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a grating sound, as Miller shouts, “ Unship oars, bow and three !” and the nose of the St. Ambrose boat glides quietly up to the side of the Exeter, till it touches their stroke oar.
“ Take care where you 're coming to.” It is the coxswain of the bumped boat who speaks.
Tom finds himself within a foot or two of him when he looks round; and, being utterly unable to contain his joy, and yet unwilling to exhibit it before the eyes of a gallant rival, turns away toward the shore, and begins telegraphing to Hardy.
“Now, then, what are you at there in the bows ? Cast her off, quick. Come, look alive! Push across at once out of the way of the other boats.”
“I congratulate you, Jervis,” says the Exeter stroke, as the St. Ambrose boat shoots past him. “Do it again next race and I sha'n't care."
“ We were within three lengths of Brazen-nose when we bumped,” says the all-observant Miller, in a low voice.
“All right," answers the captain: “Brazen-nose is n't so strong as usual. We sha'n't have much trouble there, but a tough job up above, I take it.”
“ Brazen-nose was better steered than Exeter."
“ They muffed it in the Gut, eh?” said the captain. “I thought so by the shouts.”
“ Yes, we were pressing them a little down below and their coxswain kept looking over his shoulder. He was in the Gut before he knew it, and had to pull his left hand hard, or they would have fouled the Oxfordshire corner. That stopped their way and in we went."
“ Bravo! and how well we started, too."
“Yes, thanks to that Hardy. It was touch and go though. I could n't have held the rope two seconds more.”
“ How did our fellows work? She dragged a good deal below the Gut.”
Miller looked somewhat serious, but even he cannot be finding fault just now ; for the first step is gained, the first victory won; and, as Homer sometimes nods, so Miller relaxes the sternness of his rule. The crew, as soon as they have found their voices again, laugh and talk, and answer the congratulations of their friends, as the boat slips along close to the towing. path on the Berks side, “easy all," almost keeping pace, nevertheless, with the lower boats, which are racing up under the willows on the Oxfordshire site. Jack, after one or two fe'nts,
makes a frantic bound into the water, and is hauled dripping into the boat by Drysdale, unchid by Miller, but to the intense disgust of Diogenes, whose pantaloons and principles are alike outraged by the proceeding. He — the Cato of the
scorns to relax the strictness of his code, even after victory won. Neither word nor look does he cast to the exulting St. Ambrosians on the bank; a twinkle in his eye, and a subdued chuckle or two, alone betray that, though an oarsman, he is mortal. Already he revolves in his mind the project of an early walk under under a few pea-coats, not being quite satisfied (conscientious old boy !) that he tried his stretcher enough in that final spurt, and thinking that there must be an extra pound of flesh on him somewhere or other which did the mischief.
“ I say, Brown,” said Drysdale, “ how do you feel?” “ All right," said Tom; “ I never felt jollier in
jollier in my life.” By Jove, though, it was an awful grind ; did n't you wish yourself well out of it below the Gut ?”
“No, nor you either."
“Did n't I, though! I was awfully baked, my throat is like a lime-kiln yet. What did you think about ?”
“Well, about keeping time, I think,” said Tom, laughing, “ but I can't remember much.”
“I only kept on by thinking how I hated those devils in the Exeter boat, and how done up they must be, and hoping their Number 2 felt like having a fit.”
At this moment they came opposite the Cherwell. The leading boat was just passing the winning-post off the University barge, and the band struck up the “ Conquering hero," with a crash. And while a mighty sound of shouts, murmurs,
and music went up into the evening sky, Miller shook the tillerropes again, the captain shouted, “ Now then, pick her up," and the St. Ambrose boat shot up between the swarming banks at racing pace to her landing-place, the lion of the evening.
Dear readers of the gentler sex! you, I know, will pardon the enthusiasm which stirs our pulses, now in sober middle age, as we call up again the memories of this, the most exciting sport of our boyhood (for we were but boys, then, after all.). You will pardon, though I fear hopelessly unable to understand the ab ve sketch ; your sons and brothers will tell you it could not have been made less technical.
For you, male readers, who have never handled an oar what shall I say to you? You, at least, I hope, in some way
in other contests of one kind or another — have felt as we felt, and have striven as we strove. You ought to understand and sympathize with us in all our boating memories. Oh, how fresh and sweet they are! Above all that one of the gay little Henley town, the carriage-crowded bridge, the noble river reach, the giant poplars, which mark the critical point of the course; the roaring column of “undergrades,” light blue and dark purple, Cantab and Oxonian, alike and yet how different, hurling along together, and hiding the towing-path; the clang of Henley church-bells, the cheering, the waving of embroidered handkerchiefs, and glancing of bright eyes, the ill-concealed pride of fathers, the open delight and exultation of mothers and sisters; the levee in the town-hall when the race was rowed, the great cup full of champagne (inn-champagne, but we were not critical); the chops, the steaks, the bitter beer; but we run into anticlimax — remember, we were boys then, and bear with us if you cannot sympathize.
And you, old companions, pavitai benchers of the gallant eight-oar), now seldom met, but never-forgotten, lairds, squires, soldiers, merchants, lawyers, grave J. P.'s, graver clergy men, gravest bishops (for of two bishops at least does our brotherhood boast), I turn for a moment from my task, to reach to you the right hand of fellowship from these pages, and empty this solemn pewter - trophy of hard-won victory – to your health and happiness.
Surely none the worse Christians and citizens are ye for your involuntary failing of muscularity !
A CHANGE IN THE CREW, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
It was on a Saturday that the St. Ambrose boat made the first bump, described in our last chapter. On the next Saturday, the day-week after the first success, at nine o'clock in the evening, our hero was at the door of Hardy's rooms. He just stopped for one moment outside, with his hand on the lock, looking a little puzzled, but withal pleased, and then opened the door and entered. The little estrangement which there had been between them for some weeks had passed away since the races had begun. Hardy had thrown himself into the spirit of them so thoroughly, that he had not only regained all his hold on Tom, but had warmed up the whole crew in his favor, and had mollified the martinet Miller himself. It was
VOL. XII. I
he who had managed the starting rope in every race, and his voice from the towing path had come to be looked upon as a safe guide for clapping on or rowing or steady. Even Miller, autocrat as he was, had come to listen for it, in confirmation of his own judgment, before calling on the crew for the final effort.
So Tom had recovered his old footing in the servitor's rooms; and, when he entered on the night in question, did so with the bearing of an intimate friend. Hardy's tea commons were on one end of the table, as usual, and he was sitting at the other poring over a book. Tom marched straight up to him, and leant over his shoulder.
“ What, here you are at the perpetual grind,” he said. “Come, shut up, and give me some tea; I want to talk to you.
Hardy looked up, with a grim smile.
“Are you up to a cup of tea ?” he said; “look here, I was just reminded of you fellows. Shall I construe for you?”
He pointed with his finger to the open page of the book he was reading. It was the “Knights” of Aristophanes, and Tom, leaning over his shoulder, read:
« κάτα καθίζον μαλαώς ίνα μη τρίβης την εν Σαλαμίνι,” etc. After meditating a moment he burst out. “ You hardhearted old ruffian! I come here for sympathy, and the first thing you do is to poke fun at me out of your wretched classics! I've a good mind to clear out, and not do my errand.”
“What's a man to do ?” said Hardy. “I hold that it's always better to laugh at fortune. What's the use of repining? You have done famously, and second is a capital place on the river."
“Second be hanged!” said Tom. “We mean to be first!”
Well, I hope we may!” said Hardy. “I can tell you no. body felt it more than I — not even old Diogenes — when you did n't make your bump to-night.”
“Now you talk like a man, and a Saint Ambrosian," said Tom. “But what do you think? Shall we ever catch them?” and so saying, he retired to a chair opposite the tea-things. “No," said Hardy; “I don't think we ever shall.
I'm very sorry to say it, but they are an uncommonly strong lot, and we have a weak place or two in our crew. I don't think we can do more than we did to-night - at least with the present crew.”
“But if we could get a little more strength we might ?”
“Yes, I think so. Jervis' stroke is worth two of theirs. Very little more powder would do it.”
“Then we must have a little more powder.”
“You !” said Tom, sitting up. " There, now, that's just what I am come about. Drysdale is to go out.
Will you pull next race? They all want you to row.”
“Do they ?” said Hardy, quietly (but Tom could see that his eyes sparkled at the notion, though he was too proud to show how much he was pleased); “ then they had better come and ask me themselves."
“Well, you cantankerous old party, they ’re coming, I can tell you!” said Tom, in great delight. “The captain just sent me on to break ground, and will be here directly himself. I say now, Hardy,” he went on, “don't you say no. I've set my heart upon it. I'm sure we shall bump them if you pull.”
“I don't know that,” said Hardy, getting up, and beginning to make tea, to conceal the excitement he was in at the idea of rowing; "you see I'm not in training.”
"Gammon," said Tom, "you 're always in training, and you know it."
"Well,” said Hardy, “I can't be in worse than Drysdale. He has been of no use above the Gut this last three nights.
" That's just what Miller says," said Tom, “and here comes the captain.” There was a knock at the door while he spoke, and Jervis and Miller entered.
Tom was in a dreadful fidget for the next twenty minutes, and may best be compared to an enthusiastic envoy negotiating a commercial treaty, and suddenly finding his action impeded by the arrival of his principals. Miller was very civil, but not pressing; he seemed to have come more with a view of talking over the present state of things, and consulting upon them, than of enlisting a recruit. Hardy met him more than half.way, and speculated on all sorts of possible issues, without a hint of volunteering himself. But presently Jervis, who did not understand finessing, broke in, and asked Hardy, pointblank, to pull in the next race; and when he pleaded want of training, overruled him at once, by saving that there was no better training than sculling. So in half an hour all was settled. Hardy was to pull five in the next race, Diogenes was to take Blake's place at No. 7, and Blake to take Drysdale's