Men's Wives HTML version

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Berry
Chapter 1
The Fight At Slaughter House
I 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
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 anyone 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
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.