My Friend Treacle by Watkin-Elliott
"So Charley is going to marry 'the most charming girl in the
world'!" I ejaculated, after a hearty laugh over the following
epistle from my old friend:—
"I am going to do for myself in earnest; no humbug this time. 'For
better or for worse,' and if it turns out the latter it will be a scrape
no one can get me out of. Of course, you understand I am about to marry,
and I need not add she is the most charming girl in the world: fair,
sky-blue eyes, silk-worm—I mean spun silk hair, lovely in fact! Come
and be my best man: do, old fellow! You have backed me up lots of times
before, and although we have lost sight of one another since 'we were
boys together,' that goes for nothing between us—does it? Write by
return, and say you will support me: I have a dread that I shall marry
the wrong girl, or allow some one else to marry Lucy—that's her
name!—or do something unlucky, unless you look after me.
"Yours, as ever,
"P.S.—It comes off in a fortnight."
"'It,'—well that is vague enough, but I suppose he means
the happy event. Ye gods and little fishes!—to call a marriage
'it'! but that is like Boston. And 'sure to do something unlucky,'
are you? Well, I guess you are not the 'Treacle' of
old unless you get into some quandary over it," I muttered; and
then I threw myself back in my chair and laughed again as some
of our adventures, when we were at Dr. Omega's school—I mean
college—presented themselves to my mind.
Glorious times those! looking back upon them now, although
we did not value them, in our careless youth, at their full
Treacle's—i.e., Boston's—daring always led him to some adventure,
and I always backed him up—in a feeble way, perhaps,—and
we always got found out somehow, and got our deserts in
a manner more satisfactory to lovers of justice than to ourselves.
The very fact of our being punished for the same crime, and
at the same time, was a bond of union between Treacle and
"One touch of sympathy," or one touch of the rod, made us
kin in a manner very peculiar;—a fellow feeling made us
wondrous kind and sympathetic.
You talk of little dinners and little suppers in these days,
and think them epicurean feasts!—but, be really hungry—hungry
as a school-boy, and enjoy a little supper off kippered
herring on the sly—that is a feast, if you like. Such feasts as
these we enjoyed at Mother Kemp's, down the village, when the
Doctor, tutors, and monitors imagined us safely tucked in our
Looking upon Mother Kemp, in those days, I thought her a
good fairy disguised as a witch. Looking back upon her, with
manhood's enlightened judgment, I think she was an unprincipled
old woman, who traded on our weaknesses. I confess
myself to have been a hungry boy,—Boston, with a penitence
which did him credit, used to confess the same: we both had a
propensity to come through our trouser-legs and sleeve-jackets,
and, what was worse, could not help ourselves doing so.
Boston was of an ingenious turn of mind, and it was he who
suggested that those boys, who could afford to be hungry with
any satisfaction to themselves, should club together for a supper
at Mother Kemp's once a-week; and it was through one of
these suppers, or the search for one, that he got his sweet
sobriquet of "Treacle."
He having made the suggestion, we elected him chief of our
expeditions, and thus to a certain extent he held the fate of our
appetites in his hands.
One night we had escaped, as usual, by means of a rope-ladder
made by Boston, from the window of the room of which
I was senior boy, to Mother Kemp's in the village.
Mother Kemp kept a general shop—that is to say, she retailed
tallow, treacle, rope, bacon, herrings, soap, cottons, tops,
balls, butter, sweets, and so forth; and she not only, as a rule,
sold us a supper out of her heterogeneous store, but cooked it, if
needs were, and served it for us in her back parlour—that is, if
we could pay ready cash down.
This night of which I speak we could not. We had appealed
to Madame Kemp's motherly heart for "trust," in vain, and we
were returning home in a state of double the hunger to that in
which we had started, on account of our hopes being unfulfilled,
when Charlie Boston made a remark in a melancholy tone: it
"I wonder if the pantry window is open."
We eyed him askance and in silence.
"And if," with a frown of determination on his brow, "there
is anything inside!"
Then we knew we were "in" for something, be it to eat or
feel, and followed him half in hope, half in fear.
The window was open. Looking upon that casement from my
point of view now, I decide it was an architectural folly, being
no more than seven feet from the ground, and innocent of bars
or protection of any kind, and moreover large enough for any
one of moderate size to creep through.
From our point of view, then, we thought it a very jolly contrivance.
"Hurrah!" shouted Boston, sotto voce—in fact, very much
sotto voce—"we will indeed sup at the doctor's expense to-night,
bless him!—eh, boys?"
Either to the supper or blessing we assented, joyfully; but
when our chief asked who was for reconnoitring, the question
was received in silence.
"Suppose it is missed in the morning—I mean, what we eat,"
suggested some one, timidly.
"Cats!" settled Boston with laconic contempt.
"But cats don't eat cheese, and—"
"Bah! cats eat anything, from mice to stewed-eels' feet. Who
will follow if I lead?"
"Couldn't you get in and hand something out?" asked
"Wish you may get it. Travers, you will follow, will you
"Yes," I replied, with a little inward shudder. "'Lead on,
Macduff, and'—and, what you may call it, be him that first
cries 'Hold, enough!'"
"Old enough for what?" queried the wit of the party.
"Look here, Jenkins, don't you be a fool; this is not the
time for vile puns, or Shakspeare either," with a frown at me.
"It will take a jolly long time for us all to get in one after
the other," I ruminated upon this snub.
"And a jollier long time to get out, if we want to, in a
hurry," suggested the timid one.
"That is true," agreed the chief. "We will toss up, and
'odd man' goes in and hands out—eh?"
But the idea was not carried out, because, upon reflection, we
remembered Mother Kemp had our last coin.
"Never mind," cried Boston, in his happy dare-all way.
"I'll do it! Lend me a back, somebody, and keep a sharp
look out, mind!"
We lent him a back with alacrity, it being a cheap and easy
loan, and he drew himself up.
"I see a pie!" he cried, and the words revived us. "Supposing
it is steak!"
We supposed, and felt more hungry than ever.
Then we watched him with increased interest, as he squeezed
his body through the casement, paused a moment to recover
breath, descended gradually and carefully, and—Heavens,
what was that? There was a scuffle and a gasp. Was it the
I think at this juncture my knees began to tremble; so I
cannot describe what the other sounds in the pantry were—at
least, not with any accuracy.
"I say," began some one of our party—he was always doing
that, saying "I say," and stopping short; a nasty habit, you
know, for when one's nerves are unstrung it makes you anxious,
not to say alarmed.
"Old Omega!" whispered another in an awed tone.
"Can't be; there's no talking."
"No, because he's such an artful old fox; he thinks he'll
catch us all!—Eh?"
The "eh" was to one who thought he had "better go and see
if the ladder was there all right."
It ended in their all going for the same commendable purpose,
and leaving me behind to look after Boston. I was very
much inclined to follow them, I confess, but I liked my friend
too much to leave him, so, having a regard for my own personal
safety, I got behind a laurel and waited.
"Silence there, and nothing more."
Could it be the doctor! Could the doctor keep his anger so
long bottled up—even to catch the rest of us—without bursting?
I thought not: he would have had a fit by this time.
In those days I remember revolving in my mind the advantage
I would gain if Dr. Omega did have a fit and died. It was
very horrible of me, of course, but then I was a boy, and as I
looked at the doctor's purple visage—was it coloured by the
liquid et cetera?—I decided that if he were removed, no matter
how, I might have a jolly holiday until another authority was
placed over me, or I placed under another authority.
O, it was wicked of me, I know, terribly wicked!—but true.
Mais revenons à Boston. If it is not the doctor in there with
him, it may be the cook, I revolved behind the bushes. The
cook ought to be in bed, by this time—so ought I: I was not,
that was a certainty, perhaps the cook was not; if not—why it
was very wrong of her not to be, I concluded virtuously.
The moments passed, and still no sound from the pantry of
voices. Had Charley fallen down in a fit instead of the doctor?
I crept from my hiding place and essayed a faint whistle, recognised
by us all as a call.
"Boston!" I ejaculated, feeling sure now that the doctor
could not possibly be there.
Then, as I watched the casement, as anxiously as any lover
could that of his mistress, I saw something appear at it: by the
light of the moon it looked black and shiny. If the shock had
not deprived me of motion I should have fled. I could not flee,
so I stood bravely to my post and shook like a jelly.
What was it? I felt like Hamlet when he saw the ghost of
his father; but I did not apostrophize it—I knew better,—at
least I had not sufficient choice Shakespearian language at my
tongue's end to do so becomingly.
"Angels and ministers"—my name in Boston's voice. In a
moment the roaring in my ears ceased, and my muscles gained
"Is that you, Charley?" I asked, sensibly enough.
"Why—why, hang it, Boston, what's up—eh?"
"'Up!'—all over me—choking me—Treacle!" gasped my
friend, creeping through the window, with difficulty, as he spoke,
and losing his balance, as he reached the ground, he fell against
me, stuck to me, disengaged himself, and finally stood upright.
"Treacle!" I ejaculated with a roar, which even though the
doctor might have heard I could not suppress, as Charley began
clearing out his eyes and mouth with his already sticky fists.
"Yes, treacle," crossly. "You needn't laugh like that, Bob,
and make such a confounded fool of yourself," he growled. "I
stumbled, somehow, and fell face forward into a pan of it. Don't
make such a row, Travers!" as I continued my cachination and
held my aching sides, "I might have been smothered for all
you would have cared. By Jove! smothered in treacle! Why
a butt of Malmsey would be a natural death in comparison."
"The treacle we have for our puddings and with our brimstone?"
I gasped at last.
"Yes." Here the ludicrous aspect of affairs struck the
martyr, and he joined me in my merriment.
"I didn't know where I was going until I was in it," he continued.
"Ugh! I shall hate treacle like poison for the rest of
my life! Where are the other fellows?"
"Sneaked away; thought Omega had caught you."
At this moment a low whistle, a danger signal, from the boys
just denounced, caused us to hurry from the spot, and reaching
the rope ladder, we were up it like cats, gaining our room just
in time to find that, by the light shining under the door, some
one was on the alert.
"Get under my bed!" I whispered to Charley, as his escape
to his own room was cut off.
In his hurry and confusion, he got into it. I had no time to
demur, and jumped in after him, just as the doctor, suspicious
and austere, entered, candlestick in hand.
"Noise in number three: senior boy, report."
I, senior boy, reported, and replied by a nasal demonstration
which I flattered myself was a very good imitation of a sound
"Robert Travers!" in a voice which might, almost, have
awakened the dead.
"Sir," replied I—Robert—as sleepily as I could.
"Somebody walking about this room, and talking."
If brevity is the soul of wit, then old Omega was the wittiest
fellow I ever came across,—although he never looked it.
He always spoke sharply and to the point, and gave us our
due in the same manner.
Now, as he jerked his sentence out, he approached nearer.
Charley, like a certain big bird, seemed to fancy that, because
his own face was hidden and he could see no one, it followed
that no one could see him; whereas, half his head was
exposed to view.
I sat up in bed, hurriedly giving my companion a vicious kick
of caution, as I explained to the doctor that "little Simpson
walked and talked in his sleep;" at which "little Simpson," in
a corner of the room, groaned audibly.
"Simpson, junior, what do you mean by walking in your
Simpson groaned again, and the doctor, thinking he was
"He eats too much; must diet him. A dose of brimstone
and treacle (I felt Boston jump) in the morning will do him
good—cooling. Remind me, Travers. By the way, sir, how
comes it you are awake?"
"Please, sir, you woke me—awakened me, sir," I stammered.
"Hem," doubtfully. "Whom have you in bed with you—eh?"
as Boston, rendered uncomfortable by his sticky face, had
"With me, sir?" I murmured, vaguely.
"Yes, sir, with you. Come out, whoever it is!" roared
Omega, without further parley.
But Boston remained still as a mouse.
Struck dumb with anger and astonishment, that a boy should
have the impudence to stop in when he ordered him to come
out, the doctor strode round to Charley's side, and laid hands on
the miscreant to have him out by force; but, no sooner had he
felt the viscous state of our hero, than he withdrew them precipitately,
with the pious ejaculation,—
"Good heavens! What is the matter with him!"
"Necessitas non habet legem."
I, being senior boy, had to report. I did so, tremblingly, and
imitated the doctor in my brevity.
"Matter, sir—treacle, sir."
"Treacle!" in a voice of concentrated thunder, if you know
what that is like.
"His mother sent him a pot of treacle, sir, and he—and he
thought it was pomatum, sir, and—and——" my imaginative
powers fell before the lightning of the doctor's glance.
"Boston, come out!"
And Boston, after some little delay caused in having to detach
himself from surroundings, came forth like a lamb—I
mean, like a black sheep.
"What the dev——!"
But I draw a curtain over the rest; the doctor was profane,
and he hurt my feelings very much.
Poor old Treacle! The name stuck to him ever after.
Well, I went to his wedding, and with the exception that at
the critical part of the ceremony he dropped the ring, which,
after we had all scrambled on our knees for, was found in the
bride's veil, he went through the "happiest day of his life"
without a mistake.
As for myself, in searching for that ring, I knocked my head
against Treacle's sister's, and it upset me. A thrill went through
me, which was most painfully pleasant. At the breakfast-table
I became sentimental; in making my speech for the ladies, I
caught her—Treacle's sister's—eye, she smiled, and I lost the
thread of my discourse. It was a very slender thread, and I
never found it again until, one day, I was wandering round
somebody's garden with my arm round Treacle's sister's waist,
and,—but that doesn't matter! She is a jolly little thing, though—Treacle's