Burr JuniorGeorge Manville Fenn
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Burr Junior, by George Manville Fenn.
I thought that it was unusual for Manville Fenn to set a novel in aboys' boarding school, since I had become used to exotic settings inMalaysia, or South America, for his tension-filled novels. Here hecertainly does not disappoint if it's tension and suspense you areexpecting of him. The last few chapters, in particular, are extremelynail-biting, but the book is quite hard to put down at any point.
It is Burr who is telling the story, and from his first day at theschool he is friendly with Mercer, who is not good at his school work,but who knows a great deal about natural history, and imparts it toBurr, and of course to the readers as well. There is a gang of otherboys who are inclined to bully, and at first they make life misery forBurr and Mercer--but this is soon got over.
Other important figures are Hopley, the gamekeeper; his daughter Polly;the school Cook; Lomax, the school drill-sergeant; Magglin, ane'er-do-well and poacher; Dr Browne, the headmaster, and Mrs Browne;Rebble and Hasnip, ushers at the school; Burr's mother, and his uncle,Colonel Seaborough; and the local big landowner, General Sir HawkhurstRye.
It was a very enjoyable book to transcribe, and I am sure you will enjoyit.NH________________________________________________________________________
BURR JUNIOR, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
"There'll be such a game directly. Just listen to old Dicksee."
I was very low-spirited, but, as the bright, good-looking lad at my sidenudged me with his elbow, I turned from casting my eyes round the greatbare oak-panelled room, with its long desks, to the kind of pulpit atthe lower end, facing a bigger and more important-looking erection atthe upper end, standing upon a broad dais raised a foot above the restof the room. For this had been the banqueting hall of Meade Place, inthe good old times of James the First, when its owner little thought itwould ever be the schoolroom of Dr Browne's "Boarding Establishment forGentlemen's Sons." In fact, there was a broad opening now, with asliding door, right through the thick wall into the kitchen, so mycompanion told me, and that I should see the shoulders of mutton slipthrough there at dinner-time.
So I looked at the lower pulpit, in which sat Mr Rebble, one of theushers, a lank, pale-faced, haggard man, with a dotting of freckles,light eyebrows, and pale red hair which stood up straight like that upona clothes-brush.
He was resting his elbows on the desk and wiping his hands one over theother, as if the air was water and he had a piece of soap between hispalms. By him was a boy with a book, reading in a highly-pitched voicewhich did not seem to fit him, being, like his clothes, too small forsuch a big fellow, with his broad face and forehead all wrinkled up intopuckers with the exertion of reading.
"Tchish! tchish! Silence!" said Mr Rebble, giving three stamps on thefloor. "Now go on, Dicksee."
"I say, do listen," said the boy by my side. "He isn't well, and I gavehim a dose this morning."
"You did?" I said. "You hit him?"
"No, no," said the boy, laughing. "I often do though--a miserablesneak. I gave him a dose of medicine. He had been eating too many ofPolly Hopley's cakes. My father is a doctor!" he added importantly.
"Oh!" I said.
"I say, do listen. Did you ever hear such a whine?"
As he spoke, I heard the big, stoutly-built boy give a tremendous sniff,and then go on reading.
"I love Penny Lope--Penny Lope is loved by me."
"Pen-el-o-pe!" cried the usher angrily, as he snatched the book from theboy's hands, closed it, and boxed his ears with it, right and left, overand over again. "You _dumkopf_!" he shouted; "you muddy-brained ass!you'll never learn anything. You're more trouble than all the rest ofthe boys put together. There, be off to your seat, and write that pieceout twenty-five times, and then learn it by heart."
"Ow, ow, ow! sniff, sniff, snork!"
"Silence, sir, or I'll make the imposition fifty times!"
The howl subsided into a series of subdued sniffs as the big fellow wentback to his place, amidst the humming noise made by some fifty boys,who, under the pretence of studying their lessons, kept upconversations, played at odd or even for marbles, or flicked peas ateach other across the school.
"Old Reb wouldn't dare to hit him like that if the Doctor was here."
"Your father?" I said.
"No, no--old Swish! Doctor Browne."
A pea struck my companion on the ear, and dropped on the floor.
"All right, Burr," said my neighbour; "did that with a pea-shooter. Iowe you one."
"I didn't do it!" I whispered eagerly.
"Of course you didn't. It was that long, thin boy yonder. His name'sBurr too. He'll be Burr major now, and you'll be Burr junior."
"Oh!" I said, feeling much relieved.
"You'll have to lick him. Regular old bully. Your name's Frank, isn'tit?"
"His name's Eliezer. We call him Eely, because he's such a lanky, thin,snaky chap. I say, his father's a tailor in Cork Street, he's got suchlots of clothes in his box. He has a bob-tail coat and black kerseysit-upon-'ems, and a vesky with glass buttons, and all covered withembroidery. Such a dandy!--What's your father?"
I did not answer for a few moments, and he looked at me sharply.
"Dead," I said in a low voice.
"Oh!" said my companion softly too. "I didn't know."
"He was shot--out in India--Chillianwallah," I said.--"Died of hiswounds."
"Oh, I am sorry! I wish my father had been there."
"He'd have cured him. There's nobody like him for wounds. But, I say,Chillian what's its name?"
"Chillianwallah," I said.
"Why, what a game! That's where old Lomax was. I remember now."
"Is Lomax one of the boys," I asked wonderingly.
"Yah! no. You saw him last night, when you came in the fly. That bigchap who lives at the lodge, and helped lift down your box. He had ashot through him, and nearly had his head cut off with a tullysomething. He'll tell you. He has a pension, and is our drill-master,and teaches boys riding."
This was interesting, and I felt a desire to know old Lomax.
"What's your mother?" said my companion, breaking in upon my musing.
"A lady," I said proudly.
"So's mine. She's the nicest and best and--" At that moment I heard aloud, deep-throated cough, which was followed by a shuffling andstamping, as I saw all the boys rise in their places.
"Get up--get up," whispered my neighbour. "The Doctor."
I rose in my place, and saw the tall, stout, clerical-looking gentlemanI had seen when I reached Meade Place on the previous night, enter bythe middle door, and look gravely and smilingly round.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "Good morning, Mr Rebble;" andthen he marched solemnly to the pulpit on the dais, took his place,waved his hand, there was a repetition of the rustling and shuffling asthe boys reseated themselves, and then the humming murmur of the schoolrecommenced.
"I say, how old are you?" whispered my companion.
"Sixteen--nearly," I replied.
"Well, that is rum. So am I. So's lots of fellows here. Where did yougo to school before?"
"Nowhere. Had a private tutor at home."
"Well, you must be a muff."
"To give up a private tutor all to yourself to come to school here."
"Obliged to. Uncle said I should grow into a--"
I stopped short.
"Less talking there," said Mr Rebble.
"Mind your own bu
siness," muttered my neighbour. "What did he say you'dgrow into?"
"A milksop; and that I must come and rough it among other boys."
"Ha! ha! what a game! You will have to rough it too, here. I say,who's uncle?"
"My uncle, Colonel Seaborough."
"What's he?--a soldier too?"
"Yes; and I'm going to be a soldier by and by."
"Well, you are a lucky one! Wish I had an uncle who said I should be asoldier. I shall have to be a doctor, I suppose."
Just then, the tall, thin boy pointed out to me a few minutes before asBurr major, came across in a bending, undulating way, with an open bookin his hand, glanced up and down to see that the Doctor and hislieutenant were both occupied, and then slipped into the seat at ourlong desk on the other side of my neighbour, who did not give him timeto speak, but began rapidly,--
"I say, this new chap says he'll give you such a leathering if you shootpeas at him."
"Eh? Like to see him begin," said the fresh comer, with a contemptuouslook at me. "I say, Senna T, you're in for it."
"Old Dicksee says you gave him some stuff last night, and it's made himso bad he can't learn his lessons. He's going to tell the Doctor."
"Gammon! What do you want?"
"Less talking there," said Mr Rebble sharply.
"Hark at old Reb!" whispered the new-comer. "I say, we're going to havea holiday to-day, ain't we?"
"No such luck."
"Oh, but we must! I've written this out. You'll sign, won't you?"
My neighbour snatched a document consisting of about half a dozen lines,and pushed it back.
"He'll keep us in if we do."
"Not he. I know he wants to drive over to Hastings with the girls.Sign, there's a good chap."
"But you haven't signed."
"No. I shall put my name last."
"Yah! Can't catch old birds with chaff, Eely."
"If you call me Eely again, I'll punch your head."
"You sign first, and I'll put my name next."
"Shan't! and if you don't put your name at once, I'll tear up the paper.I don't want a holiday; it was all for you boys."
"Thank-ye," said my neighbour derisively.
"Just you wait till we're out in the field, Jalap, and I'll serve youout for this."
"Burr junior," said a rich, deep, unctuous voice, which seemed to rollthrough the school, and there was a dead silence.
"Here, you!--get up. Go on."
"Burr junior!" came in a louder, deeper voice.
"He means you," whispered my neighbour.
"Say _Adsum_," whispered the tall, thin boy, and, on the impulse given,I repeated the Latin word feebly.
"Go up to him," whispered my neighbour, and, pulling my legs out frombetween the form and the desk, I walked up through the centre openingbetween the two rows of desks, conscious of tittering and whispering,two or three words reaching my ears, such as "cane," "pickle," "catch itcertain."
Then, feeling hot and confused, I found myself on the dais in front ofthe desk, where the Doctor was looking searchingly at me through hisgold-rimmed spectacles. Then, turning himself round, he slowly andponderously crossed one leg over the other, and waved his hand.
"Come to the side," he said, and feeling more conscious up there on thedais, I moved round, and he took my hand.
"I am glad to welcome you among us, Frank, to join in our curriculum ofstudy, and I hope you will do us all credit. Er--rum! Let me see.Burr--Frank Burr. We have another Burr here, who has stuck among us forsome years."
The Doctor paused and looked round with a very fat smile, in the midstof a peculiar silence, till Mr Rebble at the other end said loudly,--
"Ha! ha! Excellent!" and there was now a loud burst of laughter.
I thought that I should not like Mr Rebble, but I saw that the Doctorliked his appreciation of his joke, for he smiled pleasantly, andcontinued,--
"Let me see. I think we have a pleasant little custom here, not morehonoured in the breach than in the observance. Eh, Mr Rebble?"
"Certainly, sir, certainly," said that gentleman, and the Doctor frownedat his leg, as he smoothed it down. But his face cleared directly.
"Er--rum!" he continued, clearing his voice. "Of having a briefcessation from our studies upon the advent of a new boy. Younggentlemen, you may close your books for to-day."
There was a hearty cheer at this, and the Doctor rose, thrust his handinto his breast beside his white shirt-frill, then, waving the othermajestically, he turned to me as the cheering ceased.
"Burr junior," he said, "you can return to your seat."
I stepped back, forgetting all about the dais, and fell rather heavily,but sprang up again, scarlet with mortification.
"Not hurt? No? That's right," said the Doctor; and amid a chorus of"Thank you, sir! thank you, sir!" he marched slowly out of the greatroom, closely followed by Mr Rebble, while I stood, shaken by my fall,and half dazed by the uproar.