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Haviland's Chum   By: (1855-1914)

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Haviland's Chum, by Bertram Mitford.

HAVILAND'S CHUM, BY BERTRAM MITFORD.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE NEW BOY.

"Hi! Blacky! Here hold hard. D'you hear, Snowball?"

The last peremptorily. He thus addressed, paused, turned, and eyed somewhat doubtfully, not without a tinge of apprehension, the group of boys who thus hailed him.

"What's your name?" pursued the latter, "Caesar, Pompey, Snowball what?"

"Or Uncle Tom?" came another suggestion.

"I new boy," was the response.

"New boy! Ugh!" jeered one fellow. "Time I left if they are going to take niggers here. What's your name, sir didn't you hear me ask?"

"Mpukuza."

"Pookoo how much?"

For answer the other merely emitted a click, which might have conveyed contempt, disgust, defiance, or a little of all three. He was an African lad of about fifteen, straight and lithe and well formed, and his skin was of a rich copper brown. But there was a clean cut look about the set of his head, and an almost entire absence of negro development of nose and lips, which seemed to point to the fact that it was with no inferior race aboriginal to the dark continent that he owned nationality.

Now a hoot was raised among the group, and there was a tendency to hustle this very unwonted specimen of a new boy. He, however, took it good humouredly, exhibiting a magnificent set of teeth in a tolerant grin. But the last speaker, a biggish, thick set fellow who was something of a bully, was not inclined to let him down so easily.

"Take off your hat, sir!" he cried, knocking it off the other's head, to a distance of some yards. "Now, Mr Woollyhead, perhaps you'll answer my question and tell us your name, or I shall have to see if some of this'll come out." And, suiting the action to the word, he reached forward and grabbed a handful of the other's short, crisp, jetty curls jerking his head backwards and forwards.

The African boy uttered a hoarse ejaculation in a strange tongue, and his features worked with impotent passion. He could not break loose, and his tormentor was taller and stronger than himself. He put up his hands to free himself, but the greater his struggles the more the bully jerked him by the wool, with a malignant laugh. The others laughed too, enjoying the fun of what they regarded as a perfectly wholesome and justifiable bout of nigger baiting.

But a laugh has an unpleasant knack of transferring itself to the other side, and in this instance an interruption occurred wholly unlooked for, but sharp and decisive, not to say violent, and to the prime mover in the sport highly unpleasant for it took the shape of a hearty, swinging cuff on the side of that worthy's head. He, with a howl that was half a curse, staggered a yard or two under the force of the blow, at the same time loosing his hold of his victim. Then the latter laughed being the descendant of generations of savages laughed loud and maliciously.

"Confound it, Haviland, what's that for?" cried the smitten one, feeing round upon his smiter.

"D'you want some more, Jarnley?" came the quick reply. "As it is I've a great mind to have you up before the prefects' council for bullying a new boy."

"Prefects' council," repeated Jarnley with a sneer. "That's just it. If you weren't a prefect, Haviland, I'd fight you. And you know it."

"But I don't know it and I don't think it," was the reply. The while, something of a smothered hoot was audible among the now rapidly increasing group, for Haviland, for reasons which will hereinafter appear, was not exactly a popular prefect. It subsided however, as by magic, when he darted a glance into the quarter whence it arose.

"Come here you," he said, beckoning the cause of all the disturbance. "What's your name?"

"Mpukuza."

"What?"

The African boy repeated it unhesitatingly, willingly. He was quick to recognise the difference between constituted authority and the spurious and usurped article besides, here was one who had intervened to turn the tables on his oppressor... Continue reading book >>




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