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MR. AND MRS. FRANK BERRY

CHAPTER I

THE FIGHT AT SLAUGHTER HOUSE

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AM very fond of reading about battles, and have most of Marlborough's and Wellington's at my

fingers' ends; but the most tremendous combat I ever saw, and one that interests me to think of more than Malplaquet or Waterloo (which, by the way, has grown to be a downright nuisance, so much do men talk of it after dinner, prating most disgustingly about the Prussians coming up," and what not) - I say the most tremendous combat ever known was that between Berry and Biggs the gown-boy, which commenced in a certain place called Middle Briars, situated in the midst of the cloisters that run along the side of the playground of Slaughter House School, near Smithfield, London. It was there, madam, that your humble servant had the honour of acquiring, after six years' labour, that immense fund of classical knowledge which in after life has been so exceedingly useful to him.

The circumstances of the quarrel were these: – Biggs, the gown-boy (a man who, in those days, I thought was at least seven feet high, and was quite thunderstruck to find in after life that he measured no more than five feet four), was what we called "second cock" of the school; the first cock was a great big, good-humoured, lazy, fair-haired fellow, Old Hawkins by name, who, because he was large and good-humoured, hurt nobody. Biggs, on the contrary, was a sad bully; he had half-a-dozen fags, and beat them all unmercifully. Moreover, he had a little brother, a boarder in Potky's house, whom, as a matter of course, he hated and maltreated worse than any one else.

Well, one day, because young Biggs had not brought his brother his hoops, or had not caught a ball at cricket, or for some other equally good reason, Biggs the elder so belaboured the poor little fellow, that Berry, who was sauntering by, and saw the dreadful blows which the elder brother was dealing to the younger with his hockey-stick, felt a compassion for the little fellow (perhaps he had a jealousy against Biggs, and wanted to try a few rounds with him, but that I can't vouch for); however, Berry passing by, stopped and said, “Don't you think you have thrashed the boy enough, Biggs?” He spoke this in a very civil tone, for he never would have thought of interfering rudely with the sacred privilege that an upper boy at a public school always has of beating a junior, especially when they happen to be brothers.

The reply of Biggs, as might be expected, was to hit young Biggs with the hockey-stick twice as hard as before, until the little wretch howled with pain. “I suppose it 's no business of yours, Berry,” said Biggs, thumping away all the while, and laid on worse and worse.

Until Berry (and, indeed, little Biggs) could bear it no longer, and the former, bouncing forward, wrenched the stick out of old Biggs' hands, and sent it whirling out of the cloister window, to the great wonder of a crowd of us small boys, who were looking on. Little boys always like to see a little companion of their own soundly beaten. “ There!” said Berry, looking into Biggs' face, as

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much as to say, I've gone and done it; ; and he added to the brother, “Scud away, you little thief! I've saved you

this time.”

Stop, young Biggs !” roared out his brother after a pause; "and I'll break every bone in your infernal, scoundrelly skin!”

Young Biggs looked at Berry, then at his brother, then came at his brother's order, as if back to be beaten again, but lost heart and ran away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

"I'll do for him another time," said Biggs. under-boy, take my coat;” and we all began to gather round and formed a ring.

We had better wait till after school, Biggs," cried Berry, quite cool, but looking a little pale. “There are only five minutes now, and it will take you more than that to thrash me.”

Biggs upon this committed a great error; for he struck Berry slightly across the face with the back of his hand, saying, “ You are in a funk.” But this was a feeling which Frank Berry did not in the least entertain; for in reply to Biggs' back-hander, and as quick as thought, and with all his might and main - pong! he delivered a blow upon old Biggs' nose that made the claret spirt, and sent the second cock down to the ground as if he had been shot.

He was up again, however, in a minute, his face white and gashed with blood, his eyes glaring, a ghastly spectacle; and Berry, meanwhile, had taken his coat off, and by this time there were gathered in the cloisters, on all the windows, and upon each other's shoulders, one hundred and twenty young gentlemen at the very least, for the news had gone out through the playground of “a fight between Berry and Biggs." But Berry was quite right in his remark about the

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propriety of deferring the business, for at this minute Mr. Chip, the second master, came down the cloisters going into school, and grinned in his queer way as he saw the state of Biggs' face. “ Holloa, Mr. Biggs," said he, “ I suppose you have run against a finger-post.” That was the regular joke with us at school, and you may be sure we all laughed heartily: as we always did when Mr. Chip made a joke, or anything like a joke. “You had better go to the pump, sir, and get yourself washed, and not let Dr. Buckle see you in that condition.” So saying, Mr. Chip disappeared to his duties in the underschool, whither all we little boys followed him.

It was Wednesday, a half-holiday, as everybody knows, and boiled-beef day at Slaughter House. I was in the same boarding-house with Berry, and we all looked to see whether he ate a good dinner, just as one would examine a man who was going to be hanged. I recollected, in after-life, in Germany, seeing a friend who was going to fight a duel, eat five larks for his breakfast, and thought I had seldom witnessed greater courage. Berry ate moderately of the boiled beef — boiled child we used to call it at school, in our elegant, jocular way; he knew a great deal better than to load his stomach upon the eve of such a contest as was going to take place.

Dinner was very soon over, and Mr. Chip, who had been all the while joking Berry, and pressing him to eat, called him up into his study, to the great disappointment of us all, for we thought he was going to prevent the fight; but no such thing. The Rev. Edward Chip took Berry into his study, and poured him out two glasses of port-wine, which he made him take with a biscuit, and patted him on the back, and went off. I have no doubt he was longing, like all of us, to see the battle; but etiquette, you know, forbade. When we went out into the green, Old Hawkins was

there -- the great Hawkins, the cock of the school. I have never seen the man since, but still think of him as of something awful, gigantic, mysterious; he who could thrash everybody, who could beat all the masters : how we longed for him to put in his hand and lick Buckle! He was a dull boy, not very high in the school, and had all his exercises written for him. Buckle knew this, but respected him; never called him up to read Greek plays; passed over all his blunders, which were many; let him go out of half-holidays into the town as he pleased: how should any man dare to stop him -the great, calm, magnanimous, silent Strength! They say he licked a Life-Guardsman; I wonder whether it was Shaw, who killed all those Frenchmen? no, it could not be Shaw, for he was dead au champ d'honneur; but he would have licked Shaw if he had been alive. A bargeman I know he licked, at Jack Randall's in Slaughter House Lane. Old Hawkins was too lazy to play at cricket; he sauntered all day in the sunshine about the green, accompanied by little Tippins, who was in the sixth form, laughed and joked at Hawkins eternally, and was the person who wrote all his exercises.

Instead of going into town this afternoon, Hawkins remained at Slaughter House, to see the great fight between the second and third cocks.

The different masters of the school kept boardinghouses (such as Potky's, Chip’s, Wicken's, Pinney's, and so on), and the playground or “green," as it was called, although the only thing green about the place was the broken glass on the walls that separate Slaughter House from Wilderness Row and Goswell Street - (many a

time have I seen Mr. Pickwick look out of his window in that street, though we did not know him then) — the playground, or green, was common to all. But if any stray boy from Potky's was found, for instance, in, or

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