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That Scholarship Boy By Emma Leslie Characters: 15194

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Brother and Sister.

'I say, we've got a new boy at Torrington's. Haven't had one for ages and ages, so it's made quite a stir among us.'

'You can make stir enough when you are coming out of school,' said his sister, lifting her eyes from her lessons and looking across the table.

'Who is the new boy?' she asked.

'Nobody knows-that's the fun,' said Leonard, with a short whistle.

'Don't you even know his name?'

'That's just like a girl, Duffy; you're worse than usual,' said her brother, setting his elbows on the table, and nibbling the end of the pen-holder in a meditative fashion. 'Of course he was properly introduced to the class as Mr. Horace Howard.'

'Howard is a nice name,' commented Duffy, whose real name was Florence. 'It was Aunt Lucy's name before she was married, you know.'

No, I don't know. I may have heard it, but the name's nothing. I don't suppose his father was hanged!' said her brother.

'Perhaps he is some distant relative of the Duke of Norfolk? though auntie says she has nothing to do with those Howards.'

A mocking laugh greeted this suggestion. 'Go on, Duffy, let us have some more of your wisdom.'

'I don't see what there is to laugh at, Len, and I am sure I don't want to hear about the new boy,' said his sister indignantly, and she turned to her lessons once more.

This brought a fusillade of paper pellets from the student sitting opposite. She bore it patiently for a minute or two, and then angrily demanded why he did not get on with his lessons and let her do the same, and threatened to ring the bell.

'Don't be a bigger duffer than you are, Flo. You can't help being a girl, I know; but I'm willing to help you all I can out of a girl's foolishness. Only a girl would talk of ringing the bell, and making a row, because she can't have all her own way. Come now, I want to talk to you about the new boy, and we can finish the lesson afterwards.'

'But you say you don't know anything about him, and so there's nothing to talk about,' said his sister.

'Yes, that's just it. Why shouldn't the fellow tell us who his people are, where he comes from, and what he's going to do with himself by-and-by?'

It was his sister's turn to laugh now. 'What queer notions boys have!' she exclaimed. 'I suppose you expect a new scholar to come and say, "My father is a doctor, or a lawyer, and we have three servants at our house," as soon as the master has introduced him to the class.'

A ball of paper was levelled at Duffy's head for this remark. 'Who said he was to do it the first day or the second day? But when a fellow has been there nearly a fortnight you expect to hear something about who he is.'

'But suppose he don't choose to tell you, what then?'

'Yes, that's it. How are we going to make him? What would you do, Duffy? That's what I want to know.'

'Oh, I'm only a girl,' said Duffy with a laugh. 'I can't be expected to understand boys' affairs like that.'

'Yes, you do-that's just what girls do understand. We can't have a good stand up fight, which is the way we generally settle things.'

'Why not? If the new boy won't do as the rest tell him, then fight it out, if he won't give in!'

Leonard heaved a sigh of despair. 'There never was anything half so stupid as a girl!' he exclaimed. 'Do you think if it was anything we could settle off-hand like that I should ask you about it?'

'Well, tell me what it is, and I'll help you if I can. What is the new boy like?' she asked.

'Oh, like most other fellows, I suppose, or at least he was the first day, I know, for I took particular notice as he came into the class; but the last day or two he has come in a jacket that ought to have gone to the rag-bag three months ago, and--'

'But his jacket can't hurt you,' interrupted his sister, 'you don't have to wear it.'

'You stupid duffer! don't he go to Torrington's, I tell you, and haven't we got to stand up for the honour of the school?'

'Who-the boys or the head master?' asked Duffy innocently.

'Why, all of us, to be sure, and we mean to do it too. Why, Torrington's is as good as Eton.'

'Oh yes, of course it's a good school,' admitted Duffy.

'Yes, and we mean to keep it so; we don't mean to have any cads among us.'

'Is the new boy a cad, then?' asked his sister.

'He can't be anything else, if the story Bob Taylor has heard is true. He brought it to school yesterday, and says he knows it is a fact That the new fellow is a scholarship boy from one of those low board schools in Middleton, and that he walks back to the town every day.'

'What is a scholarship boy?' asked Duffy.

'Why, a poor beggar who can't afford to pay his own schooling, and so the County Council pay it for him.'

'What a shame!' exclaimed the young lady indignantly. 'Mamma was saying only yesterday how much our schooling cost. Why don't the County Council pay for us, especially as father has something to do with it?'

Leonard shook his head. He either did not know or did not choose to tell his sister the conditions upon which County Scholarships were granted. He merely remarked, 'You're a dreadful duffer about some things, Flo. But you could tell us what girls would do if their school was going to be dragged down.'

But Florence shook her head. 'I don't know what we should do,' she said, 'because I am not one of the elder girls, and we juniors don't count for much; but if the girl weren't nice I should not speak to her or help her with her lessons or anything.'

'Oh, the beggar don't want any help with his lessons. He has climbed to the top of the class, and hooked Taylor out of his place already. And old Mason actually had the cheek to tell us to-day that we should have to pay a good deal more attention to our home work, or else Howard would carry off all the prizes by-and-by. I should like to see him do it,' he added.

'No, you wouldn't; and so you had better get on with your lessons now,' said the young lady practically.

'No, no! let's settle this first. You haven't told me what a girl's way would be with a fellow like this Howard.'

'Why, if he isn't nice, don't speak to him. Of course you can't help it if he does his lessons better than you do, or you must work at them a little more carefully, I suppose, if you mean to get ahead of him in the class and take some of the prizes!'

'Oh, prizes be bothered!' exclaimed Leonard crossly, for his sister's advice had not pleased him at all. 'I tell you we want to get rid of the fellow if we can. Taylor says the head master ought to have refused to take a scholarship boy.'

'Perhaps father could interfere,' said Florence. 'He has a good deal to do with the Council.'

'If you breathe a word of what I've said to father, I'll never speak to you again!' said her brother vehemently. 'The idea of such a thing! Tell father, indeed! What would the other fellows say, do you think? No, no, we can fight our own battle, and defend the honour of the school in our own way. A nice hash you would make of everything. You are a worse duffer than I thought, though I don't think you are a tell-tale.'

'Of course I shall not tell father what we have been talking about, if that is what you mean,' said Duffy, a little indignantly. The tears were shining in her eyes, for she was very fond of her brother, and always ready to help him whenever she was allowed, and so she felt this scornful rebuff the more keenly.

'There, you needn't cry over it. I suppose you can't help being only a girl. But mind, if you say a word to father or mother of what I have told you, I never w

ill speak to you again!' And with this last threat Leonard turned with a sigh to his lessons.

'I've wasted a lot of time over you this evening,' he said, after a short silence, during which Duffy had been muttering over a French verb. 'I'm awfully disappointed about it,' he went on, 'for I shall have to tell Taylor and the rest that you're nothing but a duffer.'

'Because I can't tell you how to manage with a boy that I don't know; it isn't fair, Len, and you say boys always are fair,' said his sister, in a tone of protest, as she turned to her lessons once more.

Leonard tried to follow her example, but he could not fix his attention upon problems in Euclid with that greater problem unsolved-how the honour of the school was to be saved, and the new boy got rid of? That was really what Taylor and one or two leading spirits had decided must be done; but how to do it was the puzzle!

Leonard's lessons were very imperfectly prepared that night, and every moment he could snatch the next morning was given to looking over his books, that he might not utterly fail when he was called upon to produce what he should have learned; and he was conning over one task as he walked to school, when he was overtaken by Taylor and the rest.

'Oh, I say, Dabbs'-Len's nickname among his friends-'we saw that new fellow with another carrying a basket of tools-looked like a carpenter's basket,' said one.

'It was his brother, too, I know-looked as though he was going wood-chopping somewhere,' said another. But Taylor slipped his arm in Len's and drew him aside. 'Look here, what are we going to do about it-what did your clever sister say?'

'She couldn't think of anything last night, she was too busy.'

'Oh, that's all rot you know. You said she would be sure to think of something clever, and it's come to this-that we must do something at once, or Torrington's will go to the dogs, with working fellows coming here and lording it over gentlemen. The question is how are we to get rid of him?'

'Yes, that's it. How are we? It is easy to say, get rid of him, but the question is-how? The only thing that we can do at present that I can see is to send him to Coventry!'

To send a boy to Coventry required united action on the part of the whole school, but Leonard Morrison and Taylor, with one or two of their friends, did not despair of persuading their class-mates to follow their example. Of course the boys in the lower classes might speak an occasional word, and the seniors in the upper form might have occasion to do the same, but the classes in this school were large and practically self-contained, so that they had little to do with those in the upper or junior classes; it was therefore comparatively easy for the leading spirits to persuade or compel the rest to follow their lead, whatever it might be.

So the day following the talk between the brother and sister, Horace Howard found himself sent to Coventry, as his foes had decreed. As he was a quiet, studious lad, he did not notice this at first, but by degrees it impressed itself upon him that no one had asked him a question all day, or even told him that he must not do this or that. He felt vaguely uncomfortable before he set off on his long walk home; and when he found that several of his schoolfellows, who had previously talked to him as they walked part of the way together, ran off as soon as the gate was passed, his heart sank within him, and he wondered what he could have done to bring this punishment upon himself.

But, whatever he might feel, he determined not to let his mother know anything about it, and so he went into the little room where she sat at work, whistling cheerily as usual.

'Stitch, stitch, stitch,' he said, as his mother looked up from her work for the accustomed kiss.

'You're earlier to-night, dear,' said Mrs. Howard, as she laid aside her work and drew the tea-tray close to her.

'I suppose I walked a bit faster, and didn't gossip quite so much,' said the lad, and he had to strangle a sigh as he spoke, lest his mother should detect it.

'Are you hungry, my boy?' said his mother as he hung up his cap.

'Not very,' answered Horace, for he knew by this time that it was inconvenient for him to have a large appetite, and so he was learning to regulate it by the state of their finances.

'You went in your old jacket again to-day, Horace,' she remarked as she set his dinner before him, for he took his mid-day meal with him to school.

'Yes, I wore my old jacket. Why not?' said Horace. 'You mended it up so nicely that it was a pity not to give it another turn and save the other. Jackets can't be picked up in the street, you know; and though we may sometimes pick wool off the hedges, it isn't woven and made up into boys' jackets.'

Horace talked on in this strain, to prevent his mother from asking questions as to how he had got on at school during the day, for Mrs. Howard knew something of the ways of boys, and was terribly afraid lest some of her son's schoolfellows should find out something of their circumstances, and not treat Horace as they would an equal.

Nothing but the lad's love of science and her desire to give him an education that would fit him to make use of this talent, had made her willing to consent that he should compete for a scholarship that would enable him to do this. It was the first time, she knew, that a boy from the board school had ever been admitted to this exclusive grammar school known as 'Torrington's'; and she had watched anxiously each day, to find out whether the lads were treating their poorer companion kindly and courteously, and thus far she had been perfectly satisfied.

Her elder son was as anxious as she was that Horace should have all the advantages a good education could give, but he was opposed to his brother going to Torrington's.

'I am only a carpenter,' he said, 'and never want to be anything better, but it won't suit those boys to hear that one of their schoolfellows has a brother who is a common working man.'

'You are not a common working man, Fred,' said his mother quickly.

'Not to you, perhaps, mother mine, but I want you to look at things as the world does. I do common work-carpenter's work, and am glad to get the chance of doing it, and to help you and Horace. Here we can only be common working people-you sewing for the shops and I working for a builder. That is all the people know, and all we want them to know, and I wish Horace could have been a carpenter too.'

'Perhaps it would have been as well,' said his mother with a sigh.

'I am sure it would. We agreed to come here and leave the whole miserable past behind.'

'It is left behind,' interrupted his mother quickly.

'Ah, yes, we have done our best; but who knows what questions may be asked, now Horace has gone to that school? Boys are often curious in their inquiries, and it is not as though--'

'Fred, Fred, we must leave these things in the hand of God, and be content to take one step at a time. I could not, in fairness to Horace, let him throw away this opportunity of getting a good education that will fit him to use the gifts which I believe God has given him.'

This conversation had taken place at dinner-time that very day, and Mrs. Howard was thinking of it as she watched Horace eat his dinner.

The boy knew that his mother's eyes were upon him, and he was the more anxious to guard his secret, and so he rattled on until his mother forgot her fears, and thought Fred was making himself anxious without the slightest shadow of cause.

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