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   Chapter 3 No.3

That Scholarship Boy By Emma Leslie Characters: 17072

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Cock of the Walk.

'I say, Duffy, there's an awful row among the fellows at school; Taylor and Curtis are like raging bulls over this new fellow, and they say it's all the pater's fault.'

The brother and sister were sitting at their lessons in the little room known as the study, as they sat when this story opened. Several weeks, however, had elapsed since that time, and Florence, having her own cares and interests to think of, had well-nigh forgotten how she had been appealed to in the matter of the new boy.

'What are you talking about, Len?' she asked, after a pause, during which she had been muttering over a French verb, with her hand covering the page, by way of testing whether she knew her lesson.

'That's like a girl!' answered her brother tartly. 'I have told you more than once or twice about that new boy at Torrington's, and now you ask me what I am talking about.'

'Oh, well, I didn't know he was so interesting as all that. You told me a week or two ago that you had sent him to Coventry and settled him, and so of course I thought it was all over,' said the young lady, propping her chin in her hands and looking across at her brother.

'But if a fellow won't be settled, what are you to do? I want you to tell me that, Duffy.'

The young lady shook her head. 'Tell us all about it, Len, I'm not very busy to-night.'

'Well, we sent that fellow to Coventry, as I told you-not that he's a bad sort of chap; only he came from one of those beastly board schools in the town, and we didn't know who he was or what he was, and he kept his mouth shut about his people, and so the fellows took up the notion that Torrington's would soon go to the dogs if we let that sort of cattle stay there, and so we said he must go. Well, we thought the Coventry game had done the trick for us just at first, for you never saw such an awful ass as he made of himself one morning at all the classes. "Howard, are you ill?" said Skeats at last, in his sharp way. And we thought the beggar would get off for the rest of the lessons. But, if you'll believe it, he was game enough to say, "No, sir, I'm quite well," which was as good as telling Skeats he was a fool for asking such a question.'

Florence nodded. 'I like plucky boys,' she said approvingly.

'Well, it was a plucky thing to do, I daresay, but it didn't help him much with Skeats that day, for he never spared him a bit, as he did not take the excuse that had been offered him, and he blundered and floundered worse than ever, so that Curtis, the biggest dunce in the class, answered for him, and took his place in the class.'

'What a shame!' said Florence, pityingly.

'Well, I felt sorry for the poor little beggar at last, for we knew he had swatted well over the lesson, and yet he seemed to have lost his wits. "That's done the trick," Taylor whispered to me, when Skeats frowned at him once for being such an ass. "We shan't see that scholarship swatter here any more."'

'Swatter,' repeated Florence. 'But I thought you said he didn't know his lessons.'

'Ah! that once. But it wasn't for the want of swatting, for it was just that that put the fellows' backs up. He comes into the school looking as meek as a rabbit. "I've been to the board school," he says to Taylor, when he put him through the usual mill. Not a word did he say about French and Latin, and so Taylor thought he would have him for a fag, as he was a junior; but we soon found out that we should have to swat over our lessons, and no mistake, if we were to keep out of rows with the masters. He set the pace, don't you see, till Taylor got as mad as a hatter when he lost his place at the top of the class, and then he said this new boy would have to go.'

'Because he learned his lessons better than the rest!' exclaimed his sister.

'Well, not that exactly-of course not,' replied her brother; 'but you see he was only a board school boy, and his mother couldn't be a lady, and his brother is only a common carpenter, they say; and so for a fellow like that to come to Torrington's would just ruin the school. That's why we want to get rid of him, don't you see?'

'No, I don't,' said Florence, indignantly; 'and Taylor and the rest are a set of mean cads!' The expression was not very elegant or ladylike; but she had learned it from her brother, and knew he would feel the reproach conveyed by this word more surely than by anything else she could say.

It stung him into a fierce passion of wrath. 'What do girls know about boys' schools and boys' ways?' he demanded.

'I know what you have told me about Taylor and the rest, and I say they are not gentlemen, but a set of mean cads.' She was careful not to include Leonard in this scathing denunciation, for she added, 'I should not like to think my brother would act like that.'

'Oh, well, Duffy, you see you are a girl, and can't be expected to know everything; but I did tell Taylor to-day that I thought we might leave the beggar alone, and let him out of Coventry now.'

'If I was the new boy, I would send you there, and see how you liked it. What are you going to do?' she asked.

'That's just it-just what I wanted to talk to you about. The fellows say it is all the pater's doings that Howard has been sent to Torrington's, and--'

Florence clapped her hands. 'Dear old daddy!' she said. 'He knew what Torrington's wanted. Now go on,' she added.

'It's no good when you interrupt like that. I wanted to tell you what the fellows are saying; and now if I do, you'll just go and peach about the whole thing.'

'Now, Len, did I ever peach about anything you told me? Haven't we always been fair and square to each other?' expostulated his sister, who felt herself insulted by such a charge.

'Yes, you always have been pretty fair for a girl,' admitted her brother, 'and I hope you'll remember that mum must be the word still. And mind, if you hear about this, you don't know anything, but just tell the pater to ask me about it. I don't want you to go and give your opinion about the school and the fellows, though Curtis and one or two more may be a poor lot. The thing is, they feel themselves insulted by having this scholarship boy sent to Torrington's, and they want me to speak to the pater about it.'

'Oh, do-do, and let me be there when you tell him,' said Florence, her eyes dancing with glee at the prospect.

'Don't be a duffer. Do you think I don't know my own daddy well enough to know that it would be no good going to him with the fellows' complaints? I told Taylor he had better come and see the pater himself about it.'

'Of course,' nodded Florence, 'that would be the proper way, and I should like to see them do it.' And again the girl laughed.

This seemed to annoy her brother. 'It's all very well for you to laugh,' he said. 'You don't know what it is to be mixed up with such an affair, and I want to know what I am to do.'

'What do they want you to do?'

'Haven't I told you? They say I must get the pater to remove Howard from the school at once. And one of the fellows told me as I came home that he overheard Taylor and Curtis say that, if it wasn't pretty soon done, they'd send me to Coventry, and find out some other way to get rid of Howard.'

'I wouldn't care if I was you.'

'Wouldn't you? If you was a boy, you'd know what it was to be sent to Coventry, perhaps, and let me tell you, you wouldn't want a second dose. It's none so pleasant, I can tell you, to have this fellow turn his back, and begin to whistle if you attempt to speak to him. Why, they make it so strict at Torrington's that if the master sends a message to a fellow in Coventry, they fetch a junior to deliver it. Oh, I know enough to make me hate the thought of it, and so would you.'

'Girls are not so nasty as that,' said Florence, 'but I tell you what you could do if they send you to Coventry-chum up with the new boy. I should think he was a nice fellow.'

But Leonard turned up his nose at the suggestion. 'He isn't much at games,' he said. 'I don't think he ever saw a fives court until he came to Torrington's; and I do like a good game at fives.'

'I'd play by myself then,' said his sister.

'Ah! and see every other fellow pick up his ball and walk out of the court as soon as you appeared. You'd feel like playing then, wouldn't you?' he added.

His sister sighed. She was very fond of Leonard, although he was not very brave, she feared. Still, big lads like Taylor and Curtis could make things very uncomfortable for the young

er and weaker lads, like Leonard.

'Now just see if you can't help me out of this hole, Flo,' said the boy, after another pause. 'I told the fellows I'd do something to-night, and I must, you know.'

'Do something!' repeated his sister, 'what do you want to do?'

'I don't want to do anything. The poor beggar might stay at Torrington's for ever if he liked; but you see the others have set their faces against it, and they say I must either make the pater remove him, or else think of another plan to get rid of him. Don't you see, Duffy, I must do one or the other?'

'No, I don't see; and you shan't call me Duffy either, if you mean to help these wretched cads at Torrington's, and I'll never own you for a brother again!' His sister spoke calmly, but with the utmost scorn and contempt in her tones, and then laid her head on the table and burst into tears. 'I'm ashamed of you, I am!' she sobbed through her tears.

Leonard stared at her in silent amazement for a minute or two, and then said slowly, 'You don't know this scholarship boy, do you?'

She shook her head. 'Of course I don't,' she said, as soon as she could speak.

'Then what are you crying for? I'd be ashamed to cry for a fellow I'd never seen; and you a girl too!'

Florence started to her feet as her brother uttered this taunt; and dashing away her tears, with blazing eyes she exclaimed, 'It is not for this strange boy I am crying, but for you-that you are as much a cad as Taylor and the rest!' Then, gathering up her books, she marched out of the room with the air of an offended duchess.

'Ah, you're only a girl!' exclaimed Leonard as she departed; and he broke into a whistle, but it soon ended in a sigh, when the door closed and he was left to himself.

'I wonder what girls are made of,' he said, as he slowly opened his lesson books. 'To think of Duffy flying at me like that! She called me a cad too, nasty little thing! I won't speak to her for a week, when we come in here to lessons. I'll give her a taste of Coventry, and see how she likes it.' And Leonard set himself to master a Latin verb. But before he had conned it three minutes his thoughts had wandered to his sister, and from her to Taylor and the lads at school, who expected him to solve the problem that they had made into a bogey-how to get rid of the scholarship boy, since all their efforts thus far had failed.

Before he got to school the next morning he met half a dozen of his schoolfellows.

'Well, what's the news, Morrison?' asked two or three in a breath. 'You know, of course, Taylor expects you to bring a message from your father about that fellow to-day.'

'Blessed are they that expect nothing, for they shall never be disappointed,' said Leonard in a tantalising tone.

'Well, you can cheek us, of course, little Morrison, but it won't do for Taylor, let me tell you. He don't mean to stand any nonsense. That fellow's got to go. We don't mean to have any board school boys here. Torrington's was founded for gentlemen, and we don't mean to have cads here. We've made up our minds about it, and the sooner your father and that precious Council understand this the better.'

'Did Taylor tell you to say all that?' said Morrison sneeringly, 'How long have you been his fag?' he asked of the lad who had spoken.

'Oh, well, fag or no fag, you'll know it when Taylor comes.' And, as if in verification of his words, Taylor called to them the next minute to wait for him.

'We're late now,' shouted Leonard back, and then he started off at a sharp pace towards the school, for he had not quite made up his mind yet what he should tell Taylor, by way of excuse for not speaking to his father, and so he did not want to meet him just now.

He could not help noticing, as he ran, that none of the rest attempted to join him, but waited at the corner of the road they had been crossing for Taylor to come up.

'So Morrison has skulked off,' he said, as soon as he joined them.

'I believe he wanted to get out of your way,' said one.

'I shouldn't wonder,' said the bigger lad; 'but he need not think he's going to do it. I tell you that I've been ferreting out things a bit, and I know now that it was Dr. Morrison that persuaded the County Council to send that fellow to Torrington's, and so he must and shall take him away, and that pretty soon too, and I mean to tell Morrison that.'

'How are you going to do it?' asked one.

'Oh, through Morrison junior, of course. There isn't much spunk about him, and he'll soon cry Peccavi! when we put the screw on.'

'What will you do-how will you do it?' asked one.

'Send him to Coventry as we did the other,' was the prompt reply.

'Oh, that be bothered; we can't be worried with two there at once. You must think of something else.'

'Bless you, the threat of it will be enough for little Morrison. He'll give in when he hears the mystic word Coventry!'

'You'll give him another chance it he hasn't brought the message?'

'Well, I shall hear what he's got to say first. Now look alive, there's the last bell, and we shall all get an imposition instead of a pleasant talk with little Morrison, if we don't get inside that gate.'

As he spoke the heavy clang of the school gate was heard, and the boys looked at each other as Taylor ejaculated, 'Dash it all! they haven't rung that last bell two minutes, and that's the regulation time.' They propped their backs against the wall and rested after their run, for the gate would not be opened again until prayers were over in school, and then their names would be taken as they went in, and an extra lesson would be exacted from them in the dinner hour.

'Don't let little Morrison get off without seeing me in the afternoon,' said Taylor. 'I sha'n't be able to nail him in the dinner hour, but it will give me a bit more time to think of some other plan.'

'It's a beastly shame they ever sent that scholarship boy to Torrington's!' said another lad, as though he did not like the task of hunting him out.

'Oh, well, he's here, and we must get him out,' said Taylor, as though he rather liked the hunt. Just then the gate opened, and the lads filed in. Nearly a dozen were late from the whole school; and each as he passed was asked if he had brought a note to excuse this breach of the rule, and then they passed on to their different class-rooms instead of going to the hall for prayers.

The being late and consequent imposition of an extra lesson did not improve Taylor's temper, and when he met Leonard at the close of afternoon school he was in a towering rage.

'Now, then, Morrison, out with it! What message has your father sent to the school for his abominable behaviour-what has he to say for himself?'

Leonard looked a little scared at the abruptness and tone of this question, and he answered very quietly, 'My father was busy last night, and I could not speak to him about it.'

'Busy, was he? Well, it won't be good for you if he's busy to-night, let me tell you, for the school don't mean to wait any longer, and if that fellow isn't soon removed, you shall both go. Do you hear, little Morrison, we mean to clear the school of all vermin at once?'

'Why didn't you tell him to take himself off?' said one, when Taylor had walked away. 'This is getting a bit too much. You stand up for yourself and your father, if he comes any more of that bullying. What right has he to say who shall come to Torrington's? If he had spoken of my father like that, he should have had a black eye, if he killed me for it afterwards!' added his friend.

Leonard sighed, 'You don't know Taylor as well as I do,' he said. 'He isn't a bad sort of fellow, if you let him have his own way.'

'But it's such a beastly way that I wouldn't put up with it,' said the other. 'He may be "the cock of the walk," but he need not think we are all going to cackle to him like a set of hens. I mean to take that fellow out of Coventry after this. Come on, let us both walk home with him a bit, and see how the cock likes that. There's Howard just ahead; let's catch him.'

But instead of quickening his pace Leonard looked timorously back; and there was Taylor with a group of lads round him vigorously declaiming against the County Council for sending one of their scholarship boys to Torrington's. So Leonard felt afraid to join this unpopular scholar, and set himself in defiance of the present wave of anger that was passing over his friends, and he turned down a by-road and walked home by himself.

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