So quickly did one striker succeed the other, that none of Blackall's boys could get a stroke. He ran to the rescue, but this was one of the many occasions, as he frequently found to his cost, when mere animal strength could avail but little.
Those hockey-sticks looked formidable weapons as they were flourished about in the hands of the opposing parties. Again Blackall's party met the ball; a dozen hockey-sticks were at it, and one boy, calling off the others, struck it so clear a blow that he nearly sent it up to the goal across Ernest's line.
Blackall's plan was willingly assented to by the rest of the big boys who had entered into this conspiracy against the liberties of their younger schoolfellows; and minor details being arranged, they considered everything ripe for carrying out their plans. All this time neither the Doctor nor masters suspected that anything out of the way was taking place.
Bouldon had, meantime, recognised Blackall's handwriting, and having a considerable amount of contempt for those whose signatures were attached, he exhibited it in an unmistakable, though certainly an unrefined manner, by holding up the paper, and spitting into the middle of it. Then he folded it up, and crammed it into Dawson's pocket.
For this important object he struggled hard to obtain popularity in the school, and succeeded; for no boy of his age and size was so popular among all the right-thinking and well-disposed boys as he was. On this occasion he resolved not to leave Eden in Blackall's power. "If he wishes to come, I shall certainly allow him," said Lemon.
"Out of my way, you rebellious young scamp!" shouted Blackall, irritated by what he considered Ernest's daring coolness. Ernest did not even look at him, but threw himself into a position to strike the ball. His eye was at the same time on Blackall's stick. He saw him lift it to strike, not the ball, but him.
The big fellows of Blackall's party had rushed on, separating widely, and not observing, or rather regarding, little Eden, whom had they seen they would not have supposed daring enough to attempt to hit the ball. He did not hit it very far, certainly; but yet his stroke was one of the most important which had been given, for it enabled Tom Bouldon to send it up very nearly to the goal.
He looked at the point before him to which he intended to send the ball, and he looked at his stick, and he looked at the ball, but he did not look on one side had he done so, he would have perceived Bracebridge springing along with his stick ready to strike. Strike he did too, and away flew the ball out of Blackall's very clutches.
He looks like a strong, tough fellow, who can pull hard at all events." Dawson and a few of Blackall's admirers echoed these sentiments, fully believing that he did not boast without reason of what he would do. The carriages were now brought forward from a chalk-pit, where they had been concealed, and formed a line in front of the spectators.
To a person of Blackall's character, the mode of his dismissal was a considerable punishment. It showed him that the Doctor was aware of some of his misconduct, but of how much he was still left in ignorance, and he had to live on in fear that some more severe punishment was still in store for him. I am glad to say that there were very few other fellows at all like Blackall in the school.