« AnteriorContinuar »
with a higher reward to the lower regions. There were but two candidates, the Sabbatarian fiend, and another Fury, named Tisiphone. The former suggested an early service on the Sabbath all the year round; the latter obtained the reward by proposing "A second copy every week, on Thursdays, for the Middle and Lower Schools, and a copy to be set on Thursday morning, to be given up on Saturdays, for the Upper School." The proposal was accepted, and the same process having been gone through, the gods thought they had effectually done for the school, and for a long while Rugby lay crushed under the blow; the numbers fell down, and the school got beaten at Lord's.
Again the gods sat on the water-tower, and again surveyed Rugby; but, this time, in a towering rage. Years had gone on; Sam was a boy at the School House; the pump in the quadrangle had been just set up, and Rugby was again happy. Proud of its name, pleased with its new pump, oblivious of the fact that there ever had been but one copy a week, Rugby was happy. The Rugbeians had their Saturday nights in peace; no thought of coming evils tormented them on Sundays; and if Monday was a whole school-day, at least, Monday night was not disturbed by copies. Above all, the Twenty and Fifths were happy ; they were exempt from fagging;-qualified to go to Swift's and to play on the edge (mysterious privileges), they were indeed happy, and again their happiness roused the indignation of the gods. But this time the anger was nothing to laugh at. Blue-eyed" Minerva was blue all over, except her eyes, and they shot fire. Jupiter lightned and thundered, and compelled clouds to rain over the close, and was quite beside himself: and even Apollo forgot the reputation
of the Rugby School Choral Society, and the attention paid to him, and fumed furiously. Mercury was sent to offer an enormous reward to any fiend who might be successful in proposing some torture adequate to the demands, but at the same time any unsuccessful candidate was to be severely punished, that the time of the gods might not be taken up in vain. After a long time two candidates appeared; one, our old friend the Sabbatarian; the other, a Fury, named Megara. The Sabbatarian's proposal was— "That there should be two Lectures (there was but one then) and no fires in the schools on Sunday. The Megoera (accursed be her name to all posterity of Rugbeians) then entered. Her eyes shot fire, the snakes on her head reared up and hissed as she made her horrible proposal, while the more respectable goddesses turned away in disgust. She said (amidst such a silence that you might have heard a pin drop,) that her aim had been to devise some torture that would disturb the Rugbeian's Saturday night, harass his thoughts on Sunday, (shame! from the Sabbatarians) and make his existence unbearable on Monday, (loud cheers). This idea had occurred to her in a fit of passion induced by the toothache; her proposal was that on Saturday mornings the twenty and fifths should have a copy set of twenty-five lines, to be original (unless they could be got out of the gradus), to be shown up on Tuesday morning. (Loud and continued applause.) This, she observed, would have the required effect, it would make them uncomfortable all Saturday afternoon, would torture them that night, on Sunday they would have it to look forward to for Monday, and on Monday it would torment them to distraction, and perhaps keep them up till three or four o'clock on Tuesday morning (for there was no curfew law then), moreover all
the week they would have the thoughts of it before them, and altogether *** but here such a horrible yell of fiendish exultation arose that the remainder of the sentence was lost: for some moments the uproar continued; till at length Jupiter arose and with a clap of thunder that shook all the young rooks out of their nests, handed Megoera the reward and a bumper of nectar; he then put the question, which was carried by a small majority. The suggestion was made to the headmaster in the usual way, he approved of it, and the next day they were informed of their fate. The majority were crushed by the blow, some died of broken hearts, some took to smoking and drinking to drown their care, some grew prematurely bald, and some took to extra mathematics and squaring circles, &c., some went to
[This manuscript was found one Monday night in the study of a member of the Fifth Form: the owner was lying on the floor dead. An inquest was held on him, and the verdict was-" Died of an attack of Long Copy on the brain."]
The ten minutes bell was ringing fast,
A face, and on it written plain,—
His brow was sad, his nose below,
In fuggy schools he saw the light
Of monster fires gleam warm and bright;
"Haste on thy way," the master said,
There fall the dreaded Milton lines:
ALAS! for poor human nature! What a wayward, captious thing it is! How much, in its folly, does it reject which is needful; how much, in its ignorance, does it crave which is burdensome. Hunchbacked Æsop knew mankind, and never better showed his knowledge of it than in the fable of Jove and his suppliant. A man once begged a wife
from the thunderer, and worried heaven for heirs. Jove nods assent, and gives, in addition, riches, genius, and beauty, as portions for the boys and girls. The father might then have expected to be blessed in his children; but no! they all turned out badly, and the man, too late, discovered that what he had prayed for was vain and hurtful. "Take the goods the gods provide thee" is the safer motto for our journey through life; be content with humble beef and pudding, and do not seek for nectar and ambrosia, lest, haply, puffed up with pride, you commit Tantalus' crime, and incur his punishment. Yet if we find that men, old citizens of the world, are so prone to desire what is not good for them, shall we wonder that they are imitated by boys whose judgment and experience are far less?
From their very cradle their existence is a craving; the child in arms cries for the moon, which some perhaps find to be the only thing their fond parents will not give! Older grown, green apples and hard gooseberries are their wants; but alas! how does the fruition fall short of their anticipation! Next comes the desire for a pony, a cantering pony, with flowing mane, and swishy tail, from whose back the aspiring Bellerophon is destined to have many a headlong fall. But not till the age of fourteen, or thereabouts, is the age for coveting a watch, which comes between this time of equine enjoyment, and that when sonnets made to a mistress's eye-brow, occupy the ardent youth.
History tells us of cities sacked, and countries laid desolate, armies destroyed, and battles won, and all that their conqueror might wear on his breast an inch or two of red or blue ribbon, with a piece of bullion at the end. For these rewards, men of gigantic intellect and lion-like