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Guy Livingstone; or, 'Thorough'   By: (1827-1876)

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"Neque imbellem feroces Progenerant aquilæ columbam."

It is not a pleasant epoch in one's life, the first forty eight hours at a large public school. I have known strong minded men of mature age confess that they never thought of it without a shiver. I don't count the home sickness, which perhaps only affects seriously the most innocent of débutants , but there are other thousand and one little annoyances which make up a great trouble. If there were nothing else, for instance, the unceasing query, "What's your name?" makes you feel the possession of a cognomen at all a serious burden and bar to advancement in life.

A dull afternoon toward the end of October; the sky a neutral tint of ashy gray; a bitter northeast wind tearing down the yellow leaves from the old elms that girdle the school close of ; a foul, clinging paste of mud and trampled grass blades under foot, that chilled you to the marrow; a mob of two hundred lower boys, vicious with cold and the enforcement of keeping goal through the first football match of the season in the midst, I, who speak to you, feeling myself in an eminently false position there's the mise en scène .

My small persecutors had surrounded me, but had hardly time to settle well to their work, when one of the players came by, and stopped for an instant to see what was going on. The match had not yet begun.

There was nothing which interested him much apparently, for he was passing on, when my despondent answer to the everlasting question caught his ear. He turned round then

"Any relation to Hammond of Holt?"

I replied, meekly but rather more cheerfully, that he was my uncle.

"I know him very well," the new comer said. "Don't bully him more than you can help, you fellows; I'll wait for you after calling over, Hammond. I should like to ask you about the squire."

He had no time to say more, for just then the ball was kicked off, and the battle began. I saw him afterward often during that afternoon, always in the front of the rush or the thick of the scrimmage, and I saw, too, more than one player limp out of his path disconsolately, trying vainly to dissemble the pain of a vicious "hack."

I'll try to sketch Guy Livingstone as he appeared to me then, at our first meeting.

He was about fifteen, but looked fully a year older, not only from his height, but from a disproportionate length of limb and development of muscle, which ripened later into the rarest union of activity and strength that I have ever known. His features were very dark and pale, too strongly marked to be called handsome; about the lips and lower jaw especially there was a set sternness that one seldom sees before the beard is grown. The eyes were very dark gray, nearly black, and so deeply set under the thick eyebrows that they looked smaller than they really were; and I remember, even at that early age, their expression, when angered, was any thing but pleasant to meet. His dress was well adapted for displaying his deep square chest and sinewy arms a close fitting jersey, and white trowsers girt by a broad black belt; the cap, orange velvet, fronted with a silver Maltese cross.

The few words he had spoken worked an immediate change in my favor. I heard one of my tormentors say, not without awe, "The Count knows his people at home;" and they not only left me in peace, but, a little later, some of them began to tell me of a recent exploit of Guy's, which had raised him high in their simple hero worship, and which, I dare say, is still enumerated among the feats of the brave days of old by the fags over their evening small beer.

To appreciate it, you must understand that the highest form in the school the sixth were regarded by the fags and other subordinate classes with an inexpressible reverence and terror... Continue reading book >>

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