THE GOLD BAT
by P. G. Wodehouse
[Dedication] To THAT PRINCE OF SLACKERS, HERBERT WESTBROOK
I THE FIFTEENTH PLACE
II THE GOLD BAT
III THE MAYOR'S STATUE
IV THE LEAGUE'S WARNING
V MILL RECEIVES VISITORS
VI TREVOR REMAINS FIRM
VII "WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE LEAGUE"
VIII O'HARA ON THE TRACK
IX MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS
X BEING A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
XI THE HOUSE-MATCHES
XII NEWS OF THE GOLD BAT
XIII VICTIM NUMBER THREE
XIV THE WHITE FIGURE
XV A SPRAIN AND A VACANT PLACE
XVI THE RIPTON MATCH
XVII THE WATCHERS IN THE VAULT
XVIII O'HARA EXCELS HIMSELF
XIX THE MAYOR'S VISIT
XX THE FINDING OF THE BAT
XXI THE LEAGUE REVEALED
XXII A DRESS REHEARSAL
XXIII WHAT RENFORD SAW
THE FIFTEENTH PLACE
"Don't be an idiot, man. I bagged it first."
"My dear chap, I've been waiting here a month."
"When you fellows have quite finished rotting about in front of that bath don't let me detain you."
"Anybody seen that sponge?"
"Well, look here"—this in a tone of compromise—"let's toss for it."
"All right. Odd man out."
All of which, being interpreted, meant that the first match of the Easter term had just come to an end, and that those of the team who, being day boys, changed over at the pavilion, instead of performing the operation at leisure and in comfort, as did the members of houses, were discussing the vital question—who was to have first bath?
The Field Sports Committee at Wrykyn—that is, at the school which stood some half-mile outside that town and took its name from it—were not lavish in their expenditure as regarded the changing accommodation in the pavilion. Letters appeared in every second number of the Wrykinian, some short, others long, some from members of the school, others from Old Boys, all protesting against the condition of the first, second, and third fifteen dressing-rooms. "Indignant" would inquire acidly, in half a page of small type, if the editor happened to be aware that there was no hair-brush in the second room, and only half a comb. "Disgusted O. W." would remark that when he came down with the Wandering Zephyrs to play against the third fifteen, the water supply had suddenly and mysteriously failed, and the W.Z.'s had been obliged to go home as they were, in a state of primeval grime, and he thought that this was "a very bad thing in a school of over six hundred boys", though what the number of boys had to do with the fact that there was no water he omitted to explain. The editor would express his regret in brackets, and things would go on as before.
There was only one bath in the first fifteen room, and there were on the present occasion six claimants to it. And each claimant was of the fixed opinion that, whatever happened subsequently, he was going to have it first. Finally, on the suggestion of Otway, who had reduced tossing to a fine art, a mystic game of Tommy Dodd was played. Otway having triumphantly obtained first innings, the conversation reverted to the subject of the match.
The Easter term always opened with a scratch game against a mixed team of masters and old boys, and the school usually won without any great exertion. On this occasion the match had been rather more even than the average, and the team had only just pulled the thing off by a couple of tries to a goal. Otway expressed an opinion that the school had played badly.
"Why on earth don't you forwards let the ball out occasionally?" he asked. Otway was one of the first fifteen halves.
"They were so jolly heavy in the scrum," said Maurice, one of the forwards. "And when we did let it out, the outsides nearly always mucked it."
"Well, it wasn't the halves' fault. We always got it out to the centres."
"It wasn't the centres," put in Robinson. "They played awfully well. Trevor was ripping."
"Trevor always is," said Otway; "I should think he's about the best captain we've had here for a long time. He's certainly one of the best centres."
"Best there's been since Rivers-Jones," said Clephane.
Rivers-Jones was one of those players who mark an epoch. He had been in the team fifteen years ago, and had left Wrykyn to captain Cambridge and play three years in succession for Wales. The school regarded the standard set by him as one that did not admit of comparison. However good a Wrykyn centre three-quarter might be, the most he could hope to be considered was "the best since Rivers-Jones". "Since" Rivers-Jones, however, covered fifteen years, and to be looked on as the best centre the school could boast of during that time, meant something. For Wrykyn knew how to play football.
Since it had been decided thus that the faults in the school attack did not lie with the halves, forwards, or centres, it was more or less evident that they must be attributable to the wings. And the search for the weak spot was even further narrowed down by the general verdict that Clowes, on the left wing, had played well. With a beautiful unanimity the six occupants of the first fifteen room came to the conclusion that the man who had let the team down that day had been the man on the right—Rand-Brown, to wit, of Seymour's.
"I'll bet he doesn't stay in the first long," said Clephane, who was now in the bath, vice Otway, retired. "I suppose they had to try him, as he was the senior wing three-quarter of the second, but he's no earthly good."
"He only got into the second because he's big," was Robinson's opinion. "A man who's big and strong can always get his second colours."
"Even if he's a funk, like Rand-Brown," said Clephane. "Did any of you chaps notice the way he let Paget through that time he scored for them? He simply didn't attempt to tackle him. He could have brought him down like a shot if he'd only gone for him. Paget was running straight along the touch-line, and hadn't any room to dodge. I know Trevor was jolly sick about it. And then he let him through once before in just the same way in the first half, only Trevor got round and stopped him. He was rank."
"Missed every other pass, too," said Otway.
Clephane summed up.
"He was rank," he said again. "Trevor won't keep him in the team long."
"I wish Paget hadn't left," said Otway, referring to the wing three-quarter who, by leaving unexpectedly at the end of the Christmas term, had let Rand-Brown into the team. His loss was likely to be felt. Up till Christmas Wrykyn had done well, and Paget had been their scoring man. Rand-Brown had occupied a similar position in the second fifteen. He was big and speedy, and in second fifteen matches these qualities make up for a great deal. If a man scores one or two tries in nearly every match, people are inclined to overlook in him such failings as timidity and clumsiness. It is only when he comes to be tried in football of a higher class that he is seen through. In the second fifteen the fact that Rand-Brown was afraid to tackle his man had almost escaped notice. But the habit would not do in first fifteen circles.
"All the same," said Clephane, pursuing his subject, "if they don't play him, I don't see who they're going to get. He's the best of the second three-quarters, as far as I can see."
It was this very problem that was puzzling Trevor, as he walked off the field with Paget and Clowes, when they had got into their blazers after the match. Clowes was in the same house as Trevor—Donaldson's—and Paget was staying there, too. He had been head of Donaldson's up to Christmas.
"It strikes me," said Paget, "the school haven't got over the holidays yet. I never saw such a lot of slackers. You ought to have taken thirty points off the sort of team you had against you today."
"Have you ever known the school play well on the second day of term?" asked Clowes. "The forwards always play as if the whole thing bored them to death."
"It wasn't the forwards that mattered so much," said Trevor. "They'll shake down all right after a few matches. A little running and passing will put them right."
"Let's hope so," Paget observed, "or we might as well scratch to Ripton at once. There's a jolly sight too much of the mince-pie and Christmas pudding about their play at present." There was a pause. Then Paget brought out the question towards which he had been moving all the time.
"What do you think of Rand-Brown?" he asked.
It was pretty clear by the way he spoke what he thought of that player himself, but in discussing with a football captain the capabilities of the various members of his team, it is best to avoid a too positive statement one way or the other before one has heard his views on the subject. And Paget was one of those people who like to know the opinions of others before committing themselves.
Clowes, on the other hand, was in the habit of forming his views on his own account, and expressing them. If people agreed with them, well and good: it afforded strong presumptive evidence of their sanity. If they disagreed, it was unfortunate, but he was not going to alter his opinions for that, unless convinced at great length that they were unsound. He summed things up, and gave you the result. You could take it or leave it, as you preferred.
"I thought he was bad," said Clowes.
"Bad!" exclaimed Trevor, "he was a disgrace. One can understand a chap having his off-days at any game, but one doesn't expect a man in the Wrykyn first to funk. He mucked five out of every six passes I gave him, too, and the ball wasn't a bit slippery. Still, I shouldn't mind that so much if he had only gone for his man properly. It isn't being out of practice that makes you funk. And even when he did have a try at you, Paget, he always went high."
"That," said Clowes thoughtfully, "would seem to show that he was game."
Nobody so much as smiled. Nobody ever did smile at Clowes' essays in wit, perhaps because of the solemn, almost sad, tone of voice in which he delivered them. He was tall and dark and thin, and had a pensive eye, which encouraged the more soulful of his female relatives to entertain hopes that he would some day take orders.
"Well," said Paget, relieved at finding that he did not stand alone in his views on Rand-Brown's performance, "I must say I thought he was awfully bad myself."
"I shall try somebody else next match," said Trevor. "It'll be rather hard, though. The man one would naturally put in, Bryce, left at Christmas, worse luck."
Bryce was the other wing three-quarter of the second fifteen.
"Isn't there anybody in the third?" asked Paget.
"Barry," said Clowes briefly.
"Clowes thinks Barry's good," explained Trevor.
"He is good," said Clowes. "I admit he's small, but he can tackle."
"The question is, would he be any good in the first? A chap might do jolly well for the third, and still not be worth trying for the first."
"I don't remember much about Barry," said Paget, "except being collared by him when we played Seymour's last year in the final. I certainly came away with a sort of impression that he could tackle. I thought he marked me jolly well."
"There you are, then," said Clowes. "A year ago Barry could tackle Paget. There's no reason for supposing that he's fallen off since then. We've seen that Rand-Brown can't tackle Paget. Ergo, Barry is better worth playing for the team than Rand-Brown. Q.E.D."
"All right, then," replied Trevor. "There can't be any harm in trying him. We'll have another scratch game on Thursday. Will you be here then, Paget?"
"Oh, yes. I'm stopping till Saturday."
"Good man. Then we shall be able to see how he does against you. I wish you hadn't left, though, by Jove. We should have had Ripton on toast, the same as last term."
Wrykyn played five schools, but six school matches. The school that they played twice in the season was Ripton. To win one Ripton match meant that, however many losses it might have sustained in the other matches, the school had had, at any rate, a passable season. To win two Ripton matches in the same year was almost unheard of. This year there had seemed every likelihood of it. The match before Christmas on the Ripton ground had resulted in a win for Wrykyn by two goals and a try to a try. But the calculations of the school had been upset by the sudden departure of Paget at the end of term, and also of Bryce, who had hitherto been regarded as his understudy. And in the first Ripton match the two goals had both been scored by Paget, and both had been brilliant bits of individual play, which a lesser man could not have carried through.
The conclusion, therefore, at which the school reluctantly arrived, was that their chances of winning the second match could not be judged by their previous success. They would have to approach the Easter term fixture from another—a non-Paget—standpoint. In these circumstances it became a serious problem: who was to get the fifteenth place? Whoever played in Paget's stead against Ripton would be certain, if the match were won, to receive his colours. Who, then, would fill the vacancy?
"Rand-Brown, of course," said the crowd.
But the experts, as we have shown, were of a different opinion.
THE GOLD BAT
Trevor did not take long to resume a garb of civilisation. He never wasted much time over anything. He was gifted with a boundless energy, which might possibly have made him unpopular had he not justified it by results. The football of the school had never been in such a flourishing condition as it had attained to on his succeeding to the captaincy. It was not only that the first fifteen was good. The excellence of a first fifteen does not always depend on the captain. But the games, even down to the very humblest junior game, had woken up one morning—at the beginning of the previous term—to find themselves, much to their surprise, organised going concerns. Like the immortal Captain Pott, Trevor was "a terror to the shirker and the lubber". And the resemblance was further increased by the fact that he was "a toughish lot", who was "little, but steel and india-rubber". At first sight his appearance was not imposing. Paterfamilias, who had heard his son's eulogies on Trevor's performances during the holidays, and came down to watch the school play a match, was generally rather disappointed on seeing five feet six where he had looked for at least six foot one, and ten stone where he had expected thirteen. But then, what there was of Trevor was, as previously remarked, steel and india-rubber, and he certainly played football like a miniature Stoddart. It was characteristic of him that, though this was the first match of the term, his condition seemed to be as good as possible. He had done all his own work on the field and most of Rand-Brown's, and apparently had not turned a hair. He was one of those conscientious people who train in the holidays.
When he had changed, he went down the passage to Clowes' study. Clowes was in the position he frequently took up when the weather was good—wedged into his window in a sitting position, one leg in the study, the other hanging outside over space. The indoor leg lacked a boot, so that it was evident that its owner had at least had the energy to begin to change. That he had given the thing up after that, exhausted with the effort, was what one naturally expected from Clowes. He would have made a splendid actor: he was so good at resting.
"Hurry up and dress," said Trevor; "I want you to come over to the baths."
"What on earth do you want over at the baths?"
"I want to see O'Hara."
"Oh, yes, I remember. Dexter's are camping out there, aren't they? I heard they were. Why is it?"
"One of the Dexter kids got measles in the last week of the holidays, so they shunted all the beds and things across, and the chaps went back there instead of to the house."
In the winter term the baths were always boarded over and converted into a sort of extra gymnasium where you could go and box or fence when there was no room to do it in the real gymnasium. Socker and stump-cricket were also largely played there, the floor being admirably suited to such games, though the light was always rather tricky, and prevented heavy scoring.
"I should think," said Clowes, "from what I've seen of Dexter's beauties, that Dexter would like them to camp out at the bottom of the baths all the year round. It would be a happy release for him if they were all drowned. And I suppose if he had to choose any one of them for a violent death, he'd pick O'Hara. O'Hara must be a boon to a house-master. I've known chaps break rules when the spirit moved them, but he's the only one I've met who breaks them all day long and well into the night simply for amusement. I've often thought of writing to the S.P.C.A. about it. I suppose you could call Dexter an animal all right?"
"O'Hara's right enough, really. A man like Dexter would make any fellow run amuck. And then O'Hara's an Irishman to start with, which makes a difference."
There is usually one house in every school of the black sheep sort, and, if you go to the root of the matter, you will generally find that the fault is with the master of that house. A house-master who enters into the life of his house, coaches them in games—if an athlete—or, if not an athlete, watches the games, umpiring at cricket and refereeing at football, never finds much difficulty in keeping order. It may be accepted as fact that the juniors of a house will never be orderly of their own free will, but disturbances in the junior day-room do not make the house undisciplined. The prefects are the criterion. If you find them joining in the general "rags", and even starting private ones on their own account, then you may safely say that it is time the master of that house retired from the business, and took to chicken-farming. And that was the state of things in Dexter's. It was the most lawless of the houses. Mr Dexter belonged to a type of master almost unknown at a public school—the usher type. In a private school he might have passed. At Wrykyn he was out of place. To him the whole duty of a house-master appeared to be to wage war against his house.
When Dexter's won the final for the cricket cup in the summer term of two years back, the match lasted four afternoons—four solid afternoons of glorious, up-and-down cricket. Mr Dexter did not see a single ball of that match bowled. He was prowling in sequestered lanes and broken-down barns out of bounds on the off-chance that he might catch some member of his house smoking there. As if the whole of the house, from the head to the smallest fag, were not on the field watching Day's best bats collapse before Henderson's bowling, and Moriarty hit up that marvellous and unexpected fifty-three at the end of the second innings!
That sort of thing definitely stamps a master.
"What do you want to see O'Hara about?" asked Clowes.
"He's got my little gold bat. I lent it him in the holidays."
A remark which needs a footnote. The bat referred to was made of gold, and was about an inch long by an eighth broad. It had come into existence some ten years previously, in the following manner. The inter-house cricket cup at Wrykyn had originally been a rather tarnished and unimpressive vessel, whose only merit consisted in the fact that it was of silver. Ten years ago an Old Wrykinian, suddenly reflecting that it would not be a bad idea to do something for the school in a small way, hied him to the nearest jeweller's and purchased another silver cup, vast withal and cunningly decorated with filigree work, and standing on a massive ebony plinth, round which were little silver lozenges just big enough to hold the name of the winning house and the year of grace. This he presented with his blessing to be competed for by the dozen houses that made up the school of Wrykyn, and it was formally established as the house cricket cup. The question now arose: what was to be done with the other cup? The School House, who happened to be the holders at the time, suggested disinterestedly that it should become the property of the house which had won it last. "Not so," replied the Field Sports Committee, "but far otherwise. We will have it melted down in a fiery furnace, and thereafter fashioned into eleven little silver bats. And these little silver bats shall be the guerdon of the eleven members of the winning team, to have and to hold for the space of one year, unless, by winning the cup twice in succession, they gain the right of keeping the bat for yet another year. How is that, umpire?" And the authorities replied, "O men of infinite resource and sagacity, verily is it a cold day when you get left behind. Forge ahead." But, when they had forged ahead, behold! it would not run to eleven little silver bats, but only to ten little silver bats. Thereupon the headmaster, a man liberal with his cash, caused an eleventh little bat to be fashioned—for the captain of the winning team to have and to hold in the manner aforesaid. And, to single it out from the others, it was wrought, not of silver, but of gold. And so it came to pass that at the time of our story Trevor was in possession of the little gold bat, because Donaldson's had won the cup in the previous summer, and he had captained them—and, incidentally, had scored seventy-five without a mistake.
"Well, I'm hanged if I would trust O'Hara with my bat," said Clowes, referring to the silver ornament on his own watch-chain; "he's probably pawned yours in the holidays. Why did you lend it to him?"
"His people wanted to see it. I know him at home, you know. They asked me to lunch the last day but one of the holidays, and we got talking about the bat, because, of course, if we hadn't beaten Dexter's in the final, O'Hara would have had it himself. So I sent it over next day with a note asking O'Hara to bring it back with him here."
"Oh, well, there's a chance, then, seeing he's only had it so little time, that he hasn't pawned it yet. You'd better rush off and get it back as soon as possible. It's no good waiting for me. I shan't be ready for weeks."
"Teaing with Donaldson. At least, he said he was going to."
"Then I suppose I shall have to go alone. I hate walking alone."
"If you hurry," said Clowes, scanning the road from his post of vantage, "you'll be able to go with your fascinating pal Ruthven. He's just gone out."
Trevor dashed downstairs in his energetic way, and overtook the youth referred to.
Clowes brooded over them from above like a sorrowful and rather disgusted Providence. Trevor's liking for Ruthven, who was a Donaldsonite like himself, was one of the few points on which the two had any real disagreement. Clowes could not understand how any person in his senses could of his own free will make an intimate friend of Ruthven.
"Hullo, Trevor," said Ruthven.
"Come over to the baths," said Trevor, "I want to see O'Hara about something. Or were you going somewhere else."
"I wasn't going anywhere in particular. I never know what to do in term-time. It's deadly dull."
Trevor could never understand how any one could find term-time dull. For his own part, there always seemed too much to do in the time.
"You aren't allowed to play games?" he said, remembering something about a doctor's certificate in the past.
"No," said Ruthven. "Thank goodness," he added.
Which remark silenced Trevor. To a person who thanked goodness that he was not allowed to play games he could find nothing to say. But he ceased to wonder how it was that Ruthven was dull.
They proceeded to the baths together in silence. O'Hara, they were informed by a Dexter's fag who met them outside the door, was not about.
"When he comes back," said Trevor, "tell him I want him to come to tea tomorrow directly after school, and bring my bat. Don't forget."
The fag promised to make a point of it.
THE MAYOR'S STATUE
One of the rules that governed the life of Donough O'Hara, the light-hearted descendant of the O'Haras of Castle Taterfields, Co. Clare, Ireland, was "Never refuse the offer of a free tea". So, on receipt—per the Dexter's fag referred to—of Trevor's invitation, he scratched one engagement (with his mathematical master—not wholly unconnected with the working-out of Examples 200 to 206 in Hall and Knight's Algebra), postponed another (with his friend and ally Moriarty, of Dexter's, who wished to box with him in the gymnasium), and made his way at a leisurely pace towards Donaldson's. He was feeling particularly pleased with himself today, for several reasons. He had begun the day well by scoring brilliantly off Mr Dexter across the matutinal rasher and coffee. In morning school he had been put on to translate the one passage which he happened to have prepared—the first ten lines, in fact, of the hundred which formed the morning's lesson. And in the final hour of afternoon school, which was devoted to French, he had discovered and exploited with great success an entirely new and original form of ragging. This, he felt, was the strenuous life; this was living one's life as one's life should be lived.
He met Trevor at the gate. As they were going in, a carriage and pair dashed past. Its cargo consisted of two people, the headmaster, looking bored, and a small, dapper man, with a very red face, who looked excited, and was talking volubly. Trevor and O'Hara raised their caps as the chariot swept by, but the salute passed unnoticed. The Head appeared to be wrapped in thought.
"What's the Old Man doing in a carriage, I wonder," said Trevor, looking after them. "Who's that with him?"
"That," said O'Hara, "is Sir Eustace Briggs."
"Who's Sir Eustace Briggs?"
O'Hara explained, in a rich brogue, that Sir Eustace was Mayor of Wrykyn, a keen politician, and a hater of the Irish nation, judging by his letters and speeches.
They went into Trevor's study. Clowes was occupying the window in his usual manner.
"Hullo, O'Hara," he said, "there is an air of quiet satisfaction about you that seems to show that you've been ragging Dexter. Have you?"
"Oh, that was only this morning at breakfast. The best rag was in French," replied O'Hara, who then proceeded to explain in detail the methods he had employed to embitter the existence of the hapless Gallic exile with whom he had come in contact. It was that gentleman's custom to sit on a certain desk while conducting the lesson. This desk chanced to be O'Hara's. On the principle that a man may do what he likes with his own, he had entered the room privily in the dinner-hour, and removed the screws from his desk, with the result that for the first half-hour of the lesson the class had been occupied in excavating M. Gandinois from the ruins. That gentleman's first act on regaining his equilibrium had been to send O'Hara out of the room, and O'Hara, who had foreseen this emergency, had spent a very pleasant half-hour in the passage with some mixed chocolates and a copy of Mr Hornung's Amateur Cracksman. It was his notion of a cheerful and instructive French lesson.
"What were you talking about when you came in?" asked Clowes. "Who's been slanging Ireland, O'Hara?"
"The man Briggs."
"What are you going to do about it? Aren't you going to take any steps?"
"Is it steps?" said O'Hara, warmly, "and haven't we——"
"Ye know," he said, seriously, "ye mustn't let it go any further. I shall get sacked if it's found out. An' so will Moriarty, too."
"Why?" asked Trevor, looking up from the tea-pot he was filling, "what on earth have you been doing?"
"Wouldn't it be rather a cheery idea," suggested Clowes, "if you began at the beginning."
"Well, ye see," O'Hara began, "it was this way. The first I heard of it was from Dexter. He was trying to score off me as usual, an' he said, 'Have ye seen the paper this morning, O'Hara?' I said, no, I had not. Then he said, 'Ah,' he said, 'ye should look at it. There's something there that ye'll find interesting.' I said, 'Yes, sir?' in me respectful way. 'Yes,' said he, 'the Irish members have been making their customary disturbances in the House. Why is it, O'Hara,' he said, 'that Irishmen are always thrusting themselves forward and making disturbances for purposes of self-advertisement?' 'Why, indeed, sir?' said I, not knowing what else to say, and after that the conversation ceased."
"Go on," said Clowes.
"After breakfast Moriarty came to me with a paper, and showed me what they had been saying about the Irish. There was a letter from the man Briggs on the subject. 'A very sensible and temperate letter from Sir Eustace Briggs', they called it, but bedad! if that was a temperate letter, I should like to know what an intemperate one is. Well, we read it through, and Moriarty said to me, 'Can we let this stay as it is?' And I said, 'No. We can't.' 'Well,' said Moriarty to me, 'what are we to do about it? I should like to tar and feather the man,' he said. 'We can't do that,' I said, 'but why not tar and feather his statue?' I said. So we thought we would. Ye know where the statue is, I suppose? It's in the recreation ground just across the river."
"I know the place," said Clowes. "Go on. This is ripping. I always knew you were pretty mad, but this sounds as if it were going to beat all previous records."
"Have ye seen the baths this term," continued O'Hara, "since they shifted Dexter's house into them? The beds are in two long rows along each wall. Moriarty's and mine are the last two at the end farthest from the door."
"Just under the gallery," said Trevor. "I see."
"That's it. Well, at half-past ten sharp every night Dexter sees that we're all in, locks the door, and goes off to sleep at the Old Man's, and we don't see him again till breakfast. He turns the gas off from outside. At half-past seven the next morning, Smith"—Smith was one of the school porters—"unlocks the door and calls us, and we go over to the Hall to breakfast."
"Well, directly everybody was asleep last night—it wasn't till after one, as there was a rag on—Moriarty and I got up, dressed, and climbed up into the gallery. Ye know the gallery windows? They open at the top, an' it's rather hard to get out of them. But we managed it, and dropped on to the gravel outside."
"Long drop," said Clowes.
"Yes. I hurt myself rather. But it was in a good cause. I dropped first, and while I was on the ground, Moriarty came on top of me. That's how I got hurt. But it wasn't much, and we cut across the grounds, and over the fence, and down to the river. It was a fine night, and not very dark, and everything smelt ripping down by the river."
"Don't get poetical," said Clowes. "Stick to the point."
"We got into the boat-house—"
"How?" asked the practical Trevor, for the boat-house was wont to be locked at one in the morning. "Moriarty had a key that fitted," explained O'Hara, briefly. "We got in, and launched a boat—a big tub—put in the tar and a couple of brushes—there's always tar in the boat-house—and rowed across."
"Wait a bit," interrupted Trevor, "you said tar and feathers. Where did you get the feathers?"
"We used leaves. They do just as well, and there were heaps on the bank. Well, when we landed, we tied up the boat, and bucked across to the Recreation Ground. We got over the railings—beastly, spiky railings—and went over to the statue. Ye know where the statue stands? It's right in the middle of the place, where everybody can see it. Moriarty got up first, and I handed him the tar and a brush. Then I went up with the other brush, and we began. We did his face first. It was too dark to see really well, but I think we made a good job of it. When we had put about as much tar on as we thought would do, we took out the leaves—which we were carrying in our pockets—and spread them on. Then we did the rest of him, and after about half an hour, when we thought we'd done about enough, we got into our boat again, and came back."
"And what did you do till half-past seven?"
"We couldn't get back the way we'd come, so we slept in the boat-house."
"Well—I'm—hanged," was Trevor's comment on the story.
Clowes roared with laughter. O'Hara was a perpetual joy to him.
As O'Hara was going, Trevor asked him for his gold bat.
"You haven't lost it, I hope?" he said.
O'Hara felt in his pocket, but brought his hand out at once and transferred it to another pocket. A look of anxiety came over his face, and was reflected in Trevor's.
"I could have sworn it was in that pocket," he said.
"You haven't lost it?" queried Trevor again.
"He has," said Clowes, confidently. "If you want to know where that bat is, I should say you'd find it somewhere between the baths and the statue. At the foot of the statue, for choice. It seems to me—correct me if I am wrong—that you have been and gone and done it, me broth av a bhoy."
O'Hara gave up the search.
"It's gone," he said. "Man, I'm most awfully sorry. I'd sooner have lost a ten-pound note."
"I don't see why you should lose either," snapped Trevor. "Why the blazes can't you be more careful."
O'Hara was too penitent for words. Clowes took it on himself to point out the bright side.
"There's nothing to get sick about, really," he said. "If the thing doesn't turn up, though it probably will, you'll simply have to tell the Old Man that it's lost. He'll have another made. You won't be asked for it till just before Sports Day either, so you will have plenty of time to find it."
The challenge cups, and also the bats, had to be given to the authorities before the sports, to be formally presented on Sports Day.
"Oh, I suppose it'll be all right," said Trevor, "but I hope it won't be found anywhere near the statue."
O'Hara said he hoped so too.
THE LEAGUE'S WARNING
The team to play in any match was always put upon the notice-board at the foot of the stairs in the senior block a day before the date of the fixture. Both first and second fifteens had matches on the Thursday of this week. The second were playing a team brought down by an old Wrykinian. The first had a scratch game.
When Barry, accompanied by M'Todd, who shared his study at Seymour's and rarely left him for two minutes on end, passed by the notice-board at the quarter to eleven interval, it was to the second fifteen list that he turned his attention. Now that Bryce had left, he thought he might have a chance of getting into the second. His only real rival, he considered, was Crawford, of the School House, who was the other wing three-quarter of the third fifteen. The first name he saw on the list was Crawford's. It seemed to be written twice as large as any of the others, and his own was nowhere to be seen. The fact that he had half expected the calamity made things no better. He had set his heart on playing for the second this term.
Then suddenly he noticed a remarkable phenomenon. The other wing three-quarter was Rand-Brown. If Rand-Brown was playing for the second, who was playing for the first?
He looked at the list.
"Come on," he said hastily to M'Todd. He wanted to get away somewhere where his agitated condition would not be noticed. He felt quite faint at the shock of seeing his name on the list of the first fifteen. There it was, however, as large as life. "M. Barry." Separated from the rest by a thin red line, but still there. In his most optimistic moments he had never dreamed of this. M'Todd was reading slowly through the list of the second. He did everything slowly, except eating.
"Come on," said Barry again.
M'Todd had, after much deliberation, arrived at a profound truth. He turned to Barry, and imparted his discovery to him in the weighty manner of one who realises the importance of his words.
"Look here," he said, "your name's not down here."
"I know. Come on."
"But that means you're not playing for the second."
"Of course it does. Well, if you aren't coming, I'm off."
"But, look here——"
Barry disappeared through the door. After a moment's pause, M'Todd followed him. He came up with him on the senior gravel.
"What's up?" he inquired.
"Nothing," said Barry.
"Are you sick about not playing for the second?"
"You are, really. Come and have a bun."
In the philosophy of M'Todd it was indeed a deep-rooted sorrow that could not be cured by the internal application of a new, hot bun. It had never failed in his own case.
"Bun!" Barry was quite shocked at the suggestion. "I can't afford to get myself out of condition with beastly buns."
"But if you aren't playing——"
"You ass. I'm playing for the first. Now, do you see?"
M'Todd gaped. His mind never worked very rapidly. "What about Rand-Brown, then?" he said.
"Rand-Brown's been chucked out. Can't you understand? You are an idiot. Rand-Brown's playing for the second, and I'm playing for the first."
He stopped. He had been going to point out that Barry's tender years—he was only sixteen—and smallness would make it impossible for him to play with success for the first fifteen. He refrained owing to a conviction that the remark would not be wholly judicious. Barry was touchy on the subject of his size, and M'Todd had suffered before now for commenting on it in a disparaging spirit.
"I tell you what we'll do after school," said Barry, "we'll have some running and passing. It'll do you a lot of good, and I want to practise taking passes at full speed. You can trot along at your ordinary pace, and I'll sprint up from behind."
M'Todd saw no objection to that. Trotting along at his ordinary pace—five miles an hour—would just suit him.
"Then after that," continued Barry, with a look of enthusiasm, "I want to practise passing back to my centre. Paget used to do it awfully well last term, and I know Trevor expects his wing to. So I'll buck along, and you race up to take my pass. See?"
This was not in M'Todd's line at all. He proposed a slight alteration in the scheme.
"Hadn't you better get somebody else—?" he began.
"Don't be a slack beast," said Barry. "You want exercise awfully badly."
And, as M'Todd always did exactly as Barry wished, he gave in, and spent from four-thirty to five that afternoon in the prescribed manner. A suggestion on his part at five sharp that it wouldn't be a bad idea to go and have some tea was not favourably received by the enthusiastic three-quarter, who proposed to devote what time remained before lock-up to practising drop-kicking. It was a painful alternative that faced M'Todd. His allegiance to Barry demanded that he should consent to the scheme. On the other hand, his allegiance to afternoon tea—equally strong—called him back to the house, where there was cake, and also muffins. In the end the question was solved by the appearance of Drummond, of Seymour's, garbed in football things, and also anxious to practise drop-kicking. So M'Todd was dismissed to his tea with opprobrious epithets, and Barry and Drummond settled down to a little serious and scientific work.
Making allowances for the inevitable attack of nerves that attends a first appearance in higher football circles than one is accustomed to, Barry did well against the scratch team—certainly far better than Rand-Brown had done. His smallness was, of course, against him, and, on the only occasion on which he really got away, Paget overtook him and brought him down. But then Paget was exceptionally fast. In the two most important branches of the game, the taking of passes and tackling, Barry did well. As far as pluck went he had enough for two, and when the whistle blew for no-side he had not let Paget through once, and Trevor felt that his inclusion in the team had been justified. There was another scratch game on the Saturday. Barry played in it, and did much better. Paget had gone away by an early train, and the man he had to mark now was one of the masters, who had been good in his time, but was getting a trifle old for football. Barry scored twice, and on one occasion, by passing back to Trevor after the manner of Paget, enabled the captain to run in. And Trevor, like the captain in Billy Taylor, "werry much approved of what he'd done." Barry began to be regarded in the school as a regular member of the fifteen. The first of the fixture-card matches, versus the Town, was due on the following Saturday, and it was generally expected that he would play. M'Todd's devotion increased every day. He even went to the length of taking long runs with him. And if there was one thing in the world that M'Todd loathed, it was a long run.
On the Thursday before the match against the Town, Clowes came chuckling to Trevor's study after preparation, and asked him if he had heard the latest.
"Have you ever heard of the League?" he said.
"I don't think so," he replied.
"How long have you been at the school?"
"Let's see. It'll be five years at the end of the summer term."
"Ah, then you wouldn't remember. I've been here a couple of terms longer than you, and the row about the League was in my first term."
"What was the row?"
"Oh, only some chaps formed a sort of secret society in the place. Kind of Vehmgericht, you know. If they got their knife into any one, he usually got beans, and could never find out where they came from. At first, as a matter of fact, the thing was quite a philanthropical concern. There used to be a good deal of bullying in the place then—at least, in some of the houses—and, as the prefects couldn't or wouldn't stop it, some fellows started this League."
"Did it work?"
"Work! By Jove, I should think it did. Chaps who previously couldn't get through the day without making some wretched kid's life not worth living used to go about as nervous as cats, looking over their shoulders every other second. There was one man in particular, a chap called Leigh. He was hauled out of bed one night, blindfolded, and ducked in a cold bath. He was in the School House."
"Why did the League bust up?"
"Well, partly because the fellows left, but chiefly because they didn't stick to the philanthropist idea. If anybody did anything they didn't like, they used to go for him. At last they put their foot into it badly. A chap called Robinson—in this house by the way—offended them in some way, and one morning he was found tied up in the bath, up to his neck in cold water. Apparently he'd been there about an hour. He got pneumonia, and almost died, and then the authorities began to get going. Robinson thought he had recognised the voice of one of the chaps—I forget his name. The chap was had up by the Old Man, and gave the show away entirely. About a dozen fellows were sacked, clean off the reel. Since then the thing has been dropped."
"But what about it? What were you going to say when you came in?"
"Why, it's been revived!"
"It's a fact. Do you know Mill, a prefect, in Seymour's?"
"Only by sight."
"I met him just now. He's in a raving condition. His study's been wrecked. You never saw such a sight. Everything upside down or smashed. He has been showing me the ruins."
"I believe Mill is awfully barred in Seymour's," said Trevor. "Anybody might have ragged his study."
"That's just what I thought. He's just the sort of man the League used to go for."
"That doesn't prove that it's been revived, all the same," objected Trevor.
"No, friend; but this does. Mill found it tied to a chair."
It was a small card. It looked like an ordinary visiting card. On it, in neat print, were the words, "With the compliments of the League".
"That's exactly the same sort of card as they used to use," said Clowes. "I've seen some of them. What do you think of that?"
"I think whoever has started the thing is a pretty average-sized idiot. He's bound to get caught some time or other, and then out he goes. The Old Man wouldn't think twice about sacking a chap of that sort."
"A chap of that sort," said Clowes, "will take jolly good care he isn't caught. But it's rather sport, isn't it?"
And he went off to his study.
Next day there was further evidence that the League was an actual going concern. When Trevor came down to breakfast, he found a letter by his plate. It was printed, as the card had been. It was signed "The President of the League." And the purport of it was that the League did not wish Barry to continue to play for the first fifteen.
MILL RECEIVES VISITORS
Trevor's first idea was that somebody had sent the letter for a joke,—Clowes for choice.
He sounded him on the subject after breakfast.
"Did you send me that letter?" he inquired, when Clowes came into his study to borrow a Sportsman.
"What letter? Did you send the team for tomorrow up to the sporter? I wonder what sort of a lot the Town are bringing."
"About not giving Barry his footer colours?"
Clowes was reading the paper.
"Giving whom?" he asked.
"Barry. Can't you listen?"
"Giving him what?"
"What about them?"
Trevor sprang at the paper, and tore it away from him. After which he sat on the fragments.
"Did you send me a letter about not giving Barry his footer colours?"
Clowes surveyed him with the air of a nurse to whom the family baby has just said some more than usually good thing.
"Don't stop," he said, "I could listen all day."
Trevor felt in his pocket for the note, and flung it at him. Clowes picked it up, and read it gravely.
"What are footer colours?" he asked.
"Well," said Trevor, "it's a pretty rotten sort of joke, whoever sent it. You haven't said yet whether you did or not."
"What earthly reason should I have for sending it? And I think you're making a mistake if you think this is meant as a joke."
"You don't really believe this League rot?"
"You didn't see Mill's study 'after treatment'. I did. Anyhow, how do you account for the card I showed you?"
"But that sort of thing doesn't happen at school."
"Well, it has happened, you see."
"Who do you think did send the letter, then?"
"The President of the League."
"And who the dickens is the President of the League when he's at home?"
"If I knew that, I should tell Mill, and earn his blessing. Not that I want it."
"Then, I suppose," snorted Trevor, "you'd suggest that on the strength of this letter I'd better leave Barry out of the team?"
"Satirically in brackets," commented Clowes.
"It's no good your jumping on me," he added. "I've done nothing. All I suggest is that you'd better keep more or less of a look-out. If this League's anything like the old one, you'll find they've all sorts of ways of getting at people they don't love. I shouldn't like to come down for a bath some morning, and find you already in possession, tied up like Robinson. When they found Robinson, he was quite blue both as to the face and speech. He didn't speak very clearly, but what one could catch was well worth hearing. I should advise you to sleep with a loaded revolver under your pillow."
"The first thing I shall do is find out who wrote this letter."
"I should," said Clowes, encouragingly. "Keep moving."
In Seymour's house the Mill's study incident formed the only theme of conversation that morning. Previously the sudden elevation to the first fifteen of Barry, who was popular in the house, at the expense of Rand-Brown, who was unpopular, had given Seymour's something to talk about. But the ragging of the study put this topic entirely in the shade. The study was still on view in almost its original condition of disorder, and all day comparative strangers flocked to see Mill in his den, in order to inspect things. Mill was a youth with few friends, and it is probable that more of his fellow-Seymourites crossed the threshold of his study on the day after the occurrence than had visited him in the entire course of his school career. Brown would come in to borrow a knife, would sweep the room with one comprehensive glance, and depart, to be followed at brief intervals by Smith, Robinson, and Jones, who came respectively to learn the right time, to borrow a book, and to ask him if he had seen a pencil anywhere. Towards the end of the day, Mill would seem to have wearied somewhat of the proceedings, as was proved when Master Thomas Renford, aged fourteen (who fagged for Milton, the head of the house), burst in on the thin pretence that he had mistaken the study for that of his rightful master, and gave vent to a prolonged whistle of surprise and satisfaction at the sight of the ruins. On that occasion, the incensed owner of the dismantled study, taking a mean advantage of the fact that he was a prefect, and so entitled to wield the rod, produced a handy swagger-stick from an adjacent corner, and, inviting Master Renford to bend over, gave him six of the best to remember him by. Which ceremony being concluded, he kicked him out into the passage, and Renford went down to the junior day-room to tell his friend Harvey about it.
"Gave me six, the cad," said he, "just because I had a look at his beastly study. Why shouldn't I look at his study if I like? I've a jolly good mind to go up and have another squint."
Harvey warmly approved the scheme.
"No, I don't think I will," said Renford with a yawn. "It's such a fag going upstairs."
"Yes, isn't it?" said Harvey.
"And he's such a beast, too."
"Yes, isn't he?" said Harvey.
"I'm jolly glad his study has been ragged," continued the vindictive Renford.
"It's jolly exciting, isn't it?" added Harvey. "And I thought this term was going to be slow. The Easter term generally is."
This remark seemed to suggest a train of thought to Renford, who made the following cryptic observation. "Have you seen them today?"
To the ordinary person the words would have conveyed little meaning. To Harvey they appeared to teem with import.
"Yes," he said, "I saw them early this morning."
"Were they all right?"
"Good," said Renford.
Barry's friend Drummond was one of those who had visited the scene of the disaster early, before Mill's energetic hand had repaired the damage done, and his narrative was consequently in some demand.
"The place was in a frightful muck," he said. "Everything smashed except the table; and ink all over the place. Whoever did it must have been fairly sick with him, or he'd never have taken the trouble to do it so thoroughly. Made a fair old hash of things, didn't he, Bertie?"
"Bertie" was the form in which the school elected to serve up the name of De Bertini. Raoul de Bertini was a French boy who had come to Wrykyn in the previous term. Drummond's father had met his father in Paris, and Drummond was supposed to be looking after Bertie. They shared a study together. Bertie could not speak much English, and what he did speak was, like Mill's furniture, badly broken.
"Pardon?" he said.
"Doesn't matter," said Drummond, "it wasn't anything important. I was only appealing to you for corroborative detail to give artistic verisimilitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative."
Bertie grinned politely. He always grinned when he was not quite equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation. As a consequence of which, he was generally, like Mrs Fezziwig, one vast, substantial smile.
"I never liked Mill much," said Barry, "but I think it's rather bad luck on the man."
"Once," announced M'Todd, solemnly, "he kicked me—for making a row in the passage." It was plain that the recollection rankled.
Barry would probably have pointed out what an excellent and praiseworthy act on Mill's part that had been, when Rand-Brown came in.
"Prefects' meeting?" he inquired. "Or haven't they made you a prefect yet, M'Todd?"
M'Todd said they had not.
Nobody present liked Rand-Brown, and they looked at him rather inquiringly, as if to ask what he had come for. A friend may drop in for a chat. An acquaintance must justify his intrusion.
Rand-Brown ignored the silent inquiry. He seated himself on the table, and dragged up a chair to rest his legs on.
"Talking about Mill, of course?" he said.
"Yes," said Drummond. "Have you seen his study since it happened?"
Rand-Brown smiled, as if the recollection amused him. He was one of those people who do not look their best when they smile.
"Playing for the first tomorrow, Barry?"
"I don't know," said Barry, shortly. "I haven't seen the list."
He objected to the introduction of the topic. It is never pleasant to have to discuss games with the very man one has ousted from the team.
Drummond, too, seemed to feel that the situation was an embarrassing one, for a few minutes later he got up to go over to the gymnasium.
"Any of you chaps coming?" he asked.
Barry and M'Todd thought they would, and the three left the room.
"Nothing like showing a man you don't want him, eh, Bertie? What do you think?" said Rand-Brown.
Bertie grinned politely.
TREVOR REMAINS FIRM
The most immediate effect of telling anybody not to do a thing is to make him do it, in order to assert his independence. Trevor's first act on receipt of the letter was to include Barry in the team against the Town. It was what he would have done in any case, but, under the circumstances, he felt a peculiar pleasure in doing it. The incident also had the effect of recalling to his mind the fact that he had tried Barry in the first instance on his own responsibility, without consulting the committee. The committee of the first fifteen consisted of the two old colours who came immediately after the captain on the list. The powers of a committee varied according to the determination and truculence of the members of it. On any definite and important step, affecting the welfare of the fifteen, the captain theoretically could not move without their approval. But if the captain happened to be strong-minded and the committee weak, they were apt to be slightly out of it, and the captain would develop a habit of consulting them a day or so after he had done a thing. He would give a man his colours, and inform the committee of it on the following afternoon, when the thing was done and could not be repealed.
Trevor was accustomed to ask the advice of his lieutenants fairly frequently. He never gave colours, for instance, off his own bat. It seemed to him that it might be as well to learn what views Milton and Allardyce had on the subject of Barry, and, after the Town team had gone back across the river, defeated by a goal and a try to nil, he changed and went over to Seymour's to interview Milton.
Milton was in an arm-chair, watching Renford brew tea. His was one of the few studies in the school in which there was an arm-chair. With the majority of his contemporaries, it would only run to the portable kind that fold up.
"Come and have some tea, Trevor," said Milton.
"Thanks. If there's any going."
"Heaps. Is there anything to eat, Renford?"
The fag, appealed to on this important point, pondered darkly for a moment.
"There was some cake," he said.
"That's all right," interrupted Milton, cheerfully. "Scratch the cake. I ate it before the match. Isn't there anything else?"
Milton had a healthy appetite.
"Then there used to be some biscuits."
"Biscuits are off. I finished 'em yesterday. Look here, young Renford, what you'd better do is cut across to the shop and get some more cake and some more biscuits, and tell 'em to put it down to me. And don't be long."
"A miles better idea would be to send him over to Donaldson's to fetch something from my study," suggested Trevor. "It isn't nearly so far, and I've got heaps of stuff."
"Ripping. Cut over to Donaldson's, young Renford. As a matter of fact," he added, confidentially, when the emissary had vanished, "I'm not half sure that the other dodge would have worked. They seem to think at the shop that I've had about enough things on tick lately. I haven't settled up for last term yet. I've spent all I've got on this study. What do you think of those photographs?"
Trevor got up and inspected them. They filled the mantelpiece and most of the wall above it. They were exclusively theatrical photographs, and of a variety to suit all tastes. For the earnest student of the drama there was Sir Henry Irving in The Bells, and Mr Martin Harvey in The Only Way. For the admirers of the merely beautiful there were Messrs Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell.
"Not bad," said Trevor. "Beastly waste of money."
"Waste of money!" Milton was surprised and pained at the criticism. "Why, you must spend your money on something."
"Rot, I call it," said Trevor. "If you want to collect something, why don't you collect something worth having?"
Just then Renford came back with the supplies.
"Thanks," said Milton, "put 'em down. Does the billy boil, young Renford?"
Renford asked for explanatory notes.
"You're a bit of an ass at times, aren't you?" said Milton, kindly. "What I meant was, is the tea ready? If it is, you can scoot. If it isn't, buck up with it."
A sound of bubbling and a rush of steam from the spout of the kettle proclaimed that the billy did boil. Renford extinguished the Etna, and left the room, while Milton, murmuring vague formulae about "one spoonful for each person and one for the pot", got out of his chair with a groan—for the Town match had been an energetic one—and began to prepare tea.
"What I really came round about—" began Trevor.
"Half a second. I can't find the milk."
He went to the door, and shouted for Renford. On that overworked youth's appearance, the following dialogue took place.
"Where's the milk?"
"There isn't any." This in a tone not untinged with triumph, as if the speaker realised that here was a distinct score to him.
"You never had any."
"Well, just cut across—no, half a second. What are you doing downstairs?"
"Then you've got milk."
"Only a little." This apprehensively.
"Bring it up. You can have what we leave."
Disgusted retirement of Master Renford.
"What I really came about," said Trevor again, "was business."
"Colours?" inquired Milton, rummaging in the tin for biscuits with sugar on them. "Good brand of biscuit you keep, Trevor."
"Yes. I think we might give Alexander and Parker their third."
"All right. Any others?"
"Barry his second, do you think?"
"Rather. He played a good game today. He's an improvement on Rand-Brown."
"Glad you think so. I was wondering whether it was the right thing to do, chucking Rand-Brown out after one trial like that. But still, if you think Barry's better—"
"Streets better. I've had heaps of chances of watching them and comparing them, when they've been playing for the house. It isn't only that Rand-Brown can't tackle, and Barry can. Barry takes his passes much better, and doesn't lose his head when he's pressed."
"Just what I thought," said Trevor. "Then you'd go on playing him for the first?"
"Rather. He'll get better every game, you'll see, as he gets more used to playing in the first three-quarter line. And he's as keen as anything on getting into the team. Practises taking passes and that sort of thing every day."
"Well, he'll get his colours if we lick Ripton."
"We ought to lick them. They've lost one of their forwards, Clifford, a red-haired chap, who was good out of touch. I don't know if you remember him."
"I suppose I ought to go and see Allardyce about these colours, now. Good-bye."
There was running and passing on the Monday for every one in the three teams. Trevor and Clowes met Mr Seymour as they were returning. Mr Seymour was the football master at Wrykyn.
"I see you've given Barry his second, Trevor."
"I think you're wise to play him for the first. He knows the game, which is the great thing, and he will improve with practice," said Mr Seymour, thus corroborating Milton's words of the previous Saturday.
"I'm glad Seymour thinks Barry good," said Trevor, as they walked on. "I shall go on playing him now."
"Found out who wrote that letter yet?"
"Not yet," he said.
"Probably Rand-Brown," suggested Clowes. "He's the man who would gain most by Barry's not playing. I hear he had a row with Mill just before his study was ragged."
"Everybody in Seymour's has had rows with Mill some time or other," said Trevor.
Clowes stopped at the door of the junior day-room to find his fag. Trevor went on upstairs. In the passage he met Ruthven.
Ruthven seemed excited.
"I say. Trevor," he exclaimed, "have you seen your study?"
"Why, what's the matter with it?"
"You'd better go and look."
"WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE LEAGUE"
Trevor went and looked.
It was rather an interesting sight. An earthquake or a cyclone might have made it a little more picturesque, but not much more. The general effect was not unlike that of an American saloon, after a visit from Mrs Carrie Nation (with hatchet). As in the case of Mill's study, the only thing that did not seem to have suffered any great damage was the table. Everything else looked rather off colour. The mantelpiece had been swept as bare as a bone, and its contents littered the floor. Trevor dived among the debris and retrieved the latest addition to his art gallery, the photograph of this year's first fifteen. It was a wreck. The glass was broken and the photograph itself slashed with a knife till most of the faces were unrecognisable. He picked up another treasure, last year's first eleven. Smashed glass again. Faces cut about with knife as before. His collection of snapshots was torn into a thousand fragments, though, as Mr Jerome said of the papier-mache trout, there may only have been nine hundred. He did not count them. His bookshelf was empty. The books had gone to swell the contents of the floor. There was a Shakespeare with its cover off. Pages twenty-two to thirty-one of Vice Versa had parted from the parent establishment, and were lying by themselves near the door. The Rogues' March lay just beyond them, and the look of the cover suggested that somebody had either been biting it or jumping on it with heavy boots.
There was other damage. Over the mantelpiece in happier days had hung a dozen sea gulls' eggs, threaded on a string. The string was still there, as good as new, but of the eggs nothing was to be seen, save a fine parti-coloured powder—on the floor, like everything else in the study. And a good deal of ink had been upset in one place and another.
Trevor had been staring at the ruins for some time, when he looked up to see Clowes standing in the doorway.
"Hullo," said Clowes, "been tidying up?"
Trevor made a few hasty comments on the situation. Clowes listened approvingly.
"Don't you think," he went on, eyeing the study with a critical air, "that you've got too many things on the floor, and too few anywhere else? And I should move some of those books on to the shelf, if I were you."
Trevor breathed very hard.
"I should like to find the chap who did this," he said softly.
Clowes advanced into the room and proceeded to pick up various misplaced articles of furniture in a helpful way.
"I thought so," he said presently, "come and look here."
Tied to a chair, exactly as it had been in the case of Mill, was a neat white card, and on it were the words, "With the Compliments of the League".
"What are you going to do about this?" asked Clowes. "Come into my room and talk it over."
"I'll tidy this place up first," said Trevor. He felt that the work would be a relief. "I don't want people to see this. It mustn't get about. I'm not going to have my study turned into a sort of side-show, like Mill's. You go and change. I shan't be long."
"I will never desert Mr Micawber," said Clowes. "Friend, my place is by your side. Shut the door and let's get to work."
Ten minutes later the room had resumed a more or less—though principally less—normal appearance. The books and chairs were back in their places. The ink was sopped up. The broken photographs were stacked in a neat pile in one corner, with a rug over them. The mantelpiece was still empty, but, as Clowes pointed out, it now merely looked as if Trevor had been pawning some of his household gods. There was no sign that a devastating secret society had raged through the study.
Then they adjourned to Clowes' study, where Trevor sank into Clowes' second-best chair—Clowes, by an adroit movement, having appropriated the best one—with a sigh of enjoyment. Running and passing, followed by the toil of furniture-shifting, had made him feel quite tired.
"It doesn't look so bad now," he said, thinking of the room they had left. "By the way, what did you do with that card?"
"Here it is. Want it?"
"You can keep it. I don't want it."
"Thanks. If this sort of things goes on, I shall get quite a nice collection of these cards. Start an album some day."
"You know," said Trevor, "this is getting serious."
"It always does get serious when anything bad happens to one's self. It always strikes one as rather funny when things happen to other people. When Mill's study was wrecked, I bet you regarded it as an amusing and original 'turn'. What do you think of the present effort?"
"Who on earth can have done it?"
"Oh, dry up. Of course it was. But who the blazes is he?"
"Nay, children, you have me there," quoted Clowes. "I'll tell you one thing, though. You remember what I said about it's probably being Rand-Brown. He can't have done this, that's certain, because he was out in the fields the whole time. Though I don't see who else could have anything to gain by Barry not getting his colours."
"There's no reason to suspect him at all, as far as I can see. I don't know much about him, bar the fact that he can't play footer for nuts, but I've never heard anything against him. Have you?"
"I scarcely know him myself. He isn't liked in Seymour's, I believe."
"Well, anyhow, this can't be his work."
"That's what I said."
"For all we know, the League may have got their knife into Barry for some reason. You said they used to get their knife into fellows in that way. Anyhow, I mean to find out who ragged my room."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea," said Clowes.
* * * * *
O'Hara came round to Donaldson's before morning school next day to tell Trevor that he had not yet succeeded in finding the lost bat. He found Trevor and Clowes in the former's den, trying to put a few finishing touches to the same.
"Hullo, an' what's up with your study?" he inquired. He was quick at noticing things. Trevor looked annoyed. Clowes asked the visitor if he did not think the study presented a neat and gentlemanly appearance.
"Where are all your photographs, Trevor?" persisted the descendant of Irish kings.
"It's no good trying to conceal anything from the bhoy," said Clowes. "Sit down, O'Hara—mind that chair; it's rather wobbly—and I will tell ye the story."
"Can you keep a thing dark?" inquired Trevor.
O'Hara protested that tombs were not in it.
"Well, then, do you remember what happened to Mill's study? That's what's been going on here."
O'Hara nearly fell off his chair with surprise. That some philanthropist should rag Mill's study was only to be expected. Mill was one of the worst. A worm without a saving grace. But Trevor! Captain of football! In the first eleven! The thing was unthinkable.
"But who—?" he began.
"That's just what I want to know," said Trevor, shortly. He did not enjoy discussing the affair.
"How long have you been at Wrykyn, O'Hara?" said Clowes.
O'Hara made a rapid calculation. His fingers twiddled in the air as he worked out the problem.
"Six years," he said at last, leaning back exhausted with brain work.
"Then you must remember the League?"
"Remember the League? Rather."
"Well, it's been revived."
"This'll liven the old place up," he said. "I've often thought of reviving it meself. An' so has Moriarty. If it's anything like the Old League, there's going to be a sort of Donnybrook before it's done with. I wonder who's running it this time."
"We should like to know that. If you find out, you might tell us."
"And don't tell anybody else," said Trevor. "This business has got to be kept quiet. Keep it dark about my study having been ragged."
"I won't tell a soul."
"Not even Moriarty."
"Oh, hang it, man," put in Clowes, "you don't want to kill the poor bhoy, surely? You must let him tell one person."
"All right," said Trevor, "you can tell Moriarty. But nobody else, mind."
O'Hara promised that Moriarty should receive the news exclusively.
"But why did the League go for ye?"
"They happen to be down on me. It doesn't matter why. They are."
"I see," said O'Hara. "Oh," he added, "about that bat. The search is being 'vigorously prosecuted'—that's a newspaper quotation—"
"Times?" inquired Clowes.
"Wrykyn Patriot," said O'Hara, pulling out a bundle of letters. He inspected each envelope in turn, and from the fifth extracted a newspaper cutting.
"Read that," he said.
It was from the local paper, and ran as follows:—
"Hooligan Outrage—A painful sensation has been caused in the town by a deplorable ebullition of local Hooliganism, which has resulted in the wanton disfigurement of the splendid statue of Sir Eustace Briggs which stands in the New Recreation Grounds. Our readers will recollect that the statue was erected to commemorate the return of Sir Eustace as member for the borough of Wrykyn, by an overwhelming majority, at the last election. Last Tuesday some youths of the town, passing through the Recreation Grounds early in the morning, noticed that the face and body of the statue were completely covered with leaves and some black substance, which on examination proved to be tar. They speedily lodged information at the police station. Everything seems to point to party spite as the motive for the outrage. In view of the forth-coming election, such an act is highly significant, and will serve sufficiently to indicate the tactics employed by our opponents. The search for the perpetrator (or perpetrators) of the dastardly act is being vigorously prosecuted, and we learn with satisfaction that the police have already several clues."
"Clues!" said Clowes, handing back the paper, "that means the bat. That gas about 'our opponents' is all a blind to put you off your guard. You wait. There'll be more painful sensations before you've finished with this business."
"They can't have found the bat, or why did they not say so?" observed O'Hara.
"Guile," said Clowes, "pure guile. If I were you, I should escape while I could. Try Callao. There's no extradition there.
'On no petition Is extradition Allowed in Callao.'
Either of you chaps coming over to school?"
O'HARA ON THE TRACK
Tuesday mornings at Wrykyn were devoted—up to the quarter to eleven interval—to the study of mathematics. That is to say, instead of going to their form-rooms, the various forms visited the out-of-the-way nooks and dens at the top of the buildings where the mathematical masters were wont to lurk, and spent a pleasant two hours there playing round games or reading fiction under the desk. Mathematics being one of the few branches of school learning which are of any use in after life, nobody ever dreamed of doing any work in that direction, least of all O'Hara. It was a theory of O'Hara's that he came to school to enjoy himself. To have done any work during a mathematics lesson would have struck him as a positive waste of time, especially as he was in Mr Banks' class. Mr Banks was a master who simply cried out to be ragged. Everything he did and said seemed to invite the members of his class to amuse themselves, and they amused themselves accordingly. One of the advantages of being under him was that it was possible to predict to a nicety the moment when one would be sent out of the room. This was found very convenient.
O'Hara's ally, Moriarty, was accustomed to take his mathematics with Mr Morgan, whose room was directly opposite Mr Banks'. With Mr Morgan it was not quite so easy to date one's expulsion from the room under ordinary circumstances, and in the normal wear and tear of the morning's work, but there was one particular action which could always be relied upon to produce the desired result.
In one corner of the room stood a gigantic globe. The problem—how did it get into the room?—was one that had exercised the minds of many generations of Wrykinians. It was much too big to have come through the door. Some thought that the block had been built round it, others that it had been placed in the room in infancy, and had since grown. To refer the question to Mr Morgan would, in six cases out of ten, mean instant departure from the room. But to make the event certain, it was necessary to grasp the globe firmly and spin it round on its axis. That always proved successful. Mr Morgan would dash down from his dais, address the offender in spirited terms, and give him his marching orders at once and without further trouble.
Moriarty had arranged with O'Hara to set the globe rolling at ten sharp on this particular morning. O'Hara would then so arrange matters with Mr Banks that they could meet in the passage at that hour, when O'Hara wished to impart to his friend his information concerning the League.
O'Hara promised to be at the trysting-place at the hour mentioned.
He did not think there would be any difficulty about it. The news that the League had been revived meant that there would be trouble in the very near future, and the prospect of trouble was meat and drink to the Irishman in O'Hara. Consequently he felt in particularly good form for mathematics (as he interpreted the word). He thought that he would have no difficulty whatever in keeping Mr Banks bright and amused. The first step had to be to arouse in him an interest in life, to bring him into a frame of mind which would induce him to look severely rather than leniently on the next offender. This was effected as follows:—
It was Mr Banks' practice to set his class sums to work out, and, after some three-quarters of an hour had elapsed, to pass round the form what he called "solutions". These were large sheets of paper, on which he had worked out each sum in his neat handwriting to a happy ending. When the head of the form, to whom they were passed first, had finished with them, he would make a slight tear in one corner, and, having done so, hand them on to his neighbour. The neighbour, before giving them to his neighbour, would also tear them slightly. In time they would return to their patentee and proprietor, and it was then that things became exciting.
"Who tore these solutions like this?" asked Mr Banks, in the repressed voice of one who is determined that he will be calm.
No answer. The tattered solutions waved in the air.
He turned to Harringay, the head of the form.
"Harringay, did you tear these solutions like this?"
Indignant negative from Harringay. What he had done had been to make the small tear in the top left-hand corner. If Mr Banks had asked, "Did you make this small tear in the top left-hand corner of these solutions?" Harringay would have scorned to deny the impeachment. But to claim the credit for the whole work would, he felt, be an act of flat dishonesty, and an injustice to his gifted collaborateurs.
"No, sir," said Harringay.
"Did you tear these solutions in this manner?"
And so on through the form.
Then Harringay rose after the manner of the debater who is conscious that he is going to say the popular thing.
"Sir—" he began.
"Sit down, Harringay."
Harringay gracefully waved aside the absurd command.
"Sir," he said, "I think I am expressing the general consensus of opinion among my—ahem—fellow-students, when I say that this class sincerely regrets the unfortunate state the solutions have managed to get themselves into."
"Hear, hear!" from a back bench.
"It is with—"
"Sit down, Harringay."
"It is with heartfelt—"
"Harringay, if you do not sit down—"
"As your ludship pleases." This sotto voce.
And Harringay resumed his seat amidst applause. O'Hara got up.
"As me frind who has just sat down was about to observe—"
"Sit down, O'Hara. The whole form will remain after the class."
"—the unfortunate state the solutions have managed to get thimsilves into is sincerely regretted by this class. Sir, I think I am ixprissing the general consensus of opinion among my fellow-students whin I say that it is with heart-felt sorrow—"
"Leave the room instantly."
From the tower across the gravel came the melodious sound of chimes. The college clock was beginning to strike ten. He had scarcely got into the passage, and closed the door after him, when a roar as of a bereaved spirit rang through the room opposite, followed by a string of words, the only intelligible one being the noun-substantive "globe", and the next moment the door opened and Moriarty came out. The last stroke of ten was just booming from the clock.
There was a large cupboard in the passage, the top of which made a very comfortable seat. They climbed on to this, and began to talk business.
"An' what was it ye wanted to tell me?" inquired Moriarty.
O'Hara related what he had learned from Trevor that morning.
"An' do ye know," said Moriarty, when he had finished, "I half suspected, when I heard that Mill's study had been ragged, that it might be the League that had done it. If ye remember, it was what they enjoyed doing, breaking up a man's happy home. They did it frequently."
"But I can't understand them doing it to Trevor at all."
"They'll do it to anybody they choose till they're caught at it."
"If they are caught, there'll be a row."
"We must catch 'em," said Moriarty. Like O'Hara, he revelled in the prospect of a disturbance. O'Hara and he were going up to Aldershot at the end of the term, to try and bring back the light and middle-weight medals respectively. Moriarty had won the light-weight in the previous year, but, by reason of putting on a stone since the competition, was now no longer eligible for that class. O'Hara had not been up before, but the Wrykyn instructor, a good judge of pugilistic form, was of opinion that he ought to stand an excellent chance. As the prize-fighter in Rodney Stone says, "When you get a good Irishman, you can't better 'em, but they're dreadful 'asty." O'Hara was attending the gymnasium every night, in order to learn to curb his "dreadful 'astiness", and acquire skill in its place.
"I wonder if Trevor would be any good in a row," said Moriarty.
"He can't box," said O'Hara, "but he'd go on till he was killed entirely. I say, I'm getting rather tired of sitting here, aren't you? Let's go to the other end of the passage and have some cricket."
So, having unearthed a piece of wood from the debris at the top of the cupboard, and rolled a handkerchief into a ball, they adjourned.
Recalling the stirring events of six years back, when the League had first been started, O'Hara remembered that the members of that enterprising society had been wont to hold meetings in a secluded spot, where it was unlikely that they would be disturbed. It seemed to him that the first thing he ought to do, if he wanted to make their nearer acquaintance now, was to find their present rendezvous. They must have one. They would never run the risk involved in holding mass-meetings in one another's studies. On the last occasion, it had been an old quarry away out on the downs. This had been proved by the not-to-be-shaken testimony of three school-house fags, who had wandered out one half-holiday with the unconcealed intention of finding the League's place of meeting. Unfortunately for them, they had found it. They were going down the path that led to the quarry before-mentioned, when they were unexpectedly seized, blindfolded, and carried off. An impromptu court-martial was held—in whispers—and the three explorers forthwith received the most spirited "touching-up" they had ever experienced. Afterwards they were released, and returned to their house with their zeal for detection quite quenched. The episode had created a good deal of excitement in the school at the time.
On three successive afternoons, O'Hara and Moriarty scoured the downs, and on each occasion they drew blank. On the fourth day, just before lock-up, O'Hara, who had been to tea with Gregson, of Day's, was going over to the gymnasium to keep a pugilistic appointment with Moriarty, when somebody ran swiftly past him in the direction of the boarding-houses. It was almost dark, for the days were still short, and he did not recognise the runner. But it puzzled him a little to think where he had sprung from. O'Hara was walking quite close to the wall of the College buildings, and the runner had passed between it and him. And he had not heard his footsteps. Then he understood, and his pulse quickened as he felt that he was on the track. Beneath the block was a large sort of cellar-basement. It was used as a store-room for chairs, and was never opened except when prize-day or some similar event occurred, when the chairs were needed. It was supposed to be locked at other times, but never was. The door was just by the spot where he was standing. As he stood there, half-a-dozen other vague forms dashed past him in a knot. One of them almost brushed against him. For a moment he thought of stopping him, but decided not to. He could wait.
On the following afternoon he slipped down into the basement soon after school. It was as black as pitch in the cellar. He took up a position near the door.
It seemed hours before anything happened. He was, indeed, almost giving up the thing as a bad job, when a ray of light cut through the blackness in front of him, and somebody slipped through the door. The next moment, a second form appeared dimly, and then the light was shut off again.
O'Hara could hear them groping their way past him. He waited no longer. It is difficult to tell where sound comes from in the dark. He plunged forward at a venture. His hand, swinging round in a semicircle, met something which felt like a shoulder. He slipped his grasp down to the arm, and clutched it with all the force at his disposal.
MAINLY ABOUT FERRETS
"Ow!" exclaimed the captive, with no uncertain voice. "Let go, you ass, you're hurting."
The voice was a treble voice. This surprised O'Hara. It looked very much as if he had put up the wrong bird. From the dimensions of the arm which he was holding, his prisoner seemed to be of tender years.
"Let go, Harvey, you idiot. I shall kick."
Before the threat could be put into execution, O'Hara, who had been fumbling all this while in his pocket for a match, found one loose, and struck a light. The features of the owner of the arm—he was still holding it—were lit up for a moment.
"Why, it's young Renford!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing down here?"
Renford, however, continued to pursue the topic of his arm, and the effect that the vice-like grip of the Irishman had had upon it.
"You've nearly broken it," he said, complainingly.
"I'm sorry. I mistook you for somebody else. Who's that with you?"
"It's me," said an ungrammatical voice.
At this point a soft yellow light lit up the more immediate neighbourhood. Harvey had brought a bicycle lamp into action.
"That's more like it," said Renford. "Look here, O'Hara, you won't split, will you?"
"I'm not an informer by profession, thanks," said O'Hara.
"Oh, I know it's all right, really, but you can't be too careful, because one isn't allowed down here, and there'd be a beastly row if it got out about our being down here."
"And they would be cobbed," put in Harvey.
"Who are they?" asked O'Hara.
"Ferrets. Like to have a look at them?"
"Yes. Harvey brought back a couple at the beginning of term. Ripping little beasts. We couldn't keep them in the house, as they'd have got dropped on in a second, so we had to think of somewhere else, and thought why not keep them down here?"
"Why, indeed?" said O'Hara. "Do ye find they like it?"
"Oh, they don't mind," said Harvey. "We feed 'em twice a day. Once before breakfast—we take it in turns to get up early—and once directly after school. And on half-holidays and Sundays we take them out on to the downs."
"Why, rabbits, of course. Renford brought back a saloon-pistol with him. We keep it locked up in a box—don't tell any one."
"And what do ye do with the rabbits?"
"We pot at them as they come out of the holes."
"Yes, but when ye hit 'em?"
"Oh," said Renford, with some reluctance, "we haven't exactly hit any yet."
"We've got jolly near, though, lots of times," said Harvey. "Last Saturday I swear I wasn't more than a quarter of an inch off one of them. If it had been a decent-sized rabbit, I should have plugged it middle stump; only it was a small one, so I missed. But come and see them. We keep 'em right at the other end of the place, in case anybody comes in."
"Have you ever seen anybody down here?" asked O'Hara.
"Once," said Renford. "Half-a-dozen chaps came down here once while we were feeding the ferrets. We waited till they'd got well in, then we nipped out quietly. They didn't see us."
"Did you see who they were?"
"No. It was too dark. Here they are. Rummy old crib this, isn't it? Look out for your shins on the chairs. Switch on the light, Harvey. There, aren't they rippers? Quite tame, too. They know us quite well. They know they're going to be fed, too. Hullo, Sir Nigel! This is Sir Nigel. Out of the 'White Company', you know. Don't let him nip your fingers. This other one's Sherlock Holmes."
"Cats-s-s—s!!" said O'Hara. He had a sort of idea that that was the right thing to say to any animal that could chase and bite.
Renford was delighted to be able to show his ferrets off to so distinguished a visitor.
"What were you down here about?" inquired Harvey, when the little animals had had their meal, and had retired once more into private life.
O'Hara had expected this question, but he did not quite know what answer to give. Perhaps, on the whole, he thought, it would be best to tell them the real reason. If he refused to explain, their curiosity would be roused, which would be fatal. And to give any reason except the true one called for a display of impromptu invention of which he was not capable. Besides, they would not be likely to give away his secret while he held this one of theirs connected with the ferrets. He explained the situation briefly, and swore them to silence on the subject.
Renford's comment was brief.
"By Jove!" he observed.
Harvey went more deeply into the question.
"What makes you think they meet down here?" he asked.
"I saw some fellows cutting out of here last night. And you say ye've seen them here, too. I don't see what object they could have down here if they weren't the League holding a meeting. I don't see what else a chap would be after."
"He might be keeping ferrets," hazarded Renford.
"The whole school doesn't keep ferrets," said O'Hara. "You're unique in that way. No, it must be the League, an' I mean to wait here till they come."
"Not all night?" asked Harvey. He had a great respect for O'Hara, whose reputation in the school for out-of-the-way doings was considerable. In the bright lexicon of O'Hara he believed there to be no such word as "impossible."
"No," said O'Hara, "but till lock-up. You two had better cut now."
"Yes, I think we'd better," said Harvey.
"And don't ye breathe a word about this to a soul"—a warning which extracted fervent promises of silence from both youths.
"This," said Harvey, as they emerged on to the gravel, "is something like. I'm jolly glad we're in it."
"Rather. Do you think O'Hara will catch them?"
"He must if he waits down there long enough. They're certain to come again. Don't you wish you'd been here when the League was on before?"
"I should think I did. Race you over to the shop. I want to get something before it shuts."
"Right ho!" And they disappeared.
O'Hara waited where he was till six struck from the clock-tower, followed by the sound of the bell as it rang for lock-up. Then he picked his way carefully through the groves of chairs, barking his shins now and then on their out-turned legs, and, pushing open the door, went out into the open air. It felt very fresh and pleasant after the brand of atmosphere supplied in the vault. He then ran over to the gymnasium to meet Moriarty, feeling a little disgusted at the lack of success that had attended his detective efforts up to the present. So far he had nothing to show for his trouble except a good deal of dust on his clothes, and a dirty collar, but he was full of determination. He could play a waiting game.
It was a pity, as it happened, that O'Hara left the vault when he did. Five minutes after he had gone, six shadowy forms made their way silently and in single file through the doorway of the vault, which they closed carefully behind them. The fact that it was after lock-up was of small consequence. A good deal of latitude in that way was allowed at Wrykyn. It was the custom to go out, after the bell had sounded, to visit the gymnasium. In the winter and Easter terms, the gymnasium became a sort of social club. People went there with a very small intention of doing gymnastics. They went to lounge about, talking to cronies, in front of the two huge stoves which warmed the place. Occasionally, as a concession to the look of the thing, they would do an easy exercise or two on the horse or parallels, but, for the most part, they preferred the role of spectator. There was plenty to see. In one corner O'Hara and Moriarty would be sparring their nightly six rounds (in two batches of three rounds each). In another, Drummond, who was going up to Aldershot as a feather-weight, would be putting in a little practice with the instructor. On the apparatus, the members of the gymnastic six, including the two experts who were to carry the school colours to Aldershot in the spring, would be performing their usual marvels. It was worth dropping into the gymnasium of an evening. In no other place in the school were so many sights to be seen.
When you were surfeited with sightseeing, you went off to your house. And this was where the peculiar beauty of the gymnasium system came in. You went up to any master who happened to be there—there was always one at least—and observed in suave accents, "Please, sir, can I have a paper?" Whereupon, he, taking a scrap of paper, would write upon it, "J. O. Jones (or A. B. Smith or C. D. Robinson) left gymnasium at such-and-such a time". And, by presenting this to the menial who opened the door to you at your house, you went in rejoicing, and all was peace.
Now, there was no mention on the paper of the hour at which you came to the gymnasium—only of the hour at which you left. Consequently, certain lawless spirits would range the neighbourhood after lock-up, and, by putting in a quarter of an hour at the gymnasium before returning to their houses, escape comment. To this class belonged the shadowy forms previously mentioned.
O'Hara had forgotten this custom, with the result that he was not at the vault when they arrived. Moriarty, to whom he confided between the rounds the substance of his evening's discoveries, reminded him of it. "It's no good watching before lock-up," he said. "After six is the time they'll come, if they come at all."
"Bedad, ye're right," said O'Hara. "One of these nights we'll take a night off from boxing, and go and watch."
"Right," said Moriarty. "Are ye ready to go on?"
"Yes. I'm going to practise that left swing at the body this round. The one Fitzsimmons does." And they "put 'em up" once more.
BEING A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
On the evening following O'Hara's adventure in the vaults, Barry and M'Todd were in their study, getting out the tea-things. Most Wrykinians brewed in the winter and Easter terms, when the days were short and lock-up early. In the summer term there were other things to do—nets, which lasted till a quarter to seven (when lock-up was), and the baths—and brewing practically ceased. But just now it was at its height, and every evening, at a quarter past five, there might be heard in the houses the sizzling of the succulent sausage and other rare delicacies. As a rule, one or two studies would club together to brew, instead of preparing solitary banquets. This was found both more convivial and more economical. At Seymour's, studies numbers five, six, and seven had always combined from time immemorial, and Barry, on obtaining study six, had carried on the tradition. In study five were Drummond and his friend De Bertini. In study seven, which was a smaller room and only capable of holding one person with any comfort, one James Rupert Leather-Twigg (that was his singular name, as Mr Gilbert has it) had taken up his abode. The name of Leather-Twigg having proved, at an early date in his career, too great a mouthful for Wrykyn, he was known to his friends and acquaintances by the euphonious title of Shoeblossom. The charm about the genial Shoeblossom was that you could never tell what he was going to do next. All that you could rely on with any certainty was that it would be something which would have been better left undone.