صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

as rich as Christ Church, and had eight good livings in their gift. Let us see how they used their wealth.

They were bound to receive, and to maintain, any boy nominated by any future benefactor of the hospital. This was an awkward clause, because any one might have claimed to maintain a boy for a guinea. Illegally, but perhaps reasonably, they instituted an order of governors ; any man giving them a hundred pounds down was to be a life governor; if they had been less wealthy, one could have excused them for this precaution. With regard to the twelve boys to be apprenticed or sent to the university, they read that clause liberally, and apprenticed the whole lot of them. With regard to the two scholars that were to be sent to St. Paul's and St. Dominic's, why, they carried out their founder's will, and sent them there; and the funds left for their provision had increased in much the same proportion as their own, so that these young gentlemen had as little to complain of as the master and fellows of St. Mary's. The rest of the money they put into their own pockets, without fear of royal commissioners.

Who came, however. Granby Dixon was the man who did the business ostensibly, but Arthur Silcote, Granby Dixon's old Balliol friend, was the real wover in the matter, and when he moved he did so with a will. The thing was commissioned, looked into, and abolished. worse than Dulwich. The commissioners had no difficulty whatever, the matter was too shameful; they, having arranged the financial matters, made their congé to the master, fellows, and governors, saying at the same time, through their chairman, that they left the rest to the governors ; whose authority had been so long respected, now that it could not be resisted.

Our little friend, James, had been nearly a year at the school, and was beginning to get used to it, if not to like it. This place was warm, there was always enough to eat here, and the people were kind. No putting on of hard boots on frozen feet here. No dinners of dry crusts, no battling with hail, snow, or long dull driving south-westerly rain. In this place kind and strong hands had conquered Nature, so that the young and the feeble might rest from the lower


It was

strife to prepare themselves for the higher one. Still, Nature had not always been unkind to him; she had sometimes her tender gentle moods. There had been long cloudless days, with the blue unstained, from sunrise to sunset; there had been deep hazel copses of green and gold; and long shallows over silver gravel where one lay and rolled, seeing the spotted fish scud by under the quivering water : as well as there had been wild days when one had to drag one's weary limbs over clay fallows. These better moods of Nature he missed in his brick prison. He had now been there eight months, spending holidays and all there, and his ear wearied at the rear of the surrounding city, which had never ceased, night or day, all that weary time.

He had leave on certain saints' days to wander in that city, and he had made one or two efforts to pierce the surrounding network of brick and mortar, and get to the country once more. In the hot solitude of his Midsummer vacation he had planned and tried to execute the greatest of these expeditions. Sleeping on his cherished purpose, he awoke full of eagerness to carry it out, and started southward as soon as the gates were opened, on a bright summer's morning. His object was to reach a certain "Peerless Pool," which existed, and still I think exists, behind Lambeth, of which a boy, a friend of his, had told him; to bathe there, and return. He had plenty of money

; -threepence—and the distance could scarcely be more than four miles. The thing promised well, but it ended in complete disappointment. The boys in the immediate neighbourhood had got used to the absurd and hideous green baize petticoats in which the St. Mary's boys were clothed, and knew that to bully a solitary one was to have the whole swarm about your ears; but as he got further afield his clothes attracted still more attention, until at last advance became impossible. They would have no boys in green baize petticoats there. He was a boy who would fight, as we have seen before, but you can't fight an enemy numbering hundreds, in detail, one down another on. He lost nerve and ran at last, and was as a natter of course pursued; he managed at last to lose his pursuers, and himself also, in a maze of little streets : and by eleven o'clock he was back at the school, panting and wearied, with the hot tears of grief and indignation ready to break out when the time should come.

Tears did not come at first; anger and pride kept his eyes dry for a time; but a turn or two in solitude through the desolate whitewashed corridors, and the more desolate dormitories, threw the self which had asserted and forgotten itself in the cruelty and turmoil of the streets back upon self once more.

And self sent back to self means utter isolation and hopeless misery. In children it produces a wild hysterical passion of tears, which rends the body until it deadens the sense of desolation in the mind: with grown men who cannot weep it is less merciful. Are there not suicides and madmen?

James, poor lad, after having failed utterly and miserably in his long cherished expedition-after having, in spite of his valour, been pummelled, beaten, and forced to fly to the only home he knew now—made more miserable by the sight of those einpty corridors and dormitories, went out into the wide hot main quadrangle, and did what nature told him to do: cried himself to sleep against the pump. The pump was close to the board-room window, and there was a board to-day; but it was as good a place as another.

He fell asleep, and he had a dream, very much like other dreams: that is to say, a perfect farrago of nonsense. Every one he had ever known in his life—and a few more, such as Robinson Crusoe, the Sleeping Girl of Trumpington, the late Mrs. Shipton, Governor Picton, Richard the Third, and Julia Mannering, whom he had only known from books—were all assembled at Silcotes, none of them either doing or saying in the least what they ought, or what they wanted. The only point in common which they had, from Robinson Crusoe to the steward's-room boy, was that they were all waiting for Dark Squire Silcote. He put in an appearance at last, but in that unsatisfactory way common to dreams. He never really appeared : he only spoke, in an awful voice, at the sound of which every one bolted, and the boy awoke. What the Dark Squire said was, “Sir Hugh Brockliss is a fool, an ass, and a prig. If you set to work breeding fools, you must succeed sooner or later. The Brocklisses have been fools since the Conquest, and they married his father to Lady Emily Llywellyn, and the Llywellyns have been fools since the Fall. Lady Eve Llywellyn was the woman who did the original mischief with the serpent. I have seen their pedigree at Glyn Dwr. The man can't help being an ass, but I never was beaten by horse or donkey yet. You had best look for that boy, Archy; it is a kind thing to do. Mr. Betts, we will not be beaten by these idiots. Now, if you will fulfil your promise and guide me to Lombard Street, I shall be obliged.”

A dream and no dream. The boy had been hearing in his dog's-sleep the voice of Silcote, growling away in the committee-room for above half an hour, and his dream had fashioned itself accordingly. He awoke to see Silcote, whose figure he knew well, walking away across the hot empty quadrangle, with a seedy, fat-looking old gentleman

to see Sir Hugh Brockliss, whom he also knew well by sight as a governor, standing in the board-room doorway and scowling after him; and to find Arthur Silcote bending over him, smiling.

“You little pea in a drum," he said, "I was coming to look for you. You and I are going out for a grand holiday together. Boy, you have been crying! Have they been ill-using you? Tell me the truth, without fear, now."

James told the truth. Every one about the hospital was most kind to him. But he told the story of his projected expedition, and its failure in consequence of his clothes.

Arthur set his teeth and stamped his foot. “We are going to change all that, boy,” he said, “if the idiots will

And Sir Hugh Brockliss talks about the associations of the place. Come on, my child. Wash your face, and let you and me go down among the ships. We will mend all this for you, boy, and mend it soon, I hope. Leave that alone, and come with me."

In half an hour Arthur Silcote had his boy down among the ships at the East India Docks. And, if you ever have a boy thrown on your hands, and if that boy finds himself bored by being taken down the river and shown the ships, why, don't undertake that boy again, for he is not worth the trouble.

let us.

James, after his morning's failure, passed after all the golden day of his life. Arthur began by pitying the poor little

реа in the drum, and gave him a treat as a matter of duty. As a general rule, a man when he goes down the river does not choose a boy in green baize petticoats for his companion. Arthur took the boy as a mere matter of duty and kindliness; but, before they had got far on their voyage, he found that he was not doomed by any means to pass the most unpleasant day in his life. The boy was such a queer boy. He was so strangely well read, and yet so unutterably ignorant about the visible outside of things. The boy's general floating information was absurdly great. When he found himself fairly under Arthur's protection, and, having forgotten about his ridiculous dress, got confidential, he puzzled Arthur in fifty ways.

There were meetings of the board of governors twice a week now, and the attendance at them grew more numerous, and the debates more animated. He soon began to understand the matter.

Arthur Silcote had taken it into his head that the school should be moved into the country, and that their hideous dress should be replaced by a neat uniform and lighter shoes in which they could play. The whole thing was no business of his; he was in no way connected with the school; but he wished it done, and, consequently, intended to do it, and, consequently, did it. Granby Dixon was no good here; further reforms were left to the governors, of whom he knew only two-his father Silcote, and old Betts, his brother's father-in-law—a very poor team to start with for accomplishing such a great revolution. Yet they were two very good trumps. Betts had become a governor in the time of his prosperity, and was a governor still, and would fight loyally to the death for anything bearing the name of Silcote. He was safe, and moreover was as able a vestry debater as could easily be found. Then his father! How to arouse his persistent bull-dog obstinacy and illtemper in the cause, was for a few days a question. He had sufficient influence over his father to make him move in the matter ; but it required something more than his influence to arouse him from so many years of laziness and


« السابقةمتابعة »