourners of his blood, was followed to his grave by every boy at Muirtown Seminary.



A TOURNAMENT

VIII

Since the day when Speug and a few young friends had broken every pane of glass in the Count's windows, and the Count had paid for the damage like a gentleman, that excellent foreigner had spent all his spare cash—which we thought afterwards was not very much—in encouraging athletic exercises among the Seminary lads. His zeal, like that of every other convert, was much greater than his knowledge, and left to his own devices he would certainly have gone far astray; but with the able assistance of Speug, with whom he took intimate counsel, it was astonishing what a variety could be infused into the sports. When every ordinary competition had been held, and champions had been declared (and this had never been done before in the history of the school) for the hundred yards, the quarter, and the mile (the ten miles down the Carse and over the top of Kinnoul Hill had been stopped by an impromptu meeting of parents), for broad jumping and high jumping, for throwing the cricket ball and kicking the football, Speug came out with a quite new programme which was rapturously received, and had it not met with a cross-providence would have lasted over four happy Saturdays and considerably reduced the attendance at the Seminary. The first item was a swimming match across the Tay, a river not to be trifled with, and four boys were saved from death by a salmon cobble, whose owner fortunately turned up to watch the sport. The Count was so excited by this event that he not only lost his hat in the river, but being prevented from going in to help, for the very good reason that he could not swim a stroke, he took off and flung the coat, which was the marvel of Muirtown, into the river, in the hope that it might serve as a lifebelt. The second item, upon which Speug prided himself very much, was a climbing match, and for this he had selected a tree which seemed to be designed for the purpose, since it had a rook's nest on its highest branch, and no branches at all for the first twenty feet. The conditions were, that every boy above twelve should have his chance, and the boy who climbed to the top, put his hand into the rook's nest, and came down in the shortest time, should get the prize. The Seminary above twelve were going up and down that tree a whole Saturday morning, and in one kirk next day thanks were offered in the first prayer in peculiarly dignified and guarded terms that half the families of Muirtown had not been bereaved. As a matter of fact, nobody was killed, and no limbs were broken, but Speug, who was not allowed to enter for this competition, but acted as judge, with his tongue out all the time at the sight of the sport, had to go up twice on errands of mercy, once to release his friend Howieson, who had missed a branch and was hanging by his feet, and the second time to succour Pat Ritchie, who was suspended by the seat of his trousers, swaying to and fro like a gigantic apple on the branch. It was understood that the Seminary had never enjoyed themselves so entirely to their heart's content, but the Count's moral courage failed during the performance, and at the most critical moment he was afraid to look. When Muirtown got wind of this last achievement of Speug's, indignation meetings were held at church-doors and street corners, and it was conveyed to the Rector—who knew nothing about the matter, and was so absent-minded that if he had passed would never have seen what was going on—that if Providence was going to be tempted in this fashion again, the matter would be brought before the Town Council. The Count himself would have been faithfully dealt with had he not been considered a helpless tool in the hands of Speug, who was now understood to have filled the cup of his sins up to the brim. He might indeed have been at last expelled from the Seminary, of which he was the chief ornament, had it not been that the Count went to the Rector and explained that the idea had been his from beginning to end, and that it was with the utmost difficulty he could induce Speug even to be present. For, as I said, the Count was a perfect gentleman, and always stood by his friends through thick and thin; but the thrashing which Speug got from Bulldog was monumental, and in preparation for it that ingenious youth put on three folds of underclothing.

What Speug bitterly regretted, however, was not the punishment, which was cheap at the money, but the loss of the next two items in his programme. He had planned a boxing competition, in which the main feature was to be a regular set-to between Dunc Robertson and himself, to decide finally which was the better man, for they had fought six times and the issue was still doubtful; and Speug, who had a profligate genius outside the class-rooms, had also imagined a pony race with hurdles; and as about twenty fellows, farmers' sons and others, had ponies, of which they were always bragging, and Speug had the pick of his father's stables, he modestly believed that the affair would be worth seeing. When the hurdle race was forbidden, for which Speug had already begun to make entries and to arrange weights with his father's valuable assistance, he took the matter so much to heart that his health gave way, and Mr. McGuffie senior had to take him to recruit at the Kilmarnock Races, from which he returned in the highest spirits and full of stories.

For some time after this painful incident the Count lay low and adopted a deprecating manner when he met the fathers and mothers of Muirtown; but he gave his friends to understand that his resources were not at an end, and that he had a surprise in store for the Seminary. Speug ran over every form of sport in casual conversation to discover what was in the Count's mind, but he would not be drawn and grew more mysterious every day. One Saturday evening in midsummer he took Speug and Nestie into his confidence, explaining that his idea would be announced to the assembled school by himself next Wednesday, and that it had nothing to do, as Speug had hinted in turn, with rats, or rabbits, or fencing, or the sword dance. With their permission he would say one word which would be enough for persons of so distinguished an imagination, and that word was "Tournament;" and then he would speak of nothing else except the beauty of the evening light upon the river, which he declared to be "ravishing," and the excellence of a certain kind of chocolate which he carried in his pocket, and shared generously with his "dogs." As he parted with his friends the Count tapped his nose and winked at them—"Tournament—great, magnificent, you will see, ha, ha! you will see;" and Speug went home in a state of utter confusion, coming finally to the conclusion that the Count intended to introduce some French game, and in that case it would be his painful duty to oppose the Count tooth and nail, for everybody knew that French games were only for girls, and would bring endless disgrace upon Muirtown Seminary. During Sunday Nestie had turned the matter over in his mind, and being full of Scott's novels he was able on Monday to give the astonished school a full programme with the most minute particulars. The tournament was to be held in the North Meadow; the judge was to be the Commander of the cavalry at the barracks; John Chalmers, the town's bellman, was to be herald; the Fair Maid of Perth was to be the Queen of Beauty; and the combatants were to be such knights as Robertson, Howieson, and of course Speug. Each knight was to be in armour, and Nestie freely suggested dish-covers would be useful as breastplates, broom-handles would come in conveniently for lances, and as ponies were now forbidden, sturdy boys of the lower forms would be used instead. The two knights who challenged one another would rush from opposite ends of the lists, meet in the centre, lance upon breastplate, horse to horse, and man to man, and the one that overthrew the other would receive the prize; and at the thought of such a meeting between Speug and Dunc Robertson, each in full armour, the delighted school smacked their lips.

"Muirtown Races 'ill be nothing to it," said Ritchie. "I'll lay anybody a shilling that Speug coups (capsizes) Dunc the first meeting; but"—feeling as if it were almost too good to be true—"I dinna believe a word o't. Nestie is a fearsome liar." And after the school had spoken of nothing else for a day, Dunc Robertson asked the Count boldly whether such things were true.

"Mon ami," said the Count, who had tasted Nestie's romance with much relish, "you will pardon me, but it is a banalite, that is what you call a stupidity, to ask whether so good a jeu d'esprit is true. True? Truth is a dull quality, it belongs to facts; but Nestie, he does not live among facts, he flies in the air, in the atmosphere of poetry. He is a raconteur. A tournament with knights on the North Meadow—good! Our little Nestie, he has been reading Ivanhoe and he is a troubadour." And the Count took off his hat in homage to Nestie's remarkable powers as an author of fiction.

"But yes, it will be a tournament; but not for the body, for the mind. My dogs are jolly dogs; they can run, they can leap, they can swim, they can kick the ball; now they must think, ah! so deep. They must write their very best words, they must show that they have beautiful minds; and they will do so, I swear they will, in the tournament, which will not be on the meadow—no; too many cows there, and too many washers of clothes—but in seclusion, in the class-room of that brave man called the Bulldog. It will be a battle," concluded the Count with enthusiasm, "of heads: and the best head, that head will have the prize, voila."

"Silence!" and Bulldog brought his cane down upon his desk that Wednesday afternoon when the whole upper school was gathered in his class-room, bursting with curiosity. "The Count has a proposeetion to lay before you which he will explain in his own words and which has the sanction of the Rector. Ye will be pleased to give the Count a respectful hearing, as he deserves at yir hands." And Bulldog was there to see that the Count's deserts and his treatment strictly corresponded.

"Monsieur," and the Count bowed to Bulldog, "and you," and now he bowed to the boys, "all my friends of the Seminary, I have the honour to ask a favour which your politeness will not allow you to refuse. Next Saturday I will dare to hold a reception in this place, with the permission of the good Bull—— I do forget myself—I mean the distinguished master. And when you come, I promise you that I will not offer you coffee—pouf! it is not for the brave boys I see before me, non," and the Count became very roguish. "I will put a leetle, very leetle sentence on the——" ("Blackboard," suggested Bulldog). "Merci, yes, the blackboard; no, the honourable master he will have the goodness to write it in his so beautiful characters. One sentence, that is all, and you will sit for one hour in this room where you make your studies, and you will write all the beautiful things which come into your heads about that sentence. You will then do me the pleasure of letting me carry home all those beautiful things, and I will read them; and the writer who affects me most, I will ask him to accept a book of many volumes, and the Lor' Mayor" ("Provost," interpolated Bulldog) "will present it on the great day in the Town Hall.

"No one, not even the honourable master himself, will know that leetle sentence till it be written on the—the——" ("Blackboard," said Bulldog, with asperity), "and every boy will be able to write many things about that sentence. The scholars upon whom I do felicitate the honourable master will write much learning," and the Count made a graceful inclination in the direction of the two Dowbiggins; "and the brave boys who love the sport, they will also write, ah! ah!"—and the Count nodded cheerfully in the direction of Speug—"such wonderful things. There will be no books; no, you will have your heads, and so it will be the fair play, as you say," repeated the Count with much satisfaction, "the fair play."

Bulldog dismissed the school after he had explained that no one need come unless he wished, but that anyone who didn't come was missing the opportunity of securing an honourable distinction, and would also show himself to be an ungrateful little scoundrel for all that the Count had done for the Seminary.

"Dod," said Jock Howieson, with much native shrewdness, "aifter all his palaver it's naething but anither confounded exercise," for that worthy had suffered much through impositions, and had never been able to connect one sentence with another in an intelligent manner. "The Dowbiggins can go if they want, and they're welcome to the books. I'm going next Saturday to Woody Island—will you come, Speug?" And it hung in the balance whether or not the Count would be openly affronted next Saturday when he found himself in the company of half a dozen "swats," while his "jolly dogs" were off in a pack to their island of romance.

Speug could not imagine himself sitting in a class-room on Saturday afternoon, except under brute force, and yet he felt it would be ungrateful after all his kindness to leave the Count in the company of such cheerless objects as the Dowbiggins. The remembrance of all the sporting prizes he had won at the Count's hands, and the sight of the Count cheering at the sports, came over his ingenuous heart and moved him to the most unselfish act of his life. "Jock Howieson," said Speug, with considerable dignity, "ye may go to Woody Island if ye like, but it 'ill be the dirtiest trick ye ever played, and I'll black both yir een for ye on Monday. Have we ever had a match, cricket or football, the last four years, and the Count hesna been there? Who got up the sports and gave the prizes? Tell me that, Jock? Who stands ginger-beer at Lucky MacWhae's, answer me that, Jock, ye meeserable wretch?" and then clinching every argument on "Who paid for the broken glass? I'm doon richt ashamed o' ye, Jock Howieson."

"Will ye go yourself, Speug?" demanded Jock, writhing under this torrent of reproach. "I think I see ye writin' an essay on the history o' the Romans, or sic like trash. Ye 'ill hunt us into Bulldog's class-room, and then go off yirsel to shoot rabbits; but ye 'ill no' play ony tricks on me, Peter McGuffie."

"I will go," said Speug, manfully, "though I'll no' promise to write."

"Say as sure's death," said Jock, knowing Speug's wiles.

"Sure as death," said Speug, and then the school knew, not only that he would go, though he had to sit six hours instead of one, but also that every self-respecting boy in the Seminary must also put in an appearance at the Count's reception.

"Best thing you ever did, Speug," said Nestie on the way home, "since you p—pulled me out of the Tay, and I should say that you have a good chance of the prize. What the Count wants is ori—gin—ginality, and I never heard a chap with so much original talk as you've got, Speug. Just you put some of it down, like what you give to the P—pennies, and you'll come out first, and it'll be the first prize you ever won."

"If there was a prize for impidence, and the entries were open to all Scotland," said Speug, "ye would pass the post first and trottin'."

"HOW I SPENT MY SATURDAY,"

was what the school saw on the board when the Count removed the white cloth, and then he gave a brief exposition of his desires.

"Have the goodness, if you please, to write, not what you ought, but what you want. Were you at the cricket match, you will tell me of the capture of the wickets; or you were in the country, I will hear of the woods and the beautiful pheasants" (this delicate allusion to Mr. Byles's poaching experiences was much appreciated); "or you were among the books, then you will describe what you love in them; or you were looking at a horse, I expect to hear about that horse"; and the whole school understood that this was a direct invitation to Speug, to give an exact picture of an Irish mare that his father had just bought. "The subject, ah!" said the Count, "that does not matter; it is the manner, the style, the esprit, that is what I shall value. I wish you all the good success, and I will go a walk in the meadow till you have finished."

"Do yir best, laddies," said Bulldog, "for the credit of the school and to please the Count. If I see ony laddie playing tricks I'll do my part to teach him sobriety, and if I see one copying from another, out he goes. Ye have one hour from this meenut, make the most o't," and the tournament was open.

Bulldog, apparently reading his morning paper, and only giving a casual glance to see that no one took advantage of the strange circumstances, was really watching his flock very closely, and checking his judgment of each one by this new test. Dull, conscientious lads like the Dowbiggins began at once, in order that they might not lose a moment of time, but might put as much written stuff upon the paper as possible; yet now and again they stopped and looked round helplessly because they had no books and no tutor to assist them, and they realised for the first time how little they had in their own heads.

"Ha! ha!" said Bulldog to himself, "I kent ye were naithing but a painted show, and it 'ill do ye good to find that out for yirselves."

Jock Howieson and his kind regarded the whole matter as a new form of entertainment, and as he could not have put into anything approaching connected words the experiences of his last Saturday, he employed the time in cutting up his unwritten paper into squares of an inch, and making them into pellets with which he prevented the Dowbiggin mind from being too much absorbed in study. He did this once too often, and Bulldog went down to call upon him with a cane and with plain, simple words.

"His head is an inch thick," said Bulldog, as he went back to his desk, "but there's the making of a man in Jock, though he 'ill never be able to write a decent letter to save his life. He would suit the Scots Greys down to the ground."

Speug had given a solemn promise to Nestie, under the customary form of oath, that he would write something, and whatever he wrote he would hand in, though it was only twenty words, and Speug never went back from his oath. When Howieson caught the Dowbiggin ear with a pellet there is no doubt that a joyful light came into Speug's eyes, and he struggled with strong temptation, and when old friends made facetious signs to him he hesitated more than once, but in the end assumed an air of dignified amazement, explaining, as it were, that his whole mind was devoted to literary composition, and that he did not know what they meant by this impertinent intrusion upon a student's privacy. Cosh certainly jumped once in his seat as if he had been stung by a wasp, and it is certainly true that at that moment there was a piece of elastic on the thumb and first finger of Speug's left hand, but his right hand was devoted to literature. The language which Cosh allowed himself to use in the heat of the moment was so unvarnished that it came under Bulldog's attention, who told him that if he wanted to say anything like that again he must say it in Latin, and that he ought to take notice of the excellent conduct of Peter McGuffie, who, Bulldog declared, was not at all unlikely to win the prize. And as the master returned to his seat his back was seen to shake, and the wink with which Speug favoured the class, in a brief rest from labour, was a reward for an hour's drudgery. Bulldog knew everybody up and down, out and in—what a poor creature Cosh was, and what good stuff could be found in Speug; and he also knew everything that was done—why Cosh had said what he said, and why Speug at that moment was lost in study. Bulldog was not disappointed when Nestie's face lighted up at the title of the essay, and he knew why his favourite little lad did not write anything for fifteen minutes, but looked steadily out at the window and across the North Meadow, and he returned to his paper with a sense of keen satisfaction when Nestie at last settled down to work and wrote without ceasing, except when now and again he hesitated as for a word, or tried a sentence upon his ear to know how it sounded. For the desire of Bulldog's heart was that Nestie should win, and if—though that, of course, was too absurd—Speug by the help of the favouring gods should come in second, Bulldog would feel that he had not lived in vain.

"Ye have three meenuts to dot your i's and stroke your t's," said Bulldog, "and the Count will tell ye how ye're to sign yir names," and then the Count, who had come in from his walk, much refreshed, advanced again to the desk.

"It would be one great joy to have your autographs," said the Count, "and I would place them in a book and say, 'My friends'; but honour forbids. As I shall have the too great responsibility of judging, it is necessary that I be—ah! I have forgotten the word—yes! show the fair play. No, I must not know the names; for if I read the name of my friend the ever active, the ever brave, the ever interesting Speug" (at this indecent allusion Speug grew purple and gave the bench in front of him to understand by well-known signs that if they looked at him again he might give them something to look for outside), "I would say that Speug is a sportsman but he is not a litterateur, and I might not do my comrade the full justice. And if I read the name of the composed, the studious, the profound young gentlemen who are before me" (and it was fortunate the Dowbiggins had their backs to the school), "I would know that it must be the best before I read it, and that would not be the fair play.

"No! you will write on your admirable essay a motto—what you please—and your name you will put in an envelope, so," and the Count wrote his own name in the most dashing manner, and in an awful silence, on a piece of paper, and closed the envelope with a graceful flourish: "and outside you will put your motto, so it will be all the fair play, and in the Town Hall next Saturday I shall have the felicity to declare the result. Voila! Has my plan your distinguished approbation?" and the Count made a respectful appeal to Bulldog. "Nothing could be fairer, you say? Then it is agreed, and I allow myself to wish you adieu for this day."

When the school assembled for conference among the Russian guns, their minds were divided between two subjects. The first was what Speug had written, on which that strenuous student would give no information, resenting the inquiry both as an insult to his abilities and an illustration of vain curiosity on the part of the school. Nestie, however, volunteered the trustworthy information that Speug had spent his whole time explaining the good which he had got from being kept in one Saturday forenoon and doing mathematical problems under the eye of Bulldog. And Nestie added that he thought it mean of Peter to "suck up" to the master in this disgraceful fashion just for the sake of getting a prize. Peter confided to Nestie afterwards that he had really done his best to describe a close race for the Kilmarnock Cup, but that he didn't think there were six words properly spelt from beginning to end, and that if he escaped without a thrashing he would treat Nestie to half a dozen bottles of ginger-beer.

Regarding the winner—for that was the other subject—there was a unanimous and sad judgment; that Dunc Robertson might have a chance, but that Thomas John, the head of the Dowbiggins, would carry off the prize, as he had carried off all the other prizes; and that, if so, they would let him know how they all loved him at the Town Hall, and that it would be wise for him to go home with the Count's prize and all the other prizes in a cab, with the windows up.

The prize-giving in the Town Hall was one of the great events in the Muirtown year, and to it the memory of a Seminary lad goes back with keen interest. All the forenoon the Provost and the bailies had been sitting in the class-room of the Seminary, holding Latin books in their hands, which they opened anywhere, and wagging their heads in solemn approval over the translation by Thomas John and other chosen worthies, while the parents wandered from place to place and identified their sons, who refused to take any notice of them unless nobody was looking. What mothers endured cannot be put into words, when they saw their darling boys (whom they had seen dressed that morning in their Sunday clothes, and sent away in perfect array, with directions that they were not to break their collars nor soil their jackets, nor disarrange their hair the whole day, or they need not come home in the evening) turn up in a class-room before the respectables of Muirtown as if their heads had not known a brush for six months, with Speug's autograph upon their white collar, a button gone from their waistcoat, and an ounce of flour in a prominent place on their once speckless jacket.

"Yes," said one matron to another, with the calmness of despair, "that is my Jimmy, I canna deny it; but ye may well ask, for he's more like a street waufie than onything else. On a day like this, and when I see what a sight he's made of himself in two hours I could almost wish he had been born a girl."

"Losh keep us, Mistress Chalmers, ye maunna speak like that, for it's no chancy, he micht be taken away sudden, and ye would have regrets; forbye your laddie's naithing to my Archie, for the last time I saw him, as I'm a livin' woman, there wasna more than two inches of his necktie left, and he was fishing his new Balmoral bonnet out of the water-barrel in the playground. Ye needna expect peace if the Almichty give ye laddies, but I wouldna change them for lassies—na, na, I'll no' go that length."

And the two matrons sustained themselves with the thought that if their boys were only a mere wreck of what they had been in the morning, other people's boys were no better, and some of them were worse, for one of them had inflicted such damages on his trousers that, although he was able to face the public, he had to retire as from the royal presence; nor was it at all unlike the motherly mind to conceive a malignant dislike to the few boys who were spick and span, and to have a certain secret pride even in their boys' disorder, which at any rate showed that they were far removed from the low estate of lassies.

The great function of the day came off at two o'clock, and before the hour the hall was packed with fathers, mothers, sisters, elder brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and distant relatives of the boys, while the boys themselves, beyond all control and more dishevelled than ever, were scattered throughout the crowd. Some were sitting with their parents and enduring a rapid toilet at the hands of their mothers; others were gathered in clumps and arranging a reception for the more unpopular prize-winners; others were prowling up and down the passages, exchanging sweetmeats and responding (very coldly) to the greeting of relatives in the seats, for the black terror that hung over every Seminary lad was that he would be kissed publicly by a maiden aunt. Mr. Peter McGuffie senior came in with the general attention of the audience, and seated himself in a prominent place with Speug beside him. Not that Mr. McGuffie took any special interest in prize-givings, and certainly not because Speug had ever appeared in the character of a prize-winner. Mr. McGuffie's patronage was due to his respect for the Count and his high appreciation of what he considered the Count's sporting offer, and Mr. McGuffie was so anxious to sustain the interest of the proceedings that he was willing, although he admitted that he had no tip, to have a bet with anyone in his vicinity on the winning horse. He also astonished his son by offering to lay a sovereign on Nestie coming in first and half a length ahead, which was not so much based upon any knowledge of Nestie's literary qualifications as on the strange friendship between Nestie and his promising son. As the respectable Free Kirk elder who sat next Mr. McGuffie did not respond to this friendly offer, Mr. McGuffie put a straw in his mouth and timed the arrival of the Provost.



When that great dignitary, attended by the bailies and masters, together with the notables of Muirtown, appeared on the platform, the boys availed themselves of the license of the day, shouting, cheering, yelling, whistling and bombarding all and sundry with pellets of paper shot with extraordinary dexterity from little elastic catapults, till at last Bulldog, who in the helplessness of the Rector always conducted the proceedings, rose and demanded silence for the Provost, who explained at wide intervals that he was glad to see his young friends (howls from the boys) and also their respected parents (fresh howls, but not from the parents); that he was sure the fathers and mothers were proud of their boys to-day (climax of howls); that he had once been a boy himself (unanimous shout of "No" from the boys); that he had even fought in a snowball fight (loud expressions of horror); that he was glad the Seminary was flourishing (terrific outburst, during which the Provost's speech came to an end, and Bulldog rose to keep order).

One by one the prize-winners were called up from the side of their fond parents, and if they were liked and had won their prizes with the goodwill of their fellows, each one received an honest cheer which was heartier and braver than any other cheer of the day, and loud above it sounded the voice of Speug, who, though he had never received a prize in his life, and never would, rejoiced when a decent fellow like Dunc Robertson, the wicket-keeper of the eleven and the half-back of the fifteen, showed that he had a head as well as hands. When a prig got too many prizes there was an eloquent silence in the hall, till at last a loud, accurate and suggestive "Ma-a-a-a!" from Speug relieved the feelings of the delighted school, and the unpopular prize-winner left the platform amid the chorus of the farmyard—cows, sheep, horses, dogs, cats and a triumphant ass all uniting to do him honour. It was their day, and Bulldog gave them their rights, provided they did not continue too long, and every boy believed that Bulldog had the same judgment as themselves.

To-day, however, the whole gathering was hungering and thirsting for the declaration of the Count's prize, because there never had been such a competition in Muirtown before, and the Count was one of our characters. When he came forward, wonderfully dressed, with a rose in his buttonhole and waving a scented handkerchief, and bowed to everybody in turn, from the Provost to Mr. McGuffie, his reception was monumental and was crowned by the stentorian approbation of Speug's father. Having thanked the company for their reception, with his hand upon his heart, and having assured the charming mothers of his young friends of his (the Count's) most respectful devotion, and declared himself the slave of their sisters, and having expressed his profound reverence for the magistrates (at which several bailies tried to look as if they were only men, but failed), the Count approached the great moment of the day.

The papers, he explained upon his honour, were all remarkable, and it had been impossible for him to sleep, because he could not tear himself away from the charming reflections of his young friends. (As the boys recognised this to be only a just compliment to their thoughtful disposition and literary genius, Bulldog had at last to arise and quell the storm.) There was one paper, however, which the Count compared to Mont Blanc, because it rose above all the others. It was "ravishing," the Count asserted, "superb"; it was, he added, the work of "genius." The river, the woods, the flowers, the hills, the beautiful young women, it was all one poem. And as the whole hall waited, refusing to breathe, the Count enjoyed a great moment. "The writer of this distinguished poem—for it is not prose, it is poetry—I will read his motto." Then the Count read, "Faint Heart never Won Fair Lady," and turning to the Provost, "I do myself the honour of asking your Excellency to open this envelope and to read the name to this distinguished audience." Before the Provost could get the piece of paper out of the envelope, Speug, who was in the secret of the motto, jumped up on his seat and, turning with his face to the audience, shouted at the pitch of his voice through the stillness of the hall, "Nestie Molyneux." And above the great shout that went up from the throat of the Seminary could be heard, full and clear, the view-hallo of Mr. McGuffie senior, who had guessed the winner without ever seeing the paper.



MOOSSY

IX

If the eyes of an old boy do not light up at the mention of "Moossy," then it is no use his pleading the years which have passed and the great affairs which have filled his life; you know at once that he is an impostor and has never had the privilege of passing through Muirtown Seminary. Upon the genuine boy—fifty years old now, but green at heart—the word is a very talisman, for at the sound of it the worries of life and the years that have gone are forgotten, and the eyes light up and the face relaxes, and the middle-aged man lies back in his chair for the full enjoyment of the past. It was a rough life in the Seminary, with plain food and strenuous games; with well-worn and well-torn clothes; where little trouble was taken to give interest to your work, and little praise awarded when you did it well; where you were bullied by the stronger fellows without redress, and thrashed for very little reason; where there were also many coarsenesses which were sickening at the time to any lad with a sense of decency, and which he is glad, if he can, to forget; but, at least, there was one oasis in the wilderness where there was nothing but enjoyment for the boys, and that was the "Department of Modern Languages," over which Moossy was supposed to preside.

Things have changed since Moossy's day, and now there is a graduate of the University of Paris and a fearful martinet to teach young Muirtown French, and a Heidelberg man with several degrees and four swordcuts on his face to explain to Muirtown the mysteries of the German sentence. Indignant boys, who have heard appetising tales of the days which are gone, are compelled to "swat" at Continental tongues as if they were serious languages like Latin and Greek, and are actually kept in if they have not done a French verb. They are required to write an account of their holidays in German, and are directed to enlarge their vocabulary by speaking in foreign tongues among themselves. Things have come to such a pass it is said—but I do not believe one word of this—that the modern Speug, before he pulls off the modern Dowbiggin's bonnet and flings it into the lade, which still runs as it used to do, will be careful to say "Erlauben Sie mir," and that the modern Dowbiggin, before rescuing his bonnet, will turn and inquire with mild surprise, "Was wollen Sie, mein Freund?" and precocious lads will delight their parents at the breakfast-table by asking for their daily bread in the language and accent of Paris, because for the moment they have forgotten English. It is my own firm conviction, and nothing can shake it, that Muirtown lads are just as incapable of explaining their necessary wants in any speech except their own as they were in the days of our fathers, and that if a Seminary boy were landed in Calais to-day, he would get his food at the buffet by making signs with his fingers, as his father had done before him and as becomes a young barbarian. He would also take care, as his fathers did, that he would not be cheated in his change nor be put upon by any "Frenchy." Foreign graduates may do their best with Seminary lads—and their kind elsewhere—but they will not find it easy to shape their unruly tongues; for the Briton is fully persuaded in the background of his mind that he belongs to an imperial race and is born to be a ruler, that every man will sooner or later have to speak his language, and that it is undignified to condescend to French. The Briton is pleased to know that foreign nations have some means of communication between themselves—as, indeed, the lower animals have, if you go into the matter; but since the Almighty has put an English (or Scots) tongue in his mouth, it would be flying in the face of Providence not to use it. It is, however, an excellent thing to have the graduates, and the trim class-room, and the tables of the foreign verbs upon the wall, and the conversation classes—Speug at a conversation class!—and all the rest of it; but, oh! the days of long ago—and Moossy!

Like our only other foreigner, the Count, Moossy was a nameless man, for although it must have been printed on the board in the vestibule of the school, which had a list of masters and of classes, no one can now hint at Moossy's baptismal name, nor even suggest his surname. The name of the Count had been sunk in the nobility which we conferred upon him, and which was the tribute of our respectful admiration, but "Moossy" was a term of good-humoured contempt. We were only Scots lads of a provincial town, and knew nothing of the outside world; but yet, with the instincts of a race of Chieftains and Clansmen, we distinguished in our minds between our two foreigners and placed them far apart. No doubt the Count was womanish in his dress, and had fantastic manners, but we knew he was a gallant gentleman, who was afraid of nobody and was always ready to serve his friends; he was debonnaire, and counted himself the equal of anyone in Muirtown, but Moossy was little better than an abject. He was a little man, to begin with, and had made himself small by stooping till his head had sunk upon his chest and his shoulders had risen to his ears; his hair fell over the collar of his coat behind, and his ill-dressed beard hid any shirt he wore; his hands and face showed only the slightest acquaintance with soap and water, and although Speug was not always careful in his own personal ablutions, and more than once had been sent down to the lade by Bulldog to wash himself, yet Speug had a healthy contempt for a dirty master. Moossy's clothes, it was believed, had not been renewed since he came to the Seminary, and the cloak which he wore on a winter day was a scandal to the town. His feet were large and flat, and his knees touched as the one passed the other, and the Seminary was honestly ashamed at the sight of him shambling across the North Meadow. He looked so mean, so ill put together, so shabby, so dirty, that the very "Pennies" hooted at him and flung him in our faces. The Rector was also careless of his dress, and mooned along the road, but then everybody knew that he was a mighty scholar, and that if you woke him from his meditation he would answer you in Greek; but even Speug understood that Moossy was not a scholar. The story drifted about through Muirtown, and filtered down to the boys, that he was a bankrupt tradesman who had fled from some little German town and landed in Muirtown, and that because he could speak a little English, and a little French, as German tradesmen can, he had been appointed by an undiscriminating Town Council to teach foreign tongues at the Seminary. It is certain he had very little education and no confidence in himself, and so he was ever cringing to the bailies, which did him no injury, for these great men regarded themselves as beings bordering on the supernatural; and he was ever deferring and giving in to the boys, which was the maddest thing that any master could do, and only confirmed every boy in his judgment that Moossy was one of the most miserable of God's creatures.

His classes met in the afternoon, and were regarded as a pleasant relaxation after the labours of the day, and to escape from the government of Bulldog to the genial freedom of Moossy's room proved, as we felt in a vague way, that Providence had a tender heart towards the wants and enjoyments of boys. It goes without saying that no work was done, for there were only half a dozen who had any desire to work, and they were not allowed, in justice to themselves and to their fellows, to waste the mercies which had been provided. Upon Bulldog's suggestion, Moossy once provided himself with a cane, but it failed in his hands the first time he tried to use it, which was not at all wonderful, as Jock Howieson, who did not approve of canes, and regarded them as an invention of the Evil One, had doctored Moossy's cane with a horse-hair, so that it split into two at a stroke, and one piece flying back struck Moossy on the face.

"That'll learn him to be meddling with canes. It's plenty that Bulldog has a cane, without yon meeserable wretch"; and that was the last effort which Moossy made to exercise discipline.

Every afternoon he made a pitiable appeal that the boys would behave and learn their verbs. For about ten minutes there was quietness, and then, at the sight of Thomas John, sitting at the head of his form and working diligently upon a French translation, which he could do better than Moossy himself, Speug would make a signal to the form, and, leading off from the foot himself, the form would give one quick, unanimous, and masterful push, and Thomas John next instant was sitting on the floor; while if, by any possibility, they could land all his books on him as he lay, and baptise him out of his own ink-bottle, the form was happy and called in their friends of other forms to rejoice with them. Moossy, at the noise of Thomas John's falling, would hurry over and inquire the cause, that a boy so exemplary and diligent should be sitting on the floor with the remains of his work around him; and as Thomas John knew that it would be worth his life to tell the reason, Moossy and he pretended to regard it as one of the unavoidable accidents of life, and after Thomas John had been restored to his place, and the ink wiped off his clothes, Moossy exhorted the form to quietness and diligence. He knew what had happened, and would have been fit for a lunatic asylum if he had not; and we knew that he knew, and we all despised him for his cowardice. Had there been enough spirit in Moossy to go for Speug (just as Bulldog would have done), and thrash him there and then as he sat in his seat, brazen and unashamed, we would all have respected Moossy, and no one more than Speug, to whom all fresh exploits would have had a new relish. But Moossy was a broken-spirited man, in whom there was no fight, who held a post he was not fit for, and held it to get a poor living for himself and one who was dearer to him than his own life. So helpless was he, and so timid, that there were times when the boys grew weary of their teasing and disorder, and condescended to repeat a verb in order to pass the time.

When the spring was in their blood—for, like all young animals, they felt its stirring—then there were wonderful scenes in Moossy's class-room. He dared not stand in those days between two forms, with his face to the one and his back to the other, because of the elastic catapults and the sharp little paper bullets, which, in spite of his long hair, would always find out his ears; and if he turned round to face the battery, the other form promptly unmasked theirs, and between the two he was driven to the end of the room; and then, in his very presence, without a pretence of concealment, the two forms would settle their differences, while, in guttural and uncultured German, Moossy prayed for peace. Times there were, I am sorry to say, when at the sting of the bullet Moossy said bad words, and although they were in German, the boys knew that it was swearing, and Speug's voice would be loudest in horror.



"Mercy on us, lads! this is awful language to hear in the Seminary! If the Town Council gets word of this, there'll be a fine stramish. For masel'," Speug would conclude piously, "I'm perfectly ashamed." And as that accomplished young gentleman had acquired in the stables a wealth of profanity which was the amazement of the school, his protest had all the more weight. Poor Moossy would apologise for what he had said, and beseech the school neither to say it themselves nor to tell what they had heard; and for days afterwards Speug would be warning Thomas John that if he, Speug—censor of morals—caught him cursing and swearing like Moossy, he would duck him in the lake, and afterwards bring him before the Lord Provost and magistrates.

There was no end to the devices of the Seminary for enjoying themselves and tormenting Moossy; and had it not been for Nestie, who had some reserves of taste, the fun would have been much more curious. As it was, Moossy never knew when he might not light upon a frog, till it seemed as if the class-room for modern languages were the chosen home for the reptiles of the district. One morning, when he opened his desk, a lively young Scots terrier puppy sprang up to welcome him, and nearly frightened Moossy out of such wits as he possessed. He had learned to open the door of his class-room cautiously, not knowing whether a German Dictionary might not be ingeniously poised to fall upon his head. His ink-bottle would be curiously attached to his French Grammar, so that when he lifted the book the bottle followed it and sent the spray of ink over his person, adding a new distinction of dirtiness to his coat. Boys going up to write on the blackboard, where they never wrote anything but nonsense, would work symbols with light and rapid touch upon the back of Moossy's coat as they returned; and if one after the other, adding to the work of art, could draw what was supposed to be a human face upon Moossy, the class was satisfied it had not lost the hour. There were times when Moossy felt the hand even on the looseness of that foolish coat, and turned suddenly; but there was no shaking the brazen impudence of Muirtown, and Moossy, looking into the stolid and unintelligent expression of Howieson's face, thought that he had been mistaken. If one boy was set up to do a verb, the form, reading from their books and pronouncing on a principal of their own, would do the verb with him and continue in a loud and sonorous song, till Moossy had to stop them one by one, and then they were full of indignation at being hindered in their studies of the German language.

Moossy was afraid to complain to the Rector, lest his own incompetence should be exposed and his bread be taken from him; and of this the boys, with the unerring cunning of savages, were perfectly aware, and the torture might have gone on for years had it not been for the intervention of Bulldog and a certain incident. As the French class-room was above the mathematical, any special disturbance could be heard in the quietness below; and whatever else they did, the students of foreign languages were careful not to invite the attention of Bulldog. Indeed, the one check upon the freedom of Moossy's room was the danger of Bulldog's arrival, who was engaged that hour with the little boys and had ample leisure of mind to take note of any outrageous noise above, and for want of occupation was itching to get at old friends like Howieson. There are times, however, when even a savage forgets himself, and one spring day the saturnalia in Moossy's room reached an historical height. It had been discovered that any dislike which Moossy may have had to a puppy in his desk, and a frog in his top-cloak pocket, was nothing to the horror with which he regarded mice. As soon as it was known that Moossy would as soon have had a tiger in the French class-room as a mouse upon the loose, it was felt that the study of foreign languages should take a new departure. One morning the boys came in with such punctuality, and settled to their work with such demure diligence, that even Moossy was suspicious and watched them anxiously. For ten minutes there was nothing heard but the drone of the class mangling German sentences, and then Howieson cried aloud in consternation, "A mouse!"

"Vat ees that you say? Ah! mices! vere?" and Moossy was much shaken.

"Yonder," said Speug, pointing to where a mouse was just disappearing under the desk; "and there's another at the fireplace. Dod, the place is fair swarming, and, Moossy, there's one trying to run up your leg. Take care, man, for ony sake."

"A mices," cried Moossy, "vill up my legs go; I vill the desk ascend," and with the aid of a chair Moossy scrambled on to his desk, where he entrenched himself against attack, believing that at that height he would be safe from "mices."



Speug suggested that as this plague of mice had burst upon the French class-room the scholars should meet the calamity like men, and asked Moossy's permission to go out upon the chase. For once Moossy and his pupils had one mind, and the school gave itself to its heart's content, and without a thought of consequences, to a mouse hunt. Nothing is more difficult than to catch a mouse, and the difficulty is doubled when no one wishes to catch it; and so the school fell over benches, and over one another, and jumped over the desks and scrambled under them, ever pretending to have caught a mouse, and really succeeding once in smothering an unfortunate animal beneath the weight of half a dozen boys. Thomas John was early smeared with ink from top to bottom by an accident in which Howieson took a leading part, and the German Dictionary intended for a mouse happened to take Cosh on the way, which led to an encounter between that indignant youth and Bauldie, in which mice were forgotten. The blackboard was brought down with a crash, and a form was securely planted on its ruins. High above the babel Moossy could be heard crying encouragement, and demanding whether the "mices" had been caught, but nothing would induce him to come down from his fastness. When things were at their highest, and gay spirits like Speug were beginning to conclude that even a big snow fight was nothing to a mouse hunt, and Howieson had been so lifted that he had mounted a desk, not to catch a mouse, but to give a cheer, and was standing there without collar or tie, dishevelled, triumphant, and raised above all the trials of life, the door opened and Bulldog entered. And it was a beautiful tribute to the personality of that excellent man, that the whole room crystallised in an instant, and everyone remained motionless, frozen, as it were, in the act.

Bulldog looked round with that calm composure which sat so well upon him, taking in Moossy perched upon his desk, Howieson on his form, Speug sitting with easy dignity on the top of Thomas John, and half a dozen worthies still tied together in a scrimmage, as if this were a sight to which he was accustomed every day in Muirtown Seminary.

"Foreign languages," he began, after a pause of ten seconds, "is evidently a verra divertin' subject of study, and I wonder that any pupil is left in the department of mathematics. I was not aware, Jock, that ye needed to stand on a form before you could do your German, and I suppose that is the French class in the corner. I'm sorry to intrude, but I'm pleased to see a class in earnest about its work, I really am."

"Mices!" remarked Bulldog in icy tones, as poor Moossy came down from his desk and began to explain. "My impression is that you are right, as far as I can judge—and I have some acquaintance with the circumstances. There are a considerable number of mices in this room, a good many more mices than were brought in somebody's pocket this morning. The mices I see were in my class-room this morning, and they were very quiet and peaceable mices, and they'll be the same in this class-room after this, or I'll know the reason why. If you'll excuse me," and Bulldog embraced the whole scene in a comprehensive farewell, "I'll leave the foreign class-room and go down and see what my laddies are doing with their writing"; and when Bulldog closed the door Howieson realised that he owed his escape to Bulldog's respect for another man's class-room, but that the joyful day in modern languages had come to an end. There would be no more "mices."

Next Saturday afternoon Speug and Nestie were out for a ramble in the country, and turning into a lane where the hedgerows were breaking into green, and the primroses nestling at the roots of the bushes, they came upon a sight which made them pause so that they could only stand and look. Down the lane a man was dragging an invalid-chair, a poor and broken thing which had seen its best days thirty years ago. In the chair a woman was sitting, or rather lying, very plainly but comfortably dressed, and carefully wrapped up, whose face showed that she had suffered much, but whose cheeks were responding to the breath of spring. As they stood, the man stopped and went to the bank and plucked a handful of primroses and gave them to the woman; and as he bent over her, holding up the primroses before her eyes, and as they talked together, even the boys saw the grateful pleasure in her eyes. He adjusted the well-worn cloak and changed her position in the chair, and then went back to drag it, a heavy weight down the soft and yielding track; and the boys stood and stared and looked at one another, for the man who was caring so gently for this invalid, and toiling so manfully with the lumbering chair, was Moossy.

"C-cut away, Speug," said Nestie; "he wouldn't like us to see him. I say, he ain't a bad sort—Moossy—after all. Bet you a bottle of g-ginger-beer that's Moossy's wife, and that's why he's so poor."

They were leaving the lane when they heard an exclamation, and going back they found that the miserable machine had slipped into the ditch and there stuck fast beyond poor Moossy's power of recovery. With many an "Ach!" and other words, too, he was bewailing the situation and hanging over his invalid, while she seemed to be cheering him and trying if she could so lie in the chair as to lessen the weight upon the lower side, while every minute the wheel sank deeper in the soft earth.

"What are you st-staring at, you idle, worthless v-vagabond?" said Nestie to Speug. "Come along and give a hand to Moossy," who was so pleased to get some help in the lonely place that he forgot the revealing of his little secret. With Speug in the shafts, who had the strength of a man in his compact little body, and Moossy pulling on the other side, the coach was soon upon the road again, amid a torrent of gratitude from Moossy and his wife, partly in English, but mostly in German, but all quite plain to the boys, for gratitude is always understood in any language. They came bravely along the lane, Speug pulling, Moossy hanging over his wife to make sure she had not been hurt, and Nestie plucking flowers to make up a nosegay in memory of the lane, while Moossy declared them to be "Zwei herzliche Knaben."

When they came to the main road, Speug would not give up his work, but brought the carriage manfully to the little cottage, hidden in a garden, where Moossy lodged. When she had been carried in—she was so light that Moossy could lift her himself—she compelled the boys to come in, too, and Moossy made fragrant coffee, and this they had with strange German cakes, which were not half bad, and to which they both did ample justice. Going home, Nestie looked at Speug, and Speug looked at Nestie, and though no words passed it was understood that the days of the troubles of Moossy in the Seminary of Muirtown were ended.

During the remaining year of Moossy's labours at the Seminary it would not be true to say that he became a good or useful master, for he had neither the knowledge nor the tact, or that the boys were always respectful and did their work, for they were very far removed from being angels; but Moossy did pluck up some spirit, and Speug saw that he suffered no grievous wrong. He also took care that Moossy was not left to be his own horse from day to day, but that the stronger varlets of the Seminary should take some exercise in the shafts of Moossy's coach. Howieson was a young gentleman far removed from sentiment, and he gave it carefully to be understood that he only did the thing for a joke; but there is no question that more than once Jock brought Moossy's carriage, with Moossy's wife in it, successfully along that lane and other lanes, and it is a fact that, on a certain Saturday, Speug came out with one of his father's traps, and Mistress Moossy, as she was called, was driven far and wide about the country around Muirtown.

"You are what the papers call a ph-philanthropist, Speug," said Nestie, "and I expect to hear that you are opening an orphan asylum." And Speug promptly replied that, if he did, the first person to be admitted would be Nestie, and that he would teach him manners.

It was a fortunate thing for Moossy that some one died in Germany and left him a little money, so that he could give up the hopeless drudgery of the Seminary and go home to live in a little house upon the banks of the Rhine. His wife, who had been improving under Dr. Manley's care, began to brisk up at once, and was quite certain of recovery when one afternoon they left Muirtown Station. Some dozen boys were there to see them off, and it was Jock and Speug who helped Moossy to place her comfortably in the carriage. The gang had pooled their pocket-money—selling one or two treasures to swell the sum—that Moossy and his wife might go away laden with such dainties as schoolboys love, and Nestie had a bunch of flowers to place in her hands. They still called him Moossy, as they had done before, and he looked, to tell the truth, almost as shabby and his hair was as long as ever; but he was in great spirits and much touched by the kindness of his tormentors. As the English mail pulled out of Muirtown Station with quickening speed, the boys ran along the platform beside the carriage shaking hands with Moossy through the open window and passing in their gifts.

"Take care o' mices!" shouted Jock, with agreeable humour, but the last sight Moossy had of Muirtown was Speug standing on a luggage-barrow and waving farewell.



A LAST RESOURCE

X

That the Rector should be ill and absent from his classes from time to time was quite in the order of things, because he was a scholar and absent-minded to a degree—going to bed in the morning, and being got out of bed in rather less than time for his work; eating when it occurred to him, but preferring, on the whole, not to eat at all; wearing very much the same clothes summer and winter, and if he added a heavy top-coat, more likely putting it on in the height of summer and going without it when there were ten degrees of frost. It was not for his scholarship, but for his peculiarities, that the school loved him; not because he edited a "Caesar" and compiled a set of Latin exercises, for which perfectly unnecessary and disgusting labours the school hated him, but because he used to arrive at ten minutes past nine, and his form was able to jeer at Bulldog's boys as they hastened into their class-room with much discretion at one minute before the hour. Because he used to be so much taken up with a happy phrase in Horace that he would forget the presence of his class, and walk up and down before the fireplace, chortling aloud; and because sometimes he was so hoarse that he could only communicate with the class by signs, which they unanimously misunderstood. Because he would sometimes be absent for a whole week, and his form was thrown in with another, with the result of much enjoyable friction, and an almost perfect neglect of work. He was respected and never was annoyed, not even by ruffians like Howieson, because everyone knew that the Rector was an honourable gentleman, with all his eccentric ways, and the Muirtown Advertiser had a leader every spring on the achievements of his scholars. Edinburgh professors who came to examine the school used to fill up their speeches on the prize-day with graceful compliments to the Rector, supported by classical quotations, during which the boys cheered rapturously and the Rector looked as if he were going to be hung. He was one of the recognised glories of Muirtown, and was freely referred to at municipal banquets by bailies whose hearts had grown merry within them drinking the Queen's health, and was associated in the peroration to the toast of "the Fair City" with the North Meadow and the Fair Maid, and the River Tay and the County Gaol.

Bulldog was of another breed. Whatever may have been his negligences of dress and occupation in private life—and on this subject Nestie and Speug told fearful lies—he exhibited the most exasperating regularity in public, from his copper-plate handwriting to his speckless dress, but especially by an inhuman and absolutely sinful punctuality. No one with a heart within him and some regard to the comfort of his fellow creatures, especially boys, had any right to observe times and seasons with such exactness. During all our time, except on the one great occasion I wish to record, he was never known to be ill, not even with a cold; and it was said that he never had been for a day off duty, even in the generation before us. His erect, spare frame, without an ounce of superfluous flesh, seemed impervious to disease, and there was a feeling in the background of our minds that for any illness to have attacked Bulldog would have been an act of impertinence which he would have known how to deal with. It was firmly believed that for the last fifty years—and some said eighty, but that was poetry—Bulldog had entered his class-room every morning, except on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, at 8.50, and was ready to begin work at the stroke of nine. There was a pleasant story that in the days of our fathers there had been such a fall of snow and so fierce a wind that the bridge had been drifted up, and no one could cross that morning from the other side. The boys from the south side of the town had brought news of the drift to the school, and the earlier arrivals, who had come in hope of a snow-fight, were so mightily taken with the news that they hurried to the Muirtown end of the bridge to look at the drift, and danced with joy at the thought that on the other side Bulldog was standing, for once helpless and dismayed. Speug's father, true ancestor of such a son, had shouted across the drift invitations for Bulldog to come over, secure in the fact that he could not be seen across its height, and in the hope that Bulldog would not know his voice. When they were weary celebrating the event, and after a pleasant encounter with a hastily organised regiment of message boys, the eager scholars sauntered along to the school, skirmishing as they went, just to be ready for the midday fight with the "Pennies." For the pure joy of it they opened the door of the mathematical class-room, merely to see how it looked when Bulldog was not there, and found that estimable teacher at his desk, waiting to receive them with bland courtesy. Some said that he had stayed in Muirtown all night, anticipating that drift, others that he had climbed over it in the early morning, before Muirtown was awake; but it was found out afterwards that he had induced old Duncan Rorison, the salmon-fisher, to ferry him across the flooded river, that it took them an hour to reach the Muirtown side, and that they had both been nearly drowned in the adventure.

"Come in, my boys," was all that he said. "Ye're a little late, but the roads are heavy this morning. Come to the fire and warm yir hands before ye begin yir work. It's a fine day for mathematics," and Mr. McGuffie senior used to tell his son with much relish that their hands were warmed. The school was profoundly convinced that if necessary Bulldog would be prepared to swim the river rather than miss a day in the mathematical class-room.

It was a pleasant spring morning, and the "marble" season had just begun, when Howieson, after a vicious and well-directed stroke which won him three "brownies," inquired casually whether anybody had seen Bulldog go in; for, notwithstanding the years which came and went, his passing in was always an occasion. Everyone then recollected that he had not been seen, but no one for a moment suggested that he had not arrived; and even when the school trooped into the class-room and found Bulldog's desk empty, there was no exhilaration and no tendency to take advantage of the circumstances. No one knew where he might be lying in wait, and from what quarter he might suddenly appear; and it was wonderful with what docility the boys began to work under the mild and beneficent reign of Mr. Byles, who had not at that time joined with the Dowbiggins in the unlawful pursuit of game. As the forenoon wore on there was certainly some curiosity, and Nestie was questioned as to Bulldog's whereabouts; but it was understood to be a point of honour with Nestie, as a member of his household, to give no information about Bulldog's movements, and so the school were none the wiser. There was some wild talk during the hour, and a dozen stories were afloat by afternoon. Next morning it was boldly said that Bulldog was ill, and some, who did not know what truth was, asserted that he was in bed, and challenged Nestie to deny the slander. That ingenious young gentleman replied vaguely but politely, and veiled the whole situation in such a mist of irrelevant detail that the school went in for the second day to the class-room rejoicing with trembling, and not at all sure whether Bulldog might not arrive in a carriage and pair, possibly with a large comforter round his throat, but otherwise full of spirits and perfectly fit for duty. It was only after the twelve o'clock break and a searching cross-examination of Nestie that the school could believe in the goodness of Providence, and felt like the Children of Israel on the other bank of the Red Sea. Some were for celebrating their independence in the North Meadow and treating Mr. Byles with absolute contempt; but there were others who judged with some acuteness that they could have the North Meadow any day, but they might never again have a full hour in the mathematical class-room without Bulldog. There seemed a certain fitness in holding the celebration amid the scenes of labour and discipline, and the mathematical class went in to wait on Mr. Byles's instruction in high spirits and without one missing. It is true that the Dowbiggins showed for the first time some reluctance in attending to their studies, but it was pointed out to them in a very firm and persuasive way by Speug that it would be disgraceful for them to be absent when Bulldog was ill, and that the class could not allow such an act of treachery. Speug was so full of honest feeling that he saw Thomas John safely within the door, and, since he threatened an unreasonable delay, assisted him across the threshold from behind. There is no perfectly full and accurate account extant of what took place between twelve and one that day in the mathematical class-room, but what may be called contributions to history oozed out and were gratefully welcomed by the school. It was told how Bauldie, being summoned by Mr. Byles to work a problem on the board, instead of a triangle drew a fetching likeness of Mr. Byles himself, and being much encouraged by the applause of the class, and having an artist's love of his work, thrust a pipe into Mr. Byles's mouth (pictorially), and blacked one of Mr. Byles's eyes (also pictorially), and then went to his seat with a sense of modest worth. That Mr. Byles, through a want of artistic appreciation, resented this Bohemian likeness of himself, and, moved by a Philistine spirit, would have wiped it from the board; but the senior members of the class would on no account allow any work by a young but promising master to be lost, and succeeded in the struggle in wiping Mr. Byles's own face with the chalky cloth. That Mr. Byles, instead of entering into the spirit of the day, lost his temper and went to Bulldog's closet for a cane; whereupon Speug, seizing the opportunity so pleasantly afforded, locked Mr. Byles in that place of retirement, and so kept him out of any further mischief for the rest of the hour. That as Mr. Byles had been deposed from office on account of his incapacity, and the place of mathematical master was left vacant, Speug was unanimously elected to the position, and gave an address, from Bulldog's desk, replete with popular humour. That as Thomas John did not seem to be giving such attention to his studies as might have been expected, Speug ordered that he be brought up for punishment, which was promptly done by Bauldie and Howieson. That after a long review of Thomas John's iniquitous career, Speug gave him the tawse with much faithfulness, Bauldie seeing that Thomas John held out his hand in a becoming fashion; then that unhappy young gentleman was sent to his seat with a warning from Speug that this must never occur again. That Nestie, having stealthily left the room, gave such an accurate imitation of Bulldog's voice in the passage—"Pack of little fiddlers taking advantage of my absence; but I'll warm them"—that there was an instantaneous rush for the seats; and when the door opened and Nestie appeared, the mathematical class-room was as quiet as pussy, and Speug was ostentatiously working at a mathematical problem. There are men living who look back on that day with modest, thankful hearts, finding in its remembrance a solace in old age for the cares of life; and the scene on which they dwell most fondly is Nestie, whose face had been whitened for his abominable trick, standing on the top of Bulldog's desk, and singing a school song with the manner of the Count and the accent of Moossy, while Speug with a cane in his hand compelled Dowbiggin to join in the chorus, and Byles could be heard bleating from the closet. Ah, me! how soon we are spoiled by this sinful world, and lose the sweet innocence of our first years! how poor are the rewards of ambition compared with the simple pleasures of childhood!

It could not be expected that we should ever have another day as good again, but everyone had a firm confidence in the originality of Speug when it was a question of mischief. We gathered hopefully round the Russian guns next morning—for, as I have said, the guns were our forum and place of public address—and, while affecting an attitude of studied indifference, we waited with desire to hear the plan of campaign from our leader's lips. But Speug, like all great generals, was full of surprises, and that morning he was silent and unapproachable. Various suggestions were made for brightening the mathematical labours and cheering up Mr. Byles, till at last Howieson, weary of their futility, proposed that the whole class should go up to the top of the North Meadow and bathe in the river, and then Speug broke silence.

"Ye may go to bathe if ye like, Jock, and Cosh may go with ye, and if he's drowned it'll be no loss, nor, for that matter, if the half of ye are carried down the river. For myself, I'm going to the mathematical class, and if onybody meddles wi' Byles I'll fight him in the back yard in the dinner-hour for half a dozen stone-gingers."

"Is there onything wrang with your head, Speug?" For the thought of Peter busy with a triangle under the care and pastoral oversight of Mr. Byles could only be explained in one way.

"No," replied Speug savagely, "nor with my fists, either. The fact is——" And then Speug hesitated, realising amid his many excellences a certain deficiency of speech for a delicate situation. "Nestie, what are ye glowering at? Get up on the gun and tell them aboot—what ye told me this meenut." And the school gathered in amazement round our pulpit, on which Nestie stood quite unconcerned.

"It was very good fun-n yesterday, boys, but it won't do to-t-to-day. Bully's very ill, and Doctor Manley is afraid that he may—d-die, and it would be beastly bad form-m to be having larks when Bulldog is—maybe——" And Nestie came down hurriedly from the gun and went behind the crowd, while Speug covered his retreat in an aggressive manner, all the more aggressive that he did not seem himself to be quite indifferent.

Manley said it. Then every boy knew it must be going hard with Bulldog; for there was not in broad Scotland a cleverer, pluckier, cheerier soul in his great profession than John Manley, M.D., of Edinburgh, with half a dozen honours of Scotland, England, and France. He had an insight into cases that was almost supernatural, he gave prescriptions which nobody but his own chemist could make up, he had expedients of treatment that never occurred to any other man, and then he had a way with him that used to bring people up from the gates of death and fill despairing relatives with hope. His arrival in the sick room, a little man, with brusque, sharp, straightforward manner, seemed in itself to change the whole face of things and beat back the tides of disease. He would not hear that any disease was serious, but he treated it as if it were; he would not allow a gloomy face in a sick room, and his language to women who began to whimper, when he got them outside the room, was such as tom cats would be ashamed of; and he regarded the idea of any person below eighty dying on his hands as a piece of incredible impertinence. All over Perthshire country doctors in their hours of anxiety and perplexity sent for Manley; and when two men like William McClure and John Manley took a job in hand together, Death might as well leave and go to another case, for he would not have a look in with those champions in the doorway. English sportsmen in lonely shooting-boxes sent for the Muirtown crack in hours of sudden distress, and then would go up to London and swear in the clubs that there was a man down there in a country town of Scotland who was cleverer than all the West End swell doctors put together. He would not allow big names of diseases to be used in his hearing, believing that the shadow killed more people than the reality, and fighting with all his might against the melancholy delight that Scots people have in serious sickness and other dreary dispensations. When Manley returned one autumn from a week's holiday and found the people of the North Free Kirk mourning in the streets over their minister, because he was dying of diphtheria, and his young wife asking grace to give her husband up if it were the will of God, Manley went to the house in a whirlwind of indignation, declaring that to call a sore throat diphtheria was a tempting of Providence, and that it was a mere mercy that they hadn't got the real disease "just for a judgment." It happened, however, that his treatment was exactly the same as that for diphtheria, and although he remarked that he didn't know whether it was necessary for him to come back again for such an ordinary case, he did drop in by a series of accidents twice a day for more than a week; and although no one dared to whisper it in his presence, there are people who think to this day that the minister had diphtheria. As Manley, however, insisted that it was nothing but a sore throat, the minister felt bound to get better, and the whole congregation would have thanked Manley in a body had it not been that he would have laughed aloud. Many a boy remembered the day when he had been ill and sweating with terror lest he should die—although he wouldn't have said that to any living creature—and Manley had come in like a breeze of fresh air, and declared that he was nothing but a "skulking young dog," with nothing wrong about him, except the desire to escape for three days from Bulldog.

"Well, Jimmie, ye don't deserve it, for you're the most mischievous little rascal, except Peter McGuffie, in the whole of Muirtown; but I'll give you three days in bed, and your mother will let you have something nice to eat, and then out you go and back to the Seminary," and going out of the door Manley would turn round and shake his fist at the bed, "just a trick, nothing else." It might be three weeks before the boy was out of bed, but he was never afraid again, and had some heart to fight his disease.

Boys are not fools, and the Seminary knew that, if Manley had allowed death to be even mentioned in connexion with Bulldog, it was more than likely that they would never see the master of the mathematical department again. And boys are a perfect absurdity, for—as sure as death—they were not glad. Bulldog had thrashed them all, or almost all, with faithfulness and perseverance, and some of them he had thrashed many times; he had never petted any of them, and never more than six times, perhaps, said a kind word to them in public. But that morning, as they stood silent, awkward and angry, round the guns, there is no doubt about it, the Seminary knew that it loved Bulldog. Never to see his erect figure and stern face come across the North Meadow, never to hear him say again from the desk, "Attention to your work, you little fiddlers"; never to watch him promenading down between the benches, overseeing each boy's task and stimulating the negligent on some tender part of their bodies; never to be thrashed by him again! At the thought of this calamity each boy felt bad in his clothes, and Speug, resenting what he judged the impertinent spying of Cosh, threatened to punch his head, and "learn Cosh to be watching him." As everybody knows, boys have no sentiment and no feeling, so the collapse of that morning must be set down to pure cussedness; but the school was so low that Byles ruled over them without resistance, and might have thrashed them if he had so pleased and had not ventured to use Bulldog's cane.

Had they not been boys, they would have called at Bulldog's to learn how he was. Being boys, they avoided his name and pretended they were indifferent; but when they met Manley on the bridge that afternoon, and judged he had come from Bulldog's, they studied his face with the skill of wild animals, and concluded each one for himself that things were going badly with the master. They picked up every scrap of information from their fathers in the evening, although they fiercely resented the suggestion of their mothers that they would be concerned about "Mr. MacKinnon's illness"—as if they cared whether a master were ill or well, as if it were not better for them that he should be ill, especially such an old brute as Bulldog. And the average mother was very much disappointed by this lack of feeling, and said to her husband at night that she had expected better things from Archibald; but if she had gone suddenly into Bauldie's room—for that was his real name, Archibald being only the thing given in baptism—she would have found that truculent worthy sobbing aloud and covering his head with the blankets, lest his elder brother, who slept in the same room, should hear him. You have no reason to believe me, and his mother would not have believed me, but—as sure as death—Bauldie was crying because Bulldog was sick unto death.

Next morning Speug and a couple of friends happened by the merest accident to be loitering at Bailie MacFarlane's shop window, and examining with interest the ancient furniture exposed, at the very time when that worthy magistrate came out and questioned Dr. Manley "How things were going up-bye wi' the maister?"

"Not well, bailie, not well at all. I don't like the case; it looks bad, very bad indeed, and I'm not a croaker. Disease is gone, and he's a strong man, not a stronger in Muirtown than MacKinnon; but he has lost interest in things, and isn't making an effort to get better; just lying quiet and looking at you—says he's taking a rest, and if we don't get him waked up, I tell you, Bailie, it will be a long one."

"Michty," said the Bailie, overcome with astonishment at the thought of Bulldog dying, as it were, of gentleness.

"Yes, yes," said Manley; "but that's just the way with those strong, healthy men, who have never known a day's sickness till they are old; they break up suddenly. And he'll be missed. Bailie, Bulldog didn't thrash you and me, else we would have been better men; but he has attended to our boys."

"He has been verra conscientious," and the Bailie shook his head, sadly mourning over a man who had laid down his life in discharge of discipline. But the boys departed without remark, and Speug loosened the strap of Bauldie's books, so that they fell in a heap upon the street, whereat there was a brisk interchange of ideas, and then the company went on its way rejoicing. So callous is a boy.

Nestie was not at school that day, and perhaps that was the reason that Speug grew sulky and ill-tempered, taking offence if anyone looked at him, and picking quarrels in the corridors, and finally disappearing during the dinner-hour. It was supposed that he had broken bounds and gone to Woody Island, that forbidden Paradise of the Seminary, and that while the class was wasting its time with Byles, Peter was playing the Red Indian. He did not deny the charge next day, and took an hour's detention in the afternoon with great equanimity, but at the time he was supposed to be stalking Indians behind the trees, and shooting them as they floated down the river on a log, he was lying among the hay in his father's stable, hidden from sight, and—as sure as death—Speug was trying to pray for Bulldog.

The virtues of Mr. McGuffie senior were those of the natural man, and Mr. McGuffie junior had never been present at any form of family prayers, nor had he attended a Sunday-school, nor had he sat under any minister in particular. He had no training in devotional exercises, although he had enjoyed an elaborate education in profanity under his father and the grooms, and so his form of prayer was entirely his own.

"God, I dinna ken how to call You, but they say Ye hear onybody. I'm Peter McGuffie, but mebbe Ye will ken me better by Speug. I'm no' a good laddie like Nestie, and I'm aye gettin' the tawse, but I'm awful fond of Bulldog. Dinna kill Bulldog, God; dinna kill Bulldog! If Ye let him aff this time I'll never say any bad words again—as sure as death—and I'll never play truant, and I'll never slap Dowbiggin's face, and I'll never steal birds' eggs, and I'll never set the terrier on the cats. I'll wash my face and—my hands, too, and I'll go to the Sabbath-schule, and I'll do onything Ye ask me if Ye'll let off Bulldog. For ony sake, dinna kill Bulldog."

When Dr. Manley came out from the master's garden door that evening he stumbled upon Speug, who was looking very miserable, but began to whistle violently the moment he was detected, and denied that he had come to ask for news.

"You did, you young limmer, and you needn't tell me lies, for I know you, Speug, and your father before you. I wish I'd good news to give you, but I haven't. I fear you've had your last thrashing from Bulldog."

For a moment Speug kicked at a stone on the road and thrust his hands deep into his pockets; then the corners of his mouth began to twitch, and turning round he hid his face upon the wall, while his tough little body that had stood many a fight shook all over. Doctor Manley was the first person that had seen Speug cry, and he stood over him to protect him from the gaze of any wandering message boys who might come along the lane. By and by Speug began to speak between his sobs.

"It was a lee, Doctor, for I did come up to ask, but I dinna like to let on.... I heard ye say that ye couldna rouse Bulldog to take an interest in onything, and I thought o' something."

"What was it, Speug?" and the doctor laid his hands on the boy's shoulder and encouraged him to proceed. "I'll never tell, you may trust me."

"Naething pleased Bulldog sae weel as givin' us a lickin'; if he juist had a cane in his hands and a laddie afore him, Bulldog would sune be himsel' again, and—there's no a laddie in schule he's licked as often as me. And I cam up——" and Speug stuck.

"To offer yourself for a thrashing, you mean. You've mentioned the medicine; 'pon my word, I believe it's just the very thing that will do the trick. Confound you, Speug! if you haven't found out what I was seeking after, and I've been doctoring those Muirtown sinners for more than thirty years. Come along, laddie; we've had our consultation, and we'll go to the patient." And Manley hurried Speug through the garden and into the house. "Wait a minute here," said the doctor, "and I'll come back to you." And in a little while Nestie came down-stairs and found his friend in the lobby, confused and frightened for the first time in his life, and Nestie saw the marks of distress upon his face. "Doctor M-Manley told me, Speug, and" (putting an arm round his neck) "you're the g-goodest chap in Muirtown. It's awfully d-decent of you, and it'll p-please Bully tremendous." And then Speug went up as consulting physician to visit Bulldog. Nestie brought him forward to the bedside, and at last he had courage to look, and it took him all his time to play the man when he saw Bulldog so thin, so quiet, so gentle, with his face almost as white as the pillow, and his hands upon the bedclothes wasted like to the hands of a skeleton. The master smiled faintly, and seemed to be glad to see the worst of all his scholars, but he did not say anything. Dr. Manley kept in the background and allowed the boys to manage their own business, being the wisest of men as well as the kindliest. Although Nestie made signs to Speug and gave him every encouragement, Peter could not find a word, but stood helpless, biting his lip and looking the very picture of abject misery.

"Peter has come, sir," said Nestie, "to ask for you. He is very sorry that you are ill, and so are all the boys. Peter thought you might be wearying to—to use the c-cane, and Peter is wearying, too. Just a little one, sir, to p-please Speug," and Nestie laid an old cane he had hunted up, a cane retired from service, upon the bed within reach of Bulldog's hand. A twinkle of amusement came into the master's eye, the first expression of interest he had shown during his illness. He turned his head and looked at Peter, the figure of chastened mischief. The remembrance of the past—the mathematical class-room, the blackboard with its figures, the tricks of the boys, the scratching of the pens, came up to him, and his soul was stirred within him. His hand closed again upon the sceptre of authority, and Peter laid a grimy paw open upon the bedclothes. The master gave it one little stroke with all the strength he had. "The fiddlers," he said softly, "the little fiddlers can't do without me, after all." A tear gathered in his eye and overflowed and rolled down Bulldog's cheek. Manley hurried the boys out of the room, who went into the garden, and, being joined by the master's dog, the three together played every monkey trick they knew, while upstairs in the sick-room Manley declared that Bulldog had turned the corner and would soon be back again among his "fiddlers."



The doctor insisted upon driving Peter home to his native stable-yard, for this was only proper courtesy to a consulting physician. He called him "Doctor" and "Sir Peter" and such like names all the way, whereat Peter was so abashed that friends seeing him sitting in Manley's phaeton, with such an expression on his face, spread abroad the tale that the doctor was bringing him home with two broken legs as the result of riding a strange horse. The doctor bade him good-bye in the presence of his father, tipping him ten shillings to treat the school on the news of Bulldog's convalescence, and next day stone-ginger was flowing like water down the throats of the Seminary.

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