The New Boy

“And Heaven’s rich instincts in him grew,
  As effortless as woodland nooks
  Send violets up and paint them blue.”


Tom and Arthur in Cloister

I do not mean to recount all the little troubles and annoyances which thronged upon Tom at the beginning of this half-year, in his new character of bear-leader to a gentle little boy straight from home. He seemed to himself to have become a new boy again, without any of the long-suffering and meekness indispensable for supporting that character with moderate success. From morning till night he had the feeling of responsibility on his mind, and even if he left Arthur in their study or in the close for an hour, was never at ease till he had him in sight again. He waited for him at the doors of the school after every lesson and every calling-over; watched that no tricks were played him, and none but the regulation questions asked; kept his eye on his plate at dinner and breakfast, to see that no unfair depredations were made upon his viands; in short, as East remarked, cackled after him like a hen with one chick.

Arthur took a long time thawing, too, which made it all the harder work; was sadly timid; scarcely ever spoke unless Tom spoke to him first, and, worst of all, would agree with him in everything, the hardest thing in the world for a Brown to bear. He got quite angry sometimes, as they sat together of a night in their study, at this provoking habit of agreement, and was on the point of breaking out a dozen times with a lecture upon the propriety of a fellow having a will of his own and speaking out; but managed to restrain himself by the thought that he might only frighten Arthur, and the remembrance of the lesson he had learnt from him on his first night at Number 4. Then he would resolve to sit still and not say a word till Arthur began; but he was always beat at that game, and had presently to begin talking in despair, fearing lest Arthur might think he was vexed at something if he didn’t, and dog-tired of sitting tongue- tied.

It was hard work! But Tom had taken it up, and meant to stick to it, and go through with it so as to satisfy himself; in which resolution he was much assisted by the chaffing of East and his other old friends who began to call him “dry-nurse,” and otherwise to break their small wit on him. But when they took other ground, as they did every now and then, Tom was sorely puzzled.

“Tell you what, Tommy,” East would say, “you’ll spoil young Hopeful with too much coddling. Why can’t you let him go about by himself and find his own level? He’ll never be worth a button, if you go on keeping him under your skirts.”

“Well, but he ain’t fit to fight his own way yet; I’m trying to get him to it every day—but he’s very odd. Poor little beggar! I can’t make him out a bit. He ain’t a bit like anything I’ve ever seen or heard of—he seems all over nerves; anything you say seems to hurt him like a cut or a blow.”

“That sort of boy’s no use here,” said East, “he’ll only spoil. Now I’ll tell you what to do, Tommy. Go and get a nice large band-box made, and put him in with plenty of cotton-wool and a pap-bottle, labelled ‘With care—this side up,’ and send him back to mamma.”

“I think I shall make a hand of him though,” said Tom, smiling, “say what you will. There’s something about him, every now and then, which shows me he’s got pluck somewhere in him. That’s the only thing after all that’ll wash, ain’t it, old Scud? But how to get at it and bring it out?”

Tom took one hand out of his breeches-pocket and stuck it in his back hair for a scratch, giving his hat a tilt over his nose, his one method of invoking wisdom. He stared at the ground with a ludicrously puzzled look, and presently looked up and met East’s eyes. That young gentleman slapped him on the back and then put his arm round his shoulder, as they strolled through the quadrangle together. “Tom,” said he, “blest if you ain’t the best old fellow ever was—I do like to see you go into a thing. Hang it, I wish I

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.