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'NUBBY' TOMKINS.1

IF a rummer thing ever happened at Dunston's than this I never saw it. Tomkins, I may say, was called 'Nubby' owing to his nose, which was extremely huge, though he said it was Roman, and swore he wouldn't change it if he could. Anyway, Wolfe made a rhyme about it that is certainly good enough to repeat. He wrote it first on a black-board with chalk, and a good many chaps learnt it by heart. It ran like this:

Our Nubby's nose is ponderous

And our Nubby's nose is long;
So it wouldn't disgrace

Our Nubby's face

If half his nose was gone.

Which was not only jolly good poetry, but also true--a thing all poetry isn't by long chalks, as you can see in Virgil and such like. Well, Nubbs, owing to his voice, which was fine, got on jolly well with the Doctor. Nubbs sang the solos in chapel on Sundays, and people came for miles to hear him do it; in consequence of which, so Steggles said, the Doctor favoured him and regarded him as an advertisement to Dunston's. But his singing wasn't in it compared with the advertisement he gave the Doctor on Guy Fawkes' Day the term before Slade left.

To explain the whole tremendous thing I must tell you that Nubbs belonged to the chemistry class. This class in fact was pretty well started for him, his father telling Dunston, so Nubbs said, that he shouldn't send him at all if he couldn't be taught chemistry. Because Nubbs had shown a good deal of keenness for chemicals generally from his earliest days, and bought little boxes of 'serpents' eggs' and red fire instead of sweets ever since he was old enough to buy anything. He had also blown off his eyebrows and eyelashes with a mixture he was grinding up in a mortar, and they had never grown again to this day-all of which things showed he had chemistry in him to a great extent. So the Doctor started a chemistry class, and old Stoddart from Merivale came up once a week to take it, and Nubbs joined, and so did I, not because I had chemistry in me worth speaking of, but

Copyright, in the United States of America, 1897, by Eden Phillpotts.

because I was a chum of Nubby's. Barker also joined, and so did Hodges.

I always thought that chemists simply arranged the muck doctors give you when you're queer, but it seems not. In fact, there are several sorts of chemists, and Nubbs said he hoped to belong to the best sort who don't have bottles of red and green stuff in the windows, and so on. He said a man who sold pills and tooth-brushes and liquorice-root and soap was not a classy chemist. The real flyers made discoveries and inventions and froze air, and got knighted by the Queen if they had luck and if they were well thought of by the newspapers. I should think really Nubbs might come to being knighted if he sticks to it, for even down to the stuff in cough lozenges nothing is hid from him. Once the matron gave me a simply vile lozenge for my throat, which got a bit foggy owing to falling into the water during a 'hare and hounds.' Well, the lozenge was white in colour, but even a white lozenge may be very decent sometimes, so I took a shot at it going to bed. But it was so jolly frightful to the taste that I chucked it away, and next morning found it again and examined it, after drying. On it I then found the words 'Chlorate of Potash.' So I took it to Nubbs. He said it was certainly a chemical, and added that the stuff in it was almost the same as you make 'Pharaoh's serpents' with. I could hardly believe such a thing, so he lighted the lozenge and it burnt blue, and a long, wriggling, brownish ash came curling out of it like a snake, just as Nubby said. Which is well worth knowing to anybody who ever has a chlorate of potash lozenge. Many such little remarkable and useful things Nubby could tell you; among others, how to mix sulphur and gunpowder and other ingredients for fireworks. He had in fact an awful fine book devoted to the subject, and wooden affairs to load cases; and once when Stoddart didn't turn up and the Doctor put us on our honour to do the proper things in the laboratory alone, Nubbs finished off analysing some stuff in about five minutes and spent the complete rest of the time making a rocket. It had four blue stars and thirteen yellow ones, and the case was made out of a stiff brown paper roll in which his mother had that morning sent Nubbs a photograph of her new baby at home. And Nubbs forgot the photograph and stuffed the mixture in upon it, and made a separate compartment for the stars on top. So the photograph of Nubby's mother's new baby, curiously enough, went off with the rocket and was never more seen by

mortal eye. Not that Nubbs cared. He kept the rocket till the Doctor's birthday, and after prayers, when we knew he was in his study, with the windows open and the blinds up, being summer time, Nubbs let it off in the front garden, and we helped. It turned out very good in a way, though not a perfect rocket, because, instead of going up, it tore along the ground. But it tore for an enormous distance, and then turned and came back all of itself. And the blue stars did not go off, but the yellow ones did-or some-in a bed of rather swagger geraniums unfortunately. The Doctor didn't care much about it, not understanding our motives. But Nubbs explained that he had done it out of honour to the day. Then the Doctor thanked him and said he had doubtless meant well, and that from the earliest times of the Chinese the pyrotechnist's art had been employed upon occasions of legitimate festivity and rejoicing.

I mention this because it was the encouragement he had over this creeping rocket that made Nubbs get so above himself, if you understand me. He never forgot it, and next autumn term he actually asked the Doctor if he might have a regular firework display in the playground on the night of the Fifth of November. He asked rather cunningly, just after an English History lesson, during which the Doctor had been slating Guy Fawkes frightfully; and having said such a heap of hard things about the beggar, Doctor Dunston couldn't very well refuse. He said, 'Your request is unusual, Tomkins; but I can see no objection at the moment. However, I will let you have my answer at no distant date.' And I said to Nubbs:

'That means he'll think and think till he's got a reason why you shouldn't, and let you know then.'

But Nubbs said to me:

'I believe he'll let me do it, feeling so jolly bitter as he does about Guy Fawkes.'

And blessed if he didn't! Nubbs undertook to make the things himself. Nothing was to be bought but chemicals, in a raw, unmixed condition, and Doctor Dunston actually headed the subscription-list with 2s. 6d. ; and Thompson gave the same, and Brown 28. Fifty-two chaps also contributed various sums from 18. to 1d.; and Nubbs became rather important, and went down gradually to the bottom of the lower fifth, owing to the strain upon his mind.

He gathered together 21. 7s. 5d. in all, and made it up to

21. 108. himself; and Fowle's father, who was in some business where they used sulphur, got four pounds' weight of it for nothing, and Nubbs said it was a godsend for illuminating purposes. He had been to the Crystal Palace, and told us he was going to carry everything out just like they did there, as far as he could with the money. At the last moment he got a tremendous increase of funds in the shape of a pound from his father; and, strangely enough, it was that extra pound that wrecked him. Without that father's pound he couldn't have arranged the principal feature of the whole performance; and without that principal feature nothing in the way of misfortunes to Nubbs worth mentioning would have fallen out. But the pound came, and with it a letter encouraging Nubby generally.

He went on mixing away at the various proper compounds and experimenting till he got his rockets to go up like larks and his roman candles to shoot out stars the length of a cricket pitch. Then his governor's pound came, and he decided on having a set piece with it. A set piece, Nubby said, is the triumph of the firework maker's art-and very likely it is in proper hands. You can have likenesses in fire, or words, or ships, or 'Fame crowning Virtue,' or, in fact, pretty well anything. A set piece is designed small first, then large; and it is worked out with little tiny things like squibs, only very small and without any bang at the end. These are all lighted off at once, and they burn one colour first, then change to another. Nubbs said his would start yellow, because it was cheaper, and finally turn green. The thing was what design to have, and the four chaps in the chemistry class all thought differently. I advised trying a shot at a huge portrait of the Doctor, but when it came to particulars nobody knew how to work a portrait; and Hodges thought we might do something about Guy Fawkes, but Nubbs didn't care about that. Hodges thought again and suggested the words, God bless the Doctor,' and I agreed that it would be fine; but Barker said it was profane, and might annoy the Doctor frightfully, especially when it turned green. Then Nubbs suggested the words, 'Doctor Dunston is a Brick!' and Hodges said that it was good, and Barker said it might be good but it wasn't true anyway. However, it was three to one, though we all admitted that, from his point of view, Barker was right to hate the Doctor because the Doctor hates him.

Then

The thing was to make a licking big frame of light wood,

and arrange the letters across it, and the note of exclamation at the end. This we did, and hammered it against the playground wall, and wheeled up the screens that go behind the bowler's arm in the cricket season, and hid away the set piece behind them till the time came. Likewise we arranged stakes for the roman candles, and a board for the catharine wheels, and a string for the flying pigeons, and so on. And also we rigged up bits of tin round the playground, and by the fir-trees at the top end and behind the gym. These were for Bengal lights and other illuminations, all of which Nubbs had arranged for the paltry sum of 21. 108. The chemistry class had a half-holiday as the time drew on, and we worked like niggers, all four of us. Nubbs commanded, so to speak, and mixed and did the grinding and pounding and stars. Hodges and I hammered up the heavy posts and stakes in the playground, and carried out odd jobs generally; and Barker manufactured cases for everything with brown paper and paste and string.

The set piece took two hundred and thirteen little tubes. These Barker made in lengths of a yard and cut off at the required size. And Nubbs stuffed them-with green fire first and yellow on top. It promised to be a jolly big thing altogether, and four days before the night Nubbs began to get awfully nervous, and to prepare yards and yards of touch-paper. And Corkey minimus heard the Doctor say to Brown:

'Really the lads have devoted no little energy and method on their proceedings; and it appears-so Stoddart tells me that the boy Tomkins has mixed his compounds quite correctly, thereby ensuring that brilliance and variety which is looked for in an exhibition of this kind. I wonder whether we might ask the parents and friends of those who dwell at Merivale and the immediate neighbourhood.'

And Brown, who never misses a chance of showing the brute he is at heart, said:

'Really, I should think twice, Doctor. There is such an element of chance with amateur fireworks. Unfortunately, we can't have a dress rehearsal, as with the scenes from Shakespeare and the recitations at the end of the term.'

'Nevertheless,' said the Doctor, 'I am disposed to run the risk. A little harmless pleasure combined with courtesy to relatives at mid-term is rather desirable than not.'

So about fifty people were asked, and they brought fifty more,

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