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Title: Doctor Birch and His Young Friends
Author: Titmarsh, M. A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DOCTOR BIRCH AND HIS YOUNG FRIENDS.

By Mr. M. A. Titmarsh.

London:

Chapman and Hall

1840.

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]

[Illustration: 00011]



DOCTOR BIRCH.



THE DOCTOR AND HIS STAFF.

|There is no need to say why I became Assistant Master and Professor of
the English and French languages, flower-painting, and the German flute,
in Doctor Birch's Academy, at Rodwell Regis. Good folks may depend on
this that there was good reason for my leaving lodgings near London,
and a genteel society, for an under-master's desk in that old school.
I promise you, the fare at the Usher's table, the getting up at five
o'clock in the morning, the walking out with little boys in the fields,
(who used to play me tricks, and never could be got to respect my awful
and responsible character as teacher in the school,) Miss Birch's vulgar
insolence, Jack Birch's glum condescension, and the poor old Doctor's
patronage, were not matters in themselves pleasurable: and that that
patronage and those dinners were sometimes cruel hard to swallow. Never
mind--my connexion with the place is over now, and I hope they have got
a more efficient under-master.

Jack Birch (Rev. J. Birch, of St. Neot's Hall, Oxford,) is partner with
his father the Doctor, and takes some of the classes. About his Greek
I can't say much; but I will construe him in Latin any day. A more
supercilious little prig, (giving himself airs, too, about his cousin,
Miss Baby, who lives with the Doctor,) a more empty pompous little
coxcomb I never saw. His white neckcloth looked as if it choked him. He
used to try and look over that starch upon me and Prince the assistant,
as if we were a couple of footmen. He didn't do much business in the
school; but occupied his time in writing sanctified letters to the boys'
parents, and in composing dreary sermons to preach to them.

The real master of the school is Prince; an Oxford man too: shy,
haughty, and learned; crammed with Greek and a quantity of useless
learning; uncommonly kind to the small boys; pitiless with the fools
and the braggarts: respected of all for his honesty, his learning, his
bravery, (for he hit out once in a boat-row in a way which astonished
the boys and the bargemen,) and for a latent power about him, which all
saw and confessed somehow. Jack Birch could never look him in the face.
Old Miss Z. dared not put off any of _her_ airs upon him. Miss Rosa made
him the lowest of curtsies. Miss Raby said she was afraid of him.
Good old Prince! many a pleasant night we have smoked in the Doctor's
harness-room, whither we retired when our boys were gone to bed, and our
cares and canes put by.

After Jack Birch had taken his degree at Oxford--a process which he
effected with great difficulty--this place, which used to be called
"Birch's," "Dr. Birch's Academy," and what not, became suddenly
"Archbishop Wigsby's College of Rodwell Regis." They took down the old
blue board with the gold letters, which has been used to mend the pig-
stye since. Birch had a large school-room run up in the Gothic taste,
with statuettes, and a little belfry, and a bust of Archbishop Wigsby in
the middle of the school. He put the six senior boys into caps and
gowns, which had rather a good effect as the lads sauntered down the
street of the town, but which certainly provoked the contempt and
hostility of the bargemen; and so great was his rage for academic
costumes and ordinances, that he would have put me myself into a lay
gown, with red knots and fringes, but that I flatly resisted, and said
that a writing-master had no business with such paraphernalia.

By the way, I have forgotten to mention the Doctor himself. And what
shall I say of him? Well, he has a very crisp gown and bands, a solemn
air, a tremendous loud voice, and a grand and solemn air with the boys'
parents, whom he receives in a study, covered round with the best bound
books, which imposes upon many--upon the women especially--and makes
them fancy that this is a Doctor indeed. But, Law bless you! He never
reads the books; or opens one of them, except that in which he keeps his
bands--and a Dugdale's Monasticon, which looks like a book, but is in
reality a cupboard, where he has his almond cakes, and decanter of port
wine. He gets up his classics with translations, or what the boys call
cribs. They pass wicked tricks upon him when he hears the forms. The
elder wags go to his study, and ask him to help them in hard bits of
Herodotus or Thucydides: he says he will look over the passage, and
flies for refuge to Mr. Prince, or to the crib.

He keeps the flogging department in his own hands; finding that his
son was too savage. He has awful brows and a big voice. But his roar
frightens nobody. It is only a lion's skin, or, so to say, a muff.

Little Mordant made a picture of him with large ears, like a well-known
domestic animal, and had his own justly boxed for the caricature.
The Doctor discovered him in the fact, and was in a flaming rage, and
threatened whipping at first; but in the course of the day an opportune
basket of game arriving from Mordant's father, the Doctor became
mollified, and has burnt the picture with the ears. However I have one
wafered up in my desk by the hand of the same little rascal: and the
frontispiece of this very book is drawn from it.



THE COCK OF THE SCHOOL.

|I am growing an old fellow--and have seen many great folks in the
course of my travels and time--Louis Philippe coming out of the
Tuileries, His Majesty the King of Prussia and the Reichsverweser
accolading each other, at Cologne, at my elbow; Admiral Sir Charles
Napier (in an omnibus once), the Duke of Wellington, the immortal Goethe
at Weimar, the late benevolent Pope Gregory XVI., and a score more of
the famous in this world--the whom, whenever one looks at, one has a
mild shock of awe and tremor. I like this feeling and decent fear and
trembling with which a modest spirit salutes a _Great Man_.

Well, I have seen Generals capering on horseback at the head of their
crimson battalions; Bishops sailing down cathedral aisles, with downcast
eyes, pressing their trencher caps to their hearts with their fat white
hands; College heads when her Majesty is on a visit; the Doctor in all
his glory at the head of his school on Speech-day, a great sight,--and
all great men these.

I have never met the late Mr. Thomas Cribb, but I have no doubt should
have regarded him with the same feeling of awe with which I look every
day at George Champion, the cock of Dr. Birch's school.

When, I say, I reflect as I go up and set him a sum, that he could whop
me in two minutes, double up Prince and the other assistant, and pitch
the Doctor out of window, I can't but think how great, how generous, how
magnanimous a creature this is, that sits quite quiet and good-natured,
and works his equation, and ponders through his Greek play. He might
take the schoolroom pillars and pull the house down if he liked. He
might close the door, and demolish every one of us like Antar, the lover
of Ibla; but he lets us live. He never thrashes anybody without a cause,
when woe betide the tyrant or the sneak!

I think that to be strong, and able to whop everybody,--(not to do
it, mind you, but to feel that you were able to do it,)--would be the
greatest of all gifts. There is a serene good humour which plays about
George Champion's broad face, which shows the consciousness of this
power, and lights up his honest blue eyes with a magnanimous calm.

He is invictus. Even when a cub there was no beating this lion. Six
years ago the undaunted little warrior actually stood up to Frank
Davison,--(the Indian officer now--poor little Charley's brother, whom
Miss Raby nursed so affectionately,)--then seventeen years old, and the
cock of Birch's. They were obliged to drag off the boy, and Frank, with
admiration and regard for him, prophesied the great things he would do.
Legends of combats are preserved fondly in schools; they have stories of
such at Rodwell Regis, performed in the old Doctor's time, forty years
ago.

Champion's affair with the Young Tutbury Pet, who was down here in
training,--with Black the Bargeman,--with the three head boys of Doctor
Wapshot's academy, whom he caught maltreating an outlying day-boy
of ours, &c.,--are known to all the Rodwell Regis men. He was always
victorious. He is modest and kind, like all great men. He has a good,
brave, honest understanding. He cannot make verses like young Pinder,
or read Greek like Lawrence the Prefect, who is a perfect young abyss of
learning, and knows enough, Prince says, to furnish any six first-class
men; but he does his work in a sound, downright way, and he is made
to be the bravest of soldiers, the best of country parsons, an honest
English gentleman wherever he may go.

[Illustration: 0021]

Like all great men, George is good-humoured and lazy. There is a
particular bench in the play-ground on which he will loll for hours on
half-holidays, and is so affable that the smallest boys come and speak
to him. It is pleasant to see the young cubs frisking round the honest
lion. His chief friend and attendant, however, is young Jack Hall, whom
he saved when drowning, out of the Miller's Pool. The attachment of the
two is curious to witness. The smaller lad gambolling, playing tricks
round the bigger one, and perpetually making fun of his protector. They
are never far apart, and of holidays you may meet them miles away from
the school. George sauntering heavily down the lanes with his big stick,
and little Jack larking with the pretty girls in the cottage windows.

George has a boat on the river, in which, however, he commonly lies
smoking, whilst Jack sculls him. He does not play at cricket, except
when the school plays the county, or at Lord's in the holidays. The boys
can't stand his bowling, and when he hits, it is like trying to catch a
cannon-ball. I have seen him at tennis. It is a splendid sight to behold
the young fellow bounding over the court with streaming yellow hair,
like young Apollo in a flannel jacket.

The other head boys are Lawrence the Captain, Bunce, famous chiefly for
his magnificent appetite, and Pitman, sur-named Roscius, for his love of
the drama. Add to these Swanky, called Macassar, from his partiality
to that condiment, and who has varnished boots, wears white gloves on
Sundays, and looks out for Miss Pinkerton's school (transferred from
Chiswick to Rodwell Regis, and conducted by the nieces of the late Miss
Barbara Pinkerton, the friend of Our Great Lexicograplier, upon the
principles approved by him and practised by that admirable woman,) as it
passes into church.

[Illustration: 0025]

Representations have been made concerning Mr. Horace Swanky's
behaviour; rumours have been uttered about notes in verse, conveyed in
three-cornered puffs, by Mrs. Buggies, who serves Miss Pinkerton's young
ladies on Fridays--and how Miss Didow, to whom the tart and enclosure
were addressed, tried to make away with herself by swallowing a ball of
cotton. But I pass over these absurd reports, as likely to affect the
reputation of an admirable Seminary conducted by irreproachable females.
As they go into church (Miss P. driving in her flock of lambkins with
the crook of her parasol,) how can it be helped if her forces and ours
sometimes collide, as the boys are on their way up to the organ-loft?
And I don't believe a word about the three-cornered puff, but rather
that it was the invention of that jealous Miss Birch, who is jealous of
Miss Raby, jealous of everybody who is good and handsome, and who has
_her own ends_ in view, or I am very much in error.



THE LITTLE SCHOOL-ROOM.

|What they call the little school-room is a small room at the other end
of the great school; through which you go to the Doctor's private house,
and where Miss Raby sits with her pupils. She has a half-dozen very
small ones over whom she presides and teaches them in her simple way,
until they are big or learned enough to face the great school-room. Many
of them are in a hurry for promotion, the graceless little simpletons,
and know no more than their elders when they are well off.

[Illustration: 0029]

She keeps the accounts, writes out the bills, superintends the linen and
sews on the general shirt-buttons. Think of having such a woman at home
to sew on one's shirt-buttons! But peace, peace, thou foolish heart!

Miss Raby is the Doctor's niece. Her mother was a beauty (quite unlike
old Zoe therefore); and she married a pupil in the old Doctor's time,
who was killed afterwards, a Captain in the East India service, at
the siege of Bhurtpore. Hence a number of Indian children come to the
Doctor's, for Raby was very much liked, and the uncle's kind reception
of the orphan has been a good speculation for the school-keeper.

It is wonderful how brightly and gaily that little quick creature
does her duty. She is the first to rise, and the last to sleep, if any
business is to be done. She sees the other two women go off to parties
in the town without even so much as wishing to join them. It is
Cinderella, only contented to stay at home--content to bear Zoe's scorn
and to admit Flora's superior charms,--and to do her utmost to repay her
uncle for his great kindness in housing her.

So, you see, she works as much as three maid-servants for the wages of
one. She is as thankful when the Doctor gives her a new gown, as if
he had presented her with a fortune: laughs at his stories most
good-humouredly, listens to Zoe's scolding most meekly, admires Flora
with all her heart, and only goes out of the way when Jack Birch shows
his sallow face: for she can't bear him, and always finds work when he
comes near.

How different she is when some folks approach her! I won't be
presumptuous; but I think, I think, I have made a not unfavourable
impression in some quarters. However, let us be mum on this subject. I
like to see her, because she always looks good-humoured; because she is
always kind, because she is always modest, because she is fond of those
poor little brats--orphans some of them,--because she is rather pretty,
I dare say, or because I think so, which comes to the same thing.

Though she is kind to all, it must be owned she shows the most gross
favouritism towards the amiable children. She brings them cakes from
dessert, and regales them with Zoe's preserves; spends many of her
little shillings in presents for her favourites, and will tell them
stories by the hour. She has one very sad story about a little boy, who
died long ago; the younger children are never weary of hearing about
him; and Miss Raby has shown to one of them a lock of the little chap's
hair, which she keeps in her work-box to this day.



THE DEAR BROTHERS.

_A Melodrama in several Rounds_.

The Doctor.

Mr. Tipper, Uncle to the Masters Boxall.

Boxall Major, Boxall Minor, Brown, Jones, Smith,

Robinson, Tiffin Minimus.

B. Go it old Boxall.

J. Give it him young Boxall.

R. Pitch into him old Boxall.

S. Two to one on young Boxall.

                        [Enter Tiffin Minimus, _running._

_Tiffin Minimus_. Boxalls! you 're wanted.

(_The Doctor to Mr. Tipper._) Every boy in the school loves them,
my dear sir; your nephews are a credit to my establishment. They are
orderly, well-conducted, gentleman-like boys. Let us enter and find them
at their studies.

                        [_Enter_ The Doctor _and_ Mr. Tipper.

GRAND TABLEAU.



A HOPELESS CASE.

|Let us, people who are so uncommonly clever and learned, have a great
tenderness and pity for the poor folks who are not endowed with the
prodigious talents which we have. I have always had a regard for
dunces;--those of my own school-days were amongst the pleasantest of the
fellows, and have turned out by no means the dullest in life; whereas
many a youth who could turn off Latin hexameters by the yard, and
construe Greek quite glibly, is no better than a feeble prig now, with
not a pennyworth more brains than were in his head before his beard
grew.

Those poor dunces! Talk of being the last man, ah! what a pang it must
be to be the last boy--huge, misshapen, fourteen years of age,--and
"taken up" by a chap who is but six years old, and can't speak quite
plain yet!

[Illustration: 0037]

Master Hulker is in that condition at Birch's. He is the most honest,
kind, active, plucky, generous creature. He can do many things better
than most boys. He can go up a tree, jump, play at cricket, dive and
swim perfectly--he can eat twice as much as almost any lady (as Miss
Birch well knows), he has a pretty talent at carving figures with his
hack-knife, he makes and paints little coaches, he can take a watch to
pieces and put it together again. He can do everything but learn his
lesson; and there he sticks at the bottom of the school, hopeless. As
the little boys are drafted in from Miss Raby's class, (it is true she
is one of the best instructresses in the world,) they enter and hop over
poor Hulker. He would be handed over to the governess only he is too
big. Sometimes I used to think, that this desperate stupidity was a
stratagem of the poor rascal's; and that he shammed dulness so that he
might be degraded into Miss Raby's class: if she would teach _me_, I
know, before George, I would put on a pinafore and a little jacket--but
no, it is a natural incapacity for the Latin Grammar.

If you could see his grammar, it is a perfect curiosity of dog's ears.
The leaves and cover are all curled and ragged. Many of the pages are
worn away, with the rubbing of his elbows as he sits poring over the
hopeless volume, with the blows of his fists as he thumps it madly, or
with the poor fellow's tears. You see him wiping them away with the back
of his hand, as he tries and tries, and can't do it.

When I think of that Latin Grammar, and that infernal As in Præsenti,
and of other things which I was made to learn in my youth: upon my
conscience I am surprised that we ever survived it. When one thinks
of the boys who have been caned because they could not master that
intolerable jargon! Good Lord, what a pitiful chorus these poor little
creatures send up! Be gentle with them, ye schoolmasters, and only whop
those who _won't_ learn.

The Doctor has operated upon Hulker (between ourselves), but the boy was
so little affected you would have thought he had taken chloroform. Birch
is weary of whipping now, and leaves the boy to go his own gait. Prince,
when he hears the lesson, and who cannot help making fun of a fool,
adopts the sarcastic manner with Master Hulker, and says, "Mr. Hulker,
may I take the liberty to inquire if your brilliant intellect has
enabled you to perceive the difference between those words which
grammarians have defined as substantive and adjective nouns?--if not,
perhaps Mr. Ferdinand Timmins will instruct you." And Timmins hops over
Hulker's head.

I wish Prince would leave off girding at the poor lad. He's an only son,
and his mother is a widow woman, who loves him with all her might. There
is a famous sneer about the suckling of fools and the chronicling of
small beer; but remember it was a rascal who uttered it.



A WORD ABOUT MISS BIRCH.

"The Gentlemen, and especially the younger and more tender of the
Pupils, will have the advantage of the constant superintendence and
affectionate care of Miss Zoe Birch, sister of the Principal: whose
dearest aim will be to supply (as far as may be) the absent maternal
friend."--_Prospectus of Rodwell Regis School_.

This is all very fine in the Doctor's circulars, and Miss Zoe Birch--(a
sweet birch blossom it is, fifty-five years old, during two score of
which she has dosed herself with pills; with a nose as red and a face as
sour as a crab-apple)--may do mighty well in a prospectus. But I should
like to know who would take Miss Zoe for a mother, or would have her for
one?

[Illustration: 0042]

The only persons in the house who are not afraid of her are Miss Flora
and I--no, I am afraid of her, though I _do_ know the story about the
French usher in 1830--but all the rest tremble before the woman, from
the Doctor down to poor Francis the knife-boy, and whom she bullies into
his miserable blacking-hole.

The Doctor is a pompous and outwardly severe man--but inwardly weak
and easy: loving a joke and a glass of port wine. I get on with him,
therefore, much better than Mr. Prince, who scorns him for an ass,
and under whose keen eyes the worthy Doctor writhes like a convicted
impostor; and many a sunshiny afternoon would he have said, "Mr. T.,
Sir, shall we try another glass of that yellow sealed wine which you
seem to like?" (and which he likes even better than I do), had not the
old harridan of a Zoe been down upon us, and insisted on turning me
out with her miserable weak coffee. She a mother indeed! A sour milk
generation she would have nursed. She is always croaking, scolding,
bullying,--yowling at the housemaids, snarling at Miss Raby, bowwowing
after the little boys, barking after the big ones. She knows how much
every boy eats to an ounce; and her delight is to ply with fat the
little ones who can't bear it, and with raw meat those who hate
underdone. It was she who caused the Doctor to be eaten out three times;
and nearly created a rebellion in the school because she insisted on his
flogging Goliah Longman.

The only time that woman is happy is when she comes in of a morning to
the little boys' dormitories with a cup of hot Epsom salts, and a sippet
of bread. Boo!--the very notion makes me quiver. She stands over them.
I saw her do it to young Byles only a few days since--and her presence
makes the abomination doubly abominable.

As for attending them in real illness, do you suppose that she would
watch a single night for any one of them? Not she. When poor little
Charley Davison (that child, a lock of whose soft hair I have said how
Miss Raby still keeps) lay ill of scarlet fever in the holidays--for the
Colonel, the father of these boys, was in India--it was Anne Raby who
tended the child, who watched him all through the fever, who never left
him while it lasted, or until she had closed the little eyes that were
never to brighten or moisten more. Anny watched and deplored him, but it
was Miss Birch who wrote the letter announcing his demise, and got the
gold chain and locket which the Colonel ordered as a memento of his
gratitude. It was through a row with Miss Birch that Frank Davison ran
away. I promise you that after he joined his regiment in India, the
Ahmednuggar Irregulars, which his gallant father commands, there came
over no more annual shawls and presents to Dr. and Miss Birch, and that
if she fancied the Colonel was coming home to marry her (on account of
her tenderness to his motherless children, which he was always writing
about), _that_ notion was very soon given up. But these affairs are
of early date, seven years back, and I only heard of them in a very
confused manner from Miss Raby, who was a girl, and had just come to
Rodwell Regis. She is always very much moved when she speaks about those
boys, which is but seldom. I take it the death of the little one still
grieves her tender heart.

Yes, it is Miss Birch, who has turned away seventeen ushers and second
masters in eleven years, and half as many French masters; inconsolable,
I suppose, since the departure of her _favourite_, M. Grinche, with her
gold watch, &c.; but this is only surmise--and what I gather from the
taunts of Miss Rosa when she and her aunt have a tiff at tea.

But besides this, I have another way of keeping her in order.

Whenever she is particularly odious or insolent to Miss Raby, I have but
to introduce raspberry jam into the conversation, and the woman holds
her tongue. She will understand me. I need not say more.

_Note, 12th December_.--I _may_ speak now. I have left the place and
don't mind. I say then at once, and without caring twopence for the
consequences, that I saw this woman, this _mother_ of the boys, _eating
jam with a spoon out of Master Wiggins's trunk in the box-room_; and of
this I am ready to take an affidavit any day.



A TRAGEDY.

THIS DRAMA OUGHT TO BE REPRESENTED IN ABOUT SIX CUTS.

_[The School is hushed. Lawrence the Prefect, and Custos of the rods, is
marching after the Doctor into the operating-room. Master Backhouse is
about to follow.]_

[Illustration: 0048]

_Master Backhouse_. It's all very well, but you see if I don't pay you
out after school--you sneak, you.

_Master Lurcher_. If you do I '1l tell again.

                        [Exit Backhouse.

[_The rod is heard from the adjoining apartment.
Hwish--Hhwish--hwish--hwish--hwish--hwish--hwish._]

                        [Re-enter Backhouse.



BRIGGS IN LUCK.

_Enter the Knife-boy_.--Hamper for Briggses!

_Master Brown._--Hurray, Tom Briggs! I'll lend you my knife.

If this story does not carry its own moral, what fable does, I wonder?
Before the arrival of that hamper, Master Briggs was in no better repute
than any other young gentleman of the lower school; and in fact I had
occasion myself, only lately, to correct Master Brown for kicking his
friend's shins during the writing-lesson. But how this basket directed
by his mother's housekeeper, and marked "Glass with care," (whence I
conclude that it contains some jam and some bottles of wine probably, as
well as the usual cake and game-pie, and half a sovereign for the elder
Master B., and five new shillings for Master Decimus Briggs)--how,
I say, the arrival of this basket, alters all Master Briggs's
circumstances in life, and the estimation in which many persons regard
him!

[Illustration: 0051]

If he is a good-hearted boy, as I have reason to think, the very first
thing he will do, before inspecting the contents of the hamper, or
cutting into them with the knife which Master Brown has so considerately
lent him; will be to read over the letter from home which lies on the
top of the parcel. He does so, as I remark to Miss Raby (for whom I
happened to be mending pens when the little circumstance arose), with a
flushed face and winking eyes. Look how the other boys are peering into
the basket as he reads.--I say to her, "Isn't it a pretty picture?" Part
of the letter is in a very large hand. That is from his little sister.
And I would wager that she netted the little purse which he has just
taken out of it, and which Master Lynx is eyeing.

"You are a droll man, and remark all sorts of queer things," Miss Raby
says, smiling, and plying her swift needle and fingers as quick as
possible.

"I am glad we are both on the spot, and that the little fellow
lies under our guns as it were, and so is protected from some such
brutal school-pirates as young Duval for instance, who would rob him
probably of some of those good things, good in themselves, and better
because fresh from home. See, there is a pie as I said, and which I dare
say is better than those which are served at our table (but you never
take any notice of these kind of things, Miss Raby), a cake of course, a
bottle of currant wine, jam-pots, and no end of pears in the straw.

"With this money little Briggs will be able to pay the tick which that
imprudent child has run up with Mrs. Ruggles; and I shall let Briggs
Major pay for the pencil-case which Bullock sold to him.--It will be a
lesson to the young prodigal for the future.

"But, I say, what a change there will be in his life for some time to
come, and at least until his present wealth is spent! The boys who bully
him will mollify towards him, and accept his pie and sweetmeats.
They will have feasts in the bed-room; and that wine will taste more
deliciously to them than the best out of the Doctor's cellar. The
cronies will be invited. Young Master Wagg will tell his most dreadful
story and sing his best song for a slice of that pie. What a jolly night
they will have! When we go the rounds at night, Mr. Prince and I will
take care to make a noise before we come to Briggs's room, so that the
boys may have time to put the light out, to push the things away, and
to scud into bed. Doctor Spry may be put in requisition the next
morning..."

"Nonsense! you absurd creature," cries out Miss Raby, laughing; and I
lay down the twelfth pen very nicely mended.

"Yes; after luxury comes the doctor, I say; after extravagance, a hole
in the breeches pocket. To judge from his disposition, Briggs Major will
not be much better off a couple of days hence than he is now, and, if
I am not mistaken, will end life a poor man. Brown will be kicking his
shins before a week is over, depend upon it. There are boys and men of
all sorts, Miss R.--there are selfish sneaks who hoard until the store
they daren't use grows mouldy--there are spendthrifts who fling away,
parasites who flatter and lick its shoes, and snarling curs who hate
and envy, good fortune."--I put down the last of the pens, brushing away
with it the quill-chips from her desk first, and she looked at me with a
kind wondering face. I brushed them away, clicked the pen-knife into
my pocket, made her a bow, and walked off--for the bell was ringing for
school.



A YOUNG FELLOW WHO IS PRETTY SURE TO SUCCEED.

|If Master Briggs is destined in all probability to be a poor man, the
chances are, that Mr. Bullock will have a very different lot. He is
a son of a partner of the eminent banking firm of Bullock and Hulker,
Lombard Street, and very high in the upper school--quite out of my
jurisdiction, consequently.

He writes the most beautiful current hand ever seen; and the way in
which he mastered arithmetic (going away into recondite and wonderful
rules in the Tutor's Assistant, which some masters even dare not
approach) is described by the Doctor in terms of admiration. He is
Mr. Prince's best algebra pupil; and a very fair classic, too, doing
everything well for which he has a mind.

He does not busy himself with the sports of his comrades, and holds a
cricket-bat no better than Miss Raby would. He employs the play hours
in improving his mind, and reading the newspaper; he is a profound
politician, and, it must be owned, on the Liberal side. The elder boys
despise him rather; and when Champion Major passes, he turns his head,
and looks down. I don't like the expression of Bullock's narrow, green
eyes, as they follow the elder Champion, who does not seem to know or
care how much the other hates him.

No--Mr. Bullock, though perhaps the cleverest and most accomplished boy
in the school, associates with the quite little boys when he is minded
for society. To these he is quite affable, courteous, and winning.
He never fagged or thrashed one of them. He has done the verses and
corrected the exercises of many, and many is the little lad to whom he
has lent a little money.

It is true he charges at the rate of a penny a week for every sixpence
lent out, but many a fellow to whom tarts are a present necessity is
happy to pay this interest for the loan. These transactions are kept
secret. Mr. Bullock, in rather a whining tone, when he takes Master
Green aside and does the requisite business for him, says, "You know
you'll go and talk about it everywhere. I don't want to lend you the
money, I want to buy something with it. It's only to oblige you; and yet
I am sure you will go and make fun of me." Whereon, of course, Green,
eager for the money, vows solemnly that the transaction shall be
confidential, and only speaks when the payment of the interest becomes
oppressive.

Thus it is that Mr. Bullock's practices are at all known. At a very
early period indeed his commercial genius manifested itself; and by
happy speculations in toffey; by composing a sweet drink made of stick
liquorice and brown sugar, and selling it at a profit to the younger
children; by purchasing a series of novels, which he let out at an
adequate remuneration; by doing boys exercises for a penny, and other
processes, he showed the bent of his mind. At the end of the half year
he always went home richer than when he arrived at school, with his
purse full of money.

Nobody knows how much he brought: but the accounts are fabulous. Twenty,
thirty, fifty--it is impossible to say how many sovereigns. When joked
about his money, he turns pale and swears he has not a shilling: whereas
he has had a banker's account ever since he was thirteen years old.

At the present moment he is employed in negotiating the sale of a knife
with Master Green, and is pointing out to the latter the beauty of the
six blades, and that he need not pay until after the holidays.

[Illustration: 0059]

Champion Major has sworn that he will break every bone in his skin the
next time that he cheats a little boy, and is bearing down upon him.
Let us come away. It is frightful to see that big peaceful clever coward
moaning under well deserved blows and whining for mercy.



DUVAL, THE PIRATE.

(_Jones Minimus passes, laden with tarts._)

[Illustration: 0062]

_Duval_. Hullo! you small boy with the tarts! Come here, Sir.

_Jones Minimus_. Please, Duval, they ain't mine.

_Duval._ O you abominable young story-teller.

                        [He confiscates the goods.

I think I like young Duval's mode of levying contributions better than
Bullock's. The former's, at least, has the merit of more candour. Duval
is the pirate of Birch's, and lies in wait for small boys laden with
money or provender. He scents plunder from afar off: and pounces out on
it. Woe betide the little fellow when Duval boards him!

There was a youth here whose money I used to keep, as he was of an
extravagant and weak disposition; and I doled it out to him in weekly
shillings, sufficient for the purchase of the necessary tarts. This boy
came to me one day for half a sovereign, for a very particular purpose,
he said. I afterwards found he wanted to lend the money to Duval.

The young ogre burst out laughing, when in a great wrath and fury I
ordered him to refund to the little boy: and proposed a bill of exchange
at three months. It is true Duval's father does not pay the Doctor, and
the lad never has a shilling, save that which he levies; and though he
is always bragging about the splendour of Freenystown, Co. Cork, and
the fox-hounds his father keeps, and the claret they drink there--there
comes no remittance from Castle Freeny in these bad times to the honest
Doctor, who is a kindly man enough, and never yet turned an insolvent
boy out of doors.



THE DORMITORIES.

_MASTER HEWLETT AND MASTER NIGHTINGALE._

(Rather a cold winter night.)

_Hewlett (flinging a shoe at Master Nightingale's bed, with which he
hits that young gentleman.)_ Hullo! You! Get up and bring me that shoe.

[Illustration: 0066]

_Nightingale._ Yes, Hewlett. _(He gets up.)_

_Hewlett_. Don't drop it, and be very careful of it, Sir.

_Nightingale_. Yes, Hewlett.

_Hewlett_. Silence in the Dormitory! Any boy who opens his mouth I'll
murder him. Now, Sir, are not you the boy what can sing?

_Nightingale_. Yes, Hewlett.

_Hewlett_. Chaunt then till I go to sleep, and if I wake when you stop,
you 'll have this at your head.

          [Master Hewlett lays his Bluchers on the bed, ready to shy at Master
Nightingale's head in the case contemplated.

_Nightingale (timidly.)_ Please, Hewlett?

_Hewlett_. Well, Sir.

_Nightingale_. May I put on my trowsers, please? _Hewlett. No_, Sir. Go
on, or I '11--

_Nightingale_,

                   "Through pleasures and palaces

                        Though we may roam,

                   Be it ever so humble,

                        There's no place like home.

               "Home, home! sweet, sweet home!

                   There's no place like ho-ome!

                   There's no place like home!"

                        (Da Capo.)



A CAPTURE AND A RESCUE.

[Illustration: 0070]

My young friend, Patrick Champion, George's younger brother, is a late
arrival among us; has much of the family quality and good-nature; is not
in the least a tyrant to the small boys, but is as eager as an Amadis to
fight. He is boxing his way up the school, emulating his great brother.
He fixes his eye on a boy above him in strength or size, and you hear
somehow that a difference has arisen between them at football, and they
have their coats off presently. He has thrashed himself over the heads
of many youths in this manner; for instance, if Champion can lick
Dobson, who can thrash Hobson, how much more, then, can he thrash
Hobson. Thus he works up and establishes his position in the school. Nor
does Mr. Prince think it advisable that we ushers should walk much in
the way when these little differences are being settled, unless there is
some gross disparity, or danger is apprehended.

For instance, I own to having seen the row depicted here as I was
shaving at my bed-room window. I did not hasten down to prevent its
consequences. Fogle had confiscated a top, the property of Snivins, the
which, as the little wretch was always pegging it at my toes, I did
not regret. Snivins whimpered; and young Champion came up, lusting for
battle. Directly he made out Fogle, he steered for him, pulling up his
coat-sleeves, and clearing for action.

"Who spoke to _you_, young Champion?" Fogle said, and he flung down
the top to Master Snivins. I knew there would be no fight; and perhaps
Champion, too, was disappointed.



THE GARDEN,

_WHERE THE PARLOUR-BOARDERS GO._

Noblemen have been rather scarce at Birch's--but the heir of a great
Prince has been living with the Doctor for some years.--He is Lord
George Gaunt's eldest son, the noble Plan-tagenet Gaunt Gaunt, and
nephew of the Most Honourable the Marquis of Steyne.

[Illustration: 0074]

They are very proud of him at the Doctor's--and the two Misses and Papa,
whenever a stranger comes down whom they want to dazzle, are pretty sure
to bring Lord Steyne into the conversation, mentioning the last party
at Gaunt House, and cursorily remarking that they have with them a young
friend who will be in all human probability Marquis of Steyne and Earl
of Gaunt, &c.

Plantagenet does not care much about these future honours: provided
he can get some brown sugar on his bread and butter, or sit with three
chairs and play at coach and horses, quite quietly by himself, he is
tolerably happy. He saunters in and out of school when he likes, and
looks at the masters and other boys with a listless grin. He used to be
taken to church, but he laughed and talked in odd places, so they are
forced to leave him at home now. He will sit with a bit of string and
play cats-cradle for many hours. He likes to go and join the very small
children at their games. Some are frightened at him, but they soon cease
to fear, and order him about. I have seen him go and fetch tarts from
Mrs. Ruggles for a boy of eight years old; and cry bitterly if he did
not get a piece. He cannot speak quite plain, but very nearly; and is
not more, I suppose, than three-and-twenty.

Of course at home they know his age, though they never come and see him.
But they forget that Miss Rosa Birch is no longer a young chit as
she was ten years ago, when Gaunt was brought to the school. On the
contrary, she has had no small experience in the tender passion, and is
at this moment smitten with a disinterested affection for Plantagenet
Gaunt.

Next to a little doll with a burnt nose, which he hides away in cunning
places, Mr. Gaunt is very fond of Miss Rosa too. What a pretty match
it would make! and how pleased they would be at Gaunt House, if the
grandson and heir of the great Marquis of Steyne, the descendant of a
hundred Gaunts and Tudors, should marry Miss Birch, the schoolmaster's
daughter! It is true she has the sense on her side, and poor Plantagenet
is only an idiot: but there he is, a zany, with such expectations and
such a pedigree!

If Miss Rosa would run away with Mr. Gaunt, she would leave off bullying
her cousin, Miss Anny Raby. Shall I put her up to the notion, and offer
to lend her the money to run away? Mr. Gaunt is not allowed money. He
had some once, but Bullock took him into a corner, and got it from him.
He has a moderate tick opened at the tart-woman's. He stops at Rodwell
Regis through the year, school-time and holiday time; it is all the same
to him. Nobody asks about him, or thinks about him, save twice a year,
when the Doctor goes to Gaunt House, and gets the amount of his bills,
and a glass of wine in the steward's room.

And yet you see somehow that he is a gentleman. His manner is different
to that of the owners of that coarse table and parlour at which he is a
boarder, (I do not speak of Miss R. of course, for _her_ manners are
as good as those of a Duchess). When he caught Miss Rosa boxing
little Fiddes's ears, his face grew red, and he broke into a fierce,
inarticulate rage. After that, and for some days, he used to shrink
from her; but they are reconciled now. I saw them this afternoon in
the garden, where only the parlour-boarders walk. He was playful, and
touched her with his stick. She raised her handsome eyes in surprise,
and smiled on him very kindly.

The thing was so clear, that I thought it my duty to speak to old Zoe
about it. The wicked old catamaran told me she wished that some people
would mind their own business, and hold their tongues--that some people
were paid to teach writing, and not to tell tales and make mischief:
and I have since been thinking whether I ought to communicate with the
Doctor.



THE OLD PUPIL.

|As I came into the play-grounds this morning, I saw a dashing young
fellow, with a tanned face and a blonde moustache, who was walking up
and down the green, arm-in-arm with Champion Major, and followed by a
little crowd of boys.

They were talking of old times evidently. "What had become of Irvine and
Smith?"--"Where was Bill Harris and Jones, not Squinny Jones, but Cocky
Jones?"--and so forth. The gentleman was no stranger; he was an old
pupil evidently, come to see if any of his old comrades remained, and to
revisit the _cari luogi_ of his youth.

Champion was evidently proud of his arm-fellow. He espied his brother,
young Champion, and introduced him. "Come here, Sir," he called. "The
young 'un wasn't here in your time, Davison."

"Pat, Sir," said he, "this is Captain Davison, one of Birch's boys. Ask
him who was among the first in the lines at Sobraon?"

Pat's face kindled up as he looked Davison full in the face, and held
out his hand. Old Champion and Davison both blushed. The infantry set up
a "Hurray! hurray! hurray!" Champion leading, and waving his wide-awake.
I protest that the scene did one good to witness. Here was the hero and
cock of the school come back to see his old haunts and cronies. He had
always remembered them. Since he had seen them last, he had faced death
and achieved honour. But for my dignity I would have shied up my hat
too.

With a resolute step, and his arm still linked in Champion's, Captain
Davison now advanced, followed by a wake of little boys, to that corner
of the green where Mrs. Buggies has her tart-stand.

"Hullo, Mother Buggies! don't you remember me?" he said, and shook her
by the hand.

"Lor, if it ain't Davison Major!" she said. "Well, Davison Major, you
owe me fourpence for two sausage-rolls from when you went away."

Davison laughed, and all the little crew of boys set up a similar
chorus.

"I buy the whole shop," he said. "Now, young 'uns--eat away!"

Then there was such a "Hurray! hurray!" as surpassed the former cheer in
loudness. Everybody engaged in it except Piggy Duff, who made an instant
dash at the three-cornered puffs, but was stopped by Champion, who
said there should be a fair distribution. And so there was, and no one
lacked, neither of raspberry open-tarts, nor of mellifluous bull's-eyes,
nor of polonies, beautiful to the sight and taste.

The hurraying brought out the Doctor himself, who put his hand up to his
spectacles and started when he saw the old pupil. Each blushed when
he recognised the other; for seven years ago they had parted not good
friends.

"What--Davison?" the Doctor said, with a tremulous voice. "God bless
you, my dear fellow!"--and they shook hands. "A half-holiday, of course,
boys," he added, and there was another hurray: there was to be no end to
the cheering that day.

"How's--how's the family, Sir?" Captain Davison asked.

"Come in and see. Flora's grown quite a lady. Dine with us, of course.
Champion Major, come to dinner at five. Mr. Titmarsh, the pleasure of
your company?" The Doctor swung open the garden-gate: the old master and
pupil entered the house reconciled.

I thought I would just peep into Miss Raby's room, and tell her of this
event. She was working away at her linen there, as usual, quiet and
cheerful.

"You should put up," I said with a smile; "the Doctor has given us a
half-holiday."

"I never have holidays," Miss Raby replied.

Then I told her of the scene I had just witnessed, of the arrival of the
old pupil, the purchase of the tarts, the proclamation of the holiday,
and the shouts of the boys of "Hurray, Davison."

"_Who_ is it?" cried out Miss Raby, starting and turning as white as a
sheet.

I told her it was Captain Davison from India, and described the
appearance and behaviour of the Captain. When I had finished speaking,
she asked me to go and get her a glass of water; she felt unwell. But
she was gone when I came back with the water.

I know all now. After sitting for a quarter of an hour with the Doctor,
who attributed his guest's uneasiness no doubt to his desire to see Miss
Laura Birch, Davison started up and said he wanted to see Miss Raby.
"You remember, Sir, how kind she was to my little brother," he said.
Whereupon the Doctor, with a look of surprise that anybody should want
to see Miss Raby, said she was in the little school-room, whither the
Captain went, knowing the way from old times.

A few minutes afterwards, Miss B. and Miss Z. returned from a drive
with Plantagenet Gaunt in their one-horse fly, and being informed of
Davison's arrival, and that he was closeted with Miss Raby in the little
school-room, of course made for that apartment at once. I was coming
into it from the other door. I wanted to know whether she had drunk the
water.

[Illustration: 0084]

This is what both parties saw. The two were in this very attitude.
"Well, upon my word!" cries out Miss Zoe, But Davison did not let go his
hold; and Miss Raby's head only sank down on his hand.

"You must get another governess, Sir, for the little boys," Frank
Davison said to the Doctor. "Anny Raby has promised to come with me."

You may suppose I shut to the door on my side. And when I returned to
the little school-room, it was blank and empty. Everybody was gone. I
could hear the boys shouting at play in the green, outside. The glass
of water was on the table where I had placed it. I took it and drank
it myself, to the health of Anny Raby and her husband. It was rather a
choker.

But of course I wasn't going to stop on at Birch's. When his young
friends re-assemble on the 1st of February next, they will have two new
masters. Prince resigned too, and is at present living with me at my
old lodgings at Mrs. Cammysole's. If any nobleman or gentleman wants a
private tutor for his son, a note to the Rev. F. Prince will find him
there.

Miss Clapperclaw says we are both a couple of old fools; and that she
knew, when I set off last year to Rodwell Regis, after meeting the two
young ladies at a party at General Champion's house in our street, that
I was going on a goose's errand. Well, well, that journey is over now; I
shall dine at the General's on Christmas-day, where I shall meet Captain
and Mrs. Davison, and some of the old pupils of Birch's; and I wish a
merry Christmas to them, and to all young and old boys.

|The play is done; the curtain drops,

Slow falling, to the prompter's bell:

A moment yet the actor stops,

               And looks around, to say farewell.

               It is an irksome word and task;

               And when he 's laughed and said his say,

               He shows, as he removes the mask,

               A face that's anything but gay.

               One word, ere yet the evening ends,

               Let's close it with a parting rhyme,

               And pledge a hand to all young friends,

               As fits the merry Christmas-time.

               On life's wide scene you, too, have parts,

               That Fate ere long shall bid you play;

               Good night! with honest gentle hearts

               A kindly greeting go alway!

               Good night!--I'd say, the griefs, the joys,

               Just hinted in this mimic page,

               The triumphs and defeats of boys,

               Are but repeated in our age.

               I 'd say, your woes were not less keen,

               Your hopes more vain, than those of men;

               Your pangs or pleasures of fifteen,

               At forty-five played o'er again.

               I'd say, we suffer and we strive

               Not less nor more as men than boys;

               With grizzled beards at forty-five,

               As erst at twelve, in corduroys.

               And if, in time of sacred youth,

               We learned at home to love and pray,

               Pray Heaven, that early Love and Truth

               May never wholly pass away.

               And in the world, as in the school,

               I 'd say, how fate may change and shift;

               The prize be sometimes with the fool,

               The race not always to the swift.

               The strong may yield, the good may fall,

               The great man he a vulgar clown,

               The knave be lifted over all,

               The kind cast pitilessly down.

               Who knows the inscrutable design?

               Blessed be He who took and gave!

               Why should your mother, Charles, not mine,

               Be weeping at her darling's grave? *

               We bow to Heaven that will'd it so,

               That darkly rules the fate of all,

               That sends the respite or the blow,

               That's free to give or to recall.

               This crowns his feast with wine and wit:

               Who brought him to that mirth aud state?

               His betters, see, below him sit,

               Or hunger hopeless at the gate.

               Who bade the mud from Dives' wheel

               To spurn the rags of Lazarus?

               Come, brother, in that dust we '11 kneel,

               Confessing Heaven that ruled it thus.

                               * C. B., ob. 29 Nov. 1848, set. 42.

               So each shall mourn, in life's advance,

               Dear hopes, dear friends, untimely killed;

               Shall grieve for many a forfeit chance,

               And longing passion unfulfilled.

               Amen! whatever fate be sent,--

               Pray God the heart may kindly glow,

               Although the heart with cares be bent,

               And whitened with the winter-snow.

               Come wealth or want, come good or ill,

               Let young and old accept their part,

               And bow before the Awful Will,

               And bear it with an honest heart.

               Who misses, or who wins the prize?

               Go, lose or conquer as you can:

               But if you fail, or if you rise,

               Be each, pray God, a gentleman,

               A gentleman, or old or young!

               (Bear kindly with my humble lays);

               The sacred chorus first was sung

               Upon the first of Christmas-days:

               The shepherds heard it overhead--

               The joyful angels raised it then:

               Glory to Heaven 011 high, it said,

               And peace 011 earth to gentle men.

               My song, save this, is little worth;

               I lay the weary pen aside,

               And wish you health, and love, and mirth,

               As fits the solemn Christmas-tide.

               As fits the holy Christmas birth,

               Be this, good friends, our carol still--

               Be peace on earth, be peace on earth,

               To men of gentle will.

THE END.





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