School Story by P. G.
In most of the houses of Wrykyn boys who had been at the school two
years, and who were consequently in a sort of transition stage between
fags and human beings, shared studies in couples. The fags "pigged" in
a body in a common room of their own.
This rule was pleasant enough, provided you got a study-companion
of tastes and habits similar to your own. But it often happened that,
once in your study, an apparently perfect individual developed some
deadly trait, such as a dislike for "brewing" or a taste for aesthetic
furniture, and then life on the two-in-a-study system became troubled.
Liss and Buxton shared study eight at Appleby's. For some time all
went well. They had much in common with one another. It is true that
they were not in the same form, which is what usually cements
alliances of this sort, Liss being in the Upper Fourth and Buxton in
the Lower Fifth.
But otherwise the understanding seemed perfect. Both did a moderate
amount of work, and both were perfectly willing to stop at a moment's
notice, in order to play stump cricket or "soccer" in the passage.
Liss collected stamps; so did Buxton. Buxton owned a Dr. Giles's crib
to the play of "Euripides," which the Upper Fourth were translating
that term. Liss replied with a Bohn's "Livy," Book One. "Livy," Book
One, was what the Lower Fifth were murdering. In short, all Nature may
be said to have been at first one vast substantial smile.
An ideal state of things, but one that was not destined to last.
Liss came back from school one afternoon, entered his study, and
threw his books down on the table. Then he sniffed in a startled
manner. The first sniff proving unsatisfactory, he encored himself. He
was embarking on a third, when Buxton came in. It seemed to Liss that
the aroma became stronger on his entry.
"Why, I believe it's you!" he cried.
"What's up now?" asked Buxton.
"Beastly smell somewhere. I was trying to find where it came from."
"Oh, that!" said Buxton, "that's all right. It's only some
stuff I've got on my handkerchief. The man at the shop called it
Simpkins Idle Moments. Don't you like it?"
Liss flung open the window, and leaned out as far as he could with
safety, breathing hard.
"It's not bad when you get used to it," said Buxton. Liss, having
fortified himself with a stock of fresh air, wriggled back into the
study and directed an indignant glance at his friend.
"It's beastly," he said. "It's the sort of stuff an office-boy out
for Bank Holiday uses."
"Oh, no," said Buxton deprecatingly, "think it's rather pleasant
"But what do you want to do it for?" inquired Liss. "You
make me sick."
"Sorry for that. The man I want it to do that to is Day."
Mr. Day was the master of the Lower Fifth.
"The fact is," proceeded Buxton, in the manner of the man who says
to the hero of the melodrama, "sit down, and I will tell ye the story
of me life," "I've been having rather a row with Day. He shoved me
into extra last Wednesday for doing practically nothing. It wasn't
my fault that the bit of paper hit him; I was aiming at Smith, and
he strolled into the zone of fire just as I shot. I told him I was
sorry, too. Well, anyway, he jammed me in extra and yesterday he
slanged me about my Latin prose before the whole form, so I thought
this was getting a bit too thick, so I thought something had got to be
done. So I thought it over a good time, and at last I thought it would
be a sound idea if I came into the form-room with some scent on me.
Day bars scent awfully, you know."
"So do I," said Liss coldly.
"Calls it clarified fat," continued Buxton, "and that kind of
thing, and says using it's a filthy and effete habit only worthy of a
"So it is," said Liss.
"Well, it acted splendidly. I sat tight, you know, waiting for
developments. I could see him getting restive, and peering round the
room over his spectacles, and then he spotted me. I don't know how.
"He glared at me for a second; then he said, 'Buxton.'
"'Yes, sir,' I said.
"He beckoned me solemnly and I went up. When I got to his desk he
took me by the tip of the ear and examined me.
"'Boy,' he said, 'what—what is this abomination on your
"'Simpkins Idle Moments, sir,' I said.
"The chaps yelled.
"'A scent, I presume?'
"'And will you kindly inform me, Buxton, for what reason you have
adopted this clarified fat?'
"I told him it was for the good of my health. I said doctors
"'Boy,' he said, 'your story leaves me sceptical. I do not credit
it. Go to your seat. Pah! Throw open the door and all the windows.
Buxton, translate from "Ille tamen—" and do not dare to enter this
room in such a state to-morrow.'
"I went on to translate, and got ploughed, of course. He gave me
the lesson to write out."
"Serve you jolly well right," said Liss.
"I don't think it would be safe," said Buxton, "to try him again
with Simpkins after what he said."
"I should think not," said Liss.
"So," continued Buxton triumphantly, "I'm going to appear to-morrow
in—(here, regardless of his friend's look of disgust, he drew a small
bottle from his pocket and examined the label)—in 'Riggles's Rose of
the Hills.' That'll make him sit up. And, curiously enough, doctors
say it's very nearly as good for you as Simpkins would be."
When the somewhat searching perfume of Riggles's masterpiece
reached Mr. Day on the following morning, he stiffened in his chair.
"Boy!" he shouted. With the natural result that all the form except
Buxton looked up. Buxton was apparently too busy with his work to
spare a moment.
"Come here, Buxton," added Mr. Day.
Buxton advanced to the desk with the firm step that tells of an
"In spite of what I said to you yesterday, you have The Audacity,"
began Mr. Day, speaking in capitals, "to Come Here Again in
this [Image] DISGUSTING State." .submit()
"Si-i-r!!" interjected Buxton, moaning with righteous indignation.
"I don't see what I've done, sir." [Image] üXd€
"You-Don't-See-What-You've-Done? Did I not tell you yesterday that I
would not have you enter my form-room with Simpkins/—er—I forget
the precise name of that abomination—on your handkerchief?"
"Oh, but, sir," said Buxton, in the pleased tone of one who sees
exactly where he and a bosom friend have misunderstood one another,
and sees also his way to put matters right, "This isn't Simpkins
Idle Moments. It's 'Riggles's Rose of the Hills.'"
Mr. Day raved. What did it matter whether the abomination he
affected were manufactured by Riggles, or Diggles, or Biggles, or
Robinson? WHAT did it matter what name its degraded patentee
had applied to it? The point was that it was scent, and-he-would-not-
have/-scent in his form-room.
Buxton protested. Was he a slave? That was what Buxton would like
to know. He was sure that there was no school rule against the use of
scent as a precaution against germs. He didn't want germs. He was
certain that his mother would not like it if he had germs. It was a
shame that you were sent to schools where you were made to have germs.
The situation was at a deadlock. Much as he disliked scent, Mr. Day
was obliged to admit to himself that the law was not on his side. He
was a serious man without a spark of humour in his composition, and
with a tremendous enthusiasm for fairness, and he did not wish to do
anything tyrannical. If the boy really was afraid of germs, he had no
right to prevent him doing his best to stave them off.
He gave up the struggle in despair. Buxton walked back to his seat,
and two days later entered the form-room with a cold which not only
made it necessary for him to use eucalyptus, but also to speak
unintelligibly through his nose. Mr. Day spent the morning with his
handkerchief to his face, a pathetic figure which would have softened
the heart of a less vengeful person than Buxton.
Public opinion was divided on the subject of Buxton's manoeuvres.
The Lower Fifth, glad of anything to relieve the tedium of
school-time, hailed him as a public benefactor. Liss openly complained
that life was not worth living, and that he might just as well spend
his time in a scent-factory. Greenwood, the prefect of Buxton's
dormitory, took a stronger line.
Having observed without preamble that he was not going to be
asphyxiated for the amusement of Buxton or anyone like him, he
attached himself to the scruff of that youth's neck, and kicked him
several times with much vigour and enthusiasm. He said, that if Buxton
came into the dormitory like that again, he would have much pleasure
in wringing his neck and chucking him out of the window.
In this delicate position, Buxton acted in statesmanlike fashion.
Scented as before during the day, he left his handkerchief in the
study on retiring to rest. So that, with the exception of Mr. Day and
Liss, everyone was satisfied.
Liss brooded darkly over his injuries. At last, struck with an
idea, he went across to the Infirmary to see Vickery. Vickery, a noted
man of resource, was an Applebyite member of the Upper Fourth, and he
had been down for a week or two with influenza. He was now
convalescent, and visitors were admitted at stated intervals.
"I say, Vickery," began Liss, taking a seat.
"When are you coming back to the house?"
"Oh, soon. Next Monday, I believe."
"Well, look here." And Liss set forth his grievance. Vickery was
"It's all very well to laugh," said Liss, complainingly, "but it's
beastly for me. I say, what I really wanted to see you for was to ask
if you'd mind swopping studies for a bit." (Vickery owned study three,
one of the smaller rooms, only capable of accommodating one resident.)
"You see," pursued Liss hurriedly, in order to forestall argument, "it
wouldn't be the same for you. I don't suppose you can smell a thing
after the 'flu', can you?"
"It would have to be pretty strong to worry me," agreed Vickery.
"Then will you?" said Liss. "You'll find Buxton a good enough sort
of chap when he isn't playing rotten games of this sort. And he's got
Giles's crib to the 'Medea.'"
This was Liss's ace of trumps, and it settled the matter. Vickery
agreed to the exchange instantly, and gave his consent to the
immediate removal of his goods and chattels from study three and the
substitution of those of Liss. Liss went over to the house and spent
the evening shifting furniture, retiring to his dormitory grubby, but
jubilant, at "lights-out."
On the following Monday, Vickery was restored to Appleby's, with a
doctor's certificate stating that he was cured.
Buxton welcomed him with open arms, explained the state of the game
to him, and assured him that he was an improvement upon Liss.
"You don't mind this scent business, do you?" he said.
"Rather not," said Vickery, "I love scent. I use it myself."
"Good man," said Buxton.
But he altered his opinion next day.
"Great Caesar," he cried, as he came into the study after a
pleasant afternoon with Mr. Day. He rushed to the window, and opened
it. Vickery surveyed him with amused surprise.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Can't you smell it, you ass?" said Buxton, wildly.
"Smell it?" repeated Vickery. A light seemed to dawn upon him.
"Oh," he said, "you mean the stuff I've got on my handkerchief. Don't
you like it? Doctors say it's awfully good for keeping off germs."
Buxton, in a voice rendered nasal by a handkerchief pressed tightly
over his face, replied that he did not. He hung out of the window
again. Vickery grinned broadly, but became solemn as his companion
"Well, I didn't think you would have minded," he said, in a
reproachful voice, "I thought you rather liked scent."
"Scent! Do you call it a scent! What on earth is the muck?"
"It's only sulphuretted hydrogen. The doctor recommended it, to
keep off any bad effects after the flu. I can't smell it much, but it
seems rather decent. You wouldn't like some, would you?"
"Look here," said Buxton, "how long is this going on?"
"I couldn't say exactly, till I'm quite fit again. Two or three
"Weeks! Did you say weeks?"
"Yes. Not longer, I shouldn't think. A month at the outside. Hullo,
you aren't off?"
Buxton left the room, and went down the passage to number three.
"Get out," said Liss briefly. "I don't want this study—"
"Then would you mind swopping with me?" put in Buxton eagerly. "I
don't think I shall quite hit it off with Vickery. He's much more a
pal of yours than mine."
"Oh, hang it," said Liss, "I can't always be changing about. I've
got all my things fixed up here. It's too much fag to move them
"I'll do that. You needn't worry about it. I'll shift your things
into number eight to-night, if you'll swop. Will you?"
"All right," said Liss, "don't go breaking any of my pictures."
"Rather not," said Buxton. "Thanks awfully. And, I say, you can
keep that Giles, if you like."
"Thanks," said Liss, "it'll come in useful."
"What made Buxton clear out like that?" he asked Vickery, as they
brewed their first pot of tea after the exchange. "Did you have a
"No. It was only that he didn't like the particular brand of scent
Liss's jaw dropped.
"Great Scott," he said, "you don't use scent, too, do you?"
"Only when Buxton's there," said Vickery. He related the story
"I thought it would be better for us two together than having to
share the study with Buxton," he concluded; "so I laid in a little
scent, as he was so fond of it. I chucked it away yesterday."
"What a ripping idea," said Liss. "I hope it made him feel jolly
ill. Anyway, it paid him back for the time he gave me."
"Yes, scent per scent," murmured Vickery; and, the last round of
toast being now ready, and the kettle boiling over, study number eight
proceeded to keep the wolf from the door.