The only incident worth
recording here, however, was his first run at
Hare-and-hounds. On the last Tuesday but one of the
half-year, he was passing through the hall after
dinner, when he was hailed with shouts from Tadpole
and several other fags seated at one of the long
tables, the chorus of which was, "Come and help
us tear up scent."
Tom approached the table in
obedience to the mysterious summons, always ready to
help, and found the party engaged in tearing up old
newspapers, copybooks, and magazines into small
pieces, with which they were filling four large
"It's the turn of our
house to find scent for Big-side
Hare-and-hounds," explained Tadpole; "tear
away, there's no time to lose before
"I think it's a great
shame," said another small boy, "to have
such a hard run for the last day."
"Which run is it?"
"Oh, the Barby run  I
hear," answered the other, "nine miles at
least, and hard ground; no chance of getting in at
the finish, unless you're a first-rate scud."
"Well, I'm going to have a
try," said Tadpole; "it's the last run of
the half, and if a fellow gets in at the end,
Big-side stands ale and bread and cheese, and a bowl
of punch; and the Cock's such a famous place for
"I should like to try
too," said Tom.
"Well then, leave your
waistcoat behind, and listen at the door after
calling-over, and you'll hear where the meet
After calling-over, sure
enough, there were two boys at the door, calling out
"Big-side Hare-and-hounds meet at White
Hall;" and Tom having girded himself with
leather strap, and left all superfluous clothing
behind, set off for White Hall, and old gable-ended
house some quarter of a mile from the town, with
East, whom he had persuaded to join, notwithstanding
his prophecy that they would never get in, as it was
the hardest run of the year.
At the meet they found some
forty or fifty boys, and Tom felt sure, from having
seen many of them run at foot-ball, that he and East
were more likely to get in than they.
After a few minutes' waiting,
two well-known runners, chosen for the hares, buckled
on the four bags filled with scent, compared their
watches with those of young Brooke and Thorne, and
started off at a long slinging trot across the fields
in the direction of Barby.
Then the hounds clustered
around Thorne, who explained shortly, "They're
to have six minutes' law. We run into the Cock, and
everyone who comes within a quarter of an hour of the
hares'll be counted, if he has been round Barby
church." Then came a minute's pause or so, and
then the watches are pocketed, and the pack is led
through the gateway into the field which the hares
had first crossed. Here they break into a trot,
scattering over the field to find the first traces of
the scent which the hares throw out as they go along.
The old hounds make straight for the likely points,
and in a minute a cry of "Forward" comes
from one of them, and the whole pack quickening their
pace makes for the spot, while the boy who hit the
scent first, and the two or three nearest to him, are
over the first fence, and making play along the
hedgerow in the long grass-field beyond. The rest of
the pack rush at the gap already made and scramble
through, jostling one another. "Forward"
again, before they are half through; the pace
quickens into a sharp run, the tail hounds all
straining to get up with the lucky leaders. They are
gallant hares, and the scent lies thick right across
another meadow and into a ploughed field, where the
pace begins to tell; then over a good wattle with a
ditch on the other side, and down a large pasture
studded with old thorns, which slopes down to the
first brook; the great Leicestshire sheep charge away
across the field as the pack comes racing down the
slope. The brook is a small one, and the scent lies
right ahead up the opposite slope, and as thick as
ever; not a turn or a check to favour the tail
hounds, who strain on, now trailing in a long line,
many a youngster beginning to drag his legs and feel
his heart beat like a hammer, and the bad plucked
ones thinking that after all it isn't worth while to
keep it up.
Tom, East, and the Tadpole had
a good start, and are well up for such young hands,
and after rising the slope and crossing the next
field, find themselves up with the leading hounds who
have over-run the scent and are trying back; they
have come a mile and a half in about eleven minutes,
a pace which shows that it is the last day. About
twenty-five of the original starters only show here,
the rest having already given in; the leaders are
busy making casts into the fields on the left and
right, and the others get their second winds.
Then comes the cry of
"Forward" again, from young Brooke, from
the extreme left, and the pack settles down to work
steadily and doggedly, the whole keeping pretty well
together. The scent though still good is not so
thick; there is no need of that, for in this part of
the run every one knows the line which must be taken,
and so there are no casts to be made, but good
downright running and fencing to be done. All who are
now up mean coming in, and they come to the foot of
Barby Hill without losing more than two or three more
of the pack. This last straight two miles and a half
is always a vantage ground for the hounds, and the
hares know it well; they are generally viewed on the
side of Barby Hill, and all eyes are on the look-out
for them to-day. But not a sign of them appears, so
now will be the hard work for the hounds, and there
is nothing for it but to cast about for the scent,
for it is now the hares' turn, and they may baffle
the pack dreadfully in the next two miles.
Ill fares it now with our
youngsters that they are Schoolhouse boys, and so
follow young Brooke, for he takes the wide casts
round to the left, conscious of his own powers, and
loving the hard work. For if you would consider for a
moment, you small boys, you would remember that the
Cock, where the run ends, and the good ale will be
going, lies far out to the right on the Dunchurch
road, so that every cast you take to the left is so
much extra work. And at this stage of the run, when
the evening is closing in already, no one remarks
whether you run a little cunning or not, so you
should stick to those crafty hounds who keep edging
away to the right, and not follow a prodigal like
young Brooke, whose legs are twice as long as yours
and of cast-iron, wholly indifferent to two or three
miles more or less. However they struggle after him,
sobbing and plunging along, Tom and East pretty
close, and Tadpole, whose big head begins to pull him
down, some thirty yards behind.
Now comes a brook, with stiff
clay banks, from which they can hardly drag their
legs, and they hear faint cries for help from the
wretched Tadpole, who has fairly stuck fast. But they
have too little run left in themselves to pull up for
their own brothers. Three fields more, and another
check, and then "Forward" called away to
the extreme right.
The two boys' souls die within
them, they can never do it. Young Brooke thinks so
too, and says kindly, "You'll cross a lane after
the next field, keep down it, and you'll hit the
Dunchurch road below the Cock," and then steams
away for the run in, in which he's sure to be first,
as if he were just starting. They struggle on across
the next field, the "Forwards" getting
fainter and fainter, and then ceasing. The whole hunt
is out of earshot, and all hope of coming in is over.
"Hang it all," broke
out East, as soon as he had got wind enough, pulling
off his hat and mopping at his face, all splattered
with dirt and lined with sweat, from which went up a
thick stream into the cold air. "I told you how
it would be. What a thick I was to come. Here we are,
dead beat, and yet I know we're close to the run in,
if we knew the country."
"Well," said Tom,
mopping away, and gulping down his disappointment,
"it can't be helped. We did our best anyhow.
Hadn't we better find this lane, and go down it as
young Brooke told us?"
"I suppose so -- nothing
else for it," grunted East. "If ever I go
out last day again," growl -- growl -- growl.
So they tried back slowly and
sorrowfully, and found the lane, and went limping
down it, plashing in the cold puddly ruts, and
beginning to feel how the run had taken it out of
them. The evening closed in fast, and clouded over,
dark, cold, and dreary.
"I say, it must be
locking-up, I should think," remarked East,
breaking the silence, "it's so dark."
"What if we're late?"
"No tea, and sent up to
the Doctor," answered East.
The thought didn't add to their
cheerfulness. Presently a faint halloo was heard from
an adjoining field. They answered it and stopped,
hoping for some competent rustic to guide them, when
over a gate some twenty yards ahead, crawled the
wretched Tadpole, in a state of collapse; he had lost
a shoe in the brook, and been groping after it up to
his elbows in the stiff wet clay, and a more
miserable creature in the shape of a boy seldom has
The sight of him,
notwithstanding, cheered them, for he was some
degrees more wretched than they. They also cheered
him, as he was no longer under the dread of passing
his night alone in the fields. And so in the better
heart the three plashed painfully down the
never-ending lane. At last it widened, just as utter
darkness set in, and they came out on to a
turnpike-road, and there paused bewildered, for they
had lost all bearings and knew not whether to turn to
the right or left.
Luckily for them they had not
to decide, for lumbering along the road, with one
lamp lighted, and two spavined horses in the shafts,
came a heavy coach, which after a moment's suspense
they recognized as the Oxford coach, the redoubtable
Pig and Whistle.
It lumbered slowly up, and the
boys mustering their last run, caught it as it
passed, and began scrambling up behind, in which
exploit East missed his footing and fell flat on his
nose along the road. Then the others hailed the old
scarecrow of a coachman, who pulled up and agreed to
take them in for a shilling; so there they sat on the
back seat, drubbing with their heels, and their teeth
chattering with the cold, and jogged into Rugby some
forty minutes after locking-up.
Five minutes afterwards, three
small limping shivering figures steal along through
the Doctor's garden, and into the house by the
servants' entrance (all the other gates have been
closed long since), where the first thing they light
upon in the passage is old Thomas, ambling along,
candle in one hand and keys in the other.
He stops and examines their
condition with a grim smile. "Ah! East, Hall,
and Brown, late for locking-up. Must go to the
Doctor's study at once."
"Well but, Thomas, mayn't
we go and wash first? You can put down the time, you
"Doctor's study directly
you come in -- that's the orders," replied old
Thomas, motioning towards the stairs at the end of
the passage which led up into the Doctor's house; and
the boys turned ruefully down it, not cheered by the
old verger's muttered remark, "What a pickle
they boys be in." Thomas referred to their faces
and habiliments, but they construed it as indicating
the Doctor's state of mind. Upon the short flight of
stairs they pause to hold counsel.
"Who'll go in first?"
"You -- you're the
senior," answered East.
"Catch me -- look at the
state I'm in," rejoined Hall, showing the arms
of his jacket. "I must get behind you two."
"Well, but look at
me," said East, indicating the mass of clay
behind which he was standing; "I'm worse than
you, two to one; you might grow cabbages
on my trousers."
"That's all down below,
and you can keep your legs behind the sofa,"
"Here, Brown, you're the
show-figure -- you must lead."
"But my face is all
muddy," argued Tom.
"Oh, we're all in one boat
for that matter; but come on, we're only making it
worse by dawdling here."
"Well, just give us a
brush then," said Tom; and they began trying to
rub off the superfluous dirt from each other's
jackets, but it was not dry enough, and the rubbing
made it worse; so in despair they pushed through the
swing door at the head of the stairs, and found
themselves in the Doctor's hall.
"That's the library
door," said East in a whisper, pushing Tom
forward. The sound of merry voices and laughing came
from within, and his first hesitating knock was
unanswered. But at the second, the Doctor's voice
said "Come in," and Tom turned the handle,
and he, with the others behind him, sidled into the
The Doctor looked up from his
task; he was working away with a great chisel at the
bottom of a boy's sailing boat, the lines of which he
was no doubt fashioning on the model of one of
Nicias' galleys. Round him stood three or four
children; the candles burned brightly on a large
table at the further end covered with books and
papers, and a great fire threw a ruddy glow over the
rest of the room. All looked so kindly, and homely,
and comfortable, that the boys took heart in a
moment, and Tom advanced from behind the shelter of
the great sofa. The Doctor nodded to the children,
who went out, casting curious and amused glances at
the three young scarecrows.
Well, my little fellows,"
began the Doctor, drawing himself up with his back to
the fire, the chisel in one hand and his coat-tails
in the other, and his eyes twinkling as he looked
them over; "what makes you so late?"
Please, sir, we've been
out Big-side Hare-and-hounds and lost our way."
Hah! you couldn't keep
up, I suppose?"
Well, sir," said
East, stepping out, and not liking that the Doctor
should think lightly of his running powers, "we
got round Barby all right, but then --"
"Why, what a state you're
in, my boy!" interrupted the Doctor, as the
pitiful condition of East's garments was fully
revealed to him.
"That's the fall I got,
sir, in the road," said East, looking down at
himself; "the Old Pig came by --"
"The what?" said the
"The Oxford coach,
sir," explained Hall.
"Hah! yes, the
Regulator," said the Doctor.
"And I tumbled on my face
trying to get up behind," went on East.
"You're not hurt, I
hope?" said the Doctor.
"Oh, no, sir."
"Well now, run up-stairs,
all three of you, and get clean things on, and then
tell the housekeeper to give you some tea. You're too
young to try such long runs. Let Warner know I've
seen you. Good-night."
And away scuttled the three boys in high glee.
What a brick, not to give
us even twenty lines to learn!" said the
Tadpole, as they reached their bedroom; and in
half-an-hour afterward they were sitting by the fire
in the housekeeper's room at a sumptuous tea, with
cold meat, "twice as good grub as we should have
got in the hall," as the Tadpole remarked with a
grin, his mouth full of buttered toast. All their
grievances forgotten, and they were resolving to go
out the first big-side next half, and thinking
hare-and-hounds the most delightful of games.