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   Chapter 6 No.6

That Scholarship Boy By Emma Leslie Characters: 16763

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


For the Honour of the School.

'How is your friend Warren to-day, Len?' asked Mr. Morrison, on the day when the boys thought the adjourned fight ought to have come off.

'Warren's no friend of mine now, he's an awful sneak!' said Leonard, angrily. He was greatly mystified over the fight not taking place, for he intended to support Taylor, and at least do part of the cheering on his side; and the collapse of the whole affair annoyed him, and he chose to consider it was Warren's fault. 'He just funked it you know, dad,' he said, when he explained the matter to his father.

'I don't know so much about that,' said Mr. Morrison; 'I met his father yesterday, and he told me he had forbidden his son to engage in a fight, either now or at any future time, and I asked him if he thought his son would obey him.'

'"Yes, I do!" he said, and seemed quite confident that his boy would respect his wishes, and I wondered whether he was right. So Warren junior refused to fight, did he?' said Mr. Morrison. 'It was a plucky thing to do, and I like a boy who can say "No," and stick to it.'

'The fellows are saying it was beastly mean of him, and he funked it because Taylor is a bigger fellow.'

'Ah! boys often jump to wrong conclusions. It isn't the only plucky thing Warren has done. Have you joined the swatting club yet, my boy?'

'What did you say, father?' asked Leonard, with widely opened eyes.

'The formation of a swatting club is the last new move, I hear, at Torrington's. To swat is to study, I understand-is that right?'

'Oh yes, the word is right enough; but who told you about it?'

'Is it a secret, then? Didn't you know about it-haven't you been asked to join it?'

'No! they wouldn't ask me; it isn't likely; for all the school know that I am trying to keep up the honour of Torrington's-keep it from going to the dogs, in fact,' said the boy, loftily, but with an angry tone in his voice.

'I am glad to hear it, Len. I was a Torrington boy in my time, and I love the old school still.'

'Then, father, what did you send that beastly scholarship boy there for?' burst out Leonard, scarcely knowing what he said in his anger.

'Leonard! Leonard!' chided his mother.

'I beg your pardon, mother, but it is what the fellows are always saying, and I forgot.'

'But why should the boys be vexed that the County Council chose to send one of the most promising of their scholars to that school? Has he done anything to offend you?'

'We don't give him the chance, and we want you, father, to take him away at once. Don't you see the honour of the school is at stake, and the fellows like Curtis and Taylor--'

The doctor held up his hand to stop the boy's angry flow of words. 'We won't discuss those gentlemen, if you please,' he said.

'But they are always discussing it,' exclaimed Leonard.

'Very foolish of them,' interrupted Mr. Morrison. 'But now tell me what you mean by the honour of the school, and why this lad has endangered it.'

'He comes from a board school, which, of course, is intended for poor, common people,' answered the boy.

'But "poor, common people" must be taught, you know; and now, if they possess the brains, they have the right to learn to use them as well as those who are better off. From Dr. Mason's report to the Council, this lad has given every satisfaction while he has been at the school, and I had hoped that you would have made his acquaintance by this time, and that I might have learned a little more about him from your point of view.'

Leonard shook his head. 'You must go to Warren for that; he has chosen to take him up in defiance of the whole school, and-and--' he stopped, dimly conscious that in his anger he had already said too much. Mr. Morrison was called away from the table at this point, and Leonard felt relieved that no further questions could be asked.

Later he went to the little room where lessons were learned, and found his sister sitting in her usual place. 'Mother wished me to come, Len,' she said, in explanation of her presence.

'All right, Duffy-not that you are such a duffer,' he added, 'and I shall try to find another name for you.'

'Oh, Duffy will do. Don't waste your time thinking about another name for me. What's in a name after all? It's what you are, not what name you are called by. I say, what is this swatting club father has heard about? You never told me about it.'

'Never heard of it myself before. Won't Taylor be mad when I tell him, for if there is one thing he hates it is swat! He says it's low and vulgar, and not fit for a school like Torrington's.'

'But you know father doesn't think that, and I am sure you ought to know that father is wiser than Taylor, if he is the biggest boy in the school.'

'As if that made any difference! You're just as much of a duffer as ever, to think such a thing,' he added.

'Well, what is it about Taylor that makes you call him the "cock of the walk?" I met him at a party last week, and I did not think much of him, I can tell you.'

'Ah! that's because you are a girl, and don't know anything. Taylor is a jolly fellow.'

'Well, I'm glad he's not my brother, for he is not very kind to his sister, and he was quite rude to his mother. He is no gentleman, and so he has no right to find fault with father because he sent a board school boy to sit with him at Torrington's.'

Leonard only laughed at his sister's denunciation of his hero; but he was curious to learn what had been said about this swatting club-whether she had heard it spoken of before to-day. 'I should like to know how long they have been at it, and who are in it,' he said.

'Father said Warren and the scholarship boy; he was telling mother about it when you came in.'

'Oh, that scholarship boy is at the bottom of the whole mischief, of course,' said Leonard; 'but I should like to know how many more are in it; it's no good going to Taylor with half a tale. Won't he be mad, when he hears of this last move! Warren is forbidden to fight, too! I wonder why that is? Something wrong with his head, I shouldn't wonder,' added Leonard, after a minute's thought.

'Why, what makes you think that?' asked Florence.

'Because when Taylor knocked him down the other day he lay still as though he were dead for a minute or two, and never turned up at school all the next day. What larks if he can't fight! I'll put Taylor on to that, and see what he can make of it.'

'Len, how can you like to do such mean things? I wish father had not told you about it; but, of course, he never thought you were going to peach to the rest of the school about it, and especially to that vulgar thing Taylor.'

'Now, Duffy, that "vulgar thing" is your brother's chosen friend, so of course you don't like him, for I've noticed lately that if I like anything or anybody, you take a dislike to them directly.'

'Yes, because the things and the people you like are never nice. Mother was saying the other day she hoped you would not grow up like somebody she knew. I did not hear his name, but she sighed as she said it, and father did not smile or say anything when he heard her say it.'

'Look here, Duffy, you need not talk about those sort of things; I shall grow up all right, never fear. What I want to know is who are in the swatting lot besides Warren and the scholarship boy? Find that out for me, will you?'

'No, indeed, I will not, unless you promise to join them, and I don't believe you mean to do that, although you know father would like it.'

'I wonder whether he joined a swatting club when he went to Torrington's?' rejoined Leonard.

'I will ask him when he comes home,' replied his sister. 'Now I must begin my lessons; I have done them better lately, my governess says, and if I only work steadily on, I shall get a prize at Christmas.

Her brother whistled. 'Half-a-crown book for six months' work. That game don't pay except for duffers,' he said in a tone of contempt.

'I would rather be a duffer than some people who think themselves so clever. Now don't hinder me, but get on with your own lessons, and let me learn mine,' said his sister.

'Swat! swat! swat! with fingers and brain and pen,' sung her brother, while Florence propped her head on her hands and stared at her book. Then the door opened, and Mrs. Morrison appeared.

'Lenny, I want to have a little tal

k with you. Playing again, my boy; I knew some one else who chose to play a great deal of his time away at school, but he has bitterly repented it since. Perhaps you had better take your books up to your own room, dear,' she said, turning to Florence; 'I thought you might help each other if you did them together again, but when I heard Lenny singing I knew it was no good.'

Mrs. Morrison said that while Florence was gathering up her books, and when she had gone upstairs, she took her seat facing Leonard and had a long talk with him. She told him what his father had heard concerning one portion of the school; that it was becoming almost lawless in its determination not to learn more than the masters could force upon them. 'He told you too that he heard to-day of a few boys who had separated themselves from this party, and were determined to profit by the instruction given, and learn the home lessons to the best of their ability.'

Mrs. Morrison saw Leonard's lip curl as she spoke in admiration of these lads. 'They're just a set of cads!' he muttered under his breath.

'No, they are not; and it is your father's wish, and mine too, that you should join this section of the school, and learn your home lessons as well as you possibly can. We do all we can to help you, and Florence is quite willing to come back and do her lessons here, if you do not hinder her. Now will you promise me, Lenny, to turn over a new leaf, and set your mind steadily to the tasks that may be set for you, instead of wasting your time in play as you have done lately?'

'I don't mind doing my lessons,' grunted Leonard ungraciously, 'but I don't see why father should want me to join that scholarship lot at school.'

'He wishes it because they are a steady set of lads, and you are easily led into mischief by your companions.'

'What mischief have I done?' angrily demanded the boy.

'Well, I don't know that there has been any particular mischief,' admitted his mother; 'but your father is not very satisfied with the way things have been going on at school lately. You know the last report was far from satisfactory, and your father said you were just wasting your time, instead of learning all you could. Now promise me, dear, that you will make a new beginning.'

Leonard stared at his book and drummed on the table in silence, and Mrs. Morrison, feeling that she had said enough for once, rose and left the room. She hoped that Leonard would think over what she had said and act upon it, although he had not given the promise that she asked.

She went back to the drawing-room and sat down to think, and her thoughts wandered to that brother whom her son so strangely resembled; and she prayed that God would save her boy from wrecking his life and bringing misery to his friends, as this beloved brother had done.

Now Leonard chose to be half offended over what his mother had said to him. 'Mother wants me to be like a duffing girl,' he whispered to himself as she left the room. 'I wonder who it is she was telling me about. Somebody who has got himself into a nice scrape, and been obliged to leave England. It was a nice thing to be told I was like this scapegrace,' he muttered. But, in spite of his anger, he did manage to learn something of his lessons that night before he went to bed; and he might have got on fairly well in class, if he had not met Taylor early in his walk to school. Taylor was brimming over with the importance of a piece of news he had heard.

'What do you think, Morrison? There are a lot of sneaks in the school who have set up a swatting club without saying a word to us about it!'

'Yes, I know; my pater has heard of it, and wants me to join it.'

'You'll never do it, Morrison!' exclaimed the elder lad.

'Not if I know it. What do you take me for? Isn't it enough to be worried by the masters? No, thank you; I'm going to stick to my friends.'

'Yes, and you must fight with them too, unless you want to see Torrington's ruined as a school for gentlemen. That's what my pater says, and I guess he knows as much as most. He has made his pile; means I shall be a gentleman, and that is all he cares for. Lessons be blowed! They're all very well for scholarship boys and such cads. Your father ought to be ashamed of himself ever to have sent that board school boy among gentlemen, and the beggar will have to go!'

Leonard did not reply, for he did not like to hear any action of his father blamed, and so he walked along in silence, while Taylor poured out further angry denunciations until the school was reached.

During the course of the class lessons that morning it became very evident that there was a dividing line between those who had carefully studied their subjects and the rest of the class. Warren, Howard, and seven or eight other lads held the top part of the class in all subjects, and Taylor, Morrison, and the rest of that part kept steadily at the bottom.

'I've had enough of this,' said Taylor when they came into the playground after dinner. 'That scholarship boy is at the bottom of the whole thing, and we must get rid of him.'

'You've said that before,' grumbled Curtis.

'Yes, I know I have, and I hoped Morrison would persuade his pater to do the job for us, as he brought him in; but it don't seem as though he was going to move in the matter, and so I shall, and little Morrison must help me.'

'But what are you going to do?' asked Leonard.

'That's my business. All you've got to do is what I tell you, and to ask no questions.'

Curtis lifted his sleepy eyes and looked at Taylor with a little more interest.

'What is it to be?' he asked.

'Well, I mean to stink him out; it will all be done up in the stinkery.'

'The stinkery'-or stink-room, to give it its proper title-was a small slip-room divided from the laboratory by a close wooden partition with several ventilating shafts, under which noisome-smelling chemicals could be used without causing any annoyance to the students working in the general laboratory.

'That scholarship boy shall have enough of his precious slops. I'll let Skeats know whether he shall favour a fellow because the rest of us have sent him to Coventry!'

'Why, what has Skeats done?' asked one of the lads; for the science master was a favourite among most of the boys.

'Can't you see what he's doing every day? That sneak from the board school pretends to have "an idea," whatever that may be, and goes talking to old Skeats about it, and so he lets him go up to the "lab." every dinner-time to work at it. Don't you see the little game? We can't make him feel he is in Coventry, if he is taken out of our way. But I am going to upset this family party, and I mean little Morrison shall help me. It's only fair, as his father brought the fellow here, that he should be used to get rid of him.'

'What do you want me to do?' asked Leonard, turning pale, and heartily wishing himself out of the way.

'Why, you shall get the stuff we want. Your father is a doctor, and so it will be easy enough.'

'But the pater does not keep a store of chemicals,' said Leonard.

'Who said he did? I said he was a doctor, and I suppose you can't deny that, can you?'

Leonard looked offended, and was turning away, but Taylor soon fetched him back. 'Look here, little Morrison, it's no good funking. You can do this job better than anybody else, and you've got to do it. I don't want you to steal your father's stuff, but you must get two of his bottles, and go to get what I shall tell you, and if the people at the drug store ask you whether it is for your father, why, of course you must say, "Yes." Now mind, mum must be the word, for I'm not going to tell all the crowd what I'm going to do. Curtis is going to find half the money, and I'll find the other half. Here's half a sovereign. I don't know what the things will cost, any more than the man in the moon, but I shall want the things I have put down in this paper; and tell them to fasten them down tight, so that they don't leak out; for you'll have to keep 'em in your bag till I can use 'em to-morrow.'

'Must I get them to-night?' asked Leonard, wishing he could tell Taylor he would not do it.

'Yes, you must!' answered the 'cock of the walk' in a masterful tone. 'Now, mind you don't lose the money, and be sure you bring the right chemicals.'

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