The Head of Kay's
by P. G. Wodehouse
I. MAINLY ABOUT
II. AN EVENING
III. THE FINAL
IV. HARMONY AND
VI. THE RAID ON
VII. A CLUE
VIII. A NIGHT
SENSATIONS OF AN
XI. THE SENIOR
XIII. THE FIGHT
IN THE DORMITORY
XV. DOWN TOWN
HAPPENED TO FENN
XVII. FENN HUNTS
XVIII. A VAIN
XIX. THE GUILE
XX. JIMMY THE
XXI. IN WHICH AN
CHANGES ITS NAME
XXIV. THE SPORTS
I. MAINLY ABOUT FENN
“When we get licked tomorrow by half-a-dozen wickets,” said Jimmy
Silver, lilting his chair until the back touched the wall, “don't say I
didn't warn you. If you fellows take down what I say from time to time
in note-books, as you ought to do, you'll remember that I offered to
give anyone odds that Kay's would out us in the final. I always said
that a really hot man like Fenn was more good to a side than
half-a-dozen ordinary men. He can do all the bowling and all the
batting. All the fielding, too, in the slips.”
Tea was just over at Blackburn's, and the bulk of the house had gone
across to preparation in the school buildings. The prefects, as was
their custom, lingered on to finish the meal at their leisure. These
after-tea conversations were quite an institution at Blackburn's. The
labours of the day were over, and the time for preparation for the
morrow had not yet come. It would be time to be thinking of that in
another hour. Meanwhile, a little relaxation might be enjoyed.
Especially so as this was the last day but two of the summer term, and
all necessity for working after tea had ceased with the arrival of the
last lap of the examinations.
Silver was head of the house, and captain of its cricket team, which
was nearing the end of its last match, the final for the inter-house
cup, and—on paper—getting decidedly the worst of it. After riding in
triumph over the School House, Bedell's, and Mulholland's, Blackburn's
had met its next door neighbour, Kay's, in the final, and, to the
surprise of the great majority of the school, was showing up badly. The
match was affording one more example of how a team of average merit all
through may sometimes fall before a one-man side. Blackburn's had the
three last men on the list of the first eleven, Silver, Kennedy, and
Challis, and at least nine of its representatives had the reputation of
being able to knock up a useful twenty or thirty at any time. Kay's, on
the other hand, had one man, Fenn. After him the tail started. But Fenn
was such an exceptional all-round man that, as Silver had said, he was
as good as half-a-dozen of the Blackburn's team, equally formidable
whether batting or bowling—he headed the school averages at both. He
was one of those batsmen who seem to know exactly what sort of ball you
are going to bowl before it leaves your hand, and he could hit like
another Jessop. As for his bowling, he bowled left hand—always a
puzzling eccentricity to an undeveloped batsman—and could send them
down very fast or very slow, as he thought best, and it was hard to see
which particular brand he was going to serve up before it was actually
But it is not necessary to enlarge on his abilities. The figures
against his name in Wisden prove a good deal. The fact that he
had steered Kay's through into the last round of the house-matches
proves still more. It was perfectly obvious to everyone that, if only
you could get Fenn out for under ten, Kay's total for that innings
would be nearer twenty than forty. They were an appalling side. But
then no house bowler had as yet succeeded in getting Fenn out for under
ten. In the six innings he had played in the competition up to date, he
had made four centuries, an eighty, and a seventy.
Kennedy, the second prefect at Blackburn's, paused in the act of
grappling with the remnant of a pot of jam belonging to some person
unknown, to reply to Silver's remarks.
“We aren't beaten yet,” he said, in his solid way. Kennedy's chief
characteristics were solidity, and an infinite capacity for taking
pains. Nothing seemed to tire or discourage him. He kept pegging away
till he arrived. The ordinary person, for instance, would have
considered the jam-pot, on which he was then engaged, an empty jam-pot.
Kennedy saw that there was still a strawberry (or it may have been a
section of a strawberry) at the extreme end, and he meant to have that
coy vegetable if he had to squeeze the pot to get at it. To take
another instance, all the afternoon of the previous day he had bowled
patiently at Fenn while the latter lifted every other ball into space.
He had been taken off three times, and at every fresh attack he had
plodded on doggedly, until at last, as he had expected, the batsman had
misjudged a straight one, and he had bowled him all over his wicket.
Kennedy generally managed to get there sooner or later.
“It's no good chucking the game up simply because we're in a tight
place,” he said, bringing the spoon to the surface at last with the
section of strawberry adhering to the end of it. “That sort of thing's
“He calls me feeble!” shouted Jimmy Silver. “By James, I've put a
man to sleep for less.”
It was one of his amusements to express himself from time to time in
a melodramatic fashion, sometimes accompanying his words with suitable
gestures. It was on one of these occasions—when he had assumed at a
moment's notice the role of the “Baffled Despot", in an argument
with Kennedy in his study on the subject of the house football
team—that he broke what Mr Blackburn considered a valuable door with a
poker. Since then he had moderated his transports.
“They've got to make seventy-nine,” said Kennedy.
Challis, the other first eleven man, was reading a green
“I don't think Kay's ought to have the face to stick the cup up in
their dining-room,” he said, “considering the little they've done to
win it. If they do win it, that is. Still, as they made two
hundred first innings, they ought to be able to knock off seventy-nine.
But I was saying that the pot ought to go to Fenn. Lot the rest of the
team had to do with it. Blackburn's, first innings, hundred and
fifty-one; Fenn, eight for forty-nine. Kay's, two hundred and one;
Fenn, a hundred and sixty-four not out. Second innings, Blackburn's
hundred and twenty-eight; Fenn ten for eighty. Bit thick, isn't it? I
suppose that's what you'd call a one-man team.”
Williams, one of the other prefects, who had just sat down at the
piano for the purpose of playing his one tune—a cake-walk, of which,
through constant practice, he had mastered the rudiments—spoke over
his shoulder to Silver.
“I tell you what, Jimmy,” he said, “you've probably lost us the pot
by getting your people to send brother Billy to Kay's. If he hadn't
kept up his wicket yesterday, Fenn wouldn't have made half as many.”
When his young brother had been sent to Eckleton two terms before,
Jimmy Silver had strongly urged upon his father the necessity of
placing him in some house other than Blackburn's. He felt that a head
of a house, even of so orderly and perfect a house as Blackburn's, has
enough worries without being saddled with a small brother. And on the
previous afternoon young Billy Silver, going in eighth wicket for
Kay's, had put a solid bat in front of everything for the space of one
hour, in the course of which he made ten runs and Fenn sixty. By
scoring odd numbers off the last ball of each over, Fenn had managed to
secure the majority of the bowling in the most masterly way.
“These things will happen,” said Silver, resignedly. “We Silvers,
you know, can't help making runs. Come on, Williams, let's have that
tune, and get it over.”
Williams obliged. It was a classic piece called “The Coon Band
Contest", remarkable partly for a taking melody, partly for the vast
possibilities of noise which it afforded. Williams made up for his
failure to do justice to the former by a keen appreciation of the
latter. He played the piece through again, in order to correct the
mistakes he had made at his first rendering of it. Then he played it
for the third time to correct a new batch of errors.
“I should like to hear Fenn play that,” said Challis. “You're
awfully good, you know, Williams, but he might do it better still.”
“Get him to play it as an encore at the concert,” said Williams,
starting for the fourth time.
The talented Fenn was also a musician,—not a genius at the piano,
as he was at cricket, but a sufficiently sound performer for his age,
considering that he had not made a special study of it. He was to play
at the school concert on the following day.
“I believe Fenn has an awful time at Kay's,” said Jimmy Silver. “It
must be a fair sort of hole, judging from the specimens you see
crawling about in Kay caps. I wish I'd known my people were sending
young Billy there. I'd have warned them. I only told them not to sling
him in here. I had no idea they'd have picked Kay's.”
“Fenn was telling me the other day,” said Kennedy, “that being in
Kay's had spoiled his whole time at the school. He always wanted to
come to Blackburn's, only there wasn't room that particular term. Bad
luck, wasn't it? I don't think he found it so bad before he became head
of the house. He didn't come into contact with Kay so much. But now he
finds that he can't do a thing without Kay buzzing round and
“I wonder,” said Jimmy Silver, thoughtfully, “if that's why he bowls
so fast. To work it off, you know.”
In the course of a beautiful innings of fifty-three that afternoon,
the captain of Blackburn's had received two of Fenn's speediest on the
same spot just above the pad in rapid succession, and he now hobbled
painfully when he moved about.
The conversation that evening had dealt so largely with Fenn—the
whole school, indeed, was talking of nothing but his great attempt to
win the cricket cup single-handed—that Kennedy, going out into the
road for a breather before the rest of the boarders returned from
preparation, made his way to Kay's to see if Fenn was imitating his
example, and taking the air too.
He found him at Kay's gate, and they strolled towards the school
buildings together. Fenn was unusually silent.
“Well?” said Kennedy, after a minute had passed without a remark.
Fenn laughed what novelists are fond of calling a mirthless laugh.
“Oh, I don't know,” he said; “I'm sick of this place.”
Kennedy inspected his friend's face anxiously by the light of the
lamp over the school gate. There was no mistake about it. Fenn
certainly did look bad. His face always looked lean and craggy, but
tonight there was a difference. He looked used up.
“Fagged?” asked Kennedy.
“Everything. I wish you could come into Kay's for a bit just to see
what it's like. Then you'd understand. At present I don't suppose
you've an idea of it. I'd like to write a book on 'Kay Day by Day'. I'd
have plenty to put in it.”
“What's he been doing?”
“Oh, nothing out of the ordinary run. It's the fact that he's always
at it that does me. You get a houseful of—well, you know the sort of
chap the average Kayite is. They'd keep me busy even if I were allowed
a free hand. But I'm not. Whenever I try and keep order and stop things
a bit, out springs the man Kay from nowhere, and takes the job out of
my hands, makes a ghastly mess of everything, and retires purring. Once
in every three times, or thereabouts, he slangs me in front of the kids
for not keeping order. I'm glad this is the end of the term. I couldn't
stand it much longer. Hullo, here come the chaps from prep. We'd better
be getting back.”
II. AN EVENING AT KAY'S
They turned, and began to walk towards the houses. Kennedy felt
miserable. He never allowed himself to be put out, to any great extent,
by his own worries, which, indeed, had not been very numerous up to the
present, but the misfortunes of his friends always troubled him
exceedingly. When anything happened to him personally, he found the
discomfort of being in a tight place largely counterbalanced by the
excitement of trying to find a way out. But the impossibility of
helping Fenn in any way depressed him.
“It must be awful,” he said, breaking the silence.
“It is,” said Fenn, briefly.
“But haven't the house-matches made any difference? Blackburn's
always frightfully bucked when the house does anything. You can do
anything you like with him if you lift a cup. I should have thought Kay
would have been all right when he saw you knocking up centuries, and
getting into the final, and all that sort of thing.”
“Kay!” he said. “My dear man, he doesn't know. I don't
suppose he's got the remotest idea that we are in the final at all, or,
if he has, he doesn't understand what being in the final means.”
“But surely he'll be glad if you lick us tomorrow?” asked Kennedy.
Such indifference on the part of a house-master respecting the fortunes
of his house seemed to him, having before him the bright example of Mr
Blackburn almost incredible.
“I don't suppose so,” said Fenn. “Or, if he is, I'll bet he doesn't
show it. He's not like Blackburn. I wish he was. Here he comes, so
perhaps we'd better talk about something else.”
The vanguard of the boys returning from preparation had passed them,
and they were now standing at the gate of the house. As Fenn spoke, a
little, restless-looking man in cap and gown came up. His clean-shaven
face wore an expression of extreme alertness—the sort of look a ferret
wears as he slips in at the mouth of a rabbit-hole. A doctor, called
upon to sum up Mr Kay at a glance, would probably have said that he
suffered from nerves, which would have been a perfectly correct
diagnosis, though none of the members of his house put his manners and
customs down to that cause. They considered that the methods he pursued
in the management of the house were the outcome of a naturally
malignant disposition. This was, however, not the case. There is no
reason to suppose that Mr Kay did not mean well. But there is no doubt
that he was extremely fussy. And fussiness—with the possible
exceptions of homicidal mania and a taste for arson—is quite the worst
characteristic it is possible for a house-master to possess.
He caught sight of Fenn and Kennedy at the gate, and stopped in his
“What are you doing here, Fenn?” he asked, with an abruptness which
brought a flush to the latter's face. “Why are you outside the house?”
Kennedy began to understand why it was that his friend felt so
strongly on the subject of his house-master. If this was the sort of
thing that happened every day, no wonder that there was dissension in
the house of Kay. He tried to imagine Blackburn speaking in that way to
Jimmy Silver or himself, but his imagination was unequal to the task.
Between Mr Blackburn and his prefects there existed a perfect
understanding. He relied on them to see that order was kept, and they
acted accordingly. Fenn, by the exercise of considerable self-control,
had always been scrupulously polite to Mr Kay.
“I came out to get some fresh air before lock-up, sir,” he replied.
“Well, go in. Go in at once. I cannot allow you to be outside the
house at this hour. Go indoors directly.”
Kennedy expected a scene, but Fenn took it quite quietly.
“Good night, Kennedy,” he said.
“So long,” said Kennedy.
Fenn caught his eye, and smiled painfully. Then he turned and went
into the house.
Mr Kay's zeal for reform was apparently still unsatisfied. He
directed his batteries towards Kennedy.
“Go to your house at once, Kennedy. You have no business out here at
This, thought Kennedy, was getting a bit too warm. Mr Kay might do
as he pleased with his own house, but he was hanged if he was going to
trample on him.
“Mr Blackburn is my house-master, sir,” he said with great respect.
Mr Kay stared.
“My house-master,” continued Kennedy with gusto, slightly
emphasising the first word, “knows that I always go out just before
lock-up, and he has no objection.”
And, to emphasise this point, he walked towards the school buildings
again. For a moment it seemed as if Mr Kay intended to call him back,
but he thought better of it. Mr Blackburn, in normal circumstances a
pacific man, had one touchy point—his house. He resented any
interference with its management, and was in the habit of saying so. Mr
Kay remembered one painful scene in the Masters' Common Room, when he
had ventured to let fall a few well-meant hints as to how a house
should be ruled. Really, he had thought Blackburn would have choked.
Better, perhaps, to leave him to look after his own affairs.
So Mr Kay followed Fenn indoors, and Kennedy, having watched him
vanish, made his way to Blackburn's.
Quietly as Fenn had taken the incident at the gate, it nevertheless
rankled. He read prayers that night in a distinctly unprayerful mood.
It seemed to him that it would be lucky if he could get through to the
end of the term before Mr Kay applied that last straw which does not
break the backs of camels only. Eight weeks' holiday, with plenty of
cricket, would brace him up for another term. And he had been invited
to play for the county against Middlesex four days after the holidays
began. That should have been a soothing thought. But it really seemed
to make matters worse. It was hard that a man who on Monday would be
bowling against Warner and Beldam, or standing up to Trott and Hearne,
should on the preceding Tuesday be sent indoors like a naughty child by
a man who stood five-feet-one in his boots, and was devoid of any sort
of merit whatever.
It seemed to him that it would help him to sleep peacefully that
night if he worked off a little of his just indignation upon somebody.
There was a noise going on in the fags' room. There always was at
Kay's. It was not a particularly noisy noise—considering; but it had
better be stopped. Badly as Kay had treated him, he remembered that he
was head of the house, and as such it behoved him to keep order in the
He went downstairs, and, on arriving on the scene of action, found
that the fags were engaged upon spirited festivities, partly in honour
of the near approach of the summer holidays, partly because—miracles
barred—the house was going on the morrow to lift the cricket-cup.
There were a good many books flying about, and not a few slippers.
There was a confused mass rolling in combat on the floor, and the table
was occupied by a scarlet-faced individual, who passed the time by
kicking violently at certain hands, which were endeavouring to drag him
from his post, and shrieking frenzied abuse at the owners of the said
hands. It was an animated scene, and to a deaf man might have been most
Fenn's appearance was the signal for a temporary suspension of
“What the dickens is all this row about?” he inquired.
No one seemed ready at the moment with a concise explanation. There
was an awkward silence. One or two of the weaker spirits even went so
far as to sit down and begin to read. All would have been well but for
a bright idea which struck some undiscovered youth at the back of the
“Three cheers for Fenn!” observed this genial spirit, in no
The idea caught on. It was just what was wanted to give a finish to
the evening's festivities. Fenn had done well by the house. He had
scored four centuries and an eighty, and was going to knock off the
runs against Blackburn's tomorrow off his own bat. Also, he had taken
eighteen wickets in the final house-match. Obviously Fenn was a person
deserving of all encouragement. It would be a pity to let him think
that his effort had passed unnoticed by the fags' room. Happy thought!
Three cheers and one more, and then “He's a jolly good fellow", to wind
It was while those familiar words, “It's a way we have in the public
scho-o-o-o-l-s", were echoing through the room in various keys, that a
small and energetic form brushed past Fenn as he stood in the doorway,
vainly trying to stop the fags' choral efforts.
It was Mr Kay.
The singing ceased gradually, very gradually. It was some time
before Mr Kay could make himself heard. But after a couple of minutes
there was a lull, and the house-master's address began to be audible.
“...unendurable noise. What is the meaning of it? I will not have
it. Do you hear? It is disgraceful. Every boy in this room will write
me two hundred lines by tomorrow evening. It is abominable, Fenn.” He
wheeled round towards the head of the house. “Fenn, I am surprised at
you standing here and allowing such a disgraceful disturbance to go on.
Really, if you cannot keep order better—It is disgraceful,
Mr Kay shot out of the room. Fenn followed in his wake, and the
procession made its way to the house-masters' study. It had been a near
thing, but the last straw had arrived before the holidays.
Mr Kay wheeled round as he reached his study door.
Fenn said nothing.
“Have you anything you wish to say, Fenn?”
“I thought you might have something to say to me, sir.”
“I do not understand you, Fenn.”
“I thought you might wish to apologise for slanging me in front of
It is wonderful what a difference the last straw will make in one's
demeanour to a person.
“Apologise! I think you forget whom it is you are speaking to.”
When a master makes this well-worn remark, the wise youth realises
that the time has come to close the conversation. All Fenn's prudence,
however, had gone to the four winds.
“If you wanted to tell me I was not fit to be head of the house, you
needn't have done it before a roomful of fags. How do you think I can
keep order in the house if you do that sort of thing?”
Mr Kay overcame his impulse to end the interview abruptly in order
to put in a thrust.
“You do not keep order in the house, Fenn,” he said, acidly.
“I do when I am not interfered with.”
“You will be good enough to say 'sir' when you speak to me, Fenn,”
said Mr Kay, thereby scoring another point. In the stress of the
moment, Fenn had not noticed the omission.
He was silenced. And before he could recover himself, Mr Kay was in
his study, and there was a closed, forbidding door between them.
And as he stared at it, it began slowly to dawn upon Fenn that he
had not shown up to advantage in the recent interview. In a word, he
had made a fool of himself.
III. THE FINAL HOUSE-MATCH
Blackburn's took the field at three punctually on the following
afternoon, to play out the last act of the final house-match. They were
not without some small hope of victory, for curious things happen at
cricket, especially in the fourth innings of a match. And runs are
admitted to be easier saved than made. Yet seventy-nine seemed an
absurdly small score to try and dismiss a team for, and in view of the
fact that that team contained a batsman like Fenn, it seemed smaller
still. But Jimmy Silver, resolutely as he had declared victory
impossible to his intimate friends, was not the man to depress his team
by letting it become generally known that he considered Blackburn's
“You must work like niggers in the field,” he said; “don't give away
a run. Seventy-nine isn't much to make, but if we get Fenn out for a
few, they won't come near it.”
He did not add that in his opinion Fenn would take very good care
that he did not get out for a few. It was far more likely that he would
make that seventy-nine off his own bat in a dozen overs.
“You'd better begin, Kennedy,” he continued, “from the top end.
Place your men where you want 'em. I should have an extra man in the
deep, if I were you. That's where Fenn kept putting them last innings.
And you'll want a short leg, only for goodness sake keep them off the
leg-side if you can. It's a safe four to Fenn every time if you don't.
Look out, you chaps. Man in.”
Kay's first pair were coming down the pavilion steps.
Challis, going to his place at short slip, called Silver's attention
to a remarkable fact.
“Hullo,” he said, “why isn't Fenn coming in first?”
“What! By Jove, nor he is. That's queer. All the better for us. You
might get a bit finer, Challis, in case they snick 'em.”
Wayburn, who had accompanied Fenn to the wicket at the beginning of
Kay's first innings, had now for his partner one Walton, a large,
unpleasant-looking youth, said to be a bit of a bruiser, and known to
be a black sheep. He was one of those who made life at Kay's so close
an imitation of an Inferno. His cricket was of a rustic order. He hit
hard and high. When allowed to do so, he hit often. But, as a rule, he
left early, a prey to the slips or deep fields. Today was no exception
to that rule.
Kennedy's first ball was straight and medium-paced. It was a little
too short, however, and Walton, letting go at it with a semi-circular
sweep like the drive of a golfer, sent it soaring over mid-on's head
and over the boundary. Cheers from the pavilion.
Kennedy bowled his second ball with the same purposeful air, and
Walton swept at it as before. There was a click, and Jimmy Silver, who
was keeping wicket, took the ball comfortably on a level with his chin.
The umpire's hand went up, and Walton went out—reluctantly,
murmuring legends of how he had not gone within a yard of the thing.
It was only when the next batsman who emerged from the pavilion
turned out to be his young brother and not Fenn, that Silver began to
see that something was wrong. It was conceivable that Fenn might have
chosen to go in first wicket down instead of opening the batting, but
not that he should go in second wicket. If Kay's were to win it was
essential that he should begin to bat as soon as possible. Otherwise
there might be no time for him to knock off the runs. However good a
batsman is, he can do little if no one can stay with him.
There was no time to question the newcomer. He must control his
curiosity until the fall of the next wicket.
“Man in,” he said.
Billy Silver was in many ways a miniature edition of his brother,
and he carried the resemblance into his batting. The head of
Blackburn's was stylish, and took no risks. His brother had not yet
developed a style, but he was very settled in his mind on the subject
of risks. There was no tempting him with half-volleys and long-hops.
His motto was defence, not defiance. He placed a straight bat in the
path of every ball, and seemed to consider his duty done if he stopped
The remainder of the over was, therefore, quiet. Billy played
Kennedy's fastest like a book, and left the more tempting ones alone.
Challis's first over realised a single, Wayburn snicking him to leg.
The first ball of Kennedy's second over saw him caught at the wicket,
as Walton had been.
“Every time a coconut,” said Jimmy Silver complacently, as he
walked to the other end. “We're a powerful combination, Kennedy.
Where's Fenn? Does anybody know? Why doesn't he come in?”
Billy Silver, seated on the grass by the side of the crease,
fastening the top strap of one of his pads, gave tongue with the
eagerness of the well-informed man.
“What, don't you know?” he said. “Why, there's been an awful row.
Fenn won't be able to play till four o'clock. I believe he and Kay had
a row last night, and he cheeked Kay, and the old man's given him a
sort of extra. I saw him going over to the School House, and I heard
him tell Wayburn that he wouldn't be able to play till four.”
The effect produced by this communication would be most fittingly
expressed by the word “sensation” in brackets. It came as a complete
surprise to everyone. It seemed to knock the bottom out of the whole
match. Without Fenn the thing would be a farce. Kay's would have no
“What a worm that man is,” said Kennedy. “Do you know, I had a sort
of idea Fenn wouldn't last out much longer. Kay's been ragging him all
the term. I went round to see him last night, and Kay behaved like a
bounder then. I expect Fenn had it out with him when they got indoors.
What a beastly shame, though.”
“Beastly,” agreed Jimmy Silver. “Still, it can't be helped. The sins
of the house-master are visited on the house. I'm afraid it will be our
painful duty to wipe the floor with Kay's this day. Speaking at a
venture, I should say that we have got them where the hair's short.
Yea. Even on toast, if I may be allowed to use the expression. Who is
this coming forth now? Curtis, or me old eyes deceive me. And is not
Curtis's record score three, marred by ten chances? Indeed yes. A
fastish yorker should settle Curtis's young hash. Try one.”
Kennedy followed the recipe. A ball later the middle and leg stumps
were lying in picturesque attitudes some yards behind the crease, and
Curtis was beginning that “sad, unending walk to the pavilion",
thinking, with the poet,
“Thou wast not made to play, infernal ball!”
Blackburn's non-combatants, dotted round the boundary, shrieked
their applause. Three wickets had fallen for five runs, and life was
worth living. Kay's were silent and gloomy.
Billy Silver continued to occupy one end in an immovable manner, but
at the other there was no monotony. Man after man came in, padded and
gloved, and looking capable of mighty things. They took guard, patted
the ground lustily, as if to make it plain that they were going to
stand no nonsense, settled their caps over their eyes, and prepared to
receive the ball. When it came it usually took a stump or two with it
before it stopped. It was a procession such as the school grounds had
not often seen. As the tenth man walked from the pavilion, four sounded
from the clock over the Great Hall, and five minutes later the weary
eyes of the supporters of Kay's were refreshed by the sight of Fenn
making his way to the arena from the direction of the School House.
Just as he arrived on the scene, Billy Silver's defence broke down.
One of Challis's slows, which he had left alone with the idea that it
was going to break away to the off, came in quickly instead, and
removed a bail. Billy Silver had only made eight; but, as the full
score, including one bye, was only eighteen, this was above the
average, and deserved the applause it received.
Fenn came in in the unusual position of eleventh man, with an
expression on his face that seemed to suggest that he meant business.
He was curiously garbed. Owing to the shortness of the interval allowed
him for changing, he had only managed to extend his cricket costume as
far as white buckskin boots. He wore no pads or gloves. But even in the
face of these sartorial deficiencies, he looked like a cricketer. The
field spread out respectfully, and Jimmy Silver moved a man from the
slips into the country.
There were three more balls of Challis's over, for Billy Silver's
collapse had occurred at the third delivery. Fenn mistimed the first.
Two hours' writing indoors does not improve the eye. The ball missed
the leg stump by an inch.
About the fifth ball he made no mistake. He got the full face of the
bat to it, and it hummed past coverpoint to the boundary. The last of
the over he put to leg for three.
A remarkable last-wicket partnership now took place, remarkable not
so much for tall scoring as for the fact that one of the partners did
not receive a single ball from beginning to end of it, with the
exception of the one that bowled him. Fenn seemed to be able to do what
he pleased with the bowling. Kennedy he played with a shade more
respect than the others, but he never failed to score a three or a
single off the last ball of each of his overs. The figures on the
telegraph-board rose from twenty to thirty, from thirty to forty, from
forty to fifty. Williams went on at the lower end instead of Challis,
and Fenn made twelve off his first over. The pavilion was filled with
howling enthusiasts, who cheered every hit in a frenzy.
Jimmy Silver began to look worried. He held a hasty consultation
with Kennedy. The telegraph-board now showed the figures 60—9—8.
“This won't do,” said Silver. “It would be too foul to get licked
after having nine of them out for eighteen. Can't you manage to keep
Fenn from scoring odd figures off the last ball of your over? If only
that kid at the other end would get some of the bowling, we should do
“I'll try,” said Kennedy, and walked back to begin his over.
Fenn reached his fifty off the third ball. Seventy went up on the
board. Ten more and Kay's would have the cup. The fourth ball was too
good to hit. Fenn let it pass. The fifth he drove to the on. It was a
big hit, but there was a fieldsman in the neighbourhood. Still, it was
an easy two. But to Kennedy's surprise Fenn sent his partner back after
they had run a single. Even the umpire was surprised. Fenn's policy was
so obvious that it was strange to see him thus deliberately allow his
partner to take a ball.
“That's not over, you know, Fenn,” said the umpire—Lang, of the
School House, a member of the first eleven.
Fenn looked annoyed. He had miscounted the balls, and now his
partner, who had no pretensions to be considered a bat, would have to
That mistake lost Kay's the match.
Impossible as he had found it to defeat Fenn, Kennedy had never lost
his head or his length. He was bowling fully as well as he had done at
the beginning of the innings.
The last ball of the over beat the batsman all the way. He scooped
blindly forward, missed it by a foot, and the next moment the off stump
lay flat. Blackburn's had won by seven runs.
IV. HARMONY AND DISCORD
What might be described as a mixed reception awaited the players as
they left the field. The pavilion and the parts about the pavilion
rails were always packed on the last day of a final house-match, and
even in normal circumstances there was apt to be a little sparring
between the juniors of the two houses which had been playing for the
cup. In the present case, therefore, it was not surprising that Kay's
fags took the defeat badly. The thought that Fenn's presence at the
beginning of the innings, instead of at the end, would have made all
the difference between a loss and a victory, maddened them. The crowd
that seethed in front of the pavilion was a turbulent one.
For a time the operation of chairing Fenn up the steps occupied the
active minds of the Kayites. When he had disappeared into the first
eleven room, they turned their attention in other directions. Caustic
and uncomplimentary remarks began to fly to and fro between the
representatives of Kay's and Blackburn's. It is not known who actually
administered the first blow. But, when Fenn came out of the pavilion
with Kennedy and Silver, he found a stirring battle in progress. The
members of the other houses who had come to look on at the match stood
in knots, and gazed with approval at the efforts of Kay's and
Blackburn's juniors to wipe each other off the face of the earth. The
air was full of shrill battle-cries, varied now and then by a smack or
a thud, as some young but strenuous fist found a billet. The fortune of
war seemed to be distributed equally so far, and the combatants were
just warming to their work.
“Look here,” said Kennedy, “we ought to stop this.”
“What's the good,” said Fenn, without interest. “It pleases them,
and doesn't hurt anybody else.”
“All the same,” observed Jimmy Silver, moving towards the nearest
group of combatants, “free fights aren't quite the thing, somehow. For,
children, you should never let your angry passions rise; your little
hands were never made to tear each other's eyes. Dr Watts' Advice to
Young Pugilists. Drop it, you little beasts.”
He separated two heated youths who were just beginning a fourth
round. The rest of the warriors, seeing Silver and the others, called a
truce, and Silver, having read a sort of Riot Act, moved on. The
juniors of the beaten house, deciding that it would be better not to
resume hostilities, consoled themselves by giving three groans for Mr
“What happened after I left you last night, Fenn?” asked Kennedy.
“Oh, I had one of my usual rows with Kay, only rather worse than
usual. I said one or two things he didn't like, and today the old man
sent for me and told me to come to his room from two till four. Kay had
run me in for being 'grossly rude'. Listen to those kids. What a row
“It's a beastly shame,” said Kennedy despondently.
At the school shop Morrell, of Mulholland's, met them. He had been
spending the afternoon with a rug and a novel on the hills at the back
of the school, and he wanted to know how the final house-match had
gone. Blackburn's had beaten Mulholland's in one of the early rounds.
Kennedy explained what had happened.
“We should have lost if Fenn had turned up earlier,” he said. “He
had a row with Kay, and Kay gave him a sort of extra between two and
Fenn, busily occupied with an ice, added no comment of his own to
this plain tale.
“Rough luck,” said Morrell. “What's all that row out in the field?”
“That's Kay's kids giving three groans for Kay,” explained Silver.
“At least, they started with the idea of giving three groans. They've
got up to about three hundred by this time. It seems to have fascinated
them. They won't leave off. There's no school rule against groaning in
the grounds, and they mean to groan till the end of the term.
Personally, I like the sound. But then, I'm fond of music.”
Morrell's face beamed with sudden pleasure. “I knew there was
something I wanted to tell you,” he said, “only I couldn't remember
what. Your saying you're fond of music reminds me. Mulholland's crocked
himself, and won't be able to turn out for the concert.”
“What!” cried Kennedy. “How did it happen? What's he done?”
Mr Mulholland was the master who looked after the music of the
school, a fine cricketer and keen sportsman. Had nothing gone wrong, he
would have conducted at the concert that night.
“I heard it from the matron at our place,” said Morrell. “She's full
of it. Mulholland was batting at the middle net, and somebody else—I
forget who—was at the one next to it on the right. The bowler sent
down a long-hop to leg, and this Johnny had a smack at it, and sent it
slap through the net, and it got Mulholland on the side of the head. He
was stunned for a bit, but he's getting all right again now. But he
won't be able to conduct tonight. Rather bad luck on the man,
especially as he's so keen on the concert.”
“Who's going to sub for him?” asked Silver. “Perhaps they'll scratch
the show,” suggested Kennedy.
“Oh, no,” said Morrell, “it's all right. Kay is going to conduct.
He's often done it at choir practices when Mulholland couldn't turn
Fenn put down his empty saucer with an emphatic crack on the
“If Kay's going to run the show, I'm hanged if I turn up,” he said.
“My dear chap, you can't get out of it now,” said Kennedy anxiously.
He did not want to see Fenn plunging into any more strife with the
authorities this term.
“Think of the crowned heads who are coming to hear you,” pleaded
Jimmy Silver. “Think of the nobility and gentry. Think of me. You must
“Ah, there you are, Fenn.”
Mr Kay had bustled in in his energetic way.
Fenn said nothing. He was there. It was idle to deny it.
“I thought I should find you here. Yes, I wanted to see you about
the concert tonight. Mr Mulholland has met with an unfortunate
accident, and I am looking after the entertainment in his place. Come
with me and play over your piece. I should like to see that you are
perfect in it. Dear me, dear me, what a noise those boys are making.
Why are they behaving in that extraordinary way, I wonder!”
Kay's juniors had left the pavilion, and were trooping back to their
house. At the present moment they were passing the school shop, and
their tuneful voices floated in through the open window.
“This is very unusual. Why, they seem to be boys in my house. They
“I think they are a little upset at the result of the match, sir,”
said Jimmy Silver suavely. “Fenn did not arrive, for some reason, till
the end of the innings, so Mr Blackburn's won. The wicket was good, but
a little fiery.”
“Thank you, Silver,” replied Mr Kay with asperity. “When I require
explanations I will ask for them.”
He darted out of the shop, and a moment later they heard him pouring
out a flood of recriminations on the groaning fags.
“There was once a man who snubbed me,” said Jimmy Silver.
“They buried him at Brookwood. Well, what are you going to do, Fenn?
Going to play tonight? Harkee, boy. Say but the word, and I will beard
this tyrant to his face.”
“Yes,” he said briefly, “I shall play. You'd better turn up. I think
you'll enjoy it.”
Silver said that no human power should keep him away.
* * * * *
The School concert was always one of the events of the summer term.
There was a concert at the end of the winter term, too, but it was not
so important. To a great many of those present the summer concert
marked, as it were, the last flutter of their school life. On the
morrow they would be Old Boys, and it behoved them to extract as much
enjoyment from the function as they could. Under Mr Mullholland's rule
the concert had become a very flourishing institution. He aimed at a
high standard, and reached it. There was more than a touch of the
austere about the music. A glance at the programme was enough to show
the lover of airs of the trashy, clashy order that this was no place
for him. Most of the items were serious. When it was thought necessary
to introduce a lighter touch, some staidly rollicking number was
inserted, some song that was saved—in spite of a catchy tune—by a
halo of antiquity. Anything modern was taboo, unless it were the work
of Gotsuchakoff, Thingummyowsky, or some other eminent foreigner.
Foreign origin made it just possible.
The school prefects lurked during the performance at the doors and
at the foot of the broad stone steps that led to the Great Hall. It was
their duty to supply visitors with programmes.
Jimmy Silver had foregathered with Kennedy, Challis, and Williams at
the junior door. The hall was full now, and their labours consequently
at an end.
“Pretty good 'gate',” said Silver, looking in through the open door.
“It must be warm up in the gallery.”
Across the further end of the hall a dais had been erected. On this
the bulk of the school sat, leaving the body of the hall to the crowned
heads, nobility, and gentry to whom Silver had referred in his
conversation with Fenn.
“It always is warm in the gallery,” said Challis. “I lost about two
stone there every concert when I was a kid. We simply used to sit and
“And I tell you what,” broke in Silver, “it's going to get warmer
before the end of the show. Do you notice that all Kay's house are
sitting in a lump at the back. I bet they're simply spoiling for a row.
Especially now Kay's running the concert. There's going to be a hot
time in the old town tonight—you see if there isn't. Hark at 'em.”
The choir had just come to the end of a little thing of Handel's.
There was no reason to suppose that the gallery appreciated Handel.
Nevertheless, they were making a deafening noise. Clouds of dust rose
from the rhythmical stamping of many feet. The noise was loudest and
the dust thickest by the big window, beneath which sat the men from
Kay's. Things were warming up.
The gallery, with one last stamp which nearly caused the dais to
collapse, quieted down. The masters in the audience looked serious. One
or two of the visitors glanced over their shoulders with a smile. How
excited the dear boys were at the prospect of holidays! Young blood!
Young blood! Boys would be boys.
The concert continued. Half-way through the programme there was a
ten minutes' interval. Fenn's pianoforte solo was the second item of
the second half.
He mounted the platform amidst howls of delight from the gallery.
Applause at the Eckleton concerts was granted more for services in the
playing-fields than merit as a musician. Kubelik or Paderewski would
have been welcomed with a few polite handclaps. A man in the eleven or
fifteen was certain of two minutes' unceasing cheers.
“Evidently one of their heroes, my dear,” said Paterfamilias to
Materfamilias. “I suppose he has won a scholarship at the University.”
Paterfamilias' mind was accustomed to run somewhat upon scholarships
at the University. What the school wanted was a batting average of
forty odd or a bowling analysis in single figures.
Fenn played the “Moonlight Sonata”. A trained musical critic would
probably have found much to cavil at in his rendering of the piece, but
it was undoubtedly good for a public school player. Of course he was
encored. The gallery would have encored him if he had played with one
finger, three mistakes to every bar.
“I told Fenn,” said Jimmy Silver, “if he got an encore, that he
ought to play the—My aunt! He is!“
Three runs and half-a-dozen crashes, and there was no further room
for doubt. Fenn was playing the “Coon Band Contest”.
“He's gone mad,” gasped Kennedy.
Whether he had or not, it is certain that the gallery had. All the
evening they had been stewing in an atmosphere like that of the inner
room of a Turkish bath, and they were ready for anything. It needed but
a trifle to set them off. The lilt of that unspeakable Yankee melody
supplied that trifle. Kay's malcontents, huddled in their seats by the
window, were the first to break out. Feet began to stamp in time to the
music—softly at first, then more loudly. The wooden dais gave out the
sound like a drum.
Other rioters joined in from the right. The noise spread through the
gallery as a fire spreads through gorse. Soon three hundred pairs of
well-shod feet were rising and falling. Somebody began to whistle.
Everybody whistled. Mr Kay was on his feet, gesticulating wildly. His
words were lost in the uproar.
For five minutes the din prevailed. Then, with a final crash, Fenn
finished. He got up from the music-stool, bowed, and walked back to his
place by the senior door. The musical efforts of the gallery changed to
a storm of cheering and clapping.
The choir rose to begin the next piece.
Still the noise continued.
People began to leave the Hall—in ones and twos first, then in a
steady stream which blocked the doorways. It was plain to the dullest
intelligence that if there was going to be any more concert, it would
have to be performed in dumb show. Mr Kay flung down his baton.
The visitors had left by now, and the gallery was beginning to
follow their example, howling as it went.
“Well,” said Jimmy Silver cheerfully, as he went with Kennedy down
the steps, “I think we may call that a record. By my halidom,
there'll be a row about this later on.”
With the best intentions in the world, however, a headmaster cannot
make a row about a thing unless he is given a reasonable amount of time
to make it in. The concert being on the last evening of term, there was
only a single morning before the summer holidays, and that morning was
occupied with the prize-giving. The school assembled at ten o'clock
with a shadowy hope that this prize-day would be more exciting than the
general run of prize-days, but they were disappointed. The function
passed off without sensation. The headmaster did not denounce the
school in an impassioned speech from the dais. He did not refer to the
events of the previous evening. At the same time, his demeanour was far
from jovial. It lacked that rollicking bonhomie which we like to see in
headmasters on prize-day. It was evident to the most casual observer
that the affair was not closed. The school would have to pay the bill
sooner or later. But eight weeks would elapse before the day of
reckoning, which was a comforting thought.
The last prize was handed over to its rightful owner. The last and
dullest vote of thanks had been proposed by the last and dullest member
of the board of governors. The Bishop of Rumtifoo (who had been
selected this year to distribute the prizes) had worked off his seventy
minutes' speech (inaudible, of course, as usual), and was feeling much
easier. The term had been formally declared at an end, and those
members of the school corps who were going to camp were beginning to
assemble in front of the buildings.
“I wonder why it always takes about three hours to get us off to the
station,” said Jimmy Silver. “I've been to camp two years now, and
there's always been this rotting about in the grounds before we start.
Nobody's likely to turn up to inspect us for the next hour or so. If
any gent cares to put in a modest ginger-beer at the shop, I'm with
“I don't see why we shouldn't,” said Kennedy. He had seen Fenn go
into the shop, and wished to talk to him. He had not seen him after the
concert, and he thought it would be interesting to know how Kay had
taken it, and what his comments had been on meeting Fenn in the house
Fenn had not much to say.
“He was rather worried,” he said, grinning as if the recollection of
the interview amused him. “But he couldn't do anything. Of course,
there'll be a row next term, but it can't be helped.”
“If I were you,” said Silver, “I should point out to them that you'd
a perfect right to play what you liked for an encore. How were you to
know the gallery would go off like that? You aren't responsible for
them. Hullo, there's that bugle. Things seem to be on the move. We must
“So long,” said Fenn.
“Goodbye. Mind you come off against Middlesex.”
Kennedy stayed for a moment.
“Has the Old Man said anything to you yet?” he asked.
“Not yet. He'll do that next term. It'll be something to look
Kennedy hurried off to take his place in the ranks.
Getting to camp at the end of the summer term is always a nuisance.
Aldershot seems a long way from everywhere, and the trains take their
time over the journey. Then, again, the heat always happens to be
particularly oppressive on that day. Snow may have fallen on the day
before, but directly one sets out for camp, the thermometer goes up
into three figures. The Eckleton contingent marched into the lines damp
and very thirsty.
Most of the other schools were already on the spot, and looked as if
they had been spending the last few years there. There was nothing
particular going on when the Eckleton warriors arrived, and everybody
was lounging about in khaki and shirt-sleeves, looking exasperatingly
cool. The only consolation which buoyed up the spirits of Eckleton was
the reflection that in a short space of time, when the
important-looking gentleman in uniform who had come to meet them had
said all he wanted to say on the subject of rules and regulations, they
would be like that too. Happy thought! If the man bucked up and cut
short the peroration, there would be time for a bathe in Cove
Reservoir. Those of the corps who had been to camp in previous years
felt quite limp with the joy of the thought. Why couldn't he get
through with it, and give a fellow a chance of getting cool again?
The gist of the oration was apparently that the Eckleton cadets were
to consider themselves not only as soldiers—and as such subject to
military discipline, and the rules for the conduct of troops quartered
in the Aldershot district—but also as members of a public school. In
short, that if they misbehaved themselves they would get cells, and a
hundred lines in the same breath, as it were.
The corps knew all this ages ago. The man seemed to think he was
telling them something fresh. They began positively to dislike him
after a while.
He finished at last. Eckleton marched off wearily, but in style, to
“And about time, too,” said Jimmy Silver. “I wish they would tie
that man up, or something. He's one of the worst bores I know. He may
be full of bright conversation in private life, but in public he will
talk about his beastly military regulations. You can't stop him. It's a
perfect mania with him. Now, I believe—that's to say, I have a sort of
dim idea—that there's a place round about here called a canteen. I
seem to remember such a thing vaguely. We might go and look for it.”
Kennedy made no objection.
This was his first appearance at camp. Jimmy Silver, on the other
hand, was a veteran. He had been there twice before, and meant to go
again. He had a peculiar and extensive knowledge of the ins and outs of
the place. Kennedy was quite willing to take him as his guide. He was
full of information. Kennedy was surprised to see what a number of men
from the other schools he seemed to know. In the canteen there were,
amongst others, a Carthusian, two Tonbridge men, and a Haileyburian.
They all greeted Silver with the warmth of old friends.
“You get to know a lot of fellows in camp,” explained Jimmy, as they
strolled back to the Eckleton lines. “That's the best of the place.
Camp's the best place on earth, if only you have decent weather. See
that chap over there? He came here last year. He'd never been before,
and one of the things he didn't know was that Cove Reservoir's only
about three feet deep round the sides. He took a running dive, and
almost buried himself in the mud. It's about two feet deep. He told me
afterwards he swallowed pounds of it. Rather bad luck. Somebody ought
to have told him. You can't do much diving here.”
“Glad you mentioned it,” said Kennedy. “I should have dived myself
if you hadn't.”
Many other curious and diverting facts did the expert drag from the
bonded warehouse of his knowledge. Nothing changes at camp. Once get to
know the ropes, and you know them for all time.
“The one thing I bar,” he said, “is having to get up at half-past
five. And one day in the week, when there's a divisional field-day,
it's half-past four. It's hardly worth while going to sleep at all.
Still, it isn't so bad as it used to be. The first year I came to camp
we used to have to do a three hours' field-day before brekker. We used
to have coffee before it, and nothing else till it was over. By Jove,
you felt you'd had enough of it before you got back. This is Laffan's
Plain. The worst of Laffan's Plain is that you get to know it too well.
You get jolly sick of always starting on field-days from the same
place, and marching across the same bit of ground. Still, I suppose
they can't alter the scenery for our benefit. See that man there? He
won the sabres at Aldershot last year. That chap with him is in the
Clifton footer team.”
When a school corps goes to camp, it lives in a number of tents,
and, as a rule, each house collects in a tent of its own. Blackburn's
had a tent, and further down the line Kay's had assembled. The Kay
contingent were under Wayburn, a good sort, as far as he himself was
concerned, but too weak to handle a mob like Kay's. Wayburn was not
coming back after the holidays, a fact which perhaps still further
weakened his hold on the Kayites. They had nothing to fear from him
Kay's was represented at camp by a dozen or so of its members, of
whom young Billy Silver alone had any pretensions to the esteem of his
fellow man. Kay's was the rowdiest house in the school, and the cream
of its rowdy members had come to camp. There was Walton, for one, a
perfect specimen of the public school man at his worst. There was
Mortimer, another of Kay's gems. Perry, again, and Callingham, and the
rest. A pleasant gang, fit for anything, if it could be done in safety.
Kennedy observed them, and—the spectacle starting a train of
thought—asked Jimmy Silver, as they went into their tent just before
lights-out, if there was much ragging in camp.
“Not very much,” said the expert. “Chaps are generally too done up
at the end of the day to want to do anything except sleep. Still, I've
known cases. You sometimes get one tent mobbing another. They loose the
ropes, you know. Low trick, I think. It isn't often done, and it gets
dropped on like bricks when it's found out. But why? Do you feel as if
you wanted to do it?”
“It only occurred to me that we've got a lively gang from Kay's
here. I was wondering if they'd get any chances of ragging, or if
they'd have to lie low.”
“I'd forgotten Kay's for the moment. Now you mention it, they are
rather a crew. But I shouldn't think they'd find it worth while to rot
about here. It isn't as if they were on their native heath. People have
a prejudice against having their tent-ropes loosed, and they'd get
beans if they did anything in that line. I remember once there was a
tent which made itself objectionable, and it got raided in the night by
a sort of vigilance committee from the other schools, and the chaps in
it got the dickens of a time. None of them ever came to camp again. I
hope Kay's'll try and behave decently. It'll be an effort for them; but
I hope they'll make it. It would be an awful nuisance if young Billy
made an ass of himself in any way. He loves making an ass of himself.
It's a sort of hobby of his.”
As if to support the statement, a sudden volley of subdued shouts
came from the other end of the Eckleton lines.
“Go it, Wren!”
“Stick to it, Silver!”
Silence, followed almost immediately by a gruff voice inquiring with
simple directness what the dickens all this noise was about.
“Hullo!” said Kennedy. “Did you hear that? I wonder what's been up?
Your brother was in it, whatever it was.”
“Of course,” said Jimmy Silver, “he would be. We can't find out
about it now, though. I'll ask him tomorrow, if I remember. I shan't
remember, of course. Good night.”
Half an hour later, Kennedy, who had been ruminating over the
incident in his usual painstaking way, reopened the debate.
“Who's Wren?” he asked.
“Wha'?” murmured Silver, sleepily.
“Who's Wren?” repeated Kennedy.
“I d'know.... Oh.... Li'l' beast.... Kay's.... Red hair.... G'-ni'.”
And sleep reigned in Blackburn's tent.
VI. THE RAID ON THE GUARD-TENT
Wren and Billy Silver had fallen out over a question of space. It
was Silver's opinion that Wren's nest ought to have been built a foot
or two further to the left. He stated baldly that he had not room to
breathe, and requested the red-headed one to ease off a point or so in
the direction of his next-door neighbour. Wren had refused, and, after
a few moments' chatty conversation, smote William earnestly in the
wind. Trouble had begun upon the instant. It had ceased almost as
rapidly owing to interruptions from without, but the truce had been
merely temporary. They continued the argument outside the tent at
five-thirty the next morning, after the reveille had sounded,
amidst shouts of approval from various shivering mortals who were
tubbing preparatory to embarking on the labours of the day.
A brisk first round had just come to a conclusion when Walton
lounged out of the tent, yawning.
Walton proceeded to separate the combatants. After which he rebuked
Billy Silver with a swagger-stick. Wren's share in the business he
overlooked. He was by way of being a patron of Wren's, and he disliked
Billy Silver, partly for his own sake and partly because he hated his
brother, with whom he had come into contact once or twice during his
career at Eckleton, always with unsatisfactory results.
So Walton dropped on to Billy Silver, and Wren continued his toilet
Camp was beginning the strenuous life now. Tent after tent emptied
itself of its occupants, who stretched themselves vigorously, and
proceeded towards the tubbing-ground, where there were tin baths for
those who cared to wait until the same were vacant, and a good, honest
pump for those who did not. Then there was that unpopular job, the
piling of one's bedding outside the tent, and the rolling up of the
tent curtains. But these unpleasant duties came to an end at last, and
signs of breakfast began to appear.
Breakfast gave Kennedy his first insight into life in camp. He
happened to be tent-orderly that day, and it therefore fell to his lot
to join the orderlies from the other tents in their search for the
Eckleton rations. He returned with a cargo of bread (obtained from the
quartermaster), and, later, with a great tin of meat, which the
cook-house had supplied, and felt that this was life. Hitherto
breakfast had been to him a thing of white cloths, tables, and food
that appeared from nowhere. This was the first time he had ever tracked
his food to its source, so to speak, and brought it back with him.
After breakfast, when he was informed that, as tent-orderly for the
day, it was his business to wash up, he began to feel as if he were on
a desert island. He had never quite realised before what washing-up
implied, and he was conscious of a feeling of respect for the servants
at Blackburn's, who did it every day as a matter of course, without
complaint. He had had no idea before this of the intense stickiness of
a jammy plate.
One day at camp is much like another. The schools opened the day
with parade drill at about eight o'clock, and, after an instruction
series of “changing direction half-left in column of double companies",
and other pleasant movements of a similar nature, adjourned for lunch.
Lunch was much like breakfast, except that the supply of jam was cut
off. The people who arrange these things—probably the War Office, or
Mr Brodrick, or someone—have come to the conclusion that two pots of
jam per tent are sufficient for breakfast and lunch. The unwary devour
theirs recklessly at the earlier meal, and have to go jamless until tea
at six o'clock, when another pot is served out.
The afternoon at camp is perfect or otherwise, according to whether
there is a four o'clock field-day or not. If there is, there are more
manoeuvrings until tea-time, and the time is spent profitably, but not
so pleasantly as it might be. If there is no field-day, you can take
your time about your bathe in Cove Reservoir. And a really satisfactory
bathe on a hot day should last at least three hours. Kennedy and Jimmy
Silver strolled off in the direction of the Reservoir as soon as they
felt that they had got over the effects of the beef, potatoes, and
ginger-beer which a generous commissariat had doled out to them for
lunch. It was a glorious day, and bathing was the only thing to do for
the next hour or so. Stump-cricket, that fascinating sport much
indulged in in camp, would not be at its best until the sun had cooled
off a little.
After a pleasant half hour in the mud and water of the Reservoir,
they lay on the bank and watched the rest of the schools take their
afternoon dip. Kennedy had laid in a supply of provisions from the
stall which stood at the camp end of the water. Neither of them felt
inclined to move.
“This is decent,” said Kennedy, wriggling into a more
comfortable position in the long grass. “Hullo!”
“What's up?” inquired Jimmy Silver, lazily.
He was almost asleep.
“Look at those idiots. They're certain to get spotted.”
Jimmy Silver tilted his hat off his face, and sat up.
“What's the matter? Which idiot?”
Kennedy pointed to a bush on their right. Walton and Perry were
seated beside it. Both were smoking.
“Oh, that's all right,” said Silver. “Masters never come to Cove
Reservoir. It's a sort of unwritten law. They're rotters to smoke, all
the same. Certain to get spotted some day.... Not worth it.... Spoils
lungs.... Beastly bad ... training.”
He dozed off. The sun was warm, and the grass very soft and
comfortable. Kennedy turned his gaze to the Reservoir again. It was no
business of his what Walton and Perry did.
Walton and Perry were discussing ways and means. The conversation
changed as they saw Kennedy glance at them. They were the sort of
persons who feel a vague sense of injury when anybody looks at them,
perhaps because they feel that those whose attention is attracted to
them must say something to their discredit when they begin to talk
“There's that beast Kennedy,” said Walton. “I can't stick that man.
He's always hanging round the house. What he comes for, I can't make
“Pal of Fenn's,” suggested Perry.
“He hangs on to Fenn. I bet Fenn bars him really.”
Perry doubted this in his innermost thoughts, but it was not worth
while to say so.
“Those Blackburn chaps,” continued Walton, reverting to another
grievance, “will stick on no end of side next term about that cup. They
wouldn't have had a look in if Kay hadn't given Fenn that extra. Kay
ought to be kicked. I'm hanged if I'm going to care what I do next
term. Somebody ought to do something to take it out of Kay for getting
his own house licked like that.”
Walton spoke as if the line of conduct he had mapped out for himself
would be a complete reversal of his customary mode of life. As a matter
of fact, he had never been in the habit of caring very much what he
Walton's last remarks brought the conversation back to where it had
been before the mention of Kennedy switched it off on to new lines.
Perry had been complaining that he thought camp a fraud, that it was
all drilling and getting up at unearthly hours. He reminded Walton that
he had only come on the strength of the latter's statement that it
would be a rag. Where did the rag come in? That was what Perry wanted
“When it's not a ghastly sweat,” he concluded, “it's slow. Like it
is now. Can't we do something for a change?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Walton, “nearly all the best rags are
played out. A chap at a crammer's told me last holidays that when he
was at camp he and some other fellows loosed the ropes of the
guard-tent. He said it was grand sport.”
Perry sat up.
“That's the thing,” he said, excitedly. “Let's do that. Why not?”
“It's beastly risky,” objected Walton.
“What's that matter? They can't do anything, even if they spot us.”
“That's all you know. We should get beans.”
“Still, it's worth risking. It would be the biggest rag going. Did
the chap tell you how they did it?”
“Yes,” said Walton, becoming animated as he recalled the stirring
tale, “they bagged the sentry. Chucked a cloth or something over his
head, you know. Then they shoved him into the ditch, and one of them
sat on him while the others loosed the ropes. It took the chaps inside
no end of a time getting out.”
“That's the thing. We'll do it. We only need one other chap. Leveson
would come if we asked him. Let's get back to the lines. It's almost
tea-time. Tell him after tea.”
Leveson proved agreeable. Indeed, he jumped at it. His life, his
attitude suggested, had been a hollow mockery until he heard the plan,
but now he could begin to enjoy himself once more.
The lights-out bugle sounded at ten o'clock; the last post at
ten-thirty. At a quarter to twelve the three adventurers, who had been
keeping themselves awake by the exercise of great pains, satisfied
themselves that the other occupants of the tent were asleep, and stole
It was an excellent night for their purpose. There was no moon, and
the stars were hidden by clouds.
They crept silently towards the guard-tent. A dim figure loomed out
of the blackness. They noted with satisfaction, as it approached, that
it was small. Sentries at the public-school camp vary in physique. They
felt that it was lucky that the task of sentry-go had not fallen that
night to some muscular forward from one of the school fifteens, or
worse still, to a boxing expert who had figured in the Aldershot
competition at Easter. The present sentry would be an easy victim.
They waited for him to arrive.
A moment later Private Jones, of St Asterisk's—for it was
he—turning to resume his beat, found himself tackled from behind. Two
moments later he was reclining in the ditch. He would have challenged
his adversary, but, unfortunately, that individual happened to be
seated on his face.
He struggled, but to no purpose.
He was still struggling when a muffled roar of indignation from the
direction of the guard-tent broke the stillness of the summer night.
The roar swelled into a crescendo. What seemed like echoes came from
other quarters out of the darkness. The camp was waking.
The noise from the guard-tent waxed louder.
The unknown marauder rose from his seat on Private Jones, and
Private Jones also rose. He climbed out of the ditch, shook himself,
looked round for his assailant, and, not finding him, hurried to the
guard-tent to see what was happening.
VII. A CLUE
The guard-tent had disappeared.
Private Jones' bewildered eye, rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven
to earth, and from earth to heaven, in search of the missing edifice,
found it at last in a tangled heap upon the ground. It was too dark to
see anything distinctly, but he perceived that the canvas was rising
and falling spasmodically like a stage sea, and for a similar
reason—because there were human beings imprisoned beneath it.
By this time the whole camp was up and doing. Figures in
deshabille, dashing the last vestiges of sleep away with their
knuckles, trooped on to the scene in twos and threes, full of inquiry
and trenchant sarcasm.
“What are you men playing at? What's all the row about? Can't you
finish that game of footer some other time, when we aren't trying to
get to sleep? What on earth's up?”
Then the voice of one having authority.
“What's the matter? What are you doing?”
It was perfectly obvious what the guard was doing. It was trying to
get out from underneath the fallen tent. Private Jones explained this
with some warmth.
“Somebody jumped at me and sat on my head in the ditch. I couldn't
get up. And then some blackguard cut the ropes of the guard-tent. I
couldn't see who it was. He cut off directly the tent went down.”
Private Jones further expressed a wish that he could find the chap.
When he did, there would, he hinted, be trouble in the old homestead.
The tent was beginning to disgorge its prisoners.
“Guard, turn out!” said a facetious voice from the darkness.
The camp was divided into two schools of thought. Those who were
watching the guard struggle out thought the episode funny. The guard
did not. It was pathetic to hear them on the subject of their
mysterious assailants. Matters quieted down rapidly after the tent had
been set up again. The spectators were driven back to their lines by
their officers. The guard turned in again to try and restore their
shattered nerves with sleep until their time for sentry-go came round.
Private Jones picked up his rifle and resumed his beat. The affair was
at an end as far as that night was concerned.
Next morning, as might be expected, nothing else was talked about.
Conversation at breakfast was confined to the topic. No halfpenny
paper, however many times its circulation might exceed that of any
penny morning paper, ever propounded so fascinating and puzzling a
breakfast-table problem. It was the utter impossibility of detecting
the culprits that appealed to the schools. They had swooped down like
hawks out of the night, and disappeared like eels into mud, leaving no
Jimmy Silver, of course, had no doubts.
“It was those Kay's men,” he said. “What does it matter about
evidence? You've only got to look at 'em. That's all the evidence you
want. The only thing that makes it at all puzzling is that they did
nothing worse. You'd naturally expect them to slay the sentry, at any
But the rest of the camp, lacking that intimate knowledge of the
Kayite which he possessed, did not turn the eye of suspicion towards
the Eckleton lines. The affair remained a mystery. Kennedy, who never
gave up a problem when everybody else did, continued to revolve the
mystery in his mind.
“I shouldn't wonder,” he said to Silver, two days later, “if you
Silver, who had not made any remark for the last five minutes, with
the exception of abusive comments on the toughness of the meat which he
was trying to carve with a blunt knife for the tent, asked for an
explanation. “I mean about that row the other night.”
“That guard-tent business.”
“Oh, that! I'd forgotten. Why don't you move with the times? You're
always thinking of something that's been dead and buried for years.”
“You remember you said you thought it was those Kay's chaps who did
it. I've been thinking it over, and I believe you're right. You see, it
was probably somebody who'd been to camp before, or he wouldn't have
known that dodge of loosing the ropes.”
“I don't see why. Seems to me it's the sort of idea that might have
occurred to anybody. You don't want to study the thing particularly
deeply to know that the best way of making a tent collapse is to loose
the ropes. Of course it was Kay's lot who did it. But I don't see how
you're going to have them simply because one or two of them have been
“No, I suppose not,” said Kennedy.
After tea the other occupants of the tent went out of the lines to
play stump-cricket. Silver was in the middle of a story in one of the
magazines, so did not accompany them. Kennedy cried off on the plea of
“I say,” he said, when they were alone.
“Hullo,” said Silver, finishing his story, and putting down the
magazine. “What do you say to going after those chaps? I thought that
story was going to be a long one that would take half an hour to get
through. But it collapsed. Like that guard-tent.”
“About that tent business,” said Kennedy. “Of course that was all
rot what I was saying just now. I suddenly remembered that I didn't
particularly want anybody but you to hear what I was going to say, so I
had to invent any rot that I could think of.”
“But now,” said Jimmy Silver, sinking his voice to a melodramatic
whisper, “the villagers have left us to continue their revels on the
green, our wicked uncle has gone to London, his sinister retainer,
Jasper Murgleshaw, is washing his hands in the scullery sink, and—
we are alone!“
“Don't be an ass,” pleaded Kennedy.
“Tell me your dreadful tale. Conceal nothing. Spare me not. In fact,
“I've had a talk with the chap who was sentry that night,” began
“Astounding revelations by our special correspondent,” murmured
“You might listen.”
“I am listening. Why don't you begin? All this hesitation
strikes me as suspicious. Get on with your shady story.”
“You remember the sentry was upset—”
“Somebody collared him from behind, and upset him into the ditch.
They went in together, and the other man sat on his head.”
“A touching picture. Proceed, friend.”
“They rolled about a bit, and this sentry chap swears he scratched
the man. It was just after that that the man sat on his head. Jones
says he was a big chap, strong and heavy.”
“He was in a position to judge, anyhow.”
“Of course, he didn't mean to scratch him. He was rather keen on
having that understood. But his fingers came up against the fellow's
cheek as he was falling. So you see we've only got to look for a man
with a scratch on his cheek. It was the right cheek, Jones was almost
certain. I don't see what you're laughing at.”
“I wish you wouldn't spring these good things of yours on me
suddenly,” gurgled Jimmy Silver, rolling about the wooden floor of the
tent. “You ought to give a chap some warning. Look here,” he added,
imperatively, “swear you'll take me with you when you go on your tour
through camp examining everybody's right cheek to see if it's got a
scratch on it.”
Kennedy began to feel the glow and pride of the successful
sleuth-hound leaking out of him. This aspect of the case had not
occurred to him. The fact that the sentry had scratched his assailant's
right cheek, added to the other indubitable fact that Walton, of Kay's,
was even now walking abroad with a scratch on his right cheek, had
seemed to him conclusive. He had forgotten that there might be others.
Still, it was worth while just to question him. He questioned him at
Cove Reservoir next day.
“Hullo, Walton,” he said, with a friendly carelessness which would
not have deceived a prattling infant, “nasty scratch you've got on your
cheek. How did you get it?”
“Perry did it when we were ragging a few days ago,” replied Walton,
eyeing him distrustfully.
“Oh,” said Kennedy.
“Silly fool,” said Walton.
“Talking about me?” inquired Kennedy politely.
“No,” replied Walton, with the suavity of a Chesterfield, “Perry.”
They parted, Kennedy with the idea that Walton was his man still
more deeply rooted, Walton with an uncomfortable feeling that Kennedy
knew too much, and that, though he had undoubtedly scored off him for
the moment, a time (as Jimmy Silver was fond of observing with a
satanic laugh) would come, and then—!
He felt that it behoved him to be wary.
VIII. A NIGHT ADVENTURE—THE
DETHRONEMENT OF FENN
One of the things which make life on this planet more or less
agreeable is the speed with which alarums, excursions, excitement, and
rows generally, blow over. A nine-days' wonder has to be a big business
to last out its full time nowadays. As a rule the third day sees the
end of it, and the public rushes whooping after some other hare that
has been started for its benefit. The guard-tent row, as far as the
bulk of camp was concerned, lasted exactly two days; at the end of
which period it was generally agreed that all that could be said on the
subject had been said, and that it was now a back number. Nobody,
except possibly the authorities, wanted to find out the authors of the
raid, and even Private Jones had ceased to talk about it—this owing to
the unsympathetic attitude of his tent.
“Jones,” the corporal had observed, as the ex-sentry's narrative of
his misfortunes reached a finish for the third time since reveille
that morning, “if you can't manage to switch off that infernal chestnut
of yours, I'll make you wash up all day and sit on your head all
So Jones had withdrawn his yarn from circulation. Kennedy's interest
in detective work waned after his interview with Walton. He was quite
sure that Walton had been one of the band, but it was not his business
to find out; even had he found out, he would have done nothing. It was
more for his own private satisfaction than for the furtherance of
justice that he wished to track the offenders down. But he did not look
on the affair, as Jimmy Silver did, as rather sporting; he had a tender
feeling for the good name of the school, and he felt that it was not
likely to make Eckleton popular with the other schools that went to
camp if they got the reputation of practical jokers. Practical jokers
are seldom popular until they have been dead a hundred years or so.
As for Walton and his colleagues, to complete the list of those who
were interested in this matter of the midnight raid, they lay
remarkably low after their successful foray. They imagined that Kennedy
was spying on their every movement. In which they were quite wrong, for
Kennedy was doing nothing of the kind. Camp does not allow a great deal
of leisure for the minding of other people's businesses. But this
reflection did not occur to Walton, and he regarded Kennedy, whenever
chance or his duties brought him into the neighbourhood of that
worthy's tent, with a suspicion which increased whenever the latter
looked at him.
On the night before camp broke up, a second incident of a
sensational kind occurred, which, but for the fact that they never
heard of it, would have given the schools a good deal to talk about. It
happened that Kennedy was on sentry-go that night. The manner of
sentry-go is thus. At seven in the evening the guard falls in, and
patrols the fringe of the camp in relays till seven in the morning. A
guard consists of a sergeant, a corporal, and ten men. They are on duty
for two hours at a time, with intervals of four hours between each
spell, in which intervals they sleep the sleep of tired men in the
guard-tent, unless, as happened on the occasion previously described,
some miscreant takes it upon himself to loose the ropes. The ground to
be patrolled by the sentries is divided into three parts, each of which
is entrusted to one man.
Kennedy was one of the ten privates, and his first spell of
sentry-go began at eleven o'clock.
On this night there was no moon. It was as black as pitch. It is
always unpleasant to be on sentry-go on such a night. The mind wanders,
in spite of all effort to check it, through a long series of all the
ghastly stories one has ever read. There is one in particular of Conan
Doyle's about a mummy that came to life and chased people on lonely
roads—but enough! However courageous one may be, it is difficult not
to speculate on the possible horrors which may spring out on one from
the darkness. That feeling that there is somebody—or something—just
behind one can only be experienced in all its force by a sentry on an
inky night at camp. And the thought that, of all the hundreds there, he
and two others are the only ones awake, puts a sort of finishing touch
to the unpleasantness of the situation.
Kennedy was not a particularly imaginative youth, but he looked
forward with no little eagerness to the time when he should be
relieved. It would be a relief in two senses of the word. His beat
included that side of the camp which faces the road to Aldershot.
Between camp and this road is a ditch and a wood. After he had been on
duty for an hour this wood began to suggest a variety of possibilities,
all grim. The ditch, too, was not without associations. It was into
this that Private Jones had been hurled on a certain memorable
occasion. Such a thing was not likely to happen again in the same week,
and, even if it did, Kennedy flattered himself that he would have more
to say in the matter than Private Jones had had; but nevertheless he
kept a careful eye in that direction whenever his beat took him along
It was about half-past twelve, and he had entered upon the last
section of his two hours, when Kennedy distinctly heard footsteps in
the wood. He had heard so many mysterious sounds since his patrol began
at eleven o'clock that at first he was inclined to attribute this to
imagination. But a crackle of dead branches and the sound of soft
breathing convinced him that this was the real thing for once, and
that, as a sentry of the Public Schools' Camp on duty, it behoved him
to challenge the unknown.
He stopped and waited, peering into the darkness in a futile
endeavour to catch a glimpse of his man. But the night was too black
for the keenest eye to penetrate it. A slight thud put him on the right
track. It showed him two things; first, that the unknown had dropped
into the ditch, and, secondly, that he was a camp man returning to his
tent after an illegal prowl about the town at lights-out. Nobody save
one belonging to the camp would have cause to cross the ditch.
Besides, the man walked warily, as one not ignorant of the danger of
sentries. The unknown had crawled out of the ditch now. As luck would
have it he had chosen a spot immediately opposite to where Kennedy
stood. Now that he was nearer Kennedy could see the vague outline of
“Who goes there?” he said.
From an instinctive regard for the other's feelings he did not shout
the question in the regulation manner. He knew how he would feel
himself if he were out of camp at half-past twelve, and the voice of
the sentry were to rip suddenly through the silence fortissimo.
As it was, his question was quite loud enough to electrify the
person to whom it was addressed. The unknown started so violently that
he nearly leapt into the air. Kennedy was barely two yards from him
when he spoke.
The next moment this fact was brought home to him in a very
practical manner. The unknown, sighting the sentry, perhaps more
clearly against the dim whiteness of the tents than Kennedy could sight
him against the dark wood, dashed in with a rapidity which showed that
he knew something of the art of boxing. Kennedy dropped his rifle and
flung up his arm. He was altogether too late. A sudden blaze of light,
and he was on the ground, sick and dizzy, a feeling he had often
experienced before in a slighter degree, when sparring in the Eckleton
gymnasium with the boxing instructor.
The immediate effect of a flush hit in the regions about the jaw is
to make the victim lose for the moment all interest in life. Kennedy
lay where he had fallen for nearly half a minute before he fully
realised what it was that had happened to him. When he did realise the
situation, he leapt to his feet, feeling sick and shaky, and staggered
about in all directions in a manner which suggested that he fancied his
assailant would be waiting politely until he had recovered. As was only
natural, that wily person had vanished, and was by this time doing a
quick change into garments of the night. Kennedy had the satisfaction
of knowing—for what it was worth—that his adversary was in one of
those tents, but to place him with any greater accuracy was impossible.
So he gave up the search, found his rifle, and resumed his patrol.
And at one o'clock his successor relieved him.
On the following day camp broke up.
* * * * *
Kennedy always enjoyed going home, but, as he travelled back to
Eckleton on the last day of these summer holidays, he could not help
feeling that there was a great deal to be said for term. He felt
particularly cheerful. He had the carriage to himself, and he had also
plenty to read and eat. The train was travelling at forty miles an
hour. And there were all the pleasures of a first night after the
holidays to look forward to, when you dashed from one friend's study to
another's, comparing notes, and explaining—five or six of you at a
time—what a good time you had had in the holidays. This was always a
pleasant ceremony at Blackburn's, where all the prefects were intimate
friends, and all good sorts, without that liberal admixture of weeds,
worms, and outsiders which marred the list of prefects in most of the
other houses. Such as Kay's! Kennedy could not restrain a momentary
gloating as he contrasted the state of affairs in Blackburn's with what
existed at Kay's. Then this feeling was merged in one of pity for
Fenn's hard case. How he must hate the beginning of term, thought
All the well-known stations were flashing by now. In a few minutes
he would be at the junction, and in another half-hour back at
Blackburn's. He began to collect his baggage from the rack.
Nobody he knew was at the junction. This was the late train that he
had come down by. Most of the school had returned earlier in the
He reached Blackburn's at eight o'clock, and went up to his study to
unpack. This was always his first act on coming back to school. He
liked to start the term with all his books in their shelves, and all
his pictures and photographs in their proper places on the first day.
Some of the studies looked like lumber-rooms till near the end of the
He had filled the shelves, and was arranging the artistic
decorations, when Jimmy Silver came in. Kennedy had been surprised that
he had not met him downstairs, but the matron had answered his inquiry
with the statement that he was talking to Mr Blackburn in the other
part of the house.
“When did you arrive?” asked Silver, after the conclusion of the
first outbreak of holiday talk.
“I've only just come.”
“Seen Blackburn yet?”
“No. I was thinking of going up after I had got this place done
Jimmy Silver ran his eye over the room.
“I haven't started mine yet,” he said. “You're such an energetic
man. Now, are all those books in their proper places?”
“Yes,” said Kennedy.
“How about the pictures? Got them up?”
“All but this lot here. Shan't be a second. There you are. How's
that for effect?”
“Not bad. Got all your photographs in their places?”
“Then,” said Jimmy Silver, calmly, “you'd better start now to pack
them all up again. And why, my son? Because you are no longer a
Blackburnite. That's what.”
“I've just had the whole yarn from Blackburn,” continued Jimmy
Silver. “Our dear old pal, Mr Kay, wanting somebody in his house
capable of keeping order, by way of a change, has gone to the Old Man
and borrowed you. So you're head of Kay's now. There's an honour
IX. THE SENSATIONS OF AN EXILE
“What” shouted Kennedy.
He sprang to his feet as if he had had an electric shock.
Jimmy Silver, having satisfied his passion for the dramatic by the
abruptness with which he had exploded his mine, now felt himself at
liberty to be sympathetic.
“It's quite true,” he said. “And that's just how I felt when
Blackburn told me. Blackburn's as sick as anything. Naturally he
doesn't see the point of handing you over to Kay. But the Old Man
insisted, so he caved in. He wanted to see you as soon as you arrived.
You'd better go now. I'll finish your packing.”
This was noble of Jimmy, for of all the duties of life he loathed
“Thanks awfully,” said Kennedy, “but don't you bother. I'll do it
when I get back. But what's it all about? What made Kay want a man? Why
won't Fenn do? And why me?”
“Well, it's easy to see why they chose you. They reflected that
you'd had the advantage of being in Blackburn's with me, and seeing how
a house really should be run. Kay wants a head for his house. Off he
goes to the Old Man. 'Look here,' he says, 'I want somebody shunted
into my happy home, or it'll bust up. And it's no good trying to put me
off with an inferior article, because I won't have it. It must be
somebody who's been trained from youth up by Silver.' 'Then,' says the
Old Man, reflectively, 'you can't do better than take Kennedy. I happen
to know that Silver has spent years in showing him the straight and
narrow path. You take Kennedy.' 'All right,' says Kay; 'I always
thought Kennedy a bit of an ass myself, but if he's studied under
Silver he ought to know how to manage a house. I'll take him. Advise
our Mr Blackburn to that effect, and ask him to deliver the goods at
his earliest convenience. Adoo, mess-mate, adoo!' And there you
are—that's how it was.”
“But what's wrong with Fenn?”
“My dear chap! Remember last term. Didn't Fenn have a regular scrap
with Kay, and get shoved into extra for it? And didn't he wreck the
concert in the most sportsmanlike way with that encore of his? Think
the Old Man is going to take that grinning? Not much! Fenn made a
ripping fifty against Kent in the holidays—I saw him do it—but they
don't count that. It's a wonder they didn't ask him to leave. Of
course, I think it's jolly rough on Fenn, but I don't see that you can
blame them. Not the Old Man, at any rate. He couldn't do anything else.
It's all Kay's fault that all this has happened, of course. I'm awfully
sorry for you having to go into that beastly hole, but from Kay's point
of view it's a jolly sound move. You may reform the place.”
“I doubt it.”
“So do I—very much. I didn't say you would—I said you might. I
wonder if Kay means to give you a free hand. It all depends on that.”
“Yes. If he's going to interfere with me as he used to with Fenn,
he'll want to bring in another head to improve on me.”
“Rather a good idea, that,” said Jimmy Silver, laughing, as he
always did when any humorous possibilities suggested themselves to him.
“If he brings in somebody to improve on you, and then somebody else to
improve on him, and then another chap to improve on him, he ought to
have a decent house in half-a-dozen years or so.”
“The worst of it is,” said Kennedy, “that I've got to go to Kay's as
a sort of rival to Fenn. I shouldn't mind so much if it wasn't for
that. I wonder how he'll take it! Do you think he knows about it yet?
He didn't enjoy being head, but that's no reason why he shouldn't cut
up rough at being shoved back to second prefect. It's a beastly
“Beastly,” agreed Jimmy Silver. “Look here,” he added, after a
pause, “there's no reason, you know, why this should make any
difference. To us, I mean. What I mean to say is, I don't see why we
shouldn't see each other just as often, and so on, simply because you
are in another house, and all that sort of thing. You know what I
He spoke shamefacedly, as was his habit whenever he was serious. He
liked Kennedy better than anyone he knew, and hated to show his
feelings. Anything remotely connected with sentiment made him
“Of course,” said Kennedy, awkwardly.
“You'll want a refuge,” said Silver, in his normal manner, “now that
you're going to see wild life in Kay's. Don't forget that I'm always at
home in my study in the afternoons—admission on presentation of a
“All right,” said Kennedy, “I'll remember. I suppose I'd better go
and see Blackburn now.”
Mr Blackburn was in his study. He was obviously disgusted and
irritated by what had happened. Loyalty to the headmaster, and an
appreciation of his position as a member of the staff led him to try
and conceal his feelings as much as possible in his interview with
Kennedy, but the latter understood as plainly as if his house-master
had burst into a flow of abuse and complaint. There had always been an
excellent understanding—indeed, a friendship—between Kennedy and Mr
Blackburn, and the master was just as sorry to lose his second prefect
as the latter was to go.
“Well, Kennedy,” he said, pleasantly. “I hope you had a good time in
the holidays. I suppose Silver has told you the melancholy news—that
you are to desert us this term? It is a great pity. We shall all be
very sorry to lose you. I don't look forward to seeing you bowl us all
out in the house-matches next summer,” he added, with a smile, “though
we shall expect a few full-pitches to leg, for the sake of old times.”
He meant well, but the picture he conjured up almost made Kennedy
break down. Nothing up to the present had made him realise the
completeness of his exile so keenly as this remark of Mr Blackburn's
about his bowling against the side for which he had taken so many
wickets in the past. It was a painful thought.
“I am afraid you won't have quite such a pleasant time in Mr Kay's
as you have had here,” resumed the house-master. “Of course, I know
that, strictly speaking, I ought not to talk like this about another
master's house; but you can scarcely be unaware of the reasons that
have led to this change. You must know that you are being sent to pull
Mr Kay's house together. This is strictly between ourselves, of course.
I think you have a difficult task before you, but I don't fancy that
you will find it too much for you. And mind you come here as often as
you please. I am sure Silver and the others will be glad to see you.
Goodbye, Kennedy. I think you ought to be getting across now to Mr
Kay's. I told him that you would be there before half-past nine. Good
“Good night, sir,” said Kennedy.
He wandered out into the house dining-room. Somehow, though Kay's
was only next door, he could not get rid of the feeling that he was
about to start on a long journey, and would never see his old house
again. And in a sense this was so. He would probably visit Blackburn's
tomorrow afternoon, but it would not be the same. Jimmy Silver would
greet him like a brother, and he would brew in the same study in which
he had always brewed, and sit in the same chair; but it would not be
the same. He would be an outsider, a visitor, a stranger within the
gates, and—worst of all—a Kayite. Nothing could alter that.
The walk of the dining-room were covered with photographs of the
house cricket and football teams for the last fifteen years. Looking at
them, he felt more than ever how entirely his school life had been
bound up in his house. From his first day at Eckleton he had been
taught the simple creed of the Blackburnite, that Eckleton was the
finest school in the three kingdoms, and that Blackburn's was the
finest house in the finest school.
Under the gas-bracket by the door hung the first photograph in which
he appeared, the cricket team of four years ago. He had just got the
last place in front of Challis on the strength of a tremendous catch
for the house second in a scratch game two days before the
house-matches began. It had been a glaring fluke, but it had impressed
Denny, the head of the house, who happened to see it, and had won him
He walked round the room, looking at each photograph in turn. It
seemed incredible that he had no longer any right to an interest in the
success of Blackburn's. He could have endured leaving all this when his
time at school was up, for that would have been the natural result of
the passing of years. But to be transplanted abruptly and with a wrench
from his native soil was too much. He went upstairs to pack, suffering
from as severe an attack of the blues as any youth of eighteen had
experienced since blues were first invented.
Jimmy Silver hovered round, while he packed, with expressions of
sympathy and bitter remarks concerning Mr Kay and his wicked works,
and, when the operation was concluded, helped Kennedy carry his box
over to his new house with the air of one seeing a friend off to the
parts beyond the equator.
It was ten o'clock by the time the front door of Kay's closed upon
its new head. Kennedy went to the matron's sanctum to be instructed in
the geography of the house. The matron, a severe lady, whose faith in
human nature had been terribly shaken by five years of office in Kay's,
showed him his dormitory and study with a lack of geniality which added
a deeper tinge of azure to Kennedy's blues. “So you've come to live
here, have you?” her manner seemed to say; “well, I pity you, that's
all. A nice time you're going to have.”
Kennedy spent the half-hour before going to bed in unpacking his box
for the second time, and arranging his books and photographs in the
study which had been Wayburn's. He had nothing to find fault with in
the study. It was as large as the one he had owned at Blackburn's, and,
like it, looked out over the school grounds.
At half-past ten the gas gave a flicker and went out, turned off at
the main. Kennedy lit a candle and made his way to his dormitory. There
now faced him the more than unpleasant task of introducing himself to
its inmates. He knew from experience the disconcerting way in which a
dormitory greets an intruder. It was difficult to know how to begin
matters. It would take a long time, he thought, to explain his presence
to their satisfaction.
Fortunately, however, the dormitory was not unprepared. Things get
about very quickly in a house. The matron had told the housemaids; the
housemaids had handed it on to their ally, the boot boy; the boot boy
had told Wren, whom he happened to meet in the passage, and Wren had
told everybody else.
There was an uproar going on when Kennedy opened the door, but it
died away as he appeared, and the dormitory gazed at the newcomer in
absolute and embarrassing silence. Kennedy had not felt so conscious of
the public eye being upon him since he had gone out to bat against the
M.C.C., on his first appearance in the ranks of the Eckleton eleven. He
went to his bed and began to undress without a word, feeling rather
than seeing the eyes that were peering at him. When he had completed
the performance of disrobing, he blew out the candle and got into bed.
The silence was broken by numerous coughs, of that short, suggestive
type with which the public schoolboy loves to embarrass his fellow man.
From some unidentified corner of the room came a subdued giggle. Then a
whispered, “Shut up, you fool!” To which a low voice replied,
“All right, I'm not doing anything.”
More coughs, and another outbreak of giggling from a fresh quarter.
“Good night,” said Kennedy, to the room in general.
There was no reply. The giggler appeared to be rapidly approaching
“Shut up that row,” said Kennedy.
The giggling ceased.
The atmosphere was charged with suspicion. Kennedy fell asleep
fearing that he was going to have trouble with his dormitory before
many nights had passed.
X. FURTHER EXPERIENCES OF AN EXILE
Breakfast on the following morning was a repetition of the dormitory
ordeal. Kennedy walked to his place on Mr Kay's right, feeling that
everyone was looking at him, as indeed they were. He understood for the
first time the meaning of the expression, “the cynosure of all eyes”.
He was modest by nature, and felt his position a distinct trial.
He did not quite know what to say or do with regard to his new
house-master at this their first meeting in the latter's territory.
“Come aboard, sir,” occurred to him for a moment as a happy phrase, but
he discarded it. To make the situation more awkward, Mr Kay did not
observe him at first, being occupied in assailing a riotous fag at the
other end of the table, that youth having succeeded, by a dexterous
drive in the ribs, in making a friend of his spill half a cup of
coffee. Kennedy did not know whether to sit down without a word or to
remain standing until Mr Kay had time to attend to him. He would have
done better to have sat down; Mr Kay's greeting, when it came, was not
worth waiting for.
“Sit down, Kennedy,” he said, irritably—rebuking people on an empty
stomach always ruffled him. “Sit down, sit down.”
Kennedy sat down, and began to toy diffidently with a sausage,
remembering, as he did so, certain diatribes of Fenn's against the food
at Kay's. As he became more intimate with the sausage, he admitted to
himself that Fenn had had reason. Mr Kay meanwhile pounded away in
moody silence at a plate of kidneys and bacon. It was one of the many
grievances which gave the Kayite material for conversation that Mr Kay
had not the courage of his opinions in the matter of food. He insisted
that he fed his house luxuriously, but he refused to brave the
mysteries of its bill of fare himself.
Fenn had not come down when Kennedy went in to breakfast. He arrived
some ten minutes later, when Kennedy had vanquished the sausage, and
was keeping body and soul together with bread and marmalade.
“I cannot have this, Fenn,” snapped Mr Kay; “you must come down in
Fenn took the rebuke in silence, cast one glance at the sausage
which confronted him, and then pushed it away with such unhesitating
rapidity that Mr Kay glared at him as if about to take up the cudgels
for the rejected viand. Perhaps he remembered that it scarcely befitted
the dignity of a house-master to enter upon a wrangle with a member of
his house on the subject of the merits and demerits of sausages, for he
refrained, and Fenn was allowed to go on with his meal in peace.
Kennedy's chief anxiety had been with regard to Fenn. True, the
latter could hardly blame him for being made head of Kay's, since he
had not been consulted in the matter, and, if he had been, would have
refused the post with horror; but nevertheless the situation might
cause a coolness between them. And if Fenn, the only person in the
house with whom he was at all intimate, refused to be on friendly
terms, his stay in Kay's would be rendered worse than even he had
Fenn had not spoken to him at breakfast, but then there was little
table talk at Kay's. Perhaps the quality of the food suggested such
gloomy reflections that nobody liked to put them into words.
After the meal Fenn ran upstairs to his study. Kennedy followed him,
and opened conversation in his direct way with the subject which he had
come to discuss.
“I say,” he said, “I hope you aren't sick about this. You know I
didn't want to bag your place as head of the house.”
“My dear chap,” said Fenn, “don't apologise. You're welcome to it.
Being head of Kay's isn't such a soft job that one is keen on sticking
“All the same—” began Kennedy.
“I knew Kay would get at me somehow, of course. I've been wondering
how all the holidays. I didn't think of this. Still, I'm jolly glad
it's happened. I now retire into private life, and look on. I've taken
years off my life sweating to make this house decent, and now I'm going
to take a rest and watch you tearing your hair out over the job. I'm
awfully sorry for you. I wish they'd roped in some other victim.”
“But you're still a house prefect, I suppose?”
“I believe so, Kay couldn't very well make me a fag again.”
“Then you'll help manage things?”
“Will I, by Jove! I'd like to see myself! I don't want to do the
heavy martyr business and that sort of thing, but I'm hanged if I'm
going to take any more trouble over the house. Haven't you any respect
for Mr Kay's feelings? He thinks I can't keep order. Surely you don't
want me to go and shatter his pet beliefs? Anyhow, I'm not going to do
it. I'm going to play 'villagers and retainers' to your 'hero'. If you
do anything wonderful with the house, I shall be standing by ready to
cheer. But you don't catch me shoving myself forward. 'Thank Heaven I
knows me place,' as the butler in the play says.”
Kennedy kicked moodily at the leg of the chair which he was holding.
The feeling that his whole world had fallen about his ears was
increasing with every hour he spent in Kay's. Last term he and Fenn had
been as close friends as you could wish to see. If he had asked Fenn to
help him in a tight place then, he knew he could have relied on him.
Now his chief desire seemed to be to score off the human race in
general, his best friend included. It was a depressing beginning.
“Do you know what the sherry said to the man when he was just going
to drink it?” inquired Fenn. “It said, 'Nemo me impune lacessit
'. That's how I feel. Kay went out of his way to give me a bad time when
I was doing my best to run his house properly, so I don't see that I'm
called upon to go out of my way to work for him.”
“It's rather rough on me—” Kennedy began. Then a sudden indignation
rushed through him. Why should he grovel to Fenn? If Fenn chose to
stand out, let him. He was capable of running the house by himself.
“I don't care,” he said, savagely. “If you can't see what a cad
you're making of yourself, I'm not going to try to show you. You can do
what you jolly well please. I'm not dependent on you. I'll make this a
decent house off my own bat without your help. If you like looking on,
you'd better look on. I'll give you something to look at soon.”
He went out, leaving Fenn with mixed feelings. He would have liked
to have followed him, taken back what he had said, and formed an
offensive alliance against the black sheep of the house—and also,
which was just as important, against the slack sheep, who were good for
nothing, either at work or play. But his bitterness against the
house-master prevented him. He was not going to take his removal from
the leadership of Kay's as if nothing had happened.
Meanwhile, in the dayrooms and studies, the house had been holding
indignation meetings, and at each it had been unanimously resolved that
Kay's had been abominably treated, and that the deposition of Fenn must
not be tolerated. Unfortunately, a house cannot do very much when it
revolts. It can only show its displeasure in little things, and by an
increase of rowdiness. This was the line that Kay's took. Fenn became a
popular hero. Fags, until he kicked them for it, showed a tendency to
cheer him whenever they saw him. Nothing could paint Mr Kay blacker in
the eyes of his house, so that Kennedy came in for all the odium. The
same fags who had cheered Fenn hooted him on one occasion as he passed
the junior dayroom. Kennedy stopped short, went in, and presented each
inmate of the room with six cuts with a swagger-stick. This summary and
Captain Kettle-like move had its effect. There was no more hooting. The
fags bethought themselves of other ways of showing their disapproval of
their new head.
One genius suggested that they might kill two birds with one
stone—snub Kennedy and pay a stately compliment to Fenn by applying to
the latter for leave to go out of bounds instead of to the former. As
the giving of leave “down town” was the prerogative of the head of the
house, and of no other, there was a suggestiveness about this mode of
procedure which appealed to the junior dayroom.
But the star of the junior dayroom was not in the ascendant. Fenn
might have quarrelled with Kennedy, and be extremely indignant at his
removal from the headship of the house, but he was not the man to
forget to play the game. His policy of non-interference did not include
underhand attempts to sap Kennedy's authority. When Gorrick, of the
Lower Fourth, the first of the fags to put the ingenious scheme into
practice, came to him, still smarting from Kennedy's castigation, Fenn
promptly gave him six more cuts, worse than the first, and kicked him
out into the passage. Gorrick naturally did not want to spoil a good
thing by giving Fenn's game away, so he lay low and said nothing, with
the result that Wren and three others met with the same fate, only more
so, because Fenn's wrath increased with each visit.
Kennedy, of course, heard nothing of this, or he might perhaps have
thought better of Fenn. As for the junior dayroom, it was obliged to
work off its emotion by jeering Jimmy Silver from the safety of the
touchline when the head of Blackburn's was refereeing in a match
between the juniors of his house and those of Kay's. Blackburn's
happened to win by four goals and eight tries, a result which the
patriotic Kay fag attributed solely to favouritism on the part of the
“I like the kids in your house,” said Jimmy to Kennedy, after the
match, when telling the latter of the incident; “there's no false idea
of politeness about them. If they don't like your decisions, they say
so in a shrill treble.”
“Little beasts,” said Kennedy. “I wish I knew who they were. It's
hopeless to try and spot them, of course.”
XI. THE SENIOR DAYROOM OPENS FIRE
Curiously enough, it was shortly after this that the junior dayroom
ceased almost entirely to trouble the head of the house. Not that they
turned over new leaves, and modelled their conduct on that of the hero
of the Sunday-school story. They were still disorderly, but in a lesser
degree; and ragging became a matter of private enterprise among the
fags instead of being, as it had threatened to be, an organised revolt
against the new head. When a Kay's fag rioted now, he did so with the
air of one endeavouring to amuse himself, not as if he were carrying on
a holy war against the oppressor.
Kennedy's difficulties were considerably diminished by this change.
A head of a house expects the juniors of his house to rag. It is what
they are put into the world to do, and there is no difficulty in
keeping the thing within decent limits. A revolution is another case
altogether. Kennedy was grateful for the change, for it gave him more
time to keep an eye on the other members of the house, but he had no
idea what had brought it about. As a matter of fact, he had Billy
Silver to thank for it. The chief organiser of the movement against
Kennedy in the junior dayroom had been the red-haired Wren, who
preached war to his fellow fags, partly because he loved to create a
disturbance, and partly because Walton, who hated Kennedy, had told him
to. Between Wren and Billy Silver a feud had existed since their first
meeting. The unsatisfactory conclusion to their encounter in camp had
given another lease of life to the feud, and Billy had come back to
Kay's with the fixed intention of smiting his auburn-haired foe hip and
thigh at the earliest opportunity. Wren's attitude with respect to
Kennedy gave him a decent excuse. He had no particular regard for
Kennedy. The fact that he was a friend of his brother's was no
recommendation. There existed between the two Silvers that feeling
which generally exists between an elder and a much younger brother at
the same school. Each thought the other a bit of an idiot, and though
equal to tolerating him personally, was hanged if he was going to do
the same by his friends. In Billy's circle of acquaintances, Jimmy's
friends were looked upon with cold suspicion as officious meddlers who
would give them lines if they found them out of bounds. The aristocrats
with whom Jimmy foregathered barely recognised the existence of Billy's
companions. Kennedy's claim to Billy's good offices rested on the fact
that they both objected to Wren.
So that, when Wren lifted up his voice in the junior dayroom, and
exhorted the fags to go and make a row in the passage outside Kennedy's
study, and—from a safe distance, and having previously ensured a means
of rapid escape—to fling boots at his door, Billy damped the popular
enthusiasm which had been excited by the proposal by kicking Wren with
some violence, and begging him not to be an ass. Whereupon they resumed
their battle at the point at which it had been interrupted at camp. And
when, some five minutes later, Billy, from his seat on his adversary's
chest, offered to go through the same performance with anybody else who
wished, the junior dayroom came to the conclusion that his feelings
with regard to the new head of the house, however foolish and
unpatriotic, had better be respected. And the revolution of the fags
had fizzled out from that moment.
In the senior dayroom, however, the flag of battle was still
unfurled. It was so obvious that Kennedy had been put into the house as
a reformer, and the seniors of Kay's had such an objection to being
reformed, that trouble was only to be expected. It was the custom in
most houses for the head of the house, by right of that position, to be
also captain of football. The senior dayroom was aggrieved at Kennedy's
taking this post from Fenn. Fenn was in his second year in the school
fifteen, and he was the three-quarter who scored most frequently for
Eckleton, whereas Kennedy, though practically a certainty for one of
the six vacant places in the school scrum, was at present entitled to
wear only a second fifteen cap. The claims of Fenn to be captain of
Kay's football were strong, Kennedy had begged him to continue in that
position more than once. Fenn's persistent refusal had helped to
increase the coolness between them, and it had also made things more
difficult for Kennedy in the house.
It was on the Monday of the third week of term that Kennedy, at
Jimmy Silver's request, arranged a “friendly” between Kay's and
Blackburn's. There could be no doubt as to which was the better team
(for Blackburn's had been runners up for the Cup the season before),
but the better one's opponents the better the practice. Kennedy wrote
out the list and fixed it on the notice board. The match was to be
played on the following afternoon.
A football team must generally be made up of the biggest men at the
captain's disposal, so it happened that Walton, Perry, Callingham, and
the other leaders of dissension in Kay's all figured on the list. The
consequence was that the list came in for a good deal of comment in the
senior dayroom. There were games every Saturday and Wednesday, and it
annoyed Walton and friends that they should have to turn out on an
afternoon that was not a half holiday. If was trouble enough playing
football on the days when it was compulsory. As for patriotism, no
member of the house even pretended to care whether Kay's put a good
team into the field or not. The senior dayroom sat talking over the
matter till lights-out. When Kennedy came down next morning, he found
his list scribbled over with blue pencil, while across it in bold
letters ran the single word,
He went to his study, wrote out a fresh copy, and pinned it up in
place of the old one. He had been early in coming down that morning,
and the majority of the Kayites had not seen the defaced notice. The
match was fixed for half-past four. At four a thin rain was falling.
The weather had been bad for some days, but on this particular
afternoon it readied the limit. In addition to being wet, it was also
cold, and Kennedy, as he walked over to the grounds, felt that he would
be glad when the game was over. He hoped that Blackburn's would be
punctual, and congratulated himself on his foresight in securing Mr
Blackburn as referee. Some of the staff, when they consented to hold
the whistle in a scratch game, invariably kept the teams waiting on the
field for half an hour before turning up. Mr Blackburn, an the other
hand, was always punctual. He came out of his house just as Kennedy
turned in at the school gates.
“Well, Kennedy,” he said from the depths of his ulster, the collar
of which he had turned up over his ears with a prudence which Kennedy,
having come out with only a blazer on over his football clothes,
distinctly envied, “I hope your men are not going to be late. I don't
think I ever saw a worse day for football. How long were you thinking
of playing? Two twenty-fives would be enough for a day like this, I
Kennedy consulted with Jimmy Silver, who came up at this moment, and
they agreed without argument that twenty-five minutes each way would be
the very thing.
“Where are your men?” asked Jimmy. “I've got all our chaps out here,
bar Challis, who'll be out in a few minutes. I left him almost
Challis appeared a little later, and joined the rest of Blackburn's
team, who were putting in the time and trying to keep warm by running
and passing and dropping desultory goals. But, with the exception of
Fenn, who stood brooding by himself in the centre of the field, wrapped
to the eyes in a huge overcoat, and two other house prefects of Kay's,
who strolled up and down looking as if they wished they were in their
studies, there was no sign of the missing team.
“I can't make it out,” said Kennedy.
“You're sure you put up the right time?” asked Jimmy Silver.
It certainly could not be said that Kay's had had any room for doubt
as to the time of the match, for it had appeared in large figures on
A quarter to five sounded from the college clock.
“We must begin soon,” said Mr Blackburn, “or there will not be light
enough even for two twenty-fives.”
Kennedy felt wretched. Apart from the fact that he was frozen to an
icicle and drenched by the rain, he felt responsible for his team, and
he could see that Blackburn's men were growing irritated at the delay,
though they did their best to conceal it.
“Can't we lend them some subs?” suggested Challis, hopefully.
“All right—if you can raise eleven subs,” said Silver. “They've
only got four men on the field at present.”
“Look here,” said Kennedy, “I'm going back to the house to see
what's up. I'll be back as soon as I can. They must have mistaken the
time or something after all.”
He rushed back to the house, and flung open the door of the senior
dayroom. It was empty.
Kennedy had expected to find his missing men huddled in a semicircle
round the fire, waiting for some one to come and tell them that
Blackburn's had taken the field, and that they could come out now
without any fear of having to wait in the rain for the match to begin.
This, he thought, would have been the unselfish policy of Kay's senior
But to find nobody was extraordinary.
The thought occurred to him that the team might be changing in their
dormitories. He ran upstairs. But all the dormitories were locked, as
he might have known they would have been. Coming downstairs again he
met his fag, Spencer.
Spencer replied to his inquiry that he had only just come in. He did
not know where the team had got to. No, he had not seen any of them.
“Oh, yes, though,” he added, as an afterthought, “I met Walton just
now. He looked as if he was going down town.”
Walton had once licked Spencer, and that vindictive youth thought
that this might be a chance of getting back at him.
“Oh,” said Kennedy, quietly, “Walton? Did you? Thanks.”
Spencer was disappointed at his lack of excitement. His news did not
seem to interest him.
Kennedy went back to the football field to inform Jimmy Silver of
the result of his investigations.
XII. KENNEDY INTERVIEWS WALTON
“I'm very sorry,” he said, when he rejoined the shivering group,
“but I'm afraid we shall have to call this match off. There seems to
have been a mistake. None of my team are anywhere about. I'm awfully
sorry, sir,” he added, to Mr Blackburn, “to have given you all this
trouble for nothing.”
“Not at all, Kennedy. We must try another day.”
Mr Blackburn suspected that something untoward had happened in Kay's
to cause this sudden defection of the first fifteen of the house. He
knew that Kennedy was having a hard time in his new position, and he
did not wish to add to his discomfort by calling for an explanation
before an audience. It could not be pleasant for Kennedy to feel that
his enemies had scored off him. It was best to preserve a discreet
silence with regard to the whole affair, and leave him to settle it for
Jimmy Silver was more curious. He took Kennedy off to tea in his
study, sat him down in the best chair in front of the fire, and
proceeded to urge him to confess everything.
“Now, then, what's it all about?” he asked, briskly, spearing a
muffin on the fork and beginning to toast.
“It's no good asking me,” said Kennedy. “I suppose it's a put-up job
to make me look a fool. I ought to have known something of this kind
would happen when I saw what they did to my first notice.”
“What was that?”
“This is getting thrilling,” said Jimmy. “Just pass that plate.
Thanks. What are you going to do about it?”
“I don't know. What would you do?”
“My dear chap, I'd first find out who was at the bottom of
it—there's bound to be one man who started the whole thing—and I'd
make it my aim in life to give him the warmest ten minutes he'd ever
“That sounds all right. But how would you set about it?”
“Why, touch him up, of course. What else would you do? Before the
whole house, too.”
“Supposing he wouldn't be touched up?”
“Wouldn't be! He'd have to.”
“You don't know Kay's, Jimmy. You're thinking what you'd do if this
had happened in Blackburn's. The two things aren't the same. Here the
man would probably take it like a lamb. The feeling of the house would
be against him. He'd find nobody to back him up. That's because
Blackburn's is a decent house instead of being a sink like Kay's. If I
tried the touching-up before the whole house game with our chaps, the
man would probably reply by going for me, assisted by the whole
strength of the company.”
“Well, dash it all then, all you've got to do is to call a prefects'
meeting, and he'll get ten times worse beans from them than he'd have
got from you. It's simple.”
Kennedy stared into the fire pensively.
“I don't know,” he said. “I bar that prefects' meeting business. It
always seems rather feeble to me, lugging in a lot of chaps to help
settle some one you can't manage yourself. I want to carry this job
through on my own.”
“Then you'd better scrap with the man.”
“I think I will.”
“Don't be an ass,” he said. “I was only rotting. You can't go
fighting all over the shop as if you were a fag. You'd lose your
prefect's cap if it came out.”
“I could wear my topper,” said Kennedy, with a grin. “You see,” he
added, “I've not much choice. I must do something. If I took no notice
of this business there'd be no holding the house. I should be ragged to
death. It's no good talking about it. Personally, I should prefer
touching the chap up to fighting him, and I shall try it on. But he's
not likely to meet me half-way. And if he doesn't there'll be an
interesting turn-up, and you shall hold the watch. I'll send a kid
round to fetch you when things look like starting. I must go now to
interview my missing men. So long. Mind you slip round directly I send
“Wait a second. Don't be in such a beastly hurry. Who's the chap
you're going to fight?”
“I don't know yet. Walton, I should think. But I don't know.”
“Walton! By Jove, it'll be worth seeing, anyhow, if we are
both sacked for it when the Old Man finds out.”
Kennedy returned to his study and changed his football boots for a
pair of gymnasium shoes. For the job he had in hand it was necessary
that he should move quickly, and football boots are a nuisance on a
board floor. When he had changed, he called Spencer.
“Go down to the senior dayroom,” he said, “and tell MacPherson I
want to see him.”
MacPherson was a long, weak-looking youth. He had been put down to
play for the house that day, and had not appeared.
“MacPherson!” said the fag, in a tone of astonishment, “not Walton?”
He had been looking forward to the meeting between Kennedy and his
ancient foe, and to have a miserable being like MacPherson offered as a
substitute disgusted him.
“If you have no objection,” said Kennedy, politely, “I may want you
to fetch Walton later on.”
Spencer vanished, hopeful once more.
“Come in, MacPherson,” said Kennedy, on the arrival of the long one;
“shut the door.”
MacPherson did so, feeling as if he were paying a visit to the
dentist. As long as there had been others with him in this affair he
had looked on it as a splendid idea. But to be singled out like this
was quite a different thing.
“Now,” said Kennedy, “Why weren't you on the field this afternoon?”
“I—er—I was kept in.”
“Oh—er—till about five.”
“What do you call about five?”
“About twenty-five to,” he replied, despondently.
“Now look here,” said Kennedy, briskly, “I'm just going to explain
to you exactly how I stand in this business, so you'd better attend. I
didn't ask to be made head of this sewage depot. If I could have had
any choice, I wouldn't have touched a Kayite with a barge-pole. But
since I am head, I'm going to be it, and the sooner you and your senior
dayroom crew realise it the better. This sort of thing isn't going on.
I want to know now who it was put up this job. You wouldn't have the
cheek to start a thing like this yourself. Who was it?”
“You'd better say, and be quick, too. I can't wait. Whoever it was.
I shan't tell him you told me. And I shan't tell Kay. So now you can go
ahead. Who was it?”
“I thought so. Now you can get out. If you see Spencer, send him
Spencer, curiously enough, was just outside the door. So close to
it, indeed, that he almost tumbled in when MacPherson opened it.
“Go and fetch Walton,” said Kennedy.
Spencer dashed off delightedly, and in a couple of minutes Walton
appeared. He walked in with an air of subdued defiance, and slammed the
“Don't bang the door like that,” said Kennedy. “Why didn't you turn
“I was kept in.”
“Couldn't you get out in time to play?”
“When did you get out?”
“I said six.”
“Then how did you manage to go down town—without leave, by the way,
but that's a detail—at half-past five?”
“All right,” said Walton; “better call me a liar.”
“Good suggestion,” said Kennedy, cheerfully; “I will.”
“It's all very well,” said Walton. “You know jolly well you can say
anything you like. I can't do anything to you. You'd have me up before
“Not a bit of it. This is a private affair between ourselves. I'm
not going to drag the prefects into it. You seem to want to make this
house worse than it is. I want to make it more or less decent. We can't
both have what we want.”
There was a pause.
“When would it be convenient for you to be touched up before the
whole house?” inquired Kennedy, pleasantly.
“Well, you see, it seems the only thing. I must take it out of some
one for this house-match business, and you started it. Will tonight
suit you, after supper?”
“You'll get it hot if you try to touch me.”
“You'd funk taking me on in a scrap,” said Walton.
“Would I? As a matter of fact, a scrap would suit me just as well.
Better. Are you ready now?”
“Quite, thanks,” sneered Walton. “I've knocked you out before, and
I'll do it again.”
“Oh, then it was you that night at camp? I thought so. I spotted
your style. Hitting a chap when he wasn't ready, you know, and so on.
Now, if you'll wait a minute, I'll send across to Blackburn's for
Silver. I told him I should probably want him as a time-keeper
“What do you want with Silver. Why won't Perry do?”
“Thanks, I'm afraid Perry's time-keeping wouldn't be impartial
enough. Silver, I think, if you don't mind.”
Spencer was summoned once more, and despatched to Blackburn's. He
returned with Jimmy.
“Come in, Jimmy,” said Kennedy. “Run away, Spencer. Walton and I are
just going to settle a point of order which has arisen, Jimmy. Will you
hold the watch? We ought just to have time before tea.”
“Where?” asked Silver.
“My dormitory would be the best place. We can move the beds. I'll go
and get the keys.”
Kennedy's dormitory was the largest in the house. After the beds had
been moved back, there was a space in the middle of fifteen feet one
way, and twelve the other—not a large ring, but large enough for two
fighters who meant business.
Walton took off his coat, waistcoat, and shirt. Kennedy, who was
still in football clothes, removed his blazer.
“Half a second,” said Jimmy Silver—“what length rounds?”
“Two minutes?” said Kennedy to Walton.
“All right,” growled Walton.
“Two minutes, then, and half a minute in between.”
“Are you both ready?” asked Jimmy, from his seat on the chest of
Kennedy and Walton advanced into the middle of the impromptu ring.
There was dead silence for a moment.
“Time!” said Jimmy Silver.
XIII. THE FIGHT IN THE DORMITORY
Stating it broadly, fighters may be said to be divided into two
classes—those who are content to take two blows if they can give three
in return, and those who prefer to receive as little punishment as
possible, even at the expense of scoring fewer points themselves.
Kennedy's position, when Jimmy Silver called time, was peculiar. On all
the other occasions on which he had fought—with the gloves on in the
annual competition, and at the assault-at-arms—he had gone in for the
policy of taking all that the other man liked to give him, and giving
rather more in exchange. Now, however, he was obliged to alter his
whole style. For a variety of reasons it was necessary that he should
come out of this fight with as few marks as possible. To begin with, he
represented, in a sense, the Majesty of the Law. He was tackling Walton
more by way of an object-lesson to the Kayite mutineers than for his
own personal satisfaction. The object-lesson would lose in
impressiveness if he were compelled to go about for a week or so with a
pair of black eyes, or other adornments of a similar kind. Again—and
this was even more important—if he was badly marked the affair must
come to the knowledge of the headmaster. Being a prefect, and in the
sixth form, he came into contact with the Head every day, and the
disclosure of the fact that he had been engaged in a pitched battle
with a member of his house, who was, in addition to other
disadvantages, very low down in the school, would be likely to lead to
unpleasantness. A school prefect of Eckleton was supposed to be hedged
about with so much dignity that he could quell turbulent inferiors with
a glance. The idea of one of the august body lowering himself to the
extent of emphasising his authority with the bare knuckle would
scandalise the powers.
So Kennedy, rising at the call of time from the bed on which he sat,
came up to the scratch warily.
Walton, on the other hand, having everything to gain and nothing to
lose, and happy in the knowledge that no amount of bruises could do him
any harm, except physically, came on with the evident intention of
making a hurricane fight of it. He had very little science as a boxer.
Heavy two-handed slogging was his forte, and, as the majority of his
opponents up to the present had not had sufficient skill to discount
his strength, he had found this a very successful line of action.
Kennedy and he had never had the gloves on together. In the competition
of the previous year both had entered in their respective classes,
Kennedy as a lightweight, Walton in the middles, and both, after
reaching the semi-final, had been defeated by the narrowest of margins
by men who had since left the school. That had been in the previous
Easter term, and, while Walton had remained much the same as regards
weight and strength, Kennedy, owing to a term of hard bowling and a
summer holiday spent in the open, had filled out. They were now
practically on an equality, as far as weight was concerned. As for
condition, that was all in favour of Kennedy. He played football in his
spare time. Walton, on the days when football was not compulsory,
Neither of the pair showed any desire to open the fight by shaking
hands. This was not a friendly spar. It was business. The first move
was made by Walton, who feinted with his right and dashed in to fight
at close quarters. It was not a convincing feint. At any rate, it did
not deceive Kennedy. He countered with his left, and swung his right at
the body with all the force he could put into the hit. Walton went back
a pace, sparred for a moment, then came in again, hitting heavily.
Kennedy's counter missed its mark this time. He just stopped a round
sweep of Walton's right, ducked to avoid a similar effort of his left,
and they came together in a clinch.
In a properly regulated glove-fight, the referee, on observing the
principals clinch, says, “Break away there, break away,” in a sad,
reproachful voice, and the fighters separate without demur, being very
much alive to the fact that, as far as that contest is concerned, their
destinies are in his hands, and that any bad behaviour in the ring will
lose them the victory. But in an impromptu turn-up like this one, the
combatants show a tendency to ignore the rules so carefully mapped out
by the present Marquess of Queensberry's grandfather, and revert to the
conditions of warfare under which Cribb and Spring won their battles.
Kennedy and Walton, having clinched, proceeded to wrestle up and down
the room, while Jimmy Silver looked on from his eminence in pained
surprise at the sight of two men, who knew the rules of the ring, so
far forgetting themselves.
To do Kennedy justice, it was not his fault. He was only acting in
self-defence. Walton had started the hugging. Also, he had got the
under-grip, which, when neither man knows a great deal of the science
of wrestling, generally means victory. Kennedy was quite sure that he
could not throw his antagonist, but he hung on in the knowledge that
the round must be over shortly, when Walton would have to loose him.
“Time,” said Jimmy Silver.
Kennedy instantly relaxed his grip, and in that instant Walton swung
him off his feet, and they came down together with a crash that shook
the room. Kennedy was underneath, and, as he fell, his head came into
violent contact with the iron support of a bed.
Jimmy Silver sprang down from his seat.
“What are you playing at, Walton? Didn't you hear me call time? It
was a beastly foul—the worst I ever saw. You ought to be sacked for a
thing like that. Look here, Kennedy, you needn't go on. I disqualify
Walton for fouling.”
The usually genial James stammered with righteous indignation.
Kennedy sat down on a bed, dizzily.
“No,” he said; “I'm going on.”
“But he fouled you.”
“I don't care. I'll look after myself. Is it time yet?”
“Ten seconds more, if you really are going on.”
He climbed back on to the chest of drawers.
Kennedy came up feeling weak and sick. The force with which he had
hit his head on the iron had left him dazed.
Walton rushed in as before. He had no chivalrous desire to spare his
man by way of compensation for fouling him. What monopolised his
attention was the evident fact that Kennedy was in a bad way, and that
a little strenuous infighting might end the affair in the desired
It was at this point that Kennedy had reason to congratulate himself
on donning gymnasium shoes. They gave him that extra touch of lightness
which enabled him to dodge blows which he was too weak to parry.
Everything was vague and unreal to him. He seemed to be looking on at a
fight between Walton and some stranger.
Then the effect of his fall began to wear off. He could feel himself
growing stronger. Little by little his head cleared, and he began once
more to take a personal interest in the battle. It is astonishing what
a power a boxer, who has learnt the art carefully, has of automatic
fighting. The expert gentleman who fights under the pseudonym of “Kid
M'Coy” once informed the present writer that in one of his fights he
was knocked down by such a severe hit that he remembered nothing
further, and it was only on reading the paper next morning that he
found, to his surprise, that he had fought four more rounds after the
blow, and won the battle handsomely on points. Much the same thing
happened to Kennedy. For the greater part of the second round he fought
without knowing it. When Jimmy Silver called time he was in as good
case as ever, and the only effects of the blow on his head were a vast
lump underneath the hair, and a settled determination to win or perish.
In a few minutes the bell would ring for tea, and all his efforts would
end in nothing. It was no good fighting a draw with Walton if he meant
to impress the house. He knew exactly what Rumour, assisted by Walton,
would make of the affair in that case. “Have you heard the latest?” A
would ask of B. “Why, Kennedy tried to touch Walton up for not playing
footer, and Walton went for him and would have given him frightful
beans, only they had to go down to tea.” There must be none of that
sort of thing.
“Time,” said Jimmy Silver, breaking in on his meditations.
It was probably the suddenness and unexpectedness of it that took
Walton aback. Up till now his antagonist had been fighting strictly on
the defensive, and was obviously desirous of escaping punishment as far
as might be possible. And then the fall at the end of round one had
shaken him up, so that he could hardly fight at all at their second
meeting. Walton naturally expected that it would be left to him to do
the leading in round three. Instead of this, however, Kennedy opened
the round with such a lightning attack that Walton was all abroad in a
moment. In his most scientific mood he had never had the remotest
notion of how to guard. He was aggressive and nothing else. Attacked by
a quick hitter, he was useless. Three times Kennedy got through his
guard with his left. The third hit staggered him. Before he could
recover, Kennedy had got his right in, and down went Walton in a heap.
He was up again as soon as he touched the boards, and down again
almost as soon as he was up. Kennedy was always a straight hitter, and
now a combination of good cause and bad temper—for the thought of the
foul in the first round had stirred what was normally a more or less
placid nature into extreme viciousness—lent a vigour to his left arm
to which he had hitherto been a stranger. He did not use his right
again. It was not needed.
Twice more Walton went down. He was still down when Jimmy Silver
called time. When the half-minute interval between the rounds was over,
he stated that he was not going on.
Kennedy looked across at him as he sat on a bed dabbing tenderly at
his face with a handkerchief, and was satisfied with the success of his
object-lesson. From his own face the most observant of headmasters
could have detected no evidence that he had been engaged in a vulgar
fight. Walton, on the other hand, looked as if he had been engaged in
several—all violent. Kennedy went off to his study to change, feeling
that he had advanced a long step on the thorny path that led to the
XIV. FENN RECEIVES A LETTER
But the step was not such a very long one after all. What it
amounted to was simply this, that open rebellion ceased in Kay's. When
Kennedy put up the list on the notice-board for the third time, which
he did on the morning following his encounter with Walton, and wrote on
it that the match with Blackburn's would take place that afternoon, his
team turned out like lambs, and were duly defeated by thirty-one
points. He had to play a substitute for Walton, who was rather too
battered to be of any real use in the scrum; but, with that exception,
the team that entered the field was the same that should have entered
it the day before.
But his labours in the Augean stables of Kay's were by no means
over. Practically they had only begun. The state of the house now was
exactly what it had been under Fenn. When Kennedy had taken over the
reins, Kay's had become on the instant twice as bad as it had been
before. By his summary treatment of the revolution, he had, so to
speak, wiped off this deficit. What he had to do now was to begin to
improve things. Kay's was now in its normal state—slack, rowdy in an
underhand way, and utterly useless to the school. It was “up to"
Kennedy, as they say in America, to start in and make something
presentable and useful out of these unpromising materials.
What annoyed him more than anything else was the knowledge that if
only Fenn chose to do the square thing and help him in his work, the
combination would be irresistible. It was impossible to make any leeway
to speak of by himself. If Fenn would only forget his grievances and
join forces with him, they could electrify the house.
Fenn, however, showed no inclination to do anything of the kind. He
and Kennedy never spoke to one another now except when it was
absolutely unavoidable, and then they behaved with that painful
politeness in which the public schoolman always wraps himself as in a
garment when dealing with a friend with whom he has quarrelled.
On the Walton episode Fenn had made no comment, though it is
probable that he thought a good deal.
It was while matters were in this strained condition that Fenn
received a letter from his elder brother. This brother had been at
Eckleton in his time—School House—and had left five years before to
go to Cambridge. Cambridge had not taught him a great deal, possibly
because he did not meet the well-meant efforts of his tutor half-way.
The net result of his three years at King's was—imprimis, a
cricket blue, including a rather lucky eighty-three at Lord's;
secondly, a very poor degree; thirdly and lastly, a taste for
literature and the drama—he had been a prominent member of the
Footlights Club. When he came down he looked about him for some
occupation which should combine in happy proportions a small amount of
work and a large amount of salary, and, finding none, drifted into
journalism, at which calling he had been doing very fairly ever since.
“Dear Bob,” the letter began. Fenn's names were Robert Mowbray, the
second of which he had spent much of his time in concealing. “Just a
The elder Fenn always began his letters with these words, whether
they ran to one sheet or eight. In the present case the screed was not
“Do you remember my reading you a bit of an opera I was writing?
Well, I finished it, and, after going the round of most of the
managers, who chucked it with wonderful unanimity, it found an admirer
in Higgs, the man who took the part of the duke in The Outsider.
Luckily, he happened to be thinking of starting on his own in opera
instead of farce, and there's a part in mine which fits him like a
glove. So he's going to bring it out at the Imperial in the spring, and
by way of testing the piece—trying it on the dog, as it were—he means
to tour with it. Now, here's the point of this letter. We start at
Eckleton next Wednesday. We shall only be there one night, for we go on
to Southampton on Thursday. I suppose you couldn't come and see it? I
remember Peter Brown, who got the last place in the team the year I got
my cricket colours, cutting out of his house (Kay's, by the way) and
going down town to see a piece at the theatre. I'm bound to admit he
got sacked for it, but still, it shows that it can be done. All the
same, I shouldn't try it on if I were you. You'll be able to read all
about the 'striking success' and 'unrestrained enthusiasm' in the
Eckleton Mirror on Thursday. Mind you buy a copy.”
The rest of the letter was on other subjects. It took Fenn less than
a minute to decide to patronise that opening performance. He was never
in the habit of paying very much attention to risks when he wished to
do anything, and now he felt as if he cared even less than usual what
might be the outcome of the adventure. Since he had ceased to be on
speaking terms with Kennedy, he had found life decidedly dull. Kennedy
had been his only intimate friend. He had plenty of acquaintances, as a
first eleven and first fifteen man usually has, but none of them were
very entertaining. Consequently he welcomed the idea of a break in the
monotony of affairs. The only thing that had broken it up to the
present had been a burglary at the school house. Some enterprising
marauder had broken in a week before and gone off with a few articles
of value from the headmaster's drawing-room. But the members of the
school house had talked about this episode to such an extent that the
rest of the school had dropped off the subject, exhausted, and declined
to discuss it further. And things had become monotonous once more.
Having decided to go, Fenn began to consider how he should do it.
And here circumstances favoured him. It happened that on the evening on
which his brother's play was to be produced the headmaster was giving
his once-a-term dinner to the house-prefects. This simplified matters
wonderfully. The only time when his absence from the house was at all
likely to be discovered would be at prayers, which took place at
half-past nine. The prefects' dinner solved this difficulty for him.
Kay would not expect him to be at prayers, thinking he was over at the
Head's, while the Head, if he noticed his absence at all, would imagine
that he was staying away from the dinner owing to a headache or some
other malady. It seemed tempting Providence not to take advantage of
such an excellent piece of luck. For the rest, detection was
practically impossible. Kennedy's advent to the house had ousted Fenn
from the dormitory in which he had slept hitherto, and, there being no
bed available in any of the other dormitories, he had been put into the
spare room usually reserved for invalids whose invalidism was not of a
sufficiently infectious kind to demand their removal to the infirmary.
As for getting back into the house, he would leave the window of his
study unfastened. He could easily climb on to the window-ledge, and so
to bed without let or hindrance.
The distance from Kay's to the town was a mile and a half. If he
started at the hour when he should have been starting for the school
house, he would arrive just in time to see the curtain go up.
Having settled these facts definitely in his mind, he got his books
together and went over to school.
XV. DOWN TOWN
Fenn arrived at the theatre a quarter of an hour before the curtain
rose. Going down a gloomy alley of the High Street, he found himself at
the stage door, where he made inquiries of a depressed-looking man with
a bad cold in the head as to the whereabouts of his brother. It seemed
that he was with Mr Higgs. If he would wait, said the door-keeper, his
name should be sent up. Fenn waited, while the door-keeper made polite
conversation by describing his symptoms to him in a hoarse growl.
Presently the minion who had been despatched to the upper regions with
Fenn's message returned. Would he go upstairs, third door on the left.
Fenn followed the instructions, and found himself in a small room, a
third of which was filled by a huge iron-bound chest, another third by
a very stout man and a dressing-table, while the rest of the space was
comparatively empty, being occupied by a wooden chair with three legs.
On this seat his brother was trying to balance himself, giving what
part of his attention was not required for this feat to listening to
some story the fat man was telling him. Fenn had heard his deep voice
booming as he went up the passage.
His brother did the honours.
“Glad to see you, glad to see you,” said Mr Higgs, for the fat man
was none other than that celebrity. “Take a seat.”
Fenn sat down on the chest and promptly tore his trousers on a
jagged piece of iron.
“These provincial dressing-rooms!” said Mr Higgs, by way of comment.
“No room! Never any room! No chairs! Nothing!”
He spoke in short, quick sentences, and gasped between each. Fenn
said it really didn't matter—he was quite comfortable.
“Haven't they done anything about it?” asked Fenn's brother,
resuming the conversation which Fenn's entrance had interrupted. “We've
been having a burglary here,” he explained. “Somebody got into the
theatre last night through a window. I don't know what they expected to
“Why,” said Fenn, “we've had a burglar up our way too. Chap broke
into the school house and went through the old man's drawing-room. The
school house men have been talking about nothing else ever since. I
wonder if it's the same crew.”
Mr Higgs turned in his chair, and waved a stick of grease paint
impressively to emphasise his point.
“There,” he said. “There! What I've been saying all along. No doubt
of it. Organised gang. And what are the police doing? Nothing, sir,
nothing. Making inquiries. Rot! What's the good of inquiries?”
Fenn's brother suggested mildly that inquiries were a good
beginning. You must start somehow. Mr Higgs scouted the idea.
“There ought not to be any doubt, sir. They ought to know. To
KNOW,” he added, with firmness.
At this point there filtered through the closed doors the strains of
the opening chorus.
“By Jove, it's begun!” said Fenn's brother. “Come on, Bob.”
“Where are we going to?” asked Fenn, as he followed. “The wings?”
But it seemed that the rules of Mr Higgs' company prevented any
outsider taking up his position in that desirable quarter. The only
place from which it was possible to watch the performance, except by
going to the front of the house, was the “flies,” situated near the
roof of the building.
Fenn found all the pleasures of novelty in watching the players from
this lofty position. Judged by the cold light of reason, it was not the
best place from which to see a play. It was possible to gain only a
very foreshortened view of the actors. But it was a change after
sitting “in front”.
The piece was progressing merrily. The gifted author, at first
silent and pale, began now to show signs of gratification. Now and
again he chuckled as some jeu de mots hit the mark and drew a
quick gust of laughter from the unseen audience. Occasionally he would
nudge Fenn to draw his attention to some good bit of dialogue which was
approaching. He was obviously enjoying himself.
The advent of Mr Higgs completed his satisfaction, for the audience
greeted the comedian with roars of applause. As a rule Eckleton took
its drama through the medium of third-rate touring companies, which
came down with plays that had not managed to attract London to any
great extent, and were trying to make up for failures in the metropolis
by long tours in the provinces. It was seldom that an actor of the
Higgs type paid the town a visit, and in a play, too, which had
positively never appeared before on any stage. Eckleton appreciated the
“Listen,” said Fenn's brother. “Isn't that just the part for him?
It's just like he was in the dressing-room, eh? Short sentences and
everything. The funny part of it is that I didn't know the man when I
wrote the play. It was all luck.”
Mr Higgs' performance sealed the success of the piece. The house
laughed at everything he said. He sang a song in his gasping way, and
they laughed still more. Fenn's brother became incoherent with delight.
The verdict of Eckleton was hardly likely to affect London
theatre-goers, but it was very pleasant notwithstanding. Like every
playwright with his first piece, he had been haunted by the idea that
his dialogue “would not act", that, however humorous it might be to a
reader, it would fall flat when spoken. There was no doubt now as to
whether the lines sounded well.
At the beginning of the second act the great Higgs was not on the
stage, Fenn's brother knowing enough of the game not to bring on his
big man too soon. He had not to enter for ten minutes or so. The
author, who had gone down to see him during the interval, stayed in the
dressing-room. Fenn, however, who wanted to see all of the piece that
he could, went up to the “flies” again.
It occurred to him when he got there that he would see more if he
took the seat which his brother had been occupying. It would give him
much the same view of the stage, and a wider view of the audience. He
thought it would be amusing to see how the audience looked from the
Mr W. S. Gilbert once wrote a poem about a certain bishop who, while
fond of amusing himself, objected to his clergy doing likewise. And the
consequence was that whenever he did so amuse himself, he was always
haunted by a phantom curate, who joined him in his pleasures, much to
his dismay. On one occasion he stopped to watch a Punch and Judy show,
And heard, as Punch was being treated penally,
That phantom curate laughing all hyaenally.
The disgust and panic of this eminent cleric was as nothing compared
with that of Fenn, when, shifting to his brother's seat, he got the
first clear view he had had of the audience. In a box to the left of
the dress-circle sat, “laughing all hyaenally", the following
Mr Mulholland of No. 7 College Buildings.
Mr Raynes of No. 4 ditto,
Fenn drew back like a flash, knocking his chair over as he did so.
“Giddy, sir?” said a stage hand, pleasantly. “Bless you, lots of
gents is like that when they comes up here. Can't stand the 'eight,
they can't. You'll be all right in a jiffy.”
“Yes. It—it is rather high, isn't it?” said Fenn. “Awful glare,
He picked up his chair and sat down well out of sight of the box.
Had they seen him? he wondered. Then common sense returned to him. They
could not possibly have seen him. Apart from any other reasons, he had
only been in his brother's seat for half-a-dozen seconds. No. He was
all right so far. But he would have to get back to the house, and at
once. With three of the staff, including his own house-master, ranging
the town, things were a trifle too warm for comfort. He wondered it had
not occurred to him that, with a big attraction at the theatre, some of
the staff might feel an inclination to visit it.
He did not stop to say goodbye to his brother. Descending from his
perch, he hurried to the stage door.
“It's in the toobs that I feel it, sir.” said the door-keeper, as he
let him out, resuming their conversation as if they had only just
parted. Fenn hurried off without waiting to hear more.
It was drizzling outside, and there was a fog. Not a “London
particular", but quite thick enough to make it difficult to see where
one was going. People and vehicles passed him, vague phantoms in the
darkness. Occasionally the former collided with him. He began to wish
he had not accepted his brother's invitation. The unexpected sight of
the three masters had shaken his nerve. Till then only the romantic,
adventurous side of the expedition had struck him. Now the risks began
to loom larger in his mind. It was all very well, he felt, to think, as
he had done, that he would be expelled if found out, but that all the
same he would risk it. Detection then had seemed a remote contingency.
With three masters in the offing it became at least a possibility. The
melancholy case of Peter Brown seemed to him now to have a more
personal significance for him.
Wrapped in these reflections, he lost his way.
He did not realise this for some time. It was borne in upon him when
the road he was taking suddenly came to an abrupt end in a blank wall.
Instead of being, as he had fancied, in the High Street, he must have
branched off into some miserable blind alley.
More than ever he wished he had not come. Eckleton was not a town
that took up a great deal of room on the map of England, but it made up
for small dimensions by the eccentricity with which it had been laid
out. On a dark and foggy night, to one who knew little of its
geography, it was a perfect maze.
Fenn had wandered some way when the sound of someone whistling a
popular music-hall song came to him through the gloom. He had never
heard anything more agreeable.
“I say,” he shouted at a venture, “can you tell me the way to the
The whistler stopped in the middle of a bar, and presently Fenn saw
a figure sidling towards him in what struck him as a particularly
“Wot's thet, gav'nor?”
“Can you tell me where the High Street is? I've lost my way.”
The vague figure came closer.
“'Igh Street? Yus; yer go—”
A hand shot out, Fenn felt a sharp wrench in the region of his
waistcoat, and a moment later the stranger had vanished into the fog
with the prefect's watch and chain.
Fenn forgot his desire to return to the High Street. He forgot
everything except that he wished to catch the fugitive, maltreat him,
and retrieve his property. He tore in the direction whence came the
patter of retreating foot-steps.
There were moments when he thought he had him, when he could hear
the sound of his breathing. But the fog was against him. Just as he was
almost on his man's heels, the fugitive turned sharply into a street
which was moderately well lighted. Fenn turned after him. He had just
time to recognise the street as his goal, the High Street, when
somebody, walking unexpectedly out of the corner house, stood directly
in his path. Fenn could not stop himself. He charged the man squarely,
clutched him to save himself, and they fell in a heap on the pavement.
XVI. WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN
Fenn was up first. Many years' experience of being tackled at full
speed on the football field had taught him how to fall. The stranger,
whose football days, if he had ever had any, were long past, had gone
down with a crash, and remained on the pavement, motionless. Fenn was
conscious of an ignoble impulse to fly without stopping to chat about
the matter. Then he was seized with a gruesome fear that he had injured
the man seriously, which vanished when the stranger sat up. His first
words were hardly of the sort that one would listen to from choice. His
first printable expression, which did not escape him until he had been
speaking some time, was in the nature of an official bulletin.
“You've broken my neck,” said he.
Fenn renewed his apologies and explanations.
“Your watch!” cried the man in a high, cracked voice. “Don't stand
there talking about your watch, but help me up. What do I care about
your watch? Why don't you look where you are going to? Now then, now
then, don't hoist me as if I were a hod of bricks. That's right. Now
help me indoors, and go away.”
Fenn supported him while he walked lamely into the house. He was
relieved to find that there was nothing more the matter with him than a
shaking and a few bruises.
“Door on the left,” said the injured one.
Fenn led him down the passage and into a small sitting-room. The gas
was lit, and as he turned it up he saw that the stranger was a man well
advanced in years. He had grey hair that was almost white. His face was
not a pleasant one. It was a mass of lines and wrinkles from which a
physiognomist would have deduced uncomplimentary conclusions as to his
character. Fenn had little skill in that way, but he felt that for some
reason he disliked the man, whose eyes, which were small and
extraordinarily bright, gave rather an eerie look to his face.
“Go away, go away,” he kept repeating savagely from his post on the
shabby sofa on which Fenn had deposited him.
“But are you all right? Can't I get you something?” asked the
“Go away, go away,” repeated the man.
Conversation on these lines could never be really attractive. Fenn
turned to go. As he closed the door and began to feel his way along the
dark passage, he heard the key turn in the lock behind him. The man
could not, he felt, have been very badly hurt if he were able to get
across the room so quickly. The thought relieved him somewhat. Nobody
likes to have the maiming even of the most complete stranger on his
mind. The sensation of relief lasted possibly three seconds. Then it
flashed upon him that in the excitement of the late interview he had
forgotten his cap. That damaging piece of evidence lay on the table in
the sitting-room, and between him and it was a locked door.
He groped his way back, and knocked. No sound came from the room.
“I say,” he cried, “you might let me have my cap. I left it on the
Fenn half thought of making a violent assault on the door. He
refrained on reflecting that it would be useless. If he could break it
open—which, in all probability, he could not—there would be trouble
such as he had never come across in his life. He was not sure it would
not be an offence for which he would be rendered liable to fine or
imprisonment. At any rate, it would mean the certain detection of his
visit to the town. So he gave the thing up, resolving to return on the
morrow and reopen negotiations. For the present, what he had to do was
to get safely back to his house. He had lost his watch, his cap with
his name in it was in the hands of an evil old man who evidently bore
him a grudge, and he had to run the gauntlet of three house-masters and
get to bed via a study-window. Few people, even after the
dullest of plays, have returned from the theatre so disgusted with
everything as did Fenn. Reviewing the situation as he ran with long,
easy strides over the road that led to Kay's, he found it devoid of any
kind of comfort. Unless his mission in quest of the cap should prove
successful, he was in a tight place.
It is just as well that the gift of second sight is accorded to but
few. If Fenn could have known at this point that his adventures were
only beginning, that what had taken place already was but as the
overture to a drama, it is possible that he would have thrown up the
sponge for good and all, entered Kay's by way of the front door—after
knocking up the entire household—and remarked, in answer to his
house-master's excited questions, “Enough! Enough! I am a victim of
Fate, a Toad beneath the Harrow. Sack me tomorrow, if you like, but for
goodness' sake let me get quietly to bed now.”
As it was, not being able to “peep with security into futurity,” he
imagined that the worst was over.
He began to revise this opinion immediately on turning in at Kay's
gate. He had hardly got half-way down the drive when the front door
opened and two indistinct figures came down the steps. As they did so
his foot slipped off the grass border on which he was running to deaden
the noise of his steps, and grated sharply on the gravel.
“What's that?” said a voice. The speaker was Mr Kay.
“What's what?” replied a second voice which he recognised as Mr
“Didn't you hear a noise?”
“'I heard the water lapping on the crag,'“ replied Mr Mulholland,
“It was over there,” persisted Mr Kay. “I am certain I heard
something—positively certain, Mulholland. And after that burglary at
the school house—”
He began to move towards the spot where Fenn lay crouching behind a
bush. Mr Mulholland followed, mildly amused. They were a dozen yards
away when Fenn, debating in his mind whether it would not be better—as
it would certainly be more dignified—for him to rise and deliver
himself up to justice instead of waiting to be discovered wallowing in
the damp grass behind a laurel bush, was aware of something soft and
furry pressing against his knuckles. A soft purring sound reached his
He knew at once who it was—Thomas Edward, the matron's cat, ever a
staunch friend of his. Many a time had they taken tea together in his
study in happier days. The friendly animal had sought him out in his
hiding-place, and was evidently trying to intimate that the best thing
they could do now would be to make a regular night of it.
Fenn, as I have said, liked and respected Thomas. In ordinary
circumstances he would not have spoken an unfriendly word to him. But
things were desperate now, and needed remedies to match.
Very softly he passed his hand down the delighted animal's back
until he reached his tail. Then, stifling with an effort all the finer
feelings which should have made such an act impossible, he administered
so vigorous a tweak to that appendage that Thomas, with one frenzied
yowl, sprang through the bush past the two masters and vanished at full
speed into the opposite hedge.
“My goodness!” said Mr Kay, starting back.
It was a further shock to Fenn to find how close he was to the
Why, what was that?
It was the cat,'“
chanted Mr Mulholland, who was in poetical vein after the theatre.
“It was a cat!” gasped Mr Kay.
“So I am disposed to imagine. What lungs! We shall be having the
R.S.P.C.A. down on us if we aren't careful. They must have heard that
noise at the headquarters of the Society, wherever they are. Well, if
your zeal for big game hunting is satisfied, and you don't propose to
follow the vocalist through that hedge, I think I will be off. Good
night. Good piece, wasn't it?”
“Excellent. Good night, Mulholland.”
“By the way, I wonder if the man who wrote it is a relation of our
Fenn. It may be his brother—I believe he writes. You probably remember
him when he was here. He was before my time. Talking of Fenn, how do
you find the new arrangement answer? Is Kennedy an improvement?”
“Kennedy,” said Mr Kay, “is a well-meaning boy, I think. Quite
well-meaning. But he lacks ability, in my opinion. I have had to speak
to him on several occasions on account of disturbances amongst the
juniors. Once I found two boys actually fighting in the junior dayroom.
I was very much annoyed about it.”
“And where was Kennedy while this was going on? Was he holding the
“The watch?” said Mr Kay, in a puzzled tone of voice. “Kennedy was
over at the gymnasium when it occurred.”
“Then it was hardly his fault that the fight took place.”
“My dear Mulholland, if the head of a house is efficient, fights
should be impossible. Even when he is not present, his influence, his
prestige, so to speak, should be sufficient to restrain the boys under
Mr Mulholland whistled softly.
“So that's your idea of what the head of your house should be like,
is it? Well, I know of one fellow who would have been just your man.
Unfortunately, he is never likely to come to school at Eckleton.”
“Indeed?” said Mr Kay, with interest. “Who is that? Where did you
meet him? What school is he at?”
“I never said I had met him. I only go by what I have heard of him.
And as far as I know, he is not at any school. He was a gentleman of
the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. He might just have been equal to the
arduous duties which devolve upon the head of your house. Goodnight.”
And Fenn heard his footsteps crunch the gravel as he walked away. A
minute later the front door shut, and there was a rattle. Mr Kay had
put the chain up and retired for the night.
Fenn lay where he was for a short while longer. Then he rose,
feeling very stiff and wet, and crept into one of the summer-houses
which stood in Mr Kay's garden. Here he sat for an hour and a half, at
the end of which time, thinking that Mr Kay must be asleep, he started
out to climb into the house.
His study was on the first floor. A high garden-seat stood directly
beneath the window and acted as a convenient ladder. It was easy to get
from this on to the window-ledge. Once there he could open the window,
and the rest would be plain sailing.
Unhappily, there was one flaw in his scheme. He had conceived that
scheme in the expectation that the window would be as he had left it.
But it was not.
During his absence somebody had shot the bolt. And, try his hardest,
he could not move the sash an inch.
XVII. FENN HUNTS FOR HIMSELF
Nobody knows for certain the feelings of the camel when his
proprietor placed that last straw on his back. The incident happened so
long ago. If it had occurred in modern times, he would probably have
contributed a first-hand report to the Daily Mail. But it is
very likely that he felt on that occasion exactly as Fenn felt when,
after a night of unparalleled misadventure, he found that somebody had
cut off his retreat by latching the window. After a gruelling race Fate
had just beaten him on the tape.
There was no doubt about its being latched. The sash had not merely
stuck. He put all he knew into the effort to raise it, but without a
hint of success. After three attempts he climbed down again and,
sitting on the garden-seat, began to review his position.
If one has an active mind and a fair degree of optimism, the effect
of the “staggerers” administered by Fate passes off after a while. Fenn
had both. The consequence was that, after ten minutes of grey despair,
he was relieved by a faint hope that there might be some other way into
the house than through his study. Anyhow, it would be worth while to
His study was at the side of the house. At the back were the
kitchen, the scullery, and the dining-room, and above these more
studies and a couple of dormitories. As a last resort he might fling
rocks and other solids at the windows until he woke somebody up. But he
did not feel like trying this plan until every other had failed. He had
no desire to let a garrulous dormitory into the secret of his
wanderings. What he hoped was that he might find one of the lower
And so he did.
As he turned the corner of the house he saw what he had been looking
for. The very first window was wide open. His spirits shot up, and for
the first time since he had left the theatre he was conscious of taking
a pleasure in his adventurous career. Fate was with him after all. He
could not help smiling as he remembered how he had felt during that ten
minutes on the garden-seat, when the future seemed blank and devoid of
any comfort whatsoever. And all the time he could have got in without
an effort, if he had only thought of walking half a dozen yards.
Now that the way was open to him, he wasted no time. He climbed
through into the dark room. He was not certain which room it was, in
spite of his lengthy residence at Kay's.
He let himself down softly till his foot touched the floor. After a
moment's pause he moved forward a step. Then another. At the third step
his knee struck the leg of a table. He must be in the dining-room. If
so, he was all right. He could find his way up to his room with his
eyes shut. It was easy to find out for certain. The walls of the
dining-room at Kay's, as in the other houses, were covered with
photographs. He walked gingerly in the direction in which he imagined
the nearest wall to be, reached it, and passed his hand along it. Yes,
there were photographs. Then all he had to do was to find the table
again, make his way along it, and when he got to the end the door would
be a yard or so to his left. The programme seemed simple and
attractive. But it was added to in a manner which he had not foreseen.
Feeling his way back to the table, he upset a chair. If he had upset a
cart-load of coal on to a sheet of tin it could not, so it seemed to
him in the disordered state of his nerves, have made more noise. It
went down with an appalling crash, striking the table on its way.
“This,” thought Fenn, savagely, as he waited, listening, “is where I
get collared. What a fool I am to barge about like this.”
He felt that the echoes of that crash must have penetrated to every
corner of the house. But no one came. Perhaps, after all, the noise had
not been so great. He proceeded on his journey down the table, feeling
every inch of the way. The place seemed one bristling mass of chairs.
But, by the exercise of consummate caution, he upset no more and won
through at last in safety to the door.
It was at this point that the really lively and exciting part of his
adventure began. Compared with what was to follow, his evening had been
up to the present dull and monotonous.
As he opened the door there was a sudden stir and crash at the other
end of the room. Fenn had upset one chair and the noise had nearly
deafened him. Now chairs seemed to be falling in dozens. Bang! Bang!
Crash!! (two that time). And then somebody shot through the window like
a harlequin and dashed away across the lawn. Fenn could hear his
footsteps thudding on the soft turf. And at the same moment other
footsteps made themselves heard.
Somebody was coming downstairs.
“Who is that? Is anybody there?”
It was Mr Kay's voice, unmistakably nervous. Fenn darted from the
door and across the passage. At the other side was a boot-cupboard. It
was his only refuge in that direction. What he ought to have done was
to leave the dining-room by the opposite door, which led via a
corridor to the junior dayroom. But he lost his head, and instead of
bolting away from the enemy, went towards him.
The stairs down which Mr Kay was approaching were at the end of the
passage. To reach the dining-room one turned to the right. Beyond the
stairs on the left the passage ended in a wall, so that Mr Kay was
bound to take the right direction in the search. Fenn wondered if he
had a pistol. Not that he cared very much. If the house-master was
going to find him, it would be very little extra discomfort to be shot
at. And Mr Kay's talents as a marksman were in all probability limited
to picking off sitting haystacks. The important point was that he had a
candle. A faint yellow glow preceded him down the stairs. Playing
hide-and-seek with him in the dark, Fenn might have slipped past in
safety; but the candle made that impossible.
He found the boot-room door and slipped through just as Mr Kay
turned the corner. With a thrill of pleasure he found that there was a
key inside. He turned it as quietly as he could, but nevertheless it
grated. Having done this, and seeing nothing else that he could do
except await developments, he sat down on the floor among the boots. It
was not a dignified position for a man who had played for his county
while still at school, but just then he would not have exchanged it for
a throne—if the throne had been placed in the passage or the
The only question was—had he been seen or heard? He thought not;
but his heart began to beat furiously as the footsteps stopped outside
the cupboard door and unseen fingers rattled the handle.
Twice Mr Kay tried the handle, but, finding the cupboard locked,
passed on into the dining-room. The light of the candle ceased to shine
under the door, and Fenn was once more in inky darkness.
He listened intently. A minute later he had made his second mistake.
Instead of waiting, as he should have done, until Mr Kay had retired
for good, he unlocked the door directly he had passed, and when a
muffled crash told him that the house-master was in the dining-room
among the chairs, out he came and fled softly upstairs towards his
bedroom. He thought that Mr Kay might possibly take it into his head to
go round the dormitories to make certain that all the members of his
house were in. In which case all would be discovered.
When he reached his room he began to fling off his clothes with
feverish haste. Once in bed all would be well.
He had got out of his boots, his coat, and his waistcoat, and was
beginning to feel that electric sensation of triumph which only conies
to the man who just pulls through, when he heard Mr Kay coming
down the corridor towards his room. The burglar-hunter, returning from
the dining-room in the full belief that the miscreant had escaped
through the open window, had had all his ardour for the chase redoubled
by the sight of the cupboard door, which Fenn in his hurry had not
remembered to close. Mr Kay had made certain by two separate trials
that that door had been locked. And now it was wide open. Ergo, the
apostle of the jemmy and the skeleton key must still be in the house.
Mr Kay, secure in the recollection that burglars never show fight if
they can possibly help it, determined to search the house.
Fenn made up his mind swiftly. There was no time to finish dressing.
Mr Kay, peering round, might note the absence of the rest of his
clothes from their accustomed pegs if he got into bed as he was. There
was only one thing to be done. He threw back the bed-clothes, ruffled
the sheets till the bed looked as if it had been slept in, and opened
the door just as Mr Kay reached the threshold.
“Anything the matter, sir?” asked Fenn, promptly. “I heard a noise
downstairs. Can I help you?”
Mr Kay looked carefully at the ex-head of his house. Fenn was a
finely-developed youth. He stood six feet, and all of him that was not
bone was muscle. A useful colleague to have by one in a hunt for a
possibly ferocious burglar.
So thought Mr Kay.
“So you heard the noise?” he said. “Well, perhaps you had
better come with me. There is no doubt that a burglar has entered the
house tonight, in spite of the fact that I locked all the windows
myself. Your study window was unlocked, Fenn. It was extremely careless
of you to leave it in such a condition, and I hope you will be more
careful in future. Why, somebody might have got in through it.”
Fenn thought it was not at all unlikely.
“Come along, then. I am sure the man is still in the house. He was
hiding in the cupboard by the dining-room. I know it. I am sure he is
still in the house.”
But, in spite of the fact that Fenn was equally sure, half an hour's
search failed to discover any lurking evil-doer.
“You had better go to bed, Fenn,” said Mr Kay, disgustedly, at the
end of that period. “He must have got back in some extraordinary
“Yes, sir,” agreed Fenn.
He himself had certainly got back in a very extraordinary manner.
However, he had got back, which was the main point.
XVIII. A VAIN QUEST
After all he had gone through that night, it disturbed Fenn very
little to find on the following morning that the professional cracksman
had gone off with one of the cups in his study. Certainly, it was not
as bad as it might have been, for he had only abstracted one out of the
half dozen that decorated the room. Fenn was a fine runner, and had won
the “sprint” events at the sports for two years now.
The news of the burglary at Kay's soon spread about the school. Mr
Kay mentioned it to Mr Mulholland, and Mr Mulholland discussed it at
lunch with the prefects of his house. The juniors of Kay's were among
the last to hear of it, but when they did, they made the most of it, to
the disgust of the School House fags, to whom the episode seemed in the
nature of an infringement of copyright. Several spirited by-battles
took place that day owing to this, and at the lower end of the table of
Kay's dining-room at tea that evening there could be seen many swollen
countenances. All, however, wore pleased smiles. They had proved to the
School House their right to have a burglary of their own if they liked.
It was the first occasion since Kennedy had become head of the house
that Kay's had united in a common and patriotic cause.
Directly afternoon school was over that day, Fenn started for the
town. The only thing that caused him any anxiety now was the fear lest
the cap which he had left in the house in the High Street might rise up
as evidence against him later on. Except for that, he was safe. The
headmaster had evidently not remembered his absence from the festive
board, or he would have spoken to him on the subject before now. If he
could but recover the lost cap, all would be right with the world. Give
him back that cap, and he would turn over a new leaf with a rapidity
and emphasis which would lower the world's record for that performance.
He would be a reformed character. He would even go to the extent of
calling a truce with Mr Kay, climbing down to Kennedy, and offering him
his services in his attempt to lick the house into shape.
As a matter of fact, he had had this idea before. Jimmy Silver, who
was in the position—common at school—of being very friendly with two
people who were not on speaking terms, had been at him on the topic.
“It's rot,” James had said, with perfect truth, “to see two chaps
like you making idiots of themselves over a house like Kay's. And it's
all your fault, too,” he had added frankly. “You know jolly well you
aren't playing the game. You ought to be backing Kennedy up all the
time. Instead of which, you go about trying to look like a Christian
“I don't,” said Fenn, indignantly.
“Well, like a stuffed frog, then—it's all the same to me. It's
perfect rot. If I'm walking with Kennedy, you stalk past as if we'd
both got the plague or something. And if I'm with you, Kennedy suddenly
remembers an appointment, and dashes off at a gallop in the opposite
direction. If I had to award the bronze medal for drivelling lunacy in
this place, you would get it by a narrow margin, and Kennedy would be
proxime, and honourably mentioned. Silly idiots!”
“Don't stop, Jimmy. Keep it up,” said Fenn, settling himself in his
chair. The dialogue was taking place in Silver's study.
“My dear chap, you didn't think I'd finished, surely! I was only
trying to find some description that would suit you. But it's no good.
I can't. Look here, take my advice—the advice,” he added, in the
melodramatic voice he was in the habit of using whenever he wished to
conceal the fact that he was speaking seriously, “of an old man who
wishes ye both well. Go to Kennedy, fling yourself on his chest, and
say, 'We have done those things which we ought not to have done—' No.
As you were! Compn'y, 'shun! Say 'J. Silver says that I am a rotter. I
am a worm. I have made an ass of myself. But I will be good. Shake,
pard!' That's what you've got to do. Come in.”
And in had come Kennedy. The attractions of Kay's were small, and he
usually looked in on Jimmy Silver in the afternoons.
“Oh, sorry,” he said, as he saw Fenn. “I thought you were alone,
“I was just going,” said Fenn, politely.
“Oh, don't let me disturb you,” protested Kennedy, with winning
“Not at all,” said Fenn.
“Oh, if you really were—”
“Oh, yes, really.”
“Get out, then,” growled Jimmy, who had been listening in speechless
disgust to the beautifully polite conversation just recorded. “I'll
forward that bronze medal to you, Fenn.”
And as the door closed he had turned to rend Kennedy as he had rent
Fenn; while Fenn walked back to Kay's feeling that there was a good
deal in what Jimmy had said.
So that when he went down town that afternoon in search of his cap,
he pondered as he walked over the advisability of making a fresh start.
It would not be a bad idea. But first he must concentrate his energies
on recovering what he had lost.
He found the house in the High Street without a great deal of
difficulty, for he had marked the spot carefully as far as that had
been possible in the fog.
The door was opened to him, not by the old man with whom he had
exchanged amenities on the previous night, but by a short, thick
fellow, who looked exactly like a picture of a loafer from the pages of
a comic journal. He eyed Fenn with what might have been meant for an
inquiring look. To Fenn it seemed merely menacing.
“Wodyer want?” he asked, abruptly.
Eckleton was not a great distance from London, and, as a
consequence, many of London's choicest blackguards migrated there from
time to time. During the hopping season, and while the local races were
on, one might meet with two Cockney twangs for every country accent.
“I want to see the old gentleman who lives here,” said Fenn.
“Wot old gentleman?”
“I'm afraid I don't know his name. Is this a home for old gentlemen?
If you'll bring out all you've got, I'll find my one.”
“Wodyer want see the old gentleman for?”
“To ask for my cap. I left it here last night.”
“Oh, yer left it 'ere last night! Well, yer cawn't see 'im.”
“Not from here, no,” agreed Fenn. “Being only eyes, you see,” he
quoted happily, “my wision's limited. But if you wouldn't mind moving
out of the way—”
“Yer cawn't see 'im. Blimey, 'ow much more of it, I should like to
know. Gerroutovit, cawn't yer! You and yer caps.”
And he added a searching expletive by way of concluding the sentence
fittingly. After which he slipped back and slammed the door, leaving
Fenn waiting outside like the Peri at the gate of Paradise.
His resemblance to the Peri ceased after the first quarter of a
minute. That lady, we read, took her expulsion lying down. Fenn was
more vigorous. He seized the knocker, and banged lustily on the door.
He had given up all hope of getting back the cap. All he wanted was to
get the doorkeeper out into the open again, when he would proceed to
show him, to the best of his ability, what was what. It would not be
the first time he had taken on a gentleman of the same class and a
similar type of conversation.
But the man refused to be drawn. For all the reply Fenn's knocking
produced, the house might have been empty. At last, having tired his
wrist and collected a small crowd of Young Eckleton, who looked as if
they expected him to proceed to further efforts for their amusement, he
gave it up, and retired down the High Street with what dignity he could
command—which, as he was followed for the first fifty yards by the
silent but obviously expectant youths, was not a great deal.
They left him, disappointed, near the Town Hall, and Fenn continued
on his way alone. The window of the grocer's shop, with its tins of
preserved apricots and pots of jam, recalled to his mind what he had
forgotten, that the food at Kay's, though it might be wholesome (which
he doubted), was undeniably plain, and, secondly, that he had run out
of jam. Now that he was here he might as well supply that deficiency.
Now it chanced that Master Wren, of Kay's, was down town—without
leave, as was his habit—on an errand of a very similar nature. Walton
had found that he, like Fenn, lacked those luxuries of life which are
so much more necessary than necessities, and, being unable to go
himself, owing to the unfortunate accident of being kept in by his
form-master, had asked Wren to go for him. Wren's visit to the grocer's
was just ending when Fenn's began.
They met in the doorway.
Wren looked embarrassed, and nearly dropped a pot of honey, which he
secured low down after the manner of a catch in the slips. Fenn, on the
other hand, took no notice of his fellow-Kayite, but walked on into the
shop and began to inspect the tins of biscuits which were stacked on
the floor by the counter.
XIX. THE GUILE OF WREN
Wren did not quite know what to make of this. Why had not Fenn said
a word to him? There were one or two prefects in the school whom he
might have met even at such close quarters and yet have cherished a
hope that they had not seen him. Once he had run right into Drew, of
the School House, and escaped unrecognised. But with Fenn it was
different. Compared to Fenn, lynxes were astigmatic. He must have
There was a vein of philosophy in Wren's composition. He felt that
he might just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. In other words,
having been caught down town without leave, he might as well stay there
and enjoy himself a little while longer before going back to be
executed. So he strolled off down the High Street, bought a few things
at a stationer's, and wound up with an excellent tea at the
confectioner's by the post-office.
It was as he was going to this meal that Kennedy caught sight of
him. Kennedy had come down town to visit the local photographer, to
whom he had entrusted a fortnight before the pleasant task of taking
his photograph. As he had heard nothing from him since, he was now
coming to investigate. He entered the High Street as Wren was turning
into the confectioner's, saw him, and made a note of it for future
When Wren returned to the house just before lock-up, he sought
counsel of Walton.
“I say,” he said, as he handed over the honey he had saved so neatly
from destruction, “what would you do? Just as I was coming out of the
shop, I barged into Fenn. He must have twigged me.”
“Didn't he say anything?”
“Not a word. I couldn't make it out, because he must have seen me.
We weren't a yard away from one another.”
“It's dark in the shop,” suggested Walton.
“Not at the door; which is where we met.”
Before Walton could find anything to say in reply to this, their
conversation was interrupted by Spencer.
“Kennedy wants you, Wren,” said Spencer. “You'd better buck up; he's
in an awful wax.”
Next to Walton, the vindictive Spencer objected most to Wren, and he
did not attempt to conceal the pleasure he felt in being the bearer of
this ominous summons.
The group broke up. Wren went disconsolately upstairs to Kennedy's
study; Walton smacked Spencer's head—more as a matter of form than
because he had done anything special to annoy him—and retired to the
senior dayroom; while Spencer, muttering darkly to himself, avoided a
second smack and took cover in the junior room, where he consoled
himself by toasting a piece of india-rubber in the gas till it made the
atmosphere painful to breathe in, and recalling with pleasure the
condition Walton's face had been in for the day or two following his
encounter with Kennedy in the dormitory.
Kennedy was working when Wren knocked at his door.
He had not much time to spare on a bounds-breaking fag; and his
manner was curt.
“I saw you going into Rose's, in the High Street, this afternoon,
Wren,” he said, looking up from his Greek prose. “I didn't give you
leave. Come up here after prayers tonight. Shut the door.”
Wren went down to consult Walton again. His attitude with regard to
a licking from the head of the house was much like that of the other
fags. Custom had, to a certain extent, inured him to these painful
interviews, but still, if it was possible, he preferred to keep out of
them. Under Fenn's rule he had often found a tolerably thin excuse
serve his need. Fenn had so many other things to do that he was not
unwilling to forego an occasional licking, if the excuse was good
enough. And he never took the trouble to find out whether the ingenious
stories Wren was wont to serve up to him were true or not. Kennedy,
Wren reflected uncomfortably, had given signs that this easy-going
method would not do for him. Still, it might be possible to hunt up
some story that would meet the case. Walton had a gift in that
“He says I'm to go to his study after prayers,” reported Wren.
“Can't you think of any excuse that would do?”
“Can't understand Fenn running you in,” said Walton. “I thought he
never spoke to Kennedy.”
“It wasn't Fenn who ran me in. Kennedy was down town, too, and
twigged me going into Rose's. I went there and had tea after I got your
things at the grocer's.”
“Oh, he spotted you himself, did he?” said Walton. “And he doesn't
know Fenn saw you?”
“I don't think so.”
“Then I've got a ripping idea. When he has you up tonight, swear
that you got leave from Fenn to go down town.”
“But he'll ask him.”
“The odds are that he won't. He and Fenn had a row at the beginning
of term, and never speak to one another if they can help it. It's ten
to one that he will prefer taking your yarn to going and asking Fenn if
it's true or not. Then he's bound to let you off.”
Wren admitted that the scheme was sound.
At the conclusion of prayers, therefore, he went up again to
Kennedy's study, with a more hopeful air than he had worn on his
“Come in,” said Kennedy, reaching for the swagger-stick which he was
accustomed to use at these ceremonies.
“Please, Kennedy,” said Wren, glibly. “I did get leave to go down
town this afternoon.”
Wren repeated the assertion.
“Who gave you leave?”
The thing did not seem to be working properly. When he said the word
“Fenn", Wren expected to see Kennedy retire baffled, conscious that
there was nothing more to be said or done. Instead of this, the remark
appeared to infuriate him.
“It's just like your beastly cheek,” he said, glaring at the
red-headed delinquent, “to ask Fenn for leave instead of me. You know
perfectly well that only the head of the house can give leave to go
down town. I don't know how often you and the rest of the junior
dayroom have played this game, but it's going to stop now. You'd better
remember another time when you want to go to Rose's that I've got to be
With which he proceeded to ensure to the best of his ability that
the memory of Master Wren should not again prove treacherous in this
“How did it work?” asked Walton, when Wren returned.
“It didn't,” said Wren, briefly.
Walton expressed an opinion that Kennedy was a cad; which, however
sound in itself, did little to improve the condition of Wren.
Having disposed of Wren, Kennedy sat down seriously to consider this
new development of a difficult situation. Hitherto he had imagined Fenn
to be merely a sort of passive resister who confined himself to the
Achilles-in-his-tent business, and was only a nuisance because he
refused to back him up. To find him actually aiding and abetting the
house in its opposition to its head was something of a shock. And yet,
if he had given Wren leave to go down town, he had probably done the
same kind office by others. It irritated Kennedy more than the most
overt act of enmity would have done. It was not good form. It was
hitting below the belt. There was, of course, the chance that Wren's
story had not been true. But he did not build much on that. He did not
yet know his Wren well, and believed that such an audacious lie would
be beyond the daring of a fag. But it would be worth while to make
inquiries. He went down the passage to Fenn's study. Fenn, however, had
gone to bed, so he resolved to approach him on the subject next day.
There was no hurry.
He went to his dormitory, feeling very bitter towards Fenn, and
rehearsing home truths with which to confound him on the morrow.
XX. JIMMY THE PEACEMAKER
In these hustling times it is not always easy to get ten minutes'
conversation with an acquaintance in private. There was drill in the
dinner hour next day for the corps, to which Kennedy had to go directly
after lunch. It did not end till afternoon school began. When afternoon
school was over, he had to turn out and practise scrummaging with the
first fifteen, in view of an important school match which was coming
off on the following Saturday. Kennedy had not yet received his cap,
but he was playing regularly for the first fifteen, and was generally
looked upon as a certainty for one of the last places in the team.
Fenn, being a three-quarter, had not to participate in this practice.
While the forwards were scrummaging on the second fifteen ground, the
outsides ran and passed on the first fifteen ground over at the other
end of the field. Fenn's training for the day finished earlier than
Kennedy's, the captain of the Eckleton fifteen, who led the scrum, not
being satisfied with the way in which the forwards wheeled. He kept
them for a quarter of an hour after the outsides had done their day's
work, and when Kennedy got back to the house and went to Fenn's study,
the latter was not there. He had evidently changed and gone out again,
for his football clothes were lying in a heap in a corner of the room.
Going back to his own study, he met Spencer.
“Have you seen Fenn?” he asked.
“No,” said the fag. “He hasn't come in.”
“He's come in all right, but he's gone out again. Go and ask Taylor
if he knows where he is.”
Taylor was Fenn's fag.
Spencer went to the junior dayroom, and returned with the
information that Taylor did not know.
“Oh, all right, then—it doesn't matter,” said Kennedy, and went
into his study to change.
He had completed this operation, and was thinking of putting his
kettle on for tea, when there was a knock at the door.
It was Baker, Jimmy Silver's fag.
“Oh, Kennedy,” he said, “Silver says, if you aren't doing anything
special, will you go over to his study to tea?”
“Why, is there anything on?”
It struck him as curious that Jimmy should take the trouble to send
his fag over to Kay's with a formal invitation. As a rule the head of
Blackburn's kept open house. His friends were given to understand that
they could drop in whenever they liked. Kennedy looked in for tea three
times a week on an average.
“I don't think so,” said Baker.
“Who else is going to be there?”
Jimmy Silver sometimes took it into his head to entertain weird
beings from other houses whose brothers or cousins he had met in the
holidays. On such occasions he liked to have some trusty friend by him
to help the conversation along. It struck Kennedy that this might be
one of those occasions. If so, he would send back a polite but firm
refusal of the invitation. Last time he had gone to help Jimmy
entertain a guest of this kind, conversation had come to a dead
standstill a quarter of an hour after his arrival, the guest refusing
to do anything except eat prodigiously, and reply “Yes” or “No", as the
question might demand, when spoken to. Also he had declined to stir
from his seat till a quarter to seven. Kennedy was not going to be let
in for another orgy of that nature if he knew it.
“Who's with Silver?” he asked.
“Only Fenn,” said Baker.
Kennedy pondered for a moment.
“All right,” he said, at last, “tell him I'll be round in a few
He sat thinking the thing over after Baker had gone back to
Blackburn's with the message. He saw Silver's game, of course. Jimmy
had made no secret for some time of his disgust at the coolness between
Kennedy and Fenn. Not knowing all the circumstances, he considered it
absolute folly. If only he could get the two together over a quiet pot
of tea, he imagined that it would not be a difficult task to act
effectively as a peacemaker.
Kennedy was sorry for Jimmy. He appreciated his feelings in the
matter. He would not have liked it himself if his two best friends had
been at daggers drawn. Still, he could not bring himself to treat Fenn
as if nothing had happened, simply to oblige Silver. There had been a
time when he might have done it, but now that Fenn had started a
deliberate campaign against him by giving Wren—and probably, thought
Kennedy, half the other fags in the house—leave down town when he
ought to have sent them on to him, things had gone too far. However, he
could do no harm by going over to Jimmy's to tea, even if Fenn was
there. He had not looked to interview Fenn before an audience, but if
that audience consisted only of Jimmy, it would not matter so much.
His advent surprised Fenn. The astute James, fancying that if he
mentioned that he was expecting Kennedy to tea, Fenn would make a bolt
for it, had said nothing about it.
When Kennedy arrived there was one of those awkward pauses which are
so difficult to fill up in a satisfactory manner.
“Now you're up, Fenn,” said Jimmy, as the latter rose, evidently
with the intention of leaving the study, “you might as well reach down
that toasting-fork and make some toast.”
“I'm afraid I must be off now, Jimmy,” said Fenn.
“No you aren't,” said Silver. “You bustle about and make yourself
useful, and don't talk rot. You'll find your cup on that shelf over
there, Kennedy. It'll want a wipe round. Better use the table-cloth.”
There was silence in the study until tea was ready. Then Jimmy
“Long time since we three had tea together,” he said, addressing the
remark to the teapot.
“Kennedy's a busy man,” said Fenn, suavely. “He's got a house to
“And I'm going to look after it,” said Kennedy, “as you'll find.”
Jimmy Silver put in a plaintive protest.
“I wish you two men wouldn't talk shop,” he said. “It's bad enough
having Kay's next door to one, without your dragging it into the
conversation. How were the forwards this evening, Kennedy?”
“Not bad,” said Kennedy, shortly.
“I wonder if we shall lick Tuppenham on Saturday?”
“I don't know,” said Kennedy; and there was silence again.
“Look here, Jimmy,” said Kennedy, after a long pause, during which
the head of Blackburn's tried to fill up the blank in the conversation
by toasting a piece of bread in a way which was intended to suggest
that if he were not so busy, the talk would be unchecked and animated,
“it's no good. We must have it out some time, so it may as well be here
as anywhere else. I've been looking for Fenn all day.”
“Sorry to give you all that trouble,” said Fenn, with a sneer. “Got
something important to say?”
“Go ahead, then.”
Jimmy Silver stood between them with the toasting-fork in his hand,
as if he meant to plunge it into the one who first showed symptoms of
flying at the other's throat. He was unhappy. His peace-making
tea-party was not proving a success.
“I wanted to ask you,” said Kennedy, quietly, “what you meant by
giving the fags leave down town when you knew that they ought to come
The gentle and intelligent reader will remember (though that
miserable worm, the vapid and irreflective reader, will have forgotten)
that at the beginning of the term the fags of Kay's had endeavoured to
show their approval of Fenn and their disapproval of Kennedy by
applying to the former for leave when they wished to go to the town;
and that Fenn had received them in the most ungrateful manner with
blows instead of exeats. Strong in this recollection, he was not
disturbed by Kennedy's question. Indeed, it gave him a comfortable
feeling of rectitude. There is nothing more pleasant than to be accused
to your face of something which you can deny on the spot with an easy
conscience. It is like getting a very loose ball at cricket. Fenn felt
almost friendly towards Kennedy.
“I meant nothing,” he replied, “for the simple reason that I didn't
“I caught Wren down town yesterday, and he said you had given him
“Then he lied, and I hope you licked him.”
“There you are, you see,” broke in Jimmy Silver triumphantly, “it's
all a misunderstanding. You two have got no right to be cutting one
another. Why on earth can't you stop all this rot, and behave like
decent members of society again?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Fenn, “they did try it on earlier in the
term. I wasted a lot of valuable time pointing out to them with a
swagger-stick—that I was the wrong person to come to. I'm sorry you
should have thought I could play it as low down as that.”
Kennedy hesitated. It is not very pleasant to have to climb down
after starting a conversation in a stormy and wrathful vein. But it had
to be done.
“I'm sorry, Fenn,” he said; “I was an idiot.”
Jimmy Silver cut in again.
“You were,” he said, with enthusiasm. “You both were. I used to
think Fenn was a bigger idiot than you, but now I'm inclined to call it
a dead heat. What's the good of going on trying to see which of you can
make the bigger fool of himself? You've both lowered all previous
“I suppose we have,” said Fenn. “At least, I have.”
“No, I have,” said Kennedy.
“You both have,” said Jimmy Silver. “Another cup of tea, anybody?
Fenn and Kennedy walked back to Kay's together, and tea-d together
in Fenn's study on the following afternoon, to the amazement—and even
scandal—of Master Spencer, who discovered them at it. Spencer liked
excitement; and with the two leaders of the house at logger-heads,
things could never be really dull. If, as appearances seemed to
suggest, they had agreed to settle their differences, life would become
monotonous again—possibly even unpleasant.
This thought flashed through Spencer's brain (as he called it) when
he opened Fenn's door and found him helping Kennedy to tea.
“Oh, the headmaster wants to see you, please, Fenn,” said Spencer,
recovering from his amazement, “and told me to give you this.”
“This” was a prefect's cap. Fenn recognised it without difficulty.
It was the cap he had left in the sitting-room of the house in the High
XXI. IN WHICH AN EPISODE IS CLOSED
“Thanks,” said Fenn.
He stood twirling the cap round in his hand as Spencer closed the
door. Then he threw it on to the table. He did not feel particularly
disturbed at the thought of the interview that was to come. He had been
expecting the cap to turn up, like the corpse of Eugene Aram's victim,
at some inconvenient moment. It was a pity that it had come just as
things looked as if they might be made more or less tolerable in Kay's.
He had been looking forward with a grim pleasure to the sensation that
would be caused in the house when it became known that he and Kennedy
had formed a combine for its moral and physical benefit. But that was
all over. He would be sacked, beyond a doubt. In the history of
Eckleton, as far as he knew it, there had never been a case of a fellow
breaking out at night and not being expelled when he was caught. It was
one of the cardinal sins in the school code. There had been the case of
Peter Brown, which his brother had mentioned in his letter. And in his
own time he had seen three men vanish from Eckleton for the same
offence. He did not flatter himself that his record at the school was
so good as to make it likely that the authorities would stretch a point
in his favour.
“So long, Kennedy,” he said. “You'll be here when I get back, I
“What does he want you for, do you think?” asked Kennedy, stretching
himself, with a yawn. It never struck him that Fenn could be in any
serious trouble. Fenn was a prefect; and when the headmaster sent for a
prefect, it was generally to tell him that he had got a split
infinitive in his English Essay that week.
“Glad I'm not you,” he added, as a gust of wind rattled the sash,
and the rain dashed against the pane. “Beastly evening to have to go
“It isn't the rain I mind,” said Fenn; “it's what's going to happen
when I get indoors again,” and refused to explain further. There would
be plenty of time to tell Kennedy the whole story when he returned. It
was better not to keep the headmaster waiting.
The first thing he noticed on reaching the School House was the
strange demeanour of the butler. Whenever Fenn had had occasion to call
on the headmaster hitherto, Watson had admitted him with the air of a
high priest leading a devotee to a shrine of which he was the sole
managing director. This evening he seemed restless, excited.
“Good evening, Mr Fenn,” he said. “This way, sir.”
Those were his actual words. Fenn had not known for certain until
now that he could talk. On previous occasions their
conversations had been limited to an “Is the headmaster in?” from Fenn,
and a stately inclination of the head from Watson. The man was getting
a positive babbler.
With an eager, springy step, distantly reminiscent of a shopwalker
heading a procession of customers, with a touch of the style of the
winner in a walking-race to Brighton, the once slow-moving butler led
the way to the headmaster's study.
For the first time since he started out, Fenn was conscious of a
tremor. There is something about a closed door, behind which somebody
is waiting to receive one, which appeals to the imagination, especially
if the ensuing meeting is likely to be an unpleasant one.
“Ah, Fenn,” said the headmaster. “Come in.”
Fenn wondered. It was not in this tone of voice that the Head was
wont to begin a conversation which was going to prove painful.
“You've got your cap, Fenn? I gave it to a small boy in your house
to take to you.”
He had given up all hope of understanding the Head's line of action.
Unless he was playing a deep game, and intended to flash out suddenly
with a keen question which it would be impossible to parry, there
seemed nothing to account for the strange absence of anything unusual
in his manner. He referred to the cap as if he had borrowed it from
Fenn, and had returned it by bearer, hoping that its loss had not
inconvenienced him at all.
“I daresay,” continued the Head, “that you are wondering how it came
into my possession. You missed it, of course?”
“Very much, sir,” said Fenn, with perfect truth.
“It has just been brought to my house, together with a great many
other things, more valuable, perhaps,”—here he smiled a
head-magisterial smile—“by a policeman from Eckleton.”
Fenn was still unequal to the intellectual pressure of the
conversation. He could understand, in a vague way, that for some
unexplained reason things were going well for him, but beyond that his
mind was in a whirl.
“You will remember the unfortunate burglary of Mr Kay's house and
mine. Your cap was returned with the rest of the stolen property.”
“Just so,” thought Fenn. “The rest of the stolen property? Exactly.
Go on. Don't mind me. I shall begin to understand soon, I suppose.”
He condensed these thoughts into the verbal reply, “Yes, sir.”
“I sent for you to identify your own property. I see there is a
silver cup belonging to you. Perhaps there are also other articles. Go
and see. You will find them on that table. They are in a hopeless state
of confusion, having been conveyed here in a sack. Fortunately, nothing
He was thinking of certain valuables belonging to himself which had
been abstracted from his drawing-room on the occasion of the burglar's
visit to the School House.
Fenn crossed the room, and began to inspect the table indicated. On
it was as mixed a collection of valuable and useless articles as one
could wish to see. He saw his cup at once, and attached himself to it.
But of all the other exhibits in this private collection, he could
recognise nothing else as his property.
“There is nothing of mine here except the cup, sir,” he said.
“Ah. Then that is all, I think. You are going back to Mr Kay's. Then
please send Kennedy to me. Good night, Fenn.”
“Good night, sir.”
Even now Fenn could not understand it. The more he thought it over,
the more his brain reeled. He could grasp the fact that his cap and his
cup were safe again, and that there was evidently going to be no
sacking for the moment. But how it had all happened, and how the police
had got hold of his cap, and why they had returned it with the loot
gathered in by the burglar who had visited Kay's and the School House,
were problems which, he had to confess, were beyond him.
He walked to Kay's through the rain with the cup under his
mackintosh, and freely admitted to himself that there were things in
heaven and earth—and particularly earth—which no fellow could
“I don't know,” he said, when Kennedy pressed for an explanation of
the reappearance of the cup. “It's no good asking me. I'm going now to
borrow the matron's smelling-salts: I feel faint. After that I shall
wrap a wet towel round my head, and begin to think it out. Meanwhile,
you're to go over to the Head. He's had enough of me, and he wants to
have a look at you.”
“Me?” said Kennedy. “Why?”
“Now, is it any good asking me??” said Fenn. “If you can find
out what it's all about, I'll thank you if you'll come and tell me.”
Ten minutes later Kennedy returned. He carried a watch and chain.
“I couldn't think what had happened to my watch,” he said. “I missed
it on the day after that burglary here, but I never thought of thinking
it had been collared by a professional. I thought I must have lost it
“Well, have you grasped what's been happening?”
“I've grasped my ticker, which is good enough for me. Half a second.
The old man wants to see the rest of the prefects. He's going to work
through the house in batches, instead of man by man. I'll just go round
the studies and rout them out, and then I'll come back and explain.
It's perfectly simple.”
“Glad you think so,” said Fenn.
Kennedy went and returned.
“Now,” he said, subsiding into a deck-chair, “what is it you don't
“I don't understand anything. Begin at the beginning.”
“I got the yarn from the butler—what's his name?”
“Those who know him well enough to venture to give him a name—I've
never dared to myself—call him Watson,” said Fenn.
“I got the yarn from Watson. He was as excited as anything about it.
I never saw him like that before.”
“I noticed something queer about him.”
“He's awfully bucked, and is doing the Ancient Mariner business all
over the place. Wants to tell the story to everyone he sees.”
“Well, suppose you follow his example. I want to hear about it.”
“Well, it seems that the police have been watching a house at the
corner of the High Street for some time—what's up?”
“Nothing. Go on.”
“But you said, 'By Jove!'“
“Well, why shouldn't I say 'By Jove'? When you are telling
sensational yarns, it's my duty to say something of the sort. Buck
“It's a house not far from the Town Hall, at the corner of Pegwell
Street—you've probably been there scores of times.”
“Once or twice, perhaps,” said Fenn. “Well?”
“About a month ago two suspicious-looking bounders went to live
there. Watson says their faces were enough to hang them. Anyhow, they
must have been pretty bad, for they made even the Eckleton police, who
are pretty average-sized rotters, suspicious, and they kept an eye on
them. Well, after a bit there began to be a regular epidemic of
burglary round about here. Watson says half the houses round were
broken into. The police thought it was getting a bit too thick, but
they didn't like to raid the house without some jolly good evidence
that these two men were the burglars, so they lay low and waited till
they should give them a decent excuse for jumping on them. They had had
a detective chap down from London, by the way, to see if he couldn't do
something about the burglaries, and he kept his eye on them, too.”
“They had quite a gallery. Didn't they notice any of the eyes?”
“No. Then after a bit one of them nipped off to London with a big
bag. The detective chap was after him like a shot. He followed him from
the station, saw him get into a cab, got into another himself, and
stuck to him hard. The front cab stopped at about a dozen pawnbrokers'
shops. The detective Johnny took the names and addresses, and hung on
to the burglar man all day, and finally saw him return to the station,
where he caught a train back to Eckleton. Directly he had seen him off,
the detective got into a cab, called on the dozen pawnbrokers, showed
his card, with 'Scotland Yard' on it, I suppose, and asked to see what
the other chap had pawned. He identified every single thing as
something that had been collared from one of the houses round Eckleton
way. So he came back here, told the police, and they raided the house,
and there they found stacks of loot of all descriptions.”
“Including my cap,” said Fenn, thoughtfully. “I see now.”
“Rummy the man thinking it worth his while to take an old cap,” said
“Very,” said Fenn. “But it's been a rum business all along.”
XXII. KAY'S CHANGES ITS NAME
For the remaining weeks of the winter term, things went as smoothly
in Kay's as Kay would let them. That restless gentleman still continued
to burst in on Kennedy from time to time with some sensational story of
how he had found a fag doing what he ought not to have done. But there
was a world of difference between the effect these visits had now and
that which they had had when Kennedy had stood alone in the house, his
hand against all men. Now that he could work off the effects of such
encounters by going straight to Fenn's study and picking the
house-master to pieces, the latter's peculiar methods ceased to be
irritating, and became funny. Mr Kay was always ferreting out the
weirdest misdoings on the part of the members of his house, and rushing
to Kennedy's study to tell him about them at full length, like a rather
indignant dog bringing a rat he has hunted down into a drawing-room, to
display it to the company. On one occasion, when Fenn and Jimmy Silver
were in Kennedy's study, Mr Kay dashed in to complain bitterly that he
had discovered that the junior dayroom kept mice in their lockers.
Apparently this fact seemed to him enough to cause an epidemic of
typhoid fever in the place, and he hauled Kennedy over the coals, in a
speech that lasted five minutes, for not having detected this
plague-spot in the house.
“So that's the celebrity at home, is it?” said Jimmy Silver, when he
had gone. “I now begin to understand more or less why this house wants
a new Head every two terms. Is he often taken like that?”
“He's never anything else,” said Kennedy. “Fenn keeps a list of the
things he rags me about, and we have an even shilling on, each week,
that he will beat the record of the previous week. At first I used to
get the shilling if he lowered the record; but after a bit it struck us
that it wasn't fair, so now we take it on alternate weeks. This is my
week, by the way. I think I can trouble you for that bob, Fenn?”
“I wish I could make it more,” said Fenn, handing over the shilling.
“What sort of things does he rag you about generally?” inquired
Fenn produced a slip of paper.
“Here are a few,” he said, “for this month. He came in on the 10th
because he found two kids fighting. Kennedy was down town when it
happened, but that made no difference. Then he caught the senior
dayroom making a row of some sort. He said it was perfectly deafening;
but we couldn't hear it in our studies. I believe he goes round the
house, listening at keyholes. That was on the 16th. On the 22nd he
found a chap in Kennedy's dormitory wandering about the house at one in
the morning. He seemed to think that Kennedy ought to have sat up all
night on the chance of somebody cutting out of the dormitory. At any
rate, he ragged him. I won the weekly shilling on that; and deserved
Fenn had to go over to the gymnasium shortly after this. Jimmy
Silver stayed on, talking to Kennedy.
“And bar Kay,” said Jimmy, “how do you find the house doing? Any
“Better! It's getting a sort of model establishment. I believe, if
we keep pegging away at them, we may win some sort of a cup sooner or
“Well, Kay's very nearly won the cricket cup last year. You ought to
get it next season, now that you and Fenn are both in the team.”
“Oh, I don't know. It'll be a fluke if we do. Still, we're hoping.
It isn't every house that's got a county man in it. But we're breaking
out in another place. Don't let it get about, for goodness' sake, but
we're going for the sports' cup.”
“Hope you'll get it. Blackburn's won't have a chance, anyhow, and I
should like to see somebody get it away from the School House. They've
had it much too long. They're beginning to look on it as their right.
But who are your men?”
“Well, Fenn ought to be a cert for the hundred and the quarter, to
“But the School House must get the long run, and the mile, and the
half, too, probably.”
“Yes. We haven't anyone to beat Milligan, certainly. But there are
the second and third places. Don't forget those. That's where we're
going to have a look in. There's all sorts of unsuspected talent in
Kay's. To look at Peel, for instance, you wouldn't think he could do
the hundred in eleven, would you? Well, he can, only he's been too
slack to go in for the race at the sports, because it meant training. I
had him up here and reasoned with him, and he's promised to do his
best. Eleven is good enough for second place in the hundred, don't you
think? There are lots of others in the house who can do quite decently
on the track, if they try. I've been making strict inquiries. Kay's are
hot stuff, Jimmy. Heap big medicine. That's what they are.”
“You're a wonderful man, Kennedy,” said Jimmy Silver. And he meant
it. Kennedy's uphill fight at Kay's had appealed to him strongly. He
himself had never known what it meant to have to manage a hostile
house. He had stepped into his predecessor's shoes at Blackburn's much
as the heir to a throne becomes king. Nobody had thought of disputing
his right to the place. He was next man in; so, directly the departure
of the previous head of Blackburn's left a vacancy, he stepped into it,
and the machinery of the house had gone on as smoothly as if there had
been no change at all. But Kennedy had gone in against a slack and
antagonistic house, with weak prefects to help him, and a fussy
house-master; and he had fought them all for a term, and looked like
winning. Jimmy admired his friend with a fervour which nothing on earth
would have tempted him to reveal. Like most people with a sense of
humour, he had a fear of appearing ridiculous, and he hid his real
feelings as completely as he was able.
“How is the footer getting on?” inquired Jimmy, remembering the
difficulties Kennedy had encountered earlier in the term in connection
with his house team.
“It's better,” said Kennedy. “Keener, at any rate. We shall do our
best in the house-matches. But we aren't a good team.”
“Any more trouble about your being captain instead of Fenn?”
“No. We both sign the lists now. Fenn didn't want to, but I thought
it would be a good idea, so we tried it. It seems to have worked all
“Of course, your getting your first has probably made a difference.”
“A bit, perhaps.”
“Well, I hope you won't get the footer cup, because I want it for
Blackburn's. Or the cricket cup. I want that, too. But you can have the
sports' cup with my blessing.”
“Thanks,” said Kennedy. “It's very generous of you.”
“Don't mention it,” said Jimmy.
From which conversation it will be seen that Kay's was gradually
pulling itself together. It had been asleep for years. It was now
When the winter term ended, there were distinct symptoms of an
outbreak of public spirit in the house.
The Easter term opened auspiciously in one way. Neither Walton nor
Perry returned. The former had been snapped up in the middle of the
holidays—to his enormous disgust—by a bank, which wanted his services
so much that it was prepared to pay him 40 pounds a year simply to
enter the addresses of its outgoing letters in a book, and post them
when he had completed this ceremony. After a spell of this he might
hope to be transferred to another sphere of bank life and thought, and
at the end of his first year he might even hope for a rise in his
salary of ten pounds, if his conduct was good, and he had not been late
on more than twenty mornings in the year. I am aware that in a
properly-regulated story of school-life Walton would have gone to the
Eckleton races, returned in a state of speechless intoxication, and
been summarily expelled; but facts are facts, and must not be tampered
with. The ingenious but not industrious Perry had been superannuated.
For three years he had been in the Lower Fourth. Probably the master of
that form went to the Head, and said that his constitution would not
stand another year of him, and that either he or Perry must go. So
Perry had departed. Like a poor play, he had “failed to attract,” and
was withdrawn. There was also another departure of an even more
Mr Kay had left Eckleton.
Kennedy was no longer head of Kay's. He was now head of Dencroft's.
Mr Dencroft was one of the most popular masters in the school. He
was a keen athlete and a tactful master. Fenn and Kennedy knew him
well, through having played at the nets and in scratch games with him.
They both liked him. If Kennedy had had to select a house-master, he
would have chosen Mr Blackburn first. But Mr Dencroft would have been
Fenn learned the facts from the matron, and detailed them to
“Kay got the offer of a headmastership at a small school in the
north, and jumped at it. I pity the fellows there. They are going to
have a lively time.”
“I'm jolly glad Dencroft has got the house,” said Kennedy. “We might
have had some awful rotter put in. Dencroft will help us buck up the
The new house-master sent for Kennedy on the first evening of term.
He wished to find out how the Head of the house and the ex-Head stood
with regard to one another. He knew the circumstances, and comprehended
vaguely that there had been trouble.
“I hope we shall have a good term,” he said.
“I hope so, sir,” said Kennedy.
“You—er—you think the house is keener, Kennedy, than when you
first came in?”
“Yes, sir. They are getting quite keen now. We might win the
“I hope we shall. I wish we could win the football cup, too, but I
am afraid Mr Blackburn's are very heavy metal.”
“It's hardly likely we shall have very much chance with them; but we
might get into the final!”
“It would be an excellent thing for the house if we could. I hope
Fenn is helping you get the team into shape?” he added.
“Oh, yes, sir,” said Kennedy. “We share the captaincy. We both sign
“A very good idea,” said Mr Dencroft, relieved. “Good night,
“Good night, sir,” said Kennedy.
XXIII. THE HOUSE-MATCHES
The chances of Kay's in the inter-house Football Competition were
not thought very much of by their rivals. Of late years each of the
other houses had prayed to draw Kay's for the first round, it being a
certainty that this would mean that they got at least into the second
round, and so a step nearer the cup. Nobody, however weak compared to
Blackburn's, which was at the moment the crack football house, ever
doubted the result of a match with Kay's. It was looked on as a sort of
gentle trial trip.
But the efforts of the two captains during the last weeks of the
winter term had put a different complexion on matters. Football is not
like cricket. It is a game at which anybody of average size and a
certain amount of pluck can make himself at least moderately
proficient. Kennedy, after consultations with Fenn, had picked out what
he considered the best fifteen, and the two set themselves to knock it
into shape. In weight there was not much to grumble at. There were
several heavy men in the scrum. If only these could be brought to use
their weight to the last ounce when shoving, all would be well as far
as the forwards were concerned. The outsides were not so satisfactory.
With the exception, of course, of Fenn, they lacked speed. They were
well-meaning, but they could not run any faster by virtue of that.
Kay's would have to trust to its scrum to pull it through. Peel, the
sprinter whom Kennedy had discovered in his search for athletes, had to
be put in the pack on account of his weight, which deprived the
three-quarter line of what would have been a good man in that position.
It was a drawback, too, that Fenn was accustomed to play on the wing.
To be of real service, a wing three-quarter must be fed by his centres,
and, unfortunately, there was no centre in Kay's—or Dencroft's, as it
should now be called—who was capable of making openings enough to give
Fenn a chance. So he had to play in the centre, where he did not know
the game so well.
Kennedy realised at an early date that the one chance of the house
was to get together before the house-matches and play as a coherent
team, not as a collection of units. Combination will often make up for
lack of speed in a three-quarter line. So twice a week Dencroft's
turned out against scratch teams of varying strength.
It delighted Kennedy to watch their improvement. The first side they
played ran through them to the tune of three goals and four tries to a
try, and it took all the efforts of the Head of the house to keep a
spirit of pessimism from spreading in the ranks. Another frost of this
sort, and the sprouting keenness of the house would be nipped in the
bud. He conducted himself with much tact. Another captain might have
made the fatal error of trying to stir his team up with pungent abuse.
He realised what a mistake this would be. It did not need a great deal
of discouragement to send the house back to its old slack ways. Another
such defeat, following immediately in the footsteps of the first, and
they would begin to ask themselves what was the good of mortifying the
flesh simply to get a licking from a scratch team by twenty-four
points. Kay's, they would feel, always had got beaten, and they always
would, to the end of time. A house that has once got thoroughly slack
does not change its views of life in a moment.
Kennedy acted craftily.
“You played jolly well,” he told his despondent team, as they
trooped off the field. “We haven't got together yet, that's all. And it
was a hot side we were playing today. They would have licked
A good deal more in the same strain gave the house team the
comfortable feeling that they had done uncommonly well to get beaten by
only twenty-four points. Kennedy fostered the delusion, and in the
meantime arranged with Mr Dencroft to collect fifteen innocents and
lead them forth to be slaughtered by the house on the following Friday.
Mr Dencroft entered into the thing with a relish. When he showed
Kennedy the list of his team on the Friday morning, that diplomatist
chuckled. He foresaw a good time in the near future. “You must play up
like the dickens,” he told the house during the dinner-hour. “Dencroft
is bringing a hot lot this afternoon. But I think we shall lick them.”
They did. When the whistle blew for No-side, the house had just
finished scoring its fourteenth try. Six goals and eight tries to nil
was the exact total. Dencroft's returned to headquarters, asking itself
in a dazed way if these things could be. They saw that cup on their
mantelpiece already. Keenness redoubled. Football became the fashion in
Dencroft's. The play of the team improved weekly. And its spirit
improved too. The next scratch team they played beat them by a goal and
a try to a goal. Dencroft's was not depressed. It put the result down
to a fluke. Then they beat another side by a try to nothing; and by
that time they had got going as an organised team, and their heart was
in the thing.
They had improved out of all knowledge when the house-matches began.
Blair's was the lucky house that drew against them in the first round.
“Good business,” said the men of Blair. “Wonder who we'll play in
the second round.”
They left the field marvelling. For some unaccountable reason,
Dencroft's had flatly refused to act in the good old way as a doormat
for their opponents. Instead, they had played with a dash and knowledge
of the game which for the first quarter of an hour quite unnerved
Blair's. In that quarter of an hour they scored three times, and
finished the game with two goals and three tries to their name.
The School looked on it as a huge joke. “Heard the latest?” friends
would say on meeting one another the day after the game. “Kay's—I mean
Dencroft's—have won a match. They simply sat on Blair's. First time
they've ever won a house-match, I should think. Blair's are awfully
sick. We shall have to be looking out.”
Whereat the friend would grin broadly. The idea of Dencroft's making
a game of it with his house tickled him.
When Dencroft's took fifteen points off Mulholland's, the joke began
to lose its humour.
“Why, they must be some good,” said the public, startled at the
novelty of the idea. “If they win another match, they'll be in the
Kay's in the final! Cricket? Oh, yes, they had got into the final at
cricket, of course. But that wasn't the house. It was Fenn. Footer was
different. One man couldn't do everything there. The only possible
explanation was that they had improved to an enormous extent.
Then people began to remember that they had played in scratch games
against the house. There seemed to be a tremendous number of fellows
who had done this. At one time or another, it seemed, half the School
had opposed Dencroft's in the ranks of a scratch side. It began to dawn
on Eckleton that in an unostentatious way Dencroft's had been putting
in about seven times as much practice as any other three houses rolled
together. No wonder they combined so well.
When the School House, with three first fifteen men in its team,
fell before them, the reputation of Dencroft's was established. It had
reached the final, and only Blackburn's stood now between it and the
All this while Blackburn's had been doing what was expected of them
by beating each of their opponents with great ease. There was nothing
sensational about this as there was in the case of Dencroft's. The
latter were, therefore, favourites when the two teams lined up against
one another in the final. The School felt that a house that had had
such a meteoric flight as Dencroft's must—by all that was
dramatic—carry the thing through to its obvious conclusion, and pull
off the final.
But Fenn and Kennedy were not so hopeful. A certain amount of
science, a great deal of keenness, and excellent condition, had carried
them through the other rounds in rare style, but, though they would
probably give a good account of themselves, nobody who considered the
two teams impartially could help seeing that Dencroft's was a weaker
side than Blackburn's. Nothing but great good luck could bring them out
And so it proved. Dencroft's played up for all they were worth from
the kick-off to the final solo on the whistle, but they were
over-matched. Blackburn's scrum was too heavy for them, with its three
first fifteen men and two seconds. Dencroft's pack were shoved off the
ball time after time, and it was only keen tackling that kept the score
down. By half-time Blackburn's were a couple of tries ahead. Fenn
scored soon after the interval with a great run from his own
twenty-five, and for a quarter of an hour it looked as if it might be
anybody's game. Kennedy converted the try, so that Blackburn's only led
by a single point. A fluky kick or a mistake on the part of a
Blackburnite outside might give Dencroft's the cup.
But the Blackburn outsides did not make mistakes. They played a
strong, sure game, and the forwards fed them well. Ten minutes before
No-side, Jimmy Silver ran in, increasing the lead to six points. And
though Dencroft's never went to pieces, and continued to show fight to
the very end, Blackburn's were not to be denied, and Challis scored a
final try in the corner. Blackburn's won the cup by the comfortable,
but not excessive, margin of a goal and three tries to a goal.
Dencroft's had lost the cup; but they had lost it well. Their credit
had increased in spite of the defeat.
“I thought we shouldn't be able to manage Blackburn's,” said
Kennedy, “What we must do now is win that sports' cup.”
XXIV. THE SPORTS
There were certain houses at Eckleton which had, as it were,
specialised in certain competitions. Thus, Gay's, who never by any
chance survived the first two rounds of the cricket and football
housers, invariably won the shooting shield. All the other houses sent
their brace of men to the range to see what they could do, but every
year it was the same. A pair of weedy obscurities from Gay's would take
the shield by a comfortable margin. In the same way Mulholland's had
only won the cricket cup once since they had become a house, but they
had carried off the swimming cup three years in succession, and six
years in all out of the last eight. The sports had always been looked
on as the perquisite of the School House; and this year, with Milligan
to win the long distances, and Maybury the high jump and the weight,
there did not seem much doubt at their success. These two alone would
pile up fifteen points. Three points were given for a win, two for
second place, and one for third. It was this that encouraged Kennedy in
the hope that Dencroft's might have a chance. Nobody in the house could
beat Milligan or Maybury, but the School House second and third strings
were not so invincible. If Dencroft's, by means of second and third
places in the long races and the other events which were certainties
for their opponents, could hold the School House, Fenn's sprinting
might just give them the cup. In the meantime they trained hard, but in
an unobtrusive fashion which aroused no fear in School House circles.
The sports were fixed for the last Saturday of term, but not all the
races were run on that day. The half-mile came off on the previous
Thursday, and the long steeplechase on the Monday after.
The School House won the half-mile, as they were expected to do.
Milligan led from the start, increased his lead at the end of the first
lap, doubled it half-way through the second, and finally, with a
dazzling sprint in the last seventy yards, lowered the Eckleton record
by a second and three-fifths, and gave his house three points. Kennedy,
who stuck gamely to his man for half the first lap, was beaten on the
tape by Crake, of Mulholland's. When sports' day came, therefore, the
score was School House three points, Mulholland's two, Dencroft's one.
The success of Mulholland's in the half was to the advantage of
Dencroft's. Mulholland's was not likely to score many more points, and
a place to them meant one or two points less to the School House.
The sports opened all in favour of Dencroft's, but those who knew
drew no great consolation from this. School sports always begin with
the sprints, and these were Dencroft's certainties. Fenn won the
hundred yards as easily as Milligan had won the half. Peel was second,
and a Beddell's man got third place. So that Dencroft's had now six
points to their rival's three. Ten minutes later they had increased
their lead by winning the first two places at throwing the cricket
ball, Fenn's throw beating Kennedy's by ten yards, and Kennedy's being
a few feet in front of Jimmy Silver's, which, by gaining third place,
represented the only point Blackburn's managed to amass during the
It now began to dawn upon the School House that their supremacy was
seriously threatened. Dencroft's, by its success in the football
competition, had to a great extent lived down the reputation the house
had acquired when it had been Kay's, but even now the notion of its
winning a cup seemed somehow vaguely improper. But the fact had to be
faced that it now led by eleven points to the School House's three.
“It's all right,” said the School House, “our spot events haven't
come off yet. Dencroft's can't get much more now.”
And, to prove that they were right, the gap between the two scores
began gradually to be filled up. Dencroft's struggled hard, but the
School House total crept up and up. Maybury brought it to six by
winning the high jump. This was only what had been expected of him. The
discomforting part of the business was that the other two places were
filled by Morrell, of Mulholland's, and Smith, of Daly's. And when,
immediately afterwards, Maybury won the weight, with another School
House man second, leaving Dencroft's with third place only, things
began to look black for the latter. They were now only one point ahead,
and there was the mile to come: and Milligan could give any Dencroftian
a hundred yards at that distance.
But to balance the mile there was the quarter, and in the mile
Kennedy contrived to beat Crake by much the same number of feet as
Crake had beaten him by in the half. The scores of the two houses were
now level, and a goodly number of the School House certainties were
Dencroft's forged ahead again by virtue of the quarter-mile. Fenn
won it; Peel was second; and a dark horse from Denny's got in third.
With the greater part of the sports over, and a lead of five points to
their name, Dencroft's could feel more comfortable. The hurdle-race was
productive of some discomfort. Fenn should have won it, as being
blessed with twice the pace of any of his opponents. But Maybury, the
jumper, made up for lack of pace by the scientific way in which he took
his hurdles, and won off him by a couple of feet. Smith, Dencroft's
second string, finished third, thus leaving the totals unaltered by the
By this time the public had become alive to the fact that Dencroft's
were making a great fight for the cup. They had noticed that Dencroft's
colours always seemed to be coming in near the head of the procession,
but the School House had made the cup so much their own, that it took
some time for the school to realise that another house—especially the
late Kay's—was running them hard for first place. Then, just before
the hurdle-race, fellows with “correct cards” hastily totted up the
points each house had won up-to-date. To the general amazement it was
found that, while the School House had fourteen, Dencroft's had reached
nineteen, and, barring the long run to be decided on the Monday, there
was nothing now that the School House must win without dispute.
A house that will persist in winning a cup year after year has to
pay for it when challenged by a rival. Dencroft's instantly became warm
favourites. Whenever Dencroft's brown and gold appeared at the scratch,
the school shouted for it wildly till the event was over. By the end of
the day the totals were more nearly even, but Dencroft's were still
ahead. They had lost on the long jump, but not unexpectedly. The totals
at the finish were, School House twenty-three, Dencroft's twenty-five.
Everything now depended on the long run.
“We might do it,” said Kennedy to Fenn, as they changed. “Milligan's
a cert for three points, of course, but if we can only get two we win
“There's one thing about the long run,” said Fenn; “you never quite
know what's going to happen. Milligan might break down over one of the
hedges or the brook. There's no telling.”
Kennedy felt that such a remote possibility was something of a
broken reed to lean on. He had no expectation of beating the School
House long distance runner, but he hoped for second place; and second
place would mean the cup, for there was nobody to beat either himself
The distance of the long run was as nearly as possible five miles.
The course was across country to the village of Ledby in a sort of
semicircle of three and a half miles, and then back to the school gates
by road. Every Eckletonian who ran at all knew the route by heart. It
was the recognised training run if you wanted to train particularly
hard. If you did not, you took a shorter spin. At the milestone nearest
the school—it was about half a mile from the gates—a good number of
fellows used to wait to see the first of the runners and pace their men
home. But, as a rule, there were few really hot finishes in the long
run. The man who got to Ledby first generally kept the advantage, and
came in a long way ahead of the field.
On this occasion the close fight Kennedy and Crake had had in the
mile and the half, added to the fact that Kennedy had only to get
second place to give Dencroft's the cup, lent a greater interest to the
race than usual. The crowd at the milestone was double the size of the
one in the previous year, when Milligan had won for the first time. And
when, amidst howls of delight from the School House, the same runner
ran past the stone with his long, effortless stride, before any of the
others were in sight, the crowd settled down breathlessly to watch for
the second man.
Then a yell, to which the other had been nothing, burst from the
School House as a white figure turned the corner. It was Crake.
Waddling rather than running, and breathing in gasps; but still Crake.
He toiled past the crowd at the milestone.
“By Jove, he looks bad,” said someone.
And, indeed, he looked very bad. But he was ahead of Kennedy. That
was the great thing.
He had passed the stone by thirty yards, when the cheering broke out
again. Kennedy this time, in great straits, but in better shape than
Crake. Dencroft's in a body trotted along at the side of the road,
shouting as they went. Crake, hearing the shouts, looked round, almost
fell, and then pulled himself together and staggered on again. There
were only a hundred yards to go now, and the school gates were in sight
at the end of a long lane of spectators. They looked to Kennedy like
two thick, black hedges. He could not sprint, though a hundred voices
were shouting to him to do so. It was as much as he could do to keep
moving. Only his will enabled him to run now. He meant to get to the
gates, if he had to crawl.
The hundred yards dwindled to fifty, and he had diminished Crake's
lead by a third. Twenty yards from the gates, and he was only
half-a-dozen yards behind.
Crake looked round again, and this time did what he had nearly done
before. His legs gave way; he rolled over; and there he remained, with
the School House watching him in silent dismay, while Kennedy went on
and pitched in a heap on the other side of the gates.
* * * * *
“Feeling bad?” said Jimmy Silver, looking in that evening to make
“I'm feeling good,” said Kennedy.
“That the cup?” asked Jimmy.
Kennedy took the huge cup from the table.
“That's it. Milligan has just brought it round. Well, they can't say
they haven't had their fair share of it. Look here. School House.
School House. School House. School House. Daly's. School House.
Denny's. School House. School House. Ad infinitum.”
They regarded the trophy in silence.
“First pot the house has won,” said Kennedy at length. “The very
“It won't be the last,” returned Jimmy Silver, with decision.