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CIX.-TOM BROWN'S LAST VISIT TO RUGBY
Y daylight the next morning Tom Brown was marching through Rosshire, and in the evening hit the Caledonian canal, took the next steamer, and traveled as fast as boat and railway could carry him to the Rugby station.
2. As he walked up to the town he felt shy and afraid of being seen, and took the back streets; why, he did n't know, but he followed his instinct. At the school-gates he made a dead pause; there was not a soul in the quadrangle—all was lonely, and silent, and sad. So with another effort he strode through the quadrangle, and into the school-house offices.
3. He found the little matron in her room, in deep mourning; shook her hand, tried to talk, and moved nervously about: she was evidently thinking of the same subject as he, but he could n't begin talking.
"Where shall I find Thomas?" said he at last, getting desperate.
4. "In the servants' hall, I think, sir. But won't you take any refreshment?" said the matron, looking rather disappointed.
5. "No, thank you," said he, and strode off again to find the old verger, who was sitting in his little den as of old, puzzling over hieroglyphics.
6. He looked up through his spectacles, as Tom seized his hand and wrung it.
"Ah! you've heard all about it, sir, I see," said he.
7. Tom nodded, and then sat down on the shoe-board, while the old man told his tale, and wiped his spectacles, and fairly flowed over with quaint, homely, honest sorrow. By the time he had done, Tom felt much better. "Where is he buried, Thomas ?" said he at last.
8. "Under the altar in the chapel, sir," answered Thomas. "You'd like the key, I dare say."
9. "Thank you, Thomas-yes, I should very much." And the old man fumbled among his bunch of keys, and then got up, as though he would go with him; but after a few steps, stopped short and said, "Perhaps you'd like to go by yourself, sir?"
10. Tom nodded, and the keys were handed to him with. an injunction to be sure and lock the door after him, and bring them back before eight o'clock.
11. He walked quickly through the quadrangle and out into the close. The longing which had been upon him and driven him thus far, like the gad-fly in the Greek legends, giving him no rest in mind or body, seemed all of a sudden not to be satisfied, but to shrivel up, and pall. "Why should I go on? It's no use," he thought, and threw himself at full length on the turf, and looked vaguely and listlessly at all the well-known objects.
12. There were a few of the town-boys playing cricket, their wicket pitched on the best piece in the middle of the big-side ground, a sin equal to sacrilege in the eyes of a captain of the eleven. He was very nearly getting up to go and send them off. "Pshaw! they won't remember me. They've more right there than I," he muttered. And the thought that his scepter had departed, and his mark was wearing out, came home to him for the first time, and bitterly enough.
13. He was lying on the very spot where he had fought six years ago his first and last battle. He conjured up the scene till he could almost hear the shouts of the ring, and his chum's whisper in his ear; and, looking across the close to the doctor's private door, half expected to see it open, and the tall figure in cap and gown come striding under the elm trees towards him.
14. No, no! thai sight could never be seen again. There was no flag flying on the round tower; the school-house windows were all shuttered up; and when the flag went up again, and the shutters came down, it would be to welcome a stranger. All that was left of him whom he had
loved and honored, was lying cold and still under the chapel floor. He would go in and see the place once more, and then leave it, once for all. New men and new methods might do for other people; let those who would worship the rising star, he at least would be faithful to the sun which had set. And so he got up, and walked to the chapel door and unlocked it, fancying himself the only mourner in all the broad land, and feeding on his selfish
15. He passed through the vestibule, and then paused for a moment to glance over the empty benches. His heart was still proud and high, and he walked up to the seat which he had last occupied as a sixth-form boy, and sat himself down there to collect his thoughts.
16. And, truth to tell, they needed collecting and setting in order not a little. The memories of eight years were all dancing through his brain, and carrying him about whither they would; while beneath them all his heart was throbbing with the dull sense of a loss that could never be made up to him. The rays of the evening sun came solemnly through the painted windows above his head, and fell in gorgeous colors on the opposite wall, and the perfect stillness soothed his spirit by little and little. And he turned to the pulpit, and looked at it, and then leaning forward, with his head on his hands, groaned aloud.
17. "If he could only have seen the Doctor again for one five minutes, to have told him all that was in his heart, what he owed him, how he loved and reverenced him, and would, by God's help, follow his steps in life and death, he could have borne it all without a murmur. But that he should have gone away for ever without knowing it all, was too much to bear."
18. "But am I sure that he does not know it all?”— the thought made him start.- May he not even now be near me, in this very chapel? If he be, am I sorrowing as he would have me sorrow- -as I shall wish to have sorrowed when I meet him again?"
19. He raised himself up and looked round; and after a minute rose and walked humbly down to the lowest bench, and sat down on the very seat which he nad occupied on his first Sunday at Rugby. And then the old memories rushed back again, but softened and subdued, and soothing him as he let himself be carried away by them. And he looked up at the great painted window above the altar, and remembered how, when a little boy, he used to try not to look through it at the elm trees and the rocks, before the painted glass came-and the subscription for the painted glass, and the letter he wrote home for money to give to it. And there, down below, was the very name of the boy who sat on his right hand on that first day, scratched rudely in the oak paneling.
20. And then came the thought of all his old schoolfellows, and form after form of boys, nobler, and braver, and purer than he, rose up and seemed to rebuke him. Could he not think of them, and what they had felt and were feeling; they who had honored and loved from the first the man whom he had taken years to know and love? Could he not think of those yet dearer to him who was gone, who bore his name and shared his blood, and were now without a husband or a father?
21. Then the grief which he began to share with others became gentle and holy, and he rose up once more, and walked up the steps to the altar; and while tears flowed freely down his cheeks, knelt down humbly and hopefully, to lay down there his share of a burden which had proved itself too heavy for him to bear in his own strength.
22. Here let us leave him-where better could we leave him, than at the altar, before which he had first caught a glimpse of the glory of his birthright, and felt the drawing of the bond which links all living souls together in one brotherhood?-at the grave beneath the altar of him who had opened his eyes to see that glory, and softened his heart till it could feel that bond.
T was the time when lilies blow,
Lord Ronald brought a lily-white doe
I trow they did not part in scorn:
"He does not love me for my birth,
In there came old Alice the nurse,
Said, "Who was this that went from thee?" "It was my cousin," said Lady Clare; "To-morrow he weds with me."
"O God be thanked!" said Alice the nurse,
"Are ye out of your mind, my nurse, my nurse?' Said Lady Clare, "that ye speak so wild?"
"As God's above," said Alice the nurse, "I speak the truth: you are my child.
"The old earl's daughter died at my breast: