Settling to The Collar

“Says Giles, ‘’Tis mortal hard to go,
    But if so be’s I must:
I means to follow arter he
    As goes hisself the fust.’ ”


The Chapel

Everybody, I suppose, knows the dreamy delicious state in which one lies, half asleep, half awake, while consciousness begins to return after a sound night’s rest in a new place which we are glad to be in, following upon a day of unwonted excitement and exertion. There are few pleasanter pieces of life. The worst of it is that they last such a short time; for nurse them as you will, by lying perfectly passive in mind and body, you can’t make more than five minutes or so of them. After which time the stupid, obtrusive, wakeful entity which we call “I,” as impatient as he is stiff-necked, spite of our teeth will force himself back again, and take possession of us down to our very toes.

It was in this state that Master Tom lay at half-past seven on the morning following the day of his arrival, and from his clean little white bed watched the movements of Bogle (the generic name by which the successive shoeblacks of the School-house were known), as he marched round from bed to bed, collecting the dirty shoes and boots, and depositing clean ones in their places.

There he lay, half-doubtful as to where exactly in the universe he was, but conscious that he had made a step in life which he had been anxious to make. It was only just light as he looked lazily out of the wide windows, and saw the tops of the great elms, and the rooks circling about, and cawing remonstrances to the lazy ones of their commonwealth before starting in a body for the neighbouring ploughed fields. The noise of the room-door closing behind Bogle, as he made his exit with the shoebasket under his arm, roused him thoroughly, and he sat up in bed and looked round the room. What in the world could be the matter with his shoulders and loins? He felt as if he had been severely beaten all down his back, the natural results of his performances at his first match. He drew up his knees and rested his chin on them, and went over all the events of yesterday, rejoicing in his new life, what he had seen of it, and all that was to come.

Presently one or two of the other boys roused themselves, and began to sit up and talk to one another in low tones. Then East, after a roll or two, came to an anchor also, and, nodding to Tom, began examining his ankle.

“What a pull,” said he, “that it’s lie-in-bed, for I shall be as lame as a tree, I think.”

It was Sunday morning, and Sunday lectures had not yet been established; so that nothing but breakfast intervened between bed and eleven o’clock chapel—a gap by no means easy to fill up: in fact, though received with the correct amount of grumbling, the first lecture instituted by the Doctor shortly afterwards was a great boon to the School. It was lie-in-bed, and no one was in a hurry to get up, especially in rooms where the sixth-form boy was a good-tempered fellow, as was the case in Tom’s room, and allowed the small boys to talk and laugh and do pretty much what they pleased, so long as they didn’t disturb him. His bed was a bigger one than the rest, standing in the corner by the fire-place, with a washing- stand and large basin by the side, where he lay in state with his white curtains tucked in so as to form a retiring place: an awful subject of contemplation to Tom, who slept nearly opposite, and watched the great man rouse himself and take a book from under his pillow, and begin reading, leaning his head on his hand, and turning his back to the room. Soon, however, a noise of striving urchins arose, and muttered encouragements from the neighbouring boys, of “Go it, Tadpole!” “Now, young Green!” “Haul away his blanket!” “Slipper him on the hands!” Young Green and little Hall, commonly called Tadpole, from his great black head and thin legs, slept side by side far away by the door, and were for ever playing one another tricks, which usually ended, as on this morning, in open and violent collision; and now, unmindful of all order and authority, there they were, each hauling away at the other’s bedclothes with one hand, and with the other, armed with a slipper, belabouring whatever portion of the body of his adversary came within reach.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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