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Tom Brown at Oxford By Thomas Hughes Characters: 42132

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:05

Within the next week or two several important events had happened to one and another of our St. Ambrose friends. Tom had introduced Blake to Hardy, after some demur on the part of the latter. Blake was his senior by a term; might have called on him any time these three years; why should he want to make his acquaintance now? But when Tom explained to him that it would be a kind thing to let Blake come and coach up his history with him, for that unless he took a high degree in the coming examination, he would have to leave the college, and probably be ruined for life, Hardy at once consented.

Tom did not venture to inquire for a day or two how the two hit it off together. When he began cautiously to approach the subject, he was glad to find that Hardy liked Blake. "He is a gentleman, and very able," he said; "it is curious to see how quickly he is overhauling Grey, and yet how Grey takes to him. He has never looked scared at him (as he still does at you, by the way) since the first night they met. Blake has the talent of setting people at their ease without saying anything. I shouldn't wonder if Grey thinks he has sound Church notions. It's a dangerous talent, and may make a man very false if he doesn't take care." Tom asked if Blake would be up in his history in time. Hardy thought he might perhaps, but he had a great lee-way to make up. If capacity for taking in cram would do it, he would be all right. He had been well crammed in his science, and had put him (Hardy) up to many dodges which might be useful in the schools, and which you couldn't get without a private tutor.

Then Tom's first wine had gone off most successfully. Jervis and Miller had come early and stayed late, and said all that was handsome of the port, so that he was already a social hero with the boating set. Drysdale, of course, had been there, rattling away to everybody in his reckless fashion, and setting a good example to the two or three fast men whom Tom knew well enough to ask, and who consequently behaved pretty well, and gave themselves no airs, though as they went away together they grumbled slightly that Brown didn't give claret. The rest of the men had shaken together well, and seemed to enjoy themselves. The only drawback to Tom had been that neither Hardy nor Grey had appeared. They excused themselves afterwards on the score of reading, but Tom felt aggrieved in Hardy's case; he knew that it was only an excuse.

Then the training had begun seriously, Miller had come up specially for the first fortnight, to get them well in hand, as he said. After they were once fairly started, he would have to go down till just before the races; but he thought he might rely on the Captain to keep them up to their work in the interval.

So Miller, the coxswain, took to drawing the bow up to the ear at once. At the very beginning of the term, five or six weeks before the races, the St. Ambrose boat was to be seen every other day at Abingdon; and early dinners, limitation of liquids and tobacco, and abstinence from late supper parties, pastry, ice, and all manner of trash, likely in Miller's opinion to injure nerve or wind, were hanging over the crew, and already, in fact, to some extent enforced. The Captain shrugged his shoulders, submitted to it all himself and worked away with all imperturbable temper; merely hinting to Miller, in private, that he was going too fast, and that it would be impossible to keep it up. Diogenes highly approved; he would have become the willing slave of any tyranny which should insist that every adult male subject should pull twenty miles, and never imbibe more than a quart of liquid, in the twenty-four hours. Tom was inclined to like it, as it helped him to realize the proud fact that he was actually in the boat. The rest of the crew were in all stages of mutiny and were only kept from breaking out by their fondness for the Captain and the knowledge that Miller was going in a few days. As it was, Blake was the only one who openly rebelled. Once or twice he stayed away. Miller swore and grumbled, the Captain shook his head, and the crew in general rejoiced.

It is to one of these occasions to which we must now turn. If the usual casual voyager of novels had been standing on Sandford lock, at about four, on the afternoon of April -th, 184-, he might have beheld the St. Ambrose eight-oar coming with a steady swing up the last reach. If such voyager were in the least conversant with the glorious mystery of rowing, he would have felt his heart warm at the magnificent sweep and life of the stroke, and would, on the whole, have been pleased with the performance of the crew generally, considered as a college crew in the early stages of training. They came "hard all" up to the pool below the lock, the coxswain standing in the stern with a tiller-rope in each hand, and then shipped oars; the lock-gates opened, and the boat entered, and in another minute or two was moored to the bank above the lock, and the crew strolled into the little inn which stands by the lock, and, after stopping in the bar to lay hands on several pewters full of porter, passed through the house into the quoit and skittle-grounds behind. These were already well filled with men of other crews, playing in groups or looking on at the players. One of these groups, as they passed, seized on the Captain, and Miller stopped with him; the rest of the St. Ambrose men, in no humor for skittles, quoits, or any relaxation except rest and grumbling, took possession of the first table and seats offered, and came to anchor.

Then followed a moment of intense enjoyment, of a sort only appreciable by those who have had a twelve miles' training pull with a coxswain as sharp as a needle, and in an awful temper.

"Ah," said Drysdale, taking the pewter down from his lips, with a sigh, and handing it to Tom who sat next him, "by Jove I feel better."

"It's almost worth while pulling 'hard all' from Abingdon to get such a thirst," said another of the crew.

"I'll tell you what, though," said Drysdale, "to-day's the last day you'll catch me in this blessed boat."

Tom had just finished his draught, but did not reply; it was by no means the first time that Drysdale had announced this resolve. The rest were silent also.

"It's bad enough to have to pull your heart out, without getting abused all the way into the bargain. There Miller stands in the stern-and a devilish easy thing it is to stand there and walk into us-I can see him chuckle as he comes to you and me, Brown-'Now, 2, well forward;' '3, don't jerk;' 'Now 2, throw your weight on the oar; come, now, you can get another pound on.' I hang on like grim Death,-then its 'Time, 2; now, 3-'"

"Well, it's a great compliment," broke in Tom, with a laugh; "he thinks he can make something of us."

"He'll make nothing of us first, I think," said Drysdale. "I've lost eight pounds in a fortnight. The Captain ought to put me in every place in the boat, in turn, to make it water-tight. I've larded the bottom boards under my seat so that not a drop of water will ever come through again."

"A very good thing for you, old fellow," said Diogenes; "you look ten times better than you did at the beginning of the term."

"I don't know what you call a good thing, you old fluter. I'm obliged to sit on my hip bones-I can't go to a lecture-all the tutors think I am poking fun at them, and put me on directly. I haven't been able to go to lecture these ten days."

"So fond of lecture as he is, too, poor fellow," put in Tom.

"But they've discommonsed me for staying away," said Drysdale; "not that I care much for that, though."

"Well, Miller goes down to-morrow morning-I heard him say so," said another.

"Then we'll memorialize the Captain and get out of these Abingdon pulls. Life isn't worth having at this rate."

"No other boat has been below Sandford, yet."

And so they sat on and plotted, and soon most of the other crews started. And then they took their turn at skittles, and almost forgot their grievances, which must be explained to those who don't know the river at Oxford.

The river runs along the south of the city, getting into the university quarter after it passes under the bridge connecting Berks and Oxfordshire, over which is the road to Abingdon. Just below this bridge are the boat builders' establishments on both sides of the river, and then on the Oxfordshire side is Christchurch meadow, opposite which is moored the university barge. Here is the goal of all university races; and the racecourse stretches away down the river for a mile and a half, and a little below the starting place of the races is Iffley Lock. The next lock below Iffley is the Sandford Lock (where we left our boat's crew playing at skittles), which is about a mile and a half below Iffley. Below Sandford there is no lock till you get to Abingdon, a distance of six miles and more by the river. Now, inasmuch as the longest distance to be rowed in the races is only the upper mile and a half from Iffley to the university barge, of course all crews think themselves very hardly treated if they are taken further than to Sandford. Pulling "hard all" from Sandford to Iffley, and then again from Iffley over the regular course, ought to be enough in all conscience. So chorus the crews; and most captains and coxswains give in. But here and there some enemy of his kind-some uncomfortable, worriting, energizing mortal, like Miller-gets command of a boat, and then the unfortunate crew are dragged, bemoaning their fate, down below Sandford, where no friendly lock intervenes to break the long, steady swing of the training pull every two miles, and the result for the time is blisters and mutiny. I am bound to add that it generally tells, and that the crew which has been undergoing that peine forte et dure is very apt to get the change out of it on the nights of hard races.

So the St. Ambrose crew played out their skittles, and settled to appeal the Captain in a body the next day, after Miller's departure; and then being summoned to the boat, they took to the water again, and paddled steadily up home, arriving just in time for hall for those who liked to hurry. Drysdale never liked hurrying himself; besides, he could not dine in hall, as he was discommonsed for persistent absence from lecture, and neglect to go to the Dean when sent for to explain his absence.

"I say, Brown, hang hall," he said to Tom, who was throwing on his things; "come and dine with me at the Mitre. I'll give you a bottle of hock; it's very good there."

"Hock's about the worst thing you drink in training," said

Miller. "Isn't it, Jervis?"

"It's no good, certainly," said the Captain, as he put on his cap and gown; "come along, Miller."

"There, you hear?" said Miller. "You can drink a glass of sound sherry, if you want wine;" and he followed the Captain.

Drysdale performed a defiant pantomime after the retiring coxswain, and then easily carried his point with Tom, except as to the hock. So they walked up to the Mitre together, where Drysdale ordered dinner and a bottle of hock in the coffee-room.

"Don't order hock, Drysdale; I shan't drink any."

"Then I shall have it all to my own cheek. If you begin making a slave of yourself to that Miller, he'll very soon cut you down to a glass of water a day, with a pinch of rhubarb in it, and make you drink that standing on your head."

"Gammon; but I don't think it's fair on the rest of the crew not to train as well as one can."

"You don't suppose drinking a pint of hock to-night will make you pull any the worse this day six weeks, when the races begin, do you?"

"No; but-"

"Hullo! look here," said Drysdale, who was inspecting a printed bill pinned up on the wall of the coffee hall; "Wombwell's menagerie is in the town, somewhere down by Worcester. What fun! We'll go there after dinner."

The food arrived with Drysdale's hock, which he seemed to enjoy all the more from the assurance which every glass gave him that he was defying the coxswain, and doing just the thing he would most dislike. So he drank away, and facetiously speculated how he could be such an idiot as to go on pulling. Every day of his life he made good resolutions in the reach above the Gut that it should be his last performance, and always broke them next day. He supposed the habit he had of breaking all good resolutions was the way to account for it.

After dinner they set off to find the wild-beast show; and, as they will be at least a quarter of an hour reaching it, for the pitch is in a part of the suburbs little known to gownsmen, the opportunity may be seized of making a few remarks to the patient reader, which impatient readers are begged to skip.

Our hero on his first appearance in public some years since, was without his own consent at once patted on the back by the good-natured critics, and enrolled for better or worse in the brotherhood of muscular Christians, who at that time were beginning to be recognised as an actual and lusty portion of general British life. As his biographer, I am not about to take exception to his enrolment; for, after considering the persons up and down Her Majesty's dominions to whom the new nick-name has been applied, the principles which they are supposed to hold, and the sort of lives they are supposed to lead; I cannot see where he could in these times have fallen upon a nobler brotherhood. I am speaking of course under correction, and with only a slight acquaintance with the faith of muscular Christianity, gathered almost entirely from the witty expositions and comments of persons of a somewhat dyspeptic habit, who are not amongst the faithful themselves. Indeed, I am not aware that any authorized articles of belief have been sanctioned or published by the sect, Church, or whatever they may be. Moreover, at the age at which our hero has arrived, and having regard to his character, I should say that he has in all likelihood thought very little on the subject of belief, and would scarcely be able to give any formal account of his own, beyond that contained in the Church Catechism, which I for one think may very well satisfy him for the present. Nevertheless, he had suddenly been caught at the gate of St. Ambrose's College, by one of the gentlemen who do the classifying for the British public, and accosted with, "Sir, you belong to a body whose creed it is to fear God, and walk 1000 miles in 1000 hours;" I believe he would have replied, "Do I, sir? I'm very glad to hear it. They must be a very good set of fellows. How many weeks' training, do they allow?"

But in the course of my inquiries on the subject of muscular Christians, their works and ways, a fact has forced itself on my attention, which, for the sake of ingenious youth, ought not to be passed over. I find, then, that, side by side with these muscular Christians, and apparently claiming some sort of connection with them (the same concern, as the pirates of trade-marks say), have risen up another set of persons, against whom I desire to caution my readers and my hero, and to warn the latter that I do not mean on any pretense whatever to allow him to connect himself with them, however much he may be taken with their off-hand, "hail brother well-met" manner and dress, which may easily lead careless observers to take the counterfeit for the true article. I must call the persons in question "musclemen," as distinguished from muscular Christians; the only point in common between the two being, that both hold it to be a good thing to have strong and well-exercised bodies, ready to be put at the shortest notice to any work of which bodies are capable, and to do it well. Here all likeness ends; for the "muscle" man seems to have no belief whatever as to the purposes for which his body has been given him, except some hazy idea that it is to go up and down the world with him, belaboring men or captivating women for his benefit or pleasure, at once the servant and fomentor of those fierce and brutal passions which he seems to think it a necessity, and rather a fine thing than otherwise, to indulge and obey. Whereas, so far as I know, the least of the muscular Christians has hold of the old chivalrous and Christian belief, that a man's body is given him to be trained and brought into subjection, and then used for the protection of the weak, the advancement of all righteous causes, and the subduing of the earth which God has given to the children of men. He does not hold that mere strength or activity are in themselves worthy of any respect or worship, or that one man is a bit better than another because he can knock him down, or carry a bigger sack of potatoes than he. For mere power, whether of body or intellect, he has (I hope and believe) no reverence whatever, though, coeteris paribus, he would probably himself, as a matter of taste, prefer the man who can lift a hundred-weight round his head with his little finger to the man who can construct a string of perfect Sorites, or expound the doctrine of "contradictory inconceivables."

The above remarks occur as our hero is marching innocently down towards his first "town and gown" row, and I should scarcely like to see him in the middle of it, without protesting that it is a mistake. I know that he, and other youngsters of his kidney, will have fits of fighting or desiring to fight with their poorer brethren, just as children have the measles. But the shorter the fit the better for the patient, for like the measles it is a great mistake, and a most unsatisfactory complaint. If they can escape it altogether so much the better. But instead of treating the fit as a disease, "musclemen" professors are wont to represent it as a state of health, and to let their disciples run about in middle age with the measles on them as strong as ever. Now although our hero had the measles on him at this particular time, and the passage of arms which I am about shortly to describe led to results of some importance in his history, and cannot therefore be passed over, yet I wish at the same time to disclaim, both in my sponsorial and individual character, all sympathy with town and gown rows, and with all other class rows and quarrels of every sort and kind, whether waged with sword, pen, tongue, fist or otherwise. Also to say that in all such rows, so far as I have seen or read, from the time when the Roman plebs marched out to Mons Sacer, down to 1848, when the English chartists met on Kennington Common, the upper classes are most to blame. It may be that they are not the aggressors on any given occasion; very possibly they may carry on the actual fighting with more fairness (though this is by no means true as a rule); nevertheless the state of feeling which makes such things possible, especially in England, where men in general are only too ready to be led and taught by their superiors in rank, may be fairly laid at their door. Ever, in the case of strikes, which just now will of course be at once thrown in my teeth, I say fearlessly, let any man take the trouble to study the question honestly, and he will come to the conviction that all combinations of the men for the purpose of influencing the labor market, whether in the much and unjustly abused Trades' Societies, or in other forms, have been defensive organizations, and that the masters might, as a body, over and over again have taken the sting out of them if they had acted fairly, as many individuals amongst them have done. Whether it may not be too late now, is a tremendous question for England, but one which time only can decide.

When Drysdale and Tom at last found the caravans, it was just getting dark. Something of a crowd had collected outside, and there was some hissing as they ascended the short flight of steps which led to the platform in front of the show; but they took no notice of it, paid their money, and entered.

Inside they found an exciting scene. The place was pretty well lighted, and the birds and beasts were all alive in their several dens and cages, walking up and down, and each uttering remonstrances after its own manner, the shrill notes of birds mingling with the moan of the beasts of prey and chattering of the monkeys. Feeding time had been put off till night to suit the undergraduates, and the undergraduates were proving their appreciation of the attention by playing off all manner of practical jokes on birds and beasts, their keepers, and such of the public as had been rash enough to venture in. At the farther end was the keeper, who did the showman, vainly endeavouring to go through his usual jogtrot description. His monotone was drowned every minute by the chorus of voices, each shouting out some new fact in natural history touching the biped or quadruped whom the keeper was attempting to describe. At that day a great deal of this sort of chaff was current, so that the most dunder-headed boy had plenty on the tip of his tongue. A small and indignant knot of townspeopl

e, headed by a stout and severe middle-aged woman, with two big boys, her sons, followed the keeper, endeavouring by caustic remarks and withering glances to stop the flood of chaff, and restore the legitimate authority and the reign of keeper and natural history.

At another point was a long Irishman in cap and gown, who had clearly had as much wine as he could carry, close to the bars of the panther's den, through which he was earnestly endeavouring, with the help of a crooked stick, to draw the tail of whichever of the beasts stopped for a moment in its uneasy walk. On the other side were a set of men bent on burning the wretched monkeys' fingers with the lighted ends of their cigars, in which they seemed successful enough, to judge by the angry chatterings and shriekings of their victims.

The two new comers paused for a moment on the platform inside the curtain; and then Drysdale, rubbing his hands, and in high glee at the sight of so much misrule in so small a place, led the way down on to the floor deep in sawdust, exclaiming, "Well, this is a lark! We're just in for all the fun of the fair."

Tom followed his friend, who made straight for the show man, and planted himself at his side, just as that worthy, pointing with his pole, was proceeding-

"This is the jackal, from-"

"The Caribee Hielands, of which I'm a native mysel'," shouted a gownsman.

"This is the jackal, or lion's provider," began again the much enduring keeper.

"Who always goes before the lion to purwide his purwisions, purwiding there's anything to purwide," put in Drysdale.

"Hem-really I do think it's scandalous not to let the keeper tell about the beasteses," said the unfortunate matron, with a half turn towards the persecutors, and grasping her bag.

"My dear madam," said Drysdale, in his softest voice, "I assure you he knows nothing about the beasteses. We are Doctor Buckland's favourite pupils, are also well known to the great Panjandrum, and have eaten more beasteses than the keeper has ever seen."

"I don't know who you are, young man, but you don't know how to behave yourselves," rejoined the outraged female; and the keeper, giving up the jackal as a bad job, pointing with his pole, proceeded-

"The little hanimal in the upper cage is the hopossom, of North


"The misguided offspring of the raccoon and the gumtree," put in one of his tormentors.

Here a frightful roaring and struggling at a little distance, mingled with shouts of laughter, and "Hold on, Pat!" "Go it, panther!" interrupted the lecture, and caused a rush to the other side, where the long Irishman, Donovan, by name, with one foot against the bars, was holding on to the tail of one of the panthers, which he had at length managed to catch hold of. The next moment he was flat on his back in the sawdust, and his victim was bounding wildly about the cage. The keeper hurried away to look after the outraged panther; and Drysdale, at once installing himself as showman, began at the next cage-

"This is the wild man of the woods, or whangee-tangee, the most untameable-good heavens, ma'am, take care!" and he seized hold on the unfortunate woman and pulled her away from the bars.

"Oh, goodness!" she screamed, "it's got my tippet; oh, Bill, Peter, catch hold!" Bill and Peter proved unequal to the occasion, but a gownsman seized the vanishing tippet, and after a moment's struggle with the great ape, restored a meagre half to the proper owner, while Jacko sat grinning over the other half, picking it to pieces. The poor woman had now had enough of it, and she hurried off with her two boys, followed by the few townspeople who were still in the show, to lay her case directly before the mayor, as she informed the delinquents from the platform before disappearing. Her wrongs were likely to be more speedily avenged, to judge by the angry murmurs which arose outside immediately after her exit.

But still the high jinks went on, Donovan leading all mischief, until the master of the menagerie appeared inside, and remonstrated with the men. "He must send for the police," he said, "if they would not leave the beasts alone. He had put off the feeding in order to suit them; would they let his keepers feed the beasts quietly?" The threat of the police was received with shouts of defiance by some of the men, though the greater part seemed of the opinion that matters were getting serious.

The proposal of feeding, was however, welcomed by all and comparative quiet ensued for some ten minutes, while the baskets of joints, bread, stale fish, and potatoes were brought in, and the contents distributed to the famished occupants of the cages. In the interval of peace the showman-keeper, on a hint from his master, again began his round. But the spirit of mischief was abroad, and it only needed this to make it break out again. In another two minutes the beasts, from the lion to the smallest monkey, were struggling for their suppers, with one or more undergraduates; the elephant had torn the gown off Donovan's back, having only just missed his arm; the manager in a confusion worthy of the tower of Babel, sent off a keeper for the city police, and turned the gas out.

The audience, after the first moment of surprise and indignation, groped their way towards the steps and mounted the platform, where they held a council of war. Should they stay where they were or make a sally at once, break through the crowd and get back to their colleges? It was curious to see how in that short minute individual character came out, and the coward, the cautious man, the resolute prompt Englishman, each was there, and more than one species of each. Donovan was one of the last up the steps, and as he stumbled up caught something of the question before the house. He shouted loudly at once for descending and offering battle. "But boys," he added, "first wait till I adthress the meeting," and he made for the opening in the canvas through which the outside platform was reached. Stump oratory and a free fight were just the two temptations which Donovan was wholly unable to resist; it was with a face radiant with devil-may-care delight that he burst through the opening, followed by all the rest (who felt that the matter was out of their hands, and must go its own way after the Irishman), and rolling to the front of the outside platform, rested one hand on the rail, and waved the other gracefully towards the crowd.

This was the signal for a burst of defiant shouts and hissing. Donovan stood blandly waving his hand for silence. Drysdale, running his eye over the mob, turned to the rest and said, "There's nothing to stop us, not twenty grown men in the whole lot."

Then one of the men lighting upon the drumsticks, which the usual man in corduroys had hidden away, began beating the big drum furiously. One of the unaccountable whims which influence crowds seized on the mob, and there was almost perfect silence. This seemed to take Donovan by surprise; the open air was having the common effect on him; he was getting unsteady on his legs, and his brains were wondering. "Now's your time, Donovan, my boy-begin."

"Ah, yes, to be sure, what'll I say? let's see," said Donovan, putting his head on one side-

"Friends, Romans, countrymen," suggested some wag.

"To be sure," cried Donovan; "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears."

"Bravo Pat, well begun; pull their ears well when you've got 'em."

"Bad luck to it! where was I? you divels-I mean ladies and gentlemen of Oxford city as I was saying, the poets-"

Then the storm of shouting and hissing arose again, and Donovan, after an ineffectual attempt or two to go on, leaned forward and shook his fist generally at the mob. Luckily for him, there were no stones about; but one of the crowd, catching the first missel at hand, which happened to be a cabbage stalk, sent it with true aim at the enraged orator. He jerked his head on one side to avoid it; the motion unsteadied his cap; he threw up his hand, which, instead of catching the falling cap, as it was meant to do, sent it spinning among the crowd below. The owner, without a moment's hesitation, clapped both hands on the bar before him, and followed his property, vaulting over on the heads of those nearest the platform, amongst whom he fell, scattering them right and left.

"Come on, gown, or he'll be murdered," sang out one of Donovan's friends. Tom was one of the first down the steps; they rushed to the spot in another moment, and the Irishman rose, plastered with dirt, but otherwise none the worse for his feat; his cap, covered with mud, was proudly stuck on, hind part before. He was of course thirsting for battle, but not quite so much master of his strength as usual; so his two friends, who were luckily strong and big men, seized him, one to each arm.

"Come along, keep together," was the word; "there's no time to lose. Push for the corn-market."

The cry of "Town! town!" now rose on all sides. The gownsmen in a compact body, with Donovan in the middle, pushed rapidly across the open space in which the caravans were set up and gained the street. Here they were comparatively safe; they were followed close, but could not be surrounded by the mob. And now again a bystander might have amused himself by noting the men's characters. Three or four pushed rapidly on, and were out of sight ahead in no time. The greater part, without showing any actual signs off fear, kept steadily on, at a good pace. Close behind these, Donovan struggled violently with his two conductors, and shouted defiance to the town; while a small and silent rear guard, amongst whom were Tom and Drysdale, walked slowly and, to all appearance, carelessly behind, within a few yards of the crowd of shouting boys who headed the advancing town. Tom himself felt his heart beating quick, and I don't think had any particular desire for the fighting to begin, with such long odds on the town side; but he was resolved to be in it as soon as any one if there was to be any. Thus they marched through one or two streets without anything more serious than an occasional stone passing their ears. Another turn would have brought them into the open parts of the town, within hearing of the colleges, when suddenly Donovan broke loose from his supporters, and rushing with a shout on the advanced guard of the town, drove them back in confusion for some yards. The only thing to do was to back him up; so the rear-guard, shouting "Gown! gown!" charged after him. The effect of the onset was like that of Blount at Flodden, when he saw Marmion's banner go down,-a wide space was cleared for a moment, the town driven back on the pavements, and up the middle of the street, and the rescued Donovan caught, set on his legs, and dragged away again some paces towards college. But the charging body was too few in number to improve the first success, or even to insure its own retreat. "Darkly closed the war around." The town lapped on them from the pavements, and poured on them down the middle of the street, before they had time to rally and stand together again.

What happened to the rest-who was down, who fought, who fled,-Tom had no time to inquire; for he found himself suddenly the centre of a yelling circle of enemies. So he set his teeth and buckled to his work; and the thought of splendid single combat, and glory such as he had read of in college stories, and tradition handing him down as the hero of that great night, flashed into his head as he cast his eye round for foemen worthy of his steel. None such appeared; so, selecting the one most of his own size, he squared and advanced on him. But the challenged one declined the combat, and kept retreating; while from behind, and at the sides, one after another of the "town" rushing out dealt Tom a blow and vanished again into the crowd. For a moment or two he kept his head and temper; the assailants individually were too insignificant to put out his strength upon; but head and temper were rapidly going;-he was like a bull in the arena with the picadores sticking their little javelins in him. A smart blow on the nose, which set a myriad of stars dancing before his eyes, finished the business, and he rushed after the last assailant, dealing blows to right and left, on small and great. The mob closed in on him, still avoiding attacks in front, but on the flank and rear they hung on him and battered at him. He had to turn sharply round after every step to shake himself clear, and at each turn the press thickened, the shouts waxed louder and fiercer; he began to get unsteady; tottered, swayed, and, stumbling over a prostrate youth, at last went down full length on to the pavement, carrying a couple of his assailants with him. And now it would have fared hardly with him, and he would scarcely have reached college with sound bones,-for I am sorry to say an Oxford town mob is a cruel and brutal one, and a man who is down has no chance with it,-but that for one moment he and his prostrate foes were so jumbled together that the town could not get at him, and the next cry of "Gown! gown!" rose high above the din; the town were swept back again by the rush of a reinforcement of gownsmen, the leader of whom seized him by the shoulders and put him on his legs again; while his late antagonists crawled away to the side of the road.

"Why, Brown!" said his rescuer,-Jervis, the Captain,-"this, you? Not hurt, eh?"

"Not a bit," said Tom.

"Good; come on, then; stick to me." In three steps they joined the rest of the gown, now numbering some twenty men. The mob was close before them, gathering for another rush. Tom felt a cruel, wild devil beginning to rise in him; he had never felt the like before. This time he longed for the next crash, which happily for him, was fated never to come off.

"Your names and colleges, gentlemen," said a voice close behind them at this critical moment. The "town" set up a derisive shout, and, turning round, the gownsmen found the velvet sleeves of one of the proctors at their elbow and his satellites, vulgarly called bull-dogs, taking notes of them. They were completely caught, and so quietly gave the required information.

"You will go to your colleges at once," said the proctor, "and remain within gates. You will see these gentlemen to the High-street," he added to his marshal; and then strode on after the crowd, which was vanishing down the street.

The men turned and strolled towards the High-street, the marshall keeping, in a deferential but wide-awake manner, pretty close to them, but without making any show of watching them. When they reached the High-street he touched his hat and said civilly, "I hope you will go home now, gentlemen, the senior proctor is very strict."

"All right, marshall; good night," said the good natured ones.

"D-- his impudence," growled one or two of the rest, and the marshal bustled away after his master. The men looked at one another for a moment or two. They were of different colleges, and strangers. The High-street was quiet; so without the exchange of a word, after the manner of British youth, they broke up into twos and threes, and parted. Jervis, Tom, and Drysdale, who turned up quite undamaged, sauntered together towards St. Ambrose's.

"I say, where are you going?" said Drysdale.

"Not to college, I vote," said Tom.

"No, there may be some more fun."

"Mighty poor fun, I should say, you'll find it," said Jervis; "however, if you will stay, I suppose I must. I can't leave you two boys by yourselves."

"Come along then, down here." So they turned down one of the courts leading out of the High-street, and so by back streets bore up again for the disturbed districts.

"Mind and keep a sharp lookout for the proctors," said Jervis; "as much row as you please, but we mustn't be caught again."

"Well, only let's keep together if we have to bolt."

They promenaded in lonely dignity for some five minutes, keeping eyes and ears on full strain.

"I tell you what," said Drysdale, at last, "it isn't fair, these enemies in the camp; what with the 'town' and their stones and fists, and the proctors with their 'name and college,' we've got the wrong end of the stick."

"Both wrong ends, I can tell you," said Jervis. "Hello, Brown, your nose is bleeding."

"Is it?" said Tom, drawing his hand across his mouth; "'twas that confounded little fellow then who ran up to my side while I was squaring at the long party. I felt a sharp crack, and the little rascal bolted into the crowd before I could turn at him."

"Cut and come again," said Drysdale, laughing.

"Ay, that's the regular thing in these blackguard street squabbles. Here they come then," said Jervis. "Steady, all."

They turned around to face the town, which came shouting down the street behind them in pursuit of one gownsman, a little, harmless, quiet fellow, who had fallen them on his way back to his college from a tea with his tutor, and, like a wise man, was giving them leg-bail as hard as he could foot it. But the little man was of a courageous, though prudent soul, and turned panting and gasping on his foes the moment he found himself amongst friends again.

"Now, then, stick together; don't let them get around us," said


They walked steadily down the street, which was luckily a narrow one, so that three of them could keep the whole of it, halting and showing front every few yards, when the crowd pressed too much. "Down with them! Town, town! That's two as was in the show." "Mark the velvet-capped chap. Town, town!" shouted the hinder part of the mob, but it was a rabble of boys as before, and the front rank took very good care of itself, and forbore from close quarters.

The small gownsman had now got his wind again; and smarting under the ignominy of his recent flight, was always a pace or two nearer the crowd than the other three, ruffling up like a little bantam, and shouting defiance between the catchings of his breath.

"You vagabonds! you cowards! Come on now I say! Gown, gown!" And at last, emboldened by the repeated halts of the mob, and thirsting for revenge, he made a dash at one of the nearest of the enemy. The suddenness of the attack took both sides by surprise, then came a rush by two or three of the town to the rescue.

"No, no! stand back-one at a time," shouted the Captain, throwing himself between the combatants and the mob. "Go it, little 'un; serve him out. Keep the rest back boys; steady!" Tom and Drysdale faced towards the crowd, while a little gownsman and his antagonist-who defended himself vigorously enough now-came to close quarters, in the rear of the gown line; too close to hurt one another but what with hugging and cuffing the townsman in another half-minute was sitting quietly on the pavement with his back against the wall, his enemy squaring in front of him, and daring him to renew the combat. "Get up, you coward; get up, I say, you coward! He won't get up," said the little man, eagerly turning to the Captain. "Shall I give him a kick?"

"No, let the cur alone," replied Jervis. "Now, do any more of you want to fight? Come on like men one at a time. I'll fight any man in the crowd."

Whether the challenge would have been answered must rest uncertain; for now the crowd began to look back, and a cry arose, "Here they are, proctors! now they'll run."

"So we must, by Jove, Brown," said the Captain. "What's your college?" to the little hero.


"Cut away, then; you're close at home."

"Very well, if I must; good night," and away went the small man as fast as he had come; and it has never been heard that he came to further grief, or performed other feats that night.

"Hang it, don't let's run," said Drysdale.

"Is it the proctors?" said Tom. "I can't see them."

"Mark the bloody-faced one; kick him over," sang out a voice in the crowd.

"Thank'ee," said Tom, savagely. "Let's have one rush at them."

"Look! there's the proctor's cap just through them; come along boys-well, stay if you like, and be rusticated, I'm off," and away went Jervis, and the next moment Tom and Drysdale followed the good example, and, as they had to run, made the best use of their legs, and in two minutes were well ahead of their pursuers. They turned a corner; "Here, Brown! alight in this public, cut in, and it's all right." Next moment they were in the dark passage of a quiet little inn, and heard with a chuckle part of the crowd scurry by the door in pursuit, while they themselves suddenly appeared in the neat little bar, to the no small astonishment of its occupants. These were a stout elderly woman in spectacles, who was stitching away at plain work in an arm-chair on one side of the fire; the foreman of one of the great boat-builders, who sat opposite her, smoking his pipe with a long glass of clear ale at his elbow; and a bright-eyed, neat handed bar maid, who was leaning against the table, and talking to the others as they entered.

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