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Tom Brown at Oxford By Thomas Hughes Characters: 34436

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:05

The old lady dropped her work, the barmaid turned round with a start and little ejaculation, and the foreman stared with all his eyes for a moment, and then, jumping up, exclaimed-

"Bless us, if it isn't Muster Drysdale and Muster Brown, of Ambrose's. Why what's the matter, sir? Muster Brown, you be all covered wi' blood, sir."

"Oh dear me! poor young gentlemen!" cried the hostess;-"Here, Patty, run and tell Dick to go for the doctor, and get the best room-"

"No, please don't; it's nothing at all," interrupted Tom, laughing;-"a basin of cold water and a towel, if you please, Miss Patty, and I shall be quite presentable in a minute. I'm very sorry to have frightened you all."

Drysdale joined in the assurances that it was nothing but a little of his friend's "claret," which he would be all the better for losing, and watched with an envious eye the interest depicted in Patty's pretty face, as she hurried in with a basin of fresh pumped water, and held the towel. Tom bathed his face, and very soon was as respectable a member of society as usual, save for a slight swelling on one side of his nose.

Drysdale meantime-seated on the table-had been explaining the circumstances to the landlady and the foreman. "And now, ma'am," said he as Tom joined them, and seated himself on a vacant chair, "I'm sure you must draw famous ale."

"Indeed, sir, I think Dick-that's my ostler, sir-is as good a brewer as is in the town. We always brew at home, sir, and I hope always shall."

"Quite right, ma'am, quite right," said Drysdale; "and I don't think we can do better than follow Jem here. Let us have a jug of the same ale as he is drinking. And you'll take a glass with us, Jem? or will you have spirits?"

Jem was for another glass of ale, and bore witness to its being the best in Oxford, and Patty drew the ale, and supplied two more long glasses. Drysdale, with apologies, produced his cigar case; and Jem, under the influence of the ale and a first-rate Havannah (for which he deserted his pipe, though he did not enjoy it half as much), volunteered to go and rouse the yard and conduct them safely back to college. This offer was of course, politely declined and then, Jem's hour for bed having come, he being a methodical man, as became his position, departed, and left our two young friends in sole possession of the bar. Nothing could have suited the two young gentlemen better, and they set to work to make themselves agreeable. They listened with lively interest to the landlady's statement of the difficulties of a widow woman in a house like hers, and to her praises of her factotum Dick and her niece Patty. They applauded her resolution of not bringing up her two boys in the publican line, though they could offer no very available answer her appeals for advice as to what trade they should be put to; all trades were so full, and things were not as they ought to be. The one thing, apparently, which was wanting to the happiness of Drysdale at Oxford, was the discovery of such beer as he had at last found at "The Choughs."

Dick was to come up to St. Ambrose's the first thing in the morning and carry off his barrel, which would never contain in future any other liquid. At last that worthy appeared in the bar to know when he was to shut up, and was sent out by his mistress to see that the street was clear, for which service he received a shilling, though his offer of escort was declined. And so, after paying in a splendid manner for their entertainment, they found themselves in the street, and set off for college, agreeing on the way that "The Choughs" was a great find, the old lady was the best old soul in the world, and Patty the prettiest girl in Oxford. They found the streets quiet, and walking quickly along them, knocked at the college gates at half-past eleven. The stout porter received them with a long face.

"Senior proctor's sent down here an hour back, gentlemen, to find whether you was in college."

"You don't mean that, porter? How kind of him! What did you say?"

"Said I didn't know, sir; but the marshal said, if you come in after, that you was to go to the senior proctor's at half-past nine to-morrow."

"Send my compliments to the senior proctor," said Drysdale, "and say I have a very particular engagement to morrow morning, which will prevent my having the pleasure of calling on him."

"Very good, sir," said the porter, giving a little dry chuckle, and tapping the keys against his leg; "only perhaps you wouldn't mind writing him a note, sir, as he is rather a particular gentleman."

"Didn't he send after anyone else?" said Tom.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Jervis, sir."

"Well, and what about him?"

"Oh, sir, Mr. Jervis! an old hand, sir. He'd been in gates long time, sir, when the marshal came."

"The sly old beggar!" said Drysdale, "good night, porter; mind you send my message to the proctor. If he is set on seeing me to-morrow, you can say that he will find a broiled chicken and a hand at picquet in my rooms, if he likes to drop in to lunch."

The porter looked after them for a moment, and then retired to his deep old chair in the lodge, pulled his night cap over his ears, put up his feet before the fire on a high stool, and folded his hands on his lap. "The most impidentest thing on the face of the earth is it gen'l'man-commoner in his first year," soliloquized the little man. "'Twould ha' done that one a sight of good, now, if he'd got a good hiding in the street to-night. But he's better than most on 'em, too," he went on; "uncommon free with his tongue, but just as free with his arf-sovereigns. Well, I'm not going to peach if the proctor don't send again in the morning. That sort's good for the college; makes things brisk; has his wine from town, and don't keep no keys. I wonder, now, if my Peter's been out a fighting? He's pretty nigh as hard to manage, is that boy, as if he was at college hisself."

And so, muttering over his domestic and professional grievances, the small janitor composed himself to a nap. I may add, parenthetically, that his hopeful Peter, a precocious youth of seventeen, scout's boy on No. 3 staircase of St. Ambrose's College, was represented in the boot cleaning and errand line by a substitute for some days; and when he returned to duty was minus a front tooth.

"What fools we were not to stick to the Captain. I wonder what we shall get," said Tom, who was troubled in his mind at the proctor's message, and not gifted naturally with the recklessness and contempt of authority which in Drysdale's case approached the sublime.

"Who cares? I'll be bound, now, the old fox came straight home to earth. Let's go and knock him up."

Tom assented, for he was anxious to consult Jervis as to his proceedings in the morning; so they soon found themselves drumming at his oak, which was opened shortly by "the stroke" in an old boating-jacket. They followed him in. At one end of his table stood his tea-service and the remains of his commons, which the scout had not cleared away; at the other, open books, note-books, and maps showed that the Captain read, as he rowed, "hard all."

"Well, are you two only just in?"

"Only just, my Captain," answered Drysdale.

"Have you been well thrashed, then? You don't look much damaged?"

"We are innocent of fight since your sudden departure-flight, shall I call it?-my Captain."

"Where have you been?"

"Where! why in the paragon of all pot houses; snug little bar with red curtains; stout old benevolent female in spectacles; barmaid an houri; and for malt the most touching tap in Oxford, wasn't it, Brown?"

"Yes, the beer was undeniable," said Tom.

"Well, and you dawdled there till now?" said Jervis.

"Even so. What with mobs that wouldn't fight fair, the captains who would run away, and the proctors marshals who would interfere, we were 'perfectly disgusted with the whole proceedings,' as the Scotchman said when he was sentenced to be hanged."

"Well! Heaven, they say, protects children, sailors, and drunken men; and whatever answer to Heaven in the academical system protects freshmen," remarked Jervis.

"Not us, at any rate," said Tom, "for we are to go to the proctor to-morrow morning."

"What, did he catch you in your famous public?"

"No; the marshal came round to the porter's lodge, asked if we were in, and left word that, if we were not, we were to go to him in the morning. The porter told us just now as we came in."

"Pshaw," said the Captain, with disgust; "now you'll be gated probably, and the whole crew will be thrown out of gear. Why couldn't you have come home when I did?"

"We do not propose to attend the levee of that excellent person in office to-morrow morning," said Drysdale. "He will forget all about it. Old Copas won't say a word-catch him. He gets too much out of me for that."

"Well, you'll see; I'll back the proctor's memory."

"But, Captain, what are you going to stand?"

"Stand! nothing, unless you like a cup of cold tea. You'll get no wine or spirits here at this time of night, and the buttery is shut. Besides you've had quite as much beer as good for you at your paragon public."

"Come, now, Captain, just two glasses of sherry, and I'll promise to go to bed."

"Not a thimbleful."

"You old tyrant!" said Drysdale, hopping off his perch on the elbow of the sofa. "Come along, Brown, let's go and draw for some supper, and a hand at Van John. There's sure to be something going up my staircase; or, at any rate, there's a cool bottle of claret in my rooms."

"Stop and have a talk, Brown," said the Captain, and prevailed against Drysdale, who, after another attempt to draw Tom off, departed on his quest for drink and cards.

"He'll never do for the boat, I'm afraid," said the Captain; "with his rascally late hours, and drinking and eating all sorts of trash. It's a pity, too for he's a pretty oar for his weight."

"He is such uncommon good company, too," said Tom.

"Yes; but I'll tell you what. He's just a leetle too good company for you and me, or any fellows who mean to take a degree. Let's see, this is only his third term? I'll give him, perhaps, two more to make the place too hot to hold him. Take my word for it, he'll never get to his little-go."

"It will be a great pity, then," said Tom.

"So it will. But after all, you see, what does it matter to him? He gets rusticated; takes his name off with a flourish of trumpets-what then? He falls back on 5,000L a year in land, and a good accumulation in consols, runs abroad or lives in town for a year. Takes the hounds when he comes of age, or is singled out by some discerning constituency, and sent to make laws for his country, having spent the whole of his life hitherto in breaking all the laws he ever came under. You and I, perhaps, go fooling about with him, and get rusticated. We make our friends miserable. We can't take our names off, but have to come cringing back at the end of our year, marked men. Keep our tails between our legs for the rest of the time. Lose a year at our professions, and most likely have the slip casting up against us in one way or another for the next twenty years. It's like the old story of the giant and the dwarf, or like fighting a sweep, or any other one-sided business."

"But I'd sooner have to fight my own way in the world after all; wouldn't you?" said Tom.

"H-m-m!" said the Captain, throwing himself back in the chair, and smiling; "can't answer off hand. I'm a third year man, and begin to see the other side rather clearer than I did when I was a freshman like you. Three years at Oxford, my boy, will teach you something of what rank and money count for, if they teach you nothing else."

"Why, here's the Captain singing the same song as Hardy," thought


"So you two have to go to the proctor to-morrow?"


"Shall you go? Drysdale won't."

"Of course I shall. It seems to me childish not to go; as if I were back in the lower school again. To tell you the truth, the being sent for isn't pleasant; but the other I couldn't stand."

"Well, I don't feel anything of that sort. But I think you're right on the whole. The chances are that he'll remember your name, and send for you again if you don't go; and then you'll be worse off."

"You don't think he'll rusticate us, or anything of that sort?" said Tom, who had felt horrible twinges at the Captain's picture of the effects of rustication on ordinary mortals.

"No; not unless he's in a very bad humour. I was caught three times in one night in my freshman's term, and only got an imposition."

"Then I don't care," said Tom. "But it's a bore to have been caught in so seedy an affair; if it had been a real good row, one wouldn't have minded so much."

"Why, what did you expect? It was neither better nor worse than the common run of such things."

"Well, but three parts of the crowd were boys."

"So they are always-or nine times out of ten at any rate."

"But there was no real fighting; at least, I only know I got none."

"There isn't any real fighting, as you call it, nine times out of ten."

"What is there, then?"

"Why, something of this sort. Five shopboys, or scouts' boys, full of sauciness, loitering at an out-of-the-way street corner. Enter two freshmen, full of dignity and bad wine. Explosion of inflammable material. Freshmen mobbed into High-street or Broad-street, where the tables are turned by a gathering of many more freshmen, and the mob of town boys quietly subsides, puts its hands in its pockets, and ceases to shout 'Town, town!' The triumphant freshmen march up and down for perhaps half an hour, shouting 'Gown, gown!' and looking furious, but not half sorry that the mob vanishes like mist at their approach. Then come the proctors, who hunt down, and break up the gown in some half-hour or hour. The 'town' again marches about in the ascendant, and mobs the scattered freshmen, wherever they can be caught in very small numbers."

"But with all your chaff about freshmen, Captain, you were in it yourself to-night; come now."

"Of course, I had to look after you two boys."

"But you didn't know we were in when you came up?"

"I was sure to find some of you. Besides, I'll admit one don't like to go in while there's any chance of a real row as you call it, and so gets proctorized in one's old age for one's patriotism."

"Were you ever in a real row?" said Tom.

"Yes, once, about a year ago. The fighting numbers were about equal, and the town all grown men, labourers and mechanics. It was desperate hard work, none of your shouting and promenading. That Hardy, one of our Bible clerks, fought like a Paladin; I know I shifted a fellow in corduroys on to him, whom I had found an uncommon tough customer, and never felt better pleased in my life than when I saw the light glance on his hobnails as he went over into the gutter two minutes afterwards. It lasted, perhaps, ten minutes, and both sides were very glad to draw off."

"But, of course, you licked them?"

"We said we did."

"Well, I believe that a gentleman will always lick in a fair fight."

"Of course you do, it's the orthodox belief."

"But don't you?"

"Yes; if he is as big and strong, and knows how to fight as well as the other. The odds are that he cares a little more for giving in, and that will pull him through."

"That isn't saying much, though."

"No, but it's quite as much as is true. I'll tell you what it is, I think just this, that we are generally better in the fighting way than shopkeepers, clerks, flunkies, and all fellows who don't work hard with their bodies all day. But the moment you come to the real hard-fisted fellow; used to nine or ten hours' work a day, he's a cruel hard customer. Take seventy or eighty of them at haphazard, the first you meet, and turn them into St. Ambrose any morning-by night I take it they would be lords of this venerable establishment if we had to fight for the possession; except, perhaps, for that Hardy-he's one of a thousand, and was born for a fighting man; perhaps he might pull us through."

"Why don't you try him in the boat?"

"Miller manages all that. I spoke to him about it after that row, but he said that Hardy had refused to subscribe to the club, said he couldn't afford it, or something of the sort. I don't see why that need matter, myself, but I suppose, as we have rules, we ought to stick to them."

"It's a great pity though. I know Hardy well, and you can't think what a fine fellow he is."

"I'm sure of that. I tried to know him, and we don't get on badly as speaking acquaintance. But he seems a queer, solitary bird."

Twelve o'clock struck; so Tom wished the Captain good night and departed, meditating much on what he had heard and seen. The vision of terrible single combats, in which the descendant of a hundred earls polishes off the huge representative of the masses in the most finished style, without a scratch on his own aristocratic features, had faded from his mind.

He went to bed that night, fairly sickened with his experience of a town and gown row, and with a nasty taste in his mouth. But he felt much pleased at h

aving drawn out the Captain so completely. For "the stroke" was in general a man of marvellous few words, having many better uses than talking to put his breath to.

Next morning he attended at the proctor's rooms at the appointed time, not without some feeling of shame at having to do so; which, however, wore off when he found some dozen men of other colleges waiting about on the same errand as himself. In his turn he was ushered in, and as he stood by the door, had time to look the great man over as he sat making a note of the case he had just disposed of. The inspection was reassuring. The proctor was a gentlemanly, straight-forward looking man of about thirty, not at all donnish, and his address answered to his appearance.

"Mr. Brown, of St. Ambrose's, I think," he said.

"Yes, sir."

"I sent you to your college yesterday evening; did you go straight home?"

"No, sir."

"How was that, Mr. Brown?"

Tom made no answer, and the proctor looked at him steadily for a few seconds, and then repeated.

"How was that?"

"Well, sir," said Tom, "I don't mean to say I was going straight to college, but I should have been in long before you sent, only I fell in with the mob again, and then there was a cry that you were coming. And so-" He paused.

"Well," said the proctor, with a grim sort of curl about the corners of his mouth.

"Why, I ran away, and turned into the first place which was open, and stopped till the streets were quiet."

"A public house, I suppose."

"Yes, sir; 'The Choughs.'"

The proctor considered a minute, and again scrutinized Tom's look and manner, which certainly were straightforward, and without any tinge of cringing or insolence.

"How long have you been up?"

"This is my second term, sir."

"You have never been sent to me before, I think?"

"Never, sir."

"Well, I can't overlook this, as you yourself confess to a direct act of disobedience. You must write me out 200 lines of Virgil. And now, Mr. Brown, let me advise you to keep out of disreputable street quarrels in future. Good morning."

Tom hurried away, wondering what it would feel like to be writing out Virgil again as a punishment at his time of life, but glad above measure that the proctor had asked him no questions about his companion. The hero was of course, mightily tickled at the result, and seized the occasion to lecture Tom on his future conduct, holding himself up as a living example of the benefits which were sure to accrue to a man who never did anything he was told to do. The soundness of his reasoning, however, was somewhat shaken by the dean, who, on the same afternoon, managed to catch him in quad; and, carrying him off, discoursed with him concerning his various and systematic breaches of discipline, pointed out to him that he had already made such good use of his time that if he were to be discommonsed for three more days he would lose his term; and then took of his cross, gave him a book of Virgil to write out and gated him for a fortnight after hall. Drysdale sent out his scout to order his punishment as he might have ordered a waistcoat, presented old Copas with a half-sovereign, and then dismissed punishment and gating from his mind. He cultivated with great success the science of mental gymnastics, or throwing everything the least unpleasant off his mind at once. And no doubt it is a science worthy of all cultivation, if one desires to lead a comfortable life. It gets harder, however, as the years roll over us, to attain to any satisfactory proficiency in it; so it should be mastered as early in life as may be.

The town and gown row was the talk of the college for the next week. Tom, of course, talked much about it, like his neighbors, and confided to one and another the Captain's heresies. They were all incredulous; for no one had ever heard him talk as much in a term as Tom reported him to have done on this one evening.

So it was resolved that he should be taken to task on the subject on the first opportunity; and, as nobody was afraid of him, there was no difficulty in finding a man to bell the cat. Accordingly, at the next wine of the boating set, the Captain had scarcely entered when he was assailed by the host with-

"Jervis, Brown says you don't believe a gentleman can lick a cad, unless he is the biggest and strongest of the two."

The Captain, who hated coming out with his beliefs, shrugged his shoulders, sipped his wine, and tried to turn the subject. But, seeing that they were all bent on drawing him out, he was not the man to run from his guns; and so he said quietly:

"No more I do."

Notwithstanding the reverence in which he was held, this saying could not be allowed to pass, and a dozen voices were instantly raised, and a dozen authentic stories told to confute him. He listened patiently, and then, seeing he was in for it, said:

"Never mind fighting. Try something else; cricket, for instance.

The players generally beat the gentlemen, don't they?"

"Yes; but they are professionals."

"Well, and we don't often get a university crew which can beat the watermen?"

"Professionals again."

"I believe the markers are the best tennis-players, ain't they?" persevered the Captain; "and I generally find keepers and huntsmen shooting and riding better than their master's, don't you?"

"But that's not fair. All the cases you put are those of men who have nothing else to do, who live by the things gentlemen only take up for pleasure."

"I only say that the cads, as you call them, manage, somehow or another, to do them best," said the Captain.

"How about the army and navy? The officers always lead."

"Well, there they're all professionals, at any rate," said the Captain. "I admit that the officers lead; but the men follow pretty close. And in a forlorn hope there are fifty men to one officer, after all."

"But they must be led. The men will never go without an officer to lead."

"It's the officers' business to lead, I know; and they do it. But you won't find the best judges talking as if the men wanted much leading. Read Napier: the finest story in his book is of the sergeant who gave his life for his boy officer's-your namesake, Brown-at the Coa."

"Well, I never thought to hear you crying down gentlemen."

"I'm not crying down gentlemen," said the Captain. "I only say that a gentleman's flesh and blood, and brains, are just the same, and no better than another man's. He has all the chances on his side in the way of training, and pretty near all the prizes; so it would be hard if he didn't do most things better than poor men. But give them the chance of training, and they will tread on his heels soon enough. That's all I say."

That was all, certainly, that the Captain said, and then relapsed into his usual good-tempered monosyllabic state; from which all the eager talk of the men, who took up the cudgels naturally enough for their own class, and talked themselves before the wine broke up into a renewed consciousness of their natural superiority, failed again to rouse him.

This was, in fact, the Captain's weak point, if he had one. He had strong beliefs himself; one of the strongest of which was, that nobody could be taught anything except by his own experience; so he never, or very rarely, exercised his own personal influence, but just quietly went on his own way, and let other men go theirs. Another of his beliefs was, that there was no man or thing in the world too bad to be tolerated; faithfully acting up to which belief, the Captain himself tolerated persons and things intolerable.

Bearing which facts in mind, the reader will easily guess the result of the application which the crew duly made to him the day after Miller's back was turned. He simply said that the training they proposed would not be enough, and that he himself should take all who chose to go down, to Abingdon twice a week. From that time there were many defaulters; and the spirit of Diogenes groaned within him, as day after day the crew had to be filled up from the torpid or by watermen. Drysdale would ride down to Sandford, meeting the boat on its way up, and then take his place for the pull up to Oxford, while his groom rode his horse up to Folly bridge to meet him. There he would mount again and ride off to Bullingdon, or to the Isis, or Quentin, or other social meeting equally inimical to good training. Blake often absented himself three days in a week, and other men once or twice.

From considering which facts, Tom came to understand the difference between his two heroes; their strong likeness in many points he had seen from the first. They were alike in truthfulness, bravery, bodily strength, and in most of their opinions. But Jervis worried himself about nothing, and let all men and things alone, in the belief that the world was not going so very wrong, or would right itself somehow without him. Hardy, on the other hand, was consuming his heart over everything that seemed to him to be going wrong in himself and round about him-in the college, in Oxford, in England, in the ends of the earth, and never letting slip a chance of trying to set right, here a thread, and there a thread. A self-questioning, much enduring man; a slayer of dragons himself, and one with whom you could not live much without getting uncomfortably aware of the dragons which you also had to slay.

What wonder that, apart altogether from the difference in their social position, the one man was ever becoming more and more popular, while the other was left more and more to himself. There are few of us at Oxford, or elsewhere, who do not like to see a man living a brave and righteous life, so long as he keeps clear of us; and still fewer who do like to be in constant contact with one who, not content with so living himself, is always coming across them, and laying bare to them their own faint-heartedness, and sloth, and meanness. The latter, no doubt, inspires the deeper feeling, and lays hold with a firmer grip of the men he does lay hold of, but they are few. For men can't always keep up to high pressure till they have found firm ground to build upon, altogether outside of themselves; and it is hard to be thankful and fair to those who are showing us time after time that our foothold is nothing but shifting sand.

The contrast between Jervis and Hardy now began to force itself daily more and more on our hero's attention.

From the night of the town and gown row, "The Choughs" became a regular haunt of the crew, who were taken there under the guidance of Tom and Drysdale the next day. Not content with calling there on his way from the boats, there was seldom an evening now that Tom did not manage to drop in and spend an hour there.

When one is very much bent on doing a thing, it is generally easy enough to find very good reasons, or excuses at any rate, for it; and whenever any doubts crossed Tom's mind, he silenced them by the reflection that the time he spent at "The Choughs" would otherwise have been devoted to wine parties or billiards; and it was not difficult to persuade himself that his present occupation was the more wholesome of the two. He could not, however, feel satisfied till he had mentioned his change in life to Hardy. This he found a much more embarrassing matter than he fancied it would be. But, after one or two false starts, he managed to get out that he had found the best glass of ale in Oxford, at a quiet little public on the way to the boats, kept by the most perfect of widows, with a factotum of an ostler, who was a regular character, and that he went there most evenings for an hour or so. Wouldn't Hardy come some night?

No, Hardy couldn't spare the time.

Tom felt rather relieved at this answer; but, nevertheless went on to urge the excellence of the ale as a further inducement.

"I don't believe it's half so good as our college beer, and I'll be bound it's half as dear again."

"Only a penny a pint dearer," said Tom, "that won't ruin you,-all the crew go there."

"If I were the Captain," said Hardy, "I wouldn't let you run about drinking ale at night after wine parties. Does he know about it?"

"Yes, and goes there himself often on the way from the boats," said Tom.

"And at night, too?" said Hardy.

"No," said Tom, "but I don't go there after drinking wine; I haven't been to a wine these ten days, at least not for more than five minutes."

"Well, sound ale is better than Oxford wine," said Hardy, "if you must drink something;" and so the subject dropped.

And Tom went away satisfied that Hardy had not disapproved of his new habit. It certainly occurred to him that he had omitted all mention of the pretty barmaid in his enumeration of the attractions of "The Choughs," but he set down to mere accident; it was a slip which he would set right in their next talk. But that talk never came, and the subject was not again mentioned between them. In fact, to tell the truth, Tom's visits to his friend's rooms in the evenings became shorter and less frequent as "The Choughs" absorbed more and more of his time. He made excuses to himself, that Hardy must be glad of more time, and would be only bored if he kept dropping in every night, now that the examination for degree was so near; that he was sure he drove Grey away, who would be of much more use to Hardy just now. These, and many other equally plausible reasons, suggested themselves whenever his conscience smote him for his neglect, as it did not seldom. But he always managed to satisfy himself somehow, without admitting the real fact, that these visits were no longer what they had been to him; that a gulf had sprung up, and was widening day by day between him and the only friend who would have had the courage and honesty to tell him the truth about his new pursuit. Meantime Hardy was much pained at the change in his friend, which he saw quickly enough, and often thought over it with a sigh as he sat at his solitary tea. He set it down to his own dullness, to the number of new friends such a sociable fellow as Tom was sure to make, and who, of course, would take up more and more of his time; and, if he felt a little jealousy every now and then, put it resolutely back, struggling to think no evil, or if there were any, to lay it on his own shoulders.

Cribbage is a most virtuous and respectable game, and yet scarcely, one would think, possessing in itself sufficient attractions to keep a young gentleman in his twentieth year tied to the board, and going through the quaint calculation night after night of "fifteen two, fifteen four, two for his nob, and one for his heels." The old lady of "The Choughs" liked nothing so much as her game of cribbage in the evenings, and the board lay ready on the little table by her elbow in the cozy bar, a sure stepping-stone to her good graces. Tom somehow became an enthusiast in cribbage, and would always loiter behind his companions for his quiet game; chatting pleasantly while the old lady cut and shuffled the dirty pack, striving keenly for the nightly stake of sixpence, which he seldom failed to lose, and laughingly wrangling with her over the last points in the game which decided the transfer of the two sixpences (duly posted in the snuffer-tray beside the cribbage-board) into his waistcoat pocket or her bag, until she would take off her spectacles to wipe them, and sink back in her chair exhausted with the pleasing excitement.

Such an odd taste as it seemed, too, a bystander might reasonably have thought, when he might have been employing his time so much more pleasantly in the very room. For, flitting in and out of the bar during the game, and every now and then stooping over the old lady's shoulder to examine her hand, and exchange knowing looks with her, was the lithe little figure of Miss Patty, with her oval race, and merry eyes, and bright brown hair, and jaunty little cap, with fresh blue ribbons of the shade of the St. Ambrose colors. However, there is no accounting for tastes, and it is fortunate that some like apples and some onions. It may possibly be, too, that Miss Patty did not feel herself neglected, or did not care about attention. Perhaps she may not have been altogether unconscious that every least motion and word of hers was noticed, even when the game was at its keenest. At any rate, it was clear enough that she and Tom were on the best terms, though she always took her aunt's part vehemently in any little dispute which arose, and sometimes even came to the rescue at the end, and recaptured the vanished sixpences out of the wrongful grasp which he generally laid on them the moment the old lady held out her hand and pronounced the word "game." One knows that size has little to do with strength, or one might have wondered that her little hands should have been able to open his fingers so surely one by one, though he seemed to do all he could to keep them shut. But, after all, if he really thought he had a right to the money, he had always time to put it in his pocket at once, instead of keeping his clenched hand on the table, and arguing about it till she had time to get up to the succour of her aunt.

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