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The further adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford under-graduate/Chapter 2

< The further adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford under-graduate



One morning, Mr. Verdant Green and Mr. Bouncer were lounging in the venerable gateway of Brazenface. The former gentleman, being of an amiable, tame-rabbit-keeping disposition, was making himself very happy by whistling popular airs to the Porter's pet bullfinch, who was laboriously engaged on a small tread-mill, winding up his private supply of water. Mr. Bouncer, being of a more volatile temperament, was amusing himself by asking the Porter's opinion on the foreign policy of Great Britain, and by making very audible remarks on the passers-by. His attention was at length riveted by the appearance on the other side of the street, of a modest-looking young gentleman, who appeared to be so ill at ease in his frock-coat and "stick-up" collars, as to lead to the strong presumption that he wore those articles of manly dress for the first time.

"I'll bet you a bottle of blacking, Giglamps," said little Mr. Bouncer, as he directed our hero's attention to the stranger, "that this respected party is an intending Freshman. Look at his customary suits of solemn black, as Othello, or Hamlet, or some other swell, says in Shakspeare. And, besides his black go-to-meeting bags, please to observe," continued the little gentleman, in the tone of a wax-work showman; "please to hobserve the pecooliarity hof the hair-chain, likewise the straps of the period. Look! he's coming this way. Giglamps, I vote we take a rise out of the youth. Hem! Good morning! Can we have the pleasure of assisting you in anything."

"Yes, sir! thank you, sir," replied the youthful stranger, who was flushing like a girl up to the very roots of his curly, auburn hair; "perhaps, sir, you can direct me to Brazenface College, sir?"'

"Well, sir! it's not at all improbable, sir, but what I could, sir;" replied Mr. Bouncer; "but, perhaps, sir, you'll first favour me with your name, and your business there, sir."

"Certainly, sir!" rejoined the stranger; and, while he fumbled at his card-case, the experienced Mr. Bouncer whispered to our hero, "Told you he was a sucking Freshman, Giglamps! He has got a bran new card-case, and says 'sir' at the sight of the academicals." The card handed to Mr. Bouncer, bore the name of "Mr. James Pucker;" and, in smaller characters in the corner of the card, were the words, "Brazenface College, Oxford."

"I came, sir," said the blushing Mr. Pucker, "to enter for my matriculation examination, and I wished to see the gentleman who will have to examine me, sir."

"The doose you do!" said Mr. Bouncer sternly; "then young, man, allow me to say, that you've regularly been and gone and done it, and put your foot in it most completely."

"How-ow-ow, how, sir?" stammered the dupe.

"How?" replied Mr. Bouncer, still more sternly; "do you mean to brazen out your offence by asking how? What could have induced you, sir, to have had printed on this card the name of this College, when you've not a prospect of belonging to it—it may be for years, it may be for never, as the bard says. You've committed a most grievous offence against the University statutes, young gentleman; and so this gentleman here—Mr. Pluckem, the junior examiner—will tell you!" and with that, little Mr. Bouncer nudged Mr. Verdant Green, who took his cue with astonishing aptitude, and glared through his glasses at the trembling Mr. Pucker, who stood blushing, and bowing, and heartily repenting that his school-boy vanity had led him to invest four-and-sixpence in "100 cards, and plate, engraved with name and address."

"Put the cards in your pocket, sir, and don't let me see them again!" said our hero in his newly-confirmed title of the junior examiner; quite rejoiced at the opportunity afforded him of proving to his friend that he was no longer a Freshman.

"He forgives you for the sake of your family, young man!" said Mr. Bouncer with pathos; "you've come to the right shop, for this is Brazenface; and you've come just at the right time, for here is the gentleman who will assist Mr. Pluckem in examining you;" and Mr. Bouncer pointed to Mr. Four-in-hand Fosbrooke, who was coming up the street on his way from the Schools, where he was making a very laudable (but as it proved, futile) endeavour "to get through his smalls," or, in other words, to pass his Little-go examination. The hoax which had been suggested to the ingenious mind of Mr. Bouncer, was based upon the fact of Mr. Fosbrooke's being properly got-up for his sacrifice in a white tie, and a pair of very small bands—the two articles, which, with the usual academicals, form the costume demanded by Alma Mater of all her children when they take their places in her Schools. And, as Mr. Fosbrooke was far too politic a gentleman to irritate the Examiners by appearing in a "loud" or sporting costume, he had carried out the idea of clerical character suggested by the bands and choker, by a quiet, gentlemanly suit of black, which, he had fondly hoped, would have softened his Examiners' manners, and not permitted them to be brutal.

Mr. Four-in-hand Fosbrooke, therefore, to the unsophisticated eye of the blushing Mr. Pucker, presented a very fine specimen of the Examining Tutor; and this impression on Mr. Pucker's mind was heightened by Mr. Fosbrooke, after a few minutes' private conversation with the other two gentlemen, turning to him, and saying, "It will be extremely inconvenient to me to examine you now; but as you probably wish to return home as soon as possible, I will endeavour to conclude the business at once—this gentleman, Mr. Pluckem," pointing to our hero, "having kindly promised to assist me. Mr. Bouncer, will you have the goodness to follow with the young gentleman to my rooms?"

Leaving Mr. Pucker to express his thanks for this great kindness, and Mr. Bouncer to plunge him into the depths of trepidation by telling him terrible stories of the Examiner's fondness for rejecting the candidates for examination, Mr. Fosbrooke and our hero ascended to the rooms of the former, where they hastily cleared away cigar-boxes and pipes, turned certain French pictures with their faces to the wall, and covered over with an outspread Times a regiment of porter and spirit bottles which had just been smuggled in, and were drawn up rank-and-file on the sofa. Having made this preparation, and furnished the table with pens, ink, and scribble-paper, Mr. Bouncer and the victim were admitted.

"Take a seat, sir," said Mr. Fosbrooke, gravely; and Mr. Pucker put his hat on the ground, and sat down at the table in a state of blushing nervousness. "Have you been at a public school?"

"Yes, sir," stammered the victim; "a very public one, sir; it was a boarding-school, sir; forty boarders, and thirty day-boys, sir; I was a day-boy, sir, and in the first class."

"First class of an uncommon slow train!" muttered Mr. Bouncer.

"And are you going back to the boarding-school?" asked Mr. Verdant Green, with the air of an assistant judge.

"No, sir," replied Mr. Pucker, "I have just done with it; quite done with school, sir, this last half; and papa is going to put me to read with a clergyman until it is time for me to come to college."

"Refreshing innocence!" murmured Mr. Bouncer; while Mr. Fosbrooke and our hero conferred together, and hastily wrote on two sheets of the scribble-paper.

Pg 160 - Mr Verdant Green.png

"Now, sir," said Mr. Fosbrooke to the victim, after a paper had been completed, "let us see what your Latin writing is like. Have the goodness to turn what I have written into Latin; and be very careful, sir," added Mr. Fosbrooke, sternly, "be very careful that it is Cicero's Latin, sir!" and he handed Mr. Pucker a sheet of paper, on which he had scribbled the following:

"To be Translated into Prose-y Latin, in the Manner of Cicero's Orations after Dinner.

"If, therefore, any on your bench, my luds, or in this assembly, should entertain an opinion that the proximate parts of a mellifluous mind are for ever conjoined and unconnected, I submit to you, my luds, that it will of necessity follow, that such clandestine conduct being a mere nothing,—or, in the noble language of our philosophers, bosh,—every individual act of overt misunderstanding will bring interminable limits to the empiricism of thought, and will rebound in the very lowest degree to the credit of the malefactor."

"To be Turned into Latin after the Master of the Animals of Tacitus.

"She went into the garden to cut a cabbage to make an apple-pie. Just then, a great she-bear coming down the street, poked its nose into the shop-window. 'What! no soap!' So he died, and she (very imprudently) married the barber. And there were present at the wedding the Joblillies, and the Piccannies, and the Gobelites, and the great Panjandrum himself, with the little button on top. So they all set to playing Catch-who-catch-can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots."

It was well for the purposes of the hoaxers that Mr. Pucker's trepidation prevented him from making a calm perusal of the paper; and he was nervously doing his best to turn the nonsensical English word by word into equally nonsensical Latin, when his limited powers of Latin writing were brought to a full stop by the untranslateable word "Bosh." As he could make nothing of this, he wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and gazed appealingly at the benignant features of Mr. Verdant Green. The appealing gaze was answered by our hero ordering Mr. Pucker to hand in his paper for examination, and to endeavour to answer the questions which he and his brother examiner had been writing down for him.

Mr. Pucker took the two papers of questions, and read as follows:


"1. Draw a historical parallel (after the manner of Plutarch) between Hannibal and Annie Laurie.

"2. What internal evidence does the Odyssey afford, that Homer sold his Trojan war-ballads at three yards an obolus?

"3. Show the strong presumption there is, that Nox was the god of battles.

"4. State reasons for presuming that the practice of lithography may be traced back to the time of Perseus and the Gorgon's head.

"5. In what way were the shades on the banks of the Styx supplied with spirits?

"6. Show the probability of the College Hornpipe having been used by the students of the Academia; and give passages from Thucydides and Tennyson in support of your answer.

"7. Give a brief account of the Roman Emperors who visited the United States, and state what they did there.

"8. Show from the redundancy of the word γας in Sophocles, that gas must have been used by the Athenians; also state, if the expression οἱ Βἁρβαροι would seem to signify that they were close shavers.

9. Show from the-words 'Hoc erat in votis,' (Sat. VI., Lib. II.,) that Horace's favourite wine was hock, and that he meant to say 'he always voted for hock.'

"10. Draw a parallel between the Children in the Wood and Achilles in the Styx.

"11. When it is stated that Ariadne, being deserted by Theseus, fell in love with Bacchus, is it the poetical way of asserting that she took to drinking to drown her grief?

"12. Name the prima donnas who have appeared in the operas of Virgil and Horace since the 'Virgilii Opera,' and 'Horatii Opera' were composed."


"1. 'The extremities of a line are points.' Prove this by the rule of railways.

"2. Show the fallacy of defining an angle, as 'a worm at one end and a fool at the other.'

"3. If one side of a triangle be produced, what is there to prevent the other two sides from also being brought forward?

"4. Let A and B be squares having their respective boundaries in E and W. ends, and let C and D be circles moving in them; the circle D will be superior to the circle C.

"5. In equal circles, equal figures from various squares will stand upon the same footing.

"6. If two parts of a circle fall out, the one part will cut the other.

"7. Describe a square which shall be larger than Belgrave Square.

"8. If the gnomon of a sun-dial be divided into two equal, and also into two unequal parts, what would be its value?

"9. Describe a perpendicular triangle having the squares of the semi-circle equal to half the extremity between the points of section.

"10. If an Austrian florin is worth 5.61 francs, what will be the value of Pennsylvanian bonds? Prove by rule-of-three inverse.

"11. If seven horses eat twenty-five acres of grass in three days, what will be their condition on the fourth day? Prove by practice.

"12. If a coach-wheel, 6 5/30 in diameter and 5 9/47 in circumference, makes 240 4/10 revolutions in a second, how many men will it take to do the same piece of work in ten days?

"13. Find the greatest common measure of a quart bottle of Oxford port.

"14. Find the value of a 'bob,' a 'tanner,' a 'joey,' and a 'tizzy.'

"15. Explain the common denominators 'brick,' 'trump,' 'spoon,' 'muff,' and state what was the greatest common denominator in the last term.

"16. Reduce two academical years to their lowest terms.

"17. Reduce a Christ Church tuft to the level of a Teddy Hall man.

"18. If a freshman A have any mouth x, and a bottle of wine y, show how many applications of x to y will place y + y before A."

Mr. Pucker did not know what to make of such extraordinary and unexpected questions. He blushed, attempted to write, fingered his curls, tried to collect his faculties, and then appeared to give himself over to despair; whereupon little Mr. Bouncer was seized with an immoderate fit of coughing which had well nigh brought the farce to its dénouement.

"I'm afraid, young gentleman," said Mr. Four-in-hand Fosbrooke, as he carelessly settled his white tie and bands, "I am afraid, Mr. Pucker, that your learning is not yet up to the Brazenface standard. We are particularly cautious about admitting any gentleman whose acquirements are not of the highest order. But we will be as lenient to you as we are able, and give you one more chance to retrieve yourself. We will try a little vivâ voce, Mr. Pucker. Perhaps, sir, you will favour me with your opinions on the Fourth Punic War, and will also give me a slight sketch of the constitution of ancient Heliopolis."

Mr. Pucker waxed, if possible, redder and hotter than before, he gasped like a fish out of water; and, like Dryden's prince, "unable to conceal his pain," he

"Sigh'd and look'd, sigh'd and look'd,
Sigh'd and look'd, and sigh'd again."

But all was to no purpose: he was unable to frame an answer to Mr. Fosbrooke's questions.

"Ah, sir," continued his tormentor, "I see that you will not do for us yet awhile, and I am therefore under the painful necessity of rejecting you. I should advise you, sir, to read hard for another twelvemonths, and endeavour to master those subjects in which you have now failed. For, a young man, Mr. Pucker, who knows nothing about the Fourth Punic War, and the constitution of ancient Heliopolis, is quite unfit to be enrolled among the members of such a learned college as Brazenface. Mr. Pluckem quite coincides with me in this decision." (Here Mr. Verdant Green gave a Burleigh nod.) "We feel very sorry for you, Mr. Pucker, and also for your unfortunate family; but we recommend you to add to your present stock of knowledge, and to keep those visiting-cards for another twelvemonth." And Mr. Fosbrooke and our hero—disregarding poor Mr. Pucker's entreaties that they would consider his pa and ma, and would please to matriculate him this once, and he would read very hard, indeed he would—turned to Mr. Bouncer and gave some private instructions, which caused that gentleman immediately to vanish, and seek out Mr. Robert Filcher.

Five minutes after, that excellent Scout met the dejected Mr. Pucker as he was crossing the Quad on his way from Mr. Fosbrooke's rooms.

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Mr. Filcher, touching his forehead; for, as Mr. Filcher, after the manner of his tribe, never was seen in a head-covering, he was unable to raise his hat or cap; "beg your pardon, sir! but was you a lookin' for the party as examines the young gents for their matrickylation?"

"Eh?—no! I have just come from him," replied Mr. Pucker, dolefully.

"Beg your pardon, sir," remarked Mr. Filcher, "but his rooms ain't that way at all. Mr. Slowcoach, as is the party you ought to have seed, has his rooms quite in a hopposite direction, sir; and he's the honly party as examines the matrickylatin' gents."

"But I have been examined," observed Mr. Pucker, with the air of a plucked man; "and I am sorry to say that I was rejected, and"—

"I dessay, sir," interrupted Mr. Filcher; "but I think it's a 'oax, sir!"

"A what?" stammered Mr. Pucker.

"A 'oax—a sell;" replied the Scout, confidentially. "You see, sir, I think some of the gents have been makin' a little game of you, sir; they often does with fresh parties like you, sir, that seem fresh and hinnocent like; and I dessay they've been makin' believe to examine you, sir, and a pretendin' that you wasn't clever enough. But they don't mean no harm, sir; it's only their play, bless you!"

"Then," said Mr. Pucker, whose countenance had been gradually clearing with every word the Scout spoke; "then I'm not really rejected, but have still a chance of passing my examination?"

"Percisely so, sir," replied Mr. Filcher; "and—hexcuse me, sir, for a hintin' of it to you,—but, if you would let me adwise you, sir, you wouldn't go for to mention anythin' about the 'oax to Mr. Slowcoach; he wouldn't be pleased, sir, and you'd only get laughed at. If you like to go to him now, sir, I know he's in his rooms, and I'll show you the way there with the greatest of pleasure."

Mr. Pucker, immensely relieved in mind, gladly put himself under the Scout's guidance, and was admitted into the presence of Mr. Slowcoach. In twenty minutes after this he issued from the examining tutor's rooms with a joyful countenance, and again encountered Mr. Robert Filcher.

"Hope you've done the job this time, sir," said the Scout.

"Yes," replied the radiant Mr. Pucker; "and at two o'clock I am to see the Vice-chancellor; and I shall be able to come to college this time next year."

"Werry glad of it, indeed, sir!" observed Mr. Filcher, with genuine emotion, and an eye to future perquisites; "and I suppose, sir, you didn't say a word about the 'oax?"

"Not a word!" replied Mr. Pucker.

"Then, sir," said Mr. Filcher, with enthusiasm, "hexcuse me, but you're a trump, sir! And Mr. Fosbrooke's compliments to you, sir, and he'll be 'appy if you'll come up into his rooms, and take a glass of wine after the fatigues of the examination. And,—hexcuse me again, sir, for a hintin' of it to you, but of course you can't be aweer of the customs of the place, unless somebody tells you on 'em,—I shall be werry glad to drink your werry good health, sir."

Need it be stated that the blushing Mr. Pucker, delirious with joy at the sudden change in the state of affairs, and the delightful prospect of being a member of the University, not only tipped Mr. Filcher a five-shilling piece, but also paid a second visit to Mr. Fosbrooke's rooms, where he found that gentleman in his usual costume, and by him was introduced to the Mr. Pluckem, who now bore the name of Mr. Verdant Green? Need it be stated that the nervous Mr. Pucker blushed and laughed, and laughed and blushed, while his two pseudo-examiners took wine with him in the most friendly manner; Mr. Bouncer pronouncing him to be "an out-and-outer, and no mistake!" And need it be stated that, after this undergraduate display of hoaxing, Mr. Verdant Green would feel exceedingly offended were he still to be called "an Oxford Freshman?"