Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

panions, it would soon be dissipated, his father thought, in the politer air designed for him later; and meantime to buffet with stout sons of nature would call forth and exercise his own innate powers. He might, to be sure, contract intimacies below his level ; but from any thing like real derogation, Mr. Hastings was quite satisfied that his son's sense of his own high blood would always preserve him.

Such was the reasoning of the elder Mr. Hastings when he sent the heir of Foljambe Park to buffet, as he said, with the stout yeomen, and sturdy halfgentlemen (among whom I was one), who were laying in their stores of learning at Sedbergh.

But though Foljambe Hastings was in his treatment considered no more than ourselves, in his air and manners he was superior to us all; so that not only was he regarded with some jealousy himself, but I, whom he distinguished, met with a great deal of it.

At first this surprised me, but in after life I found it was the

way

of the world. Sturdy as we may be from nature, and as we are taught still more to be by the levellers of the age, we are less inclined to deny what seem the natural, or, as it were, the legitimate privileges of superior condition, than to rest without grumbling at a leap over our heads by a mere equal.

Thus if Foljambe Hastings was regarded with some little jealousy by our schoolmates, I met with a great deal more, from having no higher pretensions to his preference than any others ;-so that I generally went by the name of the “ would-be-gentleman.” This hurt me.

And yet, barring the inequality of our conditions, every thing pointed to friendship between Foljambe and me: the age,

the

same

same

was

tastes, the same opinions, the same feelings, and sense of right and wrong. In short, we made good the “ idem velle et idem nolle,” as forming the basis of a lasting friendship, and not unaptly we sometimes reminded one another of the brotherly love between Milton and Henry Lawes, so celebrated in the beautiful Lycidas, which Foljambe seemed to love as well as myself, though both so young.

One would have thought that the enjoyment of a pleasure so pure, so natural, so incapable of hurting any body, and might I not add, so enjoined by the revered author of our religion himself, as friendship, could have given offence to nobody. But not so. The distinction which Foljambeshewed me deemed an affront by the other boys, and they disliked us both for it ; him, for preferring a mere equal to themselves; me, for being so preferred. I thought this very hard, but, as I have observed, I afterwards found it was the way of the world.

For some time we were regardless of this ill will, and continued our studies, our walks, and our plays together; for which, strange to say, we were sent to Coventry by our sulky schoolfellows. Even this we did not much mind, any more than their sneers of unkindness when thrown together with them ; though I own my little reasoning mind set busily to work to ascertain, if it could, from what spice of the devil all this could arise.

At length the ill-will of those who envied us the power of making ourselves happy without them (for this seemed the amount of our crime) broke out into open hostility. There was a lad of the name of Ramshorn, about fifteen years of age, the son of an inn

keeper in the neighbourhood, whose father piqued himself on his inn's being avoided by gentlemen, on account of his rudeness. This lad was dull enough at books, but had a swaggering air of vulgar insolence, very terrific to his juniors, whom he belaboured without mercy, and very hateful to his equals, whom he only did not bully from fear of their turning again. He was vulgar in his looks, vulgar in his mind, vulgar in his dress, in short, vulgar in every thing, and what Shakspeare calls a “proud, shallow, filthy, worstedstocking knave."

Like his father, he was a great stickler for equality of all kinds, which he proved. by soundly thrashing all the boys below him who would not do his bidding. This doctrine of equality, however, was so well relished by the school at large, that our lives (Foljambe's and mine) were made uncomfortable by it. For when we appeared together arm and arm, it was thought that we were too proud to associate with the rest; we were laughed at, and a cry of Pylades and Orestes set up in derision ; and once, under Ramshorn's directions, we were hissed.

This was beyond bearing, and Foljambe's aristocratic spirit resolved to assert itself, by challenging the Tribune.

I saw the fight, and a desparate one it was. They were pretty equally paired. The Roundhead had the advantage in weight, but the Cavalier in activity. One was the most powerful in bone, the other in muscle. Each seemed resolved to conquer or die: the one to pull down what he hated as a superior, the other to preserve his own position. In short, it seemed almost an epitome of the notable struggles between the Radicals and Conservatives, which I have since lived to witness in

the world. The Tribune however had this advantage, that the great majority of those who looked on showed themselves all of his clique, cheering him as their champion at every successful blow, and encouraging him at every thing like a check; while Hastings had nothing but his own spirit, and a sense of his own good cause, on which to rely.

In the end this good cause, and the spirit and blood of Hastings, prevailed; the conquered Ramshorn was led off the ground by his sullen seconds, growling like Polyphemus, and the victor kept possession of the field.

CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL ADVENTURES.

What news, Lord Bardolfe ?
The times are wild : contention, like a horse
Full of high feeding, madly hath broke loose,
And bears down all before him.

SHAKSPEARE.—Second Part Henry IV. The next morning, Ramshorn being sufficiently recovered, and Hastings quite fresh, Mr. Crackenthorpe summoned us all to his presence. He was sitting with dignified gravity in his chair of state, highbacked, covered with dark brown leather, and splendid with brass nails, often admired by his younger disciples. On one side were two or three shelves, containing his Greek and Latin treasures, which he always eyed with complacency; on the other, a small window made on purpose, as a sort of telescope, through which at a glance, as a relaxation from study, he could survey the details of his farm-yard. He had summoned all his gravity to give effect to the oration he had meditated, on the great breach of the peace which had been committed. On his right hand, and in a lower chair, sat his assistant, Mr. Thornthwaite, as a sort of puisne judge on the important occasion. The culprits, and all the rest, stood mute and anxiously around; so that, notwithstanding my fright, it reminded me of my Ovid, which I had that very day to construe

Considere duces et vulgi
Stante corona.

« ПредишнаНапред »