Tom Brown's School Days, by Thomas Hughes

Chapter VI.

Fever in the School.

“This our hope for all that’s mortal,

    And we too shall burst the bond;

Death keeps watch beside the portal,

    But ’tis life that dwells beyond.”

JOHN STERLING.

TWO years have passed since the events recorded in the last chapter, and the end of the summer half-year is again drawing on. Martin has left and gone on a cruise in the South Pacific, in one of his uncle’s ships; the old magpie, as disreputable as ever, his last bequest to Arthur, lives in the joint study. Arthur is nearly sixteen, and is at the head of the twenty, having gone up the school at the rate of a form a half-year. East and Tom have been much more deliberate in their progress, and are only a little way up the fifth form. Great strapping boys they are, but still thorough boys, filling about the same place in the House that young Brooke filled when they were new boys, and much the same sort of fellows. Constant intercourse with Arthur has done much for both of them, especially for Tom; but much remains yet to be done, if they are to get all the good out of Rugby which is to be got there in these times. Arthur is still frail and delicate, with more spirit than body; but, thanks to his intimacy with them and Martin, has learned to swim, and run, and play cricket, and has never hurt himself by too much reading.

One evening, as they were all sitting down to supper in the fifth-form room, some one started a report that a fever had broken out at one of the boarding-houses; “they say,” he added, “that Thompson is very ill, and that Dr. Robertson has been sent for from Northampton.”

“Then we shall all be sent home,” cried another. “Hurrah! five weeks’ extra holidays, and no fifth-form examination!”

“I hope not,” said Tom; “there’ll be no Marylebone match then at the end of the half.”

Some thought one thing, some another, many didn’t believe the report; but the next day, Tuesday, Dr. Robertson arrived, and stayed all day, and had long conferences with the Doctor.

On Wednesday morning, after prayers, the Doctor addressed the whole School. There were several cases of fever in different houses, he said; but Dr. Robertson, after the most careful examination, had assured him that it was not infectious, and that if proper care were taken, there could be no reason for stopping the school work at present. The examinations were just coming on, and it would be very unadvisable to break-up now. However, any boys who chose to do so were at liberty to write home, and, if their parents wished it, to leave at once. He should send the whole School home if the fever spread.

The next day Arthur sickened, but there was no other case. Before the end of the week thirty or forty boys had gone, but the rest stayed on. There was a general wish to please the Doctor, and a feeling that it was cowardly to run away.

On the Saturday Thompson died, in the bright afternoon, while the cricket-match was going on as usual on the big-side ground: the Doctor coming from his death-bed, passed along the gravel-walk at the side of the close, but no one knew what had happened till the next day. At morning lecture it began to be rumoured, and by afternoon chapel was known generally; and a feeling of seriousness and awe at the actual presence of death among them came over the whole School. In all the long years of his ministry the Doctor perhaps never spoke words which sank deeper than some of those in that day’s sermon. “When I came yesterday from visiting all but the very death-bed of him who has been taken from us, and looked around upon all the familiar objects and scenes within our own ground, where your common amusements were going on, with your common cheerfulness and activity, I felt there was nothing painful in witnessing that; it did not seem in any way shocking or out of tune with those feelings which the sight of a dying Christian must be supposed to awaken. The unsuitableness in point of natural feeling between scenes of mourning and scenes of liveliness did not at all present itself. But I did feel that if at that moment any of those faults had been brought before me which sometimes occur amongst us; had I heard that any of you had been guilty of falsehood, or of drunkenness, or of any other such sin; had I heard from any quarter the language of profaneness, or of unkindness, or of indecency; had I heard or seen any signs of that wretched folly which courts the laugh of fools by affecting not to dread evil and not to care for good, then the unsuitableness of any of these things with the scene I had just quitted would indeed have been most intensely painful. And why? Not because such things would really have been worse than at any other time, but because at such a moment the eyes are opened really to know good and evil, because we then feel what it is so to live as that death becomes an infinite blessing, and what it is so to live also, that it were good for us if we had never been born.”

Tom had gone into chapel in sickening anxiety about Arthur, but he came out cheered and strengthened by those grand words, and walked up alone to their study. And when he sat down and looked round, and saw Arthur’s straw-hat and cricket-jacket hanging on their pegs, and marked all his little neat arrangements, not one of which had been disturbed, the tears indeed rolled down his cheeks; but they were calm and blessed tears, and he repeated to himself, “Yes, Geordie’s eyes are opened — he knows what it is so to live as that death becomes an infinite blessing. But do I? Oh, God, can I bear to lose him?”

The week passed mournfully away. No more boys sickened, but Arthur was reported worse each day, and his mother arrived early in the week. Tom made many appeals to be allowed to see him, and several times tried to get up to the sick-room; but the housekeeper was always in the way, and at last spoke to the Doctor, who kindly, but peremptorily, forbade him.

Thompson was buried on the Tuesday; and the burial service, so soothing and grand always, but beyond all words solemn when read over a boy’s grave to his companions, brought him much comfort, and many strange new thoughts and longings. He went back to his regular life, and played cricket and bathed as usual: it seemed to him that this was the right thing to do, and the new thoughts and longings became more brave and healthy for the effort. The crisis came on Saturday, the day week that Thompson had died, and during that long afternoon Tom sat in his study reading his Bible and going every half-hour to the housekeeper’s room, expecting each time to hear that the gentle and brave little spirit had gone home. But God had work for Arthur to do: the crisis passed — on Sunday evening he was declared out of danger; on Monday he sent a message to Tom that he was almost well, had changed his room, and was to be allowed to see him the next day.

It was evening when the housekeeper summoned him to the sick-room. Arthur was lying on the sofa by the open window, through which the rays of the western sun stole gently, lighting up his white face and golden hair. Tom remembered a German picture of an angel which he knew; often had he thought how transparent and golden and spirit-like it was; and he shuddered to think how like it Arthur looked, and felt a shock as if his blood had all stopped short, as he realized how near the other world his friend must have been to look like that. Never till that moment had he felt how his little chum had twined himself round his heartstrings; and as he stole gently across the room and knelt down, and put his arm round Arthur’s head on the pillow, he felt ashamed and half angry at his own red and brown face, and the bounding sense of health and power which filled every fibre of his body, and made every movement of mere living a joy to him. He needn’t have troubled himself; it was this very strength and power so different from his own which drew Arthur so to him.

Arthur laid his thin white hand, on which the blue veins stood out so plainly, on Tom’s great brown fist, and smiled at him; and then looked out of the window again, as if he couldn’t bear to lose a moment of the sunset, into the tops of the great feathery elms, round which the rooks were circling and clanging, returning in flocks from their evening’s foraging parties. The elms rustled, the sparrows in the ivy just outside the window chirped and fluttered about, quarrelling and making it up again; the rooks young and old talked in chorus; and the merry shouts of the boys, and the sweet click of the cricket-bats, came up cheerily from below.

“Dear George,” said Tom, “I am so glad to be let up to see you at last. I’ve tried hard to come so often, but they wouldn’t let me before.”

“Oh, I know, Tom; Mary has told me every day about you, and how she was obliged to make the Doctor speak to you to keep you away. I’m very glad you didn’t get up, for you might have caught it, and you couldn’t stand being ill with all the matches going on. And you’re in the eleven too, I hear — I’m so glad.”

“Yes, ain’t it jolly?” said Tom proudly; “I’m ninth too. I made forty at the last pie-match and caught three fellows out. So I was put in above Jones and Tucker. Tucker’s so savage, for he was head of the twenty-two.”

“Well, I think you ought to be higher yet,” said Arthur, who was as jealous for the renown of Tom in games, as Tom was for his as a scholar.

“Never mind, I don’t care about cricket or anything now you’re getting well, Geordie; and I shouldn’t have hurt, I know, if they’d have let me come up, — nothing hurts me. But you’ll get about now directly, won’t you? You won’t believe how clean I’ve kept the study. All your things are just as you left them; and I feed the old magpie just when you used, though I have to come in from big-side for him, the old rip. He won’t look pleased all I can do, and sticks his head first on one side and then on the other, and blinks at me before he’ll begin to eat, till I’m half inclined to box his ears. And whenever East comes in, you should see him hop off to the window, dot and go one, though Harry wouldn’t touch a feather of him now.”

Arthur laughed. “Old Gravey has a good memory; he can’t forget the sieges of poor Martin’s den in old times.” He paused a moment, and then went on. “You can’t think how often I’ve been thinking of old Martin since I’ve been ill; I suppose one’s mind gets restless, and likes to wander off to strange unknown places. I wonder what queer new pets the old boy has got; how he must be revelling in the thousand new birds, beasts, and fishes.”

Tom felt a pang of jealousy, but kicked it out in a moment. “Fancy him on a South–Sea island, with the Cherokees or Patagonians, or some such wild niggers;” (Tom’s ethnology and geography were faulty, but sufficient for his needs;) “they’ll make the old Madman cock medicine-man and tattoo him all over. Perhaps he’s cutting about now all blue, and has a squaw and a wigwam. He’ll improve their boomerangs, and be able to throw them too, without having old Thomas sent after him by the Doctor to take them away.”

Arthur laughed at the remembrance of the boomerang story, but then looked grave again, and said “He’ll convert all the island, I know.”

“Yes, if he don’t blow it up first.”

“Do you remember, Tom, how you and East used to laugh at him and chaff him, because he said he was sure the rooks all had calling-over or prayers, or something of the sort, when the locking-up bell rang? Well, I declare,” said Arthur, looking up seriously into Tom’s laughing eyes, “I do think he was right. Since I’ve been lying here, I’ve watched them every night; and do you know, they really do come, and perch all of them just about locking-up time; and then first there’s a regular chorus of caws, and then they stop a bit, and one old fellow, or perhaps two or three in different trees, caw solos, and then off they all go again, fluttering about and cawing anyhow till they roost.”

“I wonder if the old blackies do talk,” said Tom, looking up at them. “How they must abuse me and East, and pray for the Doctor for stopping the slinging.”

“There! look, look!” cried Arthur; “don’t you see the old fellow without a tail coming up? Martin used to call him the ‘clerk.’ He can’t steer himself. You never saw such fun as he is in a high wind, when he can’t steer himself home, and gets carried right past the trees, and has to bear up again and again before he can perch.”

The locking-up bell began to toll, and the two boys were silent, and listened to it. The sound soon carried Tom off to the river and the woods, and he began to go over in his mind the many occasions on which he had heard that toll coming faintly down the breeze, and had to pack up his rod in a hurry, and make a run for it, to get in before the gates were shut. He was roused with a start from his memories by Arthur’s voice, gentle and weak from his late illness.

“Tom, will you be angry if I talk to you very seriously?”

“No, dear old boy, not I. But ain’t you faint, Arthur, or ill? What can I get you? Don’t say anything to hurt yourself now — you are very weak; let me come up again.”

“No, no, I shan’t hurt myself: I’d sooner speak to you now, if you don’t mind. I’ve asked Mary to tell the Doctor that you are with me, so you needn’t go down to calling-over; and I mayn’t have another chance, for I shall most likely have to go home for change of air to get well, and mayn’t come back this half.”

“Oh, do you think you must go away before the end of the half? I’m so sorry. It’s more than five weeks yet to the holidays, and all the fifth-form examination and half the cricket-matches to come yet. And what shall I do all that time alone in our study? Why, Arthur, it will be more than twelve weeks before I see you again. Oh, hang it, I can’t stand that! Besides, who’s to keep me up to working at the examination books? I shall come out bottom of the form as sure as eggs is eggs.”

Tom was rattling on, half in joke, half in earnest, for he wanted to get Arthur out of his serious vein, thinking it would do him harm; but Arthur broke in —

“Oh, please, Tom, stop, or you’ll drive all I had to say out of my head. And I’m already horribly afraid I’m going to make you angry.”

“Don’t gammon, young ’un,” rejoined Tom (the use of the old name, dear to him from old recollections, made Arthur start and smile, and feel quite happy); “you know you ain’t afraid, and you’ve never made me angry since the first month we chummed together. Now I’m going to be quite sober for a quarter of an hour, which is more than I am once in a year; so make the most of it; heave ahead, and pitch into me right and left.”

“Dear Tom, I ain’t going to pitch into you,” said Arthur piteously; “and it seems so cocky in me to be advising you, who’ve been my backbone ever since I’ve been at Rugby, and have made the school a paradise to me. Ah, I see I shall never do it, unless I go head-over-heels at once, as you said when you taught me to swim. Tom, I want you to give up using vulgus-books and cribs.”

Arthur sank back on to his pillow with a sigh, as if the effort had been great; but the worst was now over, and he looked straight at Tom, who was evidently taken aback. He leant his elbows on his knees, and stuck his hands into his hair, whistled a verse of “Billy Taylor,” and then was quite silent for another minute. Not a shade crossed his face, but he was clearly puzzled. At last he looked up and caught Arthur’s anxious look, took his hand, and said simply —

“Why, young ’un?”

“Because you’re the honestest boy in Rugby, and that ain’t honest.”

“I don’t see that.”

“What were you sent to Rugby for?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly — nobody ever told me. I suppose because all boys are sent to a public school in England.”

“But what do you think yourself? What do you want to do here, and to carry away?”

Tom thought a minute. “I want to be A 1 at cricket and football, and all the other games, and to make my hands keep my head against any fellow, lout or gentleman. I want to get into the sixth before I leave, and to please the Doctor; and I want to carry away just as much Latin and Greek as will take me through Oxford respectably. There now, young ’un, I never thought of it before, but that’s pretty much about my figure. Ain’t it all on the square? What have you got to say to that?”

“Why, that you are pretty sure to do all that you want, then.”

“Well, I hope so. But you’ve forgot one thing, what I want to leave behind me. I want to leave behind me,” said Tom, speaking slow, and looking much moved, “the name of a fellow who never bullied a little boy, or turned his back on a big one.”

Arthur pressed his hand, and after a moment’s silence went on: “You say, Tom, you want to please the Doctor. Now, do you want to please him by what he thinks you do, or by what you really do?”

“By what I really do, of course.”

“Does he think you use cribs and vulgus-books?”

Tom felt at once that his flank was turned, but he couldn’t give in. “He was at Winchester himself,” said he; “he knows all about it.”

“Yes, but does he think you use them? Do you think he approves of it?”

“You young villain!” said Tom, shaking his fist at Arthur, half vexed and half pleased, “I never think about it. Hang it — there, perhaps he don’t. Well, I suppose he don’t.”

Arthur saw that he had got his point; he knew his friend well, and was wise in silence, as in speech. He only said, “I would sooner have the Doctor’s good opinion of me as I really am than any man’s in the world.”

After another minute, Tom began again: “Look here, young ’un; how on earth am I to get time to play the matches this half, if I give up cribs? We’re in the middle of that long crabbed chorus in the ‘Agamemnon;’ I can only just make head or tail of it with the crib. Then there’s Pericles’ speech coming on in Thucydides, and ‘The Birds’ to get up for the examination, besides the Tacitus.” Tom groaned at the thought of his accumulated labours. “I say, young ’un, there’s only five weeks or so left to holidays; mayn’t I go on as usual for this half? I’ll tell the Doctor about it some day, or you may.”

Arthur looked out of window; the twilight had come on and all was silent. He repeated, in a low voice, “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.”

Not a word more was said on the subject, and the boys were again silent — one of those blessed, short silences in which the resolves which colour a life are so often taken.

Tom was the first to break it. “You’ve been very ill indeed, haven’t you, Geordie?” said he, with a mixture of awe and curiosity, feeling as if his friend had been in some strange place or scene, of which he could form no idea, and full of the memory of his own thoughts during the last week.

“Yes, very. I’m sure the Doctor thought I was going to die. He gave me the sacrament last Sunday, and you can’t think what he is when one is ill. He said such brave, and tender, and gentle things to me; I felt quite light and strong after it, and never had any more fear. My mother brought our old medical man, who attended me when I was a poor sickly child; he said my constitution was quite changed, and that I’m fit for anything now. If it hadn’t, I couldn’t have stood three days of this illness. That’s all thanks to you, and the games you’ve made me fond of.”

“More thanks to old Martin,” said Tom; “he’s been your real friend.”

“Nonsense, Tom; he never could have done for me what you have.”

“Well, I don’t know; I did little enough. Did they tell you — you won’t mind hearing it now, I know, — that poor Thompson died last week? The other three boys are getting quite sound, like you.”

“Oh, yes, I heard of it.”

Then Tom, who was quite full of it, told Arthur of the burial-service in the chapel, and how it had impressed him, and he believed all the other boys. “And though the Doctor never said a word about it,” said he, “and it was a half-holiday and match-day, there wasn’t a game played in the close all the afternoon, and the boys all went about as if it were Sunday.”

“I’m very glad of it,” said Arthur. “But, Tom, I’ve had such strange thoughts about death lately. I’ve never told a soul of them, not even my mother. Sometimes I think they’re wrong; but, do you know, I don’t think in my heart I could be sorry at the death of any of my friends.”

Tom was taken quite aback. “What in the world is the young ’un after now?” thought he; “I’ve swallowed a good many of his crotchets, but this altogether beats me. He can’t be quite right in his head.” He didn’t want to say a word, and shifted about uneasily in the dark; however, Arthur seemed to be waiting for an answer, so at last he said, “I don’t think I quite see what you mean, Geordie. One’s told so often to think about death, that I’ve tried it on sometimes, especially this last week. But we won’t talk of it now. I’d better go — you’re getting tired, and I shall do you harm.”

“No, no, indeed I ain’t, Tom; you must stop till nine, there’s only twenty minutes. I’ve settled you shall stop till nine. And oh! do let me talk to you — I must talk to you. I see it’s just as I feared. You think I’m half mad — don’t you now?”

“Well, I did think it odd what you said, Geordie, as you ask me.”

Arthur paused a moment, and then said quickly, “I’ll tell you how it all happened. At first, when I was sent to the sick room, and found I had really got the fever, I was terribly frightened. I thought I should die, and I could not face it for a moment. I don’t think it was sheer cowardice at first, but I thought how hard it was to be taken away from my mother and sisters, and you all, just as I was beginning to see my way to many things, and to feel that I might be a man and do a man’s work. To die without having fought, and worked, and given one’s life away, was too hard to bear. I got terribly impatient, and accused God of injustice, and strove to justify myself; and the harder I strove the deeper I sank. Then the image of my dear father often came across me, but I turned from it. Whenever it came, a heavy numbing throb seemed to take hold of my heart and say, ‘Dead — dead — dead.’ And I cried out, ‘The living, the living shall praise Thee, O God; the dead cannot praise Thee. There is no work in the grave; in the night no man can work. But I can work. I can do great things. I will do great things. Why wilt Thou slay me?’ And so I struggled and plunged, deeper and deeper, and went down into a living black tomb. I was alone there, with no power to stir or think; alone with myself; beyond the reach of all human fellowship; beyond Christ’s reach, I thought, in my nightmare. You, who are brave and bright and strong, can have no idea of that agony. Pray to God you never may. Pray as for your life.”

Arthur stopped — from exhaustion, Tom thought; but what between his fear lest Arthur should hurt himself, his awe, and longing for him to go on, he couldn’t ask, or stir to help him.

Presently he went on, but quite calm and slow. “I don’t know how long I was in that state. For more than a day, I know; for I was quite conscious, and lived my outer life all the time, and took my medicine, and spoke to my mother, and heard what they said. But I didn’t take much note of time; I thought time was over for me, and that that tomb was what was beyond. Well, on last Sunday morning, as I seemed to lie in that tomb, alone, as I thought, for ever and ever, the black dead wall was cleft in two, and I was caught up and borne through into the light by some great power, some living mighty spirit. Tom, do you remember the living creatures and the wheels in Ezekiel? It was just like that: ‘when they went I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host; when they stood they let down their wings’ — ‘and they went every one straight forward; whither the spirit was to go they went, and they turned not when they went.’ And we rushed through the bright air, which was full of myriads of living creatures, and paused on the brink of a great river. And the power held me up, and I knew that that great river was the grave, and death dwelt there; but not the death I had met in the black tomb — that I felt was gone for ever. For on the other bank of the great river I saw men and women and children rising up pure and bright, and the tears were wiped from their eyes, and they put on glory and strength, and all weariness and pain fell away. And beyond were a multitude which no man could number, and they worked at some great work; and they who rose from the river went on and joined in the work. They all worked, and each worked in a different way, but all at the same work. And I saw there my father, and the men in the old town whom I knew when I was a child; many a hard stern man, who never came to church, and whom they called atheist and infidel. There they were, side by side with my father, whom I had seen toil and die for them, and women and little children, and the seal was on the foreheads of all. And I longed to see what the work was, and could not; so I tried to plunge in the river, for I thought I would join them, but I could not. Then I looked about to see how they got into the river. And this I could not see, but I saw myriads on this side, and they too worked, and I knew that it was the same work; and the same seal was on their foreheads. And though I saw that there was toil and anguish in the work of these, and that most that were working were blind and feeble, yet I longed no more to plunge into the river, but more and more to know what the work was. And as I looked I saw my mother and my sisters, and I saw the Doctor, and you, Tom, and hundreds more whom I knew; and at last I saw myself too, and I was toiling and doing ever so little a piece of the great work. Then it all melted away, and the power left me, and as it left me I thought I heard a voice say, ‘The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it, for in the end it shall speak and not lie, it shall surely come, it shall not tarry.’ It was early morning I know then, it was so quiet and cool, and my mother was fast asleep in the chair by my bedside; but it wasn’t only a dream of mine. I know it wasn’t a dream. Then I fell into a deep sleep, and only woke after afternoon chapel; and the Doctor came and gave me the sacrament, as I told you. I told him and my mother I should get well — I knew I should; but I couldn’t tell them why. Tom,” said Arthur, gently, after another minute, “do you see why I could not grieve now to see my dearest friend die? It can’t be — it isn’t, all fever or illness. God would never have let me see it so clear if it wasn’t true. I don’t understand it all yet — it will take me my life and longer to do that — to find out what the work is.”

When Arthur stopped there was a long pause. Tom could not speak, he was almost afraid to breathe, lest he should break the train of Arthur’s thoughts. He longed to hear more, and to ask questions. In another minute nine o’clock struck, and a gentle tap at the door called them both back into the world again. They did not answer, however, for a moment, and so the door opened and a lady came in carrying a candle.

She went straight to the sofa, and took hold of Arthur’s hand, and then stooped down and kissed him.

“My dearest boy, you feel a little feverish again. Why didn’t you have lights? You’ve talked too much and excited yourself in the dark.”

“Oh, no, mother; you can’t think how well I feel. I shall start with you to-morrow for Devonshire. But, mother, here’s my friend, here’s Tom Brown — you know him?”

“Yes, indeed, I’ve known him for years,” she said, and held out her hand to Tom, who was now standing up behind the sofa. This was Arthur’s mother. Tall and slight and fair, with masses of golden hair drawn back from the broad white forehead, and the calm blue eye meeting his so deep and open — the eye that he knew so well, for it was his friend’s over again, and the lovely tender mouth that trembled while he looked. She stood there a woman of thirty-eight, old enough to be his mother, and one whose face showed the lines which must be written on the faces of good men’s wives and widows — but he thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. He couldn’t help wondering if Arthur’s sisters were like her.

Tom held her hand, and looked on straight in her face; he could neither let it go nor speak.

“Now, Tom,” said Arthur, laughing, “where are your manners? you’ll stare my mother out of countenance.” Tom dropped the little hand with a sigh. “There, sit down, both of you. Here, dearest mother, there’s room here; — ” and he made a place on the sofa for her. “Tom, you needn’t go; I’m sure you won’t be called up at first lesson.” Tom felt that he would risk being floored at every lesson for the rest of his natural school-life sooner than go, so sat down. “And now,” said Arthur, “I have realized one of the dearest wishes of my life — to see you two together.”

And then he led away the talk to their home in Devonshire, and the red bright earth, and the deep green combes, and the peat streams like cairngorm pebbles, and the wild moor with its high cloudy Tors for a giant background to the picture — till Tom got jealous, and stood up for the clear chalk streams, and the emerald water meadows and great elms and willows of the dear old Royal county, as he gloried to call it. And the mother sat on quiet and loving, rejoicing in their life. The quarter-to-ten struck, and the bell rang for bed before they had well begun their talk, as it seemed.

Then Tom rose with a sigh to go.

“Shall I see you in the morning, Geordie?” said he, as he shook his friend’s hand. “Never mind though; you’ll be back next half, and I shan’t forget the house of Rimmon.”

Arthur’s mother got up and walked with him to the door, and there gave him her hand again, and again his eyes met that deep loving look, which was like a spell upon him. Her voice trembled slightly as she said, “Good night — you are one who knows what our Father has promised to the friend of the widow and the fatherless. May He deal with you as you have dealt with me and mine!”

Tom was quite upset; he mumbled something about owing everything good in him to Geordie — looked in her face again, pressed her hand to his lips, and rushed downstairs to his study, where he sat till old Thomas came kicking at the door, to tell him his allowance would be stopped if he didn’t go off to bed. (It would have been stopped anyhow, but that he was a great favourite with the old gentleman, who loved to come out in the afternoons into the close to Tom’s wicket, and bowl slow twisters to him, and talk of the glories of bygone Surrey heroes, with whom he had played in former generations.) So Tom roused himself, and took up his candle to go to bed; and then for the first time was aware of a beautiful new fishing-rod, with old Eton’s mark on it, and a splendidly bound Bible, which lay on his table, on the title-page of which was written — “TOM BROWN, from his affectionate and grateful friends, Frances Jane Arthur; George Arthur.”

I leave you all to guess how he slept, and what he dreamt of.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hughes/thomas/tom_browns_school_days/chapter15.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38