The Bird-Fanciers

“I have found out a gift for my fair,
    I have found where the wood-pigeons breed:
 But let me the plunder forbear,
    She would say ’twas a barbarous deed.”


“And now, my lad, take them five shilling,
    And on my advice in future think;
 So Billy pouched them all so willing,
    And got that night disguised in drink.”

—MS. Ballad.

The Spinney

The next morning at first lesson Tom was turned back in his lines, and so had to wait till the second round, while Martin and Arthur said theirs all right and got out of school at once. When Tom got out and ran down to breakfast at Harrowell’s they were missing, and Stumps informed him that they had swallowed down their breakfasts and gone off together, where, he couldn’t say. Tom hurried over his own breakfast, and went first to Martin’s study and then to his own, but no signs of the missing boys were to be found. He felt half angry and jealous of Martin—where could they be gone?

He learnt second lesson with East and the rest in no very good temper, and then went out into the quadrangle. About ten minutes before school Martin and Arthur arrived in the quadrangle breathless; and, catching sight of him, Arthur rushed up, all excitement, and with a bright glow on his face.

“Oh, Tom, look here!” cried he, holding out three moor-hen’s eggs; “we’ve been down the Barby-road to the pool Martin told us of last night, and just see what we’ve got.”

Tom wouldn’t be pleased, and only looked out for something to find fault with.

“Why, young ’un,” said he, “what have you been after? You don’t mean to say you’ve been wading?”

The tone of reproach made poor little Arthur shrink up in a moment and look piteous, and Tom with a shrug of his shoulders turned his anger on Martin.

“Well, I didn’t think, Madman, that you’d have been such a muff as to let him be getting wet through at this time of day. You might have done the wading yourself.”

“So I did, of course, only he would come in too, to see the nest. We left six eggs in; they’ll be hatched in a day or two.”

“Hang the eggs!” said Tom; “a fellow can’t turn his back for a moment but all his work’s undone. He’ll be laid up for a week for this precious lark, I’ll be bound.”

“Indeed, Tom, now,” pleaded Arthur, “my feet ain’t wet, for Martin made me take off my shoes and stockings and trousers.”

“But they are wet, and dirty too—can’t I see?” answered Tom; “and you’ll be called up and floored when the master sees what a state you’re in. You haven’t looked at second lesson, you know.” Oh, Tom, you old humbug! you to be upbraiding any one with not learning their lessons. If you hadn’t been floored yourself now at first lesson, do you mean to say you wouldn’t have been with them? and you’ve taken away all poor little Arthur’s joy and pride in his first birds’ eggs, and he goes and puts them down in the study, and takes down his books with a sigh, thinking he has done something horribly wrong, whereas he has learnt on in advance much more than will be done at second lesson.

But the old Madman hasn’t, and gets called up and makes some frightful shots, losing about ten places, and all but getting floored. This somewhat appeases Tom’s wrath, and by the end of the lesson he has regained his temper. And afterwards in their study he begins to get right again, as he watches Arthur’s intense joy at seeing Martin blowing the eggs and glueing them carefully on to bits of card-board, and notes the anxious loving looks which the little fellow casts sidelong at him. And then he thinks, “What an

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